Beaver football sinking down with the rest
At Oregon State, bad behavior by football players will get them suspended from the team -- but only for games that don't matter much.
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At Oregon State, bad behavior by football players will get them suspended from the team -- but only for games that don't matter much.
Here's a story about the latest in a continuing chain of car crashes at the east end of the handy dandy new East Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" in Portland:
"Since the city has changed the intersection there have been several accidents here. I’ve been to several myself," said Officer Stephen Endicott. "I don’t know why, but it seems to be confusing for people who are intoxicated."...
In one past case, a driver crashed into the "bio-swale" catch basin outside the building.
It isn't the first time a police officer has expressed bemusement at this Rube Goldberg traffic "improvement."
This time City Hall will blow some big bucks to "negotiate" over the silly "sustainability center" project, which the Legislature has deliberately unfunded. Apparently they're "negotiating" with the real estate development firm known as Portland State University.
The university people will probably go get their own outside counsel, too, so that taxpayers can be fleeced on both sides of the table.
Nothing like dropping 25 thou on a high-priced outside lawyer over a ridiculously impractical building that may not ever get built. It's the Sam Rand way. The city has plenty of money. Go by streetcar!
The Portland Development Commission is actively looking for a developer for a Convention Center hotel. But fortunately, for the moment at least, it's not looking to build a new one -- it just wants to rehab one of the old ones. That actually makes some sense, although the devil is in the details and one can't expect the project to be anything but a big handout to some favored real estate sharpie and a well connected construction contractor. Go by streetcar!
SoloPower, the solar energy equipment manufacturing company that's supposed to be Portland's best hope for an economic boost, has finally announced where its manufacturing plant is going to be. According to published reports, it's this 225,000-square-foot industrial building on North Marine Drive, almost all the way out to Kelley Point:
The site abuts Bybee Lake, part of a wildlife area, on its south side, and it's just across the river from West Hayden Island, a large part of which the Port and the city have long been conspiring to pave over for a large shipping terminal. It will be fascinating to see (a) how environmentally friendly solar equipment manufacturing turns out to be, (b) how easy or hard a time the company will get from state and local regulators, and (c) whether and how the West Hayden Island pave-over plan might fit into SoloPower's business strategy for Portland.
SoloPower is leasing, not buying. And it's only part of the complex the company says it wants to establish in the area; reportedly, it is on the hunt for another lease in the vicinity. A split facility is probably less than ideal from the executives' standpoint, but the many tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies that have been lavished on them, from all levels of government, doubtlessly ease their pain. That includes a reported $15 million in local property tax abatements -- "green," indeed.
Most interesting of all, however, is that there's nowhere near enough parking at the Marine Drive site to satisfy the city's normal planning rules, and so SoloPower is asking the city for an "adjustment," whereby the number of required parking spaces would be cut down from 304 to 112:
The existing building at this site was constructed in 1996 as a warehouse with accessory office. At that time the Zoning Code required a minimum of 9 spaces for the accessory office (based on 4,096 square feet) and 67 spaces for the warehouse (based on 221,084 square feet); for a total of 76 required parking spaces. According to the applicant, the site was developed with 113 parking spaces.
The applicants propose to change the use of the building from warehouse, with accessory office to manufacturing and production, with accessory office. As a result, the required minimum parking spaces for the office space (4,096 square feet) will remain the same, but the required minimum for manufacturing and production (221,084 square feet) would increase to 295; for a total of 304 required parking spaces.
The tenant (Solopower) plans to provide 112 parking spaces (including 100 vehicle spaces, 5 carpool spaces accommodating 2 people per vehicle, 6 accessible spaces and 1 van accessible space). The facility will operate with two-12 hour shifts, with a maximum of 100 employees on site at one time, during two shift change periods each day.
Wait a minute. SoloPower says it's going to bring "nearly 500 full-time jobs and 250 construction jobs" to Portland. But it will need only 112 parking spaces at the larger of its two facilities? And even during shift changes, there'll never be more than 100 people there? Well, I'll be.
By our earlier calculations, state and local government was subsidizing SoloPower to the tune of $114,000 per job. Maybe that estimate's way too low.
There's a noteworthy election dynamic shaping up out in Beaverton. In Novembers, voters will be asked to vote on two ballot measures that will shape the suburban city's future.
The school district is asking the public for about $80 million in property taxes, while the city's real estate developer welfare establishment is asking for approval of an "urban renewal" district that would devour an estimated $150 million in property taxes, including money that would otherwise go to schools. Although proponents of the two measures are singing each other's praises, it's clear that there's an "us and them" relationship between them:
"It needs to be clear that one is a tax increase measure and the other is not," said Don Mazziotti, the community and economic development director for the city of Beaverton. "The urban renewal initiative is not a new tax.
"But even though both are different, they’ll both be on the ballot at the same time and both will benefit the city. So, they’ve decided to support ours and we will support their measure."
How's that for The Don's "support"? "Theirs is a new tax -- ours isn't." With friends like that, the school board doesn't need enemies.
Having watched that fellow in action in Portland -- he was the ramrod for the city's failed South Waterfront (SoWhat) District -- we couldn't advise voters in the Beav' to hand him $1.50 to play with, much less 100 million times that much. And why would anybody vote $80 million for the schools while at the same time voting to let "urban renewal" take many millions of the school district's money away? A "yes" vote on both measures would be nuts, on any number of levels.
Not to mention that the population of that city, like everybody else in our region, is really suffering at the moment. As the miscreants at the Portland school district learned last spring, it's bad time to be asking taxpayers for dough, even "for the children."
Hurricane Irene was atrocious, after all.
Thirty-four locations in Japan, some of which were not evacuated for a long time after the explosions and triple meltdown, have tested over the Chernobyl forced resettlement limit.
And with much more water contamination, Fukushima is probably worse than Chernobyl overall. In any event, downplaying the magnitude of the radioactive filth, as the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric are doing, just compounds the tragedy.
One of the great fairy tales of our time is that the United States is going to come up with a responsible long-term disposal system for the wicked nuclear waste that is generated as a byproduct of atomic bomb production. For 65 years we've been creating tank farms full of deadly radioactive sludge, by the way we make nuclear weapons: Run a reactor, take out the used fuel (which would kill you if you stood next to it for 10 minutes), dissolve it in a nasty chemical bath, and then sift out the plutonium and the kind of uranium that our bomb designers like to use. After we get what we need for our friendly weapons of mass destruction, what's left over goes into tanks. Virtually all of the stuff that would kill you on contact is left in that brew.
The tanks don't last forever. After a few decades, they start to leak and belch and threaten local water and air. And so there's a need for new tanks, and the waste is transferred from an older tank to a newer one. Since the tank contents are brutally radioactive, highly toxic as a chemical matter even if they weren't radioactive, and somewhat uncertain in their composition, moving them is expensive and dangerous. It's like melted-down nuclear "corium" from a disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima. In some ways, it's worse, because of the stuff added by the process of extracting the bomb fuel "goodies."
And so here is where the fairy tale starts. The engineering geniuses who brought you nuclear destruction and nuclear power say that with the right amount of money, they can turn the tank waste into a kind of glass that won't need to be stored in a tank. The "vitrified" waste will be as solid and unlikely to leak as a spent nuclear fuel rod from a commercial reactor -- the more familiar stuff that sits in spent fuel pools from coast to coast, giving off its scary blue light.
The problem, of course, is that we don't know what we're going to do with vitrified defense waste -- or commercial reactor spent fuel, for that matter -- in the long run. Supposedly the federal government is going to build and open a giant underground vault, and it will all get shipped to, and buried, there. The deep dump will be sealed off, and the waste will stay there forever.
It had better stay there forever, because a lot of it is going to be dangerously radioactive for something like 10,000 years. In some ways, it's hard to picture what that means. Ten thousand years ago, farming on earth was just beginning. The population of the world was 5 million. An ice age was just ending. There weren't many people in North America -- certainly, no white people. The first European settlement on the continent was about 450 years ago.
Given that we don't know what will become of our nation, or our species, so far into the future, some say it's our moral responsibility to find a final solution for high-level nuclear waste now -- before there comes a "loss of institutional control." This kind of talk has been circulating around for three decades or more.
And that's where the big-bucks corporations come in. Oh yes, they can provide the permanent answer for the defense waste problem, but it's going to cost you.
Is it ever.
Which brings us to the latest chapter in the fairy tale. Now the federal "Energy" Department, Bechtel, and the other mega-firm contractors who run the nuclear horror show at Hanford are starting to tell each other that the $12.2 billion budget for the waste vitrification plant probably isn't going to be enough. Doggone it, they can get the job done, but it's going to cost just a little bit more.
Not too much. Oh, I don't know -- a mere $900 million more.
The engineering is not proven to work -- if we had to bet, we'd say it's never going to deliver what's been promised. And the costs just go up and up and up. The nuke boys have got us where they want us -- we have to do something. And they'll charge whatever they darn well please.
You want to know why the federal government almost defaulted on its debts? It's because of projects like Hanford. Even if you think it was, and is, a great idea for the United States to use and stockpile our engines of widespread death, consider the cost of the full production cycle. Our parents and grandparents didn't, and they've left us an awful mess, at Hanford and several other places across the country. If it doesn't kill us, it may very well break us.
A friend writes:
A guy who lost his barn in a flood in Vermont said, "This is Vermont... we roll with it." Well, we had some floods in NJ as well and I just want to say, "This is Jersey. We find out who's responsible and.... uh... you don't see him no more."
According to the Trib, the Portland school district has enlisted the Miller Nash law firm in connection with the Oregon Secretary of State's assertion of election law violations by 11 of the district's employees:
District leaders are consulting with attorneys at the Miller Nash firm, its external legal counsel, about their legal options, Shelby says. PPS has 20 days to request a hearing.
"We’re leaning that way," district spokesman Matt Shelby, one of the five staff members slapped with a violation and $75 fine, told the Tribune on Tuesday. "We’re disappointed in the finding because we made quite an effort to run things past our internal counsel and external counsel – and at times the secretary of state – to make sure we were operating within guidelines."
The taxpayers apparently paid for two sets of lawyers before the 11 employees committed the apparent violations, and now they'll pay for two sets of lawyers to defend them? Doesn't sound right. Not surprising, but not right. The backers of the school tax bond measure in question had a bajillion dollars to spend to push the measure; maybe they should pungle up for the attorneys on this one.
Here's an ugly story out of St. Louis. If this game comes to Portland, the multi-modal gurus will have the National Guard called out.
We are heartened by yesterday's revelation (first posted on this blog) that the Oregon Secretary of State has found that Portland school district officials (including Super Carole) illegally campaigned for the May school tax bond measure with public funds. It's about time somebody took enforcement action against misconduct in Portland around election time.
Last April we were one of the first people, if not the very first, to question publicly what seemed to be a clear and brazen violation of state law by the district. (The O picked up on our complaint a couple of days later, and reached the same conclusion. Hey Andy, get your facts straight.)
Apparently the eight officials caught in the act are now planning to request a hearing to contest the state's findings. That's curious. The $75 fines that the state has meted out are ridiculously low. Why not just pay them and be done with it?
A reader points out that there's potentially more at stake. State law (ORS 294.100) provides in part:
(2) Any public official who expends any public moneys in excess of the amounts or for any other or different purpose than authorized by law shall be civilly liable for the return of the money by suit of the district attorney of the district in which the offense is committed, or at the suit of any taxpayer of such district, if the expenditure constitutes malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty.
(3) On the demand in writing of 10 taxpayers of any municipal corporation with a population exceeding 100,000 inhabitants, filed with the tax supervising and conservation commission in the county in which the municipal corporation is situated, which demand sets forth that a public official has unlawfully expended public moneys in excess of the amount or for any other or different purpose than provided by law and that the expenditure constitutes malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty, the tax supervising and conservation commission shall make an investigation of the facts as to the expenditure. If the tax supervising and conservation commission finds that public moneys have been unlawfully expended and that the expenditure constitutes malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty, the commission shall proceed at law in the courts against the public official who has unlawfully expended the moneys for the return of the moneys unlawfully expended to the treasury of the municipal corporation. A right of action hereby is granted to the tax supervising and conservation commission for the purposes of this section.
And so if the violations in question here constitute "malfeasance in office" or "willful or wanton neglect of duty," the public officials in question (11 have been named by state, although only eight have been fined) could be held personally liable to pay for the school district's illegal mailers. One of the flyers sent out by the school board reportedly cost $36,500 to produce and mail out.
Maybe the guilty parties could do the right thing "for the children," and have the monies reimbursed from their pay. Super Carole, at last report, was pulling down $190,000 a year plus benefits.
Another question is who's going to pay for legal representation for the school officials. Surely they'll have lawyers helping them present their case at the hearings they want -- are taxpayers going to pay for that, too?
Funny thing, though -- there was no breathless press release from Secretary of State Kate Brown's office about last week's enforcement action. You would think that with all the public relations pieces her office sends out, there'd be something forthcoming about this extremely high-profile case. But nope -- nada.
It's eating everything, and major cutbacks in basic public services are on the horizon.
Become an artist.
A while back, the gelato place at 15th and Brazee got a liquor license. As we recall, there wasn't much opposition, because it was a family-friendly neighborhood place that mostly sold ice cream to kids. If a Mom or Dad occasionally wanted a beer while the kids slurped down frozen treats, what harm could it do?
Fast forward to today. The gelato place is gone, and the new tenant has opened a brewpub, with "all-day happy hours" and live music. And they're reportedly getting to use the gelato joint's liquor license while the unhappy neighbors try to figure out what just hit them.
There are plenty of vacant storefronts on Northeast Broadway. There doesn't need to be a brewpub on Brazee Street. And grandfathering in on somebody else's license? It's hard to believe that's allowed.
This one last night over by Director Park. All aboard for mayhem!
Back in April, we questioned whether the Portland public school district was campaigning on the public dime for the school tax bond measure, which ultimately failed. Today we learn that the Oregon Secretary of State has found that school board employees did indeed violate state law by engaging in such campaigning.
A reader who filed a complaint in the matter has sent us copies of 11 notices he says he has received from the Secretary of State, each of which finds that a school district employee violated state law by engaging in improper advocacy for the bond measure. The 11 employees range from Superintendent Carole Smith all the way down to three lowly clerical types.
But get this: For the eight top honchos, the proposed fine is $75 each, and for the three clerical types, the proposed fine is zero.
Here's a list of the accused:
Carole Smith - Superintendent - proposed $75 fine
Sarah Carlin Ames - CIPA Public Affairs Director - proposed $75 fine
Jollee Patterson - General Counsel - proposed $75 fine
CJ Sylvester - Chief Operating Officer - proposed $75 fine
Sarah Schoening - Director of the Office of School Modernization - proposed $75 fine
Matt Shelby - CIPA Public Information Officer - proposed $75 fine
Katie Essick - CIPA Family Communications Manager - proposed $75 fine
Robb Cowie - CIPA Executive Director - proposed $75 fine
Brian Christopher - clerical position - no fine
Richard Martin - clerical position - no fine
Francisco Garcia - clerical position - no fine
We'll post the notices if we can a little later today.
UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.: The notices are here.
It promises to be a cooler week here in the Rose City, and probably a slow news week, too, as folks think about sneaking out early for Labor Day weekend. What a fine opportunity to start thinking about the upcoming pigskin season. The "college" kids will start hitting the gridiron before the week is out.
As we mentioned last week, we'll be playing the charity pro football underdog game on this blog again this year. Indeed, the first lines will be posted on Tuesday, September 6 -- just eight days from now. (The first pro game of the season is a Thursday nighter on the 8th.)
If you e-mailed me to say you were interested in playing the underdogs, watch your e-mail over the next few hours for further instructions. For those readers who haven't thought about this yet, here's the basic lowdown: The game will operate pretty much the same way it did the last two years. Players kiss $20 goodbye -- it all goes to charity -- and slug it out, season-long, for glory and the right to designate which charity gets the group gift.
The object of the game is to pick each week one NFL underdog that's going to win its game outright. Each successful pick wins points for the player equal to the number of points by which that 'dog was predicted by the oddsmakers to lose. The player with the most points at the end of the playoffs is our champ and gets to direct the entries to his or her favorite charity. With enough players, we will have multiple winners, and several charities will benefit, as happened last year. A total of $900 went out to a group of charities last time around, as directed by our five top finishers. We'll do something like that again this year, depending on how many players we get. The details will be finalized once we have all the entries, in a couple of weeks. First place will definitely have a big advantage over second.
The official rules of this year's game are here. If you'd like to see an example of a week's lines, posted weekly on Tuesday or Wednesday, you can go here. Then here's a typical Sunday morning post showing who picked whom. And here's a sample wrap up of a week's results and standings. The final standings from last year are here -- our winner scored 78 points, and only a point and a half separated second from fifth places.
Knowing something about pro football is helpful, but there's luck involved -- that's why they play the games. If you'd like to give it a try, and maybe be a stud or studette for your favorite charity, just e-mail me at email@example.com, the official e-mail address for this year's festivities. I'll get back to you shortly.
