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

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April 2007 Archives

Monday, April 30, 2007

Offer up

If you pray, you might want a spend a minute or two on this.

And this.

Time has come today

Another one of the participants in the August 2005 downtown Portland shootout that had everyone atwitter got sentenced today in federal court. Eight years for being a felon with a firearm. No one has yet been charged in the homicide that occurred that night.

Where they excel

I see that the City of Portland is looking for help with its "hearing conservation program." Judging from the city commissioners' responsiveness to the needs of average residents, I think they're doing fine without any outside assistance. [Rim shot.]

Warm and fuzzy

Here's something to be proud about -- the City of Portland ranks third in the nation in the national Humane Society's "humane index." (Via the PDC.)

Get your story straight

If the Portland Development Commission is supposed to be so independent under the current City of Portland charter, then how does this happen?

Some commissioners pad their offices by billing their staffers to the bureaus they run. Sten's housing adviser, for example, works in his office but is paid by the housing bureau, the Portland Development Commission and the Housing Authority of Portland. Adams bills two staffers time to the sewer and transportation bureaus. Potter bills three positions to the Police Bureau, one position to the PDC and half a position to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.
The city commissioners already control some of the PDC budget, it seems... (Via the O City Hall reporters' blog.)

Ignition contrition

An echo of a conversation we had on this blog a while back, this Times cartoon struck my funnybone yesterday.

Survivor: Portland Bureaucracy

We had such great success with Survivor: Portland City Hall that you just knew there had to be a sequel. And here it is, folks: Survivor Portland City Hall: Bureaucracy Edition. We'll take 17 of the city's top agency heads and get rid of them one by one until only a single bureau manager survives. It will take several weeks, but we won't be daunted by the outcome of the proposed city charter changes on the civil service rules -- they don't apply here.

Let's not rush to judgment, though. Since none of our contestants were elected to their public offices, many of them won't be known to a lot of our readers. And so we can't start the voting today -- no, we'll postpone our first tribal council until you've had a chance to... [drum roll...] meet the contestants:

Office of Neighborhood Involvement Director Amalia Alarcon

Portland Development Commission Executive Director Bruce Warner

Chief Dave
Fire Chief Dave Sprando

Water Dave
Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff

Environmental Services Bureau Director Dean Marriott

Regional Arts & Culture Council Director Eloise Damrosch

Continue reading "Survivor: Portland Bureaucracy" »

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Oakland stroke

Major, major upset in pro basketball tonight. The Golden State Warriors, whom we saw clinch a last-minute spot in the playoffs, now have the no. 1-seeded team in the post-season, the Dallas Mavericks, on the ropes. The Bay Area squad has a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

And maybe that Baron Davis guy isn't so old and creaky after all...

Google's got it right

A lot of readers see it the same way.

Freudian slip?

The materials that have been sent out to the voters of Portland in connection with the four proposed city charter changes that are currently up for a vote are downright daffy. As we've already noted here, the factions for and against the changes have sent out some highly misleading glossy brochures, and that's disappointing. But even more deflating is the fact that neither the official Voter's Pamphlet nor the ballot materials themselves even bother to print out all the details of the changes that are in the measures! All we get are summaries, prepared by who-knows-who, with who-knows-what agenda. The actual texts of the laws on which we are voting are nowhere to be found.

Oh yeah, I'm sure they're buried on some website somewhere, and I've heard that they're 80 pages long and no one would be able to understand them even if they tried. But hey. There should have been a copy of the full glory of the full text of the actual language in every voter's mailbox, along with the hokum.

Now, there's a charter change that I could get behind -- rules that make sure we get to see what we're actually voting on.

But it gets goofier. It appears that a subliminal message may have been slipped into the Voter's Pamphlet as well. Let's see how good your eyes are. Here are the tops of the first pages of the Voter's Pamphlet sections on two of the ballot measures. See if you notice anything different between them:

Hmmmmm. Very subtle.

You know it's bad...

... when these dudes are jumping ship.

It's all going so well. Money and lives well spent.

Kick 'em when they're down

I see that the O is really going to rub Lincoln High School's nose in the drug thing. With Super Vicki busy selecting a moving company, a school board election on, and the school bureaucracy suddenly rudderless, the O will probably go on about it for weeks.

Drugs in our schools is a worthy topic, to be sure, but today's spin -- Lincoln kids are into harder drugs because they have money and are smart -- sounds like a humongous crock to me. Oh, and the reporters can't wait to get some kid at Grant to chime in: "'I'm sure there are drugs at every school, but Lincoln, they can afford the harder ones,' said Libby Watkins, a Grant High junior. 'They're really known as partyers.'"

Sheesh. Don't leave room in the trophy case for another Pulitzer out of that one. And it took six people to write it.

If this horrible incident had gone down at Jefferson, you'd never hear this outcry from our beloved daily. And if you did, you can bet someone would jump right up and say the "r" word. It's a lot easier to pick on Lincoln. And so, it appears, they will.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Glaring omission

My recent survey of pro basketball playoff teams for Blazer alumni left out a big guy who made quite an impact when he was in Portland: Dale Davis, the power forward who played four full seasons here in 2000-2004. The Blazers were a playoff team themselves in three of those four years.

Nowadays Davis (38 years old and 15 years a pro hoopster on several teams) gets about 10 minutes a game on the floor for the Detroit Pistons, who at this moment are seeking to finish a four-game sweep of the vastly outgunned Orlando Magic. Thursday night, he played 15 minutes, scored 3 points, blocked a shot, and had 1 rebound and 1 assist. Now reunited with his former Portland teammate, Rasheed Wallace, Davis got himself tasered and arrested after allegedly getting rowdy in a Miami hotel last summer, but charges were dropped in December after a surveillance tape showed that the police officers in question had been overly aggressive.

No wonder

From KGW's website today:

Bill clears committee with no recommendation

09:37 AM PDT on Saturday, April 28, 2007


SALEM, Ore. -- A bill to require cities with populations of ten-thousand or more cleared a House committee in Salem Saturday with no recommendation.

The hotly debated issue goes to the House floor. A similar Senate bill has yet to get a hearing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Equal time

Fresh on the heels of yesterday's mailer urging us to vote against the proposed change of the form of Portland's city government, today we got a smaller flyer in the mail from the other side of that debate. And man, when it comes to obfuscating what it is that we're voting on, the "yes" guys are just as bad as the "no" camp, if not worse. Here's their summary of what we're voting on:

I guess Mom and apple pie weren't available.

I wish that, instead of voting on a "strong mayor" form of government, we were voting on whether to continue the existing "strong developer" system. Now, that would be a meaningful election.

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.: The type on that image above is pretty small. Just so you can actually see how little content is there, here is the sum total of the explanation of the four measures:

On the air

Dave Lister tells me that he's filling in for drive-time talk show mama Jayne Carroll this afternoon from 3 to 6 on KUIK radio (1360 AM). He says that he'll be dialing me in for an interview between 5 and 5:30. I'm not sure what to expect, but tune in and you'll find out at the same time I do.

Thing of beauty

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE, 3:00 p.m.: Wimp! I hope he lets his neighbors borrow it.

Performance art

I see that "Last Thursday" got way out of hand last night. When the drunken yuppies and the anarchists get together, look out. It's gonna be a Little Beirut good time.

The jumping on cars thing has gotten old, don't you think? Grabbing the police officer's taser, though -- now, that's special. I rag on the police for using excessive force, but the fact that the punk who picked up the taser is not dead today is a testament to some officer's good judgment and sense of restraint.

Fleet feet feat

A reader writes, "I respect anyone who can run in pumps."

Morning has broken

Every once in a while, I get not just a good night's sleep, but a Rip Van Winkle session that runs 12 hours or more. The dreams roll on, and in them I usually wind up in some foreign land. This morning I was in Europe somewhere with the family, about to leave for Germany from some other country. Waking up and getting ready to leave the hotel. The Mrs. had us all packed already. The hotel did not have wireless...

Anyway, the reality is, the only place I'm going today is Costco.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Freedom of speech

I predicted it, and lo and behold, it has come to pass.

A vote for charter change is a vote for Bush

We got a flyer in the mail today urging us to vote no on Measure 26-91, the proposal to amend the Portland city charter to change the form of government. (It also urged us to vote yes on 26-92, giving the City Council budget control over the Portland Development Commission.)

