|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
The corporation that owns the Rose Garden arena, home of the Portland Trail Blazers, has filed for bankruptcy. The company, Oregon Arena Corp., is owned, as is the Trail Blazer team, by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the fifth wealthiest individual in the world.
The move is part of a prolonged attempt by Allen to get Oregon Arena out from under its obligations on the mortgage for the building. That loan, a 25-year bond deal, essentially precludes refinancing, which in turn forces the company to pay interest at nearly 9 percent through 2020. According to "the debtor," as the defaulting borrower is known in bankruptcy, the arena has lost money in all but two of the nine years that it has been open.
The bankruptcy prompts interesting questions from a number of different angles. First, Portland and Multnomah County taxpayers are holding their breaths with their eyes shut tight, waiting for another blow to their wallets. So far, everyone at City Hall and the county building says the Chapter 11 case won't matter to the local governments. I'm not so sure I'd agree. For example, you can bet that Oregon Arena will be looking for a reduction in its property tax assessment, and that its compliance under existing contracts with the city for matters like maintaining the Memorial Coliseum (next door) may deteriorate.
Second, the uncertainty surrounding the Rose Garden should caution the city to sit tight on its proposals for the Coliseum. Plans for a gigantic recreation center in a renovated Coliseum ought to go on hold until it's determined just what the future of its upscale neighbor is. Of course, the city has proved its ineptitude in managing projects like this in recent years, and it may plow ahead with something, only to find out that new management at the Rose Garden -- or some other outcome of the bankruptcy -- could render its best-laid plans unworkable.
Next, the Blazers deny that the bankruptcy has anything to do with their increasingly vocal opposition to bringing a Major League Baseball team to Portland. But without question, the arena bankruptcy will negatively affect that effort. This makes two bad Portland stadium deals in a row for the powerful TIAA-CREF pension fund, based in New York. TIAA-CREF invests retirement money for college and university professors throughout the country, including me and probably several hundred others in Oregon. It's also in the middle of the Portland Civic Stadium/PGE Park fiasco with the City of Portland. You can be sure that it won't be back for a third stinko sports deal in Stumptown, and that its troubles here will not go unnoticed by other potential "financing sources" for a baseball stadium.
Major League Baseball is doubtlessly going to hear about it, too. Although Portland baseball backers will seek to reassure the big leagues that Portland can be a two-professional-team city, the Blazers are obviously trying to show them that the fan base may not even be able to cover one.
The Chapter 11 filing is another consequence of the failed management of former Blazer president Bob Whitsitt, who took a sure thing, the Portland NBA franchise, and wasted it through stupidity and arrogance. In the last six months or so, the new team management has blown up the roster in the hopes of winning back fans turned off by the street-thuggishness to which the Blazers have sunk over the past five years. In the new PR campaign, character is supposed to matter.
Character -- as in not repaying your debts? It would be one thing if the arena were owned by a mere mortal whose prime tenant was an unrelated entity. But here the owner is a certified multi-billionaire, and the tenant is his basketball team, whose outrageous salaries and poor personnel choices are to blame for its financial woe. Allen signed the arena bond deal in '95, back when he held absolutely all the cards. Now he's weaseling out of it.
Taking the building into bankruptcy and flipping the bird to the nation's retired college professors are not the actions to take when you're supposedly showing your commitment to character.
Indeed, word coming out of the negotiations with the bondholders has been that they would gladly release Allen from the onerous mortgage rate if only he would personally guarantee the bonds. And if he were sure that his company was going to repay the bonds, one would think he'd have no trouble with the guarantee. But apparently he's specifically refused to sign it. To him, bankruptcy is a better option.
Maybe Allen is getting ready to pull out of basketball. If that is his desire, then all I ask is that he find a halfway responsible buyer, leave the team here, and not let the door hit him in the backside on the way out.
More ominous is the prospect that he's thinking of taking the franchise out of town. That would be a disaster for many area residents who rely on the team for their livelihood. Although it seems unlikely, the new Allen philosophy, "This is a business, and we're tired of subsidizing it," points to that outcome as a distinct possibility. Moves like this bankruptcy put the Blazers in play to a frightening degree.
It's like an old boyfriend calling from his aging BMW at 3 a.m. to say, "Love me or I might kill myself."
The Oregonian reports today that Deborah Kafoury of Portland resigned her state House seat yesterday, and that Jeff Kruse of Roseburg has promised to do the same by Wednesday. As reported here the other day, both had moved outside their districts, but thought it was o.k. for them to remain in the Legislature until they were good and ready to leave.
Why the three more working days are needed for Kruse to do the right thing, I don't know, but I'm glad to see these two have come to their senses. After a very revealing news story about this on Wednesday, I expressed outrage and called for their immediate departures from the House. The Oregonian did the same with an editorial in yesterday's editions, and later in the day, the two politicos made their announcements.
My call for readers to express their own indignation at Kafoury, Kruse and their parties did not fall on deaf ears. Oregon blogger Hilsy sent an e-mail to Kafoury, Pablo expressed his support of my call, and Bix is on it today with a strong, dead-on statement about the disgrace that this kind of incident casts upon both political parties.
Glad that's over.
O.k., I'm as sentimental a sap as you're going to find. So I pass along this e-mail chain-letter story sent to us by my wife's sister, who is a teacher:
One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.
Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.
That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.
On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" she heard whispered. "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" and, "I didn't know others liked me so much." were most of the comments.
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.
Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.
The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.
As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. She nodded: "yes." Then he said: "Mark talked about you a lot."
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.
"We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.
"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."
All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."
Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary."
Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: "I think we all saved our lists."
That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.
The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be.
So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.
End of the month. Pay day. First Friday of Lent. Last weekend before Super Tuesday. The halfway point of spring semester -- it's all downhill from here.
The taxes are pretty well scoped out, although the painful process of writing the checks is still six weeks away. The daphne looks like it might finally bloom, although it took an awful beating in the snow and ice this year. Time for moss control on the lawn, as Oregon winter is doing its wet, wet thing. The days get slowly longer, slowly warmer, and not the least bit drier.
Thus, the stage is set for the occasional, but always memorable, poker game at the Bogdanski "hut." The Magnificent Seven, in their quest for the perfect hand. With the same banter that's been bouncing around the table for going on 25 years now. Mostly the same background music, too.
No wild cards.
UPDATE, 2/28, 3:15 pm: I was the big winner! Got A-plus hands, played them at about a B-plus level. Woo hoo! I'm a lucky guy.
Craig at MTPolitics is giving up blogging for Lent.
Gee, I'm not that strong. Maybe I could post something fishy every Friday.
A very alarming story was buried in the back of The Oregonian yesterday. Two members of the Oregon House of Representatives are refusing to give up their House seats, even though they have moved out of their House districts and therefore are apparently sitting in the Legislature illegally.
According to the story, the two culprits are Deobrah Kafoury, D-Portland, who moved out of her district, House No. 43, to another part of Portland about a week ago; and Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, who moved out of his Sutherland apartment to a Roseburg-area farm last October, thus placing him outside his district, House No. 7.
The two of them are acting like it's up to them whether and when they should "resign," but the fact certainly appears to be that they are no longer eligible to serve in the Legislature. The Oregon Constitution was amended by popular vote in 1995 to read as follows:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative who at all times during the term of office of the person as a Senator or Representative is not an inhabitant of the district from which the Senator or Representative may be chosen or has been appointed to represent. A person shall not lose status as an inhabitant of a district if the person is absent from the district for purposes of business of the Legislative Assembly.The measure passed by a vote of 709,931 to 45,311.
The arrogance of Kafoury and Kruse is evident in their statements to the O. Kafoury has decided that she gets to say whether the county should appoint her temporary successor before or after the May primary. She had this to offer: "I want the voters of (House) District 43 to decide who their representative is, and not the Democratic Party or the Multnomah County commissioners. I'm trying not to skew this race, so I want it to be a fair contest."
