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City Hall update
Novick: Is Uber still cheating?
Former City Commissioner Steve Novick wonders whether Uber is still using its controversial "Grayball" software to evade Portland regulations.
Last week, city officials announced an investigation into a published report that drivers used the software to avoid picking up city enforcement staff when the ride-sharing company was operating illegally in town in 2014.
But Novick, who was in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation when the city legalized Uber, says drivers who are not fully complying with the regulations could use the software now to avoid getting caught by the same enforcement officers.
Uber officials subsequently directed its drivers to stop using any such software, suggesting Novick could be right.
City Council focuses on East Portland crashes
The City Council is enacting policies in the Vision Zero Action Plan to reduce fatal and serious traffic injuries in East Portland.
On Jan. 28, the council voted to lower the speed limit on Southeast Division Street between 82nd and 174th avenues from 35 to 30 miles per hour. The change — declaring an emergency speed limit — is effective for 120 days under state law.
It is in response to the number of fatal and serious injury crashes that have occurred there in recent months and years.
The following Monday, the city turned on new automated speed safety cameras on Division and Southeast 122nd Avenue. Warnings will be issued until April 4, followed by $160 tickets.
The first automated cameras were activated last year in Southwest Portland.
Despite that, a pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run crash at Southeast 148th Avenue and Stark Street late last Thursday.
Portland Art Tax challenged
The Oregon Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the Portland Art Tax last week. No schedule has been announced for the ruling to be released.
Retired attorney George Wittemyer argued the $35-a-year assessment is the kind of "head tax" outlawed by an amendment to the Oregon Constitution adopted in 1910. But the City Attorney's Office countered that numerous exemptions make it legal.
At least some of the justices on the state's highest court must think the question is worth debating, however. The court only hears about 8 percent of the cases submitted to it each year.
The tax was approved by Portland voters in 2012 and has raised over $38 million so far for arts education and programs.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the tax, lower courts probably would have to determine any refunds.