|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
The New York Times writes up Manzanita today.
There's talk in the paper today of ending Fareless Square in downtown Portland. It's part of a larger discussion of security on Tri-Met, including the troubled MAX light rail line.
It seems as though there are several different issues being jumbled together here. The punks who are terrorizing people on the far ends of MAX need to be shut down. The news that the situation in Hillsboro is as bad as the one in Gresham is particularly troubling:
Rouches said reasons for increased MAX patrols exist at all nine stations in Hillsboro. So far this year, Hillsboro police have responded to an average of 240 to 250 incidents a month at each station.That's 72 incidents a day, in Hillsboro alone.
But it's not clear how eliminating Fareless Square is going to make a dent in that problem. And there's no way to put turnstiles in at the MAX stops along the streets in downtown Portland, anyway.
More Big Brothers than you can count.
Do you remember Steve Goodman? He wrote "City of New Orleans" and a slew of other great songs in the '70s and early '80s. He was buds with people like Jimmy Buffett, John Prine, and Jethro Burns (of Homer and Jethro). His albums were true gems. What a spectacular human spirit. Alas, he died of leukemia when he was 36.
Anyway, on a recent visit to the Multnomah County Library catalog, I found a Goodman anthology called "No Big Surprise." It's got just about all the studio greats, and then a full disk of solo live songs that's even more stunning. You owe it to yourself to check this thing out. You'll laugh a lot, but you'll cry some, too.
Did you know that Portland had a Great Fire? Yep. In 1873. Dan Haneckow tells the story -- and tells it well -- here.
I decided to put my pro football weekend out of its misery early. I chose Green Bay over Dallas in the Thursday night game, and of course, they lost. At least I didn't waste any time watching it.
I guess if you're a member of the most dysfunctional governing board anyone's seen around here in decades, you've got to do something, but this is bad news. A reader writes:
I was listening to the radio… so Maria Rojo de Steffey says that the city council is all "white men" and that the council needs "more color." Yeah, that will help racial tension in the city. Make more racially sensitive comments.I know, she's just telling it like it is. I hope she won't mind folks telling her recent career as a "mean girl" like it is -- an embarrassment.
If ever a person needs to keep her promise to spend more time with her family, this is the person.
The cop did a good job of toeing the line between stern cop dude and sympathetic father figure. He told her a few times she needed to quit doing drugs.Bean's got a good little story over on the Vig.
Nothing says "Christmas party" like recycled bubble wrap centerpieces and cardboard topiaries.
The state starts cracking down on grocers who don't give a darn that their shopping carts are sitting around, abandoned and cluttering up neighborhoods. Even the regional public affairs director for Safeway, himself a former political affairs vice president for the grocery association, notes that it's been difficult to get stores to care. Under a new state law allowing cities to impose fines for unretrieved carts, several cities are getting ready to put the fines on their books. In fear that even tougher regulations are on the way, a group of grocers establishes a hot line for residents to call if an abandoned cart is spotted.
O.k., journalism students: What should the headline on this story be?
"New law forces grocers to get off dime"? "Grocers must toe line on wayward carts or face fines"?
Well, of course, not if you're the O, whose doubtlessly dwindling ad revenue comes largely from grocery stores. No, in that paper, you know you're going to get something like:
That's that independent journalistic spirit that inspires such confidence in the readership. A proud Newhouse tradition. Along with the time-honored rule: Anything bad that ever happens in or around a large retail store isn't important.
Hey Wyden! Hey Blumenauer! What the heck is up with this?
Here's a doozy from the City of Portland. They just put out a bid notice for an "Annual Supply of Adjustable Keyboard Trays." The cost estimate: $100,000! The detailed bid document looks as though it's for 600 trays, plus "installation" for 200. That would work out to $167 per keyboard tray. Wow.
Another week, another cipher for me in the pro football underdog pool. I took a flyer on Miami, which actually turned out to be close to right. But not, of course, right. San Francisco, Minnesota, and Oakland were the teams to pick. (Cincinnati would have earned a measly 1 point.)
I shoulda listened to Nick.
The season-long pool has pretty much been won by now. There's still time for me to save face, however. Just one decent 'dog (in caps) -- who wins its game outright -- will earn me the number of points next to its name. If you think the Pack will beat Dallas, you've got to let me know quickly, as I'd have to call that one by 5 p.m. tomorrow.
20.5 BALTIMORE vs. New England
7 JACKSONVILLE at Indianapolis
7 CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh
6.5 GREEN BAY at Dallas (Thursday)
5.5 BUFFALO at Washington
5.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego
3.5 HOUSTON at Tennessee
3.5 OAKLAND vs. Denver
3 DETROIT at Minnesota
3 TAMPA BAY at New Orleans
3 SEATTLE at Philadelphia
3 SAN FRANCISCO at Carolina
1.5 CHICAGO vs. New York Giants
1 NEW YORK JETS at Miami (that's right...the Dolphins are favored)
1 CLEVELAND at Arizona
Readers, please check in with your always helpful suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to play a game that I have a better chance of winning: Powerball.
The funniest guy on earth is still working:
And according to the Wall Street, the trend-obsessed Rose City is missing the boat:
There is a basic truth about the geography of young, educated people. They may first migrate to cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston or San Francisco. But they tend to flee when they enter their child-rearing years. Family-friendly metropolitan regions have seen the biggest net gains of professionals, largely because they not only attract workers, but they also retain them through their 30s and 40s.The whole thing is here.
Advocates of the brew-latté-and-they-will-come approach often point to greater Portland, Ore., which has experienced consistent net gains of educated workers, including families. Yet most of that migration--as well as at least three quarters of the region's population and job growth--has been not to the increasingly childless city, but to the suburban periphery. This pattern holds true in virtually every major urban region.
The freeway blogger was busy in trademark protester style over the holiday weekend. Apparently he or she will be back up our way sometime in December.
It won't be Nordstrom without the piano players.
Reading the internet lately has got me wondering: What's the difference between an a**clown and an a**hat? Is either of them the equivalent of an a**hole?
The push to commercialize the Portland parks continues apace. Now they're recruiting a new "senior management analyst," at up to $78,000 a year plus benefits, to serve as a "sponsorship coordinator."
Sheesh, the parks bureau already has a manager of strategy, finance and business development, and a manager of marketing and business development. How many "senior" people do we really need for the misguided task of sticking corporate names on park facilities? I'd rather see them buy a few more swing sets.
Portland Commish Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman -- courageous swing vote behind the SoWhat aerial tram [rim shot], tenacious watchdog over public property, and master architect of street renaming -- wants to cast tens of millions of city tax dollars to the wind, literally. They're talking $33 million for a wind farm, all borrowed of course, and we all know that means more like $50 million. I'm all for renewable power, but one would be hard pressed to name a less promising entity to construct and run a system than the City of Portland.
The PortlandMaps name debate rages on, with residents weighing in both pro and con about the City of Portland's practice of listing property owners' names on the internet with their properties, so that web surfers need only enter an address to see who owns (and often, who lives at) a particular address. I've been getting all kinds of e-mail messages about this issue since I first wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.
When last we left this saga, both Washington and Clackamas Counties had asked Portland not to include this information on the public access version of PortlandMaps any more, and the city had granted thieir request as to property in those two counties. I'm not sure whether the very few Portland addresses that are actually situated in those two counties still have their owners listed, but I suspect not. Clearly, addresses that fall outside both Portland and Multnomah County have now had their owners' names and mailing addresses removed from PortlandMaps.
Which leaves Multnomah County. Also at last report, the county chair, Ted Wheeler, was looking into the matter, but so far, no decision has been issued publicly. The city's justification to several e-mail correspondents who have questioned the posting of the names has included the suggestion that state law requires it. But if that's true of Multnomah County, why not also of Washington and Clackamas? If the city will honor each county's wishes, then it's really up to the Multnomah commissioners at this point. Maybe they can explain why their attitude toward the privacy concerns are different from those of the officials in the other two counties. At least one Multnomah County judge, who at times has had his life and those of his family threatened, will be watching closely. Even he has e-mailed me about this!
No one in the mainstream media thinks there's a story here.
Meanwhile, some cowardly, anonymous clown has posted my home address on the internet, apparently in retaliation for my initial post on this topic, which included a link to the former home address of City Commissioner Erik Sten. I'm not sure what harm I did by posting the address of the home where Sten used to live, but I guess anyone who questions the deep genius behind our city government is an evil guy. Actually, what's interesting is that the lightweight media stories about Sten's move to the toney Bridlemile area in the southwest hills indicated that he had sold his former home here in the northeast part of town. But according to PortlandMaps, that's not the case -- he now owns two groovy pads. Now, there's a question for someone to pursue, but instead the Pabst-sodden slacker set is hassling me. Whatever.
Just to throw some more fuel on this fire, I thought I'd take the city up on its assertion that no one is going to be patient enough to plow through whole neighborhoods, house by house, to develop a name-and-address directory. That's insanely naive. I took just a little while tonight and assembled a little list of my own. I compiled a complete rundown of who owns the units in a Pearl District condo bunker, selected at random -- 1009 NW Hoyt -- according to PortlandMaps. It took me about 10 minutes to assemble a list of the names and addresses of all the owners of the 28 units listed for that building. And that was done manually; robots will be able to do it much faster. No doubt they already are doing so.
It's interesting. One couple owns two units side by side; another owns a unit downstairs and the one directly upstairs from it. Many of the owners list addresses other than the property itself, which means these condo units are likely being rented out. Fascinating stuff.
The decision to post owners' names on PortlandMaps should have been thoroughly aired in public before it was made. But hey, this is Portland, where they decide in a smoke-filled room first and take public input later... if they get caught.
