This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 11, 2011 11:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was The PC police get up even closer in your face. The next post in this blog is What's Twitter got to do with it?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Someone's planning, Lord, kumbaya

The latest issue of Portland Curbsider is out. This newsletter from the City of Portland usually helps us all figure out which bin to put which type of trash in, but this time around, it's got much bigger ambitions.

Check out the first half of the thing. It's a textbook example of precious planner psychobabble -- page after page of platitudes. "What kind of Portland do we want?" If you could be a twee, what kind of twee would you be?

We hold ourselves accountable, so that the benefits and burdens of our actions are equitably shared across communities...

Achieving equity will be a priority and part of all the strategies and actions in the Portland Plan — from education, housing and economic prosperity to transportation, sustainability and public health. Addressing chronic racial and ethnic disparities requires specific action, such as the development of a racial and ethnic justice and accountability initiative...

A network of safe and attractive sidewalks, bikeways, trails and neighborhood greenways that connect people to nature and neighborhood destinations...

More Portlanders are leading active lifestyles and can easily get to thriving local business hubs, schools, parks and transit on safe sidewalks, trails and streets...

Excuse me, which week was yard debris pickup again?

On page 4, they've got some great news: Having people throw food scraps in with yard debris cuts landfill garbage by 30%! Yeah, and they're going to cut landfill garbage pickups by 50%. Probably jack up the price, too. What fun.

Anyway, to round out the absurdity, on the back of the newsletter is a survey designed to make it appear that Mayor Escalofriante and Sustainable Susan give a darn about your everyday problems, like potholes, poor street lighting, dilapidated parks, and the like. Ha! Ha! Whatever you write on that paper, you know what the City Hall solution will be -- streetcars, nasty infill, drainage ditches bioswales, and bike boulevards.

It’s not possible to immediately fix all problems, but the survey below gives you another way to inform the City’s budget decisions and priorities. In these tough economic times, many Portlanders have trimmed household budgets, and the City is doing the same.
Too, too funny. Go by streetcar! And above all, remember:
To create and enhance a vibrant city, BPS combines the disciplines of planning and sustainability to advance Portland’s diverse and distinct neighborhoods, promote a prosperous and low-carbon economy, and help ensure that people and the natural environment are healthy and integrated into the cityscape.

BPS provides a forum for community engagement and education, and is a catalyst for action. With a city full of partners, BPS develops creative and practical solutions on issues as far ranging as comprehensive, neighborhood and environmental planning, urban design, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency and solar technologies.

This innovative, interdisciplinary approach strengthens Portland’s position as an international model of sustainable development practices and commerce.

Comments (35)

Switching a few letters around would change the Curbsider into the Crusader.

And 18% of the people on the cover are white males... I'm surprised it's that high!

Arrg! Why did I read this while I have low blood sugar?!

I think that "Aliki" from Portlandia is my new symbol for the weird eco-planning-bike cult that has taken over the city. His portrait should hang at the entrance to BDS.

Everyone who comes into town will be greeted by a hollow-eyed zombie on the airport MAX: "I can't wait for you to meet Aliki!"

Prof. Bogdanski (said with fond memories of your tax class, circa 1997), I'm curious... I've lurked on your blog for some time, and while I see a tremendous amount of acerbic commentary from you and other commentators about the perceived decline of Portland, what I almost never see is: proactively, how would *you* structure city governance? Do you have any *specific* policy proposals by which we could reverse the apparent decline in civic infrastructure and long-term fiscal stability, apart from simply "vote 'em out?" For example, as you've frequently pointed out, we've got some serious long-term unfunded liabilities--how can we constructively deal with these, taking into account the legal minefield we'll likely have to navigate along the way?

Basically put, if you were mayor or a council member, how would you choose to shape the future of Portland? I'm especially interested in how you would handle significant structural issues such as our aging and ever-more decrepit sewer system; provisioning and oversight of emergency services; public employee wages and benefits (which ties into my question about long-term unfunded liabilities); and of course that perennial issue of job creation within Portland city limits.

I ask this out of genuine interest, and not snark. As the proprietor of one of the most-read blogs in Oregon, you're in a unique position to help shape policy through robust & reasoned debate.



