One of the topics that got lost in the Thanksgiving blur was a Willamette Week cover story profiling Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford. In particular, the article detailed Stanford's relentless crusade, begun when he was at The Oregonian years ago, to prove that the murder of Oregon Corrections chief Michael Francke was not committed by Frank Gable, the Salem thug who's doing hard time for it, but instead by someone connected with corruption in the state's prisons.
Stanford revved the story back up with a vengeance over the summer, shortly after the Neil Goldschmidt statutory rape scandal broke. He had been sitting on the Goldschmidt story for quite a while when the Willamette Week decided to go for it; Phil even wound up apologizing in print for not having run the tawdry news sooner himself. Apparently he doesn't want to be saying he's sorry for a similar silence in the Francke case.
Stanford's got some other pet themes that I enjoy reading. Lately he's been ridiculing the City of Portland's pollyannish plan to finance local political campaigns with tax dollars. After a couple of shots at the proposal, one fairly extended, the columnist boiled his objections down yesterday to this:
Those "Clean Money" guys down at City Hall crack me up.... If they really wanted to eliminate big campaign money, all they'd have to do is place a limit -- say $25 or $100 -- on contributions to their own campaigns. Tom Potter did it, and look where it got him.... But of course that's not what's going on here. What they want is to have all that nice, clean tax money handed to them so they don't have to do the dirty work of collecting contributions.... Can't blame them for trying, though. If I were a politician and thought I could get away with it, I'm sure I'd do the same thing....
You tell 'em, Phil! I'm all for getting developer and union cash out of city politics -- the recent campaign finance disclosures, posted on the internet for the amusement of all, have been enough to curl my thinning Polish-Irish hair -- but I can't see doing it out of property tax dollars. This is a city that's so broke that the mayor has a canned little speech for everyone (including an under-budgeted Police Bureau) about how tough times are, that there's no money for anything. It's the city with the highest combined state and local tax burden on individuals west of the Mississippi. And we've got money lying around to be on the cutting edge with this? Funded differently, it's worth a try; paid for out of property taxes, it's a disgrace.
Of course, it's going to happen, at least for a while. Commissioner Erik Sten, whose upcoming re-election bid would be one of the first beneficiaries of the new system, has got the votes on this from City Council newbies Sam "Vero" Adams and Tom "Grampy" Potter -- the first of many Brilliant Ideas that we'll see implemented over the next few years. So guys like Phil and I can howl all we want. (Meanwhile, over on Portland Communique, Christopher Frankonis, who knows from experience about the rigors of fundraising, thinks it's a great proposal, and he never changes his mind, so don't bother arguing with him about it.)
Anyway, here's to Phil.