Here's one for Bill McDonald...
... or anybody else who would like to take a shot at some comedy greatness.
|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
... or anybody else who would like to take a shot at some comedy greatness.
The Portland City Council is set to vote next week on new rules banning the sale of disposable razors within the city limits. The proposed ordinance, which seems likely to pass, is touted as another sign of the city's leadership in environmental matters.
"Communities must get out in front on issues of unnecessary consumer waste," said Susan Anderson, the city's sustainability director. "Disposable razors clog our solid waste management equipment, wreak havoc with recycling sorting machinery, and pose serious hazards for countless residents who are trying to compress two weeks' worth of solid waste into the container destined for the landfill."
Supporters of the new restrictions, which would take effect on March 15, have argued for years that plastic razors cause grave environmental harm because of their composition out of fossil fuels. "Bans are often considered a massive government invasion into private business," said Shane Ziegler, president of the lobbying group Society for Truth and Unlimited Beard Length (STUBL). "But an invasion into private business is often warranted when a product is causing significant economic and environmental damage on a massive scale—and must be replaced with something safe.
"Citizens of China, Mexico, India and countries throughout Africa and Europe groom themselves without disposable razors. It's time we join them and spend our tax dollars on active transportation and equity initiatives—not cleaning up the plastic industry's mess."
The proposed city rules would exempt the use of disposables for medical purposes, such as shaving a patient's chest before an electrocardiogram. It would also allow retailers to sell out existing inventory before July 1.
The ordinance as finally drafted represents a compromise between Commissioner Dan "Legend" Saltzman, who opposed any restrictions, and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, a self-styled former psychiatric nurse, who supports banning all shaving of any body parts. "Research has shown that one in three women leave the shower running while they shave their legs," Fritz explained. "We're wasting around 50 billion litres of water a year, for no good reason." She added that shavings washed down household drains can clog the city's sewers, thus undoing the benefit of the recently completed Big Pipe project. "The most responsible course is to let it grow out, cut it with ordinary scissors, and carefully deposit it in one of the many bioswales being installed throughout our neighborhoods."
Fritz added that she would prefer a statewide ban on shaving, but that until one is passed by the Oregon legislature, city ordinances were effective in curbing unhealthy practices. In addition to the city proposal, State Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) has announced that she intends to introduce legislation prohibiting the use of disposable razors by those under the age of 17.
If you play hide-the-ball with public records, it could wind up costing you.
Maybe port commissioners ought to be elected directly by the public, instead of appointed by their politician pals.
After decades of purposeful delays, obfuscation, and outright lies, the pedophiles in Roman collars are being forced to give up some evidence in a Los Angeles lawsuit. And it must be pretty bad, because all of a sudden some of the big hats are skittering away like cockroaches when a light is turned on.
Other times? Well, check out today's breaking news.
Our neighbor to the north has gained the dubious distinction of being named in this study as the most regressive place in America when it comes to taxes. People knock Oregon when they notice that the rich flock to places like Camas (just look at Char-Lie), but up against a system like Washington's, it's hard for any progressive state to compete for rich residents. [Via Wonkette.]
This illustrates perfectly the tension in tax policy between simplicity and fairness. You get to pick one; you can't have both.
That's what they're talking about down in Salem -- another half billion or so for the bridge project that's burned through around $150 million already, with nothing but hot air to show for it.
A curious reader wants to know how many Tri-Met personnel are working on "planning" for the bridge, which may or may not wind up having train tracks on it. And where are the funds coming from to pay the Tri-Met people? No wonder they're cutting bus service.
And meanwhile, the darn thing is still too low.
... what happens to the ticket? Does the driver pay it? Does Tri-Met? A reader who saw a bus run a camera-equipped red light and set off the telltale flash the other night wants to know. Maybe Al Our Palster can fill us in.
Could you do us a favor? We know they're busy trying to charge people for taking photos of signs, but could you please ask the people in the revenue bureau to publish the forms for the new arts tax? It's January 31, after all, and tax season is well under way.
Some of us are planning to take the city to court to have the tax declared unconstitutional, and it would save both you and us a lot of hassle if you could show us soon just what we're up against.
We couldn't help but notice that the arts already get something like $3.5 million a year out of the city's general fund. If the head tax goes down in court, maybe you can tell Sam's boyfriends and the others involved that that's going to have to be enough.
Congratulations on what you've done so far. It's been impressive.
We noted our birthday a couple of weeks ago. Apparently word of this reached one of our solons, who took time out to send us a card, which arrived at Blog Central yesterday:
Not only that, but he's paying attention:
This sort of thing cheers us up no end.
Score another one for the grownups. According to this report, Mayor Char-Lie says he's not surrendering West Hayden Island to be paved over for a pointless Port of Portland shipping terminal until after the Columbia River Crossing, or CRC (pronounced "Crock"), project "is finalized." "Finalized"? Ha! Ha! That'd be about the year 2050. Of course, one cannot always fully trust what the mayor says, but it appears that the wildlife of the island are getting at least a brief reprieve from the Goldschmidt Network bulldozers.
The new Multnomah County Library website is up and operating, and we've been playing around on it a bit. One feature that's new is something called "Recently returned," which the site explains this way:
Your library does not keep records of your borrowing without your permission. However, when you enable the Recently Returned feature, the system will start building a list of all the titles you borrow. In addition to providing a useful way to track what you’ve recently borrowed, the Recently Returned page provides a convenient location for adding star ratings, comments and other information.
If the Recently Returned feature is not enabled, no records will be stored. You can turn on the Recently Returned feature in the registration process and start saving your titles immediately. After you have logged in, you can change this setting using the check box in My Settings > Privacy...
The content on your Recently Returned page is visible only to you....
Part of us is thinking, hey, who are they kidding? There's already a record of what you checked out, somewhere, if somebody in law enforcement wants the information badly enough. But another part of us says, no, that information's probably practically inaccessible, unless you opt to make it readily available, as through "Recently returned." And so "Recently returned" is going to make it easier for someone to snoop.
In any event, we don't need a list of what we've previously checked out from the library, and so we're not opting in. What about you?
Let's see, we have a referendum that passed saying that Clackamas County can't get involved in light rail shenanigans without a further public vote. And we have at least two members of the county commission who are going to take that seriously. There's going to be quite a bit of friction regarding the Mystery Train to Milwaukie, and other choo-choo fantasies, in the months ahead. And it's already begun.
We could have had a single payer. We could have had a public option. Instead, the brain trust gives us this:
Gee, that's swell, Gatsby. And what are we supposed to do with that number? Call our boss and tell him we want cheaper, crummier health insurance?
Apparently, having this important information is going to make us smarter consumers of medical services. Oh, yeah, when we get sick or injured, the first thing we're going to do is get on the phone and start shopping doctors for a bargain. In the immortal worlds of Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon."
Now that he's out of power, people are starting to turn over some rocks where the Fireman used to sit. And oh, what they're finding. Too funny.
After we broke the story that the City of Portland is planning to charge people to display photos of the "white stag" sign, most of the mainstream media in town picked it up. But of course, none of them have asked the right question, which is: Does the city have the legal right to charge people to take and display pictures of the sign?
We're no expert in this area of law, but as we understand it, the public has the absolute right to photograph what it sees from the public right-of-way. And so the city can't charge you to take the picture, or to look at the picture you've taken.
But if you want to publish the picture -- post it on the internet, print it out in a book or a magazine, show it in broadcast media -- it's a different question. Does anybody out there know where the legal lines are drawn in this area?
If the published photo does not imply that the city government is endorsing a particular product or service, where does it say that you have to pay them a fee to display the city's sign? Besides, the sign doesn't say "City of Portland" -- it just says "Portland, Oregon," which is a location, not a legal entity.
One thing we know for sure: When the city tells you that you owe it money, it's best not to take their word for it. And in this case, we wouldn't be at all surprised if it's a bunch of hot air, and if the city can't charge you to do anything with that image. Not that it won't blow six figures paying lawyers to try to crush anyone who challenges it.
The official audit of the Portland transportation bureau under the Adams "administration" is out, and surprise, surprise, it finds that the whole operation was in chaos the last several years, with the goofball mayor ordering up one pet project after another and no orderly priorities in sight:
City Council adopted a number of aspirational plans to improve the pedestrian, streetcar, bicycle, and overall transportation system throughout the city, but has not identified how to reconcile and pay for these competing, and expensive, priorities...
Despite this increase in transportation revenue, spending for many transportation programs has been reduced, including street maintenance, traffic signals, and structural maintenance. Some of the reductions resulted from increased spending in other areas. Programs with increased spending include streetcar operations, downtown marketing, and transit mall upkeep. The amount of spending dedicated to debt payments is also up.
When these new projects were approved, the potential impact of the new projects on existing programs was not quantified. Instead, Council often relied on uncertain future revenues to fund the projects, such as new parking revenues from parking districts that had not yet been created, and development charges that were known to be volatile. While the City Council may not have intended for new projects to displace other transportation services, this has nonetheless been the result of these spending decisions. Over reliance on uncertain new revenues that did not then materialize decreased the funds available to maintain existing transportation assets....
Priorities for use of existing transportation funds are not clear, and commitments to new projects have reduced funds available for maintenance and other existing services. Without greater investment in infrastructure maintenance, the condition of those assets will continue to decline, requiring even more future spending to maintain basic assets. We agree with the City Budget Office that the City Council should clarify the City’s transportation strategy and improve project-level risk assessment.
This is the city that's so big on "planning." It's a bad joke.
Speaking of which, we see that Sue Keil, Creepy's one-time transportation czarina, weighs in on the matter in the O, blaming it all on the ex-mayor. This is the career bureaucrat who on several occasions was supposed to check up on her subordinate, parking meter manager Ellis McCoy. McCoy's now under federal indictment for taking bribes. Keil investigated and investigated, but gosh, she couldn't find anything to can the guy for. Uh huh.
UPDATE, 5:11 p.m.: Here's an interesting factoid about the new chief:
When the University of Notre Dame asked President Barack Obama to speak at commencement in 2009, Sample spoke out against the invitation because of the president's positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
Pass the popcorn, this could be entertaining.
Here's a funny one: The City of Portland is going out for bid on devices that will count streetcar passengers automatically:
The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation owns and operates a 3.9-mile streetcar transit system with 72 station platforms. Maintaining accurate passenger ridership information is an important aspect of system operation, as it affects funding allocation and system expansion decisions. The current passenger counts are collected manually by staff contracted to the City. The City is pursuing an automatic passenger counting system that will allow for more frequent, accurate, and low cost passenger counts.
Heck, the new machines won't have to be too rugged. On the eastside streetcar, they won't have to be able to count higher than 3.
When the tiny burg of Boring withdrew from the fiasco known as Tri-Met, we all said, bully for them. But did you know that it caused everyone else's hideous Tri-Met taxes to increase a little?
Effective January 1, 2013, the tax rate increased to 0.7137% ($7.137 per $1,000) of the wages paid by an employer and the net earnings from self-employment for services performed within the TriMet District boundary....
The 2003 Oregon Legislature provided TriMet with the authority to increase the rate over 10 years to help pay for new transit service throughout the region. The rate increases annually by 1/100 of a percent. This year the payroll tax rate was increased an additional 0.001095 percent due to the withdrawal of the Boring area from the TriMet District effective January 1, 2013.
If you work in the Tri-Met district and make $50,000 a year, the Boring withdrawal cost you or your boss 55 cents. The annual basic jackup by Tri-Met was $5.
An alert reader whose relative gets an "honored citizen" bus pass from Tri-Met notes that this month's pass came with an insert in the envelope:
It's a powerful image, but the messages are decidedly mixed. Yes, that train is going faster than all those cars. But the photo also shows how many drivers simply won't get out of their cars to ride that train. To us, it proves that we shouldn't build more rail until demand changes.
More importantly, the mailer did not include a scratch-and-sniff feature. Nor does it get close enough to show how tightly the sardines are packed in that train car. Early in the day, it's okay, but from mid-afternoon on, MAX makes people wish they had a car, or at least that Tri-Met hadn't screwed up their old bus service.
When it comes to watering down ideas for legislation until they're meaningless, you can't beat State Sen. Ginny Burdick from the West Hills of Portlandia. Remember her original version of the ban on driving while texting? As we recall, it applied only to teenagers.
Now she's pushing for background checks before gun sales. As if that's going to make any difference in reducing gun violence. It's so easy to buy a gun on the street nowadays that background checks for above-board sales are kind of a joke:
Last year, the Oregon State Police – working through a federal database – conducted nearly 260,000 background checks. About 3,500 – or 1.3 percent of the total – of the proposed purchases were denied, according to Lt. Gregg Hastings, a state police spokesman.
And how many of those 3,500 bad dudes and dudettes went and scored themselves a piece anyway?
We support serious gun control -- banning certain types of weapons, and beginning the 50-year-long process of gradually getting most of them out of circulation. There needs to be a national referendum on amending the Second Amendment as well. None of that is going to happen, of course. But to us, creating another bureaucratic gig to push paper around isn't worth it.
Let's see. You're the police chief, and a captain is busted for (a) waving his gun around in a road rage incident and (b) unwanted touching of female subordinates' legs. The citizen review board recommends that you fire him. But instead you put him in charge of the sex crimes unit?
And you do this right after the two politicians who installed you in the chief's job just left office?
Well, yeah, maybe you should reconsider. And maybe you should prepare yourself for a new career opportunity as well.
The fancy-pants chancellor of the Oregon university system (Motto: "Don't worry, nobody ever gets caught") will reportedly be paid $295,128 over the next year, and get free health insurance for his well fed carcass, even though he just quit and won't be doing a thing to earn any of it.
This guy was hand-picked by good old Neil Goldschmidt. Man, the odor of decay in this state is strong.
One of the indignities you bring on yourself by driving under the influence is the social stigma that comes when you get arrested for it. Nowadays, your booking photo gets plastered all over the internet, everybody gets to tsk-tsk you, and you'll get the stink eye from your employer, if you still have one.
That is, unless you're a Portland policeman. When these guys go down for DUI -- and it happens with disturbing frequency -- their buddies in law enforcement keep it as low as possible. In the wee small hours of Sunday morning a Portland detective named Darrell Miller reportedly got popped for DUI in Clackamas County up on Mount Hood. And Miller's mugshot is -- where? Nowhere, because they didn't even properly book him:
Phillips said Miller was not booked into jail largely because the incident occurred on Mount Hood, a good distance from the Clackamas County Jail. Miller is scheduled to appear in Clackamas County Circuit Court on Feb. 26.
Who drove him home? Next we'll hear that he "only" blew a .09, which is just a little over the legal limit, and so we ought to cut him some slack. Tell that to the many .09-ers who have gone through the whole rigmarole.
Is there still a Mothers Against Drunk Driving? They need to get active again in Portlandia.
A free bojack bumper sticker to the first person who can come up with the web address of any photo of Detective Miller, anywhere. Meanwhile, he's on telephone reporting detail -- where the bad cops all get sent until the media attention dies down. It's crowded in there.
