This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in March 2006. They are listed from newest to oldest.
February 2006 is the previous archive.
April 2006 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
UPDATE, 4/1, 12:13 a.m.: Oh, and get this! "Blackmer said... he's not sure of the timing of any city inquiry or whether Portland has the power to take back the $150,000 given to Boyles if violations are discovered." Un-farookin'-believable.
It's obvious that there isn't going to be an agreement on who's to pay the cost overruns on the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]. Here's the latest.
It's been two months now that we've been in this ridiculous limbo, with more than $15 million in funding unaccounted for, and yet the city keeps borrowing and paying contractors. It really, really is way past time to stop work on this white elephant until the money is straightened out. It's a disgrace.
The owners of the Rose Garden arena certainly aren't in any hurry to appease whining Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Yesterday the NBA announced that it was giving up on trying to broker a new lease between Allen and the creditors whom he shafted when he took his arena corporation into bankruptcy two years ago.
I'm sure the creditors absolutely hate carrying the Rose Garden on their books as real estate that they own. They're not in the business of owning real estate -- they're in the business of making money lending against it. If and when a new Blazers owner comes along, they'll likely be relieved to cut some kind of new deal -- probably an outright sale of the building to whoever buys the team. But they're not going to knuckle under to Allen. If they did, every other borrower they have would see it as an open invitation to renegotiate its loan agreement. Allen's not getting a new lease, and he's not getting the building back at a bargain price.
As predicted here a month ago, the Blazers are going to have either a new owner or a new city very soon. There's some talk of taking the team itself into bankruptcy now, but that might conceivably mean that the arena folks or the City of Portland could get control over the NBA franchise. The league would never let that happen; it would probably take over the team instead.
Allen's people now say they've got a good conversation going with the city (presumably, the Portland Development Commission). If by that they're implying that they're going to be bailed out by the city's taxpayers, they're fooling themselves, trying to fool prospective buyers or the league, or all of the above.
So long, Paul. As much as we want to keep Portland weird, it's not your kind of weird that we're after. (Via Couv Operator.)
Yesterday afternoon I wrote in outrage about reports of apparent fraud in the City of Portland's new taxpayer financing system for local politicians' campaigns. A fellow by the name of Vladimir Golovan (pictured here with the governor) claims to have collected hundreds of signatures and $5 qualifying contributions for candidate Emilie Boyles from his contacts in the Slavic community, but many of those whose names appear on Boyles's contributor list now claim not to have made the contributions. Some told a reporter that they didn't even know who Boyles was. Some of the signatures also looked forged.
Today we find out that the same guy also allegedly collected several hundred signatures (and allegedly, contributions) for Lucinda Tate, who also filed for a $150,000 handout from the taxpayers, just in time to beat yesterday's filing deadline. Some of the same purported donors who told The Oregonian that they didn't know Boyles also appear on Tate's contributor list.
Adding to the insanity are the comments of the city's elections officer, who says it's too late to do anything about the $140,000-plus that's been paid to Boyles, even if her reports were false.
Ladies and gentlemen, pardon me, but exactly what in the name of God is going on in Portland? Our city government has truly lost all semblance of rationality.
There's no sense repeating my rant from yesterday. Read it here if you like. But double it for today.
This is what happens when Erik Sten sets out to clean up municipal politics. It looks more dishonest than ever. That fellow could bungle a nocturnal emission.
Anyway, here's what I think needs to happen -- FWIW, as the kids say. The O reporter who uncovered the problems, Anna Griffin, needs to swear out a couple of affidavits on what she's learned and have them delivered to the county d.a. and the state a.g. today. A serious investigation by professional law enforcement needs to be commenced immediately, as in yesterday. And if the city cuts the check to Tate without a thorough verification of her signatures and contributions, somebody ought to go to jail.
Leave it to The Oregonian to get it exactly backward. Here one of its reporters uncovers apparent fraud in the City of Portland's new "clean money" public campaign finance system, and what do they lead their front-page editorial with? "New system working great -- really opening up the process."
Nonsense. Let's get to the real heart of the matter. Here's what the story reveals about Emilie Boyles's participation in the new taxpayer-financed system:
Nearly 950 of her seed donations came from Russian, Croatian and Slavic immigrants living in east Portland -- at least nine of whom say they don't recall contributing.
* * * * *
There's only one real requirement candidates hoping for public funding must meet: All their contributions must come from Portland residents. To verify that, city regulators pull almost a third of their donations and check addresses on www.portlandmaps.com.
Boyles passed with no problem. Yet in a quick, random survey of her donor list conducted in both English and Russian, nine people said they did not recall giving her money -- and seven said they did not recognize her name.
"I don't know who that is," said Ivan Pukay, who lives on Southeast 137th Avenue, when asked about Boyles. "I don't have work. My money is very low. When I have it, I keep it."
Alex Grainko and his wife are both listed, but he says he does not remember contributing: "How am I going to give money for someone I never heard of?"
Speaking through a translator, Mykola Chubay said someone appeared at his church seeking signatures for Boyles' campaign. But he does not recall whether he gave $5. He and another person from his household are listed as donors.
Aleksander Gorpinich, a 17-year-old high school student, also heard a pitch for Boyles at a church service. But he said he never donated to her campaign. Gorpinich said [Vladimir] Golovan [who gathered signatures and donations for Boyles] is his father.
In many cases, Golovan did the bulk of the work on Boyles' contribution sheets -- writing the donors' name, occupation and address. That's legal. But in some cases, husbands or wives appear to have signed for their spouses. And in a few instances, one person signed for an entire household -- an apparent violation.
What a mess.
I'm not necessarily opposed to the principle of public financing of political campaigns. I do strongly disagree wth the O's statement that it's opened up the process in Portland, for reasons I laid out here a while back, but getting the old West Hills money out of the political driver's seat in our municipal elections is not a bad goal.
The devil, of course, is in the details, and when you put a potentially decent idea into the hands of the Portland City Council -- particularly Commissioner Sten, the architect of the system as well as (surprise, surprise) one of its first three beneficiaries -- it's bound to get screwed up. Five-year-old kids signing, people signing for their spouses, candidates swearing they got cash contributions from people who have never heard of them -- it's a steaming pile of bureaucracy gone wild.
This program is to campaign finance reform what the city's water bureau billing system is to financial management.
If some of Emilie Boyles's signatures are from people who didn't give her $5 before she filed, she should not get a dime of taxpayer money. And somebody down at City Hall had better take a closer look at the veracity of her filings, before the scandal expands.
Where is the county district attorney? Where is the state attorney general? Where is the U.S. attorney?
And where is the City Council? Hey, Fireman Randy, why not take a break from your busy schedule of enforcing animal-related ordinances to take a tough stand on the enforcement of this set of rules? You've done the minks and the dogs -- what about the rats?
UPDATE, 3/31, 1:43 a.m.: It just gets weirder and weirder. Now candidate Lucinda Tate has filed at the 11th hour for "clean money," and she had the same guy that Boyles had (here he is pictured with another fine politician) out collecting alleged signatures and alleged cash contributions for her among the Slavic community. What a joke! Great job, Opie! Read the update here.
The folks behind the SoWhat development and the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] have apparently been looking into having OHSU build a hotel as part of the condo tower jungle. You wonder how much taxpayer money has been spent on that:
For the past several months, METRO managers have been busily conducting the organization's first-ever Performance Evaluation Program, and the results are now in.
In a truly stunning development, it turned out that the group that had the largest number of employees that consistently exceeded performance expectations were (the envelope please)... Senior Management!
Folks, I'm sure you'd like to join me now in extending a hearty round of applause to these hard-working and dedicated public servants who have selflessly dedicated their careers to improving your life.
I hear the zoo elephants were written up for not being team players.
I don't know if you've been following the controversy over the Saturday animal rights demonstrations outside Schumacher Furs in downtown Portland, but it graced the papers and the Lars Larson show today. One of the issues is whether the store operators are baiting the demonstrators (if you'll pardon the expression). City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who's suddenly become the city's wildlife expert, sends along this picture, which he says illustrates that the Schumachers aren't exactly trying to defuse the situation. Judge for yourself:
The Oregonian editorial page is always good for a chuckle, and today was no exception. That page, as you'll recall, is edited by the spouse of the chief p.r. flack at OHSU, and today's edition continues the tradition of marital harmony. Now the O is putting the heat on Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to cast a swing vote in favor of additional city money toward the wretchedly over-budget OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]. Up 'til now, Saltzman's been firm in his opposition to any further city funding of the Ski Lift to Municipal Bankruptcy, but the Stickelers sense weakness there, and so they're after poor Dan.
The editorial is a real piece of work, pulling out all the stops, everything from badgering to threatening to blaming, and then to flattering. Danny, you're the only one on the council with the private sector experience. Use that experience and make all of us out here in the real world proud.
I had to chuckle over that one. Big Pipe hasn't had a real job in at least eight years, and his engineering training sure didn't help sniff out the rats in the Kohler-Coaster program when it was put over on the taxpayers three years ago. Now the signal from the old money in the West Hills (from which most Oregonian editorials emanate) is to play ball if he wants to get re-elected.
If Saltzman votes for more city money toward the tram, he'll be getting lots of private sector experience beginning January 1. Oh, well -- it's his political funeral if he takes the advice of a newspaper that also features beauties like this one, just two pages away from that fine editorial:
Have you heard about what the city has done to Dog Day Afternoon, a NW Raleigh dog daycare facility? I'm a customer of it and can't believe what has happened. It's located on a commercial block of NW Raleigh, next door to a George Morlan Plumbing and a dress shop. The owner of the dress shop (who lives behind it) has fought DDA continuously because of barking, enlisting the aid of Randy Leonard, and has finally gotten DDA to close down. There was a more detailed report on it last night on KATU. The owner Jennifer Day has gotten copies of emails Leonard wrote on the matter and they're pretty amazing. Apparently, the county, which enforces the city and county animal control ordinances, felt that DDA was in compliance with all applicable ordinances. Leonard wrote that he wanted all city funding to the county of animal ordinance enforcement activity to end "ASAP" unless the county did what he wanted. Not surprising, the county came down hard on Jennifer and she says they told her they'd impound all dogs at her facility after the end of the month. Hence, she's closing and laying off all of her employees.
I know there's more to the story than this and there are always two sides, but it just seems that Jennifer's getting screwed by the city and county. She invested a lot of money building out the facility, paying for permits and licenses, and now legal fees. The facility is not in a residential block, but a commercial block. Jennifer has gotten affidavits from all the other businesses, including Morlan, attesting to what a good neighbor she's been, but one complainant has gotten Randy Leonard on her side.
Given what Leonard said in the Oregonian this morning about the downtown fur shop, it's not surprising that he's coming down hard on a small business like DDA. I hope you'll write about this in your blog.
Here's a little something bubbling beneath the surface at Portland City Hall: Apparently they're getting ready to start forming some kind of new "district" or "authority" for the city's parks. Under this idea, the Portland parks would be handed over to a new governmental entity that will free the parks bureaucrats from the messy financing hassles -- and accountability -- that they have to deal with as a regular city bureau. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman is apparently down with the program, which came up last month at a Parks Board meeting. Click here and scroll down to page 3 for the lowdown.
