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

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January 2005 Archives

Monday, January 31, 2005

Let me make myself perfectly clear

In a post here on Friday afternoon, I suggested that it might be time to fight the City of Portland's real estate developer welfare system with a ballot measure repealing the city's urban renewal property taxes. It might have a chance of passing, I thought, if the perennial anti-taxers like Lars Larson got together with the outraged neighbors from all over the city (Lair Hill, Buckman, Homestead, etc., etc.) who dislike the ugly and elitist brand of development that their property taxes currently subsidize.

Based on the weekend buzz around here, it turns out that the idea may "have legs," as they say in Hollywood. But I suspect there may be some misunderstanding about exactly what I am proposing. There's so much smoke and mirrors around urban renewal generally, and around loosely guarded pork pots like the Portland Development Commission in particular, that there's a good chance my idea might be misunderstood.

So let me outline it a litle more carefully:

A goodly portion of every Portland property owner's property tax bill goes to City of Portland urban renewal projects. That includes us folks who don't live in an "urban renewal area." In fact, it says right on my property tax bill that 7.89% of my property taxes, several hundred dollars a year, goes to "Urban Renewal - Portland." That's the tax I'm talking about doing away with.

Now, I know that some folks like Lars who might also favor repealing the tax would do so out of an entirely different motivation from mine. I would definitely be willing to continue to pay the same amount of property taxes in the future as I pay now, but I'd have it be spent on police, schools, and mental health for the indigent, rather than condo towers and a sky tram to Pill Hill. Without being disrespectful, I suspect that many of Lars's followers would just as soon pocket the tax savings. So the alliances that would have to be formed to shake things up wouldn't be very easy or peaceful ones.

But sometimes you have to dance with the devil.

I'm very tired of paying 7.89% of my property taxes for the Pearl District, Convention Center, streetcar, tram, and other goofy toys that the city and the PDC keep handing us. I'm very tired of the hypocrisy that surrounds the treatment of public concerns on projects such as the 325-foot-tall view-blocking towers in South Waterfront and the Burnside Bridge Home Depot. I would gladly support a ballot measure to outlaw the use of citywide property tax dollars for the joke that urban renewal in this city has become.

Is that irresponsible? Absolutely not. Even if it was tantamount to pulling the plug on urban renewal and starting all over, the timeout would be well worth it. If the city thinks a project is worthy of mandatory contributions from taxpayers citywide, let it bring each project before the voters one at a time. I'd pay a hundred bucks a year to revitalize MLK, or build that Buckman Community Center, or spruce up some of the older retail districts. But I want to see before I agree to buy.

And if that didn't work, if we really did stop urban renewal as it's currently practiced in Portland, no one would die. But we might still have a city that reflects the values of most of us who live here.

(UPDATE, 3:45 a.m.: b!X has some better analysis of the urban renewal property tax. He suggests that the city's credit rating might be tanked if the tax were suddenly repealed. Even he confesses that he doesn't have the whole picture, but he certainly has a better grasp on it that we do at the moment. We would not want to bankrupt the city, but we would like to figure out a way to give this aspect of city government back to the voters. Let's pay off our old debts for urban renewal toys, but let's not buy any new ones without a conversation and a popular vote.

UPDATE, 9:52 p.m.: You know you're on to something when you get the politicians' attention. My friend City Commissioner Randy Leonard, whom I like but with whom I viscerally disagree about South Waterfront, began circling the wagons around urban renewal on BlueOregon this evening. Yep, I think we're on to something here.)

Back on top

My fantasy basketball teams are both once again on top of their respective leagues. Special thanks to these fellows for a great week:

Sto lat, Wally!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Tick, tick, tick

We're down to the last moments of the week, and we still haven't gotten in our weekly mention of, and link to, Marqui. That's the "communications management" software developer who's paying us to mention and link to it once a week for three months, and so it's time to get right on that before we turn into a pumpkin. Here. Whew.

There's not too much new to report on the Marqui front this week. This is the halfway point of our initial three-month blogger shill contract; that hardly seems newsworthy. But by the end of next week, we may have something much more interesting to talk about. Yesterday Marqui announced that its "dabble mode" is up, and it's ready to let a set number of prospective customers try out its service for free. I've requested a user ID and password so that I can give it a whirl, and I'll be posting here about my experience as a "dabbler" as soon as I've racked up some mileage in that capacity.

If you'd like to try it out yourself, just send an e-mail message here with your request. And if you do dabble, please let me know how it went.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Where Portland is heading

As we ponder how the South Waterfront development is going to look with its collection of bulky, 325-foot-tall condo towers, let's keep an eye on how tall and obstructive that really is. Here's the Mark Hatfield Courthouse, which is 318 feet tall:

Here's the Congress Center (formerly the Orebanco Building), the seventh-tallest building in Portland, at 322 feet tall:

Here's the ODS Tower (a.k.a. the Odious Tower), at 308 feet tall:

Now picture a bunch of these lined up side by side, right on the river, and you've got North Macadam. This is as creative as the city's planning bureaucrats can get. "If you don't like sprawl, you have to have these." Thank you, Vera, Neil, Erik, Randy, Dan and Sam, for this stunning vision.

This project inspires me to dream about two new citizen initiatives:

1. Boycott the South Waterfront district. Let the retailers know now that we won't ever shop there. Get some signs and bumper stickers going. That ought to slow things down a little. Maybe we could practice by boycotting the Pearl.

2. Repeal the City of Portland urban renewal property tax. Since it's being spent on junk like this, let's dry up the funds. Can you imagine what would happen if the angry neighborhoods of Portland (pardon the redundancy) and the Lars Larsonites got together and put that on the ballot? Homer Williams might have to move to Boise.

Free Buster

Ladies and gentlemen, this country is in deep, deep trouble.

Now even PBS is carrying water for the misguided extremists in the Bush administration.

Now a cartoon character who visits families all across the country to show the diversity of our children's lives is not allowed to show a child who lives with two mothers.

In Vermont.

Where they're in a legal civil union.

And it was o.k. when the PBS president first viewed it, but then George Bush's education secretary (perhaps those last two words belong in quotation marks) said she didn't like it.

So PBS pulled it.

"Kids, if your parents are gay, we won't even show you on television."

Dear Lord, what have we become as a country? We have young men and women in our armed services dying every day in the name of "freedom."

Is this "freedom"? If it is, then as far as I'm concerned, the soldiers should all come home now.

This is not worth dying for.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Potter stands alone

Well, the Portland City Council had its hearing yesterday on increasing the height and bulk of the hideous condo towers that will run virtually wall to wall along the South Waterfront. And gee whiz, the neighbors are going to get whacked again. Here is the council lineup, according to this morning's paper:

Potter: He's with the neighbors. Not only doesn't he think the developers should get more viewspace without a lot more discussion, he suggests the existing plan may already be too generous to them. Right on, Mayor!

