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Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The bizarre priorities of Portland city government were on full display in yesterday's O. On page 1 we learned that the police bureau's once-robust gang outreach "team" has been allowed to dwindle down to a single counsellor. Mayor Potter, a former police chief who must have known this was happening, has now offered to find the guy a grant writer to see if he can scare up funding for some help. How pitiful.

Meanwhile, buried in the business section was another story that confirms what's been rumored for quite a while: the city is studying building a fiber-optic network that would run into all homes in the city, offering high-speed internet service. This would be in addition to (and in competititon with) the "free" citywide wi-fi system that some poor fools from the Bay Area are already trying to build at the city's behest.

Obviously, the rest of our city fathers are joining Commisioner Sten's long-running, obsessive vendetta against Comcast. From his failed lawsuit that tried to force AT&T (Comcast's predecessor) to lease its cable lines to other internet providers, to the municipal wi-fi "cloud," it's clear that the Stennmeister will stop at no expenditure of time and money to socialize utilities in the city. (Along the lines of his futile battle to take over PGE.)

Chasing down these dopey "visions" isn't free -- far from it. Yet somehow there's always lots of money around for them.

I'm surprised that the rest of the council can't step back and see the forest for Opie's trees. We don't have two nickels to rub together to stop minority kids in north Portland from killing each other (and themselves), but when it comes to jerking the cable company around, the sky's the limit? For shame.

Comments (1)

Hate to tell you, but a hard-wired network wouldn't compete with a wi-fi network. They complement eachother.

Posted by: Mark at August 15, 2006 11:38 AM

Given the latest proposed outrage from the cable companies - that they will provide "premium" access to sites that pay them money (as opposed to worthy sites such as this, that would be shunted to the sidelines), Opie may be on to something here.

Posted by: Gordo at August 15, 2006 12:02 PM

The city seems to be notorious for spending large sums of money on projects that are not for the good of the community as a whole. My beef right now is the fact they keep spending more and more money to add parks to the Pearl District (they have wetlands there??) and in the Cully neighborhood, where there is a much larger concentration of families and children, we rarely get any improvement projects. If it weren't for Kathy F., our association president, we wouldn't even have the extension of Sacajewa Park. It seems that Portland politics has gone they way of Bush and his cronies...only catering to the wealthy and where they live.

Posted by: laurelann at August 15, 2006 12:12 PM

We should all be wary of the telecom companies' assault on 'net neutrality' and the dire implications for citizens and the business sector. Socializing our utilities shouldn't be seen as some commie endeavor, these are services all people and businesses depend on to survive... I agree our city needs to refocus on core duties, but oversight of our utilities falls into that category. Someone has to do it, and the PUC certainly isn't.

It was established long ago that the public 'owns the airwaves', yet over the years we must have internalized the telecom talking point that we don't...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 15, 2006 12:25 PM

The fiber optic network concept is Saltzman's baby, not Erik's.

January 06 Oregonian article

Posted by: Amanda Fritz at August 15, 2006 12:33 PM

Once the baby is born, a DNA test will confirm paternity.

Posted by: Bark Munster at August 15, 2006 01:13 PM

I'd be all for better regulation or public ownership of utilities here -- from PGE on down to the cable network, wherever there is monopoly power. That it has been badly handled in Portland is not an argument against doing it properly. Comcast's ownership of the cable infrastructure and its exclusion of competition in its use may be the current law, but it doesn't serve the consumer's interests.

Posted by: Allan L. at August 15, 2006 01:14 PM

My attempt at posting a link seems ineffective - the URL for the article is

Posted by: Amanda Fritz at August 15, 2006 02:29 PM

OK - City of Portland is shoveling money to the developers and shafting the bulk of the citizens.

There's the various forms of patronage and legalized corruption, such as the PDC, Metro, Tri-Met, and so forth.

Similar problems with Multnomah County.

I saw a comment a while ago, maybe over at Blue Oregon, that crystalized it for me: there's a huge ethical blindspot in local politicians. Just because they can do something, they think they have the right to do so, and anyone questioning them is just a troublemaker.

