This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in February 2012. They are listed from newest to oldest.
January 2012 is the previous archive.
March 2012 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
Beaverton's "urban renewal" guru is playing some serious Monopoly with the city's taxpayers' money. It's all for the public good of course, just as it was when he was running the developer cash machine in Portland. Go by streetcar, Beaverton! You'll never know what hit you. It's funny unless you live there.
Sources close to Republican presidential front-runner Willard "Mitt" Romney report that Romney has included Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on a short list of potential running mates for the November election. The Romney camp is reportedly interested in Wyden in response to his tireless work providing cover for Republican agendas on health care and taxes.
"It's perfect, when you think about it," said a senior member of the Romney campaign staff. "The Jewish thing cancels out the Mormon thing, you pick up a lot of liberal New York money, he draws in the West Coast and the techies, and you get an experienced, Teflon-coated candidate to cheese it up on the back of the stage."
Wyden, 61, has represented Oregon in Congress for 31 years. He has been in the Senate since 1996, and he serves on the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, plus some others. Among his "bipartisan" proposals have been to abolish the federal estate tax and to privatize parts of Medicare. Wyden nearly single-handedly derailed the public option feature of the administration's health care reform proposals.
Wyden was unavailable for comment on the Romney rumor. A neighbor at his home in the Eastmoreland section of Portland said the senator was not at home. "He was only here once," the neighbor said. "He didn't stay long." Wyden's wife and children live in New York City.
We've received an unconfirmed report that the Oregon Water Resources Department has granted the state fish and wildlife department's application for a water exchange with the City of Cascade Locks that would enable the state's fish hatchery at Herman Creek to use city well water in addition to spring water for its operations. As part of the deal, the city would have access to spring water from the Oxbow Springs to sell to Nestlé Waters for bottling purposes.
And if you don't think Randy Leonard and David Shaff are hoping for something similar to happen with Portland water, you are a gullible soul.
UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: Here's another report, and here and here are the official notices of what just transpired. Apparently, it's not the final step in the approval process, but Nestlé is now two steps closer than it was a few days ago. Why aren't the Occupiers raising heck about *this*? Where are the state representatives? Yoo hoo! Jackie Dingfelder! Jeffer-Sam Smith! Chip Shields!
At last report the daffy Oregon "sustainability center" -- a multi-million-dollar "green" boondoggle to provide welfare for Portland developer Mark Edlen and his pals -- is on the rocks in Salem. Apparently House co-speaker Bruce Hanna of Roseburg, a Republican, is unilaterally holding off the prospect of issuing state bonds to pay for the thing. And without the state money, the project is going nowhere. Those of us who are tired of shelling out property taxes for schlock owe him a debt of gratitude.
We're as earth-friendly as the next guy or gal, but this is nothing but a pile of steaming government pork for a chosen few. The liars' budget is $67 million, but any honest assessment of the costs would be pushing nine figures. And what would all that money prove? It would merely demonstrate that über-"green" construction makes no economic sense. The only tenants would be smug, earnest government employees, making it a straight-up taxpayer-funded palace of bureaucracy.
Of course, it is one of those zombie projects, like the infernal Convention Center hotel, that will come back again and again, but if it doesn't make it through this week in Salem, it will be dead until after the Sam Rand Twins have left the City Hall scene at year-end. Maybe the next City Council will sober up and let it sleep. Probably not, but Hanna keeps our hope alive.
With his victories today, Mitt Romney is all but certain to be the Republican nominee for President this fall. And of the nattering nabobs on the GOP debate stage, Romney will be the hardest for Obama to beat. Bland against bland. Unprincipled against unprincipled. With them both grasping for the middle come late summer and early fall, it will all come down to the economy. And no matter how the administration doctors up unemployment numbers, the economy is suffering from a long and lingering illness. People are not going to be bamboozled into thinking everything's o.k. as they pay $5 a gallon for gasoline and watch their children's standard of living go inexorably down.
We had unreasonably high hopes for the President, and he's disappointed us more often than not. Health care, taxes, civil rights, he has sold us out at seemingly every turn. Many of his most fervent supporters from four years ago are tepid about him now. And so the election will probably be quite close. Against crazed altar boy Santorum or the supremely unlikable Newt, it wouldn't be much of a race at all.
The TV people have started up the drumbeat, and the mayor has pulled his head out long enough to put his hat on, and so we must go on full alert. It might snow. Snow! You could die. Stock up on essentials and stay seated in front of your screen until the lights go out. This is continuing team coverage from bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2.
Portland's Skanner newspaper now has an easy way to read the actual current edition of the paper on line. You see an image of each page just as it appears in hard copy -- including the ads. We wish more local publications would do this, although with Stenchy hovering nearby, we can always use those hard copies for something.
Scott Fernandez, a most attractive alternative candidate for mayor of Portland, officially filed his candidacy with the city elections bureau on Friday. Unlike the three money-and-wind bags who get all the attention in the race, Fernandez challenges the current status quo, which badly needs challenging. If you don't vote for, and actively support, him or Max Brumm, you're part of the problem.
In some ways, we're going to miss the clown show when it's over in 307 days. The Great Mentor has an answer for every truth.
UPDATE, 12:43 p.m.: He posts audio of the whole interview on Radio Creepy, here. As a reader points out, "in the first few minutes, he's trying to figure out who to vilify," and "he exudes annoyance throughout."
Portland Mayor Vera Katz -- the political godmother of Sam Adams -- has endorsed Charlie Hales in the current mayoral race. Katz was the worst mayor we've seen in our nearly 35 years of living in Portlandia. Puppet of Neil Goldschmidt, she set the city on the disastrous course on which it now finds itself, all to enrich the designated money grubbers who paid their legal bribes to Goldschmidt. If the people of Portland had any sense, the backing of Katz would be the kiss of death for a candidate. But they don't, and so it isn't.
Here is an interpretation of statistics that is sure to spark a conversation: Wall Street loves Democrats in the White House. Stock prices have fared way better under Democratic administrations than under Republican ones. Why is that?
The police found a shot guy at around 11:30 last night at SE Ninth and Ankeny. Not life-threatening. But the soul of this city is definitely being threatened by all the nighttime bar shootings close in on the east side.
Those of us who can't believe that the greatest nuclear disaster of all time is getting so little media coverage can at least watch some talking heads who ruminated about it in a public program over the weekend. The complete videos (including cameo appearances by legendary Oregon anti-nuke Lloyd Marbet) are here. The first anniversary of the start of the triple meltdown is just a couple of weeks away. [Via SimplyInfo.]
Here's an odd story: The old federal Customs House over by the main Post Office has been sold for almost twice as much as the recent auction price in a deal that fell through. That old hulk of a structure didn't double in value over the past year and a half. So who overpaid?
Sounds like a Portland Development Commission purchase, in which case it will soon be handed over to one of the Usual Suspects for, oh, I don't know, $1.
And the feds say they will keep the buyer's identity secret until after the deal has closed. Will the local mainstream media flush out a name? That remains to be seen. The lack of transparency is absolutely appalling. Hey, Gatsby Wyden! How's about a little sunshine on this one?
UPDATE, 6:47 p.m.: According to this version of the story, the buyer's identity will be revealed when a 10% deposit is put down, within 10 days. How that is "finalizing" the deal is anyone's guess.
Portland charter change getting... well, watered down
We've worried right from the start that the commission currently drafting changes to the City of Portland charter would allow itself to be beaten down by the many, many beneficiaries of the status quo. It appears that that is what's happening with the commission's pending proposal to have an independent (at least somewhat) utility board set the sewer and water rates charged by the city. As an alert reader explains:
The Charter Review Commission just sent out their revised Independent Utility Commission charter amendment proposal, and one important language change effectively guts it, removing the only mandate it really contained to push for cost savings in the two utility bureaus.
See the attached scan of the language handed out at the Feb. 13th CRC hearing in east Portland. You will see in the first section “General Policy” the following language:
"Utility principles of least-cost and least-risk should be evaluated in making capital investment decisions in water and sewer system maintenance and upgrades."
That was hardly an overwhelming mandate, with the word "evaluated" and all. But even that was too strong for the big spenders, and in the new version just sent out, that sentence was replaced with:
"Costs and benefits should be evaluated in making capital investments decisions in water and sewer system maintenance and upgrades."
This new sentence is of course meaningless. What's clear here, based on the language change and the aggressive lobbying from the vested interests in higher utility spending, that the CRC effort to curb utility spending has been successfully neutered, if not stopped, by those same vested interests.... I’m disappointed to see this reform idea gutted like this by the same people who have advocated the non-mission critical spending that has helped bring us to the unsustainable situation we’re in now.
The reader's got a valid point. "Utility principles of least-cost and least-risk" means something. "Costs and benefits" means nothing, and we've seen how attenuated the "beneits" of the Admiral's pipedreams can be.
In Hillsboro, the transportation committee is getting an advisory committee. And that advisory committee to the transportation committee will have two subcommittees. "Select" members from each subcommittee will form the overall advisory committee. Which will then give its advice to the transportation committee. All multi-modal, of course.
If we're not mistaken, this is what they call "clustering." Something tells us the potholes aren't going to get fixed.
Google wangles its way even further into our life this week as we upload our music to Google Music. With it, we should be able to call up any song in our music library, from any computer or smart phone, 24/7/366. You can store 20,000 songs on the Google server for free. The upload takes quite a while -- measured in days -- but it's getting there, in the background.
If, like us, you have collected more music than that substantial amount, at least for now you can't go past the 20,000 barricade, as there's no "pay to upgrade" option.
So far, the thing works great on our computers, and although they're a little clunky, the phone apps will doubtlessly get better with time. Is there a downside we're not seeing?
From Google's standpoint, in addition to advancing its campaign toward world domination, it provides a chance to sell recorded music to consumers, much the way Apple has been doing with iTunes. Will the Googs eventually start inserting ads into the playback streams, the way Spotify does? Will they somehow drag us before the copyright police for some transgression or other? Will they get us used to the service, and then start charging for it?
In the meantime, we've got a huge chunk of our music library on the phone. That could put a serious hurt on our relationship with Pandora.
It's hard to believe, but the O actually has a story running today about the City of Portland's insanely twisted priorities in the transportation arena. City Hall reporter Beth Slovic won't be getting any warm, fuzzy hugs from Amy Ruiz for this kind of copy:
Along with stopping major paving, the bureau plans to carve into services such as bridge monitoring, street cleaning and sidewalk inspections -- shaving $15 million from the proposed 2012-13 budget but almost certainly costing taxpayers much more down the road.
