Metro demo shows density goals achieved
This simulation was run yesterday at the Old Town/Chinatown MAX station, presided over by legislative candidate and Metro functionary Jon Coney:
|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
This simulation was run yesterday at the Old Town/Chinatown MAX station, presided over by legislative candidate and Metro functionary Jon Coney:
But hey, it was nearly five years old, and that computer and I had seen many good times and bad together. Plus, the fact that the hard drive was intact was good news.
Thanks to all our alert readers who suggested hardware geeks who could get things done for me. Some even generously offered to pitch in themselves -- special thanks to them. As it turned out, I called these guys, took the computer over there, and in less than 20 minutes was on my way with my hard drive encased in a new USB box that turns it into a portable drive.
As computer crashes go, that ain't bad. If only my car drive back to the office in rush hour traffic had gone so smoothly.
I'm still taking suggestions for the new desktop computer while I hack away on a laptop. I'm thinking a big-ticket Dell. All I need is the tower. The Mac folks are singing their siren song to me, but I just don't think I'm brave enough.
I'm finding out that it's hard to find a computer repair person who even answers the phone these days. Anyone got a good source for such help somewhere in or around Portlandia? I've got a sick, old, cheap desktop computer that I'm willing to drive anywhere either to be fixed or to have its data recovered as best is possible.
We love our mailman. He brings us all sorts of great stuff, and provides service above and beyond the call.
During political campaign seasons, he delivers to our doorstep election porn that provokes many a belly laugh. Yesterday he left not one but two pieces of unintended hilarity -- both of them followups to mailers and flyers we had already received from the same two candidates. First was this beauty from Streetcar Smith:
There he is, telling his neighbors that he went to 22 committee meetings and public hearings last month, and so it must be his time to waltz onto the City Council. That's funny enough even at first glance, but look closer at the guy on the left. You can tell how excited he is to be there:
How does stuff like this go out? I guess when you run on taxpayer money, as Smith is, your work product naturally seeks government quality levels.
Then there's Cyreena Boston, whose unusual literature we've now received for a third time. This is the second flyer we've gotten from this candidate for the Legislature in less than a week, and it's another spread right out of O magazine:
This time she's abandoned her "passion" motif and spends the whole glossy flyer talking about education. She'll get rid of the corporate income tax "kicker" refund to make class sizes smaller; and restore music, art, and P.E. She's worked with hundreds of kids. She's got some sort of education desk job now. And she has a "mission in life: to make great things happen for others."
Boston seems like a nice, smart, energetic person, and I might even vote for her. But the constant pounding with the America's Top Model stuff still strikes me as odd. I look at her materials, and all I see is this:
Obama, Novick (no surprise), Macpherson (mild surprise), Walker (yay), Dembrow, Sam the Tram (foregone conclusion), Fritz, Fish (surprise). They're also going against Wu. It's the right sidebar here.
I've had the computer screen suddenly go black on me before. And hey, I'm a Windows user, and so having everything inside the darn computer seize up on me is nothing new. Especially when Norton This-or-That decides to assert its uptight authority.
But this time, the computer wouldn't let me turn it off, even if I pushed the power button in and held for a count of 10. And it smelled like something was burning.
Now I'm on the laptop, but ooooh, I think my week just got a whole lot more interesting.
An alert reader sends along a brief clip of a KPAM Radio interview from late last week with former Portland Mayor Vera Katz. It is here (mp3). The topic was the planned move of the Sauvie Island Bridge to become a bike bridge over I-405 at NW Flanders Street.
Memo to Sam the Tram and Fireman Randy: When Vera, of all people, says that you're neglecting essentials for an unnecessary toy, man, you know your priorities are badly screwed up.
Putting the fiscal folly of the whole thing to one side for a moment, let's talk about another aspect of this boondoggle that deserves some attention: the steps that are going to have to be taken to prevent the bridge from creating danger and tie-ups around the heavily used interstate freeway.
Just for fun, take a ride on I-405, either northbound or southbound -- in a car, that is -- and get off at the Everett Street exit. Check out the feel of the traffic as you drive by Flanders. You may find that the Flanders corner is not the safest intersection in town -- indeed, it's sometimes hair-raising -- even without bikes.
Let's start with southbound. (If these Google street views don't show up in your internet browser, try your other browser. For me, they're working well in Firefox, but not so in IE.) The lane of traffic coming off the freeway is merging with two lanes of other traffic heading southward on NW 16th:
The freeway traffic is confined by that barrier to the left lane until it gets past the light at Glisan (shown above). But just a block later, it is legal to make a right turn onto Flanders, and the cars coming off the freeway wanting to make that move don't have much time or room to get over to the right. Zoom and rotate around on the following shot and you'll see what I mean. That's Flanders over there next to Chown:
It's a dangerous maneuver a lot of the time, particularly if the light at Glisan was green and merging cars are moving at a good clip. Add a bunch of cyclists coming across 16th from both sides, and you've got some serious road rash, or worse, waiting to happen.
The only way to alleviate the danger will be to put in a traffic light at 16th and Flanders, and prohibit freeway-exiting traffic from making a right. More delays and roundabout routes for motorists, to be sure. The first opportunity for a right turn into Northwest will be Davis (which T's at 19th). And wait 'til they start building the
Mike Powell Retirement Plan Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet." Everett could become a freeway offramp that you hope you never have to take.
Northbound, I-405 dumps exiting traffic off into another ugly merge, at NW 14th:
There's a traffic signal at Everett --
The ladies over at I Could Kill Her finally show us what they go to Trader Joe's for. (Oh, and there's a story about seismic activity in Central Oregon, too.)
She used to tell us kids, "God don't punish with a stick."
I see they're now renting out the set and extras from Law and Order:
I kept waiting for the witness on the stand to break down and confess.
Greg Macpherson's TV ads have hit the airwaves. His handlers must have told him he's losing with the kids, because they're definitely going for the hip thing:
I dunno. Greg's a buttoned-down pension lawyer, and a darn good one. This seems awfully out of character. But hey, I guess politics makes you do funny things sometimes.
This is a fascinating news story that deserves a full read. In it, the developer scoundrels who are bankrupting Portland brazenly explain how they get their crazy projects done: They make secret deals with the politicians and bureaucrats at City Hall, and don't let the public see what they're up to until it's too late to stop them.
Homer Williams, the developer who helped create the Pearl District and South Waterfront, says that with enough will and political capital, developers can put bold designs into place in Portland. But it’s hard, he says. And Con-way has taken a wrong first step, he believes.What a disgrace.
By showing its preliminary master plan to groups with a stake in the development, including the neighborhood association, Con-way opened itself up for criticism before it was ready to deal with it, Williams says.
He says he learned from his experiences with the Pearl District and South Waterfront that he had to have agreements in place on specific pieces of developments before his plans went public.
With South Waterfront, he says, he secured commitments from Mayor Vera Katz and from Oregon Health & Science University on its investment in a campus that would be connected to its main campus by the tram. And those two weren’t the only ones with whom bargains were made.
"We got everybody around the table every Monday for months, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.," Williams says. "PDOT, OHSU, PDC (the Portland Development Commission), (the) planning (bureau). We said, 'OK, let’s make an agreement.'"
Then there's this person, who thinks that the real problem in Portland is that it has neighborhood associations who can occasionally stop greedy weasels like his clients from ruining the place. He ought to take his "bold visions" out to his hobby farm in the Gorge and stick them in a shady spot, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, before you do something foolish like vote for Adams, Middaugh, and Smith in the City Council races, read the linked article and think about to whom this city belongs. Sam the Tram and his partner wannabes will tell you it's you, but from 11 to 2 every Monday for months, they'll be selling it by the pound to Homer and the Boys. Later, when the fix is securely in, they'll let you know.
Cyreena Boston, who's trying to become the new state representative from our district here in Northeast Portland, sent our household her mailer this week. We've been kidding her that her glamorous photography and happening slogan impress us more as a perfume ad than as political literature, and as we head into the final weeks of the campaign, we now have a brand name for the product line:
I'm with Obama: The gas tax "holiday" idea is just a gimmick that won't do much good, and isn't worth the harm it would do to our highways and bridges, which are already falling apart. Unlike Obama, I also think that the income tax "stimulus" checks that are about to go out are also a lovely gesture, but equally foolish. These are signs of desperation on the part of a country unwilling to face the hard economic truths that have begun arriving in droves. The sooner we get real about them, the better. But I guess since there's a Presidential election coming up, we'll do our darnedest to keep a facade of control going until after New Year's. Keep printing those dollars, and we'll figure it all out later.
They're both pretty smart.
Cousin Jim goes out for his morning walk.
His Nike pension finally vested.
Eeeek. The dead-tree version of the O lost another 15,000 readers in the last six months. At this rate, they'll almost certainly drop below 300,000 circulation this summer. With the recession squeezing advertising hard, and the internet slowly killing off ink-on-paper readership, their tough times look like they're about to get tougher.
I'm reading with interest about the latest flap over the Oregon law prohibiting sales of sexually explicit material to children under age 18. It's ironic that just a few minutes previously, I had been trying to watch a ballgame on television with my seven-year-old daughter when on came one of those wonderful commercials that tell you what to do if your erection lasts longer than four hours. That titillated my desire to put my foot through the screen.
I'm starting to feel the first symptoms of Hillary Derangement Syndrome.
Every internet project that the City of Portland has touched has turned to trash almost instantly. We're still watching the goofball "free wi-fi" deal with MetroFi die a slow and painful death on traffic light poles around town. Those of us who have been around for a while also remember the city's quixotic lawsuit against the cable companies -- something about forcing them to carry other carriers' data across their lines. This legal action went nowhere, but at a huge cost to Portland taxpayers, for lawyers.
We thought that with the departure of "Opie" Sten, the city's obsession with dominating internet communications within its limits would die off. But no! Never underestimate the persistence of power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats. Our next venture into this completely unproductive realm is about to begin.
They're calling it FTTP -- "fiber to the premises."
Readers of this blog have been chattering about this with us for years, but it wasn't until we received this official notice from the city late last week that we saw it confirmed with our own eyes. The city government is about to undertake to build a "fiber network" that would run fancy city-owned cable to every home and business in town. Apparently your current, private, high-speed cable or DSL line just isn't good enough, and in order to save life in the city as we know it, you'll need to be buying your internet service from the city. The rumor we have heard is that it is going to run through the sewer system -- appropriate, perhaps.
Anyway, this latest development is completely consistent with Portland's bizarre reality disconnect when it comes to priorities. You know how you now pay your water bill to something called "City of Portland Utilities"? They didn't open a new bank account in that name for nothing. They've got plans. Think big. Think really big -- we're talking megalomania big. Maybe Fireman Randy will break through his intense separation anxiety and bring Opie himself back to run it.
Here are some of the
The City of Portland (“City”) Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management (“OCCFM”) is issuing an RFP to hire expert consulting services to assist with developing, issuing and managing a Request for Interest (“RFI”) process for Private Sector entities to potentially partner with the City of Portland in developing Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) infrastructure in the City. Development of the RFI is a key outcome of the City’s Phase 2 FTTP Business Case and accompanying Staff Report (“Phase 2 Case & Staff Report”).We don't know about you, but we get all the fiber we need from these. At a time when the city needs to start thinking seriously about its debt and the threat it poses to basic services, another pet project and blank check are just about the last things on earth that the place needs. Especially when it has to do with computers, which the City of Portland simply has never handled well and probably never will.
This Portland City Council held a work session on November 20, 2007, and authorized moving forward with an RFI in the manner recommended in the Phase 2 Case & Staff Report. This RFP for professional assistance in developing, issuing and managing the RFI is being issued pursuant to the direction of the Portland City Council at the work session, and subsequent funding by the Council, on the recommendation of Commissioner Dan Saltzman....
