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

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May 2006 Archives

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Up the Cup

I'll admit it, I know nothing about soccer. It's like basketball, but with 95 percent less scoring. It's like football only in the sense that you use your feet. Fans get injured or even killed at games despite the fact that Ron Artest isn't there.

They run around a lot. They hit the ball with their heads.

Now the World Cup tournament is about to begin, and once again, I'm wondering if I can understand it; if so, I'll try to get into it.

My buddy Steve Stark (of Beatle book fame) has, along with his son Harry, penned a short series of essays on the games, and they're up for sale dirt cheap as electronic downloads on Amazon. For 49 cents you can read their intro.

Steve lived in England for three years in connection with his Beatles project, and that's where he caught the world soccer bug. It will be interesting to see if he and Harry can break down my immunity.

Poles of mystery

After months of passing these things on the streets of Portland, I give up. What are they -- bike racks?

They're fancy. Up at the top, there are lovely icons of walking, driving, biking, and riding a bus:

But down below, the place where you'd chain up a bike is puny. You couldn't get more than two bikes around the thing, if that, and one of them would be out in the sidewalk or awfully close to the street.

What are these things? How much did they cost? Who paid for them? And has anyone ever, ever seen them doing anything other than standing there taking up space?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're from the city, and we're here to help you

The Trib's got an article today about Portland Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams's current pitch to local business districts: Let us put in parking meters. It will help your business.

Uh huh. Pay for Homer Williams's business is more like it. That cash flow would probably go straight to the SoWhat debacle. The list of unfunded traffic improvements in North Macadam comes to a good eight figures.

Parking meters will help your business? That's a Portland City Hall classic.

Consider this true story: Last Friday I was driving around doing errands that had piled up over vacation, and I got hungry. I decided to stop at the Subway shop in the awful Merrick Apartments (a.k.a Burgerville Manor) on NE Multnomah and MLK. There are meters out front of that shop, but I had some change in the dash of the car.

Well, guess what? The spiffy Euro-looking meter wasn't taking change that day, and so I had to use a credit card. And of course, the instructions on the darn thing are so baffling that I even bought a little more time than I intended.

It cost me $1.20 to park so that I could run in and get a sandwich at that Subway shop. Especially when there are many other nearby lunch options that don't involve pay-to-park (shops with their own parking lots, or in areas with on-street free parking), I won't be going back to that Subway again.


Old Grandpa Bogdanski, whose namesake I am, was full of quirky catch phrases. He had nicknames for everything and everybody. For instance, shredded wheat cereal -- which used to come in a cylindrical box as a single, giant mass -- was "last week's Brillo pads." He never called them anything else. You get the picture.

One of Grandpa's sayings was "What do you want -- a hop in the a*s or a gold watch?" He'd often say that to us kids when we were acting up. I never did quite establish with him what it meant, but I think it was the equivalent of "Get out of here." You were either being fired or given a testimonail upon retirement, but either way, you were gone.

I thought of Grandpa's saying as I read late last week that the last two holdovers from the Katz era are leaving the board of the Portland Development Commission. The proverbial more-time-with-the-family.

That leaves Mayor Tom Potter with two appointments to the board, to complete his clean sweep of all five seats. No word yet on whether there's a nomination process, but how about a level-headed small businessman and a neighborhood activist with experience in the city bureaucracy?

We're in the news

Our Complete Internal Revenue Code Podcast Project is written up in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. (Click on "cancel" at the password prompt to see a few paragraphs, at least.)

Blog Post of the Year So Far

Ain't it the truth.

I remember

So how was your Memorial Day? Are you like me -- did you catch up on a bunch of chores around the house and yard? My horoscope said this was a weekend to get organized, and I made some strides in that general direction (including the annual tax records shred -- bye bye, 2002).

Did you do anything to remember the veterans? I spent some time thinking about my favorite vet, my dad. He was in the Navy in World War II -- dropped out of high school in his senior year to get in on the action. It was toward the end of the war. He went to Guam, where, the story goes, he delivered mail. He had more than a few unkind words to say about the Japanese from the time he got back.

That was a defining moment for him. It was as far from home as he would ever get. I think the trip he made to San Francisco to see me graduate from law school may have been his only other jaunt west of Philadelphia.

Of course, we kids came after the war, with the baby boom, and so we never really got to take our own read as to how devoted a sailor Dad was. But he sure was an enthusiastic member of the veterans' post across the street, where the old boys used to hang out with great regularity. Amidst decades of membership, our father was even the commander of the post for a few years.

When Dad left us several years ago, a group of guys from the veterans showed up at the wake and did a little service. These were Vietnam vets, mostly just a year or two older than I. I was impressed by how much respect they paid one of the last local members of the Greatest Generation. At the cemetery the next day, they took the flag off the coffin and gave it to me -- "the eldest son," said whoever was in charge. I wasn't expecting it, but of course I took it with great reverence.

It's quite the screwed-up world we're witnessing now, but I still find it hard to imagine what it was like around here in the early '40s, when Dad and his buddies signed up. Nazi death camps. Rising sun war flags. Steel pennies. Silver nickels. Rationing.

Those guys went about the task with a singleness of purpose that we won't likely see in our lifetimes. The duty was clear, and the response was sure. God bless them and rest them.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dark night of desperation

Must... get a grip...

I know, I know... the elections are over... way over... and how I ache for a fresh start... so you'd think it would come easy... tonight being recycling night and all... the yellow bin is right there... it would be so simple... but God help me... for the life of me... I just... can't... bring myself... to throw this one away...

It's got me in its sick grasp... can't eat... can't sleep... can't... take my eyes off it... Get thee gone, Satan!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Florida 2006, Part III

As I was saying earlier, when I get to a place with heat, sun, and water, it's hard for me to think about spending time with much else. But while in central Florida, we did a little -- just a little -- of the typical touristy central Florida stuff.

Of course, there's the whole theme park thing, and this time we spent just a day on that. We took in the Disney Animal Kingdom, which is a Disnefied version of a really nice, large, well appointed zoo. In addition to getting excellent looks at several rare species (at least,they're rare to us), we enjoyed the Lion King show, a fun re-creation of an African village, a few kiddie rides, and the usual encounters with the life-size cartoon characters. There's a lot of preaching about conservation, and I tried not to think too much about the irony of getting that message from a corporate giant like Disney -- especially at a location where it likely mowed down square mile after sqaure mile of habitat for its plastic universe. Anyway, it was a fun and educational, albeit hot and ultimately exhausting, day.

There were cheaper wildlife thrills right in our condo backyard. One day the kids looked off the deck and saw a family of peacocks strutting around on the grass strips around the complex across the street. And there were quite a few signs of interesting life amidst the shells that were all over the beach. Many crab bodies and parts thereof, and the bones of some big fish, were among the finds. Tiny fish swam in the shallowest parts of the tide. Perhaps the most interesting critters were some black sea snails that attached themselves to the rocks that line the channel where the cruise ships go in and out of Canaveral. The size of the head of a pin.

Probably the coolest moment of the trip came on our last evening in Florida. We were nearing the end of an action-packed day, in which we were trying to soak up everything our hosts had to offer. We had found our way to the beach for a farewell to the Atlantic, and my daughter and I were walking up toward the jetty, combing the beach. A bright and lively young girl ran up and made friends with my little one, and after a few steps we met her dad.