The quarter showed slower comps growth than usual, at just 8.4%, though Foolish colleague Alyce Lomax points out that grocery rivals like Safeway (NYSE: SWY) would slander their own grandmothers for organic growth like that. Whole Foods shares fell 12% last week, and it's tough to find anything 12% worse about the company's fundamentals than what we saw last Monday. Do your homework and act accordingly, Fool.
Just take it to the Cully neighborhood and dump it there. Nobody from the city will care.
Dear God, I know I ask for a lot, including a lot of stuff I'd probably be better off without, but if you'll grant me just this one thing: Please, please don't let anyone at Portland City Hall read this.
To send your true love the whole 12 days of Christmas is going to run you $78,100 this year, up 4 percent from last year.
Not if they've got friends in the "urban renewal" bureaucracy.
In a bold step designed to ease racial tensions in a city deeply divided over the César Chávez street renaming fiasco, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard announced this morning that he is taking legal action that he hopes will soothe jangled nerves on all sides of the controversy. "I've been deeply troubled all holiday weekend over the awful ordeal that we all went through with the whole Interstate Avenue thing," he told reporters outside the Multnomah County Courthouse as it opened this morning. "It's time for the healing to begin. I'm personally committed to doing everything I can to make that happen."
Leonard is changing his own name to César Chávez, to honor the late civil rights hero.
His bid may hit a snag, however. Shortly after Leonard dropped off his name change petition with the clerk of the Circuit Court, several judges privately threatened to block the legal action unless the city agreed to take their names and home addresses off PortlandMaps.
Political analysts are calling Leonard's name-change gambit a brilliant strategic move in preparation for his upcoming re-election bid. "It's got everything," said local political expert Len Bergstein. "It picks up the unions and the Latinos, and the 'César' feeds right into his image as benign emperor of the city."
According to legal experts, court action technically is not needed for Leonard to change his name under Oregon law. "You can change your name without legal proceedings merely by using the new name," said Nick Fish, a Portland attorney. "For several years in college, I went by 'Road Warrior.'"
In order to help accelerate the change, readers of this blog are requested to call Leonard "Fireman César," rather than the customary "Fireman Randy," effective immediately.
Ah, the old familiar time-the-bad-news-for-around-the-holidays trick. We had lots of that over the festive weekend just past. There was this story, which old Governor Ted made sure made the paper on Thanksgiving itself. Then the O decided to sweep this under its extremely large rug on Saturday.
Here on the blog, we had a busy weekend. Portland hard news stories included this link to a wild tagger story; this new development in the PortlandMaps privacy fight; and a nauseating little problem that the mainstream media seem to want nothing to do with.
Welcome back to your cubicle!
Portland's big-shot condo tower developers are now scratching and clawing over $15,000 deposits. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
Meanwhile, you've got to wonder whether the buyers might not have a defense. By now, the SoWhat district was supposed to be a vibrant neighborhood, with thousands of high-tech jobs rolling in. One could certainly argue that it is not.
So says this observer.
My buddy Doug the Mountain Climber sends this report along with some fresh photos of Mount Jefferson:
Given your past interest in the "shape" of Mt. Jefferson, I thought you’d be interested in some shots from the west side. While the profile from the north (and south) is pretty sharp (classic mountain peak), like many of the old, blown out Cascades volcanoes, the E-W profile is pretty fat (3 Finger Jack, Washington, and Broken Top all have a similar profile). These were taken from a snowy spot called Grizzly Peak above Pamelia Lake at about 5,800' – a lovely spot to have all to myself on such a gorgeous day (Friday). For perspective, the summit shot was taken with a 300mm lens and shows about the upper 2,000' of the mountain. The summit block is about 400' above the saddles to either side, though the traditional "easy" route to the true summit is via the north (left) side of the summit block, thus requiring a traverse from the south saddle (so-called Red Saddle) for the final ascent when the approach is from that quadrant.
Here's an interesting, but ugly, graffiti incident in Portland.
O.k., it's time to get really serious for a minute. Danny Federici of the E Street Band is off Bruce's tour and being treated for melanoma, which is a scary deal. This whole getting old thing is not for sissies. We hope that modern medicine will get Danny back on stage behind the keyboard again between now and the time The Boss gets here in early spring. (Via The Vig.).
Here's quite a story about an exotic cruise that ended prematurely.
What the heck day of the week is it now?
When it's comes to telling the ugly truth about Portland's "urban renewal" development scams, you can count on the O to bury the story. Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend's a good time for that. We save the working days for stories about how much extra money there is lying around. Uh huh.
Maybe if we sell off part of Mount Tabor Park, we can pay for the SoWhat greenway... oops, tried that, got busted, didn't work. We'll just have borrow some more millions and wait for the property taxes coming in from those white-hot condo sales to pay everything off. It will be fine. Really.
"Get your _____ on."
Come on, hipsters, you've got 'til New Year's to ship that one out and come up with something better.
The election is over, but the political campaigns grind on. Today amid the holiday junk mail we found this flyer:
Some outfit wants to force Pacific Power to blow up its hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to restore streams for salmon to spawn in. Their pitch is that it would be cheaper to breach the dams than to try to bring them up to environmental standards. And supposedly we wouldn't miss the lost power:
It's a heck of a time of year to be trying to start a grassroots political campaign, but they're asking Oregon residents (or at least us Pacific customers) to send in a postcard to the Oregon public utility commissioners, asking them not to let the power company improve the dams and pass the costs on to ratepayers.
A closer look at the cover of the flyer reveals that it's from an outfit in Sacramento:
From the looks of this mailer, there's no reason on earth to keep those dams in place. I suspect the power company has a slightly different view. I wonder when they'll be sending out their flyer -- Christmas?
Our friend Bob Miller sends along this inspiring link.
Here's a local story that even the Thanksgiving holiday can't keep down: the City of Portland's decision to include property owners' names and addresses along with maps and aerial photos of their properties on the city's PortlandMaps site. Yesterday we noted that at least one local judge is not happy to have his or her name and home address connected on the internet. Today a couple of readers have written in to note that information that was there earlier in the week has now disappeared.
It turns out that when PortlandMaps started including owners' names, it did so not only for addresses within the Portland city limits, but also for some properties in neighboring communities as well. Now folks in Washington and Clackamas Counties have complained, and Portland has apparently taken all the names down for property within those counties, leaving only Multnomah County property owners' names posted along with their properties. Again, a reader sends along a portion of an e-mail exchange that explains this latest development:
From: "Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)"If I am not mistaken, parts of Portland are in Washington and Clackamas Counties. But if I'm reading these e-mails correctly, property owners' names in those parts of Portland are no longer available on PortlandMaps, because those two counties don't want them there.
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 15:41:18 -0800
Here is an update on your inquiry. The information for property owners outside of Multnomah County has been removed from Portlandmaps.com. After speaking with officials from both Washington and Clackamas Counties, they expressed to me their desire not to have the names shown on Portlandmaps.com. Since the counties are the respective custodians of these public records, the City has honored their request. Should either of the counties change their policy and allow the names to be displayed, the City of Portland would likely make them accessible. Again, the City allows people to search via property address only and NOT by name. Under ORS 192, all of these are public records but at this time there is no requirement to make them available on the internet.
Thank you, Michael
Michael Mills, Ombudsman
Auditor's Office, City of Portland
1221 SW 4th Ave, Rm 140
Portland, OR 97204-1900
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:56 AM
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion
p.s. - My apologies. I did make a mistake in my first response. The names are NOT currently available on the websites of the three counties as I wrote. The names have been available only if one subscribes to Multnomah County's online Catbird service. (There are some counties, like Deschutes, that provide the information on their websites, and they even allow one to search by name.) I am sorry about the this error.
here is an example of an Oregon County where you can search by name, something we decided not to offer here.
DIAL system in Deschutes Co.
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:33 AM
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion
Thank you ***.
You raise a good point. There are valid reasons on both sides of this question which makes the decision a particularly difficult one to find the right balance. While I have made my recommendation based on what I thought was in the public's best interest, further review may result in a different conclusion. I will let you know the results.
Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:16 AM
To: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion
thank you for your reply. However, I do not think that this is in the best interests of the general public. My take on it is if you want info on a certain property, go pay for it. This makes it too easy for not so honest folks to access a lot of information without moving off their couch.
"Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)"
Thank you for your email. I would first like to provide some background to the issue concerning Portlandmaps.
Under Oregon State law, property ownership is public information (ORS 192). The records of names and addresses are available to those calling into county offices, on their websites and occasionally information is provided by the city. As the information is already publicly available, our office recommended to include names to the City's Bureau of Technology Services. After considerable review, Technology Services accepted the recommendation and made the change. Out of concern for personal safety, the decision was made to allow a search by property address only and NOT by name. This prevents someone from finding where a person lives by knowing their name. It was generally believed that by avoiding the ability to search by name, the privacy and safety concerns would be addressed.
That explanation aside, I have shared your particular concern with the Bureau of Technology Services who are reviewing your concerns and request further. I will let you know the results.
Thank you, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 5:21 AM
Subject: privacy invasion
hey! get our names off our property. We have our phone number unlisted for obvious reasons and this private info being shared on Portland Maps AND WE LIVE IN LAKE OSWEGO is an invasion of privacy not to mention it leaves all of us open for all sorts of fraud and possible identity theft.
I expect a prompt reply or you will be hearing from our lawyer. This is totally unacceptable.
Well, what about Multnomah County? Does Multnomah County want them there? Perhaps it's time for concerned folks to start calling and e-mailing Ted Wheeler. But hey, please wait 'til Monday.
The glass has always been way better than half-full for me -- never more so than now. There's so much to be thankful for -- words could never tell it all. And no greater riches than the next heartbeat.
