The Tribune pauses to catch up with some of 2007's notable people, events
Vicki Phillips left town. And 'free' wireless Internet arrived.
We 'visioned,' through Mayor Tom Potter's VisionPDX process. Some of us 'hookahed' at hookah bars that probably were illegal - at least for the 16- and 17-year-olds who especially enjoyed them.
These and other events flashed in and out of the news in 2007.
But like all things, news evolves.
So the Portland Tribune wanted to update its readers on what's happened since the news flash on some of Portland's - and the Tribune's - more notable events.
So here is (some) of the evolution, with more inside on pages A4 and A5:
City starts to sort out a fix for party lines
• Original story (Sept. 4 and Oct. 5): Two Tribune stories found homeowners struggling with the single private sewer lines that sometimes connect a group of homes to the public sewer system.
Called party lines, the systems no longer are allowed under state law, though it is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 homeowners in Portland still have them.
Homeowners with failing party lines were being asked to connect to the public sewer system. Property sales and redevelopment also were driving requests for connections, but the public sewer system has gaps in many of the affected areas.
Lack of a city plan to fill the gaps was placing the burden of constructing new public sewer lines on homeowners. One local man faced repair costs of more than $100,000.
• Update: On Dec. 19, the Portland City Council heard the first formal proposal on a party sewer fix, one that could help homeowners control costs to connect to the public system and help the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, which manages sewers, chart a course toward filling its gaps.
City commissioners will take a formal vote on the program Wednesday.
If approved, the program would aid homeowners who need a quick fix on sewers in the short term, limiting their costs to $2.98 per square foot of their property to construct a public sewer line to their house.
Homeowners then would pay to build a private line from the sewer extension to their home. But the city would offer loans for both the sewer extension and the private property work. Property owners struggling with costs could defer payment of the loans.
'The only ones that will have to connect immediately are those in failure. Those that are not in failure will be given a three-year connection period,' said Lana Danaher, systems development manager at the environmental services bureau.
However, the bureau will come calling on those old sewers in the next 20 years.
'We don't want to wait until people have sewage flowing on the street before we build sewers,' Danaher said.
Instead, the bureau will begin to extend public sewers to neighborhoods that don't have them in 2008.
Those whose sewers function and who sign an agreement with neighbors still can opt out.
The Bureau of Environmental Services estimates the city sewer system needs 900 additional sewer projects and will cost a total of $32 million to upgrade.
- Lee van der Voo
School district bids a few farewells
• Original story (April 27 and June 19): Portland Public Schools saw two dramatic exits this year - that of Vicki Phillips, the district's superintendent, and Leon Dudley, principal of Jefferson High School.
Phillips left Portland for a high-ranking post at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, overseeing the program that gives millions in education grants to schools across the country.
As for Dudley, the teachers and students who clashed with his leadership style were glad for a fresh start after his resignation in June.
• Update: Phillips' supporters and critics wondered how the district could implement many of the sweeping reforms she initiated, such as closing some schools and reconfiguring others to a K-8 model.
Phillips was in Portland last month, giving a speech to the Native American Youth and Family Center, but otherwise has kept a low profile. At the foundation, she's been learning the ropes, overseeing her staff of about 80 people and delivering speeches to educators in Washington, D.C., and Texas.
Dudley left after an extended medical leave, resolved his differences with the district through mediation and reached a confidential settlement, according to his attorney, Nick Fish.
Fish said Dudley returned to his family in Dallas, Texas, where he set out to look for work as a teacher again. But there's no word on where, exactly, he's working.
Representatives from the Dallas Independent School District, for which Dudley had served as a principal before he came to Portland, said he no longer works for the district.
Dudley declined comment when contacted by phone. 'I'm not interested in talking to you,' he told the Tribune. 'I'm doing just fine, thank you.'
Not to worry, Fish said: 'Vicki Phillips is one of his strongest references.'
- Jennifer Anderson
Convention center hotel still faces some hoops
• Original story (Jan. 19): Metro began the new year by agreeing to consider taking over the Portland Development Commission's long-delayed idea of building a 600-room headquarters hotel across the street from the Oregon Convention Center.
Although the PDC had gone so far as to buy the property for around $12 million and select a development team for the project, Portland Mayor Tom Potter and city Commissioner Erik Sten balked when the required public costs grew to around $88 million.
The elected Metro Council agreed to look at the possibility of building a publicly owned hotel because it already owns the center.
• Update: The long-running saga of the controversial convention center headquarters hotel will continue into next year.
Despite opposition from some local hotel owners and conservative bloggers, the Metro Council voted Nov. 8 to continue studying whether to build a hotel across Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
It also approved spending around $670,000 for its staff to work with developers to draft a project agreement and maximum budget.
