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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Opie packs it in

Today's announcement that Erik Sten is quitting the Portland City Council is not much of a surprise. His heart hasn't really seemed to be in the job since he was re-elected two years ago. In recent years, his dad died, he had a kid, he came into a ton of money, he bought a West Hills mansion, and next thing you know, the goofball pipe dreams slowed to a trickle.

His adoring fans at WW, who broke the story this morning, can't tell us where Sten is heading next. Certainly there is no real job on the horizon. My guess is that he'll go to work for Hillary if she gets the Democratic nomination for President, and if that bombs out, he'll take some kind of community housing gig like the one his (and my) friend Rey Ramsey has.

Another vacancy on the City Council is a tantalizing thought. Surely the candidates for the seat being vacated by Sam the Tram now see their odds of winning a council seat doubling. And people who are sitting out the scramble for the Adams seat -- Dave Lister, for example -- may suddenly see an opening.

I wouldn't count on it.

The Stennies have a whole raft of candidates to pick from, each and every one as goofy as Opie, and maybe even ready to do his bidding as The Next Neil. Sten's longtime deputy Marshall Runkel is around, as is Jefferson what's-his-name from the Bus Kids. And don't forget the two ex-Mean Girls with time on their hands and developers to please.

Yes, it's going to be different without those trips down to the fishin' hole with Opie. And certainly it's a chance to restore sanity to the Council Chambers. But this is Portland, and I have no doubt that the established beat will go on.

A final note. This is not true:

Have you ever spoken to Bogdanski?

Only once. I recognized him and introduced myself to him at Candidates Gone Wild [a campaign event, in 2006]. He said, "I know who you are," and kept walking.

I'm sure he's just mis-remembering, but he and I actually had a bit of a conversation. I told him that I had recently had coffee with a mutual friend, Ramsey. I said that it would be a great idea to get him back to Portland to participate in public life here. Sten said he agreed, and with two people like him and me working toward the same goal, we might be able to get it done.

Neither one of us was rude or abrupt, although the moment was a little awkward. There was a loud crowd all around us, and after our brief exchange, we both faded into it. And of course he "recognized" me. We had just been introduced on stage together, and I had asked him questions on a panel in front of the audience.

Comments (60)

That is quite a scoop for WW, still wasn't in The big O a few minutes ago.

A tour of the greater TRIMET area with Abe might help your perspective on this one.

My only words to Opie - Don't let the door hit you on your way out!!!

Good Riddance.

So . . . was his candidacy "spurious" under the Portland City Code if he does not and did not plan to complete his term of elective office?

If yes, then his name should not have been placed on the ballot and he should not have been eligible for public funds for his campaign.

Final result. If you quit early then you must return your public campaign funds.

Who knows if his expression of intent now that he will leave office April First is a lark too? Yet his plan to leave early, if not withdrawn, should make it sufficiently clear to the City Auditor that his original candidacy and continued presence on the City Council is part of a spurious plan to run originally.

If I were the City Attorney I would immediately seek to expel Sten so that his non-spurious replacement can be selected. Could Sten, at his option, between now and then -- or as a consequence of a court order demanding him to return his public campaign funding if he leaves early-- simply change his mind? Could Sten simply change his mind based on his perspective on the field of replacements and the polling as to who will replace him, again at his option alone and unreviewable by a court?

Does his unitary pledge to leave early constitute a contract that would be enforceable so that is replacement, after an election, can take his seat . . . by court order if necessary? This alone is an absurdity when contrasted with a present and continuing legally enforceable duty to serve.

On other matters, a new judge for Multnomah County starts work today. By appointment after another left office early . . . to allow an appointment I suppose. I wonder how he would rule on this very matter?

At one time "Opie", as you aptly named him, could be a Stanford intellectual and at times a blundering ego-maniac. He was head and shoulders over his predecessor, and more honest.
His screwing up the water computer system for 40 million was terrible, but his off-handed " blowing it off, was worse.
His attempt to take over PGE was fine by me..he didn't get support first, another mistake.
His efforts for affordable housing and shelter for the homeless is a grand credit to him.
His idea on a regional water system [ Bull Run} is still a necessary agenda item that needs to come into play.
Portland has now lost lost the brightest bulb on the city council.

All I can think about is how 2008 might bring us a City Council without Potter, Sten and Adams.