Leonard: He's got a "compromise." It goes something like this: "O.k., neighbors, these developers have already got you down on the ground, bloodied and battered. They say they want to kick you 20 more times. I'm going to let them kick you only 12." On a recent Las Vegas junket, he was named politician of the year by a national developers' group. It shows.

Adams: All for the developers. He should be, Homer Williams bankrolled his campaign. Bought and paid for. "Shake up City Hall"? Sure.

Saltzman: You never hear from this guy, except when it's time to screw over a neighborhood. Then he's a solid aye vote. Mayor Potter, can you find us a good woman candidate to replace this fellow?

Sten: He's inclined to vote for the compromise, but he's going to see if he can get something more out of this for the neighborhood, blah blah blah. With the Scone gone, I was getting a little worried that we wouldn't be able to enjoy watching a city commissioner talk out of both sides of his mouth any more. I see that was a needless fear.

Strange fascination

I don't know why I get such a kick out of this, but I do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Two bloggers, one click

Hasser and Little Lost Robot are in the middle of a cross-country road trip together. They're blogging from the road.

That's not something you'd want to miss.

We're No. 1 at something

Here's an interesting search that led a reader to this blog. I only wish that I had what he or she was looking for.

Meet me at the wrecking ball

The Multnomah County property at SE 20th and Morrison in Portland has been in the news quite a bit lately. There's a derelict county building and parking lot on the site, which used to be a burial ground for Chinese immigrants many years ago. It's on the southwest corner of the Lone Fir Cemetery, where the remains of many of Portland's more prominent founding mothers and fathers rest. The Chinese, who did all the heavy lifting, were put in their own place on the corner.

Like seemingly all space within the city limits, the lot was being looked at pretty hard recently by developers, who envisioned yet another ugly, bulky, out-of-place, but lucrative condo complex. The county, hard up for money, seemed about ready to go for that idea, and yet another round of Buckman Neighbors vs. West Hills Unelected Powers was about to begin.

But for years, people who are especially attuned to other-worldly phenomena said they were convinced that when the existing building had been built in the late 1940s, although the construction crews said they had exhumed and moved all the bodies, in fact they had missed some. And when the county had archeologists check last week, lo and behold, there is at least one poor soul whose earthly remains have rested under the parking lot for many decades.

So now the site has historical significance, and the Condo People have to go find some other corner to cash in on. But the county's task of getting rid of the property has gotten much more complicated and expensive. There's hope that money can be found somewhere to create an on-site public memorial to the Chinese ancestors who were, and apparently still are, buried there. Let's hope so. Those folks deserve our gratitide for their contributions to our city and region, and look, now they may have even saved the beleaguered neighborhood from one more ugly building.

All this reminds me of the one time that I visited that county building on official business. It was around 15 years ago, when a friend of mine had asked me to handle an appeal of her property tax assessment. The county had appraised her condo at $10,000 more than she sold it for right around the assessment date, and she thought that wasn't fair. It wasn't. So off I go, naive young-ish lawyer, to plead her case. The case was to be heard at 20th and Morrison.

I parked on top of the Chinese immigrants, about whom nobody was talking in those days, and got ready for my big spiel.

I walked in to the appeals board hearing room, where as I recall I found three or four very grouchy, white-haired people sitting behind the head table. I was informed I would be allowed to speak for one minute. That's right -- one. As in 60 seconds. So I did.

My friend had just sold the condo for $10,000 less than the assessed value. "Did she sell to a relative?" a gruff old codger on the panel snapped. No, I replied. "Why did she move? Was she forced to sell?" No, she got a job in Seattle and moved up there. She had the condo on the market for quite a while before a buyer showed up. "Huh. Thank you. We'll mail her our decision." The guy left off "Now get the hell out," but there was no need to actually say those words. I got the message.

My friend mostly won her property tax appeal, but as I recall, they re-assessed at a thousand bucks higher than what she sold for. I guess they showed us, eh? Jerks.

There's nothing but bad karma all around that building. Having the greedy developers hovering around with dollar signs in their eyes over the last year or so has only made it worse. The sooner it is taken down, and a suitable memorial park constructed, the better for all concerned.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It's not just about process

There's a front-page article in The O today (at least up here in Portland editions) about how Portland Development Commission director Don Mazziotti is under fire and may be on his way out of his $167K-plus job. It was an unusually blunt article by that paper's standards -- the reporters were somehow able to rightly insert the "G" word into the lead paragraph -- but it still came up a bit short.

According to the article, Mazziotti's fine on the substance, but he's got problems with management style, demeanor, and public process. Developer John Russell is in there calling him a "godsend," but outgoing PDC chair Matt Hennessee concedes that Mazziotti lacks a certain "charm." One of the hundreds (if not thousands) of outraged neighbors who have dealt with the PDC over Mazziotti's three years is quoted; her complaint is about the closed-minded "gestalt" that the agency displays when dealing with neighborhoods.

But the article takes as a given that the PDC has produced great products under Mazziotti's apparently heavy hand:

In the past few months, Mazziotti's agency has brought forward a series of headline-grabbing projects, including the five-block Burnside Bridgehead development, a proposal to develop an 800-room hotel near the Oregon Convention Center and a project to kick-start development on a long-neglected section of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

By delivering projects, Mazziotti has pleased business, which hates to see projects stalled by bureaucratic process or neighborhood interference. In 2003, Mazziotti told the Business Journal that "there is just far too much focus on process and planning and insufficient appreciation for the role of the private economy."

"Delivering"? As far as the MLK deal, the Burnside Bridge project, and the hotel, all that's been delivered so far are promises.

And indeed, there are a few of us out here in Curmudgeonland who think all three of those projects have serious substantive flaws, which we've blogged about here before. The Convention Center expansion was an enormous mistake -- throwing good money after bad when the original center flopped. Having the taxpayers build the hotel would just complicate matters. No one in Mazziotti's PDC is willing to face the fact that Portland just isn't going to be a great convention city, ever.

The MLK deal is years late, and the original hopes and expectations have been dashed. Keeping a couple of dozen call center jobs was the most recent, lowered ambition, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that even that's falling apart.

And as for the Burnside Bridge, it's just another condo tower block, likely to be handed to the same old, same old developers who get all the PDC pork. And dammit, the PDC has decided, the inner east side is going to get a Home Depot somewhere soon, whether they like it or not. Why is that? How dare you ask, punk. It's all part of the dark, ominous talk that emerges from the PDC. Mind your own business. Don't cross us.

