A moment of silence
A great one has left us.
|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
A great one has left us.
I've been running again. Not as much as I could if I were serious about it, but more regularly than in several years. I recently purchased a couple of new pairs of running shoes, which were long overdue, and I'm hoping to stay in halfway decent running shape, and injury-free, for a long time. The days in which I aspired to speed are long past, but the old man shuffle will do just fine as part of a program to keep body and soul together.
Yesterday I decided to try a maiden voyage with the iPhone providing the musical soundtrack. And there on the Eastbank Esplanade, just past the halfway point of my route for the day, a wondrous thing happened. The music faded out, and the phone rang! I knew what to do. I clicked on the little thingy on the earbud cord, and there was the melodious voice of our daughter. We talked for a minute or two -- said thingy also serving as a microphone -- and when we said goodbye, I clicked again, and the tunes resumed right where they left off. Pretty awesome.
Not to mention that it was my longest run (by a slight margin, but hey) since June of 2005. The knees may be a little grouchy today, but spirits are high.
We finished our good friend Phil Stanford's excellent new book The Peyton-Allan Files the other night. And we were about to sit down and compose a proper review of it, but that idea just didn't pan out. We're finding it difficult to discuss this documentary in a meaningful way without giving away the ending. Granted, it's a true-life story, and the outcome has been a public record for decades, but it's not something that we ever heard about in our 32-plus years living in the same town as the murders in question.
And so we advise readers to head out and read the book soon, before somebody spoils it for them. It's a great yarn, well told -- we will leave it at that for now.
Our players have looked at the field of underdogs on this week's pro football schedule -- all of said 'dogs being on the road -- and here are their choices:
7.5 BUFFALO at Kansas City - Larry Legend, Bob, Biggest Cubs Loser, Doug
6 JACKSONVILLE at Dallas - Ricardo, Flowers by Dorcas, Broadway Joe, Andy, john dull, Jim
5.5 HOUSTON at Indianapolis - PJB
5 GREEN BAY at New York Jets - Paul, Gordon, Hank, Gary, Matt, Sattelihu, Umpire, Conrad, pdxmick, Mike G., Michael K., Drewbob
5 MINNESOTA at New England - Flowers by Dorcas Husband, Annie
3.5 TENNESSEE at San Diego - Anthony
2.5 SEATTLE at Oakland - Nick
Good luck and enjoy the games, everyone.
Among the last-minute election porn arriving on our doorstep is this one. It's the fourth -- count 'em, fourth -- mailer from the people pushing Portland's wasteful practice of financing local politicians' campaigns with property tax dollars:
I love the part about Karl Rove. Yeah, Karl's really throwing his weight around in Portland.
The fingerprints of political manipulator Mark Wiener are all over that one. As well they should be -- this ballot measure will have us taxpayers making Wiener a nice retirement. Mark loves to point to Bush as being in favor of whenever he's been hired to oppose. Works like a charm with the sheep of Portland.
Also in the snail mail pile is another one from the folks wanting to carve out state lottery loot for the birds and the bees:
I may still vote for this thing, but I think this argument is complete garbage. Measure 76 supposedly does nothing more than make the status quo permanent -- insuring that the current dedication of lottery funds to open space and the environment can't be changed. If that's the case, how does it "create" even a single job, much less thousands? It may preserve some existing jobs -- even that's arguable -- but keeping things the way they are by definition doesn't "create" anything.
Season of lies, season of dirty, dirty pool. Thank heaven it will be over in three days.
The last-minute election porn is flowing hard and hot into our mailbox. Here are a couple of the latest gems.
I see they finally spotted a white guy over at the library, and put him in their pitch for a new taxing district. He's too stupid to function on his own, of course:
And this one's just flat-out evil from Tri-Met. "Give us more millions to hand to Homer Williams -- it's for the cripples." As my sainted grandmother used to say, someone will burn in hell for that one:
This town has now gone way beyond bizarre.
And if you vote in favor of the Tri-Met property tax, perhaps it's rubbed off on you.
Here it is -- a fourth piece of glossy election porn in less than two weeks from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and the third devoted exclusively to telling us what a dedicated environmentalist Bob Stacey is:
What hypocrites. If you haven't voted in the Metro president race yet, save the trees and go for Tom Hughes.
We definitely need to take a trip down the freeway one day next summer and catch the action down there.
As I said the other day, I'm sure glad this fellow (scroll down) is not living in the White House.
It's hard to know exactly what to make of this. The City of Portland is going to provide storage for homeless people's shopping carts and their contents. Along with Fireman Randy's wonder-toilets and the huge "resource center" being built by the Greyhound station, the storage deal shows the compassion of Portland for our fellow travelers who are down on their luck.
At some point, all these services will likely become an attraction for homeless people from other places. And we doubt that Portland really wants to become any more of a magnet for street folks than it already is, does it? Where is that tipping point, and are we anywhere near it?
Here's an interesting issue that's cropped up in our little corner of the blogosphere. A reader writes:
A long time ago, I randomly posted a few comments on [a post on your blog]. It was in my college years, and frankly, reading it over again I'm surprised by my tone; my apologies.The comments were pretty snotty, and other readers responded to them. My software will allow me to change the reader's signature on the comment so as to eliminate his last name; perhaps that would be a solution.
Anyway, I’m keeping my eye out for employment opportunities at the moment and was hoping it was possible to remove the comments. I don't know why, but I put my full name in the comments and when I "google" myself it comes up pretty high on the list. Obviously, there are very few people who share my name and they say it is important to see what comes up on internet searches for prospective employers. Anyway, I'd appreciate it, but the power is yours. Keep up the good work; I enjoy reading the blog every now and then.
Or maybe I should leave the comment up there and let him "own" it. Or how about I ask him how much it's worth to him for me to take it down? (The devil made me think of that option.) What do other readers think?
It's a little like meeting Jack Ruby.
The lovable tech tycoon hears from some people who recently had the honor of dealing with him.
Here's a fascinating story, the potential ramifications of which we have only just begun to contemplate.
Not only is Oregon's obscene public employee pension system violating state law by refusing to disclose pension recipients and their benefits, but it also has money to hire an outside lawyer to fight the state's own attorney general on the issue.
What a rogue agency. When the battle between the public and the government employee pension machine begins in earnest -- the real throwdown is still a few years away -- this kind of behavior will hasten the defeat of that machine.
As Portland continues the rip-up of its civic stadium for Little Lord Paulson's "major league" soccer team, the league's future remains in doubt. They just released MLS's television ratings for the season just concluded -- only 249,000 average viewers per Thursday night game, down 12.3% from last year and the lowest in the last three years. The Saturday night games drew just 53,000 viewers apiece, same as last year.
Soccer is popular in Portland, but if the league fails, the taxpayers will likely regret rendering PGE Park unusable for baseball. And without TV revenue, which pretty obviously is never going to come, it's hard to see how the soccer organization will survive.
Rolling Stone lead guitarist and songwriter Keith Richards is much in the news these days, with an autobiography on the stands. Even Maureen Dowd is crowing about what a nice guy he is. And she's not the first one, or even the second one, we've heard that from. In keeping with our openness to stories of brushes with rock greatness, here's a firsthand account from Michael, a high school buddy of ours who now lives in Sin City:
I flew up from Antigua one nite, and as we were waiting for the plane to board, in the small airport in Coolidge Field, now V.C Bird International Airport, I found myself surrounded by Keith, Patti, his mother-in-Law, Patti's mom, and their two daughters, Theodora and Alexandra. Toddlers at the time.
As you know, in Antigua, you walk to the jumbo and climb the big staircase, and when the flight was called it came to be that Keith and I were walking side by side, and his family, wife, daughters and Mum in Law walking about 20 yards ahead of us. Keith and I shoulder-to-shoulder and he walking with a cane, straw hat, and the scene in front of us was a Kodak moment. About halfway out the tarmac, smell of kerosene and sound of jet engines starting to turn, I looked at Keith and said, "You must have done something right, mate." He looked at me, and replied, "Don't know what it was."
We boarded the jet, and as luck would have it, my seat was between Keith and Patti's mom and the children. Four and a half hours to N.Y., Dude pounded cognacs and Heinekens. In those days you could smoke (in 1988). One Marlboro after another. Landed at Kennedy, the girls were like four and three, Keith is telling them they have to carry some of their own "bits and pieces" as we deplane. Walking onward at Kennedy, towards Customs, Keith is separated from us, as he is a British subject, and we clear Customs in a different area. We see him met by an American Airlines rep. and we clear through, Patti, the girls, and her mom. I had spent a few afternoons chatting with Patti and her mom that winter at Shirley Heights, a Sunday afternoon soiree popular in Antigua.
So finally, Keith comes through, relieved, and he is chatting with a lady in a wheelchair, telling her where the luggage would be and helping her move towards that direction. The whole time he was collecting all the luggage, he was telling that lady, who had no idea who he was at first, about her luggage, where it would be coming up, asking her what it looked like. Looking after her. Meanwhile, people start to notice he is there, they ask for autographs, he obliges, they ask for photographs, he puts his arm around them like a long lost best friend. I knew he had to be slightly buzzed, but to all these people he was and is, Keith Richards. Mary, our sister, was picking me up, but at least three times he reiterated that he had plenty of room in his car(s) if I needed a lift into the city. "Are you sure, man" -- several times. He made sure the lady in the wheelchair was accounted for, I said goodbye to everyone, and walked out to meet Mary sitting curbside waiting for me.
That following Sunday I was walking in Central Park, and walked right up to a horse-drawn carriage, in which, unbelievably were Patti, the girls, and her mom. Patti, as charming as anyone can possibly be, saying "I knew we would see you again."
Our paths have never crossed from that day to this, but that small, very personal vignette, should give a clear and accurate picture of just how much of a genuine, kind, unassuming, family-oriented gentleman Keith Richards really is. It has been an inspiration to me, many times, when you run across some pretentious twit here in Las Vegas; all the while, I know the biggest of the biggest stars, he a number one Rock and Roll Superstar, was not anything like that at all.
We've written about the three pieces of expensive, glossy junk mail we've received in this election cycle from the League Of Conservation Voters. Now the League of Women Voters has joined in the orgy of waste paper, pitching Portland's "clean money" taxpayer financing of local politicians' elections:
It's amazing how much private money these folks are spending to influence the election, all the while arguing strenuously that private money shouldn't be allowed to influence elections. Then there's the endless search for the boogieman:
Portland Business Alliance -- bad! Utilities -- bad! Let's run them all out of town. Then we can get all of our goods and services from greasy carts, like we do now with prepared food. Clothes carts! Dental carts! Just think of the possibilities.
"Voter-owned" elections are a flop. We've spent nearly $1.8 million on fruitless, goofball campaigns, several of which were for people who can't even get a real job, much less be elected to public office. All we have to show for the dough is Amanda Fritz. Even if you think she's doing a good job, she could have been elected without tax dollars.
The Portland "clean money" system guarantees that the incumbent will win every time, it gives the government employee unions a tremendous advantage when a seat comes open, and it hasn't changed the influence of big money on City Hall one whit.
Meanwhile, we can't buy a fire truck without a property tax increase? Get lost.
When the City of Portland told us that they were going to convert Klickitat Street near blog headquarters into a bike boulevard, we yawned and thought, o.k. They've already painted the inane "sharrows" on the pavement (wonder how much that project cost per "sharrow") -- what else would they do? Put in some curb extensions on some corners, add some new signage, maybe paint a few more markings on the street surface.
But as they say on the infomercials -- wait, there's more:
Soil and pavement testing? They must be getting ready to add some bioswales to the neighborhood. These are the stark holes in the ground, formerly known as drainage ditches, that let water percolate into the soil rather than go into the city's monumentally expensive, yet surprisingly ineffective, storm sewer system. Since the City Council is stealing sewer money to pay for bike paths, now the two necessarily go hand in hand.
Only from the twisted mind of Mayor Creepy could such bizarre linkages emerge. Just like the sewer "cost savings" that are supposed to pay for the bike goodies. Complete bunk. But vaguely "green"-sounding, and isn't that all that matters in Portland?
It should be pretty nice.
