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

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March 2007 Archives

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cockroaches trapped

It's been a while since we let out a "Lock 'em up and throw away the key." But these people need to do time and be forced to pay big-time restitution. Then get treatment for their serious mental illness.

The rigors of spring break, cont'd

Today's hazards underfoot: sting rays and turtles.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Grampy walks

I see that Oregon's toothless watchdog, the state ethics commission, isn't even interested in gumming Mayor McPothole over his "worthless" pair of front-row opening-night Blazer tickets.

That may be the right result, but it's a bad precedent. I've yet to see an official explanation of the commission's decision to do nothing, but there are only a few possible rationales for it, none of them very comforting:

1. The commission has decided that (a) there's an unwritten exception for gifts that enable a public official to appear with a guest at a public function in a "ceremonial" capacity; and (b) that appearances at the Blazers opening night is just such a "ceremony." How long before a banquet at Bluehour is "ceremonial"? And if the Blazer opener is such a "ceremony," why is this the first time I've ever heard of a mayor attending it? Did Vera go to 12 Blazer openers?

2. The commission has decided that since the mayor claims not to have enjoyed the game, the gift is worthless for purposes of the state ethics laws. This is the real irony -- the mayor's putdown of the Blazer experience, apparently in his own defense. "I hope they don't in the process trample on the ceremonial aspects of the job, the ones where you are there representing the city, you are not there for the entertainment." If the whole point was supposedly that he was there as a goodwill ambassador, that's an odd way to show it.

3. The commission has accepted the contention that the tickets had no value in the marketplace.

4. The commission does whatever it wants, without rhyme or reason, and it is so short-staffed and underfunded that no one dare ask more of it.

In other news, the ethics dudes collected a few hundred from some of the trashier characters in the Legislature for sneaking off on Hawaii golf trips. Whoopdee do.

Lowered expectations?

An observant reader writes:

I don't know but it seemed that the Ikea sign was lower when I drove by it on the way home tonight.

Did they lower it?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A dream shattered

Around-the-clock emergency meetings at Portland City Hall tonight. It seems that biodiesel is incompatible with socialism. In a hurriedly scheduled news conference, Sam the Tram assured a nervous public: "The couplet is probably still o.k."

Breaking news from the O

The million-dollar condo dwellers in the SoWhat district are "average Joes and Janes."

What drivel. The "linchpin" seals it. Get a job, Ryan.

The rigors of spring break

This evening a tarantula relieved itself on the palm of my hand.

More on those unwanted phone books

An alert and helpful reader writes in with more about the latest phone directories that showed up, most unwanted, on our doorstep recently:

Just to follow up here, I did some more research today and found out that Verizon/Idearc subcontracts out the distribution of their directories to a company based in Kent, Washington called "Premiere Delivery Service." Their number is (253) 872-4700, and they will pick up your unwanted Verizon phone book.
Ours is long gone to the recyclers, but others may find that information useful. And we'll keep it posted here for next time. You know there'll be a next time.

UPDATE, 10:50 p.m.: And whatever you do, don't miss the movie.

Start making sense

In a move that appears uncharacteristically smart, the Blazers have named Kevin Pritchard, their relatively new personnel guy, as their general manager. Now if the people in Seattle will just stay out of the way for a while, we might be talking the beginnings of a reconciliation.

Of course, the Blazer hand is forever heavy. The e-mail announcement I got of the new appointment comes with a request to shoot in a hundred bucks deposit on a season ticket. Keep yer pants on, Paul.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

PC hot dogs

Some days it's embarrassing to live here.

Dumb and dumber

Here's a story that kills two birds with one sto -- er, accomplishes two tasks at once. It illustrates both the depth of the fiscal mismanagement in Portland city government and the shallowness of the city's old-boy daily newspaper.

It seems the Portland City Council is strutting around acting as if it's got money to burn, and it's busily debating how the extra funds should be spent. Send the ballet to Washington? Subsidize doula training?

Give me a break. What about the awful "deferred maintenance" that's ruining the city's streets, bridges, and parks? What about the gigantic unfunded police and fire pension liability that will surely bankrupt us? What about the hundreds of millions that we've borrowed, foolishly betting that the condo market will soar and new taxes will pay off the bonds? What about the sorry state of the police bureau? What about the crushing debt to fix the crumbling sewer system? Should we put some money aside for any or all of that?

Not on the screen anywhere. And the O just regurgitates the pandering, without even a hint of critical thinking. Just another fine day in the Rose City. A good day to take the kids somewhere else to show them where they might live when they grow up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The high court

"Does the defendant have anything he wishes to say before sentencing?"

"Yeah, your honor. Where do you score your weed?"

They give predators a bad name

The life forms who run private parking enforcement in Portland really do need a swift kick in the rear. Let's hope the Oregon Legislature gives them a good one. Check out this tale of woe, which I just received:

My daughter, husband and three young children drove from Corvallis to go to the zoo this afternoon. Afterward they went to the Uptown Shopping Center to shop at Phil’s Meat Market. J. was enthralled by the newly revamped market and as he continued to look around and choose items to purchase, M. ran across to World Market to see if she could find a few items for the children’s Easter baskets. When J. came out of Phil’s carrying his purchased items and receipt from Phil’s, he encountered a young man wearing one of those glowing vests next to J. and M.’s seven-year-old Honda Odyssey with a ticket he had just written. J. asked him what was going on … the young man said “your wife never should have crossed the street to World Market, so, you are getting a ticket.” J. was in disbelief and continued to force the young man to explain his actions until the young man finally walked away.
That lot is a real hot spot for this garbage. Maybe it's time for a boycott until the folks at Phil's convince their landlord to ditch the goons and shape up.

At least he didn't tow their van away.

Bipartisan problem

Bad medical news today for another prominent political figure.

At the end, Fireman Randy will squirt you with a Super Soaker

This actually looks like a neat way to kill a Wednesday.

Blogging jurors spell trouble

Back in January, I blogged about my jury duty -- including live from the courthouse. I didn't write anything about the case on which I was being called as a potential juror -- at least, not until I was dismissed from the panel before the actual trial began. But nobody in the courtroom advised me what I could and couldn't post about, and none of the lawyers asked me or any of my fellow venirepersons whether we even had blogs.

Such reticence about this medium may soon become a thing of the past, as this article explains.

It's a boy for Roy

Congratulations to Blazer rookie sensation Brandon Roy. He and his girlfriend have a new addition: Brandon, Jr. Cool.

Zach is back; so is losing

Trail Blazer star Zach Randolph has returned to the team from his lap dance bereavement leave, and after winning three games straight without him in the lineup, the Blazers have now lost two in a row with him. I was starting to come around to thinking he was worth the trouble he causes, but this is not a helpful trend in that regard. Maybe he should play in China for a while.

On a much happier note, there's this.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Was NYPD Blue spying on you in Little Beirut?

Southeast Portland blogger Darrel Plant points out the story in Sunday's New York Times about how New York City police fanned out across the country in 2003 and 2004 to spy on folks who they supposedly thought might disrupt the Republican Convention in the Big Apple. As the story points out, many law-abiding groups were infiltrated, including some unidentified organizations right here in Oregon.

Did anybody notice any people with Flatbush accents and cop shoes at the Kerry meetups in Portland? (Besides Vera Katz...)

Get down

You, too, can dance like a star. You just need to practice.

It was true, at least sort of

This post has led to this news story. So there was at least a grain of truth there.

I wish the Trib would get its facts straight, however. It refers to "a blog posting by... Jack Bogdanski that alleged a Portland police officer had been found to have a medical marijuana growing operation in his or her basement." The post did not say anything about medical marijuana -- that was a way-off-base suggestion by a commenter. The post also did not express an opinion about the truth or falsity of the rumor that had been sent to me. And the e-mail I printed did not say that the officer, who was not identified, "had been found to have" anything. It said that marijuana was discovered growing in his basement, without saying who might have been growing it there.

Finally, my employer, identified by the Trib, has nothing to do with that post or anything else written on this blog. It's my hobby.

UPDATE, 4:17 p.m.: At least the reference to "medical" has been taken out of the Trib story.

UPDATE, 5:27 p.m.: Some additional changes have been made to the language of the Trib story that better reflect what I originally posted. Thanks, Nick.

Bruce's Beach

Here's an interesting story for your spring break -- especially if you have a connection to Los Angeles, but perhaps even if you don't.

Sure sign of a crook

You know you can't trust someone who purposely doesn't have an e-mail account, so that you can't tell who said what to whom, and when.

People like the President of the United States. And the attorney general of the United States.

UPDATE, 2:29 p.m.: As Butterbean alertly points out in the comments to this post, this whole e-mail thing has gotten even more interesting.

A visit to SoWhat

A reader writes:

Hey Jack. Hope you all had a good weekend. Stevie and I took a trip down to the SoWhat district as I wanted to see what I'm paying for... it reminded me of the towers in Vancouver BC and Chicago...but I'm not keen on those either. Anyway, we toured a $400,000 1 bedroom unit on the 7th floor, a $600,000 1 bedroom unit (same as the first one except on the 17th floor) and a million dollar 2 bedroom. I can honestly say they were ugly, ugly, ugly. The same countertops in the 1 bedroom were in the million unit, as were the cabinets and built-ins. The cabinets looked like the cherry wood synthetic ones you buy at Ikea. Even the islands in the kitchen were granite set on top of spindly legs that you could move around. Not impressive. Anyway, they really tried to sell the fact the buildings were green and had rooftop gardens and a pet area of their own. AND she went on to push the new park. (Grrrr.) The best part was the sign (I took a picture) explaining that the greenway in front of the condo tower was public access, but if you got too loud or were doing something the residents didn't like, they would kick you out. Welcome to the neighborhood!!

The mesquite chips were a nice touch

This would never be tolerated in Portland. For one thing, he didn't buy a carbon offset.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forgive us our trespasses, as we rub your nose in them

Yesterday we got in the mail what I hope is the last notice from the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland about its infernal bankruptcy. Now that dozens of victims of sexual abuse by priests (and of coverup) have bitten the bullet and agreed to settle their cases against the church, the archbishop is asking all the parishioners in western Oregon to please not object to the final bankruptcy plan. That plan will pay off most of the current plaintiffs and prevent other victims of long-past abuse from coming forward with more claims for money damages, and it will keep out of the public eye a lot of the details of the deplorable conduct in which Portland-area priests engaged, and which their superiors covered up, over many decades.

The reason everybody in the pews is getting the notice is because the church tried to duck out of its responsibility to the sexual abuse victims by arguing that all the church property in the archdiocese's name really isn't the archdiocese's. According to the weaselly church lawyers, under "canon law" (which they're now calling "ecclesiastical law"), the real property belongs to the various individual parishes, even though title is in the archbishop. This theory was news to just about everybody in the congregation, but hey, it served the church's purposes. And so they made every Catholic in the archdiocese a defendant to the sexual abuses lawsuits, unless the parishioners opted out -- which, after a lot of thought and prayer, our family did.

What did the archdiocese get by declaring bankruptcy? It got most of the victims' cases settled -- and its insurance companies to cough up a chunk of dough toward paying them off -- and above all, it avoided public trials about most of the sexual abuse claims. Oh, there were one or two claims that were aired out in a courtroom -- tales of all sorts of grab-a*s being played by the priests with the altar boys -- but they were quickly settled before the gory details of any of the others were aired out.

For this fine service, the church has paid its bankruptcy lawyers more than $10 million -- probably way more, although a final tally has not yet been published. Did it save that much out of pocket in paying off the claimants and collecting on insurance? I doubt it. If the archbishop got anything for those eight figures, it was keeping details out of the media.

