This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in May 2003. They are listed from newest to oldest.
April 2003 is the previous archive.
June 2003 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
I just discovered a nice resource called Project Vote Smart. Great stuff there -- politician profiles, campaign finance data, roll call votes. If you're in a political state of mind, head on over and start digging.
I took a sweet stroll through the Oregon Zoo today, my first visit there in about a dozen years. Checking it all out in the company of my very own two-year-old homo sapiens (and I mean very sapiens), I experienced both a cozy familiarity with the place and the beauty of seeing it through new eyes.
Before visitors even hand over their tickets, they see mountain goats, and this time around, we were treated to the sight of the new kid on the block (literally), born just over a week ago and hanging with mom. Then a couple of new (to me) exhibits, on butterflies and tropical birds, got us up close and personal with some denizens of the wild. Both were flying around in their enclosures and landing on young people's hands, and patrons of all ages got to look them in the eyes. Over in the amphitheater (where I'm about a decade and a half overdue to see a summer evening concert), trained storks, vultures, and ravens were going through their paces. Across the way in the famed elephant center, a big old pachyderm and a trainer were having a long and serious conversation of some sort through the huge fence. And the rest of cast and crew were stronger than I expected.
Prices were reasonable, commercialism was at a minimum, healthy food was available. Made a Portlander proud.
There were school-busloads of kids running about the place, which for an extended period of my life would have made the scene intolerable for me. No longer, of course. Surprise of the day: the number of Latino students and their supervisors chatting away in Spanish.
A lot has changed in the 25 years I've been visiting this zoo. But Washington Park has great "bones," which have withstood the evolution and promise to keep giving for many generations to come.
I don't know diddly about gospel music, but I do know that I like some of it a great deal. I picked up a Mahalia Jackson record at an estate sale once, and that was interesting for a few plays. We discovered Odetta's Christmas album at the Public Library and give that one a spin every year. Paul Simon's cannibalizations of gospel sounds have always held an appeal for me. And I have a copy of an album by Otis Clay called On My Way Home, which I love to play in the car as I tool around Portland. That one can stay in the player for upwards of a week, getting several loops through the machine before it's time to go back in its case for a while.
So I took an interest in the new album of covers of Bob Dylan's gospel songs, Gotta Serve Somebody. And now, having sat through a couple of listenings, I am duly impressed.
I remember when Dylan had his Christian Conversion Period in the late '70s. There were Slow Train Coming and Saved, and we worldly-wise agnostic folks in our mid-20s turned our noses up at them. After the stunning personal revelations of Blood on the Tracks and the somewhat lesser Desire, we were expecting more of the same from Dylan -- introspective but secular -- and his abrupt right turn into Christian rock just didn't click for us. I didn't really catch up with the contemporary Dylan again until his Daniel Lanois period a few years ago.
Gotta Serve Somebody dusts off the Dylan gospel tunes and hands them over to a strong cast of gospel and soul singers who are the real deal. I can't honestly say that I remember most of these songs; even the title track is just a dim memory in its original Dylan version. But in this collection, with artists like Shirley Caesar, the Fairfield Four, and Aaron Neville at the mike, they ring much truer than they did 20 or 25 years ago.
The album may be blasphemy to gospel music purists, for all I know. If so, my apologies, but I think I'll be listening to this one for quite a while. Perhaps I'll post more if and when I can digest the material and the performances a bit further.
Is it just my loss of interest in politics, or was the Dining section of Wednesday's New York Times the best section of a newspaper that I've read in many a moon? Pieces on the great cuisine of Italian Philadelphia, good red wines under $10, Patti Labelle's dietary conversion, the evils of farmed salmon -- it doesn't get much better than that.
"Whiz, with" is how one orders a cheese steak with onions at Geno's in Philly.
Watching the River Flow Bob Dylan Columbia Records, 1971
What's the matter with me?
I don't have much to say.
Daylight sneakin' through the window
And I'm still in this all-night cafe.
Walkin' to and fro' beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin' slow,
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow.
Wish I was back in the city
Instead of this old bank of sand,
With the sun beating down over the chimney tops
And the one I love so close at hand.
If I had wings and I could fly,
I know where I would go.
But right now I'll just sit here so contentedly
And watch the river flow.
People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah,
Makes you stop and wonder why.