"Police said the boys took off and that Combs reached for a gun." That's what they always say. Whether it is true in this case remains to be seen.
The planet is in for a close encounter in a few weeks.
So argue these law professors:
We examine the pattern of emergency room admissions related to bacterial intestinal infections, especially those related to E. coli around the implementation of the San Francisco County ban in October 2007. We find that ER admissions increase by at least one fourth relative to other California counties. Subsequent bans in other California municipalities resulted in similar increases. An examination of deaths related to intestinal infections shows a comparable increase.
Don't miss the part about the $87,000 seagull! [Via TaxProf Blog.]
Over the weekend we bragged about having stumbled upon some outrageously good salsa from Texas, and pointed out that its purveyor has moved to Oregon and is now making it here. An alert reader writes today to tell us that he's located some of the new batch, and as promised, it has a new label:
No mention of Texas on the new one. And "Gluten Free"? Yes -- classic Portlandia. You gotta hand it to our recent immigrant from the south -- he's caught on quickly, and he's one smart marketer.
The shenanigans that go on at the state university in Eugene never fail to amaze. From the surprisingly excellent faculty watchdog blog UO Matters, today we get the long list of administrative types who, with their spouses or significant others, were offered free rides to the recent Tostitos Fiesta Bowl football weekend.
Amazingly, the recipients were told that the university would pay their and their spouses' way to the game, which is held in Arizona, and that the reimbursement of the administrators for all of the couples' expenses would be tax-free:
It's hard to read the shabby pdf file that the university produced when the blogger asked for it, but here's the sentence that jumped out at us immediately:
As a member of the official delegation, you and your spouse or domestic partner may have your travel, lodging, meal and ticket expenses paid or reimbursed, and such payment or reimbursement has no tax consequences.
Wow. Just wow. Even if you could come up with a business reason that constitutes the primary purpose for sending this many administrators to the game and party weekend -- a proposition that is dubious, to say the least -- excluding the amounts paid for the travel of their spouses and spousal equivalents is contrary to the tax laws. It's so contrary, in fact, that to an enterprising IRS agent, it could constitute fraud.
As passed by Congress, the law on the spouses really could not be clearer. Here is section 274(m)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C.):
No deduction shall be allowed under this chapter (other than section 217 [relating to moving expenses]) for travel expenses paid or incurred with respect to a spouse, dependent, or other individual accompanying the taxpayer (or an officer or employee of the taxpayer) on business travel, unless—
(A) the spouse, dependent, or other individual is an employee of the taxpayer,
(B) the travel of the spouse, dependent, or other individual is for a bona fide business purpose, and
(C) such expenses would otherwise be deductible by the spouse, dependent, or other individual.
Now, as a few hardy readers have pointed out on an earlier version of this post, an IRS regulation, Reg. sec. 1.132-5(t), twists the law around a bit. The regulation states that if the employer's deduction is disallowed by IRC sec. 274(m)(3), just quoted, then the employee merely has to show a "bona fide business purpose" for the spouse's "presence on the business trip" in order to exclude the reimbursement. But the proposition that there was a "business purpose" for sending the spouses to the party weekend in Arizona is ludicrous.
We dare UC Nike to show the world the professional opinion they got that the spousal reimbursements are not taxable. Don't they teach tax law and accounting down there? Not by example, apparently.
Will the IRS do anything about this? Who knows? But if we were (a) one of the people who took the trip and got reimbursed, or (b) the payroll people at the university who aren't going to withhold any taxes on those reimbursements, we'd be extremely nervous.
[This post was revised late this afternoon, from a version posted earlier this afternoon, to address the readers' point.]
"Proof! Some people gonna call you up to tell you something that you already know..."
Well, goody, goody gumdrops. The Tri-Met Mystery Train to Milwaukie will have better seating than the other MAX trains. Wonderful! For a billion and half, they ought to serve caviar.
But the sad thing is, there'll still be no fare enforcement, no security, and really no reason to ride the thing. Wonder if the new cars will get here before the Tri-Met bankruptcy.
We cracked open our copy of this year's TurboTax over the weekend. We were amused to see that the program now contains a feature that tells you how high your risk is of being audited, based on the data that you're entering into the program:
To our mind, that's a little sleazy. TurboTax should be telling the taxpayer how to file correctly, period. Ethical tax professionals don't give advice based on what you can and can't get away with. TurboTax shouldn't be doing that, either.
The recently rerouted no. 8 bus continues to wreak havoc at its new layover spot, NE Ninth and Dekum. The folks trying to bring that area of town back from being a crack zombieland are none too happy with the noise, the fumes, the congestion, and the safety hazards. Tri-Met's giving its usual mumbly, half-hearted response, but the neighbors aren't satisfied. We don't blame them.
The part about the drivers urinating in the park is pretty disgusting, but even without that boorish behavior, what's been done to the businesses and families of that neighborhood is inexcusable. It needs to be fixed immediately. Tri-Met can take the extra expense out of the general manager's salary, or out of the budget for the fancy furniture that's surely coming with the office move to the Saltzman palace.
You are older at this moment than you've ever been before, and it's the youngest you’re ever going to get.
Reports to that effect have been swirling around for several days now, but confirmation is hard to come by. If the rumors are to be believed, the underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordo is destroyed, and dozens of workers are trapped. The mainstream media has been playing it awfully cool so far, to say the least.
Just when it appears that outright legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon is a foregone conclusion, Portland's congressional space cadet is still babbling about the details of the "medical" pot charade. We can almost hear the snickering from here.
UPDATE, 11:12 p.m.: The KGW-TV version of this story, just aired, spun it quite a bit differently. It made it appear that His Honor supports outright legalization. Our guess is that he chose his words carefully and didn't exactly say that. He did say on camera that if the state's voters take a stand on pot issues, the federal government should not interfere.
The window company that isn't going bankrupt -- honest! -- and isn't leaving Oregon -- honest! -- just entered into a sale-leaseback deal for a bunch of real estate. That's a fancy way of mortgaging stuff you own to raise immediate cash. But it's all going to work out fine -- honest!
One of our favorite law school classmates has started blogging. And with gusto, as it turns out. Bookmark placed!
Was it something we said? Tina Turner's renouncing her U.S. citizenship in favor of Switzerland, where she's lived for nearly two decades. Some say it's for love, others say it's for taxes. Turner's people aren't saying. Maybe Mayor Char-Lie knows.
We'll follow the former Anna Mae Bullock, 73, no matter what it says on her passport. The lady's got monster talent, incredible grit, and as much soul as one person can have.
The transition to a new regime in Lake Oswego is not going as smoothly as one might have hoped. "It was confidential!" "Was not!" "Was, too!" "You're not the boss of me." Meeeee-ow!
An interesting dynamic, with clear implications for Portlandia, is shaping up over near the Custer Battlefield.
Here's a "buy local" story with a twist. We were in our local market a while back when we met the guy who makes this stuff. Recently moved to Portland from Texas, he was showing it off at one of those little free sample tables. We loved it, the family loved it, and we ate every last drop in the jar.
Today we went back for another one, and there he was again. He says he's got a new batch being made in Oregon, and the label's going to be changed to reflect that. We don't care if he's got photos from Camden, N.J. on the jar; as long as he keeps providing what's inside, we're going for it. (And no, there's nothing in this for us besides the joy of discovery. We paid retail.)
Now the City of Portland apparently wants to charge you to take a picture of the Made in Oregon sign. What would the Admiral think if he were still around?
The Portland planning car-haters say they may be willing to settle for bus-only lanes up and down Barbur Boulevard.
Now the pointless bloggers sitting around in the Portland planning department are offering us left-wing book reviews. Please, please, Mayor Char-Lie, find some better use for this money.
Oregon's state treasurer won't stop telling us how life would be better if only we could make the people who manage the state employees retirement fund more secret and less accountable to the public. He loses political points in our eyes every time he does so. That fund is shady enough already.
With a dateline like that, you just know the story is going to be a humdinger.
Portland's first rose garden has a big year ahead.
They're posting age-advanced images of Kyron Horman on trucks driving around who-knows-where, but are they kidding? If that poor boy were alive and anywhere around here, he would have been spotted long ago. Alas, the chances of him ever being seen again seem infinitesimally small. The new photos just deepen everyone's sorrow.
Between the county sheriff and the D.A.'s office -- the new head prosecutor, Rod Underhill, personally worked the Horman case to no avail -- the authorities simply aren't making headway. Somebody seems to have gotten away with murder. Whoever killed federal public defender Nancy Bergeson is still at large as well. It's not a good track record for law enforcement in these two high-profile cases. We all suffer when justice isn't done.
Now that his patrons, the Sam Rand Twins, have moved on to other things, Portland's police chief is looking awfully vulnerable. His protection of a wayward captain with way too much in his personnel file is drawing big-time brickbats from the city's Police Citizen Review Committee. As well it should -- that cop doesn't belong in uniform, much less supervising people.
The Portland Development Commission's lifelong love affair with development overlord Homer Williams enters a new phase with yet another hotel project in the shadow of the Marquam Bridge in the RiverPlace area:
At River Place, a development group helmed by Homer Williams has asked the city to begin the design review process for a six-story, 203-room Hyatt House extended stay hotel at Southwest River Drive and Southwest River Parkway. Williams’ group, Riverplace Hotel Investors LLC, has an option to purchase the 1.12-acre property, formerly a steam plant operated by Pacific Power & Light Co., from the Portland Development Commission.
We can just imagine the terms of that deal. As a taxpayer, we already feel lighter.
1. DB Cooper - Pregnancy Resource Centers of Greater Portland - $475
2. Will - Financial Beginnings - $355
3. George - Oregon Food Bank - $240
4. Grizfan - The Father's Heart Street Ministry - $165
5. PDXileinOmaha - Human Solutions - $105
Our sponsor and we will be getting the checks out shortly, and since the entry pool has been sitting around since about Labor Day, we'll throw in an extra 1% for the time value of money. Congratulations to the players and their charities, and thanks to everyone who played the game this year. It was a fun season, and now more good things will come of it.
Some more details are emerging about the pending employee buyouts at the Portland Development Commission. They're paying people $30,000 or $45,000 apiece to leave. It's interesting -- you get the 30 grand after just one year on the job, or after 14. Sounds a little off-base, but hey, this is the PDC. It's always a little off-base.
Ron Wyden's joining the Senate "leadership" on the intractable issue of disposing of the country's acres and acres of deadly radioactive waste. His joining an ad hoc Senate committee handling the issue is a good sign that there won't be a nuclear waste dump in Wyden's home state. And so New Yorkers, breathe easier, you're safe.
At UC Nike, they interview minority candidates for jobs that aren't even open yet.
The bookseller seems to be having trouble dealing with the electronic age.
The Freeway Blogger was back in town yesterday. Now that Bush is gone, the signs are almost exclusively ecology-oriented. The latest handiwork is here.
And the FB has a contest on -- looking for something smart to say next to a poster with a photo of the earth taken from outer space. Cash prizes and all, apparently. Put on your thinking caps, kids.
We send people to Salem to make laws, and they introduce dopey bills like this one to "start a conversation." Then they want the legislature to be turned into a full-time gig for themselves, presumably so that they can have more such "conversations" on the public dime. It's hard to imagine most of these people ever having a real job.
Portland's recently re-elected councilperson keeps insisting that she's going to bring "clean money" -- taxpayer financing of political campaigns -- back to Portland city government. She doesn't want to acknowledge that the city's voters have spoken on this subject, and said no. She doesn't want to deal with the fact that several of the taxpayer-funded candidates were bad jokes. She also apparently hasn't noticed that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared a public campaign finance system very much like Portland's now-dismantled "voter-owned" system to be unconstitutional.
It's stunning that the Nurse is beating this topic to death. She's the one who swore up and down that if it weren't for "clean money," she couldn't, and wouldn't, run for office. Then she went and did so, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of her and her husband's money to get re-elected. In other words, she lied. Given that reality, her flogging this subject is odd, to say the least.
Enjoy the next four years, Commissioner Fritz, because the taxpayers aren't going to buy you another four. And please, can you let us forget your hypocrisy? Don't keep reminding us.
The Washington County commission has sealed the fate of the city of North Plains, where the unbearable stench of a food composting operation has made life miserable for nearby residents. Last night, in a sudden switcheroo, the county board decided that as long as they restrict the outfit to residential food slop, as opposed to food slop from restaurants, it won't stink. And so they gave the place a license for another two and a half years, and likely forever.
This was being spun by the commissioners as some sort of compromise, but it makes no sense. Rotten odor is rotten odor, and as a long as the operators of this place have capacity, they'll take all the food waste they can get their hands on. Portland residents are now generating stomach-turning food slop by the garbage-truck-fleet-load these days. And despite the politicians' convenient spin, it wasn't until the Portland home composting program started a year and a half ago that the stench out that way became an issue.
In other words, North Plains is going to continue to stink to high heaven, indefinitely.
The county commission sprung this on the staff at the last minute yesterday -- so close to the meeting time that they barely had time to draft it, much less gather meaningful input on it:
For almost two months, the commissioners and North Plains residents have debated two options: whether to end or to allow a temporary extension of the program. But commissioners "coalesced" around a new option, Commissioner Roy Rogers said at a work session earlier Tuesday.
The commissioners held a worksession on the Nature's Needs permit Tuesday afternoon before the vote.... [F]or North Plains residents and city councilors who have lobbied to eliminate the entire food-waste program, the last-minute shift was far from ideal.
"We're completely taken by surprise; we're still trying to digest this," North Plains City Manager Martha DeBry said.
Call your realtor, Martha. Your town is toast.
Growing up back east, everyone knew that garbage disposal was run by the Mafia, and that those guys played extremely rough. In our New Jersey newspaper days, we started asking questions about illegal landfills that we drove by on our way to work. We started getting threatening phone calls, and had the windshield of our car smashed. If something sudden and mysterious like last night's vote happened back there back then, we all would have assumed that some envelopes were passed, somebody woke up with a horse's head in the bed with them, or both. Here in Oregon, in 2013, that would be unthinkable.
It's only 35 degrees outside Blog Central right now, and it's cloudy -- threateningly cloudy. If the temperature drops more than three degrees, and it starts raining, the rain will freeze at it hits the surface of the earth, and conditions will become treacherous. Treacherous! The roads could become slicker than a Charlie Hales campaign promise. Spray yourself down with de-icer and remain tuned to this Special Inversion Edition of bojack.org Storm Center 9000.2 for all the latest.
Here's one they're ripping out before it kills somebody. No doubt the Portland bureaucrats will also find a few to yank out -- at least, if the adults stay in charge.
If you're stuck at home, afraid to go out in ice-a-geddon, try your luck locating yourself here.
... we think back for a moment on a ghost of icy Portland roads past.
It's warm up above and freezing down on the ground, and that always means trouble in Portlandia. January has a way of bringing the "silver thaw" to these parts -- ice all over everything, falling trees, downed power lines, fender benders galore, that sort of thing. And it usually takes longer to end than the weather forecasters predict.