The Portland Community Fiber Network (“CFN”) as envisioned in the City’s FTTP Business Case and accompanying Staff Report (“Phase 2 Case & Staff Report”) will provide the infrastructure necessary to spur innovative technologies, job growth, economic development, sustainability, education, and community development in the City of Portland. High-bandwidth broadband is widely-recognized as a key driver of future economic competitiveness and is increasingly recognized as a potential driver of sustainability. Incumbent providers have elected not to provide FTTP infrastructure in Portland in the near term, and are therefore not expected to invest the necessary funds to upgrade their present systems to meet future City and community needs. Portland’s suburbs, meanwhile, are being wired with fiber potentially rendering Portland a technological bedroom community in the region.
The Phase 2 Case & Staff Report set forth a business case and the policy rationale for a municipally owned and financed Open Service Provider fiber-to-the-premises (“FTTP”) system in Portland. (Note: the Phase 2 Case & Staff Report, together with the Phase 1 Report and other relevant and essential background documents, remain posted on the OCCFM website at this link: http://www.portlandonline.com/cable/index.cfm?c=45468)...
OCCFM now seeks proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants, hereafter called “Proposer(s),” with demonstrated experience in developing an RFI and working and securing viable potential private sector partners and community support for a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premises (“FTTP”) broadband network. OCCFM proposes to engage the successful Proposer for the following services: Assist in designing and implementing an overall RFI process that will yield one or more partners so that the City can move forward with FTTP deployment. The title of the ultimate RFI is "Request for Interest"; this is a specific and deliberate choice that comes from Commissioner Saltzman's office. It is important that the ultimate RFI be framed to encourage action-oriented responses ("Interest") not merely passive responses ("Information").
If there's one item of information that absolutely isn't newsworthy, it's an abandoned cat that needs a home. But on a routine stop at the vet's just now, we couldn't help but notice that they have a gorgeous two-year-old male American short hair that someone left on their doorstep last week. This guy is jet black, with golden eyes that look right through you. He looks quite healthy -- whoever left him had taken good care of him. He's been neutered, they've given him some shots and some tests, and he's A-OK.
If I didn't think our current tom cat would object, I'd be lobbying hard to bring this guy home. He really is adorable, a bit of a talker, and he looks promising as a mouser. The vet that's got him is a great, high-end shop in close-in Northeast that we trust implicitly based on years of experience. If you're curious, call them at 503-282-0380 and check this fellow out.
Oregonian columnist Steve Duin, who's right about half the time, nailed it yesterday when he noted that nowadays, Oregon's Democratic Party can be broken down into two subparties: the establishment and the rebels. The former group, headed by Hillary, features Merkley for U.S. Senate, Macpherson for attorney general, and Brown for secretary of state. The latter group, headed by Obama, is running Novick, Kroger, and Walker, respectively.
Of course, nothing's formally organized along those lines, but there are common themes in all those contests which have long suggested those sorts of associations. We've been thinking along such lines since October. Once you see the thematic connections, isn't it tempting to just follow the "subparty" line?
Now, all you Republicans who have re-registered yourself as Democrats so that you can vote for Hillary, listen up! What are you going to do in the other three races? Merkley vs. Novick doesn't really matter, because Peapicker Gordon is going to mop the floor with either of them. But the other two races are serious, because you GOP types have mustered no serious opposition at all. Nor are you going to.
If you really want to make trouble for the current gang in power in Salem, go with the rebels. The last thing the Network Formerly Known as Goldschmidt needs is to have people like Kroger and Walker sniffing around their many fetid pots of poorly monitored public money. To visualize it in a slightly different way, under every rock either one of those candidates turns over will be one or more Salem snakes that have lived there peacefully for many years.
If you're thinking "anyone but Sam for mayor," and if Sho Dozono doesn't do it for you, consider my nascent campaign to write in Sal Kadri for mayor. Kadri is a commissioner on the Portland Development Commission, but hey, don't touch that mouse yet!!! He's one of the good guys in the effort to try to convert the PDC into a more reality-based organization.
Kadri was part of the movement to kill off the ill-advised Convention Center hotel scam (which has since gravitated over to Metro). Last week he said some politically incorrect, but deadly accurate, things about the PDC's involvement in low-income rental housing.
Once the new mayor gets into office, all the face cards in the PDC will likely be shuffled yet again, and that could mean that Kadri would be leaving public life when his commissioner term ends in mid-2009, if not before. He's got good credentials -- why not? Write him in for mayor.
An interesting phenomenon has been noted nationwide: Banning smoking in public places has killed off a great American tradition known as bingo games.
Hmmmm... Ya gotta wonder what's going to happen to all that hot, juicy "lottery" (slot machine) revenue that the State of Oregon rakes in once it becomes illegal to smoke inside bars and taverns. That new rule takes effect January 1.
Bush snoop-a-phobia hits Oregon hardest of all.
It looks like old Larry over at Continental Airlines has decided he doesn't like what he sees at United any more, and so talks between the two carriers about a merger are off. Unless United can somehow knit a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is US Air, it may wind up going under pretty soon.
Speaking of flying without money, I see that this guy knows where to get a good fare.
Another honor for Blazer star (as announcer Mark Mason would say) Buh-randon Uh-roy. He just came in third in the balloting for the NBA's Joe Dumars Trophy. This award is given to the player who reflects the ideals of sportsmanship: ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity. This year's winner was Grant Hill from Phoenix (the first time someone has won twice), and Shane Battier of Houston was second.
A previous winner: fella by the name of Terrell Brandon.
A bike rental program. It comes with a catch: The local government will have to get into bed with some advertising weasels.
This report (page 19 in particular) shows that Portland currently has the 11th most overpriced housing in the country. Coming in at no. 1 nationally? Bend.
A scary moment at Sea-Tac Airport.
Which is too bad. Because he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
Midway through last evening's performance, I looked around and noticed that a lot of the children boogieing away were younger than ours. A wicked thought popped into my head: At some point, our daughters are going to outgrow this!
But I'll still want to go. Maybe they'll humor me once in a while and come along.
Seems sorta drastic.
When news of the management shakeup at the Portland Development Commission broke late last week, we were one of the first (if not the first) to flash it, thanks to an alert reader. One thing we reported then that no one else mentioned was that Lolita Burnette, the PDC "Director of Community Relations and Business Equity," was hitting the road as part of the housecleaning. Today, word of that development became official.
Check out the Sho card.
Here we go -- just another week to go before they start mailing out the ballots in the Oregon primary. All Beaver State voters, alive and dead, are gearing up to do their civic duty, by mail.
The mailman fired the big warning shot across our bow yesterday:
In the box, along with the official book, came some more choice election porn for this year's collection:
This view from the OHSU Health Club (Going Out of Business) Aerial Tram [rim shot] leads us inside this four-page mailer to a pitch by Chris "Streetcar" Smith, the candidate of shiny, expensive toys who thinks roads for buses, trucks, and cars should continue to be left to rot.
It's got the standard local politician pap -- kids on bikes, MAX train, candidate in a suit. But this one's also got a doozy of a line from Mike Powell, the world's new greatest champion of streetcar systems (including the ones on Burnside and Couch Streets that would greatly increase the value of his real estate):
The whole Smith pitch is malarkey, but this false claim in particular deserves correction. The City of Portland's population is currently growing at just over 1 percent a year. The current population is about 573,000. At that rate, over the next 20 years, the population within the city limits will grow by about 140,000 or so -- about half of what Powell and Smith are claiming.
Just as we got ready to write about the big flyer, we noticed that someone had also been by the house sometime yesterday, leaving a smaller four-page Smith brochure on the front porch. It had some interesting shots in it:
Is it just me, or is that last photo a really bad advertisement for Smith World? Granted, it shows pedestrians and bikes on a bridge, which is kind of a soft and fuzzy concept. But it looks as though the cyclist in the green is about to mow down the kid in the red. It's certainly going to be a tight squeeze. The whole thing feels quite claustrophobic, and that's even without a sense of the deadly drop into the Willamette that lurks on the other side of that rail on the left.
In the end, the sense of entitlement that Smith is laboring under comes through quite clearly in the smaller brochure:
"I've got a résumé a mile long"? Sorry, man, that just isn't going to do it for us.
The race for Sam the Tram's seat on the Portland City Council has been pretty nasty at times. We've already covered the complaint that someone anonymously filed with the IRS against candidate Charles Lewis, claiming that he had misused for political purposes the nonprofit organization he heads. Now someone sends us a copy of what purports to be an IRS complaint against candidate John Branam, for allegedly failing to pay withholding and payroll taxes on amounts his campaign committee paid to his full-time (and then some, supposedly) campaign manager, Phil Busse.
The document, which we received in the mail yesterday, postmarked by a postage meter from Vancouver, Washington, is here. Unlike the complaint against Lewis, which was fairly vague, this one is quite specific. Who knows where it might lead?
... without a call from 803-667-4084. Oregonians are starting to join the national club.
This certainly has potential.
We wondered aloud the other day why the City of Portland would sell $9 million of taxable bonds and give the proceeds to Multnomah County to pay for moving an off-ramp from the Hawthorne Bridge to make way for a new county courthouse. As usual, the city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, has answered our questions, but the answers he has given us are disturbing indeed.
The reason the interest on the bonds is taxable, instead of tax-exempt, is that the financing of the courthouse is so uncertain at this point that it might turn out that the block from which the ramp is being moved will wind up in private developers' hands!
Here's the latest Q & A with Johansen:
bojack: Why is a public bridge/courthouse project being financed with taxable bonds?
Johansen: PDC provided Multnomah County with $8.82 million for the purpose of making a parcel of property available for development by relocating the Hawthorne Bridge off-ramp at the west end of the bridge. The parcel is currently expected to be the site of a new County courthouse, but the property may be developed for other purposes. The County does not currently have funding for a new courthouse; nor does it have necessary land use entitlements to construct a courthouse on the site. While the County continues to pursue this site for a courthouse, it is possible that the courthouse may ultimately be sited elsewhere. If the proposed site is not ultimately developed as a courthouse, it may be sold for private redevelopment.
Under federal tax law, tax-exempt bond proceeds generally may only be spent on projects that are reasonably expected to be used for governmental purposes for the life of the bonds. Because the ultimate use of the Hawthorne property (public or private) remains uncertain, the City and PDC, in consultation with legal counsel, determined that in order to accommodate either public or private use, taxable financing was necessary.
bojack: When was the nearly $9 million drawn on the line of credit for this project? Why was the line used for this project? Has the work even begun?
Johansen: Pursuant to an agreement between PDC and Multnomah County, PDC provided $8.82 million to the County in March 2008. The source of funding was a draw on the Downtown Waterfront line of credit. (The remaining $182,000 will be provided to RACC to satisfy public art requirements.) Urban renewal projects are routinely financed through a line of credit until such time as the line is taken out with long-term bonds. The entire balance of the Downtown Waterfront line of credit has since been paid off with a portion of the proceeds of the recently issued urban renewal and redevelopment bonds for the area.
The ramp relocation project is being managed by Multnomah County. Questions on project timing are better addressed to them.
Why we're spending this $9 million at this point -- indeed, the city's already spent it by forking the money over to the county last month -- for a courthouse that may never be built, is still a mystery to us. The thought of the spendy ramp relocation making way for "private redevelopment" is particularly troublesome.
Maybe the city ought to do one of its goofy "satellite urban renewal district" deals and redirect this money down Sellwood way. We know some bridge work down there that's much, much more pressing.
It's nice to see that the show is going on.
Here's an interesting, albeit esoteric, endeavor. Is it art? Is it crafts? Is it history? Do you really want to eat your broccoli off the forehead of Steve Breyer? Regardless, it's worth a look.
