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

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Strolling down for a Smokey

It looks like "the Nose" had a few pops before sitting down at the keyboard this week. He should do it more often.

One hundred grand would go toward the purchase of about 2,000 pairs of high-rise jeans, enough to cover the approximate number of those "ass antler" tattoos adorning the haggard lower backs of too many Portland women.
As it says in the scriptures, read the whole thing.

Where you can get by walking

I had another in-the-flesh encounter with a Portland-area blogger today. This time it was ace observer Chris Snethen, whose wonderful blog with the unfortunate title "Undecided Resident" graces the OregonLive.com website.

A while back, Chris had challenged my assertion that "you can get there faster by walking" than by waiting for, and riding, the Portland Streetcar. He had conducted his own test of that proposition, and had asserted that it was faulty. He had tried to race the streetcar from Northwest Portland to Portland State, and the streetcar won hands down. I took exception to his methodology -- I thought he should have put himself in the place of someone who had just missed a streetcar -- and so we arranged to conduct further empirical research together.

We met at the OregonLive offices, where Mr. Velveeta and the Velvelettes were hard at work on their site. Alas, the Big Cheese could not join Chris and me for lunch as planned, because all hands were on deck to pitch in on coverage of the Nawlins disaster. So Snethen and I scored a Baja Fresh and headed out on our own.

Our test began at NW 18th and Lovejoy, where we waited briefly for a streetcar heading downtown, and let it go by. Once it was a block away, we put ourselves in the position of a hypothetical rider who was trying to decide whether to wait for the next one. How far could we get before the next one passed us? Wherever that was, we would get there faster by walking.

We headed east. The time was 1:15 p.m.

"Of course, I'm stacking the deck against the Streetcar," I confesssed as we meandered down Lovejoy. "Once you let one pass you by, you can always get somewhere faster on foot. The real question is how far you can get."

I knew we'd never make it to Portland State before the next streetcar did, but I was convinced we'd make it to about the Central Library. And so along the streetcar route we walked, at a normal pace, obeying traffic signals more or less.

It was a beautiful day -- brilliant sun, temperatures in the mid-70s and climbing. Snethen and I continued the conversation that had been going nonstop since we met in Velveetaville an hour and change before.

We see eye-to-eye on many things. And we know a lot about each other. This is why blogger "meetups" can be so intense: There's no need for much preliminary factfinding about the person you're with. You already know tons about them from their blog. So you can dive right into topics that you would never touch with a real stranger.

It was only 1:26 p.m. when the next streetcar caught up with us. We had made it to NW 11th and Glisan -- a mere 12 blocks. I had to admit, we hadn't gotten too far before The Toy had matched us. "Well, they've got ideal traffic conditions right now," I harrumphed, and they did. It was a sleepy late summer day in the Pearl, and there were few cars on the streets.

We kept going, just for kicks. We covered all sorts of topics as we walked -- blogging, careers, the Portland power structure, bosses, The O, both of our radio days, sports, the San Francisco cable cars, the 'Couv. The day grew a little hotter, and we got a little sweatier, as we sauntered south on 11th.

We made it only as far as Main when the next streetcar caught us. It was 1:43. And so if you had just missed the car at 11th and Glisan, you could have gotten to 11th and Main faster by walking than by waiting for, and riding, the next one. But 13 blocks -- that's not that long a stretch.

"Oh, well. I guess it's my week for apologies and retractions," I sighed. "I was just wrong again."

We headed back to our starting point a different way, back past the Mallory Hotel and the Oregonian printing plant. "There's my first apartment," Snethen pointed out, a block off our path, in the direction of Lincoln High. Great memories, except for the cockroaches.

"There go the Civic Apartments," I mused as we passed the bulldozers and crane at the demolition site across from the Civic Stadium. "Those babies were quite the eyesore, but I don't think I'm going to like what's going up in their place much, either."

"I remember going to a game at the stadium and seeing drug deals going on out the window of that place," Snethen recalled. "It was a drive-through."

On our way from there back to 17th and Northrup (where we had stashed our two cars), it dawned on me what a good time I was having, and what a great place Portland still is for goofing off and taking a nice long walk. My whole attitude about the city had taken an optimistic shift. We have spent way too much money on toys and Californication, but if you're just wandering around, not thinking about how it's being paid for, it looks and feels quite fine.

There's a real danger of getting too negative after blogging for a while. Look at how many journalists suffer from alcoholism, family problems, depression. The activity of writing about public affairs attracts intensely critical minds -- minds already inclined to look for what's wrong -- and it has the distinct tendency to kill the spirits of the writers as they stay professionally focused on society's warts.

And as technology enables us to engage in such activity in our own little cells, there's an isolation that makes the internal challenges even harder than in the days when the reporters all sat together smoking cigarettes and pounding out the stories on manual typewriters in big newsrooms. We now have all the heartbreak, and little or none of the face-to-face cameraderie -- not a good formula.

Racing the streetcar on a gorgeous day with a great guy like Snethen is the perfect antidote.


Portland's own Oh Dog, You Sleuth has some valuable links and thoughts on the tragedy in New Orleans.

UPDATE, 1:03 p.m.: An alert reader sends along this additional link.

The scope of the disaster has grown beyond comprehension. There's no way to keep up with all of the chaos at this point.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Top 10 Things Neil Might Have Said to Nigel

Buried in yesterday's Trib was a provocative tidbit. The day after he won the Pulitzer Prize for outing former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt for statutory rape, Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss was summoned by a phone call from The Neilster Himself to an impromptu meeting in the latter's car outside the Double Dub offices. According to the Trib, Jaquiss "confirms the encounter ... but will not disclose the nature of their discussion."

Readers of the blogosphere know that will never do. And so here now are the --

Top 10 Things That Neil Might Have Said to Nigel the Day After He Won the Pulitzer Prize

10. "Does that trophy come with any cash? 'Cause I can cut you in on some sweet deals."

9. "How could you do this to me, my illegitimate son?"

8. "My lawyers say you owe me a couple million for the story line."

7. "After that party last night, Bernie Giusto thinks you need an intervention."

6. "Do you have Ted's cell number? He changed it and he won't pick up on his land line."

5. "I've got an idea for a column: I'll be 'Night Cabbie.'"

4. "In the movie, I want to be played by Brian Dennehy."

3. "I know who put the hit on Michael Francke. It was Mildred Schwab."

2. "I can get you a much better gig at The Oregonian."

And the No. 1 Thing That Neil Might Have Said to Nigel the Day After He Won the Pulitzer Prize:

1. "Quit while you're ahead, punk."

OMG! "Coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Cream"!

Those hard-hitting investigative reporters at The O were at it again on Sunday. Fresh from combing through ex-PDC chief Don "the Don" Mazziotti's expense accounts, where they found Bluehour galore, our "practically indispensable" muckrakers cranked up another front-page game of "Who had the pickle?" -- this time over at the Port of Portland.

Golly, wouldn't you know it, it looks like there were some questionable parties thrown on Port credit cards, of which there are something like 170 floating around in various Port employees' wallets. And hold onto your seats! Alcohol! Alcohol was purchased with some of them!

The level of detail that the Stickeler Temperance League went into this time is truly humorous. Gems like these:

A March 15, 2005, dinner for 14 Port firefighters during Salt Lake City training. With appetizers, steak and shrimp main courses, midnight cake a la mode and a $94.22 bar tab, the bill came to $491.53. Two weeks later, a group of 13 Port firefighters ran up a $455.08 bill at the same restaurant, including $58.75 for liquor.