If you look at where most PDC dollars are spent, you'll see that it is not about helping all the many corners of Portland that need a shot in the arm. It's mostly about downtown, the Pearl, OHSU, the airport, and the Convention Center. Oh sure, the occasional bone is thrown on Alberta Street or somewhere out in Randy Leonard City. I guess they're doing stuff out in Gateway. They may plunk down some millions around light rail (built by You-Know-Who's clients, of course). But the real bucks are spent close in, where the West Hills folks have all their money invested.

And it's not just that the neighbors don't get process. Look at the OHSU aerial tram scam, for example. There's been lots of process. It's the substantive decision that has made so many long-time city residents so angry.

Then there's the matter of the Portland Family of Funds, the pesky little PDC "investment bank" adventure which the City Club has suggested may be illegal, or at least very bad government policy. Public money and public risk-taking are apparently enriching a hand-chosen few there. The Oregonian ackowledges that "continuing scrutiny" of PFF "could hurt Mazziotti." That's putting it mildly.

In sum, there's more not to like about this agency right now than just process and style.

According to the article, Mazziotti was originally hired on a 3-2 vote, and although the O story neglected to point it out, two of his main board allies will be gone come July. I wouldn't be surprised if we were looking at a new PDC director by year-end. As a former resident of the Lair Hill neighborhood, I wouldn't be sad about it, either.


We were happy when we got our new membership cards from the Oregon Zoo in the mail yesterday.

We weren't so happy, though, when we saw the postmarks on the envelope: "Kent WA" and "Presort Seattle WA."

Hey, zoo! Metro! What's up with that?!

Monday, January 24, 2005

On the tube

Appropos of my post of last week regarding the South Waterfront development, I received this notice in my e-mail this morning:

Good-bye Mt. Hood

A television presentation of Portland's South Waterfront Project

What will it really mean to Portland taxpayers, the local neighborhoods, the environment, traffic, the economy and livability?

Wednesday, January 26th at 8:00PM

Tualatin Valley Television, Live-Link, cable channel 11

The "Education and Politics" broadcast will include many photos, drawings and a thorough discussion of the entire South Waterfront Project.

Special guest, long time Portland democrat and citizen activist Jerry Ward.

Jerry's experiences with the City of Portland, Portland Development Commission, neighborhood groups and Urban Renewal Advisory Committee for South Waterfront make this show a must see.

The show will be a live-link, call-in show on Wednesday with numerous re-broadcasts during the following month.

Please tune in and call in with a short comment or question.

Steve Schopp
"Education and Politics" host

Channel 11 is public access on cable where I live (Northeast Portland), but I don't know if this program will air throughout the area, or only down in the "Tualatin Valley" (wherever that is).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

One of a kind

Of all the people who have appeared on television in my lifetime, none have supplied more entertainment to me than Johnny Carson. We've missed him ever since his retirement, and we'll miss him some more now. We truly loved him.

Suits him to a T

Teacherrefpoet tells the story of a technical foul in basketball, from the standpoint of the official. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Weekend update

We would be remiss if we neglected to mention here that the Oregon attorney general's office released a report yesterday clearing Diana Goldschmidt of any charges of illegal conduct arising from her Oct. 29, 2003 vote, as a member of the Oregon Investment Council, to invest OIC funds in Texas Pacific. The day after that vote, her husband, the now-disgraced former governor, Neil Goldschmidt, was offered a position as a key director of the Texas Pacific company that would attempt to buy Portland General Electric.

The report concludes, after an extensive investigation by the a.g.'s office (apparently with the help of University of Oregon law professor Ted McAniff), that no evidence exists that Mrs. G. knew even of the imminent Texas Pacific offer for PGE, much less her husband's role in it, when she cast her vote on the OIC board that fateful day. The Goldschmidts' story, which was corroborated by the investigation, is that Mr. G. first heard of the Texas Pacific bid later on the day of the OIC vote, and that he told his spouse about it at that time. Although people in the Oregon Treasury Department had known of the potential Texas Pacific bid since weeks earlier, and although Texas Pacific executives had been talking about making Mr. G. a partner in the PGE deal as early as September 4, the evidence shows that it was kept a secret from the Goldschmidts until later the same day that the OIC vote went down. They both said they were surprised.

At that point, Neil ran from the book depository into a movie theater, where he shot a police officer before being arrested. Two days later, he was murdered by Jack Ruby.... o.k., only kidding about that last part.

In any event, the state investigation is over, and the Goldschmidts are in the clear about the OIC vote. As you might expect, this was all over the front page of the O today. When people get cleared, they're right on it.

It's also interesting to me how the Oregon Department of Justice presented its findings on this case to the world. It wrote up a detailed, 13-page report, placed it on the internet, and made the story the lead headline on the departmental web page. That's certainly not what it does down there with most criminal investigations that come up with nothing. They're getting maximum mileage out of this particular exoneration.

The timing and handling of this development signals to me more than anything that the Texas Pacific deal is going to be approved by the PUC soon. I'm laying 2-to-1 odds now in its favor. Then I guess the City of Portland will join the power-to-the-people folks in filing some court appeals, and likely even try to condemn PGE, all of which is going to cost us Portland taxpayers more millions. (I'm sure we're already well over a million dollars in city funds spent on this adventure.) The thing will be tied up in court for years.

I don't know which is worse: if the city blows all that money and effort and loses to the robber barons... or if it wins.

Maybe that's the real crime.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Go Potter go!

Tucked inside today's Oregonian is the very welcome news that Portland Mayor Tom Potter is clearing out the brush at the Portland Development Commission. Commission chair Matt Hennessee and commissioner Janice Wilson aren't going to be back when their terms expire in July. Those were two of the main Goldschmidt lieutenants at the PDC. They said yesterday they "won't ask to be reappointed." That usually means they wouldn't be.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor!

Tiny bubbles

Well, another week has come and gone in the Marqui paid blogger program. As you probably know, this software company pays a few dozen bloggers (including me) to mention and link to them once a week. We can say whatever we want.

The big news this week is that we all got our first checks. I must confess, I had an evil twinkle in my eye as I took that baby down to the bank. That night, the Mrs. and I guzzled us a bottle of Moet & Chandon White Star. As Mark Knopfler once said, "That ain't workin' / That's the way you do it." No custom kitchen deliveries here.

Meanwhile, the naysaying continues on various sites. It's unethical, we're violating journalistic norms, we'll all burn in hell, etc. Thank you for your input.

As for actual Marqui-product-related content, as usual I haven't got much to say. This week's suggested fodder was a nice profile of another one of Marqui's customers, Omnex Controls, which uses Marqui to keep its web site up. Omnex is a Vancouver, B.C.-based concern that makes remote control equipment for industrial machinery and for construction and off-highway equipment. Robot City, baby. It was taking too long to get their web site updated, and so they bought the Marqui package of services. Now the process is streamlined, and they're happy. Amen.

