You can't officially call it March Madness for another 10 minutes, but this was an amazingly entertaining way to kill a few hours. Go, Longhorns!
|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
You can't officially call it March Madness for another 10 minutes, but this was an amazingly entertaining way to kill a few hours. Go, Longhorns!
Now that the Portland public school bigwigs have decided that they can close only a few schools due to weather on a given day, leaving the rest open, how about expanding the smart idea of selectivity to delayed starts? Today it was obvious that there was no need for any special scheduling at most of the city's schools, and yet at a handful of schools an all-day closure was called for.
It's 2007. We all have computers and laptops. There are weather stations and weather cams all over town, and they sell them dirt cheap nowadays. Can we get the school closure machinery into the 21st Century?
Willy Week offers a smart reader a chance to win a hundred worth of good stuff, here.
Beats the heck out of me.
As if today's severe weather in the Portland metro area wasn't enough to worry about, check out this news:
This year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) will start three weeks earlier beginning on Sunday, March 11 at 2:00 a.m. It will end one week later on Nov. 4. The extended period is the result of the Energy Policy Act passed by Congress in August 2005. Daylight saving time is not observed in Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.Here at Storm Center 9000, we are already stocking up on canned tuna and ammunition for this one, less than two weeks away. We predict a disaster, unless it is averted.
Technology support professionals are preparing for the change by deploying patches to many time dependent applications prior to March 11. Software vendors are recommending that customers also validate time information for certain applications during the weeks between the new and previous DST dates.
Here at bojack.org Storm Center 9000 we have snow mixed with rain -- repeat, snow mixed with rain.
Remain calm. Do not leave your home. Stay tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000 all day for continuing, comprehensive team coverage of the snow mixed with rain.
Portland schools chief Vicki Phillips is reported in fair condition at this hour after what school officials call a fainting spell at district headquarters early this morning. "She was up all night looking at the weather reports," said a staffer close to the dynamic superintendent. "They were reporting that it might snow, it might not, maybe just in some places, maybe a lot, maybe not a lot. Finally, I think she just cracked."
Medical crews were rushed to the agency's crisis headquarters off Northeast Broadway, where neighbors were wakened by the early morning commotion. "She looked pretty bad when they wheeled her out," said Elgin Roundtree, who lives across the street. "She had on, like, an Army helmet and some kind of camouflage outfit, and her hair was all messed up. She kept saying, 'Johnny can't walk in the snow.' I think she was having some kind of a breakdown."
An emergency team took Phillips to the OHSU Wellness Center in the SoWhat district, where at last report they were waiting for an aerial tram. A spokesperson for the school district said that a final decision on whether to close schools today in light of the severe weather will not be made until about 3 p.m. "We've decided that it's better to wait until all the facts are in," the spokesperson explained.
Meanwhile, the temperature in Portland hovered dangerously close to the 37-degree mark as drizzle continue to pound the area. Stay tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000 for the latest developments on the late winter storm crisis. It's better than checking with your stock broker.
As anxious residents wait nervously in their homes, bracing for a deadly winter storm headed in their direction, city officials in Portland are seeking to reassure them that everything is under control. Nonetheless, the morning commute in the metropolitan area promises to be one of the trickiest in quite some time.
"Everyone should remain calm," Mayor Tom Potter advised in an impromptu press conference televised lived from his neighborhood walking route in southeast Portland. "I'm in charge of the emergency response, and I think those who are sowing fear among the citizenry should just shut up and let me talk. It's going to be a rough couple of days, but we are going to come out of this progressively, and sustainably." To bring his point home, the mayor appeared in pajamas and fuzzy slippers with a to-go cup of brewed Boyd's decaf.
Meanwhile, the city's street crews are operating under temporary management, as transportation Commissioner Sam Adams is still recovering from televised surgery for painful toenail fungus. Daphne Stone, acting director of the bureau, noted that beginning at 9 p.m., the city had begun plowing streets where snow was expected to fall, as a precautionary measure. "We only have two plows, and the guy over on the east side tends to go really slowly," she explained. "And so we're getting an early start on this. We're totally prepared." The city's two sand trucks have been active since midday, spreading gravel in places where snow might fall later, she added.
Tri-Met is operating on a normal schedule at this hour, with an estimated 10 percent of the drivers behaving in a surly manner and 5 percent homicidal.
The rest of the city's transportation staff is working around the clock trying to get the OHSU Health Club aerial tram operating again, after it suddenly stopped in the afternoon, stranding frightened passengers high above the Lair Hill neighborhood. The official explanation was that a 45-mile-an-hour wind gust had tripped a shutdown mechanism on the tram, but critics of the lift were skeptical. One OHSU physician, who requested anonymity out of fear of being treated at the hospital, said the real cause was that the tram is operating on Windows Vista. "I had just gotten done doing a botox on this old gal from Dunthorpe," he told Storm Center 9000, "and after my massage, I was waiting to catch the tram back up the hill to where my Mercedes is parked. I was over by the main control panel and I heard that bad piano chord come out of the computer. Next thing I knew, the screen went blue and there was a whole bunch of gibberish on it about a fatal exception."
A seventh-grade student who was waiting with the doctor eventually got the computer to reboot and guided the tram car back to its station, but when the good Samaritan tried to connect to Microsoft for a Vista update using the city's free wi-fi cloud, the tram stopped operating completely. At last report, the system was still shut down, and engineers from Slovenia are being brought in to assess the problem.
Meanwhile, in Storm Center 9000 weather central, we see that the temperature has plunged to 37 degrees, meaning that the city is a mere five degrees above freezing. If the temperature falls to 32 or below, any water present will freeze. This is believed to be the leading cause of ice, which most scientists agree is slippery. If you encounter ice, keep in mind that it's slick and cold.
Stay tuned for continuous live team coverage of this late winter storm here on bojack.org Storm Center 9000.
Our comprehensive team coverage of the Portland Storm of the Century of the Week continues now with this live report from our Clark County correspondent, Butterbean:
I was getting 'Couv fever and had to get out. They still haven't caught that guy in Tualatin yet, but I don't care. YOU try spending five straight days north of Mill Plain.Stay tuned for continuous live coverage of this late winter storm here on bojack.org Storm Center 9000.
I headed east on SR 14 and can report several drivers had deployed their windshield wipers in an effort to cut through the driving drizzle. Things didn't improve much on 205 south as a nasty 5 mph cross wind forced drivers to slow all the way down to 55 mph for portions of the drive. Fortunately I reached my undisclosed destination before the sun went down and was thus spared the worst. Unfortunately I'll have to drive all the way back to the 360 in a few hours. Provided I arrive home in one piece, I'll make sure and give you all the details.
Be brave, Jack. This looks like the nastiest weather we've had in a good week. Back to you.
Another vicious winter storm has brought the City of Roses to a standstill. Rain and wind have made Portland wet and windy all day, and as long as the precipitation and gusts continue, those who venture outside will find themselves getting blown around and moistened.
Not to mention the bitter cold -- 42 degrees and dropping at this writing. Damaging winds of 14 miles per hour are being reported out at the airport. It's so cold and nasty that the aerial tram -- our symbol of reliable transportation -- has been paralyzed. That's one hellacious winter storm, people. And so we're reactivating bojack.org Storm Center 9000 -- your one-stop survival information source.
Mixed in with the rain are actual snowflakes, which could make travel extremely dangerous if the weather turns to all snow, temperatures drop, and several feet of snow accumulate. We are presently just 10 degrees from the freezing mark, and so anything can happen. Forecasters say that there's a 100 percent chance of darkness overnight, followed by periods of light toward dawn.
We'll have continuing team coverage all night long, including eyewitness reports from the neighborhood under the aerial tram, where shaky passengers lived through a real nightmare this afternoon. We'll also have a forecast of the latest from China, where a deep low pressure system is causing widespread damage to American 401k's.
Stay tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000, and whatever you do, pull down the blinds and do not go outside!
Looks like the fun has begun.
I understand there was some slushy snow this morning. Being a late riser, I missed it. But it seems cold enough that it could do it again tonight. Do I need to be pulling this out again?
Our weekend speculation about what's going to happen to the Wild Oats store on NE Fremont, now that Whole Foods is buying out Wild Oats, was fun. But it gets a whole lot more interesting when you consider who owns that building. I'll give you a hint: It's not Wild Oats.
At least on the tax records, it's listed as something called ADG Properties, LLC, which I do believe is owned, at least in part, by Stan Amy, a founder of, and still affiliated with, New Seasons markets! Amy, a former Nature's bigwig, was a fiercely unhappy camper with the new Wild Oats management when it took over the old Nature's chain, and there was lots of bad blood when Amy and his partners left Wild Oats and started their own place. He is definitely getting the last laugh now, as the Wild Oats presence is about to be wiped off the Portland map.
It looks as though when Nature's sold its stores to Wild Oats, Wild Oats didn't buy the Fremont building -- it got only a lease on it. Just as it didn't get title to the building that housed the old Nature's (converted to Wild Oats) down on Division. And who owns the Division site? It's listed as being owned by something called ADG III LLC, with addresses that again point back to Amy.
