One who keeps tearing around, one who can't move
One of the saddest times in the history of The Oregonian was when they switched to the fast-drying ink. Some marketing expert had told them that their circulation was declining because people didn't like getting ink on their hands reading the paper. And so they changed it. I believe it was the same time they made the pages smaller; the ink "improvement" was a tradeoff for less news to look at.
I call this sad because the new ink just doesn't work that well with Silly Putty. One of the traditional joys of Silly Putty was using it to lift an image off a newspaper and twisting and pulling the photo until it was funny. As kids, we used to spend hours goofing on Pope John XXIII and LBJ this way. Nowadays it's hard to do with the new, fast-drying ink.
We still get our laughs wherever we can, though, as we did today reading the O's story on the Portland City Council and its lack of consensus about the city's hideous police and fire retirement and disability system. The battle lines over the prospect of reforming that budget-buster are being drawn, and it looks like the status quo is coming out ahead.
The latest installment in the comedy was yesterday's council "work session," where Grampy Potter and Fireman Randy told Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman in no uncertain terms that they weren't going to let reform of the pension system go on the citywide ballot as a proposed charter amendment in May. Randy won't even let disability reform on the ballot, if it's up to him.
Big Pipe, who's looking for something to put on his resume besides skulking around trying to screw the Mount Tabor neighborhood, thinks the city has spent enough time "studying" and huffing and puffing about the bluecoat pension system. He wants a reform vote in the May primary.
Piping up with Potter and Leonard is Li'l Erik Sten, who has suddenly opined that he doesn't want the city to do anything rash. This is where the chuckles start, because it was Sten himself who, fresh from being laughed out of Enron's offices last summer when he tried to buy PGE, slapped together a truly hasty set of quick fixes that landed with a loud thud. Now he's all for caution.
Siding with Saltzman is Sam the Tram, who owes Big Pipe his vote on the pension and disability issue as a horse trade for Big Pipe's vote on the city's lobbyist registration system. But with Sten on the go-slow tip, it's 3 to 2 against a May vote on reform.
These guys crack me up. Grampy and the Fireman, of course, are two huge beneficiaries of the overpriced police and fire pension system -- hizzoner the mayor, being a former chief with lots of years on the force, has got to be in the top five of all ex-cops at the trough. Let's face it, these guys know on which side their bread is buttered, and they won't agree to allow any changes to go forward unless the unions are more or less on board. Which they certainly aren't with what Saltzman has in mind.
Danny Boy, meanwhile, probably doesn't care how the public referendum comes out, so long as it's on the same ballot as his hotly contested re-election bid. As long as he looks like the crusader on this one, the final outcome may not be all that important to him. But he's taking on some experienced hardball players in the police and fire labor organizations, and that's going to cost him some serious votes. It all makes for a sunny morning for Saltzman's main opponent, Amanda Fritz, who should try to stay out of the fray as long as she can.
The Stenmeister is also up for re-election -- 12 years of the guy isn't enough, we need 16 -- and it looks like he's, shall we say, cozying up to the unions on this one. You don't suppose, do you, that this has anything to do with the fact that he's currently trying to raise his 1,000 $5 contributions so that he can get "clean money" taxpayer financing for his campaign, which is also going to be a bear? One wonders how many men and women in blue are more inclined to flow a fivespot to Sten now that he's protecting their pork pot (at least for the moment).
As I say, if you follow these matters, it's all fairly amusing. But the funniest part of the whole thing is the file photo of Sten that the O used among the council head shots illustrating its article today. It's none other than the infamous "Opie shot the squirrel" pic from the day Sten got home from New York and his big PGE play with a shoeprint on his derriere:
Man, I thought I was rough on the guy. If the city's best daily newspaper is going to make that their stock shot of Sten, then this could be its funniest year ever, even without the Silly Putty.