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Jack Bog's Blog, by Jack Bogdanski of Portland, Oregon

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October 2003 Archives

Friday, October 31, 2003

Neil is down on the PUD

Former Governor, Former Mayor, Former Secretary of Transportation, still Big-Time Power Broker Neil Goldschmidt's on the op-ed page of The O today, warning us not to form a people's utility district (PUD) here in Multnomah County.

Millionaire Neil's civic-minded oration includes this interesting tidbit:

Since 1991 I have provided consulting advice to Pacific Power. My confidence in the company's integrity, passion for getting it right and determination to stay close to its communities has been rewarded.

Yes, I'm sure it has, Neil. All the way to your bank account.

I remember when you didn't have to pay this guy to say something. Now he's got a vision for Portland, all right, and it just happens to include all the pet desires of his and his spouse's high-paying clients.

It's hard not to like Neil, and I just mailed in our no votes on the PUD. But I'm saddened that Hizzoner has so lost touch with where he came from.

Weird Publication of the Month

As You-Know-Who puts it, I am not making this up.

Here's a must-read. The IRS has just released a nifty new book for manicurists, hairstylists, masseuses, and estheticians entitled Cosmetology: Learning the Art of Doing Business.

The apparent point of this odd little 44-page volume is to scare the bejeezus out of people engaged in those largely cash businesses, so that they'll at least take an educated stab at cutting square corners with the government on their taxes.

But some of it is as funny as a back wax. The section on whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor tries to explain to the folks hovering over the shampoo bowl something that a dozen CPAs and tax lawyers couldn't fully understand.

Go ahead on over and read this baby. May as well -- you paid for it.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Power to the bloggers!

Here's a good one: Demo Pres candidate John Edwards is bragging over on his website that he will be appearing on a "leading national blog" next Monday to discuss his "technology platform."

Geez, for his sake I sure hope he doesn't take credit for inventing the internet. But it's way cool that blogs are now such a force to reckoned with in national politics.

The mega-blog in question, by the way, belongs to Lawrence Lessig, law prof at my alma mater, Stanford Law School.

Edwards intrigues me as a candidate. I'm starting to think he's the Democrats' best hope. More on that shortly.

Mischief Night

Back in Jersey when I was a "yout'," the night before Halloween was Mischief Night. This was the night of the year when "bad kids" would roam through the neighborhoods doing "bad stuff." Not just fun, toilet-paper-your-friend's-house kind of bad stuff. Not just the flaming bag of dog doo on your grouchy old neighbor's front porch (which I actually saw done once). Instead, it had become an excuse for brick-through-your-windshield, bag-of-paint-on-your-head-off-a-fire-escape, steal-stuff-off-your-porch, a-dozen-eggs-in-your-face-at-close-range kind of bad stuff.

On Mischief Night, the bad kids might even beat you up, de-pants you or steal your wallet.

I don't know why this night was singled out for trouble. Perhaps it was an outgrowth of the original trick or treat idea: On Halloween, if not rewarded with a treat, merry costumed pranksters were entitled to play a trick on the resident of the house. But I guess once everyone started handing out the microscopic bags of M&M's, there weren't enough legal tricks left to get all the adolescent rage out of some people's systems. So the hoods just started vandalizing and terrorizing the night before, and then showing up for treats the next night.

We were never allowed out of the house on Mischief Night. Never. Even the grownups looked both ways and walked briskly to their cars and back.

If I'm not mistaken, tonight's still Mischief Night in a lot of big cities, and I guess it's been known to get quite out of hand in some places.

Might be a good night to lay low with a hot toddy, and a book or a blogroll.

Unless, of course, you're a bad kid.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

To steal a feature from Tony...

Caption this, please:

Idea ripped off from the busblog.

It's official

Word has it that my friend Rives Kistler has been formally sworn in to the Oregon Supreme Court. Best wishes to him, and congratulations all around.


This site had its 30,000th visit (other than visits from me) this morning, a little after 8. My best sleuthing indicates that the milestone hit came from a domain owned by the City of Hillsboro, Oregon. If that reader will step forward and identify himself or herself, he or she can claim the usual prize, a lifetime free subscription to this blog.

The last 10,000 hits came in just under three months, same as the immediately preceding 10,000. But this time it was without the "kobe cheerleader" rush.

Glad everybody's having fun in here.

I can gather all the news I need...

O.k., I'll admit it. I'm an idiot. When all else fails, I'll blog about the weather.

We're continuing to get away with it here in Oregon.

To the north of us, Seattle just gets over a flood and then it turns, as the kids say, hella windy. A big blast comes ripping down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And I think we all know from personal experience how unpleasant that can be.

Down south, well, the raging Southern Cal infernos are just scary as all get out, I'm sure. Makes you think about renting "Day of the Locusts." But there's a simple explanation: When you put Karl Malone in a Laker uniform, nature strikes back.

Here in Greater Portlandia, it's been a little wacky, but nothing too bad. Last week we were muggy and in the 80s. By Friday of this week, we'll be dipping below freezing at night. The little trick-or-treaters' teeth will be chattering as they hurl eggs at the passing MAX trains.

And, man, the forecast is for dark. I looked out the window yesterday afternoon around 25 after 5, and it was time to start humming "Paint It Black." Pass the St. John's wort.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Here's a new one

I just noticed a new Oregon-related blog by a fellow by the name of Chuck Currie. He reads me, so I'll read him, it's tit for tat.

Three cheers for Paul Simon

Hooray for Paul Simon -- not the singer or the former U.S. senator, but the justice of the peace down in Tucson, Arizona who's refused to throw out drug charges against Portland Trail Blazer player Damon Stoudamire.

Stoudamire's the guy who was busted for trying to smuggle marijuana onto a commercial jet airplane this past summer by carrying it on his person through airport security. He had it wrapped in tin foil, which, duh! Set off the metal detectors.

His high-priced lawyer argued that it was illegal for the airport screeners to open the tin foil to see what was inside.

This is at an airport security checkpoint, mind you. In the year 2003.

If this guy gets off on a technicality on this one, there is no justice in this country whatsoever. So hats off to the judge.

Chat with a neighbor

I had just gotten the garbage and recycling out to the curb for another Monday night, and I was kicking back for a minute in the Adirondack chair on the front porch. The night was perfectly still, and unusually mild for this time of year. It's been a warm October.

I stared into space, down the steps, beat from a long day. I had done the two-hour show for the big class that afternoon -- one of my favorite episodes, and I felt as though I nailed it. Then I wrote up a bunch of comments on a couple of student papers. As ever, this left me vacillating between depression and alarm, and so I limped home to the kids and their mama. Now dinner was done, the babes were asleep, and I was unwinding.

And there, slowly, quietly meandering across the brick walkway in front of the house, went a possum.

I hadn't seen a possum around here all summer. Which is a far cry from the way things were when I first moved to Portland in the late '70s. Back then, and well into the '80s, you couldn't drive 10 blocks without seeing one either waddling across your path or squished dead in the middle of the road. But lately, these critters have been scarce -- you now see as many raccoons in this city as you see possums.

I called him back.

Hey, possum! Come here, guy! What are you doing in my front yard?

I don't know, man, what's that smell?

It's just some dog repellent I put out to keep the neighbor dog from whizzing on my grass and killing it. Drives me nuts.

Man, that's psycho. You are one grouchy old coot, aren't you? Turn that light down and move over a little.

There, is that better?


You'd better be careful around here. Don't you know our cat Ralph is out? He'll kick your a*s.

What are you talking about, bro? Ralphie and I are cool. We're buds -- we hang out in the kiwi vines. We got no problems with each other.


Ralph is actually very together for a cat.

I don't know about that, poss. He whups the neighbor cats' butts, and I get to hear about it from their owners.

He only kicks Simon's butt, man. He goes postal on that guy.

Why is that?

I don't know. Ralph just doesn't like him. Maybe it's because he's, well... Simon's a pussy, y'know?

Huh. Hey, where have all the possums gone around here?

Hard times, Jack. Lot of 'sums died before their time. There just wasn't enough food for everybody. Plus, these damn plastic trash can lids make it hard to get down in there and suck some good eggs. That and the steel-belted radials.


It's the tires, dude. Many uneducated possums out there don't know the difference between the hiss of a Michelin and the mating call of a female possum in heat. Lotta bro's have been rolled thinking they were about to get it on with a fine babe. We try to do mandatory awareness training, but you're talking to possums. They don't listen. Then the big wheels get them.

Yeah, a lot has changed since the Indians were running things around here.

I don't know what you're talking about, man. We didn't get here 'til the '40s.


We're not native to Oregon. We were brought in by the people who came here from the south to build ships for the war up in Vanport City. They used us for food.

Tastes kind of like chicken, right?

Nice, you nimbus. That's about as funny as a cigarette machine in a cancer ward. Yeah, among the transplanted southerners, particularly the poorer African-American people, we were always on the dinner table.

But we got the last laugh on them. Most of the people who ate us got flooded out in the Vanport flood. Some levee or dike or something gave way up the Columbia one Memorial Day, and the whole city was destroyed. They lost everything, and it never got rebuilt. Now it's Delta Park.

Where did all the Vanport folks go?

Well, by then, the shipbuilding jobs had all dried up anyway, so a lot of them went back down south.

And they didn't take the possums back with them?

Man, I thought you were supposed to be smart. Think about it, Einstein -- do you think there was any shortage of possums in Arkansas?

You got a point.

So they just turned us all loose. We ran all over the place. Now we're all spread out. I've got cousins in Cornelius. My great uncle's down in Rickreall. Has a nice spread near an open compost pile. The owner's one of these earthy types, so there's plenty to eat. Lotta fiber --

Still, it's tough gotta be tough to survive out here.