The bureau has other priorities, such as $900,000 to build 13.5 miles of bike routes, $665,000 to add eight permanent employees to oversee streetcars, $200,000 for Rose Festival prep work and $15,000 to help sponsor a "Rail-Volution" conference in Los Angeles. Just last week, the City Council redirected $250,000 from the current transportation budget to buy fancy planters and streetlights for the downtown retail core.
She forgot a few things, but hey, it's a rare day that the O tells it like it is. Oh, and Slovic really goes for it with this:
Miller was Adams' longtime chief of staff when the mayor promoted him last year to take over the Transportation Bureau. Miller now makes $152,000 and, like other bureau directors, is eligible in 2012-13 for a 4 percent merit raise and possibly a cost-of-living increase.
In his view, shaping Portland's future lies "at the heart" of the bureau's mission and requires it to play a central role in providing alternatives to cars and promoting economic development.
That philosophy is one reason Portland enjoys an international reputation for innovative public transit and bicycle savvy. It's reflected in bureau priorities: Office staffers in 2009-10 reported spending 32 percent of their hours on passenger vehicles and 11 percent on bicycles. In surveys of residents, however, two-thirds cite driving alone as their main form of travel and no more than 5 percent name bikes.
The thinking also helps explain why the bureau spent $5,000 last April for Miller to join Portland business leaders on a tour of thriving European cities, and why Adams spent almost $50,000 in 2007-08 to support handmade-bicycle shows and triathlons.
Why the sudden shift in emphasis at the city's usually toothless daily newspaper? Traditionally, this sort of reporting has tended to occur when an editor is personally affected by something -- in this case, there's probably a bad street or two along some O bigwig's daily commute. But whatever the reason, kudos to Slovic.
The bizarre priorities don't just stop at the transportation bureau, of course. Look at sewer. Look at water. Look at "planning." It's all just money for nothing.
The head of Portland's insolvent transit agency has taken to badmouthing his employees' unions these days. But he can't seem to make that speech without a "planning" consultant from CH2M Hill next to him. Ah, those consultants -- who make the millions setting up money-burning rail projects like the insane WES train and the equally nutty Mystery Train to Milwaukie. Yes, the unions have overreached in recent years, but when Tri-Met ends up in bankruptcy and the workers get maneuvered out of their pensions, you won't see CH2M Hill giving back any money.
When Portland taxpayers were paying for local amateur politicians' campaigns through the "voter-owed elections" system, why didn't anybody do something like this?
Of course, in Portland, there would be even graver embarrassments for one's rivals. You could set them up by having someone come into their office and flash a set of car keys. Or throw a compostable item in the regular trash bin. Or carry a plastic bag from a Wal-Mart. Or bring in a boom box tuned to Victoria Taft. Or...
According to KATU, the football team at U.C. Nike is admitting it broke the NCAA recruiting rules. And apparently they're still negotiating about how bad the violations were. All the white space on this document is yet to be filled in. A view from the inside is here.
While we commonly sing the praises of Bull Run water, the real unsung hero is groundwater. Without our groundwater system, we would be in a similar boat to Vancouver BC. In fall of 2006, a large storm hit the Pacific Northwest. Over 2 million Vancouver residents had to boil their water, some for as long as 12 days, because of turbidity in their water source. They were not lucky enough to have a secondary water source like we do. During this same storm, the Water Bureau was able to shut off the Bull Run supply and switch to groundwater. All our customer continued to be supplied with drinking water that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards.
So next time you turn on the tap, think about how lucky we are to have groundwater.
The Oregonian delivered a price increase -- starting next month it's going up to $26 per month for direct pay -- not quite a 20% increase from the current rate.
This reminds us that it's time to raise our subscription rates as well. And so effective March 1, the price you pay us to view this blog is increasing by 19.7%. We apologize, but our costs just keep escalating.
The author of the blog Urban Planning Overlord -- who has been insulting and attacking this blog, our readers, and especially us personally, on and off, for more than five years now -- is Gordon H. Howard, an attorney who lives in a 3,500-square-foot house in the Mountain Park section of Lake Oswego.
Howard, who is in his 50s, is currently a deputy legislative counsel for the State of Oregon in Salem. Prior to taking that job, he spent two years as a staff attorney for the City of West Linn, and before that, he spent nearly 10 years as a planner for the City of West Linn.
According to a reliable internet source, Howard was raised in central California. He went to college in San Diego, and got a master's degree in urban planning from UCLA in 1984. His master's thesis was about land prices in the Santa Monica Mountains. As best we can determine, he then took a job as a planner, probably in Simi Valley, California, outside L.A.
Howard moved to Lake Oswego and started telling Portland residents how to live in 1993, when he became a planner for Multnomah County. As far as we can tell, he has never actually lived in Multnomah County. In 1997, he changed employers, moving over to the West Linn planning division.
Whatever the merits of his views about urban living may be, Howard has an unhealthy fixation on us and on our blog. Maybe now that everyone knows who he is, he'll find something better to do with his time than lob relentless personal attacks at the people who disagree with him.
Tonight at 7:00, several members of the old crew of KISN Radio -- way back in the '60s and '70s -- are set to launch their new internet radio station, here. They're currently warming up with some canned material, but they say they're "going live" this evening, with real human disc jockeys. The first hour, we're told, will be particularly "historic."
They're from way before our time in Portland, but not from before our time being glued to the radio. Growing up in the New York metro area in the early '60s, we always had one ear tuned to WABC 770 and the other to WMCA 570. (The latter, like KISN, called themselves "the Good Guys" -- perhaps it was a network or a franchise.) We can still sing you the jingle from the powerhouse WABC, and name that station's DJ's: Scott Muni, Cousin Brucie Morrow, Dan Ingram, Harry Harrison, and Ron Lundy. (Who came on at 10 at night after Cousin Brucie? Maybe a news show? We were fast asleep by then.) Over on WMCA, the main "Good Guy" was Murray the K, who called himself "the Fifth Beatle" -- huh, whatever. But his chant of "Ah-vey -- ho!" is forever etched on our brain cells.
Our love of radio grew substantially in the '70s and '80s, when we actually got to do some of it. We spent some time as a volunteer on KBOO here in Portland -- doesn't everybody? We even played straight-ahead jazz on the Yale University station, which had a commercial license, for a month or two in the fall of 1977. It was all great fun. When you're in the booth at the radio station, you don't have time to think about your troubles. You're answering the phone, answering the door, figuring out what music you're going to play next -- it's all-consuming, in a good way.
In the internet era, with YouTube and Spotify and iPods and Last.fm and Pandora, just about anybody can be a DJ of sorts. But the people who spun the platters and delivered the patter back in the day have a unique feel for music and for sound. We'll be listening tonight, and hoping for a spark as big as the ones that the DJ's are going to feel. Without a doubt, they'll be pumped.
We're wrecking Portland with bad apartment bunkers, supposedly to save places like North Plains. But then Portland wrecks North Plains anyway, by creating an ungodly stink there with its goofy food compost program.
The City of Portland is going after the Expedias and Pricelines of the world, seeking to collect some hotel taxes that the online travel companies haven't been paying. The companies say they aren't hotel operators, and so they don't have to pay the tax. There has been a lot of this litigation around the country, apparently with no clear winner. But just the other day, the companies won a similar case in Tennessee.
Residential streets are often dangerous, uninviting places.... In 2008, the city reported fifty-eight percent of Portland residents limit walking, bicycling or taking transit due to concerns about traffic safety. This concern leads parents to instill a "fear of the road" into their children early in life....
Speeding is not the only problem associated with wide streets. Oversized roadways require more land making them unsuitable for space-deficient urban areas....
The European cities I visited have managed to make sustainable options the "smarter" choice by employing both "push" and "pull" measures to reduce car trips. In some instances, the pedestrian, bicycle and transit networks have a higher degree of connectivity than that offered to private vehicles. Pedestrian and bicycle pathways or automobile diverters are strategically placed to offer greater permeability and give priority to sustainable travel modes....
Here he is applying for the grant for his three-month Euro vacation fact-finding mission. "The threat of traffic and the nuisance of noise and car emissions prevent residents from enjoying the street outside their home as a place for active living and social interaction." Just wow. Sometimes we wish the planning kids would, as our parents used to say, go play in the street. They certainly seem to want to.
Now that we have figured out who he is, and announced that we will be revealing his name tomorrow, the Lake Oswego-resident government official who blogs under the pseudonym "Urban Planning Overlord" says he is sorry about all the attacks, insults, and baiting he has inflicted on us over the years. And inspired by his Ash Wednesday church service, he says, he'll never do any of that again. Apparently that pledge -- along with his suggestion that we might be wrong about who he is -- is supposed to get us to keep his identity secret.
Why would we do that? Although it would be a great relief to get this man out of our face, not disclosing his identity now would just make us an accomplice to his cowardly exploits. We're not the only one he has pummeled over the years -- on a personal level -- and if he keeps blogging in anonymity, we surely won't be the last.
As for questioning the accuracy of our conclusion, we have no doubt whatsoever that we have the right guy. We wouldn't publish a name without complete confidence in the identification.
We suggest that if he's really that contrite, "Urban Planning Overlord" break down and reveal his identity himself, and spare us the burden of doing it. He's a smart enough guy, and if handled properly, a blog under his real name would be something he can look back at with pride somewhere down the road. He's written signed newspaper op-eds and internet book reviews that are intelligent and thoughtful, and we have no doubt that he could contribute a great deal to civic discourse with a signed website.
But much of his vitriol on "Urban Planning Overlord" has gone over the line, and it has abused the anonymity that the internet has afforded him. We think it's time to change that dynamic.
Meanwhile, we're amused by the fact that the three anonymous bloggers whom we've had to "out" over the years have all been government employees or politicians, and none of them lived in Portland while they were attacking us. First there was "Torrid Joe," a.k.a. Mark Bunster, a Portland Fire Bureau employee who lived in the Lake Grove section of Lake Oswego; then came "Oregon Reality," a.k.a. Robert Canfield, a member of the Troutdale City Council; and now we have "Urban Planning Overlord" from the Mountain Park section of Lake Oswego. In every case, they attacked us personally for our views on the governance of the City of Portland -- where we live, and they don't.
PDC: Nothing to see here, go on about your business
After an unfavorable audit finding numerous accounting irregularities and conflicts of interest, the Portland Development Commission has pronounced everything fine, and of course, the local mainstream media just repeats the line back. And hey, of the nine major things that were found to be wrong, they're working on fixing five of them!