A commenter on this blog last night theorized that the reason that the Wild Oats store on Division closed was that its lease was up and ADG was demanding a big rent increase. Yikes! Now that's an interesting tale that I don't remember hearing before. (I don't think daily newspapers like to dig too deeply into grocery store wars... for some reason...)
Anyway, what it all boils down to is that on the Fremont property, Whole Foods may, in effect, be dealing with New Seasons. A little internet sleuthing strengthens that impression. At Amy's address, there's listed a company called New Villages Group, Ltd., and on New Villages' website, New Seasons is shown as an "affiliated organization." Meanwhile, the old Nature's site at 24th and Fremont -- more recently a high-end garden store and the graveyard of several noble restaurant experiments -- is listed as being owned by something called ADG II LLC, which corroborates the old Nature's / new New Seasons real property connection.
If I've got this all straight, the plot has thickened considerably. Would Whole Foods want to deal with Amy over the Fremont building, and vice versa? Is there still a lease, and how much longer does it have to run? And if Whole Foods folds its Wild Oats cards there and closes, would New Seasons consider an outpost in that location? It certainly wouldn't have to worry about relations with the landlord, who from all appearances would be friendly indeed.
Stay tuned. I'm just praying that somebody will sell groceries in that place when this all shakes out.
I got an e-mail the other day responding to this post. The "From" line on the message read, and I quote, "SHERIFF." The message said:
Mr. Bogdanski:A short time later, he was in the paper allowing uniformed county officers to police a private high school's ballgames in uniform and with county vehicles, on the ground that, well, he's the sheriff and he thinks it's the right thing to do. Forget all the messy paperwork that he's supposed to fill out to approve the uniformed moonlighting, and forget that the use of county cars in such activity is prohibited. It's the right thing to do, and it's cheaper to cut corners on the rules.
Thanks for your email. You might guess there is much more to the story than the "National Enquirer" Oregonian version. I would like to have the opportrunity to speak with you directly about the issues involved. I have taken my 33year law enforcement career very seriously and have served this state honorably and with a commitment to the professional integrity of the agency. That does not mean that strong leadership will not lead to the need to make difficult decisions around that professional responsibility. Also private life decisons of elected officials are ften less contgroversial than those of others the only difference is that they are open to public view.
I have never been accused of violating my oath of office. While I do calim to have a perefect life, I have conducted myself as an unmarried (for the past 18 years) in a reasonable and lawlful manner.
Please call me, I see you are an educator as such you should be open to some honest and open debate on the issue.
Multnomah County Sheriff.
If it were the county librarian doing this, it would be one thing. But it's the county's top law enforcement officer. He's not too far from saying "I am the law." Not a healthy situation.
Oh, you crazy searchers and the Google. Somebody came by here today looking for this.
UPDATE, 7/26/08, 4:41 a.m.: The Pop Up function is no longer working for us. In these days of tabbed browsing, that's not so big a deal, I guess. The thing still plays, and the number of tunes in the jukebox continues to grow.
A while back we cleverly deduced that some mysterious troll comments we were receiving from Glendive, Montana were coming from Emilie Boyles, the disgraced former Portland City Council candidate who took the city's taxpayers for an easy ride in the "voter-owed elections" scam that currently has her chief fundraiser under indictment and publicly bemoaning his sperm count. After a few nasty Boyles-isms flashed through the comments on this blog, we decided to block her IP address from access to this site, and spare her the agitation she was feeling when she stopped by.
We figured that the address she was coming from covered either her home or her workplace, and no one else. Well, we were wrong about that. There aren't that many servers over there, and it appears that we had blacked out a wide swath of territory from access to this blog. A reader we know and trust in Wolf Point, Montana contacted us the other day to tell us she couldn't get through to our site, and when we asked for her IP address, it was the same as the one we figured was Emilie's.
Now, there are a couple of possible explanations for this. But it seems to us the most likely one is that IP addresses over in that part of the world get shared, sort of like the old-fashioned party line telephones. And when somebody's bugging you from 18.104.22.168, it could be somebody in the newsroom at the Glendive television station, or it could be somebody on a farm 100 miles away.
Well, we've unblocked that address, at least for a while. Welcome back, everybody in Glendive, Circle, and the entire Wolf Point metropolitan area -- you know who you are.
Isaac Laquedem has a great suggestion to obviate the need for a new $2.2 billion (and counting) bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver*, Washington**. Why not build 40 aerial trams [rim shot] at a mere $55 million each? He figures that you could get 9,000 cars an hour off the road that way.
As ingenious as it is, this plan seems unlikely to get anywhere with the powers that be in Portland transportation. For one thing, where are the condos? We don't spend money on transportation unless it helps sell condos. Plus, where is the quasi-governmental public-private partnership with a board full of West Hills appointees to run the thing? Don't tell me Tom Imeson's too busy -- I'm not buying it. And I know Chris Smith would be willing to serve.
But wait just one second! Do you think an international design competition might make it too expensive?
I've got a better idea. Have the Oregon taxing authorities run off a list of everybody who lives in Vancouver and works in Portland. Take the $2.2 billion and offer to pay $100,000 each to the first 22,000 of them who'll promise to quit their jobs on the Oregon side of the bridge and stay in Vancouver from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for the rest of their lives.
The program would sell out in a day, it would cut down the dreaded Greenhouse Gases That Are Destroying Life As We Know It®, and it would decrease unemployment among Oregonians by 22,000. We've got to think outside the gondola on this one, people.
* No, not that Vancouver.
** No, not that Washington.
The buyout of Wild Oats markets by Whole Foods means that some of the Wild Oats stores are going to be remodeled and turned into Whole Foods stores, and the rest are going to close. At least, that's what the news reports of the pending acquisition are saying:
Whole Foods Market will be evaluating each banner as well as each store to see how it fits into its overall brand and real estate strategy. Wild Oats Markets has been rationalizing its store base over the last several years to shed underperforming stores, but some additional store closures are expected as well as the relocation of some stores that overlap with stores Whole Foods Market currently has in development. Whole Foods Market expects to make significant investments in remodeling stores before eventually re-branding them as Whole Foods Market stores....I'm afraid this could spell the end for at least a couple of Wild Oats stores in the Portland area. The official Wild Oats website lists six stores in Oregon: Bend, Bridgeport Village, Fremont, Gresham, Hillsdale, and Laurelhurst. The three within the Portland city limits are Fremont, Hillsdale, and Laurelhurst. To my knowledge, there are only two Whole Foods stores presently going around here, one in Bridgeport Village and the other in the Pearl district. It would probably make sense for the chain to get a toehold on the east side of town, but neither the Laurelhurst nor the Fremont location seems ideal from a facilities standpoint. I would think one of those two, or both, has got its head on the block.
Whole Foods says a still-undetermined number of stores will be closed -- many of Wild Oats are in undesirable sites or are smaller than a typical Whole Foods -- and cut some jobs as part of the integration process. Whole Foods management is also known for strong operations, and it's expected to be able to squeeze more profitability out of the acquired stores.
I've previously lamented the dwindling number of groceries in our neck of the woods. If the Fremont Wild Oats goes down, it will be a big loss.
Here's a story you'll probably be hearing more about. Just about none of the given facts make any sense at all.
Your 2-year-old drops a big one in her diaper. So, Dad, what do you do? Find a Mickey D's with a changing station in the men's room?
Of course not. You flag down a Tri-Met bus. Ask the driver if you can change the kid's diaper on the bus.
And if the driver won't let you on and starts to pull away, chase the bus, break a window, and get yourself run over.
This is why Tri-Met should not go to Sherwood.
Guess who's still trying to get into the electricity business. It's our old pals at Texas Pacific Group. They're going to be the "green" knight and take over a controversial utility in Texas. They'll make more power and contribute less to global warming, because making this a better planet is what they do.
But hey. It's encouraging to see that the City of Portland was so serious about the benefits of public power that it's gone back to drawing boards and is putting together a well constructed plan to form a people's utility district, with solid financing, skilled management, and... no, wait, that isn't happening.
Back on 9/12/01, we wondered what the attack on our own soil would do to us. It was a test for America, everyone agreed.
And where are the Artist Formerly Known as Clinton, and Barack, and Jackie Edwards on this case? Nowhere, apparently. Too busy raising money.
I apologize to everyone on behalf of my generation. We saw what happened in Vietnam, and we studied "1984," but mostly we partied, and then we decided to get rich and leave taking care of our great nation to other people. And so we got Bush and Cheney. Who show us every day how flimsy it all was.
Just about every Oregonian you meet these days has a relative in New York City.
It's not a beer tax. It's a "malt beverage cost recovery fee."
The City of Portland's new rules designating "prohibited conduct" officially take effect today. Recent amendments to the city code, many of which have been controversial, are now in place on the city's website; you can read them here.