And I agree with the comment above about local politics sharing characteristics with the Federal political machine. Progressive or Conservative, corruption knows no boundaries.

But... it feels like there's a growing national progressive movement to at least attempt to repair things. do we do that locally? I realize there's maybe no short-term solution. But can we start to figure out plan to straighten out our local governement?

How does one bust a political machine?

Posted by: Brian at August 15, 2006 03:20 PM

Like the title of your post, but it would have been better if you titled is "S is for Sten-detta" ;)

Posted by: butch at August 15, 2006 03:32 PM

"We don't have two nickels to rub together to stop minority kids in north Portland from killing each other (and themselves)," - What are you talking about? I find your comments to be bigoted and misinformed. Is this what you think of the minority community. This is a good ole boy comment taken out of context. Where do you get off saying the young people killing each other are minorities?

Posted by: NNW at August 15, 2006 03:38 PM

"Where do you get off saying the young people killing each other are minorities?"

Well, most of them are under 21.

Posted by: Allan L. at August 15, 2006 03:42 PM

Who are most of them? And how about some stats?

Posted by: NNW at August 15, 2006 03:51 PM


"Judicial Notice is a rule in the law of evidence that allows a fact to be introduced into evidence if the truth of that fact is so notorious or well known that it cannot be refuted." This is close enough for me.

My comment grew too long.

Still, poor folks are not well-equipped to fight city hall. If Urban Renewel was known as Negro Removal decades ago, what pray tell could one call a call to spend big bucks on broadband . . . and for whom?

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 15, 2006 05:33 PM


Fair enough...

Still doesn't change the fact the language used by Jack is the languange used by millions of people who describe a black or poor neighborhood. "Oh, those folks are just killing each other," hohohahahehe!

Posted by: NWW at August 15, 2006 06:04 PM

Hate to tell you,

Well, then don't.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 15, 2006 06:17 PM

Where do you get off saying the young people killing each other are minorities?

Those are the facts. And you are twisting my words. Which is why you are gone.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 15, 2006 06:24 PM

I think Jack's point is that we don't have two nickels for the gang enforcement, which admitedly is not limited to the sterotypical bloods and cripts of old, but asian, hispanic, and white skinheads as well, or spend money as Laurelann pointed out healthy play places for activites to keep the kids involved, active, and socialized with summer and afterschool play program or even openspace to play. The Tribune article on August 3, paper pointed out a study done done by Robert Liberty that shows demographic problems where poorer folks don't have access. This is exacerbated by the common practice of Parks SDC fees to be waived for Low Income Housing. I always found it ironic that the families that needed parks most, had less chance of getting them so that the Landlords could build the apartments cheaper. Yet we have millions to spend for an artificial wetland, when one could get on a bike the greenway and walk to Oaks Bottom or up the hill to Forest Park from the Pearl.

But I agree with Brian, let's not just whine, how do we change things so next time when someone with guts whether it be Amanda Fritz or Dave Lister we rally enough support to get some Fresh blood in there to shake things up and ask these questions.

Posted by: Swimmer at August 15, 2006 07:40 PM

As long as the gangs don't go to Alameda, West Hills, Pearl or SoWa, gang enforcement will be a low priority.

So next time Potter or Sam takes pride in trot themselves out to the poorer parts of town to show how much they "care", I hope the sheeple that elect them realize what a bargain they are getting.

Posted by: Steve at August 15, 2006 07:51 PM

"Given the latest proposed outrage from the cable companies"

Puh-leeze, free internet ranks up there with cheap water/sewer bills. Why is anyone dumb enough to believe they will not hide the price in a new tax to pay for this stuff?

I think I now understand how Erik can keep getting re-elected.

Posted by: Steve at August 15, 2006 08:31 PM

"...anyone questioning them is just a troublemaker."