It's 33.8 degrees Farenheit at this hour, and virtually sure to drop below freezing by morning. It's 33.1 up on the hill at Lewis & Clark College. We don't know exactly when the rain is going to start, of course, but 8 a.m. sounds like the consensus. By 8:30, it should be a winter wonderland, and likely to stay that way until late morning. Pulling the covers back over one's head sounds like a decent option.
Here's a story of some New York City cops showing their kinship with Portland's finest. Of course, in Portland there would have also been some beating involved.
Do the people who fill out tax returns for a living need to have a license to do so? Here in Oregon, they do, but in most states they don't. The federal Internal Revenue Service recently announced that it was about to start a national licensing program, and it got pretty far down the road of setting it up -- until last week. That was when a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the IRS doesn't have the power to do that under current law.
Now the IRS has backed off while it figures out what to do next. One thing it could do is ask Congress for the authority it needs. Maybe it's afraid Congress will say no. We support some sort of testing for minimum competency before sending somebody out there to take other people's money to prepare their tax forms. Even more, we support simplification of the tax laws so that such help isn't needed in most cases.
A reader who seems to know something but won't sign his or her real name lobbed something over the transom earlier today. We'll leave it to the intertube experts out there to tell us if it's worth worrying about.
We've noticed in accessing the Multnomah County Library's website the last few days that they're promising "a new website coming in February." Our reader wonders whether it will be secure enough:
As a daily reader of your blog and a fellow supporter of the Multnomah County library, I wanted to mention a startling security concern that I hope you might make public. For anyone that uses the library, this is a big deal:
Something very important and elemental is missing from the library's upcoming redesign: basic web security. The library's web form pages (not the log in page) don't employ the Secure Socket Later (SSL) protocol, leaving users exposed to unnecessary online risk when they fill out the site's online forms.
This means that anyone trying to reach the library through pages in its Contact tab -- including Suggest a purchase, Email a librarian, and Comments and suggestions --- are vulnerable to having their card numbers, PIN numbers, names, emails, phone numbers, etc. exposed. Identity theft crooks look for easy targets first, and this is a day-glow bulls-eye with prison yard spotlighting.
Perhaps this oversight is connected to the offloading of website management to BiblioCommons; that's a whole 'nother issue. But standard online security practices dictate that *any* web page requiring users to provide personal information should employ SSL protocol.
As someone that supports the library through regular use and votes, and who is happy that it now has a permanent (and expensive) source of funding, I have to wonder ... how could someone get this most basic web security issue wrong?
There's likely a personal agenda under that comment, but the reader's motive isn't really the question. Is it a valid concern?
The low-income housing outfit now called Home Forward is selling its North Portland housing project known as St. Johns Woods -- a place whose poor morale has been documented in the media lately. The new owner, a Seattle outfit named Vitus Group, is paying $8.25 million for the 124 units of government subsidized low-income housing. That's about $66,500 per unit.
The place needs some work, and apparently Home Forward doesn't have the money to pay for it:
"We are pleased to pass the stewardship for this community resource to such a fine affordable housing organization," said Harriet Cormack, Home Forward’s board chair. "This is excellent news for the long-term health of St. Johns Woods, as we have been challenged to meet all of the property’s capital needs given our financing."
"The renovation scope of work will be prepared once the Contract for Purchase has been executed and the due diligence phase is underway. Vitus’ approach with the properties that they acquire and renovate is to address needed building system improvements, increase energy efficiency, renovation and maximization of the community and common areas and modernization of the interior units" said Sara Fay, Director of Vitus Group in Seattle.
Home Forward will use the net proceeds from the sale for real estate-related purposes, including investing in new affordable housing and renovations to its remaining properties.
Home Forward used to be called the Housing Authority of Portland, which made it sound like a government agency. It is and it isn't. It's a "municipal corporation," eating taxpayer money without all the messy red tape of being truly public. It's part of the PERS pension system, and it doesn't file reports with the IRS. Its annual report is here, but we couldn't find anybody's salary in there.
It's interesting that the group is liquidating its housing stock to raise funds for "renovations," which sounds a little like deferred maintenance. Meanwhile, their most recent meeting featured the award of a nice fat contract to Mark Edlen. Uh huh. There's also some bending and stretching of the public bidding rules going on. Perfectly Portland, we'd say.
But he doesn't look capable of it, does he?
On the heels of the news that Fred Meyer is going to try some smaller stores around town come some details about the small, correct groceries that the ex-head of New Seasons says she's setting up. One is planned for Woodstock and another for NoPo. Residents of those two 'hoods will be able to drop $7 a pound for asparagus without increasing their carbon footprint.
The fustercluck known as the Oregon Legislature is cranking up again -- Tina Kotek's in charge now, don'tcha know -- and it seems as though every bureaucrat in the state is heading to Salem, looking for new ways to hide what he or she is doing from public scrutiny. It starts with Ted Wheeler's plan to turn the suspect Goldschmidt machinery that runs the state pension investments into an even more secretive and scarier cabal than it already is:
Treasurer Ted Wheeler announced last month that he wanted to hire more investment managers, but that would require the legislature’s approval, and there is no money allocated in the budget for the treasury to hire more people.
Rather than asking for increased budget authority, Wheeler asked for a new corporation at the request of the OIC.
We've already seen that the new "public corporation" wants to be exempt from the normal public records laws. And given Wheeler's shoddy track record on his investment managers' conflict of interest scandals, we're inclined to think that there's plenty more reduction in accountability lurking in the restructuring proposal. If the bill were to pass, it seems likely that bloated salaries and unseemly perks from private sources would be reinstated among his Masters of the Universe.
Then we learn that the Portland State U. Patronage Center wants in on the "public corporation" action, too. It sounds all too familiar. The U. of O. has been whining for autonomy for a few years now. Oh yes, just what we need, make all the state schools "public corporations," semi-autonomous, non-accountable -- what could go wrong? Well, look at the insolvent Tri-Met. Look at the scandal-ridden SAIF. These largely unsupervised pots of money, created and operated by the Usual Suspects, have shown a propensity for disaster. And OHSU, to whom Portland State keeps pointing as an example of what it wants, has turned out to be a bunch of scoundrels, nickel-and-diming malpractice victims and raping the Portland city treasury while outsourcing their biotech bonanzas to Florida.
The state university system bureaucracy is already too loose with money and not accountable enough to the public. The one face card is already getting his maid service paid for by the taxpayers and the English majors, and now we learn that the suits running the various universities are holding crisis management meetings over money and refusing to show anybody what goes on behind their closed doors.
Ah, but then we come to the capper of them all. Everybody who's eating off the state's obscene government employee pension system wants the size of their checks kept secret, but thanks to some pushy journalists and former state attorney general John Kroger, last year the truth came to the light. And oh, what an ugly truth it was, with monster pensions being paid to all sorts of folks.
Well, heaven forbid that that kind of sunshine should fall on the rat's nest known as PERS. Now the unions and the manager fat cats alike are pushing to have the details of the pension checks swept back under the rug. And with all branches of state government now firmly in their control, they'll probably succeed. How much of a pension is Chip Kelly going to get as he waltzes away from his recruiting violations? We'll probably never find out.
Secret government is a bad thing, for a variety of reasons. Leave it to 21st Century "progressive" Oregon to bring it on with a vengeance.
It's nice to see that everyone got into the true spirit of the inauguration.
In the darkest days of winter, the youthful Portland Trail Blazers put together some nice wins. But the days are getting longer now, and the Blazers have dropped six games in a row, including a disastrous defeat tonight at home at the hands of the Washington Wizards. The Wizards are the worst team in the league, but they have beaten Portland both times they have met. The Blazers also lost at home on Saturday night to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tonight's biggest problem for the Blazers was weak defense. They didn't show up for the first half hour at all, and down the stretch they gave up easy buckets to guys like Martell Webster, who isn't much if you just put a body on him. Statistically, the two teams were even, but given the Wizards' record, that's a bad night for any opponent.
Portland is now below .500 and staring down into an abyss out of which a playoff berth won't be possible. Wednesday night they host Indiana, who just beat Houston and Memphis and currently stand as third-best in the eastern conference. We really like this Blazer team and coaching staff, and we hope that they can suck it up and start getting it done again.
Here's another one who belongs behind bars.
And the comedy writers of America will all get to eat off it.
The black hole known as the Portland eastside streetcar sucks in another $145,000, and it's only Monday. Taxpayers, you've been Blumenauered again.
David Wu attended the inauguration today. According to the O, he "resigned in disgrace but... continues to use his privileges as a former lawmaker to gain access to events." Ewww.
It's business as usual at Portland City Hall. A new parking-less human warehouse is on tap over between the Portland State patronage center and I-405 -- already not a place you'd want to go in a car that you have to park. Surely the car haters in city government will rubberstamp it straight through to fruition.
Further along, another one's ready to go in at SE 16th and Morrison. Combined with the monstrosity currently being built at 20th and Morrison, the poor folks who live in this part of the Buckman neighborhood will probably never find a parking space again.
As we recall, there's a juvenile halfway house of some sort right across the street from the planned bunker at 16th. We wonder how a lot of new foot traffic will affect that facility, and vice versa.
A reader writes:
Like most, I follow the news and have been aware of the problems on various MAX trains in and around the city. Like most, those problems have, to me, been something to read about, but not something that touched me or someone close to me personally. That changed Friday, January 18. My daughter works at a design firm in Old Town. Friday she left work and boarded the MAX yellow line to meet her boyfriend and others
at the Rose Centerin Albina for drinks and dinner. During the ride she sat busying herself by sorting through items she brought with her. Absorbed with this task, she had her head down most of the ride to the Convention CenterRose Quarter. When she glanced up she noticed a woman standing a few feet away staring at her with what she describe as a hateful face. When their eyes met, the woman began to step toward my daughter, and it was then that it was noticed that she had a rather large knife in her hand. Alarmed, my daughter scooted away abruptly, which caught the attention of a man seated near her, who also shifted position. As she moved away, the woman continued her approach, swinging the knife threateningly, and screaming invectives aimed at my daughter.
At this point the train was stopping at the
Convention CenterRose Quarter station, and one of the passengers alerted the train operator that a passenger was being attacked by another passenger. All the passengers were now wary of the woman, and some, concerned for my daughter, made motions to intervene. Realizing that she was the apparent subject of the woman's ire, and hoping to prevent others from being injured if they intervened, my daughter exited the car, followed by the woman, who continued to scream and pursue her with the knife. My daughter got back on the train and the operator then closed the doors. The woman tried to reenter the train, screaming in a rage. She finally fled the scene.
Both Portland and transit authority police responded. My daughter was pretty rattled by this time. Police asked her if she wanted to press charges, and she said no -- thinking that since the woman was gone, nothing could be done. When she told me this, I told her I thought that was a big mistake. This woman, if found, needs to be arrested. It was only after she had joined her friends that my daughter remembered she had snapped a photo of the woman with her phone camera. It's blurry, but could be used to help identify the assailant. She then called the police, and they returned to interview her again and obtain the photo.
It's curious to me that nothing, as far as I can see, has been done to warn the public about this woman, who is at large in the community. I can't find anything in the Oregonian about it. Wouldn't the police or TriMet issue a release including the woman's photo? Certainly this woman is not merely a harmless disturbed person -- she needs to be found and restrained for treatment or incarceration.
In any event, my daughter was appreciative of the fellow passengers who seemed ready to intervene before she exited the car. I advised her that she should consider any MAX train to be a potential crime scene at any time and suggested she attempt to avoid riding MAX. I think she got lucky. I hope the next one to encounter her assailant is as lucky.
UPDATE, 11:43 a.m.: We've asked the reader for some clarification here, as the MAX Yellow Line does not stop at the Convention Center, but it does at the nearby Rose Quarter. Not that it affects the import of the story much.
UPDATE, 4:56 p.m.: The reader has clarified that the action went down at the Rose Quarter stop on the Yellow Line.
And a nonprofit one at that. It's the latest adventure brought to you by the Portland Development Commission, to the tune of $50,000. Hey, the New York Times likes it.
It's been a great season in our charity pro football underdog game -- lots of action, lots of drama, and one of the biggest 'dogs of the year came through in the last game. Our final standings turned out as shown to the right.
Nine-and-a-half-point 'dogs came through in three of the last five weeks, making quite a difference in the standings. Some players picked up 9 points in Week 1 as well. Our winner, DB Cooper, jumped off to a quick start in that first week, and although he trailed for a short while thereafter, he assumed the top of the board in Week 6 and stayed in front the rest of the way.
And now it is time for our top five to let us know where they'd like their prizes to go. The recipient must be a charity recognized by the IRS under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. The prizes out of the entry pool are:
First prize: $475 to player's favorite charity
Second prize: $150 to player's favorite charity
Third prize: $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize: $70 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize: $45 to player's favorite charity
We also have a generous sponsor who has added $500 to the pot, but on the condition that her match go only to charities whose primary function is to provide "food, school, or medicine." If the top five designate such charities as their beneficiaries, the prizes they'll receive are:
First prize: $760 to charity
Second prize: $240 to charity
Third prize: $160 to charity
Fourth prize: $110 to charity
Fifth prize: $70 to charity
If a winner decides to go with a charity that doesn't qualify for the match -- no problem, we'll just reshuffle the matching funds among those that do qualify. But the first set of prizes just listed are guaranteed so long as the 501(c)(3) criterion is met. If there's any question about whether a charity can get the match, we'll gladly resolve it before the player has to make their final designation.
Winners, just drop us a line at the usual spot and let us know what you're thinking about your prizes. Congratulations to the winners and their favorite charities, and our thanks to everybody who played. It's a seductive little game. Thanks especially to Paul, who invented it.
The 49ers tried as hard as they could to give it away early, but the Falcons wouldn't take it. And gee whiz, the favorite won by exactly the point spread. Hmmmm...
Anyway, the players in our charity pro football underdog game who chose Atlanta today come up empty. With one game left in our season, here are the two possible finishes:
If Baltimore wins:
1. DB Cooper 67
2. Will 53.5
3. George 53
4. Grizfan 50.5
5. PDXileinOmaha 47
If Baltimore loses:
1. DB Cooper 57.5
2. Will 44
3. George 43.5
3. Tung 43.5
5. Grizfan 41
Congratulations to our top three finishers, and good luck to the three players jockeying for the last two prize spots.
UPDATE, 7:05 p.m.: Well, wow -- the last 'dog came through, big time. It's an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl. As one player in our game remarked this morning, it's hard to tell whether the game will be known as the Harbowl or the Super Baugh. Anyway, congrats to our winners, condolences to our losers, and we'll be getting around to the prize-awarding process momentarily.
You just know we're going to get one of these -- a building made out of algae. It doesn't get any greener than that. And in what could be a classic monument to Portlandia's real estate development community, it will be slimy, too!
Forty-two 'dog pickers. Two hundred fifty-six wimpering underdogs. Twenty weeks of the Big Daddies of pro football. And it all comes down to this.
