|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
Last year, when the City of Portland instituted its leaf tax, the surprising news was that thousands of Portlanders were readily paying it, even though it was voluntary. More than a third of affected residents were said to have pungled up. That didn't sound right then, and we've still got our doubts.
But whatever came in, it apparently wasn't anywhere near what they were expecting. An alert reader points out this passage from the city's current budget document:
Wonder what the "collection issues" are. To us, the only issue is why anyone would be fool enough to send the wastrels at Portland City Hall a nickel more than they absolutely have to.
This thing holds two gallons of food slop:
Two gallons is pretty big. All of us in Portland are going to have make room for these things in our kitchens? On top of the half-dozen compartments we already have for several different kinds of recycling?
Some days it's as though we've been kidnapped and taken away to some sort of strange cult camp. The guy running it has a bow tie and a big bicycle pin on.
Oregon state officials are bragging this week about this distinction. But when you think about it -- and the fact that 1 in 5 Oregonians is on the dole -- it's not much of a cause for celebration.
The City of Portland propaganda machine never rests. Yesterday the mailman brought this fancy newsletter:
The big news: The Big Pipe project is almost finished!
Yeah, whoopee. Now comes the fun part -- paying for it. At our last count, the city was about $1,700,000,000 in debt over the sewer. For you math-challenged types, that's $1.7 billion. With a "b." Or about $2,800 for every man, woman, and child who lives in the city.
Maybe they ought to stop printing the newsletter and put the money toward the debt. Just a thought.
Oh, and we are not making this up -- guess what else! Just guess...
Water bill is here
We can eat cat food this month
And flush less often
The Big Pipe is done
Some contractor guys got rich
Wall Street guys did too
Sewer took my dough
Nothing left for Timbers game
With Legend Saltzman
Play along, peeps -- it's far less painful than contemplating reality.
The Post Office says it's going to start putting living people's faces on stamps. Everyday Joes and Janes have been able to put their own mugs on stamps for quite a while now, but to have the government do it -- well, it's bound to degenerate pretty quickly. It'll start with something like the Kennedy Center Honors winners, but within a couple of years it will be the latest toupees on the congressional committees that control the postal budget.
Maybe they ought a start a reality TV show where viewers text in their picks. I'd go with Tommy Lasorda, right off.
Fast times, it ain't.
An adult reader writes:
I am so. Ticked. Off.
Just got a robocall that started out with maybe a full minute of stupid rap music.
Then a recorded voice came on inviting me to access website www.portlandonline/listenlocal.
The link referenced in the call didn’t work, so I phoned ONI (823-4000) and was informed it's our trusty mayor "supporting local musicians and artists."
A further search revealed this.
"Grace" at the mayor’s office thanked me for sharing my displeasure with her, claiming she wasn’t aware that robocalls on the subject matter were going out.
What is this idiot so-called mayor trying to prove?
Life is mysterious, reader. We can't know.
The delusions of Fake New York continue. What made our area so attractive to so many people a few decades ago is being purposely destroyed.
If people want or are willing to live in cheap apartment bunkers, they're not going to come to Portland, Oregon to do it. They're going to go to a city in which they can actually make a living.
Food carts are not an economy, at least not in the developed world.
Can't say as we blame them. A once-proud bus system has been chopped up and decimated so that Tri-Met can become a rail company. This looks good in The New York Times and makes life easier for Earl Blumenauer when Neil calls.
But the folks who ride public transit on rubber tires are starting to fight back. It will be a long, losing battle, of course. Go by streetcar!
What is that saying about, "Fool me once, shame on you..."?
When Solyndra took its hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies to build a solar panel factory in California, it built a high-tech Taj Mahal, which is now useless because the Chinese have killed Solyndra in the marketplace.
Now that SoloPower has hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies to build solar panel factories in Portland and elsewhere, what kind of plant is it planning to create?
Both the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves have blown seemingly insurmountable leads in their respective league standings -- including choking on their last games of the season -- and find themselves not making the playoffs. It's always gratifying to see the Braves go down, but we feel for the long-suffering Red Sox fans. Ah, the curse of the Babe...
They say that field burning is dead in Oregon, but outside in Portland right now, it sure smells like a good old-fashioned Willamette Valley grass burn. With easterly winds, though, it can't be that -- something else must be ablaze. A wildfire out the Gorge, or perhaps on Hood?
The last line of the week is in in our charity pro football underdog pool, and it's a doozy:
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Philadelphia
That's a lot of points, but of course, the Niners will have to pull off a major upset for our players to rack them up. Picks are due by 10 a.m. Pacific Time Sunday, folks. Happy hunting.
Take a look at the outrageous sums of money that people are sucking out of the Oregon state university system. No wonder the tuition's so high.
Up the hill on SW Corbett Avenue in Portland, this place has opened. Now that the French School at the bottom of the hill has gone belly up, some parents are finding in the "L'Etoile French Immersion School" a suitable replacement facility for their wee ones. But not all of the neighbors are happy. They note that the operation is in what was until recently a single-family home, and while it might be o.k. to operate a daycare facility there, the neighbors say this is more of a private school, which the zoning rules don't allow at that location.
And so the battle is joined. City Hall land use bureaucrats, state daycare bureaucrats -- and who knows who all else may get involved? Sacré bleu.
We spent a little time in beautiful downtown Tillamook over the summer. It's a sleepy place, old and with a lot of character. A small collection of hearty businesses are hanging in there, and the downtown buildings seem to have great "bones" on which a revitalized district could be built if economic conditions ever improve.
They have an "urban renewal" program over that way, and as we see from this story, lo and behold, the program is actually being used to renew what's there -- rather than tear it all down for tacky apartments and pointless commuter trains, the way they do in Portland. Ten grand toward a paint job on a nice old building in that downtown district seems to us to be money well spent.
Did Portland's "urban renewal" scoundrels kill the Centennial Mills foodie deal so that the new Melvin Mark foodie deal at the Morrison Bridge could take over? Given that the chair of the development commission is a Melvin Mark bigwig, that's a question some folks are finding quite interesting.
We have weird blog-related dreams sometimes. The other night we dreamt that we were hanging out with Portland commissioner Randy Leonard, and there was an uneasy truce between us. It was a short dream.
Last night we must have had another one, because we could have sworn we heard that some outfit that's trying to fluoridate Portland's drinking water has hired Mark Wiener -- the political consultant who gets Portland politicians elected and ballot measures passed (most of the time) -- to make its sales pitch to City Hall. Since Leonard and "Legend" Dan Saltzman have used Wiener in the past in their own campaigns, and with the city's unique mayor doing whatever Leonard tells him to do, the fluoride folks must have thought that Wiener could deliver them the requisite three votes on the City Council.
Now, that is one weird dream -- isn't it?
All sorts of e-mail comes in over our transom. Here's a message from an outraged neighbor down in southeast Portland:
I and my neighbors are working hard to oppose the placement of a new 45-foot Verizon Wireless cell phone tower on the property of Mt. Scott Fuel Co., 6904 SE Foster Road. The City of Portland will hold a formal hearing on this matter on October 3 at 9:00 am at 1221 SW 4th Ave, Suite 3000.
This proposal is widely opposed by neighbors for numerous reasons detailed below. We will make our voices heard at the hearing and appeal to the hearings officer to consider several critical flaws in Verizon’s application and the city’s tentative preliminary recommendation to allow construction of this facility.
As recommended by the city, the proposal is nothing short of a giveaway by the city to a mega corporation and an absentee landlord who has zero interest in being a good neighbor or contributing to the common good in our area. We feel as neighbors that Verizon and Mt. Scott fuel are betting they can make a fast buck because those who surround this facility lack the resources and organization to oppose this. They are wrong.
Summary of concerns:
This proposal doesn’t live up to the city code.
Verizon is requesting to place a tower within 2000 feet of an existing tower. In a case such as this, the applicant bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the "only feasible site" to provide service.
Federal criteria regulate RF emissions from cell towers such as this. Verizon’s health and safety justifications are dubious, citing only its own engineering staff, who clearly have a conflict in objectively evaluating these factors.
The city was wrong to deem a four-story cell tower in keeping with the "desired character" of our neighborhood, using a nearly 20-year-old neighborhood plan as justification. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Foster Road is a key transportation corridor and this site is within an Urban Renewal Area. Placing a four-story cell phone tower effectively prohibits any higher or better future use of not just this site, but those around it.
A noisy industrial site surrounded by barbed wire, guarded by vicious dogs and spewing dust most hours of the day isn’t the best neighbor to begin with. This proposal greatly worsens matters.
The Mt. Scott Fuel property is already a non-conforming use and a non-conforming development. Adding a cell tower to this property will clearly take it further from the desirable direction for the area.
This proposal conflicts with the vision expressed by the City in documents and processes related to the local Urban Renewal Area, the Foster Road Transportation & Streetscape Plan and the Mt. Scott Arleta Neighborhood Plan.
This proposed tower does not align with or advance the city’s (and our) vision and development direction for our neighborhood. This proposal is wrong and should be stopped.
We know for sure that the city won't listen to safety concerns -- they'll tell you they're precluded from doing so by federal law. As for the rest, we wish the neighbors luck. But once a site gets dedicated to a neighbor-unfriendly use, things don't usually get better -- they usually slide down a slope in the other direction.
The boys at Willy Week have a good one on Portland mayoral candidate Eileen Brady today: She got herself excluded from Waterfront Park during Rose Festival eight years ago for refusing to obey a police order to walk her bike. She also allegedly mouthed off to one of Portland's finest who was doing the ticketing, including allegedly remarking about her three personal friends on the City Council.
It's an interesting story, and Brady ought to be darned embarrassed. But WW probably hopes its big splash with the story somehow cancels out the checkered past of its fair-haired boy, Brady opponent Jefferson Smith. Smith's list of transgressions is as long as one's arm and getting longer. WW was late to the party in picking through the ample evidence of his phoniness. Looks like they're the first to go after Brady, who in our reader poll of yesterday was the clear front-runner in the mayor's race. They'll need a lot more than this.
Every once in a while, it's nice to hear somebody talking about reality.
Next it's time to talk about why the city's elected officials deliberately make life difficult for the majority -- and get away with it -- in the name of the urban planner ideology. Portland voters must be masochists, or craving a new religion.
Life these days is rich, but let's not forget our charity pro football underdog game in the shuffle. Here are this week's options:
13 DENVER at Green Bay
10 INDIANAPOLIS at Tampa Bay
8 MIAMI at San Diego
7 JACKSONVILLE vs. New Orleans
6.5 CAROLINA at Chicago
4.5 SEATTLE vs. Atlanta
4.5 OAKLAND vs. New England
4 PITTSBURGH at Houston
3.5 NEW YORK JETS at Baltimore
3 CINCINNATI vs. Buffalo
2 ARIZONA vs. New York Giants
2 KANSAS CITY vs. Minnesota
1 TENNESSEE at Cleveland
As last week, the Cowboys (home to Detroit) and Eagles (home to San Francisco) are off-line while their quarterback situations are dealt with. Washington at St. Louis is also not yet up. But these games may be added sometime between now and Thursday night.
So whaddya think, readers? See an underdog (in caps) on that list that can win its game outright (without the benefit of the point spread)? Could it be time to throw the long ball against the Pack? San Diego could lose on any given weekend. And Seattle seems to do o.k. at home. Speaking of which, there are no fewer than six home 'dogs there...
UPDATE, 9/28, 5:02 a.m.: Here are a couple of puppies that have just been added:
1.5 DETROIT at Dallas
1 WASHINGTON at St. Louis
UPDATE, 10/1, 1:43 p.m.: The last 'dog of the week, posted Wednesday evening:
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Philadelphia
This image, on the City of Portland's website, speaks volumes about what's wrong with the mindset at City Hall.
Portland homes have lost 26.9% of their value over the last four years.
Enjoy your train ride home through the planning theme park. Hope you live to take another one tomorrow.
We're no expert on criminal law, or motor vehicle violations, but a reader who is, has taken an interest in Portland mayoral candidate's Jefferson Smith bad driving record. The reader has done a little rooting around downtown and come up with more details on that aspect of Smith's personal problems.
One thing we've been wondering about since we discovered that Smith had been convicted of driving while his license was suspended, was how the license got suspended to begin with. Apparently, it was because Smith failed to write in, or show up in court, to either plead guilty or defend himself on one or more moving violations for which he was ticketed.
Here's one case, in which he was doing 52 in a 35 mile-an-hour zone, in a silver Volvo, apparently just after midnight one night in July 2002, at which time he was a lawyer in the largest law firm in town. The disposition of the case is "FTA," which we're told means failure to appear.
Here's another one, from spring of 2004. This time he's driving a brown Jaguar X16 with expired tags at 20 to 2 in the morning. He gets pulled over, admits that he's driving on a suspended license, gets ticketed, and then again, the disposition of the case is failure to appear. (The Jaguar was towed.)
It's interesting to compare the court record on that particular incident with the version of it that Smith told O reporter Beth Slovic:
But Smith did once get pulled over for having expired tags, he said, and after he forgot to pay the fine, he had his license suspended. "It's embarrassing, and I take full responsibility," Smith said.
Was he telling her the whole truth and nothing but the truth? It seems as though he gave it to her just a wee bit out of sequence.
Here's another failure to appear, on a radar speeding ticket charging him with going 40 in a 25-mile-an-hour zone on Halsey in a mid-afternoon in January of 2009. That was in a 2000 Acura.
There's only one case that the reader could find in which Smith contested the charges against him -- an illegal lane change in a highway work zone on McLoughlin Boulevard, driving the Acura in March 2009. Smith's 74-year-old father, an attorney and a retired district attorney, appeared on his behalf and asked for a trial. That went nowhere, and the younger Smith was convicted.
Is it standard procedure for folks to just blow off speeding tickets -- not pay them and not show up for court? Can't that sort of behavior get you arrested?
And is that what you have your dad doing in his old age?
It's never to early to ask for political predictions, is it? Now, remember, we're not asking for whom you will (or would) vote, but rather who you think is going to win in the end:
Yesterday we noted our apprehension over the fact that Oregon's attorney general had gone almost an entire month without issuing a press release. No sooner had we posted that, however, than our fears were put to rest: We received from the fearless AG an e-mail message about "Tips for Protecting Children Online." Among the tips:
Even if it doesn't always seem to be the case, kids want your guidance and wisdom on confusing topics like emotions, health, friendships and relationships. Let your kids know you accept and are open to any question about these or other difficult topics. You may feel distress when talking about sensitive topics, but you can listen and guide lovingly, even when you are worried.
Perhaps he used these skills himself in the Beau Breedlove investigation. In any event, all's back to normal. Continue about your business.
The commercial nuclear power plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, on the Columbia River in south central Washington, has had a series of screwups while it's been shut down for refueling since last spring -- five of them, to be exact. And they're serious enough that even the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, usually a lapdog for the atomic power industry, is in town asking questions.
Let's see: faulty procedures, bad communications, human error, failed computers, shoddy maintenance.... it's all there. And those are the parts they're telling you about.
Safe, clean, cheap, "green" nuclear power -- what could go wrong?
Ask these people.
As they mercilessly clear-cut SW Lincoln Street for the pointless Billion-Dollar Mystery Train to Milwaukie (pop. 20,291), the mouthpieces at Portland's insolvent public transit agency (motto: "We're no.
1 5") are painting themselves as the great keepers of the trees. Oh, they may be cutting down some old trees, but they're planting many more! And the old ones will all go for firewood for the poor!
You can almost smell the Goldschmidt, can't you?
Whatever. They've also released their artist's conception of how the street will look once the MAX train shows up. Combining many elements of Portland's progressive government, it's worth a look, here.
In addition to the big question about SoloPower -- whether Portland's highly subsidized new business "partner" is actually going to survive -- there are smaller, but still important, questions. Such as exactly how many employees it's going to have at its Marine Drive facility.
According to the O, it's 170 immediately, and more to come:
The only safe bet is that the chaotic solar market, with plunging raw-material prices for silicon cells, will look different by May, when the factory's first line is scheduled for production. The initial 75-megawatt plant in the Rivergate Industrial District is expected to begin with 170 workers and expand to as many as 500.
But that doesn't square at all with what SoloPower's swearing to in a city land use proceeding, in which it's trying to get by with less-than-standard amounts of parking. We reported on that late last month, and here's the money quote from the city:
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.
We're reminded of a line from the old Perry Mason show on TV: "Were you lying then, or are you lying now?" Or maybe we're missing something.
Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith has quite a track record. Driving while suspended, founder of a political action committee with chronic campaign finance violations, didn't vote in presidential elections for a decade... what else could there be?
How about suspended from the state bar multiple times for nonpayment of dues? Even his pals at Willy Week volunteered that one (albeit at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon).
No doubt there will be more. Here's a tidbit -- might be something, might be nothing. He's got a consulting company going named Boy Ranger Consulting LLC. And guess what? The company is chronically delinquent in filing annual reports and paying fees to the state -- administratively dissolved twice for that reason, including last fall.
We got not one but two letters in the mail from Portland's unique mayor the other day. The one, co-signed by Sustainable Susan, informed us that yes, we will start composting our food slop; yes, we will love it; and yes, sometime soon we will receive our shiny new Portland Composts! kitchen pail.