The Omnex site has some interesting stuff on it. For example, did you know that right now representatives from Omnex are down in Las Vegas at the "World of Concrete" show? Just thinking about some Canadian robot tech guys at a cement convention in Sin City brings a smile to my face. If I ever write short stories, that's got to be the plot for one of them.

Tell it like it is

I missed all the TV coverage of the inauguration and protests. But I sure am glad I got to see this -- one of the great moments in journalism. I hope the guy's bandwidth holds out. For those of you familiar with the "fair and balanced" approach of the Fox News Network, it's must-see TV. (Via Basie.)

When to say when

In the continuing war of the South Waterfront Developers vs. The World (score so far: Developers 110, World 0), another battle is nigh.

It's bad enough that the builders are getting a ludicrous, ugly aerial tram from OHSU over the homes and backyards of a very unhappy neighborhood below. But now they want to make their luxury skyscrapers taller and wider than they originally promised they would be, thus obliterating even more of the public view and making even more money from selling the heart of Portland to the highest-bidding empty nesters they can suck north from L.A. and Marin County. They've got the proposal all the way through the prevailing city bureaucracy, and now all that stands in the way is a City Council vote.

So far, they've had no problem getting the council to vote their way. And I mean none, not even from Everyman Leonard. "You can't stop change," he said last time, or something like that.

The neighbors are back up in arms, but you can't fault them from being bone-weary of all this. They're beaten down. When you're up against the city's favored developers, you can never win. Even after you lose once, the real estate welfare recipients keep coming at you again and again. Unlike neighborhood activists, they make lots of money hanging in there on issue after issue. You wind up losing a dozen times before they get everything they originally wanted, and more. All the stuff they give up along the way in supposed concessions to get the city's o.k. for one feature or another somehow never comes to pass.

I don't know how short a memory these folks think we all have. One of the ways they sold the questionable esthetics of the original project was to give assurances that the towers wouldn't go too high, and that they would be slender and graceful and unobtrusive. "Needle-nose" buildings, somebody called the drawings. Sort of like in Vancouver, B.C., they said. Oooh! Vancouver, B.C.! That sounded so wonderful that Vera cooed, and the Scone gave that pained expression, and they answered, yes, yes, what a wonderful compromise. Meanwhile, backstage, the developers' fixer, You-Know-Who, the Great Vi$ionary, put their checks in his bank account. (Hey, the guy had a lot of bills to pay.)

So out flow the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for the infrastructure, the tram, the whole works. Vera, Teddy, Wyden, Hatfield, they all show up for the groundbreaking with Homer and the Usual Suspects. Send in the cranes. Let's get rich. You would think that would be enough.

Not for these guys. They never let up.

And you know who's making the call on the tower heights so far? I'd be shocked if you did. One of the heavy hitters is an architect on an unelected something-or-other called the Design Commission. Some guy named Mark McCulloch. He was in the paper yesterday allowing as how, yes, we should let them tack on another 50 or 70 feet on the top of those condo towers, and make them standard fat apartment buildings to boot -- so long as they're "creative" and "good." This is the same guy who was recently quoted as saying he was ready to waive all kinds of height restrictions on buildings, so long as they were "cool."

Pardon me if those aren't criteria that I'm comfortable with.

Portland is being irreparably marred by all these towers. The Terwilliger Path used to be a revered place, where all Portlanders could go to share a sumptuous view not only of the mountains, but also of the east side of the city. That's going to be seriously impacted even under the existing plan. Someone from the "Planning" Bureau (I think they mostly plan the developers' retirements) said the original layout will be like looking through half-opened blinds. Thanks, but that's bad enough.

There was a time when many a west side commuter got a beautiful Mount Hood view every morning that the mountain was out, as he or she emerged from the Vista Tunnel on the way into downtown. It was a true treat, absolutely free, and it really lifted the spirits. One of those many little things that made the city great. Then came the KOIN Tower, right smack in the way. Now only a few dozen rich folks get that view. The unwashed thousands on their way to work get to see only the building in which their boss lives. And we're about to do the same for the commoners who like to contemplate Hood and the city from up on the hill. Let 'em look at apartments. Maybe they'll get to see William Hurt out on his deck.

The city has already given the condo-izers more than their share of the public's resources. We shouldn't start the Potter era off by giving away a single cubic inch more. We'll be watching the vote on this on Wednesday. The roll call will be front and center on this blog the next morning. And if it's in favor, we'll know that the Goldschmidt-Katz era isn't over yet.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Would you like his voice mail?

Tom Potter sure isn't wasting any time getting on the politician junket train. The new Portland mayor hasn't been sworn in for three weeks yet, and already he's been back to some sort of mayors' convention in the nation's capital. And soon he and his spouse will be heading off for one of those famous "sister city" goodwill trips, this one revolving around the annual snow festival in Sapporo, Japan. Banzai!

And there will be around 50 other Oregonians with him, no doubt some of them additional public employees.

I get a kick out of the sister city excursions, a well established boondoggly tradition. Fireman Randy allegedly stated during his first City Council campaign that he wouldn't go on them, but he sure changed his plan once he was elected, and it was off to China he went. Exactly what these visits do for Portland, it's hard to tell. I remember when a bunch of bureaucrats from around the state headed over to Bologna, Italy a while back on some vital government mission or other. I'm still waiting to see the dividends on that one.

Not too many things are made within the Portland city limits any more for our international friends to buy. I guess we want them to get stuff rolling through our port in one direction or the other.

Who's paying for our politicians to see the world? If it's the local taxpayers here at home, you wonder whether we can afford it. And if it's someone else, does it look like they're buying our leaders' votes? Is there a conflict of interest lurking in there somewhere?

What's really intriguing about all the Potter travel is that most of us expected this to be a key time in his six-month program to revolutionize city government by taking over all the bureaus and instilling a new accountability. Many wondered whether he was taking on too much responsibility by seizing control of all the city agencies. How could he alone manage what it usually takes five commissioners to operate?

I guess the answer is, by remote control.

Whereas his predecessor was a workaholic detail person in the Jimmy Carter tradition, seemingly managing the daily soup selection in the City Hall cafeteria, Potter appears so far to be much more the Ronald Reagan big-picture type. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. And I'm still hopeful that the Potter administration will be an improvement over what we've witnessed over most of the last decade.

But if he and his spouse start driving around Arizona in an R.V. over spring break, I'm going to start worrying.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bad, sick, horrible thoughts of the day

And they're not even original -- just stuff I overheard yesterday:

1. If you go to a benefit concert for tsunami relief, do not try to get the crowd to do "the wave."

2. How cold is it in central Montana right now? Let's put it this way: If you go there, take your driver's license with you so you can see which gender you are.

Lock your domain. Take your keys.

