This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in May 2008. They are listed from newest to oldest.
April 2008 is the previous archive.
June 2008 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
Last night the family and I caught an amazing rock act. Mark my words, these guys are going places. Actually, they're already there.
The show took me back to my grammar school days in Down Neck Newark, when I was the singer for a kid band. It started out as a four-piece -- me, a couple of guitar players, and an older kid who was the drummer. We struggled for a while, but then one of the guitar players found a music teacher who showed him the basics of bar chords. I'll never forget the day he came back to our basement rehearsal from his lesson out on Route 22 and showed us all what he had just been taught. From that point on, we were off and running.
We never learned too many songs, but we had just enough of a repertoire to put on a nice set for a friend's birthday party or a children's dance at the boys' club or the veterans' post. I remember one year, opening for Santa at the American Legion -- it was awesome.
I can't remember too much of the set list. The boys would open up behind me with an instrumental, and then we'd launch into "Secret Agent Man," "Little Red Riding Hood," "As Tears Go By," and other hits of the day.
After a while, another kid with a guitar showed up, and now we were a five-piece. We got business cards, and wore a uniform. White shirt, black pants, and these glittery vests that we went out and bought somewhere up on Market Street. I'm pretty sure they were blue, but they could have been red. We had a business card -- we were called The Breakaways -- and we were ready for show biz.
Our sound didn't really have a bottom, and at some point we were going to need a bass guitar. The other guys were looking at me to play that role, but at some point, I think my parents got a little nervous about the band going professional. There was some talk of us playing in some local bars, and I recall my folks not being too keen on that idea. I'm not sure exactly how it happened -- now that I'm a dad, I know a little of the art of creating diversions -- but at some point the Breakaways petered out, at least for me.
Which in a lot of ways is too bad. I was learning some guitar from the other guys, and if I picked up the bass at that point, I'd probably still be playing it today. I appreciate that my parents were trying to keep me on a straight path in a neighborhood and city filled with danger, and I'd never fault them for their decision to derail my lead singer career. But sometimes, like last night, I wonder what would have happened if they had let us go further.
Anyway, here's to all the kid rockers, and to the Breakaways -- John de Grazia from the Prudential Apartments, John Gonzalo from the other end of Cortland Street, Gary DiBiasi from Hyatt Court (the drummer), and Tom Crappse from Lentz Avenue. I have no clue where any of them are today, but maybe now Google will bring them my way. And man, what I'd give for a picture.
Usually these "heartwarming" stories are a bit too sappy for me, but this
one is truly interesting... I thought you would like this one.
In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.
He got down on one knee, inspected the elephant's foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, and then put it down. The elephant did that several times, then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant, who stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter's legs, and slammed his stupid ass against the railing, killing him instantly.
A reader sends along this "modern parable," which I'll bet has been on the intertubes for a while:
A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race. On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.
The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was that the Japanese team had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.
Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired an independent consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.
Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents, and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give the one person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners, and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes, and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.
The next year the Japanese won by two miles.
Humiliated, the American management team laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team was outsourced to India. Sadly, The End.
Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the U.S., claiming they can't make money paying American wages. Toyota has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the U.S. The last quarter's results: Toyota made 4 billion dollars in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion dollars in losses.
The uneasy truce between the City of Portland and the neighbors of Mount Tabor Park is holding, at least for now. But talk of a new road into the park is causing some serious friction. First the road, then the apartments -- so fear the neighbors.
I don't blame them a bit for worrying about that. If not hounded every step of the way, the city would gladly figure out some way to sell off more of that park to developers to keep its shaky financial ship afloat for another day or two.
Walla Walla and its wines make a splash in The New York Times today. Here's a paragraph that caught my eye:
Many Washington natives who once wrote off Walla Walla as a boring backwater are returning and buying second homes. Other second-home buyers are fleeing from cities like Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Ore.
Through friends in high places, we scored a trip to the Rose Festival Waterfront Village this afternoon and evening for a sneak preview. The weather was downright chilly, with a bit of an unwelcome northerly breeze, but it stayed dry, and that gave us the chance to play in the annual carnival.
Being the first night of the festivities, things were clean and tidy. There was still great grass under our feet. The carnies were friendly, smiling at the kids although the rides were breaking down here and there. There was a dinosaur exhibit, some snakes and reptiles under glass, and a tent for toddlers to hang out in. A one-man band in another tent nearby put on quite a show.
Speaking of extinction, Mayor Tom Potter was roaming the place, checking out the scene approvingly. Channel 2 had its news people broadcasting from a booth. News chopper this-and-that flew overhead; anchored at the seawall was a big vessel belonging to the EPA, of all people. There were quite a few armed Portland police officers walking the grounds to make sure no trouble broke out. At least this early session with a bunch of families was quite mellow, but based on scary, true stories from "fun centers" past, I was still watching everything I could like a hawk.
As ever, one needs to bring money. The rides, games, and snacks are not cheap. We had a decent slice of pizza ($4) and a nice dish of pad thai noodles ($6). The kids went for elephant ears ($4) and cotton candy (I missed the price on that one) to go with corn dogs ($2.50). We passed on a $10.50 chicken sandwich, and couldn't get a straw or a lid with a $2.50 root beer. We didn't see any booze at all, and a jolt or two might have been helpful to stand up to the temperatures in the low 50's.
I'm getting too old for the big-kid rides. In fact, I can't even watch some of them without becoming nauseous or stricken with terror. I freaked out as our four-year-old passed over our heads on the big swings. It was her level-headed mom who reminded me that the child rides a chair lift at a ski resort on a regular basis. At least I went in the house of mirrors, rode the littler-kid roller coaster, and slid the big slide. Everybody can do the big slide; it's every bit as wonderful as it was 50 years ago.
To get down to the waterfront and back, we rode the Interstate MAX for the first time. The train into downtown was late, and the rumor among the patient riders was that a pedestrian had gotten hit by a train up the line a ways. Coming back, the ticket machines at the northbound First and Oak stop were out of order.
By the time we returned home sweet home, the crazy month of May had finally caught up with me. It's been wonderful, but action-packed in the extreme. And it's not over yet, with another weekend of happenings just around the corner. Some mindless tube and bed sound good, as the furnace clicks on for yet another Portland late spring night.
The kids over at the Daily Journal of Commerce have decided to parrot back the dubious official story that the pending giveaway of land by the Portland Development Commission for an office tower and some other mystery tower across from the Oregon Convention Center is somehow a wonderful thing -- and that the prospect of a publicly financed Convention Center hotel across the street is what's driving it all.
Come on, people. More likely, this is another bootstrap developer scam, with the worst-case scenario being a new office tower next to the freeway. I suspect that the real hope in the backrooms of the PDC and Metro is that somehow, before anyone notices, they can get to the point where they can say to the public, "It's too late to turn back now" on the construction and giveaway of the big hotel.
Let's hold an essay contest: Explain in 1,000 words or less what the heck is really going on over there, and how the office tower deal and the hotel are really connected. Winner gets a free ride on the MAX from the Convention Center to Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Our good friend Doug has a pretty bleak assessment of what life is going to be like under President Obama. Among his choice comments today was this: "The people who run your health care are going to be like the people who are running airport security."
Portland's "Bureau of Development Services" -- the folks who issue building permits, think up catchy slogans, and have executive coaches tell them what to do -- are looking to hire a contractor to perform what is becoming an annual telephone survey to gauge "customer satisfaction." As noted on this blog before, for them the "customers" are the developers -- not the taxpaying citizens who have to deal with the developers' handiwork next door or in their neighborhood. Check out whom they're going to survey:
The survey will consist of a minimum of 675 interviews stratified approximately as follows:
1. 200 Residential Building permit customers
2. 200 Commercial Building permit customers
3. 125 Trade permit customers
4. 150 Land use customers
That last group consists of people who "applied for a land use review within this last year" -- again, developers. You and me? Don't worry -- our dinner hours are safe.
Anyway, the bid papers for the $25,000 contract are here.
A routine update of the clock in our left sidebar, showing the long-term debt of the City of Portland, reveals that the rate of increase in the city's bonded debt is quite a bit higher than we had previously thought. Figures given to us yesterday by the city's debt manager show that the city's long-term bonds and interim debt shot up by 11.02 percent between last October 8 and this May 1 -- from $2,610,486,126 to $2,898,272,916. On an annual basis, that's a growth rate of 18.9 percent.
Using (as we have) October 1, 2000 as our baseline, the city's long-term bonds and interim debt have grown at a compound annual rate of 6.22 percent (not the 5.18 percent we were using based on last September's numbers). Plugging in that 6.22 percent growth rate, the total long-term debt now stands at more than $2.9 billion -- not counting another more than $2 billion for the unfunded police and fire pension and disability system. The total is well in excess of $4.9 billion. That makes the municipal debt load for every Portland resident more than $8,600 -- nearly $34,500 for a family of four.
At the current rate, the city will hit $5 billion of long-term debt this summer.
And it's going to get way worse now that the spendthrift Sam the Tram is taking the reins as mayor. Fireman Randy says that he and his pal will be "very busy" next year, and indeed they will be -- racking up more debt.
It's clear that Adams either doesn't understand the city's financial picture or is unwilling to tell the truth about it. An alert reader sends us this audio clip of Adams on the Lars Larson radio show last week. In it, Adams states that (a) under current levels of taxation, the city's police and fire pension and disability obligations will be fully funded in 15 years, and (b) the city has a AAA bond rating. Both of these statements are demonstrably false.
The city's police and fire pension and disability system will not be fully funded in 15 years. The measure approved by the voters in November of 2006 (Measure 26-86) will not achieve this, and even its strongest backers never declared that it would. That measure puts newly hired police and fire officers into the state retirement system (PERS) on a funded basis, but officers hired before the measure took effect will still receive benefits paid for currently out of property taxes. That being the case, until every officer hired before 2007 (and in many cases, his or her surviving spouse) is dead, there will always be an unfunded liability in the system.
Our debt clock currently uses an annual growth rate of 6.5 percent for unfunded public safety pension and disability, which we think is conservative. We'll readjust it when official dollar numbers as of June 30, 2008 emerge. At that time, we'll also add in the newly calculated figure for the health insurance benefits that city employees enjoy -- that benefit is not included in the present $2 billion figure, but new accounting rules require that it be disclosed no later than the city's June 30, 2008 financial statements. (If the city has an idea what that number will be, it's not letting on.)
