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Nobody mentioned the elephant in the room until city Commissioner Steve Novick took the mic at last Friday’s weekly City Club lunch forum.

The forum, about the future of investigative reporting, was provocatively titled, “Is Less News Bad News for Oregon?” One of the panelists was Oregonian columnist Steve Duin. But nobody mentioned the newspaper’s recent home delivery cutbacks until Novick asked if they were “a sign the nation is coming apart and going to hell in a handbasket?”

Duin took offense at the question, saying a better sign of the nation coming apart was the unwillingness of council members to answer questions from reporters. The other two panelists, Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss and Oregon Public Broadcasting Director of News and Public Affairs Editor Eve Epstein, politely demurred.

Website could use some life support

Despite spending about $96 million to build and advertise the Oregon health exchange website, it is one of the worst performing in the country, according to a story in the Sunday, Oct. 27, issue of The New York Times.

According to a chart accompanying the story, the Cover Oregon website is one of only four state websites that have not enrolled a single person. The other three states are California, Hawaii and Massachusetts. And neither have the Obamacare websites operated by the federal government in 36 states.

News reports indicate the Cover Oregon website cost around $79 million to build and nearly $17 million to advertise. The state has fast-tracked the old-fashioned paper applications of 62,000 lower-income people, however.

Bridge hearings sooner rather than later?

The 24-member legislative committee recently appointed to study the revised Columbia River Crossing is stacked with those who voted for the original version last session, including all four co-chairs. No dates have been set for the hearings, but Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says they should be held before he calls the Legislature into special session to reconsider the project.

Although Senate President Peter Courtney wants lawmakers to wait until the next regular session, House Speaker Tina Kotek is still considered a strong supporter. And since the Oregon portion of the project is in her district, she may carry more weight than Courtney (who lives in North Salem) about the timing of the Legislature’s decision.

Real estate sales don’t include tents

Prominent real estate broker Clayton Hering is well known for criticizing City Hall on downtown livability issues. He did it against last Thursday when speaking about the commercial real estate market before the Westside Economic Alliance in Tigard.

After praising Washington County elected and business leaders for encouraging job growth, Hering said: “It’s nice to be talking about revitalizing the economy and not moving tents. Moving tents doesn’t revitalize the economy.”

Hering, with Norris, Beggs & Simpson, was referring to the ongoing controversy over relocating the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp. The other two panelists smiled but didn’t comment on the remark. They were Scott Weigel of CBRE and Brad Fletcher of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

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