It's been an awful, awful moment in church history, and the latest notice keeps the extreme darkness coming. The sexual abuse victims are now sanitized down to being "tort claimants." Touted as a big part of the settlement is the fact that the church is now finally going to get its legal affairs in order so that in the future it can claim that each parish owns its own property. As if this self-serving activity is somehow supposed to be a victory for justice. And of course, there's no indication that the people in the pews are going to get anything new to say about what happens to church assets. For all we know, the new "charitable trusts, endowments, non-profit religious corporations, or other charitable entities" that are going to be formed will all be under the direct control of the archbishop. Nothing in the bankruptcy plan appears to change that. Meet the new boss -- same as the old boss.

The church will borrow a bunch of money from the Allied Irish Bank to pay $40 million in damages out of its own pocket. Another $52 million in damages will be taken care of by the archdiocese's insurance companies. No operating property of the church will be sold -- just mortgaged. Forty million of mortgage on property worth an estimated half-billion. Should have been done long ago.

As far as this notice informs us, there's nothing in the final plan about reforming the way the church handles sexual abuse claims. Nothing in there about changing the way priests and other church personnel interact with young people. Sure, the archdiocese has made strides in these areas, but apparently the final bankruptcy plan will do nothing to prevent its backsliding.

And then the piece de resistance -- it concerns the parishioners' chance to find out more, make comments to church officials, and ask questions, about the bankruptcy plan. Why, the notice says there are meetings scheduled for all that, sure. But space is going to be limited, so please appoint someone from your parish to come. Please don't show up yourself. Oh, and don't bring your reporter friends -- the press is barred.

The meeting for the entire Portland area will be one night at some church in Milwaukie. Other than that, you'll have to drive to Eugene or Grants Pass.

But here's the best part: The notice, which we received yesterday, states that the meeting in the Portland area will be held on Thursday night, March 22.

They're having confessions this week around town for us Catholics. I guess I'd better go, because, try as I might, I can't forgive this. All I feel is shame, and it just goes deeper and deeper.

E-mail, we get e-mail

Hope this one isn't true:

Spouse of a Portland police officer says a police officer was recently put on administrative leave. Seems they discovered a marijuana grow operation in his basement. Media hasn't discovered the story yet. Thought you'd want to know about this seeming coverup.
Editors of Portland, get on this one. And let me know where to send my bill.

Dishonoring the departed

The Oregon medical examiner's office is quite a place sometimes. When the police pound and kick a mentally ill man to death, it's an accident. When a scruffy guy collapses on the street and dies, they sell his body for $37 and don't make any meaningful effort to find his next of kin.

Maybe it's time for some new blood over there. Even better, a whole different line of authority for that office, reporting to someone other than the state police.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A story well told

Here's a sad but beautiful song that I just discovered today.

Nobody does it with a pencil any more

As I said the other day, the tax system is bigger than all of us. If you hire out the preparation of your own taxes, you are not alone.

Let it be

Sometimes it's best not to pull out your outraged consumer act, even when a service provider has let you down.

Key credential

To get a cabinet position in the Chimp White House, apparently being a lying sack really helps.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Z-Bo, call your realtor

Here's part of what the Blazers said this afternoon about the latest bonehead move made by star forward Zach Randolph:

At the end of the season we'll sit down with each one of our players and review their performance, including their standing in the community. Character will be a key measuring tool for whether each of our players continues to be a part of the ongoing effort to build toward a championship caliber club.
Is it just me, or does that sound a lot like, "He's out of here this summer"?

Too bad. Such a talented guy. But the pot, the guns, the street drag races, the strippers... and this may be the last straw. Zach probably thinks he'll become an all-star at his next stop, but more likely he's going to Bonzi-ville.

Can a bald guy get elected President?

If you scroll way down in Steve Stark's latest column on the presidential race, you'll be reminded that a candidate without hair on the top of his head has not been elected to the White House since TV took over nearly 50 years ago. That's bad news for several of the current crop of candidates:

Rudy, who's given in to the chrome dome after years of a laughable comb-over that tended to look like an Italian yarmulke;

McCain, who's now growing it three feet long and brushing it up from the middle of his back;

and Biden, who's got the Donald Trump look down just right.

Of course, Stark should know about this:

New honcho at PDC

An e-mail from the Portland Development Commission just informed us that they've hired Erin Flynn, a Boston business consultant, to be the agency's new economic development director. Back on Feb. 16, we noted that the PDC was having trouble filling this position. Eventually, they landed Flynn, who in her career in the private realm has had ample contacts with the Rose City. The PDC announcement notes that she --

was the lead consultant on Portland's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in 2005. She led a coordinated public-private effort to form Portland’s Economic Development District—a designation that is necessary for Portland to receive grant dollars through the federal Economic Development Administration. She has also been a keynote speaker at annual meetings of the Portland Business Alliance and Portland Regional Partners for Business.
After the Katz-Adams administration left the city's economy on the rocks, with nobody left to make money here but the condo scoundrels, a concerted effort to try to improve the enterpreneurial outlook of the place is much needed. The current labor-management battlefield at the PDC isn't going to be the easiest base from which to make great things happen, but let's hope that Flynn can do it.

Friday funny

My friend Laurel sends along a good one to get you going on your spring break:

A couple was celebrating their golden wedding anniversary on the beaches in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Their domestic tranquility had long been the talk of the town. People would say, "What a peaceful and loving couple."

The local newspaper reporter was inquiring as to the secret of their long and happy marriage.

The husband replied: "Well, it dates back to our honeymoon in America. We visited the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, and took a trip, down to the bottom of the canyon, by horse. We hadn't gone too far when my wife's horse stumbled and she almost fell off. My wife looked down at the horse and quietly said, 'That's once.'

"We proceeded a little further and horse stumbled again. Once more my wife quietly said, 'That's twice.'

"We hadn't gone a half-mile when the horse stumbled for the third time. My wife quietly removed a revolver from her purse and shot the horse dead.

"I shouted at her, 'What's wrong with you, woman?! Why did you shoot the poor animal like that? Are you crazy??'

"She looked at me, and quietly said, 'That's once.'

"And from that moment.....we have lived happily every after."

Not too bright

I just knew that the end of a disappointing season would find Blazer star Zach Randolph in trouble. And sure enough, here it is.

Future Springsteen video shoot location

Coming soon to Portland's Linnton neighborhood, whether they like it or not: a biodiesel refinery. Some of the neighbors are pounding on Commissioner Green Jeans (a.k.a. Fireman Randy) with warnings of the dangers such plants present to their surroundings. They cite accidents at a number of locations, including Payette, Idaho, Bakersfield, and nearby Canby.

But the city fathers are determined to play green warriors, just like they play real estate tycoons, utility executives, foreign policy makers, financial officers, business managers, and all sorts of other roles that they're not even remotely qualified to play. And so a refinery it is. Enjoy, Linnton.

Help the poor, but be filthy rich

Here's a doozy. The head of an affordable housing "nonprofit" corporation in Portland made a cool $468,000 a couple of years ago -- not to mention putting her husband on the pad as a consultant at another $9,000 a month.

Oh, and she's a Homer Williams pal. “Every (dealing) we’ve had has been very positive,” he says. I have no doubt.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The old switcheroo from Zari

Remember back in 2002, when the City of Portland came to us voters to ask for a tax levy to pay for park maintenance? It was Measure 26-34, and it was all about providing basic maintenance services. The official propaganda about it is here. There you'll read:

Levy funds will: Restore basic park maintenance including litter removal, restroom cleaning, mowing, natural area and trail care;

Correct urgent safety problems with playground equipment, play fields, community centers, pools;

Repair some playing fields around schools in Centennial, David Douglas, Reynolds, Parkrose and Portland school districts;

Restore cuts to after-school tutoring, recreation activities, and summer playground program - providing kids safe, constructive places to go.

If levy fails, park cleaning, repairs, recreation programs will not be restored.

Well, we voted in the levy, all right, but guess what. The city's parks chief thinks it might be a good idea to divert those funds from maintenance to "capital" projects. So she indicated at a recent parks board meeting, the minutes of which are here. There on page 2 we read:

Steffeni felt there was consensus to move ahead and support the concept of a bond measure in 2010. She’d like to get five-six talking points from Parks staff to use in meetings with commissioners. Zari said that, based on the financial forecast, the levy will yield about the same amount for the next two years. This money could be used to fund the list of one-time capital requests. Rev. Bethel worried, however, about switching levy money to pay for things that weren’t promised in the levy. He said Parks needs to do what they promised as the public is counting on that.
And what "capital" projects are we talking about? Surely we're not talking about that downtown park block that Tom Moyer so generously "donated" to the city in exchange for getting to build an underground garage halfway down to China. Are we?

I don't know. Elsewhere in the meeting, there's talk of not having the money to give Saturday Market a decent move because Parks is about to hit up the City Council for money to pay for some of the park construction on the Moyer block:

Chet said he was concerned that he’s been working had to get additional money from the Council for Park Block 5, and now the possibility has arisen that Parks will ask for money for the Saturday Market project. He doesn’t want to undermine PP&R’s request for sustainability money by asking Council to fund additional emergency projects. Zari said that PDC needs to provide adequate funding since the market relocation involves economic development. The street improvements are amenities and could be delayed, but the park improvements are a necessity for the market to move in. Mary Ruble added that the board should think about opportunities to bring in additional dollars from people who have a stake in the area. She also reminded the bureau not to forget about relocating the children’s maze, which was removed from the area for the sewer work. David Yamashita said staff are working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the artist on a new site, but it won’t go back in its original spot.
If I'm reading this correctly, we're about to divert maintenance money to "capital" projects, including the "free" park. And because of the Moyer project, there won't be enough dough to move Saturday Market in anything but a half-fast way.

As they taught me to say in charm school, that's just fascinating.

Edwards is hanging in there

Elizabeth's cancer has returned, but the campaign goes on. I'm sad and happy at the same time.

Bernie's boys

As somebody said here yesterday, the apple don't fall far from the tree.

Rough times ahead

It's already illegal to blow your nose in Portland. You know what's coming next?

Let's put it this way: City Hall workers would be well advised to hide all copies of today's New York Times. Because once the true believers on the City Council read this article, there will likely be some changes made in the building's restrooms.

What about the breathing, the panting, the moaning, the screaming?

So... was Fireman Randy just grandstanding with his supposed outrage over the Ikea sign? This commenter seemed to think so, writing in part:

[D]idn’t the current Mayor and current City Council approve these changes to the Code for Cascade Station in 2005, changes that would allow this signage to occur? Answer: Yes. Also, didn’t council approval also include amendments that allowed the signage program to be developed and approved by the Cascade Station Design Committee as part of the Development Agreement with Ikea? Yes again, but oops, good old Randy Gragg, diligent as always, left out that important detail in today’s half assed Oregonian article. Oh, and wasn’t there a bureau of development services staff person (Commissioner Leonard’s Bureau) appointed to the project as a bureau liason who was asked by the Design Review Committee to be present at all meetings to provide recommendations regarding permitting issues such as signage and to communicate these decisions back to their bureau? Why, yes there was. Finally, didn’t the Bureau of Development Services approve the sign plans in order for them to be built? Yes, yes, and yes, again....

I call B.S. on any whining from any City Council member at this point regarding this issue. Council had up to January of 2005 (not 1999-2001 like Gragg alludes to) to put the kibosh on the project by NOT APPROVING the plan district amendments but instead passed them unanimously, I believe. If they didn’t know, or didn’t read, or didn’t understand this signage issue then it shows bad communication and due diligence on the part of Council and their bureaus, cause it’s pretty damn clear in the Plan District Amendment what would be allowed, and what wouldn’t. And this vote for approval in 2005, ladies and gentlemen, has little to do with Katz or PDC.

