Portland, OR

Portland Daily Round Up: ODOT moving forward with tolls, Newberg School Board faces recalls after superintendent firing

Emily Scarvie

(William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

By Emily Scarvie

(PORTLAND, Ore.) Hello Portlanders! It's Wednesday, Nov. 17 - Here's your daily round up of all the news happening in the City of Roses.

1. ODOT continuing with tolling projects despite federal funding

Despite the Oregon Department of Transportation receiving $1.2 billion from the federal infrastructure bill, the implementation of tolls on the Abernathy and Tualatin River bridges is still going forward. The additional funding will be used to add lanes and make the Abernathy Bridge earthquake ready.

When asked why ODOT is still going forward with these projects, despite the infrastructure funding, Travis Brouwer said, “We’re getting that question a lot and the reality is that this infusion of resources into the transportation system, while significant, is not enough to be able to pay for those projects in the absence of tolling.”

According to Brouwer, Oregon is only receiving $400 million in flexible federal funds and the current I-205 project is estimated at around $700 million. ODOT said that even when lane expansions and bridge projects are paid off, it’s possible that tolls will continue as a way to fill other funding gaps for transportation projects.

2. Newberg School Board faces 2 recalls amid firing of superintendent

Amid the fallout from the Newberg School Board’s controversial decision to fire Superintendent Dr. Joe Morelock without cause last week, a petition to recall board members Dave Brown and Brian Shannon was filed Tuesday. Last Thursday, hundreds of people gathered outside of the Newberg School District Office to protest Morelock’s firing.

Morelock was the district’s superintendent for just over two years and was contracted until June 30, 2024. The district will now have to pay him a year’s salary up to $260,000 and pay a new interim superintendent a comparable salary. The time consuming and costly process of choosing a new superintendent can cost the district over $40,000 as well. The petition against Board Chair Brown reads in part, “this single act, initiated by Brown, will cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The firing of Morelock and subsequent petitions to oust board members come after months of debate and lawsuits regarding a district-wide ban on Black Lives Matter, Pride and other signage considered to be political. The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 23. The board has not commented on the recall efforts.

3. Philanthropist files papers to bring decriminalization of sex work to Oregon's 2022 ballot

In an effort to bring the issue before Oregon voters in the 2022 election, a philanthropist has filed papers to decriminalize sex work in the state, ending criminal penalties for those participating in consensual adult sex work. According to those backing the Sex Worker Rights Act, Oregon’s current laws make it hard for sex workers to report rape, harassment and human trafficking to law enforcement, fearing they themselves may be arrested.

The filing with the Oregon Secretary of State says the philanthropist is Aaron Boonshoft, a Portland resident who donated $1.2 million to the Sex Workers Project, the group behind a failed attempt at decriminalizing sex work earlier this year.

Supporters of the new filing will need to gather 112,020 signatures to get it on the ballot for the 2022 election.

4. Local pediatrician recommends getting kids 5-11 years old vaccinated against COVID-19

Despite Portland Public Schools delaying a vote on mandating COVID-19 vaccines for eligible students, local health officials are encouraging parents to get their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated against the virus.

“If your child is over 5 years old and eligible to get the vaccine, I would have no hesitation to get them vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr. Neil DeSouza, a pediatrician with Metropolitan Pediatrics, told KOIN, adding that adverse reactions to the vaccines are “extremely rare and the risk for COVID and heart problems or other problems from COVID infection is much bigger.”

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine, for children ages 5 to 11 years old, is one-third the dose of the adult vaccine. While kids may see mild side effects, like many adults, health officials say they haven’t seen any severe allergic reactions. According to DeSouza, the vaccine can prevent COVID symptoms up to 91%, keeping kids out of the hospital.

For more information on the pediatric vaccine, or to schedule an appointment, click here.

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