These things have gotten awfully familiar:

Why, that one's a dead ringer for the stuff that Commissioner Erik Sten was sending out in his re-election campaign last spring. Must be another Mark Wiener special -- he's the guy who tells the politicians of Portland what they need to do and say to ensure lifetime tenure in their jobs.

You gotta love this one. The box around "no" is green. Get it? "No" is green. Mmmmm... sustainable.

Anyway, when you open this one up, the Wiener touch becomes even more apparent. Get a load of this:

Classic Wiener! When the issue is the running of city government, create a diversion with something "progressive." It's clear, people -- this has nothing to do with managing city bureaus, putting cops on the street, or fixing potholes. If you hate Bush, you have to vote against the charter change, and that's that. Hey, who's still in on American Idol?

As nauseating as the experience of reading this flyer was, I was comforted by the fact that unlike the Sten mailings, which were paid for with "clean money" (furnished by taxpayers) under the city's new "voter-owed elections" campaign finance system, this one was paid for by private funds. But then I thought about it for a minute and realized that those private funds were probably mostly public employees' union dues. Which of course are ultimately paid by the taxpayers anyway. Pass the Tums.

Snake oil as a biofuel

If there's one thing that isn't "green" and "sustainable," it's a big-city airport. Let's face it, air travel by its very nature is quite unfriendly to the environment. Worried about your carbon footprint? Just look at what's blowing out the back of those engines as you recline your seat in the modern airborne sardine can.

The places where the jets take off and land are not friendly to their living neighbors, either. The planes and their maintenance facilities make lots of noise. Any native wildlife nearby is actively shooed away, or hunted down in some cases, because its presence on or above the runways is extremely dangerous to human life. When the weather gets frosty, the airports use copious amounts of nasty de-icer to keep ice from accumulating on the aircraft that are about to depart. All those chemicals have to go somewhere, and they're certainly not all recycled. A lot of that solution finds its way into nearby waterways. And if the local vegetation gets high enough to interfere with takeoff and landing patterns, then down it comes, for safety reasons.

So o.k., the airport is not the best thing for the environment. But we're not going to stop flying any time soon, and so we live with it. We may try to contain it the damage that it does, but "green" and "sustainable" an airport is not.

But wait. This is Portland, where you just shout out "sustainable," and all the kids cheer so loudly that they miss the next three sentences you say to them. Around here, it pays for any business, even an airport, to start singing its own green praises. For with that spiel come some valuable free passes.

And so it was the other day when the Port of Portland announced the chair of some sort of new planning committee that's supposed to reach out and touch the residents of the metropolitan area to find out what we want for the airport, and give us what we want. Yeah, right.

The new chair is legendary winemaker Bill Blosser -- also a former vice president of the big corporate engineering and planning firm CH2M Hill -- and the press release telling of his appointment just couldn't resist throwing around the old "sustainable":

City of Portland Mayor Tom Potter and Port of Portland Commission President Jay Waldron announce the appointment of Bill Blosser as chair of the Airport Futures planning advisory group.

Airport Futures is a collaborative effort between the City and Port, and the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan community to create an integrated long-range development plan for Portland International Airport.

Bill Blosser will chair the joint City and Port planning advisory group comprised of community, government, and business interests beginning in June 2007 and concluding in spring 2010....

“We are pleased to partner with the City and the Portland-Vancouver community on this collaborative planning effort. Our goal is to incorporate principles of sustainability as we plan for the future of this regional transportation asset. We also believe the upcoming public process will provide the community with a greater voice in airport planning," Port Commission President Waldron said. "Bill's leadership and experience with sustainability issues will be a tremendous asset in this process."

As chair of the Airport Futures planning advisory group, Blosser will help support an open, balanced and fair discussion of key issues associated with PDX. The outcome of this process will be an update to the Port's 2000 Master Plan which will help guide airport development over the next 30 years. A City land use plan for PDX and environs will also be developed that will replace the current conditional use process with a land use designation that recognizes the airport as an allowed use. The new land use structure for PDX is intended to provide the Port with the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances in airport development; allow the City to conduct a legislative land use process that examines the increasingly complex issues associated with PDX; and provide the community with greater opportunity to influence airport planning and development....

Airport Futures is a collaborative effort between the City of Portland, Port of Portland, and the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan community to create an integrated long-range development plan for Portland International Airport (PDX). Beginning in spring 2007 and concluding in spring 2010, the Port will update the airport master plan and the City will create a land use plan recognizing PDX's role in the regional economy while managing City infrastructure and livability. The three-year process will reinforce Portland's planning legacy and PDX's reputation as one of the premier airports in the country, and incorporate principles of sustainability and livability. The City and Port are committed to planning for future cargo and passenger aviation needs of the region while using reasonable efforts to avoid, reduce, or mitigate potential impacts to the community.

Blosser's well known as an environmentalist, but he's a perennial face card on numerous boards populated by the old boys in the Kulongoski (formerly Goldschmidt) network. It's hard to tell just from a little internet sleuthing how independent he'll be from the powers that be at the Port. But from past experience with planning advisory committees in these parts, I suspect not very.

Behind the curtain of planning-speak in the press release, the Port seems hell-bent on expanding the airport, big time, whether you and I like it or not. It wants to take over what's now the Colwood golf course (it's for sale) and blow another huge runway to the south of the existing airport operation. It's no secret. There'll be all kinds of air traffic added to the south of the airport, with a lot of it no doubt coming in and going out over existing Portland neighborhoods who don't have airport noise now.

The questions are, Will the city let them get away with that? And will there be enough opposition by affected residents to stop them?

On the first point -- changes to the land use designations at the city level -- I'll bet the skids are already well greased. I noticed something interesting in the Trib the other day: Those spiffy new city reports that show lobbying time? They reveal that the Port is one of the biggest lobbying forces at City Hall. This joint "planning advisory" board is a sure sign that the two governmental bodies are in this together. With these guys, by the time the citizens' advisory group is formed, the fix is usually already in.

That leaves massive public outrage as the only way to stop the new runway. Not just NIMBY outrage from the people whose peace and quiet are about to be ruined permanently -- it has to be outrage from a broad cross-section of the city commissioners' constituents.

Well, where are the "green" people? Do they think Portland should increase its airport capacity by 50 percent? Run off more wildlife? Spew more carbon into the airshed? Give up on the nascent improvements being made to water quality in the Columbia Slough? What about energy self-sufficiency? That ain't canola oil they're burning in those jets.

It will be so interesting to see if our city fathers care a bag of beans for any of the environmental consequences of the airport expansion. So far, no one's pushed them on it, and the folks at the Port could care less. But if you live due south of that airport, you had better start pushing soon, or the only thing that's going to be "sustainable" for you is jet noise.

We're all supposed to change our ways to make this a better planet, blah blah blah. How about Portland sets an example for the world by living with the airport we have, which if properly managed is perfectly capable of meeting our needs for many decades to come? Hey, Fireman Randy, you're the earth father, whaddya think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ooooh, that smell

You know that buttery smell you get from microwave popcorn popping? Did you know that it might be killing you?

Justice, Bush-style

If you're an inmate at our prison camp in Cuba, you have no right to a lawyer. If we do let you get one, we get to read the mail that the lawyer sends you. We'll limit the amount of times that he or she can come and meet with you. And the lawyer won't get to see the secret evidence we have against you, which is what gave us the right to keep you there in the first place.

Really, the best thing would be if no one ever got to see what's going on at our prison camp in Cuba, at all. The whole thing should be a complete secret. It's a shame that anyone even knows it exists. Damn terists. Damn lawyers. Damn New York Times.

Hoedown? Call a lifeguard

Ever since Don Imus got himself fired, there's been a lot of talk about the corrosive effect of rap "culture" on our society. The objectification of women; glorification of drugs, violence, and guns; it's all been getting a thorough workout. It's hip-hop's fault; no it isn't; you're a racist; some of my best friends are African-American, etc.

Meanwhile, here in genteel little Portland, there's been quite a conversation in progress about corporate affiliations with our parks bureau. When is it appropriate (or inappropriate) for the city to allow advertising on public facilities and events in return for money?

Keeping up with both lines of dialogue is a daunting task, but here's a web page that can bring us all together.

Goob to know

John Edwards is coming to Portland

Word is he'll be speaking at noon next Wednesday May 2 at the ILWU Local 8 Union Hall, at 2435 NW Front Avenue. Come to see the haircut -- stay to hear the great ideas for saving the dang country.