Why, only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
Who just couldn't help but cry.
But this ol' river keeps on rollin', though,
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow,
And as long as it does I'll just sit here
And watch the river flow.
People disagreeing everywhere you look,
Makes you wanna stop and read a book.
Why, only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
That was really shook.
But this ol' river keeps on rollin', though,
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow,
And as long as it does I'll just sit here
And watch the river flow.
Watch the river flow,
Watchin' the river flow,
Watchin' the river flow,
But I'll sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow.
Hey, there's a great new CD out called The Thorns. The group is Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge, whom I knew about, and Shawn Mullins, whom I guess I'll be learning more about.
Great songs, excellent musicianship, strong production by Brendan O'Brien (The Rising). Writing credits are all shared by the three band members, so it sounds like a truly synergistic effort. The side men include Jim Keltner(!) and Roy Bittan, as well as O'Brien.
There are moments in the album that hearken back to Crosby, Stills & Nash at their finest. The songs sound loosely '70s as well. But just when they start to border on the sappy, along comes a reminder that these are young men who cut their folk-rock teeth in the late '80s and '90s.
While I was out on the music purchasing run, I also had to pick up the new one from John Hiatt, and the collection of various singers covering the gospel songs of Bob Dylan. More on those when I get to them.
Right now I'm on the second playthrough of The Thorns.
On behalf of Jack Bog's Blog, I'd like to make an announcement that I hope will get the old hit counter moving again (it's been a little slow around here since Jack's vacation): Photos of Annika Sorenstam nude (her name is not spelled Anikka, Annikka, Anna, Annica, Anica, or Anika, either) can be found here.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging. (Thanks to Utterly Boring.com for the link to the freaky photo.)
This is a special time of year for us academics. Once graduation is over and all the spring term grades are in, it's time to get caught up on the many details that have piled up while the school year wore on.
I just finished leafing through all the journals in a two-foot-high pile that accumulated over the past few months, some since New Year's. Exciting stuff like Richard Wise's page-turner "Caveats When Using Guideline Company Transactional Data in Valuing a Business," in that red-hot magazine Business Valuation Review.
I also just put out curbside for recycling a mess of old newspapers. When I finish my daily New York Times, I often toss it to a neighbor, who enjoys it despite its being a day or two old. But even with this outlet, I tend to pile up the ones that show something of particular interest, until I have time to look them over. Now I've waded through them all, and out the last of them just went. The newspaper rack in the kitchen is in a rare state of utter emptiness.
I must say I could dispose of the Sunday Times Magazine pretty quickly this week, and last week. Nothing in there spoke to me much.
Just when you thought my head couldn't swell any further
The graduating class at the school at which I teach just named me teacher of the year. Actually, I tied in the vote with a colleague, and so they named us co-teachers of the year. More than 200 grads were eligible to cast up to three votes each, and a dead heat in the normally winner-take-all balloting is extraordinary.
Wow. If there was any living with me before, there won't be any now. Thanks, Class of 2003, and thanks to my family, which shares this honor with me.
Tonight's the first night of the Memorial Day weekend, and when I was a kid growing up in northern New Jersey, this night was always the unofficial start of summer. The rental units began their summer season tonight all up and down the Jersey Shore, and so as soon as we could get away during the day Friday we were off down the New Jersey Turnpike and then the Garden State Parkway to our favorite shore haunt, the lovely burg of Belmar.
Summers in Belmar were classic fun. The beaches were packed with our high school and college cronies, and all the girls from the Catholic girls' academies were there, but minus those stuffy uniforms. There was a Dairy Queen at 18th and Ocean for the high schoolers, and for those who had reached (or could fake) the age of 18, which was the drinking age in those days, right across from the Dairy Queen was DJ's Bar. Formally known as Mr. D'Jais, this tiny establishment served five (small) draft beers for a dollar and rocked the neighborhood with various bands, especially a cover band called Holme. They played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well as on weekend nights, and during the day shift, when the band took a break, you could run across Ocean Ave. and jump right into the green Atlantic to cool off.
