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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 17, 2007 5:34 AM. The previous post in this blog was How come my 'dog don't bark?. The next post in this blog is Sam and Ted's regressive adventure. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A mulligan for Streetcar Smith

Another triumph for the City of Portland's "voter-owed elections," the wonderful system that funnels that "clean (property tax) money" to pay for politicians' junk mail and attack ads. The "system," having been tweaked and tweaked over the past year and change, is now off to another flying start in the second election in which it's being played with.

Yesterday we read in the Trib that three candidates in next year's City Council election have already broken the rules, but the city auditor has decided that he can simply, and unilaterally, just waive the rules and let them all slide. Not surprising when one considers that among the offenders is the darling of the existing City Council, Chris "Streetcar" Smith -- tool of the condo developers who essentially run the spendthrift city government. If he doesn't win, Opie, Sam the Tram, and Fireman Randy will cry for a week.

It's especially ironic given that last time around, when a couple of the campaigns had obviously committed fraud, the city decided to disqualify one of them on relatively minor technicalities instead. Now, when their boy is caught screwing up, the city can simply declare that rules are made to be broken. It's a "work in progress," you see.

Nice machine! Back east, we used to call this kind of thing "corruption." In Portland, it's called "progressive government."

Political commentator Jim Moore said the incident raises troubling ethical questions about the way Blackmer is administering the program. Blackmer co-sponsored the program with city Commissioner Erik Sten.

"Ethically, it’s really troubling to change the rules after the campaign has already started. It means the program is not strictly adhering to a set of rules, but is being manipulated by an official who has a stake in it," said Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Ethical troubles? In Portland? Whoever said that must be a grouchy old crank.

Comments (18)

This is apropos of nothing, but wouldn't "Scam Adams" be a better nickname than "Sam the Tram"?

"Nice machine! Back east, we used to call this kind of thing "corruption." In Portland, it's called "progressive government."
Best comment made to date. Jack, I think you got it...now if only Portlanders would get it.

This is a much more effective post, as written, without any discussion of the violation. The violation being that Chris Smith "deficit spent" $300. Lawyers and accountants call that kind of thing immaterial, and judges are regularly within their discretion to not harshly sanction such immaterial violations. I suspect the IRS does the same thing. And police officers enforcing traffic laws do too.

But the place where I think this attack is particularly undeserved is that the facts don't support some grand conspiracy theory -- Blackmer let similar immaterial errors slide for all three, whether you think they are an insider or not.

If the reality is that you just don't like Chris, or his policies, fine. So attack him on his policies, not on something mundane, like this.

"So attack him on his policies"

Now that's funny. His policies are the sam as Sam's and the rest of the Portland politicians, who use their cabal of multiple agencies and newspapers to mislead the public in advancing their insane agenda.
It hasn't mattered what not-so-mundane information surfaces it's quickly devoured by the status quo.
Smith promises to continue the irrational prioritizing of rail transit and urban renewal schemes while debt stacks up, infrastructure crumbles, toxic sites remain, and congestion soars.

Yeah, it really is pretty stupid and mundane.

So, Chris loaned his own campaign $300. Apparently, that's against the rules. Why, I don't have the foggiest idea. It's perfectly OK under Oregon's campaign finance law.

Before you can raise money, you gotta get a phone line. Before you can raise money, you gotta get a checking account. Before you can raise money, you gotta get stationery and envelopes. These things cost money.

This is just another example of how the Auditor and his staff don't have the foggiest idea how campaigns really run on a day-to-day basis. I support the VOE system, but they scoffed when I argued that "campaigns run to win" and repeatedly answered "nobody would do that" when I brought up loopholes built into the system or other functional glitches.

They'd likely argue that it's a good thing to keep the political professionals out of the rules development process - but it leads to dumb things like this problem.

Since Chris is a protege of Sam the Tram shouldn't we be calling him "Son of Sam"?

Actually I know Chris a bit. I worked at Tektronix years ago whwen he worked there. He is a pretty good guy with a bunch of ideas. His ideas might cost taxpayers a bunch of money though.....

Jack, you should invite Chris on the blog for a guest spot to explain the Portland debt situation and what, if anything, he intends to do about it.