Novick vs. Smith: Mid-week update

We're halfway through this week's political poll, on readers' predictions of the outcome of a possible Senate race between Steve Novick and Gordon Smith, and the results are landslide expectations for Smith's re-election. If you haven't already voted in this one, please do so. We'll keep the poll open until the close of business on Friday. But if you've already voted, please don't do so again!

If Steve Novick gets the Democratic nomination to run against Gordon Smith in '08, who do you think will win?
Steve Novick
Gordon Smith
pollcode.com free polls

Couplet may be declared illegal

Rumors are circulating in Salem that Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers is preparing to issue an advisory opinion early next week declaring that the proposed traffic "couplet" of Burnside and Couch Streets in Portland would violate state law. Portland transportation officials are reportedly scrambling to determine whether Myers's interpretation of the law is correct.

"City Hall was blindsided on this one," an insider in the state Justice Department told reporters late yesterday. "If they had done their homework, they would have seen this coming.

"It's a Measure 36 problem," the source explained. "Both streets are named after men (city founder John Couch and Civil War Union General Ambrose Burnside), and under state law, they are not permitted to couple." The attorney general's opinion, however, is also expected to conclude that under bills currently pending before the Legislature, the two streets would be permitted to form a "thoroughfare relationship" or a "boulevard conjugation."

"It may not mean much to some people, but the label you put on this is important in the eyes of the law," the source said. Justice Department researchers have also tentatively concluded that the existing Weidler-Broadway couplet in Northeast Portland is legal, he reported. "Weidler was male, and based on our best knowledge, Broadway is female." The opinion is expected to cast doubt on the status of the Belmont-Morrison couplet in Southeast Portland, and the Everett-Glisan couplet in Northwest Portland, however.

Earl the Pearl: "Green" the tax code

My congressman, Earl Blumenauer, is perfect for his job. He represents Portland, Oregon quite well. Yesterday he testified in front of a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is in charge of the federal tax laws, about the relationship of the tax system to the ecosystem. He offered a couple of ideas: a systematic review of the tax laws to see how they impact the environment, and tax incentives to reward bicycle commuters (of which he is one).

Now, I'm highly skeptical when politicians, corporations, and mainstream media types start coming on with whole "green" and "sustainable" thing. Some of us have been thinking about, and even working on, ecology issues most of our adult lives, and the mad rush by everybody and his brother to make hay out of them is a little off-putting. When the electric company sends me a form that says, "We'll be green if you pay us more every month," I throw it right into... well, the recycling bin.

But I think Earl's ideas are good ones. Oil cronies like Bush and Cheney have made a mint off the tax code (just as the timber and mining boys have traditionally done), and they could care less what kind of mess they leave behind after they've made their money. It's about time somebody tried to assess how badly the tax laws are exacerbating the environmental problems created by the tax-favored industries. And if we're going to let employers buy spendy parking places for the executives tax-free, we ought to extend similar tax giveaways to bosses who want to help bike commuters with their expenses.

Anyhow, here's part of his testimony:

An action that could help direct our efforts to make the tax code as carbon friendly as possible would be to commission a carbon audit of the tax code. I am currently drafting legislation which would have the National Academy of Sciences convene a panel of experts to look at the tax code and identify activities that impact our carbon emissions. In addition to providing us with important information on how to "green the tax code," this exercise could also supply us with ideas on how to raise revenue....

It is vital that any changes to the tax code increase incentives for producing energy in a clean, renewable manner. I strongly support the renewable production tax credit (PTC), which has made a huge difference to the development of renewable energy, especially wind, in my state and around the country....

I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of Rep. Earl Pomeroy's legislation to extend the production tax credit for five years. In fact, I would support a longer-term extension to give even more certainty to the industry. As has been discussed in this Committee, the short-term extensions of the credit in the past have created a boom-and-bust cycle that is not conducive to the development of capital intensive projects like wind farms and geothermal plants. I understand this is an expensive endeavor, and pledge to help the Committee to look for additional revenue raisers in the energy realm that could offset the additional cost...

Last month, Rep. Tom Cole and I introduced H.R. 1772, the Rural Wind Energy Development Act. This legislation would provide an investment tax credit of $ 1500 per 1/2 kilowatt of capacity for small wind systems, which could be carried over for a customer unable to take advantage of the entire credit within a one-year period. The bill also calls for a 3-year accelerated depreciation for small wind systems.

Small wind systems are electric generators that produce 100 kilowatts or less of energy -- but the wind energy industry estimates that this credit will be mostly used for turbines between 2 and 10 kW in size. The tax credit would be available to offset the high up-front costs of owning a small wind turbine for homeowners, farmers, and small businesses. It would allow these individuals to generate their own power, independent from the electric grid. They would be able to cut their energy bills and, at times, put power back into the grid.

There is an existing investment tax credit available to homeowners who install small solar systems, which has been very successful in increasing the number of solar panels installed. This bill would simply expand that to include wind....

Another piece of legislation I would like to highlight is H.R. 1498, which would address not the production of energy but the use of oil. The "Bike Commuter Act" would extend the transportation fringe benefit to bike commuters. It would reward commuters who burn calories instead of gas.

Currently, employers may offer a transportation fringe benefit to their employees for certain costs incurred while commuting to work. Employees who take advantage of this benefit may receive a tax-exempt benefit of up to $ 215/month for drivers participating in qualified parking plans or $ 110/month for those who use transit or vanpooling. Current law also allows the option of taking cash compensation. My legislation aims to balance the incentive structure by extending the transportation fringe benefit to include bicycling.

With over 50 percent of the population commuting 5 miles or less to work, incentives for bicycle commuting have great potential to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips. A Rodale Press survey recently found that Americans want to have the opportunity to bike to work instead of drive, with 40% of those surveyed indicating they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available. I believe this is the type of message that Congress should be sending to our communities through the tax code: that we support efforts to reduce energy consumption, ease traffic congestion, and encourage healthy activities as part of our daily routines....

I rag on the city politicians when they go all "green" on us, because it's really not part of their job descriptions. But for a member of Congress, it decidedly is, and I agree with Blumenauer that the tax system has an impact that ought to be optimized.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Get rid of political "robocalls"

Several states are doing exactly that. Maybe Oregon's legislators should think about doing the same. (They could work out the details on their long flights to Maui, heh.)

101 excessive force complaints a year against Portland cops

There's a new report out about police use of force in Portland. It was written by a "task force" of nine members, five of whom are members of the Police Bureau. No big surprise, I suppose, that they found nothing seriously wrong. Their recommendations for change are stuff like "The Bureau should change the name of the required use of force form from 'Report' to 'Data Collection Form.'”

Interestingly, though, the report does point out that the chances of having an excessive force complaint sustained against a Portland officer are slim to none:

Since 2002, IPR has received an average of 101 complaints each year involving one or more force allegations against a Portland police officer. These force complaints make up about 14% of all complaints received by IPR.

PPB did not sustain a single citizen force complaint between 2004 and 2006. According to 2002 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), other jurisdictions sustain an average of 8% to 14% force complaints per year. Furthermore, PPB exonerated officers in 62% of the complaints, more than double the national rate averaging 21% to 28%. The Police Bureau members of the Task Force point out that these national rates should be viewed cautiously because it is not clear what effect, if any, results from differences in the way jurisdictions receive, process and record complaints. Also, the Police Bureau notes that although no allegations of force were sustained in any citizen-generated complaints, in nine force cases between 2004 and 2006, other allegations such as profanity and rude or unprofessional behavior were sustained. One bureau-generated complaint (not brought to the Bureau’s attention by a citizen) was sustained during the same period.

I'm sure this report will be spun eight ways to Sunday, but if you'd like to read the document itself, it's here.

By the numbers

Remember when the O Portland City Hall reporters went and got this? Good times. I wonder when they'll do it again with the 2006 data.

Jackie Edwards takes on TurboTax

The process by which we Americans figure out our federal taxes is ridiculous. So many tens of millions, maybe even hundreds of millions, of hours spent struggling with those 1040 forms. Maybe a billion dollars in fees paid to tax return preparers and makers of tax software.

And for so many taxpayers, it's an absurd waste of time. The government already has all the information it needs -- from employers, mortgage companies, state governments, and banks -- to have the perfect picture of tens of millions of people's tax situations. Those people struggle to fill out their return forms, but in the end they don't tell the Internal Revenue Service anything that the IRS doesn' t already know.