Thirteen firemen spent $4.50 apiece on drinks at that second dinner -- can you believe that? And in Salt Lake City, no less. Scandalous!

The first dinner looks like a little more fun: 20 drinks for 14 firefighters --

Included in the $491.53 firefighter dinner were entrees, 13 beers, three glasses of Scotch, three Jack Daniel's with Coke, two appetizers, six desserts, three coffees and a coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Cream.

Coffee "laced with" Bailey's -- I love it. Soooooo evil-sounding. I'll bet some of the other coffees were laced with half and half! The cocktail sauce for the shrimp cocktails? Dosed with horseradish! One guy even did a line of Sweet 'n' Low on the taxpayers' tab.

Now this kind of writing is fairly harmless, and it may serve a purpose, even if it does resemble a high school newspaper project with a budget. But the sad thing is, it's as close to investigative journalism as The O ever seems to get at places like the Port. There'll be an editorial about the credit cards in the next day or so, and then our fine local daily will go back to sleep. All's well at the Port, folks, just a few no-good-niks overspending on meals. Same conclusion they tried to leave us with at the PDC.

As if the precise number of beers that the staff is drinking were all our media should be asking about. Here's a largely unwatched agency, with an annual budget well into nine figures, run by an unelected board appointed by the governor, with a strong odor of cronyism about it, doling out pork project after pork project, and the only hard look it gets is to send a reporter out to pick over some firemen's credit card bills? Ain't that the Portland way.

What next? Maybe they'll go over to Tri-Met headquarters and demand to know why the aspirin in the first aid kits is name brand rather than store brand. Other than that, I'm sure everything's fine over there, too.

Silly girl

It may sound strange, but I think more highly of Martha Stewart now than I ever did. Unlike a lot of folks (including my prosecutor brother, as I recall), I think she deserved the punishment she got. But now that it's over, I wish her renewed success.

And I have no doubt that it's coming. She's handling everything perfectly now. By Christmas she'll be a hotter ticket than ever.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Let freedom ring

If you ever want to see who's walking the streets because Multnomah County can't get its act together to have anywhere near the right number of jail beds, go here.

And don't miss this one -- no, it's not her.

More on the Alexan

Last week's Portland City Council denial of the tax abatement for the proposed luxury apartment tower in the SoWhat district continues to provoke thought and commentary. Here's today's installment.

I am reliably informed that in his comments before he led the charge to kill the abatement, Commissioner Randy Leonard borrowed heavily from a post (or perhaps this one) that Isaac Laquedem had put up the day before. The blogosphere strikes again. Bully for Isaac.

The other angle I'd like to cover today is what's next. There are doubtlessly many more City Council decisions coming up on which we nattering naysayers opposed to SoWhat may want to get in our licks.

One of my pet issues is who is going to pay for the operations of the ridiculous aerial tram that's going to be built to serve the project. Although it's going to benefit no one except the medical school, it's been cast from the beginning as "public transportation," Vera-speak that means that the general population, most of whom think it's ridiculous, will be footing the bill to run it year after year.

How much is the tram going to cost to run every year? To give you some idea, I'm told that the existing streetcar boondoggle runs up a tab of around $3 million a year. Of that, $2 million comes from Tri-Met, and $1 million comes from the city. Most if not all of that $3 million is local tax money -- the Tri-Met payroll tax, the city's share of property taxes.

How much will the tram add to that burden? Have you read a word about that anywhere? I sure haven't. But it's going to be enormously expensive -- the insurance alone is going to be a bank-breaker -- and there hasn't been even an educated guess in the media. I'm going to stick my finger into the wind and say $300,000 a year.

Who should pay that bill, year after year? The present value of $300,000 a year forever, discounted at 5 percent, is $6 million. Who pays?

I'm assuming it's the city, and that's just disgusting. Especialy in light of all of the city's other screaming transportation needs that are left untended to. Did you catch the story about the Thurman Street Bridge in the Trib the other day? The city's watching it slowly decay, and doing little about it:

But for now the city has more projects on its plate than it can pay for, among them extending the Portland Streetcar, renovating Burnside Street, building the aerial tram and rebuilding the downtown transit mall. The Thurman Street Bridge, beloved as it may be, is barely on the city’s list of priorities.

So far, through smoke and mirrors, the city's been able to say with a straight face that it doesn't have much money into the construction of the aerial tram. I think they've been saying something like $1 million.

But nobody's been talking about the many, many additional millions behind the curtain, and it is high time for that discussion to begin, as serious construction on the city's Goofiest Toy Ever is reportedly about to begin.

It was me

Ah, the sweet sound of rain on the roof. We Portlanders haven't heard it for weeks until today.

If you're enjoying the brief break in the string of (relatively) hot, sunny days, you've got me to thank. I finally got around to washing my car yesterday.

On the air

Thanks to Rob Kremer for having me on his radio show yesterday on KXL. I got to fill in for his vacationing co-host, Marc Abrams.

It was a fun experience, and an educational one. For example, while on the show I learned:

1. There is no such thing as man-made global warming.

2. The fact that the United States government is borrowing $1 billion a week from the Chinese government is no cause for concern.

3. Most of the problems of the world today are caused by the teachers unions.

4. Randy Leonard's Humvee does not have a rifle rack in it.

Thanks to the listeners who phoned in, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

That's our Pril

"Maybe someone or two is wondering," she writes, "about how i managed to get arrested in Ontario."

They did it again

Those crazy kids at KNRK had me cranking up the volume in the Accord again tonight -- on the way home from church, no less. The song: "Alex Chilton," by the Replacements. Righteous, people!

Helping us to see

My ophthalmologist, Dr. Merritt Linn of Portland, has announced that he's retiring in October after 40 years in practice. A careful, skilled, and thoughtful doctor, he is also the author of a deeply moving novel entitled A Book of Songs, which was published in the 1980s. You may never hear him say "Look at my light," as I have many times, but if you find his book and open it up, he'll be saying the same thing to you in a different way.

We wish him the very best in his retirement.


It was 42 years ago today, and here's what you need to do: Put aside a little time, go here, and click on the streaming audio. Read along. Think.

Now is the time.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Here's a great idea from Onfocus.

"Step... step... step... step"

Because The Backstreet Boys? Suck. Seriously. It's like, you think you know how bad they're going to be, and then it's so much worse than that.
Alli had a great seat, though. Head over for her astute criticism.

The worst of Times

For the better part of 20 years, I have been a subscriber to The New York Times. Have it delivered, every day. I'm too busy for the whole thing -- I leaf through most of it every other day. Once a quarter or so I'll read a whole Saturday edition cover to cover, which is very satisfying. There are some truly wonderful discoveries to be made on those pages. When I'm through with the paper, about once a week I'll toss it to my next-door neighbor, an ex-New Yorker, who enjoys even day-old coverage.

It ain't cheap. It runs about $10 a week, and so when the quarterly bill comes, I write a check in the $130 range. Until a few months ago, I did it gladly.

But now my long romance with the daily Times is coming to an end. Why? Disagreement with the paper's editorial policies? A desire to switch all my news gathering to the internet? Loss of interest in the wide spectrum of events and trends that the paper chronicles?

Nope. Believe it or not, I'm quitting the Times over labels.