Money was tight for us weekend revelers, and all sorts of budgetary scams were concocted to conserve valuable funds for DJ's or the Dairy Queen. Admission to the beach required a badge, which one had to purchase from the municipal booth and show to the attendant at the gate to the beach. We soon learned that if one guy made it through the gate with a badge and a football, he could clip his badge to the ball's threads and toss it to his buddy over the four-foot fence. It looked like an innocent game of catch, but it wasn't.
Accommodations were another issue. Only a few guys had the money for a legitimate place to stay, and for the rest of us, you sponged off a friend if you could, and scrounged around for a place to sleep if there was no room at anyone else's inn. Sleeping on the beach was illegal, and attempts to crash under the boardwalk also proved futile, as the local officers were pretty good at shining their flashlights through the spaces between the boards to find you.
One option was to stay up all night, watch the sun rise on the beach, and then sleep on the beach all day. You could eat at Pat's Diner ("For Food That's Finer") in the wee small hours, and walk around the Belmar streets until it started to get light out. The Belmar streets were beautiful Jersey Shore avenues -- Bruce Springsteen's band is named after a Belmar street -- and a middle-of-the-night stroll around town could be pleasant enough. The town is only about a mile square, so you could wind your way along just about all of its streets in a few hours. However, a few vicious sunburns (which I pray won't come back to haunt me later in life) resulted from the daytime beach crashes, and they put an end to that particular experiment.
One summer, a group of guys got a brilliant idea: Why not drive to a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway, sleep in the car or on the picnic grounds, and if the cops came, claim that you were driving home and just got sleepy? With this our plan, about a dozen us would camp out in sleeping bags in the trees behind the Monmouth Rest Stop at Mile 100 on the Parkway on Friday and Saturday nights. There was a Howard Johnson-type restaurant there, open 24 hours, along with lit, heated, reasonably clean rest rooms that came in mighty handy for draining all the Bud that had been consumed over the course of the evening. You could even brush your teeth in there. Meanwhile your buddies were hunkering down in the woods with an FM radio playing stuff like Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush."
By mid-summer the state troopers had caught on to our ploy, and their wakeup visits started coming earlier and earlier. They had a good sense of humor about it, though. I remember one officer shouting through his bullhorn: "Wake up! What the hell do ya think this is, Woodstock?"
The next year, enough of us had jobs and spending cash that the options multiplied. There were couches, floor space, porch space, even extra beds available in some of the apartments that the kids rented. We ran for a while with a guy whose uncle operated a creaky old hotel right on Ocean Avenue, and I think I may have even paid for a few nights' stays there.
When I graduated from college, and moved out west, my Belmar days came to a close. But I'll never forget those all-night walking tours, breakfast at Pat's, "lunch" at DJ's, and the brief sleep that came under the stars at Mile 100.
UPDATE, 6/1/04: My old friend Jeff, with whom I shared many Belmar adventures, including all-night strolls in which we played "kick the 'tainer" (a post for another time), tracked me down as a result of this post. He reminded me that the beers at DJ's were seven for a dollar. Now that I think of it, I believe that at the start of our visits to that establishment, that was indeed the price.
But it went up to five for a dollar before my last one. I remember because the approved method of carrying said five beers from the bar to your standing room spot was to insert one finger in each of the five glasses and squeeze them together.
This document won't tell you the cost of the various provisions of the new law, and so on its face it doesn't show the massiveness of the tax giveaway that's coming to people who own stocks and real estate in their own names. But it is interesting to note that Congress threw a few bones to the little guys. Tax rates are cut slightly across the board, and the 10 percent bracket for very low levels of income has been widened. (Of course, both rich and poor enjoy those reductions.) The child credit has been increased by $400 as well, but not for upper-middle to high-income taxpayers, who don't get that credit at all.
There are also several provisions that lessen the "marriage penalty" -- the extra tax that a two-wage earner couple pays under current law for being married, rather than living together as single. But what the rhetorical statements don't mention is that the new law also increases the "marriage bonus" -- the tax savings that a one-wage-earner couple enjoys by being married rather than living together as single. Although from a selfish standpoint I like the latter development, as a tax theoretician I must say that it takes an existing distortion and makes it worse. With this Congress, distortions are o.k., so long as the beneficiaries are traditional Leave it to Beaver married couples.
On the whole, of course, we can't afford any of this. Most middle-class folks had better take the meager tax cuts they get and invest them wisely. Their kids are going to need all that and more when it's time to pay the piper for the drunken Bush tax cut party.
