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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled a new initiative on March 11 designed for merchants, business.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks with the media during his monthly press conference on Monday, March 11 at City Hall. With a spiffy new website, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced an initiative calling on employers to practice commerce with diversity in mind and voluntarily pay their workers more.

The program — dubbed Portland Means Progress — is open to city merchants who boost their company pay to at least $15 an hour, just over the $14.75 hourly minimum wage mandated by state law for all metro area employees by July, 2022.

After meeting that benchmark, employers must then accomplish at least one of three other tasks:

• Establish a pipeline for under-represented youth seeking on-the-job experiences, either via an internal process or with city partners such as SummerWorks or Connect2Careers.

• Purchase goods from small businesses run by people of color. The city's development commission has an online directory, Mercatus, to help with procurement.

• Create an inclusive workforce by providing diversity and equity training classes to all employees and managers.

"It is good business to follow these practices," Wheeler said during his monthly press conference on Monday, March 11 at City Hall. "I'm very gratified to see the strong response from local employers."

The mayor says "several dozen" companies have signed on as early-adopters of the initiative, with plans to activate Portland Means Progress citywide in 2020. For more information, visit www.pdxmeansprogress.com.

Next generation cells?

Wheeler also fielded questions regarding the rollout of fifth-generation cell phone towers, which are expected to dot the city with small-scale 5G wireless connectivity nodes.

Portland was the only city to appeal the August, 2019 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that requires municipalities to accept every application from telecommunications firms to build the infrastructure.

More cities sounded the alarm after a second September FCC rule limited the fees cities can charge the installers of the equipment, an issue highlighted by Wheeler at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"The federal government is trying to take control, and we at City Hall take a dim view of that," Wheeler said Monday, calling the actions a "land grab."

The mayor and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly hope the City Council will authorize a study of the health effects surrounding 5G towers. Wheeler noted that the city's appeal of the FCC's 5G rules have been moved to the Ninth Circuit Court, where he expects more favorable terrain.

Anything else?

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks during his monthly press conference on Monday, March 11 at City Hall.Wheeler said he supports the Oregon Department of Transportation's effort to add interstate lanes in the Rose Quarter, emphasizing that the state legislature only chose three projects to fund out of 80 options. He called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect the Albina community," even if the proposed I-5 caps won't be strong enough to support buildings, only parks.

Regarding the perennial dream to lure Major League Baseball to the Rose City, Wheeler said his staff have conducted "check-ins" with planners, but he hasn't heard anything new.

Wheeler hopes to meet in person with the owners of the Zenith energy terminal in Northwest Portland in order to verify what's already been reported in the press: That an expanded facility will import tar sands oil from multiple sources, including the Dakotas and Canada, in order to export it overseas.

Wheeler said he does not want the company to expand, since its infrastructure will be in an earthquake liquefaction zone.


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