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

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February 2006 Archives

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Questions about the aerial tram [rim shot]?

Mark your calendar.

More web host craziness

Apologies if you were trying to get onto this site earlier today, only to see a blank screen. It's more fallout of my account being sold from one web host to another. The phrase "out of the frying pan" comes to mind.

Clean money repeal goes down again

Looks like the munchkin party is back on.

Signing for Ben

I heard during Nice Week that Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat, was giving independent gubernatorial candidate Ben Westlund a hard time about how he's gathering signatures to get his name placed on the ballot. Westlund, who until now was a Republican, is taking signatures from everyone, including members of the two major political parties, even though under a new state law passed last summer, a person can't both sign his petition and vote in a primary.

Westlund says that if any of his signers go ahead and vote in their party primary in May, their signatures won't count toward his total (can you believe he needs only 18,000?), but there's no harm in getting their signatures now, even if there's no way of knowing for sure whether they'll vote in the primary or not. If they vote in the primary, they'll just be crossed off his list.

I don't know what Bradbury's beef is -- I've read the new law, and it sure sounds to me like Westlund's interpretation is correct. Here's what it says in relevant part:

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

SECTION 1. Section 2 of this 2005 Act is added to and made a part of ORS chapter 254.

SECTION 2. (1) An elector may not participate in more than one nominating process for each partisan public office to be filled at the general election.

(2) An elector is considered to have participated in the nominating process for each partisan public office listed on the ballot at a primary election if the elector returned a ballot of a major political party at the primary election.

(3) An elector is considered to have participated in the nominating process for a
partisan public office listed on the ballot at the general election if:

(a) A minor political party nominated a candidate for that office in the manner
specified by the party in documents filed under ORS 248.009 and the elector participated in the nominating process; or

(b) The elector participated in the nominating process for that office by signing the minutes of an assembly of electors under ORS 249.735 or by signing a certificate of nomination made by individual electors under ORS 249.740.

(4) If a filing officer described in ORS 249.722 determines that an elector who has signed the minutes of an assembly of electors under ORS 249.735 or a certificate of nomination under ORS 249.740 has attempted to participate in more than one nominating process for the same office to be filled at the general election, the signature of the elector may not be considered for purposes of ORS 249.735 or 249.740.

* * * * *

It doesn't say you can't sign unless you know for sure you won't be voting in a primary. It says that if you sign and vote in a primary, your primary vote counts but your signature doesn't.

I'm a registered Democrat, and I'd sign a petition for Westlund in a minute. And my signature would count. There's no chance I'd care enough about the Three Demo Amigos -- TR Cool-long, Not Ted Sorenson, and Jim "Over the" Hill -- to bother with any of them.

I hope and pray that we aren't limited to a battle of the Goldschmidt cronies -- Teddy vs. Saxton -- in November. Signing for Ben looks like our only alternative.

UPDATE, 1:47 p.m.: If you sign for Ben, however, does that mean that you can't vote on any candidate or any issue in May? See the comments.

Father knows best

The New York Times' Metropolitan Diary column is one of my favorites. Formerly a Sunday feature, it now runs on Mondays. Actual letters from actual readers. Here's a nice one from yesterday:

Dear Diary:

While walking to work, I overheard the following conversation between a 6-year-old and his father just after they had gotten out of a cab at the Cathedral School.

Father: "If someone gives you the wrong change you should always let them know, even if they give you back too much money." Several seconds pass and the father adds, "You should never profit or take advantage of someone else's mistake." There is a much longer pause and the father continues, "Except in business."

Andrew Leifer

Monday, February 27, 2006

Zach Randolph, call your realtor

The NBA front office confirmed today that Paul Allen actually thinks he's going to buy the Rose Garden back at a bargain price. As a beneficiary of the pension trust that now owns that facility, let me just say I hope that doesn't happen. And given the way the Allen people behaved with the pension fund, I seriously doubt that it will. Even cold-blooded business people don't forgive some things.

Ladies and gentlemen, your! Las Vegas! Traaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaillll Blazers!

It's almost spring

And the caucuses are up.

Something in the air

The Portland City Council has now cancelled two consecutive "work sessions" that it had previously announced on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot].

Do you smell something? What is that -- a rat?

Groundhog Day

I switched on the computer this afternoon to find that my site had reverted to its state before the weekend started. Egad! I believe this is because the server on which it resides was falling apart, and the host "migrated" us to a new one. In the process, a weekend's worth of stuff was lost.

Nice Week is definitely over.

By 3:00, I had the main entries back up, but the comments are still missing. I'll do what I can to get those back up this evening. Meanwhile, comments on the last several posts will be turned off temporarily.

UPDATE, 5:02 p.m.: Comments are now functional on all posts, but a few comments on older posts must still be restored. If you see anything that's amiss on this site (from a technical standpoint, that is), please send me an e-mail message. Thanks for your patience, everybody.

Ding, dong... er, maybe she's not dead

The festivities in Muchkinland over the failure of the "clean money" repeal to make the ballot have been called to a halt. The people who were in charge of checking the signatures were using a defective computer database to do the verification work, and so now it's got to be done all over. Nobody knows if the proposed repeal of Portland's controversial new public campaign finance system is going to make it onto the ballot or not.

Oh, the irony. We've got millions to pay for politicians' junk mailings, but we don't have enough to afford a computer system that can accurately count signatures on ballot measure petitions. How positively Stennesque.

But anyway, now all the little folks who popped up last week to chirp out their insults to the Downtown Rich Guys have fallen silent while we await the true outcome of the signature count. The best one I heard was "The people of Portland have spoken." And several other munchkins chimed in, "Yes, the people of Portland have spoken."

When people don't get a chance to vote on something, they've "spoken"? Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more.

(Note: Time stamps on the comments for this post were changed due to a server migration.)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Let's get real about the Blazers

A year ago about this time, I suggested that the Portland Trail Blazers were for sale. Their owner, Paul Allen, had obviously lost interest in the team, and this indicated to me that he wouldn't be owning it for much longer.

Now comes his utterly ridiculous attempt to get public subsidies, and maybe it is turning out that I was right. There's obvious desperation in the latest move, which is being conducted with typical Allen ham-handedness. Mr. Bilionaire thinks his thinly veiled threats are going to enflame the team's fan base and get him a deal of some kind from Salem or City Hall. The problem is that he's so alienated that base that there are nowhere near enough fans left to generate any meaningful heat.

Let's face it, it's going nowhere. Public sentiment against a taxpayer bailout of the Blazers seems to be running about 9 to 1, and so DOS Boy ought to have his minions drop that one right now. Paul, old buddy, get real. It ain't gonna happen, so forget about it.

The fact that he's even asking for it shows you what a serious reality disconnect this fellow has. It's a weird, weird little world he's in, and never has such a misfit person inspired so little sympathy.

Which means only one of two things can happen: Allen can either sell the Blazers or move them. The former would be preferable for Portland, of course, but the latter wouldn't be so bad for most of the population. Within three or four years, the league would have another team here. And given the motley crew that's been assembled on the current Blazer roster, they're going to be lousy for the next three or four years anyway. I'd take an expansion-type team three years from now, if it meant parting company with the current expansion-type team plus Allen now.

Except for the obvious hit to the livelihoods of the people who make a living around Blazer games, I think it might be good for Portland to have a few years without a major league sport in town. We can all see what it feels like not to have it here, and decide how badly we want it.

There are other possibilities, but none seem realistic. The Blazers could genuinely rebuild, improve, and become an inspiration again in the short term. Unlikely. Or they could continue to muddle along, hemorraging money, stinking up the league, and endangering the safety of their Portland neighbors. I think the word from the yacht is that that's not going to happen.

So it's sell it or move it. Sell it to whom? Beats me. Nike's too smart to get involved in that business, and as I've said here several times, the only local people I know of who could do a decent job of it would be the McMenamins.

Move it to where? I'm sure there's some other town somewhere that would like a Paul Allen franchise with all its glitz and latent loserdom. Maybe Las Vegas.