Bush's transparency cracks me up. He's sitting there with a scrapbook of Poppy's career, and running the country based on it. What was the most popular thing George Sr. ever did? Beat up on Saddam Hussein. What cost George Sr. his job? Signing a tax increase.
Here we are more than a decade later, and Junior has decided to redo the Saddam-whacking, and undo the taxing. Screw the consequences, he's going to get himself re-elected.
And sadly, given the sorry state of the Democratic Party, he is.
I've been feeling vaguely down today, and in the middle of a nice, hot evening run, I think I pinned down the source: I've spent the last three days obsessing about politics, on every level. Office politics, Portland politics, Oregon politics, national politics. And most of the news on these various fronts has not been to my liking. It's made me even more ornery than usual.
So I'm swearing it off for a while. Except for the monumentally stupid federal income tax cut we're about to pass -- which I need to understand as part of the basic duties of my job -- I'm going to ignore politics until I've spent some time in some more uplifting, less frustrating spaces.
So does Oregon go for major league baseball, or not?
In many ways, the question is still in the early innings, but the State Senate is currently on the mound with the ball. If that body passes the stadium finance bill, which cleared the House earlier this month, the governor's signature seems a sure thing. Then it will be on to the major league organizations, and the City of Portland. If the State Senate says no, it's over, at least for two years and quite likely forever.
Will the bill, HB 3606, pass the Senate? If it does, it will be close. On May 7, the bill passed the House by a vote of 33 to 25, with two members absent who would have voted yes had they been present. But the Senate seems a more hostile environment, and some strange alliances may be forming there.
Shockingly to me, the legislative representatives from Portland have not been uniformly behind the bill. In the House, Rep. Diane Rosenbaum of SE Portland voted against the bill, as did Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, my representative here in NE Portland, and Rep. Deborah Kafoury, also of NE Portland. The day after the vote, The Oregonian reported:
Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, echoed a popular sentiment: Lawmakers simply have more important things to do.
"My fear is that it really is distracting us from the serious problems we're facing," Rosenbaum said. It looks like a similar trend is shaping up in the Senate. The other day, The O (which has endorsed the bill but has been running a series of supposedly objective articles emphasizing all the reasons to vote no) reported that my state senator, Avel Gordly, is dead set against the measure:
Gordly didn't throw up her hands. She held them straight out and crossed her index fingers, as if warding off a vampire.
"I don't see us getting to this in this session," she said.
This is all so disturbing to me. With the state on the ropes financially, our elected representatives seem to be taking a stance that is timid at best. Why is bringing in several hundred environmentally clean jobs to Portland, completely on found money, with no meaningful risk to the state, a "distraction"? What other matters are so important that the Legislature is so absorbed with them? The governor's made clear that there will be no serious discussion of major tax reform this time around. So exactly what else is so important?
Given the makeup of the Portland delegation down in Salem, some have suggested that the baseball bill may be facing a gender issue. If not that, there's definitely a problem getting our liberal Democrat solons to see the economic benefits that this relatively modest quasi-investment would provide.
Multnomah County has now put a plug in the dike of its school and social service functions for a while. So why turn aside the windfalls that would come from baseball?
Here's an e-mail I sent to Senator Gordly last night. So far, I have not received an answer:
From: Jack Bogdanski [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 11:54 PM
Subject: From a constituent
Dear Sen. Gordly:
As a long-time supporter of yours, I ask that you reconsider your opposition to HB 3606, the baseball stadium financing bill. The recent quotation of your comments in The Oregonian indicates that you have uncharacteristically closed your mind to this proposal. Please uncross your hex symbol and take another look.
You indicate that baseball is a frill that we don't have time to consider. Senator, we can't afford NOT to consider this. It will create hundreds of jobs, many for residents of our own district. It's environmentally clean. Tourism will benefit. And baseball has proven itself around the country as a community builder. This is not another Portland Jail Blazer scenario.
We have a state Economic Development Department that reportedly spends more than $460 million a year, and with very dubious results. Portland just blew $100 million on a convention center expansion that's going to languish. Why, when a *good* opportunity finally presents itself, would we turn our backs on truly major economic development at no cost to the state's taxpayers?
