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Monday, August 4, 2008

Who decides, and how?

I've been following with interest the City of Portland's self-proclaimed "hit squad" of inspectors from several bureaus, organized and headed by Fireman Randy, that swoops down on businesses that are out of favor with the City Hall powers. They're currently putting the screws to the folks who own the Greek Cusina downtown, and before this it was Cindy's adult bookstore in Chinatown.

Without getting into the merits of either of those two particular cases, it seems clear that there are many, many rules and regulations on the city's books that are not regularly enforced. But when the city decides it doesn't like the way a business is operated, it pulls out every single one of them and throws the book at the targeted merchant.

Who makes the call on which establishments to torment, and what criteria does that decisionmaker use to choose a target? It reminds me an awful lot of the way things are done in places like Chicago and Jersey City -- too much so for comfort.

Comments (35)

Careful with your criticisms Bojack. Do you have a city business license to operate your blog? Have you had an annual fire inspection to make sure those computer cables under your desk aren't a hazard? Have you paid your city business taxes for the ad revenues you derive from your blog? And as long as we're in here looking at this other stuff, did you get a permit for that bathroom remodel? Can you show us your permit for the pruning you did on that tree in your parking strip? Mind if we have a look around to see if there's anything we've missed??

It all starts with the cops. Too many calls for service and the budget gets drained. Save the budget and get rid of the troublemakers.

It is not just the City of Portland, happened with my business when Clackamas County wanted 21' of our frontage for free.

First they tried you don't have any final approvals on your building permits and we have to charge you $$$ to come out an inspect your property. I had saved every single building permit all signed off neat and tidy.

Never, ever part with a final approval on any building permit. They do not get entered into the county system so they can always find a way to make life miseralbe for a property owner!

"Who makes the call on which establishments to torment, and what criteria does that decisionmaker use to choose a target?"

I very much doubt there's any kind of formal process for that. Whichever business gets under the wrong person's skin: a developer, a more powerful/acceptable business owner, or one of the councilmen directly.

Sad to think that ordinary citizens might need protections at least as good as that of civil servants.

We need to unionize to protect us from Randy and his thugs.


The Grove Hotel was not a place you would allow your pet to stay. There were rats, mice, disconnected sinks and toilets, drug dealing, prostitution all sprinkled with elderly men and women who had nowhere else to stay in addition to severely mentally ill people who victimized daily by the cretins that prey on the weak and defenseless. Permeating all of this grandeur was a strong urine smell.

How so very quaint.

All of this grandeur was gleefully hosted by the onsite owner…to the tunes of tens of thousands of dollars in pure profit every year.

From the reports on the Greek Cusina, the kitchen is replete with sanitary and building code violations. The owner has cut out whole portions of floors, without a permit, shutting down the fire sprinkler system in the process, creating a ticking bomb that would have exploded in fire, from bottom to top, if even one of the hundreds illegal wiring jobs had sparked and caused a fire. The poor firemen who climbed the fire escape would likely have fallen to the ground as the structure was so decayed from lack of maintenance, it would have broken free of the building.

That combined with the gang shootings and violence that is unique to this sweet little gathering spot.

The final straw was him refusing entry to city employees that wanted to inspect the premises. They had to get a warrant to get inside.

Nothing like asking for it.

I would drink the alcohol there (alcohol is an excellent germ and virus killing agent) but I would not feed your dog there.

If that is what Chicago and Jersey are going after, I say "good on them".

I kind’ a doubt it though.

As an owner of a valuable waterfront property that is listed in several city documents as a key missing link in the Greenway trail the City of Portland and Metro have done almost everything to run us out of town and gleefully sacrifice our 200 plus jobs, hundreds of thousands in taxes, and a major tourism attraction all for a riverfront bike trail that is already in place one block East. Yes, the City and Metro play hardball.

I had an addition (120 squ ft bedroom) added to my house a few years ago and used a 30 year contractor and a respectable architect and it took 16 site visits by various city inspectors to get the job completed (over three months). Needless to say the costs went up.