I don't know, it's not so bad. I've got it better than a lot of humans. I was reading over there in the newspaper pile in your recycling bin about a lot of sick stuff that you people are into.

Man, tell me about it.

I could be some foster kid who's being starved to death and the social worker's not paying attention. I could be some poor b*stard working for the Red Cross and getting blown to pieces by some murderer who's doing it in the name of God. I could be some guy who got his medicine cut off during some state budget fiasco and now I'm in a coma for the rest of my life.

Compared to that, I'll suck eggs. I hate to be species-ist, but you people need help.

Hey, look, I gotta go. I'll catch you later. Get some sleep, man. You look tired.

You're right, I am. Take care, dude.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Season's greetings

Get nothing done today

Go ahead, I dare you. Start playing this addictive little game. And when you've got nothing to show for your workday, blame it (as I do) on UtterlyBoring.com.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I think it's part of the joke

The Dullest Blog in the World is just that -- dull post after dull post designed to evoke (and successfully doing so) long strings of wonderful comments.

But there hasn't been anything new there since July 2, despite the site's promise of "a new season of uninteresting content shortly."

I picture the author of that blog sitting back and smiling as the hopeful hits keep a-comin' in. After all, what could be duller than a dull blog that isn't updated?


Today was the day they tell you to change the batteries in your smoke alarms. We've got a set of alarms that chirp quite noticeably when the batteries are low, and so I figured, what the hey, I'll wait 'til they tell me they need changing.

Then just as I settled down for some work early this afternoon, chirp... chirp... chirp...

Bah - ROOH - uhl

When I was in college, I had the best work-study job on campus. I worked for the Night School Registrar, who was absolutely, without a doubt, the funniest man for miles around.

One attribute of working for "the Boss" (and this was pre-Bruce Springsteen) was the constant presence of dozens of jokes and catch-phrases, many of which only we on his staff could figure out. The hilarity increased over the months I worked there, fueled by scotch and a stereo that played Italian opera incessantly. "Listen to that [ethnic slur on person of Italian heritage] sing, Boggledanski!" the Boss would howl. "Doesn't that tear your nut off?" At one point, the catch phrases even drifted into other languages, particularly Spanish, which the Boss would speak to the Cuban-American gals who would drop by from the admissions office. "No me toques!" ("Don't touch me") he would shout at them, and then cackle madly. "I love Cubans. Everybody should own two."

At one point we all decided that when in a recuperative state, the Boss liked his coffee not just strong, but "brutal." As this saying repeated itself, it morphed into the goofy voice of an uneducated dolt, who pronounced it in three syllables: bah - ROOH - uhl. And in between the second and third syllables, there would be a slight hitch in the back of one's throat -- I think it's called a glottal stop.

Anyway, I guess you had to be there, but what brings "bah - ROOH - uhl" java back to mind is Cousin Jim's fine post on the merits of black coffee, over at Parkway Rest Stop. The blogspot permalink may be on the fritz (what else is new), but it's from Saturday night. Definitely worth a read.

Welcome back to Standard Time

As you scramble around re-setting clocks today, ponder this uplifting story:

Proudly showing off his new apartment to his friends one night, Fred leads the way to his bedroom where a big brass gong is hanging on the wall.

"What's the gong for?" one of the guests asks.

"It's not a gong. It's a talking clock," Fred replies.

"A talking clock? Seriously?" asks his astonished friend.

"Yup," replies Fred.

"How's it work?" the second guest asks.

"Watch," Fred says. He picks up a mallet, gives it an ear-shattering pound and steps back.

The three stand there looking at one another for a moment.

Suddenly, a voice from the other side of the wall screams:

"Shut the f*ck up, you a**hole ... it's ten after three in the morning!"

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Lawyers as meat

My friend and former colleague Gordon Smith (no, not that Gordon Smith, the other Gordon Smith) has a great post on the annual national law professor hiring confab known the world over as "the Meat Market."

In a van down by the river

No matter who you are, you have the potential to be so very much less. And with the transformative powers of our Demotivators« products, you will be.
Read all about them here.

Blogger burnout

There I was parking my bike at a Fred Meyer store. I was wearing the navy blue hoody sweatshirt with the Blogger logo that I just got in the mail from Blogger as a paid subscriber gift.

I don't use Blogger any more, but I'm still technically a subscriber. And it's a nice sweatshirt, at least all new and just-out-of-the-box. Just right for mid-fall. Great for the bike.

Anyway, there's this older guy and a couple of older ladies chatting up a storm from different tables in front of the Starbucks next to the store, and I can hear what the guy is saying. He's talking so loud, there's no avoiding it.

"What's a 'blogger'?" he asks.

The ladies have no clue, either.

"Is it like a jogger?"

I was tempted to respond as my ancestors would have -- as Cousin James has pointed out, they would have thought, It's something you pick out of your nose -- but I've got errands to run and I hurry away.

A little later I read a nifty little column in the Thursday Times Circuits section reporting on a recent survey about weblogs. The survey, conducted by an outfit called Perseus Development --

finds that fully 66 percent of the 4.12 million blogs, or online journals, created on eight leading blog-hosting services have been "abandoned'' -- that is, not updated for at least two months. And 1.09 million of those were one-day wonders.
Denizens of the blogosphere need no survey to prove this. Bloggers both good and bad tend to come and go with notable frequency. Every blog follower has a handful of favorite authors who gave it a pretty good shot for a while, but had to abandon regular blogging.

On my own blogroll, Alli over at Frolic and Detour appears to be sitting things out for now. Angry little Matt had his template implode, but the experience may inspire him to write some new things after a relatively quiet spell. Sarah's getting it done again at Next Stage, although she's blogging much more lightly than she did last year. Meanwhile, Alliance Watch, a blog dedicated to ragging on the Portland Business Alliance (a local downtown business promotion group), looks like it's more or less out of commission. Which, along with Rob Saltzman's recent exit, leaves precious few of us who blog about Oregon. (Speaking of which, hey Emma, I'm getting nothing but the banner and banner ad when I go to your Blogspot site. Try republishing your entire blog.)

Blogging's not like other hobbies. It's not like a coin collection that you can put away for several months, and it will be as good as ever when you pull it back out. Blogging implies readers, and readers want to see something new when they get there.

And so those of us who love having the readers try to give them something new nearly every day.

In that sense, maybe the answer to the guy in front of the Starbucks is, "Yes, it's kind of like a jogger. It's something you need to do on a regular basis to be any good at it. And like jogging, it requires you to be a little crazy."

Friday, October 24, 2003

Lookin' for blame in all the wrong places

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin really lit into Multnomah County -- particularly its elections chief, John Kauffman -- yesterday in a breathless column entitled, "This election is so corrupt as to be pointless." Duin blames the county and Kauffman for printing a misleading notice on the ballot for the PUD election now in progress in the Portland area (for background, see my previous post on the subject). And Duin suggests that the elections boss was somehow prejudiced in his conduct regarding the notice -- which proponents of the PUD are challenging in court -- by the fact that four of the five county commissioners are on record opposing the PUD measure.

As much as I like Duin's work generally, he's full of hot air on this one.

The county and Kauffman had no choice. Oregon law (ORS 280.070(4)) is crystal clear that any local option measure increasing property taxes must include the controversial "3 percent warning" on the ballot, no matter how small the proposed increase. The PUD's proponents say that the state law is unconstitutional, but unless and until ordered otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, the county must do what state law commands despite somebody's constitutional theory. In this country, we don't rely on elections chiefs to make constitutional law. (O.k., maybe in Florida...)

Can you imagine what would have happened if Kauffman had mailed out the ballots and hadn't included the warning? He would have been in clear violation of state statute. The PUD opponents would have dragged him into court, and the state attorney general would probably have joined in. Kauffman would have been branded a lawless renegade, and he might have lost his job.

If the warning is misleading -- and I think it probably is -- the fault lies not with the county, but instead with the Legislature, which passed the statute requiring it. And it lies in equal measure with the voters of Oregon, who passed Measure 50 and ordered the Legislature to require it.

To accuse the county and Kauffman of rigging the election is hogwash.

Duin is also quite animated in pointing out that U.S. District Judge Haggerty ruled that the warning was misleading, and ordered the county to publicly retract it. Duin doesn't mention the fact that the U.S. Court of Appeals rescinded Judge Haggerty's order a few days later -- in effect, saying that he never should have issued it.

This little electoral story gets nastier by the day. The power companies have behaved badly, disguising themselves as citizens' groups and trumping up a property tax issue that is hardly real. But now the PUD proponents are crying "fixed election" when everyone knew all along that the 3 percent warning would be on the ballot unless they could get the federal courts to strike it in time. And they didn't. And they still haven't.

One thing the county did that does raise my eyebrow was mail out the ballots last Friday morning, when it didn't have to do so until Tuesday of this week. County officials knew they were going before Judge Haggerty later on Friday, but they hustled the ballots off to the mailbox before the judge could order them to take the warning off. At least at first glance, that sure looks like dirty pool.

But if they had waited, Judge Haggerty would have required new ballots to be printed, without the warning. That weekend "rush" print job would have been extremely expensive, and it may have made it logistically impossible to meet the Tuesday deadline. Then, if and when the court of appeals reversed Judge Haggerty's order (as it likely would have), what would the county have done? Sent out a second round of ballots, with the warning reinserted? In avoiding those scenarios, the county may not have been totally innocent, but at least it was administratively prudent.

Maybe this election ain't fair, Steve, but if it isn't? Well, it ain't the county's fault. The PUDders need to redirect their venom -- to Bill Sizemore and the other fathers of Measure 50.

Look up tonight

Some humongous sunspots are about to rotate to the "front" of the sun, and so we earthlings are about to get hit with some serious solar radiation over the next few days.

Meanwhile, here in Portland, the next few nights are forecast to be cloudless. Plus there's no moon this weekend.