The funniest part is how the Parks Board members don't want the current City Council to try to stop them:
Rich Brown said he didn't want the current Council to dictate if Parks goes ahead with this idea. It may take five years to make the change, and there could be an entirely different Council then.
Of course, we can't do anything these days without a high-priced consultant hired on a no-bid contract. And guess whom the folks at Parks have pressed into service to figure out how to reconfigure the bureau: Parametrix, an outfit that has had its fingerprints on one development boondoggle after another in the Rose City, including the early days of the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], when the lies and obfuscation were flying hot and heavy. A Parametrix person named named Sumner Sharpe, who "facilitated" some early tram meetings (sitting next to Matt Brown), is now spearheading the effort to change the parks from a regular city bureau to something murkier. Parametrix and Sharpe (who's also some kind of urban planning fellow at Portland State) are also in on the railroading of the Saturday Market for condos and wine and cheese shops. And in the past, he's hovered around the city schools' "surplus land" situation, as well as the Burnside-Couch couplet. Sharpe was listed in this piece in WW as a campaign confidante of Mayor Potter.
What a "planning, engineering, and environmental sciences" firm is doing advising people on local government organization is anyone's guess. But even if they're the right consultants for the job, is this a wise move to be considering? Putting the city's parks into a Tri-Met-, OHSU-, PDC- or streetcar-like entity, full of gubernatorial or mayoral cronies, not fully accountable to the City Council and the city's taxpayers, sure sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. And seeing a familiar "facilitation" artist in the picture at the outset of the process hardly inspires confidence.
You would think that Saltzman would know enough to leave this hot potato in the oven until after the election. Apparently not.
So what if we're staying home? The joys of spring break include the chance to stretch out a little with the daily New York Times. Great coverage of March Madness, including the lowdown on who that guy George Mason was. The latest on the hapless Knicks and Timberwolves of the NBA. A firestorm over a book about the old leper colony on Molokai. Plus a neat piece on how big old clunky Windows has become so unwieldy that Microsoft can't even update it any more.
And the photos! Cinderella and cloned pigs on the front page, but they can't compete with those nuns on rollerblades (the best shot of the day, and not posted on the web as far as I can tell except in that front page image). Roll on, sisters.
I've been reading around about the Portland City Council race for Erik Sten's seat, and it seems to me it's not looking too good for Ginny Burdick. All the baggage she's carrying with her because of her employment at Gard & Gerber -- the official p.r. firm for the aerial tram, Neil Goldschmidt, PGE, OHSU, etc. -- is just too heavy. She can't beat Sten. The only hope to unseat the guy is to sell yourself as an agent of change, and let's face it, you can spend all the king's treasure and you still won't succeed in painting the Gard & Gerber crowd as that. Just ask the Scone.
If the downtown old money realy wants to get rid of Sten, it ought to take a look at Lister, and soon. Granted, he'd be a longshot in a head-to-head against Sten, but any of them will be. I'm convinced Lister would have a better chance of winning one-on-one than Burdick or Boyles. If he can get in a fall runoff with big bucks to spend, he'd be a heck of a candidate. He's smart, and he has an honest, appealing message.
Some of the business folks may figure, hey, I'll vote for Burdick in the primary, but if Lister gets in the runoff, I'll switch to Lister. Flawed reasoning. If Sten runs against Burdick, Sten will surely win 55-45, with a lot of disgruntled Portlanders sitting it out. Against Boyles it would be 60-40 or worse. At least with Lister, you'd get a real fight.
While on the subject, I understand that Lister's taking some heat for not spouting the prevailing party line on the homeless last week at the City Club. Sten apparently paints himself as the champion of the downtrodden. But ask yourself, folks, after 10 years of Opie in City Hall, are Portland's homeless better off or worse off than before he got there? To me the situation appears as bad as ever. He's had his chance, made 10 years' worth of speeches, and he's gotten next to nothing done.
Then there's his line about "I'm the only one who says he loves Portland and loves the direction it's heading." Nice try, bud. I think we all love Portland. The only question is the direction. It's pretty clear that most folks feel it's wrong these days. And you, sir, are a huge part of the problem.
This evening's Blazer game started at 6:00. The Blazers showed up around quarter to seven, by which time they were around 15 points behind. They played even with the Clippers the rest of the way for a dull, lifeless loss before a small but polite and enthusiastic Rose Garden crowd. It was their eighth defeat in a row.
That Other Team from L.A. had the Portland squad outmatched at every position. Elton Brand is having a monster season, and Old Sam Cassell has yet another team gliding toward the playoffs. Vladimir Radmanovich outhustled every Blazer in his path except Travis Outlaw. Corey Maggette was 13 for 13 from the foul line. Even Vin Baker doddered out onto the floor a few times and contributed. If the Blazers had come to play, it would have been a tough fight. But they obviously hadn't, with their hangdog, defeatist body language signalling doom from the very outset.
The Blazer starters, with the exception of Juan Dixon, stunk the place up. Zach Randolph was particularly pitiful -- it looked like he had some sort of injury or a case of the trots as he headed for the locker room after being pulled in the first quarter. Steve Blake had an off night as well.
Off the Blazer bench, Martell Webster played pretty well for a college freshman, and Outlaw actually scrapped the whole night. We even got to see Ha Seung-Jin get a few minutes in, including a very sketchy slam dunk that his mom, who was sitting near us, enjoyed immensely. You might say he played in garbage time, but that would inappropriately dignify even the first few seconds of this episode. It was solid waste all the way.
While the boys in white faxed another one in, even the Blazer Dancers stayed home. Fittingly, however, the Bankrupt Billionaire crawled out from under the stands to watch a couple more pieces fall off his crumbling empire. Another 800 grand down the drain, and the landlord's still giving him the center digit. Maybe the PDC will make him a good deal -- ha ha! We didn't have the seats right next to his this time, but we were still blessed with some eighth-row beauties that gave us a splendid vantage point on the ever-lengthening royal comb-over:
Our ancient digital camera picked up its usual share of additional blurry shots to go with that one. Here's Randolph where he spent most of the evening -- it probably would have been better if he hadn't even suited up. He reminds me of George Bush in this one:
BTW, check out the size of Ha's head next to Randolph's!
Here's the best I could do for a picture of Brand, who's playing spectacular ball these days:
There was no excuse I could see for Joel Przybilla's lousy night. When you get used up and down the floor by Chris Kaman, it's time to start biting your cuticles:
I wonder how long Mo Lucas wants to keep doing this:
Here's Nate heading into the tunnel at the end. He probably wished he could have left two hours earlier:
And you know what? As bad at the Blazers played, a goodly portion of their their modest hometown crowd stayed to the end. Like us, they had a nice night out, if somebody else was paying for the tickets. And under new ownership, the whole scene could be back to thriving in no time. Let's hope:
Nothing will get your spring break rolling like... a stopped-up toilet!
We tried all the usual tricks to coax our downstairs potty to do its job. First, the handy toilet brush semi-plunge, then the full-blown rubber plunger thrusts. But nothing worked. It was blocked.
Of course it decides to do this on a Friday afternoon at 3 o'clock. We called our usual plumber, and he said his guys could get right on it -- on Tuesday. When we asked for a referral of someone who could come out sooner, he suggested these guys, and so we called them.
Good call. Within a few hours, a nice young fellow in their uniform was on the scene. Eventually, he had our porcelain throne off its pinnings and on its side for a thorough reverse snaking (and I think we all know how difficult that can be).
Throughout the process, we were all looking with suspicion at our toddler, who was taking the Fifth when asked whether she had thrown anything down there. But it turns out, she hadn't. Apparently, the appliance is just old.
The nice young man got everything running adequately again, and we're free to... well, let's say, roam about the cabin. But a new john is likely in our future.
We'll be forced to buy one of those modern low-flow jobs, no doubt. I hate those. One of our major failures as a free society is to deprive people of their God-given right to have a good old, high-flow, manly toilet if they want one. It's right in the Bible! Where are the darn libertarians when you need them?
It's become old home week. First b!X appears and sees his shadow, and now guess who's back to remind us all that we're all fools and rubes, and that he told us so all along. Yes, today the Poet Laureate of Pretention graces us with his genius, on spring break from Harvard:
In Portland's internationally lauded history of public/private partnerships, this one is the biggest ever with the least amount of public money -- all on the promise of that aerial tram. Stopping it -- or even arbitrarily capping the city's two-bit contribution at $3.5 million -- might allow a few politicians to proudly bow before the peanut gallery. But don't expect the national investment community to clap for the performance -- much less trust Portland ever again in a public/private partnership.
No more "public-private partnerships" -- wouldn't it be nice? And the city hasn't put in enough into SoWhat -- a half billion when it's all over is really podunk next to mighty world-class wisdom of the Graggmeister.
I was kind of hoping someone on the East Coast would give this guy a job. But come on. Would you?
It was a work night, and I caught only the last 40 minutes or so of tonight's NCAA basketball tourney on TV, but wow, that was plenty. Truly amazing endings to the Texas and UCLA games. And of course, just my personal bias, it's always good to see Gonzaga lose, my friend Bill Mickey D notwithstanding. Especially given the bogus call the referees gave them down the stretch.
Tomorrow's the deadline to apply for school transfers and magnet school admissions in the Portland public school system. So what if parents make a decision about where (and whether) to apply for now, only to have their considerations radically altered by a school closure finalized over the next few weeks? This press release from the school district may shed some light on that:
Portland Public Schools' deadline for parents to apply for transfers for their elementary and middle school students is at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 24. (The high school application deadline was March 3.)
Superintendent Phillips plans to present her proposal for reconfiguring some Portland schools and closing some school buildings on Tuesday, April 4. If the Portland School Board approves changes to schools, whether at high schools or at elementary and middle schools, Portland Public Schools will reopen the School Choice Application window for two weeks in May.
Parents may wish to file a School Choice application before Friday's elementary and middle school deadline, confident that if their child's neighborhood or transfer options change, they may file another application later. Under the School Choice lottery system, the later application automatically overrides the earlier application.
Two little birds up on Pill Hill send along the latest e-mail message from the chief administrator of OHSU to all his employees concerning the $55 million aerial tram (pictured above) [rim shot]:
To the OHSU community:
This continues to be an important time for the Portland Aerial Tram, so I would like to take a few minutes to update you on recent developments.
The Portland Development Commission presented a plan last week to the City Council designed to resolve the funding question for the tram.
The plan calls for each of the project partners - OHSU, the city and North Macadam Investors - to participate in the solution. OHSU is supportive of this plan, which was negotiated by the PDC at Mayor Tom Potter's request. Here is a link to PDC's City Council presentation: http://www.pdc.us/newsroom/breaking-news.asp (then click on "Presentation").
You should know that we are doing all we can to ensure that any further contributions by OHSU do not impact our current cash or long-term financial position. No money will be taken away from other OHSU needs to fund our latest proposed contribution. The proposed additional OHSU contribution will consist mainly of a cancellation of PDC's financial obligation to OHSU for securing federal funding for the South Waterfront district at our expense. Also, we have offered to continue to pay the city's usual interest rate on our local improvement district debt, as we have budgeted all along, which is slightly higher than the rate we might have otherwise paid. The interest differential will help close the tram funding gap.