Fascinating story in yesterday's New York Times about a well-known commercial ISP in New York City, panix.com, that woke up one recent morning to find that its entire domain name had been transferred, without its knowledge or consent, to some outfit in Australia. After a bunch of screaming and hissing, it got it back, but there was a lot of disruption, particularly among Panix's customers who have that domain in their e-mail addresses. They were suddenly cut off from the cyberworld.

I hate it when that happens.

To make matters even more interesting to Portland web types, the original, legitimate registrar of the domain was a Vancouver, Wash.-based outfit known as Dotster, which emerges from yesterday's Times article looking a little weak. But it turns out another player in the "chain of command" was culpable: an Australian registrar named Melbourne IT, which apparently never contacted Dotster as required. And behind it all, apparently, is a very malicious domain hijacker.

The story warned that this sort of thing could happen to anyone. Just what we need -- more shadowy crooks and/or inept bureaucrats out there to worry about. Some day I may discover that bojack.org now belongs to a tattoo parlor in downtown Krakow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Maybe he thought he could keep a low profile

Remember Richard Hatch, the pudgy naked guy who won the first "Survivor" show on TV? Incredibly, he allegedly didn't report his million-dollar prize on his tax return, and now he's being charged with tax evasion.

Make up your own joke on this one. "No tax immunity," said one headline. But surely we can do better. Let's get to work on a Top 10:

10. The last one left on the island -- Rikers, that is.

9. Reality TV, meet reality.

8. Maybe Rudy will offer to go to jail for him.

7. Survival of the dumbest.

6. Now he can form an alliance with Martha Stewart.

5. Nobody told him Kelly's father worked for the IRS.

4. At least he gets to drive to prison in a brand new Pontiac Aztek!

3. Where he's going, he'd better keep his clothes on.

2. Under the new federal sentencing guidelines, he may have to do time on "Law and Order."

1. I hear Regis ratted him out.

Huh. Not as easy as it looks. Help us out here, people.

Do you think CBS put him up to it to boost ratings? Nah -- that would be a crime.

Blogging with buddies

Got a nice e-note yesterday from my friend and former colleague Gordon Smith. No, not that Gordon Smith, the other Gordon Smith. (Man, I've beaten that line to a pulp over the years. Sorry, Gordons.)

Anyway, it was a blog-related note as much as anything. He was writing to remind me of something that I had just noticed over the holiday break -- that his blog, formerly known as Venturpreneur, had morphed into something called Conglomerate. I had been remiss in changing my link to the new site -- there are a few things over on my sidebar that, ahem, need attention at the moment -- and he was asking that I update it, which I am hereby doing.

I'm sure he's been asked about the "the" issue. The URL address for the site is http://www.theconglomerate.org/weblogs, but the banner just says "Conglomerate." Is it o.k. to call it "the Conglomerate"? This is a burning question that many rock groups face. I can picture a scene in the '60s, with someone asking Pete Townsend "Is it 'the Who' or just 'Who'?"

Gordon also pointed out that he had "decided to try the group blog route to cut back on my time commitment to the blog." He's got a co-author now (another law professor from the Great State of Wisconsin), and they hope to add more soon. Sounds good to me. Their mission statement (at least at the moment) is "a quirky mix of entries about business, law, Wisconsin, legal education, and whatever else strikes our fancy (including, of course, cheese for Gordon)." Heading over to the blog, I see there's some neat stuff going on now. For example, here's a good question and accompanying post by Gordon's co-blogger, Christine Hurt.

I keep looking at that phrase in Gordon's e-mail, though: "time commitment to the blog." Now, there is a concept as to which I am in complete and total denial.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Party pooper

Today America says it's celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. But at the same time, we're getting ready to celebrate the second inauguration of George W. Bush.

God help us.

Here are the themes emanating from the White House this week. King is rolling in his grave:

"We should get rid of Social Security. If you want a pension in your old age, you should have to pay fees to Wall Street investment advisors."

"It's o.k. for America to start pre-emptive wars in other countries. That way, all the terrorists are drawn to those other countries to fight us there, and there will be fewer of them to come over and kill us on our home soil."

"If you want a free education in this country, you should have to hear about Christianity as part of the deal. You should either be going to a Christian school, on a voucher if necessary, or hearing about creationism in your public school."

"The rich people are paying too much taxes. If we make wealthy investors richer, eventually they'll create jobs for the rest of you."

Excuse me if I'm not much in the mood to celebrate.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Happy birthday

It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Toast of the town

Congratulations to cousin and blogchild James. His most excellent blog Parkway Rest Stop passed the 100K visit mark just a few minutes ago.

During a Friday happy hour, Jersey time, of course.


Man, time flies when you're having fun, as in grading 121 law school exams. Here it is, the end of my winter break (alas), and the end of another week. It's time for me to earn my supper once again as a blogging shill for Marqui, the communications management software company that's paying a group of us to just mention it on a weekly basis and link to its demonstration site.

This week, I'm happy to report that Marqui's own blog is up and running, and it's got a couple of announcements of note. One is that they're going to get a "dabble mode" up soon, in which presumably we can all play with Marqui's product for a while. This would be particularly welcome for me, since I'm still unable to say much that is meaningful about a product I haven't used. More importantly, they've announced that the first blogger checks are in the mail. Just in time to help cover a piece of our quarterly income tax payments, due on Tuesday.

On a darker note, the blog also notes that one of Marqui's competitors is calling our proud sponsor "pond scum" on account of its blog-for-pay marketing scheme. I can understand that. Infernal money grubbers, they creep in everywhere. For example, I get riled when I turn on the "noncommercial" broadcast media and have to sit through 30-second announcements about this or that corporate sponsor. I remember in the old days when they'd limit these to 5 or 10 seconds: "This program is made possible by a grant from Powell's Books." Now they go on and on with the address, phone number, internet address, three slogans, this week's blue plate special, etc., etc. Dadgummit, it's something the FCC ought to do something about.

And yes, Virginia, there oughta be a law against blogging for pay. But there ain't. And so I wait with anticipation for the merry mailman or mailwoman who bears my filthy lucre.

Move along, folks, nothing to see here

Today The Oregonian lives up to its title as official publication of the Portland old boy network. They run a front-page story to play catch-up on the Salem Statesman-Journal's excellent series on the undue influence ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt and his business associates and clients have had on present Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his staff. The Oregonian, though, decides the story is about Golsdchmidt's partner, Tom Imeson, rather than the disgraced ex-governor himself. And when the reader turns to the "jump," The O plays its own spin for almost the whole page: no one's proven that any laws or ethics rules were broken.

So everything must be o.k. "A longtime professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey" says so. It's just the usual mix of politics and business. The governor can still be objective.

They go on to admit that, well, Ted did appoint Goldschmidt partner Imeson to the Port of Portland knowing full well that Imeson's clients include Bechtel, which has lots of business before the Port. But hey, it's all legal, so don't worry, folks, Ted's doing fine.

