This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 12, 2011 7:48 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland police now picking up phone on first ring. The next post in this blog is Clackamas duelling "urban renewal" measures: Most votes wins. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, September 12, 2011

So many options

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:

[yada yada]

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.

Comments (11)

You are 100% correct that these surveys will be used to justify every dopey idea Metro comes up with. I'm counting down the days until the Oregonian breathlessly reports: "95% of respondents to Metro's Opt In said Portland needs a world class convention center hotel."

Oh, you're going to have fun with that "Community News" dump filler. The Dallas Morning News has been putting out something almost identical for nearly five years, called "Briefing". It's a collection of a handful of national and local news pieces from the main paper, along with lots of house ads begging you to subscribe to the main paper. It also contains lots of coupons and the like, all right, mostly given away as freebies to angry advertisers who are now noting that the response to standard newspaper advertising is between zip and none.

Now, here's where it gets fun. At my old house, I had "Briefing" dumped every other day out front, as with every occupied or unoccupied house in the area. The Morning News has been getting into repeated trouble for blanket-bombing neighborhoods with free papers to goose its circulation numbers since the Eighties, and the delivery guys didn't care how many dead papers were piling up in front of obviously vacant houses. (Another standard "Boring Snooze" MO is to dump lots and lots of copies in obvious vacant lots, or in front of houses in the early stages of construction. The paper's management doesn't give a fart in a high wind about whether anybody actually reads these: it just wants to be able to go to the advertisers and tell them X number of copies went out each day.) For those of us who didn't want it, the plastic sleeves helpfully contained a phone number and URL to cancel delivery, and that got repeated phone calls from a Morning News rep sternly telling me "If you cancel this, you won't be getting any of the exclusive coupons inside." (I told the first one that that changed things, and that I'd let the coupon issuers know I wasn't buying their products specifically because they were advertising in "Briefing". I repeated this with the second through fourth reps until they finally got the hint.) The delivery stopped for about a month, and then there it was, left for me to clean up every other morning.

Finally, a good friend came up with a method that worked. He lives in the southern suburb of Oak Cliff, which is plastered with both "Briefing" and the DMN's Spanish freebie El Dia. Both would be dumped by the same guy, nearly every day, and that delivery guy had nothing but contempt for anybody who asked if he could stop dumping them in front of vacant houses and in empty lots. After repeated calls to the paper, where he was told to forget it, he just made a point of gathering all of those weathered and wet papers and dumping them on the front steps of the Morning News. Enough other people, myself included, joined in that the DMN finally honored those requests to stop delivery, but only after they were getting upwards of 200 copies of "Briefing" dumped on the steps every day.

And the punchline? The DMN stopped delivery of "Briefing" to residences in most areas due to the complaints. Now it's dropping them in front of businesses, because the stores and restaurants are much less likely to call up to complain. Jack, if you thought trying to get people to stop delivering phone books was fun, just you wait.

Jh Kunstler opens this morning's post in a similar vein:

   I don't want to be party pooper, but is it possible that all the 9/11 remembrance hoopla was a kind of weekend refuge from reality for this psychologically spavined nation? Memorializing is easy; acting resolutely in the here-and-now is another matter. To me, the various  9/11 doings that radiated out over the media gave off an indecent odor of triumphalism - a correspondent of mine referred to it as "self-important histrionics." We seem to put on these shows because we don't know what else to do, and because the only truly effective homegrown industry left in the USA is public relations, the business of making your own reality.


I think the "Community News" section is the same one the Saturday Oregonian comes wrapped in. Many worthless and pointless stories from "your neighborhood." Yuck, no thanks!

Gosh, Kunstler said it all: "...the business of making your own reality."

That is what all the state and local government PR people at taxpayer expense are doing to us. But it's not our "own reality", it is theirs.

I participate in the Opt In surveys and it should be noted that:

1. The majority of respondents are white female Multnomah County college-educated Democrats who make at least $35,000 annually.

2. Metro has sent some e-mails saying that they acknowledge that the majority of participants are not truly indicative of the population and even have charts showing such:


That said...it appears that despite some pleas to participate they are simply taking the survey results at face value rather than recognizing that the survey process itself may be flawed because it is not a truly representative sample of the region.

So how much do these unscientific, flawed surveys costs the taxpayers?

Reminds me of a 'survey" the bosses at a past employer once had us take. It was voluntary....until no one took it and then they took us in one at a time and had us fill it in with the boss watching. The results:
Q: How do you feel about the job we are doing? The company generally?
Good: 30%
Not Good 24%
bad 23%
Real Bad 22%
Dont Care 1%

Spin: "As you can see the number one response is that we are doing a good job and therefore we do not have to change anything."

I got the same thing a while back from the Zero. Shortly after they sent the card, I started running over a dog-poop bag stuffed with ads and roughly two pages of "community news" (in this week's edition, some guy's opened a small store in West Linn, while in Lake Oswego, it's the "last first day of school" for some school that's going to close at the end of the year). But, since Sam and Randy are banning bags from the stores, I appreciate the free bags the Zero is providing.

As for Tom, I had marginally higher hopes, of which I've been quickly disabused.

That demographic sounds like the 'mean girls" network

Mister Tee has been on the "Opt-in" survey for months: it appears to be slightly more credible than the standard People's Republic public outreach.

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