Who in heaven's name cares what you want, Ms. Kafoury? You are no longer eligible to serve, and you must step down immediately. Your refusal to do so is a horrible, horrible civics lesson for the young people of the state.
Kruse is also above the law. According to the story, he "said Monday that he would resign before the Legislature's June special session but that he wants to work on issues for the next regular session." 'Fraid not, dude. You should have been out of there four or five months ago. You took an oath to support the Oregon Constitution, and now you are knowingly violating it.
How dare these people!
Apparently the two major parties are content to let each other cheat. But where is the Oregon attorney general? Where is the League of Women Voters? Where is the editorial board of The Oregonian? Where is Lars Larson?
Shame on Kafoury and Kruse, and if there isn't swift action to enforce the law, shame on all of us.
The Portland police have busted a man for spray-painting graffiti around the city's inner east side. They caught the fellow red-handed in the Buckman neighborhood a while back.
Not news, you say? Read on. The suspect, Ronald Engman, is no ordinary tagger. Not only is he 63 years old, but he's also got an unusual motivation for his vandalism: his own hatred of other people's graffiti.
Engman is allegedly the guy who has been painting thick silver circles on top of other tags that vandals have left on walls around town. It seems he despises the tags, and is defacing the graffiti as a way of fighting back against the taggers. "He has always fought against graffiti," his wife, JoAnn, told The Oregonian. "He even caught a guy once."
I feel for the "Silver Circle." He's sick and he did a bad thing, but I second his emotion.
I loathe graffiti, too, and as long-time readers of this blog know, I kill an hour or two a month removing it and covering it up on street signs, dumpsters, mailboxes, and other exposed surfaces in my neighborhood. Over the years, I've grown less bitter toward the individuals who come out at night like cockroaches and write on other people's property. But it gives me great satisfaction to take down their handiwork almost as fast as they put it up. My goal (largely achieved most of the time) is to leave the surface looking the way it did before the graffitists struck.
Of course, the "silver donuts" that Engman has allegedly been drawing aren't as benign as my cleanup actions. The circles do blot out the taggers' message, which is a help of sorts, but they multiply the ugliness and visual blight. Plus apparently he uses a nasty paint that's harder to remove than some of the tags -- I can relate to frustration with that.
It will be interesting to see what a judge decides is a fit punishment for this guy, if he pleads or is found guilty. Probably graffiti cleanup duty, which for a tag-hater like Engman shouldn't be that bad at all. Heck, I'd even volunteer to go out with him for a couple of hours as he works off his debt to society.
Meanwhile, if the city really wants to bust some taggers, maybe they ought to send somebody under cover to this.
I just noticed that Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard has his 2004 campaign website up and running. He's not facing serious competition for his seat, and so he should breeze to re-election.
It's well deserved. Leonard has shaken things up at City Hall, and any re-routing of the goofy path on which this municipality has been heading in recent years is most welcome.
The other races are more problematic. It's hard to think of Commissioner Jim Francesconi as anything other than more of the same if he's elected mayor, and so I'd be interested in an alternative. Former Police Chief Tom Potter is an option, I suppose, but I don't hear him talking in brave, concrete terms as Leonard does. Guess it's time to dig in to the thick field of other candidates in the mayoral race.
As for the other open council seat, I like Fish so far. I think he and Leonard could actually become the core that could really take Portland in a new direction. Surely Sam Adams, whose claim to fame is having spent most of his career serving as the Brains Behind Vera Katz™, is not appealing in the least. But there's probably some more homework that needs to be done on that race as well.
The election's less than three months away, so I guess I'd better get cracking.
Today's quiz: When will the United States announce that it has captured or killed Osama bin Laden?
A. Between now and Fourth of July.
B. Between Fourth of July and Labor Day.
C. Between Labor Day and Columbus Day.
D. Between Columbus Day and the election.
E. None of the above.
Sometimes when I play video poker on my home computer, I lose some money (all pretend money, of course, with my little home program). But I'll keep playing and playing, sometimes until all hours, trying to win it back. I forget Kenny Rogers's admonition, "You got to know when to fold 'em." By the time I give up, I'm just as far behind as when I should have quit, if not more so. Plus, I've wasted a lot of time, and I'm exhausted to boot.
The City of Portland has been behaving exactly the same way in connection with the Oregon Convention Center, and there's no sign it's going to call it a night any time soon.
Just yesterday we hear that, it's official, no one's going to build a large flagship hotel near the Convention Center unless the city's taxpayers pay a good chunk of the construction cost. And of course, the City Council and its slush fund, the Portland Development Commission, are hard at work figuring out how to raise those tax dollars and get the hotel built.
What a crock. As I've argued on this blog at least once before, the Convention Center was a flop when it was smaller, and it's an even bigger flop now that the city has paid $116 million to double its largely empty space. That expansion never should have taken place until the hotel issue was settled, but Vera, Erik & Co. ran right out and spent tax dollars to build it, despite a clear mandate from voters that they didn't want it.
That misstep came along with the renovation of Civic Stadium -- tens of millions spent on luxury boxes and the like, for minor league baseball and funky league soccer. All of which has led to a string of fiscal disasters for our cash-strapped city.
Together these are among the worst public financing decisions in the city's history. Sure, the commissioners will tell you that the wasted money is all coming out of the hotel-motel tax, which is paid by tourists. But that's the same malarkey they'll try to sell about how the hotel is going to be built from "urban renewal" funds. There are "different pots of money," "different colors of money," and we should focus on the pots and the colors, rather than on the fact that it's all coming from us taxpayers.
Call them out on it. Those are all tax dollars that should have been spent on public safety and schools. We didn't need a larger white elephant Convention Center, and we don't need a white elephant hotel on top of it.
Portland's never been a good convention city, and there is a very good chance that it never will be. It's time to fold 'em while we're only down $116 million.
Regardless of how the hotel financing goes, I think we ought to name the new wing of the Convention Center after Mayor Katz. It's quite the symbol of her tenure, which, mercifully, will be ending soon: very, very expensive, and mostly empty, most of the time.
"There's not a single Republican I've talked to in Washington who's not more worried about John Edwards than John Kerry." -- Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, this weekend on "Fox News Sunday."
Good news! Nader's running for President again. Just another example of how this selfless crusader puts himself last, caring only about what happens to the little people. Vote for him again, kids, and send a clear message to the organized parties: "I'm a jerk!"
But Ralph needs a new running mate, and it's time to hear some nominations. Here's what I've got so far for potential VP's behind Ralph:
(Identity withheld pending background check)
Be sure to add your own nominees in the comments. But remember, with Ralph in the White House, this person could wind up just a brain wave away from the Presidency!
Now that the Trail Blazers have traded Rasheed Wallace -- whose picture appears in many sports dictionaries next to the entry for "head case" -- lots of former fans are returning to the fold.
I'm still having a hard time doing so.
The team still features (a) Damon "Stoner" Stoudamire, poster child for the Fourth Amendment and a pretty weak point guard; (b) Ruben Patterson, a registered sex offender; (c) Qyntel Woods, a guy with a known pot problem who drives without his license on him and offers a basketball trading card as ID instead; and (d) Zach Randolph, a highly talented young player who's been known to drive around alone on MLK Blvd. after midnight smoking some weed in his Cadillac SUV.
When the Blazers have parted ways with (a) and at least one of (b), (c), and (d), call me.
It may be a while.
Every time I look at a picture of John Kerry, it makes me uncomfortable. I want so much to remove George Bush from the White House, and I worry about the chances of that happening if the Demos run the senator from Massachusetts.
He's going to be such easy pickings for the right. His long record is so spotty; he's such a politician of convenience. There's nothing inspirational about him.