(Note: Time stamps on the comments for this post were changed in a server migration.)

Potter hospitalized

Rumors are swirling around Portland tonight that Mayor Tom Potter has been rushed to a hospital in Southern California for emergency treatment of a severe injury he suffered earlier in the week. The official word from City Hall is "no comment," but sources say that the 65-year-old mayor is resting comfortably and taking pain medication for a serious lower abdominal ailment that is believed to be a torn muscle aggravated by a groin pull.

According to eyewitnesses, Potter injured himself in a prolonged fit of hysterical laughter on Wednesday, when he learned that Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was sending a representative to request a taxpayer bailout of the struggling NBA team. "I've never seen anything like it," said one person who was present when the phone call came in from officers of Allen's corporation, Vulcan, Inc. "Right after the Chief hung up, there was this long howl coming out of his office. It was like that Vincent Price laugh from 'Thriller,' but it went on for like two minutes. Then it died down to this steady, slight whimpering, and that kept up for what seemed like an eternity."

Startled aides sensed that something was wrong and entered Potter's office to check on him. When they saw him lying under his desk, in convulsions and with tears rolling down his cheeks, they pressed the emergency call button that summons Commissioner Randy Leonard to the scene of any security breaches in the building. "Grampy kept saying, 'I'm o.k., I'm o.k.,' but you could tell he was delirious," the source recalled. "Finally he sat up and looked around, and started laughing all over again, and coughing. Then he quieted down, and it was obvious he had hurt something."

Although the mayor apparently recovered well enough to meet with Blazers president Steve Patterson on Friday morning, by midday he had cancelled the rest of his appointments for the week. "After Patterson left, the Chief had another fit-like episode, and this time he really reinjured it," said a staff member who requested anonymity. "We drove him home after lunch, and he just kept moaning, 'I can't believe this job. I can't believe this job.'"

Saturday morning, Potter was flown to a clinic in Lake Arrowhead, California, for a diagnosis. He was seen by the same physicians who are treating figure skating champion Michelle Kwan, who suffered a similar injury before withdrawing from the Olympics in Italy. "It's a pretty nasty tear," said a source. "They checked him into a nearby hospital just to play it safe." Potter and Kwan met briefly at the clinic, where they arranged to spend time together on their upcoming goodwill ambassador missions to Outer Mongolia.

Potter's private jet flight to the California medical facility was reportedly delayed by two hours for a last-minute meeting with Commissioner Erik Sten. "Erik came out to the airport to talk with Potter about having the city buy the Blazers," one witness recounted. "You know the mayor, always being nice to people. It took him the better part of an hour to talk the kid down."

It was the second clandestine trip to the hospital for Potter in a little more than a month. On Jan. 19, he was treated at Providence Good Samaritan Hospital for a flesh wound to the hand suffered at a lunch at the London Grill at the Benson Hotel. Accounts of the incident vary, but one waitperson at the swank restaurant told reporters that the mayor was stabbed with a fork in an altercation with "a white-bearded guy who came in on one of them Segway deals."

(Note: Time stamps on comments for this post were changed in a server migration.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Time is running out

There are only six and a half hours left in Nice Week on this blog. After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out... And there will be some issues to address. Boy, do we have issues. So if you've got something nice to say on a Saturday evening, now's your chance.

(Note: Time stamps on comments for this post were changed in a server migration.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

The thrill of victory

Here -- here's what it's all about.

(Note: Time stamps on comments for this post were changed in a server migration.)

Mrs. Mayor

Karin Hansen, the wife of Portland Mayor Tom Potter, has started blogging. She's posted an entry on the city's official Women's History Month blog.

All together now: That's nice.

(Note: Time stamps on comments for this entry were changed in a server migration.)

Home, home on the Pearl

A reader writes:

I thought this photo might make you smile. Someone is tying little plastic ponies to the old "sidewalk horse rings" (don't know what else to call them) in the Pearl. They are in locations all over the neighborhood. It's pretty amusing to see them. Most of the time, only the kids notice them (or the people with child-like imagination!).

UPDATE, 4:31 p.m.: Now the reader writes: I sent you the photo a bit prematurely... it is being considered for publication (soon) and should not have been released to the public. I'm glad that you liked it enough to add to your blog, but would you mind removing it?

O.k., I guess. Good thing for you it's Nice Week.

UPDATE, 2/25, 2:50 a.m.: Another alert reader has a photo of this that he's willing to share. Not as artsy, but more illustrative of the setup:

(Note: Time stamps on comments for this entry were changed in a server migration.)

All's well that ends well -- or is it?

Brandon over at Welcome to Blog (a.k.a. laurabush.info) gets what he wants, but then feels remorse:

It was always there when I got home from work, kind of like a reliable dog. A 2,000 pound steel dog with a broken windshield and a torn up driver's side seat.
A great story -- it starts here, winds its way through here and here, and ends up there.

But of course, we've come to expect no less than greatness from WTB.

(Note: The time stamp on a comment for this entry was changed in a server migration.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bar's closed

Congratulations to all those who survived this week's state bar exams around the country. Here in Oregon, they even asked a two-part question on federal income tax law!

Now the waiting for results begins, but let's hope all the test takers give themselves at least a short time to bask in the glow of having gotten it done.

(Note: The time stamp on a comment for this entry was changed in a server migration.)

Wisdom, no extra charge

Most of my work has to do with reading and writing. Read, read, read; write, write, write; all day long. About 20 percent of the time, I stand up in front of a group and talk, but the job is mostly about the written word. Then there's my internet hobby -- more of the same. When I take a break from all that, I don't find myself reading a book for pleasure as much as I probably should.

Lately when I do get around to recreational reading, I've been consuming books written by people I know. My current read was penned by my friend and multi-talented colleague, Ron Lansing. It's called "Nimrod," and it's written around the capture and trial of Oregon's first accused murderer, a crusty, old, early Willamette Valley settler by the name of Nimrod O'Kelly.

Now, right off the bat, the title of the book is going to cause a few titters. I had a California-born-and-raised girlfriend for a short while some years ago. She spoke fluent Valley Girl, and she was always calling some person she thought was stupid a "nimrod." I think the dictionary definition is "hunter," but not in her dictionary. (As I recall, she might also brand a slow person as a "nimbus.")

Anyway, once you get past the title (if you need to), Lansing's history of the O'Kelly affair is quite interesting. Picture a western Oregon that was just being settled, in 1852, only about a decade after the very first wagon made it over the Rockies and out to Oregon territory. Everything was being done by the seat of the pants, including law and criminal justice. And old Nimrod was quite the character, having made it over the divide, hopping from wagon train to wagon train, alone at the age of 65. Years later, he got into a beef with a neighbor, and, well, there were no Office of Neighborhood Involvement mediators back then to help work things out. Next thing you know he was being tried for allegedly killing the guy.

I'm not as up on my Oregon history as I should be. I read through Kimbark McColl's books on Portland when they came out decades ago, but a lot of it went in one eye and out the other. Lansing's book will surely get me back up to speed on the early days of the white man in our neck of the woods, and give me some interesting angles on law and civilization to think about.

But now that that's out of the way, let me tell you why this is such a great read: It's pure Ron. Every couple of pages or so, he drops in a sage observation that connects his story to a much larger truth. "It is one thing to pester government about its empty head," he writes, "but quite another to carp on its full heart." Introducing O'Kelly, he says, "There was more past than future in him, more memories than dreams." You hit one of these, and you have to smile. Ron has thought a lot of things all the way through. It's poetry amidst the history. Inspiring stuff.

At the rate of a few pages a night, it takes me forever to get through a book any more. With this one, that's a good thing. I'll be savoring every page.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Western movie every day

I've mentioned here before that I don't really "get" most of Bruce Springsteen's solo acoustic stuff. Given the incredibly high highs and low lows Bruce has brought to us over the years, to me the quiet, Guthrie-esque material just sort of shuffles along.