It looks as though the Portland Development Commission wants to get itself out of the business of creating low-income rental housing. Which it apparently never wanted to be in in the first place, except that former City Commissioner Opie Sten was determined to wrestle a big chunk of its "urban renewal" budget away for that purpose. The way things fell out with Sten, the PDC was forced to spend big bucks on "affordable" housing, including rental housing. Now it looks as though the PDC might be willing to give up the money for that purpose, but let somebody else do the actual implementation of the projects.
It make sense to take these projects off the PDC's plate. If we're determined to grab a big percentage of the "urban renewal" budget and funnel it into low-income apartments, we should entrust it to the housing authority, Central City Concern, or somebody else who knows what they're doing in that department -- and wants to do it. Leave the PDC to stuff like giant, empty condo towers, "creative class" caves, and chi-chi theaters.
The bigger issue, of course, is what "urban renewal" has to do with low-income housing in the first place. Opie, the big wheeler-dealer, always saw "urban renewal" as a giant slush fund, available for any good deed (as defined ever-so-quixotically in his own keen mind), and his colleagues on the City Council consistently backed him up on whatever he came up with. Bike bridges, an aerial tram [rim shot] for the med school, a new county courthouse, public schools miles away from the urban renewal district -- it has all been fair game for the PDC budget. No wonder the agency is falling apart.
Meanwhile, in the course of the discussion at yesterday's PDC commissioners' meeting, board member Sal Kadri made a refreshingly candid remark:
Commissioner Sal Kadri said he'd rather see the agency focus its affordable housing efforts on home ownership, instead of the rental programs that create dense "ghettos" in urban renewal areas.OMG! Someone speaking the truth. And this is the same guy who killed the PDC's involvement in the Convention Center Hotel. To heck with Shogun and Sam the Tram -- write in Sal Kadri for mayor!
We've now received two reports of a robot telephone survey that asks Portlanders about Adams-vs.-Dozono -- a serious race -- and Randy Leonard, who has no opposition with any hope. Here's how it sounded to one reader (mp3 file).
So who commissioned this thing, and why? If it isn't Fireman Randy himself, who's paying for this?
Portland City Council candidate Amanda Fritz has a TV ad out, and who's that making a cameo appearance?
I hope Amanda's paying him union wage.
Oh, my. That's a serious suggestion.
Here's a mystery solved.
And don't worry -- Bush won't let you see it.
Where do I go to get one of these?
[Via Victoria Taft.]
It's all in how you look at it.
The howls of protest are being heard all over Portland tonight, as the City Council voted today to move the old Sauvie Island Bridge into town to serve as a bike bridge over I-405 at Flanders Street. The criticisms are falling under three headings:
1. There is no need for a bike bridge at that location.
2. If a bike bridge is to be built, a newer, cheaper structure should be erected -- not a rehab of the old Sauvie, which among other things is covered in lead paint.
3. The $5.5 million figure that is being touted as the cost of the project is greatly understated.
On that third point, this document may be of interest. It's the city's official announcement that it won't be putting the lion's share of the work on the project out for bid. The first phase of the project will be handed to Kuney Construction, the people who apparently already own the bridge under their construction contract on Sauvie with the state. According to the notice, "Phase One includes moving the bridge from Sauvie Island to Port of Portland Terminal 2, removing and disposing of the existing lead-based paint, repainting the bridge, moving the bridge to NW Flanders over I-405, and completing the installation." For that, Kuney will be paid, according to the notice, "approximately $3.913 million."
The second phase of the project will be put out for bid. "Phase Two includes building new bridge foundations at I-405 at NW Flanders Street, site preparation, and traffic signal installation." I guess that's all supposed to come to $1.587 million, but we'll see when the bids come in.
Meanwhile, if you're a firm who would like to get a crack at the first phase of the work, you have seven days to protest the no-bid contract. But then again, in order for you to get the work, I suppose you'd have to go buy the bridge from Kuney first. Good luck.
Portland "voter-owed elections" convict Volodymyr Golovan, currently among us on probation, has taken to the internet to reassert his innocence in the scandal involving fake signatures he produced for former City Council candidate Lucinda Tate. Golovan's got a lengthy diatribe about the case, including complaints about at least one of the lawyers involved, posted on this website.
The "affordable housing" that's about to go into the SoWhat District won't have air conditioning.
It's official: The Sauvie Island Bridge will be moved to Northwest Portland as a bike bridge over I-405 at Flanders Street. The liars' budget for the project currently stands at $5.5 million, which The Daily Journal of Commerce breaks down for us this afternoon:
The project will be financed through a piecemeal process of dipping into different accounts:I hope they saved a few hundred thousand for when the Sellwood Bridge falls down.
-- $2 million will come from Transportation System Development charges.
-- $2 million will come from River District Urban Renewal Tax Increment Funds.
-- $1 million will come via Transportation Enhancement funds from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
-- The remaining $500,000 will from the city's general fund as part of the Safe, Sound & Green Streets program. The city also expects private donations.
UPDATE, 8:00 p.m.: More on the legal and financial side of the project here.
Our dear friend Steve Griffith, a moderate Republican who's running for state representative from down Lake Oswego way, just unveiled his lawn signs, and whoa -- check them out:
Every one of those we see will bring a smile.
These folks don't seem to think so.
My buddy Bill McDonald's made an Obama video and entered it into a MoveOn contest:
To support this one, and see and rate many more, you can write off some mid-week time and go here.
It's curious, isn't it, that while many Portland City Council candidates are taking taxpayer dollars to pay for their campaigns, some of them are giving their own money to the Sam the Tram mayoral campaign, which is using traditional "dirty money"?
John Branam pungled up $100 for the Tramster just last week, bringing his personal total of gifts to his hero to $250. Jim Middaugh gave Sam $250 back in December -- long after Middaugh secretly knew that his boss, Erik Sten, was quitting, but before he himself had decided to run for the seat (uh huh).
All such gifts are public knowledge nowadays, thanks to the ORESTAR reporting service, which brings much needed transparency to campaign finance in the state. With all that information now at everyone's fingertips, the influence of campaign contributions will likely wane, at least somewhat. If Portland comes to its senses and gets rid of "voter-owed elections," the sunshine generated by the internet will still be beneficial.
On that note, I see that Homer Williams has his checkbook back out this month. $1,000 to Cyreena? I think she just lost my vote. Oh, and $2,300 back in February for Bus kid Jefferson Smith. Homer must base the amount on how gullible they look.
When it comes to spending money it doesn't have, the City of Portland takes the cake. Hot on the heels of borrowing $604 million in April, the city has popped two more bond issuances onto its radar screen: $40 million in urban renewal bonds for the South Park Blocks area, set to be sold in June; and $85 million in water system revenue bonds, set for sale in July.
Meanwhile, the $150 million fixed-rate pension bond issue, designed to pay off "auction rate" bonds that are currently charging penalty interest rates, remains on the drawing boards, but with an undetermined date. City officials previously reported to us that current market rates of interest were too high to make the pension refinancing feasible for the city.
If all of these deals go through this summer, that will make $879 million borrowed in less than six months. Go by streetcar!
Here in Portland, we're very big on recycling. And that passion extends all the way down to our local politicians' campaign flyers.
Last week, as we left a lunchtime function at a downtown hotel, the candidates for mayor and their entourages were also exiting the building, having just concluded a debate. We got to chat briefly with Sho Dozono, and one of Sam Adams's supporters held the door for us and handed us this (pardon the creases -- we folded it so that we could put it in our pocket):
It's another Mark Wiener special -- a four-page color glossy flyer extolling the virtues of a well connected City Hall incumbent. Wiener is the same guy who crafted Erik Sten's last campaign (before Opie became bored with the whole thing and retired to his West Hills mansion), among many others. And it seems like old Mark didn't push the creative envelope too hard this time around. Indeed, a lot of the Sam the Tram mayoral pitch reads like Sten Warmed Over:
Translation: Never vote for anyone other than an incumbent. You can't trust those new faces.
Then there's the enemy:
And of course, no Portland campaign literature would be complete without the P word:
Even Adams's main slogan appears to have been microwaved from four months ago:
We don't know about you, but we're starting to find this Orwellian barrage somewhere between insulting and frightening.
Drop everything. You've got to read about the night that Neil Goldschmidt walked into his house (the governor's mansion) and found his wife, Margie, hanging out with now-Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto (who was then Neil's chauffeur and bodyguard). And the love triangle "dust-up" between the two big stickmen -- I am not making this up -- backstage at a Dolly Parton concert! It's all in today's O -- buried, of course, on page 3 of the story. More amusing than a John Branam expense report!
Here's a bright spot in the Portland metro economic picture.
An alert reader reports in this evening:
Just had a telephone poll a few minutes ago.Me, too.
It was only three questions.
1. Who would you vote for for Mayor? Sam press 1, Sho press 2, neither press 3
Being an Anybody-but-Sam I did not press his number, so came question #2
2. Would you change your mind?
3. Would you vote for Randy Leonard?
No question about the other two council races.
Must be a Sam Poll or one trying to see if the population is feeling a bit disillusioned with the City Hall incumbents. Wonder who is behind it.
Oregon AG wannabes in a stone mud fight! Kroger vs. Macpherson, head to head tomorrow morning at 9 on OPB. They're soliciting your questions and comments for the candidates here. I suppose you could also say something to or about them in comments to this post; presumably, the show's producers will read it.
Especially in Montana.
Here's a bizarre, sad tale, but at least it's come to an end.
Not that it matters much, but in the wee small hours of this morning we got an e-mail with the Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee's endorsements in various races, including nonpartisan races for the Portland City Council. This is one of those deals where they endorse more than one candidate. Indeed, in the two council races other than mayor (where they endorsed Sam the Tram), it's easier to list whom they didn't endorse than whom they did.
The following were deemed to be not worthy:
Council Seat 1: Jeff Bissonnette (all five others were endorsed)
Council Seat 2: Ed Garren, Harold Williams 2 (the three others were endorsed)
Man, that's gotta hurt.
I'm not the only one critical of the Pope.
Yesterday word came down that the City of Portland is going to pay $9 million to move a ramp off the Hawthorne Bridge near where Multnomah County wants to put a new courthouse downtown (some day). Since both the bridge and the courthouse are county, not city, property, one might wonder what that's all about. But hey, it's all for the public good. Why quibble about which local government entity pays?
Nonetheless, there's something about the financing of this that doesn't quite hold together. According to a press account, the money for the ramp move is coming from the city's recently negotiated sale of urban renewal bonds for the "downtown waterfront" area, which at last report was supposed to close today:
The PDC voted in November to provide most of the estimated $10.7 million it will cost to move the ramp to free up the block for construction of a courthouse.... The PDC is funding its share of the project from the final bonds sale for its Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area.Now, wait a minute. The interest on those bonds -- 6.0278 percent a year -- is not tax-exempt for federal tax purposes. At first blush, that was not surprising, since bonds issued for certain "private activities" don't get the benefit of federal tax exemption, and a lot of urban renewal bonds in these parts sure do look as though they're being issued more for private benefit than for anything else.
But if the city knew all along that it was going to borrow $9 million to move the bridge ramp for the county courthouse -- clearly a public project -- couldn't it have issued fully tax-exempt bonds for that? If not, why not? And if so, why didn't it do that?
If the interest on the bonds had been federally tax-exempt, the interest rate would have been quite a bit lower. If it were 1.75 percent lower, that would be an interest savings of $157,500 for the city in the first year alone.
Are we paying $157,500 more a year in interest to Citigroup and Bank of America than we really need to be paying?
There's another oddity here, but it's relatively minor compared to the taxable bond question: The preliminary official statement for the bonds (page 26 of this large pdf file) shows that the city had already borrowed $8,820,000 for the ramp move under its shadowy urban renewal line of credit. That portion of the line of credit is going to be paid off out of the new, permanent bonds. Well, what the heck has the city been doing with that $8,820,000 up to now? Yesterday's announcement makes it sound as though no checks have been written until this point. Where has that $8,820,000 been sitting since it was borrowed under the line of credit? Why was it drawn from the bank at all?
