This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in January 2012. They are listed from newest to oldest.
December 2011 is the previous archive.
February 2012 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
City of Portland debt jumped $285 million in a year
The City of Portland's big fat annual financial statement for the year ended last June 30 has finally hit the streets. The whole phone book is here. Among the interesting insights it provides is that the city's outstanding bonded debt rose by $493.4 million in that year; of that, $212.5 million was used to pay off pre-existing lines of credit. Taking into account another $4 million or so of miscellaneous other debt that the city took on for this and that, it is left with a net increase in debt of $284.9 million. (That doesn't count the underfunded and unfunded pension liabilities, of course.)
Debt service -- principal and interest paid on debt -- was $316.4 million for the year from governmental funds, and $324.4 million from proprietary funds. By our count, that adds up to a staggering $640 million of loan payments for the year. The city also spent $3.0 million in transaction costs on all the new debt it was taking on. The banks, it seems, had their way with the Portland taxpayers once again.
The city's excess of revenue over expenses for the year was $104.8 million. Property and lodging taxes grew by $13.4 million. How City Hall expects to pay off all that debt, and around $3 billion of unfunded pension liabilities on top of it, is anyone's guess.
One of the reasons for Portland's many problems is that its congressman brings home money only for real estate development projects. He doesn't seem interested in basic government services at all. But he's convinced that his "themes and approach" are "baked into" the city's "DNA," and there's "consensus" about them. That's the way the infrastructure crumbles.
It's hard to like the people who run political campaigns. Now they're sending around snitch sheets to tell you which of your neighbors vote, and which ones don't. Yeah, that's technically a public record, but is it really necessary to blab it all over, creating tension among neighbors where none is needed?
And for what? To get Suzanne Bonamici into Congress? Already she's got a strike against her in our book. Her campaign has taken the low road, as has her opponent's.
Oh, wait, don't tell me -- she has no control over that mailing. Uh huh.
Every decade or so, the members of Congress get together and scare up some votes for themselves by beating up on the IRS. Some of the laws that come out of these cycles are horrible, but some of them are good. One of the best over the years has been the establishment of a national taxpayer advocate. This is a person within the government who will tell Congress and the tax commissioner what's right and what's wrong with the way the IRS enforces the current tax system, and try to get problems avoided or fixed, without the danger of losing his or her job over it.
The current taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson, is great. She tells it like it is, and although the lawmakers and bureaucrats don't always adopt her solutions and strategies, with Olson's periodic reports, they can't act as though they didn't know where the problems are. And her views are uniformly from taxpayers' perspectives, particularly those of the average Janes and Joes who are trying to live their lives without tripping up on the nation's treacherous tax laws.
Now Olson has decided to start a blog. Anybody who's interested in the way the federal government administers the tax laws will want to give it a look every now and then.
Helping students stay in school is a great cause, and helping them get into college with the financial aid they deserve is, too. But why is Portland City Hall involved in it, and in particularly, why is the city's parks department in the picture? The parks department does not even have the money to maintain its assets. Why is it also doing what the school board should be doing?
All the leading candidates for the Portland City Council are poised to pimp for apartment developers. They'll be wrecking your neighborhood with more Soviet housing bunkers, and you'll be paying for them, through the thievery known as "urban renewal." But between the latest internet love shown above and this little party the other day, it's clear that Hales would be the worst of the lot in that regard.
The folks at Einstein Noah, which has bought Kettleman Bagels in Portland, are promising to keep three flavors of boiled bagels on their menu as well as the other schlock that they mistakenly call bagels. They're asking for input from Kettleman fans here, but we doubt that they'll be getting too much positive feedback. To many of us, the changeover will be nothing short of sacrilegious. Indeed, we wouldn't be at all surprised if they eventually looked back on this acquisition with regret.
Portland water bureau going stingy on the mothballs
Opponents of disconnecting Portland's in-town open reservoirs -- and substituting budget-busting underground tanks -- are far from satisfied with the city's efforts to put the disconnect effort on hold. The city's asking the state for a "variance" of current federal regulations that require burial of the reservoirs, but as the activists note, this week the City Council will vote on a mere five-year delay of these projects, rather than an indefinite suspension.
A group led by Floy "Fly in the Ointment" Jones is asking these questions about this week's action by the council:
What about all of the consultant contracts associated with the Kelly Butte tank project, the Mt. Tabor disconnect and Bull Run UV radiation treatment plant design? When will they be terminated? Why continue to waste money designing projects that will provide no measurable public health benefit and while the LT2 rule is under revision, a process EPA says will take until 2016 (and could last longer)? There is no disease in the community related to Bull Run drinking water.
Why is the Water Bureau's scientific-data document (reservoir) not available for public review and revision right now? A public records request has been made but no Bureau response. This document would need to accompany a City's request for a revised reservoir compliance timeline? NYC prepared its data document in 2008 with additional substantive, detailed information submitted to EPA in 2011. PWB awarded cozy-consultant design contracts while NYC took advantage of every opportunity and made its case for a rule revision and permanent protection for its open reservoir, opening the door for all communities.
The trust is just not there, people. Nor should it be.
We wondered a while back what was the point of the state selling off general tax credits at auction, to pay for energy projects. It would just shift money from the general tax pool and shift it over to "green" this and that -- why waste time with a tax credit auction? You could just as easily have just transferred the funds within the state budget.
A reader who's been following this exercise has picked up a report from the state bureaucrats on how the program "worked." The report is here. Apparently someone out there was willing to pay slightly over face value for the credits -- perhaps because the buyer could use them immediately against quarterly tax obligations, rather than waiting until his or her annual tax bill is due. But the state sold only $461,000 of the credits, when the original plan was for $1.1 million.
It's still hard to understand how anybody thought this was a good idea. But apparently, they'll do it again next year. And since a lot of credits went unsold this time, it seems likely that no one will be bidding more than face amount next time.
A couple of readers have alerted us to this one: The not-so-clever people who have been running Tri-Met have come up with a proposal to pile up tons of tax dollars for future rail projects. And apparently the plan will mean new taxes for all of us. As one reader put it --
The first recommendation is that six counties (Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington, Marion, Linn and Lane) establish a massive rail transit district and levy a tax to improve the rail system (for both freight and passenger) in the valley. Then, they will transfer all of the property taxes paid by the railroads to the new transit district. Then they will transfer tens of millions of dollars from lottery proceeds to the rail district. Then they will levy a tax on all telephones in the state to repay the counties for the money the counties lost when the rail properties were transferred. Everybody loses but Neil MacFarlane [CEO of Tri-Met] and Tom Hughes [president of Metro government, and another apartment developer servant].
The document of which the reader speaks, fresh from Goldschmidt Party headquarters, is here. All aboard for more taxes!
Opponents of public spending on a streetcar and other handouts to the Portland developers seeking to slap up some housing bunkers on the east side of Lake Oswego scored a big victory when they tipped the current City Council away from the proposed streetcar line. But some of the opponents are convinced that the development, known as Foothills, isn't dead, despite the fact that the insane rail plan has been "suspended." One writes: "Williams Dame and White are still working on changes to City of LO codes for their project in Foothills even though the streetcar project is stalled."
The developers have said repeatedly that without a streetcar, there will be no apartments. (They have also suggested that the City of Portland sewage treatment plant down there would have to be moved or rebuilt.) And so the fact that they're still hanging around is a good indication that they're not ready to bury the streetcar just yet.
The Lake O. rebels are also taking note of this story in last week's Trib -- about how the Sellwood Bridge is going to be rebuilt with a streetcar in mind. If the sheep of Portland can be led into running the streetcar down as far south as the bridge -- and from past history, it seems clear that the developers will run streetcars in Portland wherever they darn well please -- it would be easier, some think, to extend it down into Lake O.
Besides, the plug that's been pulled down south could easily be plugged back in again. Although the mayor and a big streetcar pusher are leaving the council, they could be replaced with more developer cheerleaders. For example, Greg Macpherson, who's pondering a run for the mayor's office, testified on behalf of the streetcar when the push was on to ram it home despite majority sentiment against it.
That's part of living in the Portland area -- bad ideas don't die, they just take a nap and come back refreshed. Ask the taxpayers who don't want to pay for the convention center hotel, or the water users who don't want to pay for unnecessary, counterproductive water treatment and underground storage. You don't just have to give a year or two of your life to opposing projects like these. The people who will profit from them keep showing up at city hall year after year, seemingly for the rest of your days. It's exhausting.
We added 1% for the time value of money, and so the total donations came to $920. A nice byproduct of the entertainment we had with the game.
If we get a chance amid the hype of Super Bowl 46, we'll analyze the results of the underdog year, so that our players will be ready to go with their strategies come next August. Thanks to all who played, and especially to our blog benefactor who for the second straight year threw in $250 to sweeten the pot.
Here's a funny one: The faculty troublemakers down at U.C. Nike -- in addition to talking about unionizing -- have been keeping tabs on how much the school is paying outside lawyers to fight the pending investigation into apparent violations of athletic rules by the football team. When the profs asked to see the most recent bill from the Kansas law firm, they got a copy -- sort of. Here it is. Ha! Ha! One of the chief rabble-rousers reports further about it on his always enlightening blog.
Today comes the sad news that our friend and former partner, and a regular reader of this blog, Gail Achterman, has died. She was 62 years young. We've never met anyone else quite like Gail, and we doubt that we ever will. She did a lot of good for Oregon, and she never cared about getting rich doing it. She'll be missed.
Here's a chilling photo that appeared this afternoon:
That's apparently the window of a law office a block away from the site of the other night's fatal shooting of a mentally deranged man by Portland police. Reportedly he pointed a fake gun at the cops, and so a couple of them apparently emptied their guns on him.
That's the parking structure roof on which it all went down, square in the center of that window. And yes, that's the southwest corner of the structure facing you, which is where the man was killed.
It's a good thing there wasn't a cleaning person or someone else in that office at the time. In downtown Portland, it seems, you're never safe from the garbage going down on the streets, even in your office many stories above ground.
Apparently the Oregonian has its own computer problem and I [am] guessing you won't be reading about it in the paper. We've been on their Easy Pay credit card system for over a year and we recently started receiving invoices in the mail showing our payment in arrears. A quick review of the credit card statement shows that we were still being charged for the subscription every month. After a ten minute wait on hold, we talked with an account representative who told us they recently changed billing systems and account data from the old system did not transfer to the new system as expected and that they were manually updating accounts. I was told to ignore the mailed invoice. If this was a government system problem it would be front page news.
Don't worry, Willy Week will pick the story up. They never miss a chance to take a swipe at the O.
Making it much more expensive for honest passengers to ride, all the while cutting bus service, is just going to accelerate the death spiral. Goldschmidt crony Fred Hansen parachuted out just before the plunge became obvious. Why his hapless successor took the gig is anybody's guess.
Tri-Met's allowed itself to be Blumenauered into oblivion. You'll have to ride a bike, because there won't be a bus, and the streets will be pretty much blocked to cars.
And now we're up to a five buck minimum entry fee every time we go downtown? The phrase "ghost town" comes immediately to mind.
Fortunately, nobody's got that kind of money to play with any more, or else these people would be wrecking Portland even faster than they already are. Who says there's nothing good about this economy?
Gardner also worries about creating a jagged downtown skyline with an erratic scattering of taller buildings surrounded by more modest ones.
"It’s not a beautiful skyline," she said.
We have a beautiful airport, though, and several excellent moving companies. People who don't like Portland, and want everyone else to pay to remake it the way they want it, should avail themselves of those excellent resources.
They've got a shiny new children's building, but no money for secretaries. So now the nurses will do the secretarial work, apparently. That siren going off in Grandma's room? They'll be in to look at that in a few minutes.
Now the high school dropout rate is "unacceptable" to Oregon's retread governor. This is a lot like the current gang violence epidemic being "unacceptable" to Portland's sketchy mayor. What brilliance. And what are these two going to do about those problems other than make speeches? Nothing, because they'll be too busy handing out money to their friends to build junk that isn't needed.
The $250 million in lottery money that these fellows are about to blow on the Mystery Train to Milwaukie could do a lot of good to bolster education and fight crime. But no. And so their pronouncements of "unacceptability" are utterly laughable.
We are not making this up: The City of Portland is hiring David Reinhard to try to sell the dopey "sustainability center" project (that big old hunk of steaming pork for the voracious Mark Edlen and crew) to downstate Republicans in the legislature. The Sam Rand Twins and Reinhard -- there's quality for ya.
Why nobody said anything during MAX beating, cont'd
Just as we wrote when it happened, it was a smart move on the other passengers' part to shut the heck up and get off at the next stop. Check out the latest MAX shocker from the PoPo:
On Thursday January 26, 2012, at 8:20 p.m., officers from the Transit Police Division responded to the report of someone with a gun on a MAX train stopped at the Old Town/Chinatown stop.
Officers arrived and learned that group of boys and girls, including two young men ages 11 and 13, had a dispute with another passenger after one of the boys bumped into her baby stroller when they boarded the train.
During the argument with the baby's mother, the 11-year-old boy lifted his shirt to show the woman a gun in his waistband then he started to pull the gun out but the woman backed away and the boy put the gun back into his waistband.
The woman called 9-1-1 and the train stopped at the Old Town/Chinatown stop where the victim identified the suspect and police took the 11-year-old into custody. A loaded .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun was recovered from his waistband.
Officers contacted the 13-year-old boy and learned he had a BB gun in his backpack. He too was taken into custody.
The 13-year-old boy was taken to Janus Youth Program. Officers obtained a court order to lodge the 11-year-old boy into the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Home.
Use mass transit? Go downtown? If you don't absolutely have to, why would you? It's so sad, but we've clearly entered a new phase here in Portland. Things do not bode well for our future.
If you wonder why so many Portland motorists are hostile toward the special people on two wheels that they encounter on the city's streets, here is something for you to think about. He'll have plenty of opportunity to tighten his statuesque gluteals on his holier-than-thou fixie during his five-year driver's license suspension. Way to go, guy! You sure showed him.