There really is no risk to the state from this bill. The only state funds spent on the stadium would be the *found money* from the income taxes on players' and executives' salaries. If those taxes aren't enough to cover the bond payments, it's clear that someone else, *not* state taxpayers, will have to make up the difference.
Yes, we *must* have time to consider this proposal carefully. The most important policy issue in the state right now is how to restart our economy. Having major league baseball here next year would go a long way toward doing exactly that. The governor and the mayor both understand this, as does The Oregonian editorial board and many long-time Portland residents such as myself (25 years).
Now that the Multnomah County income tax has passed, some questions arise:
1. Will the retroactivity of the tax be challenged in court? It purports to tax income back to Jan. 1, 2003, but it wasn't enacted until May 20. Is that kosher under Oregon law?
2. Will there be withholding of the county tax from residents' paychecks? Apparently not, which will make this a very, very unpopular tax when people have to pay it come next April 15. Most wage earners religiously have too much tax withheld from their pay, so that they get a nice tax refund every year. When they write a check for taxes for the first time in their lives, some workers are going to be quite unhappy.
3. Will a separate county tax return be required, beyond the Oregon state return? Apparently, yes.
4. Will there be widespread noncompliance? For the first few years at least, yes. Will the county prosecutors, courts and jails have the money and space to prosecute and incarcerate scofflaws? Doubtful.
5. Will people who work in Multnomah County but live elsewhere be subject to the tax? No. Will highrollers move from the West Hills to Lake Oswego to save a few thou a year in Multnomah County tax? Remains to be seen.
6. Are the proponents of Measure 26-48 kidding when they proclaim "And now on to Salem!" and "In a few years, we'll have a sales tax"? They must be.
Here in Oregon, we're worried about our futures, both near- and far-term. Our schools and infrastructure just aren't what they used to be, our safety net is badly torn, and things are going to get worse before they get better. Among our many problems is the highest hunger rate in the nation, which is disgraceful.
But just as I begin to obsess about the state of our state, I pick up the Tuesday New York Times and read with even more profound sadness what Nicholas Kristof (an Oregon native) tells us about the troubles on the other side of the globe:
What breaks your heart is the sight of healthy parents cradling skeletal children. Petros Loka, for example, is a young man with the hint of a potbelly — yet he was at an Ethiopian clinic with his 7-year-old son, David, who was admitted at 31 pounds and looked like a ghost. Trying to puzzle out how this could happen, I asked how the family ate.
"The man eats first, and then the children and the wife eat together," Mr. Loka explained. Others confirm that across rural Ethiopia, the father eats first and the mother and children get leftovers — with the smallest kids mostly squeezed out. To address that problem, we need not just more food but, above all, education, so that, as in Ethiopia's cities, families eat together and understand the need to look out for their youngest members.
Moreover, even in a good year five million Ethiopians need food aid, and Georgia Shaver, head of the World Food Program in Ethiopia, says that "normal" may need to be redefined as 10 million in need. So the problem goes beyond the weather and includes insecure land tenure, the 29 million Africans with AIDS or H.I.V., and the lack of irrigation.
I talked to members of one family who were hungry because their crops had failed from the drought, just 100 yards from a lake. Why hadn't they irrigated? The risk of being stomped by hippos was one factor, but another was that carrying water is women's work and tending the fields is men's work, and this cultural impasse left them stymied — and starving.
So hurray, we passed Measure 26-48. But pardon me if I don't party too hard about it.
The Multnomah County Elections bureau reports unofficially that the income tax has passed (and that's history, folks), and all my picks for the school board seats prevailed, except that Bobbie Regan defeated John Ball, which is a perfectly fine outcome.
The times are still troubled, but perhaps just a bit less so after this.
Today is the last day for turning in election ballots on the Multnomah County income tax and the Portland School Board candidates. By this time tomorrow, we'll know whether Portland-area residents are willing to tax themselves to restore basic social services and public education.
Ronald Reagan made taxes a dirty word in this country nearly 25 years ago, and we are still living with the legacy of that. The totally irresponsible Bush tax cuts now making their way through our sorry Congress will set us back for many decades. And Oregon politics are such that it seems we'll never send to the state Legislature a group that will have the guts to do anything meaningful with the state tax system.
Turnout has been low in Multnomah County, which is always a good sign for those proposing tax increases. So this could turn out to be a historic date.