All of which means there's a chance we could see the Northern Lights. It's rare to spot them from within the city limits at this latitude, but it's possible, and the conditions are apparently going to be good.

The Lights did show up here one night in the late '70s, and I managed to miss them. I've got my fingers crossed this time. It will never look as good as it does up in Alaska (see below), but I'm hoping for "just a little green."

Tomorrow night we'll even get an extra hour to look for it.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Thought for the day

The New York Times reports today that the Air Force is learning about aerial surveillance from the New York City Police Department. They're planning to use in Iraq the intelligence techniques that the NYPD uses in its helicopter patrols over the Big Apple.

What does it say about us as a country that we're better at spying on our own people than we are at spying on our many enemies abroad?

Devil's in the mailbox

We got our property tax bill from our friends at the Multnomah County Assessor's Office the other day.

The assessed value of our home went up by 3 percent over the previous year, the maximum increase allowed by state law.

And so our property taxes went up by...

8.89 percent!

That's, what? Four times the rate of inflation? How does anybody afford to live here any more? Livability, my arse.

And then I look over there on the right side of the bill and check out the few hundred going to "urban renewal -- Portland."

Translation: To the guys who run the Pearl District.

To the OHSU tram.

To the trolley.

Percentage of the bill going to public education: 27.96 percent. That's not counting school district bonds, which eat up another 4.92 percent.

And yet we'll have to pay an income tax increase of 13.89 percent this year, too, or else the schools will have to close.

Imagine how homeowners on fixed incomes feel.

Imagine how unemployed homeowners feel.

Imagine how sick homeowners feel.

Hey, look, I'll pay, and I'll stop whining now. But when inane anti-tax ballot measures like 5 and 50 win by wide margins, don't run around slapping your forehead and moaning, "How?! How can this happen?!"

It's because our local government is wasting entirely too much money on rich people's toys, and it's p*ssing the rest of us off.

Many observers have rightly called PGE and Pacific Power dirty rotten scoundrels for playing the property tax card in the PUD election. But the utilities know where there's a huge store of justified outrage to tap into, and they're experts at harnessing all those negative ions.

Hi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-is birthday!

Happy 78th birthday to television legend Johnny Carson.
There will never be another one like you, John.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Moving on

Wow. Ex-Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker is headed to Liberia to run the 1,115-member U.N. police force there.

That should be easier than trying to keep Portland happy.

In related news from the jogging trail, Billy Grippo's got a sold sign on that house on NE 17th.

Thanks to an alert weasel for the tip about the new position.

They're still there

There's a great series of stories in this week's weekday Portland Tribune about haunted spots around Portland. Among those profiled is Edgefield Manor, the former Multnomah County Poor Farm out in Troutdale that's been transformed into a hotel-theater-brewery-restaurant-golf-you-name-it complex by my favorite Oregon entrepreneurs, the McMenamin brothers.

My wife and I had the privilege of spending a night out at Edgefield years ago when it first opened as a hotel. There were only a small number of rooms, because only the first floor of the hotel was occupied. The upper floors hadn't been restored yet, and as one of the kids who worked there showed us on an impromptu tour, they were still a neglected and vandalized wreck.

Hardly anyone was staying at the place, and so we had the run of it to ourselves. After a nice dinner and some excellent wine that we had brought along (their winery operation hadn't really begun in earnest yet), we took a stroll around the buildings and grounds.

And though we didn't see anything "paranormal," we couldn't help but feel the many spirits of the folks who had lived and died at Edgefield between 1911 and 1982. These people had been sent there in the days before welfare checks, to earn their keep through manual labor on a sprawling, financially successful, operating farm. When that kind of role for the poor fell out of fashion, most of them were too old to fend for themselves, and so the county simply turned the place into a public nursing home. Many of the old folks died right where they had lived for many years.

That night, we heard their laughs and their cries. There was a strong aura of death, but also one of birth, about the place. We felt the "inmates," as they had been known, looking down at us from the high ceilings. We sensed them around every corner.

The quietly spoken story had it that the McMenamins had brought in some psychics to check the place out before they rebuilt it. Most of these visitors were deeply moved by what they felt at Edgefield; some were reduced to tears. The energy pulsing from the old infirmary (now the winery) was so strong that one expert took just a quick look around the wing and literally had to run out and regain her composure.

For our part, we felt no fear, just awe. We recognized right off that of the many special places in Oregon, this is one to be approached only with the greatest reverence.

Despite all the fun trappings of the bustling McMenamin resort, there's a steady ringing vibe there, coming from the people to whom the place once belonged, and still belongs. Their presence is way too strong to ignore.

Oh, won't you stay...

If you've been following the court action with me on the Multnomah County PUD election, here's the latest: The Ninth Circuit has stayed Judge Haggerty's preliminary injunction in an unpublished order. The Oregonian reports here; Portland Communique reports here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A wistful goodbye

Just ate my last fresh Oregon raspberry for the year. Dang, them was tasty. You know I'll be looking them up again next summer.


Dave Letterman's always reminding us that "the government is now controlling the weather." Whoever's in charge has decided that these last few days should be absolutely screwy in the Pacific Northwest.

Portlanders, quit reading this blog and go outside for the warmest weather you're going to have 'til next May! For you readers in other parts of the globe, here's the story:

It's unseasonably warm here in the City of Roses. As I write this, in the middle of the night, it's a balmy 70 degrees at the airport. Tonight will see the warmest low temperature ever charted in Portland on an October 21. During the day yesterday we made 76 degrees, an all-time high for the 20th, and we could get close to 80 today.

You know it's hot here in October when the inside of your house is cooler than the outside. I was flabbergasted when I stepped out into the gray day yesterday and was hit with a warm blast.

There are two kinds of warm in these parts: sunny warm and windy warm. We're definitely in the latter mode this time, with southerly winds bringing in the hot air. The weather people, who have to have cute names for these things, call this pattern a "pineapple express." Whatever. It's not all that sunny, and so the overall effect is a little muggy and sickly. But those of us who are in no hurry to break the woolies out of mothballs will gladly take another toasty day or two before the damp chill returns.

Up to our north, things are not so mellow in Seattle. The system brought them nearly 5 inches of rain yesterday -- the most rain ever measured in a single day in the Emerald City. They're dealing with some serious flooding up there, whereas there's been barely a spit down here, just a couple of hours' drive away. Go figure.

Some rain is due here in Portland tomorrow, after which they say it will be back to more normal weather. But today at least, the kids' trip to the pumpkin patch will be in shirtsleeves.

Monday, October 20, 2003

On to the Ninth Circus! -- er, I mean, Circuit

Portland Communique reports that Judge Ancer Haggerty's preliminary injunction in the PUD election case (see details below) has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

UPDATE, 10/21, 4:29 a.m.: Still no corrective ads appear in The Oregonian on Tuesday. Methinks the judge is going to be incensed.

UPDATE, 10/21, 12:15 p.m.: According to this Oregonian news story, the ads will run beginning Thursday, the earliest day on which space was available in the paper. No word on what will happen if the Ninth Circuit lifts the lower court's injunction before then.

UPDATE, 10/21, 4:33 p.m.: Just a minute or two ago, the required notice had been posted on the county Elections Division home page. Its placement on the page was a little curious, but it was there. Now it's disappeared. Hmmmm.....

You thought hanging chads were bad

The chief of the federal district court judges here in town, Ancer Haggerty, has gone to extraordinary lengths to remedy what he says is a fundamental injustice in the current election here in Multnomah County regarding the formation of a public utility district (PUD). And he's taking control of at least one aspect of the administration of the election in a powerful way.

First, some background: There are two measures currently on the ballot that would create a PUD to take over some or all of the local electric business here in the Portland area, wresting it away from PGE, and possibly from Pacific Power.

The case before Judge Haggerty is in some senses one of first impression, because unlike other states, Oregon requires that all voting be done entirely by mail. Folks mark their ballots and either turn them over to the Postal Service for delivery or hand them off at drop-off stations positioned around the county. It's a system just begging for fraud and mistake, if you ask me, but that's not the point of this post.

What's happened this time around is that the proponents of the PUD have challenged in Judge Haggerty's court a notice that the county Elections Division has printed on the mail-in ballots, as required by state law. The ballots have already been mailed to the voters, with the controversial language on them. (They're due back November 4.) My spouse and I got ours Saturday, and here's what the fuss is about:

The PUD proponents complain that this statement is highly misleading, because the PUD ballot measures, in and of themselves, would raise property taxes only a tiny bit -- only a small fraction of 1 percent -- and therefore nowhere near 3 percent. The elections bureau counters that the notice is perfectly legitimate. State law already allows counties to raise taxes by 3 percent a year, without any vote of the people, and so any voter authorization of additional new property taxes could "cause" the total tax increase -- both under the ballot measure and as otherwise allowed without a vote -- to be more than 3 percent in the aggregate.

On Friday, Judge Haggerty announced that he agrees with the PUD proponents. The legend on the ballots is so misleading as to be unconstitutional, he declared.

You could stop right there and have yourself a pretty good political story. It's a big victory for the left and for revenue-hungry governments in Oregon, not just in the PUD election but potentially in many other contexts in the future. Under this ruling, unless a particular ballot measure in and of itself would raise property taxes by more than 3 percent, the notice may not be necessary, and in fact could be unconstitutional.

But the plot gets even thicker than that. As usual, the devil is in the details. Since the ballots have already been mailed, what's the proper remedy for the injustice?

The judge's highly unusual order requires the county elections bureau to publish, on its web site home page and in paid advertisements in various sections of The Oregonian daily newspaper, notices that the legend printed on the ballot is misleading. The judge has even specified the exact size and wording of the notices. For example, according to Portland Communique, the newspaper notices must be at least five column inches each, and read: "By Order of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, the Multnomah County Elections Division advises voters that the passage of Measure 26-52 by itself cannot cause property taxes to increase more than three percent. This clarifies language printed in the November 4, 2003, ballot that was found to be misleading."

