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Friday, April 25, 2008

Final countdown

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.

Comments (48)

"kind of a soft and fuzzy concept."

Do I see a segue with "The Land of Oz", or "Keep Portland Weird"?

Going from Sam-the-Tram to Chris-the-Streetcar is akin to going from the frying pan into the fire. Remember, if you think things have reached the bottom, just wait, the worse is yet to come.

"Chris SMith has the experience to get the job done."

CODE for I will do the bidding of my overlords Michael Powell and John Ashforth and I will show Sam how to be easilty manipulated.

Hate to break this to everyone, but the street car is pretty much a fait accompli, Chris Smith or not.

Agreed. At the current growth rate, Beaverton will actually have a population that will exceed that of Seattle (829,000 vs 775,000).

We should be building new freeways and schools in Beaverton and just forget Portland. This town had its heyday, and its time to move over. Overpriced condos and richie-riches goodbye!

Sat on more committees than he can count?

Wow - how's that for a qualification! "I'm a committee guy!" When I grow up, I might get to be a bureaucrat!

Does Beaverton have any land left to grow on?

The only way older suburbs will continue to grow is if some of the single family homes and big box stores are torn down and replaced by condo towers.

Before I read your comments on the last photo, Jack, I thought to myself the message was to convey the NEED for more "shiney and expensive toys" for public transportation. It's probably the one spot in Portland where you might feel like your on one of those sidewalks beneath an ancient and ugly, elevated iron railway like in Chicago, Brooklyn, Philly...

Second, the 1% growth assumes a straight line rather than a J-curve. I could see a point of inflection in population growth. I think it's less likely to be an economic shock that an ecological or sociological one. For example, the water supply problem in the southwest US is reaching crisis proportions and that could cause a shift of population to the north. I wouldn't bet on a steady state of anything right now, whether it's the price of milk, value of the dollar, or average value of suits in Sam Adams' wardrobe.

Here in the 'boro, there's still plenty of subdividable land. In the past 3 years, on my street alone, one lot has been split into 4 single family detached sites and another split into two with plenty of room to divide again.

Then there is the previously vacant lot that will soon hold about 25 townhomes and another that now has 6 3000+ sq ft homes on it.

There is still plenty of room to grow out here.

Second, the 1% growth assumes a straight line rather than a J-curve.

A 20-year compounding of a 1% growth rate equates to 22% growth, or just slightly over 126,000 people.

Jack's number of 140,000 was slightly overstated.

"The only way older suburbs will continue to grow is if some of the single family homes and big box stores are torn down and replaced by condo towers."

No no no. Beaveeton has it's own heavily subsidized SoWa. It's the Round At Beaverton.


The plan for the Round at Beaverton, phase II, is a 17 story office tower with 738 parking spaces with some adjacent token housing units to satisfy the planning visionistas. Phase I, during three defaults, had half of the housing units canceled and changed to routine office with a 7 story parking garage added, currently the tallest building in Beaverton. Now here comes 738 more parking spaces for this clearly auto oriented development masquerading as a Transit Oriented Development to get past Metro's New Urbanism smell test and to gain TOD tax abatements.

All the developer wants is $2 million off the already deflated $4.3 million price of the property (which Beaverton and Metro bought), many more millions in construction of three traffic signals and eight road projects, millions in TOD property tax abatements, tax credits for LEED certification and a few other gimmies.

Big surprise that this is the only plan that has met the city's qualifications for an "urban village".

I'm not favoring this Smith guy (personally, I think he should spend more time concentrating on losing some weight), but he's not totally out to lunch on the population thing. It may be a 1% growth rate right now, but it tends to go in spurts. This is a deceptively slow time to be measuring it. I first came here in 1966 as a college freshman and the Portland area has just about doubled in the time since then, from about 1mil to about 2mil. A million people in 42 years. So is 300,000 in 20 years a reasonable guesstimate? Do the math.

But I'm wondering about where this new growth will actually be and why Smith thinks the Portland City Council will be in a position to effectively manage it in any way. Shouldn't he be running for Metro or a county commission slot?

I read that same POS from Smith in my mailbox the other day as well, and I couldn't agree with Jack more. Thankfully, in the same day's mail was another piece put out by Charles Lewis... the difference between the two was striking. To paraphrase, Lewis - "no more pet projects, basic services first". Smith - "I sit on committees and sustainable this, sustainable that"

"why Smith thinks the Portland City Council will be in a position to effectively manage it in any way."

What goes on is an insult to the concept of "management". Let alone effective mamanegment.