I'm surprised that it's drawn so little attention, but the new code makes it illegal to blow your nose anywhere within the city limits. Here's section 20.12.030 of the city code:
No person shall urinate or defecate in any park except in a convenience station designed for that purpose; or blow, spread, or place any nasal or other bodily discharge; or spit, urinate, or defecate on the floors, walls, partitions, furniture, fittings, or on any portion of any public convenience station or in any place in such station, excepting directly into the particular fixture provided for that purpose; or place any bottle, can, cloth, rag, or metal, wood, or stone substance in any of the plumbing fixtures in any such station.As you can plainly see, the law against "blowing nasal discharge" is not limited to parks, or to any other location, for that matter. Thus, one can only assume that it applies throughout the city.
If you don't like this law, you have the First Amendment right to picket.
Three weeks ago we noticed that Vladimir Golovan, the "brains" behind the Emilie Boyles "voter-owed elections" scam, had had some sort of hearing in Multnomah County Circuit Court, and we wondered why there was no press coverage of it. You don't know what you're talking about, some supposedly knowledgable commenters immediately jumped in to say. It was doubtlessly routine -- not newsworthy.
Well, there was another hearing the following week, and it was remarkable, although the entire local mainstream media appears to have missed it at the time. Nick Budnick of the Trib has an update today.
A couple of different correspondents have alerted me to a startling factoid: Although the city is claiming to be turning the awful white elephant convention center hotel scam over to Metro, and although Metro purports to be still just "studying the financing" for it, there is $3.7 million in the Portland Development Commission 2007-08 budget for the project.
Hey, Mayor Potter! Are we in this, or out of this? And precisely what's the $3.7 million for?
Like me a few weeks ago, some people are pointing out that the Portland Trail Blazers still have a shot at making it into the league playoffs. I recently changed my assessment of that potential to unlikely, but it's still fun to dream about it.
The Blazers are only 2½ games behind the Golden State Warriors, the team currently in the eighth and final playoff slot in the Western Conference. With more than 25 games to go, it's obviously possible for the Blazers to get ahead of Golden State. But the problem is that there are four other teams squished in between Portland and the Warriors. And so not only are the Blazers going to have to do well from here on out, but they're going to have to do better than five other teams.
The situation is such that Blazer fans will need to know whom to root against while they cheer on the Rose City squad (which is totally worthy of it at this point). Here is the complete list of the five teams who would have to go down for Portland to squeeze in -- and how many games ahead of the Blazers they currently sit in the standings:
It would be a monumental achievement to leapfrog over all five of these opponents. But if anybody deserves it, it's Blazer coach Nate McMillan and his scrappy young team, which picked up another hometown product with a pretty good reputation yesterday. The guy gave up a $3-million-plus contract year to come back to Portland -- unheard of in this day of me-first pro athletes.
Check them out, but as I've warned earlier this season, be prepared to get sucked back in. They're that cool.
They've assigned numbers to the ballot measures that will go before Portland's voters in May by referral from the City Council. Hold onto your seats -- I know you've been waiting for these with extreme excitement -- but here they are:
Measure 26-89Numerologists out there, have at it. As its opponents will be quick to point out, 26-91 boils down to 18, which is the same as 666, so that one's definitely out.
Requires City to periodically review Charter.
Updates and clarifies civil service provisions.
Changes form of City Government.
Defines mission, increases oversight of Portland Development Commission.
Fans of the late, great, legendary Portland boom chuck rocker Billy Rancher take note: There's going to be a serious shindig in honor of his 50th birthday, Saturday night at Duff's Garage. Here's what I got today from Billy's good friend Houston:
Catch The Unreal Gods and friends @ Duff's Garage, Saturday February 24th, 9:00 pm.
Duff's is located at 1635 SE 7th Avenue, Portland
The Billy Rancher Golden Jubilee celebrates Billy's 50th B-day.
The night's lineup includes:
9:00 pm - Young Jonny Guitar - Unreal God's guitarist Jonny DuFresne's bluesman alter-ego. Young Jonny Guitar is the Ambassador of the Blues from the Soul of an Alternative Universe. A Juke-joint Hurricane with songs of Love, Loss, Darkness and Redemption. Mellow and Addictive, Supernatural, Bar-room Boogie to make you feel goooooood! (www.myspace.com/youngjonnyguitar).
10:00 pm - The Unreal Gods - "Boom Chuck Rock", "Rocky Road", "Upstroke Down", "Police Told Me", The Gods play Billy's timeless hits that filled the dance floors and ushered Portland into the MTV era. (www.myspace.com/billyrancher).
11:00 pm - The Church of Surf - As moody as a chilly day at Cannon Beach, The Church of Surf opt for a atmospheric, dramatic take on the instrumental sounds of surf and sand. Eugenio's restaurant owner, Eugene Gray and his quartet crank out a twang-n-reverb driven sound backed by Johnny Koonce on drums and visually augmented by the tantric gyrations of The Chakra Surfer dancers.
12:00 am - The All Star Jubilee Jam - In the spirit of "all the music that fits" Young Jonny Guitar will lead a cast of special guests in channeling the spirits of rock-n-roll past, present and future.
Cover: $ 10.00
There'll never be another Billy Rancher, but his spirit is still here and going strong. It never stops a-boomin' or a-chuckin' around.
Portland metropolitan area police released an important bulletin this afternoon, of interest to those currently on the lookout for an armed and dangerous robber. Police alerted the public that this man is not Vancouver blogger Chris Snethen:
Additionally, they point out that this man is not Vancouver blogger Chris Snethen:
No, this is Vancouver blogger Chris Snethen:
We return you now to your regular programming.
Master political puppeteer Mark Wiener and the public employee unions are reportedly lining up against Portland Mayor Tom Potter's proposed change to eliminate the city's commission form of government. And with Opie delivering the Bus kids' no votes, that's pretty much all she wrote. It's checkmate on Grampy. The mayor and the Arlington Club set haven't got a snowball's chance of getting the "strong mayor" proposal passed by the voters.
If somebody gets back to the fine idea of electing City Council members by district, wake me up. Otherwise, I'll leave this one to wonkier among us to debate. Because it's over already.
Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto says he hasn't heard a single negative peep out of anybody in the general public about his recent antics, including his selfless "intervention" with lady friend Lee Doss. And so he argues that everyone must be satisfied with his performance, which, according to this morning's O, has earned him the nicknames "Porno Pants" and "The Teflon Sheriff":
"This sheriff has received not one e-mail, not one phone call, not one comment on the street relative to this situation," he says. "What the public is telling you is that the public is satisfied that my actions in this situation were acceptable."I suspect that many of the sheriff's constituents have failed to convey their thoughts to him because they don't have his e-mail address handy. Here it is:
Just in case the sheriff misplaces your e-mail due to his constant laser-like focus on county business, you might want to send a copy to the reporter who wrote the O story, Arthur Sulzberger. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama struck a blow for sanity this week, co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would stop the new and ludicrous practice of patenting "tax-saving strategies." Based on an expansive reading of some court decisions that were odd to begin with, the Patent Office has decided that someone can claim that they invented a particular way to save taxes, stopping others from using the same method to reduce their own taxes unless the others pay whatever fee the "inventor" demands. It's one of the stupider things that has come out of the federal government in recent years -- and let's face it, that's saying a lot. The sooner it gets relegated to the dustbin of history, the better.
The same bill would crack down on the use by U.S. taxpayers of certain notorious countries as places to hide or shelter income from U.S. taxes. An interesting list of tax rogues:
Ah, Netherlands Antilles. That one's been a lil' stinker for decades. Anyhow, good that Obama and his co-sponsors continue to think about the business of the nation while he continues to test the presidential waters.
No, not really, although I see that Craig over at MTPolitics is doing that again. But I do notice that the chain that binds me to my computer keyboard seems kind of loose this morning. That's unusual. Hmmm, and the sun's out... fresh snow on the mountain...
Excuse me. Could you keep an eye on this blog for me? I've got lots of important things to write about, but I've got to go do something. I'll be right back.
I see that the new, improved Oregon legislature can't even pass a ban on holding a cell phone to one's ear while driving a car. Instead, we're going to get some shinola about a general driving-while-distracted offense -- an unenforceable standard that the resource-strapped police will never use. Ginny Burdick's in charge of that one.
Sometimes you wonder why we even bother having an Oregon legislature (other than to stimulate the economy of Maui, of course).
Add Washington, D.C. to the growing list of cities in that boat. The nation's capital can't make the convention business work -- as the Washington Post plainly states, "Most convention centers lose money or barely break even." But trust Metro -- Portland, Oregon can. All we need is for the taxpayers to build that hotel!
The O supplied some hilarity yesterday with an editorial diatribe about what it considers the sorry state of affairs at the Portland Development Commission. According to the editorial, the fact that employees of the PDC are on the verge of unionizing is a sure sign that the glory days of the urban renewal agency are over, and that it's heading toward the ignominious fate of being just another so-so city bureau.
Several aspects of the newspaper's position are classic. First and foremost, the editors made no effort to conceal their animosity toward organized labor -- a point that was not lost on the local blogosphere's most visible ex-union leaders. Here's the kind of stuff the O came on with:
At first glance, an effort to unionize the city's urban renewal agency looks like yet another blow to a proud city institution, one that is already reeling.Well, there you have it. Formation of a workers' union is a "self-inflicted blow" that "could have been headed off with more astute management." It's something that the mayor and the head of the PDC should try to put a stop to immediately! (No mention of the fact that the law regulates what management can do in this situation -- apparently, that's not worthy of anyone's attention.)