Also last week, City Commissioner Sam Adams and Mayor Tom Potter held a town hall discussion of the tram project. About 200 people attended, representing a wide assortment of people who support or oppose the tram. City staff presented informative recaps of the history of the project and its current status. Audience questions ranged from wondering about the cost and operating hours of the tram, how far along the project is, whether it should be mothballed until financing questions are answered, how many jobs it has created, and its long-term benefits/challenges.
Or you can check out our OHSU update site: http://www.ohsu.edu/tramupdate/
You'll also find on that site links to our tram Q&A and a recent letter that OHSU President Peter Kohler sent to more than 1,000 Portland-area business owners.
Chief Administrative Officer
O.k., I'll take the bait. Here's Dr. Kohler's pitch to the local businesses whose property taxes he's sucking up:
March 14, 2006
I am writing to you today because Portland's aerial tram faces a crucial turning point in the days ahead. Some city commissioners have been suggesting that the city walk away from its obligations on this project, endangering the city's ability to develop the jobs, private investment and public services Portland needs in the future.
I would like to share a little history with you before I outline the challenges we now face.
As the city's largest employer, Oregon Health & Science University has almost outgrown its home on Marquam Hill. We need space to expand either in Portland or on our own West Campus in Hillsboro.
Recognizing this, the city encouraged OHSU to invest in the South Waterfront district because it would keep thousands of new family-wage jobs OHSU will create in the decades ahead within Portland's central city, which has seen its employment base erode. OHSU's presence also would spur additional economic activity and investment in this underused riverside district.
The key for OHSU to buy land and invest in South Waterfront was the development of a fast, reliable transportation connection between that new area and our existing Marquam Hill facilities. After studying a variety of options, the aerial tram emerged as the best way to link our Marquam Hill campus with new research, clinical and campus facilities at South Waterfront. The tram will provide efficient connections between our faculty, researchers, clinical and support staff and students. (It has the capacity to move 980 people an hour in each direction, with trips that take three minutes at five-minute intervals.)
For Portlanders, the tram has spurred $2 billion of current and future investment in South Waterfront, providing jobs and long-term economic vitality. It also is helping to bring a variety of new, needed neighborhood transportation links.
The city council approved the tram after dozens of hearings and a long public process. OHSU offered to act as the manager of this challenging undertaking, turning the tram over for city ownership when construction was complete. The city, instead, chose to manage the construction itself. That means that although OHSU is paying most of the cost of building the tram, we have not been in charge of managing the construction contracts, schedules, material acquisitions or other expenses.
The process used by the city has failed to identify and control costs. The pricetag for the tram has skyrocketed -- and no one is more frustrated by those increases than OHSU, because we have a history of bringing complex construction projects in on time and on budget. The estimates rose over time from $15.5 million to $40 million because of the tram's design (chosen by the city and not by OHSU), big steel price increases, the dollar's weakened ability to buy foreign-made tram equipment, the construction inflation caused by Hurricane Katrina and a flawed city contracting process.
There are two key facts many people don't know:
* While the public's share of the tram costs has increased only from $2 million to $3.5 million, OHSU's costs have risen from $9 million to $30 million. That has been frustrating to us, because OHSU brings projects in on time and on budget.
* Not a dime of the tramďż˝s cost is coming from the city's General Fund -- that means not a dime from schools, police, fire or other public services. We have found that some members of the public do not understand how the tram is financed.
Portland lawyer Terry Baker has been inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame for his sports career at Jefferson High School. Quite an honor, but I'll bet that Heisman Trophy is still sparkling, too.
Inducted along with Baker into the high school hall was none other than Lou "the Toe" Groza, renowned lineman and placekicker with the Cleveland Browns. The Toe was still putting them through the uprights when he was 43. He died a few years ago.
Earlier today, I wrote of Ginny Burdick's campaign mailer: "It shows the positive side of her campaign message -- the good she's done as a state senator. The negative side -- what a bad job the incumbent, Erik Sten, has done -- she's saving for other outlets."
Wrong! I can't believe it, but I neglected to notice what was written on the addressee side of the card:
I should have known she'd give it the old one-two punch. Silly me.
I got this big old card in the mail the other day from the Ginny Burdick campaign for Portland City Council. It shows the positive side of her campaign message -- the good she's done as a state senator. The negative side -- what a bad job the incumbent, Erik Sten, has done -- she's saving for other outlets.*
This mailer was doubtlessly paid for the old-fashioned way -- with campaign contributions from Portland's rich and powerful. Burdick has forgone tapping taxpayer funds for her campaign under city's spiffy new "clean money" public campaign finance system. We'll see exactly who's bankrolling her on April 10, when she's got to report to the city elections folks on her finances, but given her current employment at the Gard & Gerber p.r. firm, you can bet it's largely a rerun of the Francesconi crew from a couple of years ago.
Anyway, she seems like a bright person who's unfortunately fallen in with the Arlington Club set. As much as I want to see an end to Portland's long engagement with Sten cell research, to bring back the Goldschmidt network would be just as bad.
Which is why I'm voting for Dave Lister.
*UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: Goofy me, the negative stuff is all on the other side of the card! See this correction.
A couple of items in the papers yesterday shed some new light on just how much we taxpayers have spent so far on the infernal OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]. According to yesterday's Trib, actual cash outlays for construction have nearly reached the $40 million mark:
Unless the Portland Office of Transportation comes up with $13.4 million soon, the controversial aerial tram project will run out of money and grind to a halt in six weeks.
The department, which is managing the tram project, is expected to spend the $40 million pledged to the project by the end of April. Unless the Portland City Council authorizes more funds for the project by then, the transportation office will not have the money to continue buying materials or to pay the workers building the tram, which will connect Oregon Health & Science University’s new building in the South Waterfront area with its facilities on Marquam Hill.
Meanwhile, in its incredibly wrong-headed and inaccurate editorial yesterday arguing that the city simply has to pay more to build the Kohler-Coaster, the OHSUregonian revealed that the city has already borrowed $20 million of the construction costs to date:
Already, the city has borrowed $20 million to pay contractors to build the tram. Without a completed tram, the city could not collect from the other players to cover this advance, but would almost certainly have to repay it from the city's general fund.
And that's not counting the cost of the ensuing court battle.
If true, this illustrates how our city government misleads us. They strut around insisting that the city's paying only $3.5 million toward the tram, but they allow the city to run out and borrow $20 million toward building it, with no way to get it back from OHSU and the developers. Great work, guys! You deserve to be re-elected.
As for the main thrust of the O editorial, I won't even bother to argue with it here. Part of its error has been capably critiqued elsewhere. But at last report, the guy who runs the O editorial page is married to the chief p.r. flack at OHSU. Given that conflict of interest, the O's repetition of the latest threats and bullying from OHSU and Homer Williams isn't worth discussing in any detail.
Still, I can't resist noting that the O thinks the city now has a "legal and moral obligation" to build the tram. When you're lied to, cheated and manhandled, as the city surely has been, does morality require you to submit to the further demands of the people who are doing it to you? How sad that that's the Oregonian value system.
Some days part of me thinks that those folks deserve everything Craigslist is doing to them.
It may be spring, but the winter-blooming daphne is still putting out its exquisite perfume around Portland, particularly in the evening. Those blooms won't be with us for much longer, so get out there and enjoy some soon.
It looks like the Avalon Hotel down in the John's Landing section of Portland has been bought out of bankrputcy by a familiar group -- apparently, the same outfit that's managing it now. At least, that's the best heads or tails I can make out of this press release. It says the proud new owner is "Grand Heritage Hotels, a Portland-based hotel ownership/management group." And that's who appears to have been running the place previously -- at least according to this story from 18 months ago. (Grand Heritage also runs the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.) In the fall of 2003, this source (scroll way down) identified the then-new owner as "a private group led by Paul Brenneke."
Anyhow, I have never understood that place. It was supposed to be a big draw for rich Japanese businesspeople, but by the time it opened there weren't as many of those as there had been before. The dot-com bust hit at just about the same time, I think. It bombed.
Maybe the new/old ownership/management will make a better go of it once the SoWhat district gets up and running in a year or so. After riding up and down on the you-know-what, the tourists can come back to the hotel for a good laugh and a nice massage.
I'm about a week late in getting to an interesting article in the O about the current negotiations between the City of Portland and the Tualatin Valley Water District over a new contract for the purchase and sale of water from the city's Bull Run reservoir. The H2O boys from the 'burbs keep saying they'll build a filtration plant and drink out of the Willamette River rather than pay a high price for Bull Run water. But it seems there's a slight problem with that scenario. As the O explained:
First, a majority of district voters would rather stick with Portland's Bull Run water. Nearly 70 percent said last year in a scientific poll paid for by the district that they want to continue using Portland water. Only 13 percent preferred a switch to the Willamette.
Second, the board is required to win voter approval before using the Willamette as a water source.
Anyone who would drink the Willamette (except maybe upriver from Eugene) is nuts. Everything from human waste to radioactive sludge is in there. I'm sure the engineering geniuses will tell you that they can filter out enough of the bad stuff to make it safe, but "safe" is just an opinion, and you are the experiment.
Commissioner "Fireman Randy" Leonard is in charge of Bull Run water these days, and it looks to me as though he's made exactly the right call in not running scared when the TV folks start talking about drinking the Willamette. A few years back, the suburban interests had Leonard's boy-wonder predecessor, Erik Sten, so freaked out at the prospect of their shunning Portland water that he was offering to turn the whole Bull Run system over to a regional board that would have been dominated by suburban interests.
Sten doesn't know how to call a bluff. That's how we got SoWhat and the Kohler-Coaster. Leonard's a much better poker player, and because of it, a decent deal for the city may be in the offing.
The Oregonian waited until a Saturday, when readership is always down, to run a Maxine Bernstein story about the internal investigation into the fatal shooting by Portland police of Dennis "Squeaky" Young on Jan. 4. In case you missed it, here are some highlights:
The police officer who fired the fatal shot or shots "said he feared the car was going to run him down. 'There was no avenue of escape,' Kaer told detectives. 'There was no place to go.'"
The other officer on the scene "didn't think it was going to hit him, and he was unsure where Kaer was standing when the shots were fired. 'From my position, I didn't feel that I was going to get hit by the car,' Keller said. 'My mind was starting to think, you know, to back up, get out of the street.'"
The officer who fired the fatal shot "did not alert anyone in East Precinct, which handles that area, before he headed to check out the suspicious car, according to interviews with detectives. Kaer didn't tell a dispatcher by police radio or his mobile computer terminal where he was headed." He was responding to a call that came to him personally from his sister, who lived where Young was parked in a car in the middle of the night.
Nor had the officer run a check on the plates of the car Young was driving to see if it had been stolen, although the officer asked him whether it was stolen when Young revealed that it was running without keys.
The officer's sister's story reportedly changed shortly after the shooting:
Brenda Kotsovos, also interviewed by detectives, said she watched her brother's encounter with the suspicious driver from her dining room window. In her first interview the day of the shooting, she said the Oldsmobile Cutlass struck the tree, then rocked back and forth. Two days later, the sister called detectives back, saying she had remembered further information, that the car reversed rapidly.