What really goes on is activism by fanatics who happen to get elected. There's no tracking to measure effectiveness or merit in any way.
There's not even a talley of real costs attributed to any given boondoggle. No money spent ledger reviewed by these activist officials or any care for their fiduciary responsibilities. Whatever things cost or actually provide doesn't matter.

Instead it's non stop tax funded PR, cover up and manipulation.

Smith wants to be part of this from the inside. Along side Admans.

Smith is well intentioned, but deluded. I hate to break it to him, but he's not going to make the cut. Most voters look at the picture in the pamphlet and make a decision. The reality is he is obese and not appealing to the voters.

Let's be fair. Maybe he's just got a 20-year plan going for a future of scarce food.

The population figures for the defined "Portland" proper are overstated, but that's not the point. Portland proper has to plan infrastructure for population living in the surrounding greater-metropolitan area. I know a lot of folks who "reside" in Beaverton Hillsboro, or Gresham, but "work" and "live" in Portland. Ignoring the (rapidly) rising populations of Portland's suburbs (which in many other cities would have been annexed and absorbed) will only increase the problems that Portland faces.

The stark realty is that in this mecca of cenrtal planning, with 100s of planners and other bureaucrats busy working daily compiling reems of reports stuffed with jargon for all things decades out, it is all random theorizing without ANY genuine plan for anything the region needs as it grows. Random chaos at it's best.

But that doesn't matter to the Sam-Rex regime. Just as Sam eluded to with his comments on the massive shortages of revenue for SoWa.
He essentially said we'll just have to come up with the 100s of millions no matter the cost or how bad the plan fails to meet it's objectives or promises.

Because in theory and Sam's mind the only alternative is the boogieman sprawl.
That's a green light to any boondoggle, any mismanagement and any bridge over I-405.
And of course the mother of all causes, saving the planet from the imaginary Global Warming, is the perfect cover.

As long as Al Gore, Newt Gingritch and Bill Bradbury can keep the hoax alive.

Okay, I feel a little bad about my last comment, especially after I had dinner with Streetcar Smith at the Portland School Foundation banquet. He was pleasant and the woman who sat between us whom I assumed was a work colleague of his, was a star. My point was more about the future. Sure, plan away but we are going into one of those times when the Big Wheels of Existence turn so there's no telling how this will play out. They could read our concerns of population growth 20 years from now and fall over laughing. They could look at these mass transits as genius moves, especially if the dire peak oil stuff turns out to be true. My hunch is that city planners should concentrate on the next big earthquake. I always make that point - the only thing that grows is the assessment of how bad it'll be. As for future transportation issues, I have to believe we'll be onto something new in 20 years - otherwise, we won't make it. I mentioned zero point energy systems based on cracking gravity and I could see Streetcar Smith was unmoved. Then again, when I worked at the Trib I referred to Streetcars as a giant leap backward to 1938. Call me Spaceship Bill but I think we should be trying to break the gravity field stuff. That sounds farfetched but have you been reading theoretical physics lately? Forget city planning. If you want to sit around drawing a paycheck with no ultimate accountability, go into physics. One man's been working 20 years on his theory that time doesn't exist. He says it's just a series of nows. I defy our city planners to sling the BS any better than that.

...I could see Streetcar Smith was unmoved.

To paraphrase Newton's first law of motion: "A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest."

And I'm pretty sure the amount of force necessary to move a body at rest is directly proportional to its mass.

I'm just sayin'.

Fixed rail transit for an area like this just plain assinine.

But we don't need to wait 20 years to see
"howw this will play out".

We already have.

There's not an area around our light rail lines that have spawned the development and working alternative to reasonable sprawl as promised.

What has been spawned is huge government subsidized development haphazardly cramming more into the areas without regard for anything. Not traffic, not affordable housing, not maintennance, not basic services and not even the trmendous failure to really add the numbers of transit users needed to make this planning thing work.

What we have is 20 yearls later gresham and Metro still throwing millions along the Eastside MAX line at Gresham Station and Rockwood to advance the kind of dewvelopment they insist we MUST have.

Other MAX lines have produced Oreonco Station- an auto oriendted rat race, Beaverton Round- a practical joke sucking up millions more, Cascade Station-a auto dominate big box/ strip mall cluster and cracker box row houses and apartments everywhere-required to meet Metro's blind density mandates.

And if anyone asks Metro, TriMet, the PDC or the Port, they ALL say it's all working as planned.

Untold millions can be spent on anything, pruducing any outcome and every government agency uses tax money to repeatedly declare it all vital and working.

Smith will certainly follow suit.

I'm a committee guy!

What do you mean this meeting is ajourned? Can't we go on for another hour?

the theory that time doesn't exist

Not so. It's what keeps everything from happening all at once.