The ugly combat over "urban renewal" in Clackamas County took a wicked turn late last week. The county commissioners, terrified that "urban renewal" scams might become subject to voter approval, revealed that they have hired high-priced Portland lawyers to write a legal opinion and a memo attacking the ballot measure that recently qualified, through a petition drive, for the November ballot. The measure would require a countywide public vote when "urban renewal" districts are created or expanded.
The letters are here and here. Somewhat amusingly, they're both from lawyers who make a lot of money on "urban renewal." One is from Ball Janik, the ultimate Portland City Hall real estate fixer firm; it's signed by the firm, but on senior partner Steve Janik's letterhead. The other letter is from Harvey Rogers, the lawyer at K&L Gates who as bond counsel seems to collect a fee every time the City of Portland borrows big money, including on "urban renewal." Which is often.
The Ball Janik letter -- a formal opinion running 10 pages -- basically says that the ballot measure is "more likely than not" unconstitutional, at least in part. The Rogers letter -- a mere three pages -- dances around a lot more, but it seems to be saying that the measure is misleading, vague, and likely to be expensive for the county.
We can't imagine what the lawyers are going to charge for that many words. The county commissioners must have a pretty big budget for this sort of thing. We shudder to think of how many hungry people in Clackamas could be fed with the money that's going to Messrs. Janik and Rogers, all to make sure that the insane Mystery Train to Milwaukie gets built.
Out in Elgin, Oregon (pop. 1800), a man has been shot to death by a police officer, and the townsfolk are sufficiently outraged as to call for shutting down the three-person city police department. As is so often the case, the initial details of the shooting don't hang together. But the critics say the officer in question "always had his hand on his gun."
We just received a robotic phone call from the "Wells Fargo debit card" fraud artists. To our cell phone, no less. The caller ID said "261." They told us our Wells Fargo debit card had been stolen. Which is a neat trick, because we don't have one.
To paraphrase Ogden Nash: If called by a scammer, don't yammer.
Instead of baseball-sized diamond earrings, these days pro basketball players have been advised to wear only the golfball-sized ones in public.
The hurricane has passed through New York and vicinity, and already the talking heads on the telly are talking about it in the past tense. The sun's back out at the Jersey Shore. But there's all sorts of flooding to deal with, a lot of property has been damaged, and a dozen or so people have lost their lives. It's a wicked mess, but it could have been worse.
Now they're interviewing Michael Chertoff, who when it came to disaster response proved to be a great lawyer. That's got to be the clown being brought out to end the show.
CNN confirms that Portland, Oregon is in danger:
The operator of the triple meltdown site at Fukushima, Japan has for many months had a live camera pointed at the four trashed nuclear reactors. It's at an awkward location and an unrevealing angle, and checking in to see what's happening at the plant has been a lot like watching paint dry.
That is, until a few hours ago, when this guy showed up:
Anybody know the Japanese for "WTF"?
They had another earthquake right under the Columbia River at Hanford last evening -- a 2.6. But don't worry, they tell us -- everything's fine at Hanford. As always.
We don't get hurricanes, but our own day will come. Here's a guy trying to picture it.
Yes, it should.
The State of Texas says that will be $5 extra.
With most of our familial peeps in or near New York City, and many of the Mrs.'s there too, it's hard to stay focused on anything other than Hurricane Irene at the moment. When the Big Apple announces a day ahead of time that it's shutting down all mass transit, and it will stay shut down until Monday afternoon, that's pretty heavy. Down at the Jersey Shore, there's a bunch of evacuatin' goin' on, including from the town that we enjoyed so greatly last summer. Even the Wawa stores are closed and boarded up. You never see that.
A reader writes:
Have you seen the Ducks' new "Pro Combat System for Dressing"? (Apparently they're not called uniforms any more.)
Aside from the tackiness of referring to the game these kids play as "combat" when some of their peers are actually engaged in, and dying in, the real thing, you also have to wonder about the thought process behind naming an amateur sports team's uniforms the "pro system."
Moreover, why is Nike allowed to use LaMichael James in what is an obvious commercial? The entire thing is an unseemly result of a thoughtless marketing department on steroids. This team is so very hard to cheer for.
If that shopping center guy can't get an "urban renewal" handout in Milwaukie -- and he may not be able to -- what about Beaverton? Here's a story showing both him and The Don being quite evasive about whether that idea's in play. And when guys like that won't give you a straight answer, something's usually up. Just what Beaverton needs -- another shopping center.
What a complete and total disgrace. And what's the photo about -- "You want damages from the Vatican, go jump in a lake"?
The person (or persons) who run pdxmugshots.com -- the controversial site that shows mugshots of the arrested in the Portland area, and until the other day would take them down for a fee -- have, to this point, remained anonymous. But some intrepid journalists at Willy Week are apparently hot on one such person's trail, and they'll likely have his or her identity quite soon.
That being the case, a purported proprietor of said website has disclosed his identity to us, for publication on this blog. He says he would rather be "outed" here than elsewhere.
Somehow we feel we're being dragged into something bigger than (or different from) what's being presented to us, but hey, maybe it's accurate and maybe it's mildly, somewhat, tangentially newsworthy. So we'll take the bait. Here's what the e-mail said:
Hi Jack, my name is Kyle Ritter. I run PDXmugshots.com/KA Marketing and I will not be answering any calls, emails, or knocks on my door... from anyone. That includes all WW staff.
So then, now you know.
If you're not sure what to make of that, you're not alone.
The blaze we blogged about the other morning is out, but a new wildfire has started, and according to this story, it is "within several miles of a storage area for spent nuclear fuel." As we mentioned previously, there's a lot of loose nuclear contamination at various points around the Idaho National Lab complex, and so any fire there is troublesome, despite what the federal nuclear bomb-makers may tell people.
He'll take four years off from being an orthopedic surgeon if he's elected Oregon Secretary of State. But do we need another downstate doctor in state government?
They certainly own that fellow in the White House.
That "green" manufacturing that's supposed to bring Oregon back? It may not be the salvation that it's cracked up to be.
Blogs are ephemeral things. For example, many folks give blogging a try, but burn out after a while. And many of the fascinating web pages to which blogs link are gone in a short time. And so when one scrolls through the archive of an older blog, many of the links in older posts go nowhere. You get one of those "404" messages. Stolen "hot linked" images from other sites disappear, too. It's the nature of the blog-beast.
We try to minimize those flaws on this site, and one of our ways of doing so has been not to link to OregonLive when there's an alternate source of a story available somewhere else. OregonLive, loosely connected to the O newspaper, has had a nasty habit over the years of taking down content after a relatively brief period of time. At one point, it was a mere two weeks. We're not sure what their deal is these days. But our working assumption has been that links over there will be dead in a short time.
A nice alternative has been Willamette Week, links to which have stayed fresh for years. But alas, something happened recently at the Double Dub, and now most of our older links to stories over there are dead ends. They must have had some sort of changeover in their software, which renamed all their old pages and in the process exterminated thousands of old links. That's a real shame.
We're not sure it had to be that way. Five years ago, when our site completely collapsed due to atrocious activity by a web host, we were eventually able to bring it back to life. But the software we used to regenerate our old content changed the names of all our pages. Thus, we figured that old links to our site would become worthless.
But wait! Our tech hero, Jake Ortman, came up with a program that told our new server what the new name and the old name of each page was, with a command to redirect traffic looking for the old page to the new. It was one of the most amazing things we've ever seen a computer do.
Anyway, wishing that WW had come up with a way to make the old links still work, we mourn their demise. Yeah, we guess we could look up the more important ones with a search engine and rewrite the links. But life's too short -- we aren't going there.
We caught some snark yesterday from an econ professor at Oregon State University, who picked up, from our blog, the story we linked to about the ongoing failure of minor league baseball in our old hometown of Newark, N.J. Our critic wrote that the Newark story -- in which people now wish that the city had built a soccer stadium instead of a baseball stadium -- was like Portland's recent history with its civic stadium (now called Jeld-Wen Field). Portland got it right, and Newark got it wrong, he said. And since this blog opposed the way the Portland stadium was renovated, we were wrong, too. He also had some unkind things to say about us and our blog generally.
We tried posting a response to his screed, but it didn't show up in the comments section of the site it was on, and so we'll repeat it here, where someone might actually see it:
The Newark story and the Portland story are not that similar. Newark had no stadium and no team, and it had to choose either baseball or soccer. Apparently, it chose wrong. Portland already had a working stadium, with both baseball and soccer, and no one suggested that it get rid of soccer, which has been quite successful here even when it was the "minor" league variety. The only decision to be made in Portland was whether to get rid of baseball. We believed, and consistently argued, that the civic stadium could have been improved for soccer without sacrificing baseball.
We knew that baseball was not much of a crowd attraction -- indeed, two summers ago we painstaking posted the announced attendance every night, and photos of the real attendance (which was much lower) on several nights. But we thought that given the fact that the city was still nearly $30 million in debt from renovating the stadium for baseball, baseball should have allowed to stay alongside soccer.
Soccer team owner Merritt Paulson (who by the way appears to have retired from public life now that he got the taxpayers' money) didn't want baseball on his soccer field, ever again, and the city gave him his way. He dropped baseball like a hot potato, and now he has a pretty nice deal. As long as the somewhat sketchy "major" soccer league in which the team plays survives, he'll do well. We never suggested that he wouldn't.
We've now been told by the Portland transportation bureau that the Portland State University "management coach" whom it hired in September 2009 was not brought in to "coach" Ellis McCoy, the city parking meter manager who is now under FBI investigation. Maureen Yandle, assistant to transportation director Tom Miller, revealed this to us in an e-mail exchange about a public records request that we still have pending for the work product under the "coaching" contract. Yandle wrote: "In relationship to management coaching for Ellis McCoy since March 2009, there was no such contract. A management coaching agreement with PSU was entered into on September 1, 2009 for another staff person at Maintenance Operations." We hadn't mentioned McCoy in our records request, and Yandle's comment didn't respond to that request, but it's noteworthy nonetheless.
So who could the other "coached leader" be, and why did he or she need help? Here's the current Maintenance Operations organizational chart -- there are lots of names on there to pick from. One of them is Randy Johnson, who was designated as the project manager of the "coaching" contract. Does that rule him out? And of course, other managers have come and gone since the fall of 2009.
Assuming Yandle's telling us the truth -- and we have no reason to doubt it -- that brings us back to March 2009, when the transportation bureau first announced that it was looking for a "management coach." We blogged about that solicitation here. At that time, a senior official in the bureau told us that the intended recipient of the "coaching" was an unhappy male manager, a member of a racial minority group, who had recently threatened to sue the bureau for racial discrimination. To us, that meant, and still does mean, McCoy, whose legal threat of that very nature was publicly known at the time. Perhaps we were being misled back then, or perhaps we misunderstood. Maybe the bureau just changed its mind about the "coach" for this unhappy manager after starting a public search for one in March.
But unless Yandle is being coy with us now, apparently the city never hired a "coach" for McCoy. When we asked a while back for all "management coaching" contracts that the bureau had entered into since March 15, 2009, all we got was the Portland State contract. We'll keep poking around to see what more about the "coaching" we can find out.
Meanwhile, our question of yesterday about how long McCoy will be paid to do no work at all was embarrassingly upstaged by this story, about all the vacation time the guy has been getting all along, even before armed federal agents raided his home and office:
McCoy, now on paid administrative leave while federal officials conduct a corruption investigation, received an average of three days' bonus leave every year since 1996. This year, officials awarded him five days off with pay. He got the same incentive in 2010 and four days in 2009.That guy gets four and a half weeks a year, and then an extra week? No wonder he gets himself in trouble -- he's got way too much free time on his hands.
That comes on top of McCoy's regular vacation time -- 4 1/2 weeks a year.
Meanwhile, we read that it was the city ombudsman, Michael Mills, who originally called the FBI in to look at the city's parking meter operation. The ombudsman had investigated and presented findings to then-transportation director Sue Keil, and after waiting in vain for her to take some action, he reportedly felt compelled to turn his evidence over to law enforcement.
But that was three years ago, and all that time the feds didn't seem any more interested than Keil did.
Our prayers go out for our many friends and family on the east coast, who are dealing with aftershocks from Tuesday's earthquake in Virginia and now must also brace themselves for the arrival of a hurricane. The projected storm track at this hour indicates that Hurricane Irene is going to do some substantial damage from North Carolina to New England.
The tides were expected to be especially high this weekend even without the storm. And there are a couple of dozen nuclear power plants along that route, many of them more than 30 years old.
A couple of friends of ours headed back to the Jersey Shore just yesterday, hoping for some big surf. They may be getting a little more than they bargained for.
Let's hope that hurricane takes a right and blows back out to sea.
When a little earthquake went off in Scotts Mills Sunday night, we said we expected a corresponding little shaker over toward McMinnville within a day or so. In fact, there were two in that general direction yesterday: a 1.5 at lunchtime under the coast range between Carlton and Beaver; and another 1.5 about an hour and a half later just off Route 6 west of Banks (very near a place called -- and I am not making this up -- Idiotville).
Reality here is just as funny.
Drunken 20-somethings singing inane dirges at the top of their lungs the whole game? It's like nails on a chalkboard. Maybe it's supposed to be a Euro thing. Whatever it is, no, thanks.
We have the game on the tube right now. It was nice to have an actual American play-by-play announcer, but the relentless bleating of people who can't handle beer is too much. Are they there for the game, or not? Mute!
A few years ago, we tried to come up with a list of the best Motown songs of all time. We set out to pick just 80 minutes' worth -- one CD -- but eventually backed down and settled for twice that. There was simply too much great music coming off that record label in the late '60s and early '70s to trim the list to 80 minutes.
Over time, we've had second thoughts about some of the songs that we put on the list, and some that we left out. But we've never wavered in our assessment of the best single that Motown ever released: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. And that's got to put that record on a list of the best sound recordings ever made.
It's two and a half minutes of pure joy. The Motown house band, a.k.a. the Funk Brothers, work some of their finest magic, turning what might be a cloying ballad into something that makes the listener want to dance with abandon. The rhythm section --
probably Pistol Allen Uriel Jones on drums and James Jamerson on bass -- is at the heart of things, and although there are violins in the studio, it's quite clear who's boss.
The first two verses and choruses are nice enough, but it's in the bridge that the track really takes off. It's two bridges, really -- the first one along the lines of what went before, but then a few bars of a key-change hook that builds up to the last verse. And when the song gets back to that familiar ground, everything is floating along in an irresistible groove that could seemingly go on for hours.
It's over way too soon, but that's part of the beauty of it. There isn't a wasted half-second in the whole thing.
The singers of the duet were one familiar name (Gaye) and somebody whom most Motown fans had never heard of before (Terrell). Gaye had done duets with women previously -- Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Oma Page -- but Terrell was new to the Motown roster. They recorded the song separately -- Terrell first, then Gaye. The tape of Terrell's recording session reveals that Motown had another male voice guiding her along, although he wasn't supposed to, and didn't, do much with it. It was probably one of the producers, Harvey Fuqua or Johnny Bristol. His voice was filtered out, and Gaye took Terrell's track and surrounded it with his own soulful delivery.
Fuqua and Bristol had been totally psyched about the project. Legend has it that when Motown boss Berry Gordy showed them "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the two of them jumped up and down. They knew just from the material that they had a big hit in the making. Little did they know that it would be the first in a string.
The song had been written by a couple named Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. These two were both songwriting partners and life partners, and they had already had success with a pair of songs that Ray Charles had turned into hits: "Let's Go Get Stoned" and "I Don't Need No Doctor." Motown picked them up after it parted ways with some other writers in a royalty dispute. Simpson wrote the music, and Ashford the words.
If you take apart the lyrics to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," you won't find a money quote in there. The language is all pretty prosaic. The rhymes are clever, to be sure, but there's no turn of phrase that will bowl anybody over. That makes the strength and durability of the lyrics a bit surprising. It may be that they are so obviously heartfelt, but perhaps it's just that they fit the music, and the singers, so well. They're part of a much larger synergy. It's the same way with all the Gaye-Terrell-Ashford-Simpson hits. You can find poetry like that on Hallmark greeting cards, or late-stage Hall & Oates albums, and it's not worth 99 cents. But over Simpson's music, it's exquisite.
Ashford & Simpson and Gaye & Terrell were the perfect combination, and after "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" there were a series of hits, whose names are familiar to Motown fans. But a brain tumor struck down Terrell, and her death at age 24
wiped out disrupted Gaye's career for years. He was never the same, and he too would meet a tragic, premature demise.
Ashford and Simpson went off to pursue other ventures. Diana Ross covered "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and they wrote a couple of other hits for her. Chaka Khan started her solo career off right with their "I'm Every Woman," the lyrics of which were apparently a bit of a challenge for Ashford, who wasn't any woman, much less every.