Charles Krauthammer gave us a pretty good rundown this week of some of the primary focuses of the coming attacks on Kerry as a phony:
• Votes against the Persian Gulf War, which he now says he favored.(Via It's a Crock.)
• Votes for the Iraq war, which he now says he opposed.
• Votes against the $87 billion for troop support and Iraqi reconstruction, while saying that he favors troop support and Iraqi reconstruction.
• Votes for the No Child Left Behind Act, which he now attacks incessantly.
• Votes for NAFTA; he now rails against the unfairness of free trade.
• Votes for the Patriot Act; he now decries the assault on civil liberties.
Sad news on the front page of the O today. The City of Portland has given up its fight to keep the federal government from blowing a hole in the wall of the Pioneer Courthouse, the oldest building in town, to make room for a parking garage for the judges who work in the building.
City Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Jim Francesconi, who held up the courthouse renovation by refusing to issue a city permit to build a new driveway, has caved in to bullying by the federal General Services Administration, landlord of the Pioneer. Apparently the GSA treatened to start a federal condemnation of whatever property was needed to get the job done. The city decided not to spend the legal fees that such a process would entail.
And so the courthouse renovators have won every battle. The historic Pioneer Post Office is no more, and the other tenants of the building have also been moved out for good. When the renovation is completed, that entire, wonderful building, cushier than ever, will be the sole province of just four federal appeals judges. The public will have little reason to go inside it again.
Like Congressman David Wu, who helped ram this through over the objections of history buffs big and small (including Congressman Earl Blumenauer), I worked for a year in the Pioneer. On the second floor were spacious chambers for three judges, and a law library. The appeals court operation took up less than half the useable space in the building. Even with a fourth judge, there would be no need for the whole courthouse. And with law libraries shrinking as books become obsolete and the internet fulfills more and more of the profession's legal information needs, there's no call for a huge library space.
And the parking garage? In the Pioneer Courthouse? How 1955.
Oh, well. I wish the city had stopped this. Short of that, I wish it would have prolonged the process and made it more expensive for the feds. But the City Council has come up with a fairly constant refrain in the last few years: "We'd probably lose in court, so we won't fight." Sometimes you should fight it out 'til the end, even though you'd probably lose. Maybe this was one of those times.
I'll bet you didn't know that the Oregon Legislature is about to hold a series of public hearings on reform of Oregon's tax system. I hadn't heard a word about them until my state representative just informed me by e-mail that these are the cities and dates:
Tuesday, February 24 - Newport
Wednesday, February 25 - Eugene
Tuesday, March 2 - Beaverton
Wednesday, March 3 - Portland
Wednesday, March 10 - Medford
Monday, March 15 - Baker City
Tuesday, March 16 - Pendleton
Wednesday, March 17 - Redmond
No word yet on times and exact locations. For some reason, these "public" hearings are being handled like a state secret.
UPDATE, 2/21, 1:38 am: The Oregon School Boards Association (you know they'll be there) has some more information about this on its site. These hearings commence at either 5 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on the city. And the OSBA has at least a partial list of venues:
Newport – Tuesday, Feb. 24, 5:00 p.m., at the Agate Beach Best Western Hotel [Map/Directions]
Eugene – Wednesday, Feb. 25, 5:00 p.m., at the Campbell Senior Center [Map/Directions]
Beaverton – Tuesday, March 2, 5:00 p.m., at the Southridge H.S., Large Community Rm [Map/Directions]
Portland – Wednesday, March 3, 5:00 p.m., at the Oregon Assoc. of Minority Entreprenuers (OAME) [Map/Directions]
Medford – Wednesday, March 10, 5:00 p.m., at the Jackson County Building [Map/Directions]
Baker City – Monday, March 15
Pendleton – Tuesday, March 16
Redmond – Wednesday, March 17
Well, the official congressional scorecard (.pdf) has come in on what one of Bush's pet tax cuts for the rich is going to cost the rest of us. The Joint Committee on Taxation has released its numbers on the revenue impact of the deep tax cut that was enacted for dividends on stocks.
Not to bore you with too much detail, but in 2003, for the first time, dividends on stocks are treated as "capital gains" -- meaning they're taxed at special low rates. For guys like Dick Cheney, that means the tax on the dividends they receive on the stocks they own has been cut from 35% to 15%.
Notice, the tax has been cut by more than half for guys like him.
But not for you. If you work for a living, the federal income tax on your wage income can run as high as 35%, and for huge numbers of folks, it hits 25%. The rates were previously 39.6% and 28%. So your cut is -- cough! -- much, much more modest.
Then there's Social Security tax, which grabs another 7.65% or so. (Your employer pays still another 7.65%, and you wonder if that doesn't come out of your pocket, too.) There's been no change to that at all.
For many wage earners, income taxes run at more than 30%. But if you live off dividends, the maximum tax rate is now 15%, thanks to W, and there's no Social Security tax.
And the cost to the rest of us of that rich guy tax cut? $66.1 billion this year alone.
That's more lost taxes than it costs us to allow every homeowner in the country to deduct the interest on his or her home mortgage.
I'm kind of a hawk when it comes to the war, but I have no respect for a government that runs the money like this. With the hole we are digging, we are going to end up like some of the industrialized world's more marginal economies. And for what? To pad Dick Cheney's wallet? Oh, yeah, I forgot, that's going to trickle down and create jobs for all of us.
This is like a teenager on a drunken road trip to Mexico with your credit cards. Bush-Cheney has got to come to an end.
I'm betting that my readers would like to see Kerry and Edwards go head-to-head in a couple of TV debates betwen now and Super Tuesday. I know I would.
"Opie" is eager to do it -- he'll even accept "Don King" and "the Chipmunk" up there with them. But "Lurch" realizes he's got little to gain and a lot to lose, and so he's dragging his feet.
If you'd like to turn up the heat on Sen. Kerry about this, go here.
As a law prof, I write a couple of "scholarly" articles a year about technical aspects of the tax system. It's always gratifying when someone else cites my work in a later article on the same subject. Kind of like the vain kick I get from blog referrals, only there's no Site Meter (and if there were, the low numbers would be horribly depressing).
Anyway, the other day, while leafing through a national tax journal, I spied an article on a topic that I've had staked out for more than 15 years. I was licking my chops as I turned the pages looking for my name.
And it's there, all right -- but the author criticizes me! Says I engaged in "circular reasoning"!
Now, dear readers, I don't know what constitutes fighting words where you work, but in academe, "circular reasoning" is like getting smacked in the face with some Frenchman's leather gloves. You have to rise and defend your honor!
So here I sit, trying to translate my response into polite, scholarly prose: This criticism is not new, but it is mistaken. My thinking, though perhaps not "outside the box," is definitely outside the circle.
Nice-y nice-y. Here's the translation: You little punk. I've been thinking about this cr*p since before you were a twinkle in your father's eye. You don't know what you're talking about. You ought to stop and think for a minute before you shoot your mouth off. Hey, Watson, come here, I need you, did you ever hear of the phone? If you would have just called me, I could have explained it to your petty little mind. Now, I'm calling you out, son. And I'm going to stick your little criticism right between a couple of half circles where the sun don't shine. You're messing with the wrong guy!
It's sort of like the tax nerd version of road rage.
Ah, well, as the politicians say, Every knock is a boost, so long as they spell the name right. And I'm only kidding about the other author. He's got some great insights in his article...
...for me to poop on!
Na na na na (that's what I said), Hey hey hey, Goodbye.
The jury in the trial of rapist/murderer Ladon Stephens, who violated and then snuffed out a 14-year-old Portland girl on her way to school one morning not far from my house, has found him guilty.
Now prosecutors and the jury will get to decide whether to put him to death or let him rot in prison for the rest of his life.
Cases like this always show me how far I am from the Christian ideals of love for all and forgiveness of sins. As far as I'm concerned, this fellow should get whichever punishment is the worse.
