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Sources: Sparks fly in TriMet contract talks

With the current contract between TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 expiring in November, charges and counter-charges are starting to fly back and forth between the regional transit agency and the union representing most of its employees, just like the last time.

ATU 757 President Shirley Block recently sent out an email accusing TriMet management of creating a “toxic culture of fear and intimidation” that was creating “unprecedented high turnover” among employees.

TriMet says the union is playing politics. While the agency is actively recruiting new drivers, it reports an annualized turnover rate of only 13.5 percent, which is less than the 16 percent average for the public and private sectors of the economy.

The last time this happened, ATU 757 succeeded in having the Oregon Department of Transportation conduct physical inspections of portions of the MAX tracks it said were unsafe. No safety problems were found.

Thank you, Captain Obvious

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University and San Diego State University have confirmed what everyone following the 2016 elections already knows — that Americans are more politically polarized than ever and have lost faith in the major political parties.

After reviewing national studies representing 10 million people, the researchers found that in 1989, about 30 percent of adults identified as independents. In 2014, that number was up to 46 percent, which is an all-time high. More people also are identifying as "strongly Democratic" or "strongly Republican," with a lot fewer moderates.

"While our data can't speak to the possible reasons this is happening, we speculate that the increase in the percentage of independents could reflect a growing dissatisfaction with the entrenchment of the two major U.S. parties," says study co-author Ryne Sherman, who notes millennials are leading the way.

Sources screwed up

Sources inadvertently shortchanged Bud Pierce, the Republican nominee for Oregon governor, last week. We said he had about $40,000 in the bank when the total actually was around $400,000.

But the larger point of the comment is still true. Brown has raised around $3.7 million in campaign funds since becoming governor in February 2015, while Pierce has only collected about $2.2 million for his campaign, with much of the money coming from himself.

By the end of last week, Pierce was reporting a little more than $447,000 on hand compared to over $1.9 million for Brown.