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Plus, City Council told how much to repay each utility bureau in ratepayer lawsuit and mass transit agency facing conflicting demands for security

COURTESY TRIMET - Neil McFarlaneTriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane will have caught a lot of flak for no reason if the 2017 Oregon Legislature passes the recently revised version of its new transportation fund package.

TrIMet currently is planning to put a regional transportation funding measure on the November 2018 ballot to help pay for the proposed Southwest Corridor MAX line. The agency also agreed to consider local matching funds for state freeway-widening projects in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. Alternative transportation advocates roundly criticized McFarlane for being willing to support those projects, even though doing so was a regional decision.

But the Legislature's revised transportation package delays most of the freeway projects, eliminating the need for TriMet to seek the matching funds for them. Instead, the agency now is considering whether to include funds to reduce congestion on such regionally significant arterials as the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and McLoughlin and Powell boulevards.

Judge finalizes ratepayer lawsuit ruling

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong finalized his ruling in the long-running ratepayer lawsuit against Portland last week. Bushong has now ordered the City Council to repay $13.5 million to the Portland Water Bureau and $3.5 million to the Bureau of Environmental Services for spending on projects not authorized by the City Council.

Although $17 million is far less than what ratepayer lawyer John DiLorenzo originally sought, he notes the council "voluntarily" repaid other funds to the bureaus after the suit was filed five years ago. Those repayments included $1.6 million to buy and fix up a failed restaurant in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park for the Portland Rose Festival Association, $950,000 to help buy Centennial Mills for redevelopment, and $70,000 to help buy the Kelly Building on East Burnside Street for the police. The council also repaid $394,950 to the Water Bureau after selling the "water demonstration house" in East Portland that cost $940,000.

Although Bushong authorized the sewer bureau to advance over $50 million for the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup, he also required the city to "true up" the spending among all city bureaus when such information is available. "That could be huge or result in a new lawsuit," DiLorenzo says.

TriMet pushed in different directions

During the first TriMet board meeting since the fatal stabbing incident on a MAX train, public testimony was split about how the regional transit agency should respond.

Amy Farrara, who said she was on board the train when accused murderer Jeremy Christian allegedly killed two men and critically wounded another, complained that the driver did not seem prepared to respond and police were not present when the trained stopped.

But activists from Bus Riders United and other regular TrIMet critics said more police are not the answer. During the June 28 meeting, they charged that armed officers terrorize low-income and minority riders on buses and trains.

TriMet has increased armed patrols since the May 26 stabbing. Board chairman Bruce Warner said the agency is committed to protecting the safety of both riders and employees.

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