John Edwards, the best candidate currently running for President, wants to change that. He thinks the IRS ought to prepare a draft tax return for you every year, at least if you're a person whose taxes have historically been relatively simple. If, let's say, all you ever show on your tax return is wage income, bank interest, a personal exemption for yourself, and a standard deduction, Edwards thinks the government should routinely prepare your tax return and send it to you. I would bet that in the case of 30 or 40 percent of taxpayers, the return so prepared would be completely correct. In that case, the taxpayer could just sign it, and send it back. Everyone else could throw away the IRS's version and do it themselves, the way they do now.

It's an idea that ought to be tried. California is already running such a system on a limited scale. But strong forces are trying to derail this movement -- H&R Block and Intuit, the maker of TurboTax software, are spending zillions trying to stop it.

It seems clear that we're at least a decade away, if not a century, from a truly simple tax system in this country. For many people, the process of filing an income tax return will never be easy or cheap. But for the untold tens of millions for whom it's a lot of hassle just to tell the government what it already knows, Edwards's idea is a sound one.

TurboTax can withstand the hit to its income, which would take years to kick in fully if the IRS started today to take on such a project. This year, Intuit's reporting a 5 percent annual increase in sales of its TurboTax products. Figures released last week show that they sold nearly 13 million copies of their software, either for desktop use or on the web, this tax season. If that number declined to 8 or 10 million, no one would die.

Little America shouldn't need H&R Block or TurboTax; leave it to a populist like Edwards to make that clear. Good for him, and for his idea.

New OHSU malpractice cap: $500K? $875K?

I see that Senator Vicki is getting somewhere with legislation to raise the obscenely low $200,000 liability ceiling currently enjoyed by Oregon Health Sciences University and Magic Kingdom. The new numbers knocking around Salem are in the $500,000 to $875,000 range. Even the new guy raking in the big bucks as head of OHSU says he thinks it's a good idea.

As discussed here on previous occasions, I was thinking something along the order of $2 million would be fair. But whatever you do, please, legislators, catch up with the 20th Century and have the number automatically adjusted every year for inflation!

The day after Earth Day

In this day and age, the Portland politicians can't stop telling you how "green" and "sustainable" they are. Bio this, eco that. And so imagine my surprise when we received our occasional visit from the city Transportation Bureau's Truck of Mystery on our street yesterday.

There's no missing this occasion. I've blogged about it before. A large, motorized beast adorned with the city logo announces its approach well in advance. You can hear it coming more than a block away.

It rolls down the middle of the street, ever so slowly. It is not sweeping. There are no brooms or brushes. It is not paving. It is not maintaining anything. There are no other city vehicles working along with it.

It is spraying water out of both its sides. That is all.

In other words, it is doing nothing but wasting fuel and water. There's nothing to sweep up on our street right now. With the recent torrential showers, including lots of brief but heavy downpours and even several poundings of hail, the gutters are clear, and there's certainly no need to get the streets wet again. Far from it.

When they tell you what devoted earth stewards they are, do what I do: Laugh to keep from crying.

McParks: Come hit the moving target

There have been some changes to the Portland parks corporate sponsorship policy, and now they say it's going before City Council again next Wednesday. They're asking for your input here, by Monday.

We may never know

Remember this case? Apparently the local MSM doesn't.

It's all "under investigation," so go away. For like a year or two, probably. No problem.

Monday, April 23, 2007

An equal opportunity offender

CBS sure is doing its part to clean up the trash on our radio airwaves. First they let it go waaaayyy too far, then they yank it off the air.

News from the sticks

I haven't heard much about last week's far-east-side debate between Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Randy Leonard on the topic of the proposed Portland charter reforms. One reader writes:

Randy insisted that, under the new form, the mayor would only need to get TWO other votes on the council to get his way. Randy insisted that was too much power. I don't know what cog he slipped. Clearly, the mayor only needs two more votes NOW. But Randy kept saying it over and over.

Potter was equally clueless. His main point was that City Hall would be more accessible to citizens, rather than special interests, under the new form. Huh? One phone number instead of five provides more access? Portland Business Alliance paying for the campaign?

Bottom line, they are both clueless. And all the talk is b***s*** anyway. Look at the vote on the couplet. Form of government be damned, full speed ahead for the developers.

Wonder if anyone else attended that debate and could provide a different perspective....

Blazers win!


Firing the U.S. attorneys is just a small part of it

Last week's Alberto Gonzales Show meant many different things to many different people, but to some of the more thoughtful observers, its biggest impact was to illustrate how politicized the Justice Department has become under Bush. An article today on law.com explains:

In addition, the hearing threw light on a policy that appears to have allowed the Justice Department and the White House to become much more closely linked structurally during the Bush administration -- in a way perhaps unmatched since the Watergate era. The change was highlighted during questioning late in the day by [Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse, himself a former U.S. Attorney and the most junior member of the panel.

Whitehouse highlighted two memos -- one written in 1994 by then-Attorney General Janet Reno, and another written in 2002 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- that defined the channels through which the White House and the Justice Department could discuss criminal investigations.

Reno's memo,... addressed to Lloyd Cutler, then special counsel to the president, said, "Initial communications between the White House and the Justice Department regarding any pending Department investigation or criminal or civil case" could take place only among a handful of senior officials.

At the Justice Department, the only officials authorized to have such discussions were the three highest-ranking officials: the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the associate attorney general. The only officials they were authorized to speak with about such matters at the White House were the president, the vice president, and the White House counsel and deputy counsel.

But, says one former Reno Justice Department official, that memo merely memorialized Justice Department tradition....

But the policy was changed in April 2002, when Ashcroft issued a revised memo dramatically expanding the number of employees at both the White House and the Justice Department who could discuss criminal investigations. Ashcroft's memo, in effect, stated that at the Justice Department, not only the attorney general and deputy attorney general but members of their staff, as well, would be allowed to discuss criminal investigations with the White House. Likewise, at the White House, lower-ranking officials in the Offices of the President, the Vice President and the White House Counsel would be permitted to be party to such discussions.

At the Justice Department, the memo expanded the number of officials authorized to have these discussions from three to more than 30. And at the White House, it expanded the figure from four to more than 100. Under Ashcroft and now Gonzales, junior political aides -- at both Justice and the White House -- have had authorization to discuss ongoing criminal matters.

"The way this policy reads, an intern in the office of the deputy attorney general could be communicating about case-related information to an intern at the White House Counsel's Office," [former Justice staffer Nicholas] Gess says.

Karl Rove's running the federal grand juries now, it seems.

Once again, Bush makes Nixon look good by comparison.

I think I may have a cookie that you don't, but I was able to read the whole law.com article here. I can also see a Google cache of it here.

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: For more discussion, and a very damning chart showing the breadth of the change discussed in this post, go here.

Does Brandon Mayfield ride the No. 57?

This is Portland, right? The city that's too progressive to be part of the joint anti-terrorism task force?

Ironic, then, isn't it, that the transit agency here won't give you rush hour ridership statistics for individual bus lines because that might help terrorists know where to blow up a bus?

It might also help someone prove that some pet pork barrel projects aren't worth it, but no. I'm sure it has nothing to do with that. It's all about, as George Bush puts it, stopping those "terists."

What will be made secret next? The location of the Tri-Met board meetings?

Days of Don't

Isn't it funny how our government so famously "works" now?

Sewer bureau: "Don't have your gutters connected to the sewers."

Water bureau: "Don't use so much water."

Transportation bureau: "Don't drive."

Sanitation bureau: "Don't throw stuff out."

I wish they would adopt this approach over at the Department of Revenue.

Granted, all these messages are earth-friendly, and I try not to do most of what they're discouraging. But listening to these lines constantly from the bureaucrats and politicians who are supposed to be making their living providing services -- well, it's enough to make a person very weary.

His hat's in the ring

There's only one officially announced Democratic candidate running against Sen. Gordon Smith so far -- Steve Novick. And so we would be remiss if we didn't add him to our polls about Smith's re-election chances:

If Steve Novick gets the Democratic nomination to run against Gordon Smith in '08, who do you think will win?
Steve Novick
Gordon Smith
pollcode.com free polls

We'll leave this one open until the end of the business day on Friday. Please vote only once.

No punchline for this one

It's just too easy.

More alumni

The second day of the pro hoops playoffs was interesting, if you follow that sport. The Golden State Warriors, whom we saw whip the Blazer B-team on Thursday night, came out and outplayed the top-ranked Dallas Mavericks. Perhaps a little less surprisingly, the Denver Nuggets defeated the favored San Antonio Spurs; the Spurs have a much better record, but always seem to dig themselves a hole to start the post-season.