It's hard to believe that they can shrug off an audit that contains this passage. It's one of the most damning we've read in a while:
PDC issues checks to itself on a regular basis but for different reasons. It is unclear whether this practice is appropriate, especially for all the reasons described. Fraud schemes use a similar practice to steal funds. PDC’s practice presents the opportunity for the misappropriation of funds, especially when more secure methods – such as wire transfers or journal entries – are available alternatives....
By far the funniest show on Portland television last night was Channel 8 News. Reporter Reggie Aqui covered the hilarious Lake Oswego City Council meeting at which public access to the lake was being discussed. The lame duck mayor and the members of the council said "preserve the status quo" about a dozen times. Must-see TV.
Eventually, the enviros will likely have their way on this issue, although not without a lengthy court fight and probably some action in the state legislature. Then life in L.O. will never be the same. Just ask Portlanders who faint when they open their sewer bills and pay through the nose for the Big Pipe project: Sometimes you've got to follow the law like everyone else, whether you like it or not.
If we were given the assignment to find ways to get Portland's outrageous water bills under control, we'd start by selling this vehicle and cutting out all the joy rides to Bull Run. Spend a couple of hundred bucks to shoot a video, post it on the internet, call it good, and lay off whoever works on the tours.
In addition to wasting money, this program no doubt allows the water bureau to advance its public relations campaigns to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary, if not counterproductive, construction projects. The sales pitch that gets laid on the passengers on the bus is probably breathtaking.
"Urban Planning Overlord" will be identified on Friday
After being insulted, attacked, and otherwise baited for years by an anonymous blogger calling himself various names including "Urban Planning Overlord," we have finally figured out who he is, and we will be revealing his true identity here on Friday. Between now and then, he can decide what to do about the charade of concealing who he is.
He may try to pull some or all of his blog down, but some of its content is available on the Wayback Machine, and of course we have many of his comments, several of which were posted from government computers, preserved on our site. Posting from Mountain Park on Sunday was a dumb move on his part, and as a result, his anonymous blogging career will be ending in just a couple of days.
So of course, the bikeys endorse Jeffer-Sam. Which is rich indeed, given the fact that the guy is such a jackass behind the wheel of a car that any biker or pedestrian should mightily fear being anywhere near him on a street.
The Multnomah County commission is forcing the public library to close on Mondays and lay off staff -- this after the county's voters have told the commissioners, time after time, that they want the current level of service maintained. The voters even passed, overwhelmingly, a ballot measure that was supposed to "get the politicians out of" library funding.
Wonder where all those tax dollars that you pay to the City of Portland are going? Not to pave streets, obviously. Here's a bag of them flying out the window:
Last April 19, Adams' chief of staff Warren Jimenez and Steven Shain, a manager with the Portland Development Commission, sent Iberdrola's Madrid-based director a "menu of state and local incentives" to peruse.
Options included low interest loans for property redevelopment; state dependent-care tax credits; state forgivable loans based on new job creation; wage reimbursement for on-the-job training; cash incentives for energy efficiency; state low-interest loans for public infrastructure improvements; and state research tax credits.
"The earlier that we can start to work together the greater our ability to optimize the incentives prior to the transaction being completed," Jimenez and Shain wrote.
More tilting at windmills while the livability of Portland drains away -- reminiscent of Opie Sten in its detachment from reality. It is going to take a major disaster to get this city to stop the insanity. Electing Eileen Brady certainly is not going to change it.
Let's see... lives in Mountain Park, works in government "planning," used to work in the planning bureau at the City of Simi Valley, California, has had some connection with the Clackamas ESD, wife is a USC alumna -- and he thinks he can stay anonymous? In Portland?
They keep talking about him as if he's still a professional basketball player. Come on, guys, that was over long ago -- and you certainly should have realized that, at the latest, two years ago. His last game was in December of 2009. It's history now, and it never was. Please give it a rest.
It's "Presidents Day," whatever that is supposed to mean. Lincoln's birthday was eight days ago; Washington's is the day after tomorrow. Today is... well, something. The banks are closed, and there's no mail.
We feel sorry for Lincoln and Washington, great men who led the nation in violent, revolutionary times. Their names have been blotted off the calendar. Now it's "Presidents Day," which for all the kids know might be in honor of Nixon or Fillmore or the Bush family. Martin Luther King gets better billing these days -- much better. Nobody had better dare make people work on his day.
Our condolences to the loved ones of the bouncer at the Grand Central Bowl in close-in southeast Portland. He was shot dead at closing time Saturday night.
It's the second such killing in 14 months. On New Year's 2011, a bouncer downtown was shot and killed at closing time by a disgruntled patron.
It's also the second Saturday night shooting outside a close-in southeast bar in three weeks. At closing time on the night of Jan, 28, it was the Grand Cafe, four blocks away.
We feel bad for the young people of Portland who are at the age that they need to go out to bars and party. It used to be safe to do that in central Portland. Not any more.
When the last bouncer was snuffed out, the city's "unique" mayor called one of his "bar summits," at which pub owners and cops convened to talk. Apparently that will have to become an even more frequent event.
Between the bouncer murder and the latest craziness on the crime trains -- would you rather be menaced by a machete, or have your neck broken? -- one has to wonder when, if ever, an adult will take the reins of the city's public safety apparatus.
We saw a lot of geese over the weekend. On Saturday, we were running on the East Bank Esplanade and a pair came swooping down, making long landing splashes into the Willamette, parallel to the walkway. Then yesterday we found ourself motoring up and down the valley on I-5, and there were hundreds of them overhead, in various formations. Guess spring is right around the corner.
Apparently there's a debate going on in Salem about whether the politicians in the legislature should have hands-on involvement in the running of state agencies. We have an opinion about that. Up here in Portland, the politicians run the city bureaus, and it's a disaster. Separation of powers has served our nation well, and we could use a dose of it. If only the foot-draggers on the charter revision commission would serve it up to the electorate one of these days. It would probably get shot down by the many with vested interests in the current system, but it would be worth a spirited discussion.
When an aging rocker starts recording standards, be prepared to cover your ears and run. Rod Stewart, whose poor voice has been beyond salvage for several decades, has been murdering the American songbook, and damaging his place in rock history, in recent years. And so we approached Paul McCartney's new recording, Kisses on the Bottom, with enormous caution.
But despite the title (an oh-so-cute quote from "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"), it's pretty darn good. He has Diana Krall on piano, and John Pizzarelli on guitar. John's father, the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli, also shows up on several songs. With that lineup, it's hard to go wrong. And the material, which avoids a lot of the obvious from the genre, suits McCartney's sweet croonings perfectly. Including three songs written by Frank Loesser, who could knock great ones out, one after another.
Resist it if you will -- we won't blame you -- but when you're ready to suspend disbelief, we think you'll find it's a fine recording. It certainly brings a smile to our face.
Joe Weston says he'll build Convention Center hotel
One of Portland's old-time bunker peddlers has taken the plans for his failed 31-story condo tower in the Lloyd District and redrawn them as a hotel. There'd be three floors of condos, and 25 of hotel. No word yet on how much subsidy he'll be demanding from the public, but being that the property's on the east side streetcar line, he'll doubtlessly get plenty.
As for the design, the architects are selling the same line of bullpuckey that they pushed in building the failed SoWhat District:
With a tall, skinny facade, the Cosmopolitan is designed to allow more light and usable space between buildings. He said the team took inspiration from Vancouver, B.C., where point towers are commonplace.
But of course, since the powers that be have already cut a backroom deal with somebody else to build a hotel in the neighborhood, the Weston building is inadequate:
Metro’s general manager of visitor venues, Teri Dresler, disagrees.
"The Weston development, while it’s great – we love development in the neighborhood and it's fairly close to the convention center – doesn’t quite meet the criteria for a convention center headquarter hotel," she said.
Dresler said that in order for the center to gain the business it’s presently unable to capture, a block of at least 500 rooms is needed. To that end, she said Metro officials have resumed conversations with city and county political leaders to revisit the idea of a headquarters hotel.
Maybe we'll have two new hotels. Let's hope the taxpayers pay zero for the both of them. Portland is a weak attraction for a national convention, and that isn't going to change no matter how many hotels get built.
Wind energy companies like Vestas and Iberdrola, which have their headquarters in Portland, keep telling Congress that they need an immediate extension of the federal tax credits for wind energy or else they'll have to lay off more hundreds of people. What the Euro-suits are finding out, however, is that Congress is nowhere near having its act together, on tax credits or anything else. The latest action on Capitol Hill, jerking around with the Social Security tax cut, is not going to include a tax credit extension. And nobody knows when, if ever, the congressional toupees might get around to a vote on the issue.
The "green" lobbyists are heading back out into the hall to plot their next maneuver. But if they don't get a tax deal pretty soon, the greenies will likely be furloughing workers, at least temporarily, in the second half of the year. That is, if they don't go under completely.
That immigration jail that Fireman Randy and his developer buds are forcing on Portland's South Waterfront District -- next door to a grammar school -- looks like even more of an abomination in light of this story. It turns out the immigration enforcers are as dangerous as the inmates.
Portland's version is going in next to a grammar school, over the objection of a hearing officer who ruled that it was too dangerous. That hearing officer is a whole lot smarter and more honest than the people sitting in the City Council chairs.
Rah rah, siss boom bah, here's how Portland's newspaper "covers" its dying transit system. The headline writers over there must start drinking at breakfast. "With WES leading the way" -- yes, one of the biggest transit flops in history is certainly a fitting image for Tri-Met these days. The subsidy per boarding ride on that thing is $15. But hey, they make it up in volume.
Here's a pretty decent summary of where the protests against the Mystery Train to Milwaukie (and other boondoggles) stand. Jim Redden of the Trib manages to report without slanting, unlike his rivals at Portland's monopoly daily newspaper.
The Trib warms over the press release that the PBJ already warmed over on Tuesday, here. We stand on our question of yesterday: What more are we going to export, Jim? Solar panels? Windmills? More silicon chips? Surely a phone call or two would have turned up an economist who's skeptical about the prospect of doubling exports of Oregon-made anything. Portland will be lucky to hold on to what it's got.
Portland auditor finds rat's nest of problems at PDC
The City of Portland's official watchdog over public funds issued an extensive report late yesterday that lambasted the Portland Development Commission for all sorts of sloppiness -- or worse -- in handling public money. The report is here. The whole thing is worth study, but there are a few highlights (or are they lowlights?) that jump out at first reading: doing business with unregistered companies, keeping inadequate records about vendors, lax conflict-of-interest rules, falsely showing overtime pay as regular pay, illegal "awards" to employees, writing checks to itself, issuing duplicate checks and skipping transaction numbers in the payment registry, the list goes on and on.