But the couple had always wanted to be performers, despite Motown's lack of interest. Eventually they got their wish, and after they were married and became parents, they embarked on a successful career as singers together. Their biggest success was "Solid," a track that made a big splash in the heyday of MTV music videos in 1984. They didn't perform much after the '80s, but they kept writing songs. They bought a bar in Simpson's hometown of New York City and presented musicians there, both well known and aspiring. They cut an album with Maya Angelou in the '90s. And they were supportive of younger folks coming up in the music business:
Mr. [Jermaine] Paul recalled Mr. Ashford telling him to carry a tape recorder to capture musical thoughts before they disappeared.Nick Ashford died the other day from throat cancer. He was 70. What was given to him, he gave to millions of listeners around the world. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" will be sung, and cherished, for many decades into the future. Not bad for a guy who spent several months in the mid-'60s sleeping on park benches.
"He said, 'Press record,' " Mr. Paul recalled. "Always press record if you walk in and you are humming something. That’s coming from somewhere. Those are the things that are given to you."
It's not just pot. We'd be similarly outraged if a pint of booze was found. Those guys need to leave the intoxicants at home.
Critics of grand juries point out that prosecutors could get the jurors to indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to. A while back, a sheriff in Florida apparently arrested a suspect in the case.
We've gotten about a dozen and a half expressions of interest for another year of our charity pro football underdog game, and so it's a definite go. We'll get the official rules posted over the next few days. If you've already written us to say you're in, stand by for further instructions, which you'll get by e-mail; if you're interested and haven't written in yet, please shoot us an e-mail message at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can reach you.
The idea of our game is simple: Each week, you pick one NFL underdog team whom you predict will win its game outright. If you're right, you get the number of points that your 'dog was favored to lose by; the players with the most points at season's end win. The prizes are the rights to designate one of the charities that will receive the entry fees our players pungle up (a Jackson apiece) at the start of the season. All proceeds go to charity; our winners get only glory. Last year a reader subsidized the kitty with an additional contribution, and our players' charities got $900.
If you think you know pro football, here's your chance to show off. And if you don't, you can still do well -- there's more than a little luck involved. You're cordially invited to watch the Big Daddies in a whole new light. The season kicks off two weeks from tomorrow.
Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle just laid off the city's economic development director and put "urban renewal" guru Don "The Don" Mazziotti in charge of that function, as well as supervising the huge handouts to the apartment developers. Given Mazziotti's track record with the Portland economy, it's unlikely to lead to good things out Bevo way. But rest assured, a chosen few developers and construction companies will do quite well.
With the added responsibilities will no doubt come a raise, and maybe some new perks. Remember The Don's expense account shenanigans at the Portland Development Commission? We still don't know who that Valentine's Day dinner date was over in Bend. Ah, the precious memories.
The folks at Willamette Week have an interesting story today about the business tactics of pdxmugshots.com -- particularly, their willingness to remove mug shot photos from their website for a fee. We questioned the practice here last year.
As of this morning, unless we're missing something, the folks at pdxmugshots.com have disabled their "pay us and we'll delete your photo" feature. Perhaps that was in response to the WW inquiry? Here's how it used to look:
Here's how it looks now:
Anyway, one would hope they could pay for the site, and even make a few bucks, with advertising and a "donate" button. An archive of Portland mug shots is an invaluable service -- we'd give a few bucks a year to keep it going. Of course, the government should provide this kind of archive to all, free of charge, but it spends all its public information money on tweeting and other propaganda.
As we recall, at least in its early days pdxmugshots.com also filtered out some crimes that it deemed victimless or invalid. We didn't like that feature, either. Let society decide.
The travails of the City of Parking transportation bureau -- currently under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation -- go on and on. Now the sexy new system whereby you could pay the city's outrageous meter parking rates via your cell phone can't be turned on because it was being managed by the target of the FBI probe, suspended meter manager Ellis McCoy. Oh, the horror.
While the hippest among us wonder when-oh-when they will experience the joy of handing money over to Fireman Randy by telephone, some of us have got a more fundamental question: How long does McCoy get paid to hang out in Hillsboro in his T-shirt all day? He hasn't even been charged with anything yet, and he's already started a paid administrative leave that looks a lot like an indefinite vacation. We enter Week 3 tomorrow. It could be months before a federal grand jury gets to this, and if McCoy lawyers up with a Steve Houze type, any criminal trial could be years off.
Even the DUII police officers have to come in and do desk work. Isn't there some other task McCoy could be performing for the city while the feds poke around? Preferably something that doesn't involve getting all cozy with contractors.
North Williams Avenue in Portland is a heavily traveled one-way street, and vehicles go pretty darn fast. Plus, it's a bit of a bicycle highway as well. We go jogging over by Emanuel Hospital from time to time, and you've really got to be extra careful crossing Williams at Dawson Park. If the cars don't get you, the bikes will.
So it was easy pickin's for the PoPo yesterday as they sent a pedestrian out to cross the street every few minutes to see who among the drivers and riders obeyed the state law that gives pedestrians the right of way over motor vehicles and bikes. Lots of tickets were given out, including to folks on bicycles.
The thought of a cyclist on Williams actually stopping and putting a foot down because a pedestrian is trying to cross is hysterically funny. Over there they may not even stop for a red light, much less a granny on the curb.
Most drivers also break the crosswalk rules, of course, and everybody deserved the tickets they got yesterday. But it's nice to see reports of an even hand in this particular enforcement effort.
Are there more important things the police should be doing? Maybe. But compared to drinking coffee at Starbucks or cadging slurpees at 7-Eleven, we'd say they did good. Better than their boss, at least.
And if they do, get it back.
Here's another disturbing, but no longer surprising, story about off-duty Portland police acting up while behind the wheel -- the third in about a month. Police in Washington State say Captain Todd Wyatt, head of the Portland traffic division, may have brandished a pistol in an altercation with another driver on I-90 in Post Falls, Idaho two weekends ago. Wyatt and his wife were pulled over after their truck crossed the nearby border into Washington State, but the matter is being investigated by Idaho state police.
Wyatt has been removed from his command and reassigned to the drugs and vice division pending resolution of the case. Let's hope the Idaho troopers, like the sheriff's deputies in Tillamook County, treat everyone the same, and don't let this one slide because it turns out to be one of their own.
Road rage is, of course, a familiar Portland police pastime.
Clackamas County now says that enough valid signatures were submitted to put on the November ballot a measure that would require a countywide vote on creation or expansion of "urban renewal" districts. The county commissioners are apparently ready to play dirty pool to defeat it at the polls. But if the measure succeeds, the fiasco known as "urban renewal" will have been turned back from a large swath of the Portland suburbs that greasy real estate developers have targeted for publicly subsidized apartment bunkers and related garbage. It may also mean death, or at least a major delay, for Milwaukie MAX, that mystery train to nowhere. Congratulations to the ballot measure's proponents, and good luck with a whirlwind campaign over the next two months.
Hard to believe, but there was a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia today, which shook up D.C., 84 miles away, and was felt in New York. There are two nuclear reactors in a complex
20 about seven miles from the epicenter, and they've been taken off line. One out of the four emergency diesel generators at the plant has failed, but we're told that the other three are enough to prevent a serious nuclear accident.
Apparently the National Cathedral has been damaged, and other landmarks in the nation's capital have been closed off while they're inspected. Other government buildings including the White House were evacuated temporarily. So far we can't find any reports of injury, although there has been some significant damage.
It's not for wimps.
The sleepy Portland suburb of Milwaukie (pop. 20,291) -- which is about to get a bazillion-dollar light rail train run to it from Portland for no sane reason -- is in secret talks with the developer who was trying to put a shopping center in Oregon City before giving up a couple of months ago. Not only is this guy, Fred Bruning, talking shopping center -- he's also ranting about a new trolley that would "supplement" the crazy MAX train. "Our idea," he says, "is to create a synergistic environment that gets capital investments moving and encourages spin-off investments.”
"Synergistic" -- it's this month's "linchpin." Can "catalyst" and "icon" be far behind?
He's also gung ho on the proposed minor league baseball stadium, of course. There's a near-guaranteed financial flop in the making. But you go, Milwaukie -- you're like Portland's cousin, the one with the mullet. Maybe you can beat us to bankruptcy court. Go by streetcar!
It's still about 10 miles away from the fancy "advanced test reactor," but there's concern about a wildfire burning on the sprawling Idaho National Laboratory site west of Idaho Falls. So far, we're told, there's nothing to worry about.
Do the nukes ever say anything different?
There's a lot of nuclear waste on that site, not all of which is accounted for and under control, and so anything burning is not a good sign for air quality in the area. The weather forecast is for hot sun and dry for at least another week.
Of course, the media can't write about the Idaho lab -- which is a prime link in the United States nuclear weapons production chain -- without babbling about medical uses of nuclear materials:
The advanced nuclear test reactor, the largest of its kind in the world, is used to study radiation effects and to produce materials for treatment of cancer, according to the facility.
As even the feds will admit, the primary function of the reactor is to advance commercial nuclear power: "ATR is vital for testing materials for the nation's next generation of nuclear power plants." But it's part of a facility whose historical mission, still being felt today, has always included production of nuclear weapons.
Here's some scary science from Chernobyl:
[T]he scientists have calculated that what they call cesium’s “ecological half-life” — the time for half the cesium to disappear from the local environment — is between 180 and 320 years.
“Normally you’d say that every 30 years, it’s half as bad as it was. But it’s not,” said Tim Jannik, nuclear scientist at Savannah River National Laboratory and a collaborator on the work. “It’s going to be longer before they repopulate the area.”...
Scientists expected the ecological half-lives of radioactive isotopes to be shorter than their physical half-life as natural dispersion helped reduce the amount of material in any given soil sample. For strontium, that idea has held up. But for cesium the the opposite appears to be true.
The physical properties of cesium haven’t changed, so scientists think there must be an environmental explanation. It could be that new cesium is blowing over the soil sites from closer to the Chernobyl site. Or perhaps cesium is migrating up through the soil from deeper in the ground. Jannik hopes more research will uncover the truth.
The situation seems likely to be the same at Fukushima -- and Hanford. These are permanent national sacrifice zones -- don't let anybody kid you.
Closer to home, there was a 2.0 near the "spring break quake" site, Scotts Mills, on Sunday night. Pure speculation on our part, but that could mean that something seismic will happen over toward McMinnville in the next day or so.
That's way too much to absorb all at once.
No other sound is quite the same as your name
No touch can do half as much to make me feel better
So let's stay together
So long, Nick, and heaven rest your soul.
We'll get a proper tribute up later.
You can wag your tail but Lord I ain't gonna feed you no more
They got some crazy little women there
And I'm gonna get me one
Who calls the English teacher "Daddy-O"?
The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang
"Yakety yak!" "Don't talk back."
And then he grabbed her... he tied her up... he turned on the buzzsaw...
She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign
She said, "What you need is Love Potion No. 9"
If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
But I'm like that Northwest Mounty, you know I'll bring her in someday
You're gonna need an ocean, of calamine lotion
If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing
A moment of silence for Mr. Jerry Leiber.
Portland's "cluster" strategy for attracting business has quite a way to go before it makes a list like this one.
Most bloggers like to see where their readers are coming from. Services that allow us to see that are numerous. Lately we've been noticing that we've been getting visits from folks who were referred to this site by "t.co." That was a new one to us, and we Googled around to see who or what it was. Turns out, it's Twitter. Visits that used to be tagged as coming from an unknown link or no link at all are now being identified, correctly, as coming from tweets. Put a bird on it, indeed.
When the Times wanted to explore the dollar store world, they came to Salem, Beaverton, and Portland.
Another pro football season is nearly upon us, and so it's time to see if we've got critical mass for a third annual charity underdog pool. This is a game in which readers try to choose one NFL underdog each week that will win its game outright. The more outrageous an upset the underdog pulls, the more points the reader who picked it gets, and the player with the most points at the end of the 20-week season wins the game. There's no prize other than glory, but the top finishers get to steer some money to their favorite charities.
Speaking of which, to play the game, a Jacksonian donation is required. The details of last year's game are posted here. This year's game will be similar, and we'll have a final set of this year's rules shortly.
Right now we're looking just for expressions of interest. If you're game, please send an e-mail message to email@example.com and let us know. We'll get details back to you by e-mail this week.
We've got the never-ending Sellwood Saga and the $130-million-for-nothing I-5 interstate bridge, both of which came to mind as we read about this span back in the Empire State.
A reader writes:
I've sent in notes before from over here "under the tram." This last week was a special week in my neighborhood.
I live in a little pocket of a neighborhood between Barbur and Terwilliger. Every time Portland stages one of its road events through the area (Marathon, Shamrock Run...) our neighborhood gets partitioned off, and our only notice of the pending travel restriction is the traffic barriers getting dumped on our street corners the week before the event.
This week we were graced with a new event, the Portland Triathlon. I tried to leave my neighborhood around 9:00 am, and found both ends of my block closed with barricades. Trying to leave, I was greeted by a volunteer scolding me for being on a closed street.
Informing him that this was where I lived, and I that I needed to leave, and then return to my neighborhood, he threatened to take my license number and report me to the police. I suggested he go ahead and do so. I wheeled around, tried another exit, and eventually headed back home where I walked to the nearest corner and talked to a couple coppers, who said I could exit through the Barbur-Hamilton intersection.
So, it's now 10:30 p.m., and though all the barricades have been taken down along most of Barbur, the crack city/race crews have forgotten to take down the barriers at the end of my block. (Then again, since I have a problem with traffic entering the end of my street in disregard of "Do Not Enter" signs -- for which the city claims there not to be a problem -- maybe it's a good thing the barriers are still up.)
This delightful surprise ended a week where we had rows of semi-trucks parked in our little neighborhood for the filming of an upcoming NBC TV show (called Grimm?). Camera crews, all-night shooting, blocked access, and rent-a-cops directing/restricting traffic. Again, no forewarning.
On Friday, the solar power cell manufacturer that's getting around $57 million of state and local handouts to locate in Portland finalized a $197 million loan guarantee from the federal Energy Department. That should clear the way for SoloPower to start building its Portland manufacturing plant somewhere in the Rivergate Industrial Park sometime next month.
But in the latest announcement -- replete with a quote from Gatsby Wyden -- comes news that SoloPower is planning to build not just one but two buildings in Portland. The official company announcement calls them "two new facilities," and a news story about the federal loan refers to "two new sites." It's not clear exactly what's going on where, but we expect a groundbreaking soon on at least one building, no doubt with Gatsby, the retread governor, and the mayor, among others, on the shovels.
We just noticed that part of the City of Portland subsidy to SoloPower is going to be $5 million in loan guarantees, backed by Portland parking meter revenue. Those meters sure do pop up in the funniest places, don't they?
The Japanese government has been going back and forth with the truth on a constant basis since the explosions and triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant five months ago. To give just one example, they haven't been able to decide what to tell the evacuees from the danger zone 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles) or less from the plant about when they'll be allowed to return to their homes. A few weeks after the nuclear ordeal began, the nation's chief cabinet secretary said that the evacuation was for "the long term." A few weeks later, the government denied that he had ever said that. Beginning in May, the bureaucrats have been nattering on about possibly allowing evacuees to return home by January.
Now comes word -- not the least bit surprising -- that the initial report was correct. The current evacuation zone is likely to become a permanent exclusion zone -- a nuclear no-man's land. Maybe someone will be allowed back in there some day, but we're talking a generation or more from now, exactly like Chernobyl:
The government was apparently forced to alter its plans after the survey by the Ministry of Science and Education, released over the weekend, which showed even higher than expected radiation levels within the 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant. The most heavily contaminated spot was in the town of Okuma about two miles southwest of the plant, where someone living for a year would be exposed to 508.1 millisieverts of radiation — far above the level of 20 millisieverts per year that the government considers safe.
The survey found radiation above the safe level at three dozen spots up to 12 miles from the plant. That has called into question how many residents will actually be able to return to their homes even after the plant is stabilized.
Tens of thousands of people are now officially, permanently homeless as the result of the meltdowns. It's no doubt devastating for them. They won't even be paid the value of their lost property in a lump sum; instead, the utility and the government are going to "rent" it from them.
The latest news has also got to be alarming to the folks living just outside the 20-kilometer line. Airborne radiation from a nuclear accident doesn't fall to the ground uniformly; there are hot spots further away from the reactor that are worse than locations that are closer. No one in Japan trusts the government or Tokyo Electric to tell them the truth about Fukushima any more, and sadly, their suspicions are quite justified.
At least former Jail Blazer Zach Randolph's entourage didn't kill anyone this time. They merely allegedly beat a guy with a pool stick, at Randolph's West Linn crib, over the price he was seeking in a marijuana sale. Randolph was reportedly at home at the time, but is said not to be a suspect.
With the NBA season likely to be postponed or canceled due to labor strife, Randolph, who now plays for Memphis, will likely be around West Linn more than ever in the months ahead. Big fun.
