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Monday, November 13, 2006

Tale of two cities

If you put this scene in a movie, critics would complain that it was all too pat: While the police were brutalizing and then studiously ignoring James Chasse Jr. as he lay mortally wounded on a Pearl District sidewalk on Sep. 17, who was watching the whole scene from inside the toney Blue Hour Restaurant but Homer Williams, who was having dinner there. Williams's high-priced condo farms, streetcars, aerial tram cars, and other money-making schemes in the Pearl and SoWhat districts have sucked the life out of Portland's downtown and out of its municipal budget, while funding for core government functions like police training and mental health services has steadily declined. So while some poor mentally ill guy lay there with his life ebbing away, the big shot real estate sharpie sat with his cloth napkin on, eating his braised veal ravioli with truffles and watching out the picture window.

This is Portland now.

(Via Willamette Week, which is apparently attempting to become a live internet news source rather than just a weekly newspaper Good luck, ladies and gents of the Double Dub.)

Comments (38)

IMHO, this perspective would be so much more powerful if you let the facts do the talking, without all the overwrought commentary.

Given how people vote around here in local elections, I doubt that most Portlanders would get it without being clubbed over the head.

Thanks for the anonymous snipe, though. Always appreciated.

Well the perspective is almost Dickensian. BYW we have a fresh corpse, a third person was shot to death by the Portland police this Sunday.


Guess how may were shot to death by the police in the United Kingdom this year? One. Just one. (*) The thing is there are 60 million Brits and only 500 thousand Portlanders. So Portland police is some 350 times deadlier than their British counterparts. 350 times!


A statistical outlier you say, a bad year? Unfortunately no. The 10-year average for Brits is roughly 0.04 police shooting deaths per million inhabitants per year. Portland average is 7.0. So even on average Portland police is awfully deadly, some 200 times more deadly. Deeply ingrained culture of killing you may say.


And we are only talking about "shooting to death". Portland police is also known to beat and taser people to death. NOT a single case of death due to police beating or tasering was reported in the UK in the last 10 years. Not a one! In a population of 60 million! In 10 years! Take it for what it's worth Mr. Potter.


An isolated case with one out-of-control department? Unfortunately not. Washington County is right there with the PPB, same deadliness. I'm personally familiar with a case were Hillsboro police tried to provoke a shooting confrontation.


They peddle a "suicide by cop" theory. Why that should be the case in the US not in the UK is not explained, unless of course you assume that it is the condition of the law enforcement in this country that causes some US citizens to prefer to seek death instead of going on with living.


On the latest killing. It is simply a plain unadulterated murder to kill a person when alternatives are available. The killers in this case could simply abandon their pursuit if they had any reason to fear for their lives.

They chose to kill.


I wonder how people responsible for tolerating this, people sitting on various city and county councils, can go to bed every night, knowing full well that it is their lack of meaningful oversight that makes these 200+ killing ratios possible.

* All UK data are courtesy of UK Home Office which provided them to me (a total foreigner to them) upon a single e-mail request.

I am still waiting for the Oregon's Attorney General, State Police and State Medical Examiner Office to provide me with aggregate historical data for Oregon.

Gee, I kinda liked the emotive nouns, verbs and adjectives...the piece actually seemed literary and opinionated, it even seemed to originate with a living, beathing, sentient human being...unlike statements from our leaders delivered in the local news.

Without an editorial slant, the juxtaposition of Mr. Chasse's and Mr. William's evening out would seem inanely irrelevant and unrelated. Now, it's simply up to each of us to determine if we agree with the editorial interpretation.

BTW, the comparative police carnage rate between Portland and London is a truly potent piece of information. But I'm afraid the populace may overlook it...unless they are bombarded in the fashion of highly repetitive TV commercials extolling the bliss of Cialis.

wg, "Dickensian" is exactlyl what I thought too. Picture Homer as Scrooge... "haven't we any workhouses for the street people"

Jack has it right with 'Tale of Two Cities', the scene reminds me of an event early in the book where a French Nobleman runs over a peasant child and then offers the father a few coins for his loss. My advice to you Dave and everyone else is to read more Dickens beyond "A Christmas Carol."