Moreover, the city's bond rating clearly is not AAA. The only way it has ever achieved such a rating in recent years was to have its bonds insured by one of two bond insurance companies, MBIA or AMBAC. Both of those companies gambled and lost in the subprime mortgage market, and now the city can't get an AAA rating, even with insurance policies from them. When the city sold sewer bonds last month, without insurance, the Moody's rating was Aa3 -- good, but far from a top rating. Aa3 is the bottom sub-tier of level Aa, which is itself below the Aaa rating of which Sam the Tram falsely boasts.
On and on we go. They'll keep borrowing, we'll keep clocking it. Vallejo, here we come.
At least the guys who build "luxury" apartments are happy. Go by streetcar!
The Portland Development Commission board is set to approve the terms of a contract this morning under which that agency will "sell" some vacant land across the street from the Oregon Convention Center (to its north) to two local developer families, Rembold and Schlesinger. Part of the land will be the site of a new office tower (pictured), with construction to start in 2010. The rest (next door, to the left of the tower in this photo) is supposed to be developed into... well, they're not really sure yet, but they have high hopes that something groovy will be built there starting in 2014. Something touristy, and no doubt green and sustainable. Oh, and don't forget the condos.
The official PDC report is here. The next-to-last page of the pdf file reprints an article in the O about the deal from a while back.
The developers already own a large parcel of land in the vicinity, and their existing tenants include a meeting center, a professional building, and a Starbucks. The PDC property straddles the developers' parcel to the east and west:
PDC's Block 49 (long vacant) is the first phase. The developers' property, and the PDC's Block 47 (currently an empty grass lot) is where the second phase is supposed to go. Note that the developers won't be touching the property they currently own for another six years, but they'll be good to start digging on the PDC's current property in less than two years.
Here's the site of the first phase, "a 350,000 gross square foot office tower with 450 parking stalls and limited ground floor retail." You're at the northwest corner, looking southeast. I-5 is roaring by just above and behind you:
Here's a Google street maps shot from the center of the parcel where the second phase is supposed to go. Wheel around and you'll get the picture:
The PDC report is an interesting read. The prices for the two taxpayer-owned lots that are going to be conveyed are their appraised values of $1,475,000 and $3,200,000, but they're going to be "financed" by the PDC with "loans" to the developers that are decidedly not a market deal. If I am reading this correctly, the "loans," in the total amount of $5,075,000 (not clear what the extra $400,000 is for, but there's mention of a need for the PDC to spend $300,000 to move power lines), will be interest-free and payment-free throughout construction.
What's more, they will be fully or partially forgiven based on what happens on the two parcels -- particularly the second phase. Under the terms of today's contract, there is a smorgasbord of different features that the new complex could have that would get all or part of the $5,075,000 "loans" forgiven. A hotel with a big restaurant would knock up to $2,200,000 off the "debt"; affordable housing, up to $3,000,000; bike parking, $100,000; public art, $150,000; tenants who "represent target industry clusters," $3,000,000, etc. There are more than $14 million worth of outs on the schedule -- the developers need only to reach $5,075,000 to have the land be free.
The second phase of the project -- the part that doesn't get going until 2014 -- is still a bit of a mystery. So far, here's what the PDC's offering by way of describing it:
The conceptual program includes 200-400 residential units, 100,000-300,000 square feet (sf) of retail with a portion focused on entertainment venues and a structured parking garage. Project complexity and market forces continue to influence the programming for the site, but the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) will stipulate a refined and updated Scope of Development and financial feasibility to be demonstrated prior to closing on Block 47.
Whatever goes in there, with so many ways for the developers to get out of the "loans," it will be surprising if any of the "borrowed" amount ever gets repaid. To call this is a "sale" of the land is a bit of a stretch. It may well be a giveaway, depending on what happens. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing -- the PDC says that the developers are going to throw $500,000,000 into these sites. We'll see.
Beyond the sweetness of the deal, there are some other yellow lights flashing over this transaction. The PDC board is deviating from its standard practice in a couple of respects. From the official report:
In the spirit of shining light where it doesn't always shine, here is an update of the financial information we posted earlier this year about OnPoint Community Credit Union, which had just quietly pulled the plug on its budding relationship with the Countrywide mortgage folks. The latest data, from the National Credit Union Administration, is as of March 31 of this year.
As ever, we disavow any expertise in interpreting these figures, but it looks to our untrained eye that OnPoint's investments rebounded during the most recent quarter while the volume of delinquent loans it's holding from its members has continued to rise substantially. By our rough calculations, the delinquent loans held by OnPoint more than doubled between last September 30 and March 31:
Q'ly increase (decrease)
6-mo. increase (decrease)
Federal agency securities
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies
It was just a matter of time. Having solved the nation's civil liberties problems by withdrawing from the anti-terror task force; having solved the nation's energy problems by mandating ethanol and biofuels; and having solved the nation's problems of broadband monopolies with free wi-fi for all; now the City of Portland will solve the lack of universal health care by insuring every child in its public schools who doesn't have private insurance.
That's the proposal included in this petition that's been circulating for several months, and according to the city auditor, today the sponsors turned in the signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. The measure needs 27,255 valid signatures, and they submitted 30,520, around a 12 percent margin of error. Now the verification process gets under way.
If it makes it to the ballot, this measure is going to spark lots of discussion, to say the least. Supposedly for $50 a month or less premium paid by the city per child, some private insurance company is going to provide office visits with a $10 co-pay; everything else (including pharmacy) with a $7500 annual deductible; and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions.
Can you imagine the level of bureaucracy it's going to take to run this? And yet the proponents say it can be done with no new taxes, and it will pay for itself in a few years.
It's true we make a better day, just you and Grampy and me
When Portland Mayor Tom Potter announced that he was embarking on a survey of all the city's residents to develop a long-range "vision" for the city, it sort of made sense. Many chief executives embark on such quests early in their tenures. If nothing else, they send off signals that the new chief will adopt an agenda responsive to the wishes of his or her constituents.
As time went on, however, "Vision PDX" started to stray into some pretty goofy territory. Suddenly it became a place for the city to get all PC about multi-culturalism -- so much so that the questionnaire was translated into all manner of languages. Laotian, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, the list went on and on. I was in favor of gathering input from these communities, but producing complete translations of the questionnaire seemed a little over-the-top.
Then came the ceremonial tossing of the survey results, substituting what the planning bureaucrats wished people had said. When the survey came back with lots of criticism of the city's current direction, the results were quickly swept under the rug, and a new vision announced. As best I can tell, it is as follows:
Portland's Vision for 2030:
Shaped by the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Portland connects people and nature to create an international model of equity and sustainability. We are a city of communities. Our distinct neighborhoods and vibrant downtown are safe, energizing civic and cultural spaces. Our diverse population, innovative businesses and forward-thinking leaders work together to ensure livability for all.
George Orwell would be so proud.
Well, the "vision quest" goes on, and now we're back to multi-culturalism. Today the city invites people to a series of "world cafés" that it's going to be putting on. And of course, the invitations have to be printed in all sorts of languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Somali, French, Vietnamese...
The stated goal of the cafés is to discuss creation of a permanent "multicultural Community Gathering Center,... a space for cross cultural collaboration, community organizing and leadership development.... The Center would be a place for Portland's diverse communities to gather, interact and communicate."
Now, I'm as open to multi-culturalism as the next guy, and I'm even willing to watch the city spend some money on this. I don't want to be there the day the Arabs and the Israelis have a frank discussion, but hey, it's all good. Your poor, your tired, your hungry, etc.
However, to link this somehow to the "vision" that the average Portlander said he or she wanted on that survey seems like quite a stretch. To my uninformed eye, this is just another example of how public opinion in Portland counts only when the public tells the politicians and bureaucrats what they already wanted to hear. And if it doesn't, they just do what they want, and act as though that's what the public told them, anyway.
An alert reader tipped me off to this one a while back, but while I frittered away blogging time on another things, Phil Stanford nailed it: The City of Portland has been deliberately misspending tens of millions of dollars in utility fees that are dedicated to street repair.
With all the controversy brewing about the proposed new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, no one's asking an obvious question: Who's going to make a bundle on the deal? Don't think for a moment that the boys and girls in the Network Formerly Known as Goldschmidt don't know who the contractor will be if and when the thing is built. And if they know, shouldn't the public?
It was busy weekend on this blog despite the holiday, and so if you're already aching to kill some time at work, head to our main page and get to scrollin'.
One item is of particular import: John McCain's wife released part of her tax returns on Friday, so that you would be too busy having fun to look. Since the party's over for now, you can catch our blog entry on the subject (with links to what she released) here.
You think things in your office are screwed up? Try the federal government. Congress recently passed a farm tax bill and sent it up to the White House, where Bush vetoed it. But the version that was sent for Presidential action inadvertently omitted one of the titles (major sections) of the bill. Congress has since overriden the veto, but the status of the title that Congress left off the vetoed version isn't entirely clear. Since Bush didn't have a chance to sign it or veto it, it appears that the lost title will have to be re-passed separately.
My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. -- Hillary Clinton, May 23, 2008.
On April 7, [1992,] we also won in Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. On April 9, Paul Tsongas announced that he would not reenter the race. The fight for the nomination was effectively over. -- Bill Clinton, My Life (2005).
Who writes Wikipedia? All sorts of folks from all over, is what I gather. I don't write those entries, but I sure do read them, and link the heck out of them. Pretty amazing how much authority they have gained in such a short time.
Anyway, a group of Oregonians who have been shepherding Oregon-related content into the Wiki system have started their own blog. So if you're ready to go meta-Wiki, there you are.
When two nerds break up in person, the threat of eye contact typically ends the conversation in minutes. It's painful, but at least it's quick. When two nerds break up over the phone, it can take about an hour. With e-mail or instant messages, the fight can last longer than a special edition ''Lord of the Rings'' movie.