"We're here to see the launch," he said, gesturing north toward the Kennedy Space Center. "We come down to watch a lot of them."

"Darn, we won't get to see it," I responded. "We're leaving in the morning."

"No, it's today," he responded. "There's a window between 6:11 and 7:11."

It was an unmanned flight, of course -- a weather (they say) satellite called GOES-N, being launched as a ready backup in case anything goes wrong with the cameras we already have up there.

"It will be right over in that general direction," the other dad said. "Over that hill." He pointed slightly west of due north -- not to the launch pad right on the water that they use for the space shuttle, but an unseen site a bit inland.

"Cool!" I said. A while later, as we headed back south toward our beach headquarters, we noticed the number of people on the sand growing, and all eyes were looking past us toward the space center.

By the time the thing took off a few minutes later, we had made it back to our towels and had met up with the rest of our family foursome. The launch made quite a prolonged rumble, and an awesome sight -- a bright yellow tongue of fire blasting out behind the speeding vehicle. "Look, kids -- the rocket! Wooo-hooo!" What a piece of work is man.

I tell you, that thing went up fast. It was through the scattered clouds and out of sight in nothing flat. There was a bit of an easterly arc to its path. The sound persisted for a while, even after the rocket was beyond the reach of the naked eye.

Somewhere in there, I suspect, there's a metaphor for our trip.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Holiday weekend soundtrack

From a patriot.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Florida 2006, Part II

When you drive inland from Tampa Bay, after you labor your way past the long line of hideously dense residential development right on the freeway, the countryside gets pretty rural. Lots of cows and horses munching away next to I-4. And some serious wetlands -- gator habitat, no doubt. Not a whole lot going on. Before we took the cutoff to bypass Orlando, we stopped at what has to be about the bleakest Wendy's in America. Dave wouldn't have approved.

It was roaring hot and sticky, and the locals were making pained faces about it, but when you're a tourist from Portland, Oregon with a nice pool in your near future, it can't get hot enough. We slid all the way around Disney World and paid toll after toll and we buzzed on through to the Space Coast. As you approach the Atlantic, the expressway narrows a little, and when it hits the coastline just south of the Kennedy Space Center, it hangs a right and turns into a fairly standard American commercial strip, beach hotels and such on your left.

Just before that turn, there's an exit for the cruise ship launching stations. The big ones run out of here -- Disney, Carnival -- along with some lesser lines and some short-hop gambling cruises. If you take the cruise dock exit and head east past the oil storage tanks (there just for a nostalgic hint of the Jersey Shore), you hit the two-year-old Ron Jon beach resort, which was our Atlantic coast destination. A big roomy two-bedroom condo just off the beach (free shuttle tram all day long -- and no, it's not aerial) runs you 200 clams a night in May. Once you're settled in a bit, the run to the nearby liquor store and supermarket is an easy routine.

The main options at this place are pool and ocean. Both are so fine, you don't need much else. The pool complex includes a couple of toddler pools, a "lazy river," a big folks' pool with a volleyball court, and a fairly hairy water slide. In the afternoons a duo plays soft rock -- in a way, they're like the middle school music teachers from Saturday Night Live, but a little less goofy and with a beachier feel. Along with the Buffett you get some Creedence and maybe Tom Petty.

The ocean beach is five minutes' walk away, pure white sand and warm, healing waves, with a long gentle slope out into the breakers. There's a tendency toward riptides here, but the surf was tiny the whole time we were on the scene.

The resort has all manner of on-water stuff for kids to do. Magic shows, arts and crafts, and a wildlife safari show that gets the tarantulas and alligators right on your lap. (Most curious, but nonetheless reassuring, part of the gator display: the electrical tape around their jaws.)

If the spirit moves, there's an exercise room and a massage therapist. But let me tell you, people, there are few customers for either. America has gone to pot physically. All of Florida seemed to be a gigantic obesity clinic, and we're talking patients of all ages. They say Americans are going to live a lot longer, but I don't know. Fully seven out of 10 vacationers we saw were strokes and heart attacks waiting to happen. You just looked around the resort, and you saw what Rome looked like right before the empire fell. A bunch of soft, overstuffed whales. A bunch of hungry Arabs could kick our a*ses in a Riyadh minute.

We didn't let any of that bother us. We took full advantage of the excellent facilities and ran ourselves ragged with swimming, beachcombing, miniature golf, beach jogging, and hours in the indoor kiddie play area. We ventured down the road to the funky Cocoa Beach Pier a couple of times. Not much going on there, even on Friday "beach band bash" night. A couple of timeshare salesmen hustled us, but we weren't biting.

It was a real joy being with the kids so much, but I experienced an interesting phenomenon more than once. There were quite a few youngsters there who were running around unsupervised, and they seemed fairly starved for adult attention. Our two swimmers were shrieking "Watch this, Dad!" over and over with great gusto, and within a few minutes some other child, a complete stranger, would be over with us showing off as well. It wasn't competition among the kids as much as it was just wanting to be seen and acknowledged by a grown-up male. I didn't quite know how to react.

With a nice, well equipped kitchen, we ate most meals "at home," saving money and waistline inches. There's a fine coffee roaster in town called Wahoo Coffee (named after the fish, not the U. Va. rooters), and he's got the wi-fi going all day and night. We stopped by on a Sunday afternoon only to find him closed, but our older daughter and I staged an impromptu tailgater on the van -- I on the laptop, she on her art pad.

What restaurant fare we had in Florida was heavy. I don't care if I ever see another French fry. But the local fish was plentiful and first-rate. They're grilling grouper, mahi-mahi, and something called triggerfish, and they know what they're doing with it. There's a joint called Grills tucked in near the cruise ships, which has got the right combination of party atmosphere and grub.

It was the end of the slow season down that way, and we didn't meet with big crowds for much of anything. In fact, on weekdays, we had most of the place to ourselves. However, just as we were wrapping up the trip -- the Wednesday before Memorial Day -- all manner of school-age kids appeared. We were informed that the school year in Florida had just ended. It's a Jeb Bush program, I guess -- no child left in the classroom to learn anything.

Life is good when your biggest problems are the sand in your bathing suit and the menu choices at Grills. When the big project is showing a five-year-old how mini golf works. When you're goofing off, physically beat, slurping down a frozen strawberry daiquiri with a sleepy eye on the basketball playoffs. Wondering how hot it will be tomorrow. Beach first, then pool, or the other way around? Which day should we do Disney? How low should we turn the a.c. down to tonight? (To be continued.)

Oh no

Here's just the kind of publicity that can accelerate the wreckage of a good place.


It's more than 30 degrees cooler in Portland today than it was where we were yesterday. But look on the bright side: We have such a good base to work off for global warming.

E-mailbox find

On our return from vacation, we found this in our inbox:

Hi, Jack,

Thank you very much for your support during the election. And especially, for your kind post last Wednesday morning. The campaign was hard, not being in a runoff harder. When I read your comments, you reminded me of all the good-hearted people I've met over the last nine months, many of whom I hope will become enduring friends. Thank you for your encouragement, insights, and participation in the process.