The soon-to-be-departed duo that has been leading Portland city government into one hole after another for the last decade or more, is now reportedly cranking up the heat on the charter review commission. The Twins and their moneyed puppeteers can't stand the thought that the voters of the city might get a direct say in some of the issues of the day. And so they'll fight tooth-and-nail to kill any reform efforts:
Council members are refusing to replace departing commissioners, allowing their numbers to shrink near the 15 required to do business. The council has also said it will not give the commission any more money, preventing it from adequately publicizing and holding forums on such complex and controversial issues as an Independent Utility Commission and Ranked Choice Voting.
Three hundred and forty days to go... and then let's hope this is the low point.
State having second thoughts about Portland water waiver
The revised script is playing out to perfection. It looks as though Fireman Randy and his buddies may get to build their useless ultraviolet treatment plant after all. Something to remember them by: a middle-finger salute that will show up on your water bill every month for several decades.
Apartment bunker pushers drooling over Rose Garden area
Portland's army of planners have come up with a new "master plan" for the freeway ghetto areas around the Rose Garden Arena, and it features... you guessed it... high-rise apartment buildings! And lots of them. Some of them 20 stories tall, and the developer sharpies will be allowed to slap them up 10 stories high all the way east down Broadway and Weidler to Seventh Avenue. Six stories all the way east to 16th. Enjoy the daylight while you can, Irvington.
Not to mention the traffic impacts. If you've ever tried to get onto or off of Interstate-5 at the Rose Garden -- and who in this area hasn't found themselves in that scene at least once? -- you know that it can already be a traffic fustercluck. I-5, I-84, and 99-E all coming together, and I-5 essentially two lanes wide in either direction. The surface streets there are also in a constant state of constipation, and when the streetcar starts running on Weidler and Broadway, the congestion is only going to get worse.
That's regardless of whether anyone builds anything new. Stick a few thousand junk apartment units in that neighborhood, and you'll have the worst tie-ups imaginable, both on the freeway and on the street. The nabobs in city government no doubt think that this will cause people to give up their cars, stick a feather you-know-where, and fly everywhere, the Blumenauer way.
The naive and the greedy are working together quite effectively on this one. The worst part is that the working people of Portland will wind up paying huge subsidies to the developer set and their construction cronies to make it all happen. If there are any working people left, that is.
It had been about a year since the Portland police killed somebody, and this fellow appears to have made the end of that streak a no-brainer. He reportedly brandished a fake gun at the PoPo. Some of those guys will kill you if you flash your wallet at them, and so that was the end of Brad Morgan, age 21, father of an eight-month-old son.
Suicide by cop, apparently.
Would more spending on mental health services in Portland have saved this deceased man's life? We'll never know. We have other priorities.
The media are following their every move, but between the Michael Jackson dance party incident and the long break for the holidays, suddenly we've lost interest. They were climbing on the elk statue downtown again, though -- given that that landmark was just repaired at significant expense, that should have resulted in an immediate arrest. And they're hassling the Channel 8 camera crew -- real public relations geniuses, this bunch.
Between the police killing this morning and Occupy all evening, it's a banner day for cop overtime. It will make Newt and Mittens's upcoming visit seem mighty cheap by comparison.
PDC gave Edlen group $8M no-interest loan for Vestas building
Once again really interesting news gets buried. It's way down in this story. The writer focuses on the Portland Development Commission's practice of creating winners and losers in the local business community by making sweetheart loans to favored companies -- some of the loans being real stinkers that go sour immediately. But here's a detail of the Vestas headquarters deal, which is looking more like a stinker every day, that we don't think has previously seen the light of day:
As of October, in 2011 the PDC had loaned out over $15 million, more than half of which was at a zero percent interest rate to a single borrower.
A large chunk of that was lent to an investor group led by Gerding Edlen, according to Quinton. Gerding is a "green" developer group and recipient of numerous government subsidies in the Portland area for a variety of projects.
The investor group received $8.1 million at a zero interest rate to renovate the old Meier and Frank warehouse in the Pearl for the new Vestas U.S. headquarters.
Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturer, has seen better days. Last week the company announced it is laying off 2,335 employees after missing several revenue and profit targets.
The loan to the Gerding Edlen is the single largest zero interest loan made by the PDC to date and shows that PDC has yet to shut off the faucet to cheap money, even with a reworking of its loan programs.
Somebody should dig up, and publish, all the documents on that transaction. It would make interesting reading indeed. If Vestas gets sold or goes under, which seems more likely all the time, somebody's going to get burned. Probably the taxpayers -- certainly not the developer. This is Portland, after all.
Satirist Stephen Colbert has been having a lot of fun with his "super-PAC" -- his political action committee. One of the hilarious things he's done with it is to set up on the side a "civic league," a so-called 501(c)(4) organization, to show that although PACs are transparent, 501(c)(4)'s are not. And the 501(c)(4) corporation, which does not have to disclose its donors, can make contributions to the PAC,with the PAC never saying where the 501(c)(4) got its money. Colbert compares it to money laundering, and as usual, it's hard to disagree with him.
It's a ridiculous system, quite worthy of the lampoon. And while guffawing at the absurdity of it all, we can't help but think about the Bus Project, brainchild of Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, which is set up the same way. As we found out when we looked last fall, with "Bus," there's a PAC, and a 501(c)(4). They're both called "Bus" something or other, there's overlap of personnel, and the stage seems set for the type of quiet back-door funding that Colbert makes fun of.
But with the Bus Project, things get even more brazen than they are on TV, in that there's a third organization called "Bus," a section 501(c)(3) organization, also in the picture. Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations are not only discreet, but they're also tax-deductible (unlike gifts to 501(c)(4)'s). And so it appears that the Smithmeister not only is organized to push the envelope as Colbert illustrates, but he also throws the prospect of tax-deductibility into the enterprise.
We're sure the smug folks at the Bus complex think they have it all covered legally. Maybe they do. But just maybe, a tax auditor could have a field day looking into the tangled arrangements over there. In any event, when we're laughing along with Colbert, Portland voters should remember who's prominently in the group that he's damning with his humor.
Today the venerable Portland weekly feeds us not one, not two, not three, but four stories about pot. (Maybe more -- are we missing any?)
Is this an indirect slam on state attorney general candidate Dwight Holton, who as acting U.S. attorney battled marijuana? Then again, maybe they just like a good buzz over there. Sometimes a blunt is just a blunt.
The O buries the lead on this story, a followup to yesterday's announcement of 25 layoffs in Portland by Iberdrola, the Spanish wind energy firm:
Mayor Adams traveled to Spain a year ago to try persuading Iberdrola to stay in Portland. He said Tuesday that the city is doing everything possible to retain the company. Asked whether incentives have been offered, Adams said he was "not willing to talk about that."
Scott Andrews, board chairman for the Portland Development Commission, said the agency remains in discussions with Iberdrola. He's confident the company's headquarters will stay in Portland. With layoffs out of the way, company officials are expected to solidify plans in a matter of weeks, he said.
Andrews expects the company to keep its Brewery Blocks location, where it's been since 2003. As recently as last year, Iberdrola officials considered expanding at the U.S. Bancorp Tower or in buildings not yet built. Iberdrola's local leases, for about 85,000 square feet in two buildings, expire in 2013.
Some form of public subsidy for Iderdrola [sic] has been widely expected, especially after the PDC in 2010 issued a no-interest loan to help fund construction of a new headquarters for turbine-maker Vestas. That will cost taxpayers $2.6 million.
"It's not going to be of the same magnitude as a new building or a new location with a promise of 'x' number of jobs over a period of time," Andrews said of an investment for Iberdrola.
But some financial contribution is likely to keep Iberdrola in Portland, he said, adding: "I think that's worth something."
Secret deals, handouts of public money to private corporations... foreign corporations, at that... Ain't that the Portland way. As long as it's "green," nobody's supposed to ask any questions.
According to this story from a year ago, Iberdrola had 350 jobs in Portland. Apparently, that's down to 325. How big a perfectly legal bribe should they be offered to stay here?
The tax policy wonks, the presidential campaign followers, and many others are grinding out the commentary about Willard "Mitt" Romney's tax return, which hit the intertubes yesterday, all 203 pages of it. One of the things folks are focusing on is the candidate and his wife's effective (average) rate of tax -- an obvious indicator of whether the guy's paying a fair share of his income to support the federal government. But we think that most of the media commentators have got the rate a little too high, because they're looking at the wrong taxes.
The writers, including at both Timeses (L.A. and N.Y.), say that Romney's tax rate in 2010 was 13.9%. But they're counting self-employment tax in there, and that's not included in what most people think of when you ask them their federal income tax rate. Self-employment tax all goes to Social Security and Medicare, and for most folks, that sort of tax is sent off to the federal government as "FICA" -- taken out of their paycheck (matched by their employers), and never appearing on their tax returns at all. And so we don't think it's really fair to be taking that tax into account when computing the Rommeister's tax rate. (They're probably also including the payroll tax that the Romneys paid toward their household servants' Social Security and Medicare, which is also not what most people would think of as the couple's federal income tax.)
In 2010, the Romneys forked over $29,150 of self-employment tax on self-employment income of just under $594,000 -- around 4.9% of that income, all of which went to Social Security and Medicare. (It was actually 15.3% on the first $108,800 of self-employment income, and 2.9% on the rest.) The payroll tax on the household servants was $4,270.
If you leave self-employment and payroll tax out of the equation -- the way most people do when they talk about federal income tax -- the Romneys' tax was $2,976,345, on gross income of $21,661,344. That works out to an effective tax rate of 13.7404%.
Even after taking his deductions and getting hit by the alternative minimum tax (which even upper-middle-class folks like ourselves pay), Romney made out like a bandit. His taxable income was $17,120,067, and his tax was $2,976,345. You math majors out there already have the rate: 17.39%. Not bad.
We keep waiting for Eileen Brady to show us that she'll do something different, something smarter, at Portland City Hall. But we read this sort of stuff -- she's all for more "urban renewal," in with the Portland State developer cabal, pave over wildlife habitat on West Hayden Island for the Goldschmidt boys at the Port, more light rail, the whole works -- and we have to conclude that she's not worthy of our vote. And since Streetcar Charlie from Camas and Jeffer-Sten Jeffer-Sam Smith are completely out of the question, that leaves us with candidates who haven't got a prayer. We may as well pick one, and there's a lot to be said for the 19-year-old candidate who tells it like it is. So he's got our endorsement. We're voting for Max Brumm. Seriously.
If Portland takes Hales, at least it will know what it is buying, and it deserves the mess it will get. With Brady, the promise is kind of vague, but the program actually produced will be much the same as it is now. It's a bit like the upcoming Obama-Romna: Who cares? The middle class is screwed either way. Maybe it will be less painful with less hypocrisy.
A closely held Portland business that's competing against the lumbering giants of its industry is now also battling rogues of a different kind. Let's hope that they keep their chin up, and hang tough. And that the cops and the neighbors are extra vigilant on their behalf.
More layoffs on the sustainable front. We don't recall there being a lot of local subsidy for this outfit, but if there was, it isn't paying off. Condolences to the 25 Portlanders with pink slips in hand.
Bowing to pressure, Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax return this morning. It's here, along with a lot of related tax documents (including an estimate of his 2011 taxes, which haven't been filed yet). But before you start digging into it, you might want to grab a 20-ounce coffee (or a 40-ounce malt liquor): The basic 1040 form is 203 pages long.
So far, we've gotten as far as seeing that he had $21.6 million of income last year, on which he paid U.S. income tax of just under $3 million. His tax compared to his gross was 13.75%.
We've been enjoying the Blazer games on TV a lot more with the sound turned off, and the radio on sometimes. We get the radio call about a second ahead of the picture, but that's o.k. In this screwed-up partial season, everything about the pro hoops game is a little off anyway.
Watching the tube without audio is pretty revealing, especially the ads. It's a lot easier to perceive how the images work on your mind without the cover of the sound.
Probably the most revealing aspect of our Mute Strategy is to get a good look at the announcer guys we've shut off. Especially Mike Barrett, the television play-by-play guy. His commentary is so boring that we can't stand it. And the look he gives when he's on camera -- well, it just screams "I hate this job." Never smiles, never shows any enthusiasm -- his facial expressions alternate among suspicion, fatigue, and anger. What a way to suck the life out of what is supposed to be entertainment.
And don't get us started on the ads. Adjourning to the bedroom with the Spirit Mountain babe in the red dress gets creepier by the month, and it's a lot more obvious without the audio track. We've had a lot of fantasy fun with her, but now it's over. We request an annulment. It's not her -- it's us.
O columnist Steve Duin posted a howler this weekend: Now that the City of Portland's being sued for wasting water bureau revenue on unrelated pet projects of the city commissioners, and now that the council is being threatened by a charter amendment that would take water rate setting out of its hands, Fireman Randy is fighting back. He's got Opie Sten's former chief lackey, Rich Rodgers, on the charter revision commission, and the two of them are reportedly trying to subvert the charter review process to validate the illegal water spending and kill off meaningful oversight of water rates by an independent body.
How stunningly ugly. And how typical.
Rodgers, the "genius" behind "voter-owed elections" and "free municipal wi-fi," must have ambitions for public office some day. He's not rehabilitating himself by defending the "water house," that's for sure. With 343 days to go in the Admiral's command, Rodgers is putting his eggs in a pretty beat-up-looking basket.
Here's a bit of a startler from the Trib: Over the past four or five years, the Portland public schools have spent $1.7 million on an outside consultant to conduct diversity training. Sheesh. The school district already has Lolenzo Poe on the pad as "chief equity and diversity officer" at around $122,000 a year. There is also one, and who knows how many other, "equity specialists" on staff. But apparently, an outside consultant is also a necessity.
And oh, what a message he is delivering:
White Talk is "verbal, impersonal, intellectual and task oriented," Singleton describes, while Color Commentary is "nonverbal, personal, emotional and process oriented."
"Safer interracial dialogue," he writes, happens when we "monitor" our styles and balance the conversation to ensure fuller participation — for instance, if a parent wants to hear from a teacher that her child is being respectful in class, while the teacher is just focusing on the child’s academics.
The thinking is that such background will help teachers avoid labeling their students "disrespectful" for talking out of turn in the classroom, says PPS equity specialist Paula DePass Dennis.
"They’re not meaning to be, it’s just who they are or that’s what their communication style is," she says. "They need to not be penalized every time they do something that’s natural to them. They’re being penalized because it doesn’t fit well in the structure we set up for them."
