Portland mayoral candidate and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler says he is returning $750 in campaign contributions from the co-owner of Bullseye Glass, the company linked to unhealthy levels of heavy metals in SoutheastPortland’s air.
The company has voluntarily suspended the use of cadmium and arsenic in its operations after testing found unhealthy levels of those metals in the air nearby.
Wheeler’s chief mayoral opponent, Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey, attacked the campaign donations Wednesday in a press release.
“Wheeler’s non-transparent effort to protect a polluter and donor whose actions have put local families at risk may give Portlanders a glimpse into how he intends to run the city,” said Christine Lewis, Bailey’s campaign manager.
On Tuesday, Wheeler issued a press release criticizing the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for moving too slowly in its investigation of the air pollution, and noting that the chemicals released by Bullseye are known to increase the risk of several forms of cancer.
Bailey’s campaign slammed Wheeler for not including in that press release a disclosure of Bullseye’s contribution.
According to Wheeler’s campaign, Bullseye owner Dan Schwoerer was among about two dozen people who attended a campaign fundraising event at a private home in downtown Portland on Jan. 21. Lani McGregor, Schwoerer’s wife and a co-owner of the business, made a $250 contribution to the campaign on that date, and a second $500 contribution on Jan. 22.
“This was well before the public knew anything about Bullseye Glass, or the issues of potential contamination, or the failure of regulatory agencies to inform the public about the severity of the issue,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler’s campaign said that in an email exchange Tuesday, McGregor asked Wheeler to return the contributions. A spokesman for Bullseye confirmed Wheeler’s account.
Wheeler pointed back to his opponent, and claimed that Bailey, who chaired the House Energy and Environment Committee in 2014, failed to properly oversee the Department of Environmental Quality.
“He was also asleep at the switch, right alongside the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. He’s not in a position to be taking potshots at other people today,” he said.
Bullseye Glass was following all the required procedures for controlling its emissions. The Oregon DEQ has said it is unclear why those procedures failed to prevent unhealthy levels of air pollution near the facility.
“This is a small company that’s been part of the neighborhood for 40 years. They’re Portlanders, they care about public health,” said spokesman Chris Edmonds.
Bullseye is no longer using cadmium and arsenic to color its glass, and has hired Bridgewater Group, an environmental consulting firm in Lake Oswego, to review DEQ’s results and the company’s glass making process.