The other evening my friend Peter and I found ourselves having a private chat with Congressman John Lewis. After a few minutes, the conversation turned to life in our nation's capital. Peter and I both remarked that the time we have spent as visitors to that city has impressed on us its grace and power as the working center of our vast and equally beautiful nation.
He and I told stories about experiences we have had on the Capitol Mall, as we visited the various monuments and memorials. For us rubes from the upper left coast, some of those moments bordered on religious experiences.
I didn't know what to expect from Lewis by way of a reply, but what he said was telling. He, too, gets the same rush from walking that ground -- so much so that he and some other members of Congress hike around the various memorials themselves from time to time, just to get back in touch with what brought them to Washington in the first place. "We'll go up to the Lincoln Memorial, just to see what he's saying today."
For me, of all the Mall monuments, one stands alone. I'm sure my perception has something to do with my age, but the person who created it got it exactly right:
Every once in a while, I'll watch a professional sporting event and come away thinking it was fixed. I've blogged about this feeling here a few times, and every time, a chorus responds that it's impossible, and that I'm a kook.
But I don't know. Avid student of human nature that I am, I'm still not convinced that everything's on the up and up. At some point, maybe these guys will prove my misgivings to be well founded.
All of a sudden, my in-box runneth over with stuff about speed bumps. First, for some unknown reason, the City of Portland chose this past Friday to post this four-year-old report that one of its traffic engineers wrote about the effect on emergency vehicles of the city's ubiquitous "speed humps." (At first, I though he was talking about something I once saw done at the bar at Cassidy's, but then I realized the report was about traffic calming devices.)
Then, today an alert reader sent along these photos of a cheap alternative to speed bumps. If they're as good in reality as they are in the pictures, I think they'd work quite well.
Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone -- a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.… Eating on the street -- even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat -- displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly.… Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal.… This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.
After decades of drifting on immigration problems, suddenly the federal government is harnessing the power of the criminal justice system to crack down on "illegal aliens." Instead of deportation, the Bush administration will house these folks for five months in federal prisons. If they refuse to plead guilty, they'll get two years in the can.
I don't have the solutions when it comes to immigration problems, but one has to wonder whether jail time is the answer. It is, for the Republican Party during a Presidential election campaign, at least.
One of a blogger's basic tools is a tracking service that lets them know where readers are coming from. Many referrals come from search engines like Google, and a good tracker shows the blogger what the web surfer was looking for when the search engine pointed the reader to the blog in question.
I consult such a service fairly regularly, and I cannot believe the number of readers who are arriving looking for news about Jon and Sherri Hiner, the famous Mattress World couple who recently split up. My single post about them and the recent not-so-subtle change to their television commercials has drawn hundreds, if not thousands, of hits. Amazing.
Over the years, I have developed a rule against blogging about my workplace, but today an exception is in order. We held our 123rd annual commencement ceremonies, and they held a couple of features that might be of interest to our readers.
First, the keynote speaker gave a wonderful and highly inspirational speech. He's done that before, of course, but this was the first time I had the pleasure of being in the audience. I got to shake his hand last evening, which put me one handshake away from some other greats. An amazing man -- not to mention a superdelegate.
Second, one of my colleagues won the best teacher award for the third time in six years. You may have heard his name recently in a slightly different context:
You talk about being on a roll. Anyway, a cool day all around.
The beer distributor heiress made about $6 million in income, and she paid about $1.72 million in federal income taxes -- including no self-employment tax. She took a salary of around $300,000, but nothing else she made was subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes. Apparently the family company of which she is an owner is an S corporation, where rich people (including John Edwards) go to avoid paying Medicare taxes on business profits.
In contrast, her husband reported around $339,000 of income that year, on which he paid around $96,000 in taxes. His overall tax rate was 28.4 percent; hers just happened to turn out to be the same, even though they filed separate returns. She also paid around $24,000 in "household employment taxes," which implies some quite hefty butler and maid service. Hey, she can afford it. She also got a credit of nearly $8,700 for taxes paid to unspecified foreign governments.
It's interesting that Ms. McCain got to take a $3,300 deduction for a personal exemption when her adjusted gross income was more than $6 million. That's a function of the Bush tax cuts. Under prior law, once one's income exceeded a much smaller amount (far less than $200,000), no exemption deduction at all was allowed. Perhaps the tax savings from the deduction (around $1,000, I would guess) allowed her to buy the maid a nice Christmas present.
All sorts of revealing schedules and attachments are left out of the newly released document. One wonders if those will ever see the light of day -- John Kerry's wealthy spouse's didn't. In the meantime, one goof is apparent on the top of the first page of Ms. McCain's return: The accountant noted, "EXTENSION GRANTED TO 10/15/06," but he or she meant 10/15/07. The return was signed by the preparer on October 4, 2007; for some reason, the date on which Ms. McCain signed it has been redacted. Did she file late?
The release of the return is a direct flip-flop from the Presidential candidate's earlier refusal to disclose any tax information about his spouse. Last month, the campaign issued a statement that included this:
Since the beginning of their marriage, Senator McCain and Mrs. McCain have always maintained separate finances. As required by federal law and Senate rules, Mrs. McCain has released significant and extensive financial information through Senate and Presidential disclosure forms. In the interest of protecting the privacy of her children, Mrs. McCain will not be releasing her personal tax returns.
Two weeks ago, Ms. McCain repeated this position on "The Today Show."
Of course, the change of heart was well timed, to get lost in the Memorial Day weekend. We'll have to remember to link back here on Tuesday. [Via TaxProf Blog.]
The boys down in the SoWhat district are going broke fast. Now they're putting a happy-face spin on the grim fact that their condo towers are empty, and they're going to try to turn them into "luxury" apartments. But people are going to be falling all over each other to live in these boxes, they say, because they're so "sustainable":
But Edlen said the Kennedy group’s investment helps prove South Waterfront still has a promising future. He believes it will continue attracting private investments, in large part because of the commitment of its developers to sustainable building practices. The 3720 and other buildings all incorporate the newest environmental and energy conservation technologies, Edlen said, which is what people are beginning to demand in their homes.
"If you just throw up a box, you’re going to have problems. But if you build to the highest standards of sustainability, people are going to respond," he said.
Oh yeah, those high, high standards. I get a kick out of one of the "green" features given prominent mention in the list of ecological wonders in these ugly apartment towers -- "operable windows that take advantage of abundant daylight and provide natural ventilation." In other words, windows that open. Golly. What an innovation.
And if you want some fun, take Ob-la-di-bla-da. Thank you.
The Goldschmidt revolving door is still fully operational -- at least at the gas company. The CEO, Mark Dodson, whose relationship to the disgraced former governor is one of the more interesting ones within the network, is retiring. Taking his place will be Gregg Kantor, the ex-governor's one-time press secretary. Kantor has admitted hearing that Goldschmidt had committed statutory rape on a girl when he was mayor of Portland, and doing nothing about it.
The Portland school board voted tonight to start campaigning for more tax money for new facilities, but with no serious push until next year at the earliest. At least that's the way the official press release on tonight's meeting reads:
The decision followed a report from Director David Wynde, the school board’s point person on facilities, who recommended that the complex funding and long-term implications of a facilities overhaul required the completion of the high school plan and other analysis, before a major bond should be placed before voters.
In his report, Director Wynde argued that the current election law’s requirement for a double-majority to approve funding measures places an "arbitrary" and premature timeline on the district’s facilities planning effort.
"We’ve made progress towards a long-term plan for facilities, but there is more work to be done," said Director David Wynde, the board’s lead on the issue. "This is not the right time to ask for voter approval of a funding plan. While we have detailed information on the state of our buildings, we are still in conversations about our programs, particularly our high school system, and are exploring opportunities for financing, sustainability and partnerships."
The School Board called upon Superintendent Carole Smith to return in June with options for financing and managing a stepped up program of repairs and improvements to school buildings. "We must increase investment in our school buildings," Wynde said. "The status quo is unacceptable, and it is important to maintain the momentum."
Portland Public Schools is already implementing changes to the way repairs and daily maintenance tasks are prioritized and addressed.
"Opportunities for financing, sustainability and partnerships" -- keep that phrase on file. It's the code for selling Lincoln High School to the condo weasels for yet another awful tower.
It is with regret that we notify you of our intentions to discontinue
offering the MetroFi FREE and MetroFi Premium services in Portland. We are
in the process of negotiating with a 3rd party network operator to keep the
network in place, and during this time your services will not be affected.
As soon as we know the outcome of these negotiations, we will provide you
with further information.
I was bragging here the other day about how I had completed the arduous task of setting up a new personal computer. One nut that I hadn't been able to crack, though, was to get my old version of WordPerfect software (version 12) installed on the new machine. I was missing a crucial serial number that had come on a five-by-five card with the installation disks that I bought four years ago, and I was expecting to have to call Corel and grovel for a magic number that would get the installation going.
I was not looking forward to that phone call: doubtlessly a life-sapping directory, a long wait, and finally "Hello, I'm in Rangoon, give me your credit card number before I will talk to you, and then I'm going to try to sell you something that you obviously don't want."
Ah, but the internet is a highly educational place if you have the patience to comb through it. I prowled around and discovered that there is a website for WordPerfect mavens, and it's got a pretty extensive support forum in which users can chat about the issues they encounter with WordPerfect and related programs.
In that forum, a wise user from South Africa explained two ways to figure out a lost serial number. First and easiest, if you can get the program to run, you just hit "Help" and "About," and there it is. That wasn't going to do anything for me, as I couldn't even get the program installed, much less get it to run. But he also noted that the serial number is saved on one's computer in the Windows registry near the word "SerialNumber," and if one can get at the registry, one can eventually hunt down the number.
Well, I have the entire hard drive from my old computer set up as an external drive, and so if I could find the Windows registry, I could certainly give it the old college try. There were a couple of obstacles -- aren't there always with computers? -- the first of which was figuring out where the confounded registry files were. I have always felt that it would be sheer folly ever to mess with those, and so I had no clue as to where they might reside or what they might be called. I learned that it depends on which version of Windows is running. The old computer was on Windows XP, and after a bunch of hunting and reading, I got their names and likely locations.