Does that sound like a recipe for success, in school and in life? Sometimes we can't help feeling that with friends like the Portland School District, racial justice doesn't need enemies.
Last week, when the Clackistani rebels gathered to discuss their ballot measure to kill off Tri-Met's Milwaukie Mystery Train once and for all, they did so at the Milwaukie Elks Lodge, which is on McLaughlin Boulevard down toward Oak Grove. Some of the anti-rail activists who showed up for the meeting learned a few new things that night. One of them is that the area's apartment bunker pushers have that Elks lodge in their sights for demolition. Once the Milwaukie MAX is run down that way, the lodge would be torn down and replaced by low-income housing, to the enrichment of some favored developer and to the detriment of the folks who currently use the place.
What would it take to stop this? It's not entirely clear, but according to the locals, strengthening the membership rolls at the lodge might be a step in the right direction. Without more members, the Elks won't be able to fend off the bad apartments. The dues are reportedly dirt cheap -- something like $140 a year for a family. We never thought we'd be tempted, but it might be worth a small investment to become an Elk (or some sort of Elk affiliate) down there, if for no other reason than to make a statement against the spread of the hideous bunkers that are sucking the character out of our area.
Kelly may fly coop before chickens come home to roost
It's becoming a standard story: A college football coach appears to break the recruiting rules, and before his school is disciplined for it, he runs away to coach in the professional ranks. It happened at U.S.C., and now it's happening at U.C. Nike (located in Eugene). But as old Chipster reportedly exits the scene of his problems, apparently he's contractually bound to leave many millions of dollars behind as a penalty for terminating his contract early. Gee, we certainly hope so, but ridding our state of this unsavory fellow is priceless. And good luck with the gimmicks in the pro's, pal.
The New York Football Giants won a hard-fought overtime battle in the City by the Bay this evening, setting up a Super Bowl match against New England in a couple of weeks. For the second time today, a special teams problem undid one of the Harbaugh brothers. The final standings in our season-long charity underdog game are therefore as follows:
With a classic choking-place-kicker ending, the Baltimore Birds have surrendered a Super Bowl berth to Tom Brady and his man purse. Congratulations are in order, then, for the winners of our underdog game:
First prize - $510 to player's favorite charity - Pete Rozelle
Second prize - $135 to player's favorite charity - John Ch.
Second prize - $135 to player's favorite charity - Michael K.
Fourth prize - $75 to player's favorite charity - Usual Kevin
Fifth prize - $55 to player's favorite charity - PDXileinOmaha
Winners, take a while to think about where you'd like your prize to go, then shoot me an e-mail message with your choice. The recipient must be a nonprofit organization recognized under section 501(c)(3). We'll post the charities, and get the checks out, when we have them all.
Thanks to all our 33 players, who made it a memorable season. We'll do a little analysis of this year's 'dogs over the next week or so, for what it's worth.
For the 'dog pickers, it's all up to the Big Daddies now
It's kickoff time in the pro football conference finals, and here is how the players in our charity underdog prediction game have called it:
7.5 BALTIMORE at New England - AKevin, Bob, Rudie, Gordon, genop, genop's gal, Tommy W., Paul, Carol, Larry Legend, NoPoGuy, Grizfan, Broadway Joe, Weavmo, Drewbob, Eric W., Gary
2.5 NEW YORK GIANTS at San Francisco - Bayou Baby, Biggest Cubs Loser, Pete Rozelle, Usual Kevin, jmh, PDXileinOmaha, Ricardo, John Cr., Michael K., umpire, John Ch., Annie
With the standings in our game packed so tightly at the top, we won't know until the first game is over exactly whose charity is going to win which prize, and if Baltimore wins that game, much will be left undecided until the second game. We've been scouting out the various scenarios, and here are our unofficial thoughts on what the outcomes of the games will mean -- all subject to further review:
Interestingly, all five of the top players in our current standings have taken New York, and the next five have all picked Baltimore. As result, all of our top 10 players are still in the run for the money.
If neither underdog wins, last week's standings become final, and the prizewinners are:
1. Pete Rozelle 49
2. John Ch. 48
3. Michael K. 48
4. Usual Kevin 47.5
5. PDXileinOmaha 46
If the Giants win and Baltimore loses, it's the same five in the same order, with 2.5 more points each.
If both 'dogs prevail, the prizes go to:
1. AKevin 53
1. Carol 53
3. Pete Rozelle 51.5
4. John Ch. 50.5
4. Michael K. 50.5
If Baltimore wins and the Giants lose:
1. AKevin 53
1. Carol 53
3. Paul 49.5
4. Gordon 49
4. Larry Legend 49
4. Pete Rozelle 49
Pete Rozelle is the only player who's guaranteed to bring home a prize for his favorite charity. Congratulations to him. And he will be the grand prize winner if Baltimore loses. If Baltimore wins, AKevin and Carol will share top prize, no matter what happens with the Giants, but third through fifth will be up for grabs in the evening.
For Usual Kevin and PDXileinOmaha, New England is a must-win. For AKevin, Carol, Paul, Gordon, and Larry Legend, Baltimore is a must-win. And that contest, in chilly New England, starts now. Have a great day, and enjoy the games, all.
One of the stars of our beloved mid-'70s New York Knicks has been having his medical issues. Which is truly sad, because in his prime, the man had, as they used to say, "more moves than Ex-Lax." We wish him and his family peace through his current ordeals.
Etta was a road warrior and kept up a heavy touring schedule despite her health issues. I was lucky enough to see her many times, and it was thrilling to watch her, all 300-plus pounds of her, command the room and wield her sexuality so deftly, leaning on a stool for support sometimes but so playful and confident, man she was sexy and she knew it, and she knew you knew it. Then she would get serious and let loose on a blues that would wrench the soul out of you and leave you stunned. It's easy to think of her as someone with a deep well of loneliness, knowing about her precarious childhood and her history of addictions. You just had to look at her in those years to see that her hunger was larger than her ability to satisfy it. If she was singing to quench an unquenchable longing, then we all know something of that longing, and its expression in her music was a kind of magic. To transform an absence of love into an expression of love that resounded in so many of us.
The Danish windmill company with its U.S. headquarters in Portland is really on the ropes, and it sure looks as though we'll be dealing with new management, if not new ownership, shortly:
Investors, citing the company’s bad track record and inability to deliver projects on time, are now calling on management, including CEO Ditlev Engel, to step down. When asked about his future at the press conference announcing the job cuts, Engel said he had no plans to resign.
Jakob Pedersen of Sydbank said that confidence in Vestas is "blown completely away."
This is not the first time that Vestas has closed factories. In November 2010, it made similar moves that cost 3,000 jobs in Scandanavia. Some investors and analysts are insisting that the company’s management is the problem.
Vestas is warning that the current round of cuts may not be enough if the Production Tax Credit (PTC) is not extended in the United States. The entire wind industry is calling on US lawmakers to extend the PTC, which grants companies a financial incentive per kilowatt-hour of wind power they generate.
"We will evaluate … 2012 entirely on how the political situation evolves," Engel said.
The current round of reductions cost 182 US workers their jobs and Vestas said 1,600 more are threatened if the PTC is not extended.
Industry analysts said that the US market has turned into a massive disappointment for Vestas and other wind turbine manufacturers.
That super-sweetheart deal the company made with Portland's "urban renewal" geniuses looks worse and worse for the city's taxpayers by the day.
Players in our charity pro football underdog game, don't forget to send in your final 'dog pick. Even if you're not one of the 10 players still in the running for a prize, there's pride involved here, people! And with only two games left, it's as easy as eenie meenie miney moe.
The deadline for all selections is noon Pacific Time tomorrow.
Streetcar whiners, and the newspaper that loves them
We've been complaining a lot lately about all the editorializing on the "news" pages of the Oregonian, but this is really ridiculous. Now that the wishes of the vast majority of Lake Oswego residents have finally been heeded by the local politicians -- they've killed off the insane plan for a streetcar to Portland -- suddenly several of the developer pimps have quit city government and started making speeches about how "ugly" the city's politics have become. And the O reporter just laps up the whining and prints it.
There's nothing "ugly" about what has happened in Lake Oswego. Even with a sleazy push poll designed to get the answers they wanted, the streetcar pushers at City Hall (doing the bidding of rogue Portland developer Homer Williams) couldn't deny that most of the folks whom they represent simply didn't want any more money spent on the streetcar. And so finally, after millions of dollars blown denying the obvious, a slim majority on the City Council saw the light and killed it.
That's called democracy.
The people who are quitting are sore losers who cared less about the well being of the city than they did about pleasing their developer overlords (one of whom is a convicted bank fraud artist). The only thing that's been "ugly" was their arrogant refusal to listen to what a majority of their constituents want, and their huffy resignations when they didn't get their way.
Yes, at times, the rhetoric has gotten heated. But that was the only way to deal with the mayor and the streetcar bobbleheads sitting next to him. They played every angle, leaving the majority no choice but to fight back vigorously. It wasn't always polite, because politeness would have played right into the developer manipulators' hands.
It's not "ugly" in Lake Oswego. It's just real. The political scene down there hasn't looked this good in years. And the O has never looked worse. They've hired as reporters a bunch of kids who either don't get it, or do get it and are looking to score a more stable p.r. job with government or the real estate sharpies. Nobody at the paper insists on critical thinking any more. How the editors can look themselves in the eye in the mirror in the morning is becoming quite a mystery. Maybe they're hoping for p.r. jobs, too.
The Portland convention center hotel scam is back. The stinker convention center, which as voters wisely sensed should never have been expanded, wasn't bad enough. With a boondoggle hotel, suddenly it will break even after years of financially devastating losses.
The Oregon Convention Center posted an operating loss of $10 million on revenue of $19 million. That compares to an $8.3 million loss on $16.6 million in revenue the prior year. The convention center hosted 469 events attended by 570,400 people. The total economic benefit to hotels, restaurants and other businesses is calculated at $449.6 million and 4,260 jobs. Multnomah County, home to the convention center, is the largest beneficiary, garnering $343.6 million in spending and 3,260 jobs. Clackamas County benefited from $17.1 million in spending and 430 jobs. Washington County benefited from $60.4 million and 570 jobs. Convention center-related activities generated nearly $15.5 million in tax revenue for local, regional and state government in the form of income taxes, lodging taxes and corporate taxes.
Sure. Let's all send a thank you note to Hoffman Construction. Thank you for the convention center! It's such a big part of why Portland's doing so well these days. And thank you, Vera, for everything -- especially Sam Adams.
Of course, the lobotomized "journalists" in town play right along:
Today, construction costs are down by 10 percent and interest rates on bonds are down 1 to 1.5 points. And hotel operators are on the prowl for projects. Metro reported that it has been contacted by numerous organizations that want to enter the Portland market, making it more likely that a private developer, not taxpayers, could shoulder the cost.
The controversial hotel project is considered a critical amenity for the Oregon Convention Center, which reportedly loses business because it can’t provide the large blocks of rooms organizers demand. Elisa Dozono, a MERC commissioner, said a legal group she belongs to pitched Portland for its 2013 convention but lost to Kansas City because Portland couldn’t muster 400 rooms near the convention center.
The number of hotel opponents interviewed for that "article"? Let's see... that'd be zero.
There's only one way that hotel will ever be built, folks, and that's on the backs of taxpayers. If it made sense financially, private money would have done it a long time ago.
Maybe it's time for the Clackistani rebels, who are successfully battling "urban renewal" malarkey in their neck of the woods, to come up with some candidates for the Metro council who can put a stop to this kind of theft once and for all. We'd vote for any candidate who said "No convention center hotel, ever."
The powers that be are determined to start shipping coal from Wyoming and Montana to China through our region. The latest news is that it's going to be going through the Port of St. Helens. Once it goes through our environment on the way west, it will come back through our environment in the form of air pollution. But somebody will make loads of money.
If the Port of St. Helens has got enough extra capacity to ship all that coal to Asia, why is the Port of Portland so hot to pave over bald eagle habitat on Hayden Island for even more export facilities? For all our "green" talk, we seem no different from environmentally dirty money-grubbers anywhere else.
And leading the public relations front on behalf of the coal and dock interests? Why, it's none other than Brian Gard of Portland. The official flack of Neil Goldschmidt & Co. He and his clients always have the public's best interests at heart, and they would never lie to you.
We've got to admit, we're drawn more to the spectacle of pro football (American, not soccer) than ever before. This year we could care less about basketball -- at least until the Super Bowl is behind us in a few weeks, we're glued to the NFL. It seems fixed -- the officiating in the Packers-Giants game last week stunk to high heaven -- but it's still extremely satisfying to watch, despite the mindless brutality.
Why is that? Well, for one thing, we have our charity underdog prediction contest going, and it puts a spin on the proceedings that keeps us paying close attention.
And here's an interesting article with some other reasons, including one really intriguing one:
Women are acquiring more social and economic power. Paradoxically, this is good for football. A quirky 1995 book, "The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football," contended that increasing women's freedom will cause men to retreat into the realm of football, in which macho rules and women's sole role is to look pretty and cheer for the men.
The author, Mariah Burton Nelson, a former Stanford basketball player, believed men would contrive to suppress women's athletics, a view that turned out completely wrong. But her larger point has stood the test of time. Nelson supposed that the more assertive and influential women become, moving into what were once all-male preserves, the more men would find solace in the one aspect of society that women can never, ever take over -- football.
Hey, Portland water users, we've got some good news and some bad news for you. First the good news: Instead of billing you quarterly, the water bureau's going to bill you monthly. That's a good thing, because at the rate water and sewer bills are growing in this town, the typical household's quarterly bill is going to contain a number with a comma in it pretty soon.
Several readers have alerted us to this one: Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith is throwing a party for his supporters, and it's going to feature some unique entertainment:
100% Portland: A Party with A Purpose - January 26th, 7-10 pm - Bossanova Ballroom - 722 East Burnside
Join us for a celebration of Portland’s innovative spirit, culture, and pioneering policies. We’ll take you on a tour with fire dancers, aerialists, jugglers, puppeteers, and a comedian who says he knows what it takes to be a truly Kick Ass Portland Mayor. DJ Prashant will be rocking bhangra tunes late into the night, and he'll kick off the official after-party with a Bollywood dance lesson. We’ll talk shop with you about the city, and ask how we can all help make it exceptionally livable for every Portlander.