On his latest album in this line, however, there's a song that really speaks to me. The lyrics are here. Now there's the young poet who walked the streets of Asbury and the City 35 years ago.


We have officially reached the halfway point in Nice Week. Like the week when I turned off comments, it's been beneficial so far. A different perspective always helps. And people like these guys.

Faithful friend

Travis Hall, who drops by this blog from time to time, was telling me the other day about a former co-worker of his who recently passed away. They worked together in the military, in Iraq. You may have heard of the guy. If you haven't, here's a sweet story written about him last year. Here, alas, is the recent obituary.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Do unto others

Gretchen is saying nice things about me over on her blog, Radio Gretchen.

America the Beautiful, cont'd

My friend Doug the Mountain Climber sends along this photo, and writes:

Yesterday [Sunday] was glorious up in the Cascades. Several friends and I did about 12 miles on snowshoes to Jeff's west slopes via frozen Pamelia Lake. Didn't see another soul all day. Nice, really nice.

A great suggestion

A wise friend writes:

it's a pleasure to be sitting down and writing to you all again. it seems clear to every newspaper reading person i know that we are living in dark days. i'm always trying to explain why i'm so interested in all-ages music. i know that that music brings people together and any time we gather to sing and dance with each other inspiring things happen. spirits are rejuvenated, a feeling of community is created, hearts are filled with a sense of life's possibilities and, of course, everyone has fun. tired of the divisive political climate? break into song at the drop of a hat! now's a good time.

I wish

One of the things you get when you play the lottery -- come to think of it, the only thing -- is the chance to fantasize about what you'd do if you won. As I picked up my Powerball tickets on Saturday, trying to explain my conduct to my impressionable daughter ("Dopey Daddy!"), I gave myself a good taste of that.

Some solitary soul in Lincoln, Nebraska just won the $365 million jackpot. Even when you get past the fine print, that's still way more dough than I would know what to do with. Let's see: If you took it all in cash, they'd cut it in half, so now you're down to $182.5 million. And then there's the income tax hit -- let's say it's 44 percent total -- federal, state and local. That still leaves $102.2 million hitting your bank account 60 days from now. Happy Orthodox Easter, baby!

Where would my $102.2 million go? You start with your charities, I guess. Put 10 percent aside for contributions -- probably in some sort of private foundation, now that I'm a rich s.o.b. So now we're down to $92 million. Next, let's peel off $20 million for worthy family members -- but not all at once, we'd like to avoid gift taxes as much as possible.

That leaves $72 million. Seventy-two very large in the bank. You ought to be able to get 5 percent a year return on that, even if you put it into something really conservative (and that would be me). $3.6 million a year before taxes -- let's say you clear $2 million after all taxes. A monthly allowance of $166,667. Two million a year to play with, forever, and there's still $72 million to leave to the kids at the end.

I could handle it. Crank up the Jimmy Buffett, people, I'd be on the next plane to the beach. Somewhere like this.

Monday, February 20, 2006

We can dream, can't we?

Out on a late afternoon errand, I saw a couple of snowflakes.

Yin and yang

Alan over at Blue Hole has declared this "Mean Week" on his blog.

That's nice.

Bayside Park, Jersey City, circa 1960

One of the best parts of writing this blog has been the chance I've gotten to wax nostalgic. I've been able to write down some of the stories of my younger days that all people of a certain age carry around with them. Unlike prior generations, however, nowadays you can post your Memory Lane meanderings on the internet, and sometimes get instant feedback.

Some of my nostalgia posts have evoked responses of the most gratifying kind. Google searches landing on these posts have led to my getting back in touch with several of the very people I have written about. Such intense blasts from the past are great fun.

The other day, I got a new kind of input. A stranger from the same neck of the woods as mine sent me a photo of herself and some of her friends in Bayside Park in the Greenville section of Jersey City. She also e-mailed some remembrances of her days growing up in that town. Her name is Carol Saba. Here is the picture, and here is her story:

Well, sure you could use the picture -- my intention was to post it. I don't know what happened to most of the girls, though. Some went on to St. Aloysius Academy before college. Most of my friends moved away from the City. All of my cousins moved to the Shore, upper New York State, California. My immediate family moved to Florida.

You've started me on a trip down "Memory Lane." I was born in Jersey City and so were my parents and grandparents. We could see the Statue of Liberty from my grandparents' kitchen window (they lived upstairs, we lived downstairs.) All the houses were similar -- duplexes with a narrow alley between them. I lived there only until I completed eighth grade in 1960 but I knew every family on my street, Bidwell Avenue, that had kids: The Duffys, the O'Connors, the Rydwins, the Coogans, the Parseghians, the Lanagans, the Kearneys, the Wards, and the Reillys. Oh, and Gigi Up-the-Street and Karen Up-the-Street, too. We played outside every day: box ball, stoop ball, roller-skates (where's my skate key?), or walked to Bayside Park. We took the bus to Roosevelt Stadium for ice skating; we walked to the public library on Hudson Boulevard (I think it's Kennedy, now), swam at the CYO pool, and in the summer hung out sometimes at the Bayonne Pool. (Ooh, that pool scene was fun -- the PA blasted Connie Francis singing "Lipstick on your Collar" and I was wearing lipstick for the first time, behind my mother's back.)

I remember lining up for flag-raising every morning at Sacred Heart School, running to the 12:20 low Mass in the church basement on Sundays. I loved going to the movies in Journal Square: those plush balconies, Oriental rugs, and chandeliers in the Loew's and the Stanley. I used to walk to the stores on Ocean Avenue between Bidwell and Bayview: Joe's Delicatessen, the shoemaker's, Aiello's (fruits and vegetables), the butcher's, Mrs. Pinkowitz's notions, Eddie Cox's News and Candy store (had a fountain and nickel cokes -- NICKEL cokes, dear God I AM old), and the A&P on the corner.

We played on the street unsupervised by parents who trusted us to be where we said we would be. But it was a different world. Would any parent today allow two 12 year olds to take the Tube into Manhattan every Saturday morning to a class for the High School Entrance Exam?

My favorite image? I remember the Holy Name Parade in Lincoln Park on one cold Sunday, how beautiful our city looked then, the women in fur, the men and boys marching with their crisp pennants, and children dressed in their best. I loved the camaraderie in the air as people shouted their hellos to each other.

My time in Jersey City was short, but its impact on me was tremendous. I had what you'd have to call a happy childhood.

Okay, enough! Sorry to rattle on so, but really, I'm just scratching the surface!

Thanks, Carol. Great to hear from you.

Tell me something I didn't already know

"Dan Saltzman is beaming secrets to the Venutians! Randy Leonard is really a robot built by Charlie Hales!"
This blog comment made me laugh.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tireless helper

You open the mailbox, and there it is: a notice from the IRS. They say you owe them several thousand dollars of back taxes, which you don't have, from a couple of years ago. The revenuers are coming at you with some highly technical and complicated legal arguments. They say you owe penalties. And every day, the interest on your newly discovered debt is piling up -- as it has been for a couple of years since you filed the tax return in question.

Maybe the bill is because of something your ex-spouse did or didn't do back when you were together. Like just about all married couples, you filed a joint tax return because it was cheaper. But the fine print says that you're both liable for each other's taxes now. Your ex disappeared from the scene last year, and this isn't the only leftover bill from that marriage that you can't pay.

Where can you turn for help? A tax lawyer or accountant? You call around. They'd charge as much as the tax, if not more, and there's no guarantee they can do anything for you. They want a retainer up front -- a retainer you don't have. Is there anywhere else you can go?

If it were 10 years ago, the answer would be no. But beginning about a decade ago, a very small and very bright band of energetic tax professionals convinced Congress that the answer ought to be yes. And now, in most major cities, there are low-income taxpayer clinics that help taxpayers in situations like the one I've just described. Sometimes the taxpayers owe what the IRS says they owe, but in a surprising number of cases, it turns out that they don't. And it takes the clinics, mostly staffed by unpaid volunteers, to vindicate the rights of the ones who don't.