...just because I'm having a Tenswatawa moment...

ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.
WOMAN: Well, 'ow did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake,
[angels sing]
her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur
from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I,
Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
[singing stops]
That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power
derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an empereror just
because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd
put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you here that, did you here that,
eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me,
you saw it didn't you?

Reading that mess of pottage, I'm once again reminded that most government feel-good literature like this can be summed up with a quote from the Alex Winter short film "Entering Texas:" "He's just greasing the pan, dear. It's special grease."


1) Get rid of the commission system

2) Have coucilors elected by geographic districts.

3) Severely curtail urban renewal, in physical scale and what its money can be spent on. Get govt out of the real estate development business.

4) Use money for its intended purpose. No more mission creep. No more demonstration houses built with water bureau money, bioswales for bikes, etc.

5) Admit that the long-term costs of rail service are too high. The Feds pay for intitial construction, but no operation or maintenance going forward. The cost has been to our bus service.

6) Admit that 85% to 90% of our populace drive cars and want a functioning street network for autos.

7) Admit that what makes a city livable are the boring things. Schools, cops, functioning services for as cheap as possible.

8) As far as the the pension system, who knows. That is a bomb whose fuse was lit a long time ago. Start by controling salary and benefits of current employees and probably reducing the overall workforce.

9) Admit that a functioning city needs more than to be a cool "livable" place for 20 year olds, retirees, and unmarried couples.

The stupid bioswales really gave the mosquitoes a hand last summer. I can't wait to see what food garbage in the yard debris does for the rat population.

I can't wait to see what food garbage in the yard debris does for the rat population.

I believe City Hall already has food service.

I think that the frustration comes in, from those of us who are critical but are not just knew jerk, anti-government crackpots, is that there seems to be such an emphasis on keeping Portland a "Keep Portland Weird" kind of place with all kinds of feel good initiatives and rah rah granoly speeches. And this at the expense of practical things like better roads, parks, services. Tri Met has been on a downhill money sucking slide for so long we cannot remember when it was anyones idea of a model transit system. We rarely shop or go to downtown anymore because of the crappy roads, bad parking and various "colorful street people" who make us feel like it is a hazard. How about encouraging business and improving infrastructure as a way of getting people to come and spend and build and maybe other funding issues might get addressed.

And yet Tri-Met was just rated #1 transit system in the entire country!!!

6) Admit that 85% to 90% of our populace drive cars and want a functioning street network for autos.

If the City of Portland keeps repeating that it isn't true...by George, it isn't true.

More and more Portlanders are choosing "active transportation" and "prefer" "alternative" modes of transportation.

(Oh, but that does not include buses, because buses aren't sexy and cool like Streetcars are. But electric cars and hybrids are O.K.)

Mr. Grumpy -

Ahhh, yes, TriMet is rated # 1.....

Which begs the question, rated by whom?

IIRC the rating is from a national group of transit planners.....

Wonder how its funders, the taxpayers of the region, would rate TriMet...?

Oh, wait, the funders, the taxpayers, did just rate TriMet in an election in November 2010....

Again, IIRC, the rating wasn't too good....TriMet's "we absolutely gtta have this extra pot of money" sales job was rejected.

Yeah, right, TriMet is # 1....

I rate TriMet #2

I'm very disappointed in you Jack. You have to be in the right frame of mind to read and understand such beautiful prose. Before reading it, I hopped on my bike and peddled down to my neighborhood medical co-op. With a renewed herbal essence I read the enlightened words from those who work for us. I was so touched I sang Kum bay ya! Now I'm looking for some "key Ingredients" they were talking about!

To "Marc V." by your very questions you have made it very apparent you do not read this blog. It is pointed out daily what the city should not be spending it's time and money on. Go back and read a weeks worth and think about it.

How will all of this sweet talk by city fathers/mothers play out if the IMF has their way with the new plan? Maybe we will all have different priorities at that time. It really will mess with the pensions.


V Mark, I agree with dman's last paragraph responding to you. I hope you can look through the maze of critiques on local government and see the message, it's quite clear.