As we did on Saturday, we kept an eye out for ex-Blazers who are still playing. We found a few.

Antonio Daniels is on the Washington Wizards, who took their lumps against the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James. Daniels played most of the game, since Wiz star Gilbert Arenas, whom he backs up, is gone for the season with an injury. Daniels had 9 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds in the losing effort. He's been on a half dozen different teams, coming off the bench for the Blazers in 2002-03.

Steve Blake (left), something of a fan favorite on last year's awful Blazer squad, was traded to Milwaukee and later this season landed a spot starting at point guard for Denver. His job now is to get the ball to Allen Iverson (31 points yesterday) or Carmelo Anthony (30 points yesterday) and get out of the way. Blake had 7 points, 4 assists and 2 steals yesterday for George Karl's Nuggets.

On the Laker bench, we find Aaron McKie, who looked like a pretty promising prospect when he played for Portland back from 1994 to 1997. (The Blazers traded him, Randolph Childress, and Reggie Jordan to Detroit in exchange for Stacey Augmon.) McKie hardly ever gets into the game for the Lakers; his last appearance was March 11, when the Lakers lost their sixth straight. When you're a shooting guard on the Los Angeles Kobe, you sit out a lot.

So there you have it -- I count seven ex-Blazers who are not yet on summer vacation, four of whom (Wallace, Dixon, Daniels, and Blake) are getting some actual playing time in the playoffs. After all that basketball, though, I'm a little punchy. Readers, please let me know if I've left anyone out.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mapquest: Bike Edition

Here's an idea that makes a lot of sense to me. We have Google, Mapquest, and even the Microsoft thingie to give us directions on how to drive somewhere. And if you're going on mass transit, here in the Portland area, the Tri-Met website can't be beat -- it's really excellent at telling you how to get from Point A to Point B (and about how long it's going to take on the Tri-Met vehicles).

But what about biking?

The City of Portland (with Metro, I think) has done a great job of establishing and mapping the many routes in the Rose City that are (relatively) safe to ride a bicycle on. How much more would it take to create some software and provide the same kinds of directions that you can get for car, bus, or train rides?

Some of our more right-wing readers will balk at this suggestion, of course. But as somebody who gets out there on the two-wheeler once in a while, I think it's a fine idea.

Not that it's a new one. Rumor has it that Metro was working on something like this, and at one point about a year ago there was an announced breakthrough. But the beta version of the search engine they've produced isn't working for me. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can fill us in on how far they've gotten.

UPDATE, 5:53 p.m.: It appears that if you're more patient than I was at first, the beta trip planner I've linked to does indeed work. On a test search, I have some disagreement with some of its routing (see comments below), but it's got it pretty much right.

Heeeeeeeere's Johnny

God bless him, he's 70 today.

Sorry I looked

They wrecked it for me. (Via Jake.)

Freelancer sets himself free

Egads. Bill McDonald of the blog Portland Freelancer says he's packing it in. He's disgusted with the blogosphere, and he's got more important things to do with his life.

If this is permanent, it's a serious blow to the reading public around here. Not just because I agree with what Bill says 99 percent of the time, but also because he makes me think -- and laugh, of course. As he put it yesterday morning:

There are laughs that ridicule, there are laughs that say "That was clever," but the most solid laughs are when the audience realizes something is the truth. The joke is funny but it's also right.
I'm going to miss that voice. Bill, I hope that you will reconsider after a while. But if you don't come back, may you fill the space that you're creating for yourself with nothing but the best. See you on Leno.

The silicon overlords

Now that the computers have taken over the world, the human pawns kill each other. Science fiction? Not according to today's O:

In a world in which many children have their own TV and cell phone, and anyone with ear buds can dive into the solitariness of his iPod, the lack of human connection is increasing. Public spaces are becoming private aggregations of solitary individuals. Add to that the isolation born of postwar mobility, and you have a toxic stew for people who are mentally unstable and vulnerable....

Technology offers comforts but then makes it easy for newcomers to avoid forming relationships. Instead of going to the trouble of making new friends, we can turn on the TV and watch "Lost."

FWIW, the whole thing is here.

Talk about making trouble on your blog...

Here's one that's causing all kinds of consternation. The blog in question is completely gone now, but you can still see a cached version of some of it (much redacted) here, at least for the time being.

Still around

The pro basketball playoffs have started, and watching them is a strange addiction. The Blazers are long since out of it, but having seen some of the playoff teams here in town as Blazer opponents during the year, I find it interesting to watch them go head-to-head with more serious competition in the championship tournament ordeal. (It runs about two months.)

I see several former Portland players on playoff teams this time around. Rasheed Wallace, one of the Rip City team's all-time head cases, holds court on the Detroit Pistons these days. Yesterday they beat the Orlando Magic in the first game of their series. "Ra" had a nice game, and he also taught the referees a thing or two with his brilliant commentary on their calls. Good for him.

Juan Dixon, who was part of last season's Blazer ugliness (largely through no fault of his own), has wound up on the Toronto Raptors, who lost their first game at home yesterday to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets, of course, hold a soft spot in my heart -- blood is thicker than water. Dixon played just 15 minutes, hitting two shots, including a three-pointer. He missed three others, and had a couple of turnovers.

On the Nets roster, believe it or not you still find Cliff Robinson, a throwback to the Blazers' Clyde Drexler heyday. Uncle Cliffy turned 40 years old his season, but he stills gets some playing time. For the season, he averaged 19 minutes a game in 50 games. He didn't get in the game yesterday, however. Today's trivia questions: (1) Which female Portland police officer did Cliffy punch outside a Northwest Portland nightclub in his early days here? (2) How did Cliffy get in trouble with paintball?

Remember Viktor Khryapa, the Russian forward who looked good as a rookie in Portland last year? He is riding the pines on the Chicago Bulls now, playing in fewer than half their games and only for a few minutes per game when he's put in there. His team looked quite strong as they beat the creaky old Miami Heat in Chicago yesterday. In that game, a talented Bulls swing man from Sudan, Luol Deng, tore the place up.

Bonzi Wells is still technically on the roster of the Houston Rockets, who scored a nice win at home over Utah in the last game of the night. But as we noted here last week, he quit the team recently and may very well have worn his last NBA uniform.

Speaking of ex-Blazer bad apples, did you hear the latest about Bassy Telfair? Locked up over his stupid gun again. You'd think he would have learned after his famous incident in Portland a year ago, but no. I knew this fellow was not quality people; we should be glad that he's some other city's problem now. Ex-Blazer Danny Ainge, running personnel for the abysmal Boston Celtics, bought that project. Thanks, Danny. Hey, do you need a power forward?

Four more playoff games are scheduled for today, and we'll report any other ex-Blazer sightings tonight. If I overlooked any former Blazers in yesterday's contests, I'm sure someone out there will let me know.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Familiar scene

This story reminds me of Erik Sten at Enron headquarters ordering them to give up PGE.

One low, two high, three both ways

The quarterly (or so) poker game at the Bogdanski Hut was held last evening, and the cards were pretty hot. Four of a kind showed up, and the low straight flush was a shocker. (Fortunately, they did not appear in the same hand, or you would be reading about it in the police blotter instead of on this blog.) The food, the wine, the cigars, the lying, were all first-rate. And after starting off badly, I ended up down only four bucks.

I don't drink much beer these days, but Laurelwood Pub is putting some of its brews into bottles now. One of the suspects brought a couple of six-packs of it, and I gave it a try. Excellent stuff.

In honor of Don Imus, we also invented (but did not get around to playing) a new version of poker called "Hi Ho," in which the high hand splits the pot with the queen of spades. Patent pending.

Special thanks to the Mrs. for doing all the heavy lifting while I play host to these geezerfests. Good news for her: The next two are scheduled to be on the road.

When the moon is in the seventh house...

For Fireman Randy, every day is Earth Day.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mmmmm... sausages

Only in America:

On Apr. 19, the House passed H.R.1906, the “Estimated Tax Safe Harbor Act,” by a vote of 216 to 203. The bill amends Code Sec. 6654 to adjust the estimated tax prior year payment safe harbor for higher income individuals from 110% to 110.1% but only for individuals with adjusted gross income greater than $5 million (greater than $2.5 million for married persons filing separately). H.R.1906 was used as a sweetener to gain passage of H.R.1905, the “District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act," which would give the taxpayers of the District of Columbia a vote in Congress.
Don't ask me what one has to do with the other. I have no idea.

