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Bailey and Wheeler attack each other over SE Portland pollution issue


CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Jules BaileyPortland mayoral candidate Jules Bailey is accusing Ted Wheeler, his major opponent, of trying to protect a campaign contributor by shifting blame for the industrial air pollution in Southeast Portland.

Bailey, a Multnomah County commissioner, issued a press release Wednesday morning stating that Wheeler received contributions totaling $750 from Lani McGregor on Jan. 21 and 22. McGregor is co-owner of Bullseye Glass, which the Oregon Department of Environmental says is responsible for the arsenic and cadmium pollution discovered around Southeast 22nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard.

On Tuesday, Wheeler, who is state treasurer, issued a press release blasting the DEQ for not doing more to track down the source or sources of arsenic and cadmium several years ago. The DEQ also waited months before revealing the Oregon Department of Forestry had found high levels of arsenic and cadmium near Bullseye Glass, which is located at 3610 S.E. 21st Ave.

The press release from the Bailey campaign took issue with Wheeler's statements on the topic.

“Wheeler’s non-transparent effort to protect a polluter and donor whose actions have put local families at risk may give Portlanders a glimpse into how he intends to run the city,” Bailey's campaign manager Christine Lewis said in the Wednesday press release. “Sheltering polluters and shifting the blame when something goes wrong is not the Portland way.”

The release stated that Wheeler had even complimented Bullseye Glass for voluntarily stopping the use of arsenic and cadmium in its glass products after being identified as the source of the pollution. The company has been in business for 40 years.

The Bailey campaign also called on Wheeler to donate the $750 to the nonprofit organization Neighbors for Clean Air. The donations were made weeks before news of the pollution was first reported by the Portland Mercury.

Michael Cox, campaign manager for Ted Wheeler, turned the issue back on Bailey in a statement released later on Wednesday.

“Individual businesses bear responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and it is up to the people’s representatives in government to enact a robust regulatory and enforcement regime to hold them accountable. In this case the government failed. As chair of the House Environment Committee, Jules Bailey was part of that failure. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on this very real problem, Bailey is taking a community health issue and is posturing to score political points.”

The Wheeler campaign also noted that Lani McGregor asked the campaign on Tuesday to return the $750 contribution because she did not like the campaign's characterization of the pollution issue. Wheeler will return the money, according to the campaign's statement.

On the Bullseye Glass website, McGregor and co-owner Dan Schwoerer say the DEQ has assured them the company has been and remains in compliance with it air discharge permit.

"In fact, our site in Portland has passed two DEQ inspections in the last year," say McGregor and Schwoerer, adding they have hired an outside environmental consultant to review their glass-making process and DEQ monitoring results, and to inform them on ways they could modify their process to reduce concerns.

McGregor's contributions to wheeler were first reported Tuesday by Bike Portland. The $750 amount is insignificant compared to the nearly $399,000 in cash and in-kind contributions raised by Wheeler's campaign so far. Some contributions have been over $1,000.

Bailey has limited his contributions to $250, but has not ruled out other committees spending money on his behalf, which Wheeler has done.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has also expressed concern over DEQ's slow response to reports of the pollution and has demanded an explanation and list of next steps.