Whisky tango foxtrot
Booze is in the news these days. Our neighbors to the north kicked their state out of the liquor business this year, but new state taxes have increased the price of the hard stuff up there. Meanwhile, here in Portlandia, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has suddenly reversed course and announced that neither it nor the City of Portland has the power to create "alcohol impact" zones, with tighter rules, within the city. The OLCC says that's the word it got from state attorney general John Kroger's office shortly before the Krogster bailed to take over Reed College.
It's classic Portland, classic Salem -- hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax dollars blown on a long, drawn-out bureaucratic project that turned out to be illegal. No surprise in the futility -- but the story got us thinking about the OLCC. They recently trashed Portland City Hall's request that they refuse to issue liquor licenses for food carts -- now this. Who the heck are these people, anyway?
Well, we start with the top executive of the agency, a guy named Steve Pharo. He's been on thin ice for quite a while, having somehow averted getting canned three months ago. His near-dismissal was excruciatingly public. But he's hanging in there despite the fact that the governor clearly wants him out. Odd indeed.
Pharo, whose office is in the Clackistani war zone of Milwaukie, answers to a five-member commission appointed by the governor. In other words, these people are to alcohol what Tri-Met is to transportation. Without even looking at the roster, we're thinking we'll find Goldschmidt people, union people, a useful idiot or two, and some ethnic diversity types.
When we flipped to the actual bios, here is what we found:
Cassandra SkinnerLopata was appointed Chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s board of commissioners by Gov. John Kitzhaber on July 5, 2011. SkinnerLopata has been a member of the OLCC’s board of commissioners since June 2009. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law and is currently General Counsel and Medicaid Program Director for Agate Healthcare, the parent company of Lipa (Lane Individual Practice Association) and Trillium Community Health Plan, all located in Eugene. She has held positions on the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence, the Lane County Human Rights Advisory Committee, and the board of directors for Breaking Free, a non-profit organization promoting empowerment and self-defense for women and girls....
Robert Rice, a Portland restaurant owner, was appointed to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in July 2003. Rice, who owns the Virginia Café, represents the hospitality industry as well as the 1st Congressional District. Rice serves on the boards of the National Restaurant Association and Liberty Northwest Insurance Companies. In the past, he worked for Arthur Andersen & Co. as a certified public accountant and head of the firm’s small business division for the Portland region. Rice also served as president of the Oregon Restaurant Association and the Columbia Edgewater Country Club, and was a board member of Associated Oregon Industries.
Ron Roome was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in May 2009. Roome has been a lawyer at Karnopp Petersen LLP since 1988 and has been litigation partner since 1994. Roome has served in multiple public service roles including President of J.R. Campbell American Inns of Court (2002-2003) and as President of the Deschutes County Bar Association (1997-1998). He currently serves on the Oregon State Bar Disciplinary Board. He is a Bend resident and a member of both the Oregon and California State Bar Associations.
Alex Duarte was appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in May 2009. Duarte currently serves as Compliance Counsel for Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC) at PCC’s global headquarters in Portland. Prior to joining PCC in 2011, Duarte served as Corporate Counsel for Qwest Communications in Denver and Portland, and before that, he was a litigation partner in a national law firm in San Francisco. Duarte has also served on the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots (chaired from 2007 to 2008), and on the boards of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (chaired from 2005 to 2007) and the Malheur Home Telephone Company. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Stanford Law School.
Michael E. Harper, Sr. was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in June 2011. Harper has been an agent with State Farm Insurance for more than 20 years. He played basketball for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons, and spent the following six seasons playing across Europe. He has coached numerous basketball teams at the elementary, middle and high school level for over 10 years. In addition, he has coached basketball at the University of Portland and is currently an assistant coach at Lewis and Clark College. He has served on the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board and the Oregon Commission on Children and Families.
Back: Rice, Duarte, Roome.
Front: Harper, SkinnerLopata.
So there you have them -- three lawyers, the owner of a serious gin mill, and an ex-Blazer insurance agent. Three from Kulongoski, two from Kitzhaber. What makes them qualified to run the state's liquor business and regulations? Not too terribly much that we can see. It seems like a perfect setup for the figureheads to be held captive by the staff.