We do so love it when government invades our daily life. It feels so... European. Eastern European. In a year or two, we'll probably get a bathroom pail, and eventually a bedroom pail.
Oh, and did they mention? They're cutting the frequency of our actual garbage pickup in half. Did you hear what they said? We will compost our food slop. We will love it.
The other letter was just as maddening, but far more interesting. It was telling us all about the second annual round of the city's leaf pickup tax -- probably illegal under the city charter and state law, but hey, that's the way City Hall rolls any more. This year, if you live in a neighborhood that gets its leaves picked up and you don't want to pay the tax, you'll have to check two boxes on a tear-off card and snail-mail it back to the city transportation bureau (currently under FBI investigation):
If you don't want to pay, the letter says, you have to enter into an "agreement" with the city that you'll take care of your own leaves, or declare that you don't have any. Of course, the bright lights in the city attorney's office don't make you actually sign the supposed agreement, and so good luck enforcing it. But then again, the whole "fee" thing is probably unenforceable, and yet the Portland sheep apparently pay up anyway, so what the heck. Let's have an agreement that isn't signed.
They're still hounding only the person whose name is on the water bill, even though the last time we checked, the leaf "fee" was supposedly being charged to every resident of the property "served." Hard to see how one person's agreement should bind, or benefit, anyone else.
But given the many millions of dollars that the city spends on public relations flacks, we're gratified to see that one of them has not only come up with a logo, but also finally figured out to dress the whole leaf pickup enterprise as a bright, shiny, happy service that Portlanders love, and are more than happy to pay for. And this year, you'll get "more for your money"! Including -- oh, the joy! -- a more intuitive website!
This thing needs a jingle. We remember when every service or product had a catchy little tune to go with it. Maybe our readers could write one -- the Leaf Tax Jingle. Sing it to the tune of the theme from "The Addams Family," maybe, or "Bonanza."
Probably the funniest part of this year's program is the sudden change of heart about raking leaves off the sidewalk and into the street on the eve of the scheduled pickup day. For decades now, the neighbors have been told "Don't rake leaves into the street!" Now the tune is "Go ahead and rake leaves into the street, and in fact, go ahead and rake any old leaves into the street, even from your back yard!"
Oh, the fun people are going to have with that one. The poor transportation workers who do the sweeping are about to have a couple of unforgettable months.
To add to the merriment, there are going to be "spot checks" for those who say they're picking up their own leaves. Exactly when the "spot checks" are going to be done -- during the city sweeping, before, after -- isn't disclosed. Just know that City Hall is watching, and if they catch you, you'll have to pay and pay! Sort of like driving downtown.
Speaking of not telling, and paying, for all its glory the letter doesn't even mention anywhere how much the fee will be. Ya gotta guess, Grandma -- maybe $20, maybe $50, maybe your whole Social Security check.
Here's our advice: Pick one house on the block that's going to pay the tax. Everybody else on the block, opt out and rake your leaves in front of that one house. Take the money you save and put it toward a bigger garbage can.
Something's definitely not right at the Oregon Department of Justice. The attorney general hasn't issued a press release in four weeks!
But the Japanese government is right on it. Later this week they're expected to announce a recommended daily allowance of radioactive cesium.
What he said:
"From the moment I took office what we've seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that would make our economy work better and give people more opportunity," the president said at the intimate brunch fundraiser at the Medina home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley.
What he left out:
"And I've given in to pretty much all of it."
More than half the players who had picks in today's session of our charity pro football underdog game had winners. Here are the standings at the end of the Sunday action:
Pete Rozelle 14
john dull 11
Biggest Cubs Loser 9
John Ch. 9
Michael K. 8.5
Eric W. 5.5
Larry Legend 5.5
Bayou Baby (formerly Brook) 3
15 other players 0
The week won't be final until tomorrow night, however, when we have:
5 WASHINGTON at Dallas - Larry Legend, Broadway Joe, Grizfan, Eric W.
Congratulations to everybody who racked up points today. But don't get too cocky, you winners. The season is long.
The players in our charity pro football underdog game have made their selections for this weekend's pigskin action:
10.5 INDIANAPOLIS vs. Pittsburgh - Bob, John Cr.
9 NEW YORK GIANTS at Philadelphia - Annie, PDXile in Omaha, umpire, Biggest Cubs Loser
8.5 BUFFALO vs. New England - Paul, Pete Rozelle, Michael K., Gordon, AKevin
7 DENVER at Tennessee - Gary, Rudie, genop's gal, Tommy W., Bad Brad
5 WASHINGTON at Dallas - Larry Legend, Broadway Joe, Grizfan, Eric W.
4 HOUSTON at New Orleans - genop, mna
3.5 MINNESOTA vs. Detroit - Usual Kevin, Money Maker
3.5 CHICAGO vs. Green Bay - Ricardo
3 SEATTLE vs. Arizona - Drewbob
3 OAKLAND vs. New York Jets - john dull, jmh, Carol, Weavmo
2.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Cincinnati - John Ch.
2.5 MIAMI at Cleveland - Bayou Baby (formerly Brook)
1.5 ATLANTA at Tampa Bay - NoPoGuy
No one picked Kansas City, St. Louis, or Jacksonville.
These are the picks we had on hand as we turned in, in the wee small hours of this morning. Any new picks (and changes) received before the 10 a.m. deadline will still count, and be posted here later today. (This post is being put up by a robot shortly after the deadline.)
Have a great day -- sure feels like the first Sunday of fall here in Portland -- and enjoy the games, all.
UPDATE, 1:59 p.m.: Mna timely picked Houston, just under the wire this morning.
UPDATE, 4:29 p.m.: Through the afternoon games, 15 of our players have picked up points. Two players have won for the third week in a row, but neither is at the top of the leader board. Six are still in the running tonight and tomorrow night.
People keep sending us the latest propaganda about, and media coverage of, the Interstate Bridge replacement project -- the proposed new I-5 bridge between Portlandia proper and the 'Couv. So far, something like $150 million of public money has been spent on arguing, planning, environmental-impact-assessing, designing, charretting, and endless posturing about the span -- and of course, there's little to show for that much money.
Everybody and her sister seem to be piping up with some pet point or other. There's no consensus on what the bridge should look like, what it should carry, how it should be aligned, or even whether to build it at all. It's not clear who, if anyone, is in charge. There are all sorts of committees floating around -- a committee of committees, as it were -- and you simply can't build anything if you're going to operate like that.
We've watched all the gyrations for several years now, and we've got to admit that despite best efforts, we have found it hard to care much about any of it.
It's the I-5 freeway. Been there seemingly forever, and it's going to stay there. Lots of noisy, ugly motor vehicle traffic, 24/7/365.
It's a stupid place for a drawbridge, which is what we have now. But it's also a stupid place for a toll bridge, which is what we're going to get.
It probably isn't going to be "iconic"; the architecture dandies can pout all they want. It would be fine with us if it looked a lot like the Glenn Jackson Bridge on I-205, which more or less gets the job done, including for crazies who want to cross the country's second largest river on foot or bicycles.
Traffic on I-5 is not going to improve, with or without a new bridge. It may get worse, but it's not going to get better. I-5 is only two lanes wide through the central city of Portland, and nobody's talking about changing that -- especially not Congressman Bowtie, a car-hate evangelist who seems to control the purse strings. His agenda is getting a train installed.
Commuters between Portland and Vancouver aren't going to have their lives improved much, if at all, by a new bridge. Such is life. By choosing to live so far from work or school, they've made their lives difficult. Infrastructure can do only so much.
But the old bridge is a clunker, and now might be a good time to fix it or tear it down.
So battle on, mighty warriors, about the "Columbia River Crossing," or the interstate freeway bridge, or whatever you want to label it. By all means, keep us posted -- it's genuine entertainment. But most importantly, wake us when it's over.
As well they should. He and guys like Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) have sold them out at every turn. Let their Wall Street friends pay for their commercials.
They're tricky. Correspondent Bill McDonald reports:
On 9-23-11, I was in West Linn at a football game. Canby High School had just scored and this is the following kick-off.
Which businesses and government agencies around you are bad actors? The friendly folks at the AFL-CIO make it easier to find out. Among the biggest health and safety offenders around Portland: the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Forest Service.
Blah blah blah government shutdown blah blah blah showdown blah blah blah.
Apparently it's with a new watch, a chicken pot pie, weeds in the lawn, and a bottle of Captain Morgan Long Island Iced Tea.
Only about half the players in our charity pro football underdog contest have made their selections as of this morning. Don't forget, players! The deadline for all games is 10 a.m. West Coast time tomorrow.
Sometime before the day is through, the 6 millionth visit to this blog will occur. Our last million-visit milestone was passed last November 20, meaning that we collected a million unique visits (as counted by SiteMeter) in 307 days, or 3,257 visits a day. Our last million came in at the rate of 3,195 a day, and so readership is up just under 2% over this latest stretch.
We're truly grateful to have this blog. For us, it's an outlet and a lifeline and a lot of other things. Thanks to our sponsors, lurkers, tipsters, correspondents, advisors, and especially our commenters for making it happen.
The other day we called out the Bus Project, founded and run by Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, for its violations of state campaign finance laws, which offenses have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines. Now we see that Mary Nolan, candidate for City Council from the Goldschmidt Party, was just penalized more than a thousand dollars by the Oregon Secretary of State for similar transgressions.
Of course, the Nolan campaign is rolling in so much dough that a grand to them is like a five to most people. They've got plenty left over to crush Amanda Fritz next spring. Further looting of the city treasury by the Usual Suspects will surely follow.
But anyway, why can't our local politicians play by the rules? Do their donors really want their money going to pay fines?
We spent a few wonderful hours with our daughter last night, just the two of us, and in the middle of that time, there was a pretty nice soccer game. The U.S. women's national team was in town for an exhibition contest (or is it a friendly match) against Canada, and the idea was to give the Portland fans a chance to see them in action after their recent excellent showing in the World Cup.
It was our first visit to the renovated stadium, and we did our best to close our mind to all the twists and turns of the city's dubious dealings with you-know-who. We had seats in the toney club portion of the new grandstand, which meant we could have all the complimentary pretzels, peanuts, Cracker Jack, hot dogs, licorice ropes, soda, and water we wanted. We blew $8.50 on a 20-ounce Widmer's beer, but that was all we had to pony up for.
On a perfect evening weather-wise, the place looked and felt good. Seeing more than 18,000 people in it was mighty impressive. Our seat was comfortable, and we remembered enough not to try to fight the crowds for anything at halftime -- although in the groovy new section of the stadium, in which we were sitting, there seemed to be plenty of everything, including elbow room.
We don't know much about soccer, but seeing this team was a treat. They've achieved so much, and they send such a clean-cut message to the millions of kids who play the beautiful game. Even though the match didn't start until 8:00, which is the middle of the night when it comes to Portland event times, the crowd was full of kids, especially girls, and their parents. During the introductions, we actually got a little choked up. A far cry from the cynical mist in which so many other sporting events take place -- the Blazers, the Ducks, and so on.
Hope Solo is the goalie, and she got a lot of attention from her many admirers. But so did several former players for the University of Portland -- a couple on the U.S. team, but even one on the Canadian side. Good on all of them.
As for the match, the U.S. squad was superior from start to finish, but they had trouble getting the ball into the goal until after halftime. One U.S. striker (we think that's what they're called) hit the crossbar a couple of times in the first half, which had us all howling. But in the second half this giant of a player named Abby Wambach, whose jersey many in the crowd were wearing, went nuts.
First she just hauled off and let fly a wicked shot that the Canadian goalie (who was darn good) couldn't stop. Unassisted, the announcer said, and indeed it was. The crowd went wild, of course, and a little while later, Wambach scored again on a short header that she put in on a pass from along the baseline. More pandemonium. It was at that point that we realized that hey, this is what everybody came to see -- the U.S. women knocking it into the goal. People's hearts, not their heads, were doing the yelling.
Somewhere amid all the celebration, something happened that we weren't anticipating: We suddenly saw our daughter in a new light. She has played this game for several years now. She knows more about it than we do -- way more. She's probably halfway to the point in life that some of the players in front of us are at right now. And when those goals went in, our girl jumped up and cheered, and looked over at us and smiled, and cheered some more. "Did you see that, Dad?" Everything around us was shining. And ringing. You can't make that happen -- when it does, it just does.
Now, soccer does have its dull moments, no question about it. No wonder the regulars spend so much time chanting and singing. But since we couldn't make out the words to the droning, we let our mind roam around. All the seats on the MAC club balcony were filled... There were even some people sitting in the little windows inside the club... Hey, whatever happened to that soccer announcer who used to scream "Gooooooooooooooo-al!"-- is he still alive?
During a couple of dry spells, we tried to concentrate on the players from Canada. On this night, they were clearly the Washington Generals to the U.S. team's Harlem Globetrotters. But they were all gifted, and fast, and strong, and hard-working. No doubt they've gone to many more places in the world than we'll ever see, all for their athletic talent. We were secretly rooting for them to score at least once toward the end.
It didn't happen. A messy goal right at the end gave the home team a 3-0 victory. Apparently, you're supposed to say "three nil." We can do that. It's kind of like tennis, where you say "thirty love." We went home a slightly different person than when we set out for the evening -- uplifted. Here's to the U.S. women's team -- if they ever come back this way, we'll be there.
Our oddsmakers have finally come around to setting lines on the two games about which they were holding out:
9 NEW YORK GIANTS at Philadelphia
5 WASHINGTON at Dallas (Monday, but pick due like all the rest, Sunday 10 a.m. Pacific Time)
A couple of intriguing ones there, to be sure.
The big guy gets popped in Texas for allegedly driving around with pot in his Porsche -- and in a school zone, no less, which often ups the ante quite a bit.
I wanted to reach out to you personally. A local blogger posted opinion pieces this week about the BusPAC, Bus Project, and Bus Foundation finances. He is not a journalist, but nevertheless his accusations are baseless and irresponsible.
The Bus will not be responding directly to this blogger about his posts.
However, because I deeply value your support for the Bus, and take sound financial management seriously, I wanted to reach out. If you have any concerns, please give me a call at 503-804-7644.
I firmly believe that the Bus is one of the most leveraged dollars spent in civic and political life in Oregon. We’re obsessive penny-pinchers and go the extra mile to secure in-kind donations, from $40,000 in in-kind branding, website design, and graphic design work in 2008 to the thousands and thousand of hours of direct service offered by our volunteers.
Thank you again for supporting the Bus. Oregon is a better place because of your investment in youth civic engagement and leadership development.
p.s. This winter I'm going to start sending a semi-regular note to our supporters -- you! -- about program highlights and critical Bus news. Let me know what you might like to know more about, ok?
If anyone knows of any factual errors in our stories, please let us know; we'd be happy to correct them. As for "irresponsible," as always we'll let readers decide who deserves that label.
Remember the Panera restaurant in the Hollywood District, which is letting people eat for free if they want? It's hard to believe, but the folks running that place actually thought that program was going to be slightly profitable! Apparently that's how it's worked out elsewhere, but funny thing, Portlandia's quite different:
Shaich said a number of down-and-out visitors to the Hollywood café had an attitude that he calls "a sense of entitlement" that the homeless and disadvantaged didn’t appear to have in other cities.
Staff at the café and Shaich talked about people with obvious needs for mental health and addiction services camping out in the eating area, making it less appealing for customers who can pay to keep the café open.
"We had to help them understand that this is a café of shared responsibility and not a handout," Shaich said. "It can’t serve as a shelter and we can’t have community organizations sending everybody down."
Good luck, buddy. Your staff is going to be doing a lot of convincing, day after day. One of these days (if it hasn't already occurred), something is going to happen that will require police intervention. And it's hard to believe that paying customers who happen to be there to witness an ugly scene will come back for a second visit.
Panera's got an interesting concept, but Portland's street people will really put it to the test. Wait 'til it starts raining.
Yesterday's post about the messy accounting practices at Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith's much heralded Bus Project noted that there are really three different Bus entities. There's a section 501(c)(3) "charitable" organization named Oregon Progress Forum; a section 501(c)(4) organization named New Progressive Network; and a political action committee named Bus PAC. Bus PAC has been fined thousands of dollars by the Oregon secretary of state for, among other things, being unable to account for tens of thousands over the years.
We stumbled across this fact as we tried to figure out how much Smith was being paid by the "Bus Project." That's a question for which we haven't come up with a complete answer. We do know that the 501(c)(4) organization paid Smith compensation of about $33,300 a year in each of the last two years that it's filed financial reports with the IRS -- the most recent being the 12 months that ended on March 31, 2010. (They take their time with government filing, as we noted yesterday, and so the financials for the year ended March 31, 2011 probably won't get to the IRS for several more months.)
A $33,300 salary may not seem like much, but the IRS filings admit that it's for only 10 hours a week of work that the 501(c)(4) got out of Smith. You math majors out there will note that that works out to about $65 an hour. Not exactly lawyer rates, but not shabby for working at a nonprofit, either. And Smith is the only officer or director listed as receiving any compensation from the 501(c)(3) or the 501(c)(4). (He's shown as the principal officer of the 501(c)(4) on its March 2009 return; on the March 2010 return, the principal officer box was left blank.) The other 20 or so folks who serve as directors of those two entities apparently do so without pay, although the 2010 return of the 501(c)(4) mysteriously shows about $75,400 compensation paid to top brass, with only Smith's $33,300 being fully explained.