Why not just go one step further and say Homer personally smashed the guy's ribcage? Come on, you're all thinking it.

I like the line in the police report about the only extraordinary thing about the incident was the casual attitude of all involved. "Oh I say lovey those gendarmes appear to be beating some hooligan. Be a dear and pass the bread."

In Homer's eyes Mr. Chasse is so much Chaff just as he sees most of the neighborhood.

"I like the line in the police report about the only extraordinary thing about the incident was the casual attitude of all involved."

That struck me, too. I was thinking the cops were relaxing thinking they had done the bidding of "those who matter". Over the years I have observed that, too often, both law enforcement and the press seem to have the attitude that only the elite matter and that no other premise is worth considering. I would say the fault is in the suck ups as much as in those whose backsides are being kissed,

"On the latest killing. It is simply a plain unadulterated murder to kill a person when alternatives are available. The killers in this case could simply abandon their pursuit if they had any reason to fear for their lives."

I can't believe you consider this an option for our law enforcement officers. That is an acceptable alternative for a citizen with a concealed handgun license but NOT for the people charged with protecting our city. If this person had the ability to make the officer(s) fear for their life then there is no doubt they'd be able to do the same with innocent civilians, no?

The UK has universal health care.

That is one difference. A big one.. People get treatment they need.

It is also the most surveilled nation on earth.

Additionally, although we almost speak the same language - our cultures and societies are really quite different.

British people typically live in smaller homes, with more family. They drive less. They have a more well established sense of community. They treat alcohol consumption differently. They generally respect eachother more.

These are just observations from knowing a dozen people from the UK...

I am sure an actual comparison by someone who actually knows more would show even more differences...

A better comparison would be to other cities in the USA...

Funny that VR brings up surveillance because I've been wondering from the beginning if such an incident would have occurred if there were such surveillance (traffic or bank cameras, etc.). Not that I'm advocating for increasing surveillance, mind you. But if we're going to have it, we might as well use it. It's not just citizens who should fear Big Brother -- so should officials.

WG, thanks for the laugh. I love the idea of comparing Portland Police shooting deaths to Great Britain police shooting deaths.

Oh, it might help if GB police carried guns but very few do. The numbers are increasing, though, because they're beginning to face criminals with guns whereas they really didn't before. I'm gonna go out on a limb and propose that impacts the GB figures.

I also really like your suggestion of cops running away if they fear their lives, as opposed to actually doing their jobs and trying to arrest ne'er-do-wells who endanger the community. It creates a wonderful image of cops and the "Holy Grail" killer bunny.

Chief Sizer: One...two...five.

Cop Sycophant: Three, ma'am.

Chief Sizer: Three!

VR British people .....They drive less.
JK Can you cite a source for this.

VR They have a more well established sense of community.
JK Please define “sense of community” for me.


Careful anahit, next people will recommend police officers give up their guns in favor of nightsticks.

UK drive less:

They own fewer vehicles per capita than the US, about 6% less according to the Association of British Drivers:

In 1994 Americans travelled a total of 2 trillion miles, and the british only 200 billion miles. Averaging 16,000 miles per American and 10,000 per Briton. According to the USDOT FHA: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/1995/in-4.pdf

They didn't seem to have more recent numbers, and I am not going to take the time to dig deeper... Although supporting evidence backs it up.

With the exception of New York City - most of the USA is much more car oriented and sprawaling than anywhere in the UK. When many US states are larger than the entire UK in square miles** - and more people in the USA own cars - and we have less available transit in the USA it is logical to conclude we drive more. When you have cities like Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, and Los Angeles which are huge sprawling cities with no UK equivalent - there is no way to conclude that Brits drive more.

Add to this the incredibly high vehicle and fuel taxes they have in the UK, and the new inner city fees - all with very accessible transit and you have an obvious formula for less driving in the UK.

Where I grew up in the American Southwest it was not uncommon for people to commute 60 to 80 miles ONE WAY to work via car. I have worked jobs with a 40 mile each way commute.

Anecdotally, I know many people from the UK. Only a couple from London, the rest from more rural small communities. None of them drove near as much there as they did here. Most did not even own cars. They rode trains and busses. They did not commute 40 miles to work.