Several months ago, the trademark blue plastic bag in which the Times is delivered (typically double-bagged to protect against Oregon rain) started showing up with a label on it. A paper label, with my name and address on it. A label that's impossible to remove without ripping the bag.

For me, it's just another annoying security and recycling issue that I can do without. Having had my identity stolen once, I don't discard anything with my name on it without first shredding the item or obliterating my name and address. You can't shred a plastic bag in my shredder, so this means a daily trip to the drawer where the black marker is kept, to get the marker to blacken out my name and address.

Then where? The Times bag, which once was easily recycled at any number of Portland locations, can't be recycled with the label on it. And so it's got to go in the landfill, or be kept in a separate pile from our other plastic bags for kitty litter duty. As a religious recycler, I've already got about six or eight different piles going, and starting yet another one is not an option, for mental health reasons if nothing else.

So what is a customer supposed to do? I've called 800-NYTIMES on at least five occasions to complain about this. The folks who answer the phone (who have an accent, but it's not New York) assure me that I can have the labels omitted from my copies of the Times. The delivery person gets the message briefly, at least after some of the calls, but within a few days the labels are always back.

The last time I called, I specifically said I would cancel my subscription if the labels didn't stop. And today, I received not only today's paper with a label on it, but also yesterday's paper, delivered a day late, with a label on it.

The end. I'll pick up The Times at Starbucks once in a while, and I'm sure I'll leaf through the copy that's delivered every day to my workplace. But after a nice long run, my home subscription is history.

Just another one for my ever-expanding Grouchy Old Coot files, I guess.


Every once in a while, this blog gets a visit from a reader interested in a bar band called Holme, which absolutely ruled the Jersey Shore (and some North Jersey bars during the winter) in the early 1970s, when I was a college student. I wrote about them here in May 2003 as part of a piece about the wild, innocent Springsteen-esque shore scene in which I was a weekend participant.

Today comes the surprising word that the band has reunited, and is playing at none other than the famous D'Jais Bar on the beach in Belmar, where I remember them best. I recognize at least three of the names of the band members -- it's the same guys. What I'd give to make that scene on a Monday night.

"Play some T. Rex, man!"

UPDATE, 9/7, 2:35 am: The group has now got a website going, and there's also a fan blog up with some photos. Whoa, the boys look a little older than they did in '74! Can't see why -- I still look the same.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Reading is fun

I often rag on The Oregonian, sometimes unfairly. And so it's only right that I also testify to that publication's good points. I must confess that rarely have I enjoyed a reading experience as much as I did spending a few minutes with yesterday morning's article on the Portland City Council's rejection of the tax abatement for the proposed luxury rental apartments in the SoWhat district. It just got better and better as it went along, and coupled with an excellent bowl of Wheaties with bananas and Oregon huckleberries, well, it was just a little slice of heaven.

"Trammell Crow has gone by the rules here, but I do think 48 studio units is not sufficient" to attract families to the city, Saltzman said.
O Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are callin'!
Two prominent Portland developers and a lobbyist from the Portland Business Alliance tried to sway the council. They argued that businesses need predictability and that a rejection could damage Portland's credibility for future projects.
Oh please, Lord, let it be so!
"My fear here is that we're going to have everybody's worst nightmare," [Homer] Williams said. "This is going to be a neighborhood where if you're rich, you can live there. And if you're a worker, you're probably not going to live there."
Boo hoo. The only kind of worker these folks care about are black T-shirted single folks who already have tons and tons of empty apartments to choose from all over town -- but not much by way of meaningful career prospects as the city fritters away its economic development potential on Californicated retiree housing. What about working families, Homer? Guess they can stay in the neighborhoods that your good buddy Joe Weston wrecked with junk motel-looking apartments in the '70s.
Cameron Vaughan-Tyler, the Portland Business Alliance's lobbyist, said, "To move the goal posts at this stage of the game is unfair, arbitrary and sends a bad message."
By this point, I'm standing on the kitchen counter stool in my bathrobe, whipping a dish towel around and hooting so loud I'm scaring the kids.
Sten argued against the majority, saying their decision "radically changed the city's policies. . . . I think we should just say this policy is off the books."
Oh please, Lord, may it be so!
A week earlier, Saltzman asked the developers to see whether they could add two-bedroom apartments while setting aside at least 12 percent of all units for moderate-income renters.

Their answer: Adding two or more two-bedroom units would require additional subsidies.

There's their ticket to ride. Amazing that construction guys can't read handwriting on a wall. You can't throw Saltzman a bone with two real apartments? Guess you're looking for a way out the door.

Without their property tax waiver, Trammell Crow executives say the building could become another condo tower. If so, Hinnen said he'll have to find new investors and redesign the building at a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Williams, though, said South Waterfront would move on just fine without the apartments.

"What the hell?" Williams said after the meeting. "We can make more money building condos."

There's that civic spirit that endears these guys to us all. Hey, Homer, wake up. Your fixer, Neil, is gone. Your marionette, Vera, is out of the picture. Mazziotti's expense account has expired. The real people of Portland are speaking now, at least for the moment. And, mirabile dictu, the people they elected to run the city are finally listening. Time for you to start checking out another pot of tax money for a target. Spokane? Boise?


I keep getting scolded for this post. The intended point of it was to kid Commissioner Adams in a silly way about his opposition to Wal-Mart. It was not intended to refer to his sexual orientation. But it is now easy for me to see how it can be taken the latter way. Perhaps subconsciously, I was thinking about that. As I said in the comments to that post, it was a bad mistake on my part.

I'm going to leave the post up (linked from this one) for a little while longer, so people can see what I did and what I'm talking about here. Then I'll take it down.

I'm sorry for any harm that it has caused, and I'll try to be more careful.

Thought for the Day

A reader writes:

If that $270 million Portland Development Commission budget were used just to build low- or middle-income housing, it could build 1,350 - $200,000 homes every year (40,500 over 30 years).
Indeed. Are we getting anything like that much bang for our buck? Doesn't seem so, does it?

The bishop strikes out

A bankruptcy judge in Spokane has ruled that all of the property in the name of the Catholic bishop up there is subject to the claims of alleged victims of priestly sexual abuse. Thus, the court has squarely rejected the church's attempt to hold back valuable real estate and other assets from the victims on the theory that they're held in trust for the faithful.

It's the same theory that the Archdiocese of Portland is trying to hide behind. The Spokane judge's ruling is not binding in the Portland case, but it will likely be influential. Both cases would ultimately be appealed to the same federal appeals court, the Ninth Circuit. (First the Spokane ruling would go through the federal district court for Eastern Washington.) In the end, the matter could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, but at this point that's doubtful.

In any event, score a big one for the victims. Glory be.

UPDATE, 8/27, 2:45 p.m.: The full text of the Spokane decision is available here.

Half a story

The Oregonian has declared that the price tag on the City of Portland's quixotic attempt to buy PGE was $1.5 million. But if you read the story carefully, you see that there's plenty more that was spent, but that isn't included in this tidy figure.

The O reaches the $1.5 million by adding up $663,800, which it identifies as the cost of "its failed, four-month bid to buy Portland General Electric" (emphasis added); and "a 2002-03 go-around [which] cost the city $832,000." But wait! Even if those two figures cover all of 2002 and 2003, and the months of April, May, June and July of 2005, what about the period January 2004 through March 2005? Are you telling me the city didn't spend money on the PGE deal during that period? Hogwash.