I'm disappointed but not discouraged. 23,421 Portlanders voted for someone who had never run for elected office before, challenging a benign incumbent supported by all three major newspapers and our popular mayor. Ginny Burdick garnered only 26,868 votes coming in second in the other City Council race, despite much higher public name-recognition and the endorsements of The Oregonian and Tribune.

I'm proud of our campaign, of staying positive, of being the citizen pioneer of the Voter Owned Elections system, and of returning money to the city from my funding allocation. My candidacy pushed Dan Saltzman to take action on many important issues, to get out in the community and hear neighborhood concerns, and to begin to consider priorities in property tax levies. My supporters in the neighborhoods and the unions believe we gained ground - just not as much as we wanted.

I'm not done. The goal of increased ownership and participation in city decisions remains crucial, even though or perhaps especially because nearly two-thirds of our registered citizens didn't bother to vote. People participate when they know their voices will be heard, and their effort will make a difference. Evidently, we have more work to do to help more people connect and believe in joint decision-making, and to be more effective. I plan to continue to lead the community towards that goal, building on the successes and learning from the lessons of this campaign. I trust you and your blog will continue to help inform me and other Portlanders, and I hope for your support again in the future.



Thursday, May 25, 2006

Florida 2006, Part I

We gave our summer a nice jump start with a 10-day shot to central Florida. This time (our third in four years), we hit both coasts, as I had a speech to give in Tampa, and we wanted to spend qualiy time back on the Space Coast.

The trip took more than a few unexpected turns, but the forces of good travel were with us, and every change in plans seemed to work out for the better. Take our first stop, for example -- the car rental counter. They couldn't give us the full-size car we were supposed to get, and so they upgraded us, for free, to a van with a DVD player. We had a heck of a time getting the movies to work, but they did operate well on our three longest drives, keeping the munchkins content.

Our first night, we cruised to St. Pete Beach over on the gulf. I have long wanted to stay at the Don Cesar Hotel over there, and given that I was spending someone else's dime this time, we checked right in. The next morning, however, we awoke to the shocking news that there was no water in the entire hotel! When it would be restored, no one could tell us.

Needless to stay, we were concerned. I had to make my grand appearance before the expectant audience late that afternoon, and after the long trek from Portland, I was beyond grubby. A sponge bath in a public restroom wasn't going to cut it. Maintaining calm as best I could, I demanded that the room be comp'ed and that we be moved to the nearby Tradewinds as quickly as possible. The Cesar is run by the Loews hotel chain these days, and they do a nice job. They reserved us a penthouse at the Tradewinds, wrote off our brief and waterless night, and sent us on our way.

The Tradewinds was great, especially with the little ones. I got a brief dip in at the pool and stuck my toe in the gulf before dressing up and heading over to Tampa. But first, for 10 bucks I checked in on the internet to read the mostly dismal Portland and Oregon election results (the one and only charge we paid for wi-fi). Then back onto the Sunshine State highways I went.

Florida should be renamed the Toll Booth State. Particularly in Orlando, it's ridiculous. Tolls are so backward, so regressive, we're going to hate them once they get to Oregon. Easy pass, schmeasy pass, it's still a pain in the a*s. Anyway, Tampa at rush hour has its challenges, like any other city, but with the time that I allowed myself I was the first to arrive at the Tampa Club, one of those white bread business clubs atop the obligatory office tower. The audience was swell, the food was great (I ate so much fish this trip I'm sprouting gills), and they even threw in a little extra dough. The no-water-at-the-Don story was a nice icebreaker.

Everything was copasetic back at the penthouse, and we enjoyed a fine evening overlooking the gulf after I got back. The kids had gone to see the Pirate Red Beard show, and the next morning we took a spin around on the paddleboats before hitting the road for the long ride over to Cape Canaveral.

For the first time in a year, I had no work in front of me for a solid week. At this point the Jimmy Buffett soundtrack was rolling pretty good. (To be continued.)

Poor Ken Lay

Our deepest sympathies...

... not!!!

Celebrity sighting

On our flight this afternoon: former Blazer enforcer Mark Bryant, looking good with family in tow. Here's another clue for you all: He was flying out of his current home town.

I told Bryant that he ought to come back to Portland and help Terry Porter buy the Blazers. I said that we missed him. He smiled and said thanks, but he didn't seem too interested in the ownership part.

P.S.: He is a way tall man.

Where my thought's escaping

We've been blogging only sporadically, and from a secure remote location, for more than a week now. We hit the road before the first fraudulent ballot was opened on End-of-Election Day, and we've stayed loosely in touch courtesy of bootleg wireless service, mostly from people we don't know.

As is our custom, while we now return to the rainy Rose City, we give our readers a chance to identify our travel spot. Our friends have proven so good at this recently that we're going to give only one hint this time: This place has got the most appropriate area code in the nation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


So the feds want to take a look at possible white collar crime in Portland city government? I say, bring it on -- it's about time.

With a budget that big and a bureaucracy that bloated, shortsighted, and arrogant, it shouldn't be hard to find some folks on the take.

Oh, wait, I forgot, there's no corruption in Oregon. Human nature doesn't apply here.

(Note to the mayor: The correct response is, "We welcome scrutiny by our fellow law enforcement officers. If any corruption is found, it will be swiftly corrected. We have nothing to hide.")

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Party on

I guess I'm having another one of my spells and missing something. I keep hearing talk about having a nonpartisan legislature here in Oregon -- the Stennies all seem to be taking a break from their urban affairs term papers at PSU to drool over the idea -- but it seems to me the real politics are headed 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

The 2005 legislature struck two gigantic blows for partisanship in elections acrioss the state. First there was the new law that major party members can't sign petitions for independent candidates if they vote for anyone -- even candidates in nonpartisan races -- in the primary. Take that, Naderites and Westlund! And then they repealed the law that said that candidates for nonpartisan offices couldn't highlight their party affiliations in their campaign literature.

And in this climate, we're going to switch to a nonpartisan legislature? Come on. Nobody in Salem is in the mood for this. Moreover, even if it passed, it wouldn't mean much, now that candidates for nonpartisan office can paint themselves as blue or red or green as they like.

What's the difference between Emilie and Lucinda?

The Trib is questioning "clean money" today. Shouldn't it be put up for a public vote?

Er, yes. Is this news?

Interesting, though, that the story discusses the scandal of the election just past without mentioning Lucinda Tate. The story's all Emilie Boyles this, Emilie Boyles that, but the author seems to have forgotten that Tate turned in signature sheets with the same apparently false data on them that Boyles did -- procured by the same villain who wrecked Boyles's campaign. By then, however, we "losers" were screaming our heads off about the apparent forgery, and the city bounced Tate on some technicality or other without ever getting to the fraud issue.

I guess I'll never figure out how they divvy up the free passes in this town.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Question of the Month

Willamette Week: Part of the solution or part of the problem?

Buckle up

Opie and Big Pipe now have a mandate, people. And so you can expect the flow of half-baked sludge emanating from Portland City Hall to break through any and all remaining levees of common sense. The rest of the SoWhat boondoggle is a lock now -- the local share will run several hundred million, if the truth be told. Saturday Market -- gone for a condo tower or two. The Convention Center hotel groundbreaking is less than a year away. Light rail on the bus mall? A certainty. "Creative class" pap from PSU is stilll in the driver's seat. Homer and Vera? Heroes. Bluecoat pension reform? Dream on.