Is that all Smith gets paid? Maybe. But it's hard to tell from the IRS documents exactly who gets paid for what. The 501(c)(3) organization -- the tax-exempt "charity" that takes tax-deductible contributions from folks -- claims to have no employees whatsoever. But it does pay hefty amounts each year to some people or entities for "contract services" and "contract labor." On the March 2009 statements, for example, the 501(c)(3) showed that it laid out $73,279 for "contract labor," and $330,129 for "contract services." Did any of that go to Smith?
Probably not. Probably, a good chunk of that was paid to the 501(c)(4) Bus entity. On its March 2009 statements, the 501(c)(4) reported $336,898 of "program service revenue" in the form of "reimbursed expenses." Did the 501(c)(4) get paid for performing "contract services" for the 501(c)(3) "charity"? Entirely possible, seemingly likely.
So what did the 501(c)(4) do with the money it took in? Its total revenue for the year was $1.32 million. One thing it did was pay a lot of employees. For the March 2009 year, it showed 66 employees and payroll expenses of $454,642, including Smith's $33,300. It had only $11,800 of "contract labor" expense.
Another thing the 501(c)(4) did was make some huge grants to other "youth vote" type organizations around the country, to the tune of $616,300. These included $210,000 to something called the League of Young Voters in New York, and $175,000 to Progressive Future in Denver.
Unlike 501(c)(3) "charities," 501(c)(4) organizations are allowed to spend substantial money on politics, and the Bus 501(c)(4) did some of that. In the March 2009 report, it showed political expenditures of $41,321. And its volunteers reportedly spent 8,000 hours actively canvassing for state and local candidates in the 2008 elections. (Probably not too many Republicans.) Meanwhile, as noted yesterday, there was a fair amount of cash movement -- in the five-figure range -- between the 501(c)(4) organization and the PAC. Those transactions include circular cash flows that mere mortals can't understand based on the public record. But 501(c)(4) money definitely went to the PAC, and vice versa.
Stepping back to survey the whole picture for a minute, it appears that hundreds of thousands in tax-deductible donations come into the 501(c)(3) "charity," which must stay out of politics; the 501(c)(3) pays hundreds of thousands in "contract services" fees and "expense reimbursements" to the 501(c)(4), which is allowed to get involved in politics; and the 501(c)(4) flows some thousands to the PAC, for whom political campaigns are what it's all about. Now, tax-deductible dollars are not supposed to flow to politicians -- that's the ultimate no-no. Do any of them make that journey up the Bus money ladder? Only the Bus and the IRS could know for sure; from the documents that are available to the public, it's hard to tell.
Now, one thing that's been said in defense of the byzantine array of Bus entities is that everybody does it this way -- that it's a common setup for political activists to set up this type of trio of entities and party on accordingly. We've got to admit that we have no idea whether that's true or not. But the fact that everybody does it doesn't make it legal -- or ethical. (And whether someone who plays that game should be the mayor of Portland is an entirely separate question.)
Which brings us to the website issue. As we mentioned yesterday, the Bus entities for years shared a common website, busproject.org. On that website, donations are solicited for the PAC, among other things. That's a dicey thing for a 501(c)(3) "charity" to be party to. Remember, "charities" aren't supposed to be raising money for political campaigns, which is what PACs do.
The Smith fans out there have pointed out that nowadays, there are two websites -- busproject.org for the 501(c)(4), and busfoundation.org for the "charity." Fair enough. But that doesn't appear to have been the case as late as February of this year, when both entities reported to the IRS that they had but a single site, busproject.org. The wall between the sites seems to be of recent vintage. Here's a screen capture (be patient) from the unified site in April of 2010, showing that it was touting the PAC at that time.
Anyway, for those who would like to sift through the Bus entities' IRS filings, it's easy and free to do so. Set yourself up an account at guidestar.org, and search for the real names of the entities, which we list at the top of this post. With a little effort, you'll have all the information that we do. Or pick another nonprofit that you love or hate; they're pretty much all there.
UPDATE, 5:22 p.m.: The Bus group's defiant nonresponse is here.
Yesterday's Portland City Council proceedings showed several of the city commissioners at their worst. Of course, the Sam Rand Twins sat around all day giving people the finger. But an equally bad performance was turned in by Dan "Legend" Saltzman, who once again is playing the issues both ways.
For example, he admits that there are serious problems with the plan to blow a bazillion dollars on a high-priced "sustainability center" that no business in its right mind would pay unsubsidized rent to occupy. But what does he do -- vote no? Don't be silly -- he votes yes, but with conditions, just as he did with the OHSU aerial tram, the police and firefighter pension debacle, and many other disastrous propositions over the years. He puts a bird on it, and then votes aye:
Saltzman said that while there’s much to be excited about in the Oregon Sustainability Center, several factors make him nervous. To that end, Saltzman introduced two amendments that the councilors unanimously approved. One amendment states that the city will be unwilling to move forward with the project without a guaranteed maximum price for construction costs. The other states that no costs associated with the design or construction of the OSC will come from future urban renewal money.
Wow, what courage.
The same thing happened with the federal immigration jail that's going to be built in the SoWhat District, next door to a grammar school. The City Council is almost certainly going to allow it, because it's already drafting up the meaningless "conditions" that will accompany the commissioners' approval (much to the delight of the Twins' developer pals):
[I]t is clear the Council is leaning toward approval.
But the city's blessing will only come if ICE agrees, in writing, to certain conditions for releasing detainees. Many residents who live near the proposed facility have expressed concerns about detainees released into the neighborhood with no way to leave the area. This summer a city hearings officer rejected the plan, agreeing with the neighbors who complained that releasing some detainees from the facility would pose an unreasonable safety risk....
Elizabeth Godfrey, with ICE, said most detainees that would be released won't be criminals.
"However, the few that are criminal aliens will not be subject to active and/or extraditable warrants and will have served their time and have the right to be in public and walk the streets of Portland," she said.
According to ICE, it will release about three detainees a week from the facility and they will be screened by ICE based on whether they pose a safety threat.
Right now it is not known whether ICE will pledge to Portland council members that it will agree to follow whatever restrictions council members come up with for releasing detainees at the site.
You can almost smell the Legend cologne wafting off the screen from that story. How a guy can make a long political career out of this sort of behavior defies explanation. It must be the megabucks in his trust fund.
Except for not getting his public record transparency legislation passed, Oregon's attorney general gives himself an A grade.
If no lines are posted by tonight, by rule those games will be off the board this week.
Molten aluminum from the fires interacting with sprinkler system water, resulting in hellacious explosions? It might explain a few things.
They just had their title of their decoy ballot measure on "urban renewal," and their summary of the question, thrown out and rewritten by a judge. To make it less confusing, perhaps. And confusion is what that ballot measure is all about.
Here's an interesting internet search that we ran this afternoon.
It appears they're printing up more money in Washington, D.C.
"It's the challenge of talking about debt we see at the federal level," Nick Fish said. Commissioner Nick Fish said that unlike the debate in Congress, the recent audit could lead to a one-sided discussion in the city. "I think what we inadvertently risk doing is presenting the public with one side of the ledger on debt, and saying 'the debt's growing' without a corresponding discussion of what the debt has produced as a benefit."
Fish argued that rising urban renewal spending is an investment.
Borrowing money to roll the dice on shlock like South Waterfront, the east side streetcar, and all the unnecessary water bureau frolics is an "investment"? Those "investments" aren't paying off, dude, and they probably never will. But we'll pay through the nose to Bank of America and the rest of the lenders for them.
Geez, Nick, we hoped for more common sense from you. There are times to listen to what smart people are telling you. You're screwing up.
Our doubts about Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith continue to nag us -- his cheerleaders at WW notwithstanding. We've been wondering how this guy has been paying his mortgage, since he doesn't appear to have had a job in the world of commerce since he jumped or fell from the Stoel Rives law firm in 2003.
Smith's occupation since then has been... wait for it... community organizer. He's the founder, and has served as an officer, of a much ballyhooed organization known as the Bus Project, whose mission in life is to get young people involved in politics. It seems benign enough, but we thought we'd get out the public records of the Bus Project's finances, and see if we could figure out where the money comes from and where it goes.
What we discovered is quite a tangled mess that makes it awfully difficult to figure out how big of a tap Smith has been inserting into the organization's money keg. And we're seeing several other issues that leave us scratching our head.
First of all, from what we can tell from the Oregon secretary of state's website, there is no organization that is actually named the Bus Project. There are in fact three entities who operate under the "Bus" banner, but the real names of two of them are something else. First, there's a nonprofit organization that classifies itself as a section 501(c)(3) entity -- a tax-exempt charity for federal income tax purposes. Its real name is Oregon Progress Forum, and it operates under the assumed business name Bus Project Foundation. Second, there's a public benefit corporation that classifies itself as a tax-exempt section 501(c)(4) organization. Its real name is New Progressive Network, and it operates under the assumed business names Bus Project and Oregon Bus Project. The third entity is a political action committee known as Bus PAC.
The three entities are obviously related. Caitlin Baggott, the president of the 501(c)(4) (succeeding Smith there in April of this year), is also a director of the PAC, as well as the executive director of the 501(c)(3). Mariana Lindsay, the secretary of the 501(c)(4), is listed with the state as an "alternate transaction filer" for the PAC.
Sloppiness with money and bookkeeping is immediately apparent in the financial disclosures of the PAC. It's been paying thousands of dollars in fines to the secretary of state's office for violations of the state's campaign finance laws. The state has brought 10 penalty cases against Bus PAC since 2004, and an SOS staff member in Salem characterizes the PAC as a well known "repeat offender." Not only is it chronically late in reporting its campaign finance activities, but in May 2010 the PAC also had to "adjust its books" by $13,558 that it couldn't account for. The fines in the 10 cases total $4,956, most of which was assessed in just the last 13 months; the largest penalty, $1,356, was assessed in February of this year.
Another fact that jumps out of the PAC's financial disclosures is that there's money flowing back and forth between the PAC and New Progressive Network, the 501(c)(4) organization. By our amateur calculations, in the time since the secretary of state's Orestar campaign finance reporting network has gotten up and running in late 2006, the PAC has reported paying the 501(c)(4) organization about $93,500, and reported as receiving back from the 501(c)(4) contributions totaling about $50,000.
There's doubtlessly a story behind the circular cash flow, but some of the Orestar entries are baffling. Lately there have been several instances in which the PAC has reported paying thousands of dollars to the 501(c)(4), and receiving the same amount as a contribution back from the 501(c)(4) on the same day. If this were a mature political organization, we'd just assume that this was some sort of standard industry practice. Certainly we're not expert in campaign finance maneuvering. But given that these are organizations founded and run for a long time by Smith -- who will drive a car on a suspended license if it suits him -- one wonders whether something untoward is going on in made-up paper transactions like those.
We'll take a look at the section 501(c)(3) "charity" tomorrow. There are some really touchy tax issues there, because 501(c)(3)'s, unlike 501(c)(4)'s and PACs, aren't allowed to get too involved in supporting political campaigns. And at least for some period of time, there's been only one big old joint Bus website for the 501(c)(3) and the 501(c)(4), on which contributions are also solicited for the PAC. That's some seemingly dangerous turf there.
In any event, to cut through the chase to the ending, after slogging through various mounds of documents, it's still not possible for us to figure out exactly how much Smith was actually paid by the Bus entities. Maybe it was substantial, maybe it was modest. It may not be all that much. But from what's been filed with secretary of state and the IRS, we can't tell what it was. And so the questions remain: Who is this guy, really? And how does he pay his living expenses?
UPDATE, 9:00 p.m.: We just noticed that in addition to the $13,558 "balance adjustment" for which it was penalized in 2010, the PAC had a $21,913 "balance adjustment" in January 2007, for which no penalty was imposed by the state. That's a lot of money to lose track of.
He says that in decontaminating a house, one should first remove the leaves from trees around the house. Next, one should remove the topsoil and fallen leaves from around the home. After that, one should remove the bushes and other small plants, especially those under the eaves of the house. The drain by the road should be emptied of dirt before it is washed. For cleaning surfaces, a high-pressure hose is useful, but a scrubbing brush can be more effective in removing material.
"If levels haven't fallen even after repeated decontamination, one should consult an expert," Kurigami says....
Additionally, the National Institute for Rural Engineering has been working to drain mud containing radioactive cesium from rice paddy fields in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. The JAEA has developed a technique to decontaminate pools using the mineral zeolite, which can absorb radioactive cesium, and is using the technique in Fukushima Prefecture.
Another issue is what to do with contaminated soil and other remains of decontamination work. According to the JRSM, they were able to reduce the radiation coming from contaminated soil by over 90 percent by putting it in plastic bags and burying it 10 to 20 centimeters in the earth. The national government says it will give instructions on what to do with contaminated soil, but for the time being, it is asking local governments to secure temporary storage sites. However, local governments are struggling to win the agreement of local residents to host such sites.
For areas with over 20 millisieverts of radiation per year, the national government has said it will handle decontamination work itself, but details and an estimate for completion have not been released.
You can run all the pressure washers in Japan day and night and they won't make the radiation go away. It will be with them for many decades.
Meanwhile, those seeking compensation from Tokyo Electric for the ruining of their lives are being handed a 60-page form and a 160-page instruction manual on how to fill it out. We hope there will be a special place in the afterworld for the people responsible for that.
Here's an utterly outrageous story. Two executive types who recently resigned from the deeply troubled Portland Development Commission were actually paid to leave. Urban development director Erin Flynn, passed over for the CEO job, was paid a cool $63,000 on her way out the door (headed for a way-overpriced bobblehead gig at Portland State), and the human resources director, Sandy Reina, who reportedly left her job to care for her parents, picked up a cool $85,000 severance.
In exchange for these ridiculous payments, the two promised to "not disparage or make derogatory comments" about the agency. Especially to prosecutors?
My God, what has gone so terribly wrong in Portland? People, it is time for some amendments to the city charter. This kind of garbage has got to stop. "Urban renewal," as currently abused in this town, has got to go.
Here are the choices for the upcoming weekend in our charity pro football underdog game:
14.5 KANSAS CITY at San Diego
10.5 INDIANAPOLIS vs. Pittsburgh
8.5 BUFFALO vs. New England
7 DENVER at Tennessee
4 HOUSTON at New Orleans
3.5 JACKSONVILLE at Carolina
3.5 MINNESOTA vs. Detroit
3.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Baltimore
3.5 CHICAGO vs. Green Bay
3 OAKLAND vs. New York Jets
3 SEATTLE vs. Arizona
2.5 MIAMI at Cleveland
2.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Cincinnati
1.5 ATLANTA at Tampa Bay
The deadline for all picks is 10:00 a.m. Pacific time on Sunday.
We have a 33rd player, which means that charities will get more than $900 out of our pot this season. Nice going, people! That's great work even if you never did pick a winning underdog. But of course, this weekend, you will...
UPDATE, 9:40 p.m.: By rule, Giants-Philly and Washington-Dallas are off the board at the moment, but could be added between now and Thursday.
UPDATE, 9/23, 1:33 a.m.: Here they are:
9 NEW YORK GIANTS at Philadelphia
5 WASHINGTON at Dallas (Monday, but pick due like all the rest, Sunday 10 a.m. Pacific Time)
The crooked bankers at Chase meet the holier-than-thou planning cabal at Portland City Hall.
There's a Ringo Watch in progress in Astoria.
But don't worry, kids -- it's just the old trolley tracks on Belmont Street. Portland does rip up modern streetcar tracks, but only to relocate them nearby.
Graffiti is a real drag, and it's a good thing that so many Portlanders take note of it, get outraged about it, and go to work removing it as quickly as possible. Media reports of the damage are also a good idea. But the one thing that you shouldn't do is post photos of it on the internet. It really gratifies and empowers the mentally ill people who engage in this perverse activity. Unfortunately, this website, although no doubt well meaning, didn't get the memo about that.
A passenger car hit a police car at SE 122nd and Stark in Portland the other night. The driver of the car was badly injured, and a police officer was also hospitalized, although in better shape. The police car was headed east on Stark, and the other car was going south on 122nd.
The police have been quick to point out that the civilian driver had been drinking before the late night crash. But the details have been sketchy (to say the least) about who had the green light, and how fast each car was traveling. KGW's reporting it this way:
The statement also said investigators were still trying to determine which driver had the green light. [Officer] Clark had his overhead lights on, but whether the siren was going has not been determined, Simpson said. Video evidence from area businesses will also be part of the investigation, he said.
That report is puzzling to us, since as we noted on this blog a couple of months ago, there are surveillance cameras posted on all the corners at that intersection, pointed in all four directions. If the police officer was clearly in the right, we would expect to see those videos, and we're a bit concerned that they haven't been released yet. The Portland police are notorious for giving one-sided versions of events whenever they and civilians interact in a physically violent way. Let's hope this isn't another round of that.
It appears that Portland's charter review commission is taking on more than just the prospect of yet another water and sewer rate advisory board. In its latest invitation for public input, the group, which has the power to refer charter changes directly to the voters, says it is also taking up the idea of keeping the city's human rights commission, which could throw a monkey wrench into the mayor and Amanda Fritz's already chaotic office of equity plan. And the charter folks say they're also looking at protecting the independence of the city's ombudsman, which could reverse the City Council's recent move that made the ombudsman terminable at the will of the elected city auditor.
