Axios Portland

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๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿฝ Hey there, Friday. Congrats on making it to the weekend.

  • We've got a list of cool things happening around town below.

๐ŸŒง๏ธ Today's weather: Showers with a chance of storms. High 64, low 44.

Today's newsletter is 935 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Portland police's new Public Order Team

A new Public Order Team for protests and large gatherings will debut later this year as part of the Portland Police Bureau. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Portland police plan to create a new protest response team in anticipation of potential unrest related to the 2024 election.

Why it matters: The Portland Police Bureau is revamping its Rapid Response Team, which was disbanded in 2021, amid concerns about First Amendment rights and the police's use of force against protesters.

Driving the news: The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize a letter of agreement with the police union to create the Public Order Team and pay officers a 6% premium when they suit up.

  • The program will cost about $380,000 a year.
  • The new team will support "both community voice and community safety, particularly during this election year," Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also heads the Police Bureau, told the council.

Behind the scenes: Wheeler asked the Portland Police Association about creating the team in time for the election, police union president Sgt. Aaron Schmautz told The Oregonian.

  • "You look at what happened in 2020 โ€” police officers have no desire to be standing on the other side of a fence from the community," Schmautz said.

Catch up quick: The previous Rapid Response Team shut down in June 2021 after a member was charged with criminal assault and all the team's members resigned in protest.

Context: Deputy chief Mike Frome told the council that police officers currently receive two days of training for crowd management but the Public Order Team will receive additional training including in communications, crowd psychology and other standards outlined by the National Tactical Officers Association.

By the numbers: Forty officers, eight sergeants and "a couple" of lieutenants will make up the new force.

  • Frome stressed their pay should be appropriate to the risk of being on the front lines just as tactical team, bomb squad and motorcycle cops are paid 6% hazard pay.

What they're saying: Frome acknowledged Wednesday that Portlanders are wary of officers in tactical gear on the streets.

  • "I know the thought of a new Public Order Team can be frightening and disconcerting to some people ... but we're going to be very open about their training," he said.

What's next: Beginning in June, select officers will receive 96 hours of training.

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2. ๐Ÿงฝ Millions headed to PDX for graffiti cleanup

Graffiti seen on Interstate 5 near the Rosa Parks Way exit in North Portland. Photo: Meira Gebel/Axios

Expect to see crews painting over graffiti and replacing vandalized highway signs along Portland's main transportation arteries in the coming weeks.

Driving the news: The Legislature approved a $20 million bump in the Oregon Department of Transportation's budget to address graffiti, litter and homeless camp cleanup in the tri-county area โ€” an initiative put forth by Gov. Tina Kotek's downtown task force.

  • Once the governor signs the bill, ODOT will begin issuing contracts to hire private companies to do the work.

What they're saying: "Sometime in April we'll begin to see crews working on this," Don Hamilton, a spokesperson for the transportation agency, told Axios. "Will we see a difference? Yes, but it won't put an end to this problem."

Context: Graffiti along Portland's main arteries has only worsened since ODOT ran out of dedicated funds to remove and prevent vandalism from the city's highways last summer.

  • Addressing shortfalls in ODOT's budget โ€” which has taken a significant hit since revenue from the state's gas tax has dropped โ€” will be a priority for lawmakers in next year's session, Hamilton said.

By the numbers: Of the $20 million allocated, $4 million will be dedicated solely to painting over graffiti and replacing illegible, vandalized highway signs.

  • Another $4 million will be dedicated to homeless camp cleanup, an additional $4 million for litter, and the rest will be used to install barriers under bridges, near retaining walls and along bike lanes to deter camping and RV parking.

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3. Rose City Rundown

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Rep. Ben Bowman (D-Tigard) will be the new majority leader of the Oregon House, making him the second-youngest lawmaker to hold the position. (OPB)

๐Ÿฅพ REI will open its largest Oregon store in Beaverton on April 19. The move comes less than two months after the outdoor retailer closed its downtown Portland store. (KGW)

๐Ÿ’ผ To address the state's defender shortage, the Oregon State Bar has made history by allowing 10 paralegals to perform some family law and eviction services. (Willamette Week)

4. ๐Ÿชฉ What to do this weekend in Portland

Ian Karmel left his hometown of Portland to pursue television writing in Hollywood. He's back this weekend for a special comedy stand-up show. Photo: Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

The rain returns, but that's never stopped us from having a good time.

The latest: Household names, theatrical acts and creators of all kinds are out in full force in Portland this weekend in the pursuit of entertainment โ€” and you can get in on the fun.

Today

๐ŸŒทThe Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn opens this weekend and runs through May 5. Plenty of photo ops can be had among the rows and rows of colorful tulips throughout the 40-acre farm. Tickets for adults are $15.

๐ŸŽง London-based DJ MAKOTO, known for his mastery of the drum and bass genre, makes his Portland debut at Holocene. Permit yourself to dance the night away. Doors open at 8:45pm, tickets are $30.

Tomorrow

๐ŸŽค Ian Karmel, a comedian Willamette Week once deemed "Portland's funniest person," left his hometown for Hollywood a few years ago to pursue television writing and talk show gigs. Now he's back with special back-to-back stand-up shows at Revolution Hall at 7pm and 10pm. Tickets start at $30.

๐Ÿ“– The 13th annual Smallpresspalooza takes place at Powell's from 4-8pm. Come celebrate Portland's local authors at the marathon of readings known for leaving standing room only. Free.

What's happening Sunday

5. ๐Ÿ“ท 1 photo to go: Spring in your neighborhood

A Forest Pansy Redbud tree in bloom. Photo: Courtesy of Mike Ebbs

Thank you to reader Mike E. for brightening our day with this magnificent picture of a Forest Pansy Redbud tree, which "produces a riot of pink on all the branches every spring."

๐ŸŒธ We hope it brightens yours, too.

๐Ÿน Meira finally got around to visiting Victoria bar and realized Axios Portland is overdue for a "best bar and restaurant patios" guide. Send your recs!

๐Ÿ“— Joseph is unboxing "Amma," by Saraid de Silva, the latest subscription novel from Weatherglass Books in London. That doesn't mean he'll read it though.

Editor's Note: Yesterday's story has been corrected to reflect that fast-charging an EV's battery to full in a state like Arizona may cost as much as $50 (not $5).

This newsletter was edited by Delano Massey and Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Steven Patrick and Anjelica Tan.