(Communique broke this story Friday evening, and I've been trying to read the full text of the judge's order ever since, but I can't get past the first page of the pdf file that Communique links to without my version of Adobe Reader choking on it.)

As of late last night, the county hadn't put the notice up on its home page, as the judge requires, but I suspect it will do so sometime today.

The anti-tax, anti-government zealots who engineered Measure 50, the 1997 initiative which requires the tax increase ballot notice, must be in a snit. Here's a federal judge defiling their precious political baby, and who's there to defend it? Mostly county and state politicians and bureaucrats, who deeply resent the entire law that requires the notice in the first place. Those officials certainly won't lose sleep if that legend has to be removed from future ballots; indeed, they'll laugh themselves to sleep.

Perhaps the state and local governments won't even bother appealing Judge Haggerty's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Which is a shame, because the judge's order is an extraordinary exercise of federal power over county elections officials. It literally puts words in their mouths and forces expenditures of public funds to provide public notices to the effect that state law disclosure requirements are misleading. (As they used to say on Seinfeld, not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Perhaps PGE and Pacific Power -- oops, I mean {sarcasm} those grassroots citizens groups that are opposing the PUD {/sarcasm} -- will file an appeal.

Somebody ought to.

I like Judge Haggerty well enough. I see him at the gym from time to time. He may even be right on the merits of this one. But a federal judge literally dictating to a county elections bureau what it must publish in the paper and put on its web site? That's probably worth a higher court taking a second look.

UPDATE, 5:55 p.m.: As for that balky pdf file, I upgraded my Adobe Acrobat Reader to 5.0, and it works fine now. Turns out the court relied on both First Amendment and due process grounds for its order, which is a preliminary injunction.

Although the order requires the corrective ads to start running as of yesterday (Sunday), none have appeared as of Monday's paper. And at the end of the business day on Monday, still no notice has appeared on county elections home page. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Multnomah County Democrats endorse PUD

It appears that the Multnomah County Democratic Party is endorsing the ballot measures that would create a public utility district to take over the local electric business here in the Portland area, wresting it away from PGE, and possibly from Pacific Power.

At least, that's the conclusion I reach looking at the party website at www.multdems.org. Right up top there is an invitation to get door hanging kits to urge other voters to "take ownership of our electric utility away from Enron."

Guess I missed that meeting.

Roll over Mother Teresa

Fresh from the groundbreaking for the Homer Williams Rich Guy's Concrete Jungle, Saint Mark Hatfield's endorsing Bush, and the Iraq War. And he expressly ties the war to 9/11 -- honest, but not PC.

Go get him, kids! (I gave up on him a long time ago.)

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Here! Here's what they're looking for!

Site Meter was down all day yesterday. My hit counts are kinda stagnant lately anyway. What to do?...

Hey, here's an idea. Let's have some fun with all the crazies out there who are out to get the guy who interfered with the foul ball at the Cubs game. I've noticed a bunch of Google hits looking for him. No doubt the searchers are hunting for personal information, in order to harass the guy.

Watch this:

Attention, all frustrated Cub fans! Here are the home address and phone number of Steve Bartman. I hear Bartman's moving soon, but you can still reach him there. I know he says he's sorry, and I know most of us could have made the mistake he did, but he's caused a lot of suffering, and, well, that means now it's his turn to....

Ahhhhh. Now to sit back with a nice glass of wine and watch the old hit counter roll.

Instant classic

Have you read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch column entitled, "If Bill Clinton were an addict, here's how Rush might spin it," by Bill McClellan? You owe it to yourself to do so. (Thanks to Socratic disciple Mellow-Drama for the link.)

Birds of a feather

If Hitler were on his rise to power today, he'd likely be selling his agenda as a "jobs program."

All manner of evil is being done in the name of "jobs" nowadays. Most of the time, the argument is specious. For example, the Bush tax cuts aren't really about creating jobs, and they're not in fact going to create many (or perhaps any).

But even when jobs are in fact on the line, sometimes you just have to say no.

Take the wicked people who run the auto towing business here in the Rose City. If you're illegally parked and they come and tow you away, they can charge you between $200 and $400 to bail your car out. The ransom they charge, of course, is on top of any parking fines you may have to pay to the city. Oh, and on the way to the tow yard, be sure to have the cab driver stop at an ATM (or maybe two ATMs, given the way the towing folks gouge). Because a lot of the "impoundment" lots don't take credit cards of any kind. They deal in cash only, leaving the hapless driver to wonder what kind of people he or she is dealing with.

Well, a voice of common sense, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, wants to change that. He's proposed a new set of rules that would limit the amounts the tow companies could charge, institute a vehicle owners' "bill of rights," and force them to accept plastic, among other reforms.

The tow companies' response? If the new rules take effect, they'll lay people off.

"I'm not screaming wolf here," said Steven Preston, owner of 35-employee Sergeant's Towing. "I'm going to have to lay a lot of people off."
Where else have we heard this one recently? Sounds an awful lot like the telemarketers to me. And my response is the same: If the jobs you provide depend on your engaging in behavior that the vast majority of the public thinks is offensive, perhaps those jobs shouldn't be there in the first place.

No sympathy for these people. None whatsoever.

Preston and Retriever Towing owner Gary Coe said rates for private property impounds must be higher to cover costs unique to private-lot tows compared to tows after breakdowns where owners want their vehicles towed.

About one-third of vehicles towed from private lots are never claimed. And about one in five calls for tows from private property result in no tow because the motorist has driven off by the time the tow truck arrives. The frequency during consensual tows of unclaimed cars or motorists driving off before the tow truck arrives is much lower, said Coe and Preston.

Coe said the proposal will hurt tow companies and businesses trying to maintain order in their parking lots.

"I'm concerned about the perceived antibusiness attitude from City Council," Coe said.

I'm not. This time, the council is doing exactly what we elected them to do. Stop acting like jerks, gentlemen, and you won't draw so much fire.

Besides, Leonard's move is pro-business. It's pro-restaurant, pro-tavern, pro-retail, pro-performing arts. Under the current "wild west" tow system, when you get towed out of the lot next to a restaurant like Esparza's, your ostrich enchiladas wind up running you more than $200.

That cuts into people's budgets for patronizing real, nonpredatory businesses.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Gee whiz, you don't say

Big headline in the paper today: Multnomah County's expert consultants are telling us that the county income tax won't bring in as much money as the county thought it would, because there's no mandatory wage withholding and a lot of people are going to cheat.

Just like I said here and here.

Where do I send my bill?

Top 10 signs your second kid has arrived

You know your second child is here when all of the following happen to you in the course of a few days:

10. You call the garbage collector and sign up for the 32-gallon can instead of the oh-so-PC 20-gallon can you've been getting by with for more than a decade. This will save you from having to continue sneaking large bags of garbage into your neighbors' cans while they are asleep.

9. You sign up for the "executive" membership at Costco, because you buy so much in bulk there now that a 2% rebate is worth more than the extra $55-a-year fee.

8. You have to make two trips through the Costco checkout because you bought more stuff than one of their shopping carts can handle.

7. You wrack your brain trying to figure out how to take as many photos of kid no. 2 as you did of kid no. 1. It was easier when one of you didn't have to keep an eye on a toddler at all times while you arranged your artsy shots of the newborn.

6. You switch from man-to-man defense to zone.

5. You notice you've edited stock phrases like "You're my favorite girl" to "You're my favorite big girl."

4. You ponder whether it's safe to invest college fund no. 2 in the same places as college fund no. 1.

3. You flip through a few albums of photos of no. 1 and they bring tears to your eyes.

2. The Diaper Genie resumes a central role in your life.

And the No. 1 sign your second kid has arrived:

1. You're once again taking birth control very seriously.

If you don't read Pinktalk

...you miss out on gems like this response to a guy who approached her in an unwanted way on an elevator:

[I]f I were interested in the opinion of a domestic beer-drinking, Dockers-wearing, low-end SUV-driving, Hair Club for Men member, I would sure trot my ass over to the closest fucking T.G.I. Friday's during a NASCAR race and ask.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

"Portland's greatest public works disaster"

The Oregonian had a couple of pieces in it yesterday about the plan to bury the Mount Tabor and Washington Park Reservoirs. A news story finally addressed head-on the question of how much cheaper it would be to install state-of-the-art security rather than big, dumb underground tanks. And the answer is, a lot cheaper, like 1/7 the cost. I told you so a long time ago. Maybe security isn't the best answer, but doggone it, there should have been more public dialogue about that option before the decision was made to bury.

More interesting, though, was a commentary on the op-ed page which claims that burying the reservoirs will actually harm water quality by encouraging the growth of noxious organisms that thrive in light-free, air-free environments. Amidst all the arguments about aesthetics and security, I hadn't heard that one before.

On another front, the author claims that the cost of the reservoir covering projects will be closer to $1 billion than the $75 million that the city's talking about (up from $65 million less than a year ago). He goes on:

Burial proponents claim that open reservoirs are obsolete and scarce. They don't tell you that millions of people in major cities, including New York and San Francisco, continue to drink unfiltered water from open reservoirs.

Why does this continue? The reason is that these cities rely on the expertise of microbiologists who scientifically evaluate all aspects of water safety, rather than construction engineers whose reflex response is to solve every supposed problem with an expensive structure.

"If this project goes forward," he concludes, "it will become Portland's greatest public works disaster."

The op-ed piece is by Scott Fernandez, identified by the paper as a former member of the City Council's Water Quality Advisory Committee and now on its Public Utility Review Board. The commentary can be found in its entirety here (he said, hopefully).