Fireman Randy? I thing you got some splainin' to do...

Hello out there

I see that we've made today's edition of something called Real Clear Politics. (Our old nemesis Chuck Currie is on there, too.) If any Real Clear readers make it as far as our main page, welcome. Our archives on national issues are here. Or search for your favorite topic in the Search box in our left sidebar.

UPDATE, 8:27 a.m.: And just that quickly, we're gone. Our 15 minutes is up.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is Edwards dropping out?

It would be a shame if it's so. But this looks scary. Guess we'll find out in the morning.

This week's crock

Since they can't do the jobs they were elected to do very well, Portland's city commissioners today sought to create another diversion by voting against war with Iran. What next, Opie? Who do you guys like in "America's Next Top Model"? And I really think you need to get on the record about this one.

How to be a popular guy

It's that time of year again: Lots of folks are working on filing their tax returns. As someone who purports to know something about our federal and state tax systems, I get lots of questions heaved at me during this season. I do my best to answer them, with a smile even, but getting the answers right becomes a more daunting task every year as things get more and more complicated. Having spent more than a quarter-century following these things helps, but the pace of change outstrips one's ability to approach true mastery. About the only thing that moves a guy like me up in the ranks of the cognoscenti is the fact that the really old guys continue to die off.

One thing's for sure: There is no longer any one person on earth with a complete understanding of the entire U.S. tax system. It's bigger than all of us.

Media death watch, Portland edition

Lots of buzz this week about troubles at the O. Willamette Week is always in the local daily's face, and the other day the Double Dub posted an in-house e-mail from O editor Sandy Rowe that suggests, between the lines, that everybody in the place start thinking about their next careers. The memo also reveals that the dead tree version of the paper is now the handmaiden of the electronic version, after years of the relationship being the other way around.

This is not news. Circulation's down, ad revenue has got to be way down, and there's no upturn in sight. Today's kids don't, and are never going to, read newspapers. It's all riding on the internet now.

And when it comes to the internet, the O's ugly parent company, the Newhouse family behemoth known as Advance, has done just about everything wrong so far. All of its web sites are the same, and they've been unspeakably bad. It's looking bleak indeed.

Can you imagine Randy Gragg trying to get a real job?

New felony defense in Multnomah County: "He was depressed"

Here's a good one. If you're a parole officer, and you steal pot out of evidence and smoke it in front of your colleagues at a party, that's not a crime that Multnomah County is going to prosecute you for.

It seems that if you're a law enforcement officer, being "very depressed" because you have some stage of Parkinson's disease is a valid defense for that kind of conduct. Being "very depressed" apparently includes your state of mind at a Christmas party that you're throwing at your own house.

Chalk another one up for Mike Schrunk. "We got him to resign -- that's good enough." Sounds like this case. Or this one. Or this one.

The guy makes a lot of deals. Maybe after 26 years, it would be healthy to have a fresh face making the deals.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Game report: Blazers 100, Wizards 98

It was a game that the Blazers easily could have lost. They were without their best player, Zach Randolph, who was off mourning a friend killed in a nightclub shooting. The team had hit a bad stretch, losing a bunch of games. They are out of playoff contention now, and some folks have suggested that they throw the rest of their games in order to worsen their won-lost percentage and thus have a better chance at getting one of the top picks in this summer's player draft.

But that's not the stuff this Blazer group is made of. Playing for respect, they got some, narrowly defeating the Washington Wizards -- beating them for the second time this season. It was another exciting Rose Garden contest throughout the final minutes, with the outcome very much in doubt until the final buzzer.

The stars of the show were the Blazer rookies. Brandon Roy pumped in 19 points and snagged 12 rebounds in Randolph's absence -- which was a good thing because the Blazer big men were no-shows under the boards for a large part of the night. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks. But the real standout was backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez, who after a so-so first half performance really lit things up in the second half, winding up with 9 assists and 9 points in 22 minutes. As I've said here before, that fellow makes every other Blazer on the floor look better, and it was during his playing time in the second half that the Blazers gained their footing and made the key run for the win.

At one point, these three rookies were joined on the court by Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw, who have about 5 years of pro experience between them. That lineup is particularly fast and agile, and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Webster hit some key outside shots, and he made one of those strong moves to the hoop of which he's also quite capable. He may not be an all-star, but he's a good guy to have around, particularly when Randolph's not.

Alas, Outlaw just can't seem to put a whole game together. He shot poorly and didn't rebound worth a darn most of the time. Big man Jamaal Magloire turned in his usual fair performance, not impressive but just a hair better than bad.

The Wizards aren't very good. They were without one of their better players, Caron Butler, but given that Randolph was absent, both teams seemed even in the casualty department. The young Blazers clearly had stronger legs and a more creative game. That the Wizards are the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference is a testament to just how weak that conference is. The Blazers shot quite poorly to start the game, and the Washington squad failed to take advantage of that, leading by only five at the end of the first quarter.

The loquacious Wizards star Gilbert Arenas has been dissing Portland in the media all season, and once again he did not put his money where his big mouth was. The Rose Garden crowd booed him lustily at every opportunity. He predicted he would score 50 points, but he got only 19, most of them coming on foul shots.

In dysfunctional management news, team owner Paul Allen was not in attendance, but it looked as though the new executive Savior from Seattle, Tod Leiweke, may have been in the owner's seats. Any football guy from up north who's coming in to manage the Blazers by remote control gets an immediate vote of no-confidence from me. At least the crowd was enthusiastic, and that should have showed him a little of the spirit that the Rose City could generate so much more of, if only the management would get its act together. I'm not holding my breath.

For my part, I was happily ensconced upstairs in a mid-court "club" seat with fellow blogger Chris Snethen, who's got a connection to excellent tickets, which we were holding. And we wore the magic wristbands that feed you, all game long, for free! Everything was paid for except alcohol. We're talkin' sports fan heaven, people. Thank you, Butterbean.

The game was officiated by a crew led by Bennett Salvatore, a Leonard Bernstein lookalike who's one of the league's senior referees. A game reffed by Salvatore always seems to end up with everybody watching him as much as they're watching play, and that is definitely not what you want from the officials. It's very hard for the players to tell what's going to be called and what isn't. There were mystery calls and mystery noncalls both ways. In the last minute or so, Arenas spent more time discussing some point or other with Salvatore than he did paying attention to what he was doing. There was a brutal noncall when Roy was fouled not once but twice on a drive to the basket toward the end of the game, and that got the hometown crowd up in arms. But the Blazers also bumped the Wizards on their last couple of shots, and there was no whistle then, either. In contrast, Salvatore was quick to call Roy for travelling, and there were some other calls that seemed petty. Sometimes you wish that old Ben would take the 401(k) and call it a career.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our regular feature, Blurry Digital Photos of the Game. Here's Arenas explaining some of the fine points of peace and justice to Salvatore. Picture this going on most of the night:

Meanwhile, Roy just does his job as rookie of the year:

We always try for a shot of the visitors' huddle:

Continue reading "Game report: Blazers 100, Wizards 98" »

Is the Prius bad for the environment?

Those nickel batteries in the Toyota hybrid are some seriously bad news from an ecological standpoint.

Smart Park garage condo tower scam implodes

Here's a surprising press release from the Portland Development Commission:


Contact: Dave Logsdon

City Cancels Recent RFP for Garage Redevelopment

(Portland, OR) The City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission have cancelled the public open house on the redevelopment of the 10th and Yamhill SmartPark garage that was scheduled for Thursday, March 22, 5:30-8:30 PM in City Hall Council Chambers.

The City has cancelled the Request for Proposals for the 10th and Yamhill SmartPark Garage Redevelopment (RFP No. BGS023). Both proposals submitted in response to this RFP included purchase of the 10th and Yamhill property. The RFP was specific in its criteria that the SmartPark garage was to remain under City management and ownership.

The City intended originally to improve the property and remodel the ground floor retail space, and continues to remain interested in this as well as exploring the potential of a new development above the garage.

The City will offer to debrief with all of the proposers who were qualified in the initial phase of this process, exploring the potential for an alternate project where the City retains ownership of the garage.

OMG! Did someone in the city government actually say no to a greedy developer? Heads will roll, people.

That's me

It's always good to have a relatively fresh picture of yourself posted on your blog, so that readers can see what you look like. Here's the latest image of me, produced by our six-year-old daughter:

Pretty good likeness.

Ol' Man Hotel, he jes' keep rollin' along

Portland's next aerial tram -- the publicly built convention center hotel that the taxpayers don't need and don't want -- is about to breeze through the City Council. They're about to simply give away $12 million worth of real estate and another $4 million cash to Metro, who will then give away countless tens of millions of tax dollars away to Mr. Lloyd Center to build white elephant lodging next to white elephant meeting caverns. We and our children will pay for all of it.

Hey, Mayor Potter! Did you read your Vision Quest surveys? We don't want any more of this! If the PDC can't come up with a better use for that property, put it up for sale and put the proceeds toward something like pothole fixing, police on the street, or teachers in the classroom. If Metro's hot to trot, let Metro pay the $12 million in cash up front. And whatever you do, don't throw another $4 million of good city tax money after bad!

You see this sign?

Fireman Randy's shocked -- shocked! -- to see that the Portland Development Commission and former Mayor Vera Katz cut a backroom deal with developer Trammell Crow that allows businesses building near the airport to put up any old size signs they want, even those that don't comply with normal city rules. The latest product of the toxic-smoke-filled room laughingly called "urban renewal" is a giant Ikea sign that would fit right in on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Today the good city commissioner's stomping around and acting like he's going to do something about it. He's got the city attorney investigating.

Hey, Randy, it's the PDC -- try to lie back and enjoy it with the rest of us.

According to the press reports about this flap, under the secret deal made a while ago (back when Sam the Tram was running the "economic development" circus for Vera), design issues at "Cascade Station," as the new strip mall site is amusingly known, are governed not by regular city bureaucrats, but instead by a special four-person committee. The media don't tell us who's on the committee, but come on, it was late '90s or early '00s PDC (and the Port was in on it too), and so it doesn't take a genius to guess: somebody from Trammell Crow; a couple of Goldschmidt lieutenants, like a Tom Imeson and a Matt Hennessee; and somebody from the community to keep it light, like a Randy Gragg or a Mike Lindberg. They get continuing authority to override all the rules, far from the public eye. It was a "complicated deal," according to Gragg as he reports in this morning's O -- that's Graggtalk for scam. (You Craftsman-huggers are too stupid to understand, but Gragg does.)

It's just another instance of the ongoing development boondoggles that have, sadly, become the defining feature of Portland since about 15 years ago. And if you step back and look at the big picture, you see how ridiculous this particular episode was. The city and the PDC went crazy, throwing money at Goldschmidt clients like there was no tomorrow, making all sorts of dubious deals, even doling out light rail pork. And 10 years later, what do we have to show for it?

The ultimate big box retail store -- Ikea -- next to the freeway. Just like in Newark. What an achievement.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Bush success story

“The execution went smoothly without any trouble,” Mr. Ridha said. “His lawyer was with him from the beginning and watched the entire execution.”
I feel so much safer.

And now, instead of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis heartlessly gassed to death by Saddam Hussein, we have hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the chaos of the war. Not to mention the 3,200 American soldiers.

But be patient -- when George Bush is busy screwing up the whole world, what we've seen so far is nothing.