While Portlanders are voting on the current crop of property tax increases, they might want to save some room for the public schools. The schools are planning another tax increase vote in May. They set their construction needs at a mere $900 million.
An interesting couple of e-mail messages today from Maria Lisa Johnson, head of the City of Portland's Human Rights Commission (and street renaming cabal). First this one:
Then a short time later, this one:
What happened? Did the meeting get cancelled? Too bad for the people who were hoping for some good eats.
Here are the underdogs (in caps) for this week in our charity pro football contest. None of them will be playing at home:
7.5 BUFFALO at Kansas City
6 JACKSONVILLE at Dallas
5.5 HOUSTON at Indianapolis
5 GREEN BAY at New York Jets
5 MINNESOTA at New England
3.5 TENNESSEE at San Diego
3 CAROLINA at St. Louis
3 TAMPA BAY at Arizona
2.5 SEATTLE at Oakland
2 MIAMI at Cincinnati
1 WASHINGTON at Detroit
1 DENVER vs. San Francisco in London
Our official oddsmaker reports: "Steelers/Saints is a pick 'em, and thus off the board."
See any 'dog who can get the job done without the benefit of the point spread? Kibitzers, please chime in.
Here are the season standings so far:
He's fronting for the potheads now.
Players in our charity pool, please stand by -- this week's games will be posted this evening.
Another of our readers has been dropping us a line every now and then from an ongoing cross-country trip. This one from this morning is interesting:
We have been on the road now for about 6 weeks. We have logged over 5,000 miles and driven through 15 states.
The Huff Post has been running a continuous story line about "3rd world America" for some time now, telling people's stories of hard times.
Here is what we see traveling in our little (22-foot Class C) RV that is 18 years old. The more "fortunate" people in 3rd world America are living in motor homes, 5th wheels and trailers full time. They work part time when they can, or are physically able to do so. This is a vast "underclass" that has developed over time. We saw evidence of its beginnings 3 years ago when we took a long winter vacation in our camper. Now it is much more prevalent.
We are currently in an inner-city RV park in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. I would estimate that 80% of the spaces are occupied by "full-timers." The man in the trailer behind our rig is a motorcycle cop and pulls out of here in full uniform every a.m. Everyone is very nice to us and our little dog, and I feel comfortable here. These folks run a good camp and don't put up with any bad stuff. We feel comfortable enough to store our rig here while we go to the Bahamas for a month.
Some places are not so nice or well run. In Bakersfield, we stayed one place one night, and I am positive the next-door neighbors were cooking meth in their trailer.
So while the pundits go on and on about how to try and solve the economic problems in our country, there are a great many people who have never appeared in the statistics. These folks are just getting by, hanging on hoping for better times and listening to the messages paid for by goofball uber-rich (Koch brothers), and delivered by the likes of Sarah, Rush and Glenn, who make promises they have no intention of keeping.
In contrast to this semi-poverty is the current event of the pre-season here, The International Boat Show. It is arguably the largest boat show in the world. The mega yachts show up here to party and for the owners to see and be seen.
It costs between $18 and $32 per day to get in the show, which runs for 4 days. The boats on display are mostly power boats and range in size from luxurious runabouts to a 238-foot mega yacht. That boat costs about $250 grand a week to rent, not including food, booze and crew tips. If you want to buy such a craft, you will have to shell out about $100 million. You do NOT get to go aboard the mega yachts except by private invitation.
So there is the contrast. The richy rich are getting richer and then there are the rest of us...
Yeah, that one off in the distance. It sounds a little like a warning siren.
You can wear your Blazer jersey while filling out your ballot.
This has success written all over it, doesn't it?
Members of the First Tech Credit Union here in the Portland area will have another ballot to fill out pretty soon -- asking them whether they want First Tech to merge with a Palo Alto outfit called Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union. The regulators have apparently said yes to the deal, which the managers of both companies want, and now it's up to the rank and file members of
the two institutions First Tech to say yea or nay.
Here's the sales pitch that the First Tech members are getting. You've got to love the presentation of the proposed new CEO, who's down in Palo Alto: He's a "cycling fanatic" who often rides his bike to work! Well, that settles it. Honey, bring me the No. 2 pencil.
CORRECTION! The Addison Avenue members apparently do not get to vote. Credit union mergers are not like other mergers, apparently. Financial institutions get away with murder. So what else is new?
Fireman Randy was on the Mark and Dave radio show yesterday afternoon, selling the new property taxes for fire trucks. He gave the usual Portland City Hall song and dance about separate pots of money, leading to the conclusion that there's simply no way for the city to buy new fire trucks without either getting the new tax or laying off firefighters. All smothered in his extra special sales pitch, "What if your house was on fire and the fire truck broke down?"
Then I got home and spent a little time on the city's website, where the city pays people to produce page after page of junk like this.
Mark and Dave let him off way too easy. They asked the right questions, but accepted unconvincing answers.
Here's a story about a website with a very strange view of the world.
A reader in Portland worries that it might depend on what kind of writing instrument you use to fill it out. The reader writes:
Since more people probably get their election info from your blog than from the county elections office, you might want to pass this tidbit along.Sorry, your view does not match the prevailing dogma -- vote-by-mail is wonderful -- and has been summarily rejected.
When filling out my ballot this time, I noticed that the felt-tipped pen I was using occasionally bled through to the reverse of the double-sided ballot. I figured this shouldn't be a problem, since the ovals on one side correspond to "dead space" on the reverse side, but out of an abundance of caution I called the elections office to check. They informed me that any bleed-through spoils the ballot, and I'll have to go in to their office and get a replacement ballot.
Since I've used this same pen on prior ballots, I guess my previous votes may well have never been counted. Yet another reason I'd prefer to just go to a polling place where the county could provide the correct type of pen and I could resolve questions face-to-face with a precinct worker.
It would be interesting to know how many ballots that are turned in are rejected as "spoiled."
Just about everything prosecutors do is done for multiple reasons. Why these indictments were handed up today as opposed to... oh, I don't know... a week from tomorrow, is worth contemplating.
Just think: A week from tonight the election will be over.
The final environmental impact study on the insane Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail project has been released. Go ahead and read the whole thing here; I can't bring myself to look at it today.
The Portland bassist even makes the fashion page.
October is fading fast, people, and that means pro basketball is about to resume in earnest. How will the Portland Trail Blazers make out in this campaign, which kicks off tonight with a home game against the Phoenix Suns? We know what we think, but how about you?
The flyer we got in the mail urging us to vote for "voter-owned" elections contained more than just the guy from Newberg. It also showed a soccer-mom schoolteacher, a teachers' union representative, and these two people:
We looked at these two for a long time. Are they the folks that need to be courted to start to make changes in the way Portland is governed? We're assuming that the teacher (if she works in a public school) and her union pal will never budge from the way things are now, but these two might. What will it take to get them to look past "green" and "bicycle" and "progressive," and think critically about financial realities?
Maybe those realities are simply too bleak for them to contemplate, and so for them it's "Make 'green' while the sun shines." But without their votes, Portland is likely to ride its current rut all the way over the edge of the cliff.
For the middle class, the royal screw.
This one's right up there with the Rasheed Wallace Sportsmanship Camp:
Let the state government educate your kids about money.
Ah, the recurring drama.
Well, your sign was illegal, and it was bigger than the ones that the city normally winks at, and the person who removed it may have been more mad about that than he or she was opposed to the content of your message. And no, he or she shouldn't have chopped it down, but try a smaller one next time.
This article documents San Francisco's looming fiscal disaster over municipal employee pensions and retiree health care benefits. It complains that not enough is being done to stop the train wreck.
Ironically, San Francisco has done more than Portland, whose $2.55 billion police and firefighter pension liability is completely unfunded, and which has an underfunding of about another half-billion in assorted other pension and oldie health care obligations.
Phil Stanford's new book hits the stands this week, and it's a beauty -- a real-life murder mystery from the Portland of 50 years ago. The guy sure knows how to research and tell a story. Way to go, Phil.
This one's a howler. We got another "election porn" mailer over the weekend from the "voter-owned" people -- you know, the ones pushing the Portland ballot measure whereby the taxpayers get to pay for local politicians' election campaigns. One of their selling points is that they've got all the bugs ironed out now -- no room for mistakes like that awful Emilie Boyles fiasco.
We were amused to see that the flyer actually sports on its cover a middle-aged white guy -- an endangered species when it comes to campaign literature in Portland:
Slight problem: According to the Secretary of State, the gentleman in the photo is registered to vote in Newberg:
And if he's living in Portland now, it's a recent move. His employer's spring 2008 newsletter informs us:
Oh, well. At least they tried to find a middle-aged white guy from Portland who'd pose for this.
Up in Cowlitz County, the court clerk takes care of that.
The 'dogs are in for another week. Here's how the players are going in this week's installment of our pro football underdog game:
And of course, his buddies at Portland's moribund daily newspaper can't wait to show their love.
But Dan won't run if his BFF Jeff Cogen does. "Mom says she can't afford to bankroll two campaigns."
It's amazing to us that a "conservation" group is so wasteful with the junk mail. How many trees did they kill, how much water was used to make the paper, how much fossil fuel was burned to get this to our house, and how much more in natural resources will be wasted to recycle three mailers?
This candidate must not care much about the environment. All the more reason to vote for Tom Hughes.
This is hysterical. On Thursday, the City of Portland will mobilize its workers for a "dry run" of the official plan of action during a snowstorm.
In other words, everyone's going home for a few days, except for the two guys who run the snow plows. And the mayor will be incommunicado for a while.
No, it's just some people who are very concerned about health care in this country, and they just happened to pick this week to point out that it's all my senators' fault:
I was wondering if we were going to get any election porn in the mail from the West Hills aristocrats pushing Ballot Measure 26-118, which would impose a Multnomah County property tax to pay for the historical society. Sure enough, it showed up yesterday:
Most of the time, I like it when the congressman from Eugene tells it like it is. But when he says stupid stuff, he hurts the whole liberal cause.
So deaf they can't hear the whistle.
It's the no. 4 divorce capital of America, according to this report.
That blue, blue Carla Axtman took her camera to the Obama speech the other day, and here is what she brought home with her.
Here's a neat video that might help you find your way out of the darkness.
And what -- a parking garage?
And what -- only one "open house"?
So un-Portland. Nurse Amanda does not approve.
Our friendly regional Indian casinos sent us a piece of campaign junk mail, which arrived yesterday:
A four-pager, and mighty shiny, but no photos -- of anything! Where are the smiling children romping around the reservation? Where are the cartoon figures of the bad guys from Lake Oswego? Just words -- how pedestrian.
But oh, what words!
Relying on privately run, Las Vegas-style casinos to solve our economic problems is morally wrong and sends the wrong message to our children.Ah, the children. But shouldn't they have added a footnote?
Relying on tribally run, Las Vegas-style casinos to solve the tribes' economic problems is morally fine and doesn't send the wrong message to our children.Anyway, it's nice to get a "Lady Chatterley" mailer once in a while.
It appears that the president of the Bandon Dunes Golf Course is throwing some dough ($100,000) at state legislative elections in Illinois.
My friend and colleague Tung Yin sounds off on some of the ballot measures showing up on Oregonians' dining room tables.
The last game of the week has been added to our slate in this week's installment of our charity pro football underdog contest:
9 JACKSONVILLE at Kansas City
Good luck to all our players.
But not an outright merger, apparently. The task force charged with considering collaboration between, and a possible combination of, the two schools has released its report, here.
We just received a notice in the mail from the City of Portland informing us that they're going to charge us $30 this year for leaf removal on the public street in front of our house. The flyer says nothing about it being optional, and it's being imposed on neighborhood "residents" instead of property owners, thus circumventing Measure 5 and 50 property tax limitations. Signed, Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams:
More manipulation from Mayor Creepy. This is supposed to get us to say, "We'd rather you just discontinue picking up the leaves." Instead, of course, we say, "We need to get this doped-up clown out of office soon."
The "fee" apparently is going to apply regardless of whether there are any trees in front of your place, and regardless of whether you'd rather sweep up the gutter yourself. Just for living here.