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Never mind

This blog will now observe a suitable period of mourning for Cubs fans throughout the world.

Some downtime set for Friday

My internet host informs me that we will be "off the air" for a couple of hours on Friday morning (Central Time) while the host does some upgrading.

I've been very happy with the service I've gotten over there (thanks to Emily for the reference), and so I accept the news without rancor.

If you try to come back here Friday morning and can't get through, chill for an hour or two and try again.

I would not want to lose any of you.

His tail lights are still barely visible

Congratulations to Cousin Jim at Parkway Rest Stop, whose hit meter has turned over the 30,000 mark.

Thank G*d

It looks as though the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing the famous Newdow case, involving the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The High Court's acceptance of the case for review takes the spotlight off Judge Ted Goodwin of the Ninth Circuit, who wrote the controversial Court of Appeals opinion and for whom I once was a law clerk. (Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing for the link.)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has already made some fairly heated public remarks about the case, has now had to recuse himself on account of it. Doubtlessly he will receive praise for that decision, but as a taxpayer I'm not pleased. We ought to dock his pay. He's supposed to keep silent about pending cases and then rule on them, not make speeches about them and then have to sit them out.

The rest of the Supremes may dodge the First Amendment issue if they decide that the plaintiff in the case does not have standing to sue. The court could decide that he's a noncustodial parent, without the right to challenge what happens to his child at school. That's a hot issue that's likely to get more public attention as the case approaches decision by the justices.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

We need to pray just to make it today

It's a dark night in history.

Today was all about how to get Tony to Wrigley Field in Chicago so that he could blog the World Series. But that was obviously putting the cart before the horse.

Tonight is all about how to get the World Series to Wrigley to begin with.

I want the Cubs to win so bad that I announced half-inning updates on the game in my seminar tonight. Had an ESPN live update of the game on a laptop in front of me as I led the discussion. But the darn ESPN choked at all the crucial moments.

And so did the Cubs. After class, I reached a TV, where I discovered to my dismay that the Cubs were down 4-3. And then a Florida Marlins player rocked a triple off the ivy and it was 7-3. Dusty Baker hung in there too long with his starting pitcher as the latter was running out of steam.

So now we're down to Game 7 -- the seventh and deciding game in the best-of-7 series.

There's no doubt who America wants to win this thing, and it ain't the guys in the black hats. The black hats with the "F" logo that looks like a handgun.

No, we're all rooting for the Cubbies. "Rooting" is too mild a word. There's no word for the level of hope we feel.

What we're missing is faith. Cub fans are already crying in their beer. Hey! It ain't over! Let's live for tomorrow.

And pray, too, if you know how. Please, please, Lord, give us another week or two to watch and admire the Cubs. And a pennant -- a real pennant -- to hang from the rafters for years to come. Another week or two of baseball in the Friendly Confines. Another Chance.

Still, we worry about The Billy Goat Curse.

Remember the "Cheez-borgie, cheez-borgie" lunch counter routine from the golden era of Saturday Night Live? "No Coke -- Pepsi." Well, that's inspired by a real live place under Michigan Avenue in Chicago called the Billy Goat Tavern. And legend has it that the owner of the Billy Goat, a Greek-American fellow, put a hex on the Cubs after he and his real live goat were denied entry to Wrigley during the last World Series played there, in 1945.

He since recanted, but some people swear that Greek curses can't be withdrawn on request.

Maybe they're wrong. We hope they're wrong. We have to have faith that they're wrong.

As the legendary philosopher MC Hammer once noted, That's word, we pray.

Flowage needed

Picture this. You're walking along through Times Square or Fisherman's Wharf and you come across the best street musician you've heard in a long time. This performer's so good, you drop a big tip in his instrument case and stand there, spellbound, for a half hour or so. Between a couple of songs he points out that he needs your contributions so that he can work on a new collection of songs that could be his masterpiece. You're so enthused that you start to hail passersby and tell them: "Hey, give this guy some change! He needs it! And listen to how great a player he is."

That is how I felt as I read on Tony Pierce's busblog last night that Tony wants to go to Chicago and see the Cubs play in the World Series, maybe even on his upcoming birthday. He promises to drop his job as a crimefighter, ditch the supermodels that hang around his house, and blog away about his trip to the Wrigley Field bleachers (or at least, the Cubby Bar across the street) to watch history in the making.

I usually don't give to panhandlers, but this is no ordinary circumstance. Head over to his blog, check him out, and give 'til it hurts, or just take my word for it and click on this:

Pay me securely with any major credit card through PayPal!

Dime a dozen

The ballots for the special election on the proposed public utility district (PUD) here in Multnomah County go out in the mail next week. They're due back on November 4. Today's the deadline to register to vote in this interesting election. Information on how to do that can be found here.

By now voters have heard a lot about the stakes in this one: Should the electric power business in Portland be taken away from the private utilities that currently run it -- Portland General Electric and Pacific Power -- and turned over to a new public entity? The new entity, a PUD, wouldn't have private shareholders; it would be an autonomous government agency that buys and sells power all of the public in its service area.

Proponents of the PUD say it will take the energy business out of the hands of greedy corporate pigs like Enron (the parent company of PGE) and put it into the hands of the people, where it belongs. They point out that PUDs operate successfully in many other places in the West, including Los Angeles and much of the State of Washington.

Opponents of the PUD charge that it will create a new layer of government bureaucracy, increase local taxes, and subject electric ratepayers to large increases in their power costs. They also point out that the people who would be running the PUD would be rookies who won't have a clue how to insure the PUD's survival in the cut-throat, deregulated, freewheeling jungle of energy trading.

As I've mentioned here before, I'm inclined to vote no on the PUD. Although Enron is evil, PGE isn't necessarily, and I don't get my power from PGE anyway. The monopoly in my part of town is operated by Pacific Power, and they do a great job. Their new owners in Scotland haven't, to my knowledge, engaged in any of the hanky-panky that got Enron and its various constituencies in so much trouble. So I'm not interested in losing them as my power company. Plus, given the disaster that the City of Portland has made out of the water business, I'll take a regulated utility over a local government for my basic services any day.

A look at the Voter's Pamphlet for the upcoming election solidifies my position. Even if I were to buy into the public power concept, I'm looking at the 12 people who are running for the five-member PUD board of directors that would run electricity in Portland if the PUD passes. And I can't believe that any combination of five of them would have the faintest idea of what the heck they are doing.

We have (1) a PGE lineman; (2) a "self-employed" candidate (no occupation revealed); (3) a congressional staffer; (4) the editor of the local left-wing newspaper; (5) a dyed-in-the-wool political hack who seems to run for every available office; (6) an environmental "consultant"; (7) the chief of a peacenik nonprofit group; (8) a "math tutor"; (9) the administrator of a soil and water conservation district; (10) a retired school teacher; (11) a "land management consultant"; and (12) an unemployed engineer. Ten of them are pictured above; two didn't bother to send in a picture in time for publication in the pamphlet.

See anybody there who's qualified to run an electric company? I don't.

And then there are the ideas they're floating. One guy wants to set customers' rates "based on ability to pay." Another stuns us with the revelation that "[a]s a member of the PUD Board, it will be my duty to see that the PUD delivers a continuous flow of electricity to the customers / rate / tax payers of the PUD." One says he understands "the botton line," although he apparently can't run a spell-checker. Still another notes that he kept tuition down when he was on the community college board. And another lets us know that he's hosted an environmental radio show on KBOO radio for 13 years, and that this demonstrates his "strength in environmental issues."

Several of the candidates say they will stop the PUD from taking over Pacific Power; they'll limit the takeover to PGE. The rest are noncommittal on the subject.

The one glimmer of common sense in the campaign statements comes from candidate Tom Markgraf, an aide to Rep. Earl (the Pearl) Blumenauer, who points out: "This isn't like buying a coffee cart. You need highly experienced people to manage an electric utility."

And alas, this slate doesn't even come close to filling that bill.

Of course, if the PUD is defeated at the polls, the twisted logicians at Portland City Hall will redouble their own efforts (around $1 million spent so far, and counting) to have the city buy PGE. And don't worry, everybody, Erik Sten's in charge of that one.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Room for improvement

Thanks to Straight White Guy for the link.

"Bye, Columbus -- you devil, you"

Happy Columbus Day (observed). The real anniversary of the historic landing in the Bahamas was yesterday, but since that was a Sunday and we need a three-day weekend, the holiday's today.

The fake timing of the celebration is right in keeping with the day's slightly off-center theme. Today we celebrate the alleged supposed purported discoverer of America. Who thought he had made it to India and called the natives Indians.

But dammit, he didn't sail off the edge, and that's worth a lot. And so after this brave explorer is named the second largest river in North America, along with countless cities, counties, universities, whole countries, etc.

Not really, though. The guy's actual name was Col├│n. Plus, he missed the big naming enchilada as an Italian mapmaker put his own name on the continent.

To be sure, if this kind of discovery were made today, there would be corporate naming rights. The whole expedition would be sponsored by Subway. You'd have Doritos Columbus, Ohio. Viagra Columbia River. AOL Columbia University. And so on.

There'd be video cameras all over the ships. Guys would be voted off every week. Maybe whole ships would be voted out of the flotilla. "Pinta, the tribe has spoken. Back to Spain." Weekly talent show competitions for fresh water. People sitting at home would be yelling at their video screens, "He can't tap dance!" "You call that fado?" "I hate that scurvy b*stard."

Hope you've got the day off and are reading blogs at home or in some other mellow place. Play some Sinatra records. Ditto, Dean Martin. Tony Benedetto (a.k.a. Bennett), too. And Clooney -- hey, mambo, mambo Italiano. And tonight rent the movie Big Night, one of the biggest little pictures you'll ever enjoy.