Did you know that Portland City Council candidate John Branam worked for a while at the Port of Portland? Neither did I. He doesn't talk about it much.
And did you know who pulled some strings to get him the job? Now that's worth knowing. Click here and scroll down to page 9. Too funny.
Critics of Portland urban renewal, who bemoan the fact that the city's "tax increment financing" schemes take property tax money away from the county and schools: Check this one out. The city's about to fork over $9 million toward the cost of the new county courthouse downtown near the Hawthorne Bridge.
That's $9 million down, $250 million to go... No, that big crane they've just moved into that area isn't for the new courthouse, which is completely unfunded. That's for a nice, new soulless office tower. Hoffman Construction, Gerding Edlen, and some dudes from San Francisco. Seems we can't get enough of that action around here.
John Kroger: The Book.
I see that the city's timing of last Friday afternoon's announcement about City Council candidate John Branam's "clean money" shenanigans had the desired effect. The mainstream media gave it anemic coverage on Friday night and Saturday morning, nobody paid any attention to it, and today life goes on. The fact that Branam had already violated the city's order, reported here last night, seems to have had no traction at all. Perhaps the local government here wouldn't try to manipulate the local media so much if it weren't so easy.
Anyway, sometime today, the last payment of $1,000 by Branam to Busse, which appeared on the state's ORESTAR website all weekend, has disappeared. It had transaction ID number 287933, and it was posted at 6:12 p.m. on Friday.
The current state of affairs in the city's "voter-owed elections" public campaign finance fiasco raises a number of questions, one of whom I've already raised: Can someone give Branam money to pay any penalties that he personally will owe?
Here's another: What if Branam's campaign manager, Phil Busse, were to stop working right now? The city has ruled that he should be paid no more than $20,000 for working on the campaign for three months, up to the date of the election. He's already been paid that full amount, and maybe then some. And so if he quits, dies, becomes disabled, or gets fired today, Branam will have to pay the city back some of the salary, plus penalties -- right?
Allowing "clean money" folks to prepay big salaries, or big anything, is a bad practice. In Branam's case, of course, the suspicion was that he was not prepaying Busse for future services, but back-paying him for services performed before Branam was certified. That would have been against the rules, and no such violation was found -- although it was reported in the Merc (Busse's old employer) last Nov. 22 that "Branam has been campaigning for weeks—with former Mercury managing editor and mayoral candidate Phil Busse as his manager."
Anyway, that issue is now dead, but the question of what would happen if Busse stops working remains intriguing.
The other big issue to arise from this latest flap is an obvious basic flaw in the system: that once candidates get $150,000 or $200,000 of taxpayer money to run their campaigns, the city will inevitably wind up micromanaging their campaign expenditures. Worst of all, that policing will be done with "fair market value" as the standard.
Now, I know something about "fair market value." I make a good living explaining to people what it means. And I can tell you that it almost always means trouble. Opinions about "fair market value" routinely vary, and often wildly. When a law or a regulation uses that term, it virtually guarantees uncertainty, confusion, hard feelings, and controversy. What is the "fair market value" of the services performed by a campaign manager or staffer? One thing's for sure -- you'll never know for sure.
The IRS says it's going to be watching to see if tax-exempt charitable organizations violate the rules against their getting involved in the political campaigns that are now under way and promise to rage on into November. Interestingly, one of the items on the IRS checklist is to see whether the exempt groups' web sites are linking to campaign or advocacy web sites, which is a sign that a violation may be present. Check out this memo, which reads in part:
Experience indicates that there are numerous cases involving potential political campaign intervention in the form of communications posted on Web sites operated by section 501(c)(3) organizations. Many of these communications include links to Web sites of other organizations. The analysis of cases involving links on a section 501(c)(3) organization Web site involves determining whether material on a linked Web site is attributable to the section 501(c)(3) organization.Hmmm... What is my "electronic proximity" to you?
There are several possible characterizations of such links. One suggests the link is akin to a referral from one source of information to another that the viewer can pursue or not pursue at his or her discretion. Another suggests the link is analogous to a distribution by the section 501(c)(3) organization of the information contained on the linked Web page. However, neither of these characterizations appropriately reflects the facts and circumstances in all cases, nor offers a single approach to resolving all such cases. As Revenue Ruling 2007-41 notes, the context for the link on the organization’s Web site matters, as does the directness of the links between the organization’s Web site and a Web page favoring or opposing a candidate. The principles articulated in the revenue ruling are reinforced by work on these cases which suggests that electronic proximity – including the number of "clicks" that separate the objectionable material from the 501(c)(3)’s Web site – is a significant consideration....
Where a case involves a link between a section 501(c)(3) organization’s Web site and the site of an unrelated organization (whether or not exempt), EO will pursue the case if the facts and circumstances indicate that the section 501(c)(3) organization is promoting, encouraging, recommending or otherwise urging viewers to use the link to get information about specific candidates and their positions on specific issues. Again, analysis of the context around the link is a key factor.
Further, where the facts and circumstances suggest that a section 501(c)(3) organization is using a link between Web sites (other than a link to a related section 501(c)(4) organization...) to indirectly communicate a message that could well be a violation of the law were it done directly, EO will pursue the case.
Jim Blackwood over on Mount Tabor muses about his life as a political campaign volunteer.
John McCain showed us his tax returns last week -- but not his wife's. Like John Kerry, Captain McCain married a really rich woman, and they file separate tax returns. Kerry's spouse resisted releasing her returns back in '04, but she eventually gave in, at least to some extent. It will be interesting to see what happens with Mrs. McC., most of whose dough comes from her family's monster Budweiser distributorship.
We had a busy weekend in these parts, as you'll see if you scroll down our main page. We even did a stint as the "substitute token liberal" on the Kremer & Abrams talk radio show on Sunday.
But in case you missed it, we posted here on Saturday about an outrageous copyright claim being made against an internet site by the State of Oregon. We think the story's particularly worth a read.
We were planning to hold this one for the morning, but it's just too good to wait any longer.
On Friday at 5 in the afternoon -- just in time to be lost in weekend festivities -- the City of Portland issued its ruling on the investigation into whether City Council candidate John Branam had misspent publicly provided campaign funds by paying his campaign manager, Phil Busse, $20,000, and promising to pay him another $5,000 between now and the May 20 primary.
The ruling? That $25,000 was too much to pay Busse for the campaign -- it was beyond the $20,000 fair market value of his services. The city auditor ordered Branam not to pay Busse more than the $20,000 he had already received.
But get this: About an hour later, Branam reported to state elections officials that he had already paid Busse another $1,000, that very day!
We kid you not. At this writing, the breakdown of salary payments to Busse, gleaned from the ORESTAR system, is as follows:
|Mar. 6||$ 1,000|
|Mar. 14||$ 1,000|
|Mar. 28||$ 1,000|
|Apr. 4||$ 1,000|
|Apr. 7||$ 1,000|
|Apr. 18||$ 1,000|
In his ruling Friday, the city elections officer, Andrew Carlstrom, wrote in part:
2. The Auditor has determined that payments totaling $20,000 to Mr. Busse fall within the range of fair market value for three months work and will comply with City Code Section 2.10.090.C.6.Given that the ruling was issued the same day as the last $1,000 check cut to Busse, one wonders at what times of day the two events transpired. The auditor's decision was announced to the public at 5 p.m. -- when was it delivered by e-mail to Branam? Did Branam and Busse know about the ruling before the check was delivered to Busse? Before Busse negotiated it, if indeed he already has?
3. However, any further expenditures from John4PDX for "wages, salary, and benefits" to Mr. Busse will trigger a violation of City Code Section 2.10.090 and will result in a civil penalty. If John4PDX chooses to pay Mr. Busse in excess of $20,000, the Auditor will determine the expenditures to Mr. Busse exceed "fair market value" and you will be assessed a penalty twice the amount of the infraction, or ten thousand dollars. In addition, should this occur, you will be required to return the excess amount to the Campaign Finance Fund. Please note that, per City Code Section 2.10.220.A.6, civil penalties may not be paid with Campaign Finance Fund revenues.
4. Payments to Mr. Busse for reimbursement of expenses during the Primary Election Period will still be allowed. However, given that the original planned expenditures to Mr. Busse were to total $25,000, any further expenditures made by John4PDX to Mr. Busse for wages, salary, or benefits during the Primary Election Period will result in a violation and penalty.
5. The March 27, 2008 Service Agreement between John4PDX and Phil Busse must be amended to reflect total payments to Mr. Busse of $20,000 instead of $25,000 to eliminate any commitment to any additional amount. Please submit a copy of the amended signed agreement to the Auditor not later than 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 23, 2008.
In any event, according to the terms of the ruling, it would appear that the Branam campaign has two options at this point: have Busse pay back the $1,000 he picked up on Friday (don't bet on that, people), or suffer the consequences. The consequences appear to be forfeiture of $1,000 out of the "clean money" pot, plus a $2,000 penalty, which Branam would have to pay out of his own pocket.
Here's an interesting question: What if a generous donor wanted to give Branam the $2,000 to pay the penalty? Could Branam accept that gift? Would it matter if the donor was a close relative? By taking taxpayer funds under the "voter-owed elections" system, does a candidate lose the right to receive, say, a birthday present from one's parents?
We doubt that the city code or regulations address these questions, but hey -- like everything else with "clean money," we're sure that City Hall will just make up some new rules on the fly. It's a swell system, and it's working just great.
There are some other troublesome aspects of the auditor's ruling as well. But those really can wait until tomorrow. The fact that Branam's already in violation of the order is story enough for tonight.
UPDATE, 4/21, 7:20 p.m.: More on this here.
Every so often, we get a reminder of the reality of the situation: Hillary's going to steal the nomination.
And lose the election.
The Rose Quarter may have taken a big step toward condo-ization with the sale of the old Ford dealership on NE Broadway. With Sam the Tram and the boys ready to run a streetcar from the Pearl District over the Broadway Bridge and right through there on the way to MLK Boulevard, you can get bet that old Joe Weston and his ilk are standing by with some awful apartment towers for as soon as we get over the real estate bubble.
Interestingly, the property was reportedly purchased by an outfit called Portland Management Properties LLC. That outfit is listed as being controlled by Fares Rustom, who also controls nearby Broadway Toyota. Are Rustom and his partners planning to sell cars where the Ford dealership used to be? Or is it all just a waiting game until the wrecking ball shows up and the soulless towers start to rise?
A while back we blogged in horror about the fact that a loaf of bread was going for $4.19 at our local independent grocery store. But now, it seems that $4.19 has become the price of all sorts of stuff that used to be a lot cheaper. Yesterday at Fred Meyer, we looked at a six-pack of Canada Dry ginger ale, and sure enough -- $4.19. And of course, gasoline will soon be there, probably by mid-June. The beat-up American consumer just keeps taking it in the wallet.
While we permanently ruin our country in the name of "defeating Terrism," we also do this.
What does America have more of: diplomats or members of military bands?
Yesterday the owners of the teams in the National Basketball Association approved the proposal to allow the Supersonics team to move from Seattle to Oklahoma City.
Only two owners of the 30 voted no: the Dallas Mavericks (who would definitely lose some market share) and the Portland Trail Blazers (who would definitely gain some).
Why would Paul Allen, the Blazers owner, vote against the Sonics' moving? Because he lives in Seattle? Because he wants to prove (or give the impression) that he won't be moving the Blazers to Seattle?
Come on, people. I just tried to pay the Stupidity Tax at one of your vending machines, and it wouldn't take the brand new U.S. $5 bill!
Now all my dreams won't come true. You'll be hearing from my lawyer first thing Monday morning.
Here's some outrage for your extended-winter weekend in the Beaver State. A group of state legislators called the "Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee" is now threatening to sue some folks who have posted the full text of the Oregon Revised Statutes on the internet. Of all the things that the state would claim copyright in, they're now prohibiting people from publishing the law itself!