Let the protests, lawsuits, and petition drives begin! Anybody for a "Hell no, we won't pay" protest movement? And since every "resident" is liable, are they going to come after the two-year-olds if they refuse to pay their share?
The collective nervous breakdown of Portland continues.
Here's a bit of a flap regarding consumer matters right here in the Beaver State.
People aren't paying their local tax bills, and that's leading to stepped-up collection measures.
The second piece of election porn in three days from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters showed up in our snail mailbox yesterday. A glossy four-pager with a veritable font of advice on whom to vote for:
Inside, they've got endorsements on 33 races for various offices and two ballot measures.
My image of that organization as a group of level-headed defenders of the earth is diminished by this sort of thing. If you care that much about the environment, two pieces of shiny, four-color junk mail in three days is at least one too many. And what does voter-owed elections have to do with conservation? Into the recycling bin it goes.
Our property tax bill is here, and so it's time for our annual analysis to see which branches of local government are taking what from us for the year 2010-2011. Overall, our property taxes increased 2.69% over last year, and on a compounded basis over the last three years, our property taxes have risen 2.96% a year.
As ever, the City of Portland gets most of the money -- this year, $43.50 of every $100 we pay. Last year, it was $43.37. And of this year's $43.50, $11.12 goes for "urban renewal," and $10.92 goes to the police and fire pension "system." Those two items alone add up to more than half (50.78%) of what the city takes in. Multnomah County is getting $22.34 out of $100 this year, down from $22.41 last year. And so the city gets 13 cents more from our Benjamin while the county is losing 8 cents. The Portland public schools get $26.84 out of $100 this year, which is down 3 cents from last year.
On a percentage basis, the biggest increases were Portland "urban renewal," up 4.47% for the year; Tri-Met bonds, up 4.44%; Portland Community College construction bonds, up 3.69%; and Portland police and fire pension, up 3.06%. But in the larger scope of things, the Portland "urban renewal" and safety officer pension hits are much greater than the other two. The "urban renewal" increase works out to 48 cents out of $100 of tax, and the pension increase is 32 cents out of $100 of tax, whereas the PCC increase is only a nickel out of $100 of tax, and the Tri-Met increase is only 2 cents out of $100 of tax. Indeed, the "urban renewal" tax increase was greater than the total amount charged on the Tri-Met bonds.
Here's the tale of the tape for the current year. Check out where your money is going, Portlanders:
And now, on to our annual ritual. To pre-empt an obvious comment exchange:
Red: "How can property taxes go up when the value of my house went down?"
Blue: "You can thank Bill Sizemore for that one."
Red: "If it weren't for Bill Sizemore, I would have been taxed out of my house a long time ago."
Readers can take it from there.
Bob Tiernan, the head of the Oregon Republican Party, showed up on Portland TV last night right after Obama's speech for Kitzhaber. It was a little like the juggler who had to follow the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and he seemed like a grouchy old guy saying "Get off my lawn." Would the Dudley camp have done better if they had had Dudley himself hooked up to speak? Or a young fresh fellow like Scott Bruun? Tiernan just came across as really, really old school. It was almost enough to make me hold my nose and vote for Kitzhaber.
I'm still thinking about writing in myself. I still can't bring myself to vote for this guy.
This would have been a great place to set up a bungee jump.
A couple of additions to the betting lines in our charity pro football underdog game:
8 OAKLAND at Denver
3 PHILADELPHIA at Tennessee
I only wish the guy would be this outspoken more often:
It was a great talk on the national politics of the midterm election. Not much on Oregon specifics, but bound to energize the Democratic faithful.
I'm sure glad John McCain and Sarah Palin aren't running this country.
The actuaries who estimate how bad the City of Portland's debt is for police and firefighters' retirement and disability benefits have prepared a new report, and it shows that this blog's estimates of the city's unfunded liability for those benefits have actually been conservative. According to the report, the unfunded liability increased from $2.217 billion on July 1, 2008 to $2.549 billion on July 1, 2010. That's a 14.98% increase over the two years, or an annual compound rate of growth of 7.23%.
On our City of Portland debt clock, in the left sidebar of this blog, we've been using an annual growth rate of 6.5%. And so the situation is worse than we thought.
For those of you just joining us, if every police officer and firefighter in Portland stopped working right now and started collecting the pension benefits to which he or she is already entitled, the city would have to put aside $2.549 billion to pay off all of them and all of those who have previously retired. And that's assuming that the city can earn 4% on its investments -- good luck with that in this market.
In fact, the city has nothing put aside for these benefits -- nothing. It will all have to be paid out of future property taxes.
Besides the police and fire pensions, there are also problems with the city's other pensions under the Oregon PERS system. That's underfunded to the tune of nine figures these days as well. Plus there are retiree health care liabilities, all of which push the pension debt total well over $3 billion.
Portland is going broke fast, folks. Go by streetcar!
Anyway, we'll update our debt clock tonight to reflect the new numbers. We'll leave the growth rate at 6.5% going forward, but it's obvious that this debt can grow even faster than that. [Via Oregon Capitol News -- a great catch.]
The folks at Portland's "unique" Metro government have apparently convened a backroom cabal to figure out what kinds of people should sit on a more public panel whose leadership will be selected by the backroom cabal. The topic? "What does the public develop to attract the most private investment?"
How about a sense of fiscal restraint? D'ya think?
And remember, the people on the public panel won't have any agenda other than the public good. That goes without saying in Portland, where human nature doesn't apply in government.
And now for something completely different.
Yesterday's front page story in the O about the Portland mayor's inability to show up for important meetings, or even to let his staff know where he is all day, raises all sorts of questions. One of our readers articulated one of them well:
The news is that the Oregonian, and in particular, [David] Bragdon is actually questioning the mayor. Bragdon carried water, and dodged questions, around Mayor & Gov Goldy with his obvious and serious problems, but it wasn't the Oregonian asking those questions.Indeed. When Adams had his little teeny intern problem, the West Hills set sent out several face cards to stand in the City Hall atrium to support him. Among those seen so prominently there was Bill Scott, a close, close lieutenant of The Neil. Scott didn't say a word, but he stood right behind the speakers the whole time. The message: The Network is still with this guy.
If Bragdon finally is claiming the emperor has no clothes then somebody must be waiting in the wings. Something is happening.
Who? And why now? What is the new road map politically for Stumptown?
Now Bragdon, another name long, long associated with the Goldschmidt machine, appears to be sending out the exact opposite signal: We're done with him.
The story was an easy underhand toss to O reporter Ryan Frank, whose body of work is not exactly what you'd call cutting-edge investigative journalism. And his editors, who have apologized for The Network for decades, splashed it out front where nobody could miss it. You couldn't make it clearer: The powers that be in Portland want Adams out come the next election, if not sooner.
Why? Well, probably because he's not delivering the pork. The West Hills set saw him as an easy mark for lots of juicy construction and consulting contracts, and those are in short supply these days. And so a slow-motion assassination has apparently begun.
Who's "waiting in the wings" to succeed Adams on behalf of the Goldschmidt entourage? My guess is Francesconi. Or Saltzman. Maybe Fireman Randy, although he's probably much too loose a cannon for the money crowd. But make no mistake: Yesterday was a big day in Portland political history.
We complained yesterday that the mailer we received in support of Multnomah County Measure 26-114 was fraudulent, in that it claimed that the measure will be "getting the politicians out of the process" of creating a special taxing district for the library, when that's simply not true.
But the shenanigans with the flyer don't stop there. An outraged reader writes:
I was quite surprised when I looked on the kitchen table yesterday and saw a picture of my wife looking like she was a supporter of the new library district proposal. I asked about the flyer and she said that a couple years ago someone at the library was photographing patrons. They asked permission but didn't offer a release or anything like that. She is annoyed that it appears as if she endorses the ballot measure, which is not true. Using your photo to promote reading for families is different from using it for political purposes.
I am a little more upset than she is, but we won't be filing any lawsuits. However, we also won't be voting for yet another "harmless" layer of government. I made that mistake in 1978 when as a young nitwit I voted to approve the creation of Metro.
The photo in question is right above a big legend that reads "Yes for our libraries -- Yes on 26-114." Instead it should say, "This woman does not endorse 26-114!!!"
There oughta be a law against this sort of thing -- and in a public library, no less. And who paid the photographer? Where did the money come from? If the photos were shot years ago, the photographer couldn't have been paid out of campaign funds. Quite fishy.
We've blogged about our choices for elective offices, Multnomah County ballot measures, and Portland and Tri-Met ballot measures. That leaves the always entertaining Oregon statewide ballot measures, and here is where we're coming out on those:
70: Expanded veterans' loans. Cue "God Bless America." You dare not say no to the vets. Yes.
71: Legislature meets every year. They've got a lot of nerve. The most recent regularly scheduled "special" session was an enormous waste of time, pretty much proving that we don't need this. No.
72: Expands state borrowing. In case you haven't noticed, government debt at all levels is completely out of control, and will be a bigger drag on the quality of our children's lives than anyone is honestly talking about. Ted Wheeler is right -- the state needs to borrow less money, less often, not more. No.
73: Mandatory sentences for sex crimes and DUI. The sentences we now have are strict enough, and we're already spending enough money on our corrupt-looking corrections system, which the average person doesn't even want to know about. No.
74: More rational medical pot rules. The current laws regarding marijuana are insane. It's illegal, but only sorta illegal, and if you're sick, you can get a card to let you buy it, but you can still lose your job over it, and you have to buy it from some sleazy drug dealer on the corner, and if you grow your own, it's still a federal crime, not to mention some home invader who's going to hold a gun to your head, yada yada yada. We ought to treat pot like booze, and until then, all of this is pure foolishness. No endorsement.
75: Multnomah County casino. Who are these guys? And how many handshakes removed are they from the Mafia? Come to think of it, you could ask the same questions of the Indian casinos, who of course are screaming bloody murder against this measure. In the end, the state lottery people (another shady group) would like to put the tribes out of business, but in the meantime, the last thing Oregon needs is bringing in Harrah's or their ilk to compete for the gamblin' fools' money. No.
76: Lottery revenue dedicated to environmental causes. As we noted recently, the lottery money is better spent on the birds and the bees than on Milwaukie light rail, the UC Nike football program, and assorted other garbage that the state legislature might find worthy. Yes, the legislature will be handcuffed, but given their level of judgment, that's not an entirely bad thing. It's too bad we tax only stupidity and addictive personality for this purpose, but Oregon sold its soul on that issue a long time ago. Yes.
With that, I think we're ready to vote. Honey, get out the No. 2 lead pencil! And bring your ballot so that I can fill it out for you. Bring Grandma's, too -- it's in by her death certificate.
The first lines for this week's games in our charity pro football underdog pool are up, and here is what they say:
13.5 CLEVELAND at New Orleans
13 BUFFALO at Baltimore
5.5 ARIZONA at Seattle
3 CINCINNATI at Atlanta
3 CAROLINA vs. San Francisco
3 WASHINGTON at Chicago
3 MIAMI vs. Pittsburgh
3 NEW YORK GIANTS at Dallas
3 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
3 NEW ENGLAND at San Diego
2.5 ST. LOUIS at Tampa Bay
Our official oddsmaker reports: "No Jacksonville/KC or Philadelphia/Tennessee lines as yet, likely because of the Jags' and Titans' uncertain QB situations. Also no Oakland/Denver." He''ll keep looking through Thursday.
Meanwhile, not too many points to be gained this week, unless you throw the long ball with Cleveland or Buffalo. Readers, see an underdog (in caps) that will win its game outright?
The ride home tomorrow could be a long one.
Here's another bit of election porn that showed up at the house yesterday:
Wow! Bob Stacey will create jobs! I'm glad there's one candidate out there who cares about jobs. Nobody else is talking about it.
Whom do we thank for this latest piece of mass mail?
I thought that group was a 501(c)(3) organization, forbidden from taking sides in an election. But now I see that they have both a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4) organization over there, and this flyer must be coming from the latter.
I also see that Eric Lemelson's on the OLCV board. And since he appears to be the main bankroller of the Stacey campaign, the league's endorsement is not surprising.