We hope you heard the Voice of God from NFL Films in your head as you read that, because if any moment in our charity pro football underdog game deserves hype, it's this moment -- the last week, in which there are only two games for our 'dognosticators to choose from. But before getting to the chess moves, let's call to mind one more time what our game is all about:
First prize: $475 to player's favorite charity
Second prize: $150 to player's favorite charity
Third prize: $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize: $70 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize: $45 to player's favorite charity
We also have a generous sponsor who has added $500 to the pot, but on the condition that her match go only to charities whose primary function is to provide "food, school, or medicine." If all five top finishers designate charities that fit within that description, the combined prizes would be as follows:
First prize: $760 to charity
Second prize: $240 to charity
Third prize: $160 to charity
Fourth prize: $110 to charity
Fifth prize: $70 to charity
In all, one way or another, $1,340 is going to charity from the game.
And now, to sing "God Bless America," recording star Tony Bennett:
All right, with that out of the way, here's how our players have lined up in Week 20:
9.5 BALTIMORE at New England - George, Rudie, Will, PDXileinOmaha, pdxmick, Jeremy, JMH, Sola, Gordon, Annie, DB Cooper, Tinknocker, Usual Kevin, Juicen, Dr. D, Grizfan, genop, genop's gal, John Ch., Dave A., Drewbob, Broadway Joe, Eric W.
4 ATLANTA vs. San Francisco - NoPoGuy, Carol, Gary, Lucas, Bayou Baby, Biggest Cubs Loser, Bad Brad, John Cr., Tung, Coastal Storm, Paul, Michael K.
So where does that lead us in terms of the final standings in this season-long game?
First of all, DB Cooper is our winner by far -- he mathematically eliminated all other contenders a while back -- but the results for second through fifth will be different today, depending on the outcomes on the gridiron. Here's our unofficial assessment of where the standings will wind up; players, please correct us if we've got any of the accounting wrong:
When the bars close on Saturday night in Portland, sometimes young people die. If they aren't being shot by gang gunfire, they're being run over by drunks.
Instead of blocking off streets in Old Town Portland on weekend nights so that the obnoxious drunks can get more obnoxious and more drunk, maybe we ought to have a bunch of police down there on a mission to make some DUI arrests. And maybe the liquor licenses of some of the joints who serve people who are already bombed should get yanked. Is MADD still functioning in this town?
May the dead woman rest in peace. May this man, who allegedly killed her, be punished severely if found guilty. And may the adults who assumed the reins at City Hall take some steps to tone down, rather than ramp up, the Bacchanalia.
Lots of Oregon websites, this blog included, linked the other day to the official solicitation by UC Nike for a new head football coach. It was utterly silly, because there's no way someone's going to get that job by answering a classified ad. And the charade is exposed even further today with reports that the identity of the new coach will be announced any minute.
What depressed us the most about these events was the reaction that a lot of readers had toward the job listing. "They have to do that, to say they were open to hiring a minority for the job." This observation was made with an air of pride -- the observers seemed quite pleased with their knowing the real reason behind the ad -- but it was also made without any trace of criticism that something is wrong.
It's a fitting subject for an Inauguration Weekend meditation. What a society we live in. The law requires that you seek out minority candidates for jobs and contracts. Quite often, there is no intention of that ever happening, but you must go through the motions of acting as though there is. Everyone will know you're faking it, but no one will call you out on it. The illusion of correctness is enough. You don't have to say you tried -- you can get by with saying you acted as if you tried.
UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: The Eugene newspaper weighs in on the issue here.
The Republicans have a weak Boehner.
There are big doings on the gridiron come tomorrow, but they shouldn't stop us from noting the passing of two of the legends of the baseball diamond today. Slugger Stan Musial and manager Earl Weaver, both of whom represented eastern teams with birds on their uniforms, left the planet within hours of each other. They both achieved true greatness in their sport, each in his own way, and their fans loved them for it. The sports world is a little darker without them.
Here's an interesting interview with the president of Fred Meyer. Of course, the O dares not utter a critical peep about a big retailer, but even through that filter, he comes across as a smart manager.
Ladies and gentlemen, a live look at the Sellwood Bridge:
One of the condo-loving minority members of the Lake O. City Council is busy discussing city issues on a Facebook page. While we disagree with the fellow, we note that at least he doesn't have a paid city flack writing the entries for him.
We were hoping that he wouldn't do exactly this. What a waste of time and (we presume, taxpayer) money.
... but even paranoiacs have enemies.
They're about to open a "living building" on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and the environmentalists and city bureaucrats are patting themselves on the backs enthusiastically. It's the rough equivalent of the goofy "sustainability center" that the taxpayers of Portland and Oregon were being arm-twisted into paying for down our way, before cooler heads prevailed. But in Seattle, the new "green" demonstration project will be quite a bit smaller than the one that was being ramrodded by the Sam Rand Twins in Portlandia. And apparently, it's being paid for by a private foundation, not the taxpayers.
"The most unique feature of the Bullitt Center is that it’s trying to do everything simultaneously," says Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes. "Everything" includes 100% onsite energy use from solar panels, all water provided by harvested rainwater, natural lighting, indoor composting toilets, a system of geothermal wells for heating, and a wood-framed structure (made out of FSC-certified wood).
What we can't figure out is how anybody is seriously going to run a business with strict energy and water quotas, the aroma of composting toilets, not enough heat in the winter, not enough cooling in summer, and who knows what all else that will be imposed on the tenants of the building. We'll bet that the building will have backup water and electricity from conventional sources, and that they'll be tapped more often than the promoters of this project want to let on.
Who's signing up to rent space in the thing? As in Portland, that is the key question. So far, we see that the foundation will be in there, along with the building's general contractor, and something called the Cascadia Green Building Council. It will be interesting to see if any truly disinterested private firms are willing to take the "green" bait.
In any event, it's a lovely experiment, and we'd be pleased if it's a hit, but we're quite grateful that we're not paying for it.
Nothing says fun like politicians wanting to "know your priorities."
At least, it is so proclaimed by the O's commuting writer today.
Yesterday the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that if your local government issues bonds illegally, without a required public vote, there's nothing you can do as a taxpayer or a voter to stop it, because you don't have standing to challenge the illegal action in court. The case arose in Deschutes County, and it involved a challenge to IOUs issued by the Sisters School District in 2007. The school board and its bond counsel svengalis stuck the label "certificates of participation" on the notes, and then said they weren't "bonds" that required a public vote. A resident of the area disagreed and took the school board to court, but now the suit has been tossed out without the judges even looking at whether the notes were "bonds" or not.
The decision of the Supreme Court is here. It was unanimous. It is dangerous. Maybe in the future, an aggrieved voter can figure out a way around it. We certainly hope so.
How much trouble will we get into if we start referring to Portland city commissioner Steve Novick as "Napoleon"?
It's hard to believe, but the new mayor of Portland just gave a top job to an old white guy who actually knows what he's doing. Just on a temporary basis, of course, but even so, when's the last time that happened?
Sometimes we wish our elected officials would just stick to what's within their proper jurisdiction. Requiring employers to provide paid sick leave should be a national issue, or at least a state issue. It sure isn't a City Hall issue -- the rules on this shouldn't vary from town to town.
But now Nurse Amanda, having procured for herself four more years on the Portland City Council, is going to become the font of new employment laws. What she's proposing may or may not be a good idea, but the Nurse has a telephone. She should pick it up, call her state senator and state representative, and set up a meeting to discuss a state bill. Getting the holier-than-thou, and broker-than-thou, Portland city government involved in the issue is bad, bad policy.
UPDATE, 11:49 a.m.: An alert reader points out that New York City has the same issue pending.
As Carl Sagan might have described it, billions and billions and billions are being blown on "remediating" nuclear waste at the Hanford death factory, just up the Columbia River from here. And most of the spending is for naught. The miles and miles of toxic, radioactive slop up there are never going to be made harmless, and there isn't going to be a magic bullet that enables the nuclear geniuses to dispose of it safely. Turning the deadly muck into glass is nothing more than an expensive pipedream.
We ought to just admit that Hanford is a national sacrifice zone -- has been for more than 60 years. We nuked Japan and became the world's 800-pound gorilla -- bully for us. And now the inhabitants of places like Hanford will suffer for it, essentially forever. That we're paying Neil Goldschmidt's buddies at Bechtel by the billions to rearrange the deck chairs is all the more appalling.
They're talking about making Hanford into a national park. Let's celebrate our massacre of innocent people. It's an unmitigated disgrace.
The new Lake Oswego City Council seems poised to dissolve the "urban renewal" district that the old council set up on the east side of that town. That move would prevent the apartment weasels who have looted Portland from tapping property tax money to build their ghastly bunkers in the so-called Foothills District.
The new council members are saying that they're not against the condos, just against the "urban renewal" financing ploy. But hey, without a boatload of taxpayer subsidy, the weasels aren't going to build anything over there.
Which would be good news for Portland residents. There's an old Portland sewage treatment plant in the vicinity, and you can bet that bazillions of dollars from Portland have secretly been earmarked to change it out so that the condo shinola can be built. The new mayor of Portland sold his soul to these developers long ago, and he'll do what he can to get the Foothills built. Fortunately, the voters of Lake O. have essentially said no to the whole thing. Let's hope that the new leadership at the suburban City Hall kills it, dead.
"Obama Inauguration Fundraising Committee, can I take your order?"
Just as the national media focuses on the City of Portland's scandalously unfunded police and firefighter pension and disability "system," the latest official estimate of the unfunded pension liability to public safety officers has shown up on the city's website. The city's actuaries peg the unfunded liability at $2.88 billion as of last June 30. That's up from $2.55 billion on the same date in 2010. In other words, the city's unfunded liability grew by $330 million, or 12.96%, during that two-year period -- a compound growth rate of 6.28% a year.
The new report confirms, rather than uncovers, the crippling debt. Police and fire pensions keep moving in the wrong direction, and will continue to do so for at least another decade -- with virtually no money set aside to cover them. It's all coming out of future property taxes.
We've been using a 6.5% growth rate for the pension debt in our City of Portland debt clock (see left sidebar), and so we aren't too far off. But part of the difficulty in pegging that rate is that the actuaries are constantly changing the assumptions they use. Probably the most important factor in present-valuing future amounts is the discount rate, and the city actuaries just cut theirs from 4.0% to 3.5% a year. They also switched from using an "attained age normal" methodology to an "entry age normal" methodology; if anybody out there can explain that, please help us out in the comments.
In any event, no amount of lipstick can make this particular pig look good. It's irresponsible financial stewardship, in the extreme.
These days every kick is an on-side kick.
He's back-pedaling now, but the state treasurer's Masters of the Universe side showed in this news item, alertly caught by Ted Sickinger at the O.
"I've never seen this before," said Judson Randall, president of Open Oregon, a non profit that educates Oregonians about public records and open meetings law. "They're basically stiff-arming the public by requiring them to go to court to get a record that the Attorney General might be willing to order the agency to give up. It'll cost you a ton of money to get a sheet of paper."
Keith Larson, chair of the investment council, said he wasn't sure why the clause was in the bill, but reasoned it would stop "frivolous actions" that cost the state a lot of money. "One of the things that makes Oregon an attractive limited partner is that we have these laws," he said.
We love how nobody knows how that provision got in the bill. It just appeared, as if by wizardry. Uh huh.
The whole proposed revamping of the state's investment board smells more than vaguely Goldschmidtty. Wish we had a penny for every dollar that some West Hills crony siphoned out of that agency. We'd be flatulating through silk.
It's no news to regular readers of this blog, but the rest of the country is catching on to the time bomb known as public pensions in the City of Portland. A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Portland's unfunded pension liability is the fourth worst in the country -- even worse than the State of Illinois's, which is saying a lot.
The real culprit in Portlandia is the insane police and firefighter retirement and disability "system," which has essentially no assets to back it up. This was Fireman Randy's handiwork in the legislature and City Council: a 100% unfunded pension plan, with benefits paid directly out of current property taxes every year. If a private company tried this, its managers would probably go to jail.
Just how bad is the unfunded liability of the city's police and fire pension "system"? It's hard to get a straight answer. The last figures the city is showing in public are from mid-2010 -- two and a half years ago. At that point, the official number was $2.53 billion. But it's hard to have too much confidence in even that outrageously high figure. The actuaries who come up with that number on the city's behalf tend to get switched around -- indeed, the city's just going out for bid for a new actuary now -- and when new ones come in, they are known to change the assumptions on which the estimates are based, so that it's hard to see a real trend. Sometimes we suspect that the actuaries tend to tell the city bureaucrats what they want to hear, up to a point.
Meanwhile, the pensions owing to the city's other employees -- and for public safety officers hired in the last half-dozen years or so -- have some funding behind them. But a lot of it was borrowed money that still has to be paid back to banks and other investors; the latest figures we have show that about $261 million is owed to bondholders. So much for helping the municipal balance sheet. And even counting the borrowed money to the good, the latest figures, now two years old, show the partially secured plan with an unfunded liability of about $127.7 million.
Then there are health care and other benefits promised to retirees beyond their pensions; at last report, these added another $130 million or so to the totals. Depending on the category, those figures are between two and three and a half years old.
Our debt clock (in our left sidebar) has the city's unfunded liability to retirees as pushing $3.3 billion. There's a margin of error in that estimate, but we'd be shocked if the true number, as of today, was less than $3 billion. It could be $3.5 billion or more. The city's population is less than 600,000. It doesn't, as the real estate sharpies would say, "pencil out."
UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: New estimates of the police and fire pension liability have just been released, and they show a $330 million increase in unfunded liability. Details here.
We predicted yesterday that the Pamplin newspaper in Lake Oswego will be just as hostile to the new mayor and city council down there as the O is. The Pamplin news organization is part of the developer-rail political machine these days; it really took a turn in that direction right around the time its sister company got a big contract to deliver concrete for the Tri-Met Mystery Train bridge in Portland.
Anyway, open up the paper this morning, and there it is, right on cue. They devote less space to murders.
You don't challenge the machine in Portland without taking a lot of heat. If the new guard in L.O. didn't already know that, they're finding it out now.
Meanwhile, the real heart of this morning's story got buried in the very last paragraph:
"That happens all over the country after elections — things change. That’s a fact of life." Besides, he said, "I like being the assistant city manager. It’s a great job."
Here's a brilliant money-making idea: outsource your own job.
As we have fully expected, the new City Council members in Lake Oswego are going to face withering scrutiny. Since they're challenging the developer cabal that has had the town by the throat for the last several years, every change they make will prompt griping about process, and every mistake they make will be blown up tenfold. In that sense, the next election campaign is already begun. And it's not hard to tell to see which side the O is going to be on.
If we had a dollar for every time the old mayor and council made a backroom deal, we'd be rich. But how often did the O use the word "quietly" with respect to their actions? Not too often. The L.O. Review, run by the Pamplin media machinery, will probably be even worse. That gang is now all down with the streetcar agenda. Maybe it's the concrete contracts.
UPDATE, 1/17, 7:52 a.m.: As predicted, the Pamplin paper jumps on the bandwagon (or is it a streetcar) as well.