Is that all there is? We've noted here before that Portland police regulations, although poorly drafted in at least one key respect, do clearly require that officers get out of harm's way rather than fire at a moving vehicle. The story does not express an opinion as to whether those regulations were obeyed in this case, or whether any disciplinary action is still pending.
Perhaps the dead man's family will bring a legal claim against the city. The $10 million claim arising out of the police shooting of James Jahar Perez two years ago was, at last report, still pending.
Buried in last week's Oregonian story about the latest proposed liars' budget for the OHSU aerial tram (a.k.a. the Kohler-CoasterÂ®) [double rim shot] was a little paragraph that, if you stop to read it, is a real eye-popper. It was edited out of the web version of the story for some reason (hmmm), but here's how it read in the print version:
Some of OHSU's additional $7.5 million would come thanks to the city. The development commission owes the university about $3.4 million for its lobbying efforts to land federal money for South Waterfront. Under a previous agreement, the development commission already owes that money to the university, but the deal had not been tied to tram costs.
Hold on to your wallets, city taxpayers. The PDC gave away $3.4 million to OHSU for lobbying. Which raises some interesting questions that the O apparently never asked:
1. How much actual lobbying work did we get for $3.4 million? Even at $500 per hour (which seems high by Portland standards), that's 6,800 hours of professional lobbying time. 6,800 hours! At 2,000 hours a year, that's more than three professionals working on it full-time for an entire year. Is that what we got for our money? Where is the accounting?
2. Who were the lobbyists? My bet would be that Neil Goldschmidt, who was the fixer for the whole SoWhat development, had his firm do the work. With his lieutenants Don Mazziotti and Matt Hennessee then in charge of the PDC, and Vera jumping out of her seat every time he called her, it would have been a snap to get the city to pick up the tab. If not Goldschmidt, then who?
3. What results did all the high-priced lobbying achieve, besides making the lobbyists rich?
If I were young and a professional journalist (I'm neither, of course), I'd get right on down to the PDC and get some answers.
UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: Perhaps some light can be shed on today's mystery by this document, which apparently was circulated last Thursday to the advisory committee on the SoWhat urban renewal boondoggle. There's some discussion on the very last page that makes mention of $3.4 million. Apparently the city must pay half of all federal grants it receives above a certain amount to OHSU!
When you're through with that, take a look at some of the other doozies in the document. Forty million dollars for new I-5 on and off ramps; $2.4 million for a "transportation management association"; $4 million for the neighborhood park (on top of more than $7 million already spent); and lots of items whose costs are presently "unknown." What a mess. Let's re-elect Sten and Saltzman for more of this!
More property taxes for your! aerial! tram! [rim shot]
The long-awaited "new deal" for the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] was finally shown around at Portland City Hall yesterday. The Portland Development Commission has "hammered out" one of its trademark transactions in which the bucket goes even deeper into the bottomless well of city taxpayer money. The new package just unveiled (36 hours after the public got an uninformative p.r. snow job that apparently never mentioned it) has the city paying $5.9 million of new green, on top of the $3.5 million that it's already paid, to build the Ski Lift to Municipal Bankruptcy. You math majors out there, hep us out, but I think that's a 168.6% increase.
There's that good old PDC fighting spirit that we've grown to know and love! They come in with this gem after three members of the City Council had already announced that the city shouldn't have to pay any new money. Perhaps we need to chip in to get the PDC a few subscriptions to the local newspapers.
Of course, that proposed $9.4 million revised total they're flashing around is another liars' budget. It hides the many, many more millions in underhanded subsidies that the tram has already received, which make the original $3.5 million already a fake number. Looked at more critically, the existing city taxpayer tab is probably closer to $10 million, and the new package would push it well over $15 million -- maybe closer to $20 million, as there are new forms of sneaky subsidies in the new proposal.
City Commissioners Leonard and Saltzman dismissed the new deal yesterday. But the Mayor and Sam "the Tram" Adams have made it fairly clear that they are committed to getting the tram built one way or another, and they appear to be open to "tweaking" the "new deal," with plenty more paid out of property taxes. They're softening us up with the proposed $5.9 million increase, so that they can look like champs when it turns out to be only $4.5 million (for now).
Which leaves our pal Opie as the swing vote. And he's trying to have it both ways, as usual. First he acted as though he was in the Leonard camp -- no new money, period -- but now he's hedging. He's sending out those Opie messages that you only get if you read between the lines to understand what's going on in his keen OSPIRG-like mind.
Erik Sten, two weeks ago: "We just got to a point now where we've got to say that's it. And if it's not worth the money to OHSU and the developers, then it doesn't get built."
Erik Sten, yesterday: "I'm not going to support a new agreement unless the private-sector developers eat some of the cost overruns."
Hmmm. "Unless." Hmmm. "Some" of the cost overruns. So if his "seed money" patron Homer Williams scratches up another $1 million by taking bottles back to Freddy's and giving plasma, Sten will vote to have the city pay the other $4.9 million of new city money in the PDC package? That's a funny way of interpreting "that's it."
Adams seemed to say as much: "Potter and Commissioner Sam Adams said they're open to more discussion, but Adams also wants to see more money from the developers."
At least this enhances the comedy value of the whole episode. Williams and his co-developer, a man named Dike Dame, probably don't have any more money. Developers are notorious for running on an extremely low checking account balance, reportedly getting themselves in cash flow binds fairly regularly on projects such as Homer's buildings in the Pearl. When you tell them they have to pay more money in the short term, it drives them nuts. They just don't have it. It's the stuff that HBO Sunday Nights are made of.
Meanwhile, there's another insane sideshow running under this tent. One ploy that's being used to try to obscure reality is Sten's dragging low-income housing into the picture. Opie and crew know that when they say "affordable housing," all the City Club sheep bleat loudly in approval. And so part of the new strategy is to somehow make it look as though by paying more money for the aerial tram [rim shot], Portland taxpayers are really somehow building apartments for the homeless:
An additional $18.7 million in new tax revenue would be steered into affordable housing. The city's goal is for nearly 800 of the 3,000 condos and apartments planned for the area to be accessible to low- and middle-income residents.
This stuff cracks me up. What "new tax revenue"? Do you just wave a magic wand, and "new tax revenue" appears? And even if it did, how does the city's steering more money away from cops and potholes toward housing projects somehow justify steering even more money away toward the Kohler-Coaster?
And pardon me, but talking about "goals" is pretty silly. SoWhat isn't going to be a low-income neighborhood. So far the purported "affordable housing" projects down there have not advanced beyond identifying a couple of blocks of bleak (maybe contaminated) dirt that some day, maybe, if we can come up with more public money and if we can sweet-talk somebody into it, might contain some housing that someone might be able to call "affordable" (if they don't look up in the dictionary what that word actually means).
Adding onto that fetid pile of largely empty promises is not a justification for paying more city money for the tram. The connection between the two is so preposterous that they really ought to give up trying to get anyone to understand it, much less believe it.
But the show goes on. Over in ring no. 3: OHSU's bringing its trial lawyer to the meetings with the city now. And the O is quick to point out that it's "one of the city's most prominent trial lawyers." Oooooh, scary!
Bring it on, dudes.
The craziest part -- and of course, the O acts like you shouldn't even consider asking about it -- is why work on this monstrosity continues at its frenzied pace when there's a major lawsuit looming over the financing.
Picture it this way: Let's say you and your neighbor agree to build a fancy new garage together. You and she sign a poorly worded contract that says you're going to build it, but both you and she will use the garage when it's done. The two of you will share the cost of $100x -- $50x that you will pay, and $50x that she will pay. When the thing's about a third of the way built, you discover that it's going to wind up costing $300x, and you and your neighbor can't agree on who's supposed to pay the extra $200x. The two of you are getting ready to sue each other's pants off over it. She's hired a hotshot lawyer already. The court case could take years to resolve.
Remember, you're the one who signed the contract with the carpenter. He shows up in the morning, and he's climbing back up on scaffolding. Wouldn't you tell him, "Hey, bad news, buddy, I'm not sure who's going to pay you for this. Maybe you ought to stop work until we straighten this out"? Or would you tell him, "Hurry up -- time is money"?
It's all a setup, people. The tram is going to get built, and the city's going to pay new money to build it. Sten and Adams will do their tweedle-dum tweedle-dee act, and the old West Hills money that they're supposedly "shaking up" will get its way.
It's funny watching them struggle to figure out how to put it over on us, though. They're proving themselves to be not very adept snake oil salesmen.
I don't understand what the mayor's doing. He should know better.
Then you turn inside to the business section and the Convention Center Hotel birds are back. We need 600 hotel rooms near the White Elephant, paid for by the taxpayers, so that we can attract 15 more conventions a year to town. (Hmmm, that's around 60 nights -- I guess the other 300 nights, the new facility can just kill off all the other hotels in town by saturating the market. But hey, it's another gig for Hoffman Construction and Hank Ashforth, what could be bad about that?)
Anyway, if the grandkids want to know what was going on in Portland way back in ought-six, that edition is a keeper.
Willy Week says it has the current draft: Rieke, Stephenson, Sitton, Astor, Humboldt, Hollyrood, Rose City Park, Llewellyn, Creston, Bridger and Woodmere. Eleven of 'em over the next two years. Extra extra, read all about it here.
All the self-righteous preaching about Portland's new "clean money" system -- taxpayer financing of politicians' campaigns -- cracks me up. It's going to get the City Council out from under the thumbs of the moneyed interests, it's going to bring all sorts of new blood into local politics, yada yada yada.
Where's all the new blood? What we got this first time around was Amanda Fritz, who's a brilliant politician and probably would have run for something eventually anyway; and Emilie Boyles, whose point I am having a hard time figuring out.
Oh, and Erik Sten gets a free ride for his re-election campaign -- no having to spend time dialing for dollars. For this we take $750,000 or more out of the city's till this year.
The whole selling point about levelling the playing field is also starting to smell a little fishy to me. Only the little people will contribute, it's said, and they'll give only $5 apiece. Too bad, fat cats. You're out.
Well, not exactly.
I was just leafing through Sten's most recent campaign contributions report (a big file -- takes a while to load), and gee whiz, in addition to all those moms, pops and toddlers coughing up their five-spots, there is an interesting cast of characters way in the back who each gave Our Boy Erik $100 of "seed money."
Oh what a list it is, including:
Robert D. Ball, real estate investor $100
Page 295 (the trifecta page)
Thomas Walsh, contractor $100
Joseph Weston, real estate investor $100
Homer Williams, developer $100
James Winkler, developer $100
Serena Cruz Walsh, county commissioner $100
Douglas Obletz, real estate developer $100
"Voter-owned elections"? I don't know. It looks to me like a lot of the usual suspects are lining up to kiss up. It's just a lot cheaper now that they have you and me paying for the junk mail and push polls. Great idea, Opie!