It would be a dream come true...

Jack -- I think the stars have aligned for a run. C'mon! You could get the 1,000 sigs for public financing without a problem. Count me as a campaign volunteer.

My worst fear is that another equally worthless replacement will be appointed somehow to finish out Sten's term in office. And then get re-elected to torment fiscally responsible Portland taxpayers and businesses for yet another four years.

Sten's got a plan.

Follow the money.

he and I actually had a bit of a conversation

Watching from afar, that's my memory as well. Sten was certainly conversational. It was nice of WW to give him a second chance to take a whack at you. Not sure what purpose it serves.

I'm with ecohuman, there's a plan. It will be interesting to see what it is. Anyone know if April 1 is somehow financially significant? Does it give him another year in PERS or whatever he's in?

I guess grand compliments are the order of the day...

His efforts for affordable housing and shelter for the homeless is a grand credit to him.

Except maybe the Dignity Village fiasco.
Handing over city land & all...

Do you think Sten's efforts for affordable housing and shelter that cost Portland taxpayers over $169 MILLION in the last 2006 audit is a good buy and good money management by Sten? Per person served, each person should be living in an two bedroom apartment for that kind of money. If Sten was ever analyzed with performance audits his time on Council would be a negative.

Plan is that he doesnt want the stank of Portland's looming finance mess (hey, he's like teflon with public campaingn financing and the water computer.)

So he needs to clean himself up for another office. Maybe something with Hillary or Teddy K (I mean come on, he's [another Neil hey-boy] making ovedrtures to Tom Imeson for some kind of timber commissioner, so anything's possible.)

re: "Another year in PERS"

it hardly matters. Vesting takes place in 5 years, and benefits are computed on the basis of months of service, not necessarily years. He's too young to retire, the current version of PERS doesn't really offer him much more than what he had before 1/1/04, except for that 6% contribution. If he goes to work for another public agency that participates in PERS, he won't miss a beat. If he goes private, his PERS money will remain drawing 8% per year on his pre-2004 contributions, and market rates on his post 2003 contributions. Believe me, PERS does not figure into his calculations. If there's a plan -- and I cannot see anyone like Opie without a plan -- it will become clear as time rolls on. As long as he doesn't absent himself from PERS for more than 6 months, he returns to any public employment position with no loss of service credit or Tier. Lesse, 6 months from April 1 is .... October 1. So, if he's got another public employee position lined up, expect it to happen before October 1. That's about the only PERS-related observation I can make.

If ONLY we could lose more of these fiscally inept, bright bulbs!

Kramer, on Paul Allen/LIARS public airwaves, broadcast at 11:15 that you are a valid vote for LIARS listeners to take Opie's seat, Jack, in a call-in straw poll at LIARS number. Call early, call often, I suppose.

Surely if riding around on The Bus can get Jefferson what's-his-name elected to Salem, a broadcast endorsement like today's could catapult you into Portland's catbird seat. Just tell voters that Kramer/LIARS cajoled you into it.

BTW, Jack, if/when he gets you on the line, ask Kramer to correct his calling the NYTimes editorial, ( ">listing the war crimes charges indicting dumbo Dubya), the "first editorial of 2008," in truth is the last editorial (Dec.31) in 2007.

Niles mentioned the $1.2 million dollar house but not the $1.0 million mortgage that he qualified for on his $95,000 per year salary...

mrfearless47: Didn't this last legislature pass a law that allows you to return after a break-in-service and be reinstated at whatever PERS Tier you were previously vested in? If so, Sten can take a longer break than 6 months and not lose his status.

Kramer, on Paul Allen/LIARS public airwaves, broadcast at 11:15 that you are a valid vote for LIARS listeners to take Opie's seat

Cosmo Kramer is now on radio?

Now commenters here will need to find someone new to pillory. I'm sure a new couple of commissioners without elected experience will be just the ticket.

Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City.

Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas...


Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City.

i'm somewhere between Jonathan and Jack on this one. Sten did do a lot of hard work in areas like homelessness, and was more up front about some issues than other local leaders.

Boy, I'd sure like to see someone name one thing Sten did during his time on the Council that was "vital" or "beneficial." Everything he touched was an unmitigated disaster.

"Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City."