When I was a teenager, there was nothing worse than the music they played in the supermarket. I remember Mantovani, the 101 Strings, the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, etc., just butchering current pop tunes as well as classics from the swing era. But the folks who were my parents' and grandparents' ages didn't mind it at all. You'd hear them humming along as they squeezed the cantaloupes.
So it's with a bittersweet self-awareness that I find myself grooving on what the supermarkets are playing nowadays. Some expert must have verified that piped-in boomer music helps move out the merchandise, because, man, I'm in heaven when I go grocery shopping. Marvin Gaye in the vegetables; Creedence Clearwater by the time I get over to dairy; Blood, Sweat and Tears behind me as I place my order at the butcher counter. And most of the time they don't spare the volume. I'm sure the teens and collegians of today loathe the stuff, but it gets me in the mood for some Meyer lemons, Chilean grapes, and free-range chicken breasts.
The realization that I've turned into my dad hits home with particular impact this week, the week that Bob Dylan turns 62. The bard who told our parents to "get out of the new [road] if you can't lend a hand" will qualify for Social Security retirement benefits come this Saturday.
Will Bob hold out and get full benefits at 65? Or will he go for the reduced benefits that start at 62? Is he a member of AARP? How's his prostate doing? His colon? Who's his health insurance with?
I believe the times, they have a-changed.
It seems that every day there's an obituary of another great entertainment figure from my youth. Like so many artists, their deaths can spur a renewed interest in the music they made, the laughs they gave us, or the tears they let us shed. But I'm trying as hard as I can to appreciate the folks who are still with us, while they're still here.
Bob, have a great 62nd birthday, and many happy returns. I hope you're still making new records that get us to feel and think when you're 90. Meanwhile, we look forward to hearing your younger self soon, over on the snack aisle.
Once upon a time, you dressed so fine,
Threw the bums a dime, in your prime, didn't you?
People call, say "Beware, doll, you're bound to fall."
You thought they were all kiddin' you.
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out,
But now you don't talk so loud,
Now you don't seem so proud,
About havin' to be scroungin' your next meal.
How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be on your own.
With no direction home.
A complete unknown.
Like a rollin' stone.
We are just back from eight wonderful, very hot, very sunny days here and here. We were lucky enough to stay here and here. Of course, we visited here, here, and here.
Now it's back to the realities of work and the Alaskan spring that we're suffering through in Portland. The lowest temperatures we encountered in Florida were nighttime mid-70s. Back at home, it's in the 40s tonight, and tomorrow night they're calling for 37. That's Fahrenheit, folks.
Portland news didn't completely escape us in our fantasy world, however, and I'll get to blogging about that shortly. Meanwhile, William has resumed blogging after a couple of months off, so go check out his new look. (I knew he couldn't stay away.)
The special election mail-in ballot that's sitting on most Portland-area residents' kitchen counters is due May 20. At our house, we've already scoped out the candidates and issues, and here's where we're coming out:
Measure 26-48: Yes. Whatever you may think about the waste in government, starving it for funds isn't going to make it any more efficient or rational. If you're unhappy, vote yes for the Multnomah County income tax, and then in upcoming elections vote out all the rascals who are currently frittering away our tax dollars. People really are starving and dying out there.
Multnomah County Education Service District: Janice Gratton. One of her opponents, Ron McCarty, has name recognition, but he's also a bit of a hack.
Portland School Board (all run at large but must live in different districts):
Zone 1: Douglas Morgan. Wisest candidate of the bunch.
Zone 2: David Wynde. Best of the lot.
Zone 3: John Ball. Bobbie Regan would be the second choice, but the activist mom set already has a voice on the board, and it hasn't done us much good so far. Ball has all kinds of government experience, and I mean that in a good way.
Zone 7: Dilafruz Williams. All the smart observers agree.
Or better yet, don't take my word for it. Do a little research and decide for yourself.
The Oregonianran an interesting article yesterday about Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and State Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), who were classmates years ago at Grant High School. Both Leonard and Ferrioli have been the subjects of posts on this blog (Leonard's positive and Ferrioli's negative), and so I read with interest.
The piece seemed mostly an attempt to add hot coals to the ongoing conflicts between rural and urban Oregon, particularly between the east side of the Cascades and the west side. The current mess that our state and local governments are in has exacerbated the tensions, and this dual profile did nothing to defuse them.