Ah, the jugglers. Remember when Erik "Opie" Sten threw a campaign kickoff event that was a lot like this? That was back when the taxpayers of Portland were paying all his campaign expenses under his dopey, illegal, and ultimately voter-rejected "clean money" program. At least this time, if the jugglers get paid, it will come out of the pockets of whoever's foolish enough to give money to try to get Smith elected.
The similarities between Smith and Sten are intriguing. They're both cut from the same cloth -- the Bus project, Willy Week, "candidates gone wild," that whole crowd. Sten, with the help of The Wiener, painted himself as a tireless champion of all things Portland -- playing with those adorable little African-American kids in the schoolyard. And then one morning he woke up, decided he was bored, and took his mysterious wealth over to Bend to play real estate games, never to be heard from again. What a faker. And Smith is the same deal, maybe worse. 100% ego, and ready to latch onto whatever fad comes down the pike. Free wi-fi. "Voter-owned elections." PGE Park. South Waterfront. There's so much more where that came from.
At least Sten didn't have a record of skipping out on court dates, the way Smith does. In that respect, Mr. Bus Project more closely resembles the current mayor of Portland. He's Sten and Adams, all in one package. By all means, juggle on, people.
Bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 goes back on standby
The Great Slushpocalypse of 2012, which paralyzed Portland for a full 20 minutes in the middle of the night the other night, is now behind us. And so we've turned off StormCenter 9000.2 for the moment. But remember -- at any moment, things could change. The temperature could drop 25 degrees and it could drop a foot of snow on Portland, just like that. You never know. So always check in here for full team coverage, from the city's best source of weather language. We look out the window, so you don't have to.
Next Portland boondoggle: new performing arts center?
Portland's "unique" Metro government is tipping its hand here: Suddenly it wants your opinion of the area's performing arts venues. Since they can't pull off a publicly financed convention center hotel, the Metro folks seemingly have to throw the construction boys some other make-work project. It sounds as though we taxpayers are about to buy a new theater or two that we hardly need. It would make the Reedies happy. And funny thing, this is right when Charlie Hales is selling himself as an arts enthusiast. We smell a backroom deal that's already been cut.
Now that Homer Williams's condo development scheme for Lake Oswego has been trashed, his admirers in that burg's City Hall are jumping ship. Today the city manager quit, and the mayor and one member of the City Council say they won't run for re-election. "Love me, love my boondoggle," apparently. A fond farewell to that crew -- and a chance for saner minds to take the reins down there. Like this one, perhaps.
Was she really a "founder" of New Seasons? Willy Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss puts his Pulitzer back in a drawer and spends some of our time splitting hairs about the meaning of that word, in an obvious hit piece. It's not their first.
For a publication that's enamored of Brady's rival, Jefferson Smith -- a classic half-truth-teller whose past is full of frightening incidents, and whose sole claim to fame is founding a PAC-charity-501(c)(4) machine -- it's truly ironic. The more they try to beat up on Brady, the more likely it is that we'll vote for her.
Corporate media like Disney want the power to shut down websites they don't like without a trial or a court hearing. They've got plenty of toupees in Congress bought and paid for, and they're making their big move. Gatsby Wyden is fighting back -- he's good for a few things -- and outfits like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Mozilla are joining in with online demonstrations.
There's a lot of damage being done to free speech in this country in the name of copyright protection. Everybody who uses the internet -- and these days, who doesn't? -- should be concerned.
Wonder what the new Portland pension number's going to be
We're due any day now to be getting some news about the City of Portland's biggest financial scandal -- its completely unfunded police and firefighter disability and retirement "system." Portland puts nothing aside for this purpose; cop and fire pensions and disability benefits are paid out of current property taxes. The pension hit eats up about 25 cents of every dollar in property taxes that Portland property owners pay to the city. Members of the public safety bureaus hired in the last five years or so are under a different system, but the vast majority of the forces, active and retired, are under the old, unfunded jalopy. Other cities freak out when their pensions are only 70 percent funded; here in Portland, we party on at zero percent.
The city tries pretty hard not to do a serious calculation of its unfunded liability for the police and fire pensions unless it absolutely has to. That means that it brings in an outside actuary to take a thorough look at the numbers only once every two years. In the meantime, the city has the actuary merely warm over the numbers from the last complete review, which doesn't give a highly reliable picture. Another game that's been played in recent years has to been to switch actuaries and switch the assumptions on which the liability calculation is based. That makes it hard to compare apples with apples.
One thing we do know is that the amount of benefits paid out each year under the system, currently about $100 million, is expected to double over the next 20 years. That is scary. It means that the pensions will probably eat up a greater percentage of the city's property taxes than they do now, and it's already obscenely high. Portland is getting near the point at which it will be paying more for retired public safety officers than for currently active ones.
Anyway, the city's due any day now for a new hard look at the public safety pension liability -- to be calculated as of last July 1. The bureaucrats have stalled for more than six months, but surely they have at least tentative numbers. They'll have to break the news to the public pretty soon. The last estimate the actuaries gave, as of July 1, 2010, was $2.549 billion. Heaven only knows what it will be this time, other than way too much.
In a related story, we see that the City Council is going to appoint a professional actuary, rather than a low-level politician, to the vacancy on the city's pension and disability board. That's a relief. But that deal is nothing but trouble for the future of the city.
The heavy snow has turned to heavy rain outside Blog Central, and the accumulated white stuff on the ground is being turned into some ice cold, dirty slush puddles. The snow's stopping the flow to the sewers, and the rain's really coming down. Should be one heck of a sloppy mess to schlep around in this morning. Thank goodness we don't have to.
The scene on the street at the moment reminds us of our days growing up in urban New Jersey. After a big snow and a thaw, the slush hung around for weeks. When you stepped in one of those gray-brown puddles, you could never quite be sure how deep it was. If all you had on over your Buster Brown shoes were rubbers, and you guessed wrong about the depth, you'd be in for a rude awakening. Your Ban-Lon socks didn't do much against dirty, oily ice water.
One really nasty phenomenon was the refreezing of the slush, which made it pure death to try to walk or drive a car on. Fortunately for us here in Portlandia, we'll be having none of that. It's 37 degrees Fahrenheit and climbing now, and the temperature is supposed to be in the low 50s before the day is over. Such is winter in these parts.
It's a thrill a minute here at bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2. It's still snowing, although not as hard it was an hour ago, and the temperature on the front porch has plummeted to 34.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow is sticking to the streets now. Our worst fears are realized! Hang on tight, and stay tuned for further updates. Do not go outside for any reason. Check your supplies of canned food and candles.
It has been snowing for the better part of an hour here at Blog Central. Steadily and pretty hard. Big, wet snow.
It's warm enough (35.6F) that nothing is really sticking, but there's a thin layer of white on the rooftops, the cars, and the grass. Cancel everything! Stay indoors! We'll have all the latest updates here all night. Team coverage! Of the brutal storm of '12.
Metro councilor Rex Burkholder, whose bid to become Metro president failed when voters realized what a flake he is, has come out in support of the proposed Multnomah County sales tax on soda. He says it should fund the Outdoor School program. But come on, you know he's really aroused by the tax because it represents more government-compelled "behavior change." He wants to Blumenauer you.
Give Washington tax auditors a taste of their own medicine
A faithful reader of this blog with a wealth of first-hand experience in interstate and international tax matters wrote us with a brilliant insight over the weekend. As illustrated by the recent case involving the demise of the Mattress World store empire, the State of Washington is getting aggressive with Oregon businesses about collecting its state sales tax on sales to Washington residents. We're not sure whether Mattress World had that decent a case, but we've heard stories about other Oregon companies who are being subjected to intense sales tax scrutiny from Washington State, all of a sudden and without good cause.
Even if an Oregon business doesn't deliver into Washington, lately the revenue folks in Olympia are seeking to force it to collect sales tax. The federal constitution (as interpreted by the courts) says Washington can't do that unless the Oregon business has a "nexus" with Washington, but the tax-hungry revenuers up there are asserting "economic nexus" in cases in which the seller's contact with their state is minimal.
Well, as the reader points out, two can play that game. When they audit Portland businesses on sales tax issues, Washington revenue agents often visit the businesses' headquarters on this side of Columbia. Indeed, for complicated audits, the agents sometimes spend many days in Oregon. And they come from all over the country. "The auditors generally spent a week or longer in our office while gathering information," reports our reader. "Many states also schedule audits with other Oregon-based companies at the same time to lessen their travel expense. That means that some must have spent two or three weeks in Oregon during the year."
Now, under the Oregon income tax system, nonresidents must pay income tax to Oregon on their Oregon-source income. And any money they make by performing services in Oregon is treated as Oregon-source, regardless of where their employer is and regardless of where their home office is. Just ask Kobe Bryant, or Charlie Hales, about that. And so when the Washington state tax folks drive down to Oregon to conduct their investigations here, they subject themselves, personally, to Oregon income tax.
How many of them do you think are paying it? Maybe it's time for the Oregon Department of Revenue to find out.
A comment came in to this blog late last night that deserves a post and discussion of its own. A reader writes:
My Portland story isn't all that different from those of many others who have left, but I feel it's worth telling. Over the years, my political and philosophical values have been re-shaped by living in this city. I'm thankful.
My spouse and I have lived in the Portland Metro Area for most of our lives, including the last couple of decades. We have owned a home in the City of Portland for nearly that long. Now we are selling and leaving for good.
We were happy to move back to this area twenty years ago when the economy was relatively better here. Back then, the cost of living in Oregon was markedly lower than it is now, and there was less government overhead.
At first we rented in the suburbs. When the time came, we wanted to own in the City of Portland. I didn't think much about the political or financial implications at that time. It just seemed like fun.
We bought our first home on the east side, just after the last drug house left an otherwise nice neighborhood. We soon learned that we had squirrelly neighbors. Although generally quiet, bullets occasionally whizzed by.
One round broke the window of my car while it was parked out front. People sped by at all hours. Hmm. Even locals didn't respect the neighborhood. Families dumped their picnic trash right in the park's grass.
My commute was by car at first, but then I started busing downtown. Long bus rides, but I was still willing. Bus problems slowly ramped up. One fight at Lloyd Center had me trapped in the back, with nowhere to go.
The Multnomah County income tax was a real thorn in my side, but still I did not leave the city or county. Even when we were ready to move away from the first house, I chose to stay in Portland proper. Why?
We moved to a closer-in (and arguably nicer) neighborhood. We hoped to improve our lot, and it was exciting. The new neighborhood was even more walkable, convenient to downtown, and otherwise full of activity.
I replaced 7-gallon toilets with low-flush. There was no rebate or incentive; I paid for it because I felt like saving water. I would have made more upgrades, but the cost of living soaked up money that I would have used for improvements.
We donated our second car, and I committed to the bus. Then Frequent Service became rather infrequent. Even at that, scheduled runs frequently went missing. This route is frequently at crush capacity at 9AM.
TriMet removed the trashcan at my stop, and now there's a drift of garbage around the shelter, which is vandalized frequently. Meanwhile, sketchy guys ride by slowly on stolen bikes, peering up my driveway. They don't seem worried about arrest.
We were never allowed to plant street trees (parking strip was too narrow), but we were aggressively billed for leaf pickup. CoP built lovely bioswales all over the neighborhood, reducing street parking. The road surfaces are always in need of repair.
There's still one of those WiFi cans hanging from a light post. I never was able to connect, although it's only 100 feet away. The main street into our neighborhood is closed for many months, and many narrow stretches are effectively one lane.
Remember, this is a "nicer" neighborhood. We are paying IMHO high property taxes (over $1/sqft) on a very modest lot. Taking out the trash has now become a trial. The slop bucket is terribly messy, and the price is far too high for half the service.
The neighbors have turned out to be mostly shrill, judgmental, and dismissive -- they are reflexively political on every issue. In Portland, taxpayers and homeowners are held in contempt -- even by taxpayers and homeowners. I never understood that.
Plastic bag bans. Mandatory ethanol in the gas (terrible for my mileage, causing me to burn more). Cigarette butts in my grass. Solicitors nagging me all the time (the sign is useless). Normal city life? Sure. The shiny happy Portland image? Heck no.
The Portland and Multnomah governments are an embarrassment. The thought of them representing me is a joke. I give up. We're buying in a smaller community, in another county. Feel free to conduct your social experiment without us.
For now I still work in the city, but my goal is to remedy that as well. I used to love just being downtown, but no longer. I enjoyed walking through downtown, PSU, Riverplace, and using MAX to visit the Zoo area. It just seemed safer.
Now I wouldn't ride MAX at all, and it's neither safe nor enjoyable to walk many places in downtown during the nice months. People have been assaulted in the secured office building where I worked. Folks will move in if you don't constantly patrol.
Lasting image: A smug junkie taking a big dump in the rose bushes in the Park Blocks, right in front of the Art Museum. This was mid-day in summer -- tourists, grandparents, children, &c. everywhere. The police can't do a thing about it.
The folks who write up the news at Portland's daily newspaper are really bending the line between fact and opinion these days. They all want to be columnists, in an era when their employer has no more money for columnists. So their biases bleed all over the paper.
Here's a maddening example from Joseph Rose last week. In it, he expresses his opinions that (a) the recent beating incident on the MAX train was not a hate crime, and (b) Tri-Met is a safe mode of transportation. Those are really interesting opinions. We think they're both wrong, but that's not the point. The real sin here is that the same fellow who reports "commuter news" can state them as if they were fact, on a web page that doesn't clearly identify them as his opinion. In fact, it's under the "News" tab, not the "Opinion" tab, on the top of the web page.
Then there's this piece by Brad Schmidt, one of two City Hall reporters. In it, he states as a given that streetcar and light rail projects will continue to expand in Portland, come hell or high water. No matter that there will be two, and maybe three, new City Council members next year. No matter that the city's debt picture is out of control. No matter that opponents of rail are suddenly winning battles in Lake Oswego and Clackamas County. No one is interviewed but a City Hall type, and her spin is offered as an immutable truth.