Not to mention the fact that the figures appear to omit the cost of those salaried city staffers who spent major hours on the project. Commissioner Sten's time alone, at, say, one-third of his $89,000 salary, would be on the order of $30,000 a year, for something like three and a half years.

You pundits out there, please don't use the $1.5 million figure as authoritative. It's the product of bureaucratic obfuscation, lazy journalism, or both.

Another interesting wrinkle in the story was its mention of the concern, which I blogged about here, that the city could not have purchased the PGE stock without violating the state constitutional ban on state or local government's owning stock in for-profit corporations. Apparently the city's latest $663K worth of lawyers bought some sort of structure that the bureaucrats were convinced would "work" as an end-run around that law:

"We found the nature of the transaction to be very complicated because of the lack of clear legal authority to own stock," [city finance director Ken] Rust said. "It was a threshold question."

After extensive legal discussions, "we believed we had a structure that could work," he said.

Boy, for upwards of a half million bucks, you would hope Mr. Rust might be able to share that ingenious structure with us taxpayers, who paid for it. Do you think The O even asked him for it?

Maybe someone in city government who reads this blog can fill us in. Barring that form of enlightenment, we could try a public records disclosure request, but I wouldn't expect too much from that route.

Jack Bog's Radio, revisited

A while back I complained that I couldn't get a legitimate license, at any price, to start my own podcasting service with a music orientation. But here's an interesting alternative. If you're willing to download a particular kind of music player onto your computer, you can go to my Audioscrobbler user page, click on "Start Radio," and then "bojack's radio" as the station. You should at that point start getting (from Audioscrobbler, not me) a stream of music tracks that I've recently been listening to.

But first you have to load the last.fm radio player, and that's the catch.

Loading the player (part 2 here) can be a bit clunky, to say the least. If you're on Windows, any version, anywhere, be sure to pick the option that says "Windows Zip file - for the office." Then unzip and install. Set your browser on my user page (linked above), hit "Start radio," then select the station "bojack's radio."

Of course, do all this at your own risk. Here's hoping that it works, that you enjoy my tracks, that Audioscrobbler doesn't eat your computer, and that neither you nor I wind up going to jail over this.

If you try it, please let me know how it worked (or didn't). Thanks to Betsy for showing me this precious time-wasting resource.

As for real radio, I'm going to be co-hosting the Kremer/Abrams show this Sunday morning at 9 on KXL in Portland -- 750 AM. Abrams is away, and so I'm supposed to play counterpoint to Rob Kremer's rightie musings. Not only will I try to break into Lars Larson's gun locker while I'm there, but I'll also hang out afterward and try to give Randy Leonard a hotfoot during his show, which starts at 11.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Where to begin?

Regular readers of this blog are probably wondering how long it's going to take me to get around to the Portland City Council's stunning denial yesterday of a 10-year property tax abatement for a luxury apartment tower in the SoWhat district being built along the waterfront. Well, it will take a while, for a couple of reasons. First, we've been entertaining guests all week, and that and summer's-end activities are eating up time today. But more importantly, it's taken me the better part of the day to wrap my mind around the enormity of this news. In the three-years-plus that I've been blogging, this is the most important, and encouraging, thing that's happened in city politics.

So stay tuned for the extended discussion. For now, let's just say thank you to Commissioners Randy Leonard, Dan Saltzman, and even Sam Adams(!) for finally, at least once, reflecting the will of the majority of people in Portland when it comes to the misguided juggernaut that's masquerading as "urban renewal."

Read all about him

The University of Michigan Law Library in conjunction with the Library of Congress has put together a great site on Judge and Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, Jr. (Via BoleyBlogs.)

Breaking news

They're having trouble finding someone to rally the troops for a John Kerry meetup. I don't know why they e-mailed me. It should be easy to find an organizer here.

That's a relief

I can keep my site, www.diannelinn.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

You go, Super Vicki

When Portland schools chief "Super Vicki" Phillips fired human resources head Steve Goldschmidt (the teenie-boppin'-ex-guv's brother) earlier this year, the Official Goldschmidt Newspaper did a hatchet piece on her lack of sensitivity to Portlanders' need for process. It wasn't as bad as the more recent piece, where they asked Fireman Randy when he stopped beating his ex-wife, but it was hardly an unbiased news story, as it purported to be.

Today's coverage of the arbitator's award in Goldschmidt's case against the school district is right up there in the lack of objectivity department. First off, it's front page banner headline news. And then there's the lead editorial clucking the O's dry, withered editorial tongue and telling Super Vicki, "We told you so!"

According to the O, firing Goldschmidt and refusing to pay him his severance pay was a "gamble" -- and it's cost the district an extra $250,000 for losing, since the arbitrator decided that what Super Vicki did was actually actionable defamation. Bad, bad Super Vicki, you didn't know what you were doing.

When one of the Old Boys of Portland get cleared of wrongdoing, you can bet on The Oregonian being right there to cover it. When they do wrong, though, better look for the story elsewhere.

I will leave to others to discuss whether the $250,000 was money well spent. Sometimes you have to pay to do the right thing.

But to me, still a Super Vicki fan, here's what happened: Vicki decided that Goldschmidt was history. At that point, she could either pay him his cushy severance or not. If she paid it to him, the school district's many critics would jump up and down and shout: "Look! Look at the waste of money!" And it might forever appear that this was just another golden parachute that the district was gladly paying. So she decided not to pay it voluntarily, sending the clear message that she was in fact melting the wicked witch, and this was the messy outcome.

The craziest part of the whole deal? The arbitrator is married to a second cousin of those fun-loving Goldschmidt boys. Only in Portland.

For your eyes only

Here's something I hadn't seen before: In today's Willamette Week, there are some items in the Murmurs column below the caption "FOR WEB ONLY:" Apparently, if you read the publication on the web, you now get bonus Murmurs!

There's been a bunch of speculation this week about how The Oregonian is going to become more web-friendly, as its public editor, Martin Marietta-Hyphen, has promised. Looks like the Double Dub may already be making some small moves in that direction itself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

$12.59 a gallon at Zupan's

Here's a trendy beverage that you should look for in your favorite yuppie markets this winter: Russian milk. (Via Mellow-Drama.)

The fat lady may not sing

Tomorrow will be an interesting day in the saga of the proposed property tax abatement for the luxury rental apartment tower slated for the South Waterfront district (a.k.a. SoWhat). Last week, I bemoaned the fact that this steamin' pile of bad policy was headed for easy passage through the Portland City Council. I even accused Fireman Randy of pulling a Damon Stoudamire and racking up points during garbage time, since we all knew the abatement was going to sail through, the way they all did in Vera and Homer's salad days.

Not so fast, Batman! Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who's got to run for re-election next year and doubtlessly already has his ear to the rail, has apparently joined the Straight Shooter from Felony Flats in opposing the giveaway. And now reports are that Commissioner Sam Adams is going to vote no as well, sending the developer, Trammell Crow, back to... well... eat crow.

If Adams actually votes against the abatement, I'll be quite pleasantly surprised. He has to sit with all the Graggsters on the Aerial Tram Board [rim shot], and there will be some daggers in some eyes over there if the abatement goes down. Good for him if he has the nerve to do it.

If it indeed loses, Trammell Crow will probably just turn the building into another luxury condo eyesore. But at least the goofballs who pay $1 million for a unit in a highrise apartment building on swampland in an economically depressed corner of earthquake country will be paying property taxes just like the rest of us. Damn right.