Whenever those "Dial Up" counselors and Mayor in our "Broadband World" ask for public input I chuckle to myself. They don't want public input or suggestions. They pay no attention to anyone who isn't on the "A" list. And it's not going to change...advance reservations at the favorite watering hole have been made and paid for the next few years, so my chance of having a cocktail and discussing the "important needs" of Portland (such as the Tram Ride, SoWhat, Tax Subsidies, etc.) will have to wait until a majority of them are voted out on the next go round.

On the positive, as noted by a previous blogger, there is an increasing involvement of people on the path to making the changes needed. Then again, it might be a Grand Jury which will break apart the Portland "good ol' boy" ureacracy... or am I naive?

Posted by: Carol at August 15, 2006 09:02 PM

Nice timing for cutting gang enforcement.
Spend $152 million on New Columbia then let it get overrun with gangs.

"New Columbia treating rising crime as call to act

Officers say that young people who had gang affiliations in Louisiana have moved in or around New Columbia

Latino gangs also have been active

But the recent fights are the first instances of more serious crime at New Columbia.

The $155 million development includes low-income public housing and market-rate homes and is intended to serve as a sort of social laboratory where the poor and the middle class live side-by-side."

Posted by: Steve Schopp at August 15, 2006 09:34 PM

Thank you, Jim Francesconi.

At the same time, it's got to be frustrating. When you were organizing to get gang kids matched up with employers, there'd be maybe six people in the room. You talk about dogs running in the park and you can fill the council chambers. As someone who comes from a history of social justice and activism, doesn't that just piss you off?

I wouldn't say it pisses me off. It deeply saddens me.

that there's more affection for dogs than for

Actually, it irritates the hell out of me. The council hearing [pause] I can't say that, because for some families, their dog is like their kid. We have two dogs and we love our dogs, but as a city policy, we are never going to equate dogs with kids. Kids are what is the highest priority for Portland parks. But what you really are talking about, dogs or no dogs, is why the community is or is not getting outraged by these recent [gang-related] killings. And the reason is that it's poor folks and kids of color. And if this were happening in other parts of town, it still would not be accepted. So we have so far to go on that.

Are you saying Portlanders have their priorities skewed?

I do think that there hasn't been enough outrage on the issue of the gangs.
Welcome back, Jack.

Posted by: he was right b/c he told the truth about both sides at August 15, 2006 09:52 PM

More of this, please:

"On the positive, as noted by a previous blogger, there is an increasing involvement of people on the path to making the changes needed"

Let's hear more about what we are or can do to fix this than just bitch. This blog offers a great forum to open up discussion and address issues in a way that maybe we arne't used to.

Let's combat things like "SoWhat" with "NowWhat?"

I'm in. I'm thirsty, show me the water.

Posted by: dr at August 15, 2006 09:53 PM


Take a government-regulated monopoly - the cable companies, and the telephone companies.

Next, allow them to set up a "preferential" system whereby big players have premium speeded up access to your and my computer. Small players like Jack, providing us with lots of useful information, are shunted to the sidelines.

Portland (and other municipal regulators) have three options:

1. Let 'er rip.
2. Regulate the monopoly and get into all sorts of regulatory dogfights with their lobbyists and paid-off politicians.
3. Set up competition in the marketplace.

What Sten wants to do is # 3. You may argue that logistically it won't work, but are you also arguing that, even if it can work, it's a bad idea?

Posted by: Gordo at August 16, 2006 09:49 AM

Well, there are already two fiber optic cables, unlit, AFAIK, in SE Portland, east of Mall 205. I saw them being installed. So the RB neighborhood focus isn't quite right here.

Posted by: lawrence at August 16, 2006 10:22 AM

""Given the latest proposed outrage from the cable companies"

Puh-leeze, free internet ranks up there with cheap water/sewer bills. Why is anyone dumb enough to believe they will not hide the price in a new tax to pay for this stuff?"

Not about free internet. It's about providers controlling what is offered to us on that internet. Of course you have to pay for internet. Stuff ain't free, darlin'.

Posted by: Mark at August 16, 2006 10:55 AM

"You may argue that logistically it won't work, but are you also arguing that, even if it can work, it's a bad idea?"

