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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 8, 2012 7:48 AM. The previous post in this blog was We'll eat you up -- we love you so. The next post in this blog is Civic duty. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Does Metro now have three "reporters" on staff?

The amount of money that Oregon governments blow on public relations flacks is astounding. The Portland area's zany Metro government is a prime offender on this score. Not only do they have one of the highest paid p.r. dudes in the state on staff -- Erik Sten's old buddy, Jim Middaugh -- but they also have an in-house "reporter," Nick Christensen, who publishes articles on the Metro website. Christensen's writings are supposedly his unbiased views -- we're supposed to believe that if he disagreed in a big way with management, he could call them out on it all he wanted and they'd still pay him. Uh huh.

Well, now there are at least two more Metro staffers writing "articles" that purported to be of the same "independent" sort. Here's one by somebody named Michael Burnham, and here's another, by one Peggy Morell.

How many "reporters" do we taxpayers really need at Metro?

The piece signed by Morell is actually quite funny, because although she's supposedly writing as an unbiased journalist, she delivers a tired Metro party line, about the wonders of handouts to real estate developers, with enormous gusto. You couldn't get a puffier puff piece if you deliberately paid somebody to write one:

Communities in the Portland metropolitan region are seeing streetscapes and skylines change with multifamily, mixed-use developments located near transit that not only provide needed rental housing, but create jobs and generate economic activity.

Two transit-oriented projects at different stages of development tell a story repeated throughout the region and the nation: the smart money – in both public and private dollars – is on development projects that push economic recovery.

Gimme a break. And what's worse is that Middaugh kicks the whole thing off with this silliness:

Stories with a byline do not necessarily represent the opinions of Metro or the Metro Council. Metro news is committed to transparency, fairness and accuracy.

Really? Morell's post is so pleasing to the people who pay her salary that Metro councilor Rex "Psychedelia" Burkholder couldn't contain himself -- he had to run right out and Tweet it:

The whole scene is utterly absurd.

Given the attention that's been paid to the excesses of government public relations spending in our area lately, it's important to note the number of candidates in the current elections who are vowing to do something to curb them. That number is zero.

Comments (22)

Stories with a byline do not necessarily represent the opinions of Metro or the Metro Council.

That's a major CYA. I'd like to see how well that theory holds up in court or LUBA.

"..the smart money – in both public and private dollars – is on development projects that push economic recovery."

BS writing checklist:

> Always mention the public/private mantra without any notion of what the Hell that really means (pubic pays, privates profit).

> Use catchy but meaningless terms like, "smart money".

> Always mention "economic recovery" even if you have no idea if that is really happening - and in this example, definitely NOT.

Had I known Twitter was coming, I could have predicted years ago that Crusader Rex would embrace it.

What about "Streetscapes"? Ouch.

You know the Portland School Foundation has an event called Hacks versus Flacks and it's starting to sound like they're merging. Maybe someday it'll just be one person at the podium yelling.

Think of all the things that have merged in Portland. Private businesses with government. Cars using the new Burnside/Couch Couplet with buildings.

Meanwhile, I had a line on USA Today's website this weekend. I write for around 100 radio stations 5 days a week. But can I get a writing gig in Portland, Oregon? And by gig, I don't mean an occasional freelance or pro bono effort.

Of course not. Why? Because Portland, Oregon is crawling with sell-outs who use terms like streetscapes. The system is set up to funnel money to hacks and you know what?

I'm fine with it. I had a moment of clarity this morning, and I can see the next big project. I'd rather be a struggling artist than a corporate/public lackey any day.

I'm not saying I haven't tried to sell out, but fortunately for me, they weren't buying.

Some people are born hacks, others achieve hackness, while others have hackness thrust upon them.

It's not just Metro. The Multnomah County Library just released their proposed budget for the coming year. Libraries will be closed one day a week, programs will be cut, fewer books will be bought, but the Marketing and Communication budget will increase from the previous year.

"[Burkholder] had to run right out and Tweet it" ... more likely, his personal Metro- paid Tweeter/blogger/hack posted this for him. Great work if you can get one of these essential government service jobs.

The people who pay attention don't have enough votes to change things. I wish they did.

Meanwhile, those rubes down in Tennessee just wasted a bunch of land on a new state of the art Volkswagen plant. Too bad. Don't they know that "multifamily, transit-oriented developments create jobs, boost economy?" They could have had a mixed use retail / multifamily unit with a New Seasons and some subsidized artist lofts instead of a manufacturing plant. Dopes.