Then there was the hurdle of getting my new computer's Vista program to open the registry files on the old hard drive. Now, Vista is set up not to let boneheads like me screw registries up, and it was refusing to open them, but after some thinking, it dawned on me that if I copied the files with different names, I might be able to get them open. Sure enough, that and pasting the copies onto the new computer's desktop did the trick. And after much hunting through the bizarre registry files (gobbledegook of the lowest order), there in a file called "software" was what appeared to be the serial number I was looking for.
In went the WordPerfect installation disk. Up came that infernal demand for the serial number. And good news -- the boxes in which to enter the number had the same format as the number I just mined off the hard drive. When I hit "Enter," the darn thing installed. Yeah, baby.
Now, I may not be completely out of the woods. Corel says it's not supporting those of us who dare to run WordPerfect in Vista. But reports from many users are that it will work o.k., particularly if one's word processing needs are simple, as mine surely are. And so I've gone ahead and downloaded no fewer than three WordPerfect 12 "service packs" that came out in the past several years -- I had never heard of any of them, and so they're all upgrades for me -- and I'm off and running. When my free trial version of the latest version of WordPerfect blows up in a couple of weeks, there is still a chance that I won't have to pungle up $150 or so and keep it. Ahhhhhhhh.
Fish also has expressed concerns about the wisdom of public campaign financing — as have Commissioners Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman.
With skeptics of public financing now forming a majority on the council, the program faces an even more questionable future when it is referred to the voters in 2010 — as all current and potential future members have promised.
In the House race in our gerrymandered district in Northeast Portland, Michael Dembrow, the world's most ruthless killer of trees for his relentless, glossy junk mail, prevailed over Cyreena "Passion" Boston and Jon Metro-C(l)oney. The percentages were 41-35-24, respectively.
Dembrow promised us universal health care, reversal of global climate change, and college for all. Now he will go to Salem and do brave things like prohibiting political party members from signing independent candidates' petitions, and banning cell phone use by teenagers while driving after dark unless accompanied by an adult. In 18 months, his term will be up, the union checkbooks will reopen, and the flow of junk mail will start again. "A chicken in every pot, with the grease going into your fuel tank."
John Kroger's victory in the Oregon attorney general race was stunning, but aside from his historic win, the mavericks in the state's Democratic Party pretty much got nowhere yesterday. The secretary of state and treasurer's races both went to long-time stalwarts in our lackluster Legislature, as did the U.S. Senate nomination.
I have come to expect nothing good to emanate from Salem, and with Brown and Westlund running their respective agencies, my expectations aren't going to rise noticeably. Merkley will run a shrill but quite fruitless race against Moneybags Smith. A faithful House soldier like Jackie Dingfelder, who campaigned hard for Merkley, will move up to the state Senate, where more nothing, only annually, can be predicted.
But I'll tell you one thing: Somewhere in Oregon tonight there sits a white-collar criminal who's had a nice racket going for a long time -- making a healthy living by quietly cheating the public. By this time next year, that individual is going to have Attorney General Kroger on his back. And unlike crooks like Fred Monem, who waltzed away from Rip Van Hardy Myers, this next one won't be going anywhere but jail.
As the curtain falls on Election Night, it's still not clear who won the right to take on Amanda Fritz in the runoff for the Portland City Council seat formerly occupied by Mayor-elect Adams (gag). Our favorite son, Charles Lewis, leads lightweight John Branam and planner wonk Jeff Bissonnette by less than a thousand votes. Before the mainstream media folks satisfied their corporate bosses and headed off to Cassidy's for a nightcap, the return numbers stood as follows:
From Multnomah County, which includes almost all, but not quite all, of the City of Portland:
Based on these figures, it appears that the Chuckster did in fact make it to the runoff with his arch-nemesis Amanda come November. But his margin of victory over Branam has hovered at 500 to 800 votes all night, and we may have to wait until whatever mysterious force finally calls these things to see who finally emerged.
Thanks to the lovely Lelo in Nopo, whom I finally got to meet in person, for this photo.
I just got back to the home office after a fun night blogging about the election results at KGW. I knew I'd be pounding away at the keyboard through the evening, with a bird's-eye view of the news as it broke in the busy newsroom, but I wasn't ready to be on camera on and off throughout the night. Big lens staring me in the face, hot lights, the whole works.
Nowadays, KGW has so many video outlets -- broadcast Channel 8, Northwest Cable News, and kgw.com -- that I'm not sure where all the "footage" of me and fellow blogger Len Bergstein wound up. But there was a lot of it. And when you're talking off the cuff with those big lights on you, it's hard to tell how it came across. It's actually a little difficult to remain coherent under those conditions, until you get used to it. Did anybody see any of it? Candid reviews are welcome, because I honestly can't judge how any of it went.
In any event, it was a kick to be part of the continuing migration of the mainstream media toward the blogosphere. The coolest parts were when the station called the results in various races. I was glued to my screen and keyboard at the time, but you'd hear the name of the winning candidate float through the room as various staffers repeated it. A couple of times, I felt like Walter Cronkite.
And I must say, the KGW operation was extraordinarily professional -- and friendly! Bergstein and I were treated like royalty. What a blast.
We have been getting quite a bit of on-camera air time somewhere on KGW and related outlets tonight. If you prowl around on NWCN, kgw.com, or Channel 8 at 10:30, you may get a whole half hour of Len Bergstein and me. Yikes!
We are sitting in KGW News headquarters, getting ready for the night's big Oregon news. We have pressed the flesh with the Channel 8 dignitaries and are getting ready to rumble on their blog. Come on over there and help me make this a great night.
Last week I heard a gifted teacher talk about what success feels like -- to a schoolchild, or to anyone. She pointed out that there's this bath of pleasant hormones that we enjoy when we learn how to make sense of something, or to make it work.
I really needed an endorphin shower at that point. The recent loss of my home computer had knocked me for a loop, and it's taken a couple of weeks to recover. I had some great assistance in buying a new computer, but setting the darn thing up the way I had the old one has been a challenge.
To start off with, the new one came loaded with the much-criticized Windows Vista operating system, which takes some getting used to. For what I do on the computer, it isn't any better or worse than Windows XP, the version I'd been on for many years. But it's different, and the changes take some getting used to. Most noticeably, it's much more uptight about security than ever. Tasks that XP performed routinely won't even get started on Vista until you've sworn that you're really you and yes, you realy want to do what you've commanded.
Then comes hooking up the many gadgets that hang from my computer these days. Oh, they physically plug in fine (with the help of a USB hub), but most of them need drivers, and the ones that they came with don't work with Vista. And so off we have gone, hither and yon throughout the WWW, trying to find and install updated drivers. It's been time-consuming, to say the least.
Next comes the software. Rooting around for the installation disks for all the programs on which we rely, then praying that they'll work in Vista. Amazingly, they all do. But of course, there are going to be a few "gotcha" moments. Like when we tried to install WordPerfect 12 off its original CD, and it haugtily demanded, "Give us your serial number." Serial number? Where is that? Maybe on the box, or the user manual.
The box that we no longer have. The user manual that we can no longer find. Hmmm, looks like the b*stards at Corel get another hundred bucks or two out me. I downloaded a free trial version, but it will run out 30 days after it was received.
There was lots of freeware to install, too -- nothing out of pocket there, but time, plenty of time.
Then there's anti-virus protection. In the past, I've used Norton by Symantec, but on every computer I've ever installed that stuff on, it eventually wound up becoming so intrusive and slowing things down so badly that the computer ran poorly. I wasn't going to make that mistake again, and so this time I decided to try AVG. So far, so good, but getting it to recognize the many programs on the computer, and teaching it what should be left alone, was a bit of a chore.
Two big challenges remained on my checklist the longest. One was getting my neat-o Sound Blaster/Creative Media audio stuff installed and set up. This toy lets me record anything, analog or digital, onto the computer, and edit it in all sorts of ways. Comes in quite handy for bringing those old vinyl record albums into the new millennium, among other things. But hey, a new computer doesn't just up and recognize it -- there's an installation process, and of course, it had to be reworked for Vista. That took a long time, but after all sorts of trial and error, we got it back and running better than ever.
The last task didn't get resolved until the wee small hours of this morning. Our Palm PDA, a trusty old m515 model, wouldn't sync up with our new computer at all. There's a little cradle that the handheld organizer sits in to charge, and it's connected to the computer via a USB cord. There's a program that sits on the computer, and it holds all the same data that the PDA does. Every once in a while, you push a "hot sync" button on the cradle, and the PDA and the computer update each other with your latest additions and subtractions.
I couldn't get the cradle and the new computer onto the same page to save my life. I downloaded new drivers for Vista from the Palm website -- that was obvious enough -- and I was careful to make sure I had the program on the computer configured to be expecting to hear from the cradle via a USB port. But every time I hit the "hot sync" button, the computer would tell me that the PDA was trying to communicate with it on the port "COM1," "COM1" wasn't available right now, and they'd let me know when it was.
This frustrating turn of events led me to various web postings, several of which instructed me to find "COM1" in the Windows Device Manager, and see what Windows said about it. Well, as it turns out, the new computer doesn't even have a port called "COM1," and so it seemed like my PDA syncing days were over.
This was a real shame, because what if I lost the PDA? All the data on it would be gone forever -- address book, date book, list of all sorts of important information -- yuck.
Tonight, just about the time that the polls close, we'll be heading over to KGW to write on their Talk of the Town blog. Len Bergstein, political advisor to Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono and a long-time KGW contributor, will also be blogging there.
Technology permitting, we'll also be posting here, but with different content. Two-fisted blogging, as it were.
We've never done anything like this with the mainstream media before. We suspect it will be a revealing evening in more ways than one.
We have a good one for you this morning. The folks who manage the City of Portland's ballooning debt -- the long-term liabilities of the city currently stand about $4.7 billion -- need some help figuring out how to juggle it all. Here's an ad they've currently got out for "financial advisory services," which are going to set the taxpayers back a cool $500,000 or so over the next three years.
Based on the spendthrift ways of the City Council over the most recent decade or so, one would suspect that the key qualifications for this gig are the ability to tell people what they want to hear, and to resist applying common sense. The city fathers want to be told that they should borrow, borrow, borrow, all they want, for just about any goofball pet project that comes their way -- or the county's way, or some school board's way out on the edge of town -- and don't worry about paying it back. When the bonds come due, just refinance them and keep going. There's no end to the money. Let's go fly a kite!