Yesterday I came across of couple of interesting personal websites that I hadn't seen before. One is by a fellow named Robert Adams, who calls himself Misterblue. His site includes more live video and still photos of his own little world than any other personal blog I've run across. And he's so wired that you can turn lights on and off at his house (and see them go on or off) by clicking the switches on his site. Want to see him getting open heart surgery? No problem, the site has lots of photos of it. Cool... I think.
The other new find belongs to a guy named Randy Rhine, who supplied the neat panorama that serves as the new banner of Portland Communique. Rhine's site includes a wonderful sequence of photos that he took of a robin family that recently expanded within camera distance of his home. Good stuff.
"Howard Dean has brought so much to this race -- not just his ideas and passion for change, but hundreds of thousands of Americans who had never participated in a campaign before. Howard has been a powerful voice for change, and I share his belief that special interests and Washington lobbyists have taken over our government. This is the year for Democrats to take it back -- not for our Party, but for our country.
"Howard Dean has energized and revolutionized this race, and excited a whole new generation of young Americans. He deserves our thanks and so much credit for what he has accomplished. I hope he continues to offer his ideas, and encourages millions more to participate in this democracy so we win back the White House in November."
As usual, I agree with the speaker.
Well, all right. The Portland City Council voted today to get the ball seriously rolling on a community center in my old neighborhood, the Buckman neighborhood, in southeast Portland. Bix (who's doing a tremendous job today, BTW) has the full story.
Apparently my comments about justice in social service siting for that neighorhood were echoed by Commissioner Francesconi before today's vote. It's all good.
The community center deal's still got a way to go, but for now, congratulations all around.
America, 2001: "He may not be very bright, but he's got a lot of bright people around him."
W, 2003: "I know I said that we were sure there were WMDs. I honestly thought that when I said it, but the people around me screwed up."
W, 2004: "I know I said that we were expecting to create 2.6 million jobs this year. I honestly thought that when I said it, but the people around me screwed up."
Deaniacs and other progressive denizens of the 'net: This Bud's for you.
FWIW, William Safire has some thoughts today on Kerry vs. JRE.
Here's where I predicted the Wisconsin primary would come out, and here's where it did (as projected by CNN):
It's obvious that I nailed it, except (heh heh) for Kerry vs. Edwards. And that's very, very encouraging for the Democrats. Never have I been so happy to be proven wrong.
The independent-thinking Demo voters of Wisconsin share my grave misgivings about John Kerry. Did you see him up there tonight, hugging Ted Kennedy in that goofy black outfit that Teddy's wearing now? Supposed to make him look thinner, I guess. Sure. In that get-up, he looks like only a sperm whale as opposed to a humpback.
Can the Massachusetts crew beat Bush in November? I don't think so.
And if you agree with me, here's what you should do. First and foremost, realize that Edwards is almost broke. Click here and send the guy $50 via credit card right now.
And second, get a hold of all the Deanies you know. Tell them you agree that the Democratic Party needs to change. But as they now realize, change is going to come slowly. Who's further from the old boy Democratic clique? You can go with the Kerry-Kennedy team, or you can go with the Clintonesque (but at least relatively young and vibrant) Edwards team. You can go with big, old Yalie money (same as Bush's), or you can go with a self-made maverick who took the big corporations to court and cleaned their clocks.
That's what it's come down to now.
Don't wait to act. There are two weeks here with which to work. If Edwards bombs on Super Tuesday, March 2, the coronation of Kerry is official.
It's still a pipedream, but as I said in November and every day since, the only Democrat who can beat Bush is John Edwards.
An interesting wrinkle in the new Multnomah County income tax has just been called to my attention by an irate taxpayer.
You may recall that when the county income tax was passed, a shrill cry rang out from the people whose residences fall within the county but in school districts that won't benefit from the new tax. Why charge us this tax, they hollered, when we're not benefitting from it? For example, there are some slivers of the county that are in the Lake Oswego school district. Those folks said they shouldn't have to pay a tax which won't benefit L.O. schools at all. The same is true for the relatively few Multnomah County residents who are part of the Beaverton, Hillsboro, or Scappoose school districts, none of whom will see a dime from the new tax.
The Multnomah County response was, o.k., we'll let you off the hook. And in November the county commissioners adopted a rule that purports to provide relief to folks whose schools won't benefit. Taxpayers in the school districts that don't get proceeds from the tax will eventually get a refund of the portion of it dedicated for schools -- projected to be about 70 percent of the tax.
But the devil is in the details, and get this: The partial refund of the Multnomah County tax is only for people who own property and pay property taxes to those other school districts. Renters in those areas still have to pay the full Multnomah County tax.
Why in the heck is that? If the rationale for the exemption is the lack of a benefit from the Mult. Co. tax, renters are in the exact same boat as homeowners. Their kids won't go to Portland public schools, and yet they're paying county tax for the Portland school district.
Perhaps the "reasoning" is that those renters, who aren't paying property taxes, aren't paying to support, say, the Lake Oswego schools, either. But that's bogus. Everyone knows that landlords pass property taxes, like all expenses, on to their renters. When the property taxes go up, so do the rents. So that ground for the distinction won't hold water.
Example. J, a working stiff, lives in Lake Oswego, but in a part of town that's within Multnomah County. J rents his home, which is in the Lake Oswego School District. J pays rent to a landlord who lives in Clackamas County. The landlord passes the property taxes on the home on to J as part of J's monthly rent. J must pay the full Multnomah County income tax, even though 70 percent of it goes to Portland schools, and none of it goes to the Lake Oswego schools that J's children would attend. J is very p*ssed and is going to New Orleans to purchase a voodoo doll, on which he plans to affix County Chair Linn's likeness.There are some other quirks and ambiguities in the rule as well, but this one alone is worth focusing on for the moment. Serena Cruz was the only one of the five Multnomah County commissioners who had the sense to see the injustice and vote no.
By far the dumbest part of the new tax is that there's no withholding, and for that reason (and some others), collections are going to fall far short of estimates. But that's not its only foolish element -- not by a longshot.
Ah, me. The girl from Keizer didn't make the final cut for Stupid Human Tricks. And the stunts that did make it were pretty lame.
I suspect she couldn't get the trick done in rehearsal.
Another example of the decline of the once-great State of Oregon.
Bush at Nascar shows you right where we're heading.
W. will be sold as the "real" guy, the one who represents hetero, white-bread, Euro-American values, leaving us to see Kerry as a lefty Hyannisport socialite who's never been in touch with the country's mainstream.
What hypocrisy, of course. Bush never had a job that he wasn't handed by his father and his cronies, and he's done more in three years to screw the average white-bread American through the tax code than any other modern American leader has done in a lifetime.
But it's a great sales job, and it's going to get better.
That's why the Democrats are going to regret that they passed on John Edwards.
Is Robert Palmer not really dead? I keep getting hits from people searching for "death of Robert Palmer." One night recently, there were a dozen or so all here at the same time.
Unfortunately, the blog entry they find here on the subject was pretty sparse.
Anyway, why all the interest? God rest the man's soul, I loved his music, but there must be something more going on than just his memory to account for all the searches.
Went by that nasty spot (homeless toilet) at the Rose Garden on-ramp to I-5 southbound in Northeast Portland again today. No homeless folk were in evidence, but two young fellows were fairly obviously engaged in some sort of drug-related activity betwen the shrubs and the freeway fence.
I guess human waste isn't the least of the problems. It may be just a matter of time before they pull a body out of there.
A nine-year-old girl from Keizer, Oregon, is scheduled to be on the "Stupid Human Tricks" segment of the Letterman show tonight.
The proprietor of my favorite little gas station handed me a small, red flyer today while he was filling up my tank. The flyer alerts inner Southeast Portland residents that the City Council will be making a move this week that could be very important for the neighborhood.