The folks who went down to Portland Commissioner Sam Adams's "town hall" meeting on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] last night got an earful of cider, but not much satisfaction. In comments to my post of last night on the Stadum-Leonard Flame War, a couple of them wrote:
I just returned from the tram meeting. I felt they were stalling for time with endless presentations. Who really cares about the long process they went through to arrive at their decision? It doesn't make the tram any less dumb. I did get to flame at the end, after they dodged my question on security. End result: they said it would cost 15 to 20 mil to shut her down.
Yeah, I was there, too.
Process: Take questions on tram, write them down and post them, have panel of specialists do dog and pony shows (complete with slide show) on various aspects of the tram, check the posted questions to see if they've been answered, say, "I'll have to get back to you on that," if it can't be answered, thank everybody for coming.
Notice anything missing?
Like an opportunity to question the information provided by the panel members or expand upon the nuances of the issues.
They are still saying that they can deliver 900 people per hour on a 200 second ride. If we round that to 240 seconds (4 minutes), that's 15 trips per hour, coming to a projected 60 riders per tram car. Given the scaling of the figures on the illustrations, the tram car would be lucky to fit a dozen people comfortably.
The also state that only 140 people per hour can be moved in the 15 minute bus ride up or down the hill. Hmmm... Lessee, a standard city bus can carry 44 seated passengers. If you have one run every five minutes, that's 12 rides per hour. That's 528 passenger per hour. That's only one bus every five minutes, and it's still a helluva lot more than the 140 people per hour they projected. And it's doable. For a hell of a lot less than $50+ million.
Now, they noted that the operator would have to provide alternate surface transportation during maintenance down time. Why just "maintenance" down time? Why not ALL down time. Like high wind downtime. Or thunderstorm downtime. Or equipment failure downtime. Or computer malfunction downtime. There's got to be surface transportation linking the two portions of the campus, anyway. If it's needed for downtime, why not run it all the time? Does the tram operator require a fleet of buses and a storage facility for them all? Perhaps that's what those three floors of underground parking under the "temporary park" are for - the tram operator's alternate bus fleet?
Then... The made the point that this whole development, which pointedly and carefully was defined to run "south from the Ross Island Bridge to where the waterfront meets John's Landing", was "not to provide a 'park and ride' for OHSU employees."
What about the Schnitzer land, just to the NORTH of the Ross Island Bridge? That whole vast expans of partially paved (and toxic) land. It sure has the look of a parking lot to me.
Anyway... I wasn't too impressed. I'd like to see a set of questions developed by those a little more...critical and frank...than those typical turnout at a meeting that's already been delayed once.
Adams left 20 minutes after his hurried and rather flippant answers to the posted questions to take additional questions and comments, after we listened to a lot of artful horse manure from the usual suspects who have driven this project from the beginning. The capsule history of the project was particularly deceitful. The only one I thought had any integrity at that presentation was the city attorney and, to a lesser degree, the finance guy. This was a public-relations exercise, nothing more.
There were a couple of bits of news, though -- Adams said they expect a deal on the $15 million gap "within a couple of days," they have two proposers for their tram operator's RFP who price the operations cost at $1.2 million per year, and as noted previously, they're spending like drunken sailors, full-tilt-ahead whether they have the money or not.
I can comment for days on this, but I've already said too much, I'm sure. It was a complete joke.
The funniest part wil be when they announce the fake financing deal tomorrow. They'll say stuff like "we had a Town Hall meeting where everyone had a chance to clear the air" about five times.
By the time the fine print on the deal is known, the tram will be 50% complete (or so they'll say), and so even though it's a rotten transaction for the city taxpayers, "it's really, really too late to turn back." That's been the game plan since day one, and nothing new was shown last night.
That letter that OHSU honcho and aerial tram-meister Steve Stadum was showing his employees this afternoon -- you know, the one where he tells off City Commissioner Randy Leonard -- apparently was circulated around Pill Hill long before it was delivered to City Hall. Despite the "hand delivered" notation on the letter, Fireman Randy, the addressee, tells me he still doesn't have it -- he read it on this blog.
Anyway, he's drafted up a brief response, which he sent me a little while ago. I've posted a copy here. (Executive summary: Pants on fire!)
Emily over at Strangechord passes along another one of those "meme" dealies, and again it's a good one about music. She writes:
Musical Magic 8 Ball: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.
Now that's too tantalizing to pass up. Here we go:
1. How does the world see me?
"The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati" by Rose & the Arrangement. I kid you not.
2. Will I have a happy life?
"Somewhere in America There's a Street Named After My Dad" by Was (Not Was). A lament about being unfairly deprived. Not good. I'm 0-for-2.
3. What do my friends really think of me?
"Just Across the Street" by the Del Rios. O.k., that's nice enough.
4. Do people secretly lust after me?
Aaron Copland, "Old American Songs: At the River." Hmm, maybe somebody at church:
Yes, we'll gather by the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river,
Gather with the saints by the river
That flows by the throne of God.
5. How can I make myself happy?
"In the Midnight Hour" by Jackie Wilson. Well, I do get going later than most.
6. What should I do with my life?
"Fearless Heart" by Steve Earle. A tall order, but I love it.
7. Will I ever have children?
"For a Dancer" by Jackson Browne. Sweet.
8. What is some good advice for me?
"The Greatest Love on Earth" by Chicago. Got it.
9. How will I be remembered?
"Move on Up" by Curtis Mayfield. Keep on pushin', baby.
10. What do I think my current theme song is?
"(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go" by Curtis Mayfield.
11. What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
"Putnam County" by Tom Waits.
the radio spittin' out Charlie Rich
sure can sing that sonofabitch
and you weave home, weavin' home
leaving the little joint winking in the
dark warm narcotic American night
beneath a pin cushion sky and it's
home to toast and honey, start up the Ford,
your lunch money's there on the draining board,
toilet's runnin' shake the handle,
telephone's ringin' it's Mrs Randal
where the hell are my goddam sandals
12. What song will play at my funeral?
"Too Busy Thinkin' 'Bout My Baby" by Jimmy Ruffin. That would be a good one. Note to self: Amend will to provide that all music will be up-tempo Motown.
13. What type of men/women do you like?
"Cool, Clear Water" by Bonnie Raitt. Remind me again, what are the water signs?
At tonight's "town hall" meeting on the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], get ready to joust for time with OHSU employees who have been "invited" to give their "unbiased" views of the project. This just in from an anonymous correspondent:
Here is the latest from Steve Stadum at OHSU on the aerial tram.
To All OHSU Employees:
The weeks ahead are a critical time for the Portland Aerial Tram, which, as
you know, is crucial to OHSU's future growth. I'd like to take a moment of
your time to direct you to some news and information that you may find
Last week, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard gave an interview to
television news in which he said that OHSU misled him about tram costs. I
responded to those baseless allegations with a letter to Commissioner
Leonard, which may also be covered in media stories. I want to assure the
entire OHSU community that all of the information provided by me and other
OHSU representatives to the City Council has always been the most accurate
information available. You can read my letter to Commissioner Leonard at
Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Sam Adams are holding a public town hall
meeting tonight (March 14) at Portland State University. This town hall will
provide a chance for Portlanders to pose questions about the tram to the
Portland Department of Transportation, which is managing the tram
construction. The full City Council will hold a work session on Thursday at
which they will discuss ways to finance the city's new estimate of tram
Tram construction is moving ahead swiftly and is nearly 40 percent complete.
New pictures show the progress on this website:
Will somebody from OHSU human resources be there to write down who gets brownie points? Reminds me when we used to attend "public" hearings in Portland on Hanford and found that our time slots had mysteriously been assigned to "concerned citizens" from Richland, Washington. Let's hope our city fathers don't take it that far.
UPDATE, 2:51 p.m.: In case, like me, you're shut out of that OHSU "ozone" website, and you'd like to read Stadum's letter to Leonard, a pdf version of it is here.
If you've been laboring over your NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets, you might get a kick out of this version -- it plays through the whole tournament, with the school with the higher player graduation rate winning each game.
The academic Final Four: UNC-Wilmington, Bucknell, Illinois, and Villanova. In the final game, Bucknell beats Villanova.
It will come as no surprise to readers here that I'm advocating a vote for Anybody But Sten in the upcoming primary election for Portland City Council seat no. 2. Sir Erik has had 10 years to screw things up in city government, and he's got quite a resume in that regard. He's got to go.
But among the six challengers he's facing, which is the right choice for the Rose City? It's easy, people: Dave Lister. He is a real person who actually has a life outside government. He's a native Portlander. He owns a small high-tech business, which he's created from scratch. He's met a real payroll.
Most importantly, Lister understands well that the city government's priorities are completely topsy-turvy these days, and that they need correction fast. He thinks it's time to stop tilting at Opie's windmills and get back to the business of running essential government operations. Writing as the "Eastside Guy," he's ably pointed out the misplaced priorities and sheer incompetence that have blown tens of millions of city tax dollars over the past few years while basic services such as public safety and transportation have gone to pot.
It's time to stop the goofball antics at City Hall. Whatever you do, cast a ballot for Anybody But Sten. But the best Anybody you're going to find in that pack is Dave Lister.
It goes by quickly. Our older child is now school age. And so the parents we've been running with since the new moms' group days now have school-age children. All of a sudden the scary state of Portland's public schools is replacing the Wiggles and brands of baby wipes as the new predominant topic of conversation.
Over the weekend we got one of those "call to action" e-mails of which there are so many these days. Some friends of ours who are about to see their neighborhood school folded out from under them are the new firebrands. They're involved with something called Stand for Children, and they want us to get an e-mail out right away to the City Council urging them to pungle up more dough for schools.
Fair enough, but just under the place where you click to send your e-mail message to the mayor, along comes a gratuitous endorsement of a slate of candidates running in the upcoming elections. It states:
These outstanding candidates have proven records as champions for children and public schools, or they have the demonstrated leadership to make needed changes for children and schools.
Dan Saltzman, Portland City Council, Position #3
Erik Sten, Portland City Council, Position #2
Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Commissioner, District 2
Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair
Ben Cannon, House District 46
Tina Kotek, House District 44
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I saw that one. Sten and Saltzman -- for the children?
Moms and dads, you've got it all wrong. The reason the schools are going broke is because the voters won't pay taxes for them. And the reason voters won't pay taxes for them is that they see our current City Council wasting money on aerial trams, streetcars, transit mall tear-outs, solar powered parking meters, reservoir covers, totem poles, and item after item of wasteful spending. It's all about broken trust, folks.
So if you're wondering why Hollyrood School is going to be closed, you ought to be looking at those two guys as part of the problem. Agents of "needed changes"? Don't make me laugh. Sending them back for four more years in office is not the solution.
I am such a lucky guy. There I was in the second row behind the visitors' bench for another Blazer game last night. You want popcorn, sweetie? Ask the waitress -- she'll bring it. Two seats down from us, famed Oregon State center of yesteryear Steve Johnson. And is that Peter Kohler over there in the end zone VIP section? Hiya, Petey.
Life is good.
Oh, and for the 14 of you out there who care about such things, the lowly Trail Blazers put together a near-perfect game and came away with a 10-point win against what is normally a formidable Phoenix Suns team, but who looked pretty dang tired this visit. Phoenix had played at home against Minnesota Saturday night, and we all know how deceptively long that flight to Portland can be.