The Chimp and his overlords have done so much harm to America, it's hard to know where to start. But here's a good enough place to begin. And on this score, John McCain is just another Bush: a voodoo economist at best.
Well, it's getting on time to vote, and we suspect the steady stream of political junk mail we've been receiving of late will stop now. The campaigns have really outdone themselves with this year's election porn, though -- we even got a couple more pieces over the weekend. We have been so deeply moved by it all as to put together this not work safe tribute:
A few of the usual tighty righties in town were on the intertubes yesterday as Obamania swept Portland. "There's no substance; Rev. Wright," blah blah blah.
Their new mantra is "McCain isn't Bush." Now, there's a line that's going nowhere. The pain that's being felt by the majority of Americans right now is going to be laid squarely on McCain, whether he likes it or not. You can argue about whether he deserves it -- I happen to think he does -- but there's no doubt that he'll be playing defense all the way to the general election. Here's an interesting perspective from our neighbors in Hood River:
As if to prove the point, Mr. Rivers, himself a Republican, noted that his wife just changed her party affiliation to Democratic so she could vote for Mr. Obama and that he, while remaining a Republican, planned to vote for Mr. Obama if he was the general election nominee.
''I'll never vote for McCain, never,'' Mr. Rivers said. ''To me, it's four more years of Bushism.''
The Mrs. and I caught the Was (Not Was) show at the Wonder Ballroom tonight, and I pretty much got just one word: Wow.
There's a lot more that one could write about this group of highly talented funk-soul connaisseurs from Detroit via L.A. The "brothers" Don and David Was pack a powerful punch, and their front line of lead singers -- "Sweet Pea" Atkinson, Harry Bowens, and Donald Ray Mitchell -- is like a farookin' Roman triumvirate. In a way, they're like Springsteen -- it's easy to write a book-long screed about them, but much harder to catch the essence of their music in 500 words or less.
Danceable? Catchy? Well performed? Incredibly so. But it goes way beyond that -- reverential toward its roots, and deeply poignant, if you really listen. You can dance 'til you drop, and yet those lyrics are about stuff like broken families, the CIA, and the JFK assassination. Some call it satire, but like so much art, it can't be pigeon-holed.
The crowd tonight in Portland was enthusiastic, but stunningly small. People, this is as good as it gets. Before you give up on the current state of popular music in America, you have to spend some time with Was (Not Was). It seemed as though Don of the Wases has some connections in town, and so maybe they'll be back. Next time, we'll be organizing a posse.
Where will you be on election night, as the returns pour in? It looks as through we'll be blogging all evening, but perhaps not so much here. We've been asked by the folks at KGW to blog on their site as the moments we've all been waiting for arrive next Tuesday evening. We're told that we'll be joined by Len Bergstein, the famed Portland political consultant (currently working with Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono) who frequently analyzes elections for that television station.
We've called Bergstein some funny names on this blog over the years. It will be interesting to sit next to him in the blogging trenches.
Although we'll be pounding material into the KGW server, we can't imagine leaving our own site idle all that night. Maybe while we're blogging about the election results on kgw.com, we can blog here about blogging on kgw.com. "Meta," as they say.
I think I'm going to try to talk the Mrs. into splitting our votes between Boston and Dembrow. That way, we're not helping Metro C(l)oney, but we're not exactly choosing between our two consummate junk mail artists, either. They both wound up insulting our intelligence.
I know I said I was going to vote for Michael Dembrow for the State House from my district, but after receiving this in the mail yesterday -- his fourth mailer in five days! -- I may not be able to bring myself to blacken the circle for him:
Meanwhile, I believe this is four flyers total from this fellow, but at least spaced out slightly over the campaign:
It's so nice to see Portland taxpayers spending scarce tax dollars to tell the world about the adventures of this swashbuckling Robin Hood.
All of a sudden, even the reality-challenged Portland City Council is admitting that the city's transportation problems are here to stay. The public isn't going to vote in any new taxes until the recession is over, and that may take years. And so the potholes are only going to get deeper.
But the delusions of grandeur persist with continued promises (or perhaps they're threats) to cover the city with new streetcars, which are expensive to build and operate and much less flexible than buses. Even if the feds and the lottery pay the full bill to build these things (which they don't), nobody but the taxpayers of the city and the taxpayers of Tri-Met pay to operate them. (Fare revenues are laughable.)
The fake story that people like Sam the Tram and Streetcar Smith foster (in their roles as sock puppets for the condo developers) is that the neighborhoods all want the streetcars. But that's clearly not the case. Here's a letter that the Boise neighborhood in North Portland sent to the city last week:
Mr. Patrick Sweeney City of Portland, Office of Transportation 1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800 Portland, OR 97204
Dear Mr. Sweeney:
Please accept this letter on behalf of the members of the Boise Neighborhood Association and residents and businesses of the Boise neighborhood as an expression of our concern about Portland's Streetcar Master Plan (SMP) process and its effect on both Boise and the entire city.
It has come to our attention that district working groups have been formed throughout the city, and are being asked to determine by June 16, whether or not there is community support for the proposed streetcar routes now under consideration. Good transportation and transit planning requires a thorough, system-wide approach. We have significant concerns about the SMP process. For example, we believe that the timeline for communities to reach a decision is too aggressive and that the information being provided to communities is insufficient to support good decisions. We have listed some more specific concerns and questions below.
1. The city is seeking community input on the streetcar proposal from special interest community groups formed on an ad hoc basis rather than working within the city's established Neighborhood System.
2. Portland neighborhoods, including Boise, are being asked to provide feedback and support for a streetcar solution when the city has not adequately defined the underlying problem the proposed solution is intended to address or provided information regarding what, if any, alternative solutions are being considered. We would like to know what problem—in particular, what transportation problem—the streetcar proposal is intended to solve, and why streetcar is believed to be the best solution to that problem when compared to other potential solutions (such as diesel, electric and hybrid buses, bus rapid transit and light-rail, and/or improvements to existing bus service).
3. The city appears to be asking for community feedback and support for where streetcar lines might run without consideration for whether such streetcar lines are feasible or how they would integrate with the city's existing transportation infrastructure. For example, it is unclear whether streetcar lines would replace or augment bus service. If the former, then what steps is the city taking to ensure system performance is maintained, especially for regional riders who may face additional transfers with a streetcar system? If the latter, then what specific benefits do streetcars provide compared to existing transit service?
4. It appears that little or no information is being provided to neighborhoods regarding safety issues, the impacts that streetcar lines would have on other modes of transportation (including cars, buses, freight and bicycles) and the environmental and economic impacts that streetcar lines would have on local neighborhoods. We have seen from the operation of the existing streetcar route that streetcars affect other traffic, especially when they stop for passengers in travel lanes, and when they change lanes, requiring traffic in all directions to stop. Also, streetcar tracks pose safety hazards. For example, bicycle wheels may get caught in the streetcar tracks causing accidents. These impacts to other modes of transportation must be fully identified and considered when contemplating future streetcar routes.
These issues are significant, not just for the Boise neighborhood, but for all of Portland. We request that the SMP process be put on hold until adequate responses to these issues are provided. By adequate response, we mean: Utilize the existing Neighborhood System and hold a meeting with all Neighborhood Association chairs and/or boards no later than June 16.
Hold a public forum to present and address the above concerns and providing information on the status of this process no later than June 16.
Good luck, neighbors. I doubt that there's any way to talk the current regime in city government out of its hallucinations when it comes to the streetcars. Instead of signing letters, you might want to take out the ballot and check off some names other than Adams, Middaugh, Stewart, and Smith.
Now that Opie Sten has retired from the Portland City Council for his mysterious pursuits up in Bridlemile, some new boo birds have arrived at City Hall to decry his harebrained and legally questionable idea of creating a "satellite" urban renewal district hooking up the Pearl District with the David Douglas School District. One of the Big Idea Dude's parting shots would be to take urban renewal property taxes from the Pearl and spend them to build a new school out in the sticks, where voters apparently don't want to pay for it.
Anyway, who's complaining now? The Portland School District, whose own facilities are falling apart and could use a serious shot in the arm for facilities as well. The Trib has the story pretty well covered here.
The Portland police shot and killed another person Tuesday night. According to this story, police say the dead man, Jason Spoor, was a suspect in a nearby homicide that had just occurred, and that he "was armed and refused to drop his handgun."
This incident might blow over quickly, except for the identity of one of the two officers who fired on the alleged suspect: Scott McCollister, who shot and killed an unarmed woman, Kendra James, in 2003 and was disciplined for it, only to have the discipline reversed on appeal.
McCollister's involvement in this case is has not gone unnoticed. Ill will still present from the James killing seems likely to fan flames of discontent in connection with the latest fatal shooting, no matter what the facts may turn out to be. In any case, it is a difficult time for all involved, and by extension, for the city.
It's truly amazing to watch the Portland City Council act like a middle school student government over the city budget. They're clucking around over $45,000 here, $200,000 there, when the big number is the $2 billion of police and fire pension liabilities that nothing's being set aside to pay.
Macpherson and Kroger are said to be neck-and-neck, as are Brown and Metsger. My own gut is that they're right about the former, wrong about the latter -- Brown's got all the money and will probably win. (No runoffs in a partisan primary, of course.)
The Portland mayor's race is the focus of today's political poll. The two frontrunners are way out ahead of the lesser known candidates, and most pundits give Sam Adams the edge over Sho Dozono. But what do pundits know? There were probably plenty of people who were banking on Frank Ivancie over Bud Clark way back when, and look how that turned out.
Anyway, people, give us your prognostication about where it will all wind up on Tuesday night -- your prediction, not your preference:
If you're such a save-the-trees environmentalist, why have you sent our household no fewer than four glossy mailers -- three in the last four days? I was going to vote for you, but now you are beginning to impress me as a bit of an obnoxious phony-baloney. Our ballots are still waiting to be filled out. Why must you give us such serious second thoughts?