Well that just goes to show us.
Here in Portland, a person can be entirely unqualified and ill-suited for a job, get elected and keep it for years, do absolutely nothing of any accomplishment or substance, waste 100s of milions of tax dollars and still be cast as a fine leader by his loyal followers.

I suspect Chris Smith may move over to chase this seat and avoid running against
Amanda Fritz. Can he did that?

Cosmo Kramer is now on radio?

In light of recent, um, events, I think it's spelled Kosmo. Middle initial "K".

I hope someone more fiscally responsible replaces Sten, but it definitely could get worse than Sten. Sten's efforts seem mostly tokenism, and that was good. One thing the WW interview touches on which rings true to me. If someone is in a happy position in life, enjoying hobbies and family, why would he or she want to run and get elected to the city council? You may ultimately get richer and more powerful being on the PDX council, but you have to live life in a "fishbowl." No matter what you do, you are going to create vocal and sometimes intimidating enemies.

Um. So Mr. Sten isn't going to be mayor of Portland? What's up with that? Can he do that?

IMHO, mrfearless47 would be an excellent candidate for city council.

"Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City." Sheesh, give the man a h*** job while you're at it, Jon. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Bob Clark hit it on the head. Even as a minor candidate with limited recognition I had my fill of the fish bowl. It's not much fun to get hateful e mail from people who don't know you. It's even less fun to get hateful e mail from your own supporters when you say something that hits them the wrong way. I'm sure you can amplify what I experienced a thousand fold if you actually won office.

"Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City." Sheesh, give the man a h*** job while you're at it, Jon. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

I NEVER agree with Ecohuman, but alas here here he is 100% correct -- this is all part of a larger plan. My guess is that he's positioning himself for a larger Federal job in the likely event that a Dem is elected President. If he doesn't get such a job, he can always take a job with a foundation or non-profit, or a state/county job.

Nonetheless, this is great news and a good day/omen for Portland.

The only problem I see is that the increasingly "progressive" (lefty/socialist) PDX/MultCo voters will put someone equivalent or worse in his slot, as well as Adams'.

"Commissioner Sten had vision, dedication, and good ideas, and I think those that pay attention will miss his vital, progressive and beneficial impact on this City."

Jon, you were just engaging in hyperbole. Right? Please!? Sure he could have been worse (and the voters may replace him with worse). And I am sure he really meant well. But "vital . . .beneficial impact"?? Really??

Name one politician who has done more to both raise the visibility of the problems with homelessness, and advocate aggressively, at every turn, to make sure that the City was trying to deal with long-term homelessness. It is a problem that is as entrenched in every city as any issue, and he took it head on. Partnerships, housing projects, opposing development that tossed homeless housing or ignored the impacts on the homeless. Is homelessness solved? No, it won't ever be. Have there been demonstrable, good efforts to get chronically homeless families off the streets? Absolutely.

As for the water billing system, look back at it. Two different bureaus proposed different ideas, and he picked one. It was a computer system that was a mess. It's been a while, but I recall 3-4 years ago an article about a multi-million dollar loss at Nike, on a new computer system. Welcome to the world of technology, folks. For those of you who have purchased Vista and felt like an idiot, did you fire yourself, or heap all kinds of scorn on yourself? No. IMHO, the water billing problems were technology based, and those are going to happen periodically. I am quite confident that if the City hired an outside auditor/consultant/etc., there would be multiple comments here about what a waste of money that would be.

well...the praise gets more and more fulsome from some quarters as the afternoon wears on.
WW was pretty disgusting.
I guess it is easy to do so now that he will be going going gone sooner rather than later.
With any luck he will fade into obsurity; the boy wonder grows old quietly? Perhaps??

"De mortuis nil nisi bonum."

Cuiusvis hominis est errare, nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare.

Turning Bull Run over to a Metro-style body controlled by the suburbs was a colossally dumb idea that should never be exhumed.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

"He ain't dead, he's just asleep." - Bob Dylan

My guess is that he's positioning himself for a larger Federal job in the likely event that a Dem is elected President. If he doesn't get such a job, he can always take a job with a foundation or non-profit, or a state/county job.

Plus, he's probably thinking that now (or whenever he really leaves) will be a real good time for a vacation before he accepts a job that will be balls to the wall for 4 to 8 years.