I've been involved in over 35 years of public meetings here. It always bothered me that the form of the message, the critique, becomes more important to some than the message in the critiques. They don't like it that the remarks aren't sugarcoated or more.

Many times government staff or others opposing one's view and not subscribing to their Mission employ that famous comment/question, "Well, what would you propose then?" , when the other person has spent much time expressing the answer in what they have critiqued. Their critiques are the proposals.

It's like they ask your type of question as they are more superior, knowledgeable by their put-off question. And then if you try to follow up to answer their rhetorical question, they generally don't want it answered.

For example, I have never had a government official (or others) who strongly believe that we need many more hundreds of millions of dollars for bike infrastructure of how they reconcile that with over 95% of all trips in the region are by vehicles. The question is a critique and not in the form they want. But worse, they don't answer it.

Actually Jay, that says that 85% of households have a car.

20% don't drive to work, but they may drive many other places.

dman, I actually read this blog almost every day, and have done so for quite some time. :-) I'm well aware that significant textual energy is expended by blog participants on what the city should *not* be spending its time and money on.

But at day's end, I don't believe deconstruction alone advances the civic ball. It's easy to say what we don't like, but actually coming up with concrete policy proposals that satisfy the (to me) foundational criteria of fiscal responsibility, social equity and sensible infrastructure investment seems to be bloody damn hard. I *know* there have been some excellent discussions in the past about certain issues (e.g., the recent SoWa immigration jail discussion), but for the most part these genuinely useful (to me) policy discussions are vastly outnumbered by deconstructive snark.

Of course, this is a blog, and not a policy workshop, and the daily snark is often what makes reading this blog so much damn fun. But this blog is frequented by a number of people who obviously care deeply about this city, and who have the skills to propose concrete, detailed and fundamentally useful policies that taken together, might help form a genuinely viable platform for a City that Doesn't Suck. For example, I found Snard's response to my query an extremely useful summation of a number of points worthy of more detailed discussion.

Thanks for the considered responses.

When a ship is sinking, the first step is stop the water coming in. When Portland finally rights itself, it can aspire to become the green capital of the world, and a utopia of peace and justice. But in order to do that, it has to first stop wasting its future on nonsense.

We need more and better policing.

We need to take downtown back from the scuzzies and make it a place that people want to frequent again.

We need to end the open-air mental health "system."

We need to rebuild our crumbling parks.

We need better street maintenance.

We need to replace the Sellwood Bridge before somebody gets killed going over it.

We need a better reputation as a place to do business.

We need earthquake preparedness.

There are many needs. But none of them will be attended to with the twisted priorities of City Hall, Earl the Pearl, and the army of misguided planners. We need to stop the insanity before we can make positive change.

Instead we're getting streetcars, a soccer stadium, more unwanted light rail, and a white elephant hotel for our money. The foolishness never stops.

Prof. Bogdanski, many thanks for that concise summation.

You have far more patience than I: I looked thru it to see if the new yard debris pickup schedule had been published (it hadn't) then promptly discarded it.

One interesting factoid comes to mind, however: the bulk of Metro's money comes from solid waste. How do you suppose they'll replace a 30%+ drop in fees?

How gaggy! I read that piece and wondered how many hours of staff time and how much money went into producing the startling news that the city wants equity for all. Yea, me too.

Re. the mailer: I got it and spent a frustrating few minutes filling it out. It didn't really address the things that are real problems for the city or our neighborhood and I wrote a note in the margin remarking on these omissions before mailing it off.

I've worked in printing, advertising and public relations long enough in a past life that I recognize a mailer that probably cost us more than it needed to in flowery prose, color ink and oversized, folded stock.

Re. getting MLS: There's an article in today's Oregonian about the people who posed for the onslaught of Timbers billboards around town. If you travel up Burnside from the bridge to Sandy, you'll see one literally every block - on boards, painted on the sides of buildings. The first time I saw this it looked like expensive overkill for one street. I have no idea if this carpeting is going on elsewhere. It would be nice if other things - community programs, etc. - had the same level of promotion and support.

Regarding the food scrap plan, what isn't clearly stated in the Curbsider is that the City's plan calls for garbage pickup to be reduced from weekly pickup to once per month citywide. For those households that want to retain weekly garbage pickup your cost will double.