Apparently, the federal environmental agency is backing off its demand that all open air drinking water reservoirs be covered. New York City has won a reprieve beyond 2028, and maybe a permanent one.
Ah, but the City of Portland continues to insist that it has no choice but to build tanks on Powell Butte and disconnect its reservoirs. Indeed, there's a $50 million tank just about ready to go in now. Will Portland stop the work, piggyback on New York's EPA ruling, and save ratepayers a bundle of dough?
We doubt it. Fireman Randy's determined to dole out this pork, and he's not going to be stopped. His response will be "It's too late to turn back now"; "We'll be sued if we cancel"; "Screw you, you'll do as I say," or some combination of the above. It will take Fish, Saltzman, and Fritz to pull the plug, and experience does not indicate that there's enough guts in that trio to get the right thing done. [Via Duin.]
Here's an interesting tidbit: The new head of the FBI's Portland office, Gregory Fowler, has arrived here from New York City, where he was the special agent in charge of the counterterrorism division. That made him the top supervisor of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which Portland's City Council has (more or less) refused to join.
One wonders whether Fowler's relishing his agency's role in the ongoing investigation of suspected corruption in the Portland city parking meter operation. Welcome to Portland, Special Agent Fowler. Please help us clean up our city.
Indeed she is.
General Electric -- the folks who have brought us all Fukushima -- say they've finally perfected a way to make nuclear fuel, and therefore nuclear bomb fuel, on an industrial scale using lasers. Eventually, that know-how will wind up in the wrong hands, of course, and the result could be a nuke in every arsenal. Sing along, everyone.
Some city workers found this out the hard way when they made the mistake of trusting The Creepy One in 2005, while he was a city commissioner. He promised them protection as whistle-blowers, but then ratted them out to Sue Keil, then-transportation director and their boss. The conduct of Keil, who is now running the parks bureau, appears more and more curious by the day -- including with regard to Ellis McCoy, the parking meter manager who's now under federal criminal investigation.
Portland's come out on top of a list as the very worst place in the country for discriminatory taxes on travelers. The taxes in question are probably going to pay for the Vera Katz Wing of the Convention Center, which is almost always empty.
Those poor tourists. But according to another study, they should think of it as a value proposition -- they might get lucky while they're here.
A reader points us to an interesting find that we don't remember seeing before: a set of online comic books for kids, produced by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Apparently some of these are a few years old. The reader seems to question whether they're appropriate -- we think they're kind of cool.
Not to mention the immense parody potential, particularly up here in Portlandia:
In Chicago, they're proposing a huge new investment in buses, because they're a heck of a lot cheaper than rail projects. Meanwhile, in the East Bay community of Hercules, California, the city's many pet projects are going bust -- particularly its Sten-like dabbling in the electric power business -- and the cumulative effect is a severe strain on the city's finances. People down that way are starting to ask a lot of good questions.
We'd seen a lot of tsunami footage before, but not this view, from inside a car. Meanwhile, a photographer crept into the triple-meltdown site at Fukushima and took some unauthorized photos that are not uplifting, to say the least.
The latest reports say that the earthquake probably would have caused meltdowns even without the tsunami that followed. Something to think about when we're told that it can't happen here in the United States.
The folks at the O, who wrote a gushy puff piece back in June about Mike Burton's "retirement" from the real estate development firm Portland State University, must be awfully embarrassed today. Burton, former head of Metro and an ex-state legislator, actually resigned amid allegations that he falsified his travel records to make a personal trip to Europe look like a business trip.
Portland State says it wants its money back. Why isn't Mike Schrunk or John Kroger in this picture? And what other frauds has Burton committed? Besides being the brains behind the disastrous WES train, that is.
Here's an interesting post about Facebook's Prineville data facility.
Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen was quoted in the Trib yesterday as saying he didn't know how much Portland "urban renewal" -- and its reckless borrowing ways -- were costing the county:
The audit was released as Mayor Sam Adams prepares to seek council approval of a new urban renewal area to benefit Portland State University – an idea questioned by Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen. Because of the way urban renewal works, the city's program cost the county $26 million in uncollected property taxes last year. That amount is expected to increase this year.
"Those are staggering numbers," Cogen says. "I had no idea the city’s urban renewal debt was growing so fast. It has consequences for other governments that the city needs to take into consideration. I thank LaVonne for pointing it out."
Back in the '80s, we owned a house that needed not one but two driveways repaved. The nice folks from the City of Portland let us know. They used to come through the neighborhood every seven years and force any homeowner with any kind of bump or break in the sidewalk to fix it.
Not so nowadays. A reader writes:
A few days ago I was told, by a sidewalk repair man, that he has been told by the City folks with whom he must work, that the sidewalk inspectors work on a complaint-based (or complaint-driven) system. No complaint equals no concern by the sidewalk repair section of the maintenance department of the Bureau of Transportation. I had never heard of such a thing, before.
Further, when they investigate a complaint, they follow a protocol something like this: 1) investigate the specific complaint site; 2) then go a specific number of feet from the complained-about defect, and stop if there is no defect discovered within the specific number of feet in the protocol, then reverse and go in the opposite direction for the same distance from the compained-about defect; 3) return to base if there are no other defects within the number of feet called for in the protocol, but continue on in the same fashion until the violations peter-out; 4) nevermind what might be discovered if one looks across the street. Honest.
We wonder when the routine inspections stopped and the complaints-only system began. Probably when some City Council members got tired of fielding complaints from outraged homeowners, who also vote, about the regular hassle from the inspectors.
We're glad we're not the one reading her hate mail these days.
This kind of stance makes us want to vote for her, but it's too bad she was so generally spineless before the Sam Rands announced that they're leaving City Hall. Now she just seems a little desperate.
As we noted last week, the City of Portland and its parking meter manager (now under federal investigation) were in discussions at one point about his possibly leaving his city position. By late 2008 or early 2009, the city had rejected Ellis McCoy's offer to depart in exchange for a severance package, according to today's O.
We had noted that he and his supervisors had apparently discussed a "severance issue" in late August 2008. McCoy filed his formal threat to sue the city in November 2008. Today's O story reports that McCoy then received "an unflattering performance evaluation" in February 2009, and at that time, no settlement of his claim was in sight. But in November 2009, he reportedly received a merit raise, after the city apparently began a search for a "management coach" for him.
Last week, McCoy told a television reporter that he decided not to sue the city because it would be unethical to sue one's employer. But could it be he dropped the suit in exchange for "coaching" and the raise?
Giving him a raise after negatively reviewing the job he was doing isn't what one would normally expect a manager to do, except under some sort of duress.
In Portland, the transportation director (who just changed jobs from being the mayor's "chief of staff") isn't shy about asking for, and taking, personal favors from the real estate developers who get massive city subsidies. Here's the second one uncovered just this month. Dat be some stinky cheese.
He's 65 today. Happy birthday, Bill! And thanks for sending all our jobs to Mexico and China. It's worked out great.
Here's another allegedly drunk driving Portland police officer -- second one in three weeks -- getting a desk job instead of the firing and jail cell he deserves. The latest offender led police at the coast on a dangerous wild goose chase. And it's Strike 2 for him, having gotten a little Humphreyesque in a 2006 brutality incident. You know when they say "Everybody on the force knows who the bad cops are"? This is what they're talking about.
This guy (NSFW) had me at "Konichiwa bitches."
A reader way out in northeast Portland wrote us this morning with a somewhat alarming story:
When I woke up at 6 am this morning, the news was talking about a robbery at 109 & Halsey and that the area was shut down for police activity. We live in that area. The helicopters have been up since about 7 am, circling like little news vultures. However, it wasn't until 7:45 that we got a reverse 911 call warning us to stay indoors. (It was a computer voice, mispronouncing every third word and telling us to call "nine hundred eleven" if we saw anything suspicious. I think that a non-native English speaker would have a difficult time understanding the message.)
Ironically, less than a month ago there was another robbery on Halsey and the police spent most of the day searching our neighborhood for the suspects. Despite the fact the the SERT team spent a couple of hours staked out around the house directly across the street from us, we never got a reverse 911 call. Apparently somebody decided that our street was the outer boundary beyond which the suspect would not cross, so no call.
Reverse 911 is a potentially good idea, but it has lousy implementation.
"Wear your bike helmet, or else I'll take your bike apart."
Sources tell us that Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.), who sold his condo near Washington Park in May for $285,000, has picked up this little beauty of a house in Eastmoreland for a cool $935,000 ($50,000 under asking price), with $417,000 borrowed. It's apparently a new house on a lot where an older house once stood.
It would be interesting to find a neighbor who'd be willing to tell us how often Wyden -- or anyone -- actually sets foot in the place. It will no doubt still have new house smell when the next owners get it. Gatsby's already got more than $300,000 in the bank for his next run for re-election five years from now. He'll be 67.
A reader points out that there's an older computer-simulated photo floating around of what West Hayden Island would look like if it were half-paved-over for a huge shipping terminal -- which is what the city and the port have planned, with the blessing of Eileen Brady and no doubt many other moneyed types in town.
Here's what it looks like now.
Here's the computer simulation.
The birds and the bees are going to be so marginalized that a lot of them will get up and leave town. This is "green" Portland. What a travesty.
The City of Portland transportation bureau has sent us a copy of the 2009 "management coaching" contract that we think may have been used to obtain a "coach" for Ellis McCoy, the parking meter manager currently under FBI scrutiny. We've posted the contract, which doesn't name the "leader" who is to be the recipient of the "coaching" services, here. The bureau started searching for a "coach" for one of its managers back in late March of that year, and at that time we learned from an impeccable source within the bureau that it was for McCoy.
Interestingly, the "coach" was provided by Portland State University. His name is Terry O'Connor. The contract called for his services to be spread out over three to six months, at a fee of $200 an hour, not to exceed $6,450.
The city's project manager on the contract was another transportation bureau manager, Randy Johnson. Johnson is currently the division manager in charge of "environmental systems," which apparently includes sewer cleanout, leaf pickup, snow plowing, and the like. In November 2008, he was one of the city officials named in McCoy's formal threat to sue the city for racial discrimination.
The "coaching" contract start date was September 1, 2009. According to this story by Maxine Bernstein, McCoy received a merit raise in November 2009. If he got a merit raise at the same time that the city had to go out and get someone from the outside to help him do his job -- well, that would just be awfully curious, wouldn't it?
This is not a joke setup, but it could be: Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader are out on a boat together on the Willamette River in Portland.
The comedy writers among you could take it from there, but the true story from yesterday is pretty amusing in and of itself. They're all out there putting on their best "just one of the guys" looks, but in Wyden's case it comes out looking as if he's channeling Al Bundy from "Married With Children."
It's not the same without David Wu's spacey one-liners. The four of them stand gaping over the rail like they're just realizing that a bazillion dollars later, the Willamette in Portland is still pretty much a toilet. Even the brain-devouring amoebas aren't interested in swimming in it. And gosh, these four brave horsemen would clean it up if only there were money for it. But of course, there's only money for MAX trains and streetcars... so they just keep staring at the nasty brown.
This gets boring after a while, and so a reporter who is along for the ride starts chatting them up about the deficit and taxes. And funny thing -- they're "not quite on the same page":
Wyden is pushing a bill to eliminate tax breaks in favor of lower overall tax rates.
"It won't take care of the entire $1.5 trillion, but it sure could make a significant dent in it," he said.
And beyond tax reform, Blumenauer and Merkley both are looking for tax increases on the richest Americans.
"There's a real consensus that programs for the wealthy and well-connected have to be on the table," Merkley said.
The story doesn't say, but at that point we hope they both gestured over toward old Gatsby Wyden and winked. He doesn't wear that baseball cap in the Hamptons, does he?
It's amazing how the government cooks or ignores numbers it doesn't like. Inflation doesn't count food and energy prices, and unemployment doesn't count people who are permanently unemployed.
It's sort of like the City of Portland's triple-A credit rating -- true yet misleading.
A reader writes:
I enjoyed your header image with the Bridge Pedal pic on the Fremont Bridge. My family really enjoyed the ride. Funny thing though -- did you notice that the service vehicles utilized to block traffic or re-direct (police cars, ODOT, Tri-Met, etc) along the routes all had their engines on and idling? I'm curious why this is. In fact, I was on Naito from 7:45 to 8:45 waiting for my group to join up and monitored this unmarked police car (see attached) parked (on Naito amongst the riders) for the same amount of time until we were given the signal to start. The officer's radio was tuned to sports talk, the paper was being thoroughly devoured, and the engine was idling for at least 1 hour.
Gas must be cheap for city workers.
Clay is my executive assistant, and in a year or so he's going to need a job -- maybe sooner if I can relocate before then. Please give him a loving home. Much thanks, Sam.
Clay (110522) is the Portland Mayoral Staffer of the Week. This adorable little aide is playful and sweet! Play is an important part of his development at this age and he will need you to be patient with him as he learns what it means to be a grownup. He would love to have access to lots of toys and daily playtime. If you are ready to care for an adorable boy and give him what creatives need while they are finding themselves, he will repay you with lots of fun and love! Clay is representative of the many, many staffers that are available at the Office of the Mayor. To view all of their fetching pictures, go to http://portlandonline.com, click on the mayor's bar mitzvah photo, and select “Contact Us”, and then “Meet the Staff.” You can visit with your next furry friend at at Portland City Hall (1221 SW Fourth Ave., Portland, 503-823-4799)!
Clay’s adoption fee of $55 includes tattoo (henna), microchip ID, collar and ID tag, initial vaccines, one month federal immunity, courtesy exam, and plenty of post-adoption support! Availability is subject to prior adoption.
Here's a story that has us deeply concerned: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning that military budget cuts resulting from the recent debt ceiling deal could endanger national security.
Now that is truly scary: Leon Panetta is the freakin' U.S. Defense Secretary?
"We should be able to responsibly develop a portion of the island to create new jobs, while setting aside a large part of West Hayden Island for habitat and wildlife," candidate for mayor Eileen Brady's campaign said in a statement.
There goes her "green" cred. And our hopes.
By siding with the Goldschmidters from the Port of Portland on the Hayden Island plan, Brady's confirming what we feared: that the next mayor won't be any less beholden to the city's Old Money than the current one is. You can be darn sure old Charlie Hales could care less how many bald eagles he has to run over to get back on the public pad.
In Portland, when it comes to saving the environment, that's the little guy's job. No plastic bags at the grocery store, a recurring bottle-return ordeal, an absolute obstacle course just to get the garbage taken away from one's house every week, pay extra to leave your gutters hooked up to the sewer -- the list goes on and on. But when the Dunthorpe types want to steal wildlife habitat for their contractor buddies? Well, "we should be able to responsibly" do that.
To quote these guys, Come on, Eileen.
But get this: The smell of pot didn't give the police probable cause to search the car! Really? That's good to know.
Then there's the televised reaction of the football coach, whose program is under investigation for corruption. It's hard to believe that this fellow really has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale:
When Coach goes down -- if not this year, then surely some day -- he won't have amassed a big store of goodwill from which to draw sympathy.
So report workers at the plant (through third-party sources). And if it's true, you can bet that the steam is way radioactive. What would be causing it? Either the radioactive lava from the triple meltdown has melted so far down that it's starting to hit the groundwater under the buildings, or groundwater is seeping into the common spent fuel pool in the middle of the complex. Our bet is on the former, but either way, the situation over there remains dire.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Japanese media are forcing people who posted copies of meltdown-related videos on YouTube to take them down. This is particularly pernicious because a coverup of what's really happened at Fukushima, by Tokyo Electric and the central government of Japan, is in full swing. In a year or two, reliable information will be difficult, if not impossible, to come by.
Our post of yesterday marking the 33rd anniversary of our move to Portland brought in a nice note from fellow blogger Joe Sherlock, who did us one better. He crossed the country from New Jersey in not one but two Volkses:
Congratulations on 33 years in Oregon.
Your post made me realize that we arrived in Oregon just a month before you -- from New Jersey also, towing our 1967 Beetle with our VW Scirocco. Traveling from Mt. Laurel, we arrived in Corvallis on 7/23/78. And have lived in the NW ever since.
I've posted a photo of our Beetle in tow here.
Here's to 33 more years.
You said it, buddy.
Let's see if we can get this straight: In order to play in the national championship football bowl game earlier this year, the University of Oregon athletics department had to agree to buy a minimum number of rooms in certain Phoenix-area hotels specified by the bowl organization. The hotel tax portion of the room bills went to a local visitors bureau, which then kicked back a sizable chunk of the taxes to the bowl organization. The bowl organization, a tax-exempt nonprofit, recently fired its chief executive for using its funds to make illegal political campaign contributions and pay outrageous personal and entertainment expenses, including a four-figure "research" outing to a strip club and a $33,000 birthday party for himself.
Why is this not surprising? Big-time college sports in the United States is quite a sewer. The whole thing needs to be re-thought. [Via UO Matters.]
Now, now -- they are too. Here -- here's the latest bold action taken by Multnomah County.