And as for community - well, you can go to villages in the UK that have been there for a thousand years. There are entire families living in single houses, and there are local pubs on every corner. There are few (none?) Super WAL-MARTS and strip malls eroding communities. People tend to stay local.

Talk to people from the UK, they will tell you the differences between there and the USA are stark...

** The UK has around 93,000 square miles. The 10 largest US States are each larger than that. The UK is roughly the same size as Minnesota..

Life is funny.

The same people who complain about Homer Williams and all that legal development are the same exact people who brag about how much their little shack in Irvington is worth these days.

If Homer and the boys didn't take Portland from Mayberry, RFD (1987) to World Class City (2006) most of you folks wouldn't have been able to take out that second mortgage (third?) to afford that bass boat parked out in the driveway.

You can't have a house worth five times what you paid for it AND no growth.

Sorry. Life doesn't work that way.


Are you positing that urban renewal and density are the reasons why property values have increased? I hope not.

If you do think that's true, then Bend, OR would be affordable and not one of the most expensive places in Oregon.

An artificial land shortage created by the UGB is one reason for the increase in land values, but the main reason is because of our high tech economy, mild weather and recreational options.

Homer Williams and his ilk have done nothing but milk taxpayers; all under the guise of smart growth.

I'm no expert, like 99.99% of the posters here, but after 30 years on and off in Portland, we agree, sortof.

Here are my top five reasons why your $50,000 house is now worth half a mill or so.

UGB, yes.
High tech jobs, yes.
Great Outdoors (the "2nd paycheck"), yes.
44th lowest taxes in USA, yes. (w/no sales tax at the finest restaurants in the West. Yum.)
Pearl, Downtown and SoWa, yes.

Remember downtown Portland in 1985? The Pearl, without its luster? I do. That was when the Portland Police didn't even bother to patrol downtown, aka Junkie Central.

Nowadays, you can sip a latte at 11:30pm in the South Park Blocks and all you'll hear, way off in the distance, are the screams from Zach's suite at The Vintage Plaza.

Ok, so it's not perfect...

UK drive less:

Have you ever been to the U.K.?
Last time I was there, petrol was pushing 5 pounds per liter. As well, they have an extensive network of high-speed trains (and I'm not talking about dinky, high-priced light-rail lines). Further, it's a small country.

None of which applies to the USA.

Uh Max...did you mean 5 pounds per (imperial) gallon?

Max Last time I was there, petrol was pushing 5 pounds per liter. As well, they have an extensive network of high-speed trains (and I'm not talking about dinky, high-priced light-rail lines). Further, it's a small country.

None of which applies to the USA.
JK: Actually the planners are trying to make all of that apply here:
1. Increasing cost of driving by raising parking rates, unwanted parking meters in neighborhood centers and encouraging congestion. (They would give us $7 gas if they could, but Leonard’s alcohol scheme will be a step in that direction.)
2. They think we have high speed trains because they have trouble telling light rail from commuter rail, but we are getting one of those too on the west side. (It was so un-economic, it took a special act of congress to get it approved). They are now calling light rail “high capacity transit” although it carries about the same number of people as ONE lane of freeway.
3. They are trying to simulate a small country with the UGB forcing all of us into a little enclave. Eventually they will forbid living outside of the UGB if they follow the wildlands project scenario.

Then we will have their walkable, bikeable, high density utopia . Just one problem: it is their utopia, not ours.


44th lowest taxes in USA, yes.

In Portland? You're dreaming.

Daphne, when your home increases four times in 30 years, say from $100T to $400T, then you replace the home with a similar home/location and must pay $400t, there is really no gain. What has "growth" brought us?

I also remember that in the 1980s Portland was one of the top five cities for livability in the US. I liked living in Portland in the 80s as much if not more than post 2000.

If Homer and the boys didn't take Portland from Mayberry, RFD (1987) to
World Class City (2006) most of you folks wouldn't have been able to take
out that second mortgage (third?) to afford that bass boat parked out in
the driveway.

