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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

That Interstate cheer

On Monday, we relayed an e-mail that a reader had sent us about the infamous cheer that O columnist Renee Mitchell had reported about in her ill-advised column about supposed racism in the opposition to the renaming of Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez. The thrust of the e-mail message was that the cheer had been in response to a speaker's complaint about the lack of a fair process in the decision-making, rather than any threat never to call MLK Boulevard by its real name.

But the reader had her dates mixed up. She said that the cheer had gone up at an Oct. 9 meeting, when the Mitchell column had been published on the 8th. That couldn't be right, and so we e-mailed her pointing out the discrepancy. Here's part of her reply:

Mea culpa -- I've attended so many meetings and read so much on this issue, I got my timelines mixed up....

Here is a transcript of the comment on which Mitchell reported, made at the first public comment meeting on Wed Oct 3. There were big cheers at the end -- but I doubt seriously they were in response to the Union Avenue statement made early in this individual's comment.

From digital recording of 3 October 2007 meeting at Ockley Green School. Recording captured by a local journalist. Editorial comments in ( ), audience responses noted in [ ].

“My name is John Rinehold (spelling?) and I support honoring Cesar Chavez. I oppose changing any more Portland streets. We were surprised by the Rosa Parks change. I even oppose renaming Union because these are streets that were part of Portland’s history and Portland’s character [silence from audience], and I challenge anyone here who is talking about how this will be a great memorial and encourage people and help people with knowing about their culture to tell me all the information about McLaughlin, Couch, Ankeny, uh, Pettygrove. All of these people have streets named after them. Where’s their history? How do kids aspire to be like McLaughlin? Nobody cares. Kids don’t care what a street is named. Kids have no idea what it means.

What I would like to see is something that is more appropriate, something that meets an honor. Naming a street, especially a street that is, I don’t know, maybe average, people -- people won’t even know why it was renamed. It will eventually fade into the sands of time.

I also would like to point out that it is not a very democratic process when we’re allowed to see a presentation that supports the name change but no presentation at all that speaks about the history of Interstate Avenue, the history of Portland, or any of the opposition.” [applause, cheers from crowd]

I think the reader's point about Mitchell, and the speaker's point about the city process, are well taken.

Comments (22)

It's good of you to revisit this, and your output in general lately has been mind-boggling. I get more out of reading this blog than any of the local print publications.
My comment about this particular story was to point out the pitfalls of being a print columnist - and that includes bad information. My personal favorite is the time I fact-checked a name using a search engine, and got all the thousands of times it was also misspelled on the Internet. I went with it and there it was in print - wrong for the ages. It's hard to make a brilliant point about someone when you can't even spell the name right. There was also the classic time when the Portland Tribune misspelled my name on my own column.
Renee says that she received bad information from some people about the meeting, and you received some bad information in response. You both went with it. Of course, due to the miracle of blogging, you were able to add a correction as soon as you started hearing about it, but you had already reacted in the post as if the information was true.
This is the kind of thing that makes me forgive columnists when they screw up.

I didn't start mouthing off calling people racists, though.

Bill, forgiveness is great. Accuracy is better. Jack's not working as a journalist. Mitchell is.

Read Mitchell's version in the context of her Oct. 8 piece on the undertow of racism. It was the crux of the thing. She builds toward a bombshell of (implied) racist defiance, a rebel-yell moment that just didn't occur.

Not that racism ISN'T part of the opposition to Chavez Boulevard. Just don't twist peoples' words to make that point. Is that asking too much?

BTW, the essence of my erroneous report was accurate. Not true in Mitchell's case.

Wait, you're saying that blogs that report news and are read by thousands aren't part of journalism?
You're saying that Jack's excellent work on the City of Portland's debt wasn't reporting?

I thought you said accuracy was better.


Did you hear the tape yourself? Confirm with the unnamed journalist who taped the meeting? Or did you rely on the reader's transcript? So while you showed more culpability than Renee did, you can see how it can happen, regardless of "essence".