Sten says is worried about the so called "Price of Admission..." without recognizing that his brand of Socialism is largely to blame.

from Willy Week: http://wweek.com/editorial/3408/10186/

My main concern about Portland is the price of admission, how much it costs to live and work here. Does it become a place for elites rather than the type of place I grew up in? Does the school system that is the best in the country stay strong? And finally, how do we employ people? Maybe the influx of overeducated young people is a model that can work forever, but I kind of doubt it.

It's been obvious to the middle class that Portland is an expensive place to live, and much of City/County/Regional government is making it even more so.

Affordability issues (property taxes siphoned off for trolleys, Homer, and URDs) and water/sewer rate increases, and new and exciting taxes and business fees impact large swaths of residents who don't qualify for Opie's handouts.

Clark County is the fastest growing county in Washington, and Opie et al are responsible for the myriad reasons why.

Now that he's living in the West Hills mansion, we know which side of the class struggle he's really on.

Mr. Tee:

Amen !!

Sten was doing WWeek a favor as a courtesy for them giving him an internship 20 years ago, don't you think? If the source walks into your office for an interview--rather than calling a press conference at City Hall--that's not really a scoop. I wouldn't nominate Jaquiss for another Pulitzer for this one, but I do give him credit for asking tough questions in the interview.


Sten's work for the homeless is certainly admirable, but did litte to build his record. According to the WW today there are 2000 homeless folks in Portland, that's a mere .33 percent of the population. So I ask you what did Sten do for the other 99.6% of us? It seems alot of people give Sten a pass because of the homeless iTo0m

If the $16 million spent on "The Nines" luxury hotel had been spent on a homeless shelter instead, we could have built sufficient numbers of quonset huts to elminate the need for "the homeless" to sleep outside.

Granted, the quonset huts would have to maintain a drug/alcohol free policy to maintain order and a safe environment for staff. Said policy would result in hundreds choosing to sleep elsewhere in mild weather months. But at least Opie could have put our money where his mouth was.

I just don't understand you madcap Multnomites. All of this bitching about the municipal powers that be in addition to the ridiculous costs you pay for basic services in a municipality run by elected knuckleheads, yet you stay put. Move already. Let the activist goof balls have it already, sans most of the citizens who currently pay the bills. Just let it go.

Mr. Tee's quonset hut idea is a winner. Essentially the same as what they did at "dignity village". There's plenty of vacant land around by the airport and in other locations. Set up quonset huts out there. Homeless problem solved. Investment a mere fraction of Homer's paycheck from his last PDC project.

"IMHO, mrfearless47 would be an excellent candidate for city council"

In where, LO where he lives? Talk to my wife about that.

... p.o.i.: More enclosed volume, for less framing mass (construction materials = $$ ), using snap-together 'geodesic' domes instead of Quonset huts.

(Bucky 'the man' Fuller once, speaking to a studygroup of us, told how the impetus for his dome design was to enter a US Army contest for troop housing on Greenland. The dome could be helicoptered intact, and set down in place. By some contest rigging, the Quonset hut was chosen, though it failed to meet all the design criteria requirements, such as possible to assemble off-site and air-lift in, ready to occupy. Bucky said the military had blacklisted his work and his dome design, because he had gotten crosswise with some Annapolis officers and expelled from the Academy, some years before.) [In 'looking it up,' I notice my quoting of Bucky is somewhat at variance with wikipedia's info, (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesic_dome ), but, oh well, that's accurately what I remember him saying.]

Anyway, to a houseless person, a cheap dome is a palace. Maybe Opie ain't hep.

Tenskey: have we found an issue we agree on? Makes me feel kind of dizzy.

Yurts, perhaps? At least they're Made in Oregon.

Yurts, geodesic domes, or quonsets: I have no preference.

I'm afraid none of the above would create enough union construction jobs -- or Homer & Company campaign donations -- to make them (AHEM!) politically viable. And the federal tax break fairy godmother seem to prefer vertical projects over horizontal ones.

I would still like to know why a guy with a million dollar mortgage would give up his paycheck without securing something better first.

Given the current state of investigative journalism in P-town, I guess we will just have to wait until Opie's next press conference. Or until the bank forecloses.

Jack, I have determined that your explanation of your meeting with Eric Sten and Mr. Sten's explanation are both credible. Therefore, I'm not going to bother to prosecute either one of you.


Donald Duck,
General Counsel to the Oregon Bar Association

PS Can't we all just get along and cover up the truth, just as Neil taught us to do?