Today, I think I'll concentrate on whom I'm thankful to. I'm thankful to the God who put me here, who sustains me every day, who lays out the future. Human understanding is not a mere random event, and I'm ever grateful to its author.
I'm thankful to the people who have raised and nurtured and cared for me over the decades. I'm thankful to everyone in my life right now. And I'm thankful to those who will share a spot on this earth (and elsewhere, I hope) with me in times to come.
Thanks to them -- to you -- all.
Here's another happy camper, spotted in town last night:
It's none other than Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets. He and his buddies had a great time, finally nailing down a win after a string of losses. Kidd had what they call a triple double: 12 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds.
I had to work and couldn't make the game despite an excellent opportunity to do so, courtesy of my family connection to the Nets. But the Mrs. and the kids had a grand evening at the Rose Garden. And the Nets sure do look happier leaving town this year than they did at this time last year, when it was forlorn visages all around. They get stuck with a hotel Thanksgiving in Seattle, but they'll probably pick up a win up there and be really glad they visited the Pacific Northwest. See you again next year, gentlemen.
An alert reader tells us that his mom is one of 30 people out of a crowd of about 100 who attended a Port of Portland-related event at a well known area eatery last week and have since come down with food poisoning. There hasn't been a peep about it in the mainstream media, as far as I can tell. Is this kind of occurrence so commonplace that it doesn't make the news? The copious amount of print ads that the restaurateurs buy wouldn't have anything to do with the lack of coverage -- would it?
Have any readers got any reliable details about this incident?
Common sense makes a rare appearance at Portland City Hall.
We blogged a while back about the City of Portland's new practice of posting property owners' names, along with property maps and aerial photos, on PortlandMaps. We were vaguely uneasy about it, and we are not alone in that regard. Apparently one of the local judges is concerned about the practice as well. Here's part of an e-mail exchange on the subject, sent along by an alert reader:
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman) [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 9:36 AM
Subject: RE: Name on Portland maps
I did receive additional information yesterday that addressed the concern about someone mining the information to eventually offer search by name capability. Below is the response from the City Technology staff which resulted from an inquiry from one of our county judges.
Dear Judge ... :
Thank you for your message. The property ownership information listed on PortlandMaps comes from Multnomah County. They are the custodians of these public records. You will have to contact Multnomah County to determine whether or not they can block your name for safety reasons or grant other exceptions. (Ref: ORS 192 http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/192.html) The number for Multnomah County Records Management (Kathy Tuneberg) is (503) 988-3375.
As for the concern over the mining of the property owner names that could lead to the development of a search by name capability, I received the following opinion from the City's technology personnel. Please note that the City of Portland has no intention of providing a reverse search capability (name search) as some other Oregon counties provide.-----Original Message-----I hope this information proves useful and helps to alleviate the safety concerns you have raised. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Again, questions regarding the removal of a name or a change in the way a name is listed should be directed to Multnomah County Records Management (Kathy Tuneberg) at (503) 988-3375.
From: Schulte, Rick
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:07 AM
To: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman); Greinke, Mark
Cc: Butman, Laurel; Bauer, Dan; Holmstrand, Phillip; Nguyen, Thanh Xuan
Subject: RE: Listing on www.portlandmaps.com
Someone would first need to have a list of all the addresses in each County. Then they would need to write a program to automatically search one by one. Then after each search they would need to get to the second page to retrieve the owner name. This would be a lot of work for something that is readily available elsewhere. This is why search engines are not able to traverse into our site. If it could be done our database would already be indexed by Google and that hasn't happened.
Also, we have monitors set up to watch for unusually high traffic coming from a single user. If this gets triggered we can investigate to see if it is a legitimate use of our system or if someone is trying to subvert it and mine for data. If we suspect this to be the case we will contact them and/or block their machine from accessing our site.
There is no need for anyone to go through all this work because they can go and buy the data from the County Assessor or Metro. As an example a student can purchase all the data including the GIS layers from Metro for $65.
With regards, Michael
Michael Mills, Ombudsman
Auditor's Office, City of Portland
1221 SW 4th Ave, Rm 140
Portland, OR 97204-1900
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman) [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 8:43 AM
Subject: RE: Name on Portland maps
Thank you for your email. As you may or may not know, property ownership is already public information and is currently made available by Multnomah County and in some cases by the City. Our Office recommended that this information be available on PortlandMaps. After reaching an agreement with Multnomah County and the Mayor's Office, the Bureau of Technology Services put the information on the website with certain safeguards in place. Users can only search via property addresses and NOT by names. This prevents someone from finding where a person lives by knowing their name. It was generally believed that by avoiding the ability to search by name, the privacy and safety concerns would be addressed. If the City Council wishes to review the issue further, they have the ability to do so.
There's a small Oregon connection in this grisly story from overseas.
A reader asks:
I ran into our old friend Volodymyr Golovan the other day. I wonder, how many hours of jail time did this guy actually do?
One thing you should never do when you're engaged in sporting competition is show disgust for the game you're playing, just because you're getting your butt whipped. Over the last two weeks, I fear, my despair at my bad performance in the NFL Underdog Pool may have caused me to lapse into that mode. I meant no disrespect with my new methodology for picking a winner from among the week's underdogs, but the tepid response from readers last week tells me that I may have been perceived that way. (BTW, Bill the Cat didn't pick a winner either week he played, although he came close, and now he's too busy to think about football.)
Anyhow, I'm not giving in to negativity -- no way! Game on! I'm not mathematically eliminated yet, and there are a couple of spectacular point spreads on the board this week that could conceivably put me right back in the hunt for the season title.
And so today I ask readers to play along with me on two levels. First, if (like me) you had to pick from among Philadelphia, Miami, the Jets, or Atlanta, which of those hopeless cases would you pick to win their game outright?
Then, on Level 2 (back to our good sport mode), pick one underdog from any game, even one in which the oddsmakers say the outcome will be closer.
Remember, on both levels, the 'dog you pick (in caps below) has to win its game outright -- the point spreads are there only to show how many points a winning team will rake in for a player who picks that team.
Also, please note, if you're picking a game that's being played tomorrow, you've got to make the call today!
22 PHILADELPHIA at New England
16 MIAMI at Pittsburgh
14 NEW YORK JETS at Dallas (Thursday)
12 ATLANTA vs. Indianapolis (Thursday)
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Arizona
9 BALTIMORE at San Diego
7.5 BUFFALO at Jacksonville
7.5 MINNESOTA at New York Giants
5.5 OAKLAND at Kansas City
3.5 HOUSTON at Cleveland
3 CAROLINA vs. New Orleans
3 ST. LOUIS vs. Seattle
3 DETROIT vs. Green Bay (Thursday)
3 WASHINGTON at Tampa Bay
2 DENVER at Chicago
1 CINCINNATI vs. Tennessee
Give me a longshot, or any shot. I still need, and want, your help. I'm also sending a shout out to this guy.
The New Jersey Nets are in town to play the Blazers tomorrow night, and as usual, two of my favorite Jersey guys are in the entourage. Fred Kerber, ace reporter for The New York Post, and my nephew, the Nets' equipment manager, are spending a day and a half or so in the Rose City. Let's hope their stay here is a pleasant and productive one.
Neither the Nets nor the Blazers have won a game in a while, and so tomorrow night's contest should be a mildly interesting start to the holiday weekend. I predict a close game, although let's face it, I can't predict much of anything correctly these days.
The tax code is nowhere near the center of my intellectual life, and generally I find estate tax law about as exciting as Hegel’s metaphysical theory of the identity of opposites.
-- Judge Edward E. Carnes, dissenting,
in Estate of Jelke v. Commissioner
Our boy cat Billy never had a proper playmate when he was a kitten. Upon his arrival at our house, we thought he was a girl kitty, but our feline senior citizen, Ralph, knew better. He saw the little guy as his rival, and he never gave him a chance. There wasn't a single minute during which anything that you could call "play" took place between them. Ralph was a grouchy old guy at that stage in his life, and Bill ignored him as best he could.
It's a much different scene now with Billy and his newly arrived adopted sister, Lola. The newcomer wants nothing but playtime, and her big brother is going along with the program. Indeed, he is coming alive with teenager moves that we've never seen from him. The two of them engage in some fairly elaborate games, and Bill's been seen leaping high in the air as he plays with the some of the many kitten toys that have shown up around the house for Missy.
This is what we wanted for Ralph -- a baby sister to pal around with. At least Boy Bill is getting that experience. It's a real blessing.
The Charlotte Bobcats figured out the Blazers pretty easily: soft inside. And after losing the seventh of seven road games, Coach Nate apparently let his team have a piece of his mind.
The Presidential "debates" aren't coming to Portland this time around. So broke the news earlier today. Too bad. But it's interesting to see how the Trib and the O reported it. The Trib story, under the headline "Presidential debates skip Portland," noted that the city ranked behind Spokane in the eyes of the judges. The O story was posted under the head "Clark College presidential debate bid rejected" -- almost as if Portland wasn't involved. Given that the main event was supposed to be in the Oregon Convention Center, that's an odd way of describing it. I'm sure the facilities and the host city had as much to do with the decision as the identity of the educational sponsor -- in this case Clark College, a community college in the 'Couv.
What creativity-impaired people we have in our government these days. The new train on the west side is going to be called WES, for Westside Express Service. Can it get any duller than that?
I still like "the Tually."
The falsehoods oozing from Portland's comical Oregonian newspaper get more outrageous by the week. Today we're treated to another "news story" that informs us that the City of Portland is simply awash in money.