It's a vote on whether the city should buy the old Washington High School at SE 14th and Stark and turn it into a community center. The council has been promising something like this to Southeast for about 20 years. In the meantime, city and state officials have delivered to the neighborhood nothing but one high-impact social service facility after another. Two methadone clinics. A gangster halfway house about a block from a public elementary school. More institutional group living homes per block than anywhere else in the state. Just last week, a grossly out-of-proportion monstrosity of a nursing home was approved. (Only Randy Leonard had the smarts to vote no.) Meanwhile, the rich developers of the Pearl and North Macadam get subsidy after subsidy for their soul-less condo towers and overpriced California boutiques.
It's about time the city came across with something for the hard-working, clean-living folks in inner Southeast. The Gabriel Park shangri-la swimming center up on the west side has been open for years now -- can't we even get started on facility acquisition for a community center for Southeast?
Maybe not. Neighborhood activists say they're afraid that the Downtown and West Hills Boys, with the mayor in their pocket, will be pushing their sports complex pipedream for the Memorial Coliseum so hard that an easy, eminently do-able community center for Southeast will get lost in the shuffle. Again. For the umpteenth time.
The flyer urges folks to come out for the City Council meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, and if they can't, to send an e-letter to the commissioners, expressing interest and support.
The easy place to go to send the e-letter is here.
Interesting opinion piece in today's O. It seems that former U.S. attorney and big-time political player Sid Lezak isn't so sure he likes the pending deal to have Texas Pacific Group and ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt take over Portland General Electric. (No sense looking for the column on the O web "site"; as usual, it can't be found. It's on the front page of the Commentary section of the hard copy edition.)
Anyway, a vote of no confidence from Sid and his co-author, former Port of Portland president Ken Lewis, signals an unusual little rift in the old boy network that is so Portland. I'm still not buying a city takeover of PGE, but an actual public debate among members of the top-dog clique sure is fascinating.
It's not what I want to see happen, but I think it should go something like this:
To me, it seems as though this time around, the Democratic Party is a bunch of impatient, weary folks who just want to name a candidate and get on with trying to beat Bush. It's too much work to spend more than five minutes comparing the candidates in any kind of depth, and so many of them are just going with the guy who's ahead. Like Imus is doing.
Which isn't to say that on closer look, they wouldn't still go with Kerry. But in fact I think that many voters can't get past his front-runner status. Oh, well. I'll vote for him in November; we have no other choice.
I guess "Opie" Edwards is going to hang in there at least until after Super Tuesday. Then maybe he can decide whether he wants to be the running mate.
I saw Kerry on TV tonight making some sort of snide remark about W. It was supposed to get a laugh from the crowd, and man, it went over like a nail on a chalkboard. Forget the intern, the PAC money, Hanoi Jane, and the flip-flopping -- it's the sheer unlikeability that's going to be his downfall. I shudder to think of him on that convention stage with Ted holding up one arm and Hillary the other.
There are so many swing groups that he won't play well with. Starting with women. I'm still very concerned that he won't be able to pull it off.
How can this guy win the nomination so easily?
Someone got here Googling "Ernie Kent / Lou Rawls."
I'm not sure what to make of it. I got this card today from a "secret admirer."
I come to you with empty hands
I guess I just forgot again
I only got my love to send
On Valentine's Day
I ain't got a card to sign
Roses have been hard to find
I only hope that you'll be mine
On Valentine's Day
I know that I swore that I wouldn't forget
I wrote it all down, I lost it I guess
There's so much I want to say
But all the words just slip away
The way you love me every day
Is Valentine's Day
If I could I would deliver to you
Diamonds and gold, it's the least I can do
So if you'll take my IOU
I could make it up to you
Until then I hope my heart will do
For Valentine's Day
For Valentine's Day
O.k., you've got a copy of it somewhere -- "My Funny Valentine." Maybe you've got Sinatra's version, or Ella's. Or Miles Davis's. Or Elvis Costello's.
The darn thing is so worn out that there's only one time of year you can play it. And this is it.
Is your figure less than Greek?Rogers and Hart. In the words of Greg Kihn, they don't write 'em like that any more.
Is your mouth a little weak?
While you're rooting around in there, get out the Mardi Gras music. Nevilles, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Clifton Chenier. And don't forget Robbie Robertson's Storyville.
Uh oh. The arch-conservative Drudge Report, which broke the Monica scandal, claims there's a certain similar skeleton in John Kerry's closet.
This could be nothing, or it could be a big deal. FWIW, already a mainstream news site in Ireland is reporting it as a legit story (although not confirming the accuracy of Drudge's account).
Perhaps the plans for a coronation were a bit premature. (Via Cousin James of Parkway Rest Stop fame.)
As Rob over at AboutItAll predicted, a couple of pieces in Wednesday's Oregonian really shizzled my bizzle. They were both about the current state of the most foolish public project I have witnessed in my 25 years in Portland (and that's saying a lot), the OHSU aerial tram.
Wham, tram, thank you, ma'am, Vera. This incredible little toy will allow the doctors at OHSU and their lab workers to ride from Pill Hill to their new biotech-wannabe building in the North Macadam district in three minutes, rather than taking a 10-minute ride in a van.
The cost of that convenience? At least $28.44 million to build -- the vast, vast majority of it being public money -- and who knows how much a year to operate. Nobody's saying how much. I'd guess around $1 million a year. Forever.
There are so many problems here, it's hard to tell where to start. From a political junkie's standpoint, the most significant aspect is that the tram will connect one Neil Goldschmidt client, OHSU, with another N.G. client, Homer Williams, whose development has broken ground down on the old brownfields below. Who's your daddy, Oregon? We all know.
Yesterday's paper pointed up two more problems. The first is that the tram folks are $13 million short of the $28.44 million they need to build.
It's so sad. They sold this to the City Council on a $15.5 million budget, with the mayor saying it was going to be a beautiful picture postcard. Now, at $28.44 million, they've got a nasty looking bunch of concrete boxes and plastic towers about which even the Architecuture Dandy (see below) can't find much good to say.
And where is the other $13 million going to come from? Here's the latest rap from the tram people:
The board also asked an informal finance committee to figure out new revenue sources without asking the city for general fund money, and without reducing city funds designated for transportation maintenance and operation.
The guidelines suggest looking for additional contributors from the Marquam Hill community, such as the Veteran Affairs Medical Center and the Portland Shriners Hospital for Children. OHSU committed to $9 million of the original $15.5 million budget.
Other potential sources include possible tradeoffs for federal funding in the urban renewal area; energy tax credits based on the efficiency of tram operations; and additional property tax money generated by the estimated $1.8 billion of development that the tram is expected to help stimulate.
Mike Lindberg, a former Portland City Council member who serves on the nonprofit board, recalled earlier instances when the city faced shortages for Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Performing Arts Center. Instead of cutting important details, the city found additional money, he said.
I repeat, where is the additional money going to be found this time? I'm sure, in the pockets of people who pay (a) local property tax, (b) state income tax, and (c) federal income tax.
Hey, all you folks who voted against Measure 30, do you want public money to pay another $13 million for the aerial tram?
If not, tell your elected officials. Take two minutes to send a message to Mr. Hopes-He'll-Be-Mayor Jim Francesconi here. Randy Leonard can be contacted by leaving a comment to this post -- he's a pretty regular reader here. I wouldn't bother with Vera or Erik, but you might also try Dan Saltzman. And be sure to drop a line to your state representatives about this, too. Their e-mail addresses can be found here and here.
And don't be fooled by this "urban renewal" mumbo-jumbo. Those are tax dollars. Look on your property tax bill -- you'll see them (or ask to see your landlord's bill -- he or she passes that on to you as a renter).
The idea that the Shriners Hospital should pony up is certainly a new one. When the Shriners call me asking for money, I picture my money helping sick kids, not building eyesores for the benefit of West Hills big shots.