The crooks on the hill

While we all bust our chops trying to figure out our taxes -- and for some of us, that includes figuring out how to pay them -- here's a reminder of how the system really works. Go by aerial tram [rim shot]!

The other father

They don't honor all the saints like they used to, but most Christian churches note, at least in passing, that today's the Feast of St. Joseph. To me, after Jesus, Joseph is the coolest figure in the Bible. Here's a carpenter whose fiancee shows up pregnant by somebody else, tells him it's a miracle, and has a story about a visit from an angel who announced that it was God's son. And Joseph marries her anyway.

He's a law-abiding guy, schlepping all the way back to his family hometown to pay his taxes, along with his bride, who's so big that she's ready to go into labor at any moment. They can't get a place to stay, and so she delivers in a stable. You've got to think Joseph did the catching.

Then a comet starts flashing, and the crazies commence showing up. Shepherds, townspeople, angels, even some trekkers from somewhere back east who thought they were going to find a rich prince. Pretty soon the dreams start. The local king doesn't like being upstaged by this baby, and he's going to have him killed. The voices in the dream tell Joseph to take the wife and kid and beat it out of there. Which he does.

Years later, the boy is behaving strangely. He drops out of the caravan one day and stays behind so that he can preach. They go nuts looking for him. He's just a kid, and there he is preaching in the temple. Jesus looks Joseph in the eye and says, "I'm working for my father." Unstated message: "And I know he isn't you." By then Joseph surely realizes that this thing is bigger than all of them.

As far as I can tell, that's all the Good Book actually has on Joseph. Nobody knows for sure how old the guy was, or whether he had other wives or kids before the Dynamic Duo. But of course, give it 2,000 years and other stories crop up. About 100 years ago or less, some Pope decided that Joseph and Mary must not have had any other children after Jesus. If you pressed the Catholic authorities, they'd probably tell you that Joseph and Mary never had sex together.

I'm not buying those later stories. The gospel clearly states that Jesus had brothers. It says nothing about Mary being unsullied with other children, or not sleeping with her husband. That's all some Pope's story -- kind of like not eating meat on Friday, it's subject to change when the next round of divine inspiration conveniently comes along.

The best part of the Jesus story is his humanity. I hope Joseph and Mary had other kids together, and that they lived as normal a family life as possible under the circumstances, at least for a while.

And when it's time for me to ask for inspiration to be the best father I can be, Joseph's the go-to guy. Hey, I'll never be God the Father. No one else in the Holy Trinity had human children, and so a direct appeal to them, while always a good idea, just doesn't sit right with me. I'd rather call on the man who was tapped, out of the blue, to play the ultimate Dedicated Sideman Dad, and who rose to the occasion with grace.

As a Catholic sitting in the pew listening to the stories, I often wonder what Joseph looked like. You see a lot of images that paint him like this:

Are you kidding? Does that look like a carpenter who's been living in Nazareth and roaming around in the desert on and off over the years? These guys seem a little closer to the mark:

Anyway, St. Joe, this is your feast day. Whatever you looked like, wherever you are now, please do what you can to help make me a good father. You did it so well. Amen.

They're back

Spring is nigh. The swallows are due back in San Juan Capistrano today.

These guys had already returned to our garden as of yesterday.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Everybody look what's goin' down

If you want to see what today's peace rally in Portland was like, without it coming through a mainstream media lens, Michelle Neumann has what you are looking for. Her photos are here and here.

Busy day, but for whom?

Somebody bought that monster Powerball ticket in nearby Milwaukie, Oregon. What do you think their Monday agenda looks like?

See lawyer first thing in the morning, followed by accountant. Unless some really awkward paperwork is involved in the tax planning, head down to Salem in the afternoon. Maybe stop at the bank first -- let them know the big deposit is coming. Call the travel agent. By Thursday, be out of here for a good, long while.

R.I.P. City

Another bad night for the Blazers. The rookies have hit the wall of an 82-game season, and the vets are tired of losing. Now they've fallen even in the standings with Seattle, and only horrible Memphis (career graveyard of pothead Damon Stoudamire) has a worse record in the West. The Blazers are a talented bunch, but they're in a confused tailspin. Everything seems to be rotating around Dan Dickau and Travis Outlaw, two guys who have had their chance and not done much with it. For the sake of everybody's morale around here, Nate needs to win a few before it's all over.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but a so-so year shifted into a full-scale swoon right around the time that owner Paul Allen gave the general manager his walking papers and left the front office completely up in the air (except for a new Seattle-based Vulcan overlord) for an indefinite period. Now there's loser sweat all over everything again. What a mess. Police reporters of Portland, be on the lookout. The Escalade should be rolling into view any night now. And the occupants are stoned, armed, and advised by Steve Houze.

The other favorite

On the Demo side of Election 2008, my buddy and pundit Steve Stark's giving Barack Obama a slight edge over Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Funny Blog Comment of the Year So Far

And I quote: "In my dictionary it's called hypocracy."

They made it possible

It's been about as Irish a day as I could make it. Started with oatmeal. Then I sang the kids every Irish song I could think of -- only about a half dozen, but including a nice rendition of "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" Once I cranked up my one and only Chieftains CD, the mood was set. By lunchtime, I had the Irish flag flying on the house. I ran over to New Seasons and picked up a beautiful corned beef; for the cabbage and other stuff, Fred's was good enough. While the Mrs. slaved over the (literally) boiling hot stove, I got to head out on a run (which I'm not sure is all that Irish a thing to do).

After the fine dinner and a pint of Guinness, I was doing the dishes when I started getting really nostalgic for my Irish ancestors -- my mom's dad, and my dad's mom. Children of Irish immigrants, the first generation born in the States, they endured some mighty lean times in the armpit of the East Coast during the depression. Raised houses full of kids. Worked 'til they dropped. Laughed, cried, ate, drank, loved, hated.

Thanks, Alice and Richard, for this day.

Here they are. Granny very much toward the end of her life, in 1975. Pop Pop, with me, in 1954. He didn't make it more than a few years thereafter.

There's no in-between

Today everything is either black or white.

Erin go bragh

Friday, March 16, 2007

It isn't just the tram

Now that it's all said and done -- just the way Neil Golsdchmidt, Peter Kohler, and Homer Williams wanted it -- Mayor Potter is starting an independent investigation of the OHSU health club aerial tram [rim shot] budget scam. With all due respect to the mayor, that gondola has left the station.

Much more interesting at this point are the continuing scams involving other aspects of the infrastucture for the cold, sterile tower jungle of SoWhat. So many other parts of this development have been sold with outright lies, with financial problems that now get worse by the month, that they make the tram's $45 million overrun look small.

What about these other budget whoppers, Mr. Mayor?

Neighborhood park - Budgeted at $1.2 million, already up to $8.5 million, and counting. Seven million for land acquisition alone.

I-5 pedestrian and bike bridge - Budgeted at $1.6 million, currently sitting at $11 million.

Greenway - Budgeted at $6 million, now at, what, something like $38 million?

Not to mention the I-5 ramps, more streets, the list goes on and on. And wait 'til we're told we need a new sewage treatment facility down there to deal with all those recently relocated California retirees flushing all that fiber.

It would be interesting to take out the original "North Macadam" public money budgets and update them for actual expenditures and revised estimates. But of course, given the obfuscation that's characterized this mess from the beginning, that will never happen. Never.

There's a systematic problem here that goes much deeper than the Kohler Coaster. A post mortem on that piece of the SoWhat debacle is like what the city did last year toward "fixing" the impending police and fire retirement disaster -- namely, nothing much. Thanks for the investigation, Mayor, but if we're not going to ask the right questions, it's just political posturing. And it won't work, because people are catching on to the totality of what's going on down there.

Alberto starts to twist slowly, slowly in the wind

That little U.S. attorney problem that some right-wing commenters assured us last week was no big deal? It's about to cost the attorney general of the United States his job.

Nice weather lately

But it's still a little chilly for that pre-dawn swim.

Your government at work

The recent testy exchanges about the years that it takes for two Portland city bureaus to try to figure out how to work together on something -- it takes endless rounds of hassling over the wording of an "inter-agency agreement" -- are not much different from this run-in between the State of Oregon and Multnomah County.

Bad Idea of the Month

Ah, Salem. Now they're going to issue temporary liquor licenses to folks first, allow them to start selling booze right away, and then start checking them out. Can't wait 'til one of these opens around me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coach K, as in Krap

To the chokers -- chokers! -- of Duke: Thanks for screwing up my tournament bracket. Can't even make foul shots -- scared faces the whole second half -- tentative offense -- pitiful! Please -- next year, the NIT, if that.

UPDATE, 8:44 p.m.: With more disastrous performances by my other tentative white boy team picks for the first day, BYU and Gonzaga, I'm done worrying about this for another year. Good thing, too -- the commercials are on the screen more than any actual basketball, and it has gotten old quick. For those who still have a stake in The Madness, have fun and good luck.

We missed this one

Apparently Thomas the Train lost a few fans last evening.

How's your bracket?

I've got six out of seven winners so far. Old Dominion didn't come through. But hey, I've got them going out in the next round anyway. At this rate, I'd have 54 winners out of 63, which wouldn't be bad, heh.

Recipe for trouble?

A reader writes (through an anonymous remailer, no less):

Multnomah County has a new external auditing firm which is finding some "issues" related to the way the library handles money it collects. These same issues have been a long-standing concern to staff -- given that anybody can erase fines or charges of any amount without justification or supervision.

The library director sent out a long message to staff -- including this line:

"There is concern that every employee using the circulation system has the authority to adjust patron account balances without controls or additional approvals required. Again, this creates the possibility that errors could occur and not be discovered."

Library fines look like largely a cash business to me, albeit a small one. I doubt that it happens very often, but it certainly seems logical that a person who has the power to erase your fine could also collect it from you and then pocket it. Systems need to be in place to keep an eye on that. From my reader's message, it appears that something's going on in that arena.

I love our library and hope it has, or gets, its act together on this issue.

Where's Vladimir?

An alert reader writes:

I was at call this a.m. in Multnomah County Circuit Court and they called the Golovan case for a status check. Judge Koch asked if there was an attorney present representing Mr. Golovan and no one responded; he also asked if Mr. Golovan was present, and again no one responded.

The judge commented that the court found that Mr. Golovan was not eligible for a court-appointed lawyer. He also commented that the case was still set to be called for trial on May 18, 2007, I believe. Norm Frink from the prosecutor's office said that he would look into the status of the case and report back tomorrow at call regarding where things stood with the case.

If they rocked

Down in a comment thread yesterday, a few of us started working on an important issue that wasn't really in the main post. This is significant enough that it merits a discussion of its own. The burning question is this:

"If the Portland City Council were a rock band,
its name would be..."

So far we've got a handful of good ideas -- Potter's Feel, U5, Stench -- but we know our readership can take this to a higher level than that.

New feature: Think I'll Pass

In our never-ending quest to provide useless information to you, the reading public, today we institute a new blog feature called Think I'll Pass. These posts will focus on consumer transactions that were actually offered in the marketplace, but did not attract us enough to accept them.

Today's entry is from yesterday's jaunt to our local Wild Oats store, where we were given an opportunity to purchase cucumbers for $1.99 each.

This has been Think I'll Pass, a free consumer feature of bojack.org. Feel free to add your own finds.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tired act

Are we sick of these people yet?

The next contraband?

Portland City Council watchers always take note when any municipal government anywhere bans something, because it's usually just a matter of time thereafter before our own Fussbudget Five jumps on the bandwagon and takes steps to protect us from ourselves. Do you think they'll emulate New York City and go after this one next?