The Suns are talented and tough, and their teamwork and passing were nothing short of amazing, but that spring in their step just wasn't there. Shawn Marion, usually a one-man statistics machine, had what would have been a great game by most players' standards, but an off night for him. Boris Diaw, a real liability on defense, was posterized repeatedly by members of the Rip City squad.
Not to take anything away from the Blazers -- they played so well. Everybody came out and did what they're capable of doing. Theo Ratliff had to leave early after trying to come back too soon on a bum ankle, and Zach Randolph didn't start the game because he was late for practice, but other than that, it was a dream night. Randolph had 32 points, three of them on a 70-foot bomb just as the first half ended. At least for one night, Steve Blake was as good as his MVP counterpart, Steve Nash, and when Blake was in there with "Pistol" Bassy Telfair as the 2-guard, Phoenix didn't know what to make of it. Even Darius Miles must have drawn a good horoscope for the day, as he provided an offensive spark.
And let me tell you, the Blazers have got something with that Viktor Khryapa guy. He's got an all-around game, and just as he impressed me against Lamar Odom, he did a great job against Marion.
My photographic efforts paid their usual poor dividends. Here's the head coach of the Suns, Mike D'Antoni. He obviously didn't relish the loss, and he offered a few constructive criticisms to head referee Bennett Salvatore toward the end, but I think deep down he was basking in the glow of the big promotion he got on Friday:
Another guy in a suit on the Phoenix bench caught everyone's eye. It was none other than former Blazer Brian Grant. Here he is with the Suns' other backup center, Pat Burke:
Grant's been sitting out the season after undergoing knee surgery, but he's still contributing to the team. At least, I saw him do so last night, as follows. In the second half, the Suns rested Nash for a few minutes, inserting Eddie House into the lineup. Here's Eddie, left, with two teammates during a timeout:
Anyway, House didn't play very well, and D'Antoni yanked him after five minutes or so. House comes roaring off the court, throwing his headband on the floor and cussing and swearing about having been pulled from the game so early. The coaching staff ignored it all, but you could feel the chill descending upon the other bench players. Given that the game was nip-and-tuck at that point, the last thing his team needed was an internal dispute.
At the next timeout, there was House, sitting on the edge of the scorer's table, sulking. What happens next? Brian Grant walks over, very quietly. He spends the whole timeout talking into House's ear. When the conversation's over, House is begrudgingly slapping everybody five and getting back on the program.
I think that's what they call leadership. I wish old Steve Patterson, who was sitting in Paul Allen's seat again, had been paying attention.
Anyway, it was another fine time at the old ballgame, and I'm forever grateful to my patron, who has been slipping me such prime tickets.
One last thing. Here's the choicest photo I took all night -- Steve Nash looking his best. My agent is still waiting to hear whether they want this shot for the Smithsonian, but in the meantime, I'll share it with you, the blog-reading audience. Cheers!
The O has another howler up at the moment from the Trail Blazers -- this one from Paul Allen himself:
"It's hard. As a businessman, I'm out of pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every game. That's brutal."
Allen said he would rather see the money go to community charities, education or health and science research.
But Paul, you've never given any real money to those causes here in Portland. So we're supposed to pay for your fantasy toy, so that you can be Mr. Bigshot Philanthropist up in Seattle?
I suggest you spend a thousand or so on a set of these.
DOS Boy's lament about how much he loses each game is another one of his classic bonehead p.r. moves. He really shouldn't dare us to do the math.
His net worth is estimated at $22 billion. That's $22,000,000,000. He says he'll lose $100 million over three years -- that's $33,333,333 per year. Divided by 41 regular season home games in Portland every season, that's $813,008.12 per game. Sure, it's big bucks.
But how much does a guy who's worth $22,000,000,000 feel from an $813,008 hit to his net worth? Far less than the average Trail Blazer fan feels from buying a ticket to a game, that's for sure. Bear with me through some more arithmetic here. Paul's per-game loss of $813,008.12 amounts to 0.0037 percent of his net worth.
Now let's say the average ticket to a Blazer game runs $50. It's probably more than that, but let's take $50 for the sake of the calculations. How big a chunk, percentage-wise, does a $50 ticket take out of the average fan's net worth? Well, let's see, in order for it to be only 0.0037 percent, you'd have to have a net worth of $1,353,000!
So listen up, all you Trail Blazer fans with a net worth of more than $1,353,000 -- Paul Allen deserves more of your money by way of state and local taxes. But as for the rest of us, all I can say is, "Paul, sweetie, it hurts us more than it hurts you. Enjoy the games in your new city."
On the ongoing blackmail attempt against the taxpayers of Portland by Paul Allen and the Trail Blazers, a friend of mine had an interesting idea the other day. Sports team owners have leagues, right? Why don't the governments of the 50 major cities in the country form their own league, and agree among themselves that, except for expansion teams, they won't pay subsidies? Then when guys like Allen try to play cities like Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas off on each other, the cities could all sit back and laugh.
I think my buddy might be onto something. At least you could have an agreed-upon subsidy cap, sort of like the salary caps that the teams subject themselves to in order to keep things in balance and prevent a "race to the bottom."
Antitrust concerns? I don't think so. State and local governments were exempt the last time I checked (which admittedly was a long time ago).
It's something for Portland to look into. Instead of sister city junkets to the Rangoon suburbs, maybe our city fathers ought to be making trips to such exotic places as Oklahoma City and seeing what we can accomplish together. Indeed, isn't there already a National League of Cities?
The City of Portland has begun its budget analysis for the new Burnside-and-Couch-Street "couplet" project. Click here for some snapshots taken at the first round of Planning Bureau meetings on these important financial projections (photos courtesy Portland Development Commission).
UPDATE, 2:40 a.m.: I just located a transcript of the meeting here.
Another wonderful "big idea" from the ever-fertile mind of Portland Commissioner Erik Sten:
Sten, who is up for re-election in May, also wants the schools to look at selling its administrative headquarters, the Blanchard Building, and allowing the Portland Development Commission to manage its real estate portfolio to look for potential profit sources.
You got that, everybody? The way to solve the problems of our bankrupt school district is to turn its real estate over to the urban renewal gurus who are bankrupting the city.
Close some schools, demolish all the buildings, let the lots sit vacant for five years, then let one of the developer boys have them for $1. Why didn't we think of that ourselves?
The City Club's holding a "Friday forum" tomorrow on the race for Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's seat.
Too bad they're not inviting even half of the candidates.
Indeed, only the incumbent and challenger Amanda Fritz will be on the platform. The other candidates, including Lucinda Tate and Sharon Nasset, are not worthy of being heard by the Nordstrom-clad City Club membership.
Well, I can understand. Those other people are from the east side. They'll never win. They and their viewpoints don't matter.
The first question I'd ask both Saltzman and Fritz is how they feel about their opposition being shut out.
The front page story in The O yesterday about public subsidies for professional sports teams was interesting on a couple of levels.
Right off the bat, the headlines were worth a million words when it comes to illustrating the perennially odd attitude of the newspaper. The big main head was "Owners' new game: Pay me to stay," which was fair enough, but then there was the subhead: "Sorry, Portland, but Paul Allen's hardly the first to seek a public handout for a team":
That condescending "Sorry, Portland" was really awful. It could mean only one of two things. "Sorry," as in "You think you understand this, but it's unfortunate that you obviously don't and we're smarter than you." Or "Sorry," as in "We know you'd like to tell Paul Allen to stick his toy where the sun don't shine, but you'll never be able to do that." Either way, it's an insult, intentional or otherwise, tossed by the Stickelers at their captive monopoly readership.
Then there's the "hardly." Not "Paul Allen's not the first," but "Paul Allen's hardly the first." A rhetorical term is chosen -- a term of argument. Another strong signal to the 90 percent of Portlanders who oppose a taxpayer bailout of the Trail Blazers that they're wrong, and wrong-headed. I suspect you'll be hearing that argument long and loud from the O management in the weeks ahead -- the public must pay tax money to keep the Blazers. I will enjoy reading those editorials on the editorial page, but not on the front page where the news is supposed to be.
I can see where the folks at the O are coming from. They must be in a bit of a panic. Craigslist is killing them. There is a dwindling young-readership base for the dead tree version of their paper, and their home office in the Swamps of Jersey is botching the internet badly. One of the remaining "selling points" of the local product is the sports section. There are a lot of guys who pick up the morning paper on the front porch, pull out the sports section, and throw away the rest. If there is no Blazer news, it's that many hundreds fewer people who will bother with a subscription. Let's say it's 250. At $28 a month, that's $84,000 a year -- not to mention smaller circulation numbers which eventually cut into advertising rates. Discounted at 5 percent, the present value of an infinite stream of annual $84,000 receipts is $1.68 million.
And so through the O's lenses, the Blazers are probably going to look "vital." You know, a "linchpin." They're "snazzy."
I hear that the Blazers recently pulled their ads out of the O. That gets the Newhouse people's attention right away. If it's true, they probably want those ads back, and figure the time will come when they'll get them back -- that is, if the Blazers are still here.
Thus, it looks as though the p.r. game has begun, and on this one, the city's best daily newspaper apparently doesn't care how many readers are turned off by its tone. Readers with sensitive dispositions could be offended. It's a good thing no one under the tender age of 30 is reading the thing any more.
The deadline for filing as a candidate in the May primary is now officially past. In the Portland City Council races, at least, not much happened at the last minute, which was 5:00 yesterday afternoon. Don Smith mentioned on this blog yesterday that he is dropping out of the Saltzman race, and someone named Cisco Holdman joined the field against Sten. Other than that, we're where we were the other day.
I'm not going to dismiss anyone prematurely -- I'll leave that up to The Oregonian (after they get all the candidates' favorite toothpastes compiled) -- but I count two or three serious challengers against Sten, and one or two serious challengers against Saltzman. If you're like me and ready to go with anybody but the incumbents in those seats, you've got several good choices.
I'll ruminate out loud about the candidates in some sort of organized way shortly. Meanwhile, there are 69 days 'til the primary, and 48 days to switch your party affiliation to indepenent if you want to sign a petition to get Ben Westlund on the ballot for governor.
I haven't broken out the old City of Portland B.S. Meter in a while, but the latest developments in the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram scam [rim shot] have got this handy device screaming so shrilly that I can't leave it in the cupboard today. It's got to come out.
Now this week's "town hall" meeting with Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams -- you know, the one where all your questions are going to be answered -- has suddenly been postponed to next week. Another mysterious setback for public disclosure and public input on this out-of-control boondoggle. This after two City Council work sessions on the subject were also mysteriously cancelled.
The blizzard of lies surrounding the tram project is so intense that it's hard to see much of anything at this point, but the main mantra that continues to emanate from its proponents is "Time is of the essence -- every day of delay would cost millions." The apparent game plan is to stall the day of reckoning until it's so expensive to cancel the tram that there really is no choice but to go forward.
The political problem for the City Council -- particularly the two members who are running for re-election -- is that every voter with half a brain is onto the game plan. Hello -- fellows? The latest gigantic cost overruns on this project have now been in the papers since February 1. That's five weeks. Since then, you're supposedly negotiating hot and heavy with the Pill Hill crew to see who's going to pay the $15 million shortfall (which will surely be $30 million before the thing is finished). Meanwhile, has construction been stopped? No. Has it even been slowed down? No. Orders for the ridiculous gondolas suspended? No.