PDC officials did not consistently make businesses follow its own requirements for doing business with PDC. Ultimately, by not verifying business registry, PDC is providing City funds to businesses that may not be operating in the City legally and paying applicable City business taxes....
PDC has several weaknesses in its conflicts of interest and related party practices. PDC existing policies are not inclusive enough to meet the Oregon Ethics Law definition for “public officials,” and are silent about relationships between employees. In addition, there is compelling evidence that employee relationships warrant additional work in identifying and monitoring potential conflicts of interest and related parties. Lastly, PDC has not consistently followed its own requirements related to purchasing from businesses where employees may have a personal interest or hiring former employees....
PDC is not adhering to its own accounting system due to the combined reporting of regular and overtime wages in the regular wages account. Combining these significant expenditures makes the specific wage types less transparent for the public and PDC decisionmakers....
After consulting with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, we do not believe the [Employee] Service Awards are consistent with the Oregon Ethics Law. PDC discontinued the practice of distributing Service Awards to its employees after hearing our concerns about these awards....
PDC’s current practice of data management does not consistently produce complete records in the vendor master as required by policy. By using incomplete records, PDC has also missed an opportunity to verify, update and scrutinize information in its vendor master to add reasonable assurances against errors and fraud....
PDC issues checks to itself on a regular basis but for different reasons. It is unclear whether this practice is appropriate, especially for all the reasons described. Fraud schemes use a similar practice to steal funds. PDC’s practice presents the opportunity for the misappropriation of funds, especially when more secure methods – such as wire transfers or journal entries – are available alternatives....
A number of payment sequence gaps and [check] duplicates went undetected by PDC. In addition, the log used to monitor and explain any gaps and duplicates was not always accurate or complete, which impacted its effectiveness as a tracking tool. While PDC officials were able to explain most of the sequence issues, regular and timely reviews of gaps and duplicates can prevent errors or potential misuse of funds....
What a mess. In any other business, people would be fired over a report like this. Even the Urban League chopped off a guy's head over far lesser accounting problems. But hey, this is Portland, and the PDC slush fund is accountable to no one.
That whole operation needs to be disbanded. It's bankrupting Portland, even if you take its word for what it's doing. And heaven only knows how much money is being flat-out stolen out of there. Yoo hoo! Amanda Marshall!
Suddenly there's serious talk of a new basketball and hockey arena to be built in downtown Seattle. It seems like an obvious ploy to get the Sacramento Kings pro hoops team to move up there. Boy, wouldn't Paul Allen love to swing a deal to move the Blazers to Seattle and let Portland and some new owners have the Kings. Allen's under personal contract with the City of Portland to keep his team here for many more years, but you can bet he'll have the lawyers wracking their brains for a way out of that one.
Maybe the whole Seattle deal is just a head fake to get the taxpayers of Sacramento to build a new arena for the team down there. Stranger things have happened. But if Seattle gets an NBA team and it isn't his, DOS Boy is going to be just a wee bit frustrated.
The apartment bunker weasels are licking their chops over the Buckman neighborhood of southeast Portland. Trashed by Joe Weston in the '70s, the livability of this area is about to take another series of hits, as Belmont and Morrison Streets are about to be lined with multi-story barracks for the "work force." People who live in nice little two-bedroom houses in the vicinity can expect to have their parking spaces, as well as their light and air, badly Blumenauered. And they won't even get a streetcar to show for it.
A group of Buckmanites was talking about getting the neighborhood declared a historic district, which might have slowed down the onslaught considerably. But they're getting pushback from some homeowners who get the correct sense that historic district designation is going to restrict their ability to remodel their homes any old way they want.
So now the plan is to delay the historic district nomination while they try to convince the city to ease up on the design restrictions that come with historic status. Good luck with that, peeps. Even if you can persuade City Hall to forgo some of the red tape, by the time you get the rules changed you may not have a neighborhood left to preserve. The apartment boys couldn't be happier with the latest news.
This story got our attention yesterday: Metro, the Portland area's "unique" extra layer of government, is talking about economic sanctions against the City of Troutdale for allegedly dragging its feet in conforming its land use rules to various Metro mandates. We had forgotten about that aspect of Metro -- its role as enforcer. They're so busy doling out tax money to real estate developers and construction companies in the name of "green" this and that, it's hard to picture them doing anything else. Psychedelic Rex and "Waylon" Hughes handing out fines? It's a scary picture.
Troutdale is starting to look like Iran, and Rex is Hillary.
Then again, it's logical that the Metro birds should be given legal authority to force their Portland ways on the locals in a place like Troutdale. Without having their arms twisted, it's unlikely that folks in a burg like that would ever go along with the Central Planning™ Program.
Several of our readers have alerted us this week to the death of Ron Abell. Abell was an important figure on the Oregon journalistic, political, and literary scenes for many years. He also founded a half-serious "society" opposed to population growth in the state. His heyday was 30 to 40 years ago, a little before we arrived in Portland. As a result, we have no firsthand experiences with him to relay. But based on the comments that are being made on his passing, we wish we had paid more attention to him.
Richard Meeker, publisher of Willamette Week, remembers Abell today, here. David Sarasohn of the O posted this last night. The obituary in the O is here. Our condolences to the bereaved.
Nurse Amanda will be shopping for a new gig soon. The Goldschmidt Machine is going to roll over Portland's "clean money" queen and flatten her like a pancake. Here's the latest evidence. In fact, it could be one of the worst defeats of an incumbent in recent history. There's a third candidate in the race, but this one seems highly likely to be decided in May.
We do not report this with glee. Fritz is by far the lesser of two evils in the race. But she's proving to be not so smart as a politician. And for someone who's intent on doing things her own way, she's gone along with too much of the garbage foisted on the public by the Sam Rand Twins over the years. Not a team player, yet not really effective as a maverick -- then she gets an opponent, also a woman and an ultimate inside player, who's being bankrolled to the hilt by all the unions, the West Hills money, and the many PACs who kiss her ring in Salem.
Now the Nurse is being roughed up in Willy Week, which has never liked her, and if we had to predict, we'd say that the O will support her opponent as well. At this time next year, Fritz will be the director of the city neighborhood involvement office, or some such thing. Her moment will have come and gone.
Here's an interesting story: The underachievers at the Portland Development Commission say they're setting out to double exports from Portland over the next five years. It would be wonderful if that happened, but exports of what? Are the farmers in the region going to double the wheat and other crops that they sell overseas? Are we going to cut twice as much timber? Maybe it will be coal from Montana and Wyoming? Surely it isn't going to be solar panels -- we'll be lucky if our heavily subsidized "green" energy companies survive, much less increase their world market share.
What is Portland making these days that the rest of the world wants? And where is it going to make anything new, with its industrial zones being streetcar-ed, condo-ized, and Blumenauered out of existence?
About all Portland can export these days is bicycle and "sustainability" hype, none of which will ever support an actual economy. We say we want the world to consume our products, but City Hall spends millions on flacks, tweets, and mailers to send out the message that consumption is bad.
Double Portland exports? Sure, we'll drink to that, but we wouldn't bet on it actually happening. For one thing, it would require adult leadership, of which this area does not appear capable.
UPDATE, 9:19 a.m.: And of course, this guy mindlessly warms over the press release for the bureaucrats.
Just as Tri-Met is building pointless new light rail while it radically slashes existing service, now the City of Portland parks bureau will blow millions on the SoWhat greenway while it closes facilities and lets existing parks rot. To Portlandia's local government, shiny new is always better than maintaining what we already have. It's no surprise that people who live here because they like what we already have are keenly disappointed. Go by streetcar!
In a conference call with reporters, LaHood said that President Barack Obama considers the $1.5 billion light-rail line extension from downtown Portland to Milwaukie an integral part of rebuilding the nation’s economy.
We yawned our way through last year's debate over whether the Portland police should join the feds in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In the end, the powers that be came up with a bit of a hash -- Portland's neither in it nor out of it.
But if there's one thing the current arrangements produce, it's paperwork. Yesterday the public received written reports from both the mayor and from the police chief about recent goings-on with the task force. And -- surprise -- there's not much content in either of the documents.
But hey, the mayor's applied for his "secret" clearance from the FBI, and he's still waiting to hear from them. It could be a while.
Now Portland's mayor is spending his time reviewing restaurants and other establishments on Yelp. One critic reacts by calling him a "preening, attention-craving jackass" and urging him to "go do your damn job." Even funnier is the thought that anyone would take the mayor's advice, about anything.
It's too bad that the hipsters don't get out of bed early enough to go picket this Dunthorpe resident. Living off the greatest thievery in the nation's history, he now has the taxpayers of Portland paying his hot dog vendors and risking their scarce tax money for his business. Oh, well -- at least he lives here.
Opponents of the city's ill-advised, budget-busting, unnecessary plan to install an ultraviolet water treatment system at Bull Run smell a rat here. Any construction up there is bad construction, as far as they are concerned. And we can't say we blame them for the mistrust.
Getting into the feds' files is not intuitively easy. We finally had success by going here, entering docket number P-2821, and asking for the file going back to 1/1/2011. Alas, the public comment period, we discover, closed on Saturday.
There's a rally of some sort planned for tomorrow afternoon at rush hour at the New Seasons store on Division Street. It's to protest the firing of some guy last week, apparently over his alleged consumption of brown rice and tofu without paying for it.
Here's the website of the protesters. It sounds more than vaguely union-y. The fired guy, it says, "was arbitarilly terminated due to his involvement in promoting a democratic voice within the company."
Is this really about a fired worker? Or is it really about making Eileen Brady look bad in the Portland mayoral race?
Anyway, that corner is almost always congested, and that parking lot is an accident lot. It could be slow going there tomorrow afternoon.
Maybe Portland's "unique" mayor can become the chief executive at an alternative energy company. Or perhaps Jeffer-Sam can take on that role after he flames out in the mayor's race. They'd both be perfect: No one in their right mind wants the job.
If it weren't already crystal clear where Tri-Met is coming from these days -- ripping out a perfectly good bus system and replacing it with an array of inconvenient and dangerous trains -- it's impossible to miss the message here. The Tri-Met general manager is going in front of the Portland City Club next week to speak on "Moving Forward While Cutting Back." And who is he bringing along to do some of his talking for him? A dandy dude from CH2M Hill.
Who is CH2M Hill? We'll give you a hint: they're not into bus maintenance. CH2M Hill is into real estate development and giant construction projects.