But as somebody who's sick of condo towers wrecking Portland neighborhoods, and streetcars and green toys bankrupting the city government, I think it's time for a course correction at Metro. And Stacey, who seems a little like an Earl Blumenauer without the bow tie, ain't it.
In yesterday's batch of campaign come-ons in our snail mailbox was this wicked little glossy four-pager:
It's a flyer in support of the mysterious Multnomah County ballot measure setting the stage for the formation of a "library district." The mailing is offensive in a couple of ways. First of all, from the looks of it, you'd think that few white guys ever patronize the library. Trying to find a white male face on the flyer is straight outta "Where's Waldo":
But worse than that, much worse, part of the message here is highly misleading:
Get the politicians out of it -- are they kidding? Look at what the ballot actually says:
And here's the full text of the ballot measure itself. (They don't mail this to the voters any more, and so nobody actually reads what they're voting on.) It makes quite clear that regardless of what the voters do, the matter is still left up to a majority of the board of county commissioners:
And if the district is formed, the county commissioners will run it! To say that the measure is "getting the politicians out of the process" is nothing short of fraudulent.
This measure has a bad odor about it -- it's nothing but a setup for a new, permanent property tax for the library down the road. The fact that it's being sold in a highly misleading way makes it a clear case for a no vote.
(BTW, to whichever county legal beagle drafted this thing: It's ad valorem, not ad valorum. Look into it.)
Remember Randall Palazzo, the Portland infill developer who reportedly used to infuriate the neighbors where he built? Quite the charmer. "Randy Leonard said I could do whatever I wanted on my property" -- that guy. For a while he was on TV hawking his products -- they're "green," don'tcha know -- but apparently quite a few subcontractors complained that he was more than a little slow paying bills.
Mysterious absences just add to the many concerns about Portland's "unique" chief executive. And if the O is asking the hard questions, you know the problem must be both serious and obvious.
"I don't recall the specifics, but something pulled me away." We can just imagine.
Multnomah County has seven measures on the current ballot. In our view, there is only one worth voting for. Here's the whole list:
26-109: Repeal term limits. Are you kidding? The bad movie that the county turned into under Diane and the Mean Girls was the all-time poster child for term limits. No.
26-110: Commissioner running for another office. Should Deborah Kafoury get to run for Portland City Council, but keep her county commissioner gig just in case she loses? No.
26-111: Sheriff's and district attorney's salaries set by salary commission. Zzzzzzzzz.
26-112: County commissioner must live in district throughout term. Absolutely! You move out of your district, you're replaced. Not like one of our recently departed Sisters of Hawthorne. Yes.
26-113: Vacancy election dates. Hard to care much about this, but if there's a vacancy in a county office, it should be filled by election at the nearest opportunity, even if that's not May or November. No.
26-114: New library district. The come-ons for this one scream, "This is not a tax increase!" No, but isn't it the setup for one? The library's doing fine. The public isn't going to let the politicians mess with it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. No.
26-118: Property tax for Oregon Historical Society. The fact that the state doesn't want to support this organization reinforces what has always been our impression: that it's a Portland West Hills blueblood club. Remember when the historical society held onto Neil Goldschmidt's records and wouldn't let you see them unless you paid his lawyers to check them over first? Yeah. So if the taxpayers around the state won't support the historical society, then let the West Hills bluebloods pay for it with private contributions. What's that you say -- the rich people in Portland are too cheap? Well then, so are we. Times are tough. No.
Our ballots are here, and so it's time to make up our minds about the many, many ballot measures that we Oregonians get to vote on. Here are some easy ones, from the City of Portland and Tri-Met:
26-108: "Clean money" elections. An enormous waste of money, doing nothing but (a) guaranteeing lifetime tenure for incumbents, (b) enabling unelectable clowns to run for office on the public dime, and (c) blowing inordinate hundreds of thousands to elect somebody like Amanda Fritz, who could have and should have raised her own money for lawn signs and junk mail. No.
26-117: Property tax increase for fire trucks. If the city would stop wasting money on streetcars, bioswales, bicycle boxes, soccer stadiums, and aerial trams, it would have enough money in its budget for fire trucks. No.
26-119: Property tax extension for buses. If Tri-Met would stop wasting money on streetcars and insane rail projects like WES and now Milwaukie MAX, it would have enough money in its budget for buses. No.
On to the state and county measures shortly.
Absolutely nothing -- not even campaign fodder.
They only make it to No. 2 in the bowl game rankings. It appears that their schedule is too weak for unanimous top-dog acclaim, at least for now.
Who cares what some computer thinks? As an Oregonian, I'm proud of the Ducks -- at least, those not presently in police custody. They are truly the best team Nike can buy.
Not that it's any surprise.
The corner of Broadway and Williams in Northeast Portland is a pretty hairy place. Interstate 5 passes underneath Broadway nearby. And there are all sorts of cars rushing westbound on Broadway (a one way street, "coupled" with Weidler one block south) to get onto the nearby freeway on-ramps in both directions, as well as going straight ahead to the Rose Quarter and the Broadway Bridge. Williams has become a major hipster bicycle route, and so numerous cross-bound cyclists are in the mix as well. It's hard to see this intersection ever becoming the multi-modal utopia that our politicians brag about.
The new streetcar tracks along that stretch of Broadway aren't likely to help with safety or traffic flow concerns, either. Once those tracks turn onto Broadway from Grand Avenue, they zig and zag across the two left lanes of traffic that up until now have been the sole province of cars and trucks, most of which are hurtling toward the Rose Quarter and southbound I-5. The left lanes both turn off Broadway southbound toward I-5, and the streetcar is going to go straight westbound from one of those lanes, across the turning vehicles, toward the bridge. Hard to see how there aren't going to be some frustrating moments, or worse, there.
For the cyclists on that stretch of Broadway, most of whom are going straight westbound toward the bridge, there's always been an awkward moment when the bike lane takes them out in between two lanes of traffic. All of that traffic is hellbound to make a right turn, get onto I-5, and fight their way to the 'Couv. That corner is one reason why a bike trip across the Broadway Bridge is rarely in our travel plans.
Now the city is trying to make things better with a new bicycle-only traffic signal governing westbound traffic at that corner. Apparently the I-5 northbound motorists now have to wait a while to make their right turn onto I-5 or Williams, to let the cyclists pass on toward the Broadway. And the bike lane will stay on the right curb, rather than mixing it up with cars on both sides.
It's a nice idea, and we hope it works. The kids over at Bike Portland have been following the first several days of the light, and the installation apparently still has a few kinks. It's not clear that the situation is going to be much safer, but at least now there are different dangers.
In any event, it's another little bit of bad news for the people in the cars: at least another 15 seconds, and possibly several minutes (depending on the traffic load), added to the commute. And once the pointless streetcar arrives with serious bad news for the cars going southbound on I-5, that freeway overpass, never pleasant, could get downright ugly. I-5 commuters may need a new route. Good luck with that.
Here's a classic.
Well, that was quick. Nobody picked the night games this week in our charity pro football underdog game, and so the standings are complete while there's still light out on Sunday. St. Louis, Seattle, and Miami prevailed.
Here are our standings:
But don't worry -- they'll spend it wisely.
We were wondering when the election porn would start arriving in our mailbox. The first couple of pieces trickled in yesterday. Here's a good one:
This part is kind of interesting:
We seem to have missed that particular crisis. Oh and of course, jobs! Jobs! Everything creates jobs!
If the "lottery" money's already being spent on this activity, how does this ballot measure "create" even a single job? And if the money were spent on some other activity, wouldn't that also "create" jobs -- perhaps even more jobs than under this measure?
The whole "jobs" thing has gotten really, really old.
Anyway, we're amused by how the state spends its "lottery" revenue. With $250 million currently being siphoned off for the psychedelic train from Portland to Milwaukie, we can think of a million better ways to spend it. The birds and bees are certainly worthy candidates for attention. Better than the U of O athletic department.
So long as everybody remembers where the magic dollars come from:
You laughed at "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." But yesterday, in our own back yard, we found this:
The players have spoken in our pro football underdog pool, and here's whom they like this week:
10 DETROIT at New York Giants - Bob, Bad Brad
8 ST. LOUIS vs. San Diego - Flowers by Dorcas Husband, Broadway Joe, Michael K., pdxmick
6.5 SEATTLE at Chicago - Gary, Andy
6.5 OAKLAND at San Francisco - Ricardo, Paul, Anthony, Matt, Larry Legend, Doug
4.5 TAMPA BAY vs. New Orleans - Conrad, Umpire, genop's gal
4.5 KANSAS CITY at Houston - Flowers by Dorcas, Jim, AKevin, genop
4 MIAMI at Green Bay - Biggest Cubs Loser, john dull, Eric
3 ATLANTA at Philadelphia - Annie, Gordon
3 DENVER vs. New York Jets - Hank
2.5 BALTIMORE at New England - Mike G., Nick
1.5 DALLAS at Minnesota - PJB
And here's Lola's pick -- going for two in a row:
I recently subscribed for another year's "protection" from AVG, the outfit that makes the anti-virus software that I use on one of our computers. I hesitated to blow the $41.24, because AVG has a free product that works just fine on another of our computers. But I had purchased the pay version, and now it was expiring, and so I pulled the trigger.
Now I get the credit card bill, and guess what? AVG billed it from an address in farookin' Nicosia, Cyprus. And so of course the mobsters at Bank of America dinged me for another $1.23 "foreign transaction fee."
Oh, well. One thing's for sure: That's the last penny that AVG will ever see from me.
This week, Forbes ranked Oregon sixth best state in the country for business and careers. So why doesn't business want to locate here, resulting in an acute shortage of careers?
They're reporting this on Saturday, of course, when readership is at its lowest. But still.
The denials are classic: His kids' favorite place is Jamison Square! Yeah, they loved it both times they were there. Hilarious.
I'd love to see Nancy Bass take a quiz about Portland -- history, geography, any aspect you like. Ten easy questions -- see what kind of score she'd get. You can almost hear the exchange at the cocktail party: "Honey, what's the name of the bus out there again -- Tri-Max?"
Wyden's pit bull Josh Kardon is portraying all of this as an "attack on" Wyden's "family." Poppycock. He's got a wonderful family -- a wonderful family in Manhattan.
Just vote for the candidate who says he or she is in favor of creating jobs.
Mom loves her Yankees.
It was an all-day retreat of the repackaged Portland "planning and sustainability commission." Too precious. Streetcar Smith, a Gerding Edlen type, a former Cesar Chavez Boulevard agitator, Lee Pearlman lurking in the shadows watching for a petition to deface, a bunch of city bureau face cards racking up their PERS, a lunchtime keynote from Mayor Creepy (who urges everybody a couple of times to be "holistic"), a touchy-feely "What is sustainability to me?" session, and a day full of "Holds a passion in her life through work," "It’s about the lens and how you look at projects," " a fundamental belief is that everything is connected to and is about the future"... you get the picture.
Back when I was a teen with raging hormones, my buddies and I used to give the girls a "hicky" now and then. This was a bruise-like mark left by sucking vigorously on the recipient's neck, often with teeth involved. Said recipient would then wear a tell-tale turtle-neck sweater for a few days.
Apparently the word "hicky" has a second meaning -- looking like a hick -- and in that sense, it's politically incorrect. I guess that means "hick" itself is also out? Using it could get you fired? What will become of the beloved phrase "hicks from the sticks"?
So today, Multnomah County became the first county in the state to ban bottled water from all county meetings and functions. From now on, the county will serve pitchers of cool liquid from the tap and promote use of reusable metal water bottles among employees.Pitchers of water? Who will be filling and refilling those pitchers? And washing them out?
And how's their pension?
But both industry and environmental sources say bottled water uses millions of plastic bottles a year and that most go unrecycled.Really? Even with a nickel deposit on them here in Oregon? Doesn't seem likely.
Meanwhile, a Portland State professor declares that "much of the bottled water in this area comes from the Wilsonville treatment center that gets its water from the Willamette River." Now there's something I didn't know. Is it really true? At our house we drink a fair amount of Kirkland water from Costco; I assumed that it's from around Seattle somewhere, but it would be interesting to know where it actually is from.