Pat Robertson's new commandment

"Thou shalt kill."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gift idea

Does anybody have Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams's shipping address? I want to send him one of these [link removed on 9/1/05].

UPDATE, 8/26, 5:04 p.m.: Please read this post.

Two men, two hockey pucks

I met and had lunch with Worldwide Pablo today. Great guy, energizing conversation, part of a day of fine discoveries. As in my earlier in-person encounter with Just Some Poor Schmuck, we feasted at Giant Burger in Lake O. Although I had seen WWP's picture and read many of his fine words, I didn't really know him until I met him in person. There are some things about the human voice, about carriage, about persona, that a blog doesn't convey.

Perhaps in the future, all blogs will contain a 30-second video clip in which the author will identify himself or herself. But that may take too much fun out of it.

America the Beautiful

Here's how things looked from several hundred feet up, on Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast, on July 30. Lincoln City is shrouded in fog to the south. (Photo by Drew Gardner.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thanks, Archbishop Vlazny

We got our formal notice this week -- my wife and I have been named class defendants in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland for priestly pedophilia and coverup. For the curious among you who wonder what such a notice might look like, here is the eight-page mailing we and hundreds of thousands of other Catholics in western Oregon are receiving.

I won't bother to repeat my views on the archdiocesan bankruptcy here, but let me just say that this is the lowest I've ever felt as a Catholic. And this is the most bizarre and saddest document that I believe has ever been addressed to me.

May the God of justice help the victims receive what they are entitled to.

The drawing they don't want us to see

Remember the preliminary drawings of the South Waterfront development? For months, maybe years now, City of Portland planners have sworn that those are all they have to help concerned neighbors visualize how the project will look when it is completed. And they are just "conceptual" drawings, anyway -- they don't reflect the latest revisions in the ultra-dynamic planning process.

However, an alert reader of this blog has discovered a more recent drawing that may be cause for some concern. The source, who conditioned release of the document on anonymity (out of fear of reprisal), claims to have found a new artist's rendering of the development under the table of Randy Gragg's favorite booth at the Gotham Building Tavern. Apparently it was left behind after the goateed urban planning maven had finished his thimble-sized helpings of locally grown organic jicama and fennel for the evening.

Anyway, the drawing looks pretty authentic to me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Goose bump music

The truth is spilling right out of the speakers on my computer. Cannonball Adderley and Joe Zawinul's music of the 1960s was nothing short of phenomenal. If you haven't heard this compilation, you need to. You do not need to be a jazz aficionado to understand or appreciate it -- far from it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Lonely Doll

Rozanne's got a great tale to tell.

Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight

Boy, am I glad I don't have tickets on Northwest Airlines, now or any time soon. "Don't worry, we've got replacement mechanics, whom we just hired, doing the maintenance on your plane." Uh huh. It will take months after the strike to get me on one of those birds.

He said it, not me

"Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."

Ought to make for some icy lunches with Justice Ginsburg.


Lefty bloggers, got one of these yet?

Its days are numbered

Well, "clean money" (or "voter-owned elections") is going on the ballot in Portland next May. The business community has got a petition ready to go, and given the heavy hitters backing repeal of the city's new campaign finance system, it shouldn't be hard to get the signatures to refer the repeal to the voters.

My guess is that the voters will dump "clean money" like a hot potato. "Should your tax dollars go to finance politicians' campaigns?" Take your own poll on any bus, in any bar. Probably 3 to 2 against, or maybe even 2 to 1.

It might have been closer if the City Council had put the matter up for a vote itself. But they knew it couldn't pass, and now it's going to go down even harder.

This also ups the stakes for Commissioners Sten and Saltzman, who both voted for "clean money" and now have to decide whether to take it or not as part of their upcoming re-election bids. Might as well, fellows -- it's a one-shot opportunity.

Not everyone who's opposed to campaign finance reform is coming to the issue with clean hands. Some opponents like the old campaign finance "system" just the way it was, because they bought council votes in the past and would like to try to do so in the future. But the more innocent majority of taxpayers just won't like the idea of property tax-financed political advertising, because darn it, there are more important things that need doing around here, and that aren't being done.

Unfortunately, this marks the end of Phil Stanford's candidacy for mayor. But I'm sure he'll make his civic contribution some other way.

There's no such thing as "smart growth"

More depressing stuff about Portland in the paper yesterday. Here we have the City That Won't Let You Cut a Branch Off the Tree in Your Front Yard Without a Permit, but it will let you move a 100-year neighborhood landmark home to make way for an oversized junk condo building. The article quotes one of the 200 well-paid geniuses in the city Planning Bureau as saying something profound like, "Get used to it."

It's all part of Density Mania, whereby in order to save places like Newberg, we have to wreck Portland. It's so misguided. In case you haven't noticed, we're not saving Newberg, or Dundee or Sherwood. As far as our green space to the southwest is concerned, it's pretty much shot all the way down 99W to McMinnville -- so bad that they're about to build a toll road through the farmers' fields. Even the most prominent gentleman farmer from Portland can't buy his way out of the Californication. On the east-west axis, the U.S. 26 corridor is pretty much shot from Sandy to Seaside. When the last two contiguous Plaid Pantries meet somewhere around Cornelius, they're going to drive a golden spike through the curb.

So exactly what is it that we're ruining the priceless neighborhoods of inner Portland for? It really beats me.

There are a few big pictures here that our elected officials apparently can't see. One is supply and demand. Portland for many years was an island of low housing prices between the Bay Area and Seattle. But folks in both those markets noticed -- about 15 years ago, in fact -- and they've been moving to Oregon in droves ever since, because as outrageously high as our housing prices are, they're still relatively low for a West Coast city. If we keep slapping up particle board junk in Portland, increasing the housing supply, we'll keep our prices lower than theirs, and the hordes will continue to rush in to occupy the mold-encrusted apartments. This beat can go on indefinitely. It won't stop until our prices are as outlandish as they are to our south and to our north -- and the more we condo-ize the place, the longer that's going to take. And the more congestion and more social problems we're going to have.

We're sacrificing the quality of life of the people who are here now in order to make it easier for more people to move here and make it worse.

If Portland really wanted to make its mark as a planning mecca, it would abandon the "smart growth" mantra. There's no such thing as smart growth. It's all bad. You may slow the rate of wreckage down to half-speed with condomania, but you wind up in an even worse place when it's over.

If it comes down to wrecking inner southeast or wrecking Cornelius, I vote for wrecking Cornelius. But neither place has to be wrecked. A "no growth" or "minimum growth" policy could save them both. Sure, housing prices would continue to skyrocket, but when they reached parity with Seattle and the Bay Area, they'd level off, and then, people from those places wouldn't have those dollar signs in their eyes about Portland any more.

Back in the days of the Katz-Goldschmidt mayoral adminstration, they snuffed out the "no growth" folks. Made them out as kooks. Too bad. They were the only ones who had it right. By the time the current residents of Portland realize how right, many of the old neighborhoods will be chopped up beyond recognition.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Here's one for Lars

When the Bushies crank up their whining about the "death tax," send them here. (Via Constantly Amazed, Yet Never Surprised.)

Forgetful me

I neglected to send out birthday wishes a couple of weeks ago to the greatest popular singer alive today. He's 79, and at his best ever. Pick up anything the man's ever recorded, and put it on. That's why they invented the phonograph.