And if you believe that one, they've got another one for you: They're "the Great Newspaper of the West."

Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Boxers relative to Briefs

That's what the folks at Harvard are telling me. (Via Pinktalk.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Our own little Limbaugh

Truth is stranger than fiction. Now ultra-right-wing talk show nabob and Oregon Republican apologist Gregg Clapper is allegedly a pothead. Four pipes! Suck it up, Gregg!

Clapper was busted in connection with prosecution of alleged animal poaching by Shilo Inns magnate Mark Hemstreet and his family.

There's the moral majority for ya, eh? I'm sure Lars will tell you, they're political prisoners. (Via Chris Snethen.)

Still one of my favorites

I was thinking today that any bad things I may have done (For the record, I never did anything bad) are nothing compared to Prince Harry, what the hell's going on there? Now, I happen to know that Prince Harry and all the royals read this site. So, I'd like to give them a recipe, if you will, for a happy life: GET A GRIP! You're rich, just be rich, smile, go to supermarket openings, date hot women, drive a nice car, have a good life. THAT'S ALL YOU HAVE TO DO! Can I get a witness?! It's not hard.

Ya gotta love Bob Borden.

Sign 'em up

New Portland city commissioner Sam Adams is championing a great idea -- requiring people who lobby city government to register and report whom they're lobbying, when, and for how much. The quarterly reports from such folks would promptly be posted on the internet.

The time for this kind of regulation has surely come. The city's recent adoption of a fast-posting regime for municipal campaign contribution reports has opened many an eye to the millions being spent each year trying to pull the strings on the Council. Lifting the blinds and letting the same kind of daylight shine on the lobbyists is another welcome move for more open, more accountable government. All local agencies -- especially loosely regulated pork barrels like the PDC, Tri-Met, and OHSU -- should rapidly follow suit.

Metro already has a lobbyist registration system. The current list is here. But Adams's proposal would apparently take a slightly different approach, airing the specifics of amounts spent and commissioners entertained.

Leave it to consummate lobbyist and long-time Goldschmidt pal Len Bergstein to try to put a spin on the Adams proposal:

[Bergstein] does, however, want any new city disclosure laws to cut both ways. For example, he thinks commissioners should disclose anytime they ask for donations to city initiatives or political campaigns from lobbyists and companies that lobby.

Bergstein also thinks people who don't get paid for their work but essentially spend all their time advocating causes or issues should be included, whether as part of a lobbyist list or some other kind of public registration.

"If the idea is to show the public the kinds of conversations that go on, I'll be the first one to sign up," he said. "But what's good for the goose is good for the gander, you know. If you're intending to spend a large amount of time testifying before council and talking to council members, you probably should have to let the world know what you're doing."

What a weasel.

Commissioner Adams, you are off to a great start. But why not do more? Why not prohibit city officials from accepting meals, gifts, and entertainment from lobbyists at all?

Which brings me back to the other big government reform proposal floating around the Council: the plan to adopt public financing of municipal campaigns, to be paid out of the city's general tax revenues, to the tune of an estimated $1.3 million a year. Why don't we see how the Adams plan, and the relatively new posting of the campaign contribution disclosure reports, work before we commit to "clean money"?

At 5 percent interest, the present value of $1.3 million a year in perpetuity is $26 million. Why not see if more modest moves, such as the lobbyist disclosures, can get local government to the minimum level of cleanliness that we need?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

He's no enabler

Portland Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks forces his players to break the habit.


Here now are my Top 10 Disappointing Public Figures of 2004.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


The building housing the Northeast Portland YMCA on Broadway in the Hollywood district is being sold, and it will be preserved as a recreation facility, according to news reports. Dan Dolan, a member of the Y and president of A-Boy Supply, will reportedly buy the building and lease it to a new nonprofit group formed by other members. Apparently the Y board approved the deal earlier today.

Nice move, Mr. Dolan. Congratulations to the Hollywood fitness enthusiasts and their families. Big-time raspberries to the Y.

You're moving WHERE?

Little Lost Robot is leaving Portlandia.

Please limit carry-ons to one Tazer

Have you been following the CIA torture jet story? Somehow in the midst of the holidays and year-end, I missed it until yesterday.

It seems there's a jet that the U.S. government apparently uses to fly prisoners to places where they can be subjected to cruel interrogation techniques because the destination country doesn't care too much about human rights. Or something like that.

Anyway, the jet's been tracked by torture opponents all over the Middle East, and even photographed in Europe. And when you track down its ownership, it belongs to an Oregon limited liability company with an apparently fictitious owner named Leonard Bayard. The company's registered agent, a downtown Portland lawyer named Scott Caplan, isn't fictitious, however, and he swears his client is real. Meanwhile, when you call the company's phone number, it's answered by a switchboard that sounds like it's in CIA headquarters.

How strange is that? Media coverage begins here and here. There's blogging and blog-like posting about it here and here and, well, I suspect lots of places.

Apparently there's a Northeast Portland residence address on one of the documents related to the aircraft. If anybody's got that, post it here so maybe we can run over and take a look when it's time to take a break from grading exams.

Monday, January 10, 2005

We love 'em

Here now are my Top 10 Favorite Public Figures of 2004.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

What they pay me for

It's that time of year again.

Keeping busy

Now that Portland's new mayor, Tom Potter, has taken over all the city bureaus for the next six months, we've been wondering what the other members of the City Council are going to do with all their newfound spare time. Well, thanks to Google, it didn't take long to track down Commissioner Randy Leonard's plans:


Friday, January 7, 2005

Urlameme and me

Last year, I wrote a weekly newspaper column for a while. I had a relatively open-ended contract with the publication that ran it, but after three months or so I had to hang it up. Although I'm able to churn out line after line of random drivel on this blog, having to come up with something new and on-topic, right on cue every week, was tough. I gained a new respect for guys like Phil Stanford and the folks at Willamette Week who have to produce one or two columns of a specified length each week. It may look easy, but it quickly gets to be work.

As the time rolls around for me to draft another weekly post-for-hire about Marqui, the communications software company that's paying me and some other bloggers to write about it, I'm feeling just a tiny bit of that same pressure. Technically, all I've got to do to earn my weekly pay is to mention Marqui and link to its product demonstration -- which I've just done, so my contractual obligation for the week is fulfilled. But since they're shelling out bucks for this, I feel it's only right that I say something more.

You know, there ought to be a designated Muse for blogging. The Greeks had the nine mythological sisters who inspired all sorts of creative arts: Calliope for epic poetry, Terpsichore for dance, and so on. We bloggers need a modern descendant of those grand gals. But what would her name be? Urlameme? Instalanchia? Googilio? Let's work on that.