"Buying bottled water is more expensive than buying gas," said Commissioner Barbara Willer, who introduced the resolution. "I want to educate people that our water is safe and we should be drinking it for health reasons."If it weren't for the chlorine taste, and the lead threat from the plumbing, we probably would.
In any event, the way things are going with the Portland water system, it's just a matter of time before somebody like Coca-Cola owns it, just as they do the bottled water industry. Then all our water money can be going to the same place.
The new New Seasons grocery store is open at 41st and Hawthorne in the Sunnyside neighborhood in SE Portland. Many shoppers are happy -- especially those a few blocks away -- but critics and neighbors are watching the traffic and parking situations with a wary eye. Speaking of watching, here's a neighbor with a live streaming webcam trained on the new store:
The parking's on the roof, accessible off 40th Avenue, which is a narrow two-way street. Our spies tell us there's an electronic sign at street level telling you how many parking spaces are currently available, but if it says 0, you're in for a long ride down 40th, where there's never likely to be many open parking spaces on the street ever again.
When you swing around way down on Harrison and back north on 41st, another narrow two-way street, eventually you run into the store's truck loading zone, no doubt along with many cyclists since it's apparently a bike boulevard. Hmmmmm... there are probably some kinks here that will need ironing out.
We haven't been inside the place yet, but it's probably a little tight. Even as remodeled, it's not a big store by anyone's standards. But to those consumers who will benefit from having it close by, congratulations.
Here's an interesting liquor license application that we stumbled upon last evening. It adds beer, wine, and "occasional" live acoustic music to a new "food court" on a parking lot on SE Division Street between 32nd and 33rd Avenues. The property is apparently owned by one of the ADG entities, associated with Stan Amy, and the proposed operator is something called Captured by Porches Brewing, a mom-and-pop outfit from St. Helens.
Hard to believe that Portland's taxpayers are paying good money to host this dreck on the city's official website. And is the author getting paid by the city to write and post it?
No wonder Rasheed Wallace retired from pro basketball.
Sure it is.
Just another crasher at a state dinner.
It's a tycoon compound, only flipped on its side and stuck into the ground as infill.
Players in our charity pro football underdog contest, add this game to this week's slate:
4 MIAMI at Green Bay
It's official. Pro baseball will now be gone from Portland for a long time. It won't be back without a solid eight-figure outlay by the city's taxpayers, who will soon be giving plasma just to pay their water bills.
This guy will probably lose a few votes, but gain a few as well.
We've been encouraging the Portland City Council for years to establish a mandatory opt-out system -- with strict enforcement and meaningful penalties -- for hard-copy phone books. So far they've done nothing -- too busy with their many other "green" projects -- but now our neighbor to the north is showing the way.
The pundits are starting to line up and give you their scorecards of what and whom to vote for and against, and so it behooves us to try to do the same. It's quite a pile to plow through: You've got your candidates, and you've got your ballot measures.
Let's start with the candidates first. Alas, on most races, we're unable to offer any advice with confidence. In some races, it doesn't matter which candidate you pick -- disaster looms either way -- and some races just don't matter much.
Here are the few we find outside those categories, at least with almost three weeks left to go before the voting deadline:
State treasurer: Ted Wheeler. Here's the first politician who's said anything sensible about money in this state for a long time.
Metro president: Tom Hughes. Give business at least a glimmer of hope. The other guy is just a condo developer pal wrapped up in a green flag.
Multnomah County commissioner: Loretta Smith. We're trying to counteract the Dan Saltzman family money, which runs Portland nowadays. Smith's opponent, Karol Collymore, seems to be a potential second vote for her boss, Jeff Cogen; and Cogen is two peas in a pod with Saltzman. And so you'd think that a Saltzman nod to Collymore would be a given. It certainly was in the primary. But now Saltzman's equivocating, and the Saltzman family's pals at WW are endorsing Smith. I think that's a big head fake. If you're like me, and you're tired of the Saltzmans, Smith seems a better bet. (Then again, maybe they've embraced her because they've co-opted her -- who knows?)
If I lived in Salem, I'd vote for Schrader. If I lived in Eugene, I'd vote for DeFazio.
And sad to say, there's nobody else in the whole 136-page Voters' Pamphlet worthy of an endorsement. Dudley-Kitzhaber? Disaster either way. Earl Blumenauer? Opponents have no chance. Bus Kids in the Legislature? They're all in safe districts, and so let the Sten times roll. There are a lot of incumbents in that booklet to whom I would not entrust my dog for the weekend, but their opponents are even scarier or don't have a prayer.
The ballot measures are slightly more interesting, and we'll get to them next.
The TV commercials leading up to the upcoming elections include some real howlers. Now Gatsby Wyden's taking credit for Google siting a server farm out in the Dalles. The best part is where the mayor out there comes on and says, "I'm a Republican and I love Ron Wyden."
No kidding, buddy.
Our buddy Bill McDonald has a good memory, and he uses it well with this:
I know we're supposed to let go of how bad the Bush administration was and transition to how bad the Obama administration is, but I can't help thinking of all the comments on your blog and my old one about the Iraq War. How often did some pompous sc**bag call us out for accusing Bush and Cheney of lying us into Iraq? We were terrorist-appeasing malcontents blinded by our hatred for this good and godly man, W. Well, here -- years later when it is safe -- is the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Hugh Shelton III echoing our sentiments. Not some lefty or Bush-hater. But the droopy-faced general seen next to Rumsfeld at so many press conferences. The general in charge of the war. Only now he's saying things like, "Spinning the possible possession of WMDs as a threat to the United States in the way they did is, in my opinion, tantamount to intentionally deceiving the American people."Me neither.
We're supposed to let this go, but Iraq was a multi-trillion dollar crime against our own soldiers, the American People, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I'm not going to let it go.
An alert reader sends along this photo with a caption:
Ten workers, one manhole: streetcar update!
Taken at 5:14 pm today on SE Washington and Union, er... I mean MLK. iPhone foto, I apologize. I couldn't get two other guys in the pic, both on cells in the middle of the street. Topped only by a flagger gal that had her slow/stop sign upside down and looked ready for a cold and frosty.
The ribbon-cutting on this one is gonna be epic!!!
We noted last night that the gerrymandered map of Portland's proposed new "urban renewal" district has got to have about 50 scams in it. Today Willy Week has identified the first of them: Pave over more of Waterfront Park, this time for a concert amphitheater and "destination eatery." To be run by friends of Mayor Creepy and Fireman Randy, no doubt. And the taxpayers will subsidize it.
That's pretty much the endorsement package this time around from Willamette Week. At least they say no to Fireman Randy's bond issue. But voter-owed elections? Hand Tri-Met more money? End term limits? Subsidize the West Hills historical society? All great ideas to the Double Dub.
Beautiful photos of some patrons of the Multnomah County Public Library.
Here's a funny story from the Midwest and East Coast -- some academics fretting that local government pension funds don't have enough put aside to pay benefits. And so the pension funds will run out of money in a few years!
Heck, in Portland, we have a police and fire pension system with an unfunded liability of well over $2 billion, and nothing put aside to pay benefits. Not a penny. Ya gotta have vision, people. Go by streetcar!
In 2008, I interviewed Joe Sinitski, a technician for a heating and air-conditioning company, just before he cast a vote he never expected to make — for Mr. Obama, even though he said he had been "brought up" in such a way as to make him disinclined to vote for a black candidate. He has since been laid off from his job but said he would vote for the Democrat. "The way it looks to me is the Republicans have gone to the other extreme," he said. "It’s like they’re saying, 'O.K., if you can vote in a black guy, we’ll counter that by putting up nut jobs for office.'"
You know somebody needs to go to jail when a politician shows you a "district" map that looks like this one:
That's Portland's proposed new "urban renewal" district. There have got be 50 scams in that picture. Think the local media will find even two of them? Not before it's too late. It seems that under the Sam-Rand Twins, the whole city's for sale. [Via WW.]
But it isn't. Here are the Week 6 lines in our charity pro football underdog game:
13.5 CLEVELAND at Pittsburgh
10 DETROIT at New York Giants
8 ST. LOUIS vs. San Diego
6.5 SEATTLE at Chicago
6.5 OAKLAND at San Francisco
4.5 TAMPA BAY vs. New Orleans
4.5 KANSAS CITY at Houston
3 ATLANTA at Philadelphia
3 DENVER vs. New York Jets
3 WASHINGTON vs. Indianapolis
3 JACKSONVILLE vs. Tennessee
2.5 BALTIMORE at New England
1.5 DALLAS at Minnesota
No line on Miami at Green Bay yet. If one shows up by Thursday, we'll post it and that game will be in play.
Anybody see an underdog (in caps) on that list that can win its game outright? Our players always appreciate your input.
UPDATE, 10/14, 6:23 p.m.:
4 MIAMI at Green Bay
Pay no state income tax.
They're calling it "Central City 2035." And it looks as though it's going to start over by the Rose Quarter. That's a neighborhood that Joe Weston, Hank Ashforth, and the Good Old Boys have been salivating over for years. Now they've got their streetcar tracks, and so it's time for some serious condo-mania.
And just as we've been predicting, guess what's back! The Convention Center hotel:
Taxpayers, hold onto your wallets.
At first glance, it appears that these guys are seeking to uphold the law against unscrupulous robber barons who fake documents rather than cut square corners when dealing with customers who have fallen on hard times. But the cynic in me sees a desperate attempt to keep stringing the real estate and banking sectors along in the hope that a miracle will prevent another big collapse. Sooner or later, it's gonna happen -- but for these dudes, it's better if it were after the election.
They just released another study showing that in Portland, it's cheaper to rent than to own your home. I don't know about that -- it looks as though owning means you can just squat and not pay a penny, at least for a good long while.
We do poverty in style here.
Peter Apanel, the guy who hates the Lord Paulson soccer stadium deal more than anybody, writes:
As the rescue of the Chilean miners is about to reach its conclusion, there's been a lot of media attention given to the extremely narrow, 21-inch width of the rescue capsule.Ya gotta admire his stick-to-it-iveness.
So, it's interesting to note that the rescue capsule is the same width as the existing individual seats at PGE Park, and three inches wider than the existing bench-style seats at PGE Park.
Since the miners are being promised psychological counseling after their ordeal is over, will Paulson make the same offer to Timbers fans?
Here's a study that ranks Portland second-to-last among U.S. cities in "strengths of the heart, which include gratitude, compassion, teamwork, hope, modesty, religiousness."
She made a helluva rice pudding, and she had a great sense of perspective.
Now they're apparently covering up for a police officer's Nazi sympathizer activities. Heads should roll in those attorney ranks -- but of course, given the dirt that the city's lawyers have on Mayor Creepy, it's highly questionable that that could ever happen.
Inspired by our story of a John Lennon New York City encounter 40 years ago, a reader writes of his own brush with rock greatness in the big city:
One night in the autumn of 1979, my buddy Gerry and I went to the Ritz nightclub, then located somewhere just off Broadway between the Strand Bookstore and Union Square, to see Chuck Berry perform. Gerry and I were pretty reckless and canny punk era stage door Johnnies who did what we could to get backstage anywhere to encounter almost anybody. "No Fear" was pretty much the battle cry.
Anyway, the Ritz had an elevated horseshoe-shaped balcony with the dressing room doors at either end just above the stage. Second floor dressing rooms were an odd arrangement (they were typically below stage level) but it was a configuration that definitely made it easier for goofballs like Gerry and I to breach security, particularly since at the Ritz you only had to pass through one door and you were in. No gauntlet of black T-shirt heavies to run.
Just before the show started, Gerry and I were casing the balcony trying to figure the best way into the inner sanctum when we spotted Keith Richards and his girlfriend, "supermodel" Patti Hansen, sucking cocaine off a balcony table. Keith Richards on blow! In our world, it didn't get much better than than that and were on them like white on rice.
Now Keith is a guy with a sense of humor and he seemed amused by our pluck. Big smile, big handshake, but what really got my attention was Patti licking all around her lips and gums in that reflex that defined the cocaine era. As Gerry yucked it up with Keith, I asked Patti with the effrontery of which only a drunken 18 year old is capable, "Do you have a kiss for me, pretty girl?" Boy did she, with that sweet, numb tongue! And boy did Keith get a laugh out of that one! Gerry and I cut out before we got pesty, thinking that we had just reach the pinnacle of "near brushes." Little did we know what was in store.