The federal government pays for half of the clinics' operations, and private outfits (many of them law schools) chip in the other half. Here in Portland, we've had a clinic like this for the last six years or so.

I bring this up because one of the bright band has died. Janet Spragens, a professor at American University Law School in Washington, D.C., was a tireless advocate for the rights of low-income people caught up unfairly in the tax system. Everyone connected with the clinic programs looked up to her, and she proved how much good one dedicated and civic-minded person can still do in this country.

At the tax lawyers' convention I attended a couple of weeks ago, they gave an award to Janet, in appreciation for the countless hours of volunteer work she did for the good of others. She was too ill to be there to accept it, but she was a brilliant and perceptive person, and I'm sure she understood just how greatly she was appreciated.

I met her only once, at an early conference at her school on the clinic grants, but I feel as if I knew her. It's going to take some time to get used to referring to Janet in the past tense. She was in her early 60s.

Weekend update

We're less than 15 hours into Nice Week here on the blog, and already the tenson is mounting. There were a couple of items in the paper today that made me just want to...

[deep breath]

Now that the wind has died down, though, it's a perfect winter's day in Portland. I often complain that in western Oregon we rarely see that bright blue sky that takes the edge off the hibernal chill. Today's proving me wrong.

[stares at computer screen]

One hundred fifty-three more hours of Nice Week to go, and already I've got two topics on my list for when it's over.


Bill McDonald over at Portland Freelancer has found an object that he needs help identifying.

Right angle

Somebody I know is living right. A friend over in the Collins View neighborhood in southwest Portland (near Burlingame) sends along this photo of the side yard between his house and his neighbor's in the aftermath of the bitter cold winds that passed through here the last few days:

The glare of the sun in the background makes it a little hard to see, but that's one tall tree (a cedar, I'm guessing) that just narrowly missed the neighbor's house when it came crashing down:

My friend notes that at almost any other angle of fall, the tree would have hit somebody or something and done a world of hurt. Including my buddy's house:

He's got a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Wild about Harry

I just watched a video clip of Harry Whittington, the guy whom Dick Cheney shot, as he left the hospital yesterday. Whittington seems like a very classy guy.

I wish we had someone like that running the country.

Introducing Nice Week

After a week of blogging about the likes of Dick Cheney, Sebastian Telfair, Ginny Burdick, Sharon Kitzhaber, Dale Penn, Vera Katz, and others, the foibles of our public figures have left me bone-weary. A raft of nasty comments, which led to the banning of a handful of folks, has added to the malaise.

And so now it's time for something completely different. Introducing Nice Week -- a week when I will try to do the impossible, that is, write only nice things on this blog for seven days straight. And only nice comments will be allowed -- all others will be removed. I may even de-ban a few commenters to see if they're up to the challenge.

Being the nice Catholic boy that I am, I've been taught that the first day of the week is Sunday. And so Nice Week starts at midnight tonight. If you've got something to say that isn't nice, now is the time to get it off your chest.

Friday, February 17, 2006

More "clean money," comin' up

If Portland residents are feeling a little lighter today, it's because $300,000 or so more of "clean" taxpayer dollars are about to go out the door to pay for politician junk mail and people calling your house at dinnertime.

Erik "Opie" Sten says he's got his 1,000 $5 checks to get his head in the city's new "clean money" trough, and the press is reporting that a gal named Emilie Boyles has turned her sigs and checks in to the city. She had better be 110% sure there isn't a bad one in the lot -- the people who do the checking work for the city.

So in that race, it's two "clean money" candidates so far, and two old-fashioned "dirty money" (Ginny Burdick and Dave Lister). No word on how much additional cash Burdick can raise by driving her car around and billing for it twice.

Throw in Amanda Fritz, who's got her clean dough to take on Big Pipe Saltzman, and that's three for "clean money." I'm feeling lighter already. How about you?

More bad news for school funding

Here's something they probably didn't talk about at the school funding summit in Portland yesterday: The Oregon Tax Court says that cities and counties can't levy property taxes to help schools if the schools have already hit their property tax limit under wicked old Measure 5.

It appears this could conceivably invalidate some of the Multnomah County children's levy.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, a chief architect of the children's levy, said he has not read the decision, but "it sounds like a decision we better check into."
No kiddin', big guy.

Ginny take a ride

Guess who's been double dipping on her mileage reimbursements.

Kind of makes you wish you could see someone's tax returns.

Skot reflects on Torino

Listen, there is only one metric I'm interested in: Who went the farthest? Style points? I don't give a f*** if a guy looked like Bea Arthur with a hundred carrots stapled all over his body and pinwheeled madly all the way to the bottom while screaming "I REGRET EVERYTHING!" If the skier landed on his feet then HOW FAR DID HE GO? This is all that should matter.
It's a characteristically fine rant all the way through.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Tram That Would Not Die

Just as I thought, speculation that the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] is on its last legs was greatly exaggerated. Our correspondent, Butterbean*, closely followed the press event in the SoWhat district this morning, and he reports that it was just a p.r. spiel from the promoters of the emerging Condo Towers Amidst the Contamination.

Oh, and I swear, I am not making this up, Sharon Kitzhaber, the ex-guv's ex-wife, is the new SoWhat ambassador to the condo-buying public. Sing with me, people: "It's a small world, after all...." Not to disrespect "Louie, Louie," but that annoying Disney classic ought to be the theme song of Portland. They definitely need to have it going 24/7 on the Muzak system at the SoWhat "discovery center." ("Honey? I just discovered that my wallet is missing!")

Meanwhile, the City Council tram "work session" originally scheduled for tomorrow got pushed back a week, but apparently it's full steam ahead now that the mayor is back from his CIA mission to Taiwan. It sounds like Sam "the Tram" Adams and some others on the council (they're there for now, at least) are going to come up with more "urban renewal" (a.k.a. Average Joe property tax) revenues to throw at the tram, currently budgeted at $55 million, up from the original liars' budget of about one-fourth that. Suit yourself, guys, we'll see two of you at the ballot box very soon.

And did you catch how the negative polls that killed the school tax had disgruntled voters complaining about the tram? Note to Mayor Potter: If you want to save the schools, first you'll have to kill the tram. More study committees and a couple of road trips to Salem (BTW, stay out of the Chinese restaurants down there) won't be enough with the Most Irresponsible Public Works Project Ever staring voters in the face.

Meanwhile, OHSU is actively advertising for a new tram operator, now that Mike Lindberg's nonprofit corporation, which was supposed to get the gig, is being folded up in irrelevance (or was that disgrace?). The request for proposals is here, according to a reliable source. There's all kinds of interesting tram stuff in there (and in the form contract), including the proposal that the tram operator will take out $15 million of liabililty insurance, which will also cover OHSU and the city.

And the Pill Hill types are still eagerly talking with the city about which of them will actually do what, once this monstrosity is supposedly up and "running." Says OHSU:

Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between OHSU and PDOT [Portland Department of Transportation], OHSU and PDOT have agreed that they will work together collaboratively on tram operations. OHSU will serve as the lead agency in issuing a Request for Proposals for a Tram Operator, selecting a Tram Operator, negotiating a contract with the Tram Operator, and supervising the Tram Operator's performance, all with the input and concurrence of PDOT. OHSU and the Portland City Council will formalize this relationship in an Intergovernmental Agreement that is currently being negotiated and is subject to approval. References to OHSU herein refer to OHSU acting as the lead agency. OHSU's authority to negotiate and/or contract for Tram Operations is subject to the Intergovernmental Agreement referred to above.
They say they want someone with "demonstrated experience in aerial passenger ropeway operations." Hmmm, that's either a ski resort owner or the Klan, no?

Prospective bidders, if you really want this one, let me give you some advice: Hire one of the good old boys' wives.

* - Not his real name. He uses "Butterbean" only to escape assault while incarcerated.

Oregon at age 147: sick

The Oregon "lottery" just gets weirder and weirder. Now the state is selling online blackjack that you can play from your home computer.