United Heads for Hemp

Just got notice that there's a new petition going around for an initiative in the City of Portland this November. Just reading the title has me craving Doritos.

Survivor Portland City Hall: The winner

The final round of voting in Survivor: Portland City Hall wasn't close. Once Fireman Randy left the island, the folks who voted him off apparently turned their wrath on Grampy. He did not survive.

Mayor, we had high hopes, but it's been two and a half years, and we're not seeing results. The potholes get deeper, the condo weasels keep wrecking our neighborhoods, the citizen butt-whoopin's by the police continue, even the firemen are kicking people's tushies. You played along with the aerial tram [rim shot], and now you're right on board with the couplet. First you said you had Derrick's back, but two hours later he was gone like Billy Ray Bates. You translated the vision questionnaire into Laotian, but now the results aren't worth throwing into the ocean. It's time to pack your things and leave the island immediately.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, our grand prize winner -- the ultimate survivor -- is Big Pipe! Here he is receiving his valuable prize from our sponsor:

Congratulations! Stomping Amanda was probably satisfying, but it can't hold a candle to this, can it? Everybody, join me (in the comments) with our best wishes for Dunthorpe Dan. And hey, how about a nice round of applause for all our contestants? Without all of them, we wouldn't be the remarkable city we are today.

Facing the music -- through lead-plated glass

You know it's bad when a city government bureau has to hire mediators so that it can mediate with -- get this -- the public!

I kid you not. That's what's happening with the City of Portland Parks Bureau, according to one of my several Parks spies, who writes:

This Saturday, mediation will begin between Parks and the public regarding Mt. Tabor Park Central Maintenance Yard and Nursery. It is a public meeting and anyone is invited to attend.... In an unusual twist, it was Zari Santner [city parks chief] who approached the city ombudsman about mediation, something the ombudsman said he had never experienced (usually it is the public that files the complaint). This meeting will be co-mediated by two independent mediators, as the ombudsman was required to recuse himself. By law he cannot investigate the commissioners, which includes the auditor.
This is just the perfect picture of bureaucracy. Here we have Santner and her henchman, Robin Grimwade, two high-priced city honchos, who, since their rapport with the affected public is virtually nil, have to hire two more city types to mediate with the taxpayers. That's four people doing the job of one. No wonder they can't find the money to fix broken swings around here.

The spy continues:

In preparation for the meeting, the citizen research group that formed as a result of the intended sale at Mt. Tabor Park has compiled a notebook of documents. These we received primarily from the Parks Bureau under the freedom of information act over the last eight months. Interspersed throughout the documents are the periodic updates written by the team to update the community on the intended sale. The documents, arranged chronologically, begin in 2003 when Jim Francesconi was still commissioner in charge of Parks. Several months after leaving office, his letters as legal counsel for Warner Pacific College outline a real estate deal involving the Yard that is apparently already underway.

The documents tell the story of how the Yard was nearly sold. That's still the plan, according to [city Commissioner Dan] Saltzman [currently in charge of Parks].... In the process, we've discovered much more about what's going on behind closed doors at Parks. No wonder Parks doesn't want to run a levy. It would draw attention to the changes afoot at Parks and the steps currently underway to commercialize, privatize and develop our beloved Parks and open green spaces. At the same time, by avoiding a levy at this time, Parks is simply continuing on the business development path already underway to form a Parks District. Research shows this direction will put our parks at even greater risk of private development.

Alarming words there, but not much news. We've reached the same conclusions ourselves months ago -- but this is the first we've heard that the "mediation" meetings "start" tomorrow. (Will there be more than one session?) That's been a pretty well kept secret.

Let's try to find notice of that meeting on the city's website, shall we? Sure, we start at Portland Online, the home page. To get to the Parks Bureau, you have to go here first, and then scroll down in the alphabet past "Public Utilities" to "Parks." (Uh huh.) OK, now let's look for that meeting notice. Hmmm, looks like it takes another click to get to the bureau home page -- here.

At last! Now let's scroll down and find that Tabor Yard Mediation meeting...

Funny thing -- it isn't there! Powell Butte Open House on Saturday, but no Tabor.

It takes a bit of hunting around, but if you kill enough time, you can finally find it here. In case you can't stand all the clicking, here is what it says:

Community Mediation with Portland Parks & Recreation
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church - Dining Room
5441 SE Belmont

Mediators Jamie Damon and Mary Forst have been hired to facilitate discussion. Anyone with an interest in Mt. Tabor Yard is welcome to attend. Note: Park in the lot at 54th and Belmont and walk across the street and up the walkway to the back door. The dining room near that entrance.
So there you have it, a public service of this blog -- one whole day's advance notice of the latest on the Tabor giveaway. It should be interesting, sort of like a trip to the oral surgeon's office. I'm sure my spies will fill me in on what happens.

A couple of interesting footnotes: The spy also attached a 1990 memo from the city attorney about potential hanky-panky with Parks levy tax funds. It concluded that using them for a purpose other than the purposes for which they were sold to the public is strictly verboten. And so Santner's proposal to subvert park maintenance levy dollars to capital construction projects would appear to be a major no-no.

And apparently there's a video on the city website in which Saltzman clearly suggests that a sale of the Tabor Yard is still the operative plan. I tried to follow the link sent me by the spy, but the city's file required that I install Real Player to watch the video. Having had that stupid program invade my computer and jerk me around while I was trying to get work done in the past, I'll have to take his or her word for it.

They don't give Pulitzers for just anything

On May 31, 2006, records show that Wyatt had dinner with Commissioner Junki Yoshida and Mike Irwin, director of the Transportation Security Administration's operations at Portland International Airport. The meal at El Gaucho totaled $189.85, including food, tip and seven glasses of whiskey....

Wyatt also did not list business reasons on expense forms for meals with Jay Waldron, the Port commission's president, or others on at least nine occasions. At one such meeting with Waldron, in June last year, the total for six glasses of wine -- $60 -- outpaced the food total of $41.25 for two entrees...

Wyatt also was present at a December 2006 dinner in Tokyo that included another top Port manager, the Port's paid representative in Japan and two commissioners. Port Marine Director Sam Ruda charged the $1,060 bill for food and beer for five people to his agency-issued credit card.

The latest installment of "Who Had the Pickle?" can be found here.

Condos, condos, more Joe Weston condos

Looks like the Portland Development Commission's going to sell developer Joe Weston the vacant property across Grand Avenue from the old Cosmo Hotel in the Lloyd District (catty-corner from the Don't-Even-Think-About-Parking-Here Denny's). And guess what's going in? Another 325-foot-tall condo tower! Twenty-eight stories -- 200 units. Oh, goodie!

At least there's no overt taxpayer subsidy for this one. The purchase price for the property is said to be $2.4 million, and the PDC says it has a good appraisal this time.

The deal will all be discussed at the PDC board meeting on Wednesday. The official lowdown is here. It appears to be pretty much a done deal. A "memo of understanding" was signed between Weston and the PDC last October, and now they've got a 39-page contract all worked out and ready to be signed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Excellent, not

More bad financial news for the Multnomah County government. Let's cut another 114 jail beds. Hand out more "work release furloughs" so that the "nicer" cons don't have to do all their time. Oh, and that's not all:

Given the difficult trade offs inherent in this process, this budget eliminates funding for the sobering portion of the Hooper Detox Center, the majority of the addictions outreach services, some prosecutors who work closely with police precincts in the City of Portland, and the portion of Animal Control field services that responds to neighborhood nuisances and dead animals.
This is more Portland greatness. Go by streetcar; just be sure to wear a bulletproof vest. That dead raccoon in the middle of the street? Fry it up. But please, not in trans fats.

Google Search o' the Day

Glad to be of help. (I suspect help is badly needed.)

Alberto's not a very good liar

He really needs to work on it. Maybe on his new job.

Survivor Portland City Hall: The final jury

It was close in the afternoon, but by the end of the night of Day 3 on Survivor: Portland City Hall, the tribe had spoken loud and clear. Randy Leonard has been voted off the island. Fireman Randy, as I said when I tried to vote you off on Day 2 --

you started out as a champion of the commoner, and of common sense. But now you've gone off the deep end. You have just as many harebrained ideas as Opie, and the whole Joe Hill thing with the unions is getting a little tiresome. You need to go somewhere on a retreat with the OSPIRG kids, and stay there. So long, buddy.
You are not sustainable. Pack your things -- including your planner-speak tapes -- and leave the island immediately.

