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Friday, June 24, 2005

For and against

Well, it's time for me to shut up about the proposed Wal-Mart in Sellwood, I guess. Phil Stanford says I'm "for it." Actually, I don't care too much either way; I just don't think the city fathers should be so adamantly "against it."

It did get a good conversation going in the comments here, though.

Speaking of Phil, I'm just finishing up his book Portland Confidential, a howl of a good read about the Bad Old Days of the Portland Rackets. Here I thought Portland was always such a squeaky clean place; shows you what a poor student of history I've been.

Gambling, nude dancing, payoffs to police and city council members, womanizing political leaders, behind-the-scenes real estate swindles... I'm glad the days of official corruption around here are over now. That stuff all went away in the late '50s.


Comments (5)

Right, except that gambling is now in the constitution, and the state supreme court found nude dancing there too. Payoffs to politicians don't seem to be constitutionally required yet.

Phil's book is a great read. If you're old, like me, and you've lived here all your life the photographs are a real stroll down memory lane. I lent the book to an old fellow who runs the counter at the pro-shop at Summerfield golf course on Sunday mornings. He was a veterinarian on Powell Blvd for about fifty years. Turns out he used to care for most of the pets of the central characters in "Portland Confidential" and Phil's booked sparked many anecdotes which he's been sharing with me since.

I seem to recall that the Keefauver Commission and Robert Kennedy looked into Portland corruption in the early 60s, but there was no big clean-up. I am not sure how much really was resolved. Another interesting book is Fred Leeson's "Rose City Justice". There is one scene where young (15-yr old) Michael Schrunk is watching his father, Terry's, vice trial. Leeson comments on how much he must have learned about the justice system when Terry was acquitted. I was thinking "how to fix a case?", but a friend pointed out the really important lesson: If you've got friends in the Mob, it is better to be DA than Mayor.

If you liked "Portland Confidential" -- it's a shame it ended in the late 1950's, because I've heard great off-off-the-record scandal-stories about cops dealing cocaine out of Old Town in the 1970's-80's -- you might also enjoy Paul Pintarich's "History by the Glass: Portland's Past and Present Saloons, Bars & Taverns." Forward by Bud Clark (whom I understand could tell a few off-off-the-record cop stories of his own if he felt like it).

For many of us, Pintarich is the dean of hard-nosed Portland reporters, and his book's back story is about how he finally walked away from his alcohol habit. Fun, historical, and somehow also poignant.

Glad to see that you didn't really come out in favor of the Sellwood Wal-Mart (oh how I hate the sound of that!) as I live about 4 blocks from the site and would hate to come out my front door and look up the street and see a 4 story Wal-Mart instead of a line of trees. It would be like a kick in the gut every day to this union gal!! And for a change it's nice to hear something other than "let's wait and see", or the usual PDX "let's all play nice" crap coming from our civic leaders!

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