Earth to Ryan Frank: The City of Portland is roughly $4.6 billion in debt, including $600 million in debt for "urban renewal." It has no money for roads or an adequate police force. Its mayor-to-be is holding meeting after meeting to inform residents of an unspeakable transportation crisis. The city's falling apart, both physically and financially. By any objective measure, it doesn't have money for any of the foolishness about which you so eagerly write.
In the spectacular train wreck known as Cesar Chavez Boulevard, the adolescents on the Portland City Council have taken heed of Isaac Laquedem's and my warnings that the process they had proposed for renaming Interstate Avenue appeared to have fatal flaws. The council was planning to "waive" several of the steps set out in the city code for street renaming, as it had apparently done in the past. Since you can't "waive" rules that apply to you, that move appeared to be of dubious legality.
Now, as they spoon-feed (and force-feed) the Chavez name to the folks on Fourth Avenue downtown, the council has drafted a whole new subsection of the code that would give it a new route for renaming streets. Under the new procedure, the council can propose to rename any street -- or any portion of a street -- and the matter is then referred to the city Planning Commission for a recommendation on whether it's "in the best interest of the City and the area within six miles of the City limits" as is required under state law. After a single hearing, the council will decide whether the renaming is in the same best interest, and if it is so decided, the deed is done.
The proposed changes, which are apparently up for rush-rush passage on Wednesday, are interesting in several respects. One is that while citizens' groups must still propose to rename an entire street or none of it, the council will now apparently have the right to rename just a portion of a street. (Section 17.93.020(C) of the code will probably need to be amended to make this clear, however, and so far the council has not proposed to do so.) Partial renaming is what's usually done, for example, in New York City, where many venues are re-christened for just a block or two; the city holds a little ceremony and puts up a sign, and it's ignored forever after.
Another fascinating aspect of the new Portland system is the reason that the council gave for it. The hurriedly drafted ordinance passed on Thursday (and hey, why the heck isn't it readily available on line?!) apparently started with findings that "[t]he current procedure for Council initiated renaming of streets is overly complicated, [and a] simplified procedure for Council initiated renaming of streets will preserve opportunities for public input while reducing the time and expense of the process."
That's pretty funny. There was nothing complicated about the old system at all. Under the former process, the council could initiate a name change only "to correct errors in street names, or to eliminate confusion"; it could not do so in order to name a street after a person. The new version creates lots of new opportunities for street name revisions, a new process, and a vague standard for determining whether street name changes are appropriate. How that simplifies anything is quite a mystery.
The standard by which proposed name changes initiated by the council will now be considered -- the "best interest of the City and the area within six miles of the City limits" -- is about as amorphous as one could imagine. It appears to have no meaningful content whatsoever.
In any event, it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the folks on Fourth will be to the proposed change to their stationery. Since the city code is being amended to grease the skids, the council's actions are theoretically subject to a public vote if opponents can collect enough signatures on petitions calling for a referendum. But even with lots of disgusted voters on both sides of the river, that kind of revolution seems unlikely. There's a 30-day deadline (jingle all the way), and the minimum number of signatures is 6 percent of the registered voters in the city as of the preceding municipal primary election. If I've got my math right, that's more than 18,500 valid signatures. Dream on.
Meanwhile, an alert reader informs us that he or she has spied a classified ad in the O from the Portland Development Commission for a new "senior development manager" for the SoWhat District, a.k.a. the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area. I believe a fellow named Larry Brown is the current manager. Given that folks in positions like his seem to get jobs working for or on behalf of the Chosen Few Developers who benefit from PDC projects, it would be interesting to see where he ends up.
The population of Portland grew 1.01 percent between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2007, according to "preliminary" estimates released by Portland State University last week. That's part of a gradual slowing trend in the growth rate within the city limits. In the previous year, the rate was 1.13 percent.
The July 1, 2007 population estimate was 568,380.
This means a couple of adjustments for the City of Portland debt clock, which resides on the left sidebar of this blog. We're resetting the annual population growth rate from 1.32 percent a year to 1.07 percent (the compound annual rate over the last three years), and of course we're now using the July 1, 2007 figure as our base. As a result, the clock's running estimate of the population has been reduced, and the debt per capita has increased accordingly.
Here's an Oregon landmark that drew some attention from the Times yesterday.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about Measure 50, the cigarette tax proposal that was badly defeated at the polls earlier this month. She noted that when she hears a ballot measure being touted as "for the children," she automatically votes against it.
I'm starting to lean that way myself, although I voted for 50. The next one -- and it's coming on fast -- is "green" or "sustainable." If I hear one more polluter or crook tell me how "green" he is, I think I'll scream.
Here's a goofy controversy brewing in the Golden State. (Note: Not work safe if you're a high school vice principal.)
Oregon to Jersey. Mom and grown-up daughter.
At least according to this study, they are.
Here's an Oregon guy trying to make it amongst the Big Daddies of Football.
Some days, I need this.
Portland's potheads are also quite active politically.
The Blazers just lost another one on the road. They haven't won an away game yet, in five tries. This one hurts worse than some of the others, because this was a contest that they had well in hand and let get away at the end. They lost the fourth quarter by a 36-15 margin, and lost the game by 4 points.
The refs did not help -- typical NBA mystery behavior down the stretch. But I'll tell you, until Nate McMillan figures out how to coach an offense, the Blazers are going to be a mediocre team at best, with or without Greg Oden.
Stop the presses! Bob Borden is back. But I suspect it's only because he's on strike as a writer on the Letterman show. It's lemonade out of lemons, people.
Since everything the City of Portland touches turns to gold, especially when computers are involved, how about spending $500 million (probably more when you sort through the budget lies) to build a municipal fiber optic cable system? It will be a linchpin!
If you've loved the city's "free" wi-fi, you'll love the "cheap" high-speed internet access that the new system will provide. And we'll have the official discussion about it the week of Thanksgiving, when we know you'll give it your full attention.
That odd bid solicitation from the Portland Water Bureau that we blogged about the other day has been revised again. You may recall that the bureau is looking for a firm to do real estate appraisal work.
The two latest changes make it easier for firms to qualify. First, rather than having to knock out appraisals in 10 calendar days (an awfully short time to do anything approaching a careful job), the bidders now get 15 calendar days (big deal). Second and more significantly, rather than have five professionals who are dedicated full-time to doing commercial real estate appraisals, bidding firms need have only one such professional. Third and most significantly, a bidding firm's lead appraiser on the assignment no longer must be designated as a member of the Appraisal Institute ("MAI") -- the gold standard for real estate appraisers. Under the latest addendum, it is merely "preferred" that the lead appraiser for the bidder have the MAI designation.
Why all these fundamental changes over the course of a couple of days? It's a pretty odd sequence of events. And they still haven't fully explained whether the appraisal work is for transaction purposes, condemnation purposes, or what, despite conflicting descriptions in the request for proposals.
One can only guess what is really going on in the back rooms at 1221 SW Fourth -- oops, I mean Chavez Avenue. The whole place seems to have gone quite off its rocker -- and Adams isn't even mayor yet.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Go Beavers!
Introducing Lola, who's too busy to sit still for a good photo just yet.
I'm playing host and need some suggestions. The closer to the Westin on Alder, the better.
An alert reader who attended yesterday's PDC commissioners meeting sends along some interesting notes about the part of the meeting regarding the competing interests for that federal building on northeast Broadway over by the main post office. You'll recall that both the Portland public market project and Pacific Northwest College of Art are salivating over that building, which the feds are looking to unload.
Recently, the college scooped the public market folks by invoking a federal preference of some kind for educational facilities, and yesterday the PDCers were considering what to do about that. Our correspondent reports as follows -- note that the opinions expressed in his or her report are not necessarily mine:
The PDC Commission Meeting was a doozy and classic PDC at its best. The PPM basically got their a*ses kicked, and PDC sent a pretty backhanded message that they have no interest in helping (read paying for) the PPM to get the 511 building. While no vote by the PDC Commission was required, the PDC board unanimously agreed to support PNCA and to abort the RFP process unless the GSA does not chose PNCA.
In a nutshell this is what happened:
* PDC gave a presentation on their staff report explaining PNCA's desire to apply directly to the GSA for the 511 building and PDC's recommendation that given this new development to postpone their RFP process until the GSA decision has happened (which will take anywhere between 30 days and 2.5 months) and then only if the GSA has rejected PNCA.
* PDC emphasized that they have no control over the building as the GSA owns it, that the GSA already has their own public process for applications and decisions on who will get the building and that it makes no sense to spend public money and staff time on an RFP process if the GSA will be making a decision before the PDC RFP process can be complete.
* PDC also emphasized that PNCA has every right to apply directly to the GSA, as does anyone else.
* PDC emphasized that because PNCA is an educational facility, under GSA guidelines they are eligible for a reduction in the building purchase price up to 100% market value and that by PDC getting involved with PNCA for the application through an RFP process, PNCA might lose this discount thus raising the costs of the development.
* PDC also stated, in response to the question of one of the Commissioners, that if the PPM were to share space with PNCA in the building then PNCA would also lose this discount as GSA rules indicate 100% of the building must be used for educational purposes in order to get the discount.
* PDC also felt that continuing a public process at this point would not be fair to any interested parties and would be a waste of time.
* PDC also emphasized that any GSA stated qualifying group can apply directly to the GSA and so a PDC process is not really needed.
* PDC also felt that PNCA had a solid finance, acquisition, and use plan in place and that PNCA will probably require significantly less public money than other uses probably will, thus making PDC want to back PNCA.
* Finally, Ron Paul [the main moving force behind the public market] or Amelia Hard (can't remember which) have written to the GSA to protest this decision. In my opinion that was a stupid, stupid move as they have already alienated themselves once from the GSA by publicly announcing they already have the building. This latest move won't help them.