And therein lies the problem. Real estate developers want railroad tracks next to their apartment bunkers, just long enough to load in some tenants, flip the property, and move on to the next deal. They could care less how awful it is to ride the public buses and trains. They just want public money to make their lives "pencil out," and keep the lobster bisque flowing at the Arlington Club.
The future of Tri-Met is in bankruptcy. And you know what? CH2M Hill won't be there with them that day.
According to the moguls on Pill Hill, Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) District is going to "become one of the most accessible spots in the region." This will happen shortly after monkeys fly out of your butt. The place is a nightmare of difficult vehicular access, and there is no money lying around to improve it at any time in the foreseeable future. But hey, they're telling this story to the folks at Tri-Met, who rank right up there with OHSU when it comes to blurring fiction and fact.
Dave Rogoway of Stumptown Blogger reports on his Facebook page today that there will be a new nostalgia radio station in Portland starting a week from Friday night:
You have been used to vanilla corporate sounding oldies stations playing the same 200 songs to death. How do you feel about 91,000 tracks? The line up will include Roger W. Morgan, Tiger Tom Murphy, Raider founder Roger Hart, Dave Records Stone, the outstanding Major Logan, the midnight groover Pat Pattee, news giant William R. Hatch, Steve Randall, James Bond from London, special weekend focus shows, classic commercials and the greatest radio imaging and jingles ever put on Ampex reel-to-reel. This station will be the best sounding in the world.
It's supposed to be like KISN in its heyday. Sounds like fun. We hope it's an instant hit, and a survivor.
We have our iPhone set to allow the folks at KGW to flash us with important news bulletins. They've beeped us three times in the last half hour to tell us that Whitney Houston is dead. We have now absorbed this life-changing news and hope that they can resist further bulletins.
UPDATE, 6:21 p.m.: Just got a fourth one. No doubt the grief in the news room is so unbearable that the bulletin button is stuck. It's starting to remind us of Chevy Chase telling us that Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
Ah, the glorious filth of campaign contributions. Mary Nolan and Dave Hunt are running for local office while they're still in the state legislature. Big Medicine is throwing lots of PAC money around to influence the current session of the legislature, and that includes Nolan and Hunt, of course. And so they can build up war chests for their local races by using their positions in Salem.
This sort of thing sure puts a damper on potential grassroots candidates at the neighborhood level. It's bad enough that the Nolans and Hunts can out-money opponents for their state legislature seats, but when the Salem lobbying loot starts pounding down opposition at the city and county levels, it feels even more wrong.
The Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" on the east side of Portland burned through tons of money with not much benefit to show for it. And so those of us who would like to see City Hall get around to maintaining what we have, rather than building schlock that we don't need, have been relieved that the plan to do the same thing on the west side is languishing for lack of money. The west side version, pushed strenuously by Mike Powell of bookstore fame, even included a streetcar -- the ultimate waste of money.
And so we find quite curious this column by Steve Duin of the O, which asserts that it was just wealthy people in the Henry condos in the Pearl who killed the couplet. Common sense had nothing to do with it, apparently.
If Burnside is dangerous, there's a lot that could be done to make it safer. But nobody in city government is interested in that -- unless it makes some wealthy real estate investors even wealthier at the same time. We doubt that it was just rich people in the Pearl who derailed this particular boondoggle, but whatever it was, Portland needs a lot more of it. We need to stop letting the city we have rot away from below while we build shiny junk on its surface.
Baseball will be here soon, but we miss football. As promised, we have taken a look back at our charity pro football underdog pool to see how the five players who took the prizes accomplished this feat. Did they do it by picking big-point underdogs, or did slow and steady win the race?
Well, they didn't get where they did with just a few correct choices. These gentlemen could really sniff out the upsets. They had between 8 and 11 winners in the 20 weeks of the game, with their average winner being between 4.5 and 6.5 points:
Pete Rozelle: Total 51.5; 10 winners, average winner 5.15
John Ch.: Total 50.5; 11 winners, average winner 4.59
Michael K.: Total 50.5; 8 winners, average winner 6.31
Usual Kevin: Total 50; 8 winners, average winner 6.25
PDXileinOmaha: Total 48.5; 9 winners, average winner 5.39
The biggest winner any of them had was 9.5 points. They all scored in the last two weeks, and Pete Rozelle finished the season with five in a row.
Taking their losing picks into account, here are the players' choices for the season:
Pete Rozelle: 6.025 average, largest pick 9.5
John Ch.: 4.6 average, largest pick 10
Michael K.: 6.8 average, largest pick 10
Usual Kevin: 6.425 average, largest pick 9.5
PDXileinOmaha: 5.325 average, largest pick 9
And so it appears that one can have success in our game by adopting either the slow-and-steady program (John Ch.'s 4.6 average) or the more aggressive plan (Michael K.'s 6.8 average). Roll this important information around in your mind, and we'll see you back here for a new game starting in the heat of late August.
Wyatt's criminal defense attorney Gary Amendola, of Couer d'Alene, said today by phone that Wyatt held up his badge and his gun in its holster to the windshield of his car after the other motorist, who was driving in front of him on I-90, had cut him off several times and slowed down in front of his truck after the two vehicles had a near-accident getting onto the highway.
"This other motorist just wouldn't go away. Todd was in fear for his life. In a nutshell, his actions were in defense of his family," Amendola said. "He stuck up his badge and his gun in its holster to identify himself.'"
According to the folks at Politico, the Obama campaign has released a playlist of music that will be piped in at re-election rallies, rope lines, and similar events from now until November:
"Different People" (No Doubt)
"Got to Get You in My Life" (Earth, Wind & Fire)
"Green Onions" (Booker T & The MG's)
"I Got You" (Wilco)
"Keep on Pushing" (The Impressions)
"Keep Reachin' Up" (Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators)
"Love You I Do?" (Jennifer Hudson)
"No Nostalgia" (AgesAndAges)
"Raise Up" (Ledisi)
"Stand Up" (Sugarland)
"This" (Darius Rucker)
"We Used To Wait" (Arcade Fire)
"You've Got the Love" (Florence and the Machine)
"Your Smiling Face" (James Taylor)
"Roll with the Change" (REO Speedwagon)
"Everyday America" (Sugarland?)
"Learn to Live" (Darius Rucker)
"Let's Stay Together" (Al Green)
"Mr. Blue Sky" (Electric Light Orchestra)
"My Town" (Montgomery Gentry)
"The Best Thing about Me Is You" (Ricky Martin, featuring Joss Stone)
"You are the Best Thing" (Ray Lamontagne)
"Keep Marchin'" (Raphael Saadiq)
"Tonight's The Kind of Night" (Noah and the Whale)
"We Take Care of Our Own" (Bruce Springsteen)
"Keep Me In Mind" (Zac Brown Band)
"The Weight" (Aretha Franklin)
"Even Better Than The Real Thing" (U2)
"Home" (Dierks Bentley)
Ah, but you can see where this is going. They've left out a few songs:
"Where Did Our Love Go?" (The Supremes)
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" (The Beatles)
"Won't Get Fooled Again" (The Who)
"Would I Lie to You?" (The Eurythmics)
"Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothin'" (James Brown)
Maybe this is nothing, but it sure seems curious to us that the nuclear reactor at Reed College is now making its requests to possess nuclear fuel by telephone. It's as if they were ordering takeout kung pao.
Apparently the girls who administered the infamous Dec. 26 group smackdown on Tri-Met -- and whose mother was arrested for allegedly hiding them from police -- are arguing in The Skanner that the target of their violence provoked it:
Sandra Abiori, the grandmother of two of the teens, says the incident has been mischaracterized as a racist attack and, with the help of the media, blown out of proportion.
"I’m not saying that the girls were in the right – they should never have hit anyone," she says. "The problem I have is that, here this girl opened her mouth and started a fight – and now my family has to face prison time?
"Where's the fairness in that?"
To us, this attitude says a lot about why the whole thing happened.
When a little earthquake went off under Molalla on Sunday night, we predicted there would soon be another one over near McMinnville somewhere. This evening there was a 1.8 under Sherwood. Close enough.
Katherine Heekin has dropped out of the Democratic Party primary for Oregon attorney general. Against two seriously qualified opponents with lots of money and big-time connections, she did not stand a chance.
Oregon's "urban renewal" laws allow cities like Portland to siphon off property tax revenues and steer them to real estate sharpies, supposedly to clean up "blight" but more often just to make schlock projects "pencil out." It's unfair to all the other public services that are deprived of that revenue, like public safety, schools, mental health crisis lines, and the like, but the developers and landlords have the deck completely rigged.
Now comes a new twist: Multnomah County, starting with former county chair Ted Wheeler, screamed and moaned so much about the revenue drain that the state legislature passed a law requiring Portland to fork over some of its "urban renewal" take to the county. Thus, a squeaky wheel gets greased. But what about the schools? What about the city police and fire bureaus? What about the parks?
The other night there was a bad call against the Blazers that arguably cost them their game against Oklahoma City. The Blazer announcers were whining about it to no end from the moment it happened, and we found that annoying. It was a close call that the referee missed. When referees are bad, often they're bad both ways, and calls that go against one team at the end of a game have sometimes been matched or topped by equally bad calls in the opposite direction earlier in the game.
But this morning, some new facts came to our attention that put the incident in a different perspective. The ref who made the call, Scott Foster, had been mentioned in connection with the pro basketball league's notorious Tim Donaghy gambling scandal of a few years ago. The league portrayed Donaghy as a crazed gunman, acting alone, and we never bought that for a second.
Nolan camp fined again for campaign finance violations
Portland City Council candidate Mary Nolan -- the nominee of the Goldschmidt Party -- has been racking up fines with the Oregon Secretary of State's office for campaign finance violations. We count $1,787.13 in fines since Labor Day, the most recent being a $316.54 dinger paid on December 31.
Nolan's campaign, which is awash in obscene amounts of PAC money, has apparently found itself losing track of a fair amount of it. On December 31, her campaign posted a "cash balance adjustment" of $2,965.02. As we understand it, that's money that's gone and can't be accounted for, which doubtlessly explains some of the fines.
We can't imagine what it would be like to give money to a political candidate, only to have it be either lost or paid out in fines. We certainly wouldn't be happy about it.
This is so typical. The news the world over is that wind and solar are being dominated by the Chinese, and there's no way that Europe and the United States can compete. Managers of big "green" energy manufacturers in several western nations are committing career suicide these days. Major consolidation is in the wind. The outlook has never been bleaker.
But not in the Portland papers. We have our own reality here. Just take the hilarious, preposterous press release from some guy at the Portland Development Commission and print it. With a headline along the lines of "World Ends, But Not as Quickly as it Might Have."