Perhaps Sten misremembered the conversation between the two of you. But it is has been my experience that local oligarachs play a game-they make statements that make it appear that someone who has questioned land use policy (a valid step in legitmate land use planning) is somehow rude and engages in bizarre behavior that suggests either cognitive disability or anti social tendencies. I have had this happen to me-and the fact that I have been in therapy (ironically, most recently for depression and anxiety caused by these charmers) is used to "substantiate" the suggestion that a garden variety person prone to depression is somehow really an anti social criminal who stands against all the goodness the Goldschmidt machine represents.

Some in the news media go along with the game which is very disappointing; it is past time that we started focusing on the real issues.

It's also interesting to see in the same issue of WW that Homer Williams is putting his money on John Edwards in the presidential race.

Regarding Sten and homelessness: His biggest homelessness program - the 30% set aside in the URAs - subsidizes fancy condo development. Ending homelessness is not really the goal, but a means to create political support for the subsidies.

The dome/yurt comments are right. How does it make any sense to build low-income housing in tall, steel and concrete buildings in expensive parts of town? The poor residents don't even get all the benefits of ownership.

Maybe Sten's heart was in the right place, but he sure didn't get the most bang for the public buck. Seriously, for the money we spend to end homelessness, we could buy every homeless person a house in Alameda.

But would they be able to afford the property taxes and actually keep that home in Alameda? (Just giving the homeless a house isn't going to solve the whole problem.)

Portlanders don't know how lucky they've been with Sten. What do the complainers expect, perfection? Anyone in office going to make some mistakes. No one in office is going to be flawlessly wise. Thing is, Sten tried hard, is grounded in solid values, got some good things done, and is tough enough to stand the heat.

I lived in Washington D.C. during the infamous mayor Marion Barry years. The city government and city operations were a trainwreck. I lived in Auckland, NZ during a time when the city council was dominated by big developers. They did things like slam wrecking balls into historic downtown buildings while protesting occupants remained inside. Compared with D.C.'s corruption and neglect, and Auckland's aggressive anti-ordinary-people attitude, Portland is PARADISE. The standard of living we enjoy here, the expectations we can entertain about the way things should be done and the way we should be treated, still amaze me after 14 years in this city. And it's thanks in no small part to a fantastic city government. Not a perfect one, for sure, but one that cares, gets things done, and has its ear turned towards the people. And Erik Sten is a major component. I'm going to miss that guy. I only hope someone just a bright and dedicated will step up and carry on the good work.

Michael, of course I don't think we should give anyone a house. My point is that we spend way more money than necessary, and end up with substandard results.

Why don't we simply help poor people buy their own modest homes through loan guarantees and help with down payments, or give people money to rent whatever modest apartment they can find in the marketplace? Poor people should be able to simply call someone who can handle the whole process for them. This is what the city should spend money on to end homelessness.

These things allow poor people to choose where they want to live. They can decide for themselves whether they want to live in a 1200sf house in felony flats, or a 400sf condo in the Pearl. If they're together enough to buy with some help, then they get all the benefits of ownership. These things lift people up. Living where the city tells them to live and having limited benefits of ownership does not. It's not a complicated or mysterious problem.

Sten's legacy on homelessness is the 30% set aside for urban renewal borrowing. All that dough must be spent on actual buildings in the urban reneal areas, as opposed to handing out money for rent, downpayments, and services. It's an inherently conflicted policy because the city needs expensive buildings to be built to generate taxes to pay off the urban renewal bonds. So we spend the 30% to designate parts of expensive buildings as affordable housing. This reduces the risk for the developer to build the whole expensive building.

It's a collosal waste of money, and it encourages development of buildings that otherwise wouldn't happen in the market.

Oh yeah, and we all pay for it through increased taxes, which affects the general affordability of our city.

Portland is PARADISE. The standard of living we enjoy here, the expectations we can entertain about the way things should be done and the way we should be treated

you know, I don't think it's paradise, except maybe when compared to DC.

and, i'm not sure who the "we" is enjoying that standard of living. given that Portland has more hungry children under 12 living in poverty than most large cities in the nation (even DC) for example, it's all a matter of perspective.

what i *have* noticed about Portland is that there are in fact several Portlands--and those praising it the loudest live in a very small, insulated, pretty part of it.

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