Before the vote, a majority of the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Board of Commissioners wrote personal letters to the council expressing various levels of interest in the project - although nothing close to promising financial support.
After the Metro staff completes this phase of the project, the Metro Council probably will decide whether to continue sometime next summer. Total construction-related costs are estimated at about $240 million.
The project's future might not be fully resolved in 2008, however. Even if Metro agrees to enter the next phase over the summer, it still could bail out before breaking ground in 2010.
- Jim Redden
Fresh leadership arrives at nursing board
• Original story (Aug. 31): The Tribune reported on the results of a state investigation into how the Oregon Board of Nursing oversees the state's approximately 65,000 nurses and nursing assistants.
On the day the investigation report was released - critical of the board - the board's executive director, Joan Bouchard, resigned. Another board executive, Kimberly Cobrain, was fired by the new interim executive director.
• Update: The state investigation had begun after a series of stories in the Tribune in 2006 and 2007 about the board. The stories detailed how the board was not reporting nurses who might have committed crimes to criminal justice authorities.
Stories also reported lax oversight in the agency's confidential monitoring program for addicted nurses, which allowed nurses to remain at their jobs even after multiple instances of stealing medications from patients.
The state investigation found even more problems, including cases of alleged sex abuse and attempted rape that came before the board but never were referred to criminal justice authorities.
Since August, Sue Nelson, appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski as the interim executive director, has overseen a revamping of the way the board does business, starting with hiring staff members who were not nurses - a rarity in the previous administration.
Three weeks ago, the board hired a new permanent executive director and a new second in command. The director, Holly Mercer, is a lawyer with a background in nursing. The new investigations and compliance manager, Linda Fisher-Lewis, has spent much of her career as a police officer.
In November, the board also hired investigators to review the last three years of cases involving nurses brought before the board.
The investigators are looking for cases of nurses that should have been reported to criminal justice authorities. Their work is expected to be completed within the next two months.
- Peter Korn
Guantánamo detainee finds friends in Portland
• Original story (Jan. 12): The Tribune reported on efforts by a trio of Portlanders to publicize through a Web site - www.projecthamad.org - the continued detention of a Sudanese man named Adel Hamad at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The three Portlanders had become aware of Hamad through an earlier Tribune story that detailed his legal representation by the Portland office of the federal public defender and by Steven Wax, who heads that office.
• Update: Wax's office announced Dec. 13 that, after almost five years at the Guantánamo prison, Hamad had just been flown home to his family in Sudan.
The end of Hamad's detention came as the U.S. military is releasing an increasing number of detainees at Guantánamo - people who military officials have accused of being 'enemy combatants' against the United States.
There now are about 290 detainees at Guantánamo.
While it's not clear what finally precipitated Hamad's release, one of the Portlanders involved in the Web site believes that the site and other efforts by Wax and his office helped make Hamad one of the more famous Guantánamo detainees - at least on the Internet.
Adding to Hamad's fame, William Teesdale, an investigator in Wax's office, produced two videos about Hamad's case and placed them on the YouTube Web site. The same videos are available at project
The videos and site 'really got all the information out (about the Hamad case) and got people discussing it,' said David Naimon, a Portland naturopathic physician and acupunturist who helped create and operate the Web site.
The other Portlanders behind the site were Laura Moulton, a writer and teacher, and her husband, Ben Parzybok, a Web developer.
- Todd Murphy
Mayor has a vision, but not all see eye-to-eye
• Original story (March 9): A preliminary look at the thousands of public surveys completed as part of Mayor Tom Potter's community visioning project showed Portlanders want to live in a clean, green, safe city - but were worried that growth and rising housing costs were hurting livability.
The City Council had mixed views of the visioning project, with some wondering whether it would be worth its $1.3 million-plus price tag.
• Update: The project, also known as VisionPDX, was one of Mayor Tom Potter's top priorities for increasing public participation in shaping the future of the city.
Although the council unanimously accepted the vision report Sept. 19, we all will have to wait a little bit longer to see what it produces.
Even after accepting the vision, some commissioners privately grumbled that it is mostly pie-in-the-sky generalities. Nevertheless, the council approved about $242,000 more for the project in early December.
Of that amount, $125,000 will go for grants to community organizations to create projects that carry out aspects of the vision.
The remaining $117,000 will pay city staffers to fold the vision into the Portland Plan, the comprehensive planning process being launched by the Bureau of Planning to guide future development in the central city.
The work is expected to continue after Potter leaves office in January 2009.
- Jim Redden
City mulls two-wheeled rental fleet
• Original story (Oct. 12): The Tribune reported that city Commissioner Sam Adams was probing the idea of a bicycle rental fleet that would mimic similar programs in European cities such as Paris.
Targeting car and transit commuters, the idea is aimed at people who make short trips during the day, primarily downtown, and could benefit from having use of a bicycle for those trips.
