The New York Times jinx
Sports fans the world over know all about the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Whenever a sports figure gets his or her picture on the cover of SI, there is a moment of extreme pride, but then some tragic turn of events quickly befalls him or her, often with career-ending consequences. The hapless victim is never the same again.
I haven't followed all the instances of this in recent years, but I do remember this cover, whereupon the team in question immediately fell into the tank. They promptly lost four or five straight, as I recall.
On the local political scene here in Portlandia, there's a new jinx in town, and it's the New York Times. Our local politicos fall all over themselves, and spend hundreds of millions of our tax dollars, in the hopes of achieving positive mention in The Newspaper of Record. When they get quoted as the archons of our Urban Utopia, it gets them hotter than a $20 pistol (quite a few of which seem to be going off in our exquisitely well-planned and traffic-becalmed downtown, it seems). For a moment, the quoted City Hall denizen feels like Neil Goldschmidt without the statutory rape history. But lately, well, those mentions have been followed by heartbreak.
The star-crossed visionary who has suffered the bitter fate of the new jinx is, of course, Commissioner Erik "Opie" Sten, the lovable kid who always seems to be leading a trendy charge that The Times finds interesting, but ultimately isn't going anywhere. Most recently, Sten took some credit in this story (alas, these are just archive digests now, unless you want to pay to read the whole thing) for the "fact" that Portland had reduced its greenhouse gases below 1990 levels:
''Portland's efforts refute the thesis that you can't make progress without huge economic harm,'' says Erik Sten, a city commissioner. ''It actually goes all the other way -- to the extent Portland has been successful, the things that we were doing that happened to reduce emissions were the things that made our city livable and hence desirable.''Now, apparently, somebody's actually bothered to check the numbers, and the story's not true. Not even close. The tighty-righties are going nuts over it, cluck cluck.
Before that, it was the city's PGE takeover, which this story picked up on:
Erik Sten, a city commissioner, said he had the votes on the five-member commission to authorize revenue bonds quickly to acquire the utility's assets, actions that would not require a popular vote. He said the city could retain existing management or hire one of two dozen utility companies that have contacted the city about managing Portland G.E.We now know where that was headed.
''The city can run Portland G.E. better,'' Mr. Sten said, and ''charge lower rates'' because it would pay state, but not federal, taxes. He asserted that unlike Texas Pacific, the city has an incentive to make long-term investments in the utility to ensure reliable high quality electric service, which is crucial to the local economy.
Before that, it was this one -- trying to force AT&T Cable (now Comcast) to lease its high-speed internet lines to its competitors:
Erik Sten, a Portland city commissioner, said today that the city had not decided whether to appeal the decision, in part because city officials viewed it as a partial victory. "If the decision is interpreted as we think it will be," he said, AT&T will be deemed to be a telecommunications service provider and thus required to open access on a national level.Nada. No way. Zilch.
It's hard times in the Sten camp, but now he's come out fighting on the police and fire disability fund. Suddenly, the good commish has got all the answers, and heck, we ought to hustle them right up for a public vote and be done with it.
Sounds a little like Al Gore's internet. Of all the people to be taking credit for reforming the system, forgive me if it's just a wee bit hard to swallow that the guy with the most seniority on the City Council is suddenly jumping on the bandwagon. Where have you been on that one for the last 10 and a half years, while the existing mess was being made, guy?