Conservatives aren t saying much nice about Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley these days, especially since Republicans have targeted the first-term Democrat in next year s election. But Fox News analyst Juan Williams broke ranks this week by naming Merkley Man of the Year in Congress  in an opinion piece in The Hill, a news-oriented website focusing on Capitol Hill.

In the piece, Williams praised Merkley for leading the charge to overturn the traditional filibuster system in the U.S. Senate that has allowed Republicans to block President Obama s nominees to the courts and top administration positions.

The senator stands out as the leader of the Democrats  historic move to go to the nuclear option,  ending the paralysis by threat of filibuster that tied the Senate in knots for the last five years,  Williams wrote.

At the same time, Williams noted that the move has partisan ramifications, including some for Merkley.

The junior senator from the Beaver State showed a lot of political bite, in the form of persistence, and has become a left-wing hero as a result,  Williams wrote.

Although Williams is not as conservative as some Republican talking heads, Merkley s staff was quick to point out his Fox News job when emailing the column to Oregon reporters.

City can t wash hands of lawsuit

A judge might rule whether the City Council has misspent water and sewer funds before the May primary election when voters could decide whether to transfer the water and sewer bureaus to an independent board.

If the judge rules the council has misspent the funds, it will be given ammunition to supporters of the initiative petition. But the city could be hurt politically even if the judge sides with the council. Such a ruling would essentially mean the City Charter allows the council to spend water and sewer funds however it sees fit.

Oral arguments in the long-running civil lawsuit about water and sewer spending could be heard in January or February. Both sides have filed motions for the summary judgment that lay out positions on a range of appropriations by the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the sewer system and stormwater management programs.

Brrr, council gives summit cold shoulder

Portland City Council members were noticeably absent at the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit that was held in town on Monday. No one on the council even attended the breakfast forum on local issues at the Oregon Convention Center.

Significantly, the council members did not have much work to do Monday morning. A power outage shut down City Hall and the adjacent Portland Building through the day. Ironically, the council was scheduled to present an update of the strategic plan for the Emergency Management Bureau calling for better preparations for disasters.

Many other local elected officials showed up at the morning session, however, even though they do not occupy full-time jobs, like Portland s leaders. They included Clackamas County Chairman John Ludlow, Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp and Clackamas Community College board member Ron Adams.

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