There was also a significant amount of public testimony. Highlights:
* PNCA's president and student body president spoke and did a fine job explaining how PNCA would benefit this building, how PNCA is the fastest growing arts school in the U.S., how PNCA helps meet city economic and planning goals and will act as a bridge between Old Town/China Town and the Pearl and how they benefit Portland's goals for a creative class economy. Members of the PNCA student council were also present and all the blue hair suits seemed charmed at their geeky art school presence. (it makes the boomers feel cool to support an arts school).
* Harsch Development also spoke and did a killer job in explaining the overall benefits to the PNCA development.
* Ron Paul rambled. He spoke a lot about the need for an open and fair process, but not once did he make a compelling case for the PPM. Frankly, he
sounded stupidwas not convincing, as he was basically ignoring the facts that the GSA already has their own public process in place and that PDC has no obligation or even control over the building. The room was silent after he spoke and the Commission had no questions or comments for him.
* Melvin Mark (the developer that previously announced he is interested in the building and having the PPM in it) also spoke and echoed Ron, but he too had no compelling reason for continuing the RFP other than an "open and fair public process."
* Amelia Hard from the PPM Board spoke and pretty much said the same thing as Ron and Melvin, although she was a bit more articulate.
* There were, however, a couple of surprising people that wanted continuation of the RFP such as Patricia Gardner from the Pearl Neighborhood Association and a cranky regular PDC critic...
On one hand, I can understand the disappointment of the PPM and Melvin Mark, and PDC did state that they were going to do an RFI so of course to switch it now is going to ruffle some feathers. However, the PNCA and PDC made a very solid and rational case for placing the RFP process on hold and I have to say I am with them. They actually did the right thing for once and took into account the balance between a competitive bid process and the use of public funds...Good for them.
It's a good thing most high school student governments are more mature than these guys.
My uncle-in-law is a civic leader, an educator, and a Montana native. From that last personal attribute comes his skill at hunting. A while back when he visited us, he dropped off several packages of frozen game meat that he had scored on his hunting trips out near the Oregon Coast, where he makes his home.
We're still trying to figure out how to prepare some of it, but last night the Mrs. took some ground moose and whipped up some chili in the crock pot she acquired last Christmas. Skeptical at first, I warmed right up to it. There was nothing like this in Down Neck Newark when I was a lad. Mighty tasty, Bullwinkle.
Here is one of the great innovations in blogging history. I plan to adopt this excellent approach beginning next week.
They love us in St. Louis.
While they wait for the Good Old Boys at Metro to get the groundbreaking scheduled for the convention center hotel scam, the Hoffman crew (Official Construction Company of The Goldschmidt Network®) can while away their time collecting $100 million from the Neilies at the Port so that you won't have to walk 20 extra steps with your bags at the airport. Champagne all around at the Waverly tonight!
The City seeks an analysis to define the current state of farmers markets within Portland and the potential for growth in this direct-market channel that will encompass the following four elements:What the heck is this one all about, aside from shelling out $100,000 to the expert for a report? Aren't the farmers' markets in town doing fine without much help from the city, thank you very much?
• the critical elements for an economically viable farmers market in Portland
• the potential for expansion of farmers markets in the City
• potential strategies that will grow and enhance the direct-market channel
• the economic impact of farmers markets.
This morning's post on this blog about the Portland Water Bureau's bid solicitation for real estate appraisers may have gotten an official reaction. We just received word that the deadline for proposals has been extended to the Monday after Thanksgiving, and that the deadline for asking questions -- originally set at six hours after the solicitation was first posted -- has been extended to this coming Monday.
The "addendum" makes no change, however, to the odd language in the main announcement that first describes the work as being gift- and purchased-related, but then talks in terms of damages. They may have sprayed some room deodorizer around, but there's still a fishy smell.
The distribution channels that get goods to the stores have also changed. And it looks like the Wild Oats name will be phased out by Whole Foods within a year.
We've gotten ourselves on quite a few e-mail lists in connection with writing this blog. One such list brings us electronic announcements of most of the City of Portland's solicitations for bids on contracts. It's amazing how, despite the city's large bureaucracy, it still has to farm out tons of work to private firms. We seem to get one or more bid notices from the city every business day.
Yesterday we got one that seems fairly run-of-the-mill, until you take a look at the fine print. It's from the city's Water Bureau. They say they're looking to hire a real estate appraisal firm to be on call for various valuation tasks that might arise. The idea is that the outside firm will be standing by to whip out an appraisal within 10 calendar days whenever somebody from the Water Bureau calls.
Doesn't the city already have in-house people who do this sort of thing? Shouldn't it? But even if one concedes that there's a need for third-party appraisals, nonetheless a few aspects of this request for proposals seem unusual.
First, the call for bids seems awfully rushed. Dated yesterday, the proposal also gives yesterday as the deadline for submitting any questions that a prospective bidder might have. I got my copy of the notice just before 10 a.m. Is it really good practice for the city to leave just six working hours for questions?
Then there's the description of the work itself. Here are the situations in which the city says appraisals might be necessary:
The PWB from time to time, receives offers to purchase lands or may receive gifts of land. PWB will need appraisal services for the purpose of purchasing land or to determine the value for the purpose of estate taxes of those lands that are donated to the PWB.I can see that the Water Bureau might need an appraisal before deciding to sell real estate... but hey, wait a minute, exactly what real estate does it having lying around that it thinks is suitable for being sold off? Is this another one of those Parks Bureau situations, where people are skulking around plotting to sell city land without adequate public consultation?
And as for appraising donated land, why should that the be the city's responsibility? Why are we taxpayers paying to appraise property for purposes of some wealthy donor's estate tax return? If someone is being all that magnanimous, he or she (or the estate, if the donor's dead) ought to foot the bill for the appraisal.
And if purchases and gifts are the two contexts in which the valuation work needs to be done, the description of the work that's supposed to be performed doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It includes the following:
Economic research and analysis: evaluate the accuracy of claims for compensation for the loss of the real market value of real property due solely to the imposition of specific regulations; conduct independent economic evaluations and general estimates of the relative values of real property under specific regulatory conditions, isolating to the fullest extent practical the specific impacts of specific regulations; provide licensed or certified property appraisals of real property with and without the imposition of specific regulations....Sounds like there's more going on here than straight-ahead sales and gifts. It sounds like condemnation (or so-called inverse condemnation) work. The conflicting descriptions of the scope of the work are troubling.
In addition to those items required within the self-contained appraisal report, the following items shall be included within the report:
1) SUMMARY STATEMENT OF DAMAGES
This statement shall include the property parcel number, name of property owner of each interest being evaluated, estimate of damages for each property owner, the total amount of damages appraised if any, date of the appraisal, and the signature of appraiser preparing the report, (not a facsimile or reproduction). This statement shall precede the letter of transmittal.
Whatever the task really is, proposals are due next Tuesday afternoon. There are many appraisers in town who might be qualified and interested, but given the odd features of the announcement, one might infer that a contractor has already been selected, and that the bid process is mere window dressing. Ladies and gentlemen of the Water Bureau, say it ain't so.
UPDATE, 12:54 p.m.: Somebody noticed this post.
Well, our first delegation of the gridiron prognostication duties to Bill the Cat didn't pan out (if you'll pardon the expression). His "pick" was Cleveland, and it wasn't to be. No, if only he had moved over to his left and "chosen" the Rams, we'd be in much more respectable shape in the pro football underdog pool. We're now clearly out of the running for the season-long prizes; at this point we're playing only for pride.
Anyway, here are this week's contests, along with the latest configuration of our advanced decision-making metrics. Remember, our goal is to choose an underdog team (in CAPS) that will win its game outright:
15.5 BUFFALO vs. New England
14.5 KANSAS CITY at Indianapolis
10.5 WASHINGTON at Dallas
10 MIAMI at Philadelphia
9.5 NY JETS vs. Pittsburgh
9.5 CAROLINA at Green Bay
5.5 CHICAGO at Seattle
5 OAKLAND at Minnesota
3 ARIZONA at Cincinnati
3 SAN DIEGO at Jacksonville
3 ATLANTA vs. Tampa Bay
2.5 DETROIT vs. New York Giants
2.5 BALTIMORE vs. Cleveland
2.5 SAN FRANCISCO vs. St. Louis
2 TENNESSEE at Denver
That's the way (uh huh uh huh) Rupert likes it (uh huh uh huh).
There isn't much about the New Orleans disaster that the federal government can get right.
We have it on good authority that former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is going to endorse John Kroger for state attorney general.
The people building the condo towers in downtown Los Angeles.
Gimme a break. This is snake oil, people, pure and simple.
You're bigger than Fluffy.
Here's a new format for public discussion of "gentrification." Are you ready for this? It's a "restorative listening circle."
Here's a real satellite video.
She's comin' down fast.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Sooner or later, I would do something like this.
They even knocked down Satriale's up on Kearny Avenue, just a couple of blocks from where I lived in college. Just like that -- bada boom. They whacked the place.
I have just learned by e-mail that Jeff Merkley has cancelled his office warming party, which was planned for Thursday. Not that I was planning to go or anything, but you've got to wonder how Merkley can beat a consummate politician like Gordon Smith if his crew can't even get the timing of a reception straight.
Ace blogger Isaac Laquedem points out today that the Portland City Council's planned procedures for this week's resolutions renaming Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez may be improper. As has been reported elsewhere, the city code requires the council to follow a set procedure before renaming a street, and it didn't do so here -- far from it. The council is apparently planning to try to paper over that egregious omission by conveniently "waiving" the code requirements.