Why the Archbishop of Portland went bankrupt

It was so that you wouldn't read this. And no doubt lots of other stories just as sordid.

UPDATE, 8:55 p.m. Congratulations to the victims, who both got some of the truth out and got the money they deserve. Makes the eight figures that the archdiocese spent on the bankruptcy proceeding look even more ridiculous than before. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice.


Our local mainstream media have been following some good stories lately, but they've left out a factoid or two that might be of interest.

Yesterday the Trib got into the brouhaha over the plan to spend big bucks to extend the goofball Portland streetcar across the Broadway Bridge. Factoid left out: Vintage Portland slumlord Joe Weston is positively salivating at the prospect of building a huge apartment building or two across Broadway from the Rose Garden -- where the abandoned storage place and the School District buildings are now. Transit, my tookas -- the streetcar has always been about selling condos. Commissioners Adams, Sten and the rest want to make even more money for Old Joe. He must have photos.

Then there's the AP story about the latest push to ban field burning in Oregon. The medical folks are all for the burning ban -- nothing new there, actually. Factoid left out of the story: Field burning is currently illegal in both Washington and Idaho, leaving only "green, progressive, sustainable" Oregon as a place that's willing to turn its children into human ash trays to save a few thou a year for maybe a couple dozen grass farmers.

Equal time

Yesterday, we posted a hot e-mail message from the head of Portland parks to... well, just about everybody in city government. It was about the misinformation she accused Commissioner Randy Leonard of spreading about the proposed Water Bureau-Parks Bureau cooperative agreement about Powell Butte.

The response by Fireman Randy to the Parks chief is also interesting. Here is what he wrote back to her:

From: Leonard, Randy To: Santner, Zari; Shaff, David Cc: Potter, Mayor; Commissioner Adams; Commissioner Leonard; Commissioner Saltzman; Commissioner Sten; Short, Casey; McAllister, David; 'Scott Montgomery'; 'Barbara Walker (Walker, Barbara)'; 'Bethel Rev. T. Allen (Bethel, Rev. T. Allen)'; 'Bill Hawkins'; 'Chet Orloff (Orloff, Chet)'; 'Josephine Pope (Pope, Joey)'; 'Keith Thomajan'; 'Mary Ruble (Ruble, Mary)'; 'Mike Houck (Houck, Mike)'; 'Nichole Maher'; 'Rich Brown'; 'thomas Bruner'; 'jeffrey tryens'; Klutz, Tom; Kovatch, Ty; 'cag@***.com'; Jones, Floy

Sent: 3/9/2007 5:55 PM
Subject: RE: Powell Butte Nature Park


Thank you for your email regarding comments I made regarding the lack of cooperation from the parks bureau in transferring the costs of maintaining Powell Butte to the water bureau.

After reading your memo, I am left with having to question whether the
water bureau staff or you are giving me an accurate reflection of the
issues relative to the Water Bureau assuming expenses for the
maintenance of Powell Butte that heretofore the Parks Bureau has been
responsible for.

I am reminded, however, of your repeated denials last year that no deal
was in the works to sell a significant portion of Mt Tabor Park to the
private sector. Subsequent to those denials, a Freedom Of Information
Act request was made of the Parks Bureau and a Memo of Understanding was
discovered. That memo, signed by you, agreed that the Parks Bureau would
complete the sale of the Mt. Tabor property to Warner Pacific College by
November 16, 2006. In addition to your signature, that memorandum was
also signed by the President of Warner Pacific.

When asked to explain the apparent contradiction between your statements
that no decisions had been made and the signed document, you replied
"that provision to sell the property to Warner Pacific was taken out of

Given that explanation by you, I am inclined to rely on the Water
Bureau's staff description of the Powell Butte issues.

Thank you for writing.

Commissioner Randy Leonard

Well, harumph indeed!

They say blogs are going to knock out the mainstream media. After that, look out, soap operas!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The deadline looms

Still sweating over that NCAA pool bracket of yours? Relax -- here's all you need to know. Just do what I do -- guess!

Jackie Edwards salves his eco-guilt

Demo prez hopeful John Edwards -- in my mind, the only hope for the party -- announced today that he's going to take concrete steps to reduce his campaign's emission of greenhouse gases. No, he's not going to shut up. Instead, he's going to have the campaign buy "carbon offsets that support alternative energy production," and he's urging his staffers to turn down the heat, shut off the lights, etc.

Green, progressive, sustainable -- all the magic buzzwords are there. So now he'll have something to say in response to critics who point to all the jet fuel he's burning flying all over the country trying to get himself elected. At least he's acknowledging that there's an issue.

But declaring yourself "carbon neutral" -- that's pretty advanced for the vast majority of us. Sounds like a color in the colored pencil box.

It's Crazed Meth Freaks with Guns Week

Here in Portland, they're popping up like dandelions. First this guy -- now this. And they're heading this way!

When Zari met Randy

Here an interesting e-mail message making the rounds on the internet:

From: "Santner, Zari" [PKZARI@ci.portland.or.us]
To: "Shaff, David" [dshaff@water.ci.portland.or.us]
Cc: "Potter, Mayor" [mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us], Commissioner Adams [CommissionerSam@ci.portland.or.us], Commissioner Leonard [randy@ci.portland.or.us], Commissioner Saltzman [dan@ci.portland.or.us], Commissioner Sten [erik@ci.portland.or.us], "Short, Casey" [cshort@ci.portland.or.us], "McAllister, David" [dmcallister@ci.portland.or.us], "Scott Montgomery", "Barbara Walker (Walker, Barbara), "Bethel Rev. T. Allen (Bethel, Rev. T. Allen)", Bill Hawkins, "Chet Orloff (Orloff, Chet)", "Josephine Pope (Pope, Joey)", Keith Thomajan, "Mary Ruble (Ruble, Mary)","Mike Houck (Houck, Mike)", Nichole Maher, "Rich Brown", thomas Bruner, jeffrey tryens
Subject: Powell Butte Nature Park
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 16:04:06 -0800

March 9, 2007


TO: David Shaff, Director
Bureau of Water Works

cc: Mayor Tom Potter
Comm. Sam Adams
Comm. Randy Leonard
Comm. Dan Saltzman
Comm. Erik Sten
Parks Board Members
Casey Short, OMF

FROM: Zari Santner, Director

RE: Powell Butte Nature Park

During Parks budget work session before City Council yesterday, Commissioner Leonard made several statements regarding the Parks - Water Bureau IGA for shared management costs at Powell Butte that greatly concerned me.

Commissioner Leonard stated the following:

· He was frustrated with Parks lack of action in completing the IGA since it had been over a year since his offer of assistance.
· He also stated that he was confused on why Parks would walk away from the Water Bureau's offer of over $100,000 in management costs.
· Finally, he said he was involved in all details of the deliberations to date and, as a result, was deeply troubled by Parks lack of commitment, particularly in light of their 07-08 budget request.

Frankly, I was shocked at Commissioner Leonard's statements. As you know, David McAllister, City Nature Manager, has been leading Parks' effort on the IGA. I asked David to review his records since you, David, and I met together on April 4, 2006 on the topic. I am adding an outline of his records below. I also have attached the complete E-mail records as an attachment.

April 4, 2006 Agree on IGA framework in meeting Shaff, Santner,
April 20, 2006 Commissioner Leonard meets with PB Friends Group
April 28, 2006 Commitment to PB Friends Group Commissioner
May 2, 2006 Early IGA draft outline to WB McAllister
May 2, 2006 WB IGA comments Shaff
June 1, 2006 Draft IGA sent from Parks to WB McAllister
June 14, 2006 Parks request for receipt of IGA to WB McAllister
June 20, 2006 IGA receipt confirmed Shaff
July 26, 2006 Parks offer of assistance to WB to expedite Santner
July 31, 2006 WB promise of IGA to Parks - Aug 4, 2006 Shaff
Sept 30, 2006 WB IGA deadline extension - Oct, 2006 Shaff
Oct 30, 2006 WB confirms Shaff too busy to review Shaff
Assigns new staff to coordinate
Nov 2-21, 2006 Discussions with WB on draft IGA begin McAllister, Klutz
Jan 18, 2007 Parks inquires on 6-1-2006 draft IGA status McAllister
Feb 05-14 2007 Discussion with WB on Draft IGA continue McAllister, Klutz
Feb 27, 2007 IGA completed, budgeting close to final McAllister, Klutz

David's compilation substantiates my understanding of our work in making this IGA a reality. Rather than Parks being an impediment to progress, this record indicates that Parks has been a very engaged and enthusiastic partner. Based upon Commissioner Leonard's public statements, it is important that I clarify the record on this subject. Given the Commissioner's involvement, I can only conclude that he has been misinformed on Parks efforts to date. I am looking forward to your viewpoint on the subject.

[Powell Butte emails.doc]

Zari Santner
Portland Parks & Recreation
(503) 823-5379
(503) 823-6007 Fax
"Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland"

Fireman Randy, misinformed? Doesn't sound like the guy I know. But then again, I may be misinformed.

Copyright smackdown

Is YouTube the next Napster? We may be getting closer to finding out.

For the children (to pay for)

I see that at tomorrow's Portland Development Commission board meeting they're going to take some sort of official action to "transfer leadership" on the Convention Center hotel boondoggle to Metro. I wish they weren't handing off another $3 million plus in this year's city budget along with "leadership."

How long before they pull the same stunt that the real estate greasies pulled with the aerial tram [rim shot] -- the argument that "We already have X million dollars invested in this -- it's too late to turn back now."? I suspect we'll be hearing that one pretty soon.

The only real "leadership" that would have made any sense with the convention hotel was to kill the idea of public funding for it. And in that, the PDC has failed. Oh, all the face cards make a face and say "I doubt that it will work," but did they do the right thing and pull the plug? No.


Growing up on the east side of Newark, we didn't have Rose Festival princesses. But thank the Lord -- we did have the Ronettes. Never did a group sound so vulnerable and so strong at the same time. When it came to being a teenager, they said it all. "We'll make them turn their heads, ev'ry place we go..."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ah, college days

Here's an interesting Google search that brought a reader here this afternoon.

For Randy Gragg, a new hero and a new putdown for you

At age 69, Weston is becoming a city shaper, a new role for him. But the role of city maker he's long played. In the 1970s and '80s he built more than 130 eastside apartment buildings, nearly all simple affairs with 20 or fewer units fronted by parking lots.

Dubbed "Weston Specials," they were (and still are) much loathed by Craftsman-hugger residents. But wholly owned and well-maintained by Weston, they have played a manifold role in Portland.

Hear that, "Craftsman-huggers"? Forget about history, forget about character, forget about workmanship, forget about personal space, forget everything you moved to Portland for and bow down before the junk condo tower.

Forget this being the Rose City. Roses are a waste of water. You don't need a yard.

Besides, those Joe Weston specials aren't so bad. So now let's let him build any building as tall as he wants, anywhere, so long as there's only 8,000 square feet per floor. Sounds like a great idea to Randy Gragg.

And of course, the density debauchees at the city can't fall over themselves fast enough for more monkeyshines with old Joe:

"It's an intriguing idea," says Gil Kelley, Portland planning director. "Point towers could have substantial utility in adding more density on quarter-block sites but preserving the city's historic, lower-rise, finer-grain character on the other three-quarters."
Yeah, nothing like a quaint Victorian next door to a 40-story high-rise. Real character.

Oh, and there won't be any garbage chutes in the new Weston vertical slums. Doorside pickup so you can recycle! Think of the heavy breathing that will prompt in the City Council chambers.