I'm sorry, but when we voted in a lottery back in the '80s, we didn't authorize this. Every branch of state government should be hanging its head in shame.

I hope Tony Soprano is enjoying his cut of the blackjack take as much as the public schools are. But don't worry, Dale Penn has been assigned to find the real killer.

Talkin' trash

Pultizer Prize winner Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week took a nasty swipe yesterday at Ginny Burdick, the state senator from Portland who's running against Opie for City Council. I share Nigel's skepticism for Senator Burdick's campaign rhetoric, and I'm leaning toward supporting Dave Lister at this point, but it sure looks like the Double Dub is taking sides in that race a little early, and on the "news" pages, no less.

Now that they've moved to groovy Northwest, Jaquiss & Co. may feel more free than ever to thumb their noses at the temporarily-somewhat-disenfranchised former big shots of downtown business. More power to us "Listerines," I hope.

Doogie says, no snow

One of the great blogs that have cropped up in these parts over the past year -- and there have been quite a few -- is that of Mark Nelsen, the ever-youthful weatherman at KPTV in Portland. On the blog, he gets to stretch out beyond where he can go on the air. He can 'fess up to the details of how he makes his various predictions, and where they're currently going.

As of last night (Wednesday), he's saying we'll likely get no snow out of the current cold snap. More important to me, the episode is not likely to end with a freezing rain event. "If you look back at Portland's freezing rain history," he writes, "it's VERY rare this late in the season. It CAN happen, but probably not in this setup."

Our daphne bushes thank you, Mark.

It can happen here

Republican Party officials today insisted that Portland has a legitimate shot at hosting the 2008 Republican Natonal Convention. The announcement yesterday that the city was on a list of locations invited to bid for the event had been greeted with widespread expressions of skepticism.

In a conference call from his undisclosed location, Vice President Cheney told reporters this morning: "I think things have gotten so bad inside Portland, from the standpoint of the Portlandic people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.... I think it will go relatively quickly,... (in) weeks rather than months." He predicted that the usual left-wing demonstrators in town would not "put up such a struggle" and that even "significant elements of the Red and Black Cafe... are likely to step aside."

In response to questions, Cheney said he was going to have just one beer with lunch today before practicing with the codes for launching the nation's nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Modern language lesson

Newcomers to Portland may need a little help dealing with the language quirks that have grown up in the Rose City over the years. Here's one that trips up many a recent arrival: In Portland, politicians never say "I was dead wrong." When they mean to express that sentiment, it comes out as "I was deceived," or "I wasn't given all the information."

Clip and save this for when you read the paper. It comes up a lot.

Down by the river

My spies tell me that the SoWhat developers have a big press conference called for the morning, down on their "campus," to announce something momentous. One informant speculates that they may be cancelling the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot].

I highly doubt that. More likely, they're suing the city over the tram. Or some such. I was looking to see whether the event was on Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams's calendar -- if he's going to be there, it will be to announce joyously that the tram has been saved, and a real bargain now, thanks to him. But as usual, his web site's only showing his calendar from two weeks ago.

Bassy's got a gun

Well, the Jail Blazer tradition continues. Now their overrated brat, Sebastian Telfair, has been busted for having a loaded handgun on the team plane. Once a flight attendant found it, his story was that it was his girlfriend's gun, and he took her bag by mistake.

The team is standing behind the story. I should call them; I've got an aerial tram they might want to invest in [rim shot].

From now on, when the hecklers yell "Shoot!" at Telfair, it will be doubly good. It's time they found a new home for this fellow. Some place with a lot of mirrors.

Scalia says you're "an idiot"

The Bush boys sure do know how to pick jurists with that nice even judicial temperament, don't they?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Did Cheney take a breathalyzer?

Well, the joke's over. Dick Cheney's little hunting accident suddenly isn't funny, now that the 78-year-old guy he shot has had buckshot lodge in his heart and suffered a heart attack.

Meanwhile, why the whole incident was hushed up for nearly 24 hours after it happened is fueling wild speculation.

The cops in Texas say there was no alcohol involved, but apparently they didn't see the vice president for 14 hours after the shooting went down. Did anybody give old Nasty Dick a breathalyzer or a urine test for drugs right after it happened? Fat chance.

Oh, and it's heartwarming to know that all the rules of safe hunting have apparently been suspended. Now it's the fault of the shooting victim. If they don't let you know they're there, you go right ahead and pull the trigger. It's not your job to know where everybody in the hunting party is before you get your rocks off trying to kill a bird.

Guess who's back?

This town is too funny. You couldn't make up better comedy if you tried.

When every bird chooses its mate

The Original Lover had a broken heart
To the ground his blood did flow
And for every drop that fell to the earth
A red, red rose did grow

They were warned

When you hear people in Portland city government talking these days about the ludicrous OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], they're quick to tell you how they were lied to by evil people when the whole boondoggle was approved. The precise identity of the evil liar keeps changing -- one day it's Matt Brown, then it's Vic Rhodes, and of course we can all blame it on Neil Goldschmidt, our unique clone of Richard Daley and Roman Polanski, who's probably more responsible for the whole boondoggle than anyone else.

But when you look back to what the neighbors who are going to live under the tram were telling the city four years ago, and even earlier, it's clear that everyone in the picture -- particularly Commissioners Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman, who were around for all the crucial votes and are now up for re-election -- was fully warned.

Cruise on over to this website, which, as of tonight, hasn't been updated since March 2002. Read what the neighbors were screaming about costs and other issues. Here's a good example, but there were many other prescient observations about costs and deception. The neighbors were so right about so many things. But they were dismissed as NIMBYs, and now we've got nearly 20 million bucks already sunk into a black hole that just grows bigger every day.

The city was on full notice of what it was doing. And it was dead wrong. There's still time to pull the plug. Have we learned anything, gentlemen? Or does the Goldschmidt-Katz era live on?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Breaking news: "Clean money" repeal fails

The Willamette Week is reporting that the folks trying to put repeal of the City of Portland's "clean money" public campaign finance system on the May ballot have apparently failed in their effort -- because they turned in too many duplicate and invalid signatures on their petitions. The numbers are very close to the minimum, and I'm sure the proponents of the ballot measure will fight to the end to qualify, but it doesn't look good for them.

Wow. You spend $350,000 on a signature-gathering campaign, and you fail to qualify? There's a gang that can't shoot straight. If you're going to attack a pet project of the elections people, the "first thing" you do is make double-dip sure you have enough valid signatures before you stop collecting and submit them.

I was thinking of voting in favor of keeping "clean money," but I'll be disappointed if the public doesn't have its say.

Don't confuse the comments with the blog

Lately I've been noticing that commenters are arguing with me about things that I never said. This is one of the risks that come with allowing reader comments on a blog -- not that readers will disagree with you (that's pretty much the whole point of comments), but that they'll start confusing what other commenters wrote with what the blogger wrote.

I won't get into specific examples here -- it's not worth too much finger-pointing -- but let me just say that it's become a recurring annoyance for me. Folks, I do not agree with much of what my commenters say here, even when they are in general agreement with a point I've made. All sorts of observers come on here to chime in with me, but quite often they put a spin on matters with which I strongly disagree.

Just because there's a comment on my blog doesn't mean I endorse what's been said in it. My own comments are limited to the body of the blog itself, plus any comments that I've signed. And so before you take me to task for something I've said, please make sure I've said it? Thanks.

Another one bites the dust

A sad story is circulating today about how the great little town of McMinnville is being overrun by McMansions and their yuppie owners. Middle-class folks are being pushed out of town by people who live in "Mac" but don't work there -- they're either retired or commuting to the Portland area.

Wait 'til they build the toll road around Dundee and Newberg. The wrecking of Yamhill County will then be complete. The whole place will be just another Tualatin, with maybe some grapevines and cows sprinkled in for faux atmosphere.