Then reporter Everton Bailey Jr. tells us that the Lake Oswego streetcar "was expected to foster economic development." No mention of whose expectation that was. No mention that that assertion is open to debate, and was vigorously debated in Lake Oswego. The implication is that the link between streetcars and economic prosperity is proven. It's a given. Don't argue. No skepticism at all.
It's hard to tell which of these guys is actively rooting for the bureaucrats, which is simply having his critical thinking blunted by being around them all day, and which just doesn't fully comprehend what he's writing about. We have our suspicions, but whichever of those is the case, it's not good.
7.5 BALTIMORE at New England
2.5 NEW YORK GIANTS at San Francisco
A reminder of our prize structure:
First prize - $510 to player's favorite charity
Second prize - $165 to player's favorite charity
Third prize - $105 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize - $75 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize - $55 to player's favorite charity
We still have 10 players with a shot at the five prizes. In fact, all 10 have at least a mathematical possibility of getting a piece of the first prize. But everybody else in the contest, don't give up -- make that last pick just for pride. Folks at the top, good luck with the chess game.
In case of ties, the prizes will be split. For example, if two players are tied for second, we'll combine second ($165) and third ($105) and give their charities each half ($135 each). There are no tiebreakers in the underdog contest.
He issues his usual bleats and Tweets about snow, but then he hops on a plane and heads across country on another junket. Makes sense -- that's probably the best thing he can do to make Portland streets safer.
This time he's off to Washington, D.C. How lovely that he can return to that place to relive where he was when the Beau Breedlove scandal broke. Hard to believe it was three years ago. It feels like 30.
Only 349 days and counting until his time is up -- but how many "business" trips do you think he'll take, and how exotic will they get, before the curtain falls?
And now here's the news you've all been waiting for: the definitive weather forecast for Portland and vicinity. There's a chance of snow tonight, and it may drop below freezing. Then again, neither might happen; it could just rain. Maybe it will snow tomorrow night, but it might not. If it does snow, it might not stick. There could be rain and snow mixed together. If it rains and then freezes, there could be black ice.
So plan accordingly! And stay tuned to bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 for further updates. Team coverage! We look out the window -- so you don't have to.
The folks in Clackamas County who are fighting the takeover of their turf by the Portland apartment bunker pushers are pulling out all the stops. Not only are they circulating petitions for a ballot measure that would prohibit the county from spending another penny on the insane MAX train from Portland to Milwaukie, but now they're gearing up for another measure that would place the same restrictions on the City of Milwaukie itself. The real estate sharpies who are trying to ram the rail project through in the name of the almighty "smart growth" must be freaking out.
Apparently the disparate groups of rebels are coming together for a first-ever general meeting this evening at an Elks Club in Oak Grove. Let's hope the roads stay dry and clear enough for them to hold their confab.
Meanwhile, at the other extreme, the Portland "planning" cabal is now sending delegations to Vietnam to export Blumenauerism to the unsuspecting communities there. But they won't be holding a charrette -- no, this time it's an atelier. Wonder if Homer and Dike will be on hand. Those poor people -- as if we haven't done enough harm over there.
Here at Blog Central, the thermometer on the front porch reads a chilly 32.7 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping. Whatever is wet out there right now is going to be frozen in a few hours. Frozen -- and slick! Warning! Hazard! You could die! Just to be safe, you should carry chains, even on the bus.
It's supposed to snow somewhat seriously tomorrow evening, and some of it could stick. Sticking snow! Even more hazardous! Cancel everything for Tuesday. It's important to remain hydrated. And don't forget your pets! Stay tuned to bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 for the latest team coverage.
The New York Football Giants have dethroned the defending champion Green Bay Packers, despite the best efforts of the officiating crew. This creates an unprecedented logjam at the top of our charity underdog prediction game, with just one week to go. There'll be only two games to pick from next week (both on Sunday, first game at noon), which turns our season-long contest into a real chess game.
Here are our standings going into the last week. If neither of the 'dogs wins next week, these will be our final standings, but if one or both 'dogs win, there could still be a lot of movement. Remember, the top five finishers claim prizes for their favorite charities:
The Maya Hee guy has long since faded into memory, and the Hide-Your-Kids-Hide-Your-Wife guy has too, but this fellow joins them in the pantheon of internet entertainment. We're always the last to see these things, and it appears he's been doing this thing for years. But hey, we're always on the lookout for new experiences. [Via Cousin Jim.]
Here at Blog Central, we're waiting anxiously for the snow-pocalypse that's due here any minute. Current conditions on the front porch: Cloudy, 38 degrees. If anything happens, we'll meet you at the Sylvan overpass.
UPDATE, 1/15, 2:23 a.m.: For all the up-to-the-minute information one needs regarding current winter storm conditions in Portland, you can always go to isitsnowinginpdx.com.
We were ribbing a friend of ours who's a Packer fan the other day. "You must be worried," we said. "You've got a problem. Drew Brees [the New Orleans quarterback] is playing out of his mind." He was quick with the answer: "But we don't have to play him in the Dome."
A good point. The Pack has home field advantage. And their field has a mystique that most visiting teams simply can't crack. Not to mention the wicked cold.
But despite legend, the Green Bay gridiron itself is neither barren nor frozen, even in the harsh middle of a Wisconsin January. All sorts of steps are taken to keep it green and soft, as explained here and here.
Portland committee: urban renewal has been "malicious"
Now that Williams Avenue in Portland has been handed over lock, stock, and barrel to the apartment weasels, suddenly there's a city transportation "stakeholder committee" apologizing to all the black people who have been displaced by "urban renewal." And the remedy?
• We strongly recommend that the City of Portland critically evaluate its public participation efforts and stakeholder input processes to determine who in a particular community is not being heard in the process and ask why they are not being engaged, and furthermore to question how those with little power can be more actively engaged.
• We strongly recommend that the City start future projects from a place of community need with early input and guidance. The City needs to be responsible to all communities, especially those which are under‐served communities, or culturally disadvantaged communities, when considering project sites, and that the history, land use, and prior planning efforts be considered and questioned while engaging in these projects.
• We strongly recommend that the City right past wrongs by studying the North Williams Transportation Operations Safety Project, its success and failures, utilizing a formal facilitated evaluation process, to guide new policy on engagement processes that ensure that all voices are heard.
• We strongly recommend that the City recognize the opportunities and challenges inherent in planning efforts, and to strive for an outcome that is truly sustainable.
There ya go -- more "evaluation," "input," "studies," and "planning." Problems solved!
When Max Williams recently stepped down after eight years as the director of the Oregon corrections department, friends and colleagues heaped praise on him. He did a wonderful job, they all said. But yesterday it was revealed that another 40-something corrections manager recently left, and the circumstances aren't so rosy:
Prosecutors are considering criminal charges over misuse of public funds at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, tied to a prison manager who has resigned....
The focus of the recent investigation is Mike W. Mathisen, 44, until recently the food services manager at Two Rivers. He managed the prison's central kitchen, overseeing about 100 inmates a day who worked to feed the prison population of 1,580.
Mathisen, with a $59,000 salary, was on paid leave from May until he resigned in late November after the agency finished an initial investigation. While working for the state, Mathisen had catering and food-packing businesses in Hermiston, and established two local farmers markets....
His supervisor, Assistant Superintendent Bob Martinez, was put on paid leave in late November after the Corrections Department finished investigating Mathisen. Martinez returned to work last week, taking a demotion to counselor.
Shades of Farhad "Fred" Monem, the prison system's chief food buyer, who fled the country for his native Iran about four years ago while being investigated for corruption. That fiasco happened under Williams's watch as well, although it was then-state attorney general Hardy Myers's office that let Monem get away.
Every report of corruption in the state's prison hierarchy, of course, reinforces many observers' suspicions that the 1989 murder of one of Williams's predecessors, Michael Francke, was committed by someone other than Frank Gable, the petty criminal who was convicted of that killing. Unlike Williams, Francke told his brother that he had uncovered organized crime in the prisons and was about to put a stop to it. The next thing you knew, people were saying nice things about him -- at his funeral.
An alert reader forwards a breathless e-mail message from Portland mayoral candidate "Camas" Charile Hales, in which he proclaims:
I will jump start the Portland economy, with concrete actions like Community Credit Portland, a loan guarantee program funded by the City of Portland. Through this program, the City of Portland will be the first in the nation to make its money available to support local Portland businesses so they can get back to hiring.
I will create opportunities for our schoolchildren, by bringing together businesses, local community colleges, and organizations such as Portland Youth Builders and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. to create more opportunities for training and apprenticeships, preparing our youth for the jobs of the coming century.
I know I can do it, because I did it as a Senior VP at an engineering firm, helping to set up an apprenticeship programs at Portland schools so that students had the engineering and planning skills to supply my business' rapidly expanding workforce.
That's it? Man, Charlie, you're going to need to do better than that.
It's illegal for the city to lend its credit to private companies. Doing so violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the state constitution.
And a handful of apprenticeships? Charlie, the teenagers all over the east side are now literally shooting and stabbing each other day and night. Do you ever get real? And how much of your company's "rapidly expanding workforce" came from local government pork spending?
Portlanders who liked Vera Katz as mayor will love Camas Charlie.
Irvington neighborhood association jumps the shark
Neighborhood associations are there to protect the interests of the neighborhood. No matter how much sentiment there may be in the neighborhood about external matters, it really dilutes the credibility of the association to get involved in them. Apparently, the Irvington neighborhood association does not understand this, as it's about to inject itself into the debate about the new interstate freeway bridge. Bad move.
Hey, busybodies, form a separate group called Irvington Against the Bridge, Irvingtonians for Green Transportation, Yuppies for the Whales, whatever you like. But please, stick to the knitting and keep the neighborhood association out of the bridge morass. It's like the City Council passing infantile resolutions on Supreme Court jurisprudence and the war in Afghanistan -- you just look silly.
For those of you who just can't wait for the 'round-the-clock disaster reporting on local television regarding the forecast snow in Portland, here's a chilly Pacific Northwest story to ponder: ice worms!
The Portland police have hauled in several young suspects in connection with two recent attacks on innocent passengers on Tri-Met. In both incidents, suspects' mothers have also been arrested -- one on charges of hindering prosecution, and the other for allegedly holding a victim by the hair while the daughter punched her.
Maybe the circuit court judges need to ride the MAX train in the afternoons for a few weeks so that they can better understand what they need to do in these cases. Laughing them off would be a bad moment in Portland history.
A third candidate for Oregon attorney general has emerged: Katherine Heekin, a Portland attorney. With zero name familiarity, she'll run a distant third to Ellen Rosenblum and Dwight Holton, but the question is, whose votes will she steal? She's connected to the Old Boy Network, but they'll all be behind Rosenblum. She's sends out a crime victim vibe, but she can't hold a candle to Holton in that image category.
Which reminds us: This is another race in which the Democratic Party nominee should be a shoo-in in November. Better re-register as a Democrat if we want to cast a meaningful vote.
The head federal transit honcho is scheduled to walk around the SoWhat District in Portland this morning. The mayor's going to be "showcasing the economic development made possible by the stimulus-funded work." Does the future bankruptcy lawyer work count?
One of the supposed "green" saviors of the Portland economy, which has been handed several taxpayer mega-subsidies to move to a Mark Edlen-renovated warehouse in the Pearl District, broke the news this morning that it is shrinking in a major way as an employer:
Vestas A/S, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines in terms of revenues, said Thursday it will lay off around 2,300 employees, mainly in Denmark, because of a market downturn caused by the financial crisis.
The company, headquartered in Aarhus, Denmark, said a potential slowdown in the United States could also result in the layoff of an additional 1,600 employees there.
It said the U.S. layoff plans would mainly depend on whether the Production Tax Credit — which gives a favorable low tax rate to makers of renewable energy — would be extended or not. In 2010, Vestas was awarded about $51 million in tax credits through the U.S. federal stimulus program.
Although its U.S. operations are headquartered in Portland, Ore., Vestas has invested more than $1 billion in four facilities in Colorado.
Will Vestas still be around for a ribbon-cutting in Portland? There's a good chance not. Even if it is, that new headquarters was a bad, bad bet on the part of the city. That company doesn't seem likely to make it in the long run.
The O's got an interesting headline up this evening: "Portland police, TriMet wonder why no MAX passengers called 9-1-1 about attack on girl."
Maybe it's because there were young males accompanying the attackers, and those young males were carrying backpacks, and there's a good chance at least one of the backpacks had a handgun in it. And if one of those young men saw you ratting their girlfriends out on a 911 call on your cell phone, he might try to earn some major gangsta cred by taking out the gun and blowing your head off.
That might be a good reason to lie low and get off quietly at the next stop. Just a theory.
Yes, they say it might snow in Portland on Sunday. Snow! In Portland! If the snowfall is heavy enough, it may accumulate on the ground. If it accumulates on the ground, travel conditions could be hazardous. If travel conditions are hazardous, anyone traveling could encounter hazards.
For this reason, the city is beginning to shut itself down now. Prepare for the worst! Get with the program immediately, by stocking up on essentials, staying indoors, and remaining glued to bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2. If you do anything else, you could die!
(An important note: If it snows on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, the storm panic will be observed on Tuesday.)
We pity the people who bought into Portland's goofy South Waterfront (SoWhat) District -- among many deficiencies, it's a nasty chore to get in and out of there in a car, which let's face it, is how the vast majority of people get around in this town. There are supposed to be traffic improvements made at the south end of the district to make entry and exit a little easier, but since those projects don't involve bikes, unicycles, streetcars, or skateboards, City Hall could care less about them.
Now comes word that the city is going to take $400,000 from the "south portal" project budget and slide it on over to -- guess what. Yep, bike and pedestrian goodies up at the north end of SoWhat. And some planning hoo-hah concerning the "eco-district" that they're going to try to set up in the neighborhood. They're going to burn your garbage right outside your window, for electricity. It's gonna be great. Really. Think Barcelona or Vancouver, B.C. An epic linchpin.
Some of the neighbors down there are unhappy about the latest diversion of money, but they've been had so many times, they can hardly be surprised. SoWhat doesn't work, and the city and state are going to bankrupt themselves trying to fill it with every goofball toy that the Portland State planning wizards can conjure up. It's a real case study in the convergence of arrogance and poor judgment.