Anyway, the real "point tower" I see in all this looks an awful lot like the Graggmeister's middle finger. Same to you, pal.

Enjoying the passage of time

59 years old today.

Temporary headquarters

It makes perfect sense. As Old Town blogger Larry Norton points out, when the buses moved off Fifth and Sixth and over to Third and Fourth, the drug dealers moved over, too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How can you read blogs...

... at a time like this?

Not really a blog

Those pinko troublemaker employees who are trying to unionize at the Portland Development Commission have decided that they're not going to make their blog public -- it's gone password-only. But they have created a bare-bones site that everyone can see; with any luck, it will expand as the unionization effort moves along. That site is here.

Portland is still a beautiful place

Just look at Margaret.

Answer to consumer quiz

Just when we were getting ready to declare a state of emergency over the recent shortage on local market shelves of King Harvest Balsamic Hummus, an ample supply showed up at our nearby New Seasons Market (Home of the $2 Head of Lettuce About the Size of Your Fist). Therefore, we must conclude that as of this morning, it is slightly more difficult to purchase heroin than King Harvest Balsamic Hummus in Portland. The cause of the extreme scarcity of the balsamic in recent weeks remains unexplained. Thanks for playing.

Another wet dream bungled

The trouble, in large part, is that the network built by contractor MetroFi Inc. isn't designed to reach inside homes. Most residents have to buy an expensive piece of hardware, a signal booster that can cost more than $120, to sign on to the "free" network.

Both MetroFi and the city now acknowledge they should have done a better job publicizing that limitation before the network was introduced in December.

Score one more triumph for the English Major from Stanford. Forget about running a hot dog stand at the Rose Festival -- would you even send him to the grocery store on an errand for you? "I sent you for milk! This is beef jerky!" "But it's all cow, and it looked cool!"

Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Calling Amy, or Jeannette

Earlier this week, this showed up on our doorstep:

It looks like a belated Christmas present, from Amy to Jeannette.

Problem: There's nobody in our house named Jeannette. Or Amy, for that matter.

We've come up with a couple of theories. Perhaps Amy thought she was leaving Jeannete a nice surprise, but got the wrong block. Or perhaps the bag fell out of a car as it was dropping off or picking up kids at the elementary school across the street, and someone found it and put it on our porch, thinking that it belonged to us.

We've left it back out there a few days, hoping that Amy would realize her mistake and come back and retrieve it, but she didn't. One occupant of our house is of the age at which she'd love the contents of the bag to be hers. It's hard for her to understand why we need to wait before we declare finders keepers.

But we won't wait forever. Amy and Jeannette, this is your last call. If this bag is yours, please e-mail me here.

Consumer quiz

Which is easier to buy in Portland?

A. Heroin.

B. King Harvest Balsamic Hummus.

The correct answer will be posted here tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2007

At the parole officer Christmas party

Another fine day for Multnomah County law enforcement. Where was Bernie? We needed another intervention!

Here's your vision: You're screwing up

Fascinating piece in the Trib about the Vision Quest surveys. A large majority of those who responded don't like the direction in which Portland is heading -- particularly the Pearl and SoWhat districts. And already the pooh-poohing has begun:

At the same time, Leonard said he does not know how seriously to take such comments because the surveys conducted to date have not been scientific.

“Are these comments really reflective of a large number of Portlanders, or is it just pockets of people in certain neighborhoods?” he said.

Right, we'll never know. On with the convention center hotel!

Might be a good time for a plea bargain

Here, according to LocalNewsDaily, is the guy they've picked up in connection with the Belmont Market shooting:

Think he did it?

The favorite

Pundit (and friend) Steven Stark is calling Rudy Giuliani the odds-on favorite to win not only the Republican nomination for President, but also the general election.

Un-PC laughs

These are good.

Belmont shooting suspect identified

LocalNewsDaily quotes police as saying he's Jimmy Kashi, 27, who was picked up in connection with a Clark County robbery. No mug shot yet, that I know of.

Sam the Tram to Lair Hill: Roll over and have a smoke

After spending like a drunken sailor for Homer Williams and the other weasels defiling the skyline with the vertical sprawl of the SoWhat district, the City of Portland is telling the existing adjacent neighborhood that now there's not enough money for transportation projects that will help alleviate its chronic traffic problems. Those promises of assistance that were made when the aerial tram [rim shot] was being rammed down the neighbors' throats? Well, golly, says Sam the Tram, there's not enough money lying around to live up to them. All of a sudden, some hard choices have to made.

What a surprise.

Erroneous Statement of the Week

"What's good for the Pearl is good for downtown," says Sandra McDonough, president of the Portland Business Alliance. "We are not in competition with them. Consumers will probably go both places."

Why O why?

I haven't seen O reporter Anna Griffin's byline in months. And the O City Hall blog is showing a flat EKG. Anybody know what's going on over there?

UPDATE, 6:49 a.m.: Griffin's still around, and the blog restarted at a new address just the other day.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Arrest in Belmont Market shooting

That's what KPTV is reporting at this hour. (It's on the tube, but not on their website, that I can find.) The TV report said that the "person of interest" was in custody in the 'Couv. He was driving a gray SUV, not the infamous orange Corvette, when nabbed by police.

OLive has a short story about the arrest here.

Move along, son

I just found out that the evil overlords at Comcast changed the IP address of my home connection recently. They don't do this often, but when they do, it's without warning. If you're a Comcast customer in Portland, and something you do on the internet isn't working quite right, you might want to check out your IP address. That's easy enough to do -- you can just go here.

On any given night, anything can happen

Which is why they call it March Madness.

Thanks, Mayor Potter

Here's a big breakthrough -- the police precincts in Portland are now open 'til midnight, for the first time in more than five years. Kudos to the mayor for bringing a small hint of common sense into the priorities picture at City Hall. As he told KGW:

“One of the things I heard during the campaign and I've heard since is that many people, many of them women, driving home from work late at night wanted a place to go if they were driving down the street and someone that think is following them, that they can pull into the precinct parking lot .. the precinct lights are on, the doors open and they can go in and get help," Potter said.
After midnight, for now we suggest the drive-through window at Wendy's.

The scent of an "A"

Cramming for tests may take on a new sensory dimension once this news gets out.

Gaudemus maxime

The teaching of the beautiful language of Latin at Portland's Grant High School has reportedly been rescued from the budget ax, at least for the time being. That was the word earlier this afternoon from this alert commenter.

The Rose City on the big screen again

Yet another film is being shot in Portland -- further confirmation that the creative class is the future of the city. I see this one is a documentary.

Smells familiar

That new, improved Oregon legislature continues to underwhelm.

Maybe they could fill in for a couple of hours on the ring toss

Sure, it's from yesterday, but day-old Bill McDonald is still quite tasty:

But this group? Every decision just happens to be the lazy thing to do. Really get in there and research something? Really plan for anything? Nah, that would be too much hassle. They would rather screw up and try and talk their way out of it, than do it right. I wouldn't hire Dick Cheney or George Bush to run a hot dog stand at the Rose Festival.
If you haven't already, read the whole thing.

Comment of the Year So Far

From the heart, and so very on target.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Moment of silence

Paul deLay

Springtime, and the scams are blooming

You know that nice little SmartPark garage downtown at 10th and Yamhill? Really does its job well.

Well, get a good look at it, because the condo weasels are all over it. Stand by for anther major pork giveaway. They're getting ready to "present" their "ideas," which is code for "The fix is already in." Twenty stories of condos? Thirty?

Linchpin City!

UPDATE, 3/8, 12:28 a.m.: An alert reader writes:

Tom Moyer's garage under Park Block 5 will cost at least $5 an hour and $18 a day. He will be delighted to have the low-cost competition go away for a year or two, and come back (if it does come back) at a reduced capacity.
The reader also points out that "the story of how this went from a plan to spruce up the garage, including gated stairwells, better elevators and more appealing retail, to a teardown with condo tower, is told succinctly here:


Of course, it's all the Usual Suspects and their call girls at 1221 SW Fourth.

They've got to be kidding

The O has a story up on its affiliated website this morning: "Police show photo in grocery shooting." In it, reporter Maxine Bernstein dutifully reports:

Portland police on Tuesday released an image of a suspect captured by surveillance cameras, hoping that someone can identify the gunman who shot a 41-year-old man minding the cash register at the Belmont 34 Grocery on Sunday afternoon.
O.k., the reader asks, so where is the picture?

It. Isn't. There. Not even a link. At least not three hours after the story was first posted.

Oh, there's a photo on that page, all right. Just not one that goes with anything:

I'm gonna miss this organization when it's gone, aren't you?

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: They've moved the story now, and they finally got a picture up. But get this -- it's a picture of a car similar to the getaway car. The police release a photo of the suspect, and they run a picture of a car. Not even the car -- just one like it. Pitiful.

UPDATE, 4:06 p.m.: Here's the photo, from the Portland police information site:

The feds show up

Just when I was complaining that federal law enforcement doesn't get involved when the chips are really down in Portland, they show up twice within a week. I was surprised to see that U.S. marshals made the arrest of a teenager who allegedly shot another teenager in broad daylight on a North Portland street. Hardly seems like a federal crime, but I think it had something to do with the suspect's being a fugitive on two other serious charges as well.

Meanwhile, the FBI's reportedly getting cracking on that dusty whodunit story involving some Portland police officers and a private eye who conveniently "committed suicide" right after he supposedly told some folks he had some dirt suggesting that some members of the police force had been involved in one or more murders. County D.A. Mike Schrunk, who was in his same office when an allegedly related police corruption scandal blew up at the time, has Pontius Pilated the whole mess over to the FBI. And they're on the case, which now has turned very ugly indeed. The events at issue are a quarter-century old, but when last I looked there was no statute of limitations in Oregon for murder, manslaughter, conspiracy to commit murder, or solicitation to commit murder. And apparently the revived interest in the case has hit a nerve with somebody in town.

Between these two developments and the recent attempt to get a mole in Portland City Hall, I'd say federal law enforcement may actually be awakening from its slumber around here.

Wyden on health care: We're on the "cusp" of change

Ron Wyden's all over it these days. He's got an income tax reform plan, and now he's spearheading a bipartisan group looking to make a push in the health care arena. Yesterday he told a Federation of American Hospitals conference that Congress is on the "cusp of a very big breakthrough" in the debate over reforming the healthcare system.

A gang of 10 senators, five from each party, recently sent a letter to the White House on the subject. In addition to Wyden, the letter was signed by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Trent Lott (R-MS), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and John Thune (R-SD). It said:

Dear Mr. President:

As U.S. Senators of both political parties we would like to work with you and your Administration to fix the American health care system.

Each of us believes our current health system needs to be fixed now. Further delay is unacceptable as costs continue to skyrocket, our population ages, and chronic illness increases. In addition, our businesses are at a severe disadvantage when their competitors in the global market get health care for "free."

We would like to work with you and your Administration to pass legislation in this Congress that would:

1) Ensure that all Americans would have affordable, quality, private health coverage, while protecting current government programs. We believe the health care system cannot be fixed without providing solutions for everyone. Otherwise, the costs of those without insurance will continue to be shifted to those who do have coverage.

2) Modernize Federal tax rules for health coverage. Democratic and Republican economists have convinced us that the current rules disproportionately favor the most affluent, while promoting inefficiency.

3) Create more opportunities and incentives for states to design health solutions for their citizens. Many state officials are working in their state legislatures to develop fresh, creative strategies for improving health care, and we believe any legislation passed in this Congress should not stymie that innovation.