I can't believe that the majority of Portlanders want to continue down this path. But let's face it. More than half the people who mailed in their ballots (and their spouses' and significant others' and dead relatives' ballots) want the current juggernaut to continue. My best guess is that the vast majority of Portlanders don't understand, or don't care. And so hey, we soldier on. Read up on municipal bankruptcy, stock up on canned tuna, get a referral on handgun training from Ginny Burdick, stay friendly with your realtor pal, and watch the wheels of incompetent socialism roll on.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Motor City shakedown

They say the mark of a true champion is the ability to come back from adversity, and the Detroit Pistons have done that, defeating the Cleveland Lebron in seven games. The Cavaliers had the defending conference champs right where they wanted them -- up 3 games to 2, and with a game 6 at home -- but they couldn't finish them off. As ill as Rasheed Wallace makes me, his was clearly the superior team.

So now what -- root for Wallace? Or for Shaq and Riley? Guess I'll have to swallow hard and pull for Miami Vice.

The shell game

With summer almost upon us, I find myself thinking yet again about the crew that raised us -- my parents and their siblings. On those annual two-week vacations at the Jersey Shore, there was no shortage of cheap ways to keep ourselves entertained. I remember the year we decided to move our vacation up by a couple of weeks from our usual last-two-weeks-in-July. When we got to Seaside Park or Ortley Beach or wherever it was, the water was too cold for the prolonged swim sessions we enjoyed.

As we sat on our beach blankets whiling away the hours, a game was devised that made the most of our situation. Each person was assigned two shells or bits of shells. Each of us was instructed to place secretly one, two or no shells in our clenched fist and place it on the blanket. We would then go around, and each player would enter a guess as to how many shells, in total, would appear when we opened our hands in unison. As I recall, the object of the game was not to get the actual total, because the person closest to the correct number had to plunge himself or herself into the chilly water over his or her head. As the guesses went around in the circle, you couldn't choose the same number as anyone else, and we took turns guessing first.

I can't remember whether the oceangoing losers were then out of the game, or whether they returned to the circle for further play (after the ridicule died down, of course). I think the idea was that once you were in the water, you were out of the game, and the rest of the crew kept playing until only one of us remained dry. I can just picture the smirk on the face of the winner. Maybe it was Aunt Eleanor or Uncle Andy, although the two of them were such good sports that they might join the final member of the Polar Bear Club, in a show of solidarity.

But there you have it. Maybe 12 or 15 of us, kids and grownups, howling for an hour over the simplest of pastimes. We would do well to get back to that kind of fun this summer.

Welcome addition

Photographer extraordinaire Nancy Lynne has a blog up and running. Go and enjoy.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trojan ends

I see that the local media is making a big deal out of the implosion of the cooling tower at the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant tomorrow morning. Much ado about nothing. The shutdown of plant operations was the real milestone, and the removal of a lot of the contaminated equipment for a ride up to Hanford was a clever maneuver. The tower is a snooze. Wake me when they figure out what to do with all the hideously lethal spent fuel rods sitting in the crummy old pool next to the Columbia River. At least Al Qaeda won't have the tower as a visual marker to help guide them in when they're ready to blow the pool to smithereens.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In the e-mailbox

Greetings Friends, Supporters and Fellow Listerines:

I want to thank each and every one of you for your enthusiastic support and your firm commitment to restoring common sense and fairness to City Hall. Even though the election outcome was not what we had hoped for we can certainly be proud of our campaign.

In just three short months I went from being a political unknown, ignored by the press and the other candidates, to being a viable candidate. We raised awareness of the many problems confronting small businesses in Portland and brought to light many aspects of the city budget that are detrimental to taxpayers. We successfully promoted the basic truth that quality of life begins with a job.

In the end, over thirteen thousand residents cast their votes for Dave Lister.

I will continue to advocate for the taxpayers and the small business owners in Portland. I will continue to insist that the city pay attention to those things which it is charged to do and steadfastly oppose efforts to legislate beyond the bounds of the city charter.

Changing the political culture of Portland is a slow and arduous project. This election was only the beginning.


Dave Lister

Ra's latest drivel

Except for the latest to arrive from California, Portlanders of all stripes remember Rasheed Wallace, the sullen head case who led the decline of the Trail Blazer basketball team from worshipped heroes to despised louts. Now Wallace is on the Detroit Pistons, who are currently in the league playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. When he was in Portland, old "Ra" never spoke to the press, but times have changed. The other night the new, talkative Wallace was mouthing off, guaranteeing that his team would win the next two games and thus clinch the series. Now, lo and behold, they have lost both those games and are facing elimination at the hands of the Cavs.

It's a beautiful moment. The Cavs are pretty much a one-man show, that one man being young phenom Lebron James. James is laying down such a monster brand of ball that some comparisons are being made with the greatest pro player of all time, who also wore no. 23. "We are all witnesses," says the Nike-money-fueled Lebron hype.

To heck with Lebron. The Rasheed aspect alone is enough to make one sit up and take interest in this one. Go Cavs.

Here come da judge

Virginia Linder against Jack Roberts in a runoff for Oregon Supreme Court -- that's one of the most interesting judicial races one could dream up. As long-time readers of this blog know, Jack's my favorite Republican, and Linder -- has anyone mentioned that she's a woman, and there are no women on the state's highest court?

Anyway, Governor Ted Kulongoldschmidt has a chance to influence the race, in that there's a midterm vacancy coming up on the court and he'll have a chance to fill it. Once he indicates a likely choice, voters can take a look at the replacement judge's gender, and that may influence how strongly they care about the sex factor in the Roberts-Linder race.

A commenter here recently pointed out that Linder's a career government lawyer who has never had a real client. Roberts hasn't had one in a long time, but at least he cut his teeth as a tax lawyer representing taxpayers. With the other candidate out of the way, the differences between the two will come into sharp focus. They're both very smart. As I say, it should make for an interesting summer.

Ask your doctor about political Viagra

While the Good Old Boys of Portland bask in the glow of having locked up the governor's mansion for another term, they've got to be scratching their heads about how they've lost City Hall. Ginny Burdick was a disastrous candidate for City Council, and between that and their $300,000 "clean money" repeal fiasco, the denizens of the Arlington Club seem to have lost their punch.

Now Erik Sten and Sam Adams, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, are going to implement their Grand Vision of Downtown, which will no doubt hand more money to Homer, Edlin et al. and try to turn the whole urban core into a clone of the soulless Pearl. The downtowners -- those who stick around -- aren't going to like what's left.

Oh well. At least the Usual Suspects got the county back with Warbucks Wheeler. And if Cogen can win the runoff, they'll have a Saltzman type under the Hawthorne eco-roof to join him in funneling tax dollars back into the West Hills where they belong. Bernie must be relieved.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


On the national scene, where will be two years from now? For the life of me, I couldn't predict. The Chimp will be finished, and although his numbers won't be as deep in the tank as they are now, they'll be low. Which means that his party will need a new look, as they acknowledge that Dumb and Mean has played itself out. And who would that new face be? Giuliani? Jeb? Given the troubles at the White House, they wouldn't dare bring out a face without instant recognition, would they?