Some other blows have been external. Sadly, this new one appears self-inflicted. The drive to unionize the PDC could have been headed off with more astute management. Some employees report they've been poorly treated, and their complaints have been ignored. Even so, the unionizing effort hands ammunition to external critics, eager to see the PDC's independence compromised.
Unbelievable. Blogging Amanda strongly disagreed:
Yes, a union for PDC! Organizing so that employees who act in the best interests of the public are protected from the whims and politics of upper management. Giving workers job security they currently lack - they don't even get the Civil Service protections that Mayor Potter is proposing to gut in the ballot measure referred to the May ballot. Providing front-line staff a structure and support to give them a voice in the direction of an agency which many Portlanders believe should turn its major focus to financing projects that benefit small businesses and create new home ownership opportunities for current renters in neighborhoods outside the Central City.The Fireman from the Flats wasn't quite so upbeat:
It is truly unfortunate that the editorial board of the Oregonian ignores the excellent work being done by public servants -- such as the men and women that work at the Bureau of Development Services -- in an attempt to make an argument that to unionize the PDC workforce will lead, in their words, “to make the agency (PDC) slower, blander and more bureaucratic, more like every other bureau at City Hall."The good fireman also noted that he and Opie (the other big union man on the City Council) will be introducing a formal resolution tomorrow supporting the union effort. Now, them's fightin' words.
I know that the future of the PDC rests in the good hands of the front line workers that each day make the PDC function, good people I have the privilege of working with often. I also know that their collective voice is not being heard now… a mistake made by the PDC management that will soon be corrected.
Although the O's aspersions on unions are nasty indeed, they are not surprising at all. The life story of that newspaper is full of union-busting -- indeed, if I've got my history right, the O systematically broke all of its own unions during a tumultuous period in the the late 1950s and early 1960s. Much more recently, the O offered its workers premium pay if they would report for duty to serve as "replacement workers" (known to the unions as "scabs") at a struck newspaper in Ohio.
The O's owners these many decades, the Newhouse family, absolutely despise unions -- almost as much as they hate competition. Nonunion monopoly daily newspapers are their pot of gold (or at least they were, until the internet came along and their circulation took a turn for the worse). And as a former member of the Newspaper Guild at a Newhouse newspaper, I can tell you firsthand that the enmity is usually mutual.
O.k., so much for the labor angle. The other funny aspect to yesterday's editorial was the O's whining that a once-proud agency was suddenly about to become mediocre -- apparently, like the rest of city government:
Unionizing the PDC might not be fatal, but it won't enhance the agency's effectiveness. It's likely to make the agency slower, blander and more bureaucratic, more like every other bureau at City Hall. And that's exactly what the Portland Development Commission was never supposed to be.Such drama. Don't scratch your heads too hard, folks. It's entirely clear what happened to the PDC, and you of the big Cipher sat there and watched it happen -- indeed, you encouraged it. Former Mayor Vera Katz, who worshiped the ground that Oregon's one-time political boss, Neil Goldschmidt, walked on, turned the PDC over to Neil's lieutenants. In particular, she appointed Matt Hennessee as board chair and Don Mazziotti as executive director. Between the two of them, they made Bush and Cheney look like smart, nice guys. They dissed the staff and just about every neighborhood in the city as they arrogantly ladled out pork to Goldschmidt's paying clients.
To the extent that the PDC turns into a clone of every other city bureau, Portland in the long run turns into a clone of other cities. We don't know if it's too late to change employees' minds and avert the union drive. But whatever happens now, it's up to Potter and Warner to restore the agency's morale -- and moxie.
Or else, Portlanders will be scratching their heads some day and asking: Whatever happened to that urban renewal agency we once had, the one that was so distinctive, and did so much for our city. Remember?
The list of the bonehead moves that the PDC made during that timeframe is too long for this post, but a couple of highlights will suffice. They built the SoWhat district and the aerial tram [rim shot]. They tried to pull a too-obvious fast one on the Burnside Bridgehead project before everyone saw through it and the new mayor had to blow the whistle on it. They lost the respect of every thinking person who watched them, except the editorial board of the O, who seemed to think that things were just "snazzy." When Mazziotti and crew tried to ram a Burnside Bridge Home Depot down everyone's throat, the O was supportive: "[A] properly designed Home Depot store would surely make an acceptable Central Eastside neighbor." Just before The Don left the PDC, the O opined:
Call me crazy, but I'm starting to think that Britney Spears may be trying to get people to look at her.
John Edwards has a smart and surprisingly detailed universal health care plan.
Hillary Clinton doesn't have one, and is so busy having a conversation with America that it seems unlikely she'll be releasing one until her pollsters tell her what to say.
Barack Obama doesn't have one, and is currently trying to figure out how much weed he is going to have to confess to smoking once his Hawaii high school buddies start talking.
If you'd like to read the Edwards camp's official description of his plan, you can go here.
Word on the street for some time now has been that the Blazers are trying to ship out high-priced modest-achieving center Jamaal Magloire. Perhaps they are getting close to doing so -- if this story is accurate. And if you scroll down in this story, you'll see a report that the Blazers may be working on a three-way trade involving the Lakers and Jason Kidd. The trade deadline is Thursday.
Rumors are circulating that the National Basketball Association is thinking about replacing its annual all-star game with some other type of showcase for its top talent. A high-ranking league official said the pro hoops leadership was disappointed with the play in last night's all-star contest in Las Vegas, which was won by the West All-Stars, 153-132. The game was marred by a record eight technical fouls, all of them for flagrantly playing defense. Indiana Pacers center Jermaine O'Neal and Phoenix Suns big man Amare Stoudamire were both ejected after each of them blocked his second shot of the night.
"The commissioner is pretty upset," said one source close to the league office. "There's really no room for that kind of behavior in an all-star game. Amare was also committing fouls, which means he got close enough to other players to make contact. That's not what this event is supposed to be about."
In one of the more meaningful features of the weekend, hoops legend Charles Barkley outran current referee Dick Bavetta in a foot race. At halftime, Barkley also won a bet that his breasts were larger than those of Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale.
I love it when the public policy battles turn from wonky to fonky. Now it seems that the Salem showdown over predatory towing by private tow truck companies is developing a downright personal side.
In case you haven't been following this closely (e.g., because you have a life), some of the tow operators in Portland (and perhaps they're this bad elsewhere in the Beaver State) give predatory species everywhere a bad name. Their ruthless and unprofessional behavior is legendary -- so much so that the city even went after them with a "bill of rights" a while back. It stopped some of the gouging and forced the shadier operators to start accepting credit cards as well as cash.
Lately my state senator, Avel Gordly, has been on the tow companies' case, big time. E-mail alerts, hearings, circulating horror stories, the whole bit. Beating the drum loudly on this issue has been the top member of Gordly's staff, Sean Cruz, who has his own blog, Blogolitical Sean. Some samples of his postings on the subject are here and here.
At first I thought Cruz was just doing his job, helping a cause that his boss has espoused, but in a new post that went up late last night, Cruz reveals that he has a bit of a personal stake in the issue. The latest screed goes past bold type -- it ventures into large fonts and all-caps, figuratively screaming about some of the horror stories told by folks who've had their cars towed from apartments, in Northeast Portland's Cully neighborhood, that are owned by an outfit called Hacienda Community Development. Including Cruz's own:
Over the past two years since Hacienda's tow company trespassed on my property, stole my van and broke the transmission, since Hacienda's Board Chair Bertha Ferran and her sidekick Tonya Wolfersperger stonewalled me over the damage, I thought it was personal.All right, now it's getting downright interesting. Is he talking about the Bertha Ferrán, Mayor Tom Potter's first appointment to the board of the Portland Development Commission? How many Bertha Ferráns can there be in Portland?
But now I see that these two treat everybody that way, too.
Did I mention how Bertha Ferran told me to either call the police or wait until two days until Monday regarding Retriever's theft of my vehicle, and that about three hours of that officer's time was paid for by your tax money?
While the political and personal interplay is surely entertaining, I'm having some trouble seeing what Cruz thinks he's proving with his current post. As I understand it, the "predatory" practice that the state is thinking about abolishing is tow truck operators trolling for violations, without first getting a call about a specific violator from a trespassed property's owner. If that's the evil that's going to be remedied, it isn't going to stop a property management company from siccing the tow truck pitbulls on every single technical violator it finds. If Hacienda is overly mean about its parking spaces, I suspect that the current movement afoot in Salem won't stop it from dropping a dime on Cruz, or anyone else, again in the future.
Scottie Pippen, the former Michael Jordan sidekick who also starred for the Portland Trail Blazers the last time they were any good, made a few small-font headlines this week. He suggested that he should return to pro basketball now, as a player and a coach, and help an ambitious team take its playoff run all the way to a championship.
Pippen, now 41 years old and living in Fort Lauderdale, was not playing hard at the end of his time in Portland. And he wasn't exactly a major positive factor on the bench or in the locker room, openly warring with then-coach Mike Dunleavy. Pippen obviously thought he would make a better coach.