The show came off beautifully, Chuck rocked the socks off the house, and Gerry and I made our play for backstage. Needless to say, we got through the door into an uncomfortably small room in which an obviously irritated Chuck Berry was standing against the back wall. Gerry and I couldn't tell what was up, but the vibe was uncool and we flattened ourselves against a side wall and kept our traps shut. After a couple of minutes the door opened again and, what do know, in walked our new buddies Keith and Patti, hand in hand, with his other one wrapped around the neck of a bottle of Old No.7. Chuck saw them right away and suddenly pushed aside the people standing in front of him, strode across the room with a look of stone fury on his face and COLD COCKED KEITH RICHARDS FOUR FEET IN FRONT OF ME!! I instantly knew the weightless rush of standing in the middle of history in the making, and knowing it.
Matters transpired quickly from there. Keith fell against the wall while the heavies surrounded Chuck and hustled him out of his own dressing room. With signature aplomb, Keith, who never lost his grip on Old Jack, shot a stupid grin around the room and announced to nobody in particular,"Well that was a right proper shot, wudn't it?"
In the thick tension that not even Keith could dispel, Gerry and I suddenly became very visible, and the heavies handled us with grievous dispatch. We staggered, stunned, back into the New York City night wondering just WTF had happened. Well, word got back through the groupie grapevine that about two weeks before Chuck's show in New York, a very drunken Keith had climbed on stage at a Chuck performance at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in LA and, in a glorious demonstration of indiscreet Oedipal one-up-manship, had upstaged his mentor. Chuck did not take kindly to the slight and had almost thrown Keith right off the stage. But apparently "it wasn't over" as Gerry and I witnessed in New York. Ah, Rock...and so in the Big Bad Apple did we roll.
We spent a couple of days recently in the company of some card-carrying members of the progressive majority in academe, from different parts of the country. One professor, who's writing a book about what we owe future generations, kept reminding all of us that not all deficit spending by government is bad. Lost in the rhetoric about bankrupting future generations, he said, are projects that will benefit those generations, and for which they should be willing to pay.
We can disagree about which projects meet that criteria, but in general, he has a point. One of the local tourist attractions we showed the group was the Bonneville Dam -- a great place to kill an hour or so on a rainy afternoon. I'm sure that when Roosevelt was talking about building that thing, he ran into some opposition, including fiscal conservatives. "But look how well it turned out," said our friend.
Don't worry -- we're not going to go all soft on junk like the Portland streetcar. And given that the city is $3 billion in the hole on pensions and retiree health care, a project would have to rank high on the durability scale to justify itself at this stage in Portland history. But we'll concede his point: that sometimes, deficit spending isn't a bad thing.
In another tax-related embarrassment, Oregon gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley has reportedly been taking deductions on his Oregon tax return for the garbage carted away from his Lake Oswego home.
According to an exclusive report in the alternative weekly Lake Oswego Buzz, Dudley has claimed the write-offs as charitable contributions to the town of Arlington, Oregon, where the Lake Oswego garbage is deposited in a landfill.
Dudley's campaign defended the moves as perfect legitimate. "He's allowed under the law to take a deduction and he did everything by the books," campaign manager Josh Ginsberg said late Sunday night in a statement. "It was legal, ethical and proper and any suggestion otherwise is completely unfair to Chris Dudley."
Ginsberg produced a letter of thanks from then-Arlington Mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, acknowledging Dudley's contribution to the small Oregon town's growing landfill. "Your gift," the mayor wrote, "has filled a void, literally and figuratively." Kontur-Gronquist and Dudley first discussed the idea of the deduction at a sports-themed charity fundraiser in 2007, at which she beat him in three straight bouts of arm wrestling.
The Dudley campaign produced an appraisal backing up Dudley's claimed deduction of $250 per bag of garbage. The appraisal, which Ginsberg claimed was "conservative," computed the value of the refuse by valuing the amount of time that Dudley family members took to produce it. The appraiser estimated that each bag consumed 25 hours of family time, and that the time was worth $10 per hour. "A premium is justified," the appraiser wrote, "in that the material had been meticulously sorted to remove 62% of all recyclables."
When asked whether the appraisal signaled that Dudley thought $10 an hour was a living wage, Ginsberg responded, "He thinks it's high, but he won't do anything to lower it."
Now the O is charging between 67 cents and 75 cents a week for hard copy TV listings. What's next -- 50 cents for the weather?
Despite our problems, we are blessed in many ways.
Oh, that's a long, long way off.
Eight whole years.
"I can't go there, Dave."
It's not 26.2 miles, but it is 20 weeks. And with this slate of picks, our charity underdog pro football game participants reach the quarter-way mark in the long pro football season. Good luck today, everybody:
8 KANSAS CITY at Indianapolis- Anthony, Bob, Nick, Doug, Eric
7 DENVER at Baltimore - Conrad
6.5 ARIZONA vs. New Orleans - Broadway Joe
6 TENNESSEE at Dallas - Sattelihu, Larry Legend, pdxmick, Matt, Gary, Flowers by Dorcas Husband, Bad Brad
6 OAKLAND vs. San Diego - Hank, genop
6 TAMPA BAY at Cincinnati - Flowers by Dorcas, Paul, Andy
4 MINNESOTA at New York Jets - john dull, Ricardo, genop's gal, Drewbob, Michael K.
3 PHILADELPHIA at San Francisco - Biggest Cubs Loser
3 ST. LOUIS at Detroit - Gordon, AKevin, Jim
2.5 CAROLINA vs. Chicago - PJB
2.5 WASHINGTON vs. Green Bay - Annie
... to wish you a happy 10-10-10.
Is it just me, or does Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen remind you of Lord Farquaad in Shrek?
Look at how much money is sloshing around in Oregon's gubernatorial race.
Amanda's waitin' for ya.
Maybe the Blazers need to hire a knee coach.
I saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the street once. It was around 1971 or so, in New York City. My girlfriend and I were walking along Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, on the east side of the street between Eighth and Ninth Streets. We had just come out of the PATH train station on Ninth, and it was early on a weekend evening. Our night was just getting started, but it was dark.
In those days, Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street was the central intersection for us hippie wannabes who hung around in our bell bottom jeans and Army jackets trying to be part of the counterculture scene. It was a place where, one might have thought, John Lennon would never set foot, because if he had, his adoring fans would have torn him apart. As far as the thousands of kids who passed through that intersection every day were concerned, he was the Pope. No, that would be putting it too mildly -- as he himself once acknowledged, he was bigger than Jesus.
Anyway, we're walking along southbound on Sixth when out of the doorway of an upstairs Japanese steak house comes a short Asian woman in hot pants, a black beret, and a belt made out of bullets. I turned to my girlfriend and remarked, "Wow. That woman is doing an amazing Yoko Ono imitation." As we turned around and looked back at her, there was a guy in a cap standing beside her.
And so we walked back a little ways to watch. They were standing in the doorway of the hibachi place waiting for their limo. People walked right past them -- people who, if they had just bothered to look, probably would have stopped dead in their tracks. The only other person who made the i.d. was a young guy who got a handshake and then ran off, no doubt to tell his friends.
We were too paralyzed to get close. The limo pulled up, and the couple stepped out of the doorway and made a quick move across the sidewalk to the car. But as the driver got out and opened their passenger side door, several shopping bags fell out into the gutter. One was from Azuma, an import store over a block or two on Eighth, where we teeny boppers used to hang out all day looking at soaps and incense and candles and Buddha statues, and dreaming that some day John Lennon would walk in.
Lennon and Ono climbed over the spilled bags and got into the car. The driver closed the door and got busy stashing the purchases somewhere else -- I can't remember whether it was the front seat or the trunk. But anyway, that gave us an extra 15 seconds or so to get a better look. My friend and I dared to get a little closer and peer through the open car window from about four or five feet away.
I waved at John Lennon. He waved back.
And then the limo pulled away. My girlfriend and I looked at each other in astonishment at what had just transpired. Except for that one brave fan who shook his hand, nobody else had noticed a thing.
And it's not just in the lake bed itself -- the developer weasels have descended on the place in droves. Now they're using the public library as a wedge to make millions on the taxpayers' backs -- with boxy "mixed use" shinola, a streetcar, a "boutique hotel," and everything! "Linchpins" galore. Good luck down there, folks.
Members of Portland's apoplectic transit-hater crowd find their heads spinning this week with the release of the troubled transit agency's latest audited financial statements. These documents confirm what people have been suspecting for months: that Tri-Met's finances have not been well managed, and the whole operation is careening toward disaster.
The most eye-popping revelation is that Tri-Met's unfunded liability for retiree health care benefits is now $816.5 million. That's up from $632.2 million a year ago. And hey, people, that's just to pay the retired employees' medical bills! It doesn't include the liability to pay them their pensions, which adds another $267.3 million in unfunded liabilities to the tally. Cha-ching! You math majors out there can see that the total unfunded pension and retiree health care liability is now approaching $1.1 billion.
And even that mega-number may be low. The actuaries who come up with these figures make all sorts of assumptions in predicting what the future will hold, including how much Tri-Met will earn on investments that it socks away to pay future benefits to these folks, and how much medical care is going to cost going forward. Some of the assumptions made in the current financials seem a bit, shall we say, optimistic. Such as:
Significant actuarial assumptions used in the valuation include a rate of return on the investment of present and future assets of 7.0 percent, an annual cost of living increase of 4.0 percent and annual salary increases of 5.0 percent....If you finding yourself thinking that you're going to make 7% or 8% on your investments, or that health care rates are going to "trend down," over the next decade, call Amanda Fritz for emergency psychiatric evaluation.
Significant actuarial assumptions used in the valuation include a rate of return on the investment of present and future assets of 8.0 percent, a benefits in payment status annual increase of 3.0 percent, and a 3.0 percent annual rate to determine the normal retirement benefit for active employees....
Significant actuarial assumptions used in the valuation include a discount rate of 4.5%, and health care cost rates trending down from 10% in 2010 to 5% in 2020 for the major medical component, which is representative of the entire plan....
Another item that jumps out of these financials is that Tri-Met is apparently playing the same "interim financing" shell game that Portland uses when it goes out to borrow huge sums of money for "urban renewal" shenanigans. It authorizes "interim" financing of projects early on, before the public has any firm handle on what the project entails. While the jumbo "interim" loans are outstanding -- up to five years these days -- Tri-Met spends all the money. By the time it informs the public that it's going out for the permanent, long-term mortgage, the money's all been spent, the "interim" loan is due any day now, and it's way too late to say no to the long-term bonds.
We also see that Tri-Met is the tenant under several leases of office space out there, paying rent of about $1 million a year. This being Portland, one can only imagine how those properties are selected, and how the rents are set. Past or present proximity to Neil Goldschmidt is no doubt an important factor in that analysis.
In some ways, the timing of the bad money news works well for Tri-Met, which is currently begging voters for a property tax increase, supposedly to fund its current operations. On the other hand, the ugly balance sheet also reflects poorly on the agency's management, which has made some screamingly bad choices with the doomed WES commuter train to Wilsonville and a streetcar to nowhere on Portland's east side, and now proposes to double down with a mystery train to a place called Milwaukie.
Regardless of whether the voters are dumb enough to give the transit district its property tax, Tri-Met appears to have hit a financial iceberg. And its captain,
Ted Fred Hansen, left an hour ago on a speed boat. The rest of you, go by streetcar!
When I left New Jersey for the West Coast a little over 35 years ago, it was clear to me that I was leaving an insane place and heading out to a locale in which people were much more reasonable.
We've known for years that politicians use tax dollars to buy votes.
We've also known that sometimes dead people vote.
It was just a matter of time before... well, you guessed it.
If you find one of these, send the FBI a receipt.
Here's an interesting story worth clipping and saving -- pretty soon it will be illegal.