Christ Smith do something about the city's debt? Ha. That's a good one.
He wants to put a streetcar on every boulevard.

"what, if anything, he intends to do about it"
Why ask him that. He' on record supporting the CoP go to remedy.

Borrow more.

Then spend it on more of the same, make the same claims, ignore the attacks and tell the public "they" are letting things fall apart by not paying enough.

And of course, "repeat".

Son of Sam! That's good stuff. Let's hope it sticks.

This whole thing is just a precursor to the season of the hysteria and nitpicking we're gonna be subjected to in 2008. No mistake too small to try and wedge an agenda in to!

Amanda Fritz has it right of course. Wake me up when there's really something to see here.

As I say, the stated reasons for disqualifying Lucinda Tate weren't earth-shattering. There's way too much discretion being exercised here.

"The violation being that Chris Smith "deficit spent" $300."

OK, let me get this straight, Chris Smith knows how city hall works, helped developed VOE and still can't follow the rules. So now, in his case, we'll ignore the rules. Best part, the guys who wrote the rules get to decide how to apply them.

Sounds like he knows the system all too well. God preserve us.

As much as I might like to be "son of Sam" I'm afraid I'm a few years older than he is :-)

Just to put the facts on the table, yes, I misunderstood the rule. Guilty.

To explain what I did:

- I signed the form saying I intended to seek VOE certification, a necessary first step before your collect or spend money.

- Two days later I opened a bank account and filed a campaign committee with the State, also required steps. At that point I e-mailed my steering committee and asked them to send in their $100 seed money checks. If I had driven around and collected those checks at that time there would have been no problem. That same day my web volunteer put $60 on his credit card to sign up the web hosting company.

- Two days after that I got a PO Box and bought some stamps and stationary for a mailing to my supporters.

We recorded all those transactions promptly (we are allowed 14 days, we didn't wait) in the State reporting and the Auditor's office quickly noticed that we had not yet entered contributions equal to the expenses to be reimbursed. In fact, by the time the Auditor flagged this, we were within one day of the contributions overtaking the expenses. The most we were ever "in the hole" was about $370, and fundamentally that was money owed to me, the candidate.

When this was flagged both the web volunteer and I agreed we would forgo any reimbursement, making those expenses in-kind contributions, which are perfectly acceptable (our campaign is allowed up to $9,000 in in-kind contributions under the VOE rules).

We believe this effectively corrected the problem. While this was happening, two other campaigns also apparently managed to get tripped up in this sequence.

Through this whole process we have been completely transparent with the Auditor's office about the nature, intent and timing of each transaction involved.

While I agree with the Auditor's decision on how to enforce the rule, I don't believe that decision is necessary for our campaign to be in compliance with the regulations.

Feel free to continue the pilory...

Chris,

Just a tip from a guy who ran last time. Don't waste time defending yourself on blogs. It doesn't do any good and it won't leave you time to do anything else.

You have to be thick skinned to be a candidate. Just wait until the hate e mail starts coming in, and the whacko e mail, and the hate phone calls.....

Well, you'll find out.

Gee, Chris, you were doing fine right up to the end. It not a "pilory." It's called accountability. And competence.

Some story you got there. Some system.

I agree with Dave Lister that Chris Smith shouldn't waste his time defending himself on blogs, or at least in this obviously hostile forum.

But I'll add my two cents' worth of defense. There's no reason to believe, based on any evidence offered by anyone, that Smith did anything worse than make a minor error in how he recorded some small, legitimate campaign expenses.

To question his competence or honesty based on this minor error is ridiculous. To pretend that this supposed controversy has to do with anything other than opposition to Smith's known or assumed policy objectives is disingenuous.

Actually, the post has everything to do with the incompetence (at best) of the people who invented, run, and in Opie's case directly cashed in on, the city's ludicrous "voter-owed elections" "system."

Didn't the OR Attorney General or Secretary of State Bill Bradbury rule in the past year or so to throw out a candidate's application based on the application attempted to be delivered a few minutes after the 5:00PM office closing? It is interesting on what rules become important and others disregarded.

Smith's actions are reprehensible. Why if this was New Jersey the Attorney General would be indicting him. Hardy where are you?

Greg C


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