Like magic, it continues to appear, all of a sudden, after nearly a decade of absence. The Admiral and his construction buddies are probably doing a little happy dance right now. And giving residents a special one-finger salute.
In this month's Oregon Bar Bulletin, there's a full page ad for Judge Dave Brewer, who's running for one of the two upcoming vacancies on the Oregon Supreme Court. It's one of those ads that's designed to blow any potential opponents out of the water. There are so many endorsements listed that a reader would need a magnifying glass and half an hour to read them all. You look at it and say, "Win."
Here's a web version of Brewer's supporter list -- in particular, check out this crew. Don't start calling him "Justice" until after the May election -- he's the chief judge of the Court of Appeals through the end of the year -- but barring revelation of compromising photos involving children or animals, that race appears to be over. And no doubt the Old Boys couldn't be happier about it.
The other vacancy on the Supreme Court has three contenders signed up, and there could be more between now and the filing deadline of March 6. That one might be a little more interesting.
Like several of our readers, we keep getting come-ons from Portland's zany Metro government, urging us to take one of their "Opt In" surveys, where the people who agree with them can answer a bunch of loaded questions telling them what they want to hear. Not only do they have high-priced in-house public relations flacks working on this, but there's also a paid outside consultant involved. Phony public involvement doesn't come cheap.
The other day, though, the pitch was unusual. Now Metro is asking about Tri-Met's budget woes:
Metro helping Tri-Met? Sounds natural -- one set of developer slaves pitching in to help another. But there's a subplot to this one, because if we recall correctly, Metro has the power under state law to take over Tri-Met if the Metro board decides to do it. Now, we all know that Tri-Met is doomed from a financial perspective, and when the house of cards starts blowing around in a few years, a lot of questions will be asked about the transit agency's future.
Will Metro take over Tri-Met? The fact that it's now involved in budget planning for the transit system may just push the answer to that question one baby step closer to yes.
Sometimes it seems as though the Portland Business Journal can't handle the truth. Here's an example: The cheery headline says "Vestas posts strong 2011, continues to hire," but then you read on:
[Vestas North America] said it sold 812 wind turbines with a capacity of 1,617 megawatts in 2011 — enough to power 500,000 homes. That’s down from 1,883 megawatts in 2010.
The company installed 30 new wind farms in 2011 and plans to add another 20 this year.
Vestas didn’t release specific North American financial data, such as revenue....
... Vestas’ Danish headquarters has been under a barrage of negative developments.
Last week the company reduced its revenue forecast for the second time in two months. Its shares have fallen almost 90 percent from their high in 2008 after a series of earnings misses including the latest announced on Oct. 30, leading to questions about the status of the company’s management team.
On Thursday, Vestas is expected to announce a corporate restructuring....
[W]ind energy developers [are] rushing to get products completed before a federal production tax credit expires at the end of 2012. If that doesn’t get extended, the forecast beyond this year is murky for the company.
A more apt head might have been "Forecast murky for Vestas," but hey, that wouldn't square with the Portland party line, which is that it's important to subsidize this company on a massive scale so that it can hand money to Mark Edlen to re-do the Meier and Frank warehouse.
Vestas probably won't last too much longer before it's taken over by a competitor -- a competitor who probably won't need a fancy office building in Portland, Oregon for long. But that kind of English is just a little too plain for the PBJ.
The rebels of Clackistan, who are fighting tooth and nail to stop construction of Tri-Met's Mystery Train to Milwaukie (pop. 21,000), have really done it this time. Having foiled the county's ability to use "urban renewal" slush funds to pay for construction, now they're pushing a new ballot measure that would flat-out forbid the county from working on the project unless future voters approve it first.
The proposition now has an official ballot title and everything, and given the anger shown by the Clacka-voters in recent elections, it's got a pretty good chance of passage. So much so that the train pushers on the county commission (they're also apartment bunker pushers, which is what this train is about) are trying to figure out how to fight it.
They'll start with the obvious tactics, of course. Try to discourage people from signing the petitions, look the other way when trolls and fraudsters try to sabotage the signature collection process, and then challenge every signature collected. If that fails, wheel out a parade of horrible, horrible things that will happen if the measure passes. Already they're working on that -- the county won't be able to do maintenance work at existing railroad crossings, the sheriff won't be able to respond to derailed Amtrak trains, one distortion after another, probably written up by a big-bucks Portland real estate law firm.
And in that package, this time there'll be the threat of a lawsuit. "But we've already signed a contract with Tri-Met," the county commissioners will say. "We've already promised to pay $25 million toward the MAX. If we don't pay it, Tri-Met will sue us. It's too late to turn back now."
Now, that would be one of the funniest lawsuits seen in these parts in years, wouldn't it? Maybe after many years in court, Tri-Met could get some money, but it doesn't stand a snowball's chance of getting a judge to order county officials to perform acts prohibited by a voter-approved county ordinance. In any event, there would be years of expensive litigation for Tri-Met. Good luck selling bonds for a boondoggle in that kind of atmosphere.
There will be other arguments made against the ballot measure as well. Some of the commissioners who are pushing MAX are now, comically, wrapping themselves in the constitution. One thing we'd worry about if we were the ballot measure proponents is that there's some state, or even federal, law that somehow pre-empts what the measure sets out to do. But that surely wouldn't stop us from trying.
Last night we learned that the Lake Oswego streetcar may have died a sudden death. If the Clackistanis also stop the Mystery Train at the county line, it will be truly remarkable. And a sign of hope for our region.
We have some advice for the Clackamas County commissioners: Wise up, like the Lake Oswego City Council has. Let this ballot measure pass, and then let the whole thing go. Tell the Goldschmidt people that you did what you could, but the rebels won. After that, your life will get a lot easier. You might even get re-elected.
Portland police made an arrest yesterday in one of the five gangster shoot-em-ups that took place in Portland on Sunday: a 15-year-old who allegedly shot up a house in Southeast Portland using a .22 rifle.
But around 5:00 yesterday morning, another house was hit, around 48th and Killingsworth. Apparently more than a dozen bullets hit the house. And so the gangsters are still ahead by 5.
A video of a recent attack on a MAX train has already been taken down from YouTube. There's still a clip on KGW, but given the racial overtones of the incident, it may not last long there, either.
We've ridden trains in Newark and the South Bronx, and they were no scarier than MAX on the east side in the afternoon. Actually, probably less scary, because on the East Coast there are at least some unwritten rules among thugs, and fairly competent police. That's not the case here in Portlandia.
One of the four Lake Oswego city council members who have been supporting the insane proposal to run a streetcar from Portland to L.O. tonight announced a change of heart. Apparently he wants a future in elective politics at least slightly more than he wants to make developer and streetcar pusher Homer Williams happy. That puts the council now 4 to 3 against.
It would be sweet indeed to see Homer have to pack up and look elsewhere for more gullible taxpayer geese to pluck. We recommend Fresno.
It's the next-to-last weekend of our charity pro football underdog contest, and for this time of year, there are some big point spreads on the table:
13.5 DENVER at New England
8 NEW YORK GIANTS at Green Bay
7 HOUSTON at Baltimore
3.5 SAN FRANCISCO vs. New Orleans
Which of those underdogs (in caps) can win its game outright, without the benefit of the spread? The bigger the spread, the greater your reward if you're right.
As was true last weekend, all picks are due by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Nearly half of our pack is still within reach of one of the top five prizes:
First prize - $510 to player's favorite charity
Second prize - $165 to player's favorite charity
Third prize - $105 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize - $75 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize - $55 to player's favorite charity
Good luck to everyone with this week's intriguing slate.
The City of Portland and the State of Oregon say the state is likely to give the city a "variance" that will eliminate the need to start construction on a $100 million ultraviolet treatment plant at its Bull Run reservoir. But observers of the city's water bureau, which is way too cozy with the private corporations that are dying to build the plant, are taking nothing for granted. And so they have submitted extensive comments to the state, making the case for eliminating the spendy treatment requirement.
One set of comments is signed by a long list of folks, including two docs from Physicians for Social Responsibility. It's here. Scott Fernandez, a microbiologist and Mount Tabor Reservoir neighbor who's followed the issue closely, adds his points here. Fernandez thinks the feds are using junk science and engaging in scare tactics to strong-arm water systems into unnecessary, and bank-breaking, treatment plans. He makes a strong case.
Here's a story sent us by an alert reader with way too much time on his hands. It's about a downtown Portland lawyer who got herself excluded from Tri-Met for announcing her opinion of a fare inspector's performance a little too loudly while the inspector was in a hassle with another passenger on a MAX platform. The lawyer appealed to a hearings officer and lost, and apparently she's now suing Tri-Met in county court to clear her name.
The summary of the incident makes for some fascinating reading:
We can't say we blame her for suing. The inspector could have, and should have, ignored her. His attitude doesn't trump her right to speak.
"Urban renewal" -- which takes property taxes away from basic public services and hands it over to politicians' pet real estate developers and construction companies -- is supposed to be used only to fix up "blighted " areas. The problem, at least in Oregon, is that there's no clear definition of what "blight" is, and so the politicians take it to mean whatever they want it to mean.
In that free-for-all atmosphere, you wind up with "urban renewal" in places like Lake Oswego, which has got to be the toniest place in the whole state. Lake Oswego is "blighted"? It's "blight" that most of us can't afford to enjoy.
One of these days, we'd like to see somebody in Salem -- or even a citizens' petition drive -- propose a tightening of the definition of "blight." The term is now being distorted beyond all recognition. There need to be some objective measures by which "blight" is determined -- based on property values, income levels, environmental contamination, or other clearly demonstrable and verifiable criteria. Things that you can put numbers on. The business of local politicians greasing their friends' palms in ritzy joints like Lake Oswego by declaring "blight" over Dom Perignon and caviar needs to stop, like yesterday.
Yesterday we noted that thousands of taxpayer-subsidized apartment units are about to be slapped up in Portland neighborhoods -- not just wrecking the character of the 'hoods, but at taxpayer expense. Just a few hours later, this story hits the DJC -- about a 155-unit bunker at Interstate and Prescott. And it will get a federal government loan guarantee and at least one 10-year tax abatement from the City of Portland and Multnomah County.
Given that the population of Portland is growing so slowly any more -- and has been for many years -- why does the public need to be building these monstrosities? Apparently the pushers of the project are making their pitches based on unicorns and moonbeams:
"There seems to be enough job growth and population growth in the Portland market to justify all of these projects," Lawrence said. "We are pretty excited about the North Portland neighborhood – there’s quite a bit of opportunity there. We can attract downtown professionals who don’t want to pay the rates for downtown apartments, and will have only a 10-minute commute downtown."
Will somebody please tell these people that the Portland job market is all beat up -- especially downtown? And while you're at it, please give a shout out to the Cogue, who's about to hand over the money to them:
County officials are expected to vote on extensions of the transit-oriented development program and other tax exemption programs in March or April, according to Marissa Madrigal, chief of staff for Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen.
"In these tough budgetary times, all governments are looking at everything they’re doing, and by having these abatements we’re foregoing revenues that could otherwise be used for services," Madrigal said. "But I think with the long-term nature of the (transit-oriented development) program, there’s a good case to be made that we should continue."
"Long term," this city and county are bankrupt. But they hand it over to the real estate sharpies, time after time. What a racket.
Leaving aside the obvious mismanagement of the organization, it's a little hard to believe that the state gave them a $170,000 grant to sign up poor African-American kids for public health care, and they managed to get a big 22 actual enrollments. That works out to $7,727.27 per signup.
Maybe we ought to be spending that $170,000 to try to get gangster kids to stop shooting at each other.
Next Portland government "behavior change": soda tax
It's being pushed by one of Opie Sten's old lackeys. Of course, this brings Willamette Week out drooling over it. Just what Portland's economy (if you can call it that) needs right now: another tax. After a while, this place could turn just about any thinking adult into a Republican.
In 1917, the University of Oregon football team of 14 players and two coaches won the Rose Bowl. In 2012, the University of Oregon won the Rose Bowl with nearly 100 players and 14 coaches. I'm trying to attach some significance to that.
Yesterday's Denver-Pittsburgh football game provided all kinds of thrills. And then there were eight teams left in the tournament.
In our poll last week regarding the Super Bowl winner, less than 10% of our voters chose teams that have now been eliminated. Where will their allegiance shift, and has anyone else changed their minds after seeing the wild card action?
Former Wilsonville mayor John Ludlow is running for the chair of the Clackamas County commission. For the foes of the "urban renewal" juggernaut that now threatens all Portland suburbs, that's probably good news, because Ludlow is clearly on their side. If the establishment candidates cancel each other out, the guy's seemingly got a shot.
If you think all the apartment bunkers being slapped up in Portland's neighborhoods are wrecking the place, here's some insult for your injury: You're paying for them.
Our friend Mark Barry, who's the leading expert on the apartment market in the Portland region, has his always-excellent annual report posted here, and we noted an interesting passage (with emphasis added by us):
Apartment Construction: Many developers are champing at the bit to get back in the game, and trying to get their project to make sense in light of low cap rates for investment grade apartments, and the amount of capital chasing after newer stabilized projects. Financing is more readily available, and the word is out that the apartment market is the place to be. We expect to see permits for 2,000 to 2,500 new units in 2012, with half of the construction activity in Multnomah County. While this is below the trend line of the five years ended in 2008, we will see double the apartment construction in 2012 that we saw in 2010. We expect that half of this apartment construction will have public sponsorship or participation.
No money for street maintenance, no money for schools, no money for parks, no money for cops. Pretty soon they'll be turning off the street lights. But hey, we've always got plenty for the construction companies and developers.
Here's a funny one: Portland mayoral candidate Jeffer-Sam Smith is going to have a campaign event in Washington, D.C. this week. His many fans in that city will take a one-hour break from kissing up to Ron Wyden and spend some time telling Smith how beautiful he is. He's about to get his butt kicked in the primary election, but for now he can keep on posing.
There's a come-on for the event on Facebook, here. We don't know if that link will work for everyone, but here are some highlights:
A nationally-relevant progressive leader. Jefferson has been called "a progressive hero" by 50 Simple Things author Jon Javna, "a rock star in the making" by Daily Kos... and was recently named 2011 Small Business Champion by the Oregon Microenterprise Network....