No discount for those who already compost and will not benefit from weekly yard debris pick up.
And if you don't have kitchen space counter top or under the sink for the food scrap container, too bad.

And yes, Multnomah County Public Health staff are concerned about increased rodent problems resulting from this plan.

Mark V, I think you know this but I want to make sure. When I stated my comment above, "how do they reconcile" 95% of trips are by vehicle, that critique is really saying that I disagree with the spending priorities and want a more fair distribution to our vehicular infrastructure-like Bojack's, "We need to replace the Sellwood Bridge before....".

I think the snarks here are more constructive than destructive if you know how to read between the lines. Snarks are generally less wordy, and we won't get the long winded, say nothing jargon that Susan Sustainable gave us that instigated this post.

Mark V - Last night I was having dinner with a couple of very old (30 plus years worth) friends. At one point, I was bemoaning how ridiculous the current crop of young adults are and the rejoinder was that we had been ridiculous too.

And the one part of that conversation that was hard to refute was that my generation had once believed it was capable of changing the political landscape for the better. Yes, our protesting (and a few other things) got the US out of Indochina. Yes, we helped move civil rights forward for minorities, women, and gays. And we started to change the electorate until the right wingers came back with a vengeance.

Those friends do not post here but they would agree with the need for fiscal responsibility while holding a civil liberties point of view and don't assume business will police itself point of view. And they would agree that the the current local crop of politicians and planners need to find something else to do with their lives.

The thing is that we all believe the system is too broken and too corrupt to actually be changed at this point. So while we might have ideas, we have no hope that they could ever be implemented.

"And they would agree that the the current local crop of politicians and planners need to find something else to do with their lives."

You reject the actions of the progressive liberal left.

"And we started to change the electorate until the right wingers came back with a vengeance."

You reject the actions of the conservative right.

What do YOU propose?

Of course, this is a blog, and not a policy workshop, and the daily snark is often what makes reading this blog so much damn fun. But this blog is frequented by a number of people who obviously care deeply about this city, and who have the skills to propose concrete, detailed and fundamentally useful policies that taken together, might help form a genuinely viable platform for a City that Doesn't Suck.

I'd have added a comma after the first *that*, above. But, then, I just love commas, dont you?

"Snarks are generally less wordy, and we won't get the long winded, say nothing jargon that Susan Sustainable gave us that instigated this post."

I'm not sure if Mark V's posts are quite so "jargon-filled" or "say-nothing" as SS's, but there IS the "...advances the civic ball" bit (Heimlich, anyone?), among others. No dearth of "mots", bon or otherwise, either.

I think Mark acquits himself quite well in the native tongue of COP prose and can't help but suspect a ringer.

Trust no one....


Home grown?

Mark V, I went back and reread your first comment on this post and you said, "Do you have any 'specific' policy proposal....apart from simply 'vote 'em out'?".

In evaluation, isn't "vote 'em out" a "specific" policy? It seems that is what the Egyptians have done. I think on several levels many feel that same way here in the USA, and especially around here.

And I slightly agree with cc, are you a ringer, similar to the types I alluded to that I've heard for decades in government around here? Evade the critique, the questions, the comments by coming back with the kinds of inquiry you made to Jack.

Home grown?

Hey, man...

Paranoia strikes deep...

Just Red Hook Long Hammer and a BLT with cheddar and avocado.



...ya think?

cc / lw, I wish I was a ringer, wouldn't that be nifty? Then I could pretend to be a concerned citizen seeking a coherent statement of positions from the regular posters on this blog, while snorting donuts and hoppy beers in my secret lair of leftist evil from deep beneath city hall.

Instead, you'll just have to settle for me, a previously rather apathetic citizen who periodically forgets the proper use of commas, who is genuinely interested in seeing if any of you clever, clever people can help him articulate survival strategies for a city that he's come to love quite dearly.

My questions were asked out of respectful interest, nothing more.

Onwards to wherever, and thanks for your time!


Marc V., apologies for maybe appearing haughty. I appreciate your comments. And I hope you can see "specifics" in cynicism.

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