On the other side of the aisle, it's looking bleak. Hillary? Dean? Neither could be elected POTUS, and Obama wouldn't help. My man Johnny Edwards will be in the mix, I'm sure, and I'd love to see the country behind him, but he couldn't get it done last time. And if Kerry or Gore dare act like candidates, they ought to be floated out to sea on a barge with Fat Teddy and Al Sharpton, and sunk.

One thing seems certain. Rove will orchestrate or permit one or more major international crises so that the GOP can play the "war on terr" card. (He'll work from jail if necessary.) Which means that many people will live in pain and fear while the big power forces use them as bait. That's a real tragedy, but I can't see '08 going down any other way.

Big winner

Congratulations to Neil Goldschmidt, who won his third term as governor of Oregon yesterday.

Here's to the losers

Election nights are for the winners. Their supporters strut and dance around long after the losers and their friends go home. It's always sad to see the empty rooms on the late news, where the unsuccessful candidates made a brief talk and got out of the public eye as quickly as possible. It probably makes sense not to show up on the tube if possible -- don't let the voters see you in defeat, just in case you want to run for something again.

It's doubly depressing to watch when the horses I've backed don't come in. Even where my favored candidates don't have a realistic shot, somehow by Election Day I always talk myself into thinking that they could pull it out. When they don't, it's deflating. When Ohio came in for Bush over Kerry, for example -- an awful moment for me, the country, the world.

What hurts the most, of course, is to be the losing candidate. I've run for election by my peers several times in my life. I've come close to winning, but I've never won. Student council in high school. Editor-in-chief of the law review. Management positions in my chosen field. I just can't win an election, and coming in second is sometimes worse than not being in the running at all. I remember being defeated by a hair for my state's Rhodes Scholarship. They grilled me all day, then gave it to the preppie wrestler from Yale.

That's not to say I haven't had my share of prizes and honors, including some wonderful awards bestowed on me by my customers. It's an amazing feeling being up there in the bright lights with the applause washing over you. But the agony of defeat is as powerful as the thrill of victory, if not more so. The call (or worse, the e-mail message) telling you that the job went to someone else. The long-awaited announcement where you find out you're only Miss Congeniality.

And so I sympathize and emphathize with those whose hearts sink as those returns come in. As Frank Sinatra once sang, bless them all.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Election Eve

As I pulled up in front of the Multnomah County Elections office today to drop our ballots into the collection boxes there, two figures caught my eye. On one corner, a sheriiff's deputy -- is she there every election, or only when her boss is on the ballot? And on the other, somebody dressed vaguely like Uncle Sam -- something told me not to explore too much further than that.

On the car radio, Lars was blathering about the low turnout, and his wife's kidney stones. At this point in the campaign, the stones have become somewhat more interesting.

By this time tomorrow night, we'll know where things stand. Something tells me we're in for more years of mediocrity in government around here. The old boys appear to have most of it wired. Good for blogging, but bad for living.

Did you hear me clearly now? I said...

We finally filled out our ballots last night and are dropping them off today. Man, am I glad. It's been an eventful primary season for me -- this is about as involved in politics as I ever get -- and the end brings a feeling of relief. I suspect that many of my favored candidates won't make it -- I think Terrence R. Smyth may not be able to pull it out for Multnomah County chair, for example -- but it will be nice to see how it all shook out and take a siesta before getting ready for whatever runoff action we might have in the general election.

My other picks have been mentioned here before, and so I won't repeat them, but for the record, we voted for Virginia Linder, because -- has anyone mentioned this? -- that court needs a woman on it.

Weird characters in comments

I notice that some of my favorite commenters are getting weird characters in their posts on this blog. Apostrophes turn into â, for example. This is the result of my recently switching the character set of this blog to UTF-8 from whatever it was before, which I think was Western European (ISO).

I made the switch because some other features of this blog, on the sidebar for example, were getting those strange characters. Once I went UTF-8, the sidebar has looked swell on my browser. But now some comments have that haywire stuff in it, particularly around punctuation marks.

I suspect those of you whose comments are getting the odd characters are composing your comments in another program and then cutting and pasting them into my comments box. If so, you may be able to clean up the problem by not doing that.

I suspect there's also a way for you to eliminate the issue by changing the default encoding on your browser to UTF-8. But to tell you the truth, I don't know my UTF from my ASS, and so maybe a tech-minded reader can help us out here.

Ah, the mysteries of the internet...

Hats off to Qwest

Isn't anybody going to say anything nice about Qwest, after it stood up to the Chimp and refused to give our phone records over? I know it's not part of the Portland Progressive Catechism to say anything positive about a private utility, but I think they did a good thing. Thanks for that one, Qwest!

If it were up to the City of Portland, of course, Qwest would be out of business, and Opie would run the phones. There'd be no use issuing a subpoena for those records, because the city system would be so screwed up that the logs would probably be inaccurate or illegible.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why we're here

I love blog posts like this one.

Sneak preview

Looks like early summer around Portland. Sunny, dry, and the sun peeks through the north windows before it goes down. The spring blossoms are almost all gone, and some of the roses are in bloom already. Many of the garden plants need a little water. The car gets hot if left out in the sun. Yet in the morning it's chilly enough that the heat comes on in the house unless you turn the thermostat off.

Our neighbors on the one side have an old television antenna up on their roof. It serves only one purpose these days -- a robin sits up there at dusk and sings like there's no tomorrow. You tell 'em, big guy.

The spider nests are hatching. Hundreds of tiny black and yellow guys looking for mom on Mothers Day. She gave you her all, babies.

The big daddies are still playing basketball, but the games get less and less compelling the closer they get to the final showdown. It's not something to stay inside to watch when it's prime time outside.

The days are long, but this season's never long enough. Here, this is the start. Once again, we vow to make the most of it.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wrong number

We spend a lot of money keeping unwanted phone calls out of our house -- not just for caller ID, but also a monthly fee to Qwest to announce to all callers that we don't accept solicitations. Funny thing, the worst of the dinnertime sales calls used to come from Qwest. So now we're paying them to leave us alone.

But nothing stops politicians. Take today. Ring, ring. Caller ID says "Out of area," but that's a lie. It's the voice of Steve March, running for auditor of something or other. Blah blah blah. Click. If I was even considering voting for you, pal, it's over now.

An hour later, same deal, "Out of area," and it's the voice of Portland Socialist Erik Sten himself, rattling off whatever Mark Wiener told him to say. Wish I had Opie's home phone number to call him back and tell him what a dolt he is. He already knows that's what I think, but my knowing all about him didn't stop him from calling my house.

It's time for a new local election reform ordinance: All robot calls have to show a real caller ID with the candidate's name, or better yet, the name of whatever union or other slush fund is sponsoring the phone bank. Too much to ask, I know. Plus, given his general administrative prowess, Sten's calls would probably give the wrong name, anyway.

Any time of year, you can find it here

So there I was spending a week cruising around southern California giving speeches to extremely well heeled professional groups. We're talking serious dough, people, and I was making some suggestions to them about how to keep Uncle Sam away from it. I was on a half-day panel with four speakers, and we did "the show" four times -- San Diego, Newport Beach, Westwood, and Pasadena. In between, we ate fine food, drank good wine, stayed in excellent hotels, and were chauffeured around in high-class vehicles, including one stretch limo ride where we cracked open the bourbon decanter and the gigantic shrimp cocktails. Amazing thing, money.