I haven't spent any serious time in Mac in decades, but I have a soft spot for the place, having been married there once. The old timers down that way have more character than all the greasy developers in the state put together. To those who will fight tooth and nail to keep what they've got, my hat's off.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The road to comedy gold is wide open

O.k., amateur comedians of America, it's the perfect setup for a standup joke:

While out bird hunting on his south Texas ranch today, Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter.

Take it from there, in the comments. (Via Cwech Blug.)

Wicked Thought of the Day

Why not merge Dignity Village with the Tryon Creek Farm?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

School tax chaos

Just got an e-mail from the co-chairs of the Portland School Board. Curiously, it suggests that there may still be some sort of tax measure for schools on the May ballot:

Right now, there are still three options on the table. Mayor Tom Potter deserves enormous credit for putting forward the first: a citywide income tax to help all schools in Portland. A second option would be a local property tax measure for Portland Public Schools. Under the third option, there would be no funding measure on the ballot in May. In that scenario, we would work with Portland Public Schools' community partners to pull together some funding support. We would spend down our limited reserves, and we would work with our schools community to decide on some significant budget reductions. Under any option, we must launch a communications effort to actively and openly engage our community in a discussion about the reforms underway at Portland Public Schools, and the course we are charting for the future.

Like you, we are fiercely committed to providing the best education we can for every child, in every school in every part of our school district. Our kids deserve no less. Under any option, our goal is clear: To prevent teacher lay-offs and maintain a full school year to the fullest extent possible.

Over the next few days and weeks, our course will become clear. We invite all of you to continue in the conversation, for our schools and for our kids.

David Wynde and Bobbie Regan
Co-Chairs, Portland School Board

The fact that these folks can't decide whether it's over or not is a very discouraging sign. I'm sure the mayor's Taiwan junket didn't help. Maybe he got back home, picked up a paper, read that Super Vicki had killed his tax plan, and said, "What???!!!"

For better or worse, the school tax vote in May is deader than a doornail. Why not give it a decent burial and move on?

Ding dong

There was a wonderful little editorial in the Times this week about the recent, quiet passage of a great invention -- the telegram. Back in the day, this was the surest and fastest way to get an important message to someone. Picture a time when there was no e-mail, no fax, no Fed Ex, few phones even. You went down to Western Union and wrote out what you wanted it to say, and they wired it to another station, where it was typed out and a messenger in a uniform hand-delivered it.

Wow. I wish that I had gotten one of those at some point in my life or other. But I don't think I ever did, and now I never will.

There were spin-offs: candygrams, flowergrams, singing telegrams, even strip-o-grams. Do any of those still survive? I suspect so, but the real thing they imitate is gone.

This calls for a memorial playing of the songs "Western Union" (a tinny '60s rocker that goes "da-dit-da-da-da") and "Western Union Man" (a sweet R&B croon by Jerry Butler). I've got to have copies of those collecting dust around here somewhere, but they're not on the hard drive. At least, not yet.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Read it yourself

The city attorney's memo that explains why the City of Portland needn't put another nickel into the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] has been posted on the internet. It's here. A beautiful document.

One shoe dropping

Mike Lindberg, the former Portland city commissioner who's badly soiled his place in municipal history with his involvement in the OHSU aerial tram scam [rim shot], dropped a mini-bombshell in the Trib this morning. That shadowy nonprofit tram corporation he's the president of -- you know, the one that distracted everyone with a "design competition" while the public was being sold an obviously fake budget that was off by around 300 percent? Now old Mike says the corporation ought to be disbanded. Its remaining supplies of memo pads may be available on eBay as soon as Tuesday.

Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc., whose board of directors includes the city Transportation Commissioner but was long populated by representatives of OHSU and the SoWhat condo kings, was calling a lot of the shots in the early days of the Snakebit Ski Lift. It was modeled after a similar scam team that has some weird role in the streetcar system. But the mayor's now told the the tram entity politely to take a hike, and they've got nothing to do but sit around and watch the political fiasco unfold. So Lindberg's going to recommend to the board of PATI on Monday that the corporation be dissolved.

Awwww. Just when it was getting good. Oh, well. We'll always have our memories, of the days when Lady Di Goldschmidt was picking out the fabric for the tram seats, and Randy Gragg was gushing in the paper every other morning about the zinc-clad exquisiteness of it all. There was that board meeting where Dike Dame skimmed a couple of krugerrands across the Willamette. And don't forget the groundbreaking, where St. Hatfield showed up to heal a few lepers. Peter Kohler would always take time off from the PGE scam to stop by with pinot and brie. How about the day Francesconi ran over Gerding's foot with his Vespa, and Vic Rhodes shot cappuccino out of his nose? Ah, the way we were.

After they liquidate the tram company, there's only one thing left to kill while there's still time. And that's the tram itself.

It's a gas gas gas

I saw the other day that the City Council of Portland is determined to get further into the electricity business. They're about to build a fuel cell to make make their own power out of methane gas coming off the city's wastewater treatment plant up in north Portland. Six million bucks to build the thing. Supposedly -- the way they budget, that could mean $20 million in the end. But the city will get the power, and there will be less evil gas seeping into the atmosphere. Fair enough.

I understand they already do this at one of the sewage treatment plants. I guess this must be an expansion of the existing system.

Speaking of methane and waste, I was also reading the other day that a real estate outfit that builds shopping centers has some land out at NE 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street that it wants to develop. I think that's the old Rose City landfill, isn't it? I remember the days when we'd drive my friend's beater truck out there to dump our junk and look for Playboy magazines.

Anyway, according to the Star, the developer isn't saying whose store he wants to build, but it's definitely going to be big box. Hmmm... Does it start with "Wal"?

I can't wait for The City Council Show the day they have to pass on that one. Old Sam "Friendly for Business" wil be strutting around reading from Das Kapital and enjoying the publicity. Fireman Randy will have his union hat on and be ragging on the evil of it all. Opie will look like he's interested, but that folder in front of him will have his resume in it....

Anyway, you could hook up a power plant to the City Council chambers that day, and burn enough methane to light McMinnville for a week.

Send O'Reilly to Darfur

I'm late to the game on this one, but Nick Kristof of the Times is passing the hat trying to raise enough money to take tighty righty talk show king Bill O'Reilly with him on a tour of the horrible genocide currently under way in Darfur. Kristof would like to see O'Reilly focus some of his patented outrage on something worth getting incensed about. If you'd like to offer a few bucks for the cause, go here and make a pledge.

One caveat, however: As much as you might love to leave Mr. O'Reilly in Darfur, the fund would also pay to bring him back to the States.

For an update on how the effort is going, go here.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Breaking news: School board drops tax plan

While Portland Mayor Tom Potter ponders his menu choices in Taiwan, his school tax plan has officially come unglued. KGW is reporting that the Portland school district is giving up on the tax, and planning to take the $57 million hit to its budget and hope for better times in the future. You'll have to register, but the story is here.

And they're off

Worldwide Pablo had a most interesting post the other day about a new poll of voter attitudes as the campaigns for Portland City Council and other municipal issues really get going. According to a survey by Riley Research Associates and dated Monday, "clean money" is ahead, but "Anybody But Sten" is heading for election. Big Pipe is ahead of all challengers in his race, but he has only 20 percent of the voters in his column so far.

It's a great year for politics in the Rose City, and it promises to remain so all the way to November.

When condo-mania is a bust

Here's a cautionary tale from yesterday's Times about a Florida city that thought condo towers would save its downtown. So far, they haven't.

Pungle up, Homer

For those of you keeping score at home, there are a couple of very interesting developments to report in the OHSU aerial tram debacle [rim shot]. Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, who's had his authority over the project seriously watered down over the past week or two, was quoted in the Trib the other day confirmng what I've been questioning on this blog for a while now:

Although the city has signed an agreement with OHSU and the property owners to build the tram, Adams says the city attorney's office has advised him that the city does not have to put any more money into the project.

"If the other parties in this project don't come up with the money to finish it, the city is not required to complete it at a loss," Adams said.