Well, let's see who's left: Grampy and Big Pipe. Just shows that you don't make too many enemies if you don't get much done. It's time to pick one as the ultimate survivor -- winner of the big prize, federal immunity from prosecution if the condo scams get too hot.

Now being that this is the final round, and we're deviating a bit from the format of the television show of the same name, let's be sure we're clear on the rules for the final vote. As we did the last three days, we're asking to you to mark the name of the commissioner whom you would like to see off the island. The one you don't vote against today is the one whom you think should be the ultimate survivor.

Good luck to the two remaining contestants, and here goes:

Sam, Erik, Randy -- all a distant memory. Only two Portland commissioners remain. Which one of them do you want to see voted OFF the island?
Tom Potter
Dan Saltzman
pollcode.com free polls

As always, feel free to come back to this page and leave a comment for the commissioner that you're voting to send away. We'll give everyone a chance to address the ultimate survivor tomorrow.

Game report: Warriors 120, Blazers 98

A season full of promise and hope, but noticeably devoid of wins, ended with a loud thud last night as the Portland Trail Blazers were routed at home by the Golden State Warriors, 120-98. The Warriors went up something like 17-4 in the first quarter and never looked back. The Rose Garden crowd was enthusiastic all night, and it let out quite a roar when the Blazers narrowed the gap to 12 points in the fourth quarter. But that was a Dave Letterman- or Johnny Carson-type crowd, cheering mindlessly at just about anything. Truth be told, it was a pretty crummy game all the way through.

As of a week ago, we thought that our season at the Blazer games was over, but pleasant surprises happen to us all the time, and one of our patrons dropped some prime tickets on us over the weekend. And so we were on hand for this one as a bonus game. I greatly enjoyed the experience, as I have throughout the season, but by the end of the night, something about it struck a note of fear in my heart.

To say that the Blazers were short-handed would be an understatement. Only nine players were in uniform, instead of the usual 12. Except for Jarrett Jack (solid but no star), the lineup was devoid of anyone who should be starting a game on an NBA team. It was a second- and third-string Portland squad against a team that was fighting for, and last night won itself, a spot in the upcoming playoffs. With its victory in the Rose City, Golden State secured a berth in the first round of the league's championship tournament. (But since the Clippers lost at home to New Orleans last night, the Warriors would have advanced to the playoffs even if they had lost to the Blazers.)

For some reason, the Warriors are just about the ugliest team in the league to watch. Against the Blazers, they had two weapons -- the outside shot and the cheap fast break. They showed early on that they would burn Portland badly if Portland didn't get back quickly on defense. And you know what? Portland never did get back, and it got burned time and again. The crowd was too polite; in any other city, and even in Portland a year ago, they would have booed.

There were other alarming signs as well. No one on the Blazers seemed capable of scoring a basket except Travis Outlaw, a streaky (a.k.a. inconsistent) force who last night had a career-high 36 points in the losing effort. He made all 16 of his foul shots, which is quite impressive. But the rest of the team stood around a lot, watching the clock tick away, and they shot poorly. Dan Dickau played 31 minutes -- that just about says it all for the home team's chances -- and he made just 4 of the 13 shots he jocked up. He dished out eight assists, but he's just too small for the NBA. Martell Webster continued to muddle along, neither a true inside player nor a true outside shooter. Of the five shots he made (all of them two-pointers), the more impressive ones were when he was breaking to the hoop. When he parks himself at the 3-point line, he's ineffective. He'll probably hear it the rest of his life: Should have gone to college.

Raef LaFrentz was out on the floor for 15 minutes, accomplishing little. Raef is the one they talk about in the Bible where it says, "Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed." Freddy Jones and Sergio Rodriguez turned in B to B-minus performances; sparkling they weren't. Nobody in a white uniform played enough defense. Jamaal Magloire gave up 24 points to Al Harrington. Jason Richardson and Steven Jackson combined for another 56. Even Baron Davis, who will begin collecting Social Security this summer, had a triple-double before they wheeled him back out to the bus. Golden State is like a poor man's Phoenix Suns team -- run and gun, baby, under coach Don Nelson. The Blazers knew what the Warriors were going to do, and they were defenseless against it.

OK, another short-handed loss at the very end of the season -- that alone shouldn't give you the willies. But there were other strange vibrations around the arena that were scary enough to suck some of the wind out of the sails of my optimism for the future of the Blazers. Part of it had to do with the organization's wicked obsession with the past. Throughout the game, they staged a big 30-year reunion of the Blazers' only championship team, during which they retired the jersey of one of the players on that team, Lionel Hollins. Most (but not all) of the Trail Blazers from the era were on hand, including then-coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, a true legend. (Bill Walton was working as an announcer elsewhere and didn't make it.)

The big championship was won the year before I arrived in Portland, and I'm as big a fan of those players as most folks in these parts are. It was great to see Ramsay still alive and kicking. But for some reason the whole event seemed woefully flat. Part of me thinks it's time for the current organization to give the 1977 Blazers a rest. It was a different era, a different building, a different league, really a different world. Most of the folks in attendance last night probably don't remember it -- so many of them weren't even born when it happened. Only two of the current players were alive at the time. The show was just a bunch of old guys in suits, and some grainy film clips. If anything, it reminded everyone how long it's been since the Blazers were any good, much less great. And what's so special about a 30-year anniversary? Didn't they just do this at 25 years? Are they going to do another cheesy tribute every five years hence, until the last member of the team is dead?

If they held five-year reunions of every championship team in places like Boston or Los Angeles, there'd be multiple events each year. And if they retired the numbers of six guys from every team that took the title, those other cities would be down to having their point guards wear number 73.

Another problem: The Rose Garden had the p.a. system cranked up to the pain threshold for the occasion. I haven't been bothered by the decibel level in the place for quite a while, but last night I was. On most nights when they make it too loud, it's supposed to pound into you (literally) the fact that you paid $100 to get in here, and that beer in your lap was another eight bucks, so this must be really exciting. Last night it seemed like it was more to help the guests of honor hear what was being said without having to turn up their hearing aids.

Some of the supreme dorkiness of Portland resurfaces at events such as this. The Blazer Dancers -- whose devolution has lately rendered them a bizarre spectacle, something that Paula Abdul might put together in her most buzzed moments -- sponsored their own reunion. Dozens of ex-Blazer Dancers donned mostly unflattering attire and joined this year's crew in performing several massive train wrecks. (They also announced current dancer Marlene's retirement after 10 years -- one of the more attractive and talented crew members, she'll be missed.)

The vivid reminder-by-contrast of how long it's been since the Blazers were any good was disheartening, and the leftover midriffs from the disco era caused me to avert my eyes, but they were not the most disturbing aspect of the night -- not by a longshot. No, that distinction goes to a horrible, horrible sight: Darius Miles was back sitting on the bench. As part of the nostalgic hoopla and to mark the end of the season, all of the current Blazer players were on hand, including those who are sidelined due to injuries, real and imagined. At the start of the game, each player on the entire roster was introduced, and came down to the floor out of the stands, passing through one of the same portals that the fans do. Down they came, one by one: LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Zach Randolph, Ime Udoka.

And Darius Miles.

Darius Miles -- cancer of the team! Looking as spaced out as ever. Sitting on the bench next to Zach, who showed up in his best gangster costume -- shirt out, pants five sizes too big, etc.

And it gets worse. At the end of the night, they passed out yearbooks, and who's among the players profiled? Yep, a nice little spread on Darius Miles. Darius Miles!

Memo to Kevin Pritchard, Blazers general manager: You're trying to get people to buy season tickets for next year, right? You made a little boo-boo there, buddy. What you need to do is to pay Darius Miles enough money that he stays a minimum of 500 miles away from the Rose Garden. You put him on that bench, let them sit there all night, and you may as well strap a sandwich board sign on Nate McMillan that says, "Maybe you should hold on to that thousand dollars in ticket money for a couple more years."

As for the players' respect for the fans and the honored alumni, it apparently did not extend to the entire two and a half hours of the lame contest being played out on the court. Most of the players not in uniform were gone by halftime. LaMarcus left the bench after the first quarter. I think Darius stuck around until the end; he probably had nowhere else to go. But by 9:00 Zach was long gone, probably socializing with... shall we say, women who are not as accomplished as the Rutgers basketball team.

And owner Paul Allen's nowhere to be seen, of course. He's probably off on one of his yachts, skimming krugerrands across the surface of the Mediterranean, figuring out how to screw up the roster some more, and plotting the move of the franchise to Seattle.