Bill McDonald, cc, et al. You guys are pathetic. If you've got a legitimate beef with Smith's positions then speak it. Otherwise, keep your bigotry and bias toward obese people to yourself.

If you've got a legitimate beef


If we can stop making fun at Smith's expanse, I've got to say that his brochures are a confusing mess, particularly the big one. What's the message of those photos? Is that what Smith wants? What he doesn't want? It's weak.

Craig: I don't see how pointing out that someone is obese is bigotry or a bias; its fact.

Fact is most people, regardless if they consciously think it, will discount Chris solely on his appearance.

There have been countless studies on the subject of appearance-- including a study I am doing for my undergrad in psychology---all of them conclude that humans subconsciously favor more attractive [or in shape] people.

Not saying that any of the candidates are good looking, but Chris definitely has a disadvantage.

And to comment about the flier, where did he get the picture of that bike/ped bridge over the steel bridge? The only time I have ever seen that many people on that bridge was during the rose festival fireworks show.

Also; that freeway interchange is a mess most times of the day, why not show it during a typical friday afternoon instead of early Sunday morning?

Anthony: Pointing out a person's physical appearance in a neutral manner is one thing, but these were the comments that were made:

Let's be fair. Maybe he's just got a 20-year plan going for a future of scarce food.


...I could see Streetcar Smith was unmoved.

To paraphrase Newton's first law of motion: "A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest."

And I'm pretty sure the amount of force necessary to move a body at rest is directly proportional to its mass.

I'm just sayin'.

It's those kinds of comments I have a problem with.

Yeah, some of those were over the top....

"Yeah, some of those were over the top...."

Perhaps, but the policies and spending Smith advocates are far more insulting and fiscally bigotted.

As far as how this will play out in 20 years, I was referring to the world population as it affects our own growth. We're adding people at a rate of 1 billion every 14 years - something tells me that is going to change rather dramatically.
Even the scientists at Scientific American say when we hit 9 billion all hell is going to break loose. We're over 6.5 right now, and bad news has a way of arriving sooner than you hope.
Just for starters, there's the 2012 crowd.
To repeat, I regret the scarcity of food joke and began feeling badly about it as soon as I hit send. If we want people to run for office, we've got to show them some props.

Actually, I think there's a legitimate issue in there somewhere amidst the snide comments. One of the benefits of the car-free life we're all supposed to lead is better health through walking.

The other valid point is that, fair or not, physical appearances count a lot with voters.

Jack; I was thinking the same thing in regards to the health benefits of a car-free lifestyle, except I don't really know Chris' stance on the whole suburban-obesity connection.

My guess is that Chris is just a big time rail enthusiast who got bored with his "O" scale Lionel train set in his basement and is looking to build something a little bigger.

Of course, Chris could also be a more typical political figure---the "do as I say, not as I do" type who wishes to dictate how others should live without first looking in the mirror.

Chuckie Brown, the population of Portland in the late 60's was around 525,000 people. It's percentage growth over the past 45 years is less than even 1%. Signed: Oregonian.

LW: the population of Portland in the late 60's was around 525,000 people. It's percentage growth over the past 45 years is less than even 1%. Signed: Oregonian.

In the late 1960s the Portland SMSA hit 1 million in population. I was here when it happened and the reason I remember it is because it was a much ballyhooed event at the time. The Portland SMSA is now a little over 2 million.

As for Portland proper itself, it really doesn't grow all that much. I remember city's population in 1968 being said to be about 386,000. Portland actually lost population between the 1950 and 1970 censuses, and probably would have continued to lose after that, except for annexation. The eastern city limits used to be along 82nd Avenue, or close to it. Annexing big chunks of unincorporated areas east of 82nd is where most if not all the supposed "growth" has come from.

But the Portland area? Its population has doubled in 42 years. And my guess is that it will continue to grow like that.

Craig, not to add fuel to the fire (okay, I am), but I think Jack has a point - this fella is promoting trains, bikes, and walking and I think it is reasonable to look at his picture and wonder why he ain't doing more of the latter two. My simpleton mind fell for the trap.

Moral victory for Smith, though, because to lose shallow voters because of the way you look at least means you had some potential voters to lose.

Relax, the Wall Street Journal is recommending that Americans stockpile food. Being fat is like having money in the bank.

why he ain't doing more of the latter two

Smith does a lot of walking, biking and transit riding. These activities do not guarantee good health, and I resent it when the city (egged on by activists like Smith) pushes on us the myth that it does.

the water supply problem in the southwest US is reaching crisis proportions and that could cause a shift of population to the north

This is why we need streetcars? Come on.

(egged on by activists like Smith)

OK, more food comments!