Will anything come of this? I doubt it. He'll be hurt within a couple of weeks of trying to get serious. Kobe Bryant reportedly says he wants him on the Lakers. If it happened, I think Bryant would be sorry he said that.
The real reason for this silly talk is probably this. Believe it or not, old Scottie may need the money.
It was brief, but it was good. Aaron B. Hockley says he is pulling the plug on his blog The Portland Feed, which in its short life was the first to report on Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "$34" courtside Blazer tickets. All's not lost, however: Hockley will continue his contributions to Metroblogging Portland, and I think his site Another Blogger is still going.
Come to think of it, one blog and change is probably enough for any one person to try to maintain.
There was an interesting obituary in yesterday's New York Times about Ray Evans, a songwriter whose music and lyrics made a big splash in the '40s and '50s. Evans was partners with a fellow named Jay Livingston, and together they had a string of hits in Hollywood. Can you imagine the pride those guys must have had in writing this? Or this? Or this?
But to me, here are two of their greatest works:
The L.A. Times obit, which is a bit more extensive, is here.
It was supposed to be mid-to-late winter on Saturday, but here in Portland, it was like April. We managed to get in both a day of brilliant spring skiing (they could use some new snow on Hood) and a few chores around the yard. The azalea food said to apply it in late February to mid-March, but hey, winter's over, and so we went for the gusto.
It made it to 60 degrees today in Portland. That's the same high temperature that they had in Orlando. To readers still trapped in this week's midwestern and eastern deep freeze, our condolences -- hang in there.
Do you know who's responsible for America's miserable failure in Iraq? Why, of course -- it's anyone who suggests that maybe we ought to cut our losses and start getting out of there. The defeatists -- it's all their fault!
If we'd just support the Chimp and "stay the course plus," we could achieve our goals.
And any day now, we'll tell you what those are.
Forget what the majority of the country wants. Follow our battle-tested genius of a commander-in-chief. Anything else is treason. Victory in Iraq! And let's take on Iran next! Vote for more of this in '08!
What a sick joke.
Dear Lord, I know we don't deserve it, but please let this country and the world somehow survive for another 23 months, so we can then begin the 50-year process of trying to correct what has been done by these awful people.
Tolerance and fairness are important parts of their creed.
UPDATE, 8:35 p.m.: I take it back. These folks aren't what you'd call "progressive" -- whatever that means. I'm assuming it's the new word for "liberal," which Rush Limbaugh turned into a cuss word. The Starbucks vandals are more "radicals." But our city's "progressive" leadership does seem content to let them off easy.
It was bound to happen. Stung by the slumping condo market, Portland developer Homer Williams and his partner in crime, Dike Dame, are planning a press conference Monday to announce that they're going to start building single-family homes as well as condo towers. Apparently they've been working quietly for the past several months to come up with a certifiable "green" design, and it's already been approved by the City of Portland, the PDC, Metro, and the DEQ.
The boys on the City Council will be falling all over each other to see who gets to cut the ribbon on the first of these homes. Some will be "affordable" at a mere $199,995. To keep the project under wraps, Williams & Dame has been building a prototype in Skamania County. It's expected that the media will be bused out to take a look at it on Monday. But as usual, you read it here first.
If you're feeling wonky on a Friday afternoon, check this puppy out. It's a phone survey done by some folks at Portland State University on how residents of our region think things are going. Since it comes from the PSU "urban planning" school, you need a grain of salt with this, but it's interesting nonetheless.
If that's just too dreadfully sociological for you, at least scroll all the way down to Appendix C, where you get great stuff like "R was very distracted at the beginning, someone nearby was playing a woodwind instrument loudly."
This just in from the head of the Portland Development Commission. See if you can read between the lines:
I met with PDC's Economic Development staff yesterday afternoon to share the following updates regarding our recruitment for a permanent Economic Development Director and wanted to share this information with you, as well.
Our search for a permanent department director continues - the position is open until filled. The Economic Development Director is a critical position for our agency and we have set a very high bar for the right person to take on this challenging and exciting role. We will continue to interview top-quality candidates to find the best fit.
I have asked Tricia Ryan, Senior Economic Development Manager, to serve as the Interim Economic Development Director, effective Monday, February 19. Tricia has my full support and that of the entire department. Please give Tricia your support, as well.
Please join me in expressing thanks and admiration for Andy Wilch, who agreed more than a year ago to serve as Economic Development's Interim Director, while still maintaining his Housing Director responsibilities. This has been an incredible workload for Andy and he has managed it with skill and aplomb. Andy brought honesty, clarity, diligence and energy to the interim position, earning the trust and confidence of the entire Economic Development Department. He has provided strategic leadership during a time of transition and uncertainty. Andy's realistic vision of how the economic development effort could be more effectively integrated into the City's broader development agenda has served the Commission well, as has his excellent insight into the resource development challenges. He took the time to listen, to learn, to lighten the moment on occasion, and to lead with a legacy of high standards, teamwork and a commitment to the agency and the city we serve. He has my heartfelt appreciation and support as he returns to managing the Housing Department full time. Housing is involved in developing and implementing some new programs and new resources. I need to have Andy lead Housing's efforts during this critical and exciting time.
Also during this past year, the Economic Development Managers and staff have stepped up, taking on additional commitments and workload demands and have done so capably and with excellence. I offer each of you my sincere thanks and appreciation.
As we work through these changes, I will continue to keep you informed.
More and more people are catching on to what a wonderful place it is to live.
Old Town blogger Larry Norton is beginning to see the light.
They've put a stop to field burning in Idaho, at least for now. With the stinky practice already outlawed in Washington State, that leaves Oregon as the field-burning-est spot in the Pacific Northwest.
The Idaho grass farmers say they'll be forced to sell to developers rather than adopt alternative practices to burning. What a bunch of sweethearts.
A federal judge in New York City has ruled that police there violated people's civil rights by videotaping various public gatherings, including Critical Mass rides, without following guidelines. The guidelines were pretty lax to begin with, however, and it is likely that many such tapings would be legal if law enforcement would jump through procedural hoops set up by the court. The full story in the Times is here.
One of the sponsors of an Oregon bill that would require employers to give moms breast-feeding breaks says that the new law "will have teeth -- absolutely."
[T]he tram / South Waterfront / North Macadam development (not to mention the Pearl, which seems to have become a verb, as in "to Pearlize") was a total waste of money.
Here's what happens when Oregon legislators blatantly violate the ethics laws: They're fined a big $150, which they can pay out of campaign funds.
A reader sends along this helpful advice for those who are on the road a lot in public transportation:
If you are sitting next to someone who irritates you on a plane, train or bus...
1. Quietly and calmly open up your laptop case.
2. Remove your laptop.
3. Boot it.
4. Make sure the guy who won't leave you alone can see the screen.
5. Close your eyes and tilt your head up to the sky.
6. Then hit this link: http://www.thecleverest.com/countdown.swf
Ryan Frank of the O reports this morning that the Portland Development Commission's rank-and-file employees are about to vote on becoming unionized. The agency's top brass don't exactly sound thrilled at the prospect.
When I was at the Trail Blazer game last week, I asked two of the guys pouring beer what they thought of the prospect of team owner Paul Allen buying back the Rose Garden arena, which he had previously abandoned to the people who hold the mortgage on the building. They both gave it a thumbs-down.
"You mean the guy who put us into bankruptcy?" asked the one. "We're not supposed to talk about him," said the other. "We're not even supposed to look at him."
Did you ever notice that the women who sit next to Allen at the games never look at him, either? Much less speak with him. What a socially maladjusted guy, with a business acumen to match.
Anyway, nervous nellies here in Portland have been noting for a while that the Seattle NBA team, the Sonics, is now owned by Oklahoma investors. And since the team that's currently thriving in Oklahoma City is destined to return to its home in New Orleans at some point, these Blazer fans worry that the Sonics will get moved to Oklahoma, and then Allen will jerk the Blazers out of Portland and ship them to his home turf, Seattle.
Part of the angst has revolved around the facts that the Sonics want out of the old facility in which they're currently playing -- the Key Arena -- and that the voters of Seattle don't seem interested in paying for either a rehab of that arena or a new building for pro basketball.
Which brings us to today's news. It's sort of like a mid-week episode on a soap opera: Some people are taking off some clothes, but not a whole lot is happening in terms of plot advancement. Up in Seattle, it was announced today that the Sonics management has "selected" a site for a new half-billion-dollar hoops palace in Renton -- favoring that locality over Bellevue.
If the new arena really does get built, the Sonics will stay in the Seattle area, and the Blazers are that much more likely to remain here in Portland. But there's still no solid plan for financing the Sonics coliseum, and so we're still a long way from saying that the Blazers couldn't possibly hit the road.
Sure, if Allen buys the Rose Garden back (still officially an "if" at this point), it would also help keep the Blazers here. But the guy was crazy enough to own the team without the arena -- you can't tell me he isn't nuts enough to own the arena without an NBA team in it, at least temporarily. He's done much, much screwier things than that.