I hadn't spent time in L.A. in more than a decade. Thirty years ago, I spent my first summer there and fell in love with the place. As big and as fast and as hard and as dirty as America's second city is, I still feel welcome and at home there. Beneath all its limitations there is still something highly attractive -- a sense that you can have something almost as smart and spectacular as New York, but with much better weather and a far more carefree attitude. You just have to be careful where you go, and learn how to survive all the time you spend on the freeways.

And they're not all free any more in Southern Cal. At one point -- I think it was in Orange County -- our driver stopped and paid a toll.

I got to spend a little time reflecting on who I had been in my two ancient summers in the City on Angels, and how much has changed since then. When you're in your 20s, all the institutions that you get close to seem eternal -- they've always been there and they always will be. And the keepers of the keys, the people who show you around, seem like they'll last as long as the buildings. Well, all the buildings from the '70s are still there, along with a bunch of new ones that they've thrown up since, but times change, and the vast majority of the occupants are very different. Nothing's forever except what's inside you and what you share with other people.

L.A.'s changed in 30 years, and not for the better, but of course that's true all up and down the West Coast. I still rate Portland as a better place for me, but it was a close call when I made the choice back then, and the margin of preference isn't that much greater now. You make tradeoffs.

By the last day of speeches -- the toughest day, because we had two sessions scheduled -- we were all a bit punchy. But when the lights came up on the stage, we all snapped to and did the gigs as strong as ever. At our last event, on a spectacularly sunny afternoon at an impossibly beautiful hotel, I was two steps from the podium when I realized I had left my notes in the place where we had spoken that morning. We had been on a tight schedule against downtown traffic (which goes all day and night down there), and in my haste to pack up and dash into the Lexus, I had left the crucial notepad on the dais.

I had been feeling a bit weary over a quickie lunch, but you talk about your shot of adrenaline when I realized I would have to wing it. My colleagues helped me out by shuffling our order and buying me some time to go hide in the hotel business center and reconstruct the notes from memory. It wasn't hard, since this was the fourth time I was giving the talk in three days. The shakeup actually did my performance some good, and it was a nice story to tell the audience. People want to be in the room with you, in the present, and it always helps to establish a connection with them on that level. Probably the best audience I ever had was one I addressed years ago in a dirty t-shirt after Delta Airlines lost my luggage.

Anyway, we had been treated like stars, and for a moment I fantasized that my co-speakers and I were the Beatles. Whisked away from show to show, watching each other in action, seeing how each performance and each audience are at least a little bit different from the last. There are the jokes that you tell the audience, and then there are the private jokes among the group that are on the audience. Fortunately, I had great hosts and great mates on our mini-tour. The George and Ringo figures of the group were obvious, but I couldn't figure out whether I was John or Paul. I'd prefer John, but as the colleague whom I tagged as Ringo put it, "At least I'm still alive."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Can you hear me now?

After nearly a week of steady takin' care of bidniss, I have reached a magic moment that allows for blogging. I am currently at an undisclosed location, shortly to be enroute back to Portland, and as usual, I will give readers a chance to guess where it is.

Two hints:

1. "Ain't nothin' like 'em nowhere."

2. The city is overrun with gamers this week.

Thanks to the readers who wrote and called to check to see how I'm doing. Fine, tip-top, just busier than a one-legged man in an a*s-kicking contest.

Although I've been blissfully out of touch with the blogosphere all week long, I have noted many interesting stories in the news. I'm cracking up that USA Today busted the Chimp for tracking everybody's phone calls in the whole country. The guy's like Nixon, only after a lobotomy. Oh, and Emily Boyles's hearing is scheduled for the morning of May 31 down at City Hall. Bring your popcorn, and get there early, because I am sure seating will be tight. Maybe we ought to stage some kind of event down there that morning about the folly of the "clean money" system. Worth getting out of bed for.

(Sorry for the lack of links. I am on a very crude and very expensive hotel computer at the moment.)

O.k., that's it, bloggies, I'll see you tonight with some stories to tell. Have a great day.

UPDATE and CORRECTION, 5/13, 11:35 a.m.: The Boyles hearing will be at the State Office Building over in the Lloyd District, not City Hall. Sorry for the confusion.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Time for a break

Things have gotten waaaayy too loose in my non-blogosphere life, and so it's time for a hiatus from blogging while I tighten things up. Maybe days, maybe weeks, it's not clear.

Due to the constant presence of trolls and spammers, I'm also pulling the plug on comments and trackbacks until I resume blogging. On the main page, you'll find a blogroll; put it to good use.

If you're here in Oregon, don't forget to vote early and often, and urge your relatives, neighbors and friends, both alive and dead, to do the same. Remember the linchpin!

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey

Congratulations to the Phoenix Suns, who blew out the Los Angeles Kobe this evening in the seventh and final game of their pro basketball playoff series. The L.A. team had previously been known as the Lakers, but recently the league's official media outlets decided that Kobe Bryant (acquitted on all charges) was really the only player who mattered on either team in the series. Kobe this, Kobe that, Kobe highlights at every commercial break. Had the L.A. squad won this game, the entire league would have been renamed the National Kobe Association. Thank you, Steve Nash & Co., for starting the long process of weaning the league from the Kobe boob.

The Kobe's loss was particularly galling for L.A. coach Phil Jackson (right), who previously had never lost a first round playoff series and never lost a series that his "team" led 3 games to 1. Now the once-lowly L.A. Clippers advance to the second round, and the Lakers are playing golf. Exit Jack Nicholson, enter Billy Crystal.

Kobe, Kobe, it's May 6 and you're done. Give Darius and Zach a call. You guys can go cluuubbin' together.

Busy night in the 911 call center

John Dunshee, a.k.a. Just Some Poor Schmuck, tells the stories as only he can.

Ho-listic threads for your little ones

Here's a fine Portland company. Dress your infants and kids in clothes that glorify pimps and vandals! So sad.

Fireman Randy, doesn't the city have a $36,000 youth corruption fee? I guess this is the "creative class" that we're all so hot to bring here. (Via Extinct Intelligence.)

Friday, May 5, 2006

Close race

Which Oregon gubernatorial candidate's nasal, whining voice is more annoying: Jim Hill or Ron Saxton?

To me, Saxton's is like a nail on a chalkboard, narrowly edging out Hill's for this distinction.


Everybody's seen those "national debt clocks," which show how much in debt the federal government is (mostly to China, I think). You can go to any number of places to read about the debt, or even get a clock of your own for your web site, like so:

The Gross National Debt

I was thinking it would be a good idea to show the same type of information for the City of Portland. Here's what the clock would have looked like last July 1:

Exciting, huh? Maybe it would be more compelling if I could have the figures move by the second, or by the hour, to reflect estimated growth in the city's bonded debt and population. I think I can come up with reasonable estimates of the rates of growth, but I'm no computer programmer. I don't know my cgi from my a-s-s.

Anybody out there have any leads on a programming wiz to help me come up with a script for a city debt clock?

Emilie's famous

Sort of. She only made it to no. 8.