They send tax auditors, water inspectors, health inspectors, fire inspectors, agriculture inspectors, building inspectors, city planners and traffic engineers to plan road through your property that go no where so when you do develop your property you need to negotiate with the City to get the road off the plan). The tool box is very full for screwing with business. In a recent conversation with a city inspector I told him I knew the latest harassment was based on me turning in an Electrical inspector for demanding a bribe. I told him I have learned my lesson and I have paid every bribe demanded by a city employee since. He left me alone after that. If the city spent one tenth the time assisting business it takes for harassing business we could have a growing economy.

Metro's latest attempt to get rid of us was to move the Milwaukie Light Rail bridge from OMSI south to our property. Tens of thousands of legal expenses and the Bridge has been moved back north.

This is a tough town to do business in and if you are determined to do prepared to fight hard. I understand why so many leave for our three neighboring counties.

The City that over.

Keep fighting Don. More of us need to stand up to the mess that is the local government.

You pose an interesting question Jack, with the "Who Decides, and How?" When I tried to track this down, as the city and council violate code routinely. In one of your strings, when Dave Lister and I were brainstorming, one of your Trolls suggested that anyone could bring code violation to light. However, if you read the code the Troll suggested and the requirements needed to bring a code violation to a hearings officer, it has to be done by someone within city government, and a regular citizen can only ask directly for a hearings officer to review a code violation if it is for that person's alleged violation. I delved quite deeply in the City code. If anyone knows how to hold the city and its officials accountable for violating City code and by what process, law, or stature it is enforced, I would be really interested in hearing how.

The way this city applies the laws differently for different businesses is wrong. It's better to move out of Portland. I have been a lot happier since I moved to Tigard. Business is good, and whenever I need something from the city, I feel like they want to help me. When I was in Portland, I never had awful experiences like Dan Yates, but I always felt that the city was trying to make things hard. Every little thing had to be difficult.

Ther way Randy applies his version of law and leadership is cavalear, reckless and irresponsible.
A perfect fit for Portland policymaking.

It's very apparent how the CoP determines which regulations to enforce & so on... use the following criteria:

  1. Does said company's workers all use bikes as their ONLY method of transportation?

  2. Do ALL company's workers shop ONLY at botique, overpriced grocery stores such as Whole Foods?

  3. Are all the company's workers liberal elitists?

  4. Do ALL the company's workers blindly follow rules?

  5. Do ALL the company's workers live in or absolutely adore The Pearl?

  6. Do all the company's employees feel that ONLY Mayor Sam Adams can fix things for them?

If the answer is "no" to any of these, prepare for the ass-ram that is P-town's regulatory laws to make running your business miserable!!

Jeff, those things do not matter as much as you think. Donating at least $1,000 each to the campaigns of the city council members, mayor, and auditor is what makes things easy when you call their staff to help you with a problem. I stupidly did not do that when I was in Portland. I found out too late that that's what was expected. When one door closes, another opens.

I'd like to see Randy target one of our local Russian crime rings for enhanced enforcement efforts, instead of a Greek restauranteur.

I'm pretty certain they would make him an offer he couldn't refuse. He might even decide to spend more time at the Water Bureau.

Talking about permits, I am hoping the initiative to exempt up to $35k of house maintenance and upgrade investments from permitting is passed by voters this November. It will help home owners update their houses legitimately without getting an increase in tax assessments, assuming the city & county won't be privy to the upgrades/renovations. The renovations still must meet code but it removes the city and county from the process.

Some renovations now occur in secret and in violation of code because of the desire to keep it secret from government taxing authorities.

Businesses that are not location dependent, like ours, leave. Pure and simple.

Annual business license in Portland:

Annual business license in Tigard:

Not being under the thumb of Portland:

Warning, Randy's bad, but don't piss off a building inspector, that can make life very miserable for you.

When their mode of business is fix this and come back (repeat 20x) to get a final occ permit, you can be caught in an endless loop for no good reason outside of whimsy.

PDX Guy . . . wow, "tens of thousands of dollars of pure profit each year?" For a owner working what amounts to a full-time job as manager? The nerve of some people, expecting to make a livelihood without the city's interference and shepherding!

Most of you business owners think having to play by ANY rules is an affront to your freedoms. I've never meet a bigger group of whiners. Like the people on bikes, you don't think rules apply to you for some reason.

Like the people on bikes, you don't think rules apply to you for some reason.