No matter what your current employment status may be, it always pays to check the classifieds to see which gigs you might want to apply for.
The City Club of Portland hasn't contributed significantly to good government in the city, the way it's supposed to, in many years. But with this brilliant move, the organization has now made it all the way to complete irrelevance.
He's going to have a "staff of three." You can just imagine.
One job we definitely would not want to have right now? Treasurer of the City Club.
One of the items on the City of Portland's crowded wish list from state government is a change to the property tax limitations in the state constitution. Portland wants to shift to a system more like California's, in which the tax limitations fall away when a new buyer acquires a piece of property:
A constitutional amendment to reset assessed values to real market values at the time a property is sold will establish a process to correct significant inequities in tax bills between similarly valued properties while restoring lost revenues to vital public services like schools and public safety. The Legislative Revenue Office estimates that if voters approve a measure to reset assessed value to real market value at sale, local property tax revenues would increase by approximately $92 million statewide in the first year and by $1.1 billion in the tenth year.
No doubt other money-hungry local governments in Oregon feel the same way as Portland. But as we understand it, they'd have to get a vote of the people to pass such a proposal. Do you think it has any chance? If Don McIntire were still around, we'd say surely no, but Don's gone.
We're having trouble seeing how "welcome, stranger" would "correct significant inequities in tax bills between similarly valued properties." Wouldn't they make those problems much worse? Newcomers will pay far greater taxes than old-timers owning identical houses.
The new mayor and City Council majority in Portland's toney southern 'burb are wasting no time ripping out the previous administration's handiwork by the roots. And the remnants of the old regime don't sound too happy about it. They've got process complaints -- the first in what will likely be a long string of such bleats over the next few years. Oh, well -- that's the way the streetcar crumbles.
Here's a science teacher who's out of work on account of her training films that showed up on the worldwide web.
Keeping up with all the Portland and Oregon news that's on the intertubes is quite a challenge. We're late to the party in discovering this site -- NWWatchdog.org -- which looks pretty interesting. It's tied to this national outfit. Is there an agenda behind it, aside from stirring things up a bit? Let's hope not.
Now they're being grounded. Tough times for Boeing. And we're glad we're not riding in one any time soon.
It's truly incredible, but the husband of the overzealous U.S. attorney in the Aaron Swartz case was actually tweeting in his wife's defense last night -- criticizing the dead computer genius' family on the eve of the young man's funeral. How disgusting. His wife should step down, immediately. And the husband needs his head examined.
It's come down to the final week in our charity pro football underdog game, and our players have just two contests to pick from:
9.5 BALTIMORE at New England
4 ATLANTA vs. San Francisco
The little home 'dog or the bigger road 'dog? Ah, the intrigue. Here's a reminder of our prizes (not including $500 in matching funds for winners whose charities are about "food, school, or medicine"):
First prize: $475 to player's favorite charity
Second prize: $150 to player's favorite charity
Third prize: $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize: $70 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize: $45 to player's favorite charity
The standings to date are here. D.B. Cooper has mathematically eliminated everyone else to take the top prize, but second through fifth places are clearly up for grabs. By our cursory reckoning, more than a dozen players are still in the running for those four spots.
Players, your final picks are due by kickoff time of the first game: 12 noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday. Good luck!
When, oh when, is someone in the mainstream media going to be brave enough to point out that no one is riding the outrageously wasteful eastside streetcar in Portland? Will the O ask the question? Of course not. How about Willy Week? Probably not, it would make their boy Char-Lie look bad. KGW? Maybe. But our bet would be that KATU will be the first to comment on the emperor's clothes. When they'll get around to it, though, is another question. Maybe after the current Arctic blast is concluded.
I was born in Saint James Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, 59 years ago this evening. The building, pictured above, was here on the map, but of course, it's gone now.
I'm still going, but 2,885 miles away out I-80 and I-84. Mom's still going, and at this very moment she's only about five and half miles from where that hospital room used to be. Life is good. Yay, Mom. Yay, Newark. Yay, Saint James Hospital. Couldn't have done it without you.
An alert reader points out this great take on corporate personhood.
We get a lot of tomfoolery in our email inbox, but this one from yesterday really stood out:
Hunt went from speaker of the House to a guy who came in fourth for a county commission seat. Do you think the size of his ego might have had something to do with that? He may have learned 13 lessons, but there seem to be a few he'll never get.
It's amazing that this report from the City of Portland shows a seven-person lobbying staff on its payroll. They probably have outside consultants that they quietly pay, too. And when these folks go down to lobby in Salem, they push for a lot of stuff that either isn't really the city's business, or is the city's business and the city's getting it wrong. Just a few examples:
There are sizable water infrastructure needs in rural Oregon with many communities unable to finance necessary upgrades and maintenance. The City of Portland supports assistance that helps rural communities access and deliver clean water.
Other than cooking up some more pork for Admiral Randy's cozy consultant pals, why is Portland spending money advocating for rural communities?
Additionally, the City supports efforts to remove preemptions on local government authority, such as allowing greater autonomy in day-to-day operations or increased authority to levy taxes or fees.
Examples of existing statutory preemptions include prohibitions on local authority to:
• Levy taxes on alcohol and tobacco products; and
• Establish a city vehicle registration fee.
More nickels and dimes. Always more nickels and dimes.
Oppose legislation that would financially weaken or reduce the City’s ability to use urban renewal statutes as a tool for redevelopment and neighborhood improvement.
Urban renewal programs rely on tax increment financing, which is essential for the City of Portland to achieve outcomes in adopted strategies for economic development and affordable housing. Tax increment financing currently comprises nearly 90 percent of the Portland Development Commission budget and the resources are essential to continue the City’s pursuit of an aggressive strategy to create one of the world’s most desirable and equitable cities by investing in job creation, innovation, affordable housing, and economic opportunity throughout Portland....
The City of Portland values urban renewal as a critical tool for affordable housing, neighborhood improvement, and economic development and would actively oppose any legislation to its detriment.
Translation: The developers and construction guys need new yachts. And is somebody actually proposing "legislation to its detriment"? We can only hope.
Anyway, Portland City Hall and the Oregon state legislature make quite a pair to draw to. Although without the involvement of Jefferson Smith, we don't know how either can be expected to function effectively.
It's 35 degrees right now here at Blog Central, but in them thar hills around greater Portlandia it's colder. At this hour they're showing 32.8 degrees up at Lewis & Clark College. Let's hope it stays just above the freezing mark all over town, so that bojack.org Storm Center 9000.2 doesn't have to get too serious.
From the interview:
Lance Armstrong: "I'll admit it now, I was using performance-enhancing drugs."
Oprah: "Me, too."
There are a lot of icy roads around Portlandia tonight. We're not sure what, if anything, the city is doing to make them passable. But for a change, it sure is nice not to have to look at a mayor and his horribly unqualified hangers-on strutting around in funny hats acting as though they have the situation under control. Everything was always about them.
When you're on a screen that won't take the character "é," is it Beyonce? Beyoncee? Some other variant? It's a beyotch of a problem.
Memo to the mayor: Take it to a reputable shop and have it fumigated.
The Trail Blazers say they are looking to sell the naming rights to the Rose Garden arena. They're hoping the sale will bring in mega-dough. The last time a big deal like this went down, Jeld-Wen windows bought the name to Little Lord Paulson's soccer palace. Then they got in financial trouble and left the state. That's not a great omen for the Rose Garden.
Who would want their name on the pro basketball house in Portlandia? Someone whose products are in heavy usage among our "creative class," perhaps. But what would that be?
Looking more rested than she had in months – and having just returned from celebrating the Oregon Ducks’ victory at the Fiesta Bowl – Fritz said she now feels invigilated.
Here at Blog Central it is 33 degrees at this hour, and we continue to see an intermittent flurry or two. This is lulling some foolhardy people into venturing out and about their business. Don't be a fool -- it can wait! If the snow becomes thicker and heavier, and temperatures drop another couple of degrees, we could be talking about extreme hazards. Keep it tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000.2 for your own safety and that of your loved ones. Don't go to Troutdale unless you absolutely have to. (That is actually good advice even when it isn't cold.) And above all, stay off the Sylvan overpass!
Whenever we get exasperated with the inept board of directors of Portland's insolvent transit agency, our initial thought is that the board should be elected by the public, rather than appointed by the governor. But in thinking about this over the weekend, it dawned on us that electing the board may not do any good. For example, Portland has an elected public school board, but look at the mess that system is in. Or Metro -- all the electoral machinery in the world probably couldn't put anyone but bobbleheads on that board.
There's no guarantee -- maybe not even any likelihood -- that electing the Tri-Met board would correct any of the agency's many managerial defects. You'd probably get the same level of competence in an elected board that you do in an appointed board. Which ain't much.
Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard takes a poke or two at Earl the Pearl over the mileage tax, bike toys, and general principles.
The Portland public school bureaucrats rearrange the deck chairs once again tonight.
Meanwhile, an exasperated reader writes:
It amazes me how much time, money, and energy PPS pours into Jefferson and its feeder schools. Enrollment figures as of Oct. 1, 2012 showed enrollment at Jeff. High, for all four grades, at 448. The cost per student that gets spent is amazing. PPS has two or three high schools too many. Wonder why Jeff is never slated for closure?
What an incorrect question to ask.
Your best prediction, please -- even if not your preference:
And it's sticking! Oh, Portlandia, we are so doomed. When are they going to close everything and send everyone home? Play it safe: Stay glued to bojack.org Storm Center 9000.2. We'll keep you up to date on the latest developments in this extreme weather emergency. Team coverage! We look out the window -- so you don't have to.
How long has the federal government been blathering about building a deep underground dump for all the nation's nuclear waste -- 50 years? Well, they're still going at it. Now there's a new report, which says it will all be set up by 2048. And centralized temporary storage will be up and running by 2025.
Sure. Sure it will.
The biggest problem in establishing such a facility, of course, is finding a place that's both geologically suitable and politically feasible. The last go-'round of legislation on the subject stuck it to Nevada, but after blowing heaven knows how many bazillions testing and planning down there, the Obama administration finally killed that idea.
What's a bit alarming for folks in our region is that the Hanford nuclear bomb factory, on the Columbia River in south central Washington State, is always on the short list to get this dump if it is ever built. Hanford is totally "crapped up," as the nuclear people so bluntly put it -- it's one of the most radioactively contaminated sites in the world. And rather than try to package up all the nuclear garbage that is there and ship it elsewhere, the temptation is strong to leave what's there, there -- and ship in all manner of waste from elsewhere. It will be like a few hundred Fukushima spent fuel pools, only inaccessible, without cooling water, right next to the Columbia, and subject to the big earthquakes that we keep hearing are right around the corner.
And so, with the new report, a new round of struggles over the siting is apparently beginning. The process is always mildly funny and profoundly sad at the same time. Some of us old-timey Hanford bashers may have to get back up off the couch, and a whole new generation of Pacific Northwesterners will learn to mistrust, and loathe, the U.S. Department of Energy. They aren't good people.
Check your emergency supplies -- there is precipitation in the air in Portlandia this morning. And it's 31 degrees. Warning! This is below freezing, and so there could be trouble.
From our vantage point at Blog Central, it looks like very fine snowflakes. But it could be the dreaded freezing rain. Or maybe we need to wash the windows. Stay indoors, and tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000.2 for all the latest closures and advisories.
Seattle lost in Atlanta today on the football field. The Seahawks staged a monster comeback, and had the lead in the last minute, but the Falcons kicked a field goal at the end to win by 2.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, for whom we have never had any use, called a timeout to ice the Atlanta kicker, but he called it so late that the ball was snapped, held, and kicked. And it was wide right! But it didn't count because of the timeout. Having had a nice practice shot, the kicker booted the next one true, and that was the end of the season for Coach Karma. The three of our underdog game players who picked the Seahawks for a single point today are frustrated.
The Niners will play in Atlanta in the first game next Sunday. The winner of the Houston-New England contest currently under way will be the home team in the second game, against Baltimore. But we're getting ahead of ourself. At the moment, Houston, a 9.5-point 'dog and picked by our runaway leader, D.B. Cooper, is ahead in Foxboro!
UPDATE, 4:55 p.m.: Major Tom and the Pats take care of the Texans, leaving our 'dog pickers high and dry for Sunday. Our standings remain where they were last night, but without the asterisks.
Baltimore should be a pretty decent sized road 'dog at New England next weekend. But with only two contests to choose from, it's going to be a chess game for a lot of our players. We'll post the last lines on Tuesday.
11:07 p.m., Saturday night. We find ourselves behind, and then alongside, the eastside Portland streetcar, Grand and Broadway. We carefully scan the car to check the number of passengers. That number: zero.
For this and other pointless pork projects, we've essentially bankrupted Portland.
The players in our charity pro football underdog game have chosen as follows:
9.5 BALTIMORE at Denver - Jeremy, Tung, pdxmick, Gary, PDXileinOmaha, Gordon, Biggest Cubs Loser, Dr. D, Usual Kevin, Coastal Storm, Annie, Eric W., Tinknocker, Cinderella Story, Grizfan
9.5 HOUSTON at New England - Ted, Paul, Broadway Joe, DB Cooper, genop's gal, Juicen
3 GREEN BAY at San Francisco - George, Dave A., NoPoGuy, Sola, Will, Bayou Baby, Pete Rose, JMH, Bad Brad, John Cr., John Ch., Drewbob, genop, Michael K.
1 SEATTLE at Atlanta - Rudie, Carol, Lucas
It doesn't look as though that logjam between our second and seventh places is going to be broken up this weekend, as it appears all the players in that pack went with the Pack. But Tung could leapfrog up from eighth if The Good Flacco shows up.
Have a great couple of days, and enjoy the last Saturday of real football until late summer.
UPDATE, 11:46 p.m.: Wow, a big win for Baltimore, but nada for Green Bay. The standings going into Sunday's games are as follows. Folks with a 'dog in the hunt on Sunday are designated with asterisks:
Some of the suits running the University of Oregon deserve a timeout, if not jail time. Seriously.
The groovy Pearl District's got a new resident.
It doesn't get too much better than this.
You have to laugh at this one, to keep from crying: Portland's toothless citizen advisory board for utilities is a little miffed that before they left city government in tatters, the Sam Rand Twins never got around to drafting new guidelines on how water and sewer revenues should be spent:
During the 2011 work session, the mayor informed the PURB that a process was in place to develop utility expenditure rate criteria. The OMF (Office of Management and Finance) was to develop the criteria which were then to be reviewed by City Council and the PURB. To date, no such criteria have been written. Over the last year, the city was also sued for its use of ratepayer funds in ways not directly linked to the delivery of water and sewer services. The PURB continues to be concerned over the city’s use of ratepayer dollars to fund projects that are not directly linked to the delivery of utility services.
You may remember the Twins' unwritten guidelines: "We'll spend it however we want, whether it's legal or not, and the other three bobbleheads on the City Council won't dare lift a finger to stop us." Those were recently put on hold. To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a lawsuit.