More SoWhat sticker shock on the way

Today's Trib has the latest on the shakedown of Portland taxpayers by the wonderful new skyscraper jungle known as South Waterfront ("SoWhat"). In order to alleviate the traffic gridlock that the city already knows that district is going to cause, we'll need a light rail line to Milwaukie and a new train bridge across the Willamette!

Can you imagine? That will cost a half billion, even in the preliminary liars' budgets. You do the math: Even if the feds picked up 80 percent of that, it's another $100 million to come from you and me.

So while the Sellwood Bridge crumbles, the city plans for a new light rail bridge. And it will sell it by turning Macadam Avenue into a parking lot, and funneling thousands of additional cars into the Marquam Bridge chokepoints every day. When you see how bad it is, you'll scream for light rail. Meanwhile, enjoy your potholes, brought to you by the real mayor of Portland, Homer Williams.

And get ready -- the next SoWhat crisis will be the sewer.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Breaking news: Bird flu outbreak suspected at Vancouver trailer park

We made a difference

It looks as though a dialogue on this blog may have actually resulted in a change in election procedures in Multnomah County. Check out the comment that county Elections Director John Kaufmann left on this post a little while ago.

Pretzel logic with Anna

Help me out with this one. I must be missing something. In the In Portland section of today's O, Portland City Hall reporter Anna Griffin takes a shot at predicting who's going to win the Sten-Burdick-Lister City Council race, now in progress. It's pretty obvious that neither Ginny Burdick nor Dave Lister is going to pull more than 50 percent of the votes cast, and so the best they can hope for is a runoff against incumbent Erik "Opie" Sten in November. One of the challengers will get that chance if Sten gets less than 50 percent of the votes cast in the primary.

So then what is Griffin talking about here?

The candidate: Ginny Burdick

The question: How many anti-Sten votes does Lister take from her?

* * * * *

Lister, who has put $30,000 of his own money in the race and says he's raised another $30,000, appears to be chipping away at that small but vocal group of fiscal conservatives in town who might otherwise have supported Burdick in their fervor to oust Sten.

Burdick needs a diverse coalition of support if she's going to keep Sten from hitting 50 percent.

* * * * *

If he's going to serve as more than just Sten's best friend -- the guy who sucked votes away from Burdick and let Sten eke out a May victory -- Lister must get his message out to mainstream voters, the ones who might vote progressive on the big issues but are tired of reading negative headlines about City Hall.

Like I say, help me out here. How does Lister help Sten if he takes votes away from Burdick? A vote cast for Lister is a vote that counts against Sten for purposes of hitting the 50 percent mark. Unless Lister's presence somehow causes a Burdick voter to switch to Sten, or to sit out the election entirely, he can't be helping Sten at all.

Of course, Lister might place second, ahead of Burdick, which would leave him, and not Burdick, to run against the progressive boy wonder all summer long. In that sense, Lister hurts her. But any vote for him is a vote against Sten. It is mathematically impossible for Lister to "let Sten eke out a victory in May" or to contribute in any way to Sten's getting more than 50 percent.

Pulitzer committee, please send it to my home address.

Rocky Mountain high

Here's an interesting story out of the University of Colorado. They're offering rewards to people who can identify a bunch of stoners who had a weed party on campus in defiance of the school's prohibition, and of the pre-announced camera surveillance of their protest.

Here's the official campus cop page on the smoke-in. Turn in a friend, pick up a $50 bill.

Hot roaster

A gal who runs the fine Ristretto Roasters coffee shop up in the Beaumont neighborhood (where Winterborne restaurant used to be) has a blog. Lately, she's wrapping her mind around the Multnomah County property tax on her business equipment.

Executive summary: She no like.

Earl the Pearl: Don't change a thing

The group that's talking about changing the City of Portland's form of government (which they aptly abbreviate as its "FOG") got an earful from Congressman Earl Blumenauer a while back. Earl's message: Keep the current form of government, because people back east think we're wonderful as we are.

The official minutes of this encounter are here. It sure looks to me like our man in Washington is thinking about coming home and running for mayor next time around.

Meet me at the wrecking ball

If you're interested in seeing the condo towers that are going to run Saturday Market out of its home for the last 30 years and turn Old Town into Pearl District III, hurry on down to the Potter Destruction Commission offices next Tuesday for this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Emilie plays disabled, poor cards

Portland City Council candidate Emilie Boyles, whose "clean money" taxpayer campaign funding should be declared a disaster area, has appealed the revocation of her public financing. The regular rules restricting the duration of a campaign headquarters lease don't apply to her, she says, because she's disabled and poor. Her appeal notice states:

City of Portland Code is required to comply with Federal Law. Due to Candidate's Disability and the disabilities of campaign workers, the identified office space was the only building available to meet the needs within the requirements of the ADA. Additionally it is illegal according the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, for a government entity to discriminate against candidate's economic status -- which, by local standards, required the type of lease aquired.
This is sure to add to her legion of fans. But even crazier is the statement that came with the city auditor's announcement of the latest episode of this sitcom:
Blackmer said that Portland's new system is reducing the cost of elections and creating more opportunity for everyday Portlanders to be genuinely involved in local politics. "We are replacing a campaign financing system that had many well-documented problems. Future candidates and the public are learning that this system works for those who adhere to the rules, and has controls to quickly spot concerns."
It works for Erik Sten, who wrote the rules, that's for sure. As for those "everyday Portlanders," all I see is Amanda Fritz, who says herself that she would have run anyway. And those two other candidates under state investigation into allegations of fraud.

The new system may be "quickly spot[ting] concerns," but the city will never get back the nearly $145,000 in tax and water and sewer revenues poured down the rat hole of the Boyles campaign. And I'll bet good money of my own that she's never prosecuted.

It's time to throw this bathwater out, and our most prominent "progressive" baby with it.

Official weekly newspaper of the status quo?

The Willamette Week endorsements are out, and they're going with Sten and Saltzman for Portland City Council.

Interesting to speculate about why. The editors over there clearly have it in for the downtown business crowd -- a downtown they've moved out of. So Burdick's out. Lister's a Republican, so that's that. But they positively gush over Opie, like Bus kids high on PBR. He's the visionary, it's the defining race of our time, yada yada yada. And four more years of Saltzman, the establishment's quiet functionary? Whatever.

I'm calling a little overboard on the treatment they give Amanda and Diane. They dish out quite the hard time -- so much so that someone might start to raise a little gender issue, perhaps? Hmmmm... Then there's this week's cover...

Anyway, between that and their enthusiasm for Warbucks Wheeler and Cogen (the Brains Behind Saltzman), the boys at the Double Dub sure look like they're content to stand pat with the current lineup around here. Puzzling. Maybe they're thinking about winning another Pulitzer for covering the upcoming municipal bankruptcy. Plus, Kulo vs. Saxto -- what is this, Kiss-and-Make-Up Month with the Goldschmidt crowd?

Creative class

If you enjoyed the videos at Candidates Gone Wild, here's a blog entry by one of the people who created them. Drop by and say something nice.

How it's done

Big time

Hey, lookee here quick, I'm "Blog of the Day" on eponym. "News and current events told in a humorous light." I'll take that.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Love me two times

Yesterday's discussion of the duplicate primary election ballots I have received from the Multnomah County Elections folks merits some elaboration.