The other huge, new problem with the tram appeared on the front page of the Living section, where the O's Architecture Dandy, Randy Gragg, did one of his design "analyses" of the drawings released so far. This guy cracks me up. He gets on his high horse as "architecture critic" -- of the Portland Oregonian, for crying out loud -- and discusses this collection of junk as if he were giving a guided tour of the Taj Mahal.
Hey, Randy. Open up your thesaurus dialog box and tell it to add these two words: tacky and ugly. Ug. Ly. As in, U to the G to the ly-ly-ly.
Picture postcard? Maybe from Newark.
Big day yesterday in the Oregonian, and to think I pretty much slept through it! My head hit the pillow just as the paper was going thunk on my front porch at 5 a.m., and I didn't wake up 'til... Well, let's just say I was in the middle of a dream in which a middle-aged contemporary was showing me his collection of wood surfboards and decorative wetsuits...
Cough! Anyway, whatever that dream meant (and I'm not sure I want to know), let's get back to reality, and a positively blockbuster issue of the local fish-wrap. First and foremost, Renee Mitchell apologized for calling the St. Johns neighborhood a "pimple" on the city's "backside." (I've tried but can't get a link to the apology out of The O's horrible web "site" at this hour.)
No word yet on whether Dave "Party Animal" Reinhard is going to do the same for saying he agreed with Osama about American culture. Stay tuned on that one, but until he says he's sorry, he boots Renee out of the tie for Biggest Jerk Lately Among Oregonian Columnists (a tough honor to win).
On that same page, the new Multnomah County Library director, Molly Raphael, is all smiles as she introduces herself to Portland. She's making $138,000 a year from Multnomah County (a 27 percent increase over what her predecessor earned), and she's collecting "as much as" $76,100 a year in pension from her old job as library director in Washington, D.C., where she served as top librarian for six years. You math majors out there can deduce that that makes $214,100. Not bad for a bureaucrat. And she's only 57 years old, so this could go on for nearly a decade. Heck, I'd be smiling, too.
Then there were not one but two articles about the OHSU aerial tram spectacle, part of the continuing development of the Vera Katz Theme Park. That deserves a post of its own, which I'm hoping to get to shortly.
In the announcement today, Dave Frohnmayer, U of O president, said there were problems with financing, and some other issues as well.
One problem that he didn't mention was the faculty revolt that was brewing over the plan to spend $180 million on the new hoops palace at a time when other parts of the school are suffering through tight budgets. Nor was any mention made of the fact that the site of proposed new coliseum was quite controversial.
Another factor that escaped official comment was the fact that Oregon voters, including those in Lane County, resoundingly rejected Measure 30 last week, with many expressing the view that state government is spending too much on frills while the essentials are being neglected.
As head men's basketball coach Ernie Kent (base salary $450,000, plus incentives and bonuses) reminded fans today, the existing basketball building, Mac Court, is a great old place, and the basketball Ducks could do a lot worse than stay there for a while.
UPDATE, 2/12, 2:22 am: I subsequently noticed that this announcement came the day after political boss Neil Goldschmidt told a bunch of employees in the state university bureaucracy to get ready to be laid off. Coincidence? I think not.
You oversleep and are almost late for a class at 4 p.m.
So why pretend?
This is the end
You'll have to find out for yourself
Go on ask somebody else
Why can't you just get it through your head?
It's over, it's over now
Yes, you heard me clearly now I said
It's over, it's over now
I'm not really over you
You might say that
I can't take it, I can't take it
Lord, I swear I just can't take it no more
(Go away) go away
(Far away) so far away
It's too late to turn back now
And it don't matter anyhow
'Cause you were right
I'm to blame
Can't go on the same old way
Can't keep up the same old game
I'm not really over you
You might say that
I can't take it, I can't take it
Lord, I swear I just can't take it no more
(Chorus, repeat and fade with ad-libs from Boz)
In the race for Most Offensive Comment of the Month by an Oregonian Columnist, David Reinhard and Renee Mitchell have finished in a dead heat.
Reinhard was huffing and puffing on Sunday about the Janet Jackson Breast Incident. It's the end of civilization as we know it, lack of morals, etc. etc. -- the whole William Bennett deal (without the compulsive gambling). Then old Dave let fly this little doozie:
It's times like these that I think Osama bin Laden and his Islamic fundamentalist pals may have a point about American culture.Nice, eh? I'm sure the families of the victims of 9/11 jumped off their couches and saluted to that one. I remember when a guy named Bill Maher said something like that. That was right before he lost his job.
Mitchell can have a way with words, too. Here's the lead paragraph of her take yesterday on the City of Portland's planning process for the St. Johns neghborhood:
Portland planners are poised to break the skin of the pimple on the city's backside.Another beauty. Bound to make friends and boost circulation in North Portland.
I guess with talk radio so down and dirty, the folks at The O must be thinking that they have to rub a little of that on themselves to get people's attention any more.
Either that or someone's putting something funny in the water cooler over there. The public editor just got a new weblog. Don't expect too many posts this week; I think he'll be busy with other things.
And this one appears to be coming straight from the top.
The on-ramp to I-5 southbound at the Rose Quarter in Portland has become one of the saddest scenes I can remember seeing in some time. As motorists enter the freeway, over to their right are all the signs of a homeless camp -- a homeless toilet, to be more precise. I'll spare the details, but there are a lot of them.
This situation reflects so poorly on the state, the county, the city, and the Trail Blazers, whose many multi-millionaires park their luxury cars not 50 yards from the location in question. Whose responsibility is it to clean up after our lost souls?
We'll keep you posted.
(And before someone leaves a comment that this is what we get for voting against Measure 30, let me say I've considered that.)
Dave's going to play the videotape of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan tonight, the 40th anniversary of their appearing on his stage.
Oregonian columnist Renee Mitchell has been giving Portland City Hall an earful lately. As noted here previously, her views on the Portland streetcar -- that it's a grand blowing of public money for the benefit of a few wealthy developers -- parallel my own.
Yesterday the promoters of the streetcar had their chance to defend their precious toy on the op-ed page. The writers were Chris Smith and Janet McGarrigle from the streetcar's "citizens advisory committee." Smith is a neighborhood activist from the Northwest District Association, where the trolley runs; he also opposed the Good Government Initiative, and is mentioned as a potential candidate for the state legislature. McGarrigle is apparently a condo owner down at RiverPlace, who will benefit from the expensive streetcar extension that's about to be built down that way; I believe her spouse is a structural engineer.
Anyway, I won't fisk the whole piece here. I will, however, applaud the creativity of its authors in making arguments roughly along these lines:
1. The streetcar pays for itself because there are parking meters along the route, and they raise more revenue than the streetcar costs to operate.You know, if we're going to have a Pearl, and if we're going to build the concrete jungle planned for North Macadam, there has to be mass transit to those areas. But can you imagine how much cheaper it would have been just to run two new bus lines through there?
2. Parking revenues should be counted as tax contributions by the businesses in the neighborhood.
3. The Pearl District development is a good thing, and the streetcar can take credit for the $1 billion of development there.
4. City taxpayers didn't pay the whole construction tab; the federal and state governments chipped in, and property owners along the way paid $9.6 million in special district property taxes out of the $56.9 million construction cost.
5. The majority of the operating funds are paid by Tri-Met, so taxpayers shouldn't complain.
6. The streetcar is a "boon to business" along its lines.
7. The businesses down at RiverPlace deserve a streetcar because it will help them get through the winter months, when few people head down that way for waterfront activities.
But then again, new bus lines don't get you quoted in The New York Times, and so for Vera and Erik, they're out of the question.
I still think Renee Mitchell and I have it exactly right.
The other topic Mitchell nailed in recent days is the race for the mayor of Portland. She complains that the two mainstream candidates, Francesconi and Potter, are long on slogans and short on specifics. She didn't sound too optimistic for any kind of dynamic leadership out of either one of them.