I think it's time for the "Legislative Committee" to get called on the carpet.
And guess who the co-chair of that committee is?
This is what we get from the Democratic establishment in this state. You've got e-mail, right? Please let these people have it, folks -- early and often.
A couple of Portland stories this week pointed out some of the dangers presented by all those acronyms that the bureaucrats and policy wonks throw around with abandon. A commenter on this blog was making a point about the CRC, and I was ready to jump in with a heated response. But then I realized that the reader was referring to the Columbia River Crossing -- not the Citizens Review Committee. The former is the proposed new bridge from Portland to Vancouver; the latter is one of the boards involved in Portland's anemic method of investigating charges of police brutality.
There are probably lots of other acronym overlaps lurking out there. Has anyone got another example?
It's getting awfully easy to predict the behavior of our elected officials in Portland. Exactly as we called it this morning, the city auditor waited until 5:00 this afternoon to release his ruling on the campaign practices of City Council wannabe John Branam under the "clean money" taxpayer campaign finance system. The short of it is that the city ruled that Branam's contract with his campaign manager, Phil Busse, called for overpaying Busse by $5,000, and it prohibited Branam from paying Busse that amount. The $20,000 already forked over, however, was found to be permissible.
The city's ruling raises more questions about the system than it answers, and no doubt the auditor would like us to raise all these questions now, so that they'll be long forgotten by Monday morning. We won't be taking that bait. We'll reserve our comments until the start of the next work week. There's plenty else to write about over the weekend.
As a progressive leftist myself (of the bitter resignation variety) I find often embarrassing the lengths well-meaning Portland liberals can go in terms of figurativeness, metaphor, language or what have you, without actually getting to the meat of any matter and hammering out a deal that would actually challenge the status quo in any way.
Portland City Council candidate John Branam must be looking over his shoulder, for a while now. A recipient of "clean money" in the "voter-owed elections" municipal taxpayer campaign finance program, he's been on the carpet for payments to staffers that some say appear to violate the program's rules. If there have indeed been violations, then a fine, an order to pay some "clean money" back, or even disqualification, are theoretically possible. Earlier this week, it was reported that the city auditor's office would likely rule on the charges by the end of the week.
Now, when the city has bad news to break, Friday is its favorite day to do it. Media viewership (like blog readership) drops off around lunchtime on Friday, and doesn't come back strong until Monday. The City Hall types who are supposedly enforcing the "clean money" rules will be embarrassed to announce yet another infraction -- every miscreant candidate who takes the tax money without full compliance is another knock on their pet experiment. And so the fact that we're all the way to Friday indicates to me that if there's news about Branam this week, it won't be good news.
... try, try again -- that's the Portland way. Now it seems that wasting a few extra million on reusing, rather than recycling, the Sauvie Island Bridge is back on the table. It seems that Sam the Tram and Big Pipe have "cut a deal." Fireman Randy's all for the dopey stuff these days, and so that leaves Grampy as the only voice of reason, I guess.
Maybe they will name it Cesar Chavez Bridge.
Rumor has reached us that three of the top managers at the Portland Development Commission have "chosen to leave" the PDC. Along with the departure of the agency's legal counsel, that's four out of five managers gone within a very short time.
Word has it that the entire agency staff is being restructured into new "teams" as well.
The reports come from a reliable source. Anyone got more they'd like to share?
UPDATE, 4:49 p.m.: It's real. WW has much more, here.
Our source also mentioned something about a change involving Lolita Burnette, the PDC "Director of Community Relations and Business Equity." Nothing in the WW story about that.
There's less than two weeks left to register to vote in the May 20 Oregon primary. The deadline is a week from Tuesday. Since the Republican Party has more or less disbanded around here (he, he!), there are several races in which if you don't vote in the Democratic Party primary, you'll have nothing to say. And so even if you're already registered, you might want to think about your party affiliation for this election. I know I did:
The information and form you need are here.
Poor Nick Fish. Last time he ran for Portland City Council, sitting Commissioner Erik Sten said he was being neutral, but he wound up helping Fish's opponent, Sam Adams, beat him.
This time around, Fish says he's got the support of Commissioner Randy Leonard, but if you watch the Willy Week endorsement interview for that race, Fish's main opponent, Jim Middaugh, also claims Fireman Randy's backing. At about 27 minutes into the tape, he says:
You know, the thing that changed, and I wasn't thinking about running, until I set up an appointment with Erik to have him help me figure out what I should do next. I was aiming for a job at BES, and we sat down to talk. And actually, Ty Kovatch [Leonard's office chief] had called me into his office and said that he and Randy had made a decision, I should run for Sam's seat. [Laughter] And I thought Ty was trying to get me to say that I was interested, so that he could mock me, we were making a little bit of fun of Brendan [Finn, Dan Saltzman's office chief]; and Brendan knew that. And he said, "No, seriously, we'll raise you 75 grand, and here's how we'll do it." And I went home that night, told my wife, and a friend of mine was over for dinner, and he said, "Oh, hell, I'll give you five grand."...So, has the Fireman changed his mind, and now he supports Fish? Or is there once again equivocation going on about where a current council member stands?
No, it definitely did not.
I see that George Stephanopoulos was giving Barack Obama a hard time last night. Not surprising, given that he's one of the original Clinton White House crooks. Remember the $668,000 loan he reportedly got, at below-market interest and with insufficient credit, from Nations Bank, when that bank had serious business before the Clinton Administration? Just as he was leaving his White House gig. Good times.
Great pick for a neutral moderator, ABC. And a great raft of questions. No sense asking about the environment, health care, torture, education, the deficit. Not when you notice that a guy isn't wearing a flag on his lapel!
Those no-good troublemakers at Portland Copwatch say they've stumbled onto a fairly disturbing, albeit typical, sneak-around by the City of Portland in the process of looking at reforms for the police disciplinary "system":
On Thursday, April 17, four members of the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), which is charged with police oversight functions in Portland, will meet privately with Auditor Gary Blackmer to discuss changes to the complaint review system. The CRC is part of the Independent Police Review Division (IPR), which was recently criticized in a consultant's report for conducting too much of its business "behind the scenes." Perhaps inadvertently proving this point, the reason only four of the nine members are meeting with Blackmer is to avoid having a quorum and thus triggering public meetings requirements.
The secret meeting came to light at the CRC meeting Tuesday night. The Auditor raised the issue that he wanted to address issues that were discussed when City Council accepted the consultant's report including:
-- An employee who would be able to conduct investigations, funded part-time by the Mayor's office;
-- Outreach plans including hiring an outreach consultant and assigning outreach to one or two staff members; and
-- A process of review for citizens whose complaints have been dismissed by IPR.
Once the Auditor opened up this discussion, CRC Chair Mike Bigham quickly told him that dialogue would take place "on Thursday." The discussion came to a halt. When a member of Portland Copwatch asked for clarification on what was happening Thursday, and whether there was a meeting that would be open to the public, Bigham responded by smiling at a fellow CRC member, shrugging, and calling Tuesday's meeting to a close without so much as a response.
"It is outrageous enough that a citizen body that has been accused of doing too much work 'behind the scenes' is holding a meeting about its own future that is closed to the public," said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "It is even worse that they would not even make the existence of that meeting public knowledge."
Information about the Thursday meeting between Blackmer and four CRC members was obtained in conversations after Tuesday's CRC meeting had ended.
O.k., readers, what can you tell us about Matt Ward, and about She & Him?
Hey, the Willy Week website has a new look, and you'll all just have to figure out how to navigate it, people. Meanwhile, they appear to have a learning curve of their own in front of them: At this hour, when you click on the sidebar link to "The Score," the site sends you to a column from last September 26.
The "Candidates Gone Wild" people (WW and the Bus kids) have decided to allow all six candidates in the Portland City Council race for Sam Adams's old seat to appear on stage at their event. Given how close that race is, that makes perfect sense. It also responds to some problems they had with their original idea, a straw poll to winnow the field down to three.
And it gives their darling, Streetcar Smith, a chance to get up on the stage, even though he came in last in the balloting. Speaking of whom, I see he's good to go on moving the Sauvie Island Bridge rather than recycling it. No expensive idea is too stupid for that guy.
Like a pill that you were supposed to take with food, health care corporations' advertising makes me slightly nauseous. Take, for example, a sidebar ad that's been running whenever I check my blog traffic on SiteMeter. I don't know what shows up on the right of your screen when you go over there, but for me it's a Kaiser "Thrive" ad that I guess is supposed to be showing the advantages of yoga, but seems awfully focused on a young woman's derriere. Maybe it's just my dirty-old-man mind...
Then yesterday in the mail comes this beauty from OHSU:
Gee, I would have thought that the first thing the health experts would have told you was to wear a farookin' bike helmet.
Come on in and take a look around. Watch your elbows.
All that's missing is Fireman Randy standing out front handing you the keys.
A blog buddy of ours down on the Oregon Coast, a photographer named Nancy Lynne, took a little ride over the weekend, and she brought her camera along. Nice:
As these special breaks proliferate, we are implicitly creating a system of transfer payments that shifts money from the smart to the stupid, from the lucky to the unlucky.
Here's a blogger whose relationship with Starbucks is, shall we say, iced.
Often you have to wonder what planet these folks live on.
I love the bovine excrement churned out daily by our government. Here's a report on inflation; it's big on telling you about "core inflation" -- what happened to prices "other than food and energy." Yeah, well, that's real important. Even when you're starving and freezing to death in the dark, you probably still want to buy a "light truck." Who thinks this garbage up?
Now that Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines are merging, you can expect higher fares and fewer flights in and out of PDX. You can probably also kiss goodbye at least one of Portland's two serious international routes.
Coming up next, rumor has it, is a merger of Continental and United. More service cutbacks and higher fares. Do you think the Bushies will put a stop to that deal? Surely you jest.
Given the reduced air traffic that's coming, it might make sense for the Port of Portland to shelve its ridiculous plan to buy the Colwood golf course and turn it into a new runway that will bring the roar of jet engines over many northeast Portland neighborhoods that don't currently have to deal with constant airport noise. That's what the big smokescreen called "Airport Futures" and the "green, sustainable" blah-blah around it are all about. (Yeah, nothing says "sustainable" like an airport expansion.)
They might as well call it "Colwood Runway," but that would be too honest.
Anyway, you couldn't pick a worse time to expand PDX. "Airport Futures" deserves a quick trip to the recycling bin.
UPDATE, 9:44 p.m.: An alert reader points out that there are now three serious international routes out of PDX: Besides Tokyo and Frankfurt, Amsterdam was recently added. Two out of those three are on Northwest.
Not when you can live in one of these babies.
Time for another "mission accomplished."
Look out, young man. Your life may be getting a lot more complicated this week.
Although they're not shy about showing who their pet candidates are, the folks over at Willamette Week have done us all a service by filming and then posting on the internet their group interviews of candidates for various statewide and local offices, ostensibly in preparation for their making their formal endorsements.
The two videos that have interested us the most are the two for the seriously contested Portland City Council races: (1) the donnybrook for Sam the Tram's old seat, featuring Lewis, Fritz, Bissonnette, Branam, Smith, and Fahey; and (2) Fish, Middaugh, Garren, Stewart, and Williams. You'll need well over an hour for each of these, but they're highly informative -- way more so than the few measly sound bites you're going to get on local television.
We just got done looking at the video for the Middaugh-Fish-Etc. race, which proves beyond a doubt that (a) Middaugh is Sten II, even down to the mannerisms and the little half-sneer; (b) WW isn't going to endorse Fish, and they may be out to get him at Candidates Gone Wild; and (c) previously unbeknownst to me, Fred Stewart is another dedicated Opie worshipper -- absolutely thinks that the Stenmeister walks on water. Perhaps most distressingly, when candidate Ed Garren tries to say anything honest about the mortgaging of the city's future for condo development, everybody else in the room shouts him down.