That's funny. What was Homer doing to save us all in 1987? Portland real estate started booming in 1990, long before the current brand of condo cr*p took over City Hall. Housing prices up and down the west coast drove the prices up -- not the totem pole forest.

Portland has been a wonderful place to live for many years. It's not "world class" in most respects, and those of us who have been here a long time like it that way.

The Pearl and SoWhat are shiny, pretentious facades with nothing inside. They drag Portland into the caste system that people like George Bush have created nationwide. The best of Portland isn't in them, and it never will be.

Many of us who have substantial equity in our wonderful old Portland homes have not used our equity on consumption items.

www.taxfoundation.org ranks Oregon's day-to-day tax burden at 44 outta 50 states.

And I have lived in about 1/4 of our states at some point and spend much of my time overseas.

So, after 35 years of paying taxes around the USA and around the world, I must agree.

Oregon has the lowest taxes I have seen this side of Sub-Saharan Africa and Mississippi.


In the USA, every homeowner gets to sell their home tax free for the first $250,000 of profit.

That's a quarter-million dollars tax free money. Put it in the bank and collect more than a thousand a month in interest from a money market account.

Here's the IRS info:


www.taxfoundation.org ranks Oregon's day-to-day tax burden at 44 outta 50 states.

I repeat, not in Portland.

Good news, Lee. Great news!

If you are married, you and the Mrs. get to keep $500,000 tax free on the sale of your home.

Stick it in the bank and it's $2,00+ a month in interest. Without touching the prinicpal.

And if you own more than one house, you can take the exemption again and again and again...
it's a great country, pal.

If you know the tax code.

Thanks Daphne, I know the tax code well. My point is that if you want to live in a house comparable to what you have presently, then the "paper gain" means nothing. It is very simple.

So, Lee, you sell your ol' house in Portland for $500,000 and since it's paid off, you get to keep all the cash. Tax free.

The bank will give you almost $2200 interest a month which will rent you a BEAUTIFUL two-bedroom condo in a glass tower overlooking our fair city.

Sounds like an even trade to me.

For free.

You want better than free?

Don't we all!

Daphne:: You don't get it. Lets assume that my $500,000 dollar house is beautiful, has more bedrooms, sq footage, overlooks the city, etc. So to match it, plus several more amenities than living 20 floors above the earth, will cost me much more than $2200 to replicate.


I'm glad I'm not your real estate agent.

You'd want the Autzen Mansion at half price.

But we can agree to disagree.

If Portland is truly a world class city then why does it have a police force that behaves against minorities like a 1950's police force from the American south?

Perhaps Portland and it's citizens are not so progressive as they perceive themselves to be.

The low cop-on-citizen statistics from England are impressive and I imagine that they are rather common among European countries.

The question is not how much they drive compared to Americans but rather how they are able to control their civil servants compared to Americans.

Finding the statistics on American homicide by cop will be impossible because although the congress enacted a law requiring states to maintain those statistics there has never been any funding for enforcement.

Most Portland cops barely made it through high school and then barely made it through basic training.

The police and the U.S. Army have both had to drop their standards because most college folks know being a cop is a no-win, dirty, filthy and mostly BORING job.

In fact, many police chiefs refuse to hire college grads because they know the job is so dang boring. They know the college boys will quit when they find out they spend most of their time standing between two people who should have never married and are 911's latest stars.

Want better cops? Educate them, train them, then pay em.

Until then, we'll have knuckle-draggers with batons, like so many cops I know here, there and everywhere.

"Most Portland cops barely made it through high school and then barely made it through basic training..."

Pretty strong words, there. If not patently false.

Applicants must:

At time of application, have either an Associate Degree or 60-semester or 90-quarter hours from an accredited college or university.

from here: http://www.theblueline.com/draft/ORportlandpd.html

The Portland cops may have gone to PCC, but they all FLUNKED the "How to Tell A Crazy From A Druggie" class.

Ask the Chasses.

The plethora of 911 calls from Bluehour show many customers heard James' voice and told 911 operators he's a "crazy man", but the "kollege kidz" with guns heard him and said druggie.

I guess kollege kidz aren't all that smart, especially when they wear badges, a gun and a chip on their shoulder.

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