I don't get downtown for lunch much, but today I had a nice, late one at a relatively new joint called West Cafe over at SW 12th and Jefferson. I think this used to be the location of the restaurant attached to the chef school. For you dirty old guys out there, it's across from the Jefferson Theater and the old Jazz Quarry.
Anyway, lunch was delicious, satisfying, and not too heavy. Great room, great help. What more could you ask for?
Actually, reasonably priced parking would have been nice. To park for an hour and a half at a meter on the street set me back two bucks. Gotta pay for that aerial tram, the streetcars, and all the other Homer Williams condo marketing toys.
My lunch companion told me there are still penny parking meters in operation in Silverton. As Howard Tate sings so eloquently, Get it while you can.
I've got an important professional project in the works that may consume much of my time over the next two months.
It's Uncle Homer and another condo bunker. Scroll all the way down to the very bottom of this baby. He's going for 131 condo units at 2139 SE Belmont. Better hurry down and say goodbye to the look and feel of that area; construction's scheduled to start any time now.
Wait 'til the condo dwellers catch on that there's a lovely methadone clinic a few blocks away. Should make for some interesting chit-chat up on the eco-roof.
There's an interesting little tax-related flap in progress over in Big Sky country, where a prominent state senator wants to make public some basic information about taxes paid by various out-of-state corporations. A bill that would do just that narrowly passed Montana's Senate Taxation Committee on Friday.
Sen. Jim Elliott (D), chair of the Senate Taxation Committee, has been trying for years to gain access to corporate tax return information. This past fall, the Montana Supreme Court ruled against his lawsuit claiming such information was protected under state law. Elliott's new bill would amend state law to make public certain tax return information of publicly held corporations -- name, tax liability, income allocation amounts, and the property, payroll, and sales factors that determine how much of a company's worldwide income gets taxed in Montana.
That would make for one interesting read, wouldn't it? Any chance of an Oregon bill along the same lines getting anywhere in our blue, blue state house?
Here's a fascinating story of how law enforcement can improve greatly when data reported to the government must be submitted in an interactive format. The campaign contribution and expenditure reports that our state and local politicians file would benefit greatly from such a system.
The O comes out against the Burnside-Couch couplet today, in an editorial that probably emanated from the word processor of the troubled daily's resident authority, Randy Gragg. I agree with their position -- I've been stating it here, literally for years -- but I couldn't help but laugh when I read this gem:
Burnside is the city's prime meridian, the east-west axis that divides the city, north from south.When you call in to stop your subscription to go on vacation, the O always asks whether you want to donate the forgone papers to the schools. I propose that subscribers agree to do so only if the paper's editors trade the papers for a fourth-grade geography textbook, and promise to go ahead and open it.
Portland's emergency management chief is leaving town in a hurry after less than a year on the job, and nobody's saying why. But we can have fun guessing if we want. My best shot: a high-security-clearance federal job.
FWIW, it appears that he originally moved out here to be closer to his wife's family. Sounds like he'll be missed.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A reader writes with a question about the Pill Hill Aerial Rapid Transit system:
As I was driving to church this morning, one tram car was stopped over I-5, the other almost at the top of the hill. When I returned 2 hours later, it still appeared to be in the same place. I can't get anything coming up on Google about it. Do any of your sources have anything to say about it?Of course, this wonderful piece of "public" transportation doesn't run on Sunday, and so perhaps it was some kind of maintenance or test. Anyone?
I'm not sure they got all their facts straight. Did you know the official city slogan is now "It's Not Easy Being Green"? Me neither. But hey, we're "sustainable"! Beats the opposite.
Today was the day for a long overdue family ski trip on Mount Hood. I've cruised around on the boards a few times in recent years, including around the neighborhood, but not on Hood in more than a decade -- probably closer to two decades.
It was an easy trip. The grownups were reunited with the west slopes of our gorgeous and powerful mountain, and the kids got to see and do some things that were completely new to them. My beautiful bride orchestrated the whole thing.
So now, the Advil. And prayer, fervent prayer -- but not on my knees, because if I went there, I might not be able to get up until spring break.
The Blazer coach has some great stuff going on.
No red states, no blue states -- just purple, my paisley children!
He's just another DUII.
People have been wondering why the O took so long to write about Portland Mayor Tom Potter's Blazer-gate ticket caper. The mayor filed his silly amended ethics report on Tuesday afternoon (claiming a $34 value for courtside NBA seats), but the O didn't get around to writing about it until Thursday morning. Why the delay?
Maybe it's because the O editorial board doesn't think the mayor's free tickets should count as a gift at all for government ethics purposes.
The O is so funny. When they send Les Zaitz out to count the pickles and beers that some poor bureaucrat had at a dinner that he or she billed to a city credit card, they get nitpickier than my old fourth grade teacher, Sister Edna. But if they decide that you're above the law, then hey, no prob.
I love the latest bit about how Potter didn't enjoy the game. The O could tell from his body language. Uh huh. He didn't inhale, either. I can hear the weasels in Salem now: "I hated Maui." "Me, too. Way too hot." "I'm allergic to pineapple." Kind of like, "Goldschmidt had an affair with a 14-year-old, but they didn't have a lot in common and it got old for him after a while."
Oh, and the mayor should be off the hook because sitting in the front row of a Blazer game was part of his "ceremonial duties." What a load. His duty (if any) was to walk in, shake hands with Paul Allen (if allowed to look at or touch DOS Boy -- doubtful), say something to the crowd if asked to, and go home. If he stayed beyond that, the tickets are a reportable gift. What next -- ceremonial banquets at Bluehour?
The O is inviting the rest of us to join it on its own well known, weird little slippery slope. No thanks.
My contemporaries will duly note that our much beloved, one-time brash rocker Billy Joel has now entered his middle-age-Sinatra period.
There's no question, bloggers are the new rappers. They're here to stay, and the traditional rulebook doesn't know what to do with them yet.
A reader writes in from southeast Portland:
You noted that they waited for the work in the heart of Hawthorne till after the holidays, but they've started too many blocks at once so sites just sit there torn up with nobody working. It goes on week after week and the local business people are hurting. I sat in a nearly empty restaurant today and watched how little was happening at the site across the street. Business is way down and the city planners are in no hurry to wrap it up. I've talked to the guy at Showcase Music about how p.o.-ed he was with city government on other matters. Today I saw him trying to get in his front door, and you practically need a pole vault to make it. It's annoying watching hard-working business people getting dinged because the city couldn't take a block-by-block, rapid approach that didn't stay too long in any one spot. It's almost like they don't give a [expletive deleted].Reminiscent of the transit mall rip-out. In order to help something, the city seems to feel the need to beat it to within an inch of its life first.
It's hard not to be saddened by the impending closure of the Adidas retail store on MLK Boulevard in Portland. It was spendy and a bit out of place, but like the nearby Nike outlet store, it was a symbol of confidence and pride in the neighborhood, setting the place a little higher on the global mercantile ladder.
That area will continue to make strides, of course, even without Adidas. But I'm baffled by a comment attributed earlier this week to Willie Brown, the interim executive director of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods:
Whoever moves in, Brown said, should be prepared to work closely with the community.Now, Brown is no Joe Biden, but I suspect that isn't what he really meant to say. Is it?
"If you're coming," he said, "you're going to be a part of it, or we'll make sure you don't come."
Inspired by a typo in a blog comment:
While Metro gets ready to push the area's taxpayers head first into the fiscal cesspool that is a headquarters hotel, coincidentally I had a speaking engagement at the Oregon Convention Center last evening. The place was a ghost town, as usual. Aside from the small group that I was addressing, there appeared to be only one event in the whole place -- some sort of manufactured event surrounding which high school athletes had "signed up" with one of the state universities in these parts. Not exactly a big show.
My evening made clear to me that the convention center's problems go well beyond the lack of a hotel across the street. In chronological order, here's what I found:
1. Six bucks to park in the garage, which was 99 percent empty. O.k., that was no surprise, but not a happy thing. With the vicious parking meter situation in that part of town, leaving the car on the street is no longer an option.
2. Ten minutes before my session was scheduled to start, the meeting room was still locked, and my crowd was sitting on the floor outside. The sponsor had to go flag down a security guard to open the room. This is a sponsor who's been in that facility every weeknight since the first of the year, and they still have to fight to get the doors open for their regular meeting.
3. At the speaker's podium, I found a mike that wouldn't reach high enough to be of much use if you were taller than five feet; it was on a stand that was too short to get the mike up to where it belonged. And there was an unspeakably cheesy podium light that (a) wasn't plugged in, (b) when plugged in, worked only if you jiggled both of the tacky little bulbs in it, (c) didn't light the place where a speaker would put his or her notes anyway, and (d) suddenly quit working when the power cord was moved out from under my feet. By far the worst podium light I have encountered in more than 20 years of public speaking. You could do better at the Dollar Store.
4. The room in which we sat had no ventilation -- it got progressively more oppressive as the four-hour session wore on. No windows, of course -- just awful, blank, institutional walls. By the end of the night, people were fanning themselves with their notes, and no doubt cursing their fates.