Our post of yesterday about the municipal red tape holding up a "party bike" operation in North Portland, whereas a similar operation is thriving in Bend, got one reader musing about a comparison of the two cities in the area of bike racing. He says Bend comes out on top in that department as well:
A bike race promoter I know says permitting for one day of professional racing in Portland cost more than an entire week of permitting for the Tour of Utah, which requires street closures in major cities for all but one of the six stages.
Bend has hosted the Cascade Cycling Classic, one of the longest running pro races in this country, for the past 30 years. Lance Armstrong won the race as part of his comeback from cancer before any of his Tour de France wins. Bend is home to a number of pro riders, including Chris Horner of Tour de France fame. Bend has hosted national championship bike racing for the past six years running and will host the Masters national championship later this summer and again next year. The U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, a national race series that has held its finale weekend in Portland since its inception, is moving to Bend this year.
Could it be that even in the areas in which it claims supremacy, Team Portland is not getting the job done?
Here's an interesting study. It shows that by and large, the boomers aren't retiring to downtown condo towers. They're staying in the suburbs, or moving to sprawl in the southern half of the country:
An analysis of those who were 55 to 65 in 2000 and 65 to 75 in 2010 reveals an even stronger anti-urban bias, with an over 12% drop in city dwellers. Since these folks are far less likely to have kids at home and more properly retired, this cohort’s behavior suggests that aging boomers are if anything less likely to move to the cities in the next decade.
Indeed, if boomers do move, notes Sandi Rosenbloom, a noted expert on retirement trends and professor of Planning and Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona, they tend to move to less dense and more affordable regions. The top cities for aging boomers largely parallel those that appealed to the “young and restless” in our earlier survey. The top ten on our list are all affordable, generally low-density Sun Belt metros.
It appears that the density dreams of the Portlandia planning cabal are not going to be fulfilled by an influx of blue-hairs to our rainy, gray city any time soon. You have to wonder who the heck is going to ride that eastside streetcar.
Here's an interesting coincidence: The City of Portland, Maine has recently awarded a contract for high-tech parking meters. And the lucky winner is none other than Cale, the Florida-based outfit that's been raided by the FBI as part of the ongoing Portland, Oregon criminal investigation into suspected bribes or kickbacks. Cale supplies Portland, Oregon with its meters, and serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the process by which it got that contract.
In Maine, although city officials have chosen Cale over its only competitor, Parkeon, they haven't signed a contract yet. And some of the bureaucrats who made the choice are reportedly having second thoughts in light of last week's dramatic developments in Oregon:
Dick LeGarde, a member of the section committee and the head of Portland’s Treasury Division, said knowledge the of FBI probe into Cale would have absolutely impacted his decision when rating the competing parking meter proposals.
"As a member of a committee making a decision, if we had known that in advance, sure, that would impact my personal decision," he said yesterday.
Jan Beitzer, head of Portland Downtown District and another member of the parking meter selection committee, wouldn’t say how news of the FBI probe into Cale would have affected her decision during the bidding process.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about," Beitzer said, adding that she didn't recall giving a score to the parking meter contracts. She referred questions on the issue back to Clegg.
[City parking manager John] Peverada, who was also on the selection committee, said that knowledge "might have" affected his rating during the bid review. But, he added that much is still unknown about the federal inquiry into alleged kickbacks in Portland, Ore.
Parkeon had its public relations firm send an e-mail message to the Portland, Maine paper, gleefully pointing out Cale's problems here in Oregon. Who knows how much business the firm might lose as a result of its relationship with Ellis McCoy, the now-suspended Portland, Oregon parking meter manager?
Just ask the right questions, of course. And that's just what the Clackamas County commissioners will do this afternoon at a little "study session" show for their impending manipulation of the initiative process over "urban renewal" and the unwanted Milwaukie MAX project. You talk about a script -- just look at this.
Japan's big, bad neighbor to the west seems a little miffed about all the radioactivity spilling into the Pacific from the triple meltdown site at Fukushima. A team of Chinese scientists were sent out several weeks ago to the waters east of Japan to see what's what with radiation in the ocean. So far, they've found quite a bit of contamination, and they say they'll keep watching:
The latest monitoring result released by the State Oceanic Administration on July 29 showed the first group of seawater samples collected from the area contained 300 times the amount of radioactive cesium that is found in nature and 100 times the amount of strontium....
The State Oceanic Administration said the marine organisms in the places that are being monitored have been contaminated to different extents. Those that live near the surface are at a greater risk of being affected.
Cesium-137 and strontium-90 both have half-lives of about 30 years, making it more likely they will eventually enter the food chain and affect the health of consumers, the environmental protection department said.
Researchers will continue to try to protect public health by monitoring and gauging the effect of the radiation release on China's marine environment, according to the department.
Meanwhile, researchers in California report that radioactive sulfur showed up in the air near San Diego in late March, when the Fukushima plant was far more out of control than it is today. Nuclear power plants don't usually give off a lot of radioactive sulfur, but they do if you pour sea water on them, which Tokyo Electric did for quite a while at Fukushima.
The levels of radioactive sulfur found at San Diego were quite low, but they had blown across the ocean. When they were in the air over Japan, they were at much higher concentrations. There's one more radioisotope for the Japanese to worry about as they await the health effects of Fukushima in the coming months, years, and decades.
Here's a wild one out of San Francisco. BART, the regional train system, deliberately disrupted cell phone service on its train platforms for a while last week in an effort to stop passengers from communicating with each other about a protest against police brutality. Needless to say, the move, which seems illegal in the extreme, is not being well received.
Let's hope this is a spoof. A reader says it was taken at a Wal-Mart in Atlanta:
The neighbors don't want it, and a hearings officer has ruled that it's too dangerous, but the plan to put an immigration jail next to a grammar school in Portland's failed South Waterfront District is still alive. It can still be approved by the City Council, and they say they'll have a hearing about it on September 21.
Fireman Randy and his developer buddies have been pushing this project hard from Day 1, and His Honor the Mayor is no doubt on board with it. Nurse Amanda, the only city commissioner who is publicly accountable at this point, is a likely no vote, and so that leaves Nick the Fish and Legend Dan. If either one of those guys votes yes, then to heck with the neighbors and the hearings officer -- it's going in.
It's an interesting case, in that the Sam Rand Twins are on their way out the door. They have few political horses left to trade, and so their colleagues are becoming ever less likely to be buying favor with either of them. Nick and Dan probably won't both vote yes, because if one of them does, it's garbage time and the other one can grandstand with a meaningless no vote. But will they both do the right thing and vote no?
In any event, it would be deliciously ironic if Portland's "elite new neighborhood" -- brownfields to greenfields and all that -- wound up with a maximum security federal deportation tank in it. The condo buyers of SoWhat, sucked in by one set of Portland real estate greaseballs, get hammered by another. It's perfect. Go by streetcar!
It's failed here in Portlandia, and it's failing elsewhere, but bike sharing is coming back to our town. Because City Hall just can't waste enough time and money on things that look cool but don't make any financial sense.
Nurse Amanda, who's up for re-election, is voting no on blowing $2 million more on this harebrained idea. But you can bet the other four bobbleheads on the City Council will be voting for it. And given that this is a Portland transportation deal, don't be surprised if the public bidding process is rigged or circumvented.
Bike sharing is going to wind up costing the city's taxpayers many millions of dollars, year after year. Its business model is laughable. It's a black hole economically. Kind of like streetcars. Which makes it so perfect to the Sam Rands.
When we were over in Bend a few weeks ago, we noticed one of these contraptions cruising around on the streets of the city. The folks riding on it were pedaling away, making it go, all the while drinking beer and seemingly having a swell time. And without helmets, as we recall. An experienced driver was steering the cart for the partygoers aboard.
There's a Portland guy who wants to get one of the same rigs going on North Mississippi and thereabouts, but he and the city can't see eye-to-eye about liability insurance. Hard to believe that Portlandia's behind Bend when it comes to combining beer and bikes. But apparently, in the Rose City, red tape trumps everything else.
One solution to safety issues might be to confine the bike to less busy streets. But then again, an obvious byproduct of the "party bike" is boozy revelry, replete with potentially loud and obnoxious merriment. Imagine Last Thursday on wheels. Over in Bend, the thing goes all over, including through residential neighborhoods, and the locals seem to be dealing with it just fine. Only time will tell how the story will unfold here in the valley.
Thirty-three years ago today, a scrawny guy in a Volkswagen Beetle with Jersey plates drove into Portland with all his possessions in the back seat and the trunk. He was coming to town on a one-year mission, after which he was planning to move to Los Angeles and become a corporate and tax lawyer there. He wound up liking Portland so much that he never left. His beach boy dreams were replaced by life under a volcano.
We took a shot at writing the story of that first year here, and it's an older guy's pleasure to read those reminiscences. But let's take a look around at today. One of our very favorite songwriters asks in one of his best songs, "Do you ever run into that guy who used to be you?" What would we say to the guy in the photo if we met him in 2011 Portland?
Easy -- the same songwriter sets it all out, here. Just click on the arrow in the purple circle.
We've made a public records request of the City of Portland transportation bureau for a copy of the management coaching contract that we blogged about on Thursday. We're thinking that the coach may have been hired for Ellis McCoy, the target of the current FBI investigation.
At this writing, we haven't received a response from the city, but let's hope it isn't something like this.
Portland's mayor looked awfully beleaguered and upset last week when the news broke about the FBI raid on the city's parking meter operation. We almost felt sorry for him -- he's in so far over his head. It called to mind our prediction of a few years ago, that he wouldn't finish a full four-year term as mayor. Lately we'd been thinking that maybe he'd prove us wrong about that, but the look on his face on Wednesday brought back our old intuition. What do readers think? Not your preference -- your prediction:
The newspaper in our state's capital went front page yesterday with a scathing account of how the county and city blew $34 million constructing an unsafe and totally unusable public building complex and transit mall that would now take another $40 million or more to fix. And guess what: No one in government is accepting any responsibility. They put all the blame on a structural engineer, who's now conveniently deceased.
But there were warnings given during construction -- warnings that the politicians and bureaucrats ignored. The taxpayers down that way -- and the occupants of the complex whose lives were endangered -- deserve an apology from somebody. [Via Hines.]
Here's an e-mail message that somebody wishes they had back.
KGW's got an excellent followup to Wednesday's bombshell FBI raid on the City of Portland's parking meter office. It has uncovered documents showing that the office of Multnomah County district attorney Mike Schrunk was sniffing around that office less than three years ago in connection with the now-notorious theft of coins from the city's old parking meters when its more modern ones were being installed. A memo summarizing that effort is posted here.
The memo concludes that Ellis McCoy, the city employee who is prime target of the current FBI probe, made it impossible, through his unreasonable and irregular conduct, for the police to conduct an adequate investigation into the missing money. He did his own search, and the contractor he had promoted into doing the replacement work gave his employees polygraph tests without police involvement. After that, a legitimate police investigation apparently wasn't worth pursuing.
"A review of this case suggests that the City might have some issues regarding their management of parking meter retrofits," wrote Deputy D.A. Steve O'Hagan. That much was undeniably true -- but the three thousand bucks stolen from the meters was peanuts compared with the huge contracts that McCoy was vigorously steering to his favored contractors.
The memo was presented by Schrunk to McCoy's supervisor, Sue Keil, and then-Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams. The letter of transmittal was dated Oct. 31, 2008. As best we can tell, McCoy was never disciplined. A few months later, the city apparently sought out a "management coach" for him, and later in 2009, he reportedly got a merit raise.
A commenter on the story raised an interesting point that we hadn't considered: Both of the mayor's major bureaus, police and transportation, are now officially under federal investigation. That's got to be a first for any Portland mayor -- but then again, this guy's racked up all kinds of firsts, hasn't he?
The O has a curious story running today, about the tight regulation, indeed the near-elimination, of field burning as a maintenance measure by Willamette Valley grass farmers. The growers are moaning that the latest restrictions, imposed by state law, are hurting their business at a time when they are already suffering due to economic conditions.
That may be true, but what about the other side of the issue? Reporter Eric Mortenson didn't bother to interview the legislators who passed the restrictions, or the governor who signed them into law. Nor did he give a call to the Lung Association or any of the many medical professionals who called for a complete ban of the practice. The result is a pretty lazy article.
Field burning provided an economic benefit to a relative handful of grass seed operators in the valley -- probably something like 100 families. Yet it poisoned the air for hundreds of thousands of people. Right about this time of year is when it would start -- on the eve of any predicted rainfall, and sometimes in between -- and it would go all fall. It was supposed to be limited to days when the winds were blowing away from population centers, but that wasn't always how it worked out. And it was run by the agriculture department, not the environmental quality department, and so the supposed mistakes were always suspect.
Field burning was an embarrassment for a supposedly green state. It should have been stopped long before it was. Environmental restrictions have their economic costs. All regulations do. It's called "civilization." The farmers have a right to gripe, but there are compelling reasons for the changes.
They know what they're doing. Really. Everything's fine.
This video by Portland's Bicycle Transportation Alliance is troubling. The militancy is bad enough, but the depiction of numerous folks out riding without helmets -- including at night -- is really irresponsible.
A man who was doing just that on Division Street at 1:00 the other morning is now dead.
Why Portland City Hall employees' unions continue to support politicians who will spend money on tomfoolery like the Mystery Train to Milwaukie (population 20,291) is beyond us. When those electeds overspend on their pet projects, the unions may find themselves losing their precious retirement checks:
Cities and local governments make lots of promises: to their citizens, workers, vendors and investors. But when the money starts to run out, as it has in Central Falls, some promises prove more binding than others. Bond lawyers have known for decades that it is possible, at least in theory, to put bondholders ahead of pensioners, but no one wanted to try it and risk a backlash on Election Day. Now the poor, taxed-out city of Central Falls is mounting a test case, which other struggling governments may follow if it succeeds.
The whole thing is here.
Darcelle got busted last night.
A reader has a bunch of questions about the 18-year-old ski-racer jerk who urinated on a young girl on a commercial flight from Portland to New York the other night:
Further evidence of OLCC incompetence or bar owner greed. Somewhere there is a bar that will serve an 18 year old kid seven to eight drinks on a Tuesday night. OLCC should track down the bar and revoke their license to serve alcohol, right? Also, somewhere there are TSA employees who can't notice a teenager who is pass-out drunk. And how did he get from the bar to the airport?
Do you think he was just drunk? It sounds to us like somebody who thought it would be cool to drop a hallucinogenic drug to make a long red-eye flight more interesting. He may not have been drinking much at all.
We all know that no for-profit business in its right mind is going to pay outlandishly premium rents for office space in the new super-green "sustainability center" that's supposed to be built down by Portland State. So far, it's seemed that only government agencies would actually occupy the place.
Well, here's a cute twist: Maybe the construction company that's going to build the thing would agree to sign a lease for part of it! Oh, I get it -- you overpay for the construction of the building, and they pay the overcharges back to you over time as rent. Voila! A private tenant.
You see what they did there? Hey, it's a "sustainability center" -- you're gonna have a lot of recycling.
It appears that the tighty-righties are giving up on stopping the new car-free bridge across the Willamette. But they're still fighting tooth-and-nail the plan to run an expensive, frivolous light rail train across it and down to the sleepy, small suburb of Milwaukie.
How about this deal, they ask: build the bridge, but just connect the Portland streetcar loop to it? Forget the crazy MAX train to Milwaukie -- run more express buses down there instead. Interesting idea. Probably makes too much sense for Portlandia.
Given all their Jesus-freakiness of late, it's become kind of a three-way tossup. We'll ask our readers for their take:
It's been a genuinely historic couple of days here in Portlandia -- potentially the biggest in our nine years plus of blogging. The FBI raid on the city's parking meter manager, Ellis McCoy, is stunning. There are so many angles just begging to be written about -- let's see if we can get a decent rundown posted before the weekend gets here and the sunshine distracts us:
The interim U.S. attorney is showing some serious brass ones here. We can't remember any of his predecessors over the last three decades being willing to swoop down on suspected municipal corruption. Certainly his three immediate predecessors weren't brave enough to try anything of the sort.
Holton is certainly not publicity-shy -- is he running for something? The permanent U.S. attorney's position, perhaps? His designated successor, who doesn't seem as qualified as he, is having trouble getting confirmed. But is making waves the way to win the heart of Gatsby Wyden, who calls the shot on that position?
Maybe Holton's angling to run for Multnomah County district attorney. In our book, he'd be a better choice than either of the two candidates announced so far.
One fascinating aspect of the McCoy probe is how much the mainstream media seems to know about it. They're reporting not only the target, but the specifics of what he's being targeted for. Given that Holton's office doesn't appear to have said boo publicly about the nature of the investigation, somebody over there may be talking off the record to the press and broadcast people. Otherwise, we suspect they'd be much more circumspect in their account of what's being investigated.