I am in support of the renaming and have been saddened by some racism that has bubbled up through this process. Unfortunately, Renee has impeached her credibility lately. . .but please don't let that color some really disturbing stuff that's happened. There is a guest editorial by a long time neighborhood activist in the most recent Overlook neighborhood paper that accurately describes how some of us have experienced this process. Since he was at the OKNA(sp?) mtg, maybe he'll have more cred. If they renamed the street tomorrow, it would feel hollow to me. The mistrust created on both sides is a bell that can't be un-rung.

I think the Palo Alto process you posted points out similarities between PDX and Palo Alto, which was never known as a particularly progressive place. The renaming of Army street for Cesar Chavez in SF didn't engender this level of opposition. People weren't necessarily excited about it, just grudgingly accepted the change.

That aside, even though I sometimes wish to throw a brick atcha, thank you so much for this oasis in the desert called media in Portland.

It might be easy to forgive Rene as a reporter (not journalist).
Her default position in writing so many of her columns makes it sound like writers block is around the corner.

Did you hear the tape yourself? Confirm with the unnamed journalist who taped the meeting? Or did you rely on the reader's transcript?

I did none of those things. As I said in the original and this post, I was reprinting an e-mail from a reader.

You might want to to read the posts carefully before putting your know-it-all on and reviewing them.


"Wait, you're saying that blogs that report news and are read by thousands aren't part of journalism?": Jack's blog speaks for itself, and he can characterize it -- blogging or journalism -- as he wishes. Blogging and journalism will blend thoroughly some day. It hasn't happened yet.

Ms. Contrarian,

"I am in support of the renaming and have been saddened by some racism that has bubbled up through this process": That's fair. Do you see why Mitchell's piece was unfair? Do you see racism in what was ACTUALLY SAID, rather than what she reported?

Should we be judged on what we say? Or is it racist by definition to disagree with the Chavez Committee?

"The mistrust created on both sides is a bell that can't be un-rung": I sincerely hope you're wrong. Those of us who have been working behind the scenes to stop the bleeding in North Portland see the need for healing, and the City's need to facilitate it.

"Jack's not working as a journalist. Mitchell is."
"Jack's blog speaks for itself, and he can characterize it -- blogging or journalism -- as he wishes."

You made both statements - I was just responding to the first.

Look, I consider Jack to be doing a great service here, and I'm a fan, but as someone who has been canned from a columnist job, I was reacting to the calls that Renee should lose her column and be reassigned based on this and the Starbucks thing. That's all. Mistakes happen. It's part of the business. And to have one follow immediately afterwards here - that illustrated the problem of bad information - was too symetrical not to point out.

Blogs are moving up and it's uncharted territory, but along with it comes power and impact, and the excuse that it's just a blog, doesn't fly as much anymore.
Yes, Jack was just passing on an email but he reacted to it like it was true, and it wasn't. That happens in the news business sometimes.
He corrected it. Renee admitted her mistake. I don't see her losing her column over this. That's all I was saying.


My opinions are not formed by anything I read in the Oregonian. I tend to err on "show me" side of things. Have you read the Overlook Neighborhood News guest editorial?

I heard very similar things to what was originally reported in the first column. Voices raised, jeers, facilitators threatening to shut down the meeting, people speaking out of turn, very emotionally charged environment. I heard that about all the meetings, and that the public meetings were much more calm than the NA meetings. That is very different than reading that transcript of that statement. My sources are honest, forthright people. Did they mishear? Were they responding to off-mike comments? Did the anonymous journalist catch everything? I honestly don't know.

Renee and her sources can be wrong about the particular incident AND there can have been other incidents of racism in the process. IMHO, it is as erroneous to say there is no racism as it is to say that the entire anti-renaming side are all overt racists.

Jack: That wasn't even close to my know-it-all being on :)! I only slipped on my know-it-all gloves, not even the bodysuit.


"Yes, Jack was just passing on an email but he reacted to it like it was true, and it wasn't": "Facts and truth don't have a hell of a lot to do with one another." William Faulkner said that. He was right. The reader's statement about what was said at the meeting was true, although some facts were wrong in the telling.