God bless Anthony Benedetto.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'm so out of it

I didn't even notice that Tammy over at Dishpan Dribble has been back up and blogging all summer.

What I could go for right now

...is a couple of Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Looking for Dr. Death

Notorious surgery bungler Dr. Jayant Patel, who's wanted in Australia for his alleged misdeeds there, is still in Portland somewhere, according to the detectives from Down Under who are looking for him.

"Dr. Death," as Patel has become known, worked at Kaiser here in town before he was nudged out and sent to the Land of Vegemite (shunted along with the help of some positive recommendations from colleagues here who I'm sure were relieved to see him go).

If he is still in greater Portlandia, Patel is doing a good job of laying low. No one's turned him in after months of searching for him.

A few readers of this blog have reported sightings of Patel, however, and a couple claim to have been quick enough to catch him with their cell phone cameras. I'm not sure whether to believe them or not -- judge for yourself. This shot was taken in Tualatin last weekend, and here's another one from July 30 right here in town. There's also a strong resemblance to the guy in this one taken earlier this summer in Seattle.

With all the leads the detectives have, it's amazing that they can't catch this guy. If all else fails, though, they can always wait and apprehend him at Steve Houze's client appreciation party at Christmastime. I hope Steve doesn't ask him to carve the turkey.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stronger every day

If you're not reading Snethen, you're missing out.

Feel safer?

Well, it's official. You now need a prescription to buy Sudafed and Claritin D in Oregon.

Or bus fare to Vancouver, Washington.

Garbage time

When they write the history of how Portland went to pot in the early 2000's -- from a unique, livable, family-friendly city to a crowded, overpriced New York wannabe where the California Lexus SUVs go to die -- the South Waterfront concrete tower jungle will be front and center. And in that chapter, tomorrow's an important day.

The City Council is going to pass another tax abatement for a huge apartment tower, but this time, it will be for a building of 300-plus rental units, not condos. The building will pay no property taxes whatsoever for 10 years. The justification for this is that it's a reward to the developer, Trammell Crow, for including low-income housing in the building, but the low-income housing turns out to be laughable. It's 48 studio apartments, at a tiny 480 square feet each, which will rent out at "only" $850 a month.

The rest of the building is going to be way pricier and hella toney. As the Trammell Crow website puts it: "Combining luxury with convenience is what the Alexan brand is all about."

The official estimate of how much this is costing the city's taxpayers is $7.5 million over the 10 years, but that number is so thoroughly cooked that it looks like somebody misprogrammed the microwave. At what I'm told is the going rate of 2.14 percent, that's what the taxes would be on a $35 million building. But the developer says this project's going to cost $70 million to build, and so the property taxes on it should look more like $15 million, or nearly a million and a half bucks a year. (And that's without factoring in the 3 percent annual increase that us mere peons pay.)

How much is the developer losing by including the "bargain" rent units in the plan? How much more rent could it charge on those floors? I'll tell you what, it's a lot less than a million bucks a year. Probably more on the order of a couple of hundred thousand. What a scam.

Fireman Randy's on the case, though, folks. He's already given out a couple of press quotes delicately questioning the deal. I'm sure he'll make his hard-guy face and a little speech about it tomorrow -- maybe even vote against it. But he knows it's going to pass, 4 to 1, or 3 to 1. So he can afford to make a little political hay. It's reminiscent of Damon Stoudamire, the ex-Trail Blazer who knows how to pad his average by racking up statistics during "garbage time." These are games that are already hopeless blowouts, with neither team really playing any more because the outcome is sealed. Stoudamire frequently breaks out of his pot-induced stupor and puts in stellar performances in that setting. "When it doesn't count," a friend of mine is wont to say, "you can count on Damon." So it is with Fireman Randy's "principled stand" on tax abatements.

They're calling this building the "Alexan." That's Greek for "not speaking." It's a fitting name for the project, because the handout it's getting from the City Council is truly unspeakable. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when Don Mazziotti, Matt Hennessee and the other luminaries at the Portland Development Commission put their contaminated stamp of approval on this one. I'm sure the fine wine flowed that night.

And of course, speaking of the nefarious, no one dare mention the name of the True Visionary who turned a big buck getting this horribly misguided pig greased and slipped through the Porkland system. I'll give you a hint, though: he had trouble abating one thing.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Geezer's problem

In the car last night, I accidentally hit the wrong button, and lo and behold, there was a Portland FM radio station that I could actually tolerate for more than a single between-commercials segment. I had it on during the drive to work today, too, and it's still good.

The scary part, though, is that it's KNRK. There I was with "E-Pro" on at full blast cruising over the Marquam in my 1995 Honda Accord. That's just wrong.

Thought for the Day

Interesting piece in yesterday's Times about the Muslims of Europe:

In a sense, Europe's bad fortune is that Islam is in crisis. Imagine that Mexican Catholicism was in a similar state, and that a powerful, well-financed minority of anti-modern purists was doing its most successful proselytizing among Mexican immigrants in places like Los Angeles, Phoenix and Chicago, above all among the discontented, underemployed youth of the barrios. The predictable, perhaps even the inevitable, result would be the same sort of estrangement between Hispanics and the American mainstream.

As the bloggers say, read the whole thing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

They don't speak for me

At church today we got this little unsigned gem. It sets the faithful of our parish up for the letter we're going to get this week, naming us all as defendants in the bankruptcy stemming from the claims of pedophilia and other sex abuse brought against the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland.

There's not a whole lot new to be garnered from this flyer than what's already been in the papers. But for those who haven't been following along, I suppose it's valuable information.

I still disagree with the bankruptcy. I believe it's an unjust attempt by the church to further cover up, and avoid financial responsibility for, unconscionable behavior by priests and their superiors alike. The "Committee of Parishes and Parishioners," which suddenly arose out of nowhere after 2,000 years of no such thing whatsoever, doesn't represent me. It's clearly an arm of the archdiocese, which appears to be using ordinary Catholics as a shield. No thank you.

I guess I have some more time to think about it, but barring some major new revelation, I'll be opting out of the defendant class. And if the sexually abused ex-altar boys sue me individually, I'll gladly let the victims have my supposed share of the archdiocese's hundreds of millions in property.

Guess who?

By now you've read about the British Airways strike that's stranded tens of thousands of travellers in Europe.

But Portlanders, do you know who started it by firing 650 caterers?

It's our old friends at Texas Pacific Group!

I'm glad we sent those guys packing.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Another fine food spot

The Mrs. and I had a great dinner tonight at Andina in the dreaded Pearl District. I had been to this establishment once before for a slightly uptight work-related function, but it was so much better in the context of a joyous celebration -- 11 years married to each other as of today.

Awesome food and drink -- hard to find fault with any of it. Go with an appetite, an adventuresome spirit, and a casual attitude about how cool you're looking and how much you're spending. It's first-rate.

Phase III

The continuing transformer replacement project continues apace. On the right there (or bottom, or bottom right, depending on your screen), we see that all the utilities have been attached to the new pole, and the old pole has been hacked down to an even smaller stump. All that's left is the removal of what's left of the old pole.