Guess there could be some fireworks out of that committee after all.
This video shows thousands of people in the streets of Tokyo -- something we're not used to seeing in that part of the world. So many people are being exposed to radiation in that country, and they can't get a straight answer from anyone in power. It's chilling. But at least the general population appears to be catching on.
Meanwhile, the operators of the triple-meltdown Fukushima site are now admitting that the earthquakes that have pounded the plant on a daily basis since the big one in March have so trashed the foundations of the reactors that groundwater is coming in through the walls. Uh huh. And that must also mean that highly radioactive waste water is probably going out through those same cracks.
Still no official word on where the deadly radioactive lava, known as "corium," has gone. If it hasn't eaten through the concrete floor of the reactor and started burning its way through the soil below, we'd be surprised.
We're all going to be in Reno in a couple of days.
Be careful with your e-mail this afternoon. Several readers report that their inboxes have received a message from Portland's mayor with his latest breaking news:
The fact that I’m now most frequently stopped in airports around the world and asked if "I’m that guy on Portlandia" instead of mayor of the best city in America, underscores the amazing power the film industry can have on our international visibility.
We're starting to feel a little sorry for this guy.
You don't need a TV show to parody Portlandia. We're doing fine on our own.
The light rail mafia has emerged from the back room, and there's little doubt that they're hellbent on building another train, down Barbur Boulevard from Portland to Sherwood. The bobbleheads at Metro have drawn up the glossy brochure, and so now we're in for a couple of years of them acting like the decision isn't already made while the "public-private partnership" corruption gets nailed down out of public view.
Here's a wonderful piece of hypnosis that is supposed to keep us distracted while the secret deals are cut. Stare at it while taking deep breaths. On every other exhale, say "livable..." and alternate that on every other exhale with "sustainable..." Try it:
After about five minutes of this, you'll be ready to listen to Earl Blumenauer explain the details to you.
We may not have an economy in this town, but we are going to have trains! Because the people who run this town want trains! And they have puppets in every corner of government to hand out tax money to the people who build them.
Take a look at the smug shinola being exuded these days from Portland mayoral candidate Jeffer-Sten Smith's famous Bus Project:
And of course, the young "creatives" targeted by this message are just the type of naive lambs that Portland's "unique" Metro government (whose high-priced p.r. department is run by another Stennie, Jim Middaugh) wants to be dominant in its hilariously questionable polls.
No wonder Portland's economy is in the tank. Once real business people from out of town meet the Beautiful People in government around here, they can't wait to hop the next flight to Texas. "We're going to inherit this corner of the world." Not if you disrespect Grandpa, kids.
It's the beginning of the end for the very first Ray's Pizza in Little Italy, New York.
In addition to reportedly driving while his license was suspended, Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith didn't vote in Bush vs. Gore (when he was 27) or in Clinton vs. Dole (when he was 23). That's pretty sad coming from Mr. Bus Project -- the guy who brags himself breathless about empowering young people to vote.
Bad enough, but then he makes it worse. Smith has got some lame story that he "thinks" he FedEx'ed in a ballot from Ohio in Bush vs. Gore, but Multnomah County elections didn't count it. "If it didn't count, that makes me angry at the elections department."
If you took the extraordinary step of FedEx'ing a ballot from Ohio to Oregon in Bush vs. Gore, you wouldn't remember for sure whether you did that or not? Those sound like the words of someone who may have some problems with truth-telling. Yeah, it's not an important point, but the false embellishments are all too familiar to Portlanders.
We know what it's like to have a narcissistic mayor who makes up stories as he goes along, and Portland's not doing so well because of it. It would be a shame not to learn the lesson that that experience should have taught us by now. Let's hope this particular candidate for city office gets the Jesse Cornett treatment from the electorate.
Already hit by the recession, merchants and residents along NW 21st and 23rd Avenues in Portland have been informed by the creepy mayor that he and his apparently corrupt parking meter crew are going to force folks to pay to park along those streets. That will give him and his minions more money for their bizarre agenda of ever more streetcars and apartment bunkers, all over town.
Other parts of the city will no doubt smirk at the news that the trendies of Northwest are about to be nickeled and dimed, many to the detriment of their businesses. But no one should laugh too hard. If they don't realize that Hawthorne, Northeast Broadway, Hollywood, Multnomah, and other districts are on a list for the same treatment, they haven't been paying attention. Sunday Parkways everyday!
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima is horrendous -- worse than Chernobyl -- but the bureaucratic and corporate response over there is a nightmare beyond words.
Now the Poser in Chief is going to reduce the deficit by cutting health care for the elderly and the poor. Ya gotta wonder whether Ann Romney will change the drapes in the West Wing.
We've got a couple of new albums going on the speakers this week. One is by Robbie Robertson, and the other is by the Cars. Great stuff, both.
The Robertson album is partly a collaboration with Eric Clapton, and it has appearances on a couple of numbers apiece by Steve Winwood and Robert Randolph. The lyrics are unabashedly autobiographical for a change, and the other players' influences add quite a bit to an otherwise familiar instrumental landscape from the former Band man.
The Cars' recording tells us that it can still be 1979 if we want it to be. And surprisingly, there's not a thing wrong with that. After decades on the shelf, the group (minus the late Ben Orr) has reunited behind Ric Ocasek's usual quirky ditties, and the 10 new tunes fly by without producing a single urge to hit the stop button. It's not like we want another CD from these guys in six months, but we have to admit from listening to their latest that we've kind of missed them.
It's week 2 of the NFL season, and the weekend pickin's in our charity pro football underdog game have closed. Here's what our players called:
9.5 CAROLINA vs. Green Bay - Paul, Bob, Drewbob
9 JACKSONVILLE at New York Jets - Tommy W., Gary, Bad Brad, Michael K.
8 KANSAS CITY at Detroit - Annie, Usual Kevin, John Cr.
7 SAN DIEGO at New England - Larry Legend
6.5 CHICAGO at New Orleans - NoPoGuy, PDXileinOmaha, Rudie, Gordon, Broadway Joe, AKevin, Eric W.
5.5 TENNESSEE vs. Baltimore - Pete Rozelle
4.5 CINCINNATI at Denver - Ricardo
4 ARIZONA at Washington - mna, Grizfan, John Ch.
3.5 OAKLAND at Buffalo - Carol, Biggest Cubs Loser
3 TAMPA BAY at Minnesota - Brook, jmh
3 SAN FRANCISCO vs. Dallas - Weavmo
2.5 ATLANTA vs. Philadelphia - john dull
No one in the group was interested in Seattle, St. Louis, Miami, or Indianapolis.
In other news, so far we have the same number of paid players as last year (32), and our benefactor has agreed to chip in $250 as was done last year, and so barring further entrants, the amounts given to charities (501(c)(3) organizations) at season's end will be the same as last year:
First prize - $500 to player's favorite charity
Second prize - $165 to player's favorite charity
Third prize - $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize - $75 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize - $50 to player's favorite charity
A nice kitty for the 'dogs. Have a great day, and enjoy the games, everybody!
UPDATE, 3:14 p.m.: Tampa Bay and Tennessee come through, putting Brook and Pete Rozelle on the board. Jmh scores for the second week in a row and takes sole possession of the lead in the standings. Three players have games going this afternoon and evening.
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: No winners this afternoon; one player in the running this evening.
UPDATE, 9:52 p.m.: Vick went down, and the birds of Atlanta flew in, meaning that our player john dull is on a two-game win streak. Twenty-four of our players have zero points, which means that there's still time for new players to get involved. There are 18 weeks to go, and prizes will go to the charities chosen by our top five finishers.
Whatever one thinks of Portland's overheated (and overpriced) bicycle agenda, and however frustrated one becomes with the more obnoxious cyclists that one encounters on the city's thoroughfares, it's criminal assault to go throwing tacks out on the streets that bikers frequent. We hope whoever's doing this either stops or gets stopped before they kill somebody. The cyclists have every right to be royally p.o.'d at such a deranged person.
It is way past time for the Portland City Council to do the "green" thing about the gigantic mounds of unwanted trash created by the likes of Dex phone directories. Our neighbor to the north is doing it, and doing it well. Come on, Portland council -- think of it as penance for the mortal sin you're committing on SW Lincoln Street.
The Portland City Council will hold a hearing on Wednesday afternoon on the appeal of the decision by a city planning staffer, barring the federal immigration authorities from installing a jail (with an office building attached) next door to a grammar school in the South Waterfront (SoWhat) District. Fireman Randy's developer buddies (and one of his staff members) have been pushing this project, which we were one of the first to cover, and so there's quite a bit of entertainment potential involved. We can only assume that the mayor is also on board with the builders, and so it will take the three other council members to do the right thing.
But surprise! The building's owner has hired land use lawyers to press his case who are not Steve Janik! This could be a sign that the outraged neighbors, who have won the case so far, may actually win out all the way. Nobody fixes like the Janikmeister.
If you're patient enough to sit around while a giant pdf file downloads from City Hall, you can read all about Wednesday's shindig here. The hearings officer's report is an interesting read, in that unlike most bureaucratic documents, it gets to the real heart of the matter: The place would be just too darn dangerous.
It's only the second week of our annual charity pro football game, and quite a few of our players haven't made their selections yet. We've got other things on our plate and won't be sending out any personalized reminders -- so take this as the last warning coming from us. Picks for the week (including the Monday night game) are due at 10 a.m. Pacific time tomorrow.
The upcoming Presidential election could turn out just fine, after all.
Five years ago, the Hillsboro air show here in greater Portlandia had a horrible accident, in which an incompetent old guy showing off his antique aircraft plunged into a residential neighborhood. He killed himself, destroyed two homes, and damaged two others.
Today, something similar happened at an air show in Reno. But this time the geezer stunt man crashed into the spectator stands, killing at least three and injuring more than 50 people, many of them maimed.
Attending the Reno air show has been like playing Russian roulette in recent years. In 2007, there were three fatal crashes there in four days.
As we said five years ago, these macho events are dangerous and stupid. They ought to be outlawed. And people who go to them -- especially those who bring kids -- need to have their heads examined.
UPDATE, 9/17, 4:20 p.m.: The death toll from this senseless tragedy is now up to nine.
We have no beef with Sunday Parkways -- the summer event in which the city closes down streets for bicycling on a half dozen Sundays in various parts of town. We took the kids walking on the parkways a couple of times, and it was o.k. But we soon realized that while it's advertised as being for walkers, too, Sunday Parkways is really for the cyclists. It's not particularly friendly to pedestrians at all.
Be that as it may, we can't see any harm. For those of us who don't feel like riding our bikes in dense packs of mostly inexperienced cyclists, all we need to do is note and avoid the affected areas on the few Sundays on which the events take place. Fine.
But Portland's pushiest bicycle freaks will stop at nothing to make known their claim to superiority, and for some reason this shrill minority has complete control of the Beautiful People currently running Portland government. And so now they're bragging about certain streets in town that they're gradually taking over on a permanent basis:
First of all, the message here is pretty misleading. It's only "Sunday Parkways Everyday" on Going Street until you get hit by a UPS truck on a Tuesday afternoon. But more importantly, it's stunning to us that this is the mindset of Portland city government these days. "Sunday Parkways Everyday." Just wow.
This latest in the endless stream of glossy propaganda brochures mailed to our home explains a lot. Yes, it's "Sunday Parkways Everyday" in Portlandia. Hardly anybody goes to work on Sunday.
Last evening's photo of the doomed trees on SW Lincoln Street in Portland prompted a reader to send us a couple of other disheartening pics, taken last weekend at Willamette Park, down along the river below John's Landing. The reader writes:
Saw your article on the trees going to come down. At Willamette Park this weekend, I saw a number of trees cut down. They also appeared to totally tractor through what was a pretty nice natural area. No idea why.
We suspect the butchery in the park has to do with the hideous pumping station that the water bureau (motto: "Morgen die Welt") is building on park grounds. But who knows? Maybe the wonderful "future" of the park, brought to you by the real estate development firm known as Portland State University, has already arrived. We'll bet someone out there can fill us in for sure on what the carnage is about.
Substitute "SoloPower" for "Solyndra" in this story, and picture it with a dateline of mid-2012. The economic salvation of Portland through "green" manufacturing will look less likely than ever:
Solyndra once was the showcase for President Barack Obama's efforts to increase investment in renewable energy and to generate jobs. But the marketplace for its products changed dramatically over the past year. Chinese companies have flooded the market with inexpensive solar energy panels, and Europe's economy weakened demand from customers. The result has been an unprecedented drop in solar cell prices this year. Two other solar panel manufacturers also filed for bankruptcy in the past month.
Administration officials stressed that private investors thought so highly of Solyndra's prospects that they put more than $1 billion of their own money into the company.
But Republicans on the panel said there appeared to be a rush in approving financing for Solyndra, and they expressed concern that a similar rush may be taking place now with agreements that would have the federal government guaranteeing an additional $10 billion in loans if all the guarantees are approved before Sept. 30.
SoloPower's planned Portland plant is being financed in large part by its own federal loan guarantees, which reportedly total about $200 million. The State of Oregon is lending the company another $20 million, and the financial wizards at the City of Portland are guaranteeing $5 million.
Although the company and bureaucrats are touting 500 new jobs in the area, SoloPower recently admitted that it will have only around 100 workers at the first of its two plants planned for North Portland. At the rate the industry is going, it will be a wonder if two Portland plants actually get built and operate for a sustained period of time.
An arbitrator is currently conducting hearings into whether a Portland policeman, fired for killing an unarmed man by shooting him in the back, should get his position on the police force back. It's much too important a question to be entrusted to arbitration, but them's the rules. If the past is any indication, the officer in question, who has proven himself to be a bully and a hothead, will get a lot of money, and maybe even get the chance to kill somebody else in the line of duty.
Here in the Beaver State, if someone wants to do your taxes for a fee, they have to take a test and get a license. If they want to deliver your baby for a fee, they don't.
These trees, along with many others on SW Lincoln Street between First and Fourth Avenues in Portland, will be destroyed starting Monday by the utterly pointless Tri-Met Milwaukie MAX train project. In a city that's constantly bleating about how "green" it is, this is a sacrilege of the lowest order.
We're always disgusted when our tax dollars go to writing free promotional ads for private businesses, which then get posted on the City of Portland website. If you get on the good side of the Beautiful People at City Hall, the free advertising flows like water to Carollo. One such item graced our e-mail inbox yesterday. It came from the city transportation bureau's relentless Sunday Parkways machine:
Not only do we mildly resent the commercialism here on the public dime, but this is not the most responsible event to be promoting. Nothing says "traffic fatality" like that extra special combination of bikes and alcohol. The sudsy revelry will run until 10:00 on Saturday night. Then the weekend warriors can waddle to their fixies, saddle up, and head for home -- some in all-black outfits, and many without lights or helmets. You can almost write the tragic Sunday morning headlines now.
Poor Rick Adelman. The Portland basketball legend is moving to Minnesota to coach the Timberwolves. Which means he'll be working for another Portland product, general manager David Kahn, who isn't exactly renowned for knowing what he's doing.
At least Adelman will have a long time to brace himself for the shock of the frigid Minnesota winters and that truly anemic roster -- Sebastian Telfair, Martell Webster, Luke Ridnour, yuck! At the rate the NBA's labor talks are going, play won't start until after the holidays, and it may be pushed back to a whole year from now.
"Drunk driving by our officers won't be tolerated. But remember, police work is very stressful."
Chief Reese, really. That's enough of that last bit. Lots of jobs are extremely stressful. But you don't drive drunk -- ever. Stop making excuses for your out-of-control subordinates. Shape them up or step down.
In fact, we'd like to see a random breathalyzer test here and there during shift hours on Portland's finest. Bet they wouldn't all pass.
Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith confessed yesterday that his driving record is less than sterling. City Hall reporter Beth Slovic says he's had six traffic violations in Multnomah County since 2002. And according to the Background Check service offered by the company BeenVerified.com, Jefferson Daniel Smith, born 6/29/73, also racked up speeding tickets in Clackamas and Marion Counties back in the mid-90s, when he was in his early 20s. In addition to speeding, his moving violations include failure to obey a traffic control device (March 2009) and illegally executing a right turn (April 2004). In all, Smith reportedly has had seven separate ticketed stops in Oregon over a 16-year period.
Worst of all, the BeenVerified report also shows two convictions for "DWS" in 2004. The date of that apparent offense was March 24, 2004. One conviction was reported as a "violation" and one was reported as an "infraction." Here's how the violation screen looks:
Here's the way Slovic recounts what Smith told her:
But Smith did once get pulled over for having expired tags, he said, and after he forgot to pay the fine, he had his license suspended. "It's embarrassing, and I take full responsibility," Smith said.
Now hold on. Did he get his license suspended because he was driving with expired tags, and he forgot to pay the fine? And he sat out his suspension? To our untrained eye "DWS" means driving while suspended -- a much more serious matter than driving with expired tags. Which was it?
In any event, if this guy was on the Trail Blazers, he'd be the butt of many jokes. But here he is a Harvard lawyer, a member of the bar, and he's "DWS"? There's something not quite right there. Not right at all.