"Renee admitted her mistake": Not really. She said some other statement got the biggest cheers. She didn't say that what she wrote didn't happen. It's hard to prove that something didn't happen. The transcript doesn't prove it. Maybe Renee's admission was a reasonable compromise. It doesn't matter, though, because the damage is done.

"I don't see her losing her column over this": Nor do I. I haven't called for that, myself.

I understand the points you're making about a columnist's job. It's not a cakewalk. Some fundamental rules of journalism apply equally to columnists, however -- and one of them is, if you state something as fact that you didn't witness yourself, firsthand, you're walking a dangerous tightrope. That's what Mitchell did.

Don't forget, it wasn't just this that made me call for her to take a break. She also has her stellar performance in the Starbucks Ebonics episode to answer for.

Ms. Contrarian,

"Have you read the Overlook Neighborhood News guest editorial?": I'm not in Overlook and can't find the newsletter online. I'll check it out. I've heard very clearly what my Latino neighbors feel. I get the concept of institutional racism. All I can speak to authoritatively is what I've heard myself.

"I heard very similar things to what was originally reported in the first column. Voices raised, jeers, facilitators threatening to shut down the meeting, people speaking out of turn, very emotionally charged environment": So did I. Does all that equal racism in action? How different is this from ANY public meeting concerning a controversial topic in 21st-Century America?

You didn't answer my question. Was the transcript an example of racism?

Did you hear any of the slurs, epithets, veiled threats that Marta Guembes, among others, has described in the press? Any of them, firsthand? Just askin'.

"IMHO, it is as erroneous to say there is no racism as it is to say that the entire anti-renaming side are all overt racists": Since neither of us has taken either of those positions, we're in the clear, eh?

"The reader's statement about what was said at the meeting was true, although some facts were wrong in the telling."

If you're trying to clear up what happened at the meeting Renee wrote her column about, I would avoid citing something that hadn't happened yet. It just looks bad.

And that's a fact and the truth.

As far as the Starbucks thing, I said I thought Renee phoned it in - that it was weak. But I blame Starbucks for firing the worker. They caved to the pressure in the press. I think they should have stood by the worker, instead of going corporate on her.

I guess that's what ties this all up: I don't like to see people's lives disrupted by losing their gigs unless it's really obvious that it has to happen.

To All:

Have a latino friend at work, came here legally, worked, got his kids in school, all learned English...stay with me now, earned his citizenship...HELLO, that is all that needs to be done,end of problem.

( Excerpts here from those that think different):


"Go back to Boston ! Go back to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims! Get out! We are the future. You are old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you. Leave like beaten rats. You old white people. It is your duty to die . . Through love of having children, we are going to take over." Augustin Cebada, Brown Berets:

"They're afraid we're going to take over the governmental institutions and other institutions. They're right. We will take them over . . . We are here to stay." Richard Alatorre, Los Angeles City Council.

"The American Southwest seems to be slowly returning to the jurisdiction of Mexico without firing a single shot." Excelsior, the national newspaper of Mexico :

"We have an aging white America . They are not making babies. They are dying. The explosion is in our population . . I love it. They are shitting in their pants with fear. I love it." Professor Jose Angel Gutierrez, University of Texas

"Remember 187--proposition to deny taxpayer funds for services to non-citizens--was the last gasp of white America in California ." Art Torres, Chairman of the California Democratic Party,

"We are politicizing every single one of these new citizens that are becoming citizens of this country . . . I gotta tell you that a lot of people are saying, "I'm going to go out there and vote because I want to pay them back." Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Supervisor.

" California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn't like it should leave." Mario Obledo, California Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and California State Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Governor Jerry Brown, also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton

"We are practicing 'La Reconquista' in California ." Jose Pescador Osuna, Mexican Consul General.

"We need to avoid a white backlash by using codes understood by Latinos . . . " Professor Fernando Guerra, Loyola Marymount University

Are these just the words of a few extremists? Consider that we could fill up many pages with such quotes. Also, consider that these are mainstream Mexican leaders.

