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Monday, May 17, 2004

Everything's fine

If there's been any question whether The Oregonian newspaper is the fat and lazy champion of the status quo here in Portland, the last few weeks have supplied an affirmative answer that history will not ignore.

The obvious place to start is the paper's pattycake treatment of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's "extraordinary and emotional" exclusive interview in which he acknowledged his "affair" with a 14-year-old girl. Next, there was its bungling rush to print an op-ed piece defending NG, written by the guy who, apparently unbeknownst to the investigative wizards at The O, for years served as a go-between between sex offender and victim. Yesterday, we had the same guy getting carte blanche to tell his side of it in a banner headline front-page story -- he was just a good Samaritan trying to help a girl in trouble. In the same story, The O shamelessly rehashed details of the scandal previously developed by the Willamette Week.

But even leaving all that aside, the local fish wrap has really been outdoing itself lately in its efforts to numb the minds of the residents of Portland. The O really, really wants us to believe that the city is on the right track, with the right priorities, even though a substantial portion of the population is smart enough to sense otherwise.

As an example, on today's front page, we get a glowing profile of a nice young man in the city transportation office, who, doggone it, has smoothed the way for the construction of the sky tram between OHSU and the new concrete jungle about to be erected in North Macadam. Yes, the city has agreed to throw a few bones to the neighborhood -- ripping out some on-ramps to the Ross Island Bridge, building a pedestrian bridge over I-5, and installing a bunch of speed bumps and other traffic calming devices. And that's apparently gotten a few of the neighborhood activists who opposed the tram to begrudgingly give their consent.

Which is enough to get The O all worked up about the beauty of it all. Despite the pending legal challenges, on The O news pages, the tram is now "inevitable," and everybody's mostly happy.


Now we all get to watch for a few years as the funding for all the neighborhood improvements becomes painfully hard to come by, while the tram construction -- a Goldschmidt-Francesconi pet project if there ever was one -- marches skyward. Nowhere does the article mention the fact that the tram is already nearly 100% over budget. Nor the fact that multiple millions of dollars of "urban renewal" funds, which include a large chunk of citywide property taxes, are now suddenly being earmarked for the constructon.

And appallingly, everyone but me, it seems, is ignoring the queston of who will pay to run the tram, which will turn an operating deficit well into six figures every year. Will we take the already existing $900,000-a-year city taxpayer subsidy of the streetcar system and push it well over $1 million with the sky tram? Of course we will. Even with NG hiding in Idaho, the Tram People -- including Mrs. G., Million Dollar Jim, Mike Lindberg, and the usual suspects -- will get his little job done.

In its election endorsements, The O says it admires all that City Hall "experience" of Million Dollar Jim and Sam Adams. That's code for "Let's keep things the way they are."

I say, out with all of them.

The O would be funny if it weren't so pitiful.

Comments (8)

The O would be funny if it weren't so pitiful.
PDX would be funny if it weren't so pitiful. A tram?! For a research hospital?! That's pathetic. Period.

I'm in town for a visit, and *&^$@)$#* like this makes me glad I am leaving. Corrpution like this in a big city is understandable. In PDX, it's just sad.

Jack - you are doing a good service to the community by outlining political BS like this. By BS I mean the tram to OHSU. While there are many other projects (the Streetcar, the Pearl District, etc), the tram takes the cake. And that's saying a lot.

If I had any hope for the masses of PDX, I would be tempted to run for Mayor myself. My platform? A 30-second commercial that outlined the wasted dollars of the current (and upcoming) administration - and my plan to stop it by finding basic services, period.

Call the bad guys out by name. And name dollars, as well as names. Is "b!X" free? Somebody get him to produce a commercial via cable-access and air it on a broadcast station during the day. Send a copy of the TV commercial to Drudge.

When the hillbillies of PDX learn to bring honest facts to the table - and lay them out for the masses - only then will voters correct with the mess City Hall has become. In the meantime, prepare your offerings (forced) of alms for your new Overlord, Sir Francesconi.

