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Sources Say: Advance hints: NJ's death star

Although owners of The Oregonian insist they are still committed to print journalism, they are threatening to shut down another of their newspapers at the end of the year.

At risk is the Star-Ledger in Newark, the largest daily newspaper in New Jersey. Like The Oregonian, it is part of Advance Publications, owned by billionaire brothers Si and Donald Newhouse.

According to the New York Post, Star-Ledger Publisher Richard Vezza has said the paper will close at the end of the year unless it wins major concessions from its production unions.

The June 28 story headlined “NJ’s death ‘Star’ ” says Vezza has given the unions until Sept. 27 to come up with $9 million in savings or else the paper will be shuttered. In a letter to staff, Vezza says the paper lost $19.8 million last year on top of $12 million in 2011. A similar shortfall is expected this year.

The article quotes Ed Shown, pressman’s local boss and head of the combined Star-Ledger Council of Unions: “There is no way we can give them $9 million. It would take away half of our wage package.”

The Star-Ledger has 771 employees, 605 of them full-time.

Lawmakers on board with TriMet audit

The 2013 Legislature has all but guaranteed TriMet workers won’t agree to a new labor contract for at least six more months. Lawmakers have asked Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office to conduct an extensive audit on TriMet covering everything from its financial condition to its public accountability. It must be done by January 2014 and union leaders will likely wait to see what it says before agreeing to anything.

But if the audit finds any dirt, the next session of the Legislature might want to change TriMet’s governance and management structure, giving union officials leaders hope things will change if they keep stalling.

Art tax alive and kicking

Although Mayor Charlie Hales has promised the City Council will take a second look at the art tax this month, it’s hard to believe they will consider repealing it.

Despite ongoing sniping, the $35 tax has proven itself resilient and popular. First it survived a ballot title challenge that argued it was an unconstitutional poll tax, not a constitutional income tax. Next it was approved by more than 60 percent of the voters in the November 2012 election. Then it survived two more court challenges — including a Multnomah County Circuit Court lawsuit where the judge ruled it is constitutional. And now the city Revenue Bureau reports most Portlanders liable for the tax have paid it, despite criticisms and confusion. Over $7.8 million had been collected by early this week.

The council already has made a number of adjustments along the way, including raising the minimum income that can be taxed to $1,000. And it has at least one outspoken champion on the council, Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

After the court ruled the tax constitutional, Fish posted the news on his City Hall website, saying he was “pleased” to report it and calling its passage a display of “overwhelming support for the arts” by Portlanders. Many of those residents are likely to demonstrate their continued support for the tax when the council takes it up again.