5. On the way out, the portal through which I had entered the parking garage was sealed off with locked gates, and there were exactly zero signs giving exiting cars a clue as to where they could find a way out.
6. Finally, I found an unlocked gate downstairs and got out of the place, but not before encountering a ticket machine that wouldn't read my parking ticket. I had to run the ticket through it three times to get it to work.
All this hassle is quite consistent with a few of my previous experiences at this facility. The building's not well built, and the service is second-rate. Even if we need a publicly owned hotel over there, let's implode the infernal convention center and put a nice park in its place.
But this time, it's not so good.
Portland police have issued a watch for this fugitive, who they believe is likely to turn up in the Pearl or SoWhat districts.
I'm surprised this hasn't happened yet on the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot].
As Metro decides to get the taxpayers of the region into the hotel business (the crucial vote is tomorrow, but the convention center hotel scam looks like a done deal), here's a document -- presented in vain in Baltimore a couple of years ago -- that helps to show why it's a bad bet. It explains that to attract big conventions, the hotel has to offer really cheap rooms, even though it must be a full-service hotel that costs a fortune to run. And if the room rates are too low, you can't pay the debt service on the construction bonds.
If that's a problem for Baltimore -- an east coast city that's relatively easy for everyone east of Denver to get to -- imagine what it will take to get big groups to fly all day way the heck out to Portland. There's no way that hotel will bring in convention business and also break even.
Publicly financed hotels in Omaha, Houston, Overland Park (Kansas), and St. Louis are all bombing. In St. Louis, the performance of the convention center hotel (operated by Marriott) has been so bad that the bonds issued to build it have been under "consultants review." Here's the report on that fiasco. It ain't pretty.
PGE Park, the aerial tram [rim shot] -- they pale in comparison to this one. This one is bigger and dumber than any that has gone before.
So there I am, leaving the Rose Garden after the Blazer game. Tuesday night, 10 o'clock. As usual after a well attended, close game, there's a lot of traffic around the arena.
When what to my wondering eyes does appear -- but a City of Portland streetsweeping truck!
Folks, this is the city that can't afford a snow plow. This is the city where the police stations close at 6 o'clock because there isn't enough money to keep them open at night or on weekends. The city that can't pave streets 40 blocks from the center of town. The city that can't fix a pothole.
But there it is, at 10 o'clock on a clear, calm Tuesday night -- a Portland streetsweeper truck. Sitting in traffic, the driver no doubt racking up premium pay for working at night.
God bless our municipal government.
The worst losses are the games that you had in the palm of your hand, and let slip away. That was the story for the Blazers Tuesday night, as they fell to the Phoenix Suns in overtime. The Suns played without MVP Steve Nash, whose old shoulder injury is suddenly acting up, and so it was an even matchup with the Portland squad. The Blazers dug themselves a hole early, brought it back to a close game throughout the second half, tied it up at the end, but just could not quite get over the hump. A healthy-size crowd at the Rose Garden was thrilled, but in the end disappointed.
Blazer forward Travis Outlaw had a fairly wide-open layup with the score tied and around three seconds to go in regulation time, and he flat-out missed it. That was pretty much the story for the Blazers as they battled the high-flying, high-scoring Suns. The Suns don't play much defense, and the smaller Blazers (especially Jarrett Jack) seemed able to get to the hole with relative ease, but when they got down there, they met Amare Stoudamire and Shawn Marion, two big, athletic guys who don't fool around. It was no wonder that Outlaw was hearing footsteps when he went in for that crucial layup.
Another guy who was hearing things out there tonight was rookie tall guy LaMarcus Aldridge, who was a real liability. As much as I love him, the bigger, more experienced Suns ate him up. The kid needs 15 pounds and some NBA smarts. It may be a while.
On the bright side, Zach Randolph (33 points, 10 rebounds) is an unstoppable force of nature this year. No one in the league knows what to do with him, and the Suns had nothing new to offer. This is an enormously talented basketball player, and he's working his tail off on the floor. If we can keep him out of jail, we need to learn how to love him.
Rookie sensation Brandon Roy (27 points) also had a fine night. At times it seemed that the best thing for the Portland squad to do was to give him the ball and get out of his and Zach's way. Four years in the Pac-10 was time extremely well spent for Roy, and he deserves the accolades he's getting.
Ime Udoka was also solid, and Jamaal Magloire contributed, albeit modestly, on the positive side. The big Blazer letdowns of the night were the absence of Sergio Rodriguez, who's still got a banged-up ankle, and the subdued presence of Joel Przybilla, who in less than seven minutes on the floor contributed nothing and seems like the odd man out. Martell Webster got a lot of minutes but didn't do too much with them. He landed a gorgeous three-pointer just a fraction of a second after the third quarter ended. If he had gotten the shot off before the buzzer, the Blazers most likely would be celebrating right now.
Phoenix is a good team even without Nash. Backup point guard Leandro Barbosa (25 points, 7 assists) killed the Blazers by raining down three-pointers in the second half and the overtime. Stoudamire scored 36 and snagged 9 boards. Marion scored only 12, but he had 13 rebounds and 5 steals -- his usual one-man-fantasy-league-team self. Raja Bell scored 15. About the only player in purple whom the Blazers didn't allow to get going was Boris Diaw, who ultimately fouled out with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists -- not a bad night by a lot of guys' standards, but perhaps a little flat for him.
After my last visit to the Rose Garden, I was talking playoffs. Now, following three close losses in a row for the Blazers, two in overtime and one by 2 points, I'm ready to concede that that is not going to happen this year. But what kind of year will it wind up being? The team that was on the floor tonight can win lots of games in the NBA. They have a lot of heart, and they are playing with enormous discipline under Nate McMillan. I think they'll play hard this season, right down to the end. I plan to see them do so at least one more time.
And now, on with the out-of-focus pictures. I was at the game on my own dime for the first time in I can't tell you how long -- well over two years -- and the riffraff tickets my buddies and I got were not the greatest. But they weren't terrible seats, either -- certainly not as terrible as the Original Digital Camera that I always bring with me. The thing is so clunky that tonight one of the ushers actually hassled me, thinking it was a videocam. "It only takes still pictures," I assured her. Then I showed her the thing in action -- press the shutter button, wait a full two seconds, bad flash, see blurry picture -- and she backed off, knowing that there was no danger of my pirating any images of the Blazers that anyone would pay for. "I don't blame her for asking," I confided to one of my mates. "You could probably broadcast the whole game to Japan on a cell phone nowadays." "You're right," he replied, "and it would take a lot better pictures than your camera." After a while, we concluded that there were in fact two problems contributing to lack of photo quality: first, the camera was too old; and second, I was too old, causing the camera to jiggle too much while firing.
It may have been the beers and the Blazer dog, but here are a few of the anemic shots I took. Any action photos were hopeless blurs, like this one:
If it's going to be that bad, might as well go with a garage-sale-artsy mess:
Sadly, it's Grampy.
The temporary bus stops that have been set up for the rip-out of Portland's transit mall are pretty bare-bones affairs. They certainly don't replicate the feel of the grand old kiosks that have been torn out of the mall and unceremoniously scrapped.
A transit-oriented reader sends along an interesting idea to help make the weary passengers' time at the temporary stops go by a little quicker. And Randy Gragg types, take note: It's already working in Europe.
Hundreds of Oregon lawyers (including yours truly) have signed a letter to the state's congressional delegation, urging our representatives in Washington to restore the writ of habeas corpus to prisoners in our country's prison camp in Guantánamo, Cuba. I still can't believe that we even have such a facility, much less one that deprives people of their liberty for years without a meaningful hearing.
The full text of the letter (pdf), dated today, is here.
Well, Portland's Movable Scam -- the convention center hotel -- is about to get back on track. Metro -- one of the region's cornucopias of unsupervised public money -- is going to vote on Thursday to go through with building the thing. The new plan is ultimately to stick the taxpayers with both the bill and the risk by building the 600-room hotel and having it wholly public-owned. And although the City of Portland has backed off taking the lead, there's still apparently going to be a lovely "partnership" on this one between the Portland Development Commission and Metro. Sounds trammily familiar.
But wait, it gets better. Just to show you how the Old Boy Network works, the most recent development is the proposed request to the state for $40 million in Lottery dollars for the program! Wow. Talk about moving the scam. David Bragdon, Dale Penn, Hank Ashforth -- you might as well call in Neil Goldschmidt himself to chair the meeting.
And what? No Tri-Met tax dollars? Get Bernie on the phone.
I've blogged about this boondoggle before on several occasions. Portland's convention center is a flop, and always will be, regardless of how much hotel you build in the neighborhood. Expanding the convention center against the clearly expressed wishes of the voters was a gigantic Vera Katz-Erik Sten-Sam Adams fiasco. A taxpayer-built hotel will be another major fiscal disaster. Ask the people in Omaha, Nebraska, where the exact same scenario has saddled the city with a losing hotel.
But somebody promised this to Ashforth a long time ago, and in the network, promises made at the Arlington Club must be kept at all costs.