The appraisal that supported gubernatorial hopeful Chris Dudley's $350,000 tax writeoff in 2004 for donating his house to the Lake Oswego fire department makes for fascinating reading. The logic of it is crystal clear: Since Dudley's house and the land under it were worth $1.2 million, and the empty lot would have been worth $850,000, the building must have been worth $350,000.
A problem with this logic, however, is that in federal tax valuation matters, the whole is often worth more than the sum of the parts. Take for example a company with a net worth of $3 million. If its stock is held by three unrelated parties, who own one third each, is each of their blocks of stock worth $1 million? Probably not, because any buyer of a single one-third block would know that he or she could be outvoted by the other owners. Each of the three blocks, if they had to be appraised separately, would have a fair market value of less than $1 million, to reflect the minority discount. And it would be that lower value that would control the amount of the deduction if any of them gave his or her block to charity while the other two held on to theirs.
So it may be with Dudley's homestead. The whole thing may have been worth $1.2 million, and the land may have been worth $850,000, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the building was worth the difference between the two. Anyone who bought just the building, and not the land under it, would have had to either move the house or start paying the landowner rent for the land under the house. That reality would likely depress the value of the house substantially. And so yes, that would mean that valued separately, which they would have to be for tax purposes, the house and the land didn't have values that add up to the $1.2 million total value that they had when combined.
The IRS must not have audited Dudley, or if they did, they let this one slide. But if the revenuers had raised issues about it, the valuation technique that was used would surely have been one of the main targets of the government attack.
It's so, so sad that Ted Wheeler left us. Cogen and the New Sisters of Hawthorne seem to be wasting little time in plunging Multnomah County taxpayers deeper into the bottomless pit of government red ink. Now Jumpin' Jeff has joined Portland's creepy mayor in finding magic "cost savings" to fund wasteful projects like the epic-fail-in-the-making train to Milwaukie.
It's utterly insane. "Cost savings" on the Sellwood Bridge replacement? The bridge that for five or 10 years now, we've been crying about because we cannot afford to fix it? The bridge whose replacement isn't even designed yet? But there are going to be "cost savings"? The whole thing looks like the mayor's personal checkbook -- empty and built on delusions.
Old Hank Ashforth has got to be smiling. His zombie Convention Center hotel project could well be coming up soon on the Cogen-Adams hit parade.
Our travellin' pal Jack posts from the mountains high above Flagstaff, Arizona:
This will be the final installment of Road Notes. It has been a joy interacting with you, sometimes in front of everyone else, mostly privately, on all manner of topics. But I confess a touch of concern about the pessimism some of you express about our collective future. Some think Obama is driving the country into a black hole of debt-financed big government. Some think the nasty Republicans are the problem. Others think China will soon eat us alive. I disagree with all of that. But then, maybe I'm influenced by recently having read the Federalist Papers while driving around this muscular, limitless, incomparable land for six weeks. Or maybe I'm influenced by watching energetic young people do deals around tables eagerly waited on by other energetic young people; witnessing our independent judiciary in action; observing tourists from Asia and Europe swoon over our natural and man-made monuments; reading local newspapers spew their freewheeling criticism of both liberals and conservatives; listening to strangers openly discuss trivial and not-so-trivial issues over breakfast; seeing huge billboards attacking our sitting government without a thought of reprisal; driving down the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway in the rain; seeing thousands of lawn signs touting John or Mary for supervisor, alderman, judge, coroner, US Senator; meeting people deeply positive about their home towns of Amarillo, Salt Lake City, Woolwine VA, Nyack NY, Boston, on and on; learning a bit about curing bacon, growing apples, blowing glass, and surviving hurricanes (Vicksburg MS), tornadoes (here in Flagstaff AZ), floods (Cedar Rapids IA), and race riots (Selma AL); noting the overwhelming support for our troops overseas.
Or maybe I'm influenced by getting up very early this morning for the 49th Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, seeing thousands of smiling faces from all over the planet looking up at hundreds of colorful hot air balloons soaring into the October dawn. What a kick. I have never seen a deeper blue than the October sky in northern New Mexico. So maybe I am cockeyed or insufficiently cynical, but I suspect that what B. and I experienced over the past six weeks would soften even the crankiest curmudgeon. I come away from this trip absolutely convinced that we will find a way through our current crop of crises and soar into the blue sky. I also believe that pigs can fly. (See picture.)
The mayor of Portland is completely off his rocker. After his utterly preposterous declaration last spring that he had found $20 million in "cost savings" for sewer projects that he was then free to burn on bicycle paths, now he's finding "cost savings" in the Sellwood Bridge replacement project -- a project that's still in the planning stages and will doubtlessly run into overrun after overrun as it unfolds. And those mysterious "cost savings" are going to pay for the hallucinogenic light rail train to Milwaukie.
Then he's in the news telling the Multnomah County D.A. how to do his job. The county shouldn't stop prosecuting small crimes, says the mayor, because there are more magic "cost savings" that would pay for such prosecutions despite impending overall budget cuts.
Remember, the mayor is the guy who can't even keep current on his own mortgage. Somebody needs to adjust his medication.
Maybe when Obama comes to town, the mayor can tell him about the "cost savings" that the White House is missing out on.
The more Creepy talks, the less people are listening. We can only hope that the same thing happens when he says, "Re-elect me."
And by a pitcher for the Phillies! Awesome.
An alert reader writes about the plan to site an immigration jail down in Portland's heaven-forsaken South Waterfront district:
I thought I would pass along some information regarding the SoWhat "office building" that just so happens to have a prison in it. The hearing is tomorrow and there will be representatives from ICE detention there to answer questions. I have been doing some digging and this is what I found out.Perhaps they're so embarrassed at the terrible mistake they made in SoWhat that they'll do anything to get somebody to move down there. But it just compounds the previous mistake, because once people see the barbed wire fences and machine-gun-toting guards, they'll never want to live there. Go by streetcar!
The INA (immigration law) allows ICE to deport "aggravated felons" who are not lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and deport them "administratively." What the INA deems "aggravated felons," in short, are generally not the kind of guys you want hanging out in your neighborhood. They go before a federal administrative law judge for a hearing to decide their fate regarding deportation.
The detention vans pick up the "aggravated felons" from surrounding county and state prisons. These are guys convicted of violent felonies like rape, murder, assault, serious drug crimes, child abuse, etc. They arrive at ICE in belly chains and leg irons. They are loaded into holding cells to be processed by being interviewed then photographed and fingerprinted. When all the vans have arrived the prisoners are transported up to the Tacoma "office building" that just happens to be a prison. I’m told about 30 guys a day are going through the current facility located down on NW Broadway. That space has one large and two small holding cells. The new detention center in the SoWhat has four cells that are about double the square footage. I imagine they will be able to house more prisoners in the newer "office building" that has a prison in it.
Another interesting thing I learned is that people who are on electronic monitoring report to ICE. These individuals include convicted felons on probation those who have green cards or people convicted of crimes whose countries will not take them back (i.e., Cuba, Somalia, Vietnam). It kind of sounds like an immigration version of parole and probation where the convicts come and check in every Wednesday. I’m sure ICE is not letting its SoWhat neighbors in on that little tidbit. This is absolutely not the right fit for any neighborhood. ICE should be placed out by the airport or out at Wapato. I can’t believe that the city is ramming this through.
A smart little bird tells us:
Re: Dudley's house burning deduction, Brian Grant did the same thing in 1998 with a Lake O house. There is an Oregon Tax Court Magistrate Division opinion on the property tax ramifications, though no mention of the income tax issue.These guys give new meaning to the term "Blazers," that's for sure.
UPDATE, 11:25 a.m.: The case is No. 990985B, decided by Magistrate Jeffrey Mattson on Dec. 15, 1999. You could look it up. The issue was whether the county should reduce the tax assessment by the burden-down house, even though the Grants filed some paperwork late. The court ruled that it should.
According to this document, Portland's unfunded police and fire pension system overpaid its beneficiaries for years when it "grossed up" benefits to cover state income taxes on those benefits. Now the system is kneeling before the IRS with hat in hand, to see how it can correct the mistakes and get the overpayments back from the recipients. If the IRS doesn't go along with the city's proposal, the city will have to go back to the drawing board, because if the correction isn't made, the pension accounts will be taxed like a simple bank account, which would be a major disaster.
Nigel Jaquiss over at WW has raked in some choice muck: Gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley took a large tax deduction in 2004 for allowing the Lake Oswego fire department to burn down a house on his property that he didn't want, so that he could build his new McMansion on the site.
It's not a completely preposterous deduction -- the U.S. Tax Court (the nation's main tax court) has allowed it in at least one case -- but certainly there are lots of questions. To give just one example, the value Dudley reportedly placed on the unwanted house, $350,000, could be challenged. The key is whether that's the fair market value of the building -- what a hypothetical buyer would pay for it. The issue is not its value to Dudley (which was zero, obviously) and not its value to the fire department (which was probably less than $350,000), but what a reasonably informed buyer would pay a reasonably informed seller for the building. Dudley got an appraisal of the house, but as we've all learned in recent years, sometimes appraisals are inflated.
You have to wonder what kind of shape Dudley left the place in before he handed it over to the firefighters to burn. One would think that it would have been stripped of anything nice -- anything expensive -- which would in turn have reduced its fair market value. But who knows? Maybe the big guy let them torch some valuable fixtures.
Another issue is whether the deduction is really "a loss sustained on account of... demolition" of the structure, in which case the tax code expressly disallows it, and has done so since 1976. (The old favorable Tax Court case discussed earlier pre-dated that provision of the tax law.) Perhaps Dudley could argue that it wasn't a loss on demolition, but instead a loss on the transfer to the firefighters.
There's also a question of how one can give away a house without transferring the underlying land, but that's been known to happen. People own their houses on leased land in many locales -- it's not that unusual. And so the basic concept doesn't seem all that outrageous. But was there a deed for the building? Was it recorded? WW doesn't say.
If the IRS wanted to challenge the deduction, it would probably have to have done so before now. Barring unusual circumstances, the statute of limitations in a case such as this is three years from filing the return, which would mean that unless the former Blazer center has extended the limitations period, it expired a couple of years ago.
But when you add this new story to the tale of his apparent move to Camas, Washington, to avoid Oregon income taxes (although still living part time in a Portland home), Dudley emerges as a guy who plays multiple games with the tax laws. And we'd probably bet you a nickel that there is more tax shelter activity where these two moves came from. The guy seems smart with money -- but maybe too smart for politics.
Should it matter? Does this aspect of his character affect his ability to govern? Hard to say. But it doesn't help his chances in the election.
UPDATE, 11:28 a.m.: We just discovered that nice guy Brian Grant did the same thing as Dudley with another Lake Oswego house.
Another week, another slate of games for the players to choose from in our charity pro football underdog pool. Good luck, players:
8 KANSAS CITY at Indianapolis
7 DENVER at Baltimore
6.5 ARIZONA vs. New Orleans
6 TENNESSEE at Dallas
6 OAKLAND vs. San Diego
6 TAMPA BAY at Cincinnati
4 MINNESOTA at New York Jets
3 PHILADELPHIA at San Francisco
3 ST. LOUIS at Detroit
3 CLEVELAND vs. Atlanta
3 NEW YORK GIANTS at Houston
2.5 CAROLINA vs. Chicago
2.5 WASHINGTON vs. Green Bay
Readers, help them out: Which underdog (in caps) can win its game outright, without the benefit of the point spread? The higher the spread, the more points to be gained for picking that winning 'dog.
UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: The Jacksonville-Buffalo game is off limits, because the bookmakers have it as a pick 'em. (Not to mention crummy.)
Let's hope this guy and others like him do the right thing and are rewarded, not punished, for trying.
At next week's couplet party, you're invited to take "a self-guided walk or bike tour" of East Burnside and NE Couch Streets.
Here are some interesting seating charts for both houses of Congress, based on where the politicians get their money.
Once a city that prided itself on livability, Portland has now become a place where only the real estate developers' comfort matters. Basic quality-of-life issues for the average Joe and Jane just don't matter any more. Go by streetcar!