I have no problem with the City allowing OHSU to build the Tram. I grew up in St. Johns and every time the city needeed to build a new Mental Hospital or Juvenile Detention Center, they put it right in St. Johns. Because hey, they're poor, who cares. And the rest of the city looked the other way, because hey, they're poor, who cares.

My take is what goes around comes around, and I refuse to take pity on the rest of Portland's neighborhoods.

That being said, the funding for this tram is a little sketchy. And, I actually wouldn't have a problem with the city paying for it, if they would truly build something postcardesque. But they're not. The city is going to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a ski lift. I really think OHSU could have ponied up the cash for this one.

As for the Daily O, the Washington Post had an interesting article on the Goldschmidt scandal, ending the article by calling out the O for being biased. No new facts, but interesting nonetheless.

What? The oreogonian providing biased coverage? Never! /sarcasm/

Who owns the O these days? What is their fiancial or good ole boy conenction to the PDX movers and shakers? They sure do seem invested in the current power structure. Not like the early days of Portland when the O was lamblasting the failures of early city councils.

Jack, how about an analysis of the Os top owners and editors, financial connections, etc to the current city power structure?

One comment since it is election day today. Did anyone else here read about the other cantidates in the voter pamplet? Unfortunatly good info on cantidates is hard to find. b!X had some good coverage, and Jack had a few interesting points about cantidates, but for the most part I don't feel like I know much about any of the challengers to the existing power structure. WW , the trib, and the Os coverage were all pretty sad. "Vote for these people, trust us." Many of the cantidates' statements, particualrly for mayor, were amusing to read, but many should not be running our city government. Voting was a struggle for me this time. I did not want to vote for the usual suspects, but often had a hard time finding a cantidate that would be a suitable alternative.

The O is privately owned by Newhouse Newspapers (which owns papers in other metro markets throughout the nation), and run by the Newhouse family. Operations for their various entities is based back in NY/NJ (NYC and Jersey City, respectively.)

The Newhouse family also owns Conde Nast, publisher of glossy high-end mags like The New Yorker, Glamour, Vogue, and the like.

The O is run locally, but there is still heavy involvement from the corporate parent, especially on the business side. Whether or not that involvement extends to the editorial side of the paper is unclear.

I'll say it again - when you guys see all the hot Canadian girls' pretty white legs walking onto the tram, you'll forgive its price.

Totally. Hot chicks are way into trams.

I think the tram is a great idea. And if I lived under it, I don't think I would mind one bit. It keeps OHSU in the city and provides expansion room. Yes, it makes Homer Williams a few million extra dollars. But if the city benefits, so be it. And turning that junky area around the south waterfront into a home for thousands of square feet of business and thousands of homes means that Portland will escape more "edge city" suburban sprawl out in Outer Vancouver, or Wilsonville.

And belittling that "nice young man" isn't very nice. He's working to do more than throw the neighborhood a few crumbs. Tearing out on-ramps to the Ross Island Bridge sounds like a lot more than "crumbs" to me.

And those "poor neglected" Eastside neighborhoods seem to be gentrifying quite nicely, thank you. A friend of mine near Gustav's Bier Stube has seen his property value rise $75,000 in two years. If that is due to "neglect," then bring it on!

Two points. The first, about journalism. It isn't necessary that newspaper ownership share specific financial interests with other city powers. It may be as it often is inside the beltway: that these two groups of people travel in the same circles, inhabit the same world, and share the same perspectives, outlooks, networks, and even parties.

Second, as to the tram. I think it's a great idea -- that OHSU and not city taxpayers should pay for.

(On a separate but semi-related issue, I found it interesting to hear a report today on the building of the new low-income housing project on the Columbia, almost all with federal money; meanwhile, Portland uses its own tax abatements to subsidize development and housing for the rich downtown.)

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