In fact, this project is still full-tilt on, even without a clue as to who's going to pay the final tab.
Meanwhile, outraged taxpayers have also gotten wise to the real cost to the city -- and it ain't the $3.5 million figure that keeps being passed around by the professional obfuscators. One commentator on this blog yesterday put the city's cost at more like $18 million:
Even in Commissioner Adams's opinion piece in the O a few weeks back he admits that the Tram in his cost accounting is costing the public $11M: $3.5M in TIF money, $5M given to OHSU in undescribed money from NM [North Macadam] Urban Renewal funds, and $2.5M in reduced permitting/review fees= $11M.
Adams doesn't take into account the land cost of $4M for just the east terminal the taxpayers are giving to the Tram, nor Design Competition cost for the Tram, $1M, or the staff time of PDC, PDOT, for the execution of the cost to build the tram, nor even the PATI Board costs which came from city taxpayers. Larry Brown of PDC doesn't even include the financing costs on the $55M (and rising) Tram cost....
Even at Adam's $11M the public is paying for almost 20% of the tram, while estimated ridership by the general public is estimated to be around 10%, and that is high. If you take into account the other costs mentioned above the taxpayers portion reaches approximately $18M or 33% of tram costs, and that is without the financing costs.
Please, City Council and Oregonian, come clean. The public gets it.
You are so wise, Grasshopper.
The tram is poisoning Portland. A school tax is now an impossibility, in no small part because people are sick of the kind of greasy arrogance that the tram represents. We could have spent that $18 million in so many better ways. In other news, they're going to hold a bake sale to get the police precincts reopened on nights and weekends.
Gentlemen of City Hall, whenever you decide we're worthy to hear the latest spiel you're cooking up on this, it had better be good. You've let this project fester for way longer than you should have. If how to finance it really was and is an open issue, you should have blown the whistle a long time ago -- five weeks ago at the very least -- and stopped work until the money was lined up. You didn't, and we're all waiting to hear why. First you said you were contractually bound to build the tram no matter what -- that turned out to be untrue. Now you stall for weeks and weeks, and it looks like you're going to fall back on "It's too late to turn back now."
But it wasn't too late five weeks ago. And in truth, it still isn't now.
Perhaps the ultimate insult is that while these guys sneak around behind closed doors to get the deal done, public be damned, they smile in your face and talk about "transparency." From Sam the Tram's announcement of the meeting that's now been postponed:
Sam values transparency and open government greatly. In the spirit of open government, he is sponsoring a Public Townhall to discuss the tram project currently under construction at South Waterfont. It is open to all interested members of the community, and everyone is invited to attend.
I think that's what's got my b.s. meter overheating. Mr. Adams, as another wise person posted here recently, please don't urinate on my shoes and tell me it's raining.
If I get out to the music store again any time soon, I've got two geezer picks to look for -- new albums by old guys with New Orleans connections.
First, there's Fats Domino's new recording, "Alive and Kickin'." If a 78-year-old Katrina survivor (and a rock-'n'-roll legend) is still putting it out, I'll throw 20 bucks at it.
Then there's British singer-songwriter Ray Davies's new offering, "Other People's Lives," which he created on a sojourn to the Big Easy that lasted many months before it almost got him killed. According to a recent New York Times profile:
Mr. Davies came to America and to New Orleans in 2003 because, having mastered the tidy horrors of the English middle class, he wanted to explore American musical roots and temporarily adopt a new frame of reference.
He succeeded, perhaps too well, getting shot in the leg in January 2004 near the French Quarter after confronting a robber who had taken his companion's purse. From a British perspective, there could be no more quintessential American experience than being injured in the course of a street crime.
The former leader of the Kinks always produces great songs, and I'm quite curious to see what came of his time in Nawlins.
Willamette Week has a breaking story going about Physicians' Hospital, in outer northeast Portland where Woodland Park Hospital used to be. Looks like they've had their Medicare money yanked. Make up your own metaphor for a death-blow.
The Double Dub's Nigel Jaquiss mentions at the end of the piece that the docs running the place took a $500,000 loan from the Portland Development Commission late in '04. Old Matt and the Don sure knew how to pick 'em.
Here's how the saga of Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers, and Portland is being perceived up in Seattle.
I love Vera's perspective: "I didn't have a lot of social interaction with him and never heard of anyone seeing him at museum openings or other places they went to." She had some interesting priorities, didn't she?
If you're like me, you don't trust the Port of Portland further than you can throw it. It's hard to put my finger on a reason. Something about it is just so... I don't know... Goldschmidtty. Here's a story that doesn't dispel one's suspicions.
The Portland Development Commission is meeting on Wednesday, and as ever, they're getting ready to give away your tax dollars to private interests. On the agenda this week are "enterprise zone" property tax exemptions for various businesses that say they're making new investments, and a bargain sale of the Vanport Square property to developers who say they're going to build "small business condos" on the site -- with tax credit money and a sweetheart loan from the PDC, natch. Read all about it here.
BTW, did you see the new PDC chief in the paper last week telling us all how everything's just peachy down in Tramland? Whew, that was a relief. A shout out to the O's editorial page people for another unbiased viewpoint.
Hey Jack, I just wanted to say that I like your blog. I have been reading it for quite a while. I found out about it from the Lars Larson show.
However, I usually read it at work during my lunch hour. The weird thing...my company uses a web filter (run by a different company, not our IT dept; I cant remember the name right now), and your site is now blocked and listed as "porn"! No kidding. Is that just stupid or what? I cant say I noticed anything new on your site (hehe), so I guess those filters are not very reliable...
I guess I will just have to keep up with your blog from home.
Keep up the good work.
I've heard this site called a lot of things, but porn is a new one. Is that you, Alberto Gonzales? Dang.
It's tax time, and if you're thinking of using a web-based tax return preparation program, here's an expert with some one-word advice:
Q: In 2002, you advised against using Web-based tax-preparation software, writing, "Your tax data are highly sensitive and confidential, and I think the Web is just too susceptible to hackers and crooks to make it a fitting repository for such information." Do you continue to have these concerns?
A: Yes. If anything, the incidence of identity theft and other security problems on the Web have grown worse since 2002. I am not criticizing the tax-preparation companies, which I assume have good security. And I am not advising people against normal e-commerce, or the use of credit cards online. But I would be personally loath to put the broad and deep financial information required for a tax filing on a server controlled by someone else and connected to the Internet. I would instead download or buy traditional tax-preparation software, which keeps your data on your own hard disk.
How dare The Oregonian complain that middle-class people with families are fleeing Portland in droves? Let them live in "skinny" houses. Fifteen feet wide ought to be enough if you've got only two kids.
No, with all these wonderful new condo towers going up, this place is getting better every day. Let's get several thousand more black beret types and empty nesters on the voter registration rolls -- that will help the school funding picture. And don't forget the "snazzy" streetcar and aerial tram [rim shot]! Great job, Erik and Dan!
If this doesn't worry you a lot, I'll see you in the gulag.
UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: And how many secret trials and nondocketed criminal cases have gone down here in Oregon? Maybe our crack journalist corps could take a break from asking local politicos about their underwear choices and ask our U.S. attorney how much of this she's in on. And where the heck is Ron Wyden (R-Oregon)? At the Plaza Hotel eating crumpets with the other super-rich, I guess.
Dieselboi over on Portland Metroblogging reports that the McMenamin brothers are taking their brewing and hospitality empire's Grateful Dead theme to a new level: They've bought an old mortuary in St. Johns. He writes:
I used to live just down the street... and we would walk by when they were having services and it was always a little creepy seeing the smoke from the chimney. I wonder if the brothers will convert that into a wood fired pizza oven or something.
He admits he's bad. Head on over there and submit a name for a new specialty beer.
I was just looking over the changes to my homeowner's insurance policy (rocking Saturday night indeed). Most of the changes regard the identity theft protection thing I bought with the normal insurance. The policy covers lost wages for time spent straightening out your credit after an identity theft. An additional thing they've added is "broadened coverage to include coverage for lost wages due to wrongful incarceration of the insured as a direct result of an identity fraud."
It's not really a local issue, but I just wonder, is this really happening? Are people somehow winding up in jail because their identity got stolen?
I hunted around to see if I could find any evidence of anyone actually being put in jail because their identity was stolen, but didn't really see anything, just this one story of a kid in Britain (or somewhere) having to make court appearances because of an ID theft:
And people accuse me of being superficial? Check this out. My spies send along this gem -- a questionnaire that The Oregonian has apparently e-mailed to the candidates for Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Commission (at least, several of the challengers):
Please accept our apologies for this mass mailing, but it's the easiest way to get this to everyone at once. Below you'll find a quick questionnaire we're asking everyone running for county and city offices to fill out. We'll be following up with phone calls to make sure that you received this but, barring some sort of technical problem, please try to get it back to us by March 9.
We look forward to speaking with each of you individually as the campaigns progress. If you have any questions, please feel free to email or call.
Thanks for your time.
- Anna Griffin and Ryan Frank
1. What's your full name?
2. Give us some quick details on your family: Spouse's name and occupation, kids' names and ages.
3. Give us some quick details on your political and employment background.
4. How much did you pay in property taxes last year?
5. Pick three adjectives that describe you.
6. What's your favorite website?
7. Favorite movie?
8. Have you seen, "Brokeback Mountain?"
9. What's in your pocket right now?
10. List the cars your family owns.
11. If you have kids, did they/do they attend public schools?
12. What magazines do you subscribe to?
13. What's your dream job?
14. "Lost" or "Dancing with the Stars?"
15. Coffee or tea?
16. Beer or wine?
17. Do you, or have you ever, smoked?
18. Ducks or Beavers?
19. When was the last time you attended a Blazers game?
20. Have you ever bought a lottery ticket?
21. What's your car radio tuned to right now?
22. Do you wear a watch?
23. When was the last time you attended church/synagogue?
24. Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush?
25. What did you eat yesterday?
26. Do you know your cholesterol level?
27. Introvert or extrovert?
28. Cindy, Jan or Marcia?
29. Mac or PC?
30. Good cop or bad cop?
31. Beethoven, Barry Manilow or Brittany Spears?
32. Have you ever been inside your next-door-neighbor's house?
33. Do you have any tattoos? What and where?
34. Did you pledge a fraternity or sorority in college?
35. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
36. Do you have a second home?
37. Do you screen your calls?
38. What's your screen saver?
39. What time do you wake up? What time do you go to bed?
40. Does your cellphone take pictures?
41. Have you ever fired a gun?
I'm quitting the Democratic Party. At least for now.
As a recent thread on this blog revealed, if you're a member of either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party in Oregon, under a new law you can't sign a petition for any independent candidate for office if you vote on anything in the primary. And by anything, I do mean anything -- nonpartisan races (such as all the local offices in the Portland area and all the judgeships) and ballot measures included. Indeed, even if you send your ballot back blank, you're still disqualified from signing a petition for an independent. If you try to do both, your signature won't count.