For a while now, we've surfed with amusement over to pdxmugshots.com, the website that displays the latest mug shots of some of the ne'er-do-wells arrested in Portland and vicinity. We wondered for a while how the anonymous author of the site kept it going, and figured that eventually he or she would pay for it with advertising revenue.
But alas, it's more sinister than that. Last night as we clicked on the photo of one poor soul apprehended in a suburb, we found a link below the picture: "Click Here To Remove This Mugshot from PDXmugshots.com." And upon clicking, we were brought to a page bearing this message:
Guilty as Charged?Wow. That's just sleazy -- an abuse of both public records laws and the power of the internet. We'll be heading over there a lot less frequently from here on out.
If you were convicted, or pleaded guilty/no contest to the charges and/or plea bargained lesser charges/diversion/etc, we do charge a removal fee of $29.00 USD per instance of removal. This includes removal from PDXmugshots.com, as well as PDXmugshot.com in various search engine results*.
Removal does not cover re-booking for NEW charges**. If you are arrested on new charges a week, a day, or even an hour after we remove you, you will need to pay the fee again.
PDXmugshots.com is NOT associated with any other site that publishes mugshots. If you find another site making this claim, please notify us immediately.
Click here to pay $29 for removal from PDXmugshots.com
* We do not control 3rd party search engines. It can take up to 3 weeks for Google/Yahoo/Bing/Etc's cache of pdxmugshots.com pages to be removed, though it generally happens in 48 hours.
** If you are on some sort of program where you are serving blocks of time, say on the weekends, or on some sort of work release, AND you have paid the removal fee, please email email@example.com and notify us whenever you are released, as we will have record of your payment and will simply remove you with no hassle.
And with that revelation his only appealing aspect disappears -- the prospect that he might break the Portland region's hopeless pattern of developer welfare.
It appears we may be sitting the governor's race out entirely. Or hey, write in Jack Bogdanski! The right guy for the job.
We're talking major screwups. But hey, we have Mayor Creepy in charge, so everything's going to be all right. And with streetcars, bioswales, and a new soccer stadium, tell me -- who needs cops?
Cash in on the next suburban teen fashion craze -- replica GPS monitoring bracelets, just like the real gangsters wear.
Well, I'll be. There is a group of folks down in Clackamas County who are getting ready to start a petition drive for an amendment to the county code that would require that creation or expansion of "urban renewal" programs first be subjected to a vote of the people. The proposed language of the code change is here.
This could throw the last monkey wrench into the insane Milwaukie light rail project, which desperately needs "urban renewal" money from Clackamas, but it could also be the harbinger of things to come elsewhere in the Portland 'burbs. The days of "urban renewal" leeching tax dollars off of basic governmental services in some outlying communities could be numbered. (As for the City of Portland itself, of course, even a referendum on such a reasonable concept is out of the question.)
It's never too late to go back to school.
We pay the phone company a monthly fee to announce to every caller to our land line that we don't accept solicitations. It stops the junk phone calls pretty effectively. But every now and then some outfit is stupid enough to push past that message and still try to solicit money from us.
We just got such a call, from -- get this -- the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. They must be getting really desperate. And it was a female caller. It looks as though they allow the women to do something, after all.
Here's a remarkable document from San Francisco. A "civil grand jury" down there has gone ballistic because the city and county's pension fund is going to be only 68% funded in five years. They're horrified.
Of course, here in Portland, our police and fire pension fund is 0% funded, and just about everybody acts like it doesn't matter. Our own calculations place Portland's unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities at around $3 billion (not a typo). What gets smart people worried in the Bay Area is nothing up here. Go by streetcar!
Oregon's taken in $220 million of federal "TARP" funds over the last eight months, but it's going to be a couple more months before the state is ready to start spending it on its intended purpose of bailing out homeowners who are in over their heads. The merits of these programs seem questionable to us, but dragging them out isn't going to make them any better.
For someone like me, who sits around stewing all year about some of the folly of our state and local government, the upcoming election is a real opportunity. The same government that never lets us vote on craziness like building a commuter train from Portland to Milwaukie or Beaverton to Wilsonville now is asking for property tax money for good old, ordinary buses. The same government that diverts our property taxes into fat cat developers' pockets in the name of "urban renewal" now wants us to raise our property taxes to pay for basics like fire trucks. The same government that builds streetcars to nowhere, on its own whim, now wants money to pay for local politicians' election campaigns.
If they won't let us vote on the things that concern us, there's only one thing to tell them when they want our vote for what interests them.
A reader writes:
Heads up, just got hit up by the Welches con man in Southeast Portland, 27th and Belmont to be exact. He's branched out, I guess. Anyways, appreciate the blog so I could tell him off...Indeed.
Wow, I literally wrote out the exact above email to you and had left it open when my roommates got home and immediately came into my room to tell me what just happened to them. "D***, you won't believe what just happened."
"Did it involve someone needing to get to Welches?"
So, I told them the deal, and they told me they gave him $13. We went back to where they last saw him (the corner of 31st and Belmont), and needless to say, after a lil' search, we found him at the Belmont Inn at 34th and Belmont playing video poker. We confronted him, and like a dog putting his tail between his legs, he gave us all the money he had ($7, I patted him down), and then we told him to get outta there, and he dutifully obliged. If I hadn't been a couple beers into things, I probably would've attempted to detain him and call the cops, although who knows what the cops would've done. They did get an email address from him, who knows if it's legit, but *********@yahoo.com is what he gave as his personal email. Anyways, thought you'd appreciate the update.
Some people just can't take a joke.
If you're a Guamanian tree snake.
The big daddies of pro football have done their thing, and here are the standings in our charity NFL underdog pool. With no player choosing the Monday night game, these results are final through Week 4:
Anonymous political attacks are coming through traditional channels as well.
From our buddy Jack, in his last week of a fabulous round-trip drive across our great nation:
Day 35 -- Vicksburg MS to Little Rock AR
We drove today across the Mighty Mississip from the Mississippi side to the Louisiana side, took a hard right north and drove along the west bank of the river through LA into Arkansas up to Little Rock AR, home of Mike Huckabee and some guy called Bubba. The Mississippi (east) side of the river at this point is called the Mississippi Delta (I learned today). It is a huge fertile alluvial plain in NW MS, with a lot of cotton farming. The MIssissippi River Delta is completely different (I also learned today). It is the area around the mouth of the river as it flows into the Gulf. I also learned today that the west bank people at this point regard themselves as Delta people. Businesses and cities on the LA and AR side commonly include the word Delta. This is a mystery, because the Mississippi Delta is so notoriously and chronically depressed and poor. Its troubles invariably drag the state of MS down to the bottom of national rankings on economic performance, employment, school performance, integration factors, etc. Based on our drive today, the west bank of the river, also a big cotton region, has a deeply poor, depressed feel, so maybe misery loves company. Same sensation we had in rural West Virginia.
We arrived in funky Little Rock in time to visit Bubba's Presidential Museum up on the Arkansas River. I remembered how we were so positively impressed when we stopped in Abilene KS a couple of years ago to visit Ike's fabulous Presidential Museum. Well, Bubba's was a bit of a downer. First, the building is a big square cube jutting gracelessly into the sky, like a huge Walmart warehouse. Second, VERY unlike Ike's museum, Bubba's is all about Bubba. Bubba narrates the White House tour. Bubba is seen speaking out of video screens at every turn. His correspondence with Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Newman, and Elton John is presented side by side with his correspondence with statesmen. I think he had a successful presidency (with a notable lapse or two) because I happen to like peace and prosperity. Silly me. But a presidential library should be about a period of time, it should be a balanced presentation of the historical markers of an era. It should NOT be a paean to a person. It feels like he still needs to get me to love him, to vote for him as man of the millennium -- he is still campaigning, slaying the Republicans. In other words, it showcases his worst trait -- overweening solipsism. The Eisenhower museum appeals to everyone -- it is entirely nonpartisan. This is partisan. The GOP is still trying to screw the poor. Still trying to shut down the government. How sad - he could have done some healing with this monument. Needless to say, I did not see the blue dress or any mention of his deposition. Sadly, I come away with lower regard for Bubba. Although I still like peace and prosperity.
Catchy Campaign Sign: RUDY THREATS FOR CHIEF OF POLICE, Lake Providence LA
Neat Enterprise Names (LA is good at naming): SUKUP, a grain storage company in LA and AR; PRINTS CHARMING, a print shop in Lake Providence LA; JEHOVA JAVA, Transylvania LA; BOONDOCKS ICE CREAM, Transylvania LA.
Our players have spoken! Here are the underdog picks for this week in our charity pro football prediction contest:
8.5 JACKSONVILLE vs. Indianapolis - Bob, genop, Eric
8 ARIZONA at San Diego - pdxmick, Gary
6.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Atlanta - Mike G.
6.5 DENVER at Tennessee - Biggest Cubs Loser, Andy, Doug
6 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia - Paul, Ricardo, Larry Legend, john dull, Gordon, Drewbob, AKevin, Annie, PJB
4.5 BUFFALO vs. New York Jets - Hank
3 CLEVELAND vs. Cincinnati - Broadway Joe
3 OAKLAND vs. Houston - genop's gal
3 CHICAGO at New York Giants - Matt, Flowers by Dorcas, Flowers by Dorcas Husband, Sattelihu, Anthony, Jim, Bad Brad, Michael K., Umpire
1.5 BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh - Nick
And here's Lola's choice:
As a liberal who can't bring himself to like Sponge John Faded Jeans, or find the prospect of another governorship for him the least bit appealing, I keep asking myself whether I could really vote for Chris Dudley. What would happen if he were elected? Mostly, how much harm could he do?
There's no realistic chance of him having the state legislature on his side, is there? Won't we still have the Ginny Burdick-Peter Courtney-Jackie Dingfelder veterans running the show in the legislative branch, egged on by the Bus Kid types like Jefferson Smith, Nick Kahl, Ben Cannon, etc.? Most of Dudley's proposals -- especially his tax cuts or anything having to do with the minimum wage or abortion -- would be DOA. And so what you'd likely be guaranteed to get out of Salem is pretty much nothing, for at least the next two years.
Or maybe a little more than nothing. I'm looking at the Goldschmidt people running the shadow government of this state, particularly in the Portland area, and I'd shed no tears if they got cleaned out of the boards of Tri-Met, the Port of Portland, OHSU, etc. I'm looking at the Milwaukie light rail boondoggle and would very much like to see someone kill it, which Dudley probably could.
And as for all the things that wouldn't get done in a divided government: Would it be a bad idea to take a breather from the continued poisoning of the state's business climate, and from bankrupting the state with more debt for construction pork and government employee fringe benefits?
It would really take a lot for me to vote for a Republican. But this time it's a close call. I'm a proud liberal, but I'm also an adult.
Portland needs a nonpartisan watchdog group to uphold the Oregon Constitution. We're still mystified as to how the city can be lending money to, and buying stock in, small businesses, when the state constitution seems to forbid that sort of thing. But it's doing it -- and now it's floating a procedure for the program. Good idea or not, it's not what state law seems to permit.
Here's another crazy consulting contract, and the dollar amount is open-ended: The City of Portland and Tri-Met are going to hire some expert to recommend a fare structure and collection system for the utterly pointless eastside streetcar. Gosh, don't the city and Tri-Met already pay staff people who should be able to figure that one out? You can almost smell some big shot's cousin who needs work.
How can you live with yourself?
They don't always teach their children well.
Increased crime from mass transit if the streetcar goes in, that is. "We don't allow crime in Lake Oswego." Suit yourself, folks. You can't say nobody warned you.
Meanwhile, Portland's pathological liar of a mayor keeps telling us, "No decision has been made yet." Sure.
"Green, sustainable" Portland? What nonsense. "Green" into the pockets of the West Hills people, is all.
Some interesting tidbits today about national firms, with Portland operations, in trouble. Wackenhut, the union-unfriendly private outfit that provides security guards to Tri-Met, has been busted for alleged racketeering in Florida. Fraudulent overcharging of the taxpayers, they say. Hmmmm...
Meanwhile, the company that owns the Art Institute of Portland -- something called Education Management Corp. -- is in hot water in Pittsburgh for allegedly falsifying information about its graduates' success in gaining employment.