One of the joys of seeing tax season pass is the knowledge that the statute of limitations has closed on another tax year (at least if you cut fairly square corners with the government in the past). This year, for most of us, 2004 slid into tax irrelevance as of April 15. At our house, it's time to clear out the supporting documentation for the tax return we filed for that year. (But we keep our copies of the returns forever, of course.)
Our sense of closure is diminished somewhat by the discovery that we inadvertently forgot to file one of the required return forms for 2007. Oh well, we'll have to file late and see what happens.
Reader poll: Who will be the next to ride Opie's trike?
In the race to succeed Erik Sten on the Portland City Council, the two frontrunners are Nick Fish and Jim Middaugh. But there are three others in the race as well: Ed Garren, Fred Stewart, and Harold Williams Two.
How do you think that race will come out? Remember, vote your prediction, not your preference.
I was riding the train last Friday morning, having left my car at the shop. Along the way, a person whom once upon a time we might have called a "crazy lady" got on. She was friendly, and loud. "A happy Mother's Day to all the mothers," she announced to no one in particular. "It's cold today. But next week, on Friday it's going to be 90."
Over the years, I've learned that when a crazy lady tells you what the weather is going to be a week in advance, she's probably right.
It was seeming like a slow Monday politically, with little to amuse us. But then on the car radio we heard the voice of John McCain as he spoke right here in Portland. He said that global warming was a real threat to the planet, and that if polar bears can change their ways to deal with it, then humanity needs to, too:
Now, that's a scream. The tighty righties must be going nuts. They really don't have anyone to vote for. All good news for Obama.
The last of the new rails went into place on the Portland Transit Mall today. $143 million later, we'll see how buses and light rail trains do in the same spaces -- along with more cars than before. My guess: It won't be pretty.
I still think the whole mall re-do was a waste of money. It needed some help, but not a grandiose rip-up. It's impossible to get anyone at City Hall not to Think Big, however. Well, at least it will be shiny for a while.
Setting up a new computer has taken a huge chunk out of my life the last week or so. But some of the hardest (and most expensive) parts of the process have been helped immeasurably by another tech-savvy reader of this blog. Just as Jake at orty.com bailed me out a while back when several web hosts failed me, so too has Joey at Skyline Technology Solutions come to the rescue when the old computer up and died.
It will still take a while to recover from the disruption of the changeover -- the blessings of being computer-dependent can quickly turn into curses. But without the help of a guy whom I met through this blog, the agony would have been much worse. Many thanks to him.
Portland's 10-year plan to end homelessness recently won plaudits from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The number of Portlanders considered chronically homeless has dropped from 1,284 to 386 in the last two years, although advocates say the annual census of who's on the street can't count everyone.
Wow. That sounds like one of those statistics like "core inflation" and "unemployment": such a dubious measurement that it essentially means nothing.
All of a sudden, to get elected to state office in our legislative district, you have to have a windmill in your picture. We've already blogged about House candidate Cyreena Boston's "daisy fresh" mailer:
This weekend, we see that Jackie Dingfelder, whose vacated seat Boston is seeking, has gone her one better in her campaign for State Senate:
But hey, one of Boston's opponents, Michael Dembrow, has got the entire trifecta:
So I'm walking with my boy in his stroller about an hour ago in South Waterfront. (I know how you feel about the place, but they do seem to be trying to do a good job creating a dense new neighborhood from scratch. But...)
So I get to talking with a security guard and he points out the building closest to the river, one of the tall glass towers. "See anything odd about it?" Then he tells me that the building was built with insufficient allowances for the river soil subsiding. According to what he heard, the building has a ten degree list. He says eight more degrees and it gets condemned.
By the end of election season, the political porn that we get in the mail usually becomes pretty tiresome. So it goes this time around. But never before have we received a mailer that threatens to frighten our children. Check out what showed up today:
As our election porn series wears on, we've been a little worried lately that people might think our recent comparison of State House candidate Cyreena Boston's campaign flyers to ads for a fictional scent called "Passion" was a sexist remark. For the record, please note that this is a unisex fragrance:
Here's one of those classic "WTF?" moments. Over at the Hollyrood-Fernwood School in the Grant Park neighborhood in the northeast part of Portland, a group of public-spirited folks recently raised a goodly amount of money to rehabilitate the baseball diamonds where the kids play:
The work got done, all right, but where you would expect to see and hear kids playing the great American game, these days you see nothing but a barbed-wire fence, and hear the sounds of silence:
Now, at first glance, we thought that perhaps the work wasn't finished, but apparently that's not the case. Word has it that the place has been shut down because of a dispute between the school and some of the neighbors over the process by which the improvement work was authorized. A glance at page 4 of a recent edition of the neighborhood newsletter would seem to confirm that version of what's going on:
Now, I've been known to be as big a NIMBY as anyone, but in this case, the nastiness seems awfully silly. People, it's May. It's time for baseball. Kids have played ball on that playground for many decades, and there is no good reason on earth that they should not be playing it there this year. Someone made a heroic effort to make the place a better place to play, and instead all they've managed to do is shut the field down entirely. Whatever the problems are, they need to get worked out, at least temporarily -- like yesterday.
It's time to grow up -- and we don't mean the Little Leaguers. Surely there's some way to put the hostilities on hold while the kids play ball.
No matter how you feel about the Portland mayor's race, those who groove on R&B, blues, and jazz from the Rose City will want to take note of this campaign benefit for Mr. Dozono tonight at Jimmy Mak's. If we weren't looking at several solid weekends of babysitter action right in front of us, we'd be there. No doubt they will hit it and quit it.
Our girl cat, Lola, is enjoying her first spring on the planet. She's discovered that the yard is a great hunting ground. Over the past few weeks, we have found evidence of some of her exploits in the grass: little spreads of feathers, and even a squirrel's tail and feet. Everything else from the victims' bodies was gone, and our own "fur creature" seemed to have a smug look on her face.
Now, we didn't catch her in the act. It could have been her brother, Bill, who did the killing -- he was seen joining in on the squirrel lunch, and one time last year we watched as he actually snagged a hummingbird. But lately, our gut instinct (if you'll pardon the expression) has been that this was Lola's work.
Along with the occasional warm snack, the yard also provides heart-stopping danger at times. Just the other night, a neighbor's dog came charging at Lola while she was out in front of the house. She took off like a shot into some hiding spot or other in the back, and she wouldn't come out for hours -- even through dinner hour and our many calls for her at the door.
Now, it's always a worry when a cat doesn't show up at his or her food bowl on time. We have always been able to set our watches by our cats' hovering for food at (or a little before) meal time. When they're not begging for their grub, it means that something's wrong.
Lola eventually came inside for her vittles, but while she was gone, our memories drifted back to the night years ago when our prior man cat, the late and beloved Ralph, failed to appear as scheduled for supper. Ralph never missed a meal -- never -- and so when he wasn't around for chow, we knew he was in trouble.
And we were right. That evening, Pinky (as he was also known) used up one of his nine lives.
It was 5:00, then 6:00, then 7:00, and no sign of Ralph. We walked all around the block, calling him by all of his names, especially "Man." No answer. Very disturbing. He was around earlier in the day. Now, he was nowhere to be found.
Being a Jersey guy, I have a fairly dim view of human nature. I always think the worst at times like these. He must have been cat-napped. Handsome fellow that he was, maybe he was scooped up by someone who liked his looks. Heck, somebody had just swiped an empty recycling bin from our curb a short time before -- maybe they decided they'd like a cat, too.
The Mrs. had an alternate theory. We were in the midst of having some plumbing work done in our master bathroom, and to do it the workmen had to cut a hole in the wall. Maybe Ralphie had gone in there, and gotten himself walled in. The tile guy had just drywalled up the hole that afternoon.
It sounded like a dumb idea to me. But what the heck, we went over to the spot where the wall patch was still drying, and gave out a few of our favorite Ralph calls. No answer.
The Mrs. called the drywall guy on the phone. Was there any chance that our cat could have gone into the hole in the wall? No way, he said. The hole had been carefully covered when it was not being actively worked on, and it was not left open and unattended for more than a minute at a time.
That pretty much exhausted all our theories of where Pinky might be.
We were both in shock. Our human children had not arrived yet, and so our kitties were our kids. We used to hold them in our arms like babies, sing them lullabies, the whole works. Now Ralphie was gone.
After a glum evening, the Mrs. turned in, and I headed off to the den to think about what we were going to do next. All I could think of was flyers on telephone poles. And those hardly ever turn up anything, do they?
Who says the City of Portland isn't creating jobs?
Here's your chance to pick up a quick 30 grand and help the City That Works at the same time. It seems that the Portland Bureau of Development Services -- where the developers are their customers and the neighbors can go pound salt -- still can't function without "executive coaching" and "organizational development" by outsiders. Amazing that for $136,772 a year, this fellow can't get the job done without personal help. Anyway, if coaching's your bag, you might want to put in for this -- although I suspect the contractor's already been picked and the rest of the procurement process is just for show.
State House candidate Cyreena Boston keeps sending us her beautiful but lightweight flyers. Her last one had a foreign film festival feel to it. Before that it was a barrage of retail images -- first perfume, then clothes. Today it seems like maybe we've moved on to feminine hygiene products of some kind:
If things don't work out in the election, this gal has got a great future ahead of her at Land's End.
Greeting I-5 commuters from the Corbett Street overpass as they made their way northbound into downtown this morning: a huge homemade Novick for Senate banner, and several of the Hook's supporters. Dudes!
One of our faithful readers is an astrology expert. Maybe he or she can tell us if there's something in the stars this week that is making the establishment candidates in our various elections become so wickedly negative toward their challengers.
Or maybe it's just the trickle-down effect of Hillary throwing Reverend Wright and related garbage at Obama. Whatever it is, the candidates of the powers that be are slinging some serious mud.
We've already noted that Peapicker Gordon, who doesn't even have any real primary opponent to attack, has gone seriously negative against both of the Democratic challengers who are vying for the privilege of having their booties whupped by him in the fall. Get this: They're the status quo, and Gordon's the agent of change. Is it a sin to tell a lie where Senator Smith comes from?
In the Democratic ranks, we reported last night that Jeff Merkley, the choice of the Network Formerly Known as Goldschmidt, has gone way to the minus side of the spectrum as he calls Steve Novick out for comments Novick wrote on BlueOregon over the years. Hey Jeff, man, it's a blog.