This place should have been called Emilie Boyles High School.
Aw, what the heck-- it's only money. Nothing's gonna happen.
Yesterday we noted that Willy Week was giving Brad Avakian, Oregon labor commissioner and candidate for David Wu's vacated congressional seat, a hard time over his bad personal credit rating. Not to be outdone, before the day was over Oregonian political columnist Jeff Mapes jumped in with an even nastier criticism: Avakian is spending around 70% of his working day campaigning for Congress rather than tending to the state's business as
secretary of state labor commissioner.
If we're not mistaken, that's a major, major no-no with Oregon voters.
And to make matters worse, Avakian's supporters are popping up around the web and saying, "Come on -- he's only making $72,000 a year in the state job. He's entitled to work only part-time." When you're in a hole, peeps, by all means, stop digging!
One of most dangerous ethical fallacies is "I've got it coming to me." It's right up there with "Everybody's doing it," "Nobody has to know," and "It doesn't hurt anyone." Great words to go to jail by.
Avakian had better hope he gets elected to Congress. Because he could have a difficult time getting re-elected as labor commissioner.
It teaches such important life lessons:
Two phrases that should not be in the same sentence: "New York City" and "bike sharing."
The state is trying to give away Highway 43 between Lake Oswego and Portland, and wisely, none of the localities in question are eager to take it, even with some money attached.
We'd hate to see it go to the cities of Portland and Lake Oswego -- they'd just a bird on it, or a streetcar. It would be much more fun to turn it over to the McMenamins. Or maybe the Street Roots guys.
Why do we get the feeling it will eventually be owned by the Portland water bureau?
Now that the memorials have been concluded, here's a take on 9/11 that makes some important points.
...nothing like a relaxing day of beauty at the spa... [NSFW]
We may have a shiny new train coming in from Milwaukie, all right -- but given the coming increase in the number of homeless and mentally ill people on downtown Portland streets, nobody's going to want to come, from Milwaukie or elsewhere. "Wahhh! The state and the feds cut our funding!" Well, o.k., geniuses -- knock it off with the dopey streetcars and MAX lines. "Oh, no -- never -- linchpin smart growth sustainable peak oil density walkable 20-minute healthy yada yada." Fine -- suit yourselves.
It's really not complicated.
In sorting through our reader Ben's 24 years' worth of pennies -- nearly 10,000 of them -- as part of our great pennies project, we encountered some interesting specimens. About 20 were Canadian, and some coins weren't pennies at all, but "silver" that got tossed into the cents bucket by mistake.
Among the pennies, some were shiny new, some were dark and old, and some -- about 10 -- were so badly trashed that we couldn't make out their years or mints of origin. Even the kids, whose naked eyes are much better than ours, were stumped, and our magnifying glass wasn't up to the task, either.
We'll try a little harder to clean them up and read their faces, but the illegible ones are worth showing on this blog simply by virtue of their exquisite states of decay:
The metal crumbling off a couple of them almost looks like fur. Ugh!
WW takes a swipe today at Brad Avakian. Apparently the west side congressional candidate is slow to pay his personal bills, including his medical bills and his bar dues. So much so that collection agencies have been after him, and he even got suspended from the bar for a short time.
The evildoers in the nuclear industry, along with their bureaucrat patsies, will stop at nothing.
Including the internet.
If the Republicans can take this district, they're surely going to take the White House. It might be worth Democrats' while to cross over to the GOP ranks now, and try to influence who the Republican Presidential candidate will be next year. Whoever it is will be the odds-on favorite -- no matter how wacko they are.
Here are the lines for Week 2 of our charity pro football underdog game. Players, please keep in mind that you are betting on the underdog (in CAPS) to win its game outright, without the benefit of the point spread:
14.5 SEATTLE at Pittsburgh
9.5 CAROLINA vs. Green Bay
9 JACKSONVILLE at New York Jets
8 KANSAS CITY at Detroit
7 SAN DIEGO at New England
6.5 CHICAGO at New Orleans
5.5 TENNESSEE vs. Baltimore
4.5 ST. LOUIS at New York Giants (Monday night)
4.5 CINCINNATI at Denver
4 ARIZONA at Washington
3.5 OAKLAND at Buffalo
3 TAMPA BAY at Minnesota
3 SAN FRANCISCO vs. Dallas
3 MIAMI vs. Houston
2.5 INDIANAPOLIS vs. Cleveland
2.5 ATLANTA vs. Philadelphia
The deadline for all player picks is the scheduled kickoff time of the first game, 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday. As ever, you must e-mail your pick to email@example.com. If you haven't paid your entry fee yet, I must receive it in the snail mail by Saturday in order for your pick of the week to count.
Lots of intrigue here. The Steelers looked bad last weekend, but could they possibly lose at home to Seattle? Detroit -- favored? Da Bearss -- are they or aren't they for real? Good luck, everybody.
Our friend Brian writes:
Okay, so, let's say you're a diehard Ohio fan. No... seriously... I mean a DIEHARD Ohio fan...
As expected, Jefferson Smith announced today that he's running for mayor of Portland. He's a state representative from a rough-and-tumble section of outer southeast Portland, but his pedigree is Harvard Law, and he seems to be able to get along pretty nicely without having an actual job. He must be loaded behind the scenes.
Anyway, at age 38 and a founding Bus kid, he's close to the upper end of Willy Week's target demographic, and we'll bet a nickel that he'll get that publication's endorsement when the time comes, just as they gushed year after year over the goofy stylings of Smith's good buddy, Opie Sten.
The news that Smith is running makes life a lot tougher for Eileen Brady. He'll take away quite a few votes from Brady's New Seasons eco-crowd, which will only help the third major candidate, Charlie Hales, the apartment developers' pet from Camas, Washington. At this point, it looks as though we'll have a runoff next fall between Hales and one of the beautiful, sustainable people. Smith would be easier than Brady for Hales to beat.
The proponents of the citizens' initiative are letting Bill Sizemore, recently released from prison after serving time for a felony, mouth off on OregonLive about the Clackistan "urban renewal" ballot measures. What a blunder. That guy needs to go on a long trip and come back to town on November 9.
A reader who has money in the Oregon 529 college savings plan raises an interesting issue: "I find it strange that the 529 fund for Oregon is on east coast banking hours." Apparently the end of the business day for the plan is 4:00 Eastern Time -- 1 in the afternoon out here in Oregon. What ever happened to "buy local"?
He also notes that his initial $1400 contribution has earned a whopping $72 over the past 8 years. You finance majors out there will note that that's about a 0.6% annual return. Maybe the reader should try to get Junior into PERS. That would move the decimal point -- at least.
Apparently, it's SpongeBob's fault. Get those kids watching PBS -- maybe some day they can work at Powell's.
Here's another remarkably sad 21st Century story.
At least, that's the message of this story in today's O:
Bruce Heiberg, a hauler who collected food scraps in Northeast Portland's Roseway neighborhood, said only 26 of 500 customers -- or 5 percent -- went to bigger cans. "I anticipated quite a few customers would switch, and it didn't materialize," he said....
[Jerry] Powell [editor] of Resource Recycling [a local magazine] said he's bracing for an uproar after the new rules take effect as people adjust. That happens every time Portland revamps its collection system, he said, recalling when haulers started requiring people to pull their cans to the curb. But he doesn’t expect the ruckus to last. "I bet you by December it's gone," he said.
We've been staring for a couple of days now at the language of the decoy ballot measure that the Clackamas County commissioners have placed on the November ballot to compete with the citizens' initiative petition that would require countywide votes for future "urban renewal" expansions. The longer we look at the politicians' measure, the more ambiguous parts of it seem.
In particular, we're referring to the conflict provision -- the part of the commissioners' measure that talks about what happens if it conflicts with other county laws. It reads as follows:
A number of intriguing questions arise out of this poorly chosen language.
First things first: Does this language even apply to the conflict between the two measures on the November ballot? Specifically, is the measure originally initiated by the citizens' petition a "referral"? At least to our untrained eye, it doesn't seem so. There's a clear distinction made in state law between an initiative and a referendum. A referendum is the situation in which a law or ordinance that the county commissioners enacted is forced onto the ballot by petition signatures. As we understand it, that's not what the citizens did here -- they invented their own measure, which is an initiative rather than a referendum. And so the conflict language in the commissioners' measure -- alluding to "any referral" -- may not even apply to the glaring conflict between these two measures. (The crux of the dispute is whether future "urban renewal" schemes should be subject to a countywide vote, or just a vote of the district that would benefit.)
Assuming that the conflict language does apply -- and that seems a major assumption -- there's an additional problem with the operative language: "the provisions having received the lesser number of votes in any referral of the measure to an election shall be void." Does that mean (a) the lesser number of "yes" votes, or (b) the lesser number of total votes, both in favor and against?
Take this example: Both measures pass. The citizens' initiative passes 10,000 to 5,000, and the commissioners' measure passes, 8,000 to 7,500. Assuming the conflict language applies, then which ballot measure prevails, and which one is void? The citizens' initiative has more "yes" votes (10,000 to 8,000), but the commissioners' measure, which also passed, has more overall votes (15,500 to 15,000). Which "provisions... received the lesser number of votes"? Common sense would say the politicians' version, but that idea could have been expressed much more clearly than in the commissioners' drafting.
If somehow the language means that the most total votes wins, then so long as both measures get a majority of votes cast, folks who favor the citizens' measure might be better off not voting at all on the commissioners' measure -- not even voting "no." On the other hand, if the measure with the most "yes" votes wins (a more loigcal, but by no means necessary, reading), then it would make sense for the citizens' group to vote yes on the initiative measure and no on the commissioners'.
Are these two ambiguities deliberate and malicious, or are they accidental? It's hard to tell. In the original version of the decoy measure, there was reference to actions taken by more or less than 51% of the voters in the "urban renewal" area. That was bad drafting, too. As anyone who's thought about it knows, a majority is 50% plus 1 vote -- not 51%. 5,001 to 4,999 is a majority -- you needn't get to 5,100. Somebody down there is a truly poor drafter, or diabolically clever.
Either way, it's hard to tell what the heck that conflict provision says. So who knows what the rules are going to be here? Maybe Kate Brown or John Kroger can send out a press release on the subject. But the vote's less than two months away. Election procedures in Oregon are the pits sometimes, aren't they?
The Raiders beat the Broncos tonight, in an unusually late Monday night finale, earning 3 points for our newcomer player Weavmo. That leaves the standings in our charity pro football underdog game as follows:
jmh - 6.5
John Ch. - 6.5
john dull - 5.5
Larry Legend - 5.5
Eric W. - 5.5
Weavmo - 3
Everybody else (27 players) - 0
Prospective 'dog pickers can check in tomorrow for another intriguing slate of pro pigskin matchups. As you can see, there's still plenty of time for players to join us and be right in the thick of things. All proceeds will go to charity, but the glory will go to our winners.
We're on track to have as many players as we did last year, which means that the top five finishers will get to designate charities to receive our donations.
Here are a couple of important notes for those players who haven't sent in their entries yet:
It sure sounds like one.
But look on the bright side: One guy got a free cremation courtesy of the French government.
Here's one they hoped to bury in the weekend: Mike Burton, resigned Portland State University bureaucrat and ex-Metro bigwig, is about to undergo a state government ethics commission inquiry into charges that he improperly billed the university for travel to England and France last fall. Burton allegedly claimed to be attending conferences that never in fact took place.
Last week, we wrote about a startling discovery -- a private company has been quietly operating a commercial water treatment testing facility on Portland water bureau property at the Columbia River well field for many years. The firm, Carollo Engineers, is the second largest consumer of Portland water -- nearly 300 million gallons one recent year-- and it pays a rate for the water far cheaper than any other customer, including the school district and the parks bureau. It also gets to piggyback on a city permit to dump treated water into the nearby Columbia Slough.
On its website, Carollo points out that the plant was operational in March 2003, and it was (and is) intended to provide a testing facility for ultraviolet water treatment equipment to be sold throughout the country, and in other parts of the world. Since then, the Carollo plant has apparently tested and validated more than 30 systems that then went for installation at water systems all over.
An alert reader has pointed us to an interesting document that indicates that the water bureau didn't disclose its arrangement with Carollo, and the existence of the facility, to the city's public utility rate board when board members inquired about UV testing in February 2004. Here's an exchange from the minutes of the rate board meeting of February 18, 2004 (read into the minutes of the March 18, 2004 meeting). "Loren" and "Scott" are Loren Lutzenhiser and Scott Fernandez, members of the board, and "Dennis" is Dennis Kessler, an official from the water bureau. They're talking about the city's tentative plans for UV treatment of its water supply, in response to federal mandates:
Scott: Two years ago UV was priced at $20 million as a cost to implement. We encouraged that direction because of the cost, not the technology. Then it soon went up to $55 million, then to $60 million, and now up to $102 million 2 years later. What do we project the price to be when the time comes if we go in that direction?
Dennis: There are still some things to be worked out on that technology. Part of this is costs due to storage that we didn’t prioritize. A big chunk is the storage issue. The other part is some type of a clear well depending on where you put it. If you put it at the headworks, you can utilize the head of the dams and you have the contact time for other types of disinfection from where it leaves the headworks until it gets into town. And you don’t have to pump. If you start moving this downstream, you will have to pump and it becomes more expensive – locating it and piping to and from the site. Plus backup power, what do you do with power outages?...
Unknown: In the slides you identified UV at Lusted Hill at $103 million but in this report it’s tagged at $20.5 million on page 11. How do you reconcile this?
Dennis: This is just the first 5 years of the project. Look at page 5, only seeing a small part of treatment, the big costs are out beyond 5 years.
Loren: What’s included for $20 million? Planning and design?
Dennis: It’s looking at configuration and effectiveness of the disinfection. It is different in every water system. Our water is pretty significantly different. At this stage there is no (UV) plant the size we are talking about in operation. It’s a fairly new technology at this size of application. So there’s figuring that all out. The first 3 years of this is looking at alternative concepts and probably the last 2 years is primarily design. And a lot of permitting too.
Loren: Are salaries a part of this or a combination of contracts?
Dennis: It’s primarily consulting....
Scott: Already have a UV test facility pilot in place?
Dennis: We have one on the groundwater system and we have been having trouble with it.
Scott: Is there a national facility somewhere?
Dennis: I’m not aware of that.
Scott: What has been the problem with it?
Dennis: The main problem is light bulb breakage. Then what do you do with the mercury in the water, and the glass and debris, and the down time? That is the big problem they are having. If something happens, you need a place to put the water to deal with it -- the by-product.
It is hard to believe that Kessler didn't know that the Portland Carollo plant, going for nearly a year at that point, was intended to be a national facility, with outside customers, and built to run for many years. And he certainly wasn't forthcoming about the Carollo connection when it certainly would have been appropriate to describe it.
Meanwhile, his remarks about the problems that were being encountered with UV treatment in Portland have got to make one wonder what was going out the pipe and into the slough from the Carollo plant at that time. Or is going out now, for that matter.
The Oregon court of appeals, reversing a Multnomah County circuit judge, has ruled that realtors other than "principal" real estate brokers can't be subjected by the City of Portland to the city's income-based business tax, because it conflicts with state law.
Indeed, the tax provisions in question were a blatant attempt by the city to circumvent state law, and they richly deserved to go down. As the court stated: "Bluntly, by imposing its business income tax on plaintiffs in this case, the city is subjecting plaintiffs to precisely the same harm that the 1987 Legislature intended to prevent." No kidding.
Keep that in mind, Portlanders, when you get your bill for the leaf removal "fee." It might just be a tax, and that tax might not be kosher under the city charter or state law.
Late last week, the Clackamas County commissioners passed their ballot measure to compete with the citizens' initiative on putting future "urban renewal" expansions to public votes. Both measures will be before the voters in November. The citizens' version, placed on the ballot by petition signatures, calls for a countywide vote any time "urban renewal" zones are created or expanded. The commissioners' version would require such a vote only within the proposed "urban renewal" zone. Since the "urban renewal" zone benefits at the expense of the rest of the county, the commissioners' version is pretty much a rubber stamp compared to the citizens' initiative.
Anyway, the commissioners' original proposal specified that if both measures passed, the commissioners' version would trump the ctiizens'. Well, lo and behold, in their final version, the politicians have backed off that outrageous position. Although it's oddly drafted, there's a clause in their measure that appears to say that the measure with the most votes will win:
And so the commissioners are playing a somewhat less dirty game of pool than they first threatened. Nonetheless, to put a confusing counter-measure on the ballot rather than run a simple "No" campaign is a pretty rotten move. We hope the voters down that way see right through the ruse, and vote to empower themselves to decide the future of the county.
Of course, big money is already lining up on the politicians' side. It didn't help them with their epically failed Sellwood Bridge fee; we'll see if it does them any good on this one.
We got this card in the mail the other day from the Oregonian:
They're actually asking our permission to dump ads on our porch every Sunday morning, along with "community news," whatever that is. We'll pass on that fabulous offer, because mailing in that card to opt in will surely bring on the phone calls trying to get us to subscribe to the dead tree version of the O, which has long been abandoned at our place.
But something tells us those ads are going to wind up on our porch anyway. Stay tuned.