You know what? Based on what I've seen so far, neither am I.
There's been a lot of speculation in the media lately about whether John Kerry has had his appearance artificially enhanced through the wonders of modern cosmetology. I don't know what difference it makes, but of course he has. All you have to do is look at a picture of him a few months ago and you can see that he's recently had work done on his forehead. Big deal.
From the Oregonian public editor's new weblog:
"The personal essay is difficult to write, and if used too often by journalists, can seem self-indulgent to readers."
Not to my readers, right?
Our 80,000th visit came in today, shortly after noon. Time elapsed since our last 10,000-visit milestone: 42 days.
Nice to have so many of you here!
Here we go again. Every time a controversial ballot measure is passed, somebody comes out and opines that Oregon's initiative and referendum system gives too much power to the people. Yesterday it was a bright student from Portland, currently at Columbia University, who wrote in the Tribune.
Oregon's system, which dates back to 1902, is one of the nation's more liberal in terms of the power it reserves to the voting population at large. Governments at all levels hate it, and opponents of the initiative have succeeded in having some important restrictions placed on it. For example, a measure making a constitutional change must be limited to a single subject (or something to that effect). And now, canvassers are not supposed to be paid by the signature any more.
More fundamentally, opponents of the process often say that the average voter isn't as smart as the average legislator, and that we ought to leave the important choices to those who are better informed. Government should not be one big town hall meeting, they say, but instead a republic whose decisions are made by the wisest among us, who are chosen to lead.
With a part-time, high-turnover legislature made up entirely of average citizens, it's hard to buy that argument. Moreover, with the current information technology boom, the overall trend may be that the general public is getting smarter, not dumber.
This time around, frustrated proponents of Measure 30 complain that the income tax surcharge was carefully crafted in a bi-partisan compromise only after weeks and weeks of haggling, and that the hard-earned deal should have been left alone by the voters. Putting aside the fact that 3 out of 5 voters disagreed with the package, I believe there's a flaw in that argument.
When the legislature meets, the members are not ignorant of the referendum process. To the contrary, the potential for a ballot measure to second-guess any legislation sits in the Capitol like a 6,000-pound gorilla. The Republican types who voted for the income tax boost did so knowing that it would be placed on the ballot, in late January, when it would almost certainly fail. So they voted yes and went home, and the end result has turned out to be a rejection of the tax increase, which is now allowing them to smirk. (And with Lars Larson carping at them for their yes votes on this, they'll be quick to point out that they didn't really think it would survive at the polls.)
If the likelihood of the ballot measure's defeat hadn't been in the air last summer, this particular tax increase deal probably would not have been struck, and in fact, there may not have been any deal at all.
I'm all for debating whether the initiative/referendum system needs reform. Although I suspect that the majority of Oregon voters like it in its current form, it's worth a debate. But until the process is changed, no legislation is final. And members of the House and Senate will no doubt continue to bear that in mind as they ponder how long to stay in Salem every session trying futilely to solve the impossible problem of the Two Oregons.
The Portland Tribune -- a biweekly free newspaper that does a great job of keeping other media outlets in town honest -- is published twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday. At its very beginning, the paper offered free home delivery of both editions to many neighborhoods in Portland. After a very short time, however, the deliveries were cut back to Fridays only. For the Tuesday paper, you'd have to stop at one of the many boxes around town.
Alas, now even the Friday delivery has ceased, at least on our block here in inner Northeast Portland. That's not a good sign. Even for a faithful reader like myself, there's a certain inertia. I may read the web version of today's edition, but who knows if I'll remember to grab a hard copy out of a box between now and Tuesday? If I don't pick up a hard copy, I won't see most of the Trib's ads. If readers don't see the ads, people stop advertising. If people stop advertising, the paper folds, which would be a tragedy.
Is it just in my neighborhood, or has the Tribune given up on delivery entirely?
UPDATE, 2/9, 11:16 pm: I got it straight from publisher Dwight Jaynes himself: Home delivery is over.
It ain't the end of the world, I guess. The delivery served its purpose: it got people very aware of, and interested in, the Trib. It's probably danged expensive, and so they're likely thinking that the savings from pulling it will outweigh the costs of lost readership. We'll see.
I love the Trib and would hate to see anything bad happen to it.
I just took the "President Match" test over at AOL's Elections 2004 site.
Here is how the candidates and I matched up on the issues that they cover in their survey. The following candidates agreed with me the following percentages of the time:
So if I didn't care whether they could beat W., I guess I should be pulling for Kucinich, Kerry, or Sharpton.
But I do care.
Why trust this "test," anyway? For example, on "Roll Back the Bush Administration Tax Cuts," it states that Kerry and Edwards each "Somewhat Opposes." Opposes a rollback? Is that right?
It's time to come up for air from the technical tax stuff I've been slaving over and write about something much more important: restaurants in Portland.
It came as quite a surprise when the owners abruptly pulled the plug on the groovy Cafe Azul down in the Pearl District a couple of weeks ago. This was a hap'nin' place that served up fine "Mexican" food that reflected a lot more than the usual burrito/taco sensibility. At one point Gourmet magazine had it in its top 50 restaurants in the country.
I ate there a couple of times, on business. I was impressed.
So why shut the doors? The owners were pretty vague. But the sorry state of the economy around here couldn't have been helping business much. The same Oregonian story that told of Azul's demise also pointed out that Cafe des Amis, Couvron and Tapeo -- three other high-end eateries, two in Northwest Portland and one in Goose Hollow -- have bitten the dust recently as well.
I had a couple of nice meals at Cafe des Amis, again on business. And the Mrs. and I actually treated ourselves to dinner at Couvron on our own dime one time. It was very good, but ouch! The bill!
It's ironic to me that while the restaurant scene reflects the relative lack of big bankrolls in our community, we keep subsidizing the construction of high-rise "luxury ghettoes." Who's living in these things? They look half-empty to me. And who's going to live in the new ones now being built? Not only are these beasts ugly, but they don't appear to be very timely. More of the wretched civic failure of Stumptown?
Meanwhile, over here on the Idaho side of the river, a new burrito joint has risen from the ashes of the old Skipper's restaurant at NE Weidler and Seventh. The demolition of the Skipper's building was sad for me, because I always enjoyed driving by it and noting that it was the scariest-looking place of public accommodation still left standing in town.
But the new place is o.k. It's called Chipotle, and it's the first Pacific Northwest entry for a glitzy chain. They've got a disarmingly stark, basic burrito menu, and the first one I had, yesterday, was pretty good. The tortilla was slightly rubbery, just as I like it, and the fajita chicken and rice stuffed inside was pretty nice. The medium salsa had plenty of zip.
On the downside, the price was high -- $6.25 for a burrito and a small Sprite -- and the geography of the place is odd. You order on one side of the building, and eat on the other, completely out of the view of the restaurant crew. That seems like a recipe for trouble, particularly when their beer/wine license comes through, but it's what they decided to do with a very skinny building on a small lot.
The other drawback is the noise. The decor is wood, metal and glass -- reminiscent of an old Macheesmo Mouse or Pollo Rey outlet -- and the salsa music on the stereo is just a notch too loud. Even at a slow time in late afternoon, the workers (bright and friendly enough) were shouting at each other over the din, and it was hard to hear yourself think.
It ain't Cafe Azul, but it will do for a workday.
Finally on the culinary scene, the hippies down in southeast Portland are marching around with protest signs in front of the Starbucks that's being built at SE 21st and Division. I think they're being a little silly. I agree with them that big corporate chains are essentially evil, and that it would have been nice to have a locally owned, organic enterprise move into that space. But here in America, money talks, and in all the years that corner has stood as a bombed-out, abandoned meat packing facility, no viable local business appears to have knocked on the landlord's door. So a Starbucks it is going to be.