The new transformer's a big improvement. No longer do our lights go all winky-blinky every time the neighbor's central air kicks on. Sweet.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mystery solved

The other night we asked what was that peculiar smell in the "A" gate elevator at Portland International Airport. Today comes this answer from Steve Johnson, the media relations guru of PDX:

I did a little research on your good question, and here is what I learned. The smell, which I agree smells a little like wet hay, comes from a biodegradable vegetable oil used in the hydraulic system that operates this particular elevator. While the elevator is particularly environmentally friendly, we are going to take a look at the sump pump in the elevator shaft to make sure there is no unusual collection of vegetable oil. Just so you also know, we do clean the elevator on a regular basis. Thanks so much for the question!
Don't mention it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why sit at home?

An alert reader points out that recent events downtown are no reason to miss out on Portland's vibrant nightlife.

Portland and Jersey City

A while back, when Portland was ranked one of the best cities in America for walking (a judgment with which I completely concur), I urged locals not to get too cocky, as Jersey City, N.J. was not far behind us.

From the ages of 12 to 21, I got my high school and college education in Jersey City, and for three years in college I was a professional reporter on a daily newspaper there, The Jersey Journal. When that stint was up, I took a flyer on studying law on the West Coast, and, well, that was pretty much the last that Jersey City saw of me. I know from Jersey City, and although I will always love it just the way it is, being ranked alongside it in a livability survey is like being ranked next to Paulie Walnuts in a beauty contest.

The parallel between the two cities in the walking survey was odd enough, but lo and behold, the two cities now wind up literally back to back in another ranking study -- this one on the most liberal municipalities in the country. Something called the Bay Area Center for Voting Research has just released a study on the most liberal and conservative U.S. places, based on some methodology that's likely so silly I can't even be bothered to look it up. Detroit, Mich. is rated most liberal, and Provo, Utah's most conservative.

Portland's in there at 29th most liberal; Jersey City is 28th. Can you beat that?

A closer look at the study shows that there's two kinds of liberalism: ghetto and Berkeley. Places like Detroit and Jersey City make up much of the former; places like San Francisco and Portland make up the latter.

I'm glad to have graduated from one to the other. Many of my contemporaries (including my brother and my blogging cousin) missed that jump, and morphed instead from ghetto liberal to suburb conservative -- Detroit to Orange County, as it were. I think my move was an easier one on the soul. Ted Kennedy is still more fun at parties than Trent Lott will ever be.

One degree of separation from the Pulitzer

Thank you to the editors of Willamette Week, who have named this the best local blog in the editors' picks section of their annual Best of Portland review. A far cry from 1998, when the Buckman neighborhood was their "Rogue of the Week," and I was the flak for the group!

Klingon interpreter needed

The Portland police and fire disability story just gets weirder and weirder. If you haven't been following this drama, you're missing a true tale that's stranger than science fiction.

The saga begins a few months back when Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who's up for re-election with a skinny portfolio to show, points out a few obvious and serious problems with the police and fire retirement and disability benefit plans. So the City Council puts together a blue-ribbon panel to study the problems and get back to us all after the holidays. O.k., great. Much needed attention to a troubled, and financially troubling, aspect of our city government.

But this creature won't go back to sleep. The Oregonian sends out Maximum Maxine to rake the muck surrounding the pension and disability pots. In the process, she and ex-firefighter union chief Randy Leonard, now a city commissioner of course, get into a hissy match about something, and next thing you know she's writing about Randy allegedly getting a little liquored up and allegedly roughing up his ex 20 years ago.

No sooner does that bizarre subplot die down than Commissioner Erik Sten, throwing haymakers as he struggles to get back up off the political ropes, comes up with a rush-rush mini-reform program for disability that he wants to slap onto the November ballot.

Within a day, the Sten plan is pronounced deader than Don Mazziotti's expense account, the story being that his colleagues on the Council think it's best to let the blue-ribbon panel do its work. Saltzman watchers note that the Stenmeister appears to be trying to steal some of Danny Big Pipe's thunder on the issue.

But just as Godzilla retreats, Mothra attacks! Are you ready for this? Unless I'm seeing things, Fireman Randy's got yet another proposal, and he's going to ask the council to put it up for a quick vote this November! Read all about it over at BlueOregon, where the Randster himself just blogged about it in the wee small hours.

Probably the wackiest part of the latest Leonardism is this gem:

[T]his may sound somewhat cynical so please forgive me, I have been a party to or an observer of countless task forces within the city for nearly 3 decades. Many of these task forces degenerate into conflict and, therefore, end up not producing any meaningful work products. In fact, the last two Fire and Police Disability and Pension task forces worked for months, made recommendations to reduce the cost of the fund and.... nothing happened.
Ooooo, that's going to ruffle some feathers. Big time.

I'm all for cleaning things up as quickly as possible, but if the good commish thinks that passing this modest package is going to make the larger issues (particularly pension) go away for the voters, I think he's making an uncharacteristic mistake.

Anyway, put on your 3-D glasses and enjoy the show.

Michigan to Portland to New York

A recent emigre from Portland who calls himself Show Stopper weighs in on the mini-flap we had here last week about a New Yorker's view of Portland.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sinful thought

O.k., I admit it, this is just sick and wrong:

Fighting words

From today's Oregonian editorial page:

Since 1998, the gang enforcement team has gone from 35 officers to 23. Apparently, the council would rather use taxpayer money to finance political campaigns than to hire police officers.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Of course, the notion that gang shootings are now suddenly a big deal because they're over on the west side of the river is curious. The editorial begins with: "Gang violence is spilling over into downtown Portland and if you aren't worried about it, you ought to be." If the exact same shootout had taken place at the corner of North Williams and Herkimer, I seriously doubt that it would have evoked a lead editorial in the O. And the shooting itself would likely have been played in the Metro section, not out front.

But that line about the political campaigns is a classic, anyway. And you'll be hearing it all over town over the next few years: "Apparently, the council would rather use taxpayer money to finance political campaigns than to ____________________." There will be lots of ways to fill in the blank.

Potter's right

This bill is a stinker that Governor Ted ought to veto without another moment's thought.

And kudos to the mayor for at least holding a press conference to talk about the gangster shoot-'em-ups and acknowledge that we have a problem. His predecessor never would have done that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Go east, young man

Most Portlanders know that if you really want to see the American West, you've got to go east from here. A recent trip to northeastern Montana provided some much needed perspective.

It's a hard land -- rocky, sandy high plains, hot as blazes in midsummer, and (I hear) deadly cold in winter. There's a unique beauty under the big sky, but the civilized side of the place has fallen on very hard times. It's never really thrived economically, and the last decade has been particularly harsh. Many of the scrappy towns along U.S. 2, known locally as the "high line," seem well on their way to becoming ghost towns. One grocery store each, maybe two or three gas stations, three or four bars, a motel or two, one old-fashioned cafe if they're lucky, two banks, maybe a car dealership or two, a handful of fast food joints. Not a land of opportunity, or of hope, except among the stubbornest, strongest individuals in the community. There's big talk of turning the two-lane highway into a four-lane, but it's truly impossible to see why, as there's hardly enough traffic through there to justify more than one lane with some turnouts.

Lots of Indian country, where time stands still in ways both good and bad. Grace and mystery and spirit and struggle and failure and desperation all together, coming at you so fast it can't all be processed by a white man.