One of the biggest factors holding Portland back is its anemic, know-nothing mainstream media. There are maybe five reporters in town with the smarts to know what's going on and the guts to say it. And even they are hamstrung by their editors a lot of the time.
Folks, you don't have to join the doom-and-gloom chorus if you don't want to, but please stop serving your readers bureaucratic Kool-Aid.
It's been two years since we pulled our banking business out of Chase Bank. We were gratified to get those thieving magpies out of our life. And we found a nice local bank, Umpqua Bank from Roseburg, who made us feel quite at home. Not only was our checking free, with no minimum balance, but we got 2% interest on the checking balance, free ATM use at other banks, and for a while they would even throw $10 a month into a savings account if we'd agree to put $50 a month in there ourselves and keep a $200 savings balance. We had to get a paperless monthly statement and use our debit card 10 times a month, but neither of those was a big deal. "Hip" checking, they called it.
We knew it wouldn't last forever -- especially the $10 deposit part, which had an explicit, set expiration date -- but now all the other goodies are gone too. Yesterday Umpqua broke the news to us that unless we're willing to commit to an average monthly balance of $500, we'll be stripped down to a no-fee, non-interest-bearing checking account with no ATM freebies at other banks.
That's kind of a drag, but the worst part of the notice was the way they handled the transition. Unless we told them otherwise, they were going to throw us into an account with a $15 monthly fee unless we kept a $2,500 balance. That would have been a nasty surprise, and it seems heavy-handed on their part to make that the default rule if the customer didn't call in and stop it.
We did call, of course, and we got a nice person on the phone who said she moved us into the no-fee, no-minimum account. But suddenly our friendly neighborhood bank feels much like the big, bad banks we were trying to avoid. And so now we'll have to regard them with some suspicion. We have a feeling that another bad shoe will drop before too long.
As a person who enjoys walking from Point A to Point B when time permits, we're always glad to see pedestrian crossing aids installed on busy streets. Those push-button yellow blinky lights are nice, although nothing beats the gold standard, the push-button steady red. And on really wide and busy streets, where the drivers run at near-freeway speeds, pedestrian overpasses have a lot to be said for them.
But an observant reader sends us this picture, from 85th and Division, with the question, Do we really need both in the exact same place?
Surely there are many other dangerous spots in the city where one or the other of those tools could have been deployed. But for the bureaucratic mind, that thought would make too much sense.
Kill good service, build junk -- it's truly breathtaking. Now the good old no. 9 -- the only bus that still goes downtown from our neighborhood -- won't go down there any more. We're supposed to transfer to the crime train or the Crazy 8 at Lloyd Center. Yeah, right.
Anybody want our leftover tickets? We've got two 1-zones, a 2-zone, and five all-zone tickets lying around for the taking. Once these changes take effect, we won't be riding Tri-Met, ever again.
A perfectly good transit system has finally been destroyed. Way to go, Fred Hansen, wherever you are! Give our love to Neil Goldschmidt the next time you're kissing his ring.
The fact that there is not a massive uprising against the people running Portland right now indicates to us that there's something seriously wrong with this town. The corruption runs too deep. It's a real shame that the boomers don't feel as though they owe it to their kids and grandkids to wake up and step up.
What in the hell does Oregon need a "Board of Commercial Interior Design" for? Oh, I see: so the maniacs can establish a "Board of Commercial Interior Design Fund." Naturally, it's "an emergency."
Can't have "interior decorator services" performed by someone who's not "registered."
Subpoena powers, civil penalties, and a list of barriers to decorators and decorator companies with less than 10 years' experience. A job-crusher and the type of trust-enabler that would have Teddy Roosevelt getting back on his charger.
They say they won't be borrowing money -- at least not at first -- but Portland's going to start impounding property taxes in six neighborhoods to hand out to construction companies and developer cronies for bad apartment bunkers with Subway sandwich shops on the street level. "Micro-" urban renewal districts, they're calling it -- a "neighborhood prosperity initiative," brainchild of the Sam Rand Twins and some bobbleheads at the Portland Development Commission.
Satellite urban renewal, micro-urban renewal, it's all a ripoff. This city can't fix a pothole, but it sure can build junk apartments.
Shoot unarmed man in back? Standard procedure for Portland cops.
It's stunning, really. Maxine Bernstein of the O writes:
Officer Nathan Voeller, a lead defensive tactics instructor, was ready to testify that Portland officers are trained that they're not required to see a gun before using lethal force if the officer believes the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury. "They are trained they need to be preemptive," Voeller was to testify, according to a trial memorandum filed by Frashour's lawyer.
According to the document, Portland police are taught that if they wait to see a person pull or point a firearm, they won't be able to react fast enough before the suspect fires.
Chamberlain planned to testify that Campbell did not react to Lewton's beanbag shots in a "typical fashion," and "that moving his hands towards or into his waistband while running towards hard cover (a car) was indicative of the intent to pull a handgun."
Officer Ryan Coffey, the bureau's lead defensive tactics instructor, was to testify Portland police are taught not to allow potentially armed suspects to "secure hard cover," the document said. Further, police are taught that suicidal people are "frequently homicidal," the instructors were to testify. Former defensive tactics instructor Todd Engstrom was to point out that Frashour's sole focus as the officer with an AR-15 rifle was to provide "lethal cover."
This really needs to be fixed, and the people running for City Council need to be pressured into make a firm commitment to fix it. We're ashamed to live in a city where this is what goes on.
We're still basking in the glow of some good news that we got on Friday: Our Portland water bill is going up only 11% this coming year! All right!
And what are we getting for our money? Cleaner water? Better water? It seems as though we're getting a lot of mega-pork projects that aren't needed. Burying reservoirs that don't need to be buried. Planning treatment systems that don't need to be built.
Why are we doing these things? Besides the fact that you-know-who says so?
For the money they're blowing, you could probably replace the lead pipes in tens of thousands of houses within the city limits. Keep a lot of plumbers and sheet rock people employed, too. But no. The money all goes to some sweetheart engineers and contractors in big corporations with big talk and big blueprints. They want to own the water systems eventually, and wait 'til you see the bill you pay then.
Already the city bureaucrats are urging us to compare our water bills with our cable TV and phone bills -- two of the ultimate ripoffs. Eventually you'll pay Pepsi to take a shower. For now, just pungle up your 11% extra and try not to think too much about it. Have you toured the Water House yet?
There's something about our state politician press release meter that we find irresistible. This year, with John Kroger retiring from public office due to a mystery illness, he may slow down enough to give one of his former rivals for the governorship a shot at the title. Anyway, here are the results for January. Ted Wheeler's making a run at top honors:
But of course, there's a long way to go until year-end.
Scott Fernandez, a biologist who's been part of the crew battling the Portland water bureau for years over its many questionable expenditures, informs us that he's decided to run for mayor. We're surprised, but not unpleasantly so. Fernandez seems like a bright guy who has put in a lot of time and energy fighting junk science and turning over many rocks to reveal curious behavior by the city's water bureaucrats.
To call his candidacy a longshot would be an understatement. Fernandez reminds us of Jason Renaud, the mental health advocate who ran for mayor four years ago, mostly as a means of publicizing mistreatment of the mentally ill by police and other local bureaucracies. If running for office helped Renaud get out his message about the brutal killing of James Chasse and other outrages against the mentally ill, it was worth it. And we feel much the same way about Fernandez.
And so if you can't bring yourself to vote for any of the "big three" versions of the status quo currently running for mayor, and if Max Brumm is too young for your liking, you might want to think about voting for Fernandez, if for no other reason than to tell the water bureau what you think of its recent performance.
But Fernandez's ideas are bigger than just water. He sees waste in many facets of the city government -- as his website puts it, "where cronyism runs rampant at the expense, both literally and figuratively, of hard-working ratepayers and taxpayers." Amen to that. Can you imagine how refreshing it would be to have a mayor with that perspective? It would be priceless. We wish him the best on the campaign trail.
The recent re-doing of the Portland transit mall was not really necessary, and it cost a fortune, but the spendthrifts in city government and Tri-Met pushed it through anyway. Meanwhile, downtown has deteriorated to a point that in many ways resembles its bleak state around 35 years ago.
But hey, we've got shiny trains, and this, this morning:
We're not sure what that is. Other than peculiar, and sad.
If the American pro basketball sort-of season isn't doing it for you, here at least is an interesting take on what's happening with the game in China. Can you say "Ma Bu Li"? (Patty Mills even makes a cameo appearance.)
An alert reader sends us this photo, from NW Tenth and Hoyt in the groovy Pearl District:
As someone who cleans up graffiti from time to time, we'd sure like to fill this researcher's ear. Graffiti is mental illness! But when you go to his website, it's clear that he's fishing for good things to say about the practice:
I have been photographing graffiti and street art for the past couple of years, and I am intrigued by the very high level of skill and the breadth of imagination behind much of the work. I work as a sociology lecturer and I would like to discover more about the people who create this art and also the people who document it through photography, so that I can learn more about this fascinating topic and put the images that I have collected into some kind of informed context.
Eventually, my aim is to create an article that takes an informed look at graffiti and the people involved in the creative process, which could then be published in a relevant academic journal. If you are involved in either creating or documenting graffiti and street art, I would like to invite you to complete my short questionnaire.
Is Portland State now about to start sponsoring vandalism? It certainly appears that way. Go by streetcar!
Here's a funny one: The City of Portland is recruiting neighborhood groups to go around proselytizing for the new ritual of dumping food slop in the yard debris bin. Canvassers will earn $2 per conversation, and 50 cents per flyer left on the porch if the resident isn't home. They're not being sent out to record complaints, mind you -- just to sing the praises. If they show up at our place, the $2 conversation is going to be quite brief.
Here's an emerging trend in Portland: When the city says it's handing out tax dollars to keep "green" businesses in town, chances are the money's actually being paid to those businesses' landlords. We noticed this recently when it was revealed that the $8 million sweetheart loan made by the city to keep Vestas's American headquarters here was in fact made to developer Mark Edlen and his co-investors on the real estate project to which Vestas is expected to relocate (if it survives that long).
An alert reader points out that the same thing is about to happen with the straight-out $1.15 million grant being made for the supposed purpose of keeping Iberdrola in Portland. If one reads the fine print, as opposed to what gets printed in the newspaper, one sees that the money is actually going to be paid to Iberdrola's landlord, for "tenant improvements." That landlord in something called SPF Brewery Blocks, LLC, which the State of Oregon lists as being located at JP Morgan Investment Management Inc. in New York City. Apparently the landlord has agreed to make some rent concessions to Iberdrola, but who knows how much, or for how long, those will be? Iberdrola is supposedly also going to agree to stay in the building for another 10 years or else pay liquidated damages to the city, but we'll believe that one when we see it signed.