We're leaning toward Fish, but Garren now has a shot for our vote.
Anyway, we heartily recommend the videos, although viewers may need to try to filter out the selective snottiness of the questioners. Next up on our viewing schedule: Kroger and Macpherson.
Remember Mad magazine? It was the rage for many years, especially when I was in high school. Ah, Alfred E. Neuman -- nowadays he'd be too smart to be President. I believe one of the main guys behind Mad was actually a graduate of my high school. It figures -- there were many deranged geniuses produced at that place.
Anyway, Mad comes to mind today because I have stuck in my head one of that publication's many great, goofy song parodies -- one that addresses the issue of the day. Sung to the tune of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," the lyrics began:
The rest of the song is lost in the mists of history, but extra special bonus points to any reader who remembers it. Even if you can't, heck, make up some of your own lyrics and share them in the comments to this post.
We blogged yesterday about a City of Portland refinancing bond deal that went from scheduled to indefinitely postponed, as of last week. We wondered why, and we asked the city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, for an explanation. Here's our question and his answer:
bojack: What caused the proposed $150 million pension refunding bond to be postponed? Are the auction rate securities that are supposed to be refunded still outstanding? When was the last interest rate reset on those, and what is the interest rate currently? Did the most recent auction of those securities succeed?
Johansen: The proposed conversion of the City's outstanding $150 million of pension obligation bonds has been postponed for market reasons. The City was not satisfied with the level of interest rates being proposed for the taxable, fixed rate refunding bonds and has elected to defer the conversion until market conditions improve.
The auction rate securities proposed to be refunded with the proceeds of the pension obligation refunding bonds remain outstanding in seven-day taxable mode.
The outstanding auction rate securities are repriced on Monday and Wednesday of each week. The interest rate on today's pricing was 3.302%. Today's rate was determined based on the failed auction formula equal to 150% of the daily 7-day AA financial commercial paper index.
While we were up, we asked a few additional questions about some pending bond offerings that we have been following:
bojack: Have the sewer bonds sold at auction on April 3 closed yet? Who bought them, and at what interest rates?
Johansen: The City's First and Second Lien Sewer System Revenue and Refunding Bonds, 2008 Series A and B sold through competitive bidding on April 3rd. The final amounts of the Series A and Series B Bonds were $333,015,000 and $195,700,000, respectively. The Series A Bonds were purchased by Lehman Brothers at a true interest cost (TIC) of 4.3675%. The Series B Bonds were purchased by Citigroup at a TIC of 4.6087%.
Closing is scheduled for April 17th.
bojack: Have terms been reached on the downtown urban renewal bonds that were set to be sold on April 10? What are those terms? When is that issue expected to close?
Johansen: The $50,615,000 Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds, 2008 Series A (Federally Taxable) sold last Thursday in a negotiated sale with Citigroup and Banc of America. The TIC on the federally taxable bonds was 6.0278%.
Closing is scheduled for April 22nd.
Hmmm... Some of that last set of bonds -- the urban renewal bonds -- is a 10-year loan, and most of it is a 16-year loan. At 6.0278 percent interest, the first year's interest alone is something like $3 million. We certainly hope that whatever toys we're purchasing for the downtown and developer set are worth it all.
Glad the oil companies are making out o.k., because retail's going down fast.
No recession, Chimpy? Gimme a break. We may be saying the "d" word by this time next year.
We just noticed that the case against ex-Blazer (and current San Antonio Spur) Damon Stoudamire for trying to carry marijuana in his pants, wrapped in aluminum foil, through an airport metal detector in 2003 has been dropped. Apparently his successful drug rehab course and some clean urine tests got Mighty Mouse off the hook.
And one more reason to root against the Spurs. [Via You Been Blinded.]
And from the looks of things, Multnomah County is glad to get rid of them.
A while back, we blogged about some campaign literature we had come across from Cyreena Boston, who's running for the state legislature from our gerrymandered district (45) here in northeast Portland. We noted that it looked more like a perfume ad than a political ad -- beautiful, but what's for sale?
A few days later, we got a nice phone call from Boston, who took it all in good humor. She sounded like a bright, thoughtful, and capable person -- just as several of her supporters had described her to us.
This last weekend, the steady-registered Democrat in our house received a four-page glossy mailer from one of Boston's opponents. This one made pretty clear that it wasn't from Calvin Klein:
Pow! Biff! Straight out of the "Batman" stylebook. Now that Diane Linn's out of the picture, they must have had extra "flash" and "smash" thingies lying around. Remember this one?
Man, that was a classic. Good times.
But we digress. To get back to 2008, Dembrow shows his serious lefty leanings with lots of promises that will keep the government employees firmly in his camp:
The third candidate in the primary, Jon Coney, hasn't darkened our door yet, but we suspect he won't be far behind. He's clearly winning the lawn sign battle in this part of the world. His pedigree with Metro dooms him, however, as far as we're concerned. All the clones over in the regional planner-tariat are behind him, which means it's highly unlikely that we will be.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary gets the seat. The "R" party doesn't stand a chance, and we don't think they're even running anyone.
Sam "the Tram" Adams, frontrunner to be the next mayor of Portland, admitted recently that the city doesn't have the money to pay for the many projects that it has promised developers it will deliver in the infamous SoWhat district. The only way to make good on those contracts is with the help of federal and state bailouts:
If the federal and state money isn't forthcoming, it looks as though the city will have to default on its responsibilities under the SoWhat agreements.
That ought to be fun.
Cascade Locks makes the national news -- but not in a good way.
Ms. Sue Keil
City of Portland Office of Transportation
I know how busy you are trying to get a pay increase for yourself out of Sam the Tram, but I am hoping that you can take a few moments away from that important mission to have a word with one of your employees. It's the guy who was driving the large pickup truck from your department, no. 014211 - PW, in Northeast Portland just after noon this past Saturday. (I tried to get the license plate number of the truck, but I could not see one on the back of the vehicle.)
The fellow must have been on some sort of emergency mission, because he was driving fast. And when I tried to cross NE 15th heading east along the south side of Broadway -- with the walk signal, which I had waited for, clearly in my favor -- the truck, making a left turn, came barreling into the crosswalk and almost hit me.
This isn't the first time that a large truck from your bureau has caused safety issues for me, either as a motorist or as a pedestrian. I hope that someone under your command will change this particular staffer's driving habits, because he may kill or seriously injure someone one of these days. And the huge judgment that the city will have to pay to the victim or the victim's family will leave that much less in the municipal coffers for you to get your big raise out of.
Thanks you for your attention to this matter.
UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.: Ms. Keil responds:
Mr. Bogdanski, thank you for your detailed report on the event you experienced Saturday. We do expect our employees to obey the law and drive safely. I certainly will follow-up on the information you have provided and take appropriate action. Should you wish to talk about any of the other situations you mentioned, please call me at *** .
One of the three bond offerings that the City of Portland had previously announced for the month of the April has been postponed. On the city's bond sale calendar, a $150 million refinancing of outstanding pension bonds has been changed from an April sale date to a date "to be determined."
This isn't the first time in recent months that previously announced Portland bond deals have not materialized as scheduled. Last year, it was announced (page 25 of the pdf file) that there would be a sale of general obligation bonds for "emergency facilities" sometime in the fall. That bond issue never took place, and it since has quietly and entirely disappeared from the public radar screen. The same is true for some central east side urban renewal bonds that were supposed to be sold in "winter 2008"; there is currently pending a $50 million urban renewal bond deal, but it's for downtown, not the east side.
The latest pushback, of the $150 million pension refinancing (not for police and fire pensions, which are completely unfunded, but bonds to pay other city employees' pensions), is a bit surprising. The old bonds that were to be paid off with the refinance proceeds are some of those crazy "auction-rate" securities (adjustable rate loans with a vengeance) that lately have been costing the city outrageous amounts of interest as a result of the cratering of the bond insurance companies who were guaranteeing them. It's not clear whether the city has managed to get the interest rate lowered on the "auction-rate" bonds, at least for the time being, or whether the postponement of the refinancing is prompted by something less benign.
Since no one in the mainstream media gives a darn about this stuff, and the city's disclosure on these deals is less than completely transparent, we'll put in an inquiry to the city's debt manager and report back what we hear.
The head of an international pedophile ring whose main concern is to protect the ring's money is visiting the United States this week. There have been several different phases of my life during which a papal visit would be a big deal. Nowadays, I wish I could be there to boo the guy.
This country is seriously, seriously screwed up.
Politician, beware: Don't turn off the bloggers.
A reader sends in this inspirational story:
A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?" St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock will move." "Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?" "That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie." "Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?" St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life." "Where's Hillary Clinton's clock?" asked the man. "Hillary's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."
b!X quotes from a recently released legal document drafted by his dad.
Here's the city that works... not... at it worst. And with an ex-firefighter on the council, no less. You can just imagine what else is supposed to be checked, but isn't. Go by streetcar!
The other day, we blogged half-jokingly about one Portlander's proposal to put an eco-roof park on the new I-5 interstate bridge between Portland and the 'Couv. But Bill Badrick, whose concept we featured, insists he's not kidding. He writes:
I had so much fun with the comments generated on your post, I thought you may like to see this technical cross section. It illustrates how this can be built, and I hope, how cool the park could be. From the protected bike lanes to the glassed-in walkways at the edges of the aerodynamic wing, each function has its place. The naysayers bring up cost, of course, but performance is about value. The Park Roof protects all the users in the fierce winter storms, increasing safety and traffic speed, and eliminates expensive repainting for decades. (We all know what we just spent repainting the Willamette bridges.) I'll bet dollars for donuts that this will cost out the same as an ugly concrete bridge in "life-cycle" numbers, and the value in "quality of life" is better every day!
Hey, who am I to argue with a visionary?
A reader of ours who's an avid motorist points us to this phenomenon: At intersections where red-light cameras are installed, some cities have the traffic signals set so that the duration of the yellow light that precedes the red is unusually short -- sometimes illegally short.
We go through an intersection with one of those cameras on our way to the freeway. The threat of a ticket causes us to be extra, extra careful not to enter the intersection on the yellow -- sometimes to the point of making a pretty abrupt stop. Cities that game the process with artificially short yellows are bullying more and more people into those short stops, which may be legal but they sure can be dangerous.
We were back up on Mount Hood yesterday for yet another round of cross-country skiing. Conditions were once again phenomenal -- not just for April, but for any time of the year. And we saw fewer other skiers than on any other outing this season.
This time we were treated to a couple of wildlife moments. There were small monarch butterflies all over the place, and the birds are back. At one point a hawk flew right over us, maybe 50 feet up. A few moments later, this black bird flew the exact same path back in the opposite direction, with newfound food of some kind in its mouth. We could hear the wings whooshing as our friend headed home for lunch.
What a blessing it is to live so close to this amazing place.
They can't hold a candle to these guys.
You've enjoyed the Benson Bubblers. But are you ready for the Leonard Latrines?
A while back we noted that our favorite Oregon politician, Vicki Walker, had published a 16-page booklet outlining some specific things she would do if, as she hopes, she is elected the next Oregon secretary of state. Today in the mail we got a hard copy of that document -- pretty much what you see on the web, but for those who prefer the dead-tree information technology, we guess.
The more we think about it, the more we think Walker is the best candidate for the position. Sure, Kate Brown has all the money and is a heavy favorite, but the job needs a person with an independent spirit. Indeed, by rights the secretary of state should be a nonpartisan post. That being the case, a true-blue Democratic standard-bearer like Brown is not the ideal person for that office. In contrast, you can't find many more independent Democrats than Walker these days, and so to us, she's it.
Last night, the voting closed for which Portland City Council candidates get to appear on stage at "Candidates Gone Wild." The winners were announced at about 3 this morning.