Meanwhile, I've been prowling through the Marqui site, scratching around for an angle. As best I can boil it down, they're tech managers of the written word, mostly for marketers. They have been operating out of Vancouver, B.C., and now they're moving down to Portland. Given their previous location, they list a number of clients in Canada, but they've got some here in the States as well.

What the heck, I'm thinking, why not take a look at some of the clients' sites?

BC Ferries is a cool one. British Columbia is full of beautiful waterways, and in a lot of places, the only sensible way to get around is by ferry. I remember many summers ago cruising around B.C. on the way back to Portland from Jasper, Alberta, and a couple of long ferry rides were among the highlights of the itinerary. Anyway, the ferry system now has a fairly sleek and tight website, including a news release archive that looks pretty active. There's some information there that might not mean much to you or me, but it could make or break somebody's day. For example, all you folks who are planning to ride on the Duke Point -- Tsawwassen route next week! A modified schedule will be in effect from Monday, January 10 through Thursday, January 13, 2005, while the regular vessel the Queen of Alberni is redeployed to the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route. For this period, the slower Queen of Saanich will be the temporary replacement vessel. And the Queen of Saanich carries fewer overheight and commercial vehicles than the Queen of Alberni, so you might want to get there early if you're driving a big rig.

With that cleared up, I mosey over to see what's up with Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. This group is based in Toronto, and unlike the ferry outfit, it doesn't sport a Marqui logo or even mention Marqui on its site, as far as I can tell. But Marqui's got it listed as one of its clients.

Anyhow, Friends has also got an active site, including secure donation pages along with lots of news releases and links to reports about Canadian broadcasting issues. Did you know that Friends recently gave the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Company a C-minus grade on his last five years in office? They also run an essay contest every year on "the link between democratic values and the quality of the media in Canada." Man, can you imagine that kind of thing down here in the Lower 48? You'd get entries like "Rupert on Survivor: Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian?" and "Egalitarianism on Jerry Springer."

I get a good feeling from these sites. Part of it's because these seem like benign organizations, and part of it's because their sites are clean and work well, at least for a casual visitor like myself. Now to be honest, I'm not sure how much, if any, of the credit for that should go to Marqui. But it looks like they've got some good clients, at least.

(Note: I'll be mentioning Marqui at least once a week on this blog, at least through mid-March. As noted here, they're paying me to do it. My other Marqui posts are here and here. You no like Marqui posts? You no read.)

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Back in action

We've been down for nearly the last five hours, as our server went offline and it took the ISP quite a while to notice. Something called an "AUP violation." Grrr! Anyway, we're back now.

Coming soon

Interesting story on the front page of The Oregonian today about the next Beaverton.

It's called Hood River County.

God bless our property rights.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Why not an NCAA Football Final Four?

Another college football season is over, and another round of disagreement about who's number 1 is with us. The Bowl Championship Series has crowned USC the national champs, but the fellows down at Auburn, who also had an undefeated season in a tough conference, beg to differ. They say they should have had a chance to play for the title.

Defenders of the BCS say its system, though not perfect, is the best that can be done to reconcile all the competing polls, computer rankings, and other punditry that take a shot at naming a national champ. They also point out that a multiple-round playoff system, such as those that prevail in pro sports and college basketball, isn't feasible in college football.

But it would be easy to settle the perennial disputes, wouldn't it?

Why not take the top four teams under the current system, and pit them against each other in a two-round playoff? No. 1 would play No. 4, and No. 2 would play No. 3. The next week, or a couple of weeks later, the winners of that round would play each other for the national title.

Given that there's now a month or more between the end of the regular college season and the bowl games, it should be relatively easy to squeeze in one more game day. Surely the two finalist schools wouldn't mind the extra revenue. A team that came in fifth or sixth might complain that it should have been allowed in the playoffs, but its claim to No. 1 status would be more attenuated than that of a team like Auburn.

An NCAA Football Final Four -- can somebody explain to me why it wouldn't work?

Word I've quickly grown tired of


No excuses

We're only four and a half days into 2005, but already I've got a nominee for Person of the Year.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was called up for jury duty in the local district court near his Massachusetts home, he didn't try to get out of it. Instead, he showed up:

Breyer, 66, said he felt it was important to do his civic duty and report to the courthouse, located about 30 miles west of Boston. He divides his time between Washington and Massachusetts.

"It proves that everyone can participate, and in a democracy that is important," Breyer said.

You are so right, Justice Breyer. And you are way, way cool.

(Via Basie.)

You were expecting...?

I've been thinking about Portland's new mayor, Tom Potter, and what his administration will mean for our fair city. Specifically, what were the voters saying when they overwhelmingly put him in the mayor's office? And is he likely to deliver?

I'm having a hard time coming up with a simple answer to either of those questions.

What was the message of Potter's election? "Change" is the word you'll most likely hear. The voters clearly didn't like Jim Francesconi, a two-term city commissioner who thought the path to the mayoralty was amassing the largest war chest in municipal history from the rich and powerful interests who run the city. His attitude was all wrong -- Mr. Political Hardball -- and the record he had to run on was singularly unimpressive. And so it was out with Francesconi, and in with the best of the other candidates, which Potter was.

But what was so good about Potter, other than his being the Anti-Scone? His policy of taking only small campaign contributions was a brilliant stroke, and clearly the right thing to do. But aside from that, what made people like the guy?

It's hard to tell, since he never promised much by way of specifics. He vowed to foster a new attitude among city bureaus, and to reopen a dialogue between the city's government and its residents. Moreover, his credentials as former police chief implicitly promised to improve the performance of the police bureau, which was not well run under former Mayor Vera Katz. And as a proven advocate of gay rights, Potter wil no doubt represent that sizeable segment of his constituency as well as a straight white guy can.

So that's what I can come up with in terms of a voters' message: "change," attitude, dialogue, better policing, and gay rights. However his administration will finally be judged, when the talk turns to promises kept, these will be the tests for Potter.

Will he deliver on "change"? Of course, it's too soon to tell, but already the new mayor has given me reason to be less than wildly optimistic. Look at his newly appointed staff. Are they fresh faces who will bring new ideas that wil change the City Hall culture? From media accounts of his appointments, it surely doesn't look like it.

Among his staff members are four members of Katz's office crew; the head of the Southeast Uplift neighborhood association bureaucracy; an ex-aide to commissioner Erik Sten; a former staffer of Multnomah County commissioner Serena Cruz; and a former member of the staffs of ex-city commissioners Earl Blumenauer and Margaret Strachan. As for folks coming from nongovernmental positions, one is an ex-lobbyist for Portland General Electric. The rest were workers on Potter's campaign.

They will take charge, all right, but will they bring about change? If they do, it likely won't be because of their career paths. It will be because their boss really is committed to, and capable of, making it happen.