In any event, if Iberdrola pulls out of Portland, the Brewery Blocks boys will no doubt get to keep the improvements that the taxpayers have bought. See how they did that? A neat little trick by the Portland Development Commission and its real estate pals.
And what are these "tenant improvements" going to be? Here's the sum total of what we the people are being told:
Various tenant improvements in Brewery Block 4 which may be amended from time to time. Such subsequent amendments to the Scope of Work shall be reviewed and approved by prior to Grantee entering into a contract for construction in connection with any Scope of Work
Well, that sure pins it down, eh?
Not to mention the gross distortion of the intent of the "urban renewal" statutes. Are the Brewery Blocks "blighted"? We don't think so.
Our spies tell us that Bruce Warner (left), chief executive of the Portland Development Commission under Mayor Tom Potter, is about to be nominated by our retread governor to be the new president of the board of Tri-Met. The linkage is perfect -- it illustrates so clearly that Tri-Met is all about apartments. That's what Warner was about at the PDC, and that's what he'll be about on the transit board. Streetcars, trains, and condo bunkers for all -- now, ain't that the Portland Way? Oh, and your bus has been cancelled.
Also going on the Tri-Met board, we're told, is Travis Stovall (right) from Gresham. Stovall is identified as president of the Gresham Chamber of Commerce and the director of something called the East Metro Economic Alliance. He has a business and financial consulting business.
Riding off into the sunset are board president Rick Van Beveren, who owns a restaurant in Hillsboro; and board member Lynn Lehrbach, a retired union guy. They leave the agency careening wildly toward bankruptcy, and will be forever remembered as presiding over the debacle known as the WES train. That may be one of the worst transportation investments in history, anywhere on the planet. That's not to say it can't be topped by whatever Warner and Stovall cook up.
First question for the new board members: Are you really going to sue the City of Milwaukie or Clackamas County if they don't pay toward the Milwaukie Mystery Train?
They had a little shaker under Molalla a few hours ago -- a 2.0 at 10:16 Sunday night. Not too far from the epicenter of the 6.0 spring break quake of '93.
If our amateur earthquake prediction skills are any good, within a couple of days there'll be a quake or two between McMinnville and the coast to match this one. Lately the two places have seemed seismically linked.
And for the second straight year, the inspirational figure we chose for our charity prediction contest turns out to have played on the current team that went all the way.
Congratulations to the Men of the Meadowlands for depriving Tom Brady of another ring to carry around in his man purse. It was not an outcome that too many of us predicted. Five weeks ago, only 2% of our readers picked the Giants to go all the way.
They had a 2.5 over near Maupin a couple of hours ago. It's a common place for earthquake activity, but it's been quiet for a while. Wonder if it had anything to do with these yesterday. The geologists always say no, but just because they don't know there's a connection doesn't mean there isn't one.
It's tax time once again all across the United States, and this week, Americans have been busy ratting each other out to the IRS, as required by law. And as each form was dropped into the IRS document maw, a copy was mailed to the taxpayer affected. Employees got W-2 forms from their employers. Investors got 1099 forms from their brokers. Retired folks got 1099 forms from their retirement plans. Homeowners with mortgages got 1098 forms from their lenders. Students got 1098 forms from their colleges. Depositors got 1099 forms from their banks.
But people who recently opened accounts at Citibank, picking up 25,000 frequent flyer miles as a promotion, got an ugly surprise -- a copy of a 1099 form, telling the IRS about the miles and reporting that they had a value of $645. That's $645 that the customers are each supposed to put down as income on their tax returns. If they don't, the IRS computer is going to add it onto their income and start hounding them for delinquent taxes -- or just take the surprise tax out of the refund they were expecting.
It's an unfolding disaster for Citibank from a p.r. standpoint. Some customers are furious, and the numbers of the outraged are going to swell as the tax drama plays out between now and mid-summer. A lot of customers aren't going to realize what hit them until the IRS processes their returns.
Did Citibank do the right thing? Usually, the receipt of frequent flyer miles isn't taxable to the airline customer -- it's just a tax-free rebate on money the flyer has already paid for other tickets. Even when employees get to keep miles that they didn't pay for because they racked them up on business travel covered by their employers, smart tax advisors counsel that it's a "de minimis" fringe benefit, excluded from income because it's unreasonable for the employer to keep track of something so small.
But when a bank transfers miles to a customer, there's no exclusion in play. It's a bit like the bank giving a toaster to attract a new account holder; in that case, the IRS has ruled for many years that the value of the toaster is income to the recipient. Certainly, if the bank paid a higher rate of interest to attract a customer, that would be income to the customer -- why not miles? So maybe Citibank was right; our friend and colleague Jim Maule at Villanova certainly thinks so.
But to us, the real ground for outrage is the valuation placed on the miles by Citibank. Are 25,000 miles really worth $645 on the open market? If they are, we suppose that the outraged customers can now sell the miles to raise the money to pay the tax on them. But that number seems awfully high. And avoiding that difficult valuation problem is one of the reasons often given for the policy of not taxing miles in other settings.
Anyway, condolences to the Citibank customers who are now gnashing their teeth. It's almost enough to make you want to Occupy. [Via TaxProf Blog.]
This morning, upon deciding that we should make a run to Kettleman's for some bagels (get 'em while they're real), we made the further decision to go by bicycle. Surprisingly, the tires didn't need air, and so we were on the road without delay. We encountered hardly a car, and the slight chill and breeze made the first ride of 2012 a nice one. We need to do more of that.
Reed College's aging nuclear reactor keeps a-reactin' away, while federal regulators decide whether to renew its license. The "research" facility, which is right on campus next to the psychology building, is 43 years old.
Some inspectors from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- the Sergeant Schultzes of the atomic power industry -- visited the Reed facility in a routine visit in late November, and the inspection report is here. Apparently Reed passed, but there were a few items in the writeup that caught our eye. First, some possible corner-cutting on safety:
During the past several years the radiation protection duties at the facility were completed by various individuals who were Reed College part-time employees. They filled the position at the RRR facility designated as the Reactor Health Physicist (RHP). Recently, after discussions among Reed College management and staff, it was decided that the RHP position was not needed and that the College would be better served by having staff members and/or students complete the radiation protection duties at the RRR facility. Because the facility TS still required that there be an RHP on various committees, the Reactor Director was assigned as the interim RHP. Reed College management also decided that a Certified Health Physicist (CHP) would be retained once each year to conduct an audit of the campus radiation protection program. It was noted that the campus Environmental Director continued to fill both that position and the position of Radiation Safety Officer for the campus as well. The licensee was informed that the elimination of the facility RHP position, the completion of the RHP duties by staff members and/or students, and the completion of an annual audit of the radiation protection program by someone from outside the facility, such as a CHP, would be considered by the NRC as an Inspector Follow-up Item (IFI) and would be reviewed during a subsequent inspection (IFI 50-288/2011-203-01)....
Next, it was a relatively bad year for radiation exposure among the workers, most of whom are students:
The inspector determined that the licensee used optically stimulated luminescent (OSL) dosimeters for whole body monitoring of beta and gamma radiation exposure. The licensee also used thermoluminescent dosimeter (TLD) finger rings for monitoring beta and gamma radiation exposure of the extremities. The dosimetry was supplied and processed by a National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) accredited vendor (Landauer). An examination of the OSL and TLD results indicating radiological exposures at the facility for the past two years showed that the highest occupational doses, as well as doses to the public, were well within 10 CFR Part 20 limitations. The records showed that the highest annual whole body exposure received by a single individual for 2009 was 9 millirem deep dose equivalent (DDE). The highest annual extremity exposure for 2009 was 12 millirem shallow dose equivalent (SDE). The highest annual whole body exposure received by a single person for 2010 was 3 millirem DDE and the highest annual extremity exposure for that year was 40 millirem SDE. Through September 2011, the highest individual whole body exposure that had been received was 21 millirem DDE and the highest extremity exposure through September was 700 millirem SDE. The relatively high whole body and extremity doses received thus far in 2011 were received during the course of an experiment when the sample and sample holder were removed after a long irradiation and the aluminum sample holder was more radioactive than anticipated. The SOP has been revised as a result....
In reviewing the RWPs, it was noted that one had been used in connection with work involving the removal of a sample and sample holder from the Central Thimble (as noted above in Paragraph (2) above). After the RWP was used and the personnel dosimetry was processed for those involved in the work, the licensee discovered that one individual had received a dose to the extremities of 640 mr. Upon investigation the licensee determined that the sample and sample holder had been irradiated in the Central Thimble for an extended period and the person who removed the sample and holder probably did not take all the proper precautions during the work evolution. The inspector indicated that nonroutine jobs are often the ones that can lead to problems because the work evolution is not familiar and individuals may not complete the operation properly without extensive training and practice. This can be especially true with those jobs involving highly irradiated samples can. Through discussions it was agreed that such jobs should be reviewed not only by the Facility Director, but also by the Radiation Safety Committee. This would allow others to consider the work and through their collective expertise and experience, possibly determine better or more efficient ways to complete the job....
And despite the claims that the reactor makes little waste, Reed did in fact ship some radioactive waste out of the facility during the year:
Through records reviews and discussions with licensee personnel, the inspector determined that the licensee had completed various shipments of licensed material since the last inspection of transportation in December 2009. The licensee had completed one solid radioactive waste shipment to date in 2011. The necessary forms containing the appropriate information were completed as required. Appropriate procedures were in place for shipping various types of radioactive material.
It was noted that the licensee had also received a shipment of fuel and had completed a fuel shipment in 2011. These shipments were reviewed by the NRC and the results of these reviews were documented in Inspection Report Nos. 50-288/2011-201 and 50-288/2011-202 respectively. The inspector noted verified that the licensee individuals who were designated as “shippers” no longer worked at the facility. The licensee acknowledged that selected staff members would need to attend the appropriate training and become qualified to ship radioactive material....
Apparently, Reed's waste goes out on Woodstock, 82nd, and Foster to I-205, and then to I-84, finally ending up over at the Idaho National Lab waste dump.
Overall, it's not a pretty picture. Aging facilities, wholesale staff turnover, a layoff and job consolidations, student help, bad trends in radiation exposure... but you know what they say in the nuke industry: Nothing to see here, folks. We know more than you. And trust us, nothing can go wrong.