Moving to the state office scene, Greg Macpherson, the old-money candidate for Oregon attorney general, just released an ugly little TV piece attacking his opponent, John Kroger:
Now granted, Kroger's last ad noted that he was the only candidate who's ever tried a case, which by negative implication pointed out that Macpherson never had. Macpherson's entitled to respond to that in kind. But I must say that this latest spot is the most negative ad I've seen around here in a long time. It rivals Mannix and Sizemore in its tone and misleading content.
And it's so unlike Macpherson, who at heart is a quiet and kind guy who can get things done without being nasty to those who disagree with him. This ad isn't the Greg I used to know, and he must be truly worried about his chances for him to be drifting into this territory. He claims to be the face of old Oregon, but this sort of thing is straight outta Jersey City.
At the local level, Portland City Council wannabe Jim Middaugh takes a couple of swipes at his main opponent, Nick Fish, and disrespects his lesser known opponents at the same time in this radio ad (mp3). "My opponent," he says, as if there were only one, "has taken thousands of dollars from some of Portland's biggest developers, but since I'm publicly financed, I didn't take a dime from big business."
True enough, on its face. But of course, the reason that Middaugh was the only candidate to qualify for taxpayer money to pay big bucks for his truncated campaign is that he is the handpicked successor to Erik Sten. And as has been noted on this blog before, Middaugh had a six-week head start on getting organized to run, because Sten told him about his pending mysterious resignation long before the public heard about it. When Sten made his announcement, there were only 10 days left before the deadline to qualify for public financing. Sten then quickly endorsed his crony Middaugh, and called and e-mailed the members of his own well established City Hall machine to help Middaugh qualify for public financing in three days.
Ugly politics, at best. If that was how I got my "clean money," I wouldn't be bragging about it.
Tighty righty blogger and radio host Rob Kremer has been preaching for a while that in Portland area government, nothing succeeds like failure. Fireman Randy proved Kremer's point yesterday when he praised the city's chief bureaucrat in the face of an $21.6 million cost overrun on a $27.9 million computer project. A 77 percent budget screwup (so far)? No problem.
Have you ever used the Wayback Machine? We do from time to time. It's got archived versions of websites from long ago. It's fun and informative to see how favorite sites used to look.
You may have a little trouble using that valuable resource today, however, as the site and its owner are very much in the news. It seems they stood up to one of those snoopy "national security letters" seeking information about internet surfers who used the site. And not only did the FBI back off, but the veil of secrecy that shrouds such proceedings (usually unnecessary, but routinely employed) was also lifted. The story's all over the media, but a good summary can be found here.
Way to push back, Wayback.
UPDATE, 9:48 a.m.: They're back up and running now. Check out this sample, and this one. Those were the days!
Gosh. I didn't even know there was an organization of Multnomah County Republicans. Its membership can probably be counted on one hand.
Anyway, unlike their Democratic counterparts, they don't require local candidates to be a member of their party in order to endorse them. And lo and behold, they have endorsed a few local candidates despite the latter's progressive leanings. The endorsement flyer, sent along by an alert reader, is here.
"Clean money" sure is a wondrous thing. The Portland City Council candidates whose campaigns are being financed by the taxpayers in the wasteful "voter-owed elections" system just keep a-pumpin' out the junk mail.
Here's part of a mailer we got yesterday from John Branam. Not much new in this one compared to what we've seen before (surprising, given how well his campaign manager is paid), but they did add what appears to be a picture of the candidate and his dad long ago:
And there's that logo again, up top, which sorta looks like this, don'tcha think? No wonder WW has taken to calling him "Obranam."
But a funnier piece comes from another "clean money" candidate, Amanda Fritz. Now, we don't dislike Amanda, although we're supporting one of her opponents in the primary. But we had to laugh when someone who does dislike her pointed out something funny about this flyer:
Inside, she gets quite specific about what she's complaining about:
Spending Portland taxpayers' money with out-of-area firms is a shame and a sin. O.k., point well taken.
But then when you flip to the back panel --
-- and look down in the lower left where all the little union insignia and soy ink and recycling symbols are, if you get out your really strong reading glasses, and squint really hard, you see where Amanda had her flyers printed up:
At this point there's no way that Hillary can gain the Democratic Presidential nomination without stealing it. Now, I wouldn't put it past her and Bill to give that a try, but they may drop out while they can still do so with some small shred of grace. They'll act like they're doing it for the good of the party, yada yada yada, but the harsh reality is, their campaign is out of money. And if there's one thing that motivates those two, it's that good old dough re mi.
And guess what, Portland taxpayers. The city's going to run out into the shaky municipal bond market and borrow another $11.5 million to pour down its technology hole. The City Council will be authorizing the new bonds at its meeting this morning.
This is the city that likes to boast about its administrative and financial competence. And it wants to build a municipal fiber network. Give me a break.
Unless the latest reports are some sort of joke, Sam the Tram and Fireman Randy have apparently figured out that (a) the bike bridge project will never get done for $5.5 million, and (b) it's costing Sammy Boy some votes. And so now, as quickly as it appeared on the radar screen, it's gone.
Just like the street tax. Just like Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
But with this guy, who knows? Starting the day after he's elected mayor, he'll be unveiling all sorts of other stupid stuff. Some of it will go through, some of it won't. But rest assured, we're in for four years plus of unprecedented jerking around. [Via BikePortland.]
The City of Portland is reporting that it has shut down the north side of the large reservoir on Mount Tabor after finding in it this morning "a 2 gallon jug of latex paint, a vertical, orange construction barricade, a bundle of informational fliers and 5 tennis balls."
Now, tennis balls in the reservoir are common, and probably innocent. There's a tennis court near there, and you'd be amazed at how wild the shots can get. The rest of the stuff, however, is likely the work of a vandal. I hope they catch the offender. Throwing junk into a water supply is probably a pretty heavy offense, and they should throw the book at him or her.
I also hope this doesn't turn into another "cover the reservoirs" crusade.
Whose "informational fliers" were they? It wasn't election porn, was it?
We've blogged here about the impending demise of the Colwood Golf Course, including plans to put a new airport runway on it, noising up Northeast Portland even more. Now it turns out that there are some folks trying to defend the use of the site as open space. Which makes total sense -- too much sense for the greedy hands that run Portland nowadays.
Anyway, the preservationists have got themselves a new website, and it is here. [Via Activistas.]
The City of Portland parks bureau sure knows how to make enemies. Remember all the ill will they caused when they tried to sell off part of Mount Tabor Park to one of Jim Francesconi's clients? Now they're starting in with a new group of outraged Portlanders: tennis enthusiasts.
Apparently the city is planning continuing budget cuts for that sport, contributing to the deterioration that is already evident in the tennis facilities in the parks. That has led to a series of e-mails mobilizing players for Thursday's budget hearing. It's hard to resist noting that they plan to raise a racket about this.
One player, Doug Hansen, has done a bit of investigation of the state of tennis in the Portland parks, and he prepared a little report that is circulating among the T-ballers these days. It includes the following observations:
1. Tennis has been supported by Portland Parks and Recreation since the early days, when outdoor courts were constructed at many Portland parks. Most notable among these are the courts at Buckman Field as well as Washington, Grant, Laurelhurst, and Gabriel Parks.
2. The era of year round indoor tennis arrived in 1973 with the construction of the Portland Tennis Center (PTC), which has now become the center of activity for public tennis in Portland.
3. A second indoor tennis facility, the Saint johns Racquet Center (SJRC), was added in 1980.
4. Since 1980, however, no tennis facility has been added by Portland Parks, while numerous new and enhanced sports facilities have been constructed for the benefit of other sports and recreational activities.
Most prominent among these are a new golf course at Heron Lakes, new club houses and driving ranges at Eastmoreland and Red Tail golf courses, a new softball complex at Delta Park, artificial turf for the Delta Park soccer field, new skateboard parks, a new disk golf course at Pier Park, as well as new community centers, which include sports and recreational facilities such as basketball and volleyball courts, exercise and martial arts rooms, swimming pools, table tennis and Foosball, etc.
5. In addition, over the same 27 plus years, many tennis facilities have been allowed to deteriorate due to neglect, especially the outdoor courts and SJRC.
6. Adding insult to injury, during preparation of the fiscal year 06-07 budget, the Parks Bureau eliminated General Fund operating money for PTC and SJRC (about 30% of the total cost of operations), and decided to turn over operation of both facilities to a private operator. To that end they issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a private operator, but the RFP was so ill conceived that it produced no proposals, thus leaving the Parks Bureau at the mid point of the fiscal year with neither sufficient operating funds nor another facility operator.
7. When the players first saw the RFP, they immediately recognized that it set financial terms that would be impossible for anyone to meet, and that it was thus doomed to failure, which it was. The players also came to the realization that, based upon the many years of neglect, as previously noted, plus the Parks Bureau actions on the operating budget and RFP, the management apparently did not know what they were doing with regard to the tennis facilities.
8. A group of players with business and financial expertise thus became motivated to perform an economic analysis of PTC and SJRC, and to develop a sound business plan for their operation, which they then submitted to the Parks Bureau.
9. The player group found that:
a. PTC and SJRC combined were generating enough revenue to cover about 70% of their operating costs, which is much higher than all other sports programs except for golf and the PIR, as well as more than the community centers, swimming pools, etc. Currently, PTC is close to the break even point, due to continued high player demand for court time coupled with a recent increase in court fees.
b. PTC and SJRC lack economies of scale due to their relatively small size and separate locations. Seattle, Vancouver and Beaverton (Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District), by comparison, all have much larger, single, centrally located tennis facilities, which are heavily utilized, highly regarded by the players, and apparently financially self sufficient.
c. There is very high demand for court time at PTC, and a high level of player frustration with the difficulty of obtaining court reservation. SJRC, due to its out of the way location, is still not fully utilized, but is currently generating increased business.
d. PTC thus has the potential to be financially self sufficient by covering some or all of the adjoining outdoor courts with an air-supported structure, similar to what has been done in Beaverton.
10. The proposal the players have presented to the Parks Bureau is sound, sensible and workable, but the Parks Bureau dithers, and the players are now once again confronted with the prospect of a continuing shortage of court time along with budget cuts for both operations and badly needed maintenance.