The problem is that you can't "waive" a rule that restricts you. As any law student should be able to tell you, a "waiver" is a voluntary relinquishment of a known right. Under the existing code, the council has no right to do what it is doing -- quite the opposite -- and so framing the disregard of the code in terms of "waiver" is strange lawyering to go along with the extremely poor policymaking.
I hope they do it the way it's on the agenda. Could make for an interesting lawsuit.
It's bad enough that with tools like Portland Maps and Google Maps, someone can see your house in both a satellite view and a street view from any internet-connected computer anywhere in the world. But if you're a homeowner, now the City of Portland has made it easy for nosy viewers to determine that the property they see on the screen belongs to you.
An alert reader pointed this out to me in an e-mail message this morning. The reader writes:
I was surprised last night with a new feature on Portland Maps -- they now have the owner's names and addresses listed. Here's one, for example:
If you click on the Owner Info (Privacy) link that's shown above the names, you'll be able to read a long explanation about how the "city ombudsman" asked for this, it's legal, it's a public record with the county anyway, etc. But they put this in place in the stupidest way possible, with no safeguards from web crawlers or anything else that would be able to assemble a reverse directory, such as the protection feature that asks you to type in some distorted numbers that it puts in an image (I can't remember what this is called but you probably know what I'm talking about). So as a result, I can associate the name of the circuit court judge across the street with his house, or for that matter, my name with my house. (I've had a death threat for some legal land use appeal activities a while back, and my wife is a social worker with criminally insane adult males, so we're unlisted.)
I rank this on par with the release of the DMV motor vehicle registration database quite a few years back. And once the cat's out of the bag, it's impossible to go back -- recall some recent identity thieves have been caught with copies of that database on their computer.
It's probably already well known among those we'd rather not have such information so easily available, and so there's no harm in blogging it. It's already done.
Intel's showing the world a new chip that will make those YouTube clips even smoother. And they're making them here in Oregon.
Under the Potter administration, the Portland Development Commission has changed some of its evil ways. For example, its approach to public relations has definitely improved from the days of Don Mazziotti's middle finger. Now the hipsters at the PDC are all, like, kewl -- going so far as to post videos on YouTube. You can see some of their handiwork embedded on the WW website, here.
I get a kick out of the Burnside Bridgehead one. They keep saying over and over how wonderful it's going to be -- you can have business lunches at the Doug Fir! But in their eyes I see desperation. If this was such a great project, how come nobody's turned a shovel of dirt in the 2½ years since the developer was selected?
The outreach to the cyberworld is a nice touch by the PDC honchos. But turning from style to substance, some things haven't changed -- especially the agency's odd view of public involvement. Like just about all segments of government in the Portland area, the PDC seems ever inclined to decide first and seeks broad public input later.
Case in point: the confab they've got planned for next Monday night (in a holiday week) that's styled as "a community meeting to discuss the future of urban renewal." Sounds at first like an open-ended and free-ranging town hall meeting, but when you get down to the fine print of the invitation, you see that it's far from that. In fact, it's "a briefing and discussion of the Future of Urban Renewal Initiative." Big difference.
"Briefing" means they're going to tell us a few things about what's already been decided. And what's already been decided is that there's going to be an "initiative." The goals and methods of that "initiative" have no doubt already been settled in some secret or obscure forum. And now that the train is on the track, they'll have some meetings at which the public will get to find out about it, and say what they think of it, all in the space of an hour. There'll be some suspiciously well-informed people gushing their praise of it, and most of those folks will be paid in one way or another to do so. Any critics will be thanked for their frankness. But no matter what the meeting attendees say, there are some deals here that are already as good as done.
Reading down a little further confirms that this is the posture we're in:
The PDC is seeking public input and discussion on a variety of issues including:Notice, they don't care what you think about whether 61 acres ought to be added -- that's part of the done deal. But you do get to say which 61 acres you'd pick. Whoopdee doo.
● What 61 acres should be added to the River District?
Then there's this one:
● As part of the discussion about the 61 acres for the River District, can and should “satellite districts” be created elsewhere in the city that would be financially connected to the River District and thus allow spending some of the available funds elsewhere in the city, and if so, under what circumstances?Give me a break. Though ever-so-abstractly stated in the PDC notice, we all know in very concrete terms what this one is about. It's "Opie" Sten's latest harebrained scheme, to spend urban renewal taxes from the Pearl District on a new school for the David Douglas School District, 10 miles away. It is one of this fellow's silliest pipe dreams yet -- and that's saying a lot -- and it's probably neither legal nor feasible. But hey, we are going to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, screwing around with it, and oh, yes, you might get to comment on some vague conceptual presentation of it for two minutes next Monday night if you want to.
And how about this one?
● Should more bonds be issued for projects in any of the expiring districts to accomplish community goals?Does anyone in their right mind think that "no" is an answer that anyone at the PDC would consider, even jokingly, for even a second? I work Monday nights, but even if I didn't, I wouldn't waste time at a meeting where folks are going to pretend that that question is really on the table.
The meeting notice comes replete with a reminder of the "urban renewal" mission statement:
Urban renewal is a state-authorized, redevelopment and finance program designed to help communities improve and redevelop areas that are physically deteriorated, suffering economic stagnation, unsafe or poorly planned."Poorly planned" -- got that? If the city decides that your neighborhood is "poorly planned" -- even if it thinks it's doing fine -- they can condemn it, bulldoze it, and turn it over to the condo tower weasels, all in the name of "urban renewal."
Now, there's something I'd like to see on a meeting agenda sometime.
I was quite late to the party on Firefox, the Mozilla browser. It wasn't until this site crashed last year and I was trying to reconstruct it that I downloaded Firefox, to make sure things on the blog looked o.k. through that browser.
That was pretty much the last I bothered with Internet Explorer. In my mind, there's no comparison between the two programs.
But little did I know about how Firefox came about, who's behind it, and how awash in big bucks the whole thing has become. If, like me, you haven't been following the drama behind the computer screen, here's an interesting summary of where things currently stand.
Here's a recent story in the Times about one couple's groovy little Hood River getaway.
(Via Cousin Jimbo.)
Roman Catholic Womenpriests. When are they coming to Portland?
All it takes is one blog.
On my flight home today, I chatted briefly with a gal who's visiting the Rose City for the first time on a convention junket. I did my best to lay things out for her. That's Hood and Jefferson on your left; Adams, St. Helens, and even Rainier on my right.
She's here for a meeting of a national association of people who teach homeless children. She's from Wyoming, where she tutors kids from kindergarten through senior year of high school. I asked where the kids slept. On the street? In cars? She said that most of them drift from friend's couch to friend's couch.
I rag a lot on the Convention Center, and I'm pretty neutral toward the public employee unions, but I hope that she and her colleagues have a good and productive time here. I warned her that if she looked lost in a public place in Portland, the locals would be climbing all over each other trying to be the one who gave her good advice on how to get around.
The spirit of the people who live in this town is phenomenal. When it comes to helping strangers, we're second to none. Welcome to Portland, lady. And if you run into her, folks, don't let me down.
The council unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Councilor Rod Park to spend $669,000 and six months finalizing an agreement with a development team that includes the development of a preliminary schedule for development of a 600-room hotel, a preliminary project budget and a hotel operating agreement.Yeah, right. That "commitment" will come when (a) nobody's looking, (b) shortly after they pull out the old "We've spent too many hundreds of thousands to turn back now," or (c) a few months after construction starts. This fiasco is so a done deal. Sad.
“Today’s decision is not a commitment to build the hotel,” said Park.
For the last couple of days, we have been on the road in pursuit of real life. Today we're heading back to Portland. There's no place like home.
As is our custom, we'll give our readers a chance to guess where we've been. We have a plane change ahead, and we'll check in there to see whether anybody's correctly located us -- that is, if the free airport wi-fi works. (On the way here, it was bad enough to make MetroFi look good.)
Here's your first clue: They've lost two games already, and one more would make their whole season a disaster.
We often remark about how times have changed. When we were kids, your parents could let you head off on your own to the nearby schoolyard to play with your friends, even if you were only 6 or 7 years old.
You can't do that nowadays. But I was surprised to read that parents' doing so is now seen as a crime!
The latest in the battle of the chi-chi is recounted here.
"Private meetings" with "business leaders." Yeah, that's a polite way of putting it. They're scamming to turn over Lincoln High School to Homer Williams and Gerding & Edlin for a condo tower.
My God, Portland, you are being sold out left and right, and yet you return the same developer whores to the City Council, year after year. Wake up and realize what you are doing! Before it's too late.
On a nice walk this evening, I finally figured out something that I hadn't quite understood previously, despite having thought about it most of my life. That something is birthdays. I have always been able to reason why we celebrate these days, but I have never really felt it in my gut.
Of course, it's a celebration of the person whose day it is. We take time to appreciate that individual, their uniqueness, their spirit, their character, their contributions to the world, and to us. We think about how much poorer life would be without them.
It all makes sense, and it's pretty to think about, and of course I've been through the ritual hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I've even been on the receiving end of the day's wishes more than 50 times myself.
But today it's more than a nice idea, and a kind gesture. Today it's visceral. Today is my older daughter's birthday.
I think back to this night seven years ago. Right now the Mrs. was in the thick of it. The doula was there, and we all played our roles. After several difficult hours, the path cleared. The child emerged. The tears were streaming down my face. Every hair on my body was standing on end. The spirits in the room were deafening. The doctor handed her to me and said, "Here's your baby."
There is no greater moment. And so tonight I figured out why birthdays are such a big deal. It's like graduation ceremonies, and wedding receptions. It's not for the birthday girl, or boy. It's for the parents. It gets them get back in touch with that magic, blessed, unspeakably wonderful instant in time.
Not everybody gets to do it, and not everybody wants to do it. But for those of us who do, it's worth a party, every year.