In 2008, Jefferson was elected to the Oregon House. Elected and re-elected to leadership by his colleagues, he successfully championed "Cool Schools" to retrofit schools and create jobs, online voter registration to increase access to voting, the Human Trafficking Notice bill, and “Grow Oregon” to bring market research and best practices to local entrepreneurs.
Jefferson has the right skill set to connect the progressive energy of Portland with what is happening nationally.
The election offers an important choice. Of the major candidates in the race, Jefferson is:
...the only candidate not to urge premature ouster of Occupy camps.
...the only candidate to publicly support the 2010 progressive tax measures in Oregon.
...the only candidate not to criticize the Communities of Color Coalition’s proposal for a City Office of Equity.
And Jefferson would be the only mayor in Portland history to live in East Portland, one of the most challenged, diverse, and under-served areas in Oregon.
Smith has so many problems that it's hard to know where to start. Let's hope he has a productive trip, and meets up in Washington with someone who will give him a good gig there -- a permanent one -- starting this summer.
Here's an interesting hit piece that WW ran late last week, against GOP congressional candidate Rob Cornilles. Do you think the reporter dug that one up on her own? Or was it fed to her by a political operative?
To us it smells an awful lot like a Mark Wiener hit job. In the primary, WW dropped a stinkbomb on Kari Chisholm, political consultant to Suzanne Bonamici's opponent, Brad Avakian. And that one bore the same aroma as the latest.
After four Portland shootings in an hour and a half in the afternoon, -- yesterday ended with the midnight shooting of a moving car in NoPo. In any decently run city, this would prompt a meaningful response, but in Portlandia, the weird mayor gets on TV and makes his usual speech about how it's all because gun control laws are too loose. Last night he told one reporter, "We do what we can at the city level," but the state and federal governments are at fault for not passing more laws regulating guns.
Like most statements emanating from that fellow's mouth, the proposition that the city "does what it can" to stop gang violence is patently absurd. The city is not devoting anywhere near the resources it should to that task. That's because it's spending most of its money on worthless junk. Police precincts have been closed, and gang response funding has been cut, but we buy all the shiny toys the real estate sharpies want. Meanwhile, the City Council wastes its time passing lovely-sounding, but ultimately meaningless, resolutions about all sorts of issues far outside its jurisdiction and expertise (if any). This week they're going to bloviate about, among other things, troop levels in Afghanistan.
They must think the electorate in this town is stupid. Maybe they're right.
There were four shootings on the streets of Portland this afternoon. Three incidents were in southeast, and the fourth was at Williams and Fremont. Apparently, no one was hit, but there has been property damage.
Do you think any of the candidates running for mayor or city council are going to do anything about this? Neither do we. It appears this is going to be the reality for our city for the indefinite future. Go by streetcar!
West side Congressman David Wu's final days in office sure were ugly. But the run-up to the election of his replacement isn't any prettier:
Up top there is a detail from the front of a glossy mailer that's gone out from the Suzanne Bonamici camp -- we'd bet dollars to donuts that it's a Mark Wiener special. And below it is a screenshot from a Rob Cornilles television ad.
We've got to admit, all this negative campaigning has had the desired effect: We have little use for either of these candidates.
It hasn't been a great year for underdogs in the American pro football ranks, and neither of today's pooches came close to pulling off a victory. This leaves many of our players empty-handed for the week, but more than half of our field is riding on tomorrow's games, particularly Denver hosting the Steelers in the later contest. Condolences to the Saturdogs.
Here are the players' picks for the weekend in our charity pro football underdog game:
11 DETROIT at New Orleans - Gary, mna, Biggest Cubs Loser, Weavmo, John Cr.
8.5 DENVER vs. Pittsburgh - NoPoGuy, Rudie, genop, Michael K., Bob, Carol, Ricardo, Broadway Joe, Paul, Bayou Baby, Pete Rozelle, Annie, Drewbob, Grizfan
3 ATLANTA at New York Giants - PDXileinOmaha, Larry Legend, AKevin, umpire
3 CINCINNATI at Houston - genop's gal, john dull, Gordon, Tommy W., Usual Kevin, John Ch., jmh, Bad Brad
Have a great time following the playoff games, peeps.
All of a sudden the news in Portland is all about people being hit -- some killed -- by motor vehicles. Last night a guy died trying to cross Macadam Avenue near John's Landing. Before that it was a guy critically injured on Thursday at 111th and Division. A truck killed a fellow in a parking lot in NoPo on Thursday afternoon. And Thursday morning, a cyclist was pinned under a PT Cruiser after reportedly making an reckless move over where MLK crosses the Banfield. (The firemen lifted the car off the downed cyclist with their bare hands.)
Be careful out there, people.
And if you're heading up to the mountains, be extra, extra careful. Yesterday we had a fatal wreck on the icy road up by Mount Head Meadows, and last night another one happened on Highway 26 just north of Madras.
It's winter. And not everybody around here knows how to handle it. Please travel (or don't) accordingly.
A reminder to the players in our charity pro football underdog pool: All picks for this week are due by 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time tomorrow. That's kickoff time for the first of the weekend's four wild card playoff games. Whatever your 'dog may be, pick by 1:30 tomorrow or forever hold your bone.
This just in from Reed College: "Portland needs a new orchestra hall and opera house." Do you think Charlie Hales, art enthusiast, will build it (or is it them) for us? Maybe he'll have the water bureau do it.
Should Sherri have gone to the mattresses with Olympia?
Our strange fascination with Mattress World hasn't waned with its demise as a going concern. We've been thinking pretty hard all week about the company's problems with the Washington State sales tax, which its owner, Sherri Hiner, says is driving the firm out of business. We're no expert on Washington State taxes, but we sense that there's a lot of public misunderstanding about her situation.
Here's our sense of what's going on. Readers with a greater knowledge than ours, correct us if we're getting any of this wrong:
The issue is whether Mattress World should have collected sales tax on beds that it sold to residents of Clark County, Washington. If the customers had themselves taken the beds home to Clark County from the Oregon showrooms, it is clear that no sales tax would be due. Thus, the suggestion that Washington is requiring Oregon businesses to see every customer's identification is inaccurate. When Washington State residents buy goods in Oregon and take them home to the 'Couv themselves, use tax is due, but that is the customers' responsibility, not the seller's. (And except with big ticket items like cars, the customers just laugh that one off, and the state looks the other way.)
But most mattresses are delivered to the customer's residence; this changes the picture. Since Mattress World products are delivered to (and installed in) Clark County homes, under Washington State statutes, sales tax is due, and it's the seller's duty to collect it. As we understand it, this is because Washington, like many other states, imposes a "destination-based" sales tax. As the state sees it, the sale takes place for sales tax purposes where the delivery occurs, not where the credit card is swiped.
But the federal constitution -- the due process clause, the commerce clause, or both -- prohibits forcing the seller to collect the tax in such a case unless the seller (here, Mattress World) has what they call a "nexus" with Washington State.
If the company had used UPS or FedEx to make its deliveries, would it have had a "nexus" with Washington State? To our non-expert eye, probably not. To establish a "nexus," it would probably need to have some sort of presence in the state. Would advertising on Portland broadcast media, which reach into Clark County, be enough? Probably not. Would adding the internet, which goes everywhere, into the equation make a difference? Probably not. Would advertising in the Columbian or other Washington State-based publications tip the balance? Maybe.
But the plot thickens when one considers the fact that Mattress World mattresses were not delivered by a common carrier such as UPS or FedEx. Moreover, customers' old mattresses were probably picked up and hauled off by the people who made the deliveries. The key question, then, and perhaps the only significant question, is whether the delivery people who journeyed into Clark County were sufficiently affiliated with Mattress World to give that company the required "nexus." Did they drive Mattress World trucks? Did they wear Mattress World uniforms? Exactly what services did they provide, and for whom? What were the customers' understanding of those relationships?
With all the public discussion that's gone on about the case, those factual questions haven't, to our knowledge, been covered.
If Washington State revenue officials are claiming that having an internet site and advertising on Portland TV and radio is enough to create a "nexus" to their state, then somebody should take them to court and battle it out as high as they can go. Of course, a cash-strapped business doesn't have the kind of dough that it would take to wage such a fight. And besides, depending on the facts, Mattress World may have had a lousy case. But it's hard to tell from what's been published in the media how bad a case it had.
It would be interesting to know how many other Oregon businesses are hearing from Washington State these days, and how aggressive that state is being with its constitutional theories about sales tax "nexus." It sounds like one more thing to worry about if one decides to open a retail sales business in Portlandia. Maybe a local trade group on the south side of the river should take up a collection and give the folks in Olympia a run for their money.
Portlanders who use water got some bad news yesterday: The city managed to find a small amount of cryptosporidium in the water at the Bull Run reservoir last week. Despite the spin that the water bureau is putting on the discovery, this could push Portland a giant step closer to having to build a $100 million (liars' budget) ultraviolet treatment plant at the reservoir.
Preliminary lab results from Dec. 30 found one oocyst -- a hard-shelled structure detectable by microscope -- at Bull Run's raw water intake. Another oocyst was found upstream. But testing from Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 didn't detect any cryptosporidium, the city reported.
According to City Hall, those two little bugs are still far below any health concern, and city officials say they still plan to pursue a "variance" from the state that would eliminate the need for the spendy new treatment plant. They say they "hope" that the state, which recently indicated it would grant the variance, will still do so. And the state, they say, "should" go along.
Do you trust the city water bureau on this? Their behavior in connection with the crypto issue has not exactly inspired confidence. They've been in bed with the ultraviolet treatment industry for decades. The treatment system that Portland was supposed to buy has already been picked out, and at last report, it was awaiting testing at the private Carollo lab that the city quietly allowed to be built out at the Columbia well fields. And over the holidays, the city was still seeking land use changes from Clackamas County that would clear the way for the UV treatment plant to be built.
Actions speak louder than words, and from that vantage point, we'd bet there are people in the water bureau -- perhaps even high up in that bureau -- who are secretly delighted that crypto has turned up. They may be able to make good on another backroom deal, after all.
This particular microbe has not been detected in Portland water since 2002, and testing for it over the past three or four years has apparently been intense. Remarkably, only when the grand plans for the nine-figure construction project were in jeopardy did it finally show up. Anyway, despite the official party line -- faithfully repeated by the O, of course -- there's more than a whiff of trouble in the air.
The City of Portland's parking meter purchases -- said by federal prosecutors to be tainted by corruption -- get weirder and weirder. Now the bureaucrats can't seem to make up their minds about whether the city is obligated to buy another $1 million of the robotic bandits from the vendor who allegedly bribed the city's departed parking meter manager. Even the O can't buy what the City Hall types are telling it:
Transportation officials, however, have given conflicting responses on the situation. Dan Anderson, a spokesman, said Dec. 27 that the city had concerns that it may have to buy about 150 more machines.
"It doesn't matter if we want to. We have to find out if we're legally obligated," he said. "After that, it's to be determined."
Tom Miller, the Transportation Bureau director, said this week that he's been advised that "contractually, we're in," adding, "we think we're getting a good deal."...
Miller and Anderson previously told The Oregonian they would provide a list of options for putting those 150 machines to use, should the city buy them. Late Thursday, however, Anderson said via email that the city told Cale it will "discuss additional meter purchases ... at a later date."...
It's not clear why transportation officials suggested they would have to buy more. The 2010 City Council ordinance said pricing affected up to 1,500 machines and came with "a commitment from the city to purchase 500 machines each year over the next two years." But city procurement, transportation and legal officials all declined to talk in detail about the deal or cite a contract clause requiring Portland to buy the machines.
A review of Cale contracts by The Oregonian also did not find such a provision. In previous contracts, the word "minimum" was included; the latest version says only that it would "allow the city to purchase up to 1,500 additional pay stations."
There's still something funny going on with the parking meters, folks. Something quite funny.
This day is celebrated in various ways by Christians around the world. It's the Feast of the Epiphany, but in ye olden times it was actually Christmas Day. In Eastern Orthodox churches, it's Theophany, a bigger deal than Christmas. In Ireland it's also known as Little Christmas or Women's Christmas, the latter because the men of the house are supposed to take on household duties for the day while the women party. And so to all our readers of the female persuasion, have a wonderful day.
It's only the second day of her candidacy, but already former Judge Ellen Rosenblum looks like the candidate to beat in the race to succeed John Kroger as Oregon attorney general. Today Dave Frohnmayer endorsed her, which means that the Old Boy Network is behind her.
Frohnmayer, of course, hates Kroger as a result of Cylviagate, and Dwight Holton is best buddies with Kroger. And so Frohnmayer's announcement is no surprise. What is remarkable is how vulnerable Holton suddenly looks.
As we noted yesterday, he'll have to deal with his track record of hampering the quasi-legalization of pot. And he made no friends among the ACLU set with his advocacy of the Joint Terrorism Task Force when the Portland City Council was hemming and hawing about joining it. Holton will need union support, and maybe a few big checks from Kroger, to overcome all that. We hope he does, because whatever Dave Frohnmayer (PERS pension $21,027 a month) is for, we lean strongly against.
The threatened budget cuts at Portland City Hall get nastier by the day. Look at what they're talking about doing to the city's parks -- obscene! That the City Council let things get to this point is a major disgrace.
Let's hope things will change with fresh faces on the council by this time next year. But we aren't getting our hopes up too high about a meaningful shift in priorities. An alert reader picked this ad up on Facebook yesterday:
When a federal judge ruled last month that a blogger wasn't a journalist, one of the criteria he listed for the latter status was "contacting 'the other side' to get both sides of a story." Sometimes we wonder whether some of the Portland's salaried newshounds pass this test.
Take, for example, three stories emanating from the computer screen of one particular reporter at the Portland Business Journal over the last couple of days:
It's probably more laziness or being over-extended than it is malice, but sheesh! Would it kill him to at least try to get a comment from an opposing point of view? Future reporters of America, please don't emulate this fellow. Warming over City Hall press releases is not journalism.
It always cracks us up when towns out in the boonies adopt "urban renewal" plans. It's hard to have "urban renewal" without an actual "urb" to "renew," but these communities go for it anyway. Basically, it allows local government to funnel tax dollars to construction companies and real estate developer sharpies, at the expense of basic public services.
