Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is defending the state’s research into a vehicle-miles-traveled fee against charges that it is overly complicated and won’t do much more than simply raising gas taxes.

The debate took place in USA Today on Monday. The lead editorial criticized states, including Oregon, for proposing inefficient solutions to the problem of declining road revenues. It called the VMT being researched in Oregon “a complex bureaucratic system that accomplishes little that gasoline tax doesn’t.”

The Portland Democrat responded in an opposing editorial that the VMT makes paying for road use easier and more convenient. He has proposed legislation to extend state research into how to track and assess vehicles by the miles they are driven.

“The VMT is the most promising mechanism for funding the transportation demands of today and, especially, tomorrow,” he writes.

Fluoride fight continues

Then on Tuesday, Blumenauer became one of several out-of-towners to weigh in on the ballot measure to fluoridate Portland’s water. Although the 3rd District congressman maintains a residence in town, he spends most of his time in Washington, D.C. Despite that, he joined several other environmentalists in a press release endorsing Measure 26-151 on the May 21 special election ballot.

“As a lifelong environmentalist, I would never advocate for anything that would be unsafe for the health of our families or our natural environment,” Blumenauer said in the May 14 release meant to counter opponents’ claims that fluoride is bad for the environment.

That same day, board members of several cities and water districts that buy water from Portland held a press conference to protest the fluoridation plan. They said it was wrong to fluoridate water sold to wholesale customers whose residents cannot vote on the controversial measure. More than 350,000 non-Portlanders drink water bought from the city.

This smells like a lawsuit to us

City Hall has been a fragrance-free zone since March 2011, but that apparently didn’t help Bureau of Maintenance employee Julee Reynolds, who sued the city last week in federal court because her supervisor failed to accommodate her multiple chemical sensitivity condition.

Reynolds is seeking about $50,000 — perhaps more — in damages from the city because she said bureau officials failed to respond to repeated requests to move her away from a co-worker whose scented products caused her to have a serious allergic reactions.

She sought accommodation for her condition in January 2012 under ADA rules. Reynolds’ attorney says the exposure to scented products has continued through this month.

City officials were served with the lawsuit on Monday. Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, said the city couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

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