11. The tennis players are not asking for special treatment. They ask only that:
a. Tennis be treated on a par with the other sports, (which it most certainly has not for many years), and
b. The Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation learn from their counterparts in Seattle, Vancouver and Beaverton a better way to manage a successful and player responsive tennis program.
A while back, during the Willamette Week endorsement interviews, City Council candidates were asked which city bureau was the worst managed. They all refused to answer, but I know which one I would have mentioned first. Yep, Parks.
Portland federal public defender Steven Wax is making a splash with this new book about the disgrace that is the American prison camp in Guantánamo, Cuba. If ever there were a reason to vote out the party in power, that awful abridgement of human rights is it.
There have been many disgraces for our nation under Cheney and Bush, but that one is right up there at the top. I still can't believe we're doing it.
We often marvel at the power of the internet, but here's a test. This afternoon the Mrs. found a wallet on the ground at NE 52nd and Halsey in Portland:
Here's the person whose ID is in the wallet:
We've tried our best to find him with Google and other free internet search resources, but we can't come up with a phone number or e-mail address for this fellow, even though his Social Security card is in the wallet.
Now, our readers have solved many a mystery for us over the years, but are we strong enough to find this man and get him in touch with us at blog headquarters? The e-mail address at which to contact us is here.
The flow of election porn to our doorstop just won't stop. Yesterday some members of the Nick Fish posse dropped off this beauty:
For a few weeks now we've been teasing State House candidate Cyreena Boston about the fact that her ads look like fashion magazine material. Well, rest assured, Portland voters, we have no worries in that department with Fish. The guy is the opposite of a clothes horse. For example, in a dramatic show of voluntary simplicity and sustainability, he owns only one dress shirt:
And is that the same gray T-shirt on the back cover as on the front?
The new City of Portland "human relations" director, Maria Lisa Johnson, has an interesting life story. One chapter came earlier this year, when she read the City Council a somewhat testy speech over Cesar Chavez Boulevard, a name change that she and others championed:
It was a beautiful day for a beautiful event -- the annual Walk-a-Thon for Northwest Pilot Project. A few hundred walkers of all ages perambulated the Park Blocks on the Portland State University campus for an hour this afternoon to raise money for housing for needy senior citizens.
We were struck by the complete absence among the participants of a single individual who's currently running for public office. With all those candidates in the Voter's Pamphlet, you might have expected to see a few of their faces on the charity trail on such a nice day. One of the guys in the jam band had a Novick T-shirt on -- that was it. Food for thought.
The hounds who brought down the Presidential candidacy of my favorite contender, John Edwards, often hectored his supporters about his ego. But truth be told, his ego wasn't big enough.
If Edwards had been more of a self-centered jerk, he would have stayed in the race much longer than he actually did. He would have picked up some more delegates. He might have been in a position by now to decide who the winning candidate would be, and stop the bloody scratch fight that's tearing the Democratic Party apart. He might even have had a shot at capturing the nomination himself in a brokered convention.
If he were still around today, the picture for the Democrats might seem a little brighter. As it stands, however, it's not too bright at all. God help America.
The City of Portland has done as its OHSU overlords have required and agreed to a new alignment for the proposed no-cars bridge across the Willamette. It's a good thing my computer's motherboard cooked the other night, because I also destroyed my monitor screen with a huge coffee spit take when I read Vera Katz, queen of the phony-baloney done-deal committee that approved the move, saying: "[I]t's about time we stepped up to help the city's largest employer."
Yes, dear, your putting the city government into bankruptcy for them wasn't enough.
And so now discussion turns to the design of the new span. Behind closed doors in a series of unpublicized charrettes, with the help of design experts Randy Gragg, Jim Francesconi, and Matt Brown, city transportation officials have reportedly decided on a basic design. There'll be a year or so of fake public hearings, ostensibly seeking input on the layout, but word from PDOT is that it's pretty much a done deal. Here's the first computer simulation to leak out of City Hall; it looks pretty authentic to me.
The ballots are already out on the kitchen counter with the sharpened pencils nearby, but still the election porn rolls in. Here Cyreena abandons the Calvin Klein and Macy's looks for something a little more in the foreign film genre:
Old Gordon Smith has gone on the offensive against the two frontrunners in the Democratic Party primary for his seat. He's running a new TV ad painting himself as a candidate of "change." According to the ad, Merkley and Novick are "more of the same." It criticizes Merkley for taking campaign contributions during the legislative session, and Novick for being in love with taxes.
I hope Novick gets the nomination, because if he does, old Gordo isn't going to be able to get away with this low a level of noise. Between the Hook and John Frohnmayer, Smith and his millions are going to have to work a lot harder to keep his job.
The ballots are here, and it's time to stop thinking and talking, and to start voting. Here's what we've decided; how strongly we feel about it (enthusiasm rated on a scale of 1 to 10); whether we think our candidate will win in the primary (confidence rated on the same scale); and what the mainstream media outlets have recommended:
"The utility of (bike boxes) is dubious, and the fact that that’s not really being acknowledged, that there’s just wholesale support for these without any real discussion – that’s what concerns me," he said. "Some of these bike boxes (are) kind of scary. I don’t use them, and they’re confusing."
And wait until someone gets hurt in one of them. The lawyers will do well.
The dead-tree version of the Portland Tribune is scaling down to once a week, on Thursdays. Meanwhile, they're promising more frequent action on their website. (How can they afford what they're spending on bloggers?)
Ink on paper continues to suffer, and a failing economy isn't going to help. One can only hope that while the print editions gradually disappear, professional journalism will persevere on the web. All the more reason to click on those ads on your screen once in a while, I guess.
We've complained a fair amount on this blog about all the versions of the yellow pages that show up on our front porch throughout the year -- unsolicited, unwanted, and thrown immediately into the recycling bin. A reader who is sympathetic to our plight has now sent along a link to this site, which purports to offer a way out.
Have any other readers had any experience with that site? Is it legit? If you give them your information, do they really succeed in getting the wasteful flow of phone books to stop?
If there are so many people supposedly flocking to Portland for the good life here -- so much so that we need Soviet-style apartment towers throughout the city -- how come developers are going bankrupt because our suburbs are overbuilt?
While all of Portland ponders why the city is building a cutesy bike bridge over Interstate 405 in the Pearl District, there's another baffling bridge question worth pondering: Why did the city borrow nearly $9 million in March to move an offramp on the Hawthorne Bridge that won't actually be moved for heaven knows how long?
We've blogged about this a bit before, but the story that we've gotten back from the local bureaucrats so far hardly holds water. The city went in hock back in March to the tune of $8.8 million for "urban renewal" funds that it promptly donated to Multnomah County. The stated purpose of the borrowing and of the transfer of the money was to supply funds to the county to move a bridge offramp on the west side of the Hawthorne span so that a new county courthouse could some day be built where the ramp sits now.
But the key words are "some day," because if you go down and check out the ramp in question today, you'll see that there's no sign of its being moved any time in the near future:
Oh, there's a construction fence around part of that block all right, but that's not about moving the ramp. That's about the private office building that Hoffman Construction is building across First Avenue. There's no sign of any activity even remotely connected with actually moving the ramp. Right now that block is just the Port-a-Potty lot for the office tower construction crew.
Leave aside (for the moment) the odd facts that (a) city taxpayers are paying for a county bridge re-do and a county courthouse, and (b) the county doesn't have the money to build the courthouse. Even if the courthouse were fully bankrolled, it just doesn't make sense for the local government to borrow nearly $9 million in March to fund a construction project with a start date of who-knows-when.
Now, we know what some readers are probably thinking: that the city and county made a smart move, because they can invest the $9 million at a higher return than the interest that the city's paying on those bonds. But guess again. The city is paying higher than 6 percent annual interest on those bonds, and there's no way the city is making that kind of return on its own investments these days.
And what is the county doing with the $9 million while it sits around contemplating its navel about funding things like the new courthouse, the Sellwood Bridge replacement, and the fix for the ongoing mental health care implosion? Given its dire financial straits, it looks to us as though the county might be using that money to meet its payroll.
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2012
Decoy, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Marqués de Murrieta, Reserva Rioja 2010
Kendall-Jackson, Grand Reserve Cabernet 2009
Seven Hills, Merlot 2013
Los Vascos, Grande Reserve Cabernet 2011
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Forlorn Hope, St. Laurent, Ost-Intrigen 2013
Upper Five, Tempranillo 2010 and 2012
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Topsail, Syrah 2013
Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013
Robert Mondavi, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2012
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2014
Boomtown, Cabernet 2013
Boulay, Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Domaine de Durban Muscat 2011
Patricia Green, Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Crios, Cabernet, Mendoza 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Dehesa la Granja, Tempranillo 2008
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #15
Selvapiana, Chianti Ruffina 2012
Joseph Carr, Cabernet 2012
Prendo, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2014
Joel Gott, Oregon Pinot Gris 2014
Otazu, Red 2010
Chehalem, Pinot Gris, Three Vineyards 2013
Wente, Merlot, Sandstone 2011
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2012
Monmousseau, Vouvray 2014
Duriguttti, Malbec 2013
Ruby, Pinot Noir 2012
Castellare, Chianti 2013
Lugana, San Benedetto 2013
Canoe Ridge, Cabernet, Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Arcangelo, Negroamaro Rosato
Vale do Bomfim, Douro 2012
Portuga, Branco 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2009
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Kristina's Reserve 2010
Rodney Strong, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 28, 2012
Coppola, Sofia, Rose 2014
Kirkland, Napa Cabernet 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Napa Meritage 2011
Kramer, Chardonnay Estate 2012
Forlorn Hope, Que Saudade 2013
Ramos, Premium Tinto, Alentejano 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Rutherford Cabernet 2012
Bottego Vinaia, Pinot Grigio Trentino 2013
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2011
Pete's Mountain, Elijah's Reserve Cabernet, 2007
Beaulieu, George Latour Cabernet 1998
Januik, Merlot 2011
Torricino, Campania Falanghina 2013
Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold 2012
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2010
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
The Occasional Book
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt
Miles run year to date: 144
At this date last year: 203
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269