Adams requested proposals for a fleet of 500 bikes as a first phase of a broader program to boost transit options and the city's image as among the most bike-friendly in the nation.
• Update: The city received three proposals for the bike rental plan and still is considering two, according to Roland Chlapowski, a senior policy director for Adams.
Chlapowski said the ideas are being considered by a consortium of bicycle planners that include representatives from Metro, the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Portland Office of Transportation.
He said a decision probably would be made in January but that much about funding still was unknown.
Though he declined to say which plans were still on the table, the options came from three contenders.
Clear Channel Outdoor, better known as a media and billboard company, has developed bicycle-rental programs around the world and aims to add Portland to its list.
Clear Channel trades advertising rights in public spaces for operation of bike rental programs, but has one program in Spain that does not have an ad component.
Other contenders include the Arcata Bicycle Library. The organization runs a bike borrowing plan in Arcata, Calif., that functions much like a library.
A group calling itself the Portland Bike Co. also is in the mix. That group includes Alta Planning and Design, a local company that specializes in bike, pedestrian and park trails.
Chlapowski has said it isn't clear whether Portlanders would prefer a plan with public funding over one that included public advertising.
'In the next round we're going to ask more about the advertising component. Really it wasn't clear exactly how much revenue was potentially going to be made from ads, and so that's going to affect the overall plan,' he said.
- Lee van der Voo
Wrestling's not supposed to be easy
• Original story (May 18): In April a prominent local wrestling promoter, Frank Culbertson Jr., was indicted, dropping a pile driver on plans to revive the local institution called Portland Wrestling.
Culbertson was charged with aggravated theft, having been accused of embezzling at least $10,000 from Broadway Cab, where he had gotten a job as controller in the firm's accounting unit.
News of the indictment came as a surprise to Culbertson's new Portland Wrestling partner, Don Coss, who had been working with Culbertson to revive the moribund venture.
But the business foundered, and Culbertson transferred majority ownership to Coss in return for Coss assuming some of his debts.
'I thought he was regrouping, but nothing ever happened, so I ended up paying off everything that was owed,' Coss said in May, when told of Culbertson's indictment.
• Update: Following the article, Coss told the Tribune he spoke with Culbertson, who indicated that the case against him was 'being thrown out' because the cab-company theft took place 'at a time when he wasn't even there.'
This came as news to the Multnomah County district attorney's office, where prosecutors told the Portland Tribune that Culbertson pleaded guilty to aggravated theft and agreed to pay $48,000 in restitution to Broadway Cab's insurance company.
He received five years of probation, during which he, essentially, is not allowed to handle other people's money, according to Deputy District Attorney Dennis Shinn.
Also, Culbertson had to enter a gambling counseling program and contribute 320 hours of community service.
According to the Multnomah County sheriff's office, in mid-November Culbertson began serving his 30-day jail sentence on weekends.
Coss, meanwhile, has been wondering whatever happened to Culbertson, saying 'I've been meaning to call Frank and see how he's doing.'
As for Portland Wrestling, 'I don't intend to let it die,' Coss said.
- Nick Budnick
City Wi-Fi may be a dream deferred
• Original story (Jan. 19): Several weeks after a free wireless network arranged by the city of Portland began operating, the Tribune reported it wasn't working very well.
MetroFi Inc., the California company that agreed to build the service, hoping to make its money from Web advertising revenue, had begun operating its system in parts of downtown and the inner east side of Portland.
But many people who tried to use it complained it didn't work indoors, and often not even outdoors, where MetroFi officials had said people would find it worked best.
• Update: MetroFi's special cone-shaped transmitters atop stoplights have expanded to cover about 20 percent of the city - mostly downtown and Southeast Portland. Usage also has increased - from about 41,000 hours in February to about 315,000 hours in November.
But both MetroFi and its economic model seem to be struggling.
More cities are shelving their ideas for free wireless networks, and some in the industry believe it's impossible for private companies to make a profit only through advertising revenue - as MetroFi had expected to do.
Even though the city's contract with MetroFi calls for it to cover 95 percent of the city by August, MetroFi has stopped expanding at roughly 20 percent of the city, according to Logan Kleier, the city's project manager overseeing the MetroFi system.
Kleier said MetroFi officials have indicated to city officials that they would continue expanding the system only if the company could get more private funding or 'pending a change in the city's financial commitment toward MetroFi.'
The city pays nothing for the MetroFi service under the current contract, and city officials have indicated they don't expect that to change.
'We feel the contract is pretty clear about the building-out requirements,' Kleier said, adding that if the company does not meet that requirement, 'that requires us to revisit our relationship' with MetroFi.
Calls to MetroFi officials were not returned.