Hear, hear! And so if the city puts in a single penny of additional property tax dollars, it's not because it has to. It's because the current commissioners want to. (They'll call the money "urban renewal funds," but look on your property tax bill, folks -- there it is.)

Fascinating. Not another penny, gentlemen!

(Today the O jumps on the story and acts like it's new. It isn't, but the Trib sure underplayed it.)

Smells like one heck of a lawsuit is imminent. And without a steady flow of fat checks, the construction crews aren't going to keep building the thing. Meanwhile, delay will just keep adding to the cost. What a mess. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

Meanwhile, the PDC has designated one of its own to take the reins of the city's "negotiation" with OHSU and the SoWhat developers on who's going to pay the latest huge tram cost overrun. Given Adams's comments, I doubt that there's much to negotiate, but the new PDC "special projects" maestro is the agency's economic development director, Bob Alexander.

I hope he has a good helmet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006


The good docs up on Pill Hill have been getting themselves sued a fair amount lately. In addition to the former patient who's trying to stop them from hiding behind their alleged $200,000 malpractice liability limit (with a trial scheduled for next month), now there's an ex-employee going after them in a whistleblower action over alleged financial misconduct.

According to The O, the latest lawsuit is brought by a former pension manager at OHSU who claims he was fired because he blew the whistle on alleged hanky panky with employee retirement funds:

The former manager of retirement programs at Oregon Health & Science University says in a lawsuit that he was fired for blowing the whistle on improper pension procedures that cost employees "substantial lost interest earnings."

The suit, filed on behalf of Gordon Allen, says human resources officials at OHSU failed to make "timely or accurate contributions" to employee accounts in the Oregon Public Employees' Retirement System and the University Pension Plan.

When they build the new county courthouse in downtown Portland some day, perhaps they ought to include another OHSU aerial tram [rim shot].

Meme myself I

Oh, geez. I just noticed that I've been "tagged" for one of those "meme" things. Given that the tagger is one of my favorite bloggers, I can't say no. So here was the assignment:

The rules: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to. (Via Knit, Purls & Curls.)

I've been bouncing around my music collection so wildly lately, I'm not sure I can be said to be genuinely "into" a particular set of songs. Surely not like in my younger days, when I could play a track 100 times in a row, until I knew every word and every bar. But here are seven that have sounded so good lately that I turned up the volume:

1. Happy Song (Dum-Dum) - Otis Redding. After watching an Otis clip over on youTube, I cruised through a side or two of his best. This one always brings a smile.

2. True Colors - Cyndi Lauper. Never fails to give me goose bumps. Tears, even.

3. You're a Big Girl Now - Bob Dylan. Zimmerman has assumed many poses over the years, but this is as real as he ever gets. It's just raw.

4. Amazing Grace - Hubert Laws. On a winter night, it puts you in touch with something much bigger than humanity.

5. Moonshadow - Cat Stevens. "Oh if.... I won't have to talk..."

6. Beautiful Boy - John Lennon. He could be a downright nasty man, but here he is at his sweet best.

7. Baby I'm a Star - Prince. Nobody's vamped like this since Little Richard.

O.k., I have done my duty. Now it's these folks' turns: Betsy, Pablo, Snethen, Cousin Jim, McDonald, Pril, and Red.

Dear Lars Larson

I know it's still two days 'til First Amendment Friday, where anyone who agrees with you gets to call in and say what's on your mind, but I can't wait. What do you think of your hero, George Bush's, new budget? I'm thinking especially about the $107 million that's going for more MAX light rail in Portland. I'd say old W is doing a heck of a job, wouldn't you agree?

And it's a good thing he's cutting education funding, health care for the poor, and food for starving old people. Let 'em eat bullets!

Tuesday, February 7, 2006


If you're already spending too much time on the internet, don't go here.

It's $6-a-pound asparagus! We're saved!

This month's Portland Hollywood Star gets uncharacteristically breathless in singing the praises of a new apartment complex that's going to go on the Washington Mutual branch block at NE Sandy Boulevard and 43rd Avenue. The sales ploy being used to market the project to the neighborhood centers on the developer's "plan" to have a Whole Foods store as part of 44,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. The Star takes the bait, announcing that this is "[t]he long-hoped-for arrival of another grocery in Hollywood."

Usually the monthly takes a hands-off tone in discussing these deals, and its failure to do so in this case is puzzling. Buried way down in the story is the fact that there will be two floors of parking above the store, plus 46 apartments, "some" of which will be "designated as 'affordable.'" (Nobody has asked exactly what that means -- it could be two $850-a-month studio apartments, for all we know.)

To neighbors in closer-in Northeast, the grocery store promise strikes a bitter chord. That's the same ticket that was used to sell the condo mostrosity that they built at NE 16th and Weidler. It was going to have a big Zupan's at street level. But guess what? The Zupan deal fell through, and what we got was an ugly condo block, a weird bank branch, lots of empty retail space, and the coldest, most unfriendly facade of any building built in a Portland neighborhood in decades.

Before they rejoice too exuberantly, the folks in Hollywood had better be sure their wonderful store is a 100 percent certainty. Because to the developer, Gerding-Edlen, it's really all about the apartments.

Other aspects of the project might make for some more interesting reading. It's a few blocks from the Hollywood MAX station, and so I assume there are tax breaks involved, for "transit-oriented development." The loss of the Washington Mutual parking lot on Saturdays could make life tough for the merchants and shoppers at the popular Hollywood Farmers Market. (The bank has generally looked the other way when market-goers use its ample parking.)

And somebody had better dig up some money to put a traffic signal at 44th and Sandy. It's a tempting place to try to cross that busy boulevard, and an easy place to get yourself killed by a speeding vehicle. You put 46 apartments on that corner, and you're going to need a light.

Blood and guts at Soil and Water

I must admit, I have no clue about the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. I think it's a governmental body that's supposed to help folks in Portland west of the Multnomah River keep an eye on their part of the planet. Its website is here. Apparently it's run by a seven-member board of directors, all publicly elected -- five from districts and two at large.

One of the at-large directors is Liz Callison (left). Her bio is here. She's been writing me the last couple of days (at least, someone's signing her name) to protest action that she says the majority of the board is going to take at its meeting tonight -- at the Sauvie Island Grange, no less. Apparently the Zone 5 director's position is vacant, and the board is about to fill the vacancy by appointing one of the district's several associate directors, Terri Preeg Riggsby (right), to the position. (Preeg Riggsby's bio's on the same page as Callison's -- just scroll down. Among her life experiences is a stint as an intern at the Portland Development Commission and work with River Renaissance project. She was endorsed in a recent election by Portland City Council candidate Amanda Fritz.)

Callison alleges that the appointment is improper, and she's been firing off missives to the Oregon Secretary of State in protest. According to Callison, Preeg Riggsby is a protege of board chair Brian Lightcap, and she opines that Lightcap and the other directors "sneakily gerrymandered district zones to ensure that only one person out of a hundred thousand was eligible for the Zone 5 position under the state's convoluted rules for conservation districts: Terry Preeg Riggsby." Callison also says that "the board has intentionally avoided giving adequate, timely notice of the vacancy."

Not everybody who lives in the district is eligible to be a director. It looks as though you have to be a large landowner, most likely a farmer or a timber owner, or else serve as an associate director for at least a year:

Zone directors must own or manage 10 or more acres of land in the district, be involved in the active management of the property, reside within the boundaries of the district and be registered voters. Zone directors may either reside within the zone that is represented or own or manage 10 or more acres within the zone that is represented and be involved in the active management of the property. An individual may also serve as a zone director when the individual, in lieu of the other requirements specified in this subsection, resides within the zone that is represented and indicates an interest in natural resource conservation as demonstrated by serving at least one year as a director or associate director of a district and having a conservation plan that is approved by the district.
Callison's got some other beefs as well. In a letter that she says she's sending to the Secretary of State's office, she writes:
As a special district, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District should provide for fair and open public participation but it seems to be operating more like a private club. Small units of government such as conservation districts are the building blocks of our legislative system -- besides being the conduit for significant state and federal funds -- and they were intended to be overseen by fairly-elected citizens.