She wasn't the first one, and she won't be the last.
Just another day in Portland: a new tax, more bureaucracy, and another program that the public doesn't want or need. No meaningful discussion (except with the Chosen Few Developers, no doubt) before the plan is announced to the world. Nothing new there.
But sneaking off to announce it in Chicago -- now, that's a new one.
I've made the big time. Now people are writing open letters to me.
Granted, it's someone who's angry because he and his pals just got slapped down hard for their devotion to greed, but hey, at least somebody thinks I'm a big shot. Spelled the name right and everything.
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you...
A reader who I'm pretty sure wasn't on something wrote me earlier this evening with this breaking news:
Around 30 minutes ago (6:30 pm) I was at the SE corner of 39th and Main gazing up towards the Northwest/ West sky while I was waiting for the light to change, when a very bright, unusually big space object came shooting down. It was bigger than any shooting star I've ever seen and it had to be close to our part of the planet. It was exciting, but my first reaction was to recoil a little bit, probably because I just happened to be looking right at that part of the sky when it showed up. This could be it. The aliens have returned to take me home.Is this for real?
All aboard! Woo hoo!
Yesterday we ran two "exit" polls on ballot Measures 49 and 50. We remarked in the accompanying comments that the readership of this blog is fairly Portland-centric, and so our results might better reflect the vote in Multnomah County than anywhere else in the state.
Just for the heck of it, here are our poll results (in percentages) compared with the unofficial final results in Multnomah County. Note that the third number in our results is the percentage of respondents in our poll who said they didn't vote on the respective ballot measure:
Measure 49: Our poll 70-27-3, Multnomah County actual 79-21.
Measure 50: Our poll 57-40-3, Multnomah County actual 57-43.
We were close enough to the actuals that if no one else runs "exit" polls in the future, we plan to.
I haven't heard about any sightings of our favorite Portland street con man lately, but a reader writes in with what she claims to be a new scam, which I suppose could victimize you wherever you are. She writes:
I was almost the victim of a new scam that I'd love to let others know about. I posted something on craigslist (the source of the attempted scam) in an attempt to warn folks, but I just heard from one woman who fell victim and it sounds like she could use some help.O.k., world, I've done my duty. You've been warned.
Here's what happened: My boyfriend's laptop was stolen last weekend and after filing a police report and notifying the computer manufacturer, I thought to post something under the "Lost & Found" section on craigslist offering a reward, no questions asked, for its return. A few days later I get a phone call from a truck driver named "Stan Wilson" from Chicago who says that he bought my laptop on his way through town, figured it to be stolen, found me on craigslist, and would like to return it to me. Elated, I immediately offer to pay him whatever he paid for it plus the cost of shipping. He tells me that he is going to figure out how much it will cost to ship to me and call me back.
So, I talk to this guy again and he tells me to wire him money via Western Union and he'll ship the computer to me. Big red flag goes off hearing the words "Western Union." Fortunately for me, I had to be somewhere so got off the phone and promised to call him back. I decided to locate an escrow service to do the deal--if the transaction was legit, he would respect that--and called him back.
Well, I never talked to the guy again and today his phone number was disconnected. I knew it was a scam, but couldn't just leave it at that. I did one of those reverse number lookups (which cost $15 for cell phones) and came up with the name "Sergio Retiz," a Sprint PCS customer in Chicago. So I try Googling Sergio and find a Chicago craigslist ad from someone offering a reward to find him. I email that guy, we talk (turns out he is in Seattle), and he had posted a similar ad and received a similar call and done just what I had done to try and find this guy. So at that, I post a warning on craigslist in the lost & found section to folks who have lost or stolen things that if this guy contacts them, its a scam. And then I get the following email:Don't do it!!!!I email her back. This is the response:
I had the same thing happen to me with this guy with a ring I had lost. He called from Chicago and said he was a trucker who bought it going through Portland and then when I tried to call him all of his numbers were disconnected. He is well known. Send him no money.He suckered me for $200.I guess that most people know better that to send money via Western Union to complete strangers, but for those that don't, I want this to be a warning. We're so desperate to get back these items that we have lost, that we'll just take people at their word. I'm just glad I'm not out a laptop AND $200 right now.
I do know that the Portland Police are trying to find him and to figure out how he works. Somehow he disconnects his phones as fast as he gets them. I was so desperate to have my ring back that I wanted to believe him. Hopefully he will be caught --- but I would imagine that it will have to be Western Union who snags him --- I bet it's only a matter of time.
Tom Potter ran for mayor promising to "bring us all together." The impending vote to rename Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez, over the loud objections of a majority of people who live and work around that street, will certainly be a unifying event. Now the residents of the Overlook neighborhood will learn the lesson that residents of Buckman, Mount Tabor, Cully, and many other areas of town already know: The City Council does whatever it wants, even when it's in clear violation of existing ordinances (which will just get conveniently waived), and the opinions of affected neighbors don't count.
There are other important lessons as well. Note that the two members of the council who are about to be voted on (one for re-election and the other for mayor) are supporting the neighbors, while the one who's retiring and the two whose seats are safe for several more years are going against them.
And finally, in every trampling on neighbors' sensibilities, there's always the two-faced member of the council who makes a big point of saying he's sympathetic to the local residents, but who votes against them anyway. The Scone used to be the master of this; now he's turned the reins over the Opie of Bridlemile.
What a way to honor Cesar Chavez.
Spray 'n' Wash doesn't get them out.
The board of directors of Whole Foods has put an end to internet activities by its executives unless they have the company's permission.
If we voters of Oregon proved anything yesterday, it's how dumb we are.
First, we passed Measure 49, which was basically an admission that Measure 37, which we had previously passed, overwhelmingly, twice, was a big mistake.
Then we turned down Measure 50 in response to a sleazebag media blitz from the tobacco companies. "I'm worried about putting a tax on a specific product in our Constitution." It's really a shame that you can sell such abstract nonsense with pictures of Abe Lincoln.
Another proposition that was proven yesterday is that money wins. There's a lot of talk this morning about how the tobacco companies bought the election on the tobacco tax. But don't forget, money is what won the day on the land use measure as well. Without millions thrown into the pot by folks like the Nature Conservancy and Eric Lemelson, Measure 49 would have failed.
Yep, voters aren't too bright, and it's money that matters. Nothing new there.
I'm glad Measure 49 passed, and I'm sorry that Measure 50 failed. But on the latter point, I take comfort in knowing that there's still a special place in hell reserved for tobacco executives and the people who do their bidding.
Up next: the lawsuits arguing that Measure 49 is unconstitutional. See you in court.
I've been on a terrible losing streak in the NFL underdog pool that I first entered a few months ago. Last week I took a stab with Indy over New England. Didn't happen. Despite the best advice I've received on this blog from various quarters, it's been quite a while since I've had a winner.
I fall further and further behind the leaders in the season-long pool. My 20-buck entry fee is in serious jeopardy. And so I've come up with a new strategy for picking games the rest of the season.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, let's look at our choices for the weekend ahead (underdogs in caps):
12 ST. LOUIS at New Orleans
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Seattle
9 CLEVELAND at Pittsburgh
6 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
4.5 CINCINNATI at Baltimore
4.5 JACKSONVILLE at Tennessee
4 ATLANTA at Carolina
3.5 SAN DIEGO vs. Indianapolis
3 OAKLAND vs. Chicago
3 DENVER at Kansas City
2.5 PHILADELPHIA at Washington
2.5 MIAMI vs. Buffalo
1.5 NEW YORK GIANTS vs. Dallas
1 DETROIT at Arizona
If there's any way I'm going to catch up to the leaders in this thing, I'm going to have to start throwing the long ball, so to speak. I'm going to have to pick an underdog to win outright from one of the top four games each week. And given my lack of skill in sorting out good from bad advice in comments on this blog, I've got to turn to a new expert to guide my choices.
No worries. I've got just the guy:
And the technique for picking a winner? No problem:
Please do leave comments about which underdog team you think will win its game outright. But I hope you'll forgive me if I give my new system a try.
Here's a video of some important research work being done in Canada.
I hate it when this happens.
Back when we were writing our series on the public debt of the City of Portland, we took a brief look at the debt that Multnomah County has taken on over the years. Compared to the crazy spendthrifts in Portland city government, the folks at the county appeared to have been acting with restraint.
That may be changing.
Over the transom yesterday came an envelope addressed to us, with no return address. In it, we found this:
The entire two-page document is here. It's a proposed county commission resolution that looks as though it's going to be passed this week. It jacks up the limit on debt that the county can take on from one that requires an "annual payment" of 5 percent of the county's annual "general fund budgeted revenues" to a debt that requires 7 percent of those revenues to pay.
That's a 40 percent boost in the debt limit.
Why go to the credit cards so heavily? According to the "whereas'es," the county needs the cash to buy the Lincoln Building, a new assessment and taxation "system," and maybe the Columbia Pacific Plaza Building.
More bonds, more debt. Look your kids in the eye. If they keep living here, they'll be paying for our spending for a long time.
We just had an interesting question come up around our office: If you live in, say, Multnomah County, can you drop off your ballot at, say, the Lake Oswego Public Library today (in Clackamas County), and still have it be counted?
We just checked with Multnomah County Elections, and they tell us that yes, you can drop off a ballot at an official drop-off location anywhere in the state and it will eventually be counted by your home county elections bureau. (The counties ship the ballots around by courier.) They have 20 days to do all the counting.