That's a terrible law, and every member of the Legislature who voted for it should be ashamed. And that includes people who should have known better, like Kate Brown, Vicki Walker, Greg Macpherson -- shame! Of course, the governor who signed it is equally cuplable.
The new law is probably unconstitutional, but who has time to wait for that to be hassled out? I want to sign for Westlund, and so I'm getting out now.
Plus, really, what do you gain by Demo Party membership? The right to vote in party primaries is all I see. And what difference does that ever make for me? I'm in Blumenauer's district. The folks who run against him have no chance. As does anyone who runs against Wyden. And when presidential election time rolls around, the Oregon primary is usually too late to make any difference, either.
I'm out of there, at least for '06. Somebody give me the form to change my party affiliation. I have until April 25 to get it in the mail.
If you want to run for Portland city commissioner, time is running out. The deadline for declaring one's candidacy with the city elections people is next Tuesday, March 7.
If you go for it, you'll have lots of company. Here's the official list for Position No. 2 (the Sten seat), with the "clean money" qualifiers marked with asterisks, and the candidates who I know have withdrawn removed from the list:
Dan Saltzman (Incumbent)
Principal Campaign Committee Formed: Friends of Dan Saltzman www.dansaltzman.com
Principal Campaign Committee Formed: Tres Shannon for City Council
Principal Campaign Committee Formed: Friends of Don Smith www.smithforportland.org
Lucinda L. Tate
Principal Campaign Committee Formed: Friends of Lucinda Tate for City Council www.vote4lucinda.com
Despite all the names, these races don't look too difficult, folks. Once all the candidates are officially in next week, we'll be posting endorsements. (Sneak preview: "Watchman" probably won't be on there.)
The current budget mess at the Portland School District has reports circulating that six more schools may have to be closed. The term "downward spiral" is definitely coming to mind.
Don Smith, who's running for City Council, sent me a statement on this today that might get an interesting (ahem!) conversation going. He writes in part:
San Francisco is the Portland of 2020 in many ways. A booming city center that is too expensive for middle-class families and a suburban outlying area with many schools that outperform their inner-city rivals. Portland is seeing this exodus now and has a chance to stop it. To quote Kris Anderson, Irvington parent, from last night's school-funding town hall meeting, "There is going to be a massive exodus, and you will never get these children back."
Coincidentally, I read an article last night outlines about how San Francisco has moved to a decentralized, follow-the-kid funding model that has raised performance in every single school in the district without raising costs. Essentially, kids can apply to any school in their district and there is a funding formula that gives schools more money for attracting special-ed, low-income, or non-English-speaking kids.
We are in crisis mode right now, but the reason the voters aren't willing to pony up is that they won't spend money on a jalopy. We want at least a late-model Chevy, but San Francisco has proven we can get a luxury car for standard-model pricing.
Vicki Phillips said last night that closing more schools is on the table. Which schools will be closed? That will be decided by Central Administration. Not the parents. Not the kids. In other words, not the customers. If closing our schools is on the table, then why wouldn't this be? At least give the schools the chance to individually improve enough to justify staying open rather than closing another Smith Elementary (one of the best in the system).
Join me in urging our leaders, specifically Vicki Phillips, to consider putting the weighted-student funding option on the table immediately. SF had a one-year pilot and went full-scale in year two. I see no reason we couldn't do the same. The communities and parents in particular have been wildly enthusiastic about the revitalization of their neighborhood schools.
Buried in a Willamette Week murmur about Portland's new "clean money" public campaign finance system is this tidbit:
"I'm very popular in the Slavic community," Boyles says, adding that she doesn't know how many of her supporters are registered to vote (contributors need not be registered but must live in Portland).
That raises an interesting question: If all that's required is city residency, not voter registration, when the city "clean money" czar (or czarina) "checks" the 1,000 contributions ($5 each) that come in from a candidate, what does he or she check against? Maybe voter registration would be a starting point, but how would a person not registered to vote have their address verified? Does the city just accept the address printed on the check?
The law of supply and demand being what it is, this is my year to score the best seats I've ever had for Portland Trail Blazers games. Tonight a good friend laid some incredible ducats on me, and so off my daughter and I went to sit in the second row -- just a row back and three seats down from where team owner Paul Allen sits, when he's there -- to see the Blazers take on the Lakers.
If you don't think that Oregon has been Californicated forever, just drop in on a Laker game at the Rose Garden. The cheers for the purple-and-gold-clad villains from L.A., coached by Phil Jackson (left) and starring Kobe Bryant, are just as loud as those for the Trail Blazers. Both teams are pretty crummy this year, and so it was an interesting game. It was nip-and-tuck for the first 20 minutes or so; then the Blazers pulled ahead; then they almost gave the game back to the Lakers at the end, but held on. The celebratory streamers fell, and Portland's six-game losing streak ended.
Having the prime view that we did, we noticed a number of things that we hadn't before. First and foremost, the Blazers are a much better team when Darius Miles is not in the game. Not only that, but when he's not in the game, Darius doesn't sit on the bench with the rest of the team. No, I kid you not, he's up in the stands, bopping his head around as if he's listening to some sort of hip-hop music. He's not wearing headphones or anything, though -- just jamming away to his own personal soundtrack. Here he is, well into the third quarter, before he returned to the hardwood and the Blazers almost squandered the lead:
Very strange. So much for conferring with teammates and coaches. The Darius has occasional moments of brilliance out on the floor, but especially on the offensive end, he's more trouble than he's worth. A typical Paul Allen personal pick -- a poor choice. And from what I could see, just a bit, shall we say, eccentric.*
Another new NBA "thang" we observed was that Kobe Bryant is now producing a collection of rubbery faces when the Lakers have the ball and are setting up a play. Sometimes he's giving cues to his teammates about what to do next, but other times he looks like he's just channeling Jimmie "J.J." "Dy-No-Mite" Walker (right). Anyway, the Kobester pouted quite a bit when the referees' calls didn't go his way toward the end. To see him and the Colonel struggle to keep the team above a .500 winning percentage does a Portland soul good. Too bad it hardly matters any more.
Zach Randolph is a mess. He can't seem to keep his uniform on. He spends more time pulling his shirt out of his pants than he does thinking. He's now taking lazy three-point shots, pretty much at random. When they go in, it's funny. When they don't, that's how you get one of the worst records in the league.
We brought the world's most ancient digital camera with us, once again trying to capture great moments but mostly just annoying people seated around us as they rattled their jewelry and smiled through their plastic surgery. At halftime, I caught Luke Walton talking to Maurice Lucas, and I thought a photo of the Two Lukes would be cool, especially given their long history together. But with my camera, you press the shutter button and wait a half hour for anything to happen. Here's what I got:
Here's Kobe (acquitted on all charges) at his favorite place in the world:
The Lakers are full of somewhat tired journeymen. Here's Lamar Odom, who had a couple of good plays but was handled quite well in the first half by Blazer starter Viktor Khryapa (add vowels until spelling is correct):
Here's an L.A. TV sports guy at work. Make up your own joke:
We've got at least one more up-close-and-personal moment coming up with the Blazers this year, and it may be our last Blazer game ever, who knows? As down as I am on the team's owner, Paul Allen, it sure is fun sitting in the VIP zone on somebody else's dime. Don't take your roundball love to Seattle, Paul!
DOS Boy wasn't there again tonight, but team president Steve Patterson was in the owner's seats. When some kids down the other end held up a big "Trade Allen" sign, he had no visible reaction. Most of the night, he just looked like this:
* UPDATE, 3/2, 11:31 a.m.: What I couldn't see from my vantage point was that Miles was chugging along on a stationary bike -- to keep his surgically repaired knee warm! That's a relief. I thought he had really gone off the deep end.
They're still better without him in there, though. He sleepwalked on offense, and Khryapa was just as good against Odom on defense.
Here at bojack.org, we don't just whine about all the government scams currently under way in and around Portland. We also try to spot the new ones as they begin to hatch.
Usually they start with just a teeny, little peep. Like the one in the paper today about how Multnomah County is going to sell off some "excess" real estate holdings to start to put a dent in the down payment for a hideously expensive new county courthouse. The old one would need a lot of work to fix up, and so despite its historic significance and innate charm, in The Oregonian news pages it's now officially "decrepit."
What properties would the county sell? Apparently, an older building up in the west end of downtown, and some parcels of vacant land down by the west side of the Morrison Bridge. And who would the buyer be? Hold on to your seats, people. Those fine stewards of the public trust, the Portland Development Commission -- that's who!
With those details in place, there's little mystery surrounding how the ensuing few years will go. The PDC will pay some crazy amount for the real estate -- say, $25 million. Then it will let the property sit idle for a year or two. Board up that old building -- make it a real eyesore and a bad neighbor. Let the street drunks and taggers get at it. After everyone's sick of it, suddenly discover some horrible environmental problem or other major disfigurement that, golly, nobody even thought to look for before.
The end game is always the same. Sell it to one of the Chosen Few Developers for $1. Make a few calls so that the minions in the city planning bureaucracy sign off on waiver after waiver of height and density restrictions. The next thing you know you've got yourself some lovely 25-story condo towers -- maybe even tax-abated, if the scam goes well.
The taxpayers wind up paying both for the courthouse and for the condos. Then it's on to the next one.
Blazers in trouble? Mismanaged, you say? Hey, here's the solution: sell the team to a guy who tried to smuggle marijuana through an airport metal detector by wrapping it in tin foil! NBA championship, here we come!
There aren't many people left who do their own taxes with a pen or a pencil any more -- are there? A lot of do-it-yourselfers use TurboTax, or similar tax preparation software, to get the job done on their computers.
With the software, you don't have to think too much. You can just let the computer interview you; you answer the questions it poses, and voila! Out comes an authoritative-looking tax return.
But what if that return has mistakes on it? And what if the IRS asserts a negligence penalty? Can a taxpayer say "I relied on TurboTax," and beat the penalty rap?
Maybe, maybe not. Certainly one Maryland couple's TurboTax defense fell on deaf ears in a recent trip to the U.S. Tax Court. The court disallowed a bunch of deductions that the couple had taken for alleged business expenses, without any proof that the money in question was in fact spent on any business. The judge also sustained the penalties that the IRS had asserted against the couple. He noted:
We have no difficulty in finding that petitioners are guilty of negligence for both years before the Court. They claimed deductions that are clearly improper and made no attempt to keep satisfactory records as required by section 6001. Petitioners claim that they used "Turbo Tax", a computer program for preparing tax returns, and any fault lies with that program. While section 6664(c) provides an exception for a portion of the underpayment due to reasonable cause, petitioners have not shown reasonable cause here. The "Turbo Tax" program depends on the entry of correct information. Petitioners certainly knew that they were deducting personal expenses when they entered items such as routine meals, clothing, insurance, etc. Respondent's determinations are sustained.
As we used to say about "data processing equipment" more than 30 years ago, "GIGO" -- garbage in, garbage out. There may be cases in which good faith reliance on faulty software may get the taxpayer off the hook for penalties. But if you're making stuff up to avoid taxes, well, the fact that you are doing so on your PC with the help of a $25 computer program isn't going to save you. (Via TaxProf Blog.)
Miles run year to date: 82
At this date last year: 122
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269