The closest I ever got to the real spirit of Columbus Day was the one I spent in New Haven, Connecticut, where I was living on a temporary assignment in '77. I shared an apartment on Wooster Square, where a bust of Chris himself resided in the park. On the next street over were a couple of establishments, Sally's and Pepe's, who positively defined the pizza joint. Just to give you some idea, Sally was a guy.

Out here on the Left Coast, where folks of Italian heritage are fewer and less organized than in the Northeast, this is a half-fast holiday at most. For example, state and municipal government offices are open. And parking meters are in operation -- what more need I say?

Rather than party with the "Eye-talians," the locals of Oregon ask, "Where were you on Columbus Day of '62?" I was in a nice schoolyard in Newark, N.J. on that Friday, thanks, doubtlessly bummed out that the World Series game scheduled for the day in San Francisco had been rained out. But people who were in the Pacific Northwest that day will tell you all about the most hellacious windstorm on record for this region.

Now known universally as the Columbus Day Storm, it triggered winds clocked at 116 miles per hour on the Morrison Bridge in Portland. A wind gauge on the Oregon Coast registered 179 miles per hour. Dozens of people died, and the property damage was unspeakable. Some of the rich history of that day can be found here.

For me the day brings to mind one of Jersey City, N.J.'s many great natives, the late Flip Wilson. His late-'60s comedy routine on Columbus's voyage -- a trip commissioned by Queen Isabela, who bragged "Chris gon' find Ray Charles!" -- broke down many barriers between black and white audiences. Wilson's classic character Geraldine played the Indian maiden: "How y'all gon' discover somebody who don't want to be discovered?"

If you get blown away today, I hope it's in a good way. May there be fruit on your plain.

Saturday, October 11, 2003


Just wrapping up a satisfying day of crossing some things off the domestic "to do" list. Not much to show for it on this blog, but two of my blogroll faves brought smiles to my face: Bob Borden (who muses about the Philadelphia mayor's office bugging) and Izzle Pfaff (ruminating about his local Taco Bell).

Bloggus interruptus

Been having some intermittent problems with the internet service here at the house. There was a lightning strike here the other day that popped everything off for about a full second. We've got a couple of layers of power surge protection, but I think something in the cable modem or ethernet card may have gotten toasted.

The Comcast service folks are going to visit us soon to check it out. But if things here get unusually quiet in the meantime, you'll know what happened.

Friday, October 10, 2003


The Portland Tribune has a new weekend issue out today -- and a new layout for its website. Same great paper.

The new web page points out that the Trib has a news "partnership" of some kind going with KOIN-TV, Channel 6.

As Johnny Carson used to say, I did not know that.

This just in

It's always embarrassing when we Portlanders miss a big news story that's right under our own noses. But that's what happened with this one.

Gory details

A number of folks have been here looking for more about the tiger attack on Roy of Siegfried & Roy. In particular, they want photos, which I don't think they're going to get any time soon. I assume cameras are forbidden in the show, and if anyone in the audience had a phone cam or other mini-cam concealed, they haven't come forward with their pictures yet. Perhaps there's a video that was being made by the show itself, but I doubt they'll ever release that.

There's an interesting account of the story coming from Steve Wynn, the builder of the Mirage Hotel and Casino, where S&R held court up until the tragic incident. According to Wynn, it all started when the tiger got too interested in a female audience member with big hair.

As Sarah of Pinktalk put it so well yesterday, Bad hair kills.

Pulitzer material

The little monthly Hollywood Star newspaper over here in Northeast Portland has outdone itself again with its October issue. The depth and breadth of its coverage of east side neighborhood issues -- particularly those involving land use shenanigans down at City Hall -- put everyone else in the Portland media game to shame.

Most impressive this month is the Star's tattling on the developer of a new Lloyd Center tower, which has apparently broken its promise to keep a public access through its property, connecting a city park to the light rail line. The Star appears to have these people dead to rights, and it's not shy about calling them out on it. Good.

Even if you live in another part of the metro area, you ought to track down a copy of this paper and see how local political coverage can look when it's done right. As for a web site? Well, no word on when this mouse will start roaring electronically.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Mount Tabor makeovers

The City of Portland has now officially floated several design proposals for what will go on top of the reservoirs in Mount Tabor Park after they are capped and buried. The powers that be are seeking to assure concerned neighbors that lots of water will still be seen. Some of it, they gush, may even "dance"!

The designs are posted here, and there's a link to an online comment card nearby.

I must say that some of the drawings are pretty enough. The long-term aesthetic arguments for keeping the reservoirs open seem weaker with these drawings on the table. (See that right there? I wanted to say the arguments don't hold water. But I didn't. That's mature restraint.)

I'm still worried about the cost, though. It seems exorbitant, and the need for something this extreme has never been properly established.

Moreover, the decisionmaking process was flawed and biased right from the get-go. And apparently the city hasn't learned a single lesson from the several procedural fiascos to date. The official web posting on the designs, which is dated this past Sunday, is demanding that comments be received by the day after tomorrow. Ja wohl, Commissioner Saltzman!

And even though things will be picturesque when the project's finished, they are going to be butt-ugly for many, many months while all the ripping and tearing is going on.

Score one for the city, but in the court of public opinion, those who want the whole project re-thought still have the advantage.

Comings and goings

News on the blog front: It appears that Rob of AboutItAll-Oregon is pulling the plug on his blog, at least for a good long while. Elsewhere, Narra Design is now renamed AllieBlog (same location), and Sarah of Dub Side has resurfaced (at least tentatively) under the name Next Stage.

A new blog I caught this morning for the first time (thanks to an ORBlogs listing) is Dishpan Dribble, which is the work of a busy mom in Oregon City. Along with the addition of The Idea Salon, mentioned here the other day, I've adjusted my blogroll accordingly.

UPDATE, 5:05 p.m.: Gary Hart's blog is about as dead as his political career, and so off the blogroll he goes. Meanwhile, Michael Totten, a denizen of Portland but a legitimate national force in the blogosphere, is long overdue for a link.

Totten's got some links to some Portland and Oregon bloggers that I hadn't heard of up until now, including Sean LaFreniere, Patrick Lasswell, another Patrick at a blog known as Entropy Hotel, and something called DoggerelPundit, where everything rhymes, even the political commentary. He also steered me to Karrie Higgins's anti:freeze; for a while I had linked to an earlier blog of hers.


Conan O'Brien had a funny bit last night concerning the Governator. In an interview sketch (one of those with a video display of a still photo of the interviewee, except for a talking mouth, played by a comic), the Gov proudly told the Other Conan that the voters of the California had overwhelmingly said yes to "ze groping Nazi guy." He also threatened to recall O'Brien -- "Stop talking!" he shouted -- and to replace Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. "Ze people vant a new Forrest Gump," he reasoned. "Give me ze Oscar!"

I hope Arnold continues to provide fuel for comedy writers. Because as a hard news story, he's already quite tiresome. It's like the third episode of a "Survivor" series. I've seen enough.

On with the next political freak show! I'm getting this premonition that something new is about to distract us. Why am I thinking it's all about Hillary?


Life in all its fullness has got me way behind on my blogging. It's been a week since The O ran an uplifting story on some of the recent successes of Central City Concern (CCC). I'm a fan of theirs and I've been meaning to comment on the story here ever since. Here's my $0.02, seven days late.

CCC runs a number of addiction recovery programs for low-income people in Portland. The organization is perhaps best known for its "Chiers van," which scoops inebriated folks off the sidewalks and takes them to the group's Hooper Detox Center over by the east end of the Burnside Bridge. But it also operates the Portland Alternative Health Center and the Danmoore Building downtown, where addicts get treatment and housing as they struggle to get free of the drugs that rule them. (CCC's also involved in a number of other programs, including some that house just plain poor folks and people with HIV or AIDS.)

The health center and the Danmoore will close next year, but the good news is that they will be replaced in a new 12-story building near the North Park Blocks that CCC is currently building. And the group has also recently added Alder House Apartments on SW 13th Avenue, providing more housing for recovering addicts in its programs.

What I like most about CCC's approach is its heavy reliance on nontoxic treatment options such as acupuncture and intensive group therapy. Historically, too many people with heroin problems have been quickly shunted off to methadone clinics, where a synthetic opiate is substituted for heroin and the patient is still in need of a daily fix of one kind or another. For some hard-core addicts, that may be the only workable solution, but under Oregon law and by morality, it should be the last option, not the first. CCC's programs get people off heroin without hooking them on methadone. The programs are not cheap compared to methadone, but they're much cleaner, and they have a surprisingly high success rate. And, unlike many methadone merchants, CCC's a nonprofit.

Usually, CCC's capabilities are hindered only by a lack of funds. Thus, it was particularly gratifying to see that its new building is being subsidized by tax increment financing from the City of Portland. Commissioner Erik Sten, who's in charge of enhancing low-income housing in town, had some wise things to say about the subsidy:

"We wanted to do something for years and Central City Concern has a stellar reputation," said Sten, who oversees the city's Bureau of Housing and Community Development. "Frankly, with their rate of success, I was more than willing to help make something happen. I'm proud to be associated with them. Everyone wins here because we're not replacing the housing, we're adding to it."

Sten said he encouraged the Portland Development Commission to use about $10 million in urban renewal tax increment financing to aid the project. [Richard] Harris [CCC's executive director and a friend of mine], Sten and PDC officials said the building marks the largest amount of tax increment financing used in a single low-income housing project by the agency to date.

It's nice to see tax dollars go for a public purpose (and a humanitarian one at that), rather than to the usual developer moneybags. Nice going, CCC and Sten.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Randy and the neighbors

My favorite Portland city commissioner, Randy Leonard, has stirred up a hornet's nest with his plans to revamp the city's "neighborhood involvement" office.