An additional problem is that in redrawing the sub-district boundaries, the board chairman's ensured that his property now extends into two different sub-districts, meaning that if a strong opponent should happen to surface in one sub-district he can simply run in the other.

Well, golly, we got us a little rhubarb going here, folks. I hope Lightcap and Preeg Riggsby will write in to give us their side of all this. Meanwhile, if you hear fireworks coming from Sauvie's tonight, you know what it is.

Monday, February 6, 2006

From disappointment to disgrace

Hard to believe, but the coach of the Seattle Seahawks stood up in front a large crowd in the Emerald City today and blamed the referees for his team's loss. KGW is quoting him as follows: "We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

What a bum. Even if it's true, you don't say that. A textbook example of poor sportsmanship. But then again, what did we expect given the ownership of that organization -- the "bankrupt" billionaire? I hope we never see them in the Super Bowl, ever again.

Ray of hope

Businessman-techie Dave Lister has thrown his hat into the ring for the Portland City Council seat occupied for the last 10 years by Erik Sten. I had been thinking I might sit that race out, since neither Sten nor his best known opponent, Gard and Gerber's Ginny Burdick, promises any meaningful change from the rampant folly that has characterized Sten's tenure. The choice apeared to boil down to incompetent socialism vs. the Old Boy Network -- no thanks.

Lister, who's been a frequent commenter on this blog, seems like a nice alternative to both those candidates. He's not going to throw millions away tilting ineptly at windmills. Nor will he be on speed-dial for the fat cats at the Arlington Club who want another piece of the taxpayer's dollar. We'll see how things develop, but his arrival on the scene is welcome.

Engine noise

The February edition of the Hollywood Star is here, and as ever, this little monthly shopper paper keeps us up to speed on all sorts of land use and other issues affecting neighborhoods over here on the Idaho side of the river.

Two continuing stories jump out this month. This post will cover the first one: The family that owns the Colwood Golf Course out by the airport (the one you might cut through if you're coming into PDX from the west) is pressing ahead with its plan to have the whole joint, 140 acres, rezoned from open space to industrial. This is tragic on a number of levels, but my biggest concern is that "industrial" here means "airport." The bloated Port of Portland bureaucracy has been licking its chops over this land for years, to put yet another runway in.

With the land clearly identified on all sorts of airport master plans as the new runway, there's little chance, is there, that any serious industry would relocate there? Why would a business put down roots knowing that they'll be ripped out by a condemnation proceeding in a few years?

Tragedy level 2: PDX does not, repeat, not, need another runway. The place is already overbuilt, and this has the strong odor of a makework project about it. If we can't bring Porkland back as a real shipping port, the staff at the Port ought to be downsized, not egged on to spend more money.

Third problem, as is wisely pointed out by Star story: If a runway goes in, as a safety matter all the birds in the area will have to be actively chased away. This after environmentalists have spent decades trying to clean up the Columbia Slough, which runs right through the property, so as to attract wildlife.

And the noise! Any runway built where Colwood is now is going to have a majorly deleterious effect on homes in the Alameda and Rose City neighborhoods. There's already all kinds of static about the auditory pollution inflicted on area residents by the airport; why the neighborhoods are not putting 2 and 2 together and screaming bloody murder about the expansion of the problem is puzzling.

Finally, it's a real drag that the city isn't trying to get its hands on this whole tract and make it part of the municipal park system. They've got $7 million to buy contaminated land in the SoWhat district for a two-acre park for the empty nester condo dwellers, but there's not a penny left to save a blue collar golf course out on NE Columbia. It figures.

The City Council will eventually have to bless the rezoning, but based on its track record in matters such as this over the Katz years, I suspect it wll slide right through. Somehow the well-connected Tom Imeson types will make a few hundred thou off the deal. And as the golden era of the Rose City fades further into memory, the Colwood deal will be just another brick in the wall.

You tell 'em

Fireman Randy sure had some characteristically blunt words for the aerial-tram-meisters up at OHSU last week:

If OHSU won't pay, "we'll back up a tow truck and hook it up to the pilings and pull them out," Commissioner Randy Leonard said. "You can buy a bus."
Given the animosity created by Leonard's common-sense regulation of the city's rogue towing industry, however, I wonder if he could find anybody who'd be willing to do the job. Here's hoping.

Sunday, February 5, 2006


Well, the better team won the Super Bowl, but not without some help from the referees toward the end. Congratulations to the Steelers and their crazies everywhere.

And for Paul Allen, owner of the Seahawks, from a guy who's got money in the pension fund that he screwed over with the Rose Garden, here's some inspirational reading.

Pulling for Pittsburgh

Perhaps I'm being a traitor to Cascadia, but I really don't want to see Paul Allen up there with the Super Bowl Trophy. And a few bottles of Iron City beer will make more of an impression than a sea of Starbucks lattes ever will.

So go Stillers.

And now it's time for your Bojack Super Bowl Trivia Question: The first Super Bowl was held on my 13th birthday, Jan. 15, 1967. Who scored the first points, and for which team did he play?

Finally, as one of the talk show hosts noted the other night, Aretha Franklin will be singing the national anthem. I hope there's no wardrobe malfunction this year, because somebody could get killed.

Friday, February 3, 2006


The tram's in crisis. The public school tax plan is in trouble. "Clean money" may or may not be going up for a public vote.

So if you're the mayor of Portland, what do you do now?


I think this one's to Taiwan. There's a "vision" for ya.

Today's tram lie

The latest from our underachieving daily newspaper:

Someone will have to pay. Crews have spent five months putting the tram together, and they can't stop now.

Who says? Mayor Potter, please -- not another penny from the city's property taxpayers! And people, don't fall for the head fake -- property tax money from all of us is what "urban renewal funds" are. Just don't do it!

Remote control

As is my habit this time of year, I'm blogging from an undisclosed location, where I am away on business. See if you can identify the city. Here are your hints:

1. It's sunny and fairly warm.

2. There are 1,050 tax lawyers in this hotel right now.

3. A red light-rail train goes by every so often -- completely empty most of the day.

4. The downtown is full of cold luxury condo towers.

5. The condition of the local roads was recently graded a D-plus.

6. Our cab driver on the way in told us the municipal government was bankrupt.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The dirty money people

The people who have spent nearly $350,000 putting repeal of the new Portland "clean money" public campaign finance system on the ballot in May have 'fessed up and filed their report showing who's paid for their campaign so far. My word, it's every motley member of the West Hills Network, out from under every rock.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Read the list here. I'll go down the roster villain by villain some other time when I have the energy. But for now, I'll just note that everything that's wrong with Portland is well represented.

I think "clean money" stinks. But with this crowd looking to get rid of it, I'm starting to think more and more that I might vote to keep it. (Via Anna Griffin.)

She's gone

As predicted here yesterday, Vicki Walker has dropped out of the governor's race and will run for re-election to the state senate. Too bad, but at least she's still planning to continue busting the old boys' chops. It's badly needed.

I guess that means that I'm backing Ted -- er, I mean Pete -- Sorenson in the primary.

For the record, I hope the snowball in hell succeeds, too.

New tram tab: $55 million -- or maybe more

The city's new experts on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] have come up with a new budget for the project -- $55 million, up from the $45 million circulating late in 2005 and of course, now nearly four times the original "budget" of $15.5 million.

And it could get worse. The price will be even higher, according to the experts, if the project runs too late or some other unfortunate occurrences come to pass. Read all about it in their "risk assessment report" -- there's a comforting title, eh? It's here.

If anyone on the Portland City Council votes to put an additional nickel of city money into this thing, they deserve to be removed from office. Mayor Potter, do you really want our "vision" of Portland? It's a place where the people who are taking our tax dollars (and asking us to vote for more) know when to say enough is enough. The project is 35 percent complete. It's not too late to pull the plug.

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