First, let's talk again about the situation with Ben Westlund, independent candidate for governor. Some readers don't have this right -- and given the weirdness of a recently adopted state law, I don't blame them, as it's hard to believe. As explained by both the Westlund campaign and the Oregon Secretary of State's office, if you turn in a major party ballot in the primary -- either Democratic or Republican -- any signature you place on a petition for Westlund won't count. Your primary vote will still count, but your signature won't.

An important hitch comes in the fact that if you're a member of either of the two major parties, both your partisan primary races and all the nonpartisan races (such as judges, Portland City Council, and Multnomah County commissioner and chair) are all on one and the same ballot. And if you return that major party ballot, you're disqualified from signing for Westlund even if you vote only in nonpartisan races. Despite some confusion on the part of commenters on yesterday's blog post, that much is fairly clear. Unless and until the recent state law is changed (can't happen this year), reinterpreted (which I doubt will happen), or declared unconstitutional (which could take years), that's the way it is.

Here is the Democratic Party ballot, and here is the nonpartisan ballot. As you can see, the nonpartisan races are included on the Democratic ballot; if you are a registered Democrat, and you send back that ballot, your signature on a Westlund petition is toast. (For some further discussion, see pages 21 and 22 of this official Secretary of State handout.)

The questions raised by duplicate ballots are not so easily answered, but a few points have come into focus. A reader who's in the know (county elections director John Kauffman) writes in on this subject:

When voters change party close to the cutoff, we cannot avoid sending two ballots because we have to prepare the first mailing a couple of weeks prior to the voter registration cutoff. However, when the new party change is made, the first ballot is voided in our system. We will only accept the ballot with the latest change (not the first ballot we receive if the voter sends in both.) We do not turn in double voters to an auditor, they go to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General investigates.

We do check registrations with DMV, however, voters often transpose numbers and we do make data entry errors. The beauty of vote by mail, to me, is that we have time to solve problems before election day.

An alert reader, Jenni Simonis, adds some additional useful information, which can be illustrated by the outer return envelope that came with each ballot I got -- one Democratic and one nonpartisan:

Simonis writes:

When ballots come in, the barcode on them is scanned. This barcode is unique to every ballot. If you were to send in the partisan ballot, the computer pops up and says this is an inactive ballot. The moment your registration was changed, the first ballot printed was inactivated and is ineligible for voting.

The ballots are sorted by precinct and put into "batches." These batches allow a person checking signatures to put in the batch number and bring up all the signatures in that box.

* * * * *

I encourage you to sign up to go into the elections office and watch how everything is done. It's a very interesting process, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work in the Multnomah County Elections Office in 2004. It gave me a whole new view of the election process. I'd worked elections in Texas, but that was on-site voting in your precinct. It was nothing like working in the elections office here.

Makes sense.

And so, to sum up:

1. If you are registered as a major party member, and you return your partisan ballot, or even an empty major party ballot envelope, any signature you make for Westlund will not count. And if you're a major party member, the Secretary of State considers your ballot a major party ballot, period. Even if you vote only in nonpartisan races.

2. If you recently changed from a major party to independent, got two ballots, and vote the independent one, there is a way for the county to see that you voted nonpartisan, not partisan. Let's hope that means that your Westlund signature will count.

3. If you recently changed from a major party to independent, got two ballots, and vote the partisan one, or even just use the envelope that came with the partisan one, you're just wasting a stamp, because your ballot won't be counted.

This post was updated this afternoon, after I got the comments from Kauffman and Simonis.

Walk on the wild side

Last night was "Candidates Gone Wild" night here in Portland, and I was pleased to play a small role in this unique event. Five candidates for the City Council and two for Multnomah County chair subjected themselves to quizzing, grilling, and a review of some of their nonpolitical talents before a packed house of backers and observers at the Roseland Theater.

There were many fine moments in the two-hour program. The highlight of the evening for me was a series of videos on six of the seven candidates, produced by an outfit called Public Media Works. Each featured both a "Cribs"-style tour of the candidate's house, vehicle, or pup tent; and an interview. The interviews were conducted by a very youthful fellow by the name of Adrian Chen, billed as a former Willamette Week intern. Chen has quite a future on the comedic screen if that's what he wants to pursue. The videos, and he in particular, were hysterical.

I was on a panel of three skeptics for a live segment called "Guantanamo Grill," where we each got to lob a verbal grenade at each of the seven participants. A few of the zingers that I had written got the crowd going, but the audience saved its biggest huzzah for a bitchslapping handed to yours truly by Commissioner Erik Sten. The Big Idea Guy criticized me for sitting around complaining on a blog instead of getting out there and working to make the system better. Or something like that; I'm sure there's a tape. The audience, which was full of Stennies, ate it up. Given the bushel baskets of cr*p that I dump on their hero on a regular basis on this site, it's not as though I didn't see it coming. Heck, I deserved it.

"Candidates Gone Wild" is impressive on a couple of different levels. It's a humanizing, energizing event that I can't imagine being staged in too many other cities. Even politicians on whom I've pasted some fairly nasty labels were polite and cordial, and I tried to be the same.

Observant audience members could pick up information about some of the candidates that no amount of reading and websurfing could provide. I won't get into the details, but my opinions of several of the candidates moved upward or downward, at least somewhat, based on what I saw.

The show is organized and run almost entirely by young people -- the Oregon Bus Project, in particular, which explains the fascination with Sten. Willamette Week and the City Club also play big roles, but most of the key shots are called by the hard-working volunteers. There's a lot of pizza, which Hot Lips throws in.

More than anything, I was impressed by the power of incumbency. You think Sten, Diane Linn, and Dan Saltzman are in trouble? Perhaps, but you sure couldn't tell from the small armies they had in the stands tonight. If you want them out, you'd better tell your friends, and quick.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Vote early and often

It figures.

I changed my party affiliation from Democrat to independent by mailing in a voter registration form to Multnomah County on April 10. The other day, I got my primary ballot under Oregon's wonderful "vote-by-mail" system, and sure enough, it was a nonpartisan ballot.

But I also got a second, Democratic Party ballot with my name and address on it.

Which raises some questions. If I filled out and mailed in both ballots (which of course, I'm not going to do), what would prevent them from both being counted? Perhaps I could give Vladimir Golovan a call and see what he does in this situation.

More importantly, if I fill out and mail only the nonpartisan ballot, and then I sign a petition nominating Ben Westlund, an independent, for governor, is my Westlund signature going to be invalidated on the ground that I'm still on county records as a Democrat?

And if the system's smart enough to see which of my two ballots I actually sent in, why wasn't the system smart enough to see that it was registering me to vote twice? Especially since I filed about two weeks before the deadline for making party affiliation changes. How can this go so wrong in a county government where everything else is operating so smoothly?

I know one thing: If I had showed up to vote twice in one election day at a polling place under the bad, old traditional election system, it would have been pretty difficult for me to vote twice.

UPDATE, 5/3, 6:49 a.m.: For further developments, see this entry.

What's wrong with this picture?

From the Multnomah County Charter:

11.15. Election Of Officers.

(1) All elective county offices shall be nonpartisan.

* * * * *

(3) Petitions or declarations of candidacy shall contain no reference to any political party ballot or to the political party affiliation of the candidate.

From my mailbox:

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