News briefs

Portland State students interested in joining Flexcar can sign up for free as part of a promotion that lasts until Sept. 30.

No Flexcar application fee until Sept. 30

Portland State students interested in joining Flexcar can sign up for free as part of a promotion that lasts until Sept. 30.

Flexcar is a national car-sharing service that allows members to reserve and use cars around Portland. After a car is reserved, it can be used for any local task that requires commuting. Cars are returned to the parking place where they were picked up.

Rates include premium insurance and fuel costs, and cars can be reserved online. It costs $5 per hour or $50 per day for one of the members to rent a car. It normally costs $35 to apply for a Flexcar membership.

To sign up, visit and select “Portland State” and enter the promotional code “sept181” if under the age of 21, or “sept211” if over 21.

Cars are stationed near Portland State and throughout the Portland-Metropolitan area. Additional information can be found at

-Steve Haske

Cigarette tax still on ballot

A proposal to increase the cigarette tax to pay for children’s health insurance will remain on Oregon’s fall ballot.

A Marion County judge rejected arguments that Measure 50 violates the state constitution. If approved by voters in November, the cigarette tax would jump by 84.5 cents per pack. It would raise an estimated $153 million for the current two-year budget, with most of the money going toward health insurance for 100,000 Oregon children.

A lawsuit filed late last month argued that the measure makes three “unrelated” changes to the constitution with separate taxes on cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco.

The suit, filed by Portland lawyer James Dumas on behalf of state Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, and a group of tobacco users and retailers, also said the Legislature dodged a requirement that tax increases win three-fifths majorities in the Legislature.

But Judge Paul Lipscomb rejected their arguments, saying the challenge failed on each of its claims.

Neither Dumas nor Kruse could be located for comment late Monday. Larry Larson, the owner of the Rainier-based Bridgview Tobacco Shop, one of the retailers that joined the suit, was understandably disappointed with the ruling.

Measure 50 asks voters to write the tax increase into the state constitution, and Larson said that is what bothers him most about the proposal. He said it sets a dangerous precedent and other products could eventually get the same treatment.

“It’s seems like a funny way to raise tobacco taxes,” he said. “What’s next?”

The Democrat-controlled Legislature placed the tax on the Nov. 6 ballot as a constitutional amendment because it couldn’t attract enough Republican votes to enact it outright.

-Associated Press

PSU more safe than nearby downtown

While Portland State has a relatively safe campus, the Portland Police Bureau says the area just outside of campus is statistically more dangerous.

Portland Police Officer Joseph Churella said that violent crime is rare at PSU, but just within 2000 feet of campus, crime rates increase dramatically.

“There’s a lot of criminal activity downtown, but not at PSU,” Churella said.

According to Portland Police Bureau statistics for PSU, there were only three misdemeanor assaults and two robberies reported this past year. However, the Portland Police Bureau’s database within a half-mile radius of campus showed 160 reported assaults and 48 robberies.

Churella said that the areas to the north and west of PSU, towards 3rd and 4th avenues, had particularly high rates of criminal activity.

Crimes reported from September 2006 to August 2007, within half a mile from the intersection of SW Broadway and Montgomery, unless otherwise noted:

Aggravated assault: 39
Simple assault: 121
Theft from auto: 356
Larceny (within ¼ mile): 277
Motor vehicle theft: 112
Robbery: 48
Rape: 8
Homicide (within one mile): 3
Disorderly conduct: 173
DUII: 73

-Adam White