I think that's unfair, business owners, even microscopic sized business owners like me, just want fair, equitably applied rules.

And I resent the bikes analogy.

Where's you car, I want to key it!

I'd be willing to bet you've never created a job, never paid anyone a living wage and never taken a risk.

Small business owners stick out their necks because they have a vision. In our case not a vision to become rich, but just a vision to provide security for ourselves in a world which provides none.

For 23 years we've worked hard, slept well, and provided well paid employment to Oregonians.

That's a record I'm proud of. And government never helped us one wit.

What have you ever done for anyone else?

As an owner of a valuable waterfront property that is listed in several city documents as a key missing link in the Greenway trail...all for a riverfront bike trail that is already in place one block East.

That would be the bike trail "one block East" where the cyclists compete with the cement trucks for space on the dirty, dusty road? Great "trail" for our kids?

The river belongs to all of us, Dan, and sharing it --rather than fencing it off, as you do-- seems the real generosity inherent in the Portland Spirit.

I've enjoyed many a time on your boats, Dan, and don't begrudge your storing them in "our" river. Why begrudge us safe passage and access in our own neighborhood?

government never helped us one wit

I guess, Dave, you can say that if you've never been to a Beavers or Blazers game, never stepped inside a building inspected and protected by the City, nor driven down a city street, nor walked down one of our sidewalks.

Ever take a plane from PDX? A cab from PDX to home? Think the government's got nothing to do with any of that?

I'm guessing the water you drink, and the pot you piss in, all has guvmint involvement.

Do we screw up? Sure. Become amazingly annoying? Absolutely. But we didn't fight a revolution to throw off the yokes of government, but to make it our government...of the people, for the people. All that loftly rhetoric meant --and continues to mean-- something.

Why not keep that the vision, government of and for the people...that's still something worth fighting for, isn't it?

Frank Dufay:

I LOVE IT! "Sharing" is the generousity of the Portland Spirit!

And if you don't willingly "share it," we will take it from you.

The Portland Spirit pays dearly for "storing" its boats in the river, yet the city wants them to "share" their property, not just for free, but actually wants to force them to build and maintain the path at their expense!

This reminds me of a song my daughter's grade school sang several years ago in one of those all school spring concerts.

Riverdale Grade School, home of all those ultra-rich liberals. The chorus of the song went (I swear I am not making this up):

"Y - O - U - R - S, take off the Y and it's OURS! And that's what I call fair!"

Frank did you go to Riverdale?

Frank did you go to Riverdale?

Nah...graduated King's Park public HS on Long Island, where nearly all the waterfront --both Ocean and Sound sides-- remains in private hands.

Funny thing about the coast here in Oregon, with access to everyone. Such an ignoble, un-American concept. Let's put up those fences, already...

"Think the government's got nothing to do with any of that?"

Govt does two basic things - tax and make laws - neither of which have creted anything. Just saying the govt has its fingerprints on everything doesn't say it helped create one job or spur any innovation.

Right now, govt main interest is looking out for govt and what it wants and not the taxpayer who funds all of these dreams.

I think Frank is imagining the river bank or beach being the issue here. It's not.

The city wants some of Yates land well above the bank or beach.

You are right and I concede that point. All businesses rely on the government to maintain the basic infrastructure and provide the services that are conducive to our being able to do business.

If the government class stuck to that, I'd be quite happy. Unfortunately they don't. They pick and choose which businesses they think are "sustainable" (think Petersens), they provide grants and tax abatements to the favored, and penalize the unfavored. Particularly in Portland, they seem to think that government can create private sector jobs (it can't) and that development is best used for social engineering.

Nearly fifty cents of every dollar that flows through our business goes to some type of tax or fee. If that trend continues, there will be no incentive for anyone to go into business. Without the private sector's support, public sector jobs will disappear as well.

Randy tends to shoot from the hip, which makes his positions all but impossible to predict in advance. It's a smart way to stay ahead of your critics, and in his case, to stay electable. But it's bloody difficult to work with, I would imagine...

Knew a guy once who refused to put up a sign on his business property supporting a particular initiative because he did not want to encourage a visit from the city inspectors.

I alway thought that we needed a grand jury to look at some of what goes on under the sheets in Portland. Know I know we do.