It could be a lot worse. The neighbors could have awoken one morning (as we did several years ago in our old southeast neighborhood) to discover that a locally owned private company had very, very quietly moved in a methadone clinic over the holidays, and that there were now 300-plus "recovering" (most of them were) heroin addicts showing up between 5 and 11 a.m. six mornings a week to chug the synthetic opiate that theoretically kept them off smack. Some of the "patients" would come staggering out of that place, jump into their cars, and weave off into the rush hour traffic. A few others would stroll right over to the convenience store for a 40-ounce malt liquor to wash the joy juice down with. One guy even started camping out on neighbors' front steps after he got his dose -- 'til it kicked in, I guess. All of this was installed two blocks from our house, with absolutely no notice or process for the neighbors. We all felt bad for the patients, but we never got over our anger at the local owners.
A group of us picketed for around six months, but then I moved away from there. I'll never forget the mornings we stood outside the place with our protest signs, in the dark and the rain. More than once we said to each other: "Why couldn't Bill Bitar (the landlord) have leased this space out to a Starbucks?"
Many people villified us for protesting. We were even named "Rogue of the Week" in Willamette Week. I was quoted there as the head rogue. The reporter talked to me for 45 minutes, then printed one sentence from me out of context to make me look bad. I hope there's a special level of the inferno for people like her.
In contrast, the people parading around in front of the Starbucks site now will probably pass for heroes in some of our local press.
Ah, well. That's Portland.
C'mon, this is an easy one.
What did the Super Bowl and the State of the Union address have in common?
“Do you just want to change presidents, or do you want to change America?” -- Howard Dean, in Seattle today.
Actually, Howard, just presidents would probably be fine with me, thanks.
Who is the duller speaker?
A. Al Gore.
B. John Kerry.
Here are Howard Dean's results in today's primaries:
Arizona: 3d place, 14%
Delaware: 4th, 10%
Missouri: 3d, 9%
New Mexico: 3d, 17%
North Dakota: 3d, 12%
Oklahoma: 5th, 4%
South Carolina: 5th, 5%
It's now down to Kerry, Edwards, and Clark. For Dean, as Roy Orbison once sang, "It's over."
I assume Dr. Howard's going to hang in there until he's hated. That's too bad. He could be a team player and make a major contribution in the general election. But I doubt that he will.
It's ugly, but not at all unexpected. As I predicted quite a while back, the average voter in Multnomah County, who has been willing to vote for previous tax increases, has apparently had enough.
To all those who have been giving me grief about my no vote on this measure, let me add this comment: Just because Lars Larson says something, doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.
Portland Communique has got a temporary site up here.
Whom do you think Corporate America would rather see as President?
A. John Kerry.
B. John Edwards.
The trail of grease emanating from the PGE-Texas Pacific deal has picked up a law firm.
Cousin James over at Parkway Rest Stop sometimes notes that he's too wrapped up in "Life 101" to have time to say anything profound on his blog. I know the feeling this week, when my several hats are all on at once.
It's a big primary day, and Measure 30 day here in the Beaver State, and I've got about four other Portland-centric blog entries in me waiting to come out. But I've got a couple of hungry college funds to feed, and so it's going to be another day or two before I get down with the muse and lay it all out here.
Tonight, amidst a couple of other balls I have up in the air, I give the bar exam review lecture on taxation here in town. Four straight lecturing hours down at the always-funky Portland Conference Center (not to be confused with the Oregon Convention Center, which sits across the street like the Pacific Northwest's biggest white elephant). At least I get a turkey burger at the nearby Burgerville outlet out of the deal.
It's much harder to find Nabisco "Famous" Chocolate Wafers than it is to find heroin. Not only can't you find them on the shelves of the supermarkets, they're also not even mentioned on the Nabisco snack website.
These wafers are a key ingredient in many pie recipes, and they also can go into some swell ice-cream-cake-like desserts. I myself enjoy them with a glass of red wine while I'm reading blogs.
But they're scarce as hen's teeth, I tell ya.
I'm not hearing a real meaningful response to this.
It's not a very livable city after you're shot dead.
I slept through the Super Bowl halftime show. What a boob.
Everybody's apologizing as if it were unintentional. Yeah, and Michael's normal.
With Jeff taking a break from The Oregon Blog, and Bix taking an involuntary break from Portland Communique, lately it falls to just us few survivors to keep up the running commentary on matters relating to Portland and Oregon.
I've fallen down miserably in discharging this awesome responsibility. I've gotten fixated on the Demo primaries to the point of shirking my local duties. My resolution for the coming week is to get back to the garden, as it were.
The big news around here is Measure 30, the statewide ballot measure on the state income tax surcharge. The ballots are being turned in now, and the result will be announced Tuesday night. I'm being pounded for voting no on this thing, even though I believe I have stated my case eloquently. Generally, I'm not an anti-tax person, and calling me Lars Larson or Kevin Mannix doesn't make it so. I voted for Measure 28 last year, and for the county income tax in 2003. But there's got to be some limit, and I've reached mine. And I'm not buying any of the malarkey that the politicians and the papers are selling that if the state measure passes, the county will refund the tax.
For three weeks now, my church has literally prayed that Measure 30 will pass. The area's religious leaders (many of whom don't pay taxes) are fervent in their advocacy for the tax increase. Well, damn me to hell, but do I get credit for having voted yes on two out of three?
Rumor has it that all the polls show Measure 30 failing badly, which means there will be painful budget cuts throughout the state. Multnomah County won't be as badly affected because it now has its own income tax. Maybe other counties should follow suit. What? The voters of the other counties won't pass local taxes? Cry me a river.
In a telling show of how completely disconnected from reality our political leaders have become, the very week that a wicked budget ax is about to fall on schools downstate, the state superintendent of public education announces that we ought to expand public school kindergarten from a half day to a full day. I guess she's planning to pay for that by skipping around Salem picking the money that grows on the trees.
Sure, it would be a wonderful idea. But we can't have it and a $1 million a year trolley in Portland, and an aerial tram for OHSU, and PGE Park, and a mostly empty Oregon Convention Center, and North Portland light rail, and all the other toys in the Vera Katz Theme Park. The customers are tapped out.
I know, I know, Measure 30 is a state tax, and the things I'm complaining about are city and county boondoggles. However, the enactment of the Multnomah County tax has completely changed the dynamic. It was expressly sold as an antidote for the state government's irresponsibility, with a promise of a refund if the state cleaned up its act. Thus, the two levels of taxation are now inextricably bound, probably forever. Fine with me -- it all comes out of one checkbook at our house.
One of the more interesting arguments in favor of Measure 30 is that the state tax increase would be less than the federal tax cuts we're all enjoying under George "He Hate Me" Bush. (That may be true for many, although I estimate that our household barely breaks even, even without the Measure 30 tax.) I for one think the federal tax cuts were and are obscene, and I'm hoping that we'll get some new national leadership soon who will let some of the more outlandish welfare-for-the-rich tax provisions die for good when they expire on schedule in the coming years. But that will never happen if the states are sucking up that money. Support for reforming the federal tax mess will be considerably less if the states have become dependent on eating the money that Bush has given away.
As I said, sorry, folks, but I'll be the bad blogger on this one.
Which is easier to buy in Portland?
B. Nabisco "Famous" Chocolate Wafers.
The correct answer will be posted here tomorrow.
But I will be rooting for "He Hate Me."
One of the nicest aspects of having a blog is how it can put you back in touch with long-lost friends and family. My cousin Bern (formerly known as Bernie) recently popped back into my life through e-mail communication following a post here about our wild years. The other day, he sent me this e-mail from his Pennsylvania home:
Well, I finally took the plunge and went car shopping.
Hey, what do you think of my new car? I wanted a bigger SUV, and was looking for one with decent gas mileage. I bought it "AS IS," but did I get a good deal. The guy had to sell because of illness.
I took a pic of it, check it out!
And here it is.