City budget officials say they are continuing to work on the criteria and plan to present the new guidelines during the upcoming budget process.
Yes, Commissioner Guffman is in charge.
Computer security software tycoon John McAfee has shown up in Portland and says he's moving here. We haven't been following his story as closely as some of our readers have, but as we understand it, McAfee, who's been living for years in Belize, is reportedly on the run from police in that country, where they say he is wanted for questioning in connection with a murder. McAfee apparently says he's being framed by a corrupt government in Belize. We say we'd like to stay as far away from him as possible.
Players in our charity pro football underdog game, don't forget that your pick for this playoff weekend is due today, Saturday, at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time -- kickoff for the week's first game. That first game, in Denver, promises to be the only frigid contest of this round, with a forecast high of 18 degrees. The nightcap in San Francisco looks as though it will be played in nice fall football weather -- clear skies, temperatures in the 40's. It's supposed to be remarkably warm in New England tomorrow, and of course, Atlanta plays in a dome.
In our underdog game, there's probably a fair amount of strategizing going on near the top. Eight points separate second from seventh places, and the top five season-long finishers next week will get to steer some nice money to their favorite charities.
Anyway, players: Don't forget your pick; make it now.
Picking those two up turns out to have been a dumb move. It isn't going to get much better when the injuries clear up, either. There's no chemistry. LAL = LOL.
Here's a fascinating document from the Sam Rand holdovers in the City of Portland finance bureau (Motto: "Put it on plastic, honey, it's like gettin' it for free"). Willy Week unearthed it this week, highlighting its concern about the lack of funds available for adequate building maintenance. But it also contains an ominous note about the city's borrowing capacity:
City policy establishes debt limits for different types of debt, including self supporting and non-self supporting debt secured by the General Fund. These limits are put in place to avoid the City’s over-commitment of resources to the retirement of indebtedness and are a factor in maintaining Moody’s Aaa bond rating on the City’s General Fund-backed debt. For self-supporting General Fund backed debt the limit is 1% of Real Market Value and for non-self supporting debt the limit is the lower of 1% of Real Market Value or debt service up to 7% of General Fund revenue. Due to reductions in Real Market Value and General Fund revenue as a result of the recession, the City has come closer to reaching those policy limits. The City will need to prioritize debt proposals against these limits until there is sufficient growth in Real Market Value, General Fund revenue and retirement of existing debt.
The financial house of cards is starting to look shaky, even to the reckless and inept bureaucracy.
Santa Claus was good to us this year, as usual. All sorts of neat stuff came our way. Among the many great gifts we got were two more issues (17 and 18) of the Dark Horse Presents comic book anthologies, with more installments of the Phil Stanford Portland crime stories (which start in 16) in them. Stanford's got his usual splendid narrative and fine dialogue -- you'd expect nothing less -- and there's spectacular drawing by somebody name Patric Reynolds. We understand there's a fourth installment out -- maybe we'll get it for our upcoming birthday.
Anyway, after savoring every panel of the Stanford stories -- they translate exceedingly well to this medium -- we found some other neat stuff between the covers of the 80-page mags. For example, there's a stunning series called "Deep Sea," about an undersea exploration expedition that winds up in a time warp -- so well written, so well drawn.
It's hard to believe that in our old age, we're heading back to an art form that we haven't touched since we were a boy. But this stuff is simply too good to pass up.
Just attended one of the ODOT-sponsored High-Speed Train meetings. Yup. The fix is in.
By early 2015 the final decisions will be made -- or sooner if the project is "fast tracked" as desired. The route through LO is off the table, but the pricey one along I-5 looks like a good bet to beat out Oregon City. No train tracks on I-5 (yet), but it's only money. The good folks at CH2MHill who are helping ODOT will find a way to make the impossible doable.
ODOT has moved beyond the "need" phase into the alignment phase, and there is just NO ONE around to STOP this thing. Since no one city is being impacted (maybe they are staying away from LO because we WILL fight back), there is no resistance to the rail mafia this time. Is there?
We have no doubt that the reader's got the situation sussed, all right. The train is on the tracks, in more ways than one.
We love to stick pins in Portland's moribund daily newspaper, which is usually mighty skimpy on real journalism. But O reporter Joseph Rose's recent exposé on Tri-Met's "culture of exhaustion" was really good. It's having real results, and it could literally save someone's life. Kudos to Rose and his editors.
Here's a wild one: The new mayor of Portland's toney southern suburb held an emergency closed executive session of the City Council yesterday to discuss something really urgent. We'd be willing to bet that he turned over a rock on his new desk and found something extremely ugly left there by his predecessor.
Could it have been, as the Trib suggested, connected to the predecessor's controversial plan to expand the Lake O. water treatment plant located in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood? It's hard for us to tell. But we won't be surprised if all sorts of weird-looking critters come to light as the Lake O. city government gets under new management. On first glance, that water plant expansion looks like a typical Portland stinker that merits a major timeout.
A friend of this blog raises a good point: When the Portland police fatally shoot some poor, unarmed soul in the back, they inevitably give the excuse that they thought the dead guy was reaching for a gun. "By the time you see the gun, you're dead" -- that's what they always say.
Well, if that's the case, why didn't the cops just open fire on these two dummies?
In our continuing coverage of Portland's current vicious cold snap, we've uncovered an interesting email directive, issued earlier this week, from the City of Portland Office of Equity to the city's Bureau of Transportation. In it, the equity office orders the transportation bureau to cease all use of the term "black ice," because of its "obvious racial connotations." According to memo, road conditions that formerly went by that label are now to be referred to as "friction-challenged transparent road surfaces." Perfectly Portland for the 21st Century, we suppose.
UPDATE, 6:15 a.m.: All kidding aside, it's slick out there. Be careful.
When they're outlawed, only outlaws will have them.
Or is it Hack-a-Flack? We always get those confused.
Anyway, there were big doings in the Oregon government public relations army ranks this morning. First of all, Kate Brown, the emerging statewide leader in self-congratulatory press releases, sent an intimidating message to any would-be competitors by signing free agent Tony Green, former flack to ex-state attorney general John Kroger, as her new p.r. guru. (Has her old mouthpiece, Andrea Cantu-Schomus, been canned-shown the door?)
Back in the days before Kroger's tragic illness forced him to take a $300,000-a-year gig at Reed College, Green pumped out a record 142 press releases for the A.G. in a single year. Yes, there's a cloud over that mark, because many experts believe Green could not have done it without doping, but hey, the flacks are probably all on the juice -- and Green holds the title.
Meanwhile, the Portland school district (motto: "All children deserve an equally bad education") has reportedly hired a new in-house political consultant. It's Jon Isaacs, who was in charge of selling the public the recently passed bond measure that will build LEED-Plutonium study halls for the high school kids to sneak out of to smoke pot.
Why in heck does the school district need a political consultant? Why doesn't it just spend its time and money giving children a great education? When it gets into heavy-duty politics -- the kind somebody like Isaacs is needed for -- it gets into trouble. Remember when Super Carole and some of her pals were busted for campaigning for a bond measure on the public dime, in violation of state law? They were all assessed a fine of a big $75, and some of them walked away from even that, because the proper regulations to enforce state law had never been properly adopted by... wait for it...
Sing along with us: "All my life's a circle..."
We had a 15-minute power outage here at Blog Central about an hour ago. Portland infrastructure is so wimpy -- no doubt a snowflake landed directly on a wire.
Our array of backup generators failed when the bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 hamster refused to get into his wheel. He's filed a grievance over alleged discrimination based on species. We can't comment further because the matter is in litigation.
Anyway, it's time to go reset a few clocks. Repeatedly re-learning how to work the remote on the DVD player is what keeps us young.
A streetcar and an auto collided this morning on Portland's east side. It's a good thing it happened before the height of the morning rush hour -- otherwise, that streetcar might have had two or three people on it, and they could have gotten hurt.
Now there are large snowflakes falling here at StormCenter 9000.2. The size of dimes, they are -- maybe even nickels. And our thermometer warns us that the temperature has plummeted from 37.0 degrees to 36.8 degrees. Portland is slipping into some hazardous territory. Do not go outdoors for any reason. Be sure to wrap your pipes, and don't forget your pets!
Remember the Portland police officer who got himself arrested in Idaho for flashing his gun at a motorist in an off-duty road rage incident on I-90? He also has problems with touching female employees' legs and not telling the truth about his temper tantrums. And although the police discipline board recommended that he be canned, the Sam Rand Twins and their hand-picked police chief figured busting him down to lieutenant was punishment enough. Oh, the agony of being a mere lieutenant.
Mayor Char-Lie keeps nattering about changing the police bureau culture. That seems highly improbable in any event, and under the current chief, it doesn't seem even possible.
Here at Blog Central, we've noticed that there are indeed snowflakes mixed in with this morning's cold rain. Snow! In Portland! Drop everything. Cancel everything. You could die.
Wonder if Mayor Hales has any funny winter hats. He did live in the north country for a while, you know -- out of love.
Anyway, with the temperature a brutal 37 degrees, you can't be too careful. Stay tuned to bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 for all the latest. Just as a precaution, we'll be conducting our daily griping on a delayed schedule.
What he said: "Now is the time we come together as a city."
What he meant: "Crap, I'm going to be outvoted on everything."
Now a story about a second suitcase theft operation at the Portland Airport makes the news -- this group up in the 'Couv. Unlike the first pack of thieves, which included a couple of children, this second gang must not have been using MAX as a getaway vehicle, since it doesn't go up that way.
The latest story now tells us that "101 bags have been reported stolen from last September through Jan. 1." Assuming that's a full four months, it works out to about 25 bags a month -- up from the 12 bags a month that was being reported on Monday. What the heck, government in Portland makes up the numbers about everything else -- might as well throw some wildly inaccurate ones out on airport crime, too.
Why are we going to destroy wildlife habitat on West Hayden Island for a mysterious shipping terminal when Portland's import and export traffic is already so pitiful that the port authority is preparing to pay shippers to keep coming here? It's so unnecessary. Just make-work for some Goldschmidt Network cronies, apparently.
The Tweets are nonstop this morning about the Sacramento Kings basketball team being bought by a group in Seattle. Sounds legit.
UPDATE, 11:32 a.m.: Here's the Yahoo story, which is the most developed that we could find. It says they'll play in Key Arena for two years, then move to a new joint.
So says the nation's tax ombudswoman, and as usual, she hits the nail right on the head.
The great Portland Convention Center hotel ripoff took another weird turn this week, with the gaggle of public relations bobbleheads at Portland's Metro government suddenly pushing the news that they're going to ask for state lottery funds to build the thing. That money would immediately be handed out to the planners, construction company scoundrels, and hotel chain honchos who are determined that the taxpayers are going to finance the project.
Asking Salem for money for a monstrosity that's doomed to failure? It's the Sustainability Center all over again, but this time with a Democrat-controlled legislature. Pork for the Usual Suspects will be a high priority. All sorts of good money is about to be thrown after all sorts of bad.
It won't be the first time that huge gobs of lottery dough will be dedicated to a white elephant. Some $250 million of state gambling funds are already being spent on the ridiculous Tri-Met Mystery Train to Milwaukie. Compared to that monumental ripoff, a mere $15 million* for a hotel that nobody needs seems like a mere bagatelle.
Meanwhile, the list of demands coming from the Hyatt Hotel chain, which would operate the hotel in a classic Portland backroom no-bid deal, gets more appalling every time they shine a flashlight on it:
Combined with $4 million each from Metro and the Portland Development Commission, that would amount to $23 million in upfront public money to support the planned hotel. But Dresler stressed that negotiations are ongoing and expected to take months, and there is no agreement yet on what the upfront requirement would be to move the project forward.
The hotel's owner, Hyatt, is also calling for a refund of most of the room taxes paid by hotel guests, a number that could total $111 million.
In turn, Hyatt would guarantee a block of rooms would remain available for large conventions looking to hold events in Portland.
This zombie project simply won't die, and you can bet that unlike Tom Potter, old Char-Lie Hales will be glad to dole out PDC dollars for it. The screwing of the average Joes and Janes of the city and state just never stops. Oregon poses as "progressive," but the only people making "progress" live in the West Hills of Portland and own construction companies.
* - Liars' budget number; actual number will probably be at least twice that.
The new Portland mayor's office staff will cost $600,000 a year less than his predecessor's, at least to start. And most of the unqualified kids have been cleared out, although we suspect many scurried under other City Hall rocks and are still drawing a public paycheck.
Only a few holdover staffers remain, and according to the O, a couple them are getting nice raises.
From the Adams roster:
Antoinette Edwards, director, Office of Youth Violence Prevention, $75,004
Cevero Gonzalez, scheduler and executive assistant, $69,430
Chad Stover, community service aide, $25,000
Noah Siegel, international relations manager, $65,790
Thomas Peavey, policy manager, Office of Youth Violence Prevention, $61,609
From the Hales roster:
Antoinette Edwards, director, Office of Youth Violence Prevention, $84,656
Cevero Gonzalez, Hales' executive assistant and scheduler, $69,439
Chad Stover, policy assistant $46,400
Noah Siegel, policy director, $65,780
Thomas Peavey, policy manager, Office of Youth Violence Prevention, $61,607
Edwards picked up a nice 12.9% pay increase, and Stover's salary went up by 85.6%. Fascinating.
And here's an interesting one from the new list:
Lauren King, executive assistant to Gail Shibley and Hatfield Fellow at Portland State University, salary paid by PSU
Ah, the eternal connection between City Hall and the PSU Real Estate and Patronage Center. We can't help but wonder how the English majors over there would feel if they found out they were paying a hidden city tax as part of their tuition bill.
If you're as upset as we are about Tri-Met's immorally dangerous overtime practices, you should know that a young fellow named Noah Heller, who seems like an average Joe, has started an online petition drive. It demands that the governor shape up the Tri-Met board and the union so that the unsafe practices are eliminated -- and if they won't play ball, that the guv sponsor a legislative fix. It's easy to sign the petition, which is here. We did, if for no other reason than to encourage Heller and others like him to get, and stay, involved.
For better or worse, our charity pro football underdog game gets us thinking about the Big Daddies of the NFL all week long. Last night we realized that if one of the games in the final weekend (Jan. 19-20) is listed by the oddsmakers as a "pick-'em," then by rule, it will be off our game board. And that means our game will end with this week's slate of contests.
Could that happen? We suppose so. For example, who'd be favored in New England at Denver? Perhaps Denver with home field advantage, but a pick-'em is not out of the question.
Of course, the standings in our game are tight enough that even a small spread on both games could make for quite a chess match as players make their picks that final week. But if either one's a pick-'em, it's academic; our game will be over.