There's an interesting lead article in the August issue of the NW Examiner about total lack of oversight and enforcement in the area of sidewalk use (and misuse) by NW neighborhood restaurants. It's worth a look.

Frank, you referred to the street one block east of the Yates property as a "dirty, dusty road".

It is a wide, concrete surfaced street with a well signed eight foot wide bike lane that connects directly to the Spring Water bike trail besides nicely connecting to the trail in front of the Portland Opera building. I find this portion of the trail in much better shape than the trail through the OMSI site and the city owned trail under the Hawthorne Bridge.

And I could go on to cite all the deficient portions of the bike loop that extends down to the Sellwood Bridge and across and down the westside of the Willamette. Most of the problem areas are under the jurisdiction of CoP, like the trail from Sellwood Bridge through the Butterfly Park area with pot holes, only two feet wide, tree root bulges, etc.

When was the last time you rode any of this loop?

It is a wide, concrete surfaced street with a well signed eight foot wide bike lane that connects directly to the Spring Water bike trail...

With cement trucks using that street not just for transportation, but as a staging area. Not to mention the door store with its trucks jutting out into the street, blocking sidewalk, bike lane and even part of the improved roadway. Not to mention that this is also a major staging and construction area for the Big Pipe.

I'm more walker than rider these days, Jerry, and that is NOT a street of safe passage from any perspective.

I think Frank is imagining the river bank or beach being the issue here. It's not...The city wants some of Yates land well above the bank or beach.

The point is that access to the bank and beach is marked "private property, no trespassing." And "the city wants" seems to reflect the sentiment of our citizens at large who support public access to public land, suggested by the support from our neighborhood association, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and many more groups. Versus one property owner's insistence on locking up access behind a chain link fence. A property owner who uses the river commercially at that location, but denies our neighborhood any semblance of reasonable public access.

When two developments were proposed in this area, one provided a well-designed connection to the Springwater corridor. The other development agreement had a requirement that the buyer --SK Northwest--oppose extension of the Springwater Trail, as he ultimately did.

Which developer has the Portland Spirit? I think it's a matter of perspective, not just property ownership.


No where in the Greenway code does it say that public has right to enter land past 25 feet from top the bank for their access. The code assumes that there is a continuous trail within the 25 feet of the bank...not access deeper than that. If you get past the majority rules/wants and actually look at the law..both State and Federal the easement is legal if it meets certain of which, is a state law, the trail is not required in marine related or dependent industrial or commercial land. The City of Portland has gone past state law and and agrees that it is not required in industrial marine dependent land ie the Port of Portland...still the city ignores its own code and demands the trail everywhere. If you look at the Portland Spirit land it is zoned industrial and a reasonable person might believe that Portland Spirit is a marine business..I know the Planning Department tried to convince the courts were not. They have lost that absurd argument.

I know you have not been following the SK property and the Hanna development. The Hanna development traded the trail for the right to build two 300ft was a financial decision to allow the city across, but the city planners could not get the fire department to certify the building of the towers and the trail is back on the table as the $1.5 million trail/bridge version is not affordable with the reduced development. As for SK the city testified at their own hearing, at LUBA and the State Court of Appeals that the cost of the trail is only about 27k (about 2% of the property cost)and mets the Supreme Court rough proportionality test....The courts agreed, but the City changed its tune with its "victory" and the new trail cost is now closer to $200k and about 20% of the property cost...failing the SK has been willing to do the 27k and have the City pick up the costs above the City supplied cost estimates. We will see what version of a trail gets built, but I bet it is closer to 27k and not 200k.

Officially the Portland Spirit has nothing against the trail, bikes and walkers, but we do support property rights and the law. I look forward to honest government in Portland, unfortunately we do not have it has long as the rights of the minority is overridden by the loud majority. I think the Spirit of Portland is doing something unpopular if it is right.


It's not about "the law" or 25 versus 30 feet from "top of bank" (while attorneys argue over where even that is!)

It's about spirit, intent, neighborliness. Access versus chain link fence. Being able to see the river that belongs to all of us.

I've had many a ride aboard your boats, and seeing Portland from the river is a view like no other. Thanks for that. But let's not pretend the view from the shore belongs to only those who own the land.


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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

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
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

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