The prospect of annual sessions of the Oregon Legislature is becoming very real. Apparently they're thinking of calling a "special" session in even-numbered years, as a "regular" thing. Sure, it violates the state constitution, but it's like Measure 37 -- they'll work around it.
I hope that they will hold all the even-year sessions in Lahaina, Maui. They sure seem to get a whole lot more done over there than they ever do in Salem. The latest in-depth, down-to-the-last-pickle update on the legislative junkets to that locale (and elsewhere) is available in today's O.
How long did it take the new Democratic majority in the Oregon Legislature to do something dumb and insure that the Republicans will get back at least one house in 2008?
You know what's funny? When the car-hating, streetcar-infatuated planners of the Portland metro area meet up with the gas-guzzling, asphalt-laying planners in the Federal Highway Administration. You probably caught this in the O last week, but recently Portland's regional government Metro was required to submit a transportation plan to the highway agency, and it did.
But the feds were shocked to find that it didn't have any highways in it.
According to the feds, Metro is too focused on "land use, human health, and the environment," and not enough on basic transportation needs, like highways, cars, and parking.
We'd like to welcome the Federal Highway Administration to Portland! This is how things tend to go these days -- we're laying off road crews and hiring aerial tram concierges -- but you're wrong about our focus.
Think condos. Thousands and thousands and thousands of condos.
Last July I posted a couple of entries here about (among other things) Mateus, the pink Portuguese wine that we used to guzzle in my Jersey college days when (a) we wanted to look sophisticated, (b) we needed a new candle holder for our man-child bedrooms, or (c) we couldn't stand to look at another beer after poisoning ourselves on brew the night before. Anyway, I hadn't seen the stuff in years, and I had long ago given up the prospect of ever having another chance to taste it.
I had another think coming. Fast forward to this past weekend, when Frank and Anne Dufay, two regular readers and commenters on this blog, had the Mrs. and me over for a little dinner party featuring none other than Mateus itself. Frank had snagged a bottle of the lovely beverage -- a jumbo bottle, I might add -- on a trip back east, and he saved it for me and him to share.
The food and the company were first rate, and when the magic moment came and the Mateus was poured... doggone it, it wasn't bad. Just a tad fizzy, like its Portuguese cousin, vinho verde, and just about the right balance of dry and fruit. The babysitter alarm went off before we had polished off more than around half of that big bottle, but I enjoyed every drop that I drank.
What a great response to something written on a blog. Obrigados, Anne and Frank.
As the Times explained in this interesting article this morning, there will be dozens of kids wearing Bears Super Bowl victory gear in Africa pretty soon.
Big news in the O today: Randy Gragg's now a "columnist," not (just) the resident "architecture critic." And he urges us to "see both sides" of the Burnside-Couch couplet debate, while he spends most of his piece arguing for one of them. Surprise! Bad Randy says we shouldn't do it. His reason, of course, has nothing to do with cost. It's something like "keeping Portland weird."
Apparently, the fight is "the Brewery Blocks condo owners fighting to keep Northwest Couch Street's European pedestrian ambience against the Old Town social-service clients fighting for their safety on Burnside." That's an easy one for the Graggster: Condo owners win.
You'll also be pleased to know that he's now become a crusader against "the sameness racing to suffocate Portland, physically and socially." Uh huh.
A little bird tells us that Vladimir Golovan, the indicted fundraising genius behind former Portland City Council candidate Emilie "Oy" Boyles, had some sort of hearing in Multnomah County Circuit Court yesterday. Check out page 10 of this document.
What was that all about? And why doesn't our local mainstream media seem to know a darn thing about it?
Including his bum-to-hero story at the Virginia Cafe.
Paul Allen has reportedly signed a letter of intent to buy back the Rose Garden arena from the pension funds and other lenders that he flipped the bird to a few years back, declaring bankruptcy for his real estate company and walking away from his existing mortgage. Without the arena, Allen's Trail Blazer basketball team was an unspeakable, horrendous money-loser, as opposed to a simply awful one. With the new deal on the building in place, the Blazers are back on track for a return to sound, eight-digit-a-year losability.
It will be quite interesting to see the terms of the final deal, if one is indeed reached. I hope the lenders (who were, in part, investing my own pension funds) get a good pound of flesh out of the guy. When it comes to business sense, he's strictly Windows 95, and on this particular investment, he's behaved like a true schmo.
I see that former Portland commissioner Margaret Strachan visited her old haunts -- the City Council chambers -- the other day. She was testifying to the backs of the commissioners' laptop screens about what she sees as a breakdown in Portland's gigantic "urban planning" bureaucracy. As best I could tell from reading about it on Amanda Fritz's blog, Strachan was complaining, in part, that there are too many different local agencies doing planning, they're operating at cross-purposes with each other, and the resulting plans are thrown away whenever it's politically expedient.
Strachan's continuing interest in the city planning world is mildly amusing. As has been written about here before, her husband is a regular beneficiary of planning pork. When there's a stinker of an idea about to be imposed on some unsuspecting neighborhood or another, he often appears as the paid emcee of the "public involvement" show. The latest one of these that crossed our desk is the plan to turn the city's parks bureau into an independent, quasi-accountable authority. Sort of like the Portland Development Commission. Wonderful.
But I digress. Strachan's complaint about too much and too discordant planning does ring true. Back in the day when she was in office, planning was simple: Neil Goldschmidt told everybody what was supposed to happen, and they hopped to it. Now that he's no longer available to serve as the Richard Daley of Portland, there's actually some room for honest differences of opinion on land use matters. And it gets messy. That's just a byproduct of it being made more honest, which I actually applaud.
But I share her frustration with the "planning" juggernaut for a different reason. There are too many hoops for worthy projects to jump through, while garbage gets approved faster than you can say "charrette." I was talking the other day with a guy who's involved in the plan to re-do the Grant Park bowl and its surroundings to make it a more useful space. Apparently there's a bunch of private money ready to lay some artificial turf, put up some stands and lights, and get more out of the park than ever before -- particularly in the muddy months.
The "planning" for this project has been going on for a couple of years. There are some obvious neighborhood concerns -- traffic, noise, parking, the usual -- and I sympathize with the neighbors who are voicing them. But the process of getting those concerns on the table and aired out, and a go-or-no decision made on the project, seems to be taking an eternity. The latest hurdle is being thrown up by the city planning bureau, which has reportedly changed its earlier position and is now going to demand another year and a half of process, as opposed to a couple of additional months. Even if the park improvements are ultimately approved, it may be years before they're made. And while we "plan" this baby for a third and fourth year, the benefactors who are willing to shell out much of the necessary dough may find other places to be generous. Not to mention the fact that these projects don't get cheaper the longer you wait to start them.
Plan, plan, plan. After the planning bureau is done, there are probably parks planners, and school board planners, and who knows? Maybe even somehow PDC planners will have to be brought in to pick things over. And yet, if this were a Homer Williams condo behemoth or a dozen cell phone antennas across the street from your house, it would be finished by now.
Fireman Randy, aren't you in charge of "planning"? You're a red-tape-cutter kind of guy. What's the deal?
I'm not sure I'm coming at this from the same place as Margaret Strachan -- indeed, I seriously doubt it -- but I tend to agree with her that nobody knows who's on first in Portland "planning" any more.
The wisdom of legendary Oregon leader Tom McCall is confirmed almost daily, but it's about to get a big boost in credibility three weeks from tomorrow night. That's when Randy Gragg, "architecture critic" at the Oregonian, gives a lecture suggesting that McCall's vision was... well, not as brilliant as Homer Williams's. All that '70s stuff is worthless nostalgia; apparently the 1930s were the golden age of Portland, and it's time to get back to that world view.
Anyway, more information about this supremely silly event is here.
The full moon is here, lending some additional visual drama to the crystal clear and crisp weather Portland has been experiencing. Winter's wimping out already, and there's a glimmer of daylight left at 6 p.m.
Next month, there'll be a total lunar eclipse; alas, it looks as though we won't get to see much, or any, of it in these parts. With any luck, however, we will be on the planet as it casts its shadow on its satellite for interested viewers in Africa.
In June, we'll get a blue moon -- two fulls within the same calendar month. It will have been nearly three years since the last one of those.
Somehow I don't think this is going to work.
Governor Ted had to kick Neil off the state higher ed board, of course. But now word has reached us that he's appointing the next best guy: the Scone himself. Jim Bob did such a great job of sneaking in that sale of part of Mount Tabor Park to a private college -- who knows what wonders he will work running the state's public universities?
Today the O website credits us for providing that publication a "tip" on the story of the Portland export guy who's accused of running Hawk missile parts to Iran. We appreciate the credit, but are a little taken aback that they needed to hear about it from us. The story was on KGW's site first, and a number of other media outlets had it up as well, one as early as late Tuesday night our time.
It's been kind of a slow news week -- a good time to sit back and reflect on the more important things in life.
More comedy from the Bernie Files.
UPDATE, 10:45 a.m.: A reader e-mails us with this, which he sent to the O reporter:
Hundreds of phone calls? Any from a county-paid cell phone of Bernie's? Did you ask, or is this another Oregonian white wash of a local pol?