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Friday, February 9, 2007

Missed call

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.

Comments (19)

Potter had to be at that Nov. 4 game...a show of city support for the Blazers was important at a critical moment when the team's future in this town was very much in doubt.

Right. The Blazers are stuck in Portland and chained to the Rose Garden. Their future was never in any doubt.

If the mayor is truly interested in showing support for a team that may leave, may I suggest he show up opening night at PGE Park? The city has much more on the line with that deal than they do with the Blazers.

As a professional comedy writer, I'm tickled by several aspects of this. First, I imagine a group of upwardly-mobile, young Portlanders trying to decide what to do on a Friday night: "We could go to a Blazer game. They're really hot right now. I even heard Tom Potter was there last week." "No!" "Oh yeah. He tried to play it cool by yawning every few minutes, but when he walked in there, the place just went nuts. It was electric." "Grab your coats. We've got to go." Second, I love the guy from the Mayor's office saying that a Blazer executive had told him the court-side seats were worthless. How did the Mayor's spokesman describe the seats right up by the action? "In the mind of the Blazers, they have no value." Wait, let me get this straight: The mayor's office is trying to help? Next we have the Oregonian chiming in with their own phrase that didn't quite sound right: "We should have some credibility on the subject..." Hey, I think that would be nice, too. Finally, we have the blog world turning everybody's crank. Jack, I love the phrase, "Blazer-gate ticket caper", but it's maybe just a touch over the top. Finally, we have the Mayor of a city where downtown blocks get assessed for minus numbers, turning in the $34 dollar figure. That should be the new ratio: For every 1,000 bucks a citizen is asked to pay for some fat-cat project like the tram or South Waterfront, I'd recommend just sending a check for 34 bucks. Let's see what happens.

Like walking the dog, there's something fresh from The O every day. Yesterday's front page splash about plastic bottles was pure hypocrisy, ignorant of any newsprint paper-stream waste issue. It is parodied here, at "Not The Oregonian - The Oregonion."


"The Oregonian ... claim(s) their newspapers already include recycled paper content based on the number of stories that are routinely written from a "template", rather than having been newly composed and fact-checked."

From the O
"Spectators who saw Mayor Tom Potter at the one and only Portland Trail Blazers game he has attended this year were struck by how exquisitely bored the man looked.

More than once, he seemed barely able to stifle a yawn. "

How is this different than every other time I've ever seen the Mayor? He's like that all the time.

Sister Edna hit me on the head with a crucifix!

Let's remember, The Oregonian wants the Super-Strong Mayor initiative to pass in May. So for the next three months, Mayor Potter has a free ride. He can do anything and everything, or nothing, and The Oregonian isn't going to call him out for it -- because that might get people thinking, "Hmm, do we really want to give four times more power to this dude, or any one person?"

I thought it hilarious that the editorial asserts it shouldn't count because the Mayor didn't enjoy it. Heck, those Blazers must be worse than awful, if even courtside seats don't make the opening game mildly entertaining. And does that excuse count for other sins? As long as we don't enjoy it, it's OK?

Wouldn't a better position for the Mayor's office to take be something on the lines of "The underling responsible for reporting gifts and expenses made a mistake, is sorry, and the chief-of-staff will pay more attention to it in the future"? Surely nobody thinks Mayor Potter is sitting at home the evening before the report is due, cranking out each line item on his trusty laptop?

The O's had strange editorials in the past, but this one is beyond bizarre. I actually agree with the premise that our ethics rules need to be strict without being absurd, but this is a clear violation of the existing law. The O pretty much calls for the law to be applied subjectively based on. . . well, it's not clear.

Great point, Amanda, about the charter review coloring the e-board's thinking. We need to keep count between now and May of other examples of this.

As much as I dislike the anonymous Oregonian ed board, I do agree with them on this one. It is appropriate for the Mayor to make an appearance at a city event and support the local team. In fact, the Mayor should be expected to appear at all public performances to support the local business, entertainment, and arts communities. From sports events, children's piano recitals, community theater, poetry night, to rock concerts and Mary's Club, Potter should be there.

Perhaps there should be an exception for ceremonial functions. But it should be a very carefully and clearly defined exception -- and apparently, it doesn't exist now. And query whether front row at the Blazers should be on such a list.

He looked "exquisitely bored?" Is the Oregon Daily Rag thinking that this phrase makes any sense?

I think I know what happened: The 34-dollar figure was just a guesstimate of what the ticket should cost. Then it turned out to be much more later.

If it's a job duty, then the city (that would be we) should be paying for the tickets, in which case I still think $34 sounds a bit high.

As stated in the O. "The Nov. 4 event was a ceremonial obligation for the mayor, like cutting a ribbon or throwing out the first pitch at a baseball season opener."
I agree with this statment and the mayor attending the home opener is more about civic pride than anything else. In my book it seems petty to jump all over the guy for it. As someone who funded his campaign with $5 donations, I don't lump him in with the Maui crowd on this one. He also made it very clear that there would be no public financial assistance to the Blazers when that idea was being tossed around. Him being bored with the game has nothing to do with it other than to highlight the fact that if the tickets were supposed to be "entertainment" this particular event didn't appear to be very entertaining to this particular person.

Tom Potter funded his campaign with $25 per person in the primary, $100 each in the general, UsualKevin. It was on the honor system, with the potential for people donating in the names of minors, multiple business entities of the same family, etc. Still not huge amounts, but not $5.

Sadly, if predictably, Amander's new, improved solution calls for shifting the blame to "underlings" which, as far as I can tell, still involves shifting the blame.

Was that swooshing noise a point being missed?


Amanda, sorry I must have gotten that $5 thing from the seed money phase of Sten's VOE white collar welfare program for politicians. My bad.

The sad thing is all he had to do was spend $1,000 in unused campaign funds and then get the Blazers to donate $1,000 to his campaign fund the next week. At that point all of this would have been a non-story. That's the way a smart professional politician would have done it. "The seats were paid for by using leftover campaign funds.", a spokesperson for the Mayor said.

I say get this amateur out of office and get a seasoned professional in there. What's a major league City like Portland doing with such low grade elected officials anyway. :-)

Greg C

The key fact to me that distinguishes this from the State legislators' trips to Maui is that the court-side tickets don't have a sale price because of the dispute between the team and the Rose Garden. It isn't as if some corporation bought spendy tickets and then gave them to mayor. It is sort of like those things that are "priceless" in the Visa ads.

Jack your journalist integrity might be compromised by a desire to find a scandal or your cynacism and pessimism has clouded your perception. If you think that the Mayor was unduly influenced by the chance to sit up close at the game, I suggest that you are projecting. You seem to feel quite important when he get comped some good seats but I don't think the Mayor was so easily impressed. Calling Potter out on being up for sale is stretch.

The entire point here is that, regardless of whether he enjoyed it, regardless of whether he was impressed, and regardless of whether he's been influenced (which I doubt) -- the mayor violated the ethics rules, plain and simple. There's no room for ad hoc exceptions based on whether there was actual pleasure or influence.

BTW, that was your one and only ad hominem comment on this blog against me. Take it elsewhere.


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