- Todd Murphy
Evicted 'sheriff' sits on waiting list
• Original story (Aug. 17): Rudy Callier, a 59-year-old man who is legally blind, was evicted from his home after the owner sought to renovate the home for sale.
Known by his neighbors as the 'Sheriff of Russell Street,' Callier was trying to navigate the complicated housing system with help from the fledgling group Black Citizens Coalition of Portland Neighborhoods.
• Update: Callier has landed on his feet and is living in an apartment at McCoy Village, on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, while he waits for more affordable subsidized housing.
Heidi Scofield, a housing specialist with the Northwest Pilot Project, said there's about a six-month wait for subsidized housing in the city, so Callier hopes to get into a place called Cascadian Terrace in North Portland this month.
There, his rent will be about $180; at McCoy, it's $525 - more than he can afford with his Social Security and disability checks, but he's scraping by.
'It's quiet, and it's clean,' Callier said. 'I'm basically doing OK.'
Willie Brown, executive director of the black coalition, wonders about 'all the other Calliers out there.'
'We've got a real housing problem here,' Brown said. 'It's like the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about.'
- Jennifer Anderson
Police officer had a little trouble at home
• Original story (Aug. 17): Portland Police Officer Hythum Ismail had an unpleasant surprise on March 9. That's when a regional interagency drug unit searched his Oregon City home and busted his tenant and friend from high school, Lewis Mikkelson.
Growing up in Clackamas County, the two had been friends through high school. But while Ismail became a border patrol agent and then a Portland cop - one who performed standup comedy and started a restaurant on the side - his old friend, Mikkelson, could not keep a job and eventually was divorced from the mother of his baby.
When Mikkelson needed an address so he would have visitation rights with his son, friends said Ismail took pity on Mikkelson and let him rent a room.
Then, during a wide-ranging sting, police received information that Mikkelson was a 'runner,' or delivery boy, for a local meth dealer. Upon searching Ismail's house they noticed the odor of marijuana that apparently had just been smoked by Mikkelson.
Ismail was placed on leave while being investigated to see if he was aware of Mikkelson's activities.
• Update: In September, Mikkelson pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine. In October, Ismail returned to work.
His girlfriend, Kassi Abel, sent the Portland Tribune an e-mail following the publication of the article. She said the two men had drifted apart by the time Mikkelson moved in to Ismail's house.
Also, she said that Ismail, busy with a restaurant he'd opened in Hillsboro, was hardly ever home and had no idea how Mikkelson spent his days.
Ismail did not return calls, but two friends who attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., with him said they had spoken to him since the internal investigators cleared him of wrongdoing.
'He was really happy to be going back,' said Chris Piekarski, a former Multnomah County deputy district attorney.
'He kind of wants to put everything in the past,' said Brian Medlock, an Oregon State Police forensic scientist. 'He's doing great.'
- Nick Budnick
Hookah hangouts set off concerns
• Original story (July 27): A Tribune story found that local 'hookah bars' were catering to teenagers with flavored tobacco in Middle Eastern-style hookah pipes, and not bothering to ask for proof of age, even though selling smokes to anyone under 18 is illegal.
Some of the hookah bars also were breaking state laws about smoking in public places. State law says tobacco can be smoked only in bars, which are limited to people 21 and older, and in tobacco shops.
• Update: The Tribune story led to visits from Multnomah County health department code enforcement officers and agreements by the hookah bars that they would change their ways.
At least one hookah bar - the Sultan Cafe, at 1500 N.W. 18th Ave. - agreed it would allow smoking only at tables outside the establishment.
Among the hookah bars catering to young people was Metro Pizza and Cafe, 222 S.W. Washington St., which had become a hangout for Lincoln High School students. Cammy Koelling, manager of Metro Pizza, reports that her establishment is now meeting state smoking standards, and that business has picked up after an initial slowdown.
Metro Pizza has a bar, open only to those 21 and over. Hookah pipes with flavored tobacco products are available there, Koelling said.
Metro's upstairs room is open to everybody, and mostly is frequented by young people, Koelling said. There, hookahs are still available, but the stuff in the pipes is called herbal shisha and contains no tobacco, Koelling said. The product, she said, contains no tar or nicotine.
According to Jill Thompson, policy manager for the tobacco prevention and education program in the Oregon Department of Human Services, the adjustments made by Metro Pizza probably make the establishment fine, for now.
New state regulations passed by the Legislature in June will further limit indoor smoking, Thompson said. Starting in January 2009, tobacco smoking will be illegal even in bars in Oregon.
But Thompson said the new law is unclear as to whether herbal hookah will be allowed indoors - the state regulations don't appear to address herbal smoking.
'Herbal is a really big word, and a lot of things can fit into that category,' Thompson said.
Thompson said she hopes to finish defining rules as soon as possible to determine whether herbs are allowed.
- Peter Korn