Speaking of not opting in but catching the spam anyway, Metro president Tom Hughes sent us an e-mail message last week thanking us for joining Metro's goofy "Opt In Panels." This is the brainchild of overpaid p.r. flack Jim Middaugh, being executed by some outside p.r. firm or other. You The People are supposed to take a bunch of surveys that allegedly will influence Metro policies. Now old Tom's rubbing everybody's nose in "We took a survey, and we're doing what you want":
I am writing to thank you for participating in Opt In and for your comments and insights about a variety of topics, from our urban growth boundary and the future of the Oregon Zoo to the selection of Metro's next chief operating officer.
Except that, Tom, we didn't participate.
On Aug. 31, I appointed Martha Bennett, the current city administrator in Ashland, to serve as Metro's next chief operating officer. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the Metro Council on Thursday. Choosing Metro's top manager is one of the most important decisions I will make as Metro Council President. The advice and guidance that 950 members of Opt In provided about the qualities and expertise this person should have helped tremendously.
Martha Bennett has the qualities you told me were most important, including being a:
On behalf of the Metro Council, thank you for being a member of Opt In. Please encourage your friends and neighbors to join. We'd love to hear from them. For more information on the results of Opt In surveys, go to www.optinpanel.org and select the "Your Opinions at Work" tab at the top of the page.
Yeah, maybe they'll let you pick out the menu for the polar bears at the zoo. But do you think they're actually going to pay attention if you tell them we have enough bike lanes and particle board apartment bunkers to last for quite a while? And we don't need a convention center hotel? Ha! Ha!
Ya gotta wonder how much "Opt In" is costing, over and above the in-house p.r. people over there.
And silly us -- we thought Hughes was going to be a level-headed guy. Were we ever wrong. Now he's ranting about smart growth and Milwaukie MAX like he's Earl Blumenauer's long-lost uncle. Oh well. The Goldschmidt Party is doubtlessly well pleased.
Yet another Portland policeman has been banished to the telephone reporting unit after being arrested for drunk driving. That's three off-duty Portland police DUII's since mid-July, and four in 2011 -- not to mention the Portland cop who's in trouble for allegedly flashing his gun in a road rage incident, and the firing last Friday of another officer, the ex-union president, for bizarre road rage behavior.
At this rate, the bureau is going to have to build a new wing on headquarters just to hold the telephone reporting (and rehab) unit. Do the PoPo have some serious problems -- or what? No wonder they're beating and killing people without cause. How many of them are under the influence or hung over while they're on the job?
UPDATE, 1:47 p.m.: Oops! We undercounted. Counting this latest guy, who moonlights as a fishing guide, reportedly there have been five Portland police popped for DUII in the last nine months.
They spread happiness far and wide.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the darkest day of our lifetime. It is not as if we need much of a reminder. The mass murders wounded us seriously. We sat up all night, and looked at the photos of the dead. We looked at our children. And we wept.
We remember. No video replays are necessary. Send the marching band home.
Where were we when we heard the news? The same place everybody was -- enjoying the last few minutes of a different country.
Has anything positive come out of 9/11? It would be lovely if there was something we could point to and say, "It was all for the greater good." We took care of the victims' families, maybe. Compared to the blood that has been shed, and the liberties lost, that's not much. Shining beams of light into the sky, building a fountain, converging on the murder scenes in a media frenzy, a million flags -- what's the point? "Here," we seem to say to the murderers. "Here's where you killed our innocent loved ones, out of the blue."
Yes, they did. Then we retaliated. We're still retaliating. The bad guys are still coming after us. And our government looks less like the good guys than it ever did.
We grieve today for the dead, and remember the courage of the police, firefighters, and others who knowingly climbed to their deaths saving others. As for the videos and photos of the carnage? Thanks, but you can put those away.
Perhaps the saddest part of 9/11 is that so many people sense that the government may not have told the public the entire truth about the tragic events. In particular, the collapse of World Trade Center 7 looks far more like a controlled implosion than a building that fell because it was on fire, or hit by debris hours earlier. Some of us would rather believe our eyes about that than trust what the powers that be tell us. You can make up your own story line from there, and alas, given the credibility of American government over the past decade, many people have.
The players in our charity pro football underdog pool have spoken, and here are their selections for this weekend's games:
8.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Houston - Bob, Tommy W., NoPoGuy, PDXileinOmaha, Pete Rozelle, Bad Brad, Gary, umpire
8.5 MINNESOTA at San Diego - Usual Kevin, Drewbob
7 CAROLINA at Arizona - Paul, Rudie, Annie, AKevin, genop
7 MIAMI vs. New England (Monday night) - Michael K., genop's gal
6.5 CINCINNATI at Cleveland - John Ch., jmh
5.5 SEATTLE at San Francisco - mna
5.5 BUFFALO at Kansas City - Larry Legend, Eric W., john dull
4.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Philadelphia - pdxmick, Sattelihu
[4 NEW ORLEANS at Green Bay (Thursday 5:30) - Brook (did not prevail)]
4 DALLAS at New York Jets - Grizfan, Ricardo, Biggest Cubs Loser
3 TENNESSEE at Jacksonville - Gordon, Broadway Joe
3 CHICAGO vs. Atlanta
3 OAKLAND at Denver (Monday night) - Weavmo
3 WASHINGTON vs. New York Giants
2.5 PITTSBURGH at Baltimore - John Cr., Carol
1.5 DETROIT at Tampa Bay
Nobody chose Chicago, Washington, or Detroit. Every other underdog team attracted somebody in our pack.
Good luck to everybody with a 'dog in the hunt today, tonight, or tomorrow.
Technical note: We're trying a slightly different deadline approach this year, allowing players to choose right up until the scheduled kickoff time of the first Sunday game. These are the picks as of earlier this morning, several hours before the deadline. (This post is being triggered by a robot.) If additional picks have come in (or changes have been made) after this post was written but before the deadline, they will be added to this post as soon as we can get to it later today.
UPDATE, 12:51 p.m.: jmh's pick of Cincinnati was received before the deadline.
UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: Cincy and Buffalo win in the first round, scoring points for five of our 'dognosticators. Chicago and Detroit also win, but none of our players was on either of them.
UPDATE, 4:47 p.m.: There were no winners for our players in the later day games. Washington won, which means that all three teams that none of our players selected were winners.
UPDATE, 9:06 p.m.: Close but no cigar for the Cowboys. Three of our players have games going tomorrow evening; of the other 31 pickers in our contest, only five are on the board. Still plenty of time for newcomers to join us and take the prizes home to their favorite charities.
The newspapers have finally gained access to the pension records of retired Oregon public employees, after nine years of hide-the-ball by the state's PERS system. The media went to court to get the information, and the pension fund has settled the case by agreeing to disclose it. Thus, in a short while, we'll be reading all about who's getting what out of the PERS till. No doubt there will be some outrageous stories, and outraged taxpayers, included.
But for now we can all have a laugh as the union people get their defenses up. This quotation strikes us as hilarious:
Unions representing public employees did not intervene in the Oregon court case, but said they disagreed with the outcome and would examine legal options to protect their members' privacy.
"All it will be used for is to inflame the public against people who do jobs nobody else wants to do," said Mary Botkin, lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Does she have to send a royalty check to La Raza for that one?
Anyway, you can't make this stuff up.
The Ducks stomped Nevada today in football, and so U of O fans are out celebrating tonight. It was a little like defeating one's grandmother at arm wrestling, but it ends a two-game losing streak, and hey, it sure beats the alternative.
While the investigation continues into apparent recruiting violations by its football staff, the Ducks' athletic department (motto: "We smoked it all") sent around an e-mail message yesterday preaching to the entire university community about obedience to the rules of the NCAA and the Pac-12 conference. Given the realities of big-time college athletics these days, the message seems almost like a parody, but for what it's worth, here it is.
Our charity pro football game is underway for another year, and we've got a great cast of characters making their picks for tomorrow's (and Monday night's) games. You can get in on the action if your pick is in our hands by game time tomorrow (10 a.m. West Coast time). (There's a modest entry fee, and all proceeds go to charity at season's end.)
The slate of games, instructions, and a link to the rules of our contest, are here. If you join us, you'll be helping worthy causes, and you'll probably view pro football in a whole new light.
The chief investment officer at the Oregon State Treasury, Ron Schmitz, has taken a new job with the government employees' pension plan in Virginia. The move comes a few months after Schmitz and two other investment officers were reprimanded for violating state government ethics rules regarding perks they received from investment advisors that they were charged with overseeing. The other two were also sanctioned over "reimbursements" they obtained from the state for meal expenses that they themselves never paid.
State Treasurer Ted Wheeler's press release notes: "Under the leadership of Schmitz, investments in the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund posted returns that rank among the highest in the nation, according to the independent Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. Over the seven years ending in 2010, Oregon’s performance was in the top 3 percent in the nation." Ted Sickinger's story in the O tells the rest of the story: "Schmitz, along with his fellow investment officers at Treasury, are some of the best-paid public employees in the state. His base salary is more than $265,000 a year, and he earned well over $300,000 in 2010 with incentive pay based on the performance of the pension fund's investments."
Wheeler defended Schmitz and his colleagues tenaciously for many months, with the treasurer finally caving in to pressure to admit that his office's policies on travel and entertainment allowances needed major work. It will be interesting to see if he complains that needless public scrutiny of the practices drove Schmitz out of the state.
In any event, the move was announced at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon (of course) in order to minimize public notice. Schmitz will be on the payroll through October.
A man who stalked an editor at the Portland Tribune, and then allegedly violated an anti-stalking restraining order, has lost in his bid to have the criminal charge of violating the order dismissed. He had argued, successfully in the Oregon Court of Appeals, that he could not be prosecuted for continuing to send communications to the victim's father in violation of the order, because it would abridge his rights of free speech. Now the Oregon Supreme Court has unanimously reversed the court of appeals and thrown out the fellow's defense. Even the Oregon Constitution, whose speech protections are extraordinarily broad, doesn't go that far.
... maybe the mayor of Portland could have asked for some speling tips:
There's going to be a lockout summer basketball league in Vegas starting on Monday, and among the former NBA players who will be joining current pro hoopsters in the league is none other than former Blazer guard Bonzi Wells. Bonzi, who was highly talented but quite a "head case," will be 35 years old later this month. His last game in the NBA was three seasons ago.
If you cut this guy off in traffic, there's no telling what he might do. He's had a really bad day.
The Randy Leonards of this world think jobs get created by diverting money from water rate payers, downtown sustainable lifestyle livers, and the like to finance Chicago Alderman style patronage spending.
The whole thing is here.
We wrote a while back about the passing of Rudi Nussbaum -- a giant of a man who fearlessly spoke the truth about so many subjects. That includes nuclear physics, about which he was an expert. Yesterday we received a nice note from his grandchild, and it attached this message from Rudi's widow:
July 20 was the end of a wonderful vacation, during which Rudi and I had closed several circles at places dear to us in Switzerland, Germany and The Netherlands. On the way home, in the Amsterdam Airport, Rudi took a fatal fall. Fortunately our two sons and their wives were able to rush over from the US to bid him farewell. He died July 22 in a nearby hospital. At the cremation in Holland, we had a small memorial service with relatives and old friends. The circle of our remarkable life together was closed in Amsterdam, where the two of us had met 70 years before!
Despite the shock and profound grief, I am grateful that Rudi was spared prolonged suffering and the infirmities of old age.
Please come and help the family and me celebrate his rich life.
-- Laureen Nussbaum
It appears that Mary Nolan, candidate for Portland City Council from the Goldschmidt Party, is going to have waaaaay more campaign money than her opponent, incumbent Amanda Fritz. Right now Orestar's showing Fritz with around $26,500 in the campaign kitty -- but $25,000 of that is her own money. Nolan is sitting on nearly twice that much, and it's come from many of the Usual Suspects -- Mark Edlen, Don Mazziotti, Vic Rhodes, Rick Gustafson, even a cool grand from Little Lord Paulson in his Dunthorpe manor!
Brace yourself, Portland -- we're about to take some serious hits from the scam machine. Nolan + Saltzman + Novick? We may wind up with a second aerial tram. Throw in Jeffer-Sten Smith as mayor and the place would really self-destruct. We may start feeling nostalgic for the quiet competence of Admiral Randy.
Oh well... look on the bright side. At least this time around we don't have to spend a half million tax dollars to watch the Nurse get beat.
They're baaaaaack. The people who work on the fancy bricks that pave the streets on the Portland Transit Mall, that is. Our reader who's been following their antics notes that the bricks at this intersection have been worked on, on and off, since May, and the hardhats are now back after just a 58-day absence. The reader writes:
Guess what is happening again on the EuroMall™ at 5th and SW Washington. This one looks to be more of a "maintenance" project wherein they pour sand over the magic bricks and sweep it around.
What budget problems? Go by streetcar, people! (But hurry before the fares go up.)
The county commissioners down Clackamas way are terrified that their future "urban renewal" schemes -- which would turn their towns into planner theme parks like Portland -- might actually be subjected to public votes. Oh, the horror! And now they have formally gone through with their threat to put their own "urban renewal" ballot measure before the voters in November, to compete with, and confuse people about, the measure that's already been placed on the ballot by citizens' petition. (The bone of contention is who will get to vote on "urban renewal" expansion -- the whole county, as the petitioners want, or just the people who will benefit from the "urban renewal" plan.)
If both measures pass, the commissioners' version will prevail. So to win, the petitioners now have to convince voters to vote yes on one measure, and no on the other. [See update below.]
There oughta be a law against shinola like that.
And then, as if that weren't insult enough, the commissioners throw out another announcement: They're going to pay beaucoup property tax dollars to bring MAX trains from Portland to Milwaukie even if the citizens' measure passes. The way they broke this news was to pass a resolution (which is not legally binding on them) that they won't pay for MAX out of "urban renewal" funds -- MAX having been the spark that set off the current "urban renewal" furor.
But the politicians are committed to pay the county's share of the train pork (eight figures) from somewhere -- apparently, out of the general fund. By boldly declaring that the "urban renewal" votes won't matter as far as light rail is concerned, the commishes seem to be telling the many, many train-not-wanters down that way that they might as well sit out the election, because they aren't going to prevail, no matter what.
Regardless of what the voters in Clackamas County decide to do about the ballot measures in November, they need to work on finding themselves some new political leaders -- people with greater intelligence and less arrogance. The current crop down there is starting to make the Mean Girls of Multnomah County look mature and accomplished by comparison.
UPDATE, 9/10, 10:00 p.m.: As readers have pointed out in comments to this post, the final version of county commissioners' measure provides that if both measures pass, the one with the lesser number of yes votes loses. That's somewhat fairer than their original proposal, in which the commissioners' version automatically trumped the citizens' version. But they're still a bunch of connivers.
One of our new players, Brook, picked New Orleans tonight, looking to pick up 4 points if the Saints prevail over Green Bay.
Google is reporting wweek.com as an attack site, and apparently it's one of four weeklies around the country who have been targeted for hacker mischief.
Here's an update from the city water bureau about the wildfire that's threatening the Bull Run Reservoir system. Including this:
Depending on the direction of winds, ash from the fire may be deposited in the watershed, but it is not expected to pose risks to drinking water.... Water quality changes may be more likely when the first rain events occur this fall if significant ash deposition occurs. If ash proves to be a factor during initial rain events this fall, Portland has a secondary high quality source of drinking water, the Columbia South Shore Well Field that can be used.
It appears that there are some ne'er-do-wells in the solar panel manufacturing business -- you know, the magic industry that's going to revitalize Portland's economy.
We see that in his e-mail message touting his appearances at local high schools on the first day of school, Portland's mayor was back to displaying his web page banner with the phallic symbol in the middle of it:
Just an inadvertent slip-up, perhaps. But yuck.
Another one of the Portland mayor's youthful staff members has left the building.
Today's Trib reports:
One of the first tasks this year of the new Portland School Board will be to consult with the eight district employees who violated election laws regarding messaging over the two recent school ballot measures.
Board members will discuss whether the district should seek outside counsel to appeal the ruling and $75 fines. If board members opt to appeal, each named employee will then decide whether to join the group’s defense or fight it solo.
One wonders whether the school board members have noticed that as the Trib reported last week, the district has already consulted with the Miller Nash firm about the alleged violations. That firm doesn't do too much work for free.
Yesterday we tantalized readers with this question: Who's the second largest consumer of water purchased from the Portland Water Bureau? None of our usually well informed readers knew the correct answer.
And we can't say that we blame them for not knowing, because it's a company that they probably have never heard of. Certainly we hadn't until some alert readers showed it to us.
According to this document, which was produced at City Hall, it's an outfit called Carollo Engineers. In the year ended June 30, 2010, that firm purchased 291.5 million gallons of water, more than 60 million gallons more than the parks bureau and more than 125 million more than the public schools. Carollo is second in consumed volume only to Siltronic Corp., the silicon chip maker, which purchased 549.2 million gallons that year.
So who in the heck is Carollo Engineers, and what are they doing with all that water?