But wait! This afternoon, mysteriously, balloting appears to have reopened! Guess the Bus Kids and Willamette Wiener didn't get the outcome they wanted. What a very special crock.
UPDATE, 4:39 p.m.: A reader forwards to us an e-mail that purports to be from WW editor Mark Zusman to the various candidates, and reads:
Dear candidates and campaigns,
Online voting for Candidates Gone Wild will remain open until midnight
TONIGHT, as we originally said when making initial phone calls about the
voting process. There has been a network administrative error with the
voting deadline and the voting reopened this afternoon.
Curiously, the e-mail is marked "Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 4:45:53 PM," which is not possible as I received my copy at 4:33...
UPDATE, 4/11, 12:01 a.m.: The extended deadline has come and gone, and now Jeff Bissonnette has passed John Branam for the third and final berth on stage in the hotly contested City Council race. Assuming that's the result desired by the organizers, that should be the end of the matter.
If it's going to be truly Portland... an eco-roof!
A fellow named Bill Badrick has produced elaborate drawings of such a feature for the project, and they're on display now at the Lucky Lab Brewery on NW Quimby. Come on, Portlanders -- let's make a statement!
I see from this month's Hollywood Star News (sorry, no online version) that the guy who wants to put up a monstrosity of a condo bunker on NE 15th at Hancock has graciously agreed to chop one story off the top of his original six-story edifice. The neighbors still aren't satisfied, though, so the nastiness will continue. (The building is now being called "Irvington Squire." Squalor is more like it.)
Speaking of nastiness, though, nothing can top what's going on between another fine member of the development community, one Mr. Randy Palazzo, and the folks who get to live near his wonderful, "dense" east side creations. One neighbor quoted Palazzo in the Star News as follows: "Randy Leonard said I could do whatever I wanted on my property." At last report, Palazzo's contemplating getting a restraining order against the people who are saying all those untrue, bad things about him.
Bureaucrat-speak is always a little hard to make out, but no agency blows thicker smoke than the Portland "Bureau of Development Services." When they open their mouths to explain what they do, the jargon that comes out is often impenetrable. I think they used to be called the "Building Permit Office," but nowadays they make it sound like they're some kind of insurance company, or maybe Home Depot.
Yesterday they sent around a breathless press release letting us all know that they have "rebranded" themselves, with a spiffy new logo. I don't even want to think about how much it all cost, but what cracks me up is the goofy description of their mission. It's reach the point of self-parody:
On March 20, 2008, the first day of spring, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services unveiled a new look signaling a new beginning – the creation of a cohesive and easily identifiable image of the bureau for staff and customers. The bureau’s new slogan, "From Concept to Construction", cements the logo which depicts residential and commercial development nestled among Portland’s precious and valued natural resources....Whew. Somebody, please open a window.
According to Paul Scarlett, BDS Director, "The new logo and slogan embody the bureau’s commitment to promoting safe and attractive developments, balancing the built and natural environment, and reinforcing our focus on assisting customers with their development projects from start to finish."...
The new logo and slogan is part of an overall marketing effort that is designed to build and reinforce the bureau’s identity in the community. "Our top priorities continue to be to provide excellent service, creative solutions, and reliable information to meet our customers’ development needs," said Alisa Cour, Public Information Manager for BDS.
"We want to reach all our customers with the message that if you are planning a development project in Portland, come see us first," said Cour. "We’re here to partner with you on your project from concept to construction."
It wasn't the smiley face doing the smashing this time, however.
The balloting in the infernal "Candidates Gone Wild" straw poll is going right down to the wire in the wide-open Portland City Council race among Charles Lewis, Amanda Fritz and others. There are four candidates fighting for two of the three slots on the stage at that event, and the voting ends in about three hours.
To me, the whole thing is silly -- they ought to let all six candidates up onto the stage in that race -- but obviously, the contenders and their supporters think otherwise. If, like I, you think Lewis deserves a spot on that stage, he needs your help now, here.
UPDATE, 4/10, 12:06 a.m.: It appears that he has made it, by a narrow margin, pending a check to see if the votes cast were legitimate.
The Democrats are killing themselves with all the in-fighting in the Presidential race. It's time to come together.
Portland City Council wannabe Jim Middaugh was one of two Gorge Commissioners who voted yesterday against a 10-member majority as the commission approved a bogus "destination resort" on old lumber mill property in Underwood, Washington.
Meanwhile, the Portland Business Alliance endorsed Nick Fish, Middaugh's opponent, for Portland City Council yesterday. That raises to 99 percent the likelihood that Willamette Week will endorse Middaugh.
Thank heaven that sort of thing happens only in Alabama.
I see that the White Mana Diner on Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City is getting a fair amount of attention these days as a landmark. As well it should. One of the last remnants of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and yet still functioning as a modern burger palace, it deserves all the attention it gets.
But in the early '70s, the place earned a special place in my heart for an entirely different reason. My college girlfriend and I used to head down there to cure the munchies after an evening of frolic up along the skyline in Weehawken. White Mana always had good grub, and there was still a car hop to bring the food right out to your driver's side window.
Between the time we'd place our order and the arrival of the food, we'd make out passionately, steaming up the car windows until the burgers and fries arrived. Good times.
Love conquers all.
The flap about the timing of former Portland Commissioner Erik Sten's abrupt retirement -- and his sharing the secret with his hand-picked successor, Jim Middaugh, many weeks before the public heard a word -- has prompted an alert reader to poke around city records a bit. What the reader came up with is this:
I ran across this in the minutes of a Citizens Campaign Commission meeting in July of ’07. The Auditor [Gary Blackmer] was concerned with the special election issue back then, but didn’t schedule it for the Commission to review until 2008. What did the CCC have to do in the meantime? Very little. They took two months off before wasting three months discussing independent expenditure scenarios (a lot of good that did them, considering that they never anticipated the possibility of a potential voter-owned elections candidate being disqualified by an unsolicited in-kind contribution).Wow. That's around the same time that Sten was breaking the news quietly to Middaugh. That's either an eerie coincidence, or Blackmer knew that there was something rotten in Denmark.
Even more interesting is that in the last meeting before Sten’s announcement (a meeting which predated Thanksgiving by two weeks), Blackmer began laying the groundwork with the committee on the importance of public financing acting as a safeguard against using insider information in a resignation to get a leg up on the competition.
Alarm bells went off when I read this, but of course Blackmer would say that this just as easily proves the opposite – that he had no idea that Sten was resigning, that they were just working on an issue that could potentially arise (and it did). But given his shared interest with Sten in the VOE enterprise, I have strong doubts (it’s just too much coincidence).
It also seems odd that Blackmer brought up the issue in July but decided not to schedule action on it until the scenario eventually became real (once insiders had an idea of what the playing field would look like).
From the Nov. 12, 2007 meeting of the CCC:
VI. Special Elections
Auditor Gary Blackmer discussed different special election scenarios, spelled out in the City charter, created by a vacancy in office. The timing and length of the qualifying period were discussed, and the likelihood of a candidate achieving 1,000 qualifying contributions in a compressed schedule. Blackmer also discussed the potential that can occur without public financing: an incumbent could resign shortly before the end of the filing period, leaving the advantage to a candidate who had prior knowledge of the upcoming vacancy.
Our kids' cars may run on grass.
After giving it a lot of thought, we're voting for Charles Lewis for the Portland City Council seat being vacated by Sam Adams. Of the several candidates vying for the position, Lewis has the best combination of smarts, vision, experience, common sense, and decency. A star at Harvard, he's run his own business, he's been a union construction worker, he built water systems in Africa with the Peace Corps, and he's founded an important nonprofit organization that exposes children to music. He's got a healthy skepticism about the current direction of the city, but he also knows what's going well and needs to be sustained.
Besides, anyone who subverts "clean money" campaign finance funds to fix potholes is a hero in our book.
If you're a Portlander ready to elect someone who will represent the working people of the city, Lewis is the one to vote for in his race. He delivered our lawn sign in person (see photo above), but he's got one waiting for you at his campaign headquarters at Williams and Killingsworth. And he needs your vote in the straw poll at Candidates Gone Wild as well. There are worse ways to spend some time and energy.
At the very least, give Lewis your serious attention in that race. We think he's the best of the bunch.
Not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.
A reader writes:
If you're fed up with all the Presidential candidates, maybe you should try these guys. At least they rock!
Their good luck charm.
Merkley's in a deep hole against Novick.
I see that weekend TV anchor woman Nancy Francis is packing it in at KGW. Last night was her last show. She's going into teaching.
Many a weekend night did she fill us in on the goings-on in the world. All the different sets, suits, hair-do's, and co-anchors; the addition of the eyeglasses; the absences for maternity -- none of it ever changed the image she projected, which was of a smart, knowledgeable, thoughtful person.
But of course, one moment sums up her career so well:
Not only are we horsing around on a daily basis with "clean money," but now people are also cheating in the "Candidates Gone Wild" balloting.
Even stupider, someone cares.
In our discussion this morning about whether candidates in Portland City Council races need to pay payroll taxes on their campaign workers (and many of them should), a more fundamental tax question has popped up: Is the "clean money" that candidates receive under the city's "voter-owed elections" treated as taxable income for income tax purposes?
It's hard to see how it wouldn't be taxable income to whoever receives the check -- the candidate or some entity set up by the candidate. (Does the city pay the money to the candidates individually?) Gifts aren't income, but the payments from the city, subject to all manner of restrictions and regulations, hardly seem like transfers "out of detached and disinterested generosity," which is what they'd have to be to be considered gifts. Welfare is treated as a gift, but are "clean money" grants sufficiently analogous to public welfare payments to the poor? (O.k., let's leave Emilie Boyles out of this.)
Prizes and awards are taxable income. Payments for services rendered are income, obviously. Indeed, under the prevailing court cases in the area, every economic benefit that one receives is taxable as income, unless there's an exclusion under the tax code.
Of course, business expenses are deductible against business income, which means that candidates who spend all their "clean money" should break even for tax purposes -- at least so long as they can show that their candidacies have a profit motive and are not hobbies. Thus, the candidates have to declare to the IRS: "I was in this for the money." Could the IRS use against them their campaign speeches about how selfless they are?
In any event, reporting the "clean money" as income and deducting campaign expenses is another paperwork burden to add to the extensive reporting requirements that the candidate must obey under the state and city election rules. You wonder how any of them has any time to shake hands and kiss babies on the campaign trail.
How can we get beat to the punch on something as perfect as this?
Amidst all the apparent hanky-panky that's been going on with the taxpayer money flowing out to Portland politicians in the
Sten-owned voter-owned elections "system," an interesting question has been raised: whether the recipients of said "clean money" are breaking the tax laws with it. Dave Lister, a former City Council candidate who ran a couple of years ago on "dirty money," reports that he recently wrote to the city auditor as follows:
I've been wondering about something that has come up on the blogosphere.Hey, Dave, don't forget Tri-Met payroll tax, buddy!
When I ran in 2006 I had one paid campaign worker. Before he started work, I had my CPA obtain a federal ID number for the campaign and I set up payroll withholding accounts for both Federal and State. I withheld FWT, FICA, Medicare and SWT from my employee's wages and made the appropriate 941 and state quarterly filings. At the end of the year, I issued their W2 and filed the federal reconciliation and Oregon form WR. I also paid 940 unemployment as required.
I did this because this person, at that time, was working exclusively for the campaign and did not meet the test of independent contractor as described by both IRS and state regulations.
It occurs to me that most of the people working for the various candidates that have been certified for public financing most likely also do not meet the independent contractor test.
My question is this: Do the expenditure reports for these campaigns indicate that the appropriate payroll taxes are being withheld for their employees and, if not, is your office in any way concerned whether people being paid as contractors meet the independent contractor tests as prescribed by state and IRS regulations?
Of course, all the candidates, not just the "clean money" ones, may have the same little problem. But is there any requirement in the city code or regulations that "clean money" candidates cut square corners on their employment taxes? And if there isn't, shouldn't there be?