What interested me most was the article's articulation of Ferrioli's point of view as an eastern Oregonian. As much as I dislike the guy's stances (and those of his constituents) on most issues, a couple of points noted in the article got my sympathy. First of all, the school week in John Day is now only four days long. "Students share photocopied textbooks or try to keep together outdated books with masking tape," the article notes. "There's no elevator to the second floor, meaning that classrooms must be rejiggered every time there's a disabled student or when a student breaks a leg."
Then there was the matter of the threat by Ferrioli and his cronies in the Legislature to appropriate the proposed Multnomah County income tax for schools statewide. "They stole our timber money," one supporter of this plan put it, and so "they" (Multnomah County) should have their tax money stolen back. The beef over the timber money runs deep over there; apparently even the high school kids talk about it. Yesterday's article gives some detail of the first alleged "theft," of which the east siders are complaining. Recalling Leonard's days as a relative liberal(!) in the Legislature, it says:
But befitting their party differences, the two [Leonard and Ferrioli] also tangled. Those disputes included one in 2001 over putting federal timber money into the pot of state school money for all Oregon schools to share.
Congress targeted that money for places where environmental restrictions reduced timber revenues. And Ferrioli and his rural constituents expected to get all of it. They didn't.
Leonard said rural lawmakers were staking out a dangerous position because the idea that some schools should get more money "cuts both ways." He hasn't changed his mind either, likening the timber money to property taxes, which the state funding formula considers part of the common pot.
But Ferrioli, whose Senate district no longer includes a piece of Multnomah County, has a bill this session to pull the $33 million in federal timber money back out for rural schools.
Last interesting observation about Ferrioli: though raised in Portland, he's a born-again logger. Big time.
"As we were in the last century, we are up against a toxic ideology with global aspirations -- not Communism in this case, but an ideology that feeds on Arab grievances and a malignant version of Islam."
The ballots for the May 20 special election arrived in the mailbox today. For those of you unfamiliar with political life here in Oregon, all of our voting is done by mail. Even the dead people and people who moved out of state do all their Oregon voting by mail.
Once the ballot arrives, it's time to pull out the always-amusing Voter's Pamphlet, the official booklet that explains what it is we're deciding, and allows various factions to sound off. I turned right away to the arguments for and against Ballot Measure 26-48, which would impose a 1.25 percent Multnomah County income tax on top of the 9 percent income tax we already pay to the state. (And let us not forget those of us who get nicked for another 0.6 percent or so for Tri-Met.) There are tons of arguments in favor of the measure, from the usual suspects, and only one argument against.
The argument against is a classic rant, worthy of a blogger, by a guy named Jim Karlock of something called Save Portland. Although I'm going to hold my nose and vote for the tax increase, I agree with most of what old Jim has to say. He is definitely "allergic to Katz." Here are some of the highlights:
How much property tax do you pay? Some $400,000 Pearl District condos pay less than $500 a year!
Did you know that most of the Pearl district, the Brewery Blocks and the Waterfront district get favored property tax rates? County wide, $27 million tax money will be lost to breaks for development this year.
Urban Renewal Districts, including most of Downtown Portland, diverted $53.5 million away from city and county services last year.
Before they raise taxes on all of us, let them recover this $80 million (total of above) annual tax give away!
No Matter What They Call It, It’s Just Plain Waste
Portland’s Water Bureau fiasco: “ ...city’s losses, estimated to total from $20 million to $30 million.” (Oregonian, 01/03/03)
They wasted $6-24 million redoing PGE Park for minor league baseball.
There is massive waste throughout government bureaus-they don’t need a tax increase, they need to get rid of waste.
Their Grand Plans...Your Money
“The city plans to issue more than $30 million in bonds in early 2003 for PDC projects in the River District.” (Portland Tribune, 11/8/2002)
Portland is planning to spend up to $288 million in public subsidies to redo the North Macadam district.
They already spent $135-150 million to redo the Pearl District.
Even after the PGE Park fiasco, they are trying to find $275 million for a new stadium
They promised $40 million for Clackamas light Rail.
Portland officials are spending your utility rate money and tax dollars to redo the city while your courts, jails, schools, police and fire protection suffer.