4) Take steps to create a culture of wellness through prevention strategies, rather than perpetuating our current emphasis on sick care. For example, Medicare Part A pays thousands of dollars in hospital expenses, while Medicare Part B provides no incentives for seniors to reduce blood pressure or cholesterol. Employers, families, and all our constituents want emphasis on prevention and wellness.

5) Encourage more cost-effective chronic and compassionate end-of-life care. Studies show that an increase in health care spending does not always mean an increase in quality of outcomes. All Americans should be empowered to make decisions about their end of life care, not be forced into hospice care without other options. We hope to work with you on policies that address these issues.

6) Improve access to information on price and quality of health services. Today, consumers have better access to information about the price and quality of washing machines than on the price and quality of health services.

We disagree with those who say the Senate is too divided and too polarized to pass comprehensive health care legislation. We disagree with those who believe that this issue should not come up until after the next presidential election. We disagree with those who want to wait when the American people are saying, loud and clear, "We want to fix health care now."

We look forward to working with you in a bipartisan manner in the days ahead.

Cantwell and Lott on the same letter -- wow.

Well, the polls have spoken. America's ready for moderate to heavy health care restructuring. But the Kaiser docs and the Providence nuns and the Merck weasels and Blue Cross will all be out to stop it. I can't imagine that anything serious is going to happen until we're rid of Bush. But come 1/22/09, we could be talking some real changes.

In the meantime, item no. 2 in the letter will please W. It's code for making you pay income tax on health insurance purchased for you by your employer, if it's any good. That's the Republican Wyden talking. But the rest of it is pretty hard to argue with.

"What are we doing with Libby? Where's Rove?"

Where, indeed.

God bless America

It's not just Bush. There are all sorts of creatures roaming the land within our borders.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Reality bites

Another tough night for the young Blazers, but this one was really heartbreaking. They played great ball against one of the league's elite teams, the San Antonio Spurs, for about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the game is three minutes longer than that, and the Spurs overcame a nine-point deficit in short order to win the game at the Rose Garden.

The kids on the Portland team looked devastated as the final seconds of the game ticked away. They had thought they had the game won. The home crowd had most definitely thought the same. It was kind of like the Blazer game I saw against Phoenix: great play, and the higher-powered visiting team just barely prevailed, but prevail they did.

I worry about the youthful Blazers' heads. Like others, I suspect they tend to put extra pressure on themselves in home games, and a loss in Portland hurts more on account of it. To make matters worse, a scheduling quirk gives the Blazers four days to brood about this particular defeat; their next game isn't until Sunday.

Of greatest concern, of course, is forward Zach Randolph, the Blazers' best, but most unstable, player. He's got to be feeling pretty low right now. Came to camp in tremendous shape, and focused. Has worked his rear off on the court every single game. Yet didn't make the All-Star team. Isn't going to make the playoffs. Seriously losing record. Lots of losses in close games that could have been won with just a break or two.

The weather's getting warmer. The end of the season is near. This is the kind of night on which Zach gets himself in trouble. I hope he drives the Escalade home, unloads the guns, has some booze (or other intoxicant of choice) with a couple of buddies, enjoys a few laughs, and calls it a night. But you worry.

What wound up killing the Blazers tonight were the Spurs' Euro three-point shooters, who rained down shots as the contest came to a close. I'm starting to get a bias against these guys. I watched the Utah Jazz on the tube a week or two ago, and I found myself feeling the way I did when I used to watch the Soviet East German teams. Boo!

Anyway, sympathies for the Blazers. And watch out for that Escalade; let's hope nobody sees it out there tonight.

It's about time

Whatever else you might say about the City of Portland's current rip-up of SE Hawthorne Boulevard, the traffic signal that's being installed at SE 35th Place is a welcome addition, and long overdue.

You've got nothing better to do

Did you change your life around so that you could attend this afternoon's City of Portland "work session" on the Parks Bureau budget? I hope not. Because I got an e-mail message at 6:31 last evening telling me that it's been moved.

Yep, now it's going to be Thursday morning at 10. This afternoon, we're going to have the 911 folks and the bluecoat pension fund instead. By happy hour, the city will be conclusively pronounced broke, which will really take the pressure off the parks discussion. Details (of sorts) are here.

I hope you'll be there Thursday morning, though. Because the Parks Bureau really does value your input.


Can't wait 'til tomorrow

The Bush administration gets better every day.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Semper non sequitur

With friends like the Oregonian editorial board, who needs enemies? Today they decided that if you're against the ridiculous, wasteful Burnside-Couch traffic "copulet" boondoggle -- the Homer Williams developer crowd's next rape of the Portland city treasury -- then you must also be against the current form of city government.

That's right, somehow to the O, the reason the couplet is getting such a big push is not because it's got big real estate money behind it -- no, it's all because of the current city charter. If you would just vote for the pending charter change, giving the mayor and the bureaucrats more power, this kind of thing would never happen.

The editorial, which has a faintly Graggy odor about it, is downright scary. They really need to check the carbon dioxide levels in the Oregonian building. Something's not right over there.

When you make a ludicrous link between two issues, it emboldens opponents on both. This gives guys like Fireman Randy a way to say, "See, these people don't know what they're talking about," and consider himself free to sell us all out once again on a scam (which in the end will probably make the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot] look like a pop stand). As for the charter change, it's deader than Generalisimo Francisco Franco; nonsense like today's editorial just buries it a little deeper.

C'mon, Fireman Randy, save the planet

Here's a suggestion for Portland's green, sustainable City Council. Today we got something on our front porch that we didn't ask for and didn't want: a plastic bag containing two phone books from a phone company that we don't do business with. We already get two phone books every year from our evil phone company, Qwest, which we keep. But there seem to be three or four more that show up, unsolicited and useless, every year. Like today's two.

The latest load of dead trees and wasted ink went straight from the front porch to the curbside recycling bin, without ever entering the house. The plastic bag, we'll have to reuse or recycle at a local retail outlet.

But why is this happening? How many tons of solid waste are being created here, for no reason other than to sell advertising? Why are these folks allowed to squander natural resources, drop what amounts to litter on private property, and force residents to deal with it? At the very least, we should be able to opt out of receiving those books in the future. And the dumpors should be required to make it easy for us dumpees to say no -- on the internet, perhaps.

Wait -- now, don't tell me that all those campaign contributions that the phone companies make would actually influence city policy. Would they?

Gentlemen, when you're done busting my chops about having grass in my yard and owning a car, could you please do something about these guys? Thanks.

As high as you can get in Oregon (legally)

If you ever wondered what an argument before the Oregon Supreme Court sounds like, here are some podcasts for you. Today's arguments were held at Lewis & Clark Law School, and they're available for your listening pleasure on the law school library's website. Word is that it's the court's first podcasting experience.

Today's cases were:

Costco Wholesale Corp. v. City of Beaverton, podcast here.

Questions from the audience following Costco Wholesale Corp. v. City of Beaverton, podcast here.

Nakashima v. Oregon State Board of Education, podcast here.

Questions from the audience following Nakashima v. Oregon State Board of Education, podcast here.

Watching the clothes go 'round (not)

It was a quiet weekend down at laundry central. Our gas dryer stopped heating. Today, the Maytag repairman -- formerly the loneliest guy in town but apparently pretty busy these days -- had to come by and make it better. Seems as though we needed a couple of these (link via Jake at Oregon's own The Appliance Blog). O.k., money's gone. Now back to the towels.

Me and the Skyway

An imposing, iconic structure from my youth may be tumbling down soon. It's the Pulaski Skyway, the elevated stretch of highway that makes up U.S. Routes 1 and 9 between the east side of Newark and Jersey City, N.J. Word from my old schoolmate Matty J. in the Garden State is that they're talking about replacing it. The new road will no doubt be bigger and safer, but it could never replace the Skyway. It's one of a kind.

Fans of The Sopranos will recognize the highway right away. It's been prominently featured in many an episode. And not in a flattering way. They put a hit on Chrissy at the Skyway Diner, which sits beneath the Skyway in Kearny. To some, this elevated road is a symbol of the dark, dirty past and present of the industrial areas through which it passes. Its grim, ancient look also fits right in with the pollution that spoils the rivers over which it carries auto traffic -- the Hackensack and the Passaic -- around 10 or 12 stories above. But if you grew up, as I did, literally in the shadow of the thing, you develop a strange fondness for the Skyway. The fact that it was named after one of the countrymen of my paternal ancestors, who helped America in its time of need, makes it even more endearing.

Built in the Depression, it was a marvel of its time when it opened in 1932. But of course, those days are long past. It's a narrow two lanes in either direction -- primitive for a freeway, really. There's no shoulder or sidewalk, and trucks and pedestrians are strictly forbidden. The on ramps and accompanying merges are a real nightmare. I never once got out of my car on the hundreds of drives I took across that span -- it was no place to ever be on foot. I guess if you broke down up there, you'd have to get out, and flag down somebody to give you a push to the next off ramp.

Once it reaches Tonnelle (pronounced tunnelly) Avenue in Jersey City, the skyway ends pretty abruptly with a traffic signal. There, Routes 1 and 9 take a left and zig north, while something called the "viaduct" -- a largely underground road -- takes you most of the rest of the way east to the Holland Tunnel and Gotham. Again, there's no place that you'd want to stop under there, at least not until you reach the crazy plaza where the tunnel entrance sits.

On the Newark end of the Skyway (Exit 15E country of the Turnpike), a couple of stories were told. Although I don't believe I ever saw it (at least not up close), my schoolyard buddies said that out where the concrete pillar bases of the skyway sit in the "wetlands" -- in our day, known more directly as the "swamps" -- one of the uprights bore a plaque dedicated to the dozen or so men who died building the thing. The story went that when they were pouring that much concrete, if you fell in, there was no way to save you. They just kept pouring, and they put up a plaque in your honor when the construction was finished.

Neighborhood lore also had it that there was a catwalk way up top, just under the road surface. Some of the bigger, crazier guys in the 'hood claimed to have climbed up there and walked quite a ways on the catwalk. I believed it -- still do. There was something about the young men who lived in our neck of the woods that made them want to try daredevil stunts for pretty much no reason at all. I remember the night when a gang of us organized a Mission Impossible-type party to climb up on the locker room roof at the public swimming pool and swipe one of the giant loudspeakers. It was extremely well organized, and it went off without a hitch (I remember walking across the top of a narrow little stone fence, about 10 or 15 feet up, with some trepidation), but when we smuggled our booty down to the one guy's basement bedroom and hooked it up his stereo, it sounded kind of tinny. We sat there listening to "I'm a Girl Watcher" a couple of times, and then started wondering what we were going to do with the stupid thing.

Anyway, did some of the Down Neck teens somehow climb up 100 feet and walk around on a Skyway catwalk? I would not put it past them.

My own Skyway stunt was somewhat daring, but in a different way. One weekday on Easter break from school, a handful of us walked along the railroad tracks and through the swamps to get to the Passaic River. One of the pillars of the Skyway was close enough to the riverbank that you could hop onto a ledge on the side of it without getting wet, if you got a running start. From there you could climb up onto the base of the concrete pillars (on which the huge steel girders came to rest) and look out over the river.

Now, keep in mind that there was absolutely no reason to do any of this. The Passaic River was then well known for being the most polluted in America, and at this particular bend in its course, it's downstream from several of the worst polluters humankind has ever known. But hey, did I mention it was Easter break? So we take turns jumping across, one by one. As I recall, a guy or two didn't make it all the way to the pillar, and so there were a couple of wet shins. But the unspeakably filthy water between the bank and the pillar wasn't that deep, and so wet shins was all it was. At first.