As best we can tell, Carollo is a private company that designs, tests, and oversees construction of ultraviolet treatment equipment that other private companies, such as Berson, Calgon and Wedeco, build and sell to municipal water systems that need UV treatment. Carollo has built a central testing facility out at the city's Columbia well fields (out beyond Costco on Airport Way), and it runs all those hundreds of millions of gallons of Portland water through the facility in order to test the effectiveness of the manufacturers' equipment before it is shipped off to the water system customers around the country, and even overseas. As Carollo explains on its website:
To receive inactivation credit with UV disinfection, the USEPA will require that UV systems undergo performance validation testing. Until recently, UV systems installed in the U.S. were validated either on site or at a facility in Europe. Recognizing a need for a U.S. facility, Carollo independently initiated its own survey to find a location to develop a validation facility. We identified the City of Portland’s South Shore Well Field as an ideal location for such an activity. It can provide 90 mgd of chlorine-free, low UV-absorbance groundwater at a constant flowrate and has a NPDES permit that allows us to discharge the test water to the Columbia River. We struck an agreement with Portland to develop a test center adjacent to their 2-mgd reservoir tank.
Carollo obtained funding for development of the facility from two UV system suppliers: Calgon Carbon Corporation and WEDECO Ideal Horizons. We designed the facility in November 2002, and construction started in February 2003. Carollo is responsible for managing the facility and conducting all testing. This includes coordinating site use between the two participating UV vendors, logistics, test protocol development, testing, data analysis, and reporting. Carollo commissioned the site in March 2003 with the testing of a 40-mgd, medium-pressure UV system supplied by Calgon. Since then, Carollo has tested six different large-scale UV reactors at flowrates ranging from 1 to 42 mgd at UV transmittance values ranging from 70 to 98 percent. This testing comprises over 320 challenge tests using MS2 coliphage to demonstrate UV doses ranging from 20 to 80 mJ/cm2.
When they're through testing the water, they dump it into the Columbia Slough, apparently under a permit that the city had previously obtained from the state DEQ to allow discharges.
It's amazing to us that we've never heard of this deal, which has been in place for nearly a decade. And as we consider it now for the first time, a number of questions pop right up:
First of all, Carollo is getting a darn good price. It's no. 2 in usage, but it's no. 17 in what it paid the city for water. For its 291 million gallons, it paid the city just $0.000643 a gallon. Compare that with what the school district was charged for its 165 million gallons: $.003688 a gallon. The schools got charged more than five times as much per gallon as Carollo. The parks bureau paid about the same as the schools -- $0.003428. Siltronic, the city's top non-wholesale customer, paid $.003227 a gallon -- again, five times what Carollo paid.
What is up with that?
Another question that springs to mind is the effect of all this pumping on groundwater quality in the well field. As we remember it, there's a fair amount of pollution in the ground not far from there. Once upon a time there were some ugly industrial processes going on out that way -- we seem to recall the name Boeing being mentioned in this connection -- and as we have understood it all these years, the more pumping out of the wells, the more likely it is that the pollution is going to reach those wells.
Now, it's been our impression that the wells are used only sparingly. Indeed, every August the water bureau makes a big deal out of announcing that they're blending well water in with Bull Run. The illusion has been that the well field mostly sits untouched. Well, no way -- Carollo's grabbing close to 300 million gallons out of there a year.
And what is going out the other end of Carollo's pipe, into the Columbia Slough? Do the ultraviolet bulbs ever break, sending mercury into the water? The testing apparently involves injecting microbes into the water -- what happens when the ultraviolet systems don't completely kill them? Let's hope some enterprising environmental sorts take a hard look at that discharge system.
The larger question that this quiet little deal raises is how sincere the city really is in opposing the budget-busting treatment systems that federal regulators have been pushing for several years now. If the water bureau's been entering into major contracts with the ultraviolet treatment folks behind the curtains (Is there a land lease from the city to the company?), one has to wonder what other kinds of transactions have already been entered into with those firms that the public knows nothing about.
The city's refusal to keep fighting the unfunded federal mandates of ultraviolet treatment and underground reservoirs has always seemed quite curious. And now we see that the city has made a sweet backroom deal with the treatment people, seemingly without any public involvement or awareness. It's unseemly, to say the least -- there's sort of a faint Ellis McCoy aura about the whole thing.
Anyway, there's more here to consider. But just the fact that this facility exists, and at this scale, is (if you'll pardon the expression) enough to absorb for one day.
The folks running the Portland Streetcar say they want to pull out of Tri-Met's "free rail" zone. Once upon a time, all public transit through the downtown core was free, but Tri-Met jerked the buses out of that program, leaving it strictly to the MAX trains and streetcars, just after the pointless renovation of the downtown transit mall was complete.
Now the streetcar folks are finding that they're running out of money, just like Tri-Met, and they're proposing to end their participation in farelessness. That would leave only the MAX trains free through downtown. One less reason to go down there.
The streetcar staff is also talking about increasing fares (and maybe even figure out how to get people to pay them) and jacking way up the price of an annual streetcar pass. But hey, we're going to bring this wonderful exercise in fiscal stewardship to Lake Oswego and beyond, doggone it! Go by streetcar! [Via Portland Afoot, which dissects the whole package here.]
If you see a fare inspector only twice a year, that's $100 for an annual pass. But no, really -- trains without conductors or turnstiles, it's a great concept.
You get a spam e-mail message, you click on "unsubscribe," you have to click again saying you're sure you want to unsubscribe, and then the infernal thing sends you another e-mail message telling you you just unsubscribed. Wish there were some way to fight back.
The retired police and firefighters whose sweet, sweet pension deals are bankrupting Portland say they get it even better than that -- they say they also don't have to repay money that the city has paid them by mistake. They should get to keep the overpayments, they contend, and they're suing the city to prove it.
Their theory appears to be that their union contracts implicitly forbid the city from correcting its mistake by reducing their future pension checks. If the city did in fact make such agreements, the whole City Council ought to be recalled.
What's really crazy is that if the union boys win, everybody's pension could become taxable under federal tax law. If that happens, you'll really see some upset blue hairs, and even bigger lawsuits.
And we suspect there will be no challenge on the Democratic side. Will some Republican lawyer take a shot at the Oregon attorney general's office -- somebody with a decent shot at it? Maybe Jack Roberts can ride the great tide sure to be produced by Michele Bachmann.
UPDATE, 8:51 p.m.: If a challenger does emerge, we can expect him or her to be talking a bit about this.
Here's the latest annual report on the Reed College "research" nuclear reactor in close-in southeast Portland. Although it's now 43 years old and past its original license term, the reactor is being taken critical ever more often -- and with more inadvertent shutdowns than in many a year.
In the year ended June 30, the reactor was taken critical 432 times on 111 days. That's more than in any year since 1993, and perhaps more than in any previous year, ever. There were 17 inadvertent shutdowns during the year, including one unexplained shutdown -- always a confidence builder. That's the highest total of shutdown boo-boos since 1999.
The report also reveals that there's been a near-complete turnover of the senior staff in the past few months. Among those who have been replaced since May are the reactor director, the associate director, the reactor supervisor, the training supervisor, the assistant training supervisor, the requalification supervisor, and perhaps the health physicist. Only one of those people switched jobs at the reactor; apparently, the rest are gone. That's nearly every staff position listed in the report, except for the college students who get to run the equipment in between bong hits.
Apparently the Reedies find time to pick up a few bucks from the reactor during the year:
The Reed Research Reactor is available for industrial or commercial concerns when it does not conflict with our educational goals. As in the past, the primary operations involved neutron activation analysis of materials or environmental samples. The facility also provides radiation protection training to interested parties and schools in the area.
It's amazing how little attention is paid to the place. To us it seems like trouble waiting to happen.
Maybe we missed something, but it appears to have been a slow month for press releases from our SOWHAs (state officials with higher ambitions). Attorney General John Kroger issued only two. That's his all-time low month; we hope everything's o.k. Treasurer Ted Wheeler also managed only an anemic pair of releases, and Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who's running for Congress, didn't issue any releases in his state official capacity.
The champ for the month was Secretary of State Kate Brown, who sent out four releases. And it could have been five, but for some funny reason she didn't say a peep about her office formally accusing Portland school district officials of abuse of office in connection with last May's bond election. If that had been some conservative county commission out in eastern Oregon, the press release would have been fast and fiery hot. Oh, well -- she's still the champ for the month, albeit far behind Kroger and Wheeler in the year-long tally. The tale of the tape can currently be found in our left sidebar.
O.k., knowledgeable Portlanders, here's a quiz for you: Who's the second largest consumer of water sold by the Portland Water Bureau?
Hints: It's not Siltronic -- they're first, with about 549 millions gallons consumed in the year ended June 30, 2010. It's not the parks bureau -- they're third, at around 229 million gallons a year. And it's not the Portland public schools -- they're fourth, at approximately about 165 million gallons a year.
So who's second?
UPDATE, 9/8, 4:57 p.m.: And here it is.
According to the Trib --
"A multi-year deal is in place, and (Jeld-Wen officials) are very happy with it," says Mike Golub, chief operating officer of the Portland Timbers, who call Jeld-Wen Field home. "We don’t expect anything to change" due to the company’s financial difficulties.
There's a bet we'd like to take. Perhaps the Timbers don't understand bankruptcy. They may learn more about it when their league goes under.
The O has gotten its hands on hundreds of pages of documents from the City of Portland about the personnel status of Ellis McCoy, the former parking meter manager who's resigned in disgrace after the FBI raided his home and office. And they confirm what's been gradually become clear in the weeks since the feds moved in: McCoy got all sorts of negative reviews from his superiors, and they threatened to fire him, but they never did. They suspended him, but then they gave him raises and bonus vacation days that made up for the suspension days.
There's something extremely hinky going on here. Whatever McCoy's relationship with contractors might have been, his relationship with his supervisors is full of strange contradictions. Clearly, the full story of that latter relationship has not been told.
For many years, McCoy's supervisors were, in ascending order, Lavinia Gordon, Sue Keil, and Sam Adams. Those three know things that they're not making public. Will the local media keep trying to figure out what those things are, and if so, will they succeed? Let's hope so.
Here's a scathing indictment of the President from the left. It's a little over the top, but not much:
There are more Obamas, or Obama look-alikes, in our future. What are the most salient ingredients in his private-public persona? Most striking is a behavior pattern that resembles closely the narcissistic syndrome -- even if he is not a clinical narcissist. A narcissist has no convictions other than a total dedication to his own gratification. That gives him the freedom to maneuver without inhibition or conscience with the revered self as the only reference point. All expressions of ideals, of opinions, of intentions are implicitly so qualified. A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. Narcissists believe everything they say -- at the moment they say it. Their declarations are sterile acts that have no pride of parentage nor can they expect honor from offspring.... Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or lie -- because to do so is to acknowledge that reality has an intolerably constraining claim on them.
More Obamas, indeed -- you could name a handful of Oregon politicians of the same ilk right off the top of your head.
Meanwhile, the Sellout in Chief's latest economy-stimulatin' idea is the same as his old idea -- cut payroll taxes and bankrupt Social Security a little faster. And what the heck -- the corporations get a payroll tax break, too! FDR -- indeed his entire generation -- is rolling over in the grave.
Portland's sort-of-alternative weekly is quoting "people close to" the Felony Flats representative with the Harvard Law pedigree as saying he'll likely run for the soon-to-be-vacant mayor's seat in Portland. Shades of "Opie" Sten -- a cute, impractical, expensive idea a week, while grownup matters like basic services can go pound salt.
Please, folks, can we wait to go there for... oh, I don't know... another 25 years or so? In case you haven't noticed, weird isn't working.
If Smith runs, you can bet he'll get the Willy Week endorsement. They're very into the Bus kids over there -- and stories about pot.
Oh, and get this -- Dave Hunt wants to be the next Clackamas County chair! As if there isn't already enough blood on the floor down there with "urban renewal." Send in Mr. Warmth; that will bring everybody together.
We try to keep our cranky-old-man outraged-consumer riffs to a minimum, but this one's too well deserved to hold back. We've been trying for a couple of days now to refill a prescription at the mail order pharmacy of Walgreen's. Apparently there are three such pharmacies -- the one that we're sent to is in Tempe, Arizona. We take a common, cheap, generic drug that will probably be sold over the counter in a year or two. We have used Walgreen's mail for this prescription in the past because our health insurance, through Regence, pressures us to do so through a slight price break.
But time is money, and after two agonizing bouts with the company's awful website, and four fruitless phone calls that ended up heaven knows where, we're done with Walgreen's pharmacies. As they've made abundantly clear, they won't miss us. If we owned stock in that corporation, we'd be selling it.
Is someone we hope never to meet.
A reader writes: "I believe congressmen should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers so we can identify their corporate sponsors."
It's that time again -- time to crank up our charity pro football underdog game for the third year. It's a season-long game in which players try to pick one NFL underdog each week that will win its game outright -- without the benefit of the point spread. Winning players receive the number of points that their underdog was predicted to lose by -- and the player with the most points at the end of the playoffs in January is the winner.
The entry fee is a Jackson, and all proceeds go to charity. The top finishers in our underdog standings get to say to which nonprofit organizations (501(c)(3)) the money will go. Last year, we sent $900 to worthy charities.
Entry fees aren't due, however, until next Wednesday, the 14th -- which means you can play this week's 'dogs now, and if you like the game, pay first thing next week. Your first week pick will still count.
It's easy to enter -- just send your pick by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's the only way to enter; picks posted in comments on this blog or by e-mail to any other address will not count. The deadline for entries is the scheduled time of the first game on Sunday, which this week is 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (or prior to kickoff if you're picking the Saints in the Thursday game).
The official rules are here, but enough of that -- on to the first week's lines. Do you see an underdog (in caps) below that can win its game outright? Good luck, everybody!
8.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Houston
8.5 MINNESOTA at San Diego
7 CAROLINA at Arizona
7 MIAMI vs. New England (Monday night -- pick still due Sunday morning)
6.5 CINCINNATI at Cleveland
5.5 SEATTLE at San Francisco
5.5 BUFFALO at Kansas City
4.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Philadelphia
4 NEW ORLEANS at Green Bay (Thursday 5:30 Pacific time, pick due by then)
4 DALLAS at New York Jets
3 TENNESSEE at Jacksonville
3 CHICAGO vs. Atlanta
3 OAKLAND at Denver
3 WASHINGTON vs. New York Giants
2.5 PITTSBURGH at Baltimore
1.5 DETROIT at Tampa Bay
Feel free to leave comments below, as advice and kibitzing is always appreciated. But don't forget -- only e-mail entries to email@example.com will be counted in the game.
We supported Tom Hughes for Metro president over Bob Stacey, but listening to him prattle on about the wonders of the particle-board apartment bunkers that light rail trains breed doesn't make us feel too good about that. Old Tom gets up to speak at about 30:25 of this video, shot at the MAX Blue Line party. (Wait a minute for it to load.)
It's like a Blumenauer speech, only slightly less spacey. And he's all for the Mystery Train to Milwaukie. Give him a year and he'll be pushing the Convention Center hotel. And here we thought he had his feet on the ground.
The "public benefit" organization known as Our Oregon comes across as pretty much the alter-ego of state's public school teachers' union. Its president is Gail Rasmussen, who is also the president of the Oregon Education Association; it secretary is Arthur Towers, the chief lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, another public employees' union. "Public benefit" corporations like Our Oregon enjoy tax-exempt status and can get involved in politics without having to disclose where their money comes from. (That's quite a loophole.)
Now Our Oregon has decided to get involved in the ongoing ballot measure war in Clackamas County over whether new or expanded "urban renewal" districts should be put up for a countywide vote. Our Oregon has asked Secretary of State Kate Brown to take a break from busting the Portland school district's chops and instead investigate whether there was anything irregular in the process by which Clackamas County checked the petition signatures that were turned in in support of the upcoming ballot measure on "urban renewal." The union group's suggestion is that were it not for flaws in the signature verification process, the proposed measure would have failed to qualify for the ballot.
Why would the teachers' union be hot to contest this ballot measure? Well, on one level, it's a union solidarity thing. The subtext of the "urban renewal" vote is the massive construction project known as the Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail, which the ballot measure is trying to stop. There are a lot of union jobs at stake in building that thing (albeit temporary ones), and you can see that organized labor doesn't want any threats to the pork pot.
On another level, it seems like a simple knee-jerk reaction, in that the unions can smell that the money behind the Clackamas County initiative is coming, at least in part, from their usual tighty-righty nemeses. The public employee unions hate ballot measures that are bankrolled by the Loren Parks types, and to them the Clackamas proposition probably seems like just another in a long line that extends back to Bill Sizemore, Don McIntyre, and even Lon Mabon.
But you really have to wonder why public school teachers' unions, or other public employees' unions, would go to the mat for "urban renewal." "Urban renewal" is a reverse Robin Hood. It robs from basic public services, including public schools but also many other services including public safety and mental health care for the poor, by skimming off property taxes and handing them to condo developers. Light rail, like all "urban renewal," mostly goes to build crummy apartment buildings.
If we were a public school teacher, we'd be calling our union guys and asking why in the heck they're spending our money fighting for that. Today we read in the paper that the school employee ranks are being decimated -- well, "urban renewal" is a significant part of the reason why.
Every year about this time, Fireman Randy's two bureaus -- fire and water -- get together and burn a bunch of stuff, then put the fire out. Last year, they did a controlled burn on water bureau land by the well fields out past Costco and the airport. This year, the stage is being set for another planned conflagration, at Powell Butte. Things should start blazing about an hour from now. And there are more of these fires planned between now and the first rains.