What a fright night. Hideous play, a strange program, a fixation on the past, Zach's pants, and two hours of looking at Darius Miles. I loved the Blazers this year, and I'm still hopeful for the future, but when I left the arena, I headed straight to the car, and I didn't look back lest I be turned into a pillar of salt. Things might be better next year. But don't bet on it.

On with the blurry photos. Readers will be relieved to know that my camera has gotten so bad that the flash has given out. By next basketball season, it will probably be gone in favor of something better.

The original banners still hang over one of the entryways:

The arena staff, and even the players, wore a special t-shirt:

Here's Lionel Hollins, and Bill Schonely with Maurice Lucas:

If you've been wondering what's standing between current Blazer coach Nate McMillan and the greatness of former Blazer coach Jack Ramsay, look no further:

Continue reading "Game report: Warriors 120, Blazers 98" »

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You're not going to believe this

Gee, whaddya know, the City of Portland has bungled the pledged donation of $1.5 million toward building that park over Tom Moyer's new underground parking garage -- code name "Halfway to China" -- cater-corner from Nordstrom's downtown. It was a matching gift, and the city took its sweet time coming up with its half of the deal. So now the donor has walked. Suddenly there's a gap in the construction budget for the park.

No doubt this is one of the capital projects that Parks Director Zari Santner wants to raid the parks maintenance levy for.

Does this mean that the giant parking garage doesn't get built?

Bwahahahaha! Of course not.

Maybe there's still time to switch the surface improvements to condos.

Let's bust some little people

Only in Portland. They're going to stage a sting to bust some people for traffic violations next Wednesday afternoon. So what do they do? Announce it, along with the exact locations, in advance! Shows you how out of it they figure most of us are. They're probably right.

Even more amusing are the locations chosen for this particular operation: "marked crosswalks at SE 82nd Ave & SE Foster and SE 80th Ave & SE Foster." Gotta police those people over on the Idaho side. Maybe the fines will help pay for Mike Powell and the Schnitzers' new Burnside streetcar. If it's such a service to the community, will there be a similar sting on the Strohecker's side any time soon? Don't hold your breath.

Of course, if this law enforcement action were being taken only on the west side, I'd be complaining about that, too. The point, I guess, is that it should be done even-handedly throughout town.

Interestingly, it's not clear exactly who's going to be ticketed. It's billed as a "crosswalk enforcement action." Is that to bust drivers who don't stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, or pedestrians who jaywalk? I assume it's the former.

A funny thing happened on the way to SoWhat

That absurd SoWhat District citizens' advisory committee meeting that we blogged about last week included an amusing sideshow. Two presenters from the Portland Development Commission reportedly couldn't make it to the confab in time to give their spiels. Sources report that "one was late due to difficulty accessing the site and the other had a flat tire."

"Difficulty accessing the site"? That's a polite way of putting it. The meeting was held at the National College of Natural Medicine Administrative Building, at 049 SW Porter Street. This place has horrible street alignment and access, which is part of the greater and growing traffic dysfunction in the SoWhat area. As a PDC staffer reportedly found out, you can't get there from here.

One of the things that the Lair Hill neighbors of SoWhat have been pushing for is to realign the various streets in their neighborhood to alleviate the mobility nightmares that they suffer on a daily basis. They were promised some help in this regard as part of the Goldschmidt-Kohler-Katz lie package that led to the approval of the SoWhat condo tower jungle, but of course, like the 10,000 biotech jobs promised to the rest of us, that's all supposed to be forgotten now. Maybe they can hold a bake sale and get a pedestrian bridge built over I-5.

The other no-show from the PDC was reportedly from a flat. Driving? What -- didn't go by streetcar? Or aerial tram [rim shot]? How un-progressive.

"I can do it while I eat a McRib!"

TurboTax, the giant tax return software company, ran a contest this year to see who could produce the best amateur rap video about its product. The rules were pretty strict -- for example, sampling of copyrighted material was prohibited -- but they got about 370 entries.

Lo and behold, the "first prize" winner (actually, he came in second to the "grand prize" winner) is right here in Portland. His name is Carl Tietz, and you can check out his TurboTax rap here. The grand prizer winner, by Christian Pulfer, a 28-year-old "real estate investor" from Brooklyn, New York, is here. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

Survivor Portland: Day 3

Day 2 of the balloting in Survivor: Portland City Hall went just the way Day 1 indicated that it would. Erik Sten is gone. Opie, you've been in City Hall way too long. Your ambition is delusional. It's time you take your Stanford English major and get a real job making lattes with your devoted creative-class groupies. Your crazy ideas are almost as bad as the way you bungle their execution. You've blown too many tens of millions of our hard-earned tax dollars. The tribe has spoken. You are to leave the island immediately.

Well, I hate to make a kid cry, but that's that. We knew he didn't have true survivor potential.

So now it's Day 3, and the remaining three Portland city commissioners await the verdict of you, the tribe. We'll vote another commish off today and another tomorrow, until only one is left. Unlike the TV show, where tribal members have intramural contests to secure immunity from being voted off the island, on this show the grand prize is immunity -- from federal prosecution for participating in the city's many condo tower scams.

It's a real horse race now, as the three remaining council members have come in extremely close to each other in the previous days' tribal councils. Every vote counts at this point, people, and so do let us know whom you want to discard to get us down to the final two. Please don't forget to use the comments space below to explain your vote. You may vote only once a day:

Opie has left the island, along with Sam the Tram. Which Portland city commissioner should go away next?
Randy Leonard
Tom Potter
Dan Saltzman
pollcode.com free polls

UPDATE, 3:03 p.m.: This one's a barn-burner! We'll keep the voting open until at least midnight. Unlike TurboTax, we won't fail you if you wait 'til the last minute.

Interesting to the very end

OK., it was supposed to be a crummy final game of a so-so season, but tonight's Blazer finale against the Golden State Warriors actually means something. If the Warriors win, they make the league playoffs; if they don't, then it depends what happens to the L.A. Clippers. A Warrior loss and a Clipper win (at home tonight against New Orleans, a lottery team) would put the Clippers in the playoffs instead of the Warriors.

The Blazer roster is so depleted that they may have to ask Dwight Jaynes to suit up. (Hey, he's been running; he could probably guard Adonal Foyle.) But the Blazers are a scrappy lot, and they won't be going down easy. Warrior coach Don Nelson, who's been hitting the scotch lately, claims he has a bad feeling about tonight. Let's hope he' s right.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Here we go

The Seattle Supersonics basketball team appears to be a big step closer to leaving that town. They're owned by a group from Oklahoma City, which is about to lose the team, the New Orleans Hornets, for whom it has served as temporary host for the last two years. If the Sonics go to Oklahoma, and Seattle is without a pro hoops team, who or what will fill the void in the Emerald City?

It's tax night at the post office

I'm as grouchy as they get when it comes to my taxes. I never pay them even a day before I have to. And I make it as difficult as I legally can for the government to get my money. I file on paper, in hand-addressed envelopes, and pay by check. I would never give them my checking account number; I don't care how much they owe me, they're bound to screw up and make some sort of mistake that will take months to correct.

And so I found myself driving up to the main post office early this afternoon for the annual ritual of dropping off the tax forms. This year, taking into account everyone in the family, we had 10 -- count 'em, 10 -- envelopes to go off with our money.

The Postal Service has a special drop-off setup going in the middle of Hoyt Street, and as usual, there were some demonstrators on hand. There was a sign protesting Wal-Mart's taxes, and somebody with a sewing machine -- I'm not sure what that was about.

What wasn't there were other vehicles. The real last-minute types won't show up until later tonight, of course, but even in the late afternoon, there was nobody else there but me.

With electronic filing quickly becoming the norm, the scenes of lines around the block appear to be just a memory. And with them disappears another graphic reminder of how crazy our tax system is. As it retreats behind the electronic curtain, that system becomes just a wee bit more insidious, and a wee bit more impervious to reform efforts. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, it's your fault.

Surprise from Salem: actual progress on something

The Oregon House today passed a couple of important bills regarding the rights of gay people. My former law partner and Lake O Rep. Greg Macpherson reports (and takes some credit) here.

From quick T's to tee times

The pro basketball season is interminably long, and sometimes in the spring the referees wear out. Remember when all-time great Jake O'Donnell blew his cool and gave Clyde Drexler (then with Houston) a quick ejection in a playoff game? Drexler had spent his whole pro career whining to the officials, and Jake had finally had enough.

That was O'Donnell's last