THE U.S. VS MEXICO : On February 15, 1998, the U.S. and Mexican soccer teams met at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Mexican even though most lived in this country. They booed during the National Anthem and U.S. flags were held upside down. As the match progressed, supporters of the U.S. team were insulted, pelted with projectiles, punched and spat upon. Beer and trash were thrown at the
U.S. players before and after the match. The coach of the U.S. team, Steve Sampson said, "This was the most painful experience I have ever had in this profession."

LaRaza: look it up, then demand that these local Latino activist state their disgust of the "PLAN".

Like Muslims,when asked to counter statements from their own people like the Latino factions above, they get very quiet.

Just say no to the city council..It's way past time.

Did you notice the words weren't mine, I WANT people here to grow this country, not kill it.


Nobody was writing about things that hadn't happened. For the record, there were three public meetings at Ockley Green: the Arbor Lodge NA meeting in September and two City-sponsored "public testimony" meetings in October. The reader went to all three -- hence the "second meeting" confusion. The reader was a volunteer, not a paid journalist. Jack's not a paid journalist.

Renee Mitchell is.

If these distinctions -- between facts and truth, between bloggers and journalists -- are difficult for you, I'm not sure where to go from here. They seem self-evident to me. And none of it changes the fact that Renee blew it badly in her Oct. 8 column.

The reason that I haven't answered your question about the transcript is because my view of what is racist, ableist, lookist, sexist(intentional or incidental) is more than likely different than yours. It's not black and white for me.

Did I hear anything first hand during this whole controversy? Yup.

Am I going to debate that here? Nope.

I don't debate isms with people I don't know. Bad for the blood pressure, hearts and minds aren't changed. I find these conversations more fruitful when there is a relationship and some level of trust.
*excuses self*

Ah. OK. Good to know where one stands.

If the N Interstate renaming process means we're discussing stuff that can't be debated due to differences in race, class, upbringing, experience, gender, or other (undefined) differences, there's nothing to discuss. Which is a shame, given the present situation. I'm up for the discussion, differences and all. You're not.

Neither was Mayor Potter, it seems.

Who wins, given that?

Thanks. For anyone who uses terms like "ableist" or "lookist", I'm glad not to have to hear those explained.

But perhaps I'm just being Bloggist.

I may very well be a racist but I'm also a resident of NE Portland and a human being with an opinion. If I feel that the renaming of a street does nothing more than allow politicians to pander to an increasing demographic, and further allow professional victim/activists to exercise their ability to tease out white guilt, what business is it of anyone else's?

There's two options on the table and only one of them carries any action. There is the option of allowing the street to remain unchanged and then there is the alternative option of changing the name. If I choose the former, I needn't give any reason for my choice. If I choose the latter, I'd better hope to sell the idea to my fellow citizens who may not share a vested interest in the same alternative. In that case I'd better explain the philosophy behind my decision. If my decision for a name change is based solely on the idea that the honoree was a great American, human being, communist, horseback rider, milk drinker, or wearer of fine slacks, than I'd better work extra hard to differentiate that honoree from a list of thousands that equally qualify. In the history of American labor relations, one need only throw a stick to hit more than a dozen worthy candidates for veneration.

Ah, but that's not the issue. We aren't simply looking for a blue-collar arbiter, we need a person of color first. All other qualifiers must follow behind. I won't call it racist, but it sounds race-specific.

This is how majority opinion is magically marginalized. The rule, as it has developed in the fertile womb of rhetoric-rich identity politics states if you disagree, you must be suffering from some sort of social disease and are therefore unfit to take part in public discourse. From whence did this destitute line of reasoning spring forth?

Folks, you won't appease your neighbors by giving in to their obsequious flattery of all persons, places, or things of color. It doesn't work. Portland will develop new streets, parks, monuments, and neighborhoods better suited to honor the dead. Wait for, and seize upon, the opportunity to affix the name of your affinity group's leader when that time comes. That way you won't have to conjecture over whether your diabolical neighbors are plotting their racist subterfuges without you.

Kevin: This is so correct it hurts.

Thank you.


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Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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