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Plus, tension grows over homeless services measure and replacing Fish has affected Metro Council race

ODOT - Some want the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project to build stronger caps over the freeway, even though that could raise the cost of the project to $1 billion or more.The 2020 Oregon Legislature may need to reassert its control over the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project.

In 2017, the Legislature declared the project to be a statewide priority and committed $500 million in state funds to it. Now ODOT says project

costs have increased to $795 million and Portland-area lawmakers are pushing for changes that could delay its start and push total costs to $1 billion or more.

Some of the proposed changes, such as wide caps over portions of I-5 that are strong enough to support multistory buildings, which would help revitalize the Rose Quarter area but have nothing to do with statewide transportation needs.

The 2020 Oregon Legislature starts Monday, Feb. 3, and is limited to just 35 days.

Tension grows over homeless services measure

Can voters impose a new responsibility on a government that it might not want or be prepared to handle? We could find out if the HereTogether Coalition qualifies its proposed Metro homeless services measure for the November general ballot.

The coalition announced its initiative to raise as much as $300 million for homeless services within the boundaries of Metro, the elected regional government, before the Multnomah County Commission on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

But although Metro sponsored a successful $652.8 million affordable housing bond measure in 2018, it has declined to sponsor such a measure. In fact, Metro plans to place a $3.8 billion regional transportation funding measure on the same ballot.

"There's no question the region needs to have more of these services to deal with the problems we face. But we have governance questions, outcome questions and accountability questions. We need to do more community engagement," Metro President Lynn Peterson told Willamette Week in response to the announcement.

Replacing Fish affects Metro race

The Jan. 2 death of Commissioner Nick Fish from cancer is having an election ripple effect.

For starters, the City Council was forced to schedule a special election for voters to choose someone to fill the unexpired portion of his term. The means four-fifths of the council will be on the May 2020 primary election ballot, because Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly already were running for reelection and Commissioner Amanda Fritz decided not to run for another term.

And now Metro Councilor Sam Chase has announced for Fish's seat. He was up for reelection but not facing serious opposition.

Former state Rep. Mary Nolan and Q Center Executive Director Cameron Whitten have filed for Chase's seat, and several other potential candidates are reportedly considering it, including patent lawyer and business consultant Karen Spencer and Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith.

No state legislators have declared for either seat, but the filing deadline is not until March 10.

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