South of there by several lonely driving hours, Billings looks as though it is getting by. A couple of regional hospitals, a nice little airport with a runway that can handle big jets, a downtown business community that's hanging tough. It's got a palpable spirit, reminiscent to me of downtown Portland in the 1970s, or Reno in the '80s. The volunteers still hang the flower baskets from the street lights at eye level. Lots of nice, accessible street art, which wouldn't last more than a week in most big cities. Historic neighborhoods walking distance from the court house. A terrific place for a visit.

The food ain't fancy, but it's cheap and good. You like steak or river trout? Well then, you came to the right place. But don't be looking for anything on the menu that wouldn't have been there 25 years ago; you won't find it.

The small scale of the cities and towns, the vastness of the spaces that separate them, the tight connection of the human enterprise to the land, the closeness of the current population to the area's history, all provide a charm that no longer reaches to where the sea breezes blow. In Montana you don't celebrate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial in a climate-controlled museum or a fluorescent-lit lecture hall. You let a beautiful native of the area take you down the road to a breathtaking swimming hole she knows on the Missouri, where you share the water with just a handful of kids and their folks.

Then you come home to the Rose City, and the next day the cupboard's bare, and you take a short trip over to a gorgeous New Seasons Market, and you pick from the finest food and wine that you can find anywhere, and head back to the house to walk barefoot through your garden, where it's so easy to grow everything, and after a simple dinner that couldn't be bettered in all the restaurants of Paris, you open all the windows to the delicious Oregon cool, and it may not be high plains quiet, but it's still quiet enough, and you can't see many stars, but you can still see enough, and you sit there and you realize how good you've got it.

Close call

A comment thread earlier today poses what for me is an unanswerable question: Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman -- more like Gomer, or more like Goober?

The New York Times jinx

Sports fans the world over know all about the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Whenever a sports figure gets his or her picture on the cover of SI, there is a moment of extreme pride, but then some tragic turn of events quickly befalls him or her, often with career-ending consequences. The hapless victim is never the same again.

I haven't followed all the instances of this in recent years, but I do remember this cover, whereupon the team in question immediately fell into the tank. They promptly lost four or five straight, as I recall.

On the local political scene here in Portlandia, there's a new jinx in town, and it's the New York Times. Our local politicos fall all over themselves, and spend hundreds of millions of our tax dollars, in the hopes of achieving positive mention in The Newspaper of Record. When they get quoted as the archons of our Urban Utopia, it gets them hotter than a $20 pistol (quite a few of which seem to be going off in our exquisitely well-planned and traffic-becalmed downtown, it seems). For a moment, the quoted City Hall denizen feels like Neil Goldschmidt without the statutory rape history. But lately, well, those mentions have been followed by heartbreak.

The star-crossed visionary who has suffered the bitter fate of the new jinx is, of course, Commissioner Erik "Opie" Sten, the lovable kid who always seems to be leading a trendy charge that The Times finds interesting, but ultimately isn't going anywhere. Most recently, Sten took some credit in this story (alas, these are just archive digests now, unless you want to pay to read the whole thing) for the "fact" that Portland had reduced its greenhouse gases below 1990 levels:

''Portland's efforts refute the thesis that you can't make progress without huge economic harm,'' says Erik Sten, a city commissioner. ''It actually goes all the other way -- to the extent Portland has been successful, the things that we were doing that happened to reduce emissions were the things that made our city livable and hence desirable.''
Now, apparently, somebody's actually bothered to check the numbers, and the story's not true. Not even close. The tighty-righties are going nuts over it, cluck cluck.

Before that, it was the city's PGE takeover, which this story picked up on:

Erik Sten, a city commissioner, said he had the votes on the five-member commission to authorize revenue bonds quickly to acquire the utility's assets, actions that would not require a popular vote. He said the city could retain existing management or hire one of two dozen utility companies that have contacted the city about managing Portland G.E.

''The city can run Portland G.E. better,'' Mr. Sten said, and ''charge lower rates'' because it would pay state, but not federal, taxes. He asserted that unlike Texas Pacific, the city has an incentive to make long-term investments in the utility to ensure reliable high quality electric service, which is crucial to the local economy.

We now know where that was headed.

Before that, it was this one -- trying to force AT&T Cable (now Comcast) to lease its high-speed internet lines to its competitors:

Erik Sten, a Portland city commissioner, said today that the city had not decided whether to appeal the decision, in part because city officials viewed it as a partial victory. "If the decision is interpreted as we think it will be," he said, AT&T will be deemed to be a telecommunications service provider and thus required to open access on a national level.
Nada. No way. Zilch.

It's hard times in the Sten camp, but now he's come out fighting on the police and fire disability fund. Suddenly, the good commish has got all the answers, and heck, we ought to hustle them right up for a public vote and be done with it.

Sounds a little like Al Gore's internet. Of all the people to be taking credit for reforming the system, forgive me if it's just a wee bit hard to swallow that the guy with the most seniority on the City Council is suddenly jumping on the bandwagon. Where have you been on that one for the last 10 and a half years, while the existing mess was being made, guy?

Monday, August 8, 2005

PDX mystery

What's the deal with the elevator from the main concourse at Portland International Airport down to the "A" gates, where Horizon Airlines flies in and out? It's always got the distinct smell of cow manure.

It's not all that unpleasant, really -- faintly reminiscent of a visit to a petting zoo or the circus. But where did that odor come from, and why is it so persistent?

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Lil' hiatus

I'm likely to be out of here until the early part of next week.

Be good to yourselves and each other.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

"I feel more likely to get pickpocketed here than in Times Square"

Here's how the City of Portland looks these days to a New Yorker visiting.

Some of it ain't pretty.

More Water Bureau incompetence

Erik and Danny Boy appear to have made a typical mess out of this. Looks like Fireman Randy is actually lighting some fires under people over there. Long overdue.

Double party at Tony's

Tony Pierce, proprietor of the busblog, celebrates his fourth blogiversary as well as his new job. Go, Tony!

Monday, August 1, 2005

Bad dudes

Here's the latest new page on the Jackson County, Oregon website. Lovely. It would be interesting to see one of these for Portland. (No, this doesn't count.)

Giving everything she could

T.A. Barnhart writes beautifully on BlueOregon today about his mom's passing, and what she left behind in him. You should read it.

Wiggle room

Oregon has officially adopted earthworms as an agricultural product, according to a story in this morning's daily. As well it should. As long-time readers here know, worms eat my garbage. And man, do they eat fast in the summertime.

Is it time to get back with the Blazers?

With reports that guard Damon "Weed" Stoudamire is on his way to Memphis, the last condition that I imposed to end my exile from Blazermania is apparently coming to pass. Until the team had parted company with both Rasheed Wallace and the 5'9" gangleader of ganja, there was no way I was setting foot in the arena or otherwise spending a nickel on those louts.

It wasn't about winning or losing on the court, I said. I've rooted enthusiastically for lots of weak Blazer teams in the past. I just wanted some of our more egregious poster children for bad judgment to be sent packing.

There are still lots of warts on the characters of some of the players the team has left. They're mostly young, and they're going to lose lots of games before they're any good. The ownership and management are, well, downright weird, to be honest. And all the noise and other junk that they fill the arena with at every game instead of basketball is a real annoyance. But the Blazers are still our only big league team, and perhaps it's time to show back up for a game or two this year.

My older daughter and I like to watch Houston center Yao Ming on television. If he's playing in Portland on a convenient night, maybe we'll have to blow some cash and be there.

UPDATE, 3:23 p.m.: Extra added bonus: Maurice Lucas will be on the bench as an assistant coach.

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