There's so much buzz surrounding this story that it's hard to sort out the facts, but my understanding of what he's proposing is to institute a "pilot project" that would (a) expand the duties of neighborhood liaison officials and (b) make neighborhood offices the focus of providing a number of city services, including property inspections, noise control, and collection of traffic fines.

What are the objections to this plan? The biggest sticking point is the proposed expansion of the duties of the 10 "crime prevention specialists" who serve as liaisons between the city's many neighborhood associations and the police. Leonard wants these officials to do more than they currently do, with the new duties to include monitoring and regulating the relatively few bad apples in the bar and tavern industry who create problems in the 'hoods. The current specialists aren't trained to do that, and so Leonard's decided to lay them all off, and open up the 10 expanded jobs to all prospective applicants, including the existing 10 if they want to reapply.

Needless to say, the specialists, who are unionized, and the neighborhood association folks with whom they have developed relationships over the years aren't thrilled with the prospect of their dismissal. So they're turning up the heat on Leonard. The other night I caught a call-in show on KBOO in which the African-American community of North and Northeast was starting to give him an earful on the subject, and there are pockets of outrage sprinkled around other parts of the city as well. (I turned off the KBOO show when some guy associated with the PUD movement called in to talk to Randy about Enron.)

For what it's worth, yesterday The Oregonian sided with the commish in an editorial, which included these comments:

The value of neighborhood involvement in Portland goes beyond whether neighborhood associations succeed in persuading the Portland City Council to do one thing or another.

Harvard sociologist Robert D. Putnam and co-author Lewis M. Feldstein theorize in the 2003 edition of their book, "Better Together," that Portland's tradition of neighborhood involvement sparks activism on many other levels.

Leonard is not trying to detract from that tradition. He's trying to revitalize it by bringing in something it very much needs -- new citizens, new ideas, new energy, new batteries.

My own take on the neighborhood associations is that they do a wonderful job of bringing the most activism-inclined neighbors together on a limited set of concerns and projects. And the good that they do is all thanks to the public spirit of the association members, who do their work without pay. In many cases, they succeed despite the municipal government, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you what we're spending $5 million a year in scarce tax revenues on in the neighborhood involvement office. For that kind of dough, the neighbors ought to get some meaningful service out of the city, which it seems to me is just what Leonard is proposing.

The most important thing to note about the neighborhood associations, however, is that they're at their best when they're telling the bureaucrats and prima donnas down at City Hall what they're doing wrong. Particularly when some jerky property owner is proposing to site a pigsty in a residential zone, neighborhood groups come together quickly and make sure that the neighbors' voices are heard. They pressure the City Council to defend the neighborhoods against inappropriate intrusions.

And just about everyone in city government seems to resent that. I remember a few years back, ex-Commissioner Mike "I Fired Kroeker" Lindberg told the media that neighborhood associations were too fixated on land use issues, and that they were holding the city back. Bullsh*t, Mike. That's exactly what they're there for.

By and large, the politicians of Portland are like virtually all the politicians of Oregon: They're all for public involvement, so long as the public is telling them what they want to hear. Neighborhood association input to the city is like all the ballot measures we vote on: If the politicians like the message, they get all misty and pledge their allegiance to the sacrosanct will of the people. But if they don't like the message, they just ignore it. Convention Center expansion, north side light rail -- both were voted down, but the mayor and council built them anyway. And so it goes with methadone clinics, gangster halfway houses, cell towers, group homes for the dangerously mentally ill -- the neighborhood associations all say no, but the city usually allows the inappropriate land uses anyway. Try cutting down a tree in your yard, though -- the City of Portland will work you over good on that one! They've got 10 stories of Planning Bureau functionaries to keep an eye on that.

Leonard's critics are saying that his plan will bring about, in The Oregonian 's words, "top-down dictation from the City Council with dissent squashed and neighborhood voices ignored."

With all due respect, folks, that's largely what we have now, at least in tough cases where the chips are down. Ask the Buckman neighborhood, which has more high-impact social service facilities per capita than probably any other neighborhood on the West Coast. Ask the Lair Hill neighborhood, whose privacy and peace is about to be destroyed by the Katz-Goldschmidt-Hatfield-Homer Aerial Tram. Ask the folks on Mount Tabor, who want their historic park preserved and don't buy the 9/11 rhetoric that veils the inside-deal pork project of covering the reservoirs. You can even ask the West Hills folks who live across from the upcoming Holocaust Memorial, or the ones who opposed the Gabriel Park swimming pool. If I'm not mistaken, all those neighborhood associations said no, but the City Council said, "Tough noogies."

That being the case, maybe it's time for the neighborhood micro-governments to start doing more than grinding their teeth about the crap that's being handed them from downtown. Maybe there ought to be mini-city offices in a dozen or so locations around Portland.

We used to have them, and once upon a time they were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As I recall, they were called "police precincts."

I'm willing to give Leonard the benefit of the doubt on this one. But I am a little worried about his rhetoric about the associations generally. He says he makes "a distinction between people active in neighborhood associations and neighborhoods." That may be a very valid observation -- some of the perennial neighborhood association officers I know don't seem to have anything better to do than go to meetings, and a few haven't had a new idea since the late '60s. But the words Leonard used in that quotation are fighting words. And they're right in line with the contempt shown by Lindberg and others for the public process.

If you're going to bask in the glow of the neighborhood associations when they agree with you, then you also have to be very nice to them when they don't. It's all part of the fun of being an elected official in our little piece o' paradise.

Media critic

Bob Borden notes in his blog:

This "story" about the guy in the Bronx with the pet tiger and alligator will not go away! Hello news media, it's NOT A STORY!
To which he appends a picture of his own apartment, which proves his point.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Capping a career

The IRS tends to take a bad rap. It's demonized for the actions of just a few of its more than 100,000 employees. The vast majority of the folks who work for "the Service," as they like to call it, are good people. Many of them are actually smart. And some of them are absolutely outstanding.

One of those in that last category has taken his well-deserved retirement beginning this week. His name is Bob Wenzel, and over 40 years, he worked his way up from lowly auditor, through the ranks, and all the way to acting commissioner. For a while he was the guy who ran the whole shop.

I had the pleasure of spending a day with Bob in the early '90s, when he was the director of the Ogden, Utah Internal Revenue Service Center, and I was a rookie on what was then called the Commissioner's Advisory Group. He gave me the tour of the sprawling Ogden operation, and I couldn't help but be impressed by his enthusiasm, dedication, managerial skills, and care. And those attributes were contagious.

There's a pretty good summary of Bob's career here. I'm sure he will be missed around 1111 Constitution Avenue (IRS headquarters). I wish him the best of luck in his retirement.

Gunning for Darlene

Emma at The Oregon Blog had an interesting post the other day about the several Republicans who are lining up to try to take on Darlene Hooley in '04. Hooley is the incumbent Democratic congressperson from Oregon's Fifth District, which is pretty evenly split between the two major parties, but with the Republicans having a slight edge in registered voters. Her seat is never safe.

The latest entrant is Jackie Winters, a state senator from Salem, who will run in the primary against Dallas businessman Brian Boquist; Lake Oswego attorney Jim Zupancic; and who knows whom else.

I don't know much about Winters, but anyone who owns a barbecue joint called Jackie's Ribs can't be all bad. In the legislative session just ended, she voted yes on 16 of the 18 key bills that The Oregonian used to define the session. She recorded 0 no votes on those measures, with one excused absence and another absence on legislative business. That put her right at the top of my list of senators who either most influenced the session or most often went along for the ride. By that yardstick, Winters is in the moderate camp, or even the liberal camp (if it can be called that), of the party.

But Zupancic also has support in the moderate wing. He's already got the endorsement of Jack Roberts, the former state Labor Commissioner who's been telling it like it is to the more extreme (but currently prevailing) elements of the Oregon GOP. Roberts ran against Kevin Mannix in the last gubernatorial primary by pointing out, quite correctly, that Mannix "can't win." Now he says that Zupancic's the man to unseat Hooley. But Zupancic lost to my good friend Greg MacPherson in the race for the State House of Representatives seat in his district last time around. Which makes you wonder how he'd do against Hooley in the larger federal congressional district.

Rounding out the field to date is Boquist, whom Hooley pretty easily defeated in '02. He's a former lieutenant colonel in the Green Beret with six kids and a Tillamook dairy background. It doesn't look as though he's got an '04 web site up yet, although his '02 site is still there for our perusal. He's a fighter, and has been known to sling mud at Hooley pretty freely.

Can any of these candidates wrest that seat from the incumbent? The fact that there are three of them competing with each other certainly doesn't show a strong, unified front so far.

Winters's arrival on the scene can't be good news for Zupancic. Just as Ron Saxton and Roberts cancelled each other out in the last governor's race, paving the way for Mannix's unsuccessful right-wing candidacy, Winters and Zupancic could wind up splitting the moderate vote in the primary and handing the reins over to Boquist once again.

And then there's the other traditionally hot Oregon congressional seat -- the First, where Dr. Wu currently rules the roost. He stomped his opposition last time out, but he's lost some friends over the intervening year. That's a post for another day.

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: Coincidentally, the Portland Tribune has a front-page story today analyzing Wu's re-election prospects. I got the blog shining, I tell ya.

Season of miracles

The Red Sox and the Cubs are two of the four teams
still in the playoffs and hoping to go all the way.

Monday, October 6, 2003

Blog buzz

Are local news writers mining this site for story ideas? I dunno. I suspected one was doing so last week, when Bob Packwood's photo popped up on the front page of the Trib, just a few days after I invoked his name here.

I later convinced myself that it was just my ego talking, that Packwood's reappearance at a GOP fundraiser in Portland was so newsworthy that the media couldn't not be drawn to interview him.

But in yesterday's Oregonian was a lengthy profile of a guy whose name I also invoked here recently -- Portland realtor Billy Grippo. That one really makes me go hmmmm.