And while you're at it, Dave, maybe you want to copy the IRS on your question. I know this form is still available. There are probably some nice folks down in Salem who would take an interest as well.
From one of the most screwed up campaigns that money can buy. That she continues to portray herself as well organized, experienced, and ready to run the country from Day One is amusing.
And the guy she fired? Lost his job because he couldn't be satisfied with just regular money -- he had to keep going for ever bigger bucks as a hotshot wheeler-dealer. Another Clinton hallmark.
Meanwhile, a reader of this blog posts an interesting, and dead-on accurate, assessment of the Bill Clinton speech fees:
Suppose that you are a business that wants to get Hillary to vote a certain way in the Senate. You give Bill a "speaking fee" of $250,000, and you get the vote. Voila!Indeed.
I was reading this comical blog post about unclaimed property being held by the State of Oregon, when just for kicks (and work avoidance) I went over to the state site and threw in a name of someone whose address recently changed. Lo and behold, I found this and this. Too much. Do you think Blackmer and the munchkins know about it?
Don't blog yourself to death.
We're putting this on our calendar.
America is so lucky to have you looking out for those vital interests you hold so dear.
Do you ever wonder how Portland Commissioner Erik Sten's chief lackey, Jim MIddaugh, is the only candidate to succeed him who qualified for several hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer "clean money" under the "voter-owed elections" system?
Maybe because Sten tipped him off around Thanksgiving that the Stenmeister was packing it in, while he didn't tell the public about it until after the holidays. One of Middaugh's opponents, Ed Garren, reportedly sent this e-mail around last night:
On Thursday, April 3rd, city council candidate for seat #2, Jim Middaugh, offered a candid insight into his political aspirations. Middaugh knew his boss Erik Sten was going to resign "around Thanksgiving."What sleaze. Between this and the lie that Sten, reportedly with a million-dollar mortgage to pay, supposedly doesn't have a clue as to what he's doing to do next, his career is ending in an illustrative pack of lies and manipulations. Way to go, Opie.
He shared this during a videotaped candidate interview at the Willamette Week, in front of his opponents, and WW editorial staff.
He quickly clarified that he did not actually decide to seek office until January 14, approximately seven weeks after Councilmember Sten had told him he planned to resign after the first of the year.
Later, during a candidate forum on Hayden Island, he was asked by candidate Ed Garren, "Jim, when did you know Erik was going to resign?" Middaugh's response, "around Thanksgiving." He went on to deride Garren for being a "conspiracy theorist", presumably over Garren's concern that having six weeks advance knowledge of Sten's resignation might have given Middaugh an unfair advantage in collecting contributions for "Voter Owned Elections."
Middaugh insists that his successful efforts, at collecting 1,700 contributions in ten days was completely "grass roots" and he did not engage in any campaign organization activities before his decision to run was made on January 14th.
Garren has expressed concerns that the idea of "Voter Owned Elections" did not include incumbents or their close associates using the system unfairly to hijack taxpayer money to fund their campaigns.
"I've been a grass roots organizer for almost three decades, and 1,700 anything in ten days is not what I call grass roots," offered Garren.
City Council is set to vote on how much additional funding Middaugh will get if he ends up in a runoff after the primary. The figure under consideration is $150,000 in addition to the $150,000 he has already received, making a total of $300,000. The vote is set for 9:30 AM (time certain) on Wednesday April 9th.
The assault on individual privacy continues unabated. Now when you register to vote in Washington State, internet surfers can find out where you live (except for the last digit of your address), your birthday, and when you last voted. Apparently, all they need is your name and your county. You stalkers out there, click here and enjoy.
What doesn't kill Obama makes him stronger.
The time and resource drain known as "voter-owed elections" continues. Portland City Council hopeful John Branam still has some 'splainin' to do!
The City of Portland's bond auction this afternoon appears to have been a hit. The best bids were 4.3675% interest for the $340 million of first lien sewer bonds, and 4.6087% interest for the $214 million of second lien sewer bonds. Since the interest on the bonds is tax-exempt, the equivalent rates for taxable bonds would be much higher. Assuming a 40 percent combined state and federal corporate taxrate, the first lien bond rate would work out to around 7.28%, and the second lien bond rate to around 7.68%. Not a bad return for the investors (folks like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch).
Meanwhile, the city's issued the offering document for next week's sale of "downtown waterfront" urban renewal bonds, to the tune of another $50.2 million. We were hoping it would include updated figures for the city's overall debt load, but it appears on a quick first reading that that information isn't included for prospective investors in these bonds -- we suppose, because the source of repaying these bonds is limited to the downtown urban renewal area's property taxes.
In any event, the new bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody's. In the past, bonds for this urban renewal zone were rated much higher, at Aaa, because they were insured. Now that the bond insurance companies are toast, that rating boost is no longer available. The new bonds will bear taxable interest for federal tax purposes, and so look for rates much higher than those being paid on the sewer debt auctioned off today.
The proceeds of the urban renewal bonds will be used to pay off $14.4 million on an existing line of credit -- money that was borrowed from B of A a while back -- but another $34.4 million or so is identified as "new money," including $4 million for "parking development." With the new borrowing, the "downtown waterfront" district will be in hock in excess of $100 million.
Finally (for now), the city still hasn't got a number to show for its actuarial liability for health insurance benefits for its retired employees. The city will be required to compute this for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, and it keeps telling the Wall Street types that it has an actuary working on the number, but it sure is taking a long time for that figure to see the light of day.
When I was hitting puberty, boys and girls used to play a game called "Trust Me?" It looks as though the world is telling me now what the girls used to tell me then.
Please forgive me if I'm not myself today. I've got a lot on my mind.
In our detailed coverage of last Friday's Bruce Springsteen concert at the Rose Garden, we told the story of a group of women in the mosh pit wearing "Lesbians [Heart] Bruce" t-shirts, who attracted the attention of the evening's star. In the course of that discussion, we expressed some skepticism about whether the group had in fact qualified to stand in the pit according to the rules of the well organized Bruce lottery system.
A member of that bunch sent us a nice e-mail and photo the other day, explaining:
Just want to clarify one thing… we did all draw winning numbers! Two of us were there 1:00ish and in the very front of the line when they passed out numbers. The rest of the gang arrived a short while later in a group. We thought about splitting up in smaller groups and spreading out. But in the end we decided to stick together. Best decision of my life.It was indeed.
It was one of those rare times where everything went our way. Unbelievable night.
UPDATE, 11/29/12: Springsteen returned a few years later, and so did the lesbians. More here.
Today I did something I hadn't done in quite a while -- picked up a hard copy of a local newspaper and leafed through it. It was Willamette Week, and I perused its contents while I had a little time to kill.
A lot of what I found inside, I could have gotten from the web version of that publication -- they're smarter than both Springsteen and the Times, they give Nick Fish a slight lead over Jim Middaugh in the Portland City Council race, Sho Dozono is a bad man, etc. But what I found fascinating were all the print ads, some of which conveyed important information that the online version leaves out. Did you know that Was (Not Was) is coming to town? That there's going to be a big music festival in San Francisco at which Steve Winwood will be performing?
This intertubes thing is interesting, but once in a while, the print edition holds charms of its own.
UPDATE, 10:43 p.m.: Speaking of Was (Not Was):
The recession isn't affecting Zach Randolph's realtor. As soon as the Knicks find somebody dumb enough to take him, he'll be traded again.
We've long since given up trying to figure out all the shifty moves made by some of the Portland city commissioners. Guys like Erik Sten and Sam Adams are always creating false facades and manipulating people and circumstances to fit their weird political ends.
Take Sten's mysterious retirement. Somehow, we're supposed to believe that a guy who's living in a recently purchased $1-million-plus West Hills mansion (and owning another high-end house in Irvington) on a City Council salary,* with a spouse in a nonprofit job and child care to deal with, is quitting the council to contemplate his navel, with no firm commitment to or from a future employer. Yeah, right. And the sheep that pass for our local mainstream media just baaaa along.
Adams is even worse. He can't do much of anything without jerking people around. The word "trust" most definitely does not cross one's mind when watching the guy at work. A reader whom we have a greater tendency to trust sends along a recent example, involving the hare-brained (and most probably illegal) Sten scheme to use Pearl District property taxes to build a new school in the David Douglas School District:
[I]nteresting that Commissioner Adams arranged to be "absent" for the City Council vote that authorized the creation of satellite districts (he was in the council chambers mingling with the crowd, and nobody called him up to vote... just marked him "absent"). He then voted for the resolution to urge the PDC to consider a David Douglas satellite district, if the PDC does satellite districts.If that's true, it was like his vote on the Holladay Park senior citizen project -- "I'll tell you who wins, but this doesn't set a precedent for me." Jerking people around at every turn, and reserving the right to do so for the indefinite future.
When he's mayor, he'll melt the whole town down. Go by streetcar!
* - And just to show you the kind of job our local media is doing, just try to find the Portland city commissioners' current salaries on line. Happy hunting.
UPDATE, 10:13 a.m.: A reader e-mails to suggest that "the 'satellite urban renewal' stunt is a backroom scheme to get a school built in the Pearl District." That sounds crazy, but it would be typical coming from this council.
UPDATE, 3:09 p.m.: As if they read my mind, Willy Week gave the Stenmeister's salary (rounded) today, here.
They simply make life better.
... but they didn't go down without a fight.
While the City of Portland hustles to sell a ton of sewer bonds on Thursday, it's also still listing a smaller sale of urban renewal bonds as going on the market a week from Thursday. The urban renewal bonds are backed by property taxes, and so the offering document for that debt promises to be more interesting than the one that hawks the sewer bonds. With nine days to go, though, still no sign of the urban renewal bond official statement on the city's website. Hmmmm.....
I see the liars' budget for moving the Sauvie Island Bridge to Northwest Portland as a bike bridge over I-405 is currently sitting at $5.5 million. Ha ha, that's a good one. How high do you think the final tab will run?
The beat goes on as the City of Portland stubs one toe after another with its ill-conceived "voter-owed elections" system of taxpayer financing for municipal campaigns. Now we see that the city is commencing a new game of "Who Had the Pickle?" with City Council candidate John Branam. The city is questioning some hefty payments that Branam made to his campaign svengali, Phil Busse, and it's demanding documentation. The response seems to be "We don't need no steenkin' documentation." Save room on your calendar for another day-long trip to Tualatin for a state hearing.
Aren't "voter-owed elections" wonderful? Now the candidates don't have to waste time raising money from wealthy donors. Instead, they can spend the whole campaign season hassling each other over violations of the rules, and getting called on the carpet themselves.
Meanwhile, last night, the munchkin advisory commission on the "clean money" fiasco recommended that the city cut back by $50,000 the $200,000 that's slated to go out to Jim Middaugh, who's running on taxpayer money to succeed his boss, the brains behind the system, Erik Sten. If Stendaugh winds up in a runoff against Nick "the" Fish, the election will be in July. Here it is April and we still don't know how much public money Sten's officemate will get to play with in the runoff. No doubt the City Council will make up some more rules as it goes along between now and then.
And what does all the "clean money" buy? Over the weekend, we got another taste of front porch goodness:
It's a lovely flyer from Jeff Bissonnette, who's in the pack of taxpayer-funded wannabes (including Branam) trying to get into the City Council chair being vacated by Sam the Tram Adams. Bissonnette, a U of O grad who's spent his career fighting evil private utilities, doesn't have much of a resume to boast about. Here's a sample:
"Low energy assistance programs"? Geez, nobody told me they had those -- I've been needing one most of my life.
Anyway, now that the candidates don't have to spend private money on their campaigns, they have plenty to blow on that important political accessory... sweaters! Bissonnette and Branam seem to have a duel going in the wool department:
Later this week they'll be shaking hands with taxpayers and handing out literature out in front of the Lloyd Center Gap.