Digest: Monday, January 17, 2022

Rachel Armitage appointed to fill remainder of Betsy Johnson’s term as state senator

County commissioners representing the six counties in State Senate District 16 selected Rachel Armitage to represent the district until the beginning of 2023. Armitage’s selection was likely helped by her lack of plans to run for the seat during the 2022 election cycle. Melissa Busch, who was also under consideration for the position, is running for the seat this year. The third option commissioners considered, Nadia Gardner, encouraged commissioners to vote for Busch. Armitage also expressed support for Busch during the selection process.

Democratic precinct committee persons in the district nominated the three women for consideration by county commissioners. The majority of PCPs involved in the process voted for Busch, but they were required to nominate a minimum of three options. Furthermore, while 14 commissioners voted for Armitage, nine for Busch and one for Gardner, the commissioners’ votes were weighted based on county populations. As a result, the final tally was 87 votes for Armitage, 16 for Busch, and six for Gardner.

Because Johnson was a Democrat at the time of her last election to the Oregon Senate, commissioners were required to select a successor who is also a Democrat. Johnson is now running for governor without a party affiliation. Johnson urged commissioners to select a replacement who isn’t currently running, although conventional political wisdom suggests that incumbents have a better chance at winning elections.

Washington County commissioners also appointed another state senator last week, bumping Janeen Sollman, the state representative for Hillsboro, up to the Oregon Senate. They will now need to appoint a replacement for Sollman.

Bull Run water treatment plant operational date moved up

In response to demands from the Oregon Health Authority that the city of Portland address lead found in residents’ drinking water, the Portland Water Bureau announced plans to bring a new treatment facility online early. Construction on the Bull Run Filtration Facility is still expected to finish in April, but the plan for bringing the facility online will be accelerated, with it now likely reaching a fully operational status in October. Mingus Mapps, the city commissioner responsible for the Water Bureau, is also considering issuing a directive requiring home owners to swap out copper pipes with lead solder, though the city has no legal jurisdiction to issue such directives. The Portland Water Bureau is also planning to distribute free water filters, but no details are available yet on that plan. Local advocates for clean drinking water are frustrated, given that they’ve been asking the Water Bureau to distribute water filters for exactly this reason for the past four years.

Release of PPB training materials show ties to White supremacist organizations and culture of violence

There’s no real surprise in Portland Police Bureau training materials released last week by Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler (who also holds the position of mayor of Portland). They encourage violence against protestors and showcase an institutional culture with no interest in creating safety for residents of the city the PPB polices. However, the timing of the release is crucial in understanding the lengths city officials have gone to in order to portray the PPB positively.

Wheeler released a statement Friday afternoon about the training materials, hours before the presentation would have been shared in a court filing in Don’t Shoot PDX’s continuing lawsuit against the city of Portland for its use of chemical weapons against protestors in 2020. Don’t Shoot PDX relies on donations to cover costs, including for this lawsuit.

Wheeler learned of the Powerpoint last September, but other commissioners were not informed of its existence until Wheeler’s chief of staff, Bobby Lee, called an emergency meeting with the chiefs of staff of other commissioners on Thursday afternoon. Given that Wheeler sat on knowledge of the Powerpoint presentation for months while working to increase PPB’s budget, community organizations have re-upped prior calls for Wheeler’s resignation. A key concern is that the presentation represents material that could have been used in the defense of protestors facing charges over the past three years.

While much of the concern about this set of training materials focuses on content sourced from White supremacist organizations, the full Powerpoint contains numerous problems, including sections that encourage the treatment of journalists as enemy combatants as well as beating protestors. This news is, of course, merely a symptom of the overall culture of White supremacy and violence at the PPB, as well as the city government’s continuing accommodation of that culture. It’s unlikely the results of any investigation will be made public by the PPB, given that a clause in the city’s contract with the police union guarantees that the city will not discipline officers publicly.

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from Autostraddle.com to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at ThursdayBram.com.