...and Bill doesn't really feel all that badly, apparently.

Not to change the subject too far from derision; if Smith's attended more meetings than he can count, that ought to qualify him for any job involving numbers, don't ya think?

I'd also like to point out that the slogan "Portland is Growing Fast" minus a key "s" would be...

...never mind.

Chuckie, notice I wrote Portland, far different than the whole metro region in your SMSA. Smith is running for the city council of Portland, not the region. His claim, and well as Sam Adams, for growth is an exaggeration, because they always say "Portland. Their claims have even been higher than that reported in the media. Jack makes a good point in regards to the inflated numbers.

The metro area (especially greater Vancouver) will continue to grow their tax base and their population faster than Portland because housing is cheaper, and development surchages and taxes are lower.

If Chris Smith were interested in sustainability, he would be far more concerned about:

A) how to keep middle/low income Portlanders from escaping to the subburbs to avoid rising water/sewer/property tax rates.

B). how to manage city budgets in a future that may include DECLINING TAX REVENUES.

"how to manage city budgets in a future that may include DECLINING TAX REVENUES"

Oh contrare,,,not Smith. He's on on Sam Adams' train named Borrow to Oblivion which requires basic services to hand over more and more every year to feed the debt service.

Sorry, but their sense of priorities is guided by lunatic notions of disappearing auto use and food aquired mostly by rail transit from local farmers.
And other misguided nonsense peddled by Metro.

I see quite a bit of talk here about bikes. Can somebody please explain to me, in a non-anger laced rant, why they have such a negative views pertaining to non-motorized transportation? The reason I ask is because I'm a bit confused on what I want to see happen in PDX. On one hand, I personally have the ability to ride a bike to work. However, I know that many do not and must drive. I also know that there may come a time again when I will not have the luxury of biking/busing to work.

El Seven; there is also the matter of finances. Sam Adams is proposing this half billion dollar water tax to help fix a "backlog" of road maintenance. In the same breath, he is also proposing to blow untold millions on a bike bridge over I-405 even though there are bridges not more then 400 ft in either direction. Then there are the bike lanes on streets with zero bike demand, taking up valuable lanes from autos. Then there are these green bike boxes that force a motorist to wait behind a slow bicyclist at an intersection and not be able to make right turn movements on a red. Then you have city wide mandates for bike racks and lockers and even shower facilities, and expensive re-education programs. The list goes on because the bike lobby is very powerful here in Portland--- except that they don't offer to pay one dime for the list of things that they demand.

You see, bicyclists think they are some elite group and believe that their every need should be met and some god like status should be granted to them just because they are "part of the solution." Bicyclists believe that each bike on the road is one less car, even though if they weren't on a bike its highly likely that they would be in another form of heavily subsidized transit.

In short, most bicyclists suffer from car-envy and wish to legislate their misery on others.

the water supply problem in the southwest US is reaching crisis proportions and that could cause a shift of population to the north

This is why we need streetcars? Come on.

No, that wasn't my point. The two statements were meant to be taken independently. I'm simply saying that Portland's growth rate is more likely to vary than be constant over 20 years.

There are two arguments that I believe should be heavily weighed in favor of the street cars, but I am undecided as to whether or not they justify the cost. (1) Diesel combustion buses put off a lot of air pollution and the proposed street car lines are in heavy pedestrian traffic areas. Portland's Bureau of Planning claims it has strong evidence that children suffer greater respiratory problems along bus lines. If this is the case, you need to value childrens' health, which is always sure to be controversial. (2) Diesel combustion buses produce a lot of noise pollution. I live a block off a bus line and I can still hear them loudly pass by.

The big X factor is fuel prices. At what price does the payback and NPV of the street car investment become convincing? If the city had to pay $9/gallon like many European cities, would that tip the scale? How about total war in the Middle East and $20/gal fuel? Does that change your mind?

I'm not sure which way the city should go, but I am saying its a lot more complicated than deciding on a chocolate or vanilla ice cream scoop. ...Not that I'm saying anything about Chris Smith, chocolate sprinkles, gummy bears, or anything like that.

Streetcars run on electricity, which comes from coal-powered plants east of Portland. Coal? Green? Cheap? You're kidding.

Also, unlike buses, which are paid for from all over the region via Tri-Met payroll and self-employment taxes, streetcar operations are paid for largely on the backs of Portland property taxpayers -- that is, within the city limits.

I'd love to see a detailed, point by point comparison of the amount of fuel burned per passenger mile by streetcars vs the bus lines which they would replace.

Hey, I guess what it boils down to is that the power plants which provide electricity for the streetcars are located far, far away. Out of sight, out of mind.

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