As we sat out on the pillar, no doubt smoking Winston cigs and thinking about how cool we were, the day grew hotter. Unseasonably hot for that time of year -- maybe 70. On the concrete pillar, with the sun reflecting off the river, we started to get a little toasty.

That's when The Idea came to us, and there ensued several minutes of animated discussion about who was -- what can I call it, brave enough? stupid enough? for there was no line between the two that day -- let's go with brave enough to jump in.

Eventually, I think there were two of us. Off we jumped, most of our clothes on, into the river. Yes, out toward the middle of the Passaic River. A regular couple of Huckleberry Finns.

It was awful. We came up gagging, covered in a tarry industrial goo. It wasn't refreshing, that's for sure. It was a long, stinky, squishy walk home down the tracks. I don't recall getting into too much trouble over it, but I distinctly remember that our clothes had to be burned.

Continue reading "Me and the Skyway" »

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Well, it looks as though the story behind that mysterious Willy Week "photo contest" that I blogged about the other day may be coming to light. A commenter on the Double Dub site theorizes that the auto pictured belongs to a certain prize-winning Oregonian reporter, and that the parking space was bought and paid for by a certain local villain whom that reporter has previously covered, big time.

Do I know if that's true? No. Do I hope that it's true? No. Do I think that WW thinks that it's true? Yes. It would be just like them to try to make our local daily newspaper look bad to the bone.

But I'll tell you this: If it is true, it's the kind of thing that the O's public editor had better get on right away. Or maybe the reporters' union will have a statement. No, wait...

Life in two dimensions

For a guy who generally doesn't take very good pictures, I do spend a lot of time trying. As a result, I'm buried in photos. The hard-copy versions have petered out, but before they died out around our place, enough of them had accumulated to hurt your back if you ever tried to lift them all at once. And the digital images -- well, they've just exploded.

A while back I began the arduous task of getting on top of them all. I got the hard copies under control from the early '90s through around mid-2003. I've now got some nice albums that make it a breeze to go through the images from those years. But then real life intervened, and the organizing went on hold. There are still a couple of boxes of snapshot prints sitting over my right shoulder for some week when time and ambition coincide.

Meanwhile, one of my New Year's resolutions was to get on top of the digital files, which were strewn all over two computers, a stand-alone hard drive, three old disk cartridges on a Zip drive (remember those?), and even a few stray floppies. There were also copies of most of these on a remote server that I rent space on, although I have no system to know for sure which were backed up and which were missed.

This afternoon, I think I started making some headway. I hooked up a new stand-alone hard drive -- a 500 gigabyte garbage truck -- to the best computer in the house and started sucking photos onto it. I'm still at it. There are thousands of them, many with charming yet unrevealing names like DSC000101.jpg. Because of the way my camera's set up, many of the files have the same name -- all that keeps them distinguishable from each other are the date stamps (if they're accurate) and the file folders that they're resting in.

Once the hours of downloading and copying are through, the actual fun of trying to organize these collections of files once and for all can actually begin. There are going to be a lot of trips down memory lane as I try to get each file labeled with a distinctive and revealing name, and get them all slotted into nice neat files where they'll be easy to find. I can't imagine how long that's going to take, since just setting the stage has burned several hours already.

By the time I'm through, some technological advance will doubtlessly come along that will either (a) eliminate the need for what I'm doing, or (b) render the entire process obsolete. But hey, in the meantime it will keep me busy and out of the pool halls. Wish me luck.

The McDonald's of $4 coffee

Fascinating story in the Times yesterday about Howard Schultz and the current state of Starbucks. If you've got a Times subscription, you can read it here. If not, here's a really quick summary: Schultz recently sent around a memo lamenting that the company has drifted too far from its roots. But in order to keep its stock from collapsing, it has to. Wall Street wants to see growth, especially at established stores, and to produce the kind of numbers that the stock market wants, the company has to automate drink production and sell food and merchandise. That, and six new stores opening somewhere in the world every day.

Doesn't sound "sustainable" to me. But the stock has had quite a ride; at the moment, it's worth something like 50 times what it originally sold for.

Oh, and did you know there's an unofficial Starbucks gossip blog? Well, now you do. Apparently that's where the Schultz memo was first leaked.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

But of course

The staffers at the Portland Development Commission who are trying to start a union have set up their own blog. It's here [link removed -- see below].

UPDATE, 3/4, 2:44 a.m.: Oops! Looks like it wasn't ready for prime time yet. The organizers tell me they've taken it down until some additional prep work is done.

Breaking news

For the first time in weeks, the sun is trying to come out in Portland.

For their eyes only?

Here's an interesting one. This blog has been linked to by a web page called "the Back Fence," which is on the city's Portland Online website, under a subheading of "North Portland Online." But when I tried to get over there and see what was said, I couldn't -- not even with a Portland Online account. It appeared that only those whose accounts show a North Portland zip code have access to that page.

I suppose it would be easy enough to fake my way onto "the Back Fence" with a fictitious name and North Portland address, but why, I thought, should I have to? Why is the city running a restricted, subscription-only site to begin with? Is there a "Northeast Portland Online" for me? If so, where is it?

Anyway, I just went back via a different path, and it let me in. One of life's mysteries, I guess.

You may have it coming to you

If you're messing with your taxes, don't forget that you may be entitled to a refund on your 2006 federal income tax return of telephone excise taxes that you paid on long distance bills between March 2003 and July 2006. The taxes were discovered to be illegal a while ago, and the IRS is paying money back to those of us who were dinged for them. Even if you don't have all the old phone bills handy, there's a standardized amount that you're entitled to if you paid these taxes. For a family of four or more, it's 60 bucks -- that ain't hay.

The government reports that they're seeing a lot of tax returns coming in without this credit being claimed. Don't leave money on the table for Uncle Sam! For individuals (as opposed to be businesses), more information on the whole thing is here.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Life in Salem

Here's a guy in our state capital pulling an armed robbery so that he could ride off with a stolen rototiller on a bicycle trailer. Next time, steal a car first, dude!

The other shoe drops (so to speak)

The surly guy who was used as a human football by a Portland fire lieutenant on January 11 says he'll sue the city. His lawyers sent out a notice to the media this afternoon to that effect. They're having some sort of press shindig about it next Wednesday, but it doesn't seem as though it will be much of a story by then.

Lingua pulchra salvanda est

They're talking about eliminating Latin at Grant High School -- the last public school in Portland still teaching that wonderful (albeit dead) language. Latin lovers promise a fight, and I'm with them! Oriens morior, moriens orior! Per hostes, per hastas! Mens sana and womens sana! Semper ad hominem! Semper ubi sub ubi!

Maybe I should write an entire post about Portland city government in Latin. That would keep them guessing.

The canaries in the coal mines are fine, but...

... all the bees are disappearing without a trace.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

When Greg met Jim

Two people I know met for the first time recently, and well... it was ugly. The two in question being Greg Macpherson, one of best and brightest members of our generally dull Legislature; and Jim Karlock, relentless critic of the direction of our city and state and a frequent commenter on this blog. Their encounter is truly painful to watch, but it's like a car wreck -- you can't help but slow down to take a look at it.

Blazers: Back to being losers

Just when the Portland Trail Blazers appeared to have stabilized, and finally had somebody with some common sense making decisions, they go and do this. Oh, and they're bringing some dude from the Seahawks in to run the team! That will work.

Just this morning I was asking around to see if my buddies wanted to go in with me on season tickets. Well, you can put that plan on hold. Paul Allen, you are a true numbskull.

UPDATE, 7:25 p.m.: Some Blazer fans are speculating that Kevin Pritchard, a younger guy who's been working the personnel side of the Blazers roster, will become the new general manager of the team, and so things will become rosier. I wouldn't bank on either proposition. Today's announcement by the team makes it clear that whoever replaces Patterson will be on a very short leash, the other end of which will be held by a Bob Whitsitt type up in Seattle. And the fact that Patterson quit with a quarter of the season left to go, and crucial negotiations over the building still in progress, is downright frightening. The chances of this going down as a great day in Blazer history -- or even a good day -- seem extraordinarily slim.

Why your 401k is being trashed

Believe it or not, the heavy losses in the U.S. stock markets this week are in no small part due to rumors circulating in China about possible changes to the tax system in that country:

Analysts said the yo-yo effect in China’s markets was exacerbated by the fact that individual, retail investors account for roughly 80 percent of the stocks traded. Unlike big financial institutions, individuals tend to be more susceptible to rumors in the market.

After earning big gains, many investors feared authorities would step in to stem the tide and impose a capital gains tax. Instead, they sought to calm the market, with China’s state-controlled media reporting that the government might allow greater foreign investment in China’s stocks.

If you don't like China's influence over your financial future, you may want to consider moving to a different country. Bush has us borrowing billions a year from these guys. When they decide they want to play rough with us, it will make this week's stock market hit look like a little dinger.

By then, of course, the Chimp won't be around to ask for a Mulligan.

You's got a friend

It didn't Governor Ted long to put Youlee You back on the bench in Multnomah County Circuit Court. You was bounced last year after being ratted out by her neighbor, Leslie Roberts, who challenged her residency. Roberts then ran for her seat and won. You, who's been cooling her heels as an appellate lawyer in the state Justice Department, has now been appointed to fill a vacancy in another courtroom in the same building as Roberts's.

Good thing they check for weapons at the front door of that place, although I think one could do a lot of damage with a staple remover.


This just in to bojack.org Storm Center 9000:





(Via Mark Nelsen.)

Where kids can go if school's delayed again

Rocked by continuing criticism of its school closure policies, the Portland school board late last night announced new procedures for this morning's call on whether and when the city's public schools will open. Particularly if school openings are delayed, as they were in yesterday's severe winter storm, additional resources will be available for parents whose schedules are disrupted.

"We know it's hard for folks to understand why we're closing their schools when it's just cold and rainy," explained district spokesman Harriet Grimm. "But we have some students who have to travel over the summit of Burnside Street to get to school. Also, we keep the school buses in a garage in Government Camp."

To mollify upset parents, Grimm announced that if school openings are delayed by two hours or more, the school district will hold a student festival in the parking lot outside its headquarters in the Blanchard Education Service Center, near the Rose Quarter. The theme of the morning will be "Celebrating Diversity in Portland's Weather." The event will run from 8:15 a.m. until 15 minutes before schools are scheduled to open -- typically 10:30 a.m. in a delay situation.

Featured at the event will be a free Head Start breakfast, music by the Fernwood Middle School orchestra, a safety demonstration sponsored by Morton Rock Salt, and a petting zoo. At 9:45, City Commissioner Sam Adams is slated to address the assembled youngsters on "Cool Ways to Get Yourself on Television," after which he will have himself tasered by Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto. Representatives of Remax Equity Group realtors will also be available to pre-sell sustainable, affordable condominium units soon to be available at the site of the old Washington High School.

Grimm noted that a large number of the complaints about yesterday's closures and delays came from parents of children who attend area private schools. Many, if not most, local private schools follow the Portland public schools' decisions when it comes to closures. "But unfortunately, if we hold the festival in the morning, our resources are limited. Only Portland public school students will be admitted," she said.

However, students of Catholic schools will have their own event at which to while away the hours if the start of the school day is delayed. Bud Bunce, spokesman for the archdiocese of Portland, said that the Catholic schools gathering will be outside the federal bankruptcy court, 1001 SW Fifth Avenue. Although details were not available at press time, the parochial schools were said to be working on a program about the importance of keeping some things secret.

Stay tuned to bojack.org Storm Center 9000 all night and day for continuing, comprehensive team coverage of the snow mixed with rain. We look out the window -- so that you don't have to.

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