Over in northwest Portland, just west of the I-405 freeway and in the higher letters of the Alphabet District, there used to be some actual industry, especially trucking. Blue collar jobs, like the ones the politicians around here keep telling us they're trying to bring us. But now all those businesses have been chased away by the bad attitudes in City Hall, and there's no hope of them ever coming back. And so it's time to decide what else should be located on that prime real estate.
You'll never guess what the city planners have come up with.
Those glorious, wonderful, ugly crackerbox apartments. But hey, there's still a lot that hasn't been decided: eight stories, or 22, or 30?
There's also some debate about park space. Some people have suggested an actual traditional park with, you know, a playground. But to the creative 20-something know-nothings running city government, that's an impossible sell. They'd rather have some super-sterile concrete thing with a few blades of pathetic "native" grass that no one will ever sit by, except maybe the occasional junkie tying up.
There's a whole public involvement charade in progress on this, but let's face it, it's going to be more high-rise apartments that existing residents will heavily subsidize, some hideous totem poles, a bunch of Subway sandwich locations, a lot of fake brick, and a ton of pretension. Cue Randy Gragg! Go by streetcar!
Here's a wild one in Willy Week: Phil Knight's building a new sports building on the University of Oregon campus, but nobody in the administration of the university admits to knowing any of the details of the project. When Uncle Phil wants to build something, they just "lease" him the land, no questions asked, and when he's had his way with the property, he just surrenders it back with his new toy on it. During the construction, everything's "private," and therefore secret.
It's a little like the Penn State football program in that regard.
In light of our post of last night about the latest $60 "Gotcha" from Portland City Hall, we think that these ought to be posted in the parking zones to alert unsuspecting motorists of the operative rules:
The Portland City Council can easily get one's blood boiling, but in brighter moments it's important to stop and savor the sublime hilarity of their actions. Take the police fitness money scandal, for example -- the one in which any cop can get an extra $739 pay just by showing up once to take a blood test:
Ninety one percent, or 823 of the 900 members of the Portland Police Association got the extra pay the first year for simply showing up to get their finger pricked for blood, blood pressure taken and height and weight checked. The original plan was to have police take a timed obstacle and physical abilities test. Passing would earn the premium pay – 1 percent of top step officer salary, or $739.
The city scrapped the fitness test after the union balked about having to take the exams off-duty without receiving overtime. Yvonne Deckard, director of the city's Bureau of Human Resources, said the potential cost of paying officers overtime to take the fitness test would have been unacceptable.
We're surprised comics the world over haven't been yukking it up over that one. It's just too good. But almost as funny are the politicians' reactions to it. This abomination must stop! Yes, so outraged are the city commissioners that by gum, they're going to try to negotiate that out of the next union contract!
Leonard asked the City Council to consider a resolution that would put off any change until a new contract is negotiated in 2013. Under his plan, the city's Bureau of Human Resources would be directed to develop a physical fitness test for police before agreeing to pay a 1 percent premium health and fitness pay to officers in the next contract....
Mayor Sam Adams, who serves as police commissioner, said today, "Negotiations or implementation of the negotiations didn't go exactly as I had hoped."
The council voted 4 to 1 to approve Leonard's resolution. Saltzman objected.
What courage. What wonderful stewardship of the public's hard-earned money.
The capper of them all, though, is this:
Saltzman wants to require notetakers at all contract talks to provide an "accurate record" and greater involvement of the council and city attorney's office in crafting city bargaining agreements.
Note-takers? Note-takers? We've got five commissioners, each with a dozen or more minions running around on staff, and nobody knows what's in the union contracts because they need note-takers?
Fred Armisen, eat your heart out -- you'll never be that funny.
Our old partner from law practice, Greg Macpherson, made it official yesterday that he's running for mayor of Lake Oswego. We've always liked Mac as a politician, and were dismayed to see him lose the state attorney general's race at the hands of the public employee unions. They snuffed out his career in Salem as revenge for his daring to cut back their precious, and grossly unsustainable, pensions.
But we're afraid that we won't be supporting his mayoral run, because as the Lake O. rebels have warned us, Macpherson's in tight with Homer Williams and the real estate developer set who are still pushing condo bunkers, and a streetcar to Portland, for that 'burb's east side. If there was any doubt about that after his recent testimony in favor of the streetcar, Mac certainly sent out the bat signal in his e-mail announcement yesterday:
It appears he's gone completely over to the Portland planning mafia. Which is too bad, on a number of levels.
In any event, the rebels down that way had better find themselves a good candidate, and soon, because Mac is going to be hard to beat. And if he wins, the bankrupting apartment bunkers with their dopey trolley will be very much back on track.
The race to the bottom has never been more apparent. If you live in Portland, you pay money to a company in Spain to keep some well connected local landlord's office building occupied. All in the name of saving the planet -- and "jobs," of course.
Here's a new atrocity from Sam Rand City Hall. A reader writes:
I recently discovered an interesting and unusual Portland parking law today after I was issued a ticket. I parked in the NE industrial area near Widmer brewery (zone J 2 hour zone) in the morning (9am) and returned again briefly in the afternoon 2pm. Apparently it is ILLEGAL in Portland to go to the barber shop in that zone in the morning and return for a meal in the afternoon according to the parking regulations (below). I even parked on a different block! Oh well, Portland has my $60.
16.20.860 Violation and Enforcement.
C. During permit designated hours, it is unlawful for a nonpermitted vehicle to:
1. Exceed the maximum visitor time limit allowed within the signed permit area;
2. Return to the signed permit area for a period of 12 hours after parking for any time period.
Silly reader. Probably lives in a detached single-family home, too.
Look, friend, there's an easy solution to your problem: Don't do business in Portland.
"Urban renewal" is now officially dead in the bankrupt Golden State. It will take a long time, but eventually the same thing will happen in Oregon. The middle class and the poor will continue to suffer for the rich folks' sake, until finally the government is too broke to function. What a waste.
Trigger-happy Portland cops rack up another big judgment
Finally, the City of Portland admits that shooting an unarmed man in the back is wrong. "In the Campbell case, the city hired multiple outside attorneys to represent Frashour and Lewton and two other officers who were subsequently dismissed from the case." And now, on top of that, we'll get to pay $1.2 million in damages. Who's running the police bureau, anyway? Whoever they are, they look incompetent. Maybe they're just drunks.
Call us crazy, but we have a theory: Willamette Week really, really doesn't want Eileen Brady to be the next mayor of Portland. We're not sure why that is, but whatever the motive, the Wednesday wonders are pounding on Brady relentlessly, pausing only for the latest bong news.
Here's Nigel's latest slap: New Seasons doesn't want its workers to unionize. And it's all Brady's fault! Last week her problem was that she really had nothing to do with starting up New Seasons; this week the problem is that she was the ruthless mastermind behind allegedly illegal labor practices by the company. She's bad either way -- so you're supposed to vote for Jeffy, apparently.
They keep digging up unflattering stories about Brady, but to us, the overall effect is praising her with faint damn. She didn't vote in Oregon while denying that she owed Oregon resident taxes, as one of her opponents did. And she didn't blow off court appearances, drive on a suspended license, run a shadowy network of political organizations, or sleepwalk her way through a year and a half at a job she had no interest in. Therefore, although she's not worthy of our vote, she's a darn sight better than either of the other two major face cards in the race.
Funny thing. Here it is a Presidential election year, and all of a sudden (a) the official unemployment numbers are down, and (b) there's talk of an imminent strike on Iran, by Israelis armed with weapons, if not aided by soldiers, from the United States. Oh, and watch out for Iranian "terists" here in the "homeland" -- they could strike at any moment, so hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your kids, hide your wife...
By summer we could have a nice little "recovery" to talk about, and a commander-in-chief who needs our support as we save ourselves from the Ayatollah (or equivalent). And bring back "code orange" at the airport! For some reason, to some of us older fish, it all looks like bait.
We've been leafing through the City of Portland annual financial statements that have just come on line, and we've adjusted the unfunded pension figure on our debt clock (see left sidebar) in light of our findings. As best we can compute, the city's unfunded liability to its retirees as of Jan. 1, 2011 -- for pensions, health care, and disability benefits -- was about $2.9 billion, and that number was growing at a rate of about 6.5% a year. With those figures in place, the current liability is slightly lower than our debt clock was estimating, but it's still well over $3 billion. And as a result, the city's aggregate long-term debt has slipped below $11,000 per resident for the moment, to just over $10,900. We'll keep monitoring the city's financial data as it is released to keep the clock as up-to-date as we can make it.
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
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
Portuga, Rose 2011
Revelation, Chardonnay, Pays d'Oc 2010
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2005
Monte Alto, Tinto Reserva 2005
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet, Indian Wells 2009
Espiral, Vinho Rose
Vin-Koru, Pinot Gris 2011
14 Hands, Hot to Trot Red 2009
Rodney Strong, Cabernet, Sonoma 2009
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #11
Portuga, White 2010
La Bourgeoisie, Red 2009
Januik, Red 2009
Three Rivers, River's Red 2008
Kirkland, Alexander Valley Merlot 2008
Muga, Rioja Rose 2010
Quinta das Amoras, Vinho Tinto 2009
Mauro Molino, Barbera d'Alba 2009
Garda Chiaretto Rose
Columbia Crest, Two Vines Vineyard 10 White
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley 2009
L'Hortus, Rose de Saignee 2010
Maculan, Pino & Toi 2008
McKinley Springs, Bombing Range Red 2008
Trader Joe's Pinot Gris 2009
Montes Alpha, Cabernet 2007
Gran Sasso, Sangiovese, Terre di Chieti 2009
Garda, Classico Chiaretto Rose
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 1999
Picos del Montgo, Tempranillo 2008
Chateau de Montmirail, Vacqueyras 2008
La Granja 360, Syrah 2009
Montgras, Carmenere Reserva 2009
Lange, Pinot Gris 2009
Columbia Crest, Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet 2008
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio 2010
Trader Joe's Coastal Syrah 2009
Columbia Crest, Horse Heaven Hills Merlot 2008
Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay 2009
Vieux Papes Red
Domaine de l'Aujardiere, Chardonnay 2009
Santa Rita, Cabernet, Medalla Real 2007
Penfold's, Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Guild, Red, Lot #02 2008
Dievole, Dievolino Sangiovese 2008
Laforet, Burgogne Chardonnay 2009
Columbia Winery, Merlot 2007
Bonterra, Cabernet 2008
Elk Cove, Pinot Gris 2009
Maquis Lien 2006
Scott Paul, Pinot Noir, Le Paulee 2007
The Occasional Book
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: 21
At this date last year: 52
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