We couldn't help but think of Portland when we read this in a wonderful Mark Twain essay last night -- especially given who's taking over the reins at City Hall:
The men in that far country were liars, every one. Their mere howdy-do was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except they were undertakers. To the ordinary inquirer you lied in return; for you made no conscientious diagnosis of your case, but answered at random, and usually missed it considerably. You lied to the undertaker, and said your health was failing -- a wholly commendable lie, since it cost you nothing and pleased the other man. If a stranger called and interrupted you, you said with your hearty tongue, "I'm glad to see you," and said with your heartier soul, "I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner time." When he went, you said regretfully, "Must you go?" and followed it with a "Call again"; but you did no harm, for you did not deceive anybody nor inflict any hurt, whereas the truth would have made you both unhappy....
I think that all this courteous lying is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
What I bemoan is the growing prevalence of the brutal truth. Let us do what we can to eradicate it. An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving. The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble, is one of whom the angels doubtless say, "Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare into jeopardy to succor his neighbor's; let us exalt this magnanimous liar."...
Lying is universal -- we all do it; we all must do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather.
The Tri-Met chief executive obviously is a capital projects man, and not an operations man. Portland's transit agency is horribly insolvent, and so the capital projects are going to end soon. And now that that it's been outed as a menace to riders, pedestrians, and motorists alike -- exposed by the dowdy old Oregonian, no less -- McFarlane needs to step down.
The agency board, which from all appearances is a bunch of political hacks, should probably join him. It's time to put some people in charge who (a) can manage crises, (b) can turn around an organization that's careening toward bankruptcy, and (c) walk the talk on safety. Tri-Met has become a dangerous embarrassment, on more levels than one. Shame on the governors who, with their brain-dead appointments, have allowed the many intractable problems to fester.
Another possibility would be a statewide initiative to replace the appointed Tri-Met board with an elected board. That would shake things up, and it's hard to picture any shakeup making matters worse than they already are.
The Sellwood residents who didn't appreciate a sex offender center that quietly crept into their neighborhood have succeeded in getting it moved out. Their most effective tactic: major pressure on the landlord, including a planned protest at his house. When you're fighting money, you have to fight hard. Good for them.
The obvious question, where the joint has moved to, is not answered by the kids at the O. You may not want to know, anyway.
Just what our insolvent state and local governments need -- a bullet train to the sticks.
David Bowie turns 66 today. His first single on the RCA label, "Changes," was released 41 years ago yesterday.
It's Week 19 of our 20-week charity prof football underdog game -- the time has surely flown -- and here are the week's options for our predictors. But before we reveal them, let us remind players that this week, because we are in the playoffs and half the games are on Saturday, all picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Repeat: This week, all picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
That said, here's what we are looking at:
9.5 BALTIMORE at Denver
9.5 HOUSTON at New England
3 GREEN BAY at San Francisco
1 SEATTLE at Atlanta
Now, to win points in our game, our players' teams must win their games outright. Our top five 'dog pickers get to send money to their favorite charities -- $1,340 all told. Only 8 points separate second from seventh place in our standings, and with two 9½-point 'dogs on the board, the picking is going to be interesting. There'll be only two games next week in the finale, and players could easily cancel each other out then; therefore, this week is crucial.
Oh, and did we mention? All picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Good luck, everybody!
As well they should. Neither Kansas State and Notre Dame turned out to be in the same league as the UC Nike footballers. If only they hadn't lost to The Tree, the Ducks would have been no. 1. Interestingly, that loss apparently also cost Saint Coach Chippy up to a half million dollars in bonuses. The tuition-paying English majors in Blugene should be sending thank-you notes to Palo Alto.
December and January tend to be good to the Portland Trail Blazers, and they certainly are this season. Last night the Portland squad drove past Orlando in overtime -- the fifth Blazer overtime win, with no losses, this season.
The home win, the Blazers' eighth straight, comes on the heels of a tough road trip in which Portland won three of four. In games decided by six points or fewer, the Blazers are 10-2.
If the playoffs started today, the Blazers would be in them. They're currently seventh in the league's Western Conference. But they're ahead of Utah and the Lakers, who will be playing better ball in the spring than they are now.
You have to take your hat off to the team's new head coach, Terry Stotts, who's getting the job done. For our money, he's outperforming former coach Nate McMillan. Stotts actually calls plays that score baskets. We can't picture Nate winning all the close games and taking a thin lineup like this year's Blazers to a 19-15 record.
But it's still pretty early. In the past we have learned that wins at this time of year can be fool's gold. We'll see what goes down under Stotts once the crocuses are up.
The most interesting stories this morning are from the sports world. Here's one: It seems that the craziness of ex-Blazer headcase Rasheed Wallace is rubbing off on his new New York teammate, Carmelo Anthony. Last night Anthony was spotted waiting outside Madison Square Garden to confront Kevin Garnett, after the two of them got into an altercation late in the game. Remember the time 'Sheed went after the crooked ref, Tim Donaghy, outside the Rose Garden? Apparently ex-Jail Blazer Zach Randolph has been into it lately, too. Good times.
The feeling is mutual.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
"I've been asked that question before, so I've thought about it quite a bit. The only thing I can think of is the work we did on Oak Grove on the tree ordinance."
Orbusmax, the Drudge-like Pacific Northwest site established by the late Jim Walker, is back up and functioning following its founder's demise. Walker tended to that baby day and night, and the new version certainly isn't up to his frenetic pace yet. Our sincere best wishes to whoever's taken it over.
An old high school mate posted this to Facebook yesterday, and it seems worth reposting here. With any luck he won't sue us for using it:
Just took down the tree. It always seems kind of mean that it starts to smell its best just before you have to chuck it. And putting it out on the curb always takes me back.
If you happen to be stopped in traffic at the end of the NJ Turnpike viaduct to the Holland Tunnel and glance over to the right, you'll see what's left of the neighborhood I grew up in. There's a ball field there that's a lot nicer now than it was when I was a kid. Every year around this time me and my friends would scour the streets for blocks in every direction and drag discarded Christmas trees to that field. We'd make a huge pile of them, then somebody would light a match.
It never took more than one.
In seconds there would be flames shooting way, way up high into the frigid winter night air and the heat was so intense you'd have to stand ten feet back. We'd gather in a semi-circle on the upwind side and just watch. There was no singing or hooting or any other kind of primal rite... just a bunch of kids hypnotized by fire. I guess we didn't feel like the magic needed any help.
Funny thing, I don't remember ever having any issues with the Fire Dept. or the cops. But that's the way old city neighborhoods were. I don't doubt that the cops saw us out there in the middle of the field. How could you miss us? But they probably saw themselves twenty years earlier, staring into their own holiday-ending bonfires. Maybe they even wanted to join in. They probably thought our collective street smarts were enough to keep us safe. In a perverse kind of way, it might have even been good for us. You'd only have to experience one of those fires to develop a lifelong respect for the combustibility of dried up Christmas trees.
These days, when I walk the dog past the sad, lonely, dark trees sitting on the curb waiting to be recycled, I'm really tempted to give them one last moment of spectacular luminosity. It'd be a fitting and more dignified send-off, considering how they've given their lives for one silly holiday. But suburban neighbors and suburban police are of a different time and a different ethos.
I leave the matches at home.
Buying an automobile that doesn't guzzle gas may save you money on gas, but it probably won't save you from gas taxes for too much longer. Up in Washington State (motto: "That's some badass weed'), they've instituted a new $100 a year tax on electric vehicles, effective February 1. It applies only to purely electric cars, and there are only 1,600 of them in the state at the moment. But it's a first step toward adding new taxes to fossil fuel taxes to raise public money for "transportation" costs (or whatever else the politicians can get away diverting it for).
Here in Oregon, they're proposing using some sort of tracking device in each vehicle to determine actual mileage, and impose a tax based on miles traveled. The first phase of the "public involvement" game on that one has been a pilot program, in which devices were placed in the cars of a few dozen people to see what they thought. They were all volunteers -- people like true believer Metro commissioner Bob Stacey and state transportation commissioner Mary Olson -- and of course, they all say it was wonderful. They paid tax based on mileage, and got a refund of the tax they paid at the pump. Some were allowed to use their cell phones, which seems kind of odd, and if they traveled out of state, they used a gizmo that tracked their vehicle's every movement.
Needless to say, there's big bureaucracy on the horizon, and the potential for a lot more government intrusion into one's life. But the insatiable tax least must be fed. There'll be a carbon tax if you burn gas, and a mileage tax if you don't. And if you take a walk, they'll tax your feet.
As we've been documenting for years, the big four State of Oregon politicians other than the governor each have their own set of flacks, and they pump out the self-flattering "news" releases at a brisk clip. Former state attorney general John Kroger was so into this that a few years ago we decided to set up our own press release meter to count the number of missives he sent out on the taxpayer's dime. In 2010, the number was a staggering 142.
Kroger has now left public office and is raking in the big bucks as president of Reed College, but while he was still in office we added his three peers, and since his departure we have kept the meter alive. The year-end results for 2012 are now in, and they show a new top release-sender-outer:
Secretary of state Kate Brown, whose tenure in office has been marred by several blunders, has taken over the title of biggest self-promoter in the group.
Now that these four are safely re-elected, and they can get on with their official tasks of appearing busy and looking the other way, their handout output seems likely to decline. In December, basking in the glow of re-election, the four of them dished out only 10 releases total. Heck, Kroger would do as much himself in a good week. His 142 will stand, like Babe Ruth's 60, for many years.
The scoundrel PoPo union gets all nicey-nicey to Mayor Char-Lie.
Here's an interesting item from this Wednesday's Portland City Council agenda. It's city taxpayers picking up half the tab from a 41% cost overrun on the installation of some sort of "stormwater management system" at Tri-Met's Barbur Boulevard transit center. According to the proposed city ordinance, the original plan was for the project to cost $590,000, and all be paid for by the state Transportation Department. In addition, there was an $85,000 contingency budget, split evenly between the state and the city.
But shockingly, the planners underestimated what the project was going to entail, and now they say it will cost another $155,000, over and above the original budget and contingency. And so city taxpayers get to pungle up another $77,500. If the deal winds up costing more than the new budget of $830,000, supposedly any additional will come from the state. In the end, the city is on the hook for $120,000.
And what is Tri-Met paying for these improvements to its facility? Nothing, apparently. Oh, it's providing "management services." That's nice.
When you throw in all the design, "planning," and other yada yada, it's going to cost nearly $1.2 million to equip that transit station with bioswales. And you wonder why your taxes and sewer bills are so high.
Oh, the many interesting "features" of living in the Portlandia fantasy world.
"When I talked to the baggage claim people, they said it’s a known problem with people on the MAX. People come in on the MAX, steal bags and go back out on the MAX," she said.
Police said the suspects are tied to several luggage thefts. The four adults face charges of theft, conspiracy and endangering welfare of a minor. They’ve been ordered to stay away from the airport for 90 days....
Port of Portland Police said thieves steal about 12 bags per month.
The UC Nike football coach has done his recurring act of interviewing with pro football teams, and it has had the predictable result of making his college fans clamor for him to stay in Eugene. His people are now saying that he will in fact stay, and the rumor last night was that the owner of the university, Phil Knight, made some commitments to the coach in order to keep him in a UC Nike visor. At this hour, we can only guess what those might have been. Why do we suspect that the taxpayers and the English majors are going to be paying more?
Neither of the two underdogs in today's pro football games came through -- all four favorites won in the wild card playoffs this weekend. That means that none of the players in our charity prediction game scored any points, and the standings remain where they were a week ago. There are four games again next week, and only two the week after, which will be the final week of our season-long game. We'll post the lines for next weekend on Tuesday, and all picks will be due on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 Pacific Time.
The corruption never stops. More questionable "management coaching," "team building," and "political strategy" contracts -- on a no-bid basis, of course. Both Portland City Hall and the school board have got them going with one contractor. And you'll never guess who is getting the money.
Years ago we found a Jackie Robinson autograph model baseball bat at a garage sale. We don't play baseball hardly ever, but we couldn't resist the pure coolness of the thing. Solid wood.
A short time after this purchase, we had two episodes of weirdos showing up around Blog Central within a few days of each other -- an odd coincidence, but it brought out our Newark upbringing. The next thing you know, the Jackie Robinson was stationed near the front door.
It's a grand northeast Portland tradition. Some of us who've lived in these parts for at least three decades remember that then-Mayor Frank Ivancie used to keep a bat under his bed, just in case. A Louisville Slugger, as we recall.
A sad reflection on our times, the bat involved in the latest story is made of aluminum. We just hate that sickening "plinck" sound you hear when you club an intruder with one of those. The "clock" sound emanating from a strike with the Jackie Robinson would be much more in keeping with the tradition.
A couple of decades ago, in the heat of bachelorhood, we were out of town for the holidays, and when we returned, we found to our dismay that we may have missed a chance to be one of several "voices" to be profiled in the New Year's edition of Willamette Week. It was a bit curious, because at the time, we weren't blogging or doing anything else overtly political. But somebody must have put in a good word about us from somewhere. Anyway, we didn't respond in a timely way, and so our chance to be prominently quoted was lost. It was probably a good thing, in that we don't know what we would have had to say back then.
It's interesting that they're still running that feature in WW, and even more interesting that this week, the latest annual installment includes Al Our Palster, the blogging Tri-Met bus driver. Al's retired now -- probably tired, too -- but he has some interesting thoughts. So does Lainie Block Wilker, soccer mom and outspoken critic of the clueless bureaucrats running Portland's public schools into the ground. Portlanders, you owe yourself those two clicks.
Today's the Feast of the Epiphany -- "little Christmas," celebrating the three wise men dropping in from the East to check out Baby J.C. Don't know about you, but most of our Christmas stuff is very much in evidence, at least until tomorrow. Twelve lords a-leaping, baby. Merry little Christmas to all those inclined to mark the day.
Back when we succumbed to the iPhones several years ago, we cut our subscription to the daily New York Times as a way to help pay for the increased monthly cell phone bill. We still get the Sunday edition of the paper of record, but the familiar blue plastic bag stopped showing up at Blog Central in the wee hours of Monday through Saturday.
We don't miss it all that much. A lot of the dailies that used to pile up never got opened during the busy times of year -- which were most of them -- and of course, we read a lot of Times stories on the intertubes hours before they're printed on dead trees in Tacoma and flown down to Portlandia.
But the other day, we were in a downtown hotel where they had stacks of newspapers sitting out for the taking by guests, and we snagged one for later perusal. Last night we cracked it open over a solitary supper to see if there was anything in there to capture our attention.
As it turns out, there were quite a few engrossing stories to consume, particularly in the business section. Has the government any business stopping Google from slanting search results in favor of its own products? Is the Barnes & Noble Nook headed the way of the Betamax? And these were immediately followed by the sports section: These days Tark the Shark can hardly walk, and Greg Popovich didn't send his starters home on his return visit to the Big Apple. Could we have read these stories on line? Sure. But on paper, the old gray lady was positively captivating.
Does this mean that we're going to re-up our daily subscription? Heck, no. But the next time we're in that hotel, we'll definitely have our eyes peeled for that freebie pile.