Yes. We will need to get more govt employees to manage all of this. Which will cost money afer they fund the program by robbing from basic porgrams.

In addition, this is somewhat complex and when CoP can't keep parks in decent shape, potholes filled, water/sewer rates at manageable levels (because they blow money on things like PGE Park and condo subsidies instead of ongoing maintenance), you really expect they can even do something like this at a semblance of a reasonable cost and support level?

Posted by: Steve at August 16, 2006 04:05 PM

So--wrong on who's project it is, and wrong on the premise of competition with wi-fi. And hyperbolic on "socialism."

This story is factually worthless, Jack.

Posted by: too at August 16, 2006 09:37 PM

No it's not. Sten's socialist tendencies infect the entire council. Fiber will definitely compete with wifi, intrentionally or not.

Hyperbolic? Perhaps. But not far off the mark. Which is why you Stennie boys have to attack me. Why don't you throw in "racist," too?

The truth hurts, doesn't it?

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 16, 2006 10:11 PM

"And hyperbolic on "socialism.""

If you look at the actions so far, the City tries to run more services like PGE, PGE Park, develop condos, now offer network services.

They are like any company looking to generate more revenue, but they have no need to make a profit since they can make it up by hiding new taxes. So any competition against someone who has to show a profit is already tainted. In addition, they can jigger the rules in their favor (special cell phone tax or private network access tax once more people drop land lines in favor of VOIP - anyone?) The more services they run the more they can hide taxes.

So then Erik and Randy get everyone worked up about raising corporate taxes, but guess who eventually pays those taxes? (Try not to think to hard, but it is the consumer of that corporation's services.)

Furthermore, when someone complains about private business charging for "preferential" treatment, I can only point them to the level of services and budget downtown, Pearl and SoWa districts receive in proportion to the rest of town where 98%+ of people live and pay taxes accordingly.

Posted by: Steve at August 17, 2006 06:29 AM

OK Steve, let's accept that the Portland City Council is in a hopeless, bureaucratic, socialist, incompetent muddle.

We get back to the following facts:
1. A utility exists with a government monopoly (cable, phone).
2. The reason it is a monopoly is that the cost of infrastructure makes it too costly for competitors to enter the market. They would have to lay cable or phone lines throughout the city.
3. These monopolies want to set up a preferential system where they give paying parties an expressway to your computer, and freeze out sites like Jack (I'm assuming Jack is unwilling or unable to pay the undoubtedly high fees these companies will set).

Is this really OK with you, Steve?

Posted by: Gordon at August 17, 2006 09:26 AM

Fiber and wifi are different access points into the same network. They don't compete, they complement.

Not to beat a dead horse or nothin'.

Posted by: Mark at August 17, 2006 10:52 AM

"These monopolies want to set up a preferential system"

Explain to me what you mean by preferential. If it is things like Google rank Jack's WebSite higher on searches then it's not related. If they want to charge more for a higher bandwidth then that's a diff issue. However, it's moot. The argument is not fiber vs. WiFi, it is about govt running these sort of things.

My issue is in one corner we have engineers, people with MBAs and all with years of experience in business running this deal. In this corner - Erik, with one job skill - getting re-elected, otherwise, running things efficiently or at a min cost makes him break out in a rash and he has no motive to offer it cheaper. Who do you want calling the shots? For reference study how well Ashland did pulling this off.

The best solution is to encourage private competition. You can control the prices thru competition and all parties work at reducing costs.

Bringing govt into offering these services when it doesnt need to make a profit, is ignorant of any real-world skill set needed to run this sort of operation and will always be the most expensive solution to a problem (if you don't believe me have the CoP and a private contractor quote on fixing your street, you'll faint) is not the best solution.

If you want to wait a year to see how they've done as condo developers, I'll be able to offer you more proof of govt workers not understanding market forces and more importantly what people want.

Posted by: Steve at August 17, 2006 11:19 AM

Sorry, the above is my last comment on this, I am way off tangent on the original post. However, what I said about Erik applies equally to his cohorts on council

Posted by: Steve at August 17, 2006 11:21 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
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

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