If the Burgerville cole slaw story makes the papers, I'll know they're coming here for leads -- which, by the way, is fine with me. But I wish someone at one of those papers would call and ask me to knock out a couple of columns a week for some serious thou's.

Who needs ipecac?

I just keep this link handy.

Make room on the bandwagon for me

Sunday, October 5, 2003

86 on the slaw

My favorite burger joint, Burgerville, politely informed me the other day that they're no longer carrying cole slaw. I've always ordered the slaw as an alternative to fries, and so this menu deletion bums me out. I know there was probably a bunch of fat in the slaw sauce (is that what you call it?), but at least there were raw vegetables in there to cut against it.

The nice gal at the drive-through suggested a side salad as an alternative, but I don't do salads at burger joints, for religious reasons.

I wound up filching some fries out of my daughter's kid's meal. I console myself with the fact that they use canola oil.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Bad night in Vegas

One of the tigers in the Siegfried and Roy Show got Roy by the throat tonight and wouldn't let go. Dragged him off like a rag doll. Roy's in critical condition; I'm sure the tiger's days are numbered.

I've always thought that Roy has a double, which would explain a lot of the duo's visual tricks. But at least one of two Roys is now in a world of hurt.

Mother Nature can be such a bitch.

As ye sow so shall ye reap

Rumor has it that right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh, who just resigned in disgrace from his extremely brief side gig as a sports commentator, is under investigation for illegal drug use. His accuser says Limbaugh's been hooked on several painkillers, including oxycontin, the "hillbilly heroin," for years.

The lefties are going to jump all over this juicy scandal, broken in the National Enquirer(!). And although I generally sympathize with drug-addicted people, particularly those who, like Limbaugh, have been treated for painful medical conditions, in this case I'm going to make an exception.

If a public figure whose ideas Limbaugh didn't like were in this position, the Big Fat Fair and Balanced Idiot would be ranting and raving to his drooling faithful about it for weeks.

Cue up "Like a Rolling Stone," folks, because if the reports are true, this gentleman is about to commence his well-deserved new career as a trivia question. Maybe he and Newt can party together.

(P.S. Looks like Tony got to this way before I did, and as usual, he nailed it. How the guy has time to write so well and still keep all the supermodels satisfied, I'll never know.)

Travel news

Oh, those hard-working Oregon civil servants, feeling everyone's pain as we suffer through these miserable economic times.

Yeah, right.

Governor Ted's hanging out in Germany, and Mayor Vera "the Joker" Katz is sunning in Bologna, Italy. All on official business, of course.

Katz is accompanied by officials of the Portland Development Commission, who are also getting paid to walk through museums and watch fireworks.

Right now Bologna is full of Portland bureaucrats.

And vice versa.

Another Oregon blogger (sort of)

I just noticed a blog called The Idea Salon from a Northwestern University student named Wes Meltzer. He's from Portland and proud of it.

There are some good posts on the blog. He seems like a nice feller.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Never a dull moment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled in a 2-to-1 decision that federal prisoners can't be forced to give blood samples for the federal DNA registry. In so doing, the panel overruled another Ninth Circuit case from just eight years ago. The dissenter this time was Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain of Portland.

The Ninth isn't going to regain any of its lost friends with this one. What's next -- no fingerprints, either?

I wonder if it would be o.k. if the prison collected the blood samples only from inmates who were already bleeding. That can be arranged.

Hey, maybe they could use those old punch-card voting machines...

On newsstands now

I bought a copy of the new Portland Monthly magazine yesterday. I've opened it a few times, but I can't get into it.

I'm having trouble figuring out what this publication is trying to be. And to the extent that I can catch a glimmer of what it is, I'm not much interested.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for magazines, especially those brave enough to tackle a depressed market like Portland. But this one has quite a few bugs. Start with the title. It's called Monthly but it will be published bi-monthly.

And the identity crisis doesn't stop there. In its introduction, PM claims to aspire to be a force in shaping the destiny of the city: to "be the battleground on which the fight for Portland's future can be waged." But as you thumb through the articles in the inaugural issue, it's hard to see this publication playing anything like that role. For one thing, it covers little of civic affairs, and what's there are exceedingly stale stories -- the Blazers have a PR problem, some angry dog-hater poisoned a number of innocent dogs in Laurelhurst Park, there are new directors in the city's performing arts organizations. What's worse, in rehashing those stories, the authors have little new to say. You'll get more about the future of Portland in 15 minutes a week with Willamette Week or the Portland Tribune than you will with PM.

The rest of the inaugural issue -- by far the bulk of it -- consists of puff pieces on such absorbing topics as mai tais, hairstylists, and gardening. There are lots of gushy restaurant reviews and a chatty arts preview, and a strange "best of Portland" list of 50 disconnected items. No. 2: the Vintage Trolley. No. 3: Mount Hood. Feh.

It's laid out like GQ or Esquire, and the smarmy writing adopts much the same tone. It tries hard to be funny, mostly without success, and that's immediately off-putting. In about a dozen places, it takes an annoying few seconds to figure out whether you're looking at an ad or an article. And the pages and pages of glossy event listings that try to make Portland look like such a young, exciting, vibrant place don't withstand scrutiny. (Example: The 10 "On the Town" special events listings include the Home Improvement Show and the Trail Blazers.)

The cool picture of the staff reveals it to be a bunch of kids, no doubt very bright and oh-so-hip. (Three black shirts out of nine people.) But I can't imagine their brand of journalism speaking to anyone in the Portland area outside the Pearl District.

Indeed, paying $3.99 for this magazine feels like paying $700,000 for a condo in a Pearl tower: Maybe it will appeal to someone who just got here, but not to me or most of the fogies I hang around with. It sure ain't my Portland.

More celebrity mail

I'm a popular guy. First Diane Linn writes me a nice letter, and then I get another one from Neil Goldschmidt the same week. Neil was writing, along with Margaret Carter and Phil Keisling, to remind me to vote no on the proposed public utility district that would take over the electricity business in Portland.

Neil cracks me up these days. I can just picture him with Margaret and Phil signing letters and licking stamps in Margaret's kitchen. And his pitch against the PUD is downright comical. Says Goldschmidt: The public power district would add a new and unnecessary "layer of government." Jeez, Neil, look in the mirror. Weren't you one of the main guys who invented the all-time most unnecessary layer of government -- Metro?

Given what the former mayor and governor has done with the last 20 years of his life -- which is make many millions using his influence on behalf of large corporations and real estate developers -- I'm not at all surprised that he's against the PUD. I would also not be surprised if he was paid, directly and indirectly, to say so.

I wonder if the voters of the Corbett neighborhood got this letter, and whether they realize that it's coming from the man who stuck the aerial tram down their throat.

I'm inclined to vote no on the PUD. But if we're getting the smooth talk from Neil about it, it makes me think that maybe I should reconsider.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Sleeps with the fishes

As I expected, Newman's Fish Market in the Irvington Market (in the Lloyd District) is packing it in. Friday will be the last day to get fresh fish at NE 14th and Weidler.

Ever since the produce portion of that market closed last winter, the rest of the merchants there have been going down like dominoes. I wonder if the juice bar and the coffee shop will hang in there.

How the other half lives

The rich are not like you and I. They have it so good, they don't need to throw mud at each other.

Do they?

And another one gone, and another one gone

Things keep rolling downhill here in the Rose City.

Today our traffic was officially pronounced really bad -- worse than Seattle's. I disagree with that assessment, but who's listening to me? In the livability sweepstakes, it's the national perception that counts.

Meanwhile, the city took another blow. A big employer, Louisiana-Pacific, announced that its headquarters is leaving town.

Now when Gardenburger revealed the other day that it will soon close up the last of its corporate offices here, that was a very bad symbol. But it was a minor blip as far as the number of jobs is concerned. LP, on the other hand, was a bona fide economic force, and the news that its 130 or so highest-paid people are packing up for Nashville is unwelcome indeed.

Portland's seen a real exodus of successful entrepreneurs over the last decade. There are several ways in which that reality can be interpreted. Many of the firms that left were simply so prosperous that they became takeover targets, and they were swallowed up by new parent companies elsewhere in the nation or the world. Fred Meyer, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, Willamette Industries, First Interstate Bank of Oregon -- all of these and more moved their home bases and their white-collar payrolls after being acquired by out-of-state or out-of-country interests.

But for folks like Gardenburger and Louisiana-Pacific, there's been no takeover. Other cities are simply easier and cheaper places in which to build and operate corporate offices.

What are Oregon and Portland doing wrong? It's not as though we're not throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at economic development. For example, when last I checked, the state economic development department budget was on the order of $460 million for a two-year budget cycle, including about $72 million in federal funds. We pay 143 people in state government alone to work on stimulating economic growth. But I don't think we really know what we're doing. For one thing, we're distributing too much of our public money to the wrong people -- the condo-tower-builders, the airport-expanders, the consultants, the designers, the planners, the bureaucracy. Meanwhile, the Fortune 500 continue to file out of Oregon. Nike's the last one left.

[Special Note to Regular Readers: The remainder of this post consists of my usual rant. If you're familiar with it, feel free to skip the rest of this entry.]

Trolleys, aerial trams, light rail, solar-powered parking meter gizmos, a huge convention center, reservoir covers, a monstrous glass canopy over the airport dropoff, reunited North and South Park Blocks -- they're all nice. But decent schools; a working mental health system that limits one's street contacts with deranged folks to, say, two or three a day; police stations open at night; and living-wage jobs with a future, are much nicer. And around here many of the nicer things are getting as scarce as hen's teeth.

I don't know how many tax dollars we would have had to throw at LP to get them to stay. But I'm sure I could cobble it together out of the City Hall/State Capitol Useless Toy Budgets.

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