The relationship of McCoy and his former boss, ex-transportation director Sue Keil, has taken some drastic swings over the past few years, and they don't add up. At one point, McCoy had threatened to sue the city, accusing Keil of racial prejudice, among other things. Keil, who's now interim head of the city parks bureau, reportedly told McCoy he had serious issues, including allegations of bribery, and it's pretty likely that she wound up seeking out a management coach to try to whip him into shape. McCoy, Keil, and Lavinia Gordon -- the manager who sat between the two on the flow chart -- even had a sit-down to discuss a "severance issue." It was stormy, to say the least.
Now, however, the relationship has turned around 180 degrees. Suddenly Keil says that all the parking meter contracts were shipshape, and McCoy is saying nice things to the press about her and his other superiors. When asked by a reporter yesterday why he didn't follow through with suing the city, he replied that he decided that it wouldn't be ethical to sue one's employer.
Give me a break. There is something extremely odd going on there.
McCoy is all over the local TV apologizing for putting the city through this "experience." What exactly is he apologizing for? If he's innocent, he's the victim of a wrongful investigation. Why would he apologize for that? None of the three reporters he told how sorry he was, asked him what for.
Perhaps the most stunning sight of all was the reaction of the city's hapless mayor. The guy looked scared witless, both when a reporter first accosted him in the hallway (see the start of this video, after the commercial) and again when he gave his canned statement. He had Sustainable Susan Anderson (governess of food scrap composting) next to him in the hallway scene, and she, too, looked like somebody had just been shot:
If McCoy really had been internally investigated and found clean, would that be the reaction? Indeed, even if Adams knows the guy's dirty, why the end-of-the-world look? It's just the parking meter guy.
There's got to be something bigger happening here. Maybe it's that an unwritten deal between City Hall and the feds has been broken. Maybe it's that other bribes and kickbacks are waiting to be found. But from the look on the mayor's face, it must be bad for him -- really bad. The big question that he and other truth-challenged city officials are doubtlessly asking themselves is where the cleanup is going to stop. And what does McCoy have to trade with Holton if a plea deal is on the table?
The embarrassment is actually double in the mayor's case. Not only does he run the transportation bureau, but he's also in charge of the finance bureau, which handles procurement. If there were bribes or kickbacks being taken for city contracts, shouldn't that office also be held responsible?
The O Channels Claude Rains
At least there was some comic relief. The O has published this howlingly funny editorial, in which its board exclaims that it is shocked -- shocked! -- that there could be dishonesty in local government. This in a town where the mayor leaves envelopes full of cash at the City Hall reception desk for the victim of his own alleged sexual abuse, while a criminal investigation of those allegations is in full swing. Where the transportation director takes a free (or should we say almost free, he couldn't remember if he paid anything) weekend at the beach house of a developer who regularly feasts at the public trough. A state where the treasury employees bill the public for reimbursement of travel expenses that were actually paid by somebody else -- the people with whom they do official state business. And the state treasurer has to be waterboarded before he finally gives in and outlaws such practices.
Four words, people: tip of the iceberg.
But hey, the O is shocked and outraged. "This isn't New Jersey," they sneer. No, and you aren't the Washington Post, either.
That other paper
Hold on to your hat.
The more perps, the better.
Channel 12 has a conversation with the FBI investigation target, here.
UPDATE, 1:33 p.m.: Here's the Channel 2 version. He keeps apologizing, but maintains he's innocent. The proclamations of innocence seem carefully worded.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Here's the Channel 6 version -- very similar. He wouldn't say if he currently has a lawyer. If not, he had better get one.
Portlandia is so funny. Now the city's wet-behind-the-ears transportation director is reportedly telling his bureau employees what to do if they get inquiries about the ongoing FBI investigation into suspected corruption around the city's parking meters. Here are some highlights from his e-mail message to the work force, as reprinted by the O:
* Do not engage in conversations on work time with anyone concerning this matter.
"On work time"? Does that mean that they can blab all they want during their off hours?
Do not to respond to the media or any other request concerning this matter as a representative of the City. If you receive inquiries please refer those to Maureen Yandle, Assistant to the Director.
"As a representative of the City"? Does this mean they can speak freely in their individual capacities?
* Do not release any record related to Mr. McCoy, Parking Operations, or other record concerning this matter....
* If you receive an official request from the FBI, U.S. Attorneys Office, or the IRS please notify your supervisor, who will assist you.
Ya gotta love that one. Don't give up records to anyone -- not even the FBI? If the FBI sends you "an official request," don't fully cooperate and simply tell the truth? No -- "notify your supervisor."
Maybe it's just us, but we smell more going on here than a mid-level bureaucrat with his hand (allegedly) in the till.
A reader sent along a message last evening, and a telling photo:
Welches con man spotting in Sellwood (Key Bank at 13th and Tacoma). Thanks to you I was able to help save the guy on the right side of the picture some money. I called Mr. Welches out in the middle of his story and he tried to deny it at first but then just turned red faced and walked away. Last seen headed east on Tacoma.
No doubt his latest bar is nearby. He needs to get the baseball cap back. Without it he looks too much like the bum that he truly is.
For decades now, the geniuses on the Portland City Council -- aided and abetted by the city's huge "planning" bureaucracy, the Goldschmidt people at Metro, Earl the Pearl, and the urban studies bobbleheads at Portland State -- have been playing "Sim City" with what was once a highly livable place. Their basic game plan has been to hand the city over to real estate weasels who build apartment bunkers, all the while bleating "green," sustainability, density, Barcelona, etc.
Of course, this isn't a computer game -- it's real life. And the results of all the game-playing have not been good -- a far less livable place, devoid of any real economy, with no serious positive prospects in sight. Local government's now insolvent. But oh, those shiny trains!
Anyway, now the folks at IBM have made it official -- they've devised an actual "Sim City" game for the planning mafia to use. And of course, the naive children in city government are drooling over the chance to play with it. As long as the results are what guys like Edlen and Homer want to hear, kids, it should be perfect.
Prowling around the internet for material on the City of Portland's suspended parking meter manager, Ellis McCoy, under FBI investigation, we came across this interesting page. It's former transportation bureau director Sue Keil's calendar for the third quarter of 2008. She had a meeting at 9:30 a.m. on August 28 of that year with McCoy and his supervisor Lavinia Gordon, to discuss a "severance issue." Whose "severance" were they discussing -- McCoy's? If so, the "issue" never got resolved, as he kept his city job, and may have gotten a "management coach" assigned to him.
The federal investigation into the manager of the City of Portland parking meter system, Ellis McCoy, is like shooting fish in a barrel. People have been raising questions about that fellow for years. There was something decidedly shady-looking about his dealings with contractors.
We wonder whether he was the guy for whom the transportation bureau hired a "management coach" in the spring of 2009. We blogged about that move here. It would make sense. His superiors had reportedly identified "issues" with his performance, and he had responded by lawyering up, threatening a lawsuit, and playing the race card. McCoy kept his job, but the city may have hired a "coach" to try to straighten him out. Maybe they should have just fired him.
If McCoy committed a crime, it's hard to believe that someone higher up the chain or command was not aware of it. You have to go through three organizational charts to get to where he sat:
His immediate superior was Lavinia Gordon, and until quite recently, her boss was City Hall veteran Sue Keil. (Tom Miller, currently in the bureau chief's chair, has been there only a short time.) The ultimate head of the office since 2005, of course, was none other than Portland's current mayor -- himself an inspirational figure when it comes to management skills.
It's interesting that the feds had to get involved in the case. Where was the county district attorney? Where was the crime-fighting state attorney general? Where was the city auditor? Where was the state government ethics commission?
In any event, as we noted yesterday, the FBI raid could be the start of something big. It's an easy place to begin checking around Portland city government for corruption. Let's hope it's not the last place that the U.S. attorney looks. Five years ago, the feds were looking to plant a mole in City Hall and bust some crooked people. Now would be a fine time to follow up on that initiative.
A reputation well deserved.
The U.S. attorney is turning over some rocks, and is no doubt finding some interesting things underneath. Let's hope his efforts at rooting out corruption are successful, and that his investigation broadens. There are many more rocks at City Hall to choose from.
Quoth the mayor, in whose bureau the suspect activity in question took place: "I'm very concerned, obviously. This is a city and a state that prides itself on, you know, clean government." Sure -- just ask Bob Ball.
What kind of guy would sell out his front yard, in a nice old residential neighborhood, to a cell phone company for an ugly, noisy, possibly unsafe cell phone tower and related equipment? Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Mr. Bruce Badrick:
Now that the cell phone dudes have screwed up the permit process at City Hall, some recently awakened neighbors have a second chance to fight the installation. They probably won't win, but you can bet they won't be having old Bruce over for dinner any time soon.
Amy is a one-of-a-kind aide, but in a year or so she's going to need a job! Please give her a loving home. Much thanks, Sam.
Amy (110235) is the Portland Mayoral Staffer of the Week. She is a perky over-achiever who loves people and the attention and affection she can receive from them. She is a three-year communications officer who has the heart and energy of a much older sustainability advisor. Amy has never had a real job so she was quick in adjusting to life at the City Hall. She enjoys going on bike rides and will adjust her speed to that of the person riding with her. Amy has had obedience training and knows many commands. A part of her repertoire includes sit, stay, wait, down, come, roll over, cover up, Tweet, mislead, delay, whine, pout, and her favorite is sic 'em. She loves playing phone tag with you or any other game that will help her expel her energy. Her previous employer says he would trust Amy with kids of all ages, and she likes to go ripping up duct tape with them! Amy will need a cat-free environment as she thinks they are fun to chase. In her recent work she has been left alone in a cubicle for six to eight hours much of the time. She needs to have a job where she can spend more time with her people and receive lots of love and attention. She likes female co-workers, but is not particularly fond of male co-workers. So if you already have a resident flack, a colleague meet is essential for her adoption. Amy is a charming lass who will make a great companion and show you all the love she has in her. Come meet with her at Portland City Hall (1221 SW Fourth Ave., Portland, 503-823-4799)!
Amy’s adoption fee of $55 includes tattoo, microchip ID, collar and ID tag, initial vaccines, one month flack insurance, courtesy exam, and plenty of post-adoption support! Availability is subject to prior adoption.
As we have noted on this blog for many months now, one thing that government is the Portland area has way too much of are p.r. flacks. Willamette Week recently conducted a survey that showed an annual government propaganda payroll of $7 million in the area, but we think even that understates the size of the bureaucratic p.r. machine.
Another thing Portland government spends way too much money on is design. We appreciate the need for sound design and planning, but our bureaucrats take these matters to ridiculous lengths. For example, the public has spent $130 million so far designing and planning the new I-5 bridge to Vancouver, and so far we have neither a design nor a plan for the thing.
Another example is the Portland Memorial Coliseum. How many hundreds of thousands has City Hall blown in the last few years designing and planning changes and improvements to that building, with nothing to show for it? Whatever the number is, it's about to go up by another $2 million:
Portland’s city commissioners will examine Wednesday whether to steer new design and engineering funds toward renovations of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The $2 million in urban renewal funds would help the Portland Development Commission determine design and engineering needs at "high confidence" levels.
What folly. With the Rose Garden right next door, there's not too much use for the Coliseum, except as the home of the junior league hockey team. For that purpose, the building could use a new heating and air conditioning system and an exterior paint job. Beyond that, all other talk is nothing but hot air in this economy. But the design and planning juggernaut rolls on. No wonder the city's going broke.
The rejection (subject to appeal) of the immigration jail planned for Portland's ill-fated SoWhat District means that the sweethearts at federal immigration might not be able to move out of their current detention tank in the Pearl District. And if they can't move out, the Pacific Northwest College of Art can't move in as planned.
That would be bad news for the art school, but it would also be bad news for city taxpayers. The Portland Development Commission has handed PNCA $740,000 as a matching grant for "pre-development costs" for the move.
Let's hope the feds do the smart thing and find a new location. Out by the airport, or in Multnomah County's never-used Wapato Jail, sounds great.
Here's another ex-fireman, ex-union boss who wants to take over the reins at Portland City Hall. Wouldn't that be special?
Unlike Portland, which is sheepishly blowing hundreds of millions of dollars dismantling the city's water system to satisfy federal regulators, folks in New York City are raising Cain about the unnecessary, unfunded mandates from Washington, D.C. Here's a New York-centric article on the subject, and here's Senator Chuck Schumer's latest initiative to get the EPA off its obsession with fixing what isn't broken. Schumer is actually using his clout, whereas Portland is merely being run by a clout.
We stumbled across this sign the other day on the City of Portland website:
Wonder where it's going to be posted. And at whom is the message aimed -- cyclists? Bucket drummers? Panhandlers?
The city code section cited at the bottom is relatively new, having been adopted just last year. It's here. It's much more specific than the old rules, which we looked at several summers back when we were examining the many news boxes that clutter up the inner city's sidewalks. Perhaps we should take another look at that practice in the light of the new rules.
Josh Kardon, the former main man for Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.), has hit a rough patch in his plan to get rich as a private lobbyist and a political campaign strategist. His new firm is splitting up, and his past actions on the Senate payroll have already come back to haunt him and his new clients.
Meanwhile, Kardon's ex-boss picked up a flattering story to go along with a dreamy photo in Willy Week. They held him up as a champion of the internet, which he has been. The copyright bullies want to turn the American internet into something like the hideously censored Chinese internet, and the boys and girls at the FBI and the CIA would like nothing better than to help them. Fortunately, Wyden's giving them all the hard time that they so richly deserve.
Amid all the hoopla surrounding Portland's impending switch to bi-weekly garbage pickup and weekly curbside food scrap recycling, little has been said about where all the recycled food scraps, which the haulers currently take 120 miles east to the Arlington landfill, are going to go for composting. They're going to be thrown in with residents' yard debris, and so does that mean that the existing yard debris composters are going to handle them? Or are the scraps going to that new facility in the Cully neighborhood, to which restaurants will reportedly be sending their waste food?
And whose property will the compost be? There is going to be a huge amount of it. Is anybody set up to handle that much new compost? Who's going to make money on the deal, and how much, for how long?
So far, all we can find on these questions is a brief discussion on this page on the mayor's website:
The food scraps are being sent to Pacific Region Compost in Benton County and Nature’s Needs in North Plains. These are commercial composting facilities that use specialized processes to break down organic matter. Compost from these businesses is sold to landscapers and other agricultural users.
Love that passive voice. Sold by whom, and who gets the proceeds?
The Pacific Region compost facility is south of Monmouth and north of Corvallis. It is just south of the border of Polk and Benton Counties, about 60 miles south of Portland City Hall. The North Plains site is just off Highway 26 east of Glencoe Road, about 18 miles west of Portland City Hall, in Washington County.
The Pacific Region facility is run by Allied Waste Services of Corvallis, which is in turn owned by a huge national waste disposal outfit known as Republic Services, Inc., headquartered in Phoenix. Nature's Needs is operated by a San Francisco-based company known as Recology. An employee-owned company, its operations are apparently limited to California, Oregon, and Nevada.
There's a lot of money involved in the new Portland garbage regime. Out in the much-abused Lents neighborhood, a fight is in progress about using a Recology transfer station near I-205 for all the stinky scraps, some of which will have already been sitting for two weeks or more before they get deposited there. And as Willy Week recently reported, there's a boatload of money being thrown around against siting the food scrap transfer operation at that location, with the opposition hiding the source of a lot of the dough. Speculation is that the money's coming from a company related to Allied Waste, which runs the compost facility way down in Monmouth.
It gets crazier. County Commissioner Judy Shiprack is in on it somehow. Remember how she and Fireman Randy tried to sell the Paulson baseball stadium that would have paved over Lents Park? Good times. Now she's got ideas to offer about the propriety of using the transfer station for table slop (she's opposed). It's been suggested that her husband's lobbying firm is pulling that string. What a dynamic duo we have there. In the immortal words of Cary Grant (or was it Larry Storch?), Judy Judy Judy. It's funny that she'd butt in on a city matter while the city's taxpayers are eating her and her husband's worthless $1.8 million IOU.
Anyway, while Portlanders wonder whether they're going to go along with the City Hall arm-twisting or just order up a bigger garbage can, they shouldn't take their eyes off the ball. As usual, big money decisions are being made in back rooms, while a public debate about "green" this and that provides an excellent distraction.
It's Jana Toran, 50-ish, a hard-charging litigator with a reputation among some opposing lawyers of playing rough. That may be a good trait in courtroom battle, but now she'll be running the entire legal department of a transit agency, which requires a different set of skills. What's more, Tri-Met's a scary client to have these days, as it teeters toward bankruptcy with the tea party turning off the D.C. money spigot. We wish Toran luck as she takes on her new role. She's going to need it.
At last report, Toran's old salary was north of $162,000. The guy she's replacing, Brian Playfair, was getting paid more than $192,000. Go by streetcar, people.
He focused on the hipster side in his photo essay, here.
It really was despicable conduct by the government over there. And it's not a whole lot better nearly five months later.
Portland's daily newspaper is really funny sometimes.