Curiously, I haven't seen any polls of any kind on Oregon Ballot Measures 49 and 50, which get decided tonight. I think they're both going to be close, with more yes votes on 49 than on 50, but we'll see. In the meantime, it can't hurt to ask:
On our front doorknob this evening:
It sure looks as though Portland parents are going to have fewer choices in the near future about which public school their children attend. It's not too hard to read between the lines of the official notice of tonight's school board meeting:
Judy Brennan, program director of the district’s Enrollment and Transfer Center, will present to the board history and data on the current policy governing school choice in the district. Portland has along tradition offering both strong neighborhood schools and focus option choices. At the heart of district choice is a lottery system and school attendance boundaries built over decades on incremental changes. In recent years, federal requirements under No Child Left Behind have complicated the process.
Brennan’s data highlights a city with great disparity in income and racial makeup among neighborhoods even before students choose to transfer. When demographics are viewed post-transfer, the schools in outer North, Northeast, and Southeast Portland show higher concentrations of poor and minority students than the neighborhoods surrounding them. The presentation tonight will serve as a foundation for a school board discussion of the transfer policy.
The board agenda and supporting materials are online at www.pps.k12.or.us/.docs/pg/1079.
A reader who appears to have an inside view of the Multnomah County Elections Office reports that there's some friction going on between Department of Community Services Director Cecilia Johnson and Director of Elections John Kauffman:
I've heard that Ms. Johnson has removed [Kauffman] in all but name only, after a glowing audit report in June. I hear she has brought in a non-elections person to manage the office.... What I've heard is Mr. Kauffman was planning to stay until next summer, to assist with the transition of a new Elections Director. I thought Mr Kauffman seemed like a good director. He's always seemed to know his elections stuff and from what I've been told he's well respected in the elections community.... I understand Mr. Kauffman is still there, but I guess he doesn't have any role now. Ms. Johnson, as you may remember, is the director who received a very lenient suspension from former Chair Diane Linn for unauthorized use of a county vehicle, hitting pedestrians...Could it be that all those ballots are going to a bureau that's having a bad morale moment? The reader seems to think so. Perhaps someone else out there could enlighten us as to the accuracy of this report.
First, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a Duck fan, and I am not getting anywhere near that bandwagon. Indeed, I hope they lose to the Beavers, which would be rich indeed. But I do wonder how many readers out there are indulging in The Current Fantasy. So here goes:
That's one way to explain it when you get your butt whipped in a debate.
The Daily Telegraph lists its 100 most influential American conservatives and 100 most influential American liberals.
More fun and games on MAX. What a disgrace.
What do you know? The newspaper that apparently knew about Neil Goldschmidt's "affair" with a 14-year-old girl for years and did nothing about it now thinks that people should stop demanding the truth from the governor who apparently knew about that statutory rape for years and did nothing about it.
Despite all the hubbub about the City of Portland's new ordinance about sitting and lying on the sidewalks, not much has changed, at least according to a reader who writes:
I wish you could draw attention to the continuing problem of people (mostly young, rough looking people) sitting on sidewalks downtown. I was down there recently with my parents visiting from Florida. They couldn't believe the number of panhandlers, people pushing around shopping carts and groups of young people sitting on the sidewalk. We noticed a group of several young people and a dog sitting right in front of the new Macy's. Then we saw a group sitting in front of Rite Aid (a place I always see people sitting). The next day, we saw more kids squatting in front of the Rite Aid.No input from me on this one. I pretty much steer clear of downtown these days.
I sent an email to the mayor's office and the police. No response from the police, but to their credit, I did get a quick response from the mayor's office. Unfortunately, it was unsatisfactory. I asked why the new sidewalk ordnance is not being enforced, and the mayor's aide said enforcement is a relatively low priority, despite all the hullabaloo about the new ordnance and all the money spent on new benches, so that people wouldn't have to sit on the sidewalk.
I've travelled to many cities around the world and I've never seen anything like what we have in Portland. I always hear that SF and Seattle are worse, but it's pretty bad here in Portland.
I see that Fireman Randy has been going undercover to catch those evil people who are not taking down names when they sell spray paint -- and even selling it from open displays rather than locking it up! Those dirty no-goodniks.
What an amazing run of fall days we've been having in Portland. The clear skies, the mild days, the spectacular foliage -- New England has nothing on us this year.
This afternoon we stumbled across the last of the cherry tomatoes on our backyard vines. They were sweet as candy.
Did you know that low-income Portland residents get a break on their water and sewer bills? Well, now you know.
The MAX trains have become such a magnet for crime that Gresham is going to send a few police officers to patrol them. Seems overdue.
Among the great rituals of life are the periodic poker games in the Bogdanski Hut. Tonight the Mrs. and I threw one together, in a week that already had a lot going on. On paper, too much. In reality, a tonic for the soul. I really needed it, and everyone came through.
Two of the usual "Magnificent Seven" players were unavailable, but adult sons of two of the five who were in attendance stepped up to take their seats. Lo and behold, they relieved us of some money, and promptly headed off for more interesting adventures. But not before we all spent a few hours together, drinking and dining and laughing and talking and thinking and checking each other out. What great kids. How lucky we all are.
I came out only $4 down, and there's more than that lying around in leftover beer. I even got to hear some nice new music by Alison Krauss and her new partner, egads, Robert Plant!
My head's really been spinning this week, but this night was so good. Bring on the dark and the cold.
Slick Willie's pimping "green, sustainable" Wal-Mart now.
It's getting on time for me to pick an underdog for this weekend's pro football pool. I'm hearing Indy, Baltimore, and Carolina. If you've got thoughts, now's the time to leave them here.
Our governor, accused of lying about what he knew and when he knew it concerning his political mentor's regular statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl, has now submitted a "notarized affidavit," we're told. In it, he reportedly swears that he never had the conversations that a former speechwriter for the rapist says he had about the matter. The former speechwriter has also signed an affidavit with his side of it -- and taken and passed a lie detector test.
Has anybody read the actual gubernatorial affidavit? Without seeing exactly how it's worded, one cannot tell what he's swearing to. There's a difference between saying "I can't remember" and "I remember, and these conversations never happened." All along, when he wasn't busy storming off the stage upon being asked about it, the governor has consistently said the latter.
I know what I think, but I'd like to see if you agree. And so here goes:
... I hope this guy is better at private relations than he is at public relations.
(BTW, when you click on that link, check out the URL address it sends you to. As funny as the story itself.)
These jobs are goin', boys
And they ain't comin' back
Ralph, a furry orange cat who lived with us for 11½ years, left the planet yesterday. He had been ill for a few months. The last week or so was tough. He was telling us that it was time to say goodbye.
Also known as "Pinkie" (after his nose) and "Man," Ralph was quite a character. We found him at the Humane Society, where we had gone to find a companion for our recently arrived girl kitty, Gloria, in 1996. We wanted an orange boy, and only one cat there that day fit that description. The staff at the Humane Society had named him Ralph, and we decided that it was a perfect moniker for the little guy. He seemed kind of dim-witted, but we reasoned that even slow kitties need love.
As it turned out, Ralphie was just a little sick when we got him, and once a few bugs were knocked out of his system, he was good to go. He civilized Gloria, who was nearly feral, by showing her how much fun it could be to interact with people. She hissed at him for weeks, but he just ignored her when she did that. After a while, they became good friends, and stayed that way until Gloria passed on a couple of years ago.
Ralph was a scrapper. At his first home, in the Buckman neighborhood, he was a bit of a victim. Two different rivals would come by and pummel him every now and then. The Mrs. would run out and break it up, lovingly fighting Pinkie's battles for him. He wound up with a couple of notches on his ears and one chipped fang to show for his early travails.
After a couple of years of that, when we moved to our present neighborhood, Ralph decided that he wasn't going to be on the receiving end any more. He showed great determination in establishing himself as the alpha cat on the block. So vigorous was he in handing out shellackings to one particular neighbor's cat that we had to develop our patented Cat Warning System to keep the two of them apart at all times.
Ralph outlasted that other guy, but toward the end, he himself was getting pounded by a different neighbor's cat, who came by frequently to get into it with Ralph. When our Man finally gave up trying to win those fights, his days were numbered.
Pinkie was a talker. Rarely did he interact with us humans without vocalizing. Most of the time, it was difficult to figure out what he was trying to say, but that never stopped him from sounding off, or us from talking back. He and I developed quite a ritual of verbal exchanges over the years. I told him over and over, for no particular reason, "The Pink Man is a good man." It was great.
Ralph's purring was also impressive. At times it was like having a little Harley at your feet in the bed. A lullaby, though, because it was Pinkie.
He also liked to lick people -- some people, at least. If he found a human hand that he thought needed a bath, well, that hand was going to get a good cleanup, unless it pulled away. When Pinkie went into his "Licky Lou" routine, he could go on for quite a while. Ditto for his "camel act." The guy would string together long stretches without a drop to drink, and then settle down at his water bowl for five minutes or more. And the shower -- there was always something he loved about the water on the shower floor. Man would come running when he heard that shower turn on. Then, if you left the door open after you shut off the water and got out, and only if you left him alone for a few pensive minutes, in he'd go for a "Licky Lou."
Ralph's last year and change was shared with an adopted little brother. It was a dirty trick we played on Pinkie, who never got along with the kid. We had known that two males was a bad idea, and we thought we had brought home a girl, but a few weeks later, our mistake became obvious. Once Pinkie took sick, brother Bill gave him some space, and the Cain-and-Abel stuff mostly died down. Everybody, it seemed, adjusted to the sad truth.
Losing a sweet guy like Ralphers is a dark, dark moment. Having learned a few things from the passing of Gloria, this time around we knew what to expect. Coping is a little easier. But some winter night, when we hear Man meowing to us in the background about some thing or another, it won't dawn on us right away that what we're hearing is but a ghostly memory. And when we realize that, the tears that we're talking ourselves out of tonight will be our answer.
So long, Man. We love you.