The picks are in for the first playoff weekend in our charity pro football underdog game, and about half our players are hoping for a little Luck tomorrow:
9.5 MINNESOTA at Green Bay - Jeremy, George, Gary, Usual Kevin, Annie, Coastal Storm, Tinknocker, Cinderella Story
6.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Baltimore - NoPoGuy, Rudie, Carol, PDXileinOmaha, Gordon, John Ch., JMH, Grizfan, Tung, Paul, Lucas, Dr. D, genop, Michael K., Bayou Baby, Drewbob, Pete Rose, MickeyMacNYC, Juicen, Eric W.
4.5 CINCINNATI at Houston - Biggest Cubs Loser, Will, Sola, Bad Brad, genop's gal, Broadway Joe
2.5 WASHINGTON vs. Seattle - Dave A., DB Cooper, John Cr.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the games, all!
UPDATE, 5:36 p.m.: Cincy fails miserably against Houston, which should be a huge 'dog at New England next week.
UPDATE, 9:02 p.m.: The second game put us to sleep, but we awoke to discover that Minnesota was no match for the Pack. No Saturday winners.
UPDATE, 1/7, 2:28 a.m.: No winners in the Sunday games, and thus none for the week. This week's faves should become next week's 'dogs.
Here's an interesting site we just stumbled upon: It's about the goings-on in Portland radio.
It may have gotten its precious tax credit back, but the Danish windmill maker on whom Portland and Oregon have showered so many subsidies is still cutting back its work force. Now instead of laying people off, it's reducing their hours to 24 a week, and apparently some sort of state unemployment benefit is added to the workers' salaries. If wind energy comes back before the firm goes under, maybe the hours will get ramped back up. In the meantime, the employees chew up some of their unemployment eligibility.
(By the way, Congress has made the tax credit good for deals in which construction is begun by the end of the year, even if the equipment isn't switched on until next year. This change in practice will buy the Vestas types a little more time than we first suspected.)
Veterans of the Portland blogosphere remember Christopher Frankonis, a.k.a. The One True B!x, who covered Portland politics with skill and aplomb for several years a decade ago. He's kept his new blog, Furious Nads, going since his retirement from the political scene -- these days it's into pop culture. And it looks as though he's made a New Year's resolution to post a lot more over there. His good writing is a pleasure to check out, whatever the subject.
Players in our charity pro football underdog game, don't forget that due to the playoff schedule, your pick for this week is due today, Saturday, at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Your options are:
9.5 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
6.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Baltimore
4.5 CINCINNATI at Houston
2.5 WASHINGTON vs. Seattle
The standings of our players are here. Good luck.
Same as the old Metro bobbleheads:
Chase, whose District 5 seat includes most of the city of Portland north of Interstate-84, is the executive director of the Coalition of Community Health Clinics, a network of 14 non-profit health clinics in Multnomah County. Prior to joining the coalition in 2010, he served as Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish's chief of staff.
Dirksen's District 3 seat includes most of Washington County south of the Tualatin Valley Highway/Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, plus the Clackamas County parts of Tualatin and Wilsonville. He is an industrial designer for CH2M Hill and served as Tigard's mayor from 2004 through 2012 following two years on the Tigard City Council.
Stacey's District 6 seat covers most of Portland south of I-84 and U.S. 26. A long-time land-conservation advocate, Stacey served as executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon for seven years.
A City Hall type, a CH2M Hill type, and a true believer -- all aboard for Fantasyland!
We just got around to taking a look at the latest population estimates from the Portland State University (and Patronage Center) estimators. For July 1, 2012, they're showing within the Portland city limits a population of 587,865. For the date one year prior, the official estimate was 585,845. That's an increase of a mere 0.34% over that one-year time span.
The three-year compound growth rate is only 0.33%, and the five-year is 0.68%.
It's amazing that we keep slapping up ugly, bulky apartment bunkers all over town, and building crazy trains to nowhere, when the number of people moving here has slowed to a trickle. But hey, that's Portland -- making developers and construction companies rich, and shaking everybody else down for more money every year.
We've been using a 0.7% growth rate on the City of Portland debt clock on our left sidebar, but we're cutting that now to 0.5%, to reflect the new reality. Thus, each resident's share of the city's long-term debt just went up a bit. Happy New Year!
Well, the Tostitos Bowl is over, and the Ducks won. Yay, Ducks. Now the rank-and-file students (and probably the taxpayers) will wind up paying for a lot of the hoopla. Meanwhile, by all accounts, Coach Chip will be heading off the pro's, leaving behind an expensive recruiting scandal but no doubt taking with him a juicy public pension. Forgive us if we're not basking in the glow of the bowl game win.
The Oregon Tax Court has ruled that the Portland Development Commission, in charge of the city's misguided "urban renewal" juggernaut, has to pay property taxes to Multnomah County on a low-rent hotel that it's operating downtown. Unless the PDC wants to take the matter up to the state supreme court, that's all she wrote -- it must pay.
It's poetic justice: The "urban renewal" gang, which robs property taxes from other essential government functions to pad developers' wallets, now has to pay some of the money back.
The Tax Court judge's ruling couldn't be simpler: The PDC isn't a housing authority, and so it isn't fulfilling its public function when it runs a boarding house. If the PDC doesn't like it, the court said, it should go to the state legislature for a special exemption.
But really -- why? The PDC is getting poor results in its stated missions. It ought to stick to the knitting and leave the public housing to people who know what they're doing. (Prior posts here and here.)
It's just too, too, extremely weird to digest fully at this late hour.
Bully for him. Get some of the unqualified hangers-on off the city payroll. There are plenty more where that came from.
When Portland's new mayor was running for the job, it was revealed that for a number of years he declared Washington State residency for income tax purposes but Oregon residency for voting purposes. The two positions were plainly inconsistent with each other.
He hasn't been prosecuted for voter registration fraud -- but has anyone heard if the state Department of Revenue has inquired into his taxes for those years? If he voted in Oregon, he should have paid taxes in Oregon on his investment income, shouldn't he?
Oh well -- at least he wasn't raping a teenager.
The Goodman family won't be getting you when you drive downtown any more. But with their pals at Portland City Hall helping them slap up one nasty skyscraper after another, they'll no doubt still get a piece of your property tax bill.
The mystery of where in Oregon Nike will build its new office facility continues getting flogged in today's Trib. There's still speculation that they'll put it in the failed SoWhat District on the Portland waterfront. Seems like an awfully awkward place to try to get to and from. We can't imagine the celebrity endorsers asking their limo drivers, "Where the heck are we going?" as they try to navigate their way through the insanely inadequate roads leading in and out of the soulless district.
Meanwhile, as wise readers have suspected, the scorekeeping is going to be quite funky on how much "new" investment the giant sneaker maker is actually shelling out. It may not rise the level of Vestas-scam funky, but it's certainly not what the public was led to believe when Governor Retread was selling the rush-rush tax giveaway:
The agreement between Kitzhaber and Nike says the company’s expansion project began in January 2012. That does not mean Nike decided to expand in Oregon more than 11 months before the special session, however. Both Nike officials and Kitzhaber’s office indicated it means that’s when the company seriously began studying where to expand both inside and outside of the state. The January date was included so that any pre-development costs incurred before the decision is made can count towards the minimum $150 million investment.
Too funny. And it will no doubt get even funnier before it's over. When it comes to creativity, nobody beats multinational corporations' accountants. Indeed, Nike should have its bean counters put in for a RACC grant.
And boy oh boy, is Portland's newest city councilman ever writing on it. Some of you may want to have a chill pill handy before you head over there:
Governor John Kitzhaber... raised another possibility: that the State could give counties more money for treatment and supervision of released offenders, and rehabilitation programs, if the counties stop increasing the prison population. (It's county officials - the DAs, the parole and probation system, and the judges - that send people to prison.) I think that's a great idea, and have been encouraging legislators to adopt the Governor's vision and encouraging County officials to take that deal....
[I]f you allow local options to apply to people already paying the Measure 5 limit, and you continue to base tax rates on the goofy Measure 47 / 50 assessed value, you will make our existing inequities worse.... [I]f we're going to allow local options to be collected outside the Measure 5 limits, at least the tax rate should apply to real market value, not the goofy Measure 47 / 50 assessed value. That way everyone with the same property value would pay the same amount....
We could ask the voters to simply eliminate Measure 47 / 50 and say that all property taxes should be based on real market value, effective immediately. One problem with that is that to some extent, the real estate market has probably adjusted the sales prices of houses to reflect the differing property taxes in each neighborhood.... I would like to see the relationship between assessed value and real market value restored, but I would be careful about doing it overnight....
There are a lot of reasons health care costs are so high, and a lot of innovative ways that we can try to reduce them. (Note: "dumping costs onto employees" is not an innovative way to reduce health care costs; it's a cop-out.) City government itself can do a lot, for example by building more sidewalks to make it easier for kids to walk to school, which will make them healthier. We could build more bike infrastructure, to make it easier for people to bike to work and to the grocery store, which will make them healthier....
Is it "manifestos" or "manifestoes"?
Obama is among the most shockingly inept negotiators to occupy the White House in a century. Maybe shockingly is the wrong word, because he seems almost deliberately inept. By the time most presidents get to the Oval Office, they know a thing or two about how to win a political fight. But even after a full term of on-the-job training, Obama still doesn't get it. Even Jimmy Carter -- in my estimate, the reigning champion among lousy negotiators during the last 75 to 100 years -- could have done better than this.
The whole thing, which we couldn't have said better ourself, is here.
The city spends all sorts of money on frivolity like this, and on a paid flack to blog and Tweet about it. We saw Mayor Char-Lie on the tube the other night, preaching about budget cuts. Here's a good place to start.
Roseanne Barr is going to play the mayor on Portlandia (at least temporarily).
It's the first official day on the job for Portland mayor Char-Lie Hales and city commissioner Steve Novick. They could gain themselves a lot of traction with the public if they promptly undid the bad ordinance passed just before Christmas, and pushed the upcoming water fluoridation vote back to where it belongs -- 2014, not 2013. Two of their new colleagues, Legend Dan and Nurse Amanda, are clearly in favor of giving the debate more time and some current science. And all it would take is one of the two new council members to join them in forming a new majority, right?
The Sam Rand Twins are gone. Let's change the tone. Whaddya say, Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick?
We know it's 2013, but we still can't quite get a handle on what day of the week it is. Is it a work day?
Before we reveal this week's lines in our charity pro football underdog game, let us point out that this week, because we are entering the playoffs and half the games are on Saturday, all picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Repeat: This week, all picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
That said, here are the options -- including a playoff home 'dog to consider. It is now win-or-go-home for the Big Daddies:
9.5 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
6.5 INDIANAPOLIS at Baltimore
4.5 CINCINNATI at Houston
2.5 WASHINGTON vs. Seattle
Here's a reminder of what our players are competing for -- minimum prizes as follows:
Second prize: $150 to player's favorite charity
Third prize: $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize: $70 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize: $45 to player's favorite charity
We also have a generous sponsor who will add $500 to the pot, but on the condition that her match go only to charities whose primary function is to provide "food, school, or medicine." And so all told, our top five will steer $1,340 to their favorite charities. The fine print is here.
Good luck with your 'dognostication, players!
(One more time: All picks are due by Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.)
The House passed the "fiscal cliff" deal this evening. As well it should -- it's by far a better deal for the Republican side than for the Democratic.
We got another New Year's greeting from former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt today. He still wants us to know how everybody's doing, even though these days he can't even get elected to a county commission (and not our county):
Kinda sad. But at least he's not killing trees and wasting postage on us any more.
Congratulations to the Stanford football team -- Pac 12 champion and winner of the Rose Bowl. Way to go, Tree!
We went on a New Year's Eve run last evening, which we like to do when there's no holiday party on the agenda. It brought us to 129 miles for the year. That's our best running year since 2005, when we pounded out 149. We're shooting to top that one in '13, but we'll have to see how it goes for a while before we set our sights on 2004's total of 204. Our best year since we started counting was 2003, with 269 miles.
Having the right equipment helps. Last night we broke out a pair of headphones that are built inside of ear muffs. Put out by an outfit called 180s. These were a Christmas present last year, or maybe the year before that. Given that Portland weather rarely gives us a run in sub-40-degree weather, this was their first outing. We were skeptical, but we hooked them up to the miraculous little iPod, and they worked well.
One discovery we made in the past year or two was accidental. We had always run without our spectacles, but one time we forgot and set out running with them still on. Rather than turn back to put them away, we left them on. It's so much better when you can see where you're going. We have an old pair that stays put even through the bouncing along the trail. Unless rain and wind combine to make them impractical, the glasses are a must.
Shuffling through the songs on the iPod is hit-and-miss, but last night's results were pretty good:
Little Walter – Blues With a Feeling
Al Kooper – Whiskey Train
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Something Good Coming
Wilson Pickett – Don't Knock My Love, Pt. 1
Cat Stevens – Changes IV
Al Green – Tired Of Being Alone
Steve Cropper/Lucinda Williams/Steve Winwood – Dedicated to the One I Love
Girl Talk – Triple Double
Steve Cropper/Steve Winwood – Thirty Second Lover
Stevie Wonder – Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday
Billy Joel – Big Shot
Bruce Springsteen – Gypsy Biker
James Brown – Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses?)
The Beatles – Get Back
The Beatles – Help!
Steve Miller Band – True Fine Love
Steve Miller Band – Jet Airliner
Bruce Springsteen – Devil's Arcade
At our age, it takes a couple of days to recover. In fact, tomorrow will be more sore than today. But by the weekend, we should be ready to head out again. The road clears the mind. And if we could just do our regular 5.5-miler once a week for a year, we'd have our record year. For now, though, it's one run at a time, and we pray that the knees and the hips hold up.
Vestas and the other wind energy equipment manufacturers whose tenuous livelihood depends on federal tax handouts are no doubt relieved to see an extension of the wind energy tax credit in the "fiscal cliff" bill that passed the Senate this morning. But (a) it still has to get through Boehner and the gang in the House, and (b) it appears on a quick read to be only a one-year extension.
Payroll tax extension: payroll taxes will increase by 2 percent for all wage earners. This was passed and extended by Congress to give taxpayers additional relief during the slow economic recovery.
Translation: You workers' take-home pay is going to be smaller in January than it was in December, unless you got a raise. If you make $5,000 a month gross, it will be $100 less.
Guys like Obama and Wyden are not the working-class heroes they make themselves out to be. In Obama's case, either he's getting his clock cleaned or his heart isn't in exactly the right place. Wyden, of course, is just a big phony Republican from New York City.
Now, don't get us wrong -- we thought the payroll tax cut was bad policy to begin with, and we're not sorry to see it go. But what we don't like is watching the toupees of Washington, D.C. slip it to the public without the mainstream media calling them out on it.
They'll probably tell you that the payroll tax cut was temporary all along, and so letting it expire isn't really a tax increase. But all of the so-called Bush tax cuts expired at midnight last night -- none of them are in effect today -- and lots of the ones that the super-rich enjoy are going to be reinstated, in full or in large part. The big money here is in the payroll tax increase -- it's more than $100 billion a year -- and make no mistake, moms and pops and Joe the Plumber are going to pay it.