The official announcement of today's burn says that it will take place only if weather permits. Well, it's certainly hot and dry enough, but the question is whether it's too hot and dry. If the wind kicks up, one would think they'll postpone.
Poor Powell Butte. It's being dug up for the gigantic underground water tanks that the city doesn't need, and now they'll burn it, too. Boys in uniforms, it seems, always need to play. One would have thought that if Portland wanted to get involved with fire and water, it would send some crews up to the Bull Run reservoir, where wildfire is about to show up any minute now.
And we always love it when the city gets on its high horse and tells us how it's removing "non-native species." Just try doing that with the street tree that's destroying the sidewalk in front of your house. Or try burning anything. City Hall will crucify you.
The first lines in our charity pro football underdog game are due to be posted later this morning. If you think you know pro football and want to help some worthy causes, check out our game here. The action starts Thursday night, and slogs on for the next several months. In the end, charities get dough, and our top players get glory. We had lost interest in the NFL until we started playing this game; it's a lot of fun.
It took a year and a half, but our great pennies project is finally finished. We went through all the pennies that our reader Ben had been hoarding for better than 20 years, and we looked hard for oldies and rarities. It turns out there were 9,685 U.S. pennies, 21 Canadian pennies, and some assorted other change totaling $2.35. Now that the counting is done, it's time to write up our findings; we'll post our full report when it's complete. Lucky you.
Coincidentally, we had a piggy bank breaking ceremony at the house yesterday, and so the numismatic activity won't be dying down any time soon. Oh, the nerdiness.
This is extremely creepy. We wouldn't want him anywhere near our kids.
The local mass transit haters are reporting that Tri-Met is planning to whack all the trees off SW Lincoln Street in downtown Portland for the Milwaukie MAX light rail line. Now, ordinarily the tighty righties could care less about trees -- if the state were cutting them down for freeway widening, for example, they'd think it's fine -- but despite the insincere messenger, it's an important message.
"Green" in Portland is so, so hypocritical. A street full of beautiful trees gets destroyed and for what? A $2 billion mystery train to the utterly failed SoWhat District and all the way down to Milwaukie (pop. 21,000). And maybe some of this. Dumb, crooked, both?
A reader writes:
I was on the roof of a tall building in the Pearl today and looking west saw four wind turbines in the West Hills. Do you or your friends know anything about this? I haven't noticed this before, but I spend much of my time in the western burbs.
We've seen a few token wind dealies on a building over by I-405 downtown, but in the hills west of the Pearl? We know nothing. Readers?
But heaven help the American worker as the money-crazed plutocracy beats him or her down further, ever further. And we're not just talking union workers -- all workers, from whatever kind of shop.
Here's some excellent, if somewhat grim, reading for the holiday. Yes, the author calls the Republicans out as the greedy, war-mongering religious fanatics that they have become, but he's also wise to the shortcomings on the other side of the aisle:
The reader may think that I am attributing Svengali-like powers to GOP operatives able to manipulate a zombie base to do their bidding. It is more complicated than that. Historical circumstances produced the raw material: the deindustrialization and financialization of America since about 1970 has spawned an increasingly downscale white middle class -- without job security (or even without jobs), with pensions and health benefits evaporating and with their principal asset deflating in the collapse of the housing bubble. Their fears are not imaginary; their standard of living is shrinking.
What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style "centrist" Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.
While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations' bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let's build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it's evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.
How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? -- can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative "Obamacare" won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn't the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?
You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. "Entitlement" has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is "entitled" selfishly claims something he doesn't really deserve. Why not call them "earned benefits," which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don't make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the "estate tax," it is the "death tax." Heaven forbid that the Walton family should give up one penny of its $86-billion fortune. All of that lucre is necessary to ensure that unions be kept out of Wal-Mart, that women employees not be promoted and that politicians be kept on a short leash.
Read the whole thing -- it's brilliant.
The Democrats are every bit as bad as the man says. But we're not so sure they're that stupid. We strongly suspect that what they're doing, they're doing on purpose.
An interesting battle is brewing over sales tax on internet sales in the Golden State. Amazon collected enough signatures to force a public vote on the tax, but the legislature is talking about trumping that ballot measure. Almost sounds like Clackamas County!
Then Amazon takes an intriguing tack: It tells California that if it will just drop the tax, Amazon will site a bunch of jobs there. Stimulus by blackmail, as it were. What a strange country we've become. The historians of the fall of our empire will have quite a time picking through the rubble.
The latest round of gang shootings in Portland is really dismaying. This time six high school kids were wounded, after a Jefferson High football game. Fortunately, it appears that no one's going to die from the Friday night incident. But of course, these kinds of beefs tend not to go away quickly, and so surely more bullets will be fired in retaliation.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams said the shooting was part of an ongoing problem with "grudge matches" between African American gangs in the city.
"This is horrible," he said. "This is tragic. We've had too many African American teenage Portlanders murdered in this city, and we are doing everything we can to stop it."
If only that were true. Maybe -- maybe -- the city is doing everything it can under the current budget. But the budget is part of the problem. The gang scene in Portland has spiraled so far out of control that making a dent in it would be expensive. And the current city council just doesn't make public safety enough of a spending priority.
To them, it's all about streetcars and bioswales and composting and bicycle sharing and playing Sim City. The nitty gritty of saving poor kids' lives just isn't big enough on anybody's radar screen at City Hall.
There's been a swarm of small earthquakes up at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, along the Columbia River in south central Washington. That's been going on since early May at least. Last night, though, one of them registered 3.7 on the Richter scale, which is starting to get into sit-up-and-take-notice territory. The epicenter, as with just about all of the earthquakes we've been watching at Hanford this summer, was right under the river. This one was at a depth of 2.5 kilometers -- a mile and a half down. Aftershocks overnight have been as high as 2.3.
Hanford is one of the most contaminated tracts of real estate in the world. It contains waste from decades of nuclear bomb production, much of it poorly contained in leaking underground tanks. Major ground movement on the site is most troublesome.
UPDATE, 10:18 p.m.: A 2.8 an hour and a half ago.
... you may tend to drop stuff.
The City of Portland's parking meter manager -- at the center of an FBI investigation into accusations of corruption -- announced his "retirement" yesterday. So ends his long career at City Hall, and his
unpaid administrative leave that began on August 10 when federal agents raided his home and office.
Of course, the news is announced on a Friday afternoon of a three-day holiday weekend. Oh Ellis, oh Tom, oh Sam, how clever. They're going to love all of you wherever you wind up next.
The mayor is making funny noises about how wonderful the corruption probe is, but the polygraph needle just flew off the graph paper:
"We enthusiastically support the work of the U.S. Attorney and Federal Bureau of Investigation in their own ongoing investigation," Adams said Friday.
It's that "enthusiastically" that tips you off that the mayor's not coming clean with you. As we have all learned, when he's telling a fib, he can't be satisfied with a flat version. He always feels that uncontrollable urge to go over the top and turn it into a real whopper. Just ask Bob Ball.
Yesterday's news that the Jeld-Wen window and door company may be headed for bankruptcy suggests that Jeld-Wen Field, the Portland civic stadium that was recently re-renovated for soccer at the expense of baseball, could be undergoing yet another renaming soon. The terms of most stadium naming rights deals call for the sponsor to make payments over time, and although Timbers owner Merritt Paulson refuses to disclose the terms of his secret deal with Jeld-Wen, the official press releases about the transaction refer to the relationship as a continuing partnership.
It seems unlikely that Paulson would get paid as agreed if Jeld-Wen winds up in bankruptcy court. At which point he may be free to pursue another corporation that wants to slap its name on the taxpayers' property. Or maybe he'll just donate the naming rights back to the city and we can call it Sam-Rand Stadium.
Will the taxpayers have to pay to change all the directional signs again? One wonders whether the Jeld-Wen signs will come down the same year they went up -- that would probably be a wayward kind of record.
It's a little surprising to see a couple of Goldschmidt pals, Steve Wynne and Ron Saxton, up on the helm of a sinking ship. Don't worry, guys -- you can always land on your feet at the Port, or Metro, or Tri-Met, or the school board, or OHSU, or the gas company, or the PDC, or Pacific Power...
What a waste of time and energy the 2008 Presidential election campaign turned out to be.
If Portland's transportation priorities are so "green," why doesn't it scrap its goofy streetcar and mystery train fantasies and buy a fleet of these? They sure sound better than all those creaky, stinky, aging buses that Tri-Met is currently running all over town.
The mailman has brought us several entries in our upcoming charity pro football underdog game. We'll start playing next week, and so if you'd like to join in the season-long action, now would be a great time to sign up. Everything you need to know is either discussed or linked in this blog post from earlier this week.
Think you know pro football? Come on in. Maybe you'll place among our top prognosticators, and your favorite charity will benefit.
Little Lord Paulson's new digs have only two water fountains for 18,000 people. How could the city government, which brags endlessly about the quality of our tap water, let this happen?
If asked to locate the geographic center of the Portland weirdness movement, we'd probably put it somewhere near the corner of Southeast 32nd and Taylor. It's between Hawthorne and Belmont, in the Sunnyside section of town, just over the neighborhood line from Buckman. You've got your senior citizens still living their patchouli hippie ways of the late '60s, mixed in with your dedicated drum circle hipsters in ramshackle rentals, your greener-than-thou government workers biking to their city jobs, and a few of your working stiffs just barely getting by in Joe Weston's motel-style apartments from the '70s.
There are food cart pods and bike racks galore. Countless urban chickens clucking away. Many bars, few trendy. A lot of heroin -- bought, sold, shot up -- and when you're finished doing that, there's a lovely methadone clinic. Homeless guys rattle their shopping carts full of empty bottles and cans in an eternal loop from the St. Francis soup kitchen to the Hawthorne Fred Meyer.
The politics of the place are left -- as in, way left. Politicians like Earl Blumenauer get 99% of the vote. Republicans don't even bother to try for a seat in the state legislature. At the Catholic churches, they petition the Lord to "deliver us from homphobia." When we lived down there for a couple of years in the '90s, we used to endure regular lectures from strangers who saw some of our lawn sprinkler water landing on the sidewalk or caught us using herbicide on weeds. In short, there is probably no more politically correct place anywhere on the planet.
And so one wonders what's going to happen down that way now that a hard-core right-wing church has bought an old church building at 32nd and Taylor and plans to open for services next weekend. As the O explains, the tenets of this congregation are 180 degrees opposite of the prevailing neighborhood vibe:
Mars Hill Church was founded in 1996 by Pastor Mark Driscoll and operates nine campuses, mostly in Seattle, with three more on the way, including the one in Portland. Driscoll is a tech-savvy minister who preaches — often in jeans and baseball caps — against homosexuality and urges gays to turn from sin.
"A gay couple walks into your group, you’re supposed to tell them to repent," Driscoll said in a sermon posted on the church website. "And if at any point you don’t tell them to repent, you’re not faithful to Biblical Christianity."
He also believes that the sexual abuse of children is a "trigger" for same-sex attraction as adults. In a video sermon posted on YouTube, he calls yoga "absolute paganism."
Within a mile of that church, the segment of residents who would agree with that platform is well under 10% -- probably closer to zero. So who is going to go to the services there? And whoever they are, how will they and the neighbors get along?
Not real well, is what we're thinking. This is not far from the neighborhood whose more extreme elements firebombed a Starbucks. A lot will probably depend on whether the church keeps its zeal within its own walls, or tries to take it out into its immediate surroundings.
Down in the "urban renewal" war zone known as Clackamas County, the county commissioners, terrified of a ballot measure that would subject all expansion of "urban renewal" schemes to a countywide vote, are racing the clock to defeat the measure by shabby means. They've now revealed a hastily drafted competing measure that if passed, would trump the proposition that a group of unhappy taxpayers have placed on the November ballot via thousands of signatures on petitions.
True to form, the commissioners have thrown a couple of distracting twists into their measure. But the basic difference between it and the petition measure is that the commissioners' version would require a vote of only the voters within an affected "urban renewal" area -- not the whole county, as the petition measure would require.
The whole point of the petition drive was that "urban renewal" steals property tax dollars from agencies throughout the county, and so voters throughout the county should have a say in whether or when "urban renewal" is going to be used. The people in a proposed "urban renewal" area would invariably vote in favor of "renewal" -- that is, pork that they would enjoy at others' expense. That kind of election would be meaningless.
We'll see if the voters down that way are as dumb as the county commissioners think they are. Such dirty, dirty pool they're playing. It should be an interesting couple of months.
Jim Redden at the Trib lays out the harsh reality:
The analysis released last week found that Multnomah County lost jobs during the past 10 years, while Washington and Clackamas counties added them. According to the analysis of Oregon Employment Division figures, Multnomah County lost 31,915 jobs between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, Washington County added 10,650 jobs and Clackamas County added 3,723 jobs during the same 10 years.
The editorial board over there thinks it knows why Multnomah has become a place in which jobs are drying up: high taxes, the lack of vacant industrial land, and attitude.
They sure got that last one right. Weird isn't working, peeps.
Portland ought to declare a sister city relationship with Washington, D.C. Not only are they talking bikes and streetcars back there, but their police force acts up with drunken driving, steroid rage, and misuse of guns. They even get the same paid administrative leave! The parallels are compelling.
Three prominent Portland men have left the planet in the same week: journalist Paul Pintarich, grocer John Zupan, and now historian Kimbark McColl. It's a small town, and many of us were one handshake or less away from all three of these fellows. None were perfect; all will be missed. Condolences to their families and friends.
County chair Jeff Cogen says the cuts are going to be "devastating" -- mental health workers, probation officers, that sort of thing. When you think about all the worthless junk local government does have the money for -- the list of nonsense expenditures is as long as your arm -- it's gotta raise your blood pressure a little. Maybe the Portland Development Commission ought to recruit a bulletproof vest manufacturer to town so that we can all buy local.
As we've been reporting, back in the fall of 2009 the Portland city transportation bureau hired a $200-an-hour "management coach" from Portland State University for one of its managers. They had reportedly been looking for such a coach for Ellis McCoy, the parking meter manager who's currently under FBI investigation. But we were told by the city last week that the one they actually hired wasn't for McCoy, but instead for an unnamed manager in the maintenance operations division.
We then asked the city, under the public records law, for copies of all work product produced under the contract. Yesterday Margaret Yandle, assistant to transportation director Tom Miller, wrote us: "PBOT has no responsive documents of correspondance or reports produced by the management coach." Unless we're being misled, that means to us that the "coach," Terry O'Connor, never wrote to the city about anything. Apparently, he just "coached" the manager and communicated with the bosses orally.
We've also requested any such documents that may be in the possession of Portland State. We'll pursue that, and we've got a few other questions to ask; we'll report the answers if and when we get them.
Portland's daily newspaper printed a curious editorial yesterday about the Portland public school election abuse scandal. The Oregon Secretary of State's office has found that 11 school district employees broke state law by campaigning for last May's school tax bond measure on taxpayer time, using taxpayer money to produce and mail campaign literature.
The O doesn't really seem to care about that. Instead, the editorial board launches into a diatribe about how the school board has too many public relations people on staff. That's an interesting point -- one that's been made on this blog, and especially by Willamette Week in an excellent study of local propaganda -- but it's really beside the point of the election abuse.
This wasn't a close case. The school board blatantly touted the bond measure in several documents produced on school district time, with school district money. The school board tries to exonerate itself by saying it sent the state some documents to review on April 4, but the most offensive of the documents -- a campaign mailer -- arrived in our mailbox the week of March 28. (That one alone admittedly cost $36,500, but there was more taxpayer time and money involved than that, according to the state's findings.)
It's apparent that the folks at the school board didn't make a good faith effort to comply. They pushed the envelope, hard, and now they have been busted for it.
This is not about the number of p.r. people the school board has -- not at all. That's a different story -- one the O so characteristically missed -- and it's not the biggest problem the school district brass face right now. Either the newspaper doesn't grasp what's going on, or it's trying to create a diversion.
The guy whose building's been slammed into by cars three times in the past year isn't laughing:
Sorry, Bud. You've just been Blumenauered.
After spent nuclear fuel rods have been sitting in pools of water for several years, they can be taken out and stored in large concrete casks. With no permanent nuclear waste solution in sight in this country, that's where a lot of our old rods now sit. If we're not mistaken, all of the Trojan plant's waste is now stored that way, above ground, next to the mighty Columbia River in scenic Rainier, Oregon. The rods will remain hella deadly for thousands of years, but as long as they're in these casks, and the casks stay intact, everything's fine.
The casks won't last forever, though, and the rods will probably have to be taken out of old casks and put into new ones every few hundred years. My heaven, it's so absurd even to be writing about that.
Anyway, the latest news from Virginia is a little unsettling. About two dozen vertical casks at the North Anna nuclear power plant, about seven miles from the epicenter of the August 23 earthquake, apparently shifted about 4½ inches on their pads during all the shaking. If those babies start falling or crumbling, the surrounding area could find itself in some deep kim chee.
It also turns out that the nuclear plant itself may have been shaken beyond its design limits, which means that the neighbors are dang lucky there wasn't a serious breach in some crucial system or other. Oh, that safe, clean, cheap nuclear power.
Even if one filters out the inflammatory language in which it's written, this story is pretty disturbing. Our nation has lost all shame.