When government builds up everyone's expectations with promises built on borrowed money, then lets everyone down with a harsh dose of reality, bad stuff happens. Tonight it's London; next summer, it might be somewhere in the United States.
UPDATE, 4:52 p.m.: Our buddy Bill McDonald has a new song for the occasion.
It's been amusing to watch as the average Joe and Jane in Clackamas County realize that their home turf is being turned into Portland. They're getting Blumenauered with bike paths, hit up in their car registration fees for a bridge in another county, and now being saddled with "urban renewal" -- the sucking of their property taxes for developer boondoggles such as streetcars and MAX trains.
Some of them are fighting back, including at the ballot box. Lately the opponents have killed the car registration fee for the bridge, interred "urban renewal" in Tualatin, and chased a heavily subsisdized solar energy project out of Wilsonville and all the way to north Portland. Now they're pushing back on the insane Milwaukie MAX with a ballot measure that would throw a money wrench into the "urban renewal" machinery that is needed to pay for the train.
The measure, for which signatures are currently being collected, would require big urban renewal decisions in the county to be put up for a public vote county-wide. The measure might actually make it onto the November ballot, and if it does it stands a good chance of passage.
So what do the county commissioners, who are pushing "urban renewal," do -- prepare a spirited "no" campaign? That would be fighting much too fairly. Instead, they'll confuse everybody with a competing ballot measure, which requires much less voter approval, and put a clause in it that says if both measures pass, the wimpier one prevails:
Meanwhile, Clackamas County’s legal counsel is working on its own measure that legal representative Scott Sedaris says would negate the one Williams is spearheading.
"If both were approved, we would have a provision in ours that says ours trumps," Sedaris said, before joining commissioners in laughter.
According to Dan Chandler, the county’s newly appointed strategic policy administrator, the preliminary idea is to create a measure that would require votes only from those within the boundaries when a URA is created or amended, and not from the entire voting population.
The reasoning, according to Chandler, is that officials would be challenged to convince voters in one area to approve a plan that would only benefit another.
As well they should be challenged. "Urban renewal" robs property taxes from all over the county, directly or indirectly.
The commissioners' strategy of dueling measures is hardly new, but it's a perversion of the initiative process. Laughing about it shows a true lack of class. We don't pay a lot of attention to the commissioner races down that way, but something seems really wrong.
This story somehow slipped under our radar screen last week: The immigration jail that the Sam Rand Twins and their developer buddies were trying to sneak into the South Waterfront District has been rejected by a Portland city hearings officer.
The developer cats and the feds are appealing, and it's never over until it's over. But so far this is a major win for the beleaguered neighbors, including a grammar school. It's a good thing they found out about it in time to stop it.
We've been writing for some time now about the City of Portland's long-term plan to cut regular garbage pickup from once a week to once every two weeks. Part of the package is that the city will allow residents to throw all their food scraps into their yard debris bin along with their yard debris, and have that slop picked up once a week along with the rest of their recycling. But the stuff for the landfill will get picked up only every other week.
Well, apparently, the long term is now, as the Sam Rand Twins are going to start ramming the new program home this week. It's sure to create a lot of heat, but with two lame ducks on the City Council, more impervious than ever to public opposition, the new plan will surely pass. And it's all wrapped up in "green" talk, so the city's legion of creative class baristas will automatically snap to attention and salute.
It will be an interesting call for Nurse Amanda, who's in a tough re-election race. Will she let outraged opponents of the plan speak, or will she dismissively tell them how they should live?
Curiously, just 10 days ago the city was inviting people to hearings in late September on new garbage rules. Now, all of a sudden, the City Council's going to approve the revised program in August. There's the public process that we love so well.
On the merits, the problem for some of us is that we already compost a great deal of our food waste -- not all of it, but a lot of it -- and our garbage can, which is quite full every week, mostly contains items that are neither recyclable nor compost-able. For us, it means that we'll have to get a bigger garbage can and pay our hauler a higher rate. For less frequent garbage service. More money, less service -- forget the Twitter addresses, that should be the city's official motto.
Even those who don't presently compost a thing will probably be faced with the same circumstances as ours. Unless half of your garbage or more is food scraps, or you've already got a bigger can than you need, you're going to need a bigger can come this fall. And if you already fill up your yard debris bin every two weeks, there won't be room for your food scraps and you'll need a new garbage can that's twice as big as your current one.
What's the benefit? They say there'll be fewer garbage trucks on the streets, but with the yard debris trucks doubling their number of runs, that assertion doesn't make sense. There'll be less stuff going into the landfills, and we guess that's a good thing. Plus, some outfit's doubtlessly going to turn the slop into fertilizer and energy. Will profits made in the process be channeled back to cut garbage rates? Ha! Ha! There's your Monday morning funny.
And just think, just two more months before we get to deal with the new city leaf tax again.
Readers have alerted us to a controversy brewing in the Hillsdale section of southwest Portland. Apparently some of the residents there are taking umbrage at the plan by Chase Bank to locate a branch in the neighborhood.
Portland's a funny place. On the east side of town, neighbors have to fight methadone clinics, gangster halfway houses, drunk tanks, homeless shelters, centers for the criminally insane, cell phone antennas outside their kids' bedroom windows -- on the west side, they protest Holocaust memorials, rec centers, streetcars, and bank branches. (Although Fireman Randy is about to stick the SoWhat District with an immigration jail next to a grammar school, which is deliciously ironic.)
Anyway, in Hillsdale, Chase and its landlord are apparently seeking a legal "adjustment" to build a branch that is less dense and has more parking than the city's straitjacket of land use rules normally allows, and some of the neighbors are vowing to fight it. (One guy even went so far overboard in his outrage as to have to take down an overheated blog post and apologize for what he said.) The location is on Capitol Highway near Bertha Boulevard, along a stretch of road that's already got lots of retail and several traditional parking lots next to the stores.
One gets the impression that the neighbors are more upset about a large national bank moving in than they are about the parking. We can't say that we blame them. We despise Chase and its ilk, and are happy to have pulled our measly accounts out of there after they stole our business in the Washington Mutual debacle.
Since we left Chase, its behavior has only gotten worse. And it's now actually taken over all of the financial functions of the state of Kentucky, and will get to use idle state funds to make profitable loans to its customers. These guys will never stop reaching into the little guy's pocket, and they operate with the full blessing of the Obama sellout team. (Or maybe it's the other way around.)
But we digress. One important thing that the Hillsdale neighbors can do if that branch does get built: never use it, under any circumstances. Better yet, informational picketing -- it can be pretty powerful.
In the meantime, it appears that the real estate in question has been vacant for a long time, and that any Portlandia dreams of a granola and bike co-op with five stories of creative class condos above it are never going to come true. Maybe the neighbors ought to settle for a bank branch, before the county decides to site a big, dense methadone clinic, with no parking at all, at that location, like it does from time to time in the Buckman neighborhood.
The O ran a story on Friday night and Saturday -- when many readers wouldn't see it -- about all the bad loans that the Portland Development Commission has made over the past decade or so. It's quite a list of stinkers. The big one to Judy Shiprack, who's now a Multnomah County Commissioner, really stands out, but there are plenty of others -- $9.6 million in all. That would have bought a lot of gang outreach, or mental health workers, or fixed potholes.
What amazes us is not so much the fact that these loans went bad, but the fact that the city is lending out our hard-earned property tax dollars to so many private businesses, goofball or otherwise, to begin with. Article XI, section 9, of the state constitution states:
No county, city, town or other municipal corporation, by vote of its citizens, or otherwise, shall become a stockholder in any joint company, corporation or association, whatever, or raise money for, or loan its credit to, or in aid of, any such company, corporation or association.
If it meant what it plainly states, the constitution would prevent the city, through the PDC, from handing out money to marginal auto body shops, funeral homes, and barbecue pits to try to make a go of it. It must be that the state courts have interpreted that provision to allow easy dodges. Either that, or nobody's ever challenged transactions like the PDC loans. (Oh, what we'd give for a better-government league, to sue the pants off City Hall when it's needed.)
But leaving the legality of the practice off to one side, for the PDC to have a $158 million "loan portfolio" is a blatant invitation to corruption. Who decides who gets the loans, and who doesn't? What are the criteria? And how many free barbecue buckets, auto wax jobs, bargain weekends at Cannon Beach, and other benefits flow back to the city bureaucrats who make these decisions? If you say none -- human nature doesn't apply at Portland City Hall -- we have an aerial tram we'd like to sell you.
This sums it up pretty darn well.
The White House thinks that the party faithful will vote for the President again, because they have no choice. That's what Bush, Sr. thought when he broke his campaign promises. And he was shown the door.
The new debt deal means that federal pork for transportation projects is going to be more scarce than it has been lately. Rep. Peter DeFazio from Blugene thinks it could spell curtains for the proposed replacement of the interstate bridge on I-5 between Portlandia and the 'Couv. If only it were the death knell for the insane Mystery Train to Milwaukie -- but nothing kills that zombie. A quarter-billion of lottery money is about to be poured down a Tri-Met rat hole.
Kevin Durant is playing some mean playground ball on the hard courts in Harlem this summer.
Here's a highly perceptive essay comparing New York City's hipster borough with our own Rose City:
But it wasn’t until I walked out of the Bedford stop during the cold light of day for the first time and saw 40 bikes stuffed into the racks on the sidewalk and a frozen yogurt truck and thrift store racks in the street that it really hit me: I’m in Portland. But this Portland was in an alternate universe, where people have money and ambition!
This one graced our e-mail inbox the other day:
I just got better than $500 thanks to your post on the Oregon’s unclaimed property website. I discovered the unclaimed property and reclaimed it the day you blogged about it, and I only received this notice today. I suspect I am not alone in receiving money this week because of your post.
This windfall comes on the heels of my recognizing (and thus refusing) the Welches con man, so I owe you at least two beers.
The Portland Timbers are scheduled to play at home only five times in the next three months. And with minor league baseball kicked out of the city stadium, the place is empty most of the time.
Meanwhile, Portland's homeless population continues to grow and make a mess on inner city streets. Why not solve both problems by putting the stadium to use, on its many off days and nights, as a homeless shelter? It's got kitchens, showers, rest rooms -- makes a lot of sense. The taxpayers have tens of millions of dollars invested in the place; this would be a nice return on their investment. Let's get Nick Fish on this idea right away.
The clowns at Standard & Poor's -- the folks who contributed so heavily to the collapse of American finance three years ago by overrating garbage securities -- are now acting all rough and tough and downgrading the federal government's credit rating. Whatever, guys -- you're lucky that quite a few of you aren't in jail.
They're probably holding out for some sort of fee. The rating agencies usually get paid by the very companies whose credit they judge. Or maybe they're just answering to Chinese overlords. In any event, this little show isn't going to restore the investor confidence that was lost over screwups like their AIG and Lehman Brothers ratings of a few years ago.
We still suspect that he's been dead for several years, but the government's tale of his execution and burial at sea is faithfully set out in some detail in the latest New Yorker.
Something called the Bank of Whitman, headquartered in Colfax, Wash., was unceremoniously closed by federal regulators yesterday. The operation has been turned over to Columbia Bank, which is based in Tacoma and has branches in both Oregon and Washington. Twelve Bank of Whitman branches won't reopen, but eight others will keep going, at least for now.
It's amazing how routine bank failure has become in this country. The feds are keeping a little list, here. It shows 375 banks closed in the United States in the last three years -- about one every three days.
Giving headaches, that is. Here's a story of basic bureaucratic bungling on a number of levels, not the least of which is data lost in a City Hall computer crash without a backup. When you put guys like Opie and the Fireman in charge of things, you get this kind of result.
The fantastic pie contest that we judged a couple of times appears to have petered out, but a different version of the same idea is alive and well here in Portlandia -- even made the Times. We'll have to make that one next year. Good pie is one of life's true pleasures, and this town has a bunch of people who know how to get it done.
As we discussed the other day, the City of Portland sold a slew of "urban renewal" bonds this week, to be repaid out of property taxes from the amorphous Interstate Corridor "district" in the north and northeast parts of town. The city's busy debt department has sent us the final terms of the bonds, and here's the tale of the tape:
Those 2026 federally taxable bonds are kind of an eye-popper. That's a 15-year loan, and the boys at Bank of America are charging the city 6.293% a year interest on that $11.3 million. Think about it. That's a really crappy rate of interest from the city's perspective. Right now regular Joes can get a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage for under 3.75%. Even taking the jumbo size of the city's loan into account, it's going to pay way more interest on that $11.3 million than it should want to. Yuck.
When they start bragging to you about Portland's wonderful credit rating, you might want to ask them why the city is paying 6.3% for 15-year money when interest rates are at historic lows.
Overall, the new IOUs show a face amount of $46,135,000, and the combined true interest cost of all the bonds is 5.304%. When you multiply those two numbers, you get nearly $2.5 million a year of interest -- the price that the taxpayers will pay for renting money. That's a lot of property taxes being shoveled straight to Wall Street, and doing no good for Interstate Avenue or anywhere else in town.
Whatever marginal good it may be doing in Hipsterland -- and that's debatable -- "urban renewal" isn't worth that high a price. Not even close.
Portland's drinking water wells, out past the airport near Costco, are scheduled to be turned on on Tuesday. They do this every year, even if the Bull Run water system's cup runneth over, to make sure the well field equipment is in working order. This year the mixing is supposed to last at most only two weeks, with the Bull Run supply still constituting 97% of what flows through residents' taps.
Some readers have told us that they can taste the difference when the city blends the well water in with the mountain reservoir water. We're not in that group. Our taste buds get hung up on the chlorine.
The well water is not as pure as the Bull Run water. When the city infamously finds traces of pharmaceuticals in the water, for example, it's from the wells. Let's hope this year's run goes smoothly, with no unpleasant surprises.
The economy is quite sick.
Another fatal beating of a mentally ill man at the hands of police, this time in Fullerton, California, south of L.A.
The First Amendment sure seems limited up in Renton, Washington.
Another of Paul Allen's favorite sons, Darius Miles, is in big trouble. Get this: He was allegedly trying to bring a loaded gun onto a plane in St. Louis.
Underhill has worked in the Multnomah County district attorney's office for more than 20 years -- his entire career, if we're not mistaken. For the past year and change he's reportedly been involved with the unproductive Kyron Horman investigation. He's formed a campaign committee and now seems certain to run against Kellie Johnson and whoever else throws a hat in the ring to become the next district attorney in the nonpartisan (sort of) race.
Yesterday's post about the no-bid contract shenanigans in progress at the Wilsonville transit agency got us thinking about the many other "sole source" (that is, no-bid) deals that go down in local government around here. Here from the City of Portland website are eight such transactions that Portland's entered into over the last four months:
1. Water Bureau - Boyle & Associates - $40,000 for "facilitation" of Labor Management Committee meetings for 18 months.
2. Fire Bureau - System Planning Corporation dba TriData - $100,000 to prepare a report to City Council "comparing PF&R staffing and deployment levels to like metropolitan fire and rescue departments. Particularly, the report shall address efficient and innovative methods of recognized service delivery. The report shall also provide data to assist Council in determining whether the new response vehicles being purchased with funds from the 2010 Fire Bond shall be staffed utilizing existing or new personnel."
3. Bureau of Environmental Services (sewer) - Northwest Control Co. - $102,978 for an HVAC control system upgrade at a "water pollution control lab."
4. Office of Emergency Management - Online Business Systems, Inc. - $60,000 to "complete the Enterprise Service Bus side of an interface between the Versaterm Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and the Portland Office of Emergency Management’s WebEOC utility."
6. Vehicle Fleet - Brattain International Trucks Inc. - $475,000 for parts for International vehicles.
7. Bureau of Development Services (permits) - Case Associates, Inc. - $20,000 for "for the pre-planning and contracting phase of... migration and integration of the City’s permit system to a statewide system being implemented by the State of Oregon using Accela software."
8. Bureau of Transportation - Alsea Geospatial - unspecified amount for "Trimble Nomad handheld devices with T-Ticket software installed, as well as support and maintenance services for the hardware and software."
Would any of these deals have benefited from competitive bidding? We'll let knowledgeable readers debate that one. But it might be worth our while to check in on this a few times a year to see what else pops up on the city's list.
Here's a depressing factoid:
If federal data is correct (based on sting operations such as Nelson’s across the country), Multnomah County is one of the easiest places in the nation for teens to buy cigarettes.
Where are all the "for the children" politicians? Hello!
We blogged last evening about the scandal that the O's got brewing over the bargain rental of a developer's beach house to Portland's transportation director, Tom Miller. The property, owned by Beam Development chief Brad Malsin, was rented out to Miller for a sum that Miller said he couldn't recall, but Malsin said was $100 a night.
The O story called the place "Malsin's 450-square-foot cottage steps from the beach," but is that accurate? Look at this web page, particularly the photo on the right, of "Malsin Cottage." If that's the same place, it looks a lot bigger than 450 square feet from here -- as in, maybe 10 times that size. And it's so nice that they put it on a house tour.
