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Sources Say: As killer appeals, Francke dedication stirs memories

By a strange coincidence, the Oregon Department of Corrections is scheduled to honor former director Michael Franke just as the Department of Justice is preparing to respond to a federal appeal filed on behalf of his convicted murderer, Frank Gable.

The department will rename a conference room in its headquarters building after Franke on Jan. 16. Members of Franke's family have been invited to attend the ceremony, including brother Levin and Patrick, who have consistently argued that Gable did not kill Franke on Jan. 17, 1989, during a botched car robbery. Instead, the brothers have consistently claimed that Franke's death was the result of a conspiracy by corrupt corrections officials.

Although the ceremony is scheduled to take place almost exactly 26 years after Franke was killed outside the headquarters building in Salem, it is happening as part of a renovation project that includes refurbishing the unnamed conference room. The appeal filed by the federal public defenders office seeks a new trial or immediate parole eligibility for Gable.

Infill houses get mayor's attention

Mayor Charlie Hales is interested in having the city look at the issue of large infill houses. He could fund a study by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability early next year or include it in the next fiscal year's budget, according to his spokesman, Dana Haynes.

Neighborhood activists have been complaining for months that an increasing number of small, affordable homes are being torn down and replaced with big, expensive houses that do not fit in their surroundings. A relatively new grassroots group called United Neighborhoods for Reform made that point with a slide show of before-and-after infill photographs at a recent City Council meeting. The group is scheduled to return to the council on Feb. 21 to continue pushing for the appointment of a citywide task force to study the issues.

Hales hasn't agreed to that yet, but he is interested in have BPS bring him more information about it next year, Haynes said. Funding could come during the spring 2015 Budget Monitoring Process (commonly called BUMP) or in the annual budget that begins on July 1.

Fuel fuels competing demands

Although gas prices have been falling for months, several proposals are heading toward the 2015 Oregon Legislature that could push them up for different — and sometimes conflicting — reasons.

Transportation infrastructure funding advocates are talking about increasing the state's existing 30 cents per gallon gas tax to fund more road, rail, bike and pedestrian projects. At the same time, environmentalists are beginning to push a carbon tax that would increase the cost of all carbon-based fuels, including gas and diesel. The goal is to reduce the use of such fuels, which would reduce gas taxes collected by the state for transportation projects.

And then there's the renewal of the complicated low-carbon fuel standard that some say would increase the cost of gas to help fund the production of biomass supplements and other alternatives. How the legislative session that begins in January, where Democrats have increased their control of the House and Senate, will resolve these competing demands is anybody's guess.