It will be interesting to watch, but with Sten and born-again insider Sam Adams whispering sweet trams in everyone's ears, I'm not expecting too much real change from the Potter administration. Dumb ideas that grab headlines, yes. But real and lasting change, no.

Hopes, yes. Expectations, no.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

He da man

For no good reason, I thought I'd call up some pimp names for Portland Mayor Tom Potter. Here's what the master pimpafier site gave me:

Sheik T. G. Reverend T. Gates Ghetto Fabulous Tom Rock Pimp Daddy Tom Flava Dopetastic Potter G. Funk Master Tom Loco Ice Master T. Flash Tricktickler Tom G.

That last one does it for me. Tricktickler Tom G. it is!

Dear Mr. Velveeta

A while back, after meeting you in person, I wrote a blog post that downgraded my disdain for your product from disgust and contempt to mere disliking. I was promptly called onto the carpet by certain luminaries in the Portland blogosphere who shouted me down. "No, no!" they cried. "Nothing less than utter abhhorrence, loathing, and odium is correct. You must hate the Velveeta with all your might!"

I shook my head at these intemperate souls.

Then on Sunday I went about writing a post about the selection of staff members by the new members of the Portland City Council. I recalled reading in the print version of my local newspapers two stories on this subject: one about Sam Adams and the other about Tom Potter. But try and try and try as I might, I could call up on the internet only the story about Adams's staff selection. I had to leave Potter out of my post.

But it troubled me so that I later dug into my recycling pile to see if I could come up with the story about Potter's staff, and lo and behold, there it is on page C2 of the Metro/Northwest section of Saturday's Oregonian: "Before taking oath, Potter announces his staff." Again I search in vain for this story on your site -- alas, it is not there.

Ah, the frustration. Perhaps those other bloggers aren't so misguided after all. I feel the execration.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: Here's the Tribune story on the Potter staff, at least. And more about that later.

UPDATE, 4:28 p.m.: The addressee of this post sends along the link to the story, here. Why the search engine on the site doesn't find it, I guess we'll never know.

Forty years before there were blogs...

There was Blog.

(Via Treacher.)

Still good, three days old

Teacherrefpoet's New Year's thoughts are worth reading.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Ah, the things Google teaches us...

...such as how many people don't know how to spell staph.

Dog gone

O.k., it was bound to happen. Someone I know has lost a dog in Portland, and has asked for the help of this blog in retrieving her. Er... why not?

The dog's name is Sky, and that's her picture over on the right. She was last seen Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at North Chautauqua and Chase. Sky is about 2 years old, about 40 pounds, black, with a longish tail and Rottweiler markings. She is wearing a black collar with yellow reflector, tags, and a light hanging off the collar. She has a cattle dog/blue heeler kind of gait, and she is very afraid of people.

If you have any information about her -- even if you just see her from afar -- please call Steph at (503) 860-6596. A reward is being offered for her safe return. Thanks.


Visit no. 250,000 to this blog occurred while I was out grocery shopping, just after 5 this evening. It was an East Coast visitor, who popped in to our Family archive page. The visit was about 40 days since visit no. 225,000.

From here on out, we'll pat ourselves on the back for traffic volume only as we reach 50,000-visit milestones (the next one sometime in March, I suspect, but you never know). Thanks to everyone who comes by here, and sends others this way.

Y not

The Portland-area YMCA appears to be having some financial difficulties. It's closing the eastside Y on NE Broadway to save money (Graggalicious condo tower to come), and it's got a new membership campaign in full swing, with broadcast TV ads and an insert in today's paper.

My wife and I were members of the Y years ago, when we lived near its flagship facility near Duniway Park on Lair Hill. It was a nice enough place to work out, but expensive. Then one day, after many months of membership, the front desk clerk hassled my wife over not having a slip of paper needed to admit a guest. She could prove her identity and her own membership, and the clerk could tell from the computer screen in front of him that we had plenty of unused guest passes at home. But unless she went home and got that slip of paper, her guest wasn't coming in.

We cancelled our membership that day, and have not set foot in a Y facility since. We learned that there were several less expensive, friendlier, better organized alternatives available to us.

There's $100 a month the Y hasn't gotten over the last 10 years or so. And I'm sure we weren't the only ones. Now it's got its happy face back on. I wish them luck, but it's too late to pitch that to me.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Staff infection

Just when the holiday spirit was getting me all soft and fuzzy, I pick up the papers and they start the old cynicism flowing again. This time it was the stories about the staff selections by one of the new members of the Portland City Council, Commissioner Sam Adams.

Right off the bat I gave out a hoot as I read this quote from Adams: "I’m a City Hall insider, so I was looking for outsiders that will bring a fresh perspective."

Wow, did you hear that, voters? Sam Adams says he's a City Hall insider! Funny, I don't remember him ever admitting that during the campaign. They sure sing a different tune on Christmas than they did on Halloween, eh?

The names of Adams's appointees are meaningless to me, but I was impressed by the number of staffers that he gets to bring to City Hall with him. Here's an excerpt from the official staff announcement:

Adams’ paid staff will be: Jane Ames, Staff Representative (part-time); Jesse Beason, Staff Representative; Mary Jo Markle, Staff Fellow (paid intern); David Gonzalez, Office Manager; Warren Jimenez, Staff Representative; Maria Lim, Receptionist; Tom Miller, Chief of Staff; Maria Thi Mai, Staff Representative; and, Terry Richardson, Labor Liaison (part-time). "Staff Representatives" hold the office’s senior policy positions.
That's the full-time equivalent of 8 new people coming onto the payroll, plus Adams. You've got to wonder what that costs the taxpayers in salaries and benefits -- $400,000 a year?

I suppose all the personnel can be explained by the complex tasks that the commissioners must handle as they actively manage their respective city bureaus. But what do all these newcomers know about running city departments? Probably precious little.

I know the city charter has its defenders, but I believe they're becoming fewer and fewer, and I'm certainly not one of them. Instead of 8 political appointees times 5 commissioners (and I assume the mayor gets more), I'd rather see 2 or 3 political appointees each, and 25 or 30 permanent civil servants who might actually get a chance to learn something about police training, utility billing, reservoir security, prevention of bureaucratic corruption, creative economic development, and many other topics.

On a loosely related note, I was fairly surprised to read in this week's Willamette Week that Commissioner Erik Sten "helped mastermind Sam Adams' stunning reversal of the asswhuppin' he received in the May primary to defeat heavily favored opponent Nick Fish for an open City Council seat." This after all those weeks that the Stenmeister claimed that he was remaining neutral in the race. Things that make you go, "Hmmmm..."

Saturday, January 1, 2005

And welcome to it

My buddy Doug (who used up one of his nine lives in 2004) spent a festive Christmas in the Big Apple. He sends along this photo of an establishment on West 44th Street between Fifth and Sixth:

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