Here's the Google street view: Link.
And here's the Google satellite view: Link.
Aside from Miler's preposterous assertion that he didn't remember the rent, there's something extremely funny going on here. How many other Portland officials have gotten the sweetheart deal on renting that place?
UPDATE, 1:32 p.m.: An alert reader has sent us to the Mapquest satellite view of the property, and it appears that yes, there are two ever-so-slightly detached buildings on the parcel, connected by a deck or walkway of some sort:
Perhaps the Miller party was confined to the back building. Perhaps. But it's still not going to have a rental value of only $100 a night on a June weekend.
Since several Democrats are jockeying for the now-vacant congressional seat, the governor has decided to throw a primary election on November 8, and the general election on January 31. That's a six-month vacancy in a two-year term of office. What a mess.
The situation we were battling with our iPhone -- iTunes would freeze when the phone was plugged into the computer -- is now completely gone, departed as abruptly as it arrived. Perhaps the issue was resolved with the recent iTunes update we installed -- we're now up to version 10.4. (The software on the phone is version 4.2.1.) Although we figured out ways to deal with it, good riddance to that hassle.
Thanks to our readers and a bit of Googling, we have figured out how to get a photo that was taken upside down on an iPhone to appear rightside up when displayed on this blog on Apple equipment:
Save the photo in Photoshop using "Save for Web." It deletes the metadata that was causing the problem.
Here's an interesting question: If you rented a beachfront cabin at the coast in June -- nine weeks ago at the most -- would you remember how much a night you paid to stay there? Funny thing -- the City of Portland's transportation director can't recall.
Yeah, and High Heaven just called -- there's a stink. [Via Isaac.]
Indeed it is.
He's 85 years old today. One of the best deliverers of popular song, ever. Many happy returns, sir!
We're finding out that there are at least a few folks who, for whatever reason, are quite vocal in their desire that Kellie Johnson not succeed in her bid to become the next Multnomah County district attorney. One of them wrote us this afternoon to point out that the domain of Johnson's campaign website, kjforda.com, is owned by the Democratic Party of Oregon. Given that the district attorney position is nonpartisan, the reader questions whether that's appropriate. It seems like a valid question.
Here's an e-mail message that we received today from our friend and former partner Greg Macpherson, former state representative and one-time candidate for Oregon attorney general:
Since the announcement last week by Congressman David Wu that he will resign I have been asked by many friends and supporters whether I will seek election to fill the resulting vacancy. I have decided I will not become a candidate in Oregon's 1st Congressional District. I will continue to serve on the Land Conservation and Development Commission, protecting Oregon's productive farm and forest lands from sprawl and assuring that development necessary to a strong state economy occurs where it should. I will also continue to volunteer my time on various civic boards and projects. I believe these are where my energies can have the greatest positive impact in the coming months.
toy research nuclear reactor at Reed College in southeast Portland has cleared another hurdle in its quest for a license renewal -- the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has agreed to "docket" the renewal application. We're no expert on NRC bureaucratese, but we think this means that the Reed students can keep operating the thing (between bong hits) until the NRC staff tells them to stop.
One interesting thing about the letter from the agency to Reed with the latest news: It's addressed at the top to the new reactor director over there, Melinda Krahenbuhl, but then the salutation is "Dear Mr. Frantz." It's that kind of attention to detail that's made nuclear regulation in this country such a resounding success.
Having successfully placed a Band-Aid on the severed carotid artery known as the national debt, Congress has patted itself on the back and gone home for a month. That's interesting, considering that they've left the Federal Aviation Administration understaffed by 4,000 workers due to a lack of money. The workers, mostly inspectors, have been asked to work without pay until the toupees return to Capitol Hill after Labor Day. That should work just great.
There's something very, very wrong in this country, folks.
In any event, there's a big runway project going on this summer at the Portland Airport, and without FAA inspectors, we suspect that there could be delays in getting the work done. Perhaps our local mainstream media will pick up on this story, even if nothing big crashes.
UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: Turns out, Angela Webber at the Daily Journal of Commerce checked into this last week when the furloughs started and we were lounging on the beach. According to the Port of Portland at that time, no delays were expected.
Yesterday we received in the snail mail a newsletter from the Oregon chapter of the Nobel Prize-winning organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, whose primary mission is to put an end to nuclear weapons and otherwise prevent the spread of radioactive contamination worldwide. On its cover was an article by Rudi Nussbaum, an emeritus professor of physics and environmental sciences at Portland State.
We know Dr. Nussbaum from seeing him in action 25 years ago, speaking out against the environmental atrocities that had been, and were still being, committed at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the federal atomic bomb factory on the Columbia River in south central Washington State. Nussbaum had a way of cutting through the nuclear industry's endless flow of misinformation, and he made a convincing case that nuclear power, like nuclear weapons production, has caused grave harm to many innocent neighbors of atomic facilities. The latest article in the PSR newsletter, which is well worth reading, was classic Nussbaum.
Anyway, we went Googling around to see what else he might be up to these days, and we were stopped cold by this page, which announced:
It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Dr. Rudi Nussbaum, who died in Holland after a fall. Rudi was an avowed pacifist and Holocaust survivor and an expert on the health effects of radiation exposure. As his longtime friend, Lloyd Marbet writes: "His work as a Professor Emeritus of Physics and Environmental Science at Portland State University was instrumental in raising alarm over the health effects of radiation exposure. He wrote numerous papers on this subject and participated in gathering valuable information on workers and civilians that were exposed to radiation at Hanford and in surrounding communities, for which he became a vocal advocate for environmental justice. He helped bring the famous epidemiologist, Alice Stewart, to Portland, and promoted her life story."
Nussbaum, who was 89 years old, was a German Jew. He and his then-girlfriend, later-wife, Laureen, successfully dodged the Nazis in Holland for several years. Laureen was a close childhood friend of Anne Frank's sister. The Nussbaums moved to the United States in 1957. Laureen, who survives her husband, is also a retired Portland State professor.
Like many other independent thinkers who question the safety of the nuclear industry, Rudi Nussbaum was at times ridiculed and attacked. He never let it faze him -- he told it like it was, year after year. He was sharp as a tack right to the end. People like this are not replaceable. Heaven rest his great soul.
And it involves that city's bus system:
The recipient of the contracts, Cynthia Thompson, left city employment as Wilsonville's transit director about 10 years ago and later founded BCB Consulting, a name that stands for "believe, create, build."The City Council resolution on the December deal is here. It's extraordinary.
She returned to Wilsonville in 2007, quickly winning a pair of no-bid consulting contracts totaling $60,800. In November 2007, Thompson's role expanded to include her old job, an arrangement that continues today at an annual cost to the city of $149,040.
In December, Wilsonville awarded Thompson's firm an additional $800,000 contract, including $48,410 in administrative costs, to install a pedestrian art project at one of Wilsonville's busiest intersections.
Years ago, Thompson worked for five years as a "transportation options director" at Portland City Hall.
Make up your own joke.
It just screams Portlandia.
We like this one: The Multnomah County Public Library has won a national award for helping immigrants. We're all immigrants, except for the native Americans, but sometimes we forget that.
In addition to lending recent arrivals materials in their native languages, the library offers "citizenship classes, language learning labs and Talk Time (conversation circles for non-native speakers to practice speaking English)." Excellent.
This is pretty funny. Now Portland's mayor and his Melvin Mark buddy chairing the anemic Portland Development Commission are sending out open letters seeking "public service-minded investors" for failed PDC projects. This missive, about the bombed Centennial Mills project, has got two "iconic"s in it, including one "wonderfully iconic," which really shows the desperation.
Oh, and so you don't forget, do it by midnight tonight! "Please respond by 5:00 p.m., Friday, August 26, 2011." Act now and they'll throw in some ginsu knives.
The City of Portland is going to Wall Street with its hat in its hand again this week. This time it's borrowing around $44.9 million for various "urban renewal" monkey business in the so-called "Interstate Corridor" district. The sales document for the new IOUs is here.
The new bond issue is rated A2 by Moody's, which is about five rungs down from the triple-A rating that the city likes to tell you that it has. Some of the loan will be outstanding for 20 years. Most of it will not bear federally tax-exempt interest, which means that the interest rates should be pretty high.
The latest financing illustrates two hinky aspects of "urban renewal" as practiced in Portland. The first is the "urban renewal" zone itself. One look at the map, and it's obvious that the "district" boundaries are not cohesive. It's a gerrymandered collection of unrelated pockets of real estate flung over a wide swath of north and northeast Portland. Many of the lines make little sense, and one end of the district has little to do with the other. In that regard, as we noted a couple of weeks ago, the district is about to get much worse, not better.
The other troubling aspect of this week's borrowing activity is that the money in question has already been spent. The funds that are borrowed now will be used to pay off lines of credit that the city took out as long as five years ago. The lines of credit are negotiated in secret, and when they're set up, no detailed record is made of what the proceeds are going to be used for. And later, when the permanent financing takes place, there's no precise accounting for how the borrowed money was spent, either. The city simply reports how much money it's burned in the district over the past several years, without segregating how much of the spending was borrowed and how much of it wasn't.
In this case, the city says it's spent $95 million on "urban renewal" in the district over the past 10 years -- including about $42 million on the Interstate MAX line, and another $12 million on shadowy "indirect" costs like staff overhead. But no one ever gets to see precisely how much was borrowed for precisely what. The sloppiness of the whole thing is breathtaking.
And as we've been preaching for a long time now, it doesn't take too much reflection to realize that the public's right to challenge these borrowings at the ballot box has been completely stripped away by the city's tactics. If you try to challenge this week's bonds, you're threatening the city with default on the credit lines; if you tried to challenge the credit lines when they were created, you couldn't make a case because nobody but the bureaucrats knew what the money was going to be used for.
Alas, there's more, much more, of this to come. As part of convincing today's prospective bond buyers that property taxes in the Interstate district are going to go up, the city shows off its grand plans for even more borrowing and spending in the district in the future. Here's a list of some of the projects on the drawing boards -- about $72 million more, if our math is right. All of that will no doubt be borrowed.
Last week the city auditor pointed out that Portland's borrowing way too much money, and spending too much of it on "urban renewal." And what has it done for our economy and our tax base? Not a whole heck of a lot. It's a dangerous game, and it really ought to be given a lengthy timeout, if not a permanent interment. But don't even try telling that to the bobbleheads on the City Council. They know better.
Here's one for the computer wizards out there. On this post, we vainly display a photo that originally was taken with the camera inverted, i.e., upside down. We rotated the photo and saved it using Photoshop, and it's right-side up on our various browsers -- but the pic is still upside-down on our iPhone:
And an alert reader is getting the same thing on his iPad. What's up with that? (In a thousand words or less, if possible.)
Michael Mills, the City of Portland ombudsman, is leaving City Hall and taking a job at a real estate development firm, Portland State University. Mills is one of the investigators whose positions were recently changed to "at will," meaning that the city auditor could fire them for just about any reason under the sun. We didn't hear of a single thing that Mills did in his 17 years as an ombudsman on the city payroll (the first eight with Mayor Vera), but apparently he's good at reading the writing on the wall.
To the legion of government employees in Portland:
Before you throw your support behind the candidates who will hand you the fattest retirement benefits, consider what's going on in Rhode Island, where a city just declared bankruptcy. The banks are going to be paid in full, but the government retirees aren't.
If Portland winds up in a bankruptcy -- and it very well could, at rate it's borrowing and spending money on unproductive junk -- the same thing could happen to you. Don't think for a minute that you're going to get your full pension while the Bank of America (which holds tons of Portland bonds) is going to take a haircut. Unfortunately, the United States doesn't work that way.
But now we can tell you're not too bright just from the fact that you're surfing the web on Internet Explorer.
Congressman David Wu's office has released its clearest explanation so far regarding the timeline for the lawmaker's planned departure from the U.S. House of Representatives. Wu spokesman Erik Dorey told reporters for The Washington Post this morning that Wu won't leave office until the federal government's debt is paid off.
In the midst of allegations of unwanted and aggressive sexual contact against an 18-year-old daughter of a friend and campaign donor, Wu announced July 26 he would step down. The seven-term representative of Oregon's 1st Congressional District denies breaking any laws and has maintained that the still-unexplained encounter was consensual.
"He pledged to stay through the crisis and the crisis isn't over until the debt has been retired," Dorey said.
It's hard to know what the heck is really going at the triple meltdown site in Fukushima, Japan as it approaches the five-month mark since the earthquake-precipitated nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric, the private company that runs the plant, give out scandalously little information, and what does come out, comes out in Japanese, which often loses something in the translation into English.
At 2:30 pm on August 1, as radiation level of surface of connection of emergency gas treatment system piping arrangement at the bottom of main exhaust stuck of unit 1 and 2 was detected over 10 Sv/h, keep the area out for restricted area with signature. We will consider countermeasure such as shilding.
The "exhaust stuck" they're talking about is the tall exhaust stack that Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1 and 2 share. You can see the tower pretty well at the top center of this photo, taken from the ocean. There's a more recent photo of the base of the stack here. They say they're measuring more than 10 sieverts an hour at that spot. Ten sieverts is a 100% fatal dose, and so if you stood there for an hour you'd be dead within weeks. Moreover, we're not told how much higher than 10 sieverts the radiation is -- some folks in the know are saying that the meters don't go up any higher than that. If the level is 40 sieverts an hour, you'd be dead if you stood there for 15 minutes.
You've got to wonder how long the photographer stood there taking that photo. And what the heck is going on inside that pipe to throw off that much radiation? Maybe the readings are mistaken, but something monumentally wrong continues to go on over there, day after depressing day.
Some of the media coverage of last night's bicycle accident involving former football star quarterback Joey Harrington has tended to understate the extent of his injuries. According to KPAM Radio, he's been in intensive care at OHSU with a punctured lung and a broken collarbone, and he hit his head (helmeted, fortunately) on the SUV that rear-ended him and sent him flying.
The accident took place on Foster Road, just west of I-205, just before sunset. Obviously, the driver of the SUV was in the wrong, but you've got to be a little nuts to be riding a bike in traffic there. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Harrington, and other recreational pursuits that he can take into his old age with him.
It spends so much time and money screwing around with stuff that doesn't matter.
Add another entry to the growing dead-deal list at the Portland Development Commission -- this one a false hope for Old Town. Rather than try to turn that agency into the "cluster" center, perhaps we should save a bunch of money by mothballing it until the national economy picks up. If it ever does.
Portland's southeastern suburb is now talking about building a new $20 million (or $30 million, what the hey) minor league baseball park near the proposed Mystery Train from Portland. It's hard to believe that there will be two new baseball stadiums built in the metro area -- one in Milwaukie and the other in the 'Couv. And so it seems that a bit of a bidding war may be starting up.
Oh, and they're expecting the City of Portland to pay some of the freight!
The Milwaukie City Council will hear an update on the proposal Tuesday. City officials then plan to meet Aug. 8 with Portland Mayor Sam Adams, to see how the larger city might help with financing or otherwise get involved.
Taxpayers, assume the position.
When I worked as a corporate lawyer, the most bittersweet type of transaction on which we labored was helping a local client sell a business. Invariably, the buyer was from out of state, and with the sale would come a prompt change of management at the target company. That usually meant that the corporate headquarters was soon moved out of Oregon, and most or all of the corporate legal work went with it. The takeover was often the last real deal that we'd get to work on for that business.
Portland took a serious blow of this type last January, when the Russian outfit Evraz, which bought Oregon Steel Mills, announced that it was pulling its American corporate executives out of town and shipping them off to Chicago. It kept some of its steel manufacturing operations here, but the high-paid execs all flew the coop.
All this is by way of background to an alarming story that hit the wires last week: Vestas, the European wind power company, has been tagged as a likely takeover target. This is the same company on which Portland and Oregon have lavished a monstrously cushy deal. They are handing City Hall sweetheart Mark Edlen millions of dollars (directly or indirectly) to build Vestas a new headquarters in the old Meier & Frank warehouse where the Pearl District meets the freeway.
If some bigger, more stable outfit buys Vestas, it could easily decide, as Evraz did, that Portland's not the right place for its American headquarters. In which case the city and the state will have blown several million dollars on the Edlen deal and gotten little or nothing out of it.
But wait -- Edlen will have a nicely refurbished building. And how much of the bag will the public be left holding? Funny how few details have ever seen the light of day, nearly a year after the hotsy totsy press conference announcing the deal. Anyway, we continue to be skeptical of Portland's "green economy" future. Talk is cheap.
... you'd get this stuff.
(And if you put it in a bird, it would fly backward.)
With the mayor of Portland not running for re-election, we're left with just three or four candidates for mayor, none of whom are too promising, or interesting. There's still time -- why can't we get some better blood into the race? Folks like:
Whaddya say, Portland?
A 75-year-old man, shot through the wall of his apartment. Geez, we hope the next mayor of Portland gets here soon. And that he or she has something better to offer in response to this than to get Amy Ruiz tweeting, "There are too many guns."