The dinky hamlet of Sherwood (pop. 18,000) has been in on this game for quite a while, and now they're planning to extend their "urban renewal" district for another several years. They'll borrow money at not-so-great interest rates, spend it on schlock that the average resident could care less about, and then start deferring maintenance and cutting back on cops and firefighters.
Heaven knows there are way too many p.r. flacks on the public payroll in Oregon. The taxpayers' money comes back to them in the form of endless spin. But while government budgets for public relations don't seem to be shrinking, the press release output from Salem definitely is. We've just computed our final tally in the 2011 press release sweepstakes among four top state officials, and it's clearly down from 2010.
And here are the comparable numbers from the first two in 2010:
You know that John Kroger's zest for public office has dissipated when he churns out 30% fewer media alerts than the year before. And Kate Brown's down 49%.
The newcomers to our meter made a strong showing in '11. For example, in the month of December, Ted Wheeler pumped out 4 releases, surpassing Kroger and Brad Avakian at 3 each. Brown, as far as we can tell, was silent for the month.
What will 2012 bring in the media handout department for these four? Kroger's retiring, and so we'd project his output to be down again, substantially. Having been shellacked in his bid for Congress, Avakian is up for re-election this year; so is Brown. Wheeler's got another three years on his term; so does the governor, whose job the last three would doubtlessly like to have.
We're setting the over/under for the whole pack of four at 175. Good luck, gamblers!
We've written before, not so lovingly, about the Safeway on Broadway in Portland's Lloyd District. The place has got a fairly unfriendly vibe, and it attracts more than its share of the down-and-out of Portlandia. Yesterday, one of them really went off.
Another Sam Rand Twins legacy: no street paving for the next five years. But we have money for streetcars, a mystery train to nowhere, elevated bike paths, and an office building with pit toilets. When you put mentally disturbed people in power, this is what you get: a collective nervous breakdown.
The American pro football playoffs start on Saturday afternoon, with 12 teams vying for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy, to be awarded on the 5th of next month. If you had to bet a few bucks on it, who would you say will win it all?
It's Rosenblum vs. Holton for Oregon attorney general
As we predicted, the outgoing interim U.S. attorney, Dwight Holton, has positioned himself to run for Oregon attorney general by leaving the U.S. attorney's office and signing up for a cup of coffee with a private law firm. They'll probably get at least a year's work out of him, because the incumbent, John Kroger, is likely to serve out his term unless his mysterious illness forces him out sooner. Kroger and Holton are close personal friends, and there's no way Kroger is going to step down and let the governor appoint somebody else, who could then run under a "retain" banner.
But the real news this morning is that Holton is going to have an opponent -- Ellen Rosenblum, a recently retired judge from the Oregon Court of Appeals. Rosenblum, like Holton, is a former assistant U.S. attorney, and she served on both the Multnomah County district and circuit courts before she was elevated to the Court of Appeals in 2005. Her first appointment to the bench was in 1989, by then-Governor Neil Goldschmidt. She stepped down from judging last April. Oh, and she is also the spouse of Willamette Week publisher Richard Meeker, and so it ought to be one darned interesting race.
Holton's tough stance on medical marijuana made headlines in his U.S. attorney gig. It will be interesting to hear him deal with that on the campaign trail now that he's out of federal office. And since her husband's publication is obsessed with pot stories, it will also be interesting to hear how the judge spins that issue.
And of course, there will be many more topics of interest in the contest. In any event, that vacancy has gone from sleepy to exciting in a hurry.
Portland's police bureau, notorious for its mean streak, has started the new year with an unprecedented announcement: It's changing the way it responds to the use of force by its officers in the field. What's changing seems like window dressing -- now supervisors will be sent out to the scene, for whatever good that's supposed to do -- but it's obvious that the bureau is on the defensive in the midst of a federal investigation into police brutality in Portland. For the cops to admit that they're anything but choir boys, the feds must be getting ready to come down hard. Let's hope so.
In the meantime, if a Portland cop roughs you up, you may be able to meet his or her supervisor before they haul you off for your mugshot. That will be a special moment for you, we're sure.
The decision by the Multnomah County commissioners not to submit a new library taxing district to the county's voters in May got quite a negative reaction from library supporters. And so now the new plan is to ask voters in May to pass a new three-year levy, with an election on the new taxing district promised in November if the levy passes:
If Multnomah County voters approve the three-year local option levy, which will provide the Library with temporary financial stability, the Board will refer a district measure to the ballot in November 2012.
Cogue and the New Sisters of Hawthorne will be voting on the new package on Thursday. They'll have an audience no doubt. Why they put themselves in an adversarial position with the library -- the most popular institution in the county -- remains a mystery. It's got a strong smell of condo developer around it, though.
Here's an interesting upcoming event being publicized on the City of Portland website: a meeting of local residents to discuss, supposedly in the abstract, the personal qualities that are needed of the next mayor and City Council members. It's being put on by a number of sponsoring groups, including a couple of leagues of neighborhood associations, and some organizations affiliated with racial and ethnic minority groups.
Their opening gambit:
Examples of the types of skills and abilities that might come up at the forum, include:
- Strong value for and skill at working in partnership with the community.
- Ability to grasp and understand important policy issues.
- Cultural competency and the ability to work with diverse communities.
- Ability to hire strong staff members with good policy development and community involvement skills.
- Willingness and ability to ask tough policy questions.
It sounds as though by the end of the night they'll be singing "Kumbaya" together, but it's not a bad topic for discussion in this election year: "the skills, abilities, and temperament needed to effectively serve the community as a mayor or city council member." Our list would include fiscal responsibility, personal integrity, ability to communicate clearly without an army of p.r. flacks, and respect for the rule of law.
Out in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland, there always seems to be trouble between the locals and the city government. A few years back, there was the nasty flap over whether the city was going to hand over Lents Park to Merritt Paulson for a new baseball stadium. Now there's a battle going on about the placement of one of the "sustainable" people's stinky food compost facilities way too close to where people live. The city literally just won't stop dumping on the residents in that part of town.
They're also going at it about what to build on some neighborhood ball fields. The neighbors -- at least the ones who show up for all the meetings -- say they want apartments and shops. But now the city's talking about placing social services on the site, which isn't to the neighbors' liking.
The whole condo controversy seems a little hinky to us. Speaking for the neighborhood is Nick Christensen, the guy who works as a "reporter" at Metro government, the pushers of all the things the developers want. And the story line of "The neighbors want condos!" is perfect for the O, which loves to repeat the bureaucrats' party line.
Maybe they ought to just fix the place up as nicer ball fields. That's what we would have done back when Portland was great.
There was an electrical fire overnight in the little old complex of stores on the southeast corner of Fremont and 41st, kitty-corner from Beaumont Middle School. It appears that several businesses took hits, some of them major. That stretch of Fremont is a sweet place, and we hope that corner can bounce back quickly.
An alert reader points out that the folks in Detroit, Michigan have come to their senses and scrapped a budget-busting light rail project in favor of high-speed buses:
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state's financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood's 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.
LaHood, President Barack Obama's top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.
The death of the light-rail plan, first reported on freep.com Tuesday evening, brings an end to about four years of intensive effort by the city, private developers and nonprofit groups to create what was widely viewed as the most promising attempt in decades for a light-rail system to Detroit.
The feds will help you build it, but you get to pay to run it. For the taxpayers, it never, as the real estate sharpies say, "pencils out."
Oh, we can hear the nattering Blumenites now -- "Thank God we're not like Detroit, Michigan." Uh huh, until you look at the government balance sheets, on which our ink is as red as theirs.
One morning last month our friend and champion waxer Michele was riding westbound in a car over the Burnside Bridge, when the morning mists and the rising sun combined to create some pretty wild visual effects coming off the U.S. Bank Tower. Here, straight from her cell phone, are some photos taken through the windshield:
We had a fantastic New Year's celebration last night, and it went on well past the witching hour. But we wanted to get up this morning in time to set up our football pool for the day, with the plan to go right back to sleep. And so we set our iPhone alarm for a little after 10.
The darned thing never went off.
Now, whenever this has happened in the past, it was the result of human error. Setting the alarm for p.m. when we meant a.m. (or vice versa) has been our typical downfall. But we had been sure to get that part right this time. So what gives?
After several tests in the early afternoon, we determined that the alarm on the phone simply is not working. And Googling around, we learned that it isn't going to work for at least another day. Apparently there's some sort of glitch in the software on the phone that disables the alarm on January 1 and 2.
There are updates out there that get rid of the problem, but they don't work on the old 3G iPhones, which is what we cheapskates still have at our house. And so the only way for us to correct this particular defect is to buy new phones.
We were planning to do this anyway -- running Google has become an excruciating ordeal on the 3G's for a while now -- but this seals it: 2012 will have to be a year of new phones. We've gotten two and a half years out of the ones we have, and they were the old model when we bought them for a big $100 apiece. But it's still a little disconcerting that the Apple people would allow such a basic flaw to persist. Alarms that don't work are a major liability.
There are many wonderful bright lights in the gray winter mists of Portland, and one of them shines at LeLo's house. But it's a little dimmer than usual over there right now, and all a friend can say is that it's a shame. Condolences to the people who have lost a great friend.
San Diego picked up 3 points for jmh this afternoon, but other than that and a 3.5-point yip from Green Bay earlier in the day, the Big Daddies of pro football did nothing for the players in our charity underdog prediction game. With the league's regular season now over (no one in our group has tonight's game), and the last playoff rounds under the Mayan calendar about to begin, we find our standings to be quite tight. The top five finishers get to designate their favorite charities for pieces of our $910 donation pool. Only 4.5 points separate no. 1 from no. 7, with nos. 8 through 10 just 8 points off the leader's pace:
It's the start of a fresh new calendar year, but on the gridiron, they're playing the last American pro games of the regular season today. Our charity underdog prognostication contest goes on through the playoffs, but the pickin's get slimmer from here on out. Here is whom our players have selected in this Week 17:
12 BUFFALO at New England - Rudie, NoPoGuy, Bayou Baby, mna, genop's gal
12 TAMPA BAY at Atlanta - Gary, genop
10.5 ST. LOUIS vs. San Francisco - Biggest Cubs Loser
9 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia - Bob, AKevin, Annie, Grizfan, Weavmo
9 CAROLINA at New Orleans - Gordon, john dull, Broadway Joe, Drewbob, Bad Brad, Paul, Michael K., Eric W.
4 INDIANAPOLIS at Jacksonville - Tommy W., Usual Kevin
3.5 GREEN BAY vs. Detroit - Pete Rozelle, PDXileinOmaha, Ricardo, John Ch., John Cr.
3 HOUSTON vs. Tennessee - Carol
3 SAN DIEGO at Oakland - jmh
3 SEATTLE at Arizona - Larry Legend
Have a wonderful Sunday, and enjoy the games, everybody!
UPDATE, 1:13 p.m.: Morning entries just posted; list is now complete. What a night it was!
UPDATE, 1:47 p.m.: The Pack proves that it should never be an underdog, picking up 3.5 points for five of our players. The top of our standings is really getting crowded!
Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
Rainstorm, Oregon Pinot Gris 2012
Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
Rodney Strong, Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Canoe Ridge, Pinot Gris, Expedition 2012
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
Dark Horse, Big Red Blend No. 01A
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rose 2012
Fletcher, Shiraz 2010
Picollo, Gavi 2011
Domaine Eugene Carrel, Jongieux 2012
Eyrie, Pinot Blanc 2010
Atticus, Pinot Noir 2010
Walter Scott, Pinot Noir, Holstein 2011
Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
Coppola, Sofia Rose 2012
Joel Gott, 851 Cabernet 2010
Pol Roget Reserve Sparkling Wine
Mount Eden Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2009
Rombauer Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2011
Beringer, Chardonnay, Napa Reserve 2011
Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Schloss Vollrads, Spaetlese Rheingau 2010
Belle Glos, Pinot Noir, Clark & Telephone 2010
WillaKenzie, Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvee 2010
Blackbird Vineyards, Arise, Red 2010
Chauteau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Northstar, Merlot 2008
Feather, Cabernet 2007
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Alexander Valley 2002
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2002
Trader Joe's, Chardonnay, Grower's Reserve 2012
Silver Palm, Cabernet, North Coast 2010
Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
E. Guigal, Cotes du Rhone 2009
Santa Margherita, Pinot Grigio 2011
Alamos, Cabernet 2011
Cousino Macul, Cabernet, Anitguas Reservas 2009
Dreaming Tree Cabernet 2010
1967, Toscana 2009
Charamba, Douro 2008
Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet 2010
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
Lorelle, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2007
Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet 2010
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
Lorelle, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2007
Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend No. 12
Opula Red Blend 2010
Liberte, Pinot Noir 2010
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red Blend 2010
Woodbridge, Chardonnay 2011
King Estate, Pinot Noir 2011
Famille Perrin, Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010
Columbia Crest, Les Chevaux Red 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White Blend
Familia Bianchi, Malbec 2009
Terrapin Cellars, Pinot Gris 2011
Columbia Crest, Walter Clore Private Reserve 2009
Campo Viejo, Rioja, Termpranillo 2010
Ravenswood, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Quinta das Amoras, Vinho Tinto 2010
Waterbrook, Reserve Merlot 2009
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills, Pinot Grigio 2011
Chateau Lajarre, Bordeaux 2009
La Vielle Ferme, Rose 2011
Benvolio, Pinot Grigio 2011
Nobilo Icon, Pinot Noir 2009
Lello, Douro Tinto 2009
Quinson Fils, Cotes de Provence Rose 2011
Anindor, Pinot Gris 2010
Buenas Ondas, Syrah Rose 2010
Les Fiefs d'Anglars, Malbec 2009
14 Hands, Pinot Gris 2011
Condes de Albarei, Albariño 2011
Columbia Crest, Walter Clore Private Reserve 2007
Penelope Sanchez, Garnacha Syrah 2010
Canoe Ridge, Merlot 2007
Atalaya do Mar, Godello 2010
Vega Montan, Mencia
Benvolio, Pinot Grigio
Nobilo Icon, Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2009
The Occasional Book
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt
Miles run year to date: 229
At this date last year: 118
Total run in 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269