Tell Your Portland Officials to Run the City, Not Overhaul it
NO NEW TAXES...send a clear message:
• Quit giving tax breaks for development
• Recover the existing tax breaks.
• Forget the pet projects.
• Cut the waste, cut the pork.
Fully fund our schools, jails, courts, police and fire department with savings, not new taxes.
Go, Jim! Go, Jim!
The best passage in all the pamphlet, though, is the comic grammatical faux pas near the very top of the official explanation of the measure, released by the county commissioners themselves:
State funding for schools in Multnomah County have been severely cut.
Yes, it have!
What better testimony could there be about the need for better education in this area than the fact that even the county commissioners can't put a decent sentence together?
More on my election picks shortly. Meanwhile, the Save Portland website gives us this flyer to chew on. If you wonder why people would vote no on the tax increase, check it out:
My daughter and I went to the Trail Blazers' game tonight. It was against my will -- I'm still in my last year of sharing season tickets with some other guys, and it was my turn to buy playoff seats. The game was a rout, with the Blazers winning, which is bad news to me because it vindicates the team's woeful personnel moves over the last three years. I hate to see the thugs come away victorious.
On Sunday, the Portland squad will try to make league history by becoming the first team to lose three games in a series, and then win the last four. They have set records in many other, more dubious departments, and with the momentum they have now, they have a darned good shot. The Dallas Mavericks looked like a sham tonight, and they will be hearing the footsteps of doom behind them for the next 40 hours, that's for sure.
It was tough to spend a couple of hours with a toddler in the Rose Garden. It was just too loud. A nice concierge gave us some earplugs, which helped us both get through.
Most interesting occurrence of the night: During one of the timeouts, they ran a feature on the big overhead video screen called "Kiss Me." A series of couples are shown live in their seats next to each other, and urged to smooch in front of the assembled 20,000. At one point, they cut to a couple, and I swear, the guy was a dead ringer for rock legend Robbie Robertson. But it looked like Robbie maybe 15 or 20 years ago; he's pushing 60 now. Either it's Robbie having discovered the Fountain of Youth, or a doppelganger.
The crowd was going wild all night, but let's face it, it was a blowout. The Robbie near-sighting was about as close to genuine excitement as this one got.
The annual trashing of the grass at Tom McCall Waterfront Park has begun with this weekend's Cinco de Mayo Festival. This is the first in a series of events which every summer brings trampling feet and tents onto the lawns at the park.
At one time, all the festivals bugged me. They attract a not-so-nice element to the park, and they leave behind a muddy mess. Nowadays I look over the river at them with indifference. Fortunately, the parks department does an amazing job of reseeding the torn-up areas, and they usually recover within a couple of weeks. The festival areas get rotated somewhat, and this helps speed the recovery. If you can't grow grass in Portland, then you'll never grow grass.
In this era, the biggest threat to the park is the same threat that looms over the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., and all of downtown New York City: the politicians' fever to pave over the area, overcrowding it with attractions such as monuments and memorials. Several plans have been floated whereby the City of Portland would "improve" on Waterfront Park by chopping it up with more sidewalks, "activity areas," and "plazas."
What a mistake that would be.
The beauty of the park, named for Oregon's greatest modern political figure, lies in its long expanses of uninterrupted green grass. When the festival carneys pack up and leave, and Mother Nature gets a chance to reappear, these wide open spaces are stunning. They provide a spectacular buffer between the towers of downtown and the river. Frisbee, volleyball, napping, loving, or just plain running or walking on this grass is good for the soul.
There are already a popular fountain, a police and fire memorial, a Japanese internment memorial, a U.S.S. Oregon monument, two amphitheaters, a floating maritime museum, a restaurant, and other "attractions" in Waterfront Park. That's enough.
Big indictments came down today in the Enron scandal. The news that most reports will lead with is that more charges were added to those pending against former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow. And now his wife's been indicted as well.
This time, however, there's an important local angle for Portland. In the latest round of criminal charges, four former executives from Enron's broadband unit, which was based in Portland, are accused of fraud. Named prominently in the indictment (large .pdf file) is defendant Joseph Hirko, listed as a resident of Portland, shown here leaving the courthouse in Houston today.
Miles run year to date: 276
At this date last year: 125
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269