Six bills look to transform transparency in Oregon

Well, we’ve finally arrived. Transparency season in the Oregon Legislature. Hard to know where it all will lead, but the fact that we got here – and with more proposals in favor of transparency than against it – is at least a good sign for Oregon. Here’s my summary of what’s on the menu, along with the state of the union for each proposal:
Senate Bill 481: This is the offspring of the Attorney General’s Public Records Task Force. It’s potentially the heaviest hitting piece of legislation on the table.

House committee votes on extending tug escorts to oil barges

An expected expansion of Canada’s Kinder-Morgan pipeline could increase the number of oil-carrying vessels in the Salish Sea seven-fold. In preparation for that, Washington Democrats are trying to pass legislation that would improve oil transportation safety, particularly on the water. But it’s an uphill battle and the clock is ticking.

Trump is not the only one cutting Puget Sound funding

President Trump’s proposed $28 million cut of Puget Sound restoration funding has provoked an outcry. But loss of federal funding is not the only cause for concern. State funding, which pays for a much larger share of those restoration costs, also is facing cuts, leaving the fate of Puget Sound restoration funding up in the air.

Fish habitat protection program stirs controversy

The Washington Legislature is considering a bill on whether and how to strengthen one of the state’s oldest natural resource permits and the only one dedicated to protecting fish habitat. But the threat of lawsuits, potential budget cuts, and a decades old jurisdiction debate may prevent it from passing.

The power of the prosecutor

Data shows prosecutors don’t introduce new racial disparities to the criminal justice system in Multnomah County, but they also don’t reduce them either – not yet. New information shows prosecutors may be on a path to doing so. And that they perhaps have rich opportunity to solve problems when other parts of the system fall short.

Is it a business to report on racial disparities?

It cost $2,400 to buy the Unequal Justice series. That’s not pay for the reporters or photographers. That’s not the cost of editing and distributing the work, either. That’s just the cost to buy the story from the Oregon Judicial Department, which controls the bulk data that underpins the Oregon eCourt Case Information – the database a reporter analyzed to uncover the disparities reported in the series. It’s also something for which the Oregon Judicial Department charges money.

Unequal Justice project weds teamwork with big numbers

I’m tickled that I finally get to write about the Unequal Justice series collaboration today, one of our most ambitious partnerships to date and, certainly, the largest data project InvestigateWest has ever been involved with. I love this project. Mostly because it combines the two things that we do best at IW’s Oregon shop: drill down on numbers and work with our media partners. I alluded to its impending release back in September, in my note about the strength of collaboration, and again in October when I wrote to you about the power of data in journalism. Now I get to dish the backstory.

“Count in Mexican”

A man illegally in the United States is beaten by state troopers after a camera in an officer’s car goes blank for 18 minutes. In audio obtained by reporters, you can hear the muffled thumping, groans and cries for help. At the hospital, he said, an officer taunted: “Welcome to fucking America.”