It is a microcosm of the weird concept of economic development in City Hall and Metro. To them, our supposed "livability" and planning religion somehow ARE the economy.

We don't need actual industries or jobs because we sell bikes and coffee and housing units to each other. What will the people in those units do for a living? Why sell bikes and planning to the next wave of immigrants. What will those immigrants do? Why sell bikes and planning....

A lady in Portland's Department of Transportation sent a defense of their propaganda in response to a query. She claims that
Portland residents have made it a priority to create livable and safe streets. There are important and critical safety issues that having a multimodal transportation system address. Part of that means getting information, tools, ideas and strategies into the hands of residents and employees that want to lead a more active and healthy life - through bicycling, walk, taking transit and driving less.
Portland Smart Trips accounts for an annual decrease in driving trips by 9%....

Really? Their glossy pamphlets result in a 9% decrease every year?

According to The Zero, after six decades of seemingly inexorable increases, traffic peaked nationally in 2004. The total vehicle miles has been flat or down each year since. In 2011, the average American drove 6 percent fewer miles than in 2004.

Unsurprisingly, it appears that Portland bureaucrats are simply trying to take credit for trends that have been apparent nationwide for years. How else would they shore up their "green, progressive" credentials and justify their cushy "jobs"?

Metro government is a Goldschmidt like device concocted to force population back towards the city of Portland from the Portland suburbs. Recall the 60s and 70s when baby boomer parents relocated their families in droves to the Portland suburbs. The city of Portland was in serious decline at this point. So, Metro is created in and around this aftermath, and its unspoken purpose is too artificially push business and people back towards the city of Portland. (All main roads, bus routes, and tracks must go through the city Portland, rather than around it as in more productive regions of the U.S.)

Metro accomplishes this goal, proping up the city of Portland, not by productive effort but rather restricting family oriented development in the suburbs. To offset this stigma (based in reality, no less) of being dead weight overall for the local and state economies, it must propagandize; and hence, the need for an elevated number of public relations folks.

Snards:...What will the people in those units do for a living?...

It is a bike and planner's world in pdx now.
What happens when the redo is done and everyone has a bike?
...and new ones will be reluctant to come in?

...or is the plan to have the new ones coming in work for "future manufacturing" brought in by China, cheap labor assisted by all the "subsidized workforce" living units?...going to work on subsidized light rail and bikes?
Amerika gone global with Portland in the lead?

This is what they mean by "in-bedded" journalism.

So, Metro is created in and around this aftermath, and its unspoken purpose is too artificially push business and people back towards the city of Portland. (All main roads, bus routes, and tracks must go through the city Portland, rather than around it as in more productive regions of the U.S.)

And TriMet's most successful route (in terms of cost per boarding ride and service frequency) is the 72 Killingsworth/82nd Avenue route - a "cross-town route" that doesn't go downtown.

Go figure...

"The whole scene is utterly absurd."

PR Employee #4 will be Winston Smith (cf. 1984)

That's all govt is these days is work on what interests them and then convince us its for our own good. Which should give you a pretty good indicator of what they think out native intelligence level is.

Meanwhile the stuff we want (decent police, no potholes and good schools) just rots.

Say hello to the "bread and circuses" phase of American democracy.

Off topic (slightly), walking back from lunch, I saw a woman putting orange shower caps (for lack of a better description) and over bike seats at the rack at 10th and Stark. She was also affixing little orange tags on string to the handlebars.

Printed on the orange shower caps was "THANK YOU FOR RIDING" and I'm 99% sure that they had a METRO logo on it.

I think she mistook my observation as interest. Mostly I was thinking WT* are my tax dollars doing paying for this? And I'm a bike commuter.

If I saw someone tampering with my bike I would've said something. I wonder how many of those tags and caps get tossed in the gutter?

Today's English lesson:
People who write "news" for public consumption on behalf of an agency, a bureau, or even a private corporation are sometimes called "reporters", and sometimes they're called "public relations people", and sometimes "ad men", and sometimes "ministers of propaganda".
It just depends on what works.

Goebbels would be proud of Metro (and TriMet) for their effective use of PR flacks. He would probably pee his pants if he saw some of the words that these modern versions of himself have created.

Don't forget Dylan Rivera, formerly with The Oregonian, and now with Metro as a Snr. Public Affairs Specialist.

If Metro has three (or four) reporters on staff...that would still be way more reporters than the Oregonian has at any given time.

(Well,unless you count cut and paste interns)

The amount of money that Oregon governments blow on public relations flacks is astounding.

The more people resist the more public relations needed!
We pay how much to be "convinced?"


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