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October 2nd, 2013 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: The River Was Polluted In Good Faith, Too.

murmurs_3948PORTLAND HARBOR - IMAGE: James Rexroad
  • Publicly traded corporations usually steer clear of controversial political issues out of fear of alienating customers and shareholders. Large Oregon companies sat out the 2004 gay-marriage fight, remaining quiet as Oregon voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.This year, however, Columbia Sportswear will support a 2014 ballot measure that repeals the ban and legalizes same-sex marriages in Oregon. Several privately held companies have announced their support for the measure but Columbia—with $1.7 billion in revenues last year—is by far the biggest company to take a stand. Columbia CEO Tim Boyle tells WW he will personally support the measure, too. “It doesn’t make any sense to exclude people from the constitutional rights they should have,” Boyle says. “Frankly, this should have happened a long time ago.”
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to give a major break to companies cleaning up the Willamette River’s Superfund site. In April, the EPA levied a $125,500 penalty against Lower Willamette Group, a coalition of 12 corporations (plus the city of Portland and Port of Portland) on the hook for Portland Harbor cleanup costs. The agency said the group dragged its feet in performing acceptable studies about the river’s health. The fine brought the heat down on the EPA from Oregon’s congressional delegation. The EPA now says it is suspending the penalty as long as the companies come through with the remaining studies. Rick Albright, director of the EPA’s office in Seattle, says he made the decision based on “good-faith efforts” by the Lower Willamette Group, not political pressure. “I had nobody from the congressional delegation contact me either directly or indirectly since this went into dispute,” Albright says.
  • Time wounds all heels. A decade ago, WW twice named Vancouver, Wash., insurance salesman Michael B. Woodward our Rogue of the Week for targeting octogenarians with scams. His signature ploy in 2002? “Prepaid home service agreements,” with the elderly paying him thousands up front to guarantee he’d provide cleaning, cooking and bathing if their health failed. Investigated by the Oregon Department of Justice, Woodward fled to Las Vegas, where he shilled the same deal to California seniors. In August, a San Diego judge sentenced Woodward to 11 years in prison for bilking more than 400 people and ordered him to pay $3 million. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the local district attorney’s office had seized Woodward’s property—including an art collection and a home on a golf course—to pay back victims, all of whom are over 80 years old.
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