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Monday, March 3, 2008

What rhymes with "antlers"?

We're on the mailing lists for all sorts of communiques from the City of Portland. Lately we got two city bureau newsletters -- one from the Bureau of Development Services (which I think is what they used to call the building permit office), and the other from the Water Bureau. They make an interesting contrast.

The BDS version, which bears the hopelessly Kafkaesque title "The Plans Examiner," is a grim two-color affair, mostly covering wonkish news that only bureaucrats and developers could love:

Bureau of Development Services Director, Paul Scarlett, recently announced a major restructuring of the bureau’s Inspections Division. The Inspections Division is the largest division within BDS and has approximately 100 positions that coordinate and perform over 210,000 permit inspections yearly on one and two family residences, multifamily dwellings, and commercial and industrial construction projects in Portland and the urban services areas of Multnomah County.

The restructuring will split the division in two, resulting in a Commercial Division and a Residential Division. Additionally, the bureau will add a second Division Manager position. These changes will allow the bureau to more adequately address the supervision needs of staff and programs, focus on new innovations that cater to residential and commercial customers and ensure that the bureau continues to provide efficient inspection services.

Still with us? Then there's this:

Ah, well. Later in the issue we see more evidence of Portland's diversity:

The Bureau of Development Services recently added three more handouts to the translated materials available online. The three handouts were translated into Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese and include:

• Windows #10

• Broken Sewer and Drain Lines #7

• Change of Occupancy #30

"Change of Occupancy" -- now in Russian! Woo hoo! What? No Klingon?

Actually, there is one bit of news in there that has the potential to become interesting, eventually:

The Bureau of Development Services is beginning the creation of a local building code amendment that would require sustainable elements to be included in the construction of a building. While BDS will review and evaluate other codes that have been approved or are being used in other parts of the country, there is not a set concept about how the local amendment might look.
The Water Bureau newsletter, "Bull Run Dispatch," is much more fun. It's in full color, and there are entertaining features such as a limerick contest honoring the famous elk fountain downtown. You've got three weeks to come up with a choice limerick about that landmark, donated to the city by former Mayor David Thompson in 1900.

The Water Bureau newsletter also has a matching quiz about various fountains that the bureau maintains around town, along with some interesting features about some of them. Now, that's edu-tainment.

Read and enjoy both publications, Portlanders -- you paid for them.

Comments (11)

A Divisionist's Dream come true!

"the creation of a local building code amendment that would require sustainable elements"

I asume this will be like the handicapped-access rules where you have to spend 25% of your improvement budget on making things LEED.

LEED is another interesting racket like carbon credit trading. THey have devised a checklist of things that makes a building LEED (like bike racks) and can now charge for it.

The whole thing with these guys creating stds and then getting gvot to adopt them makes me uncomfortable. I am NOT criticizing the stds, just these 3rd parties like LEED and carbon traders pop up and then sell and start charing. Then govt adopts it and they have an annuity.

You should see if you can get BDS' budget as a potential source of road repair fees. They have a nice racket - If your improvement costs $100K, then give BDS $10K to get a permit. Very lucrative, which is probably why Randy wanted a piece of it.

I once heard Paul Scarlett give a presentation as to what BDS was and did. "Obtuse" and "incoherent" are 2 descriptors which fall terribly short of describing what I heard. It was almost as if I were hearing a foreign language.


All this money spent to tell us they're taking more and hiring more?

How about sustainable bureaucracies?

there once was a man from Nantucket
who politicked using a bucket.
fill the bucket with cash
SoWhat, Pearl, and then dash
if the people complain just say "the heck with them."

Will the stringency of sustainable "building" codes scale up and down to reflect the habits of the occupant, such as flying often or dumping a car in favor of a bike? Or having lots of kids versus having one or none?

A slogan and faith is all the reason one seems to need today, like . . . Love Makes The World Go 'Round. Therefore . . . Lets All . .

Big house little house? Has anyone thought about setting a maximum, and uniform (i.e., does not scale up and down with income), per household limit for obtaining any public assistance (as indirectly as it may be) on cover for debt to obtain a primary residence? I was thinking of a 100 grand limit for eligible loans. This would have greater efficacy, even as a mere collateral issue, toward limiting energy consumption (in aggregate) than some building code mandate.

"Obtuse" and "incoherent" are 2 descriptors which fall terribly short of describing what I heard. It was almost as if I were hearing a foreign language."

I don't know why. BDS (formerly know as the Office of Planning and Development Review, formerely know as the Bureau of Buildings) issues permits for construction in the City of Portland. It also inspects the construction projects to ensure that they comply with the State Building and COP Planning Codes.

It further has responsibility for enforcing the City Zoning, Housing and Nuisance Codes. Except for the Housing and Nuisance Enforcement sections it is 100% supported by building permit fees. By law those permit fees can only be used building permit and inspection related functions.

See wasn't that easy.

Greg C

Please tell me exactly what is wrong with making perfectly mundane, practical stuff available in the native languages of some of our largest immigrant communities. I've done volunteer literacy tutoring for people from such communities, and I can tell you that commonly they are baffled by stuff that you and I would grasp in an instant. For example, a Russian immigrant I tutored used to show me, in a state of considerable anxiety, junk mail he had received, thinking that those dumb things printed on the envelope to attract attentiion meant that the stuff was truly important. So please do not make snarky comments about providing translated materials.

Otherwise, the commentary about screwball bureacratese in the mailing was bang-on.

Factoids can be boring, it's true
That's why we try to make them fun, just for you
So write down your limerick
Doesn't matter if it's in fountain pen, pencil, or BIC
I promise you'll learn more about the Elk than you previously knew!

Please tell me exactly what is wrong with making perfectly mundane, practical stuff available in the native languages of some of our largest immigrant communities.

I think that's great...

AFTER they get done making all the bureaucratic, sustainable gibberish avaiable in my native language - English.

Too funny. The Commonwealth Fountain was removed last summer due to the MAX line construction on the bus mall. Most of the other downtown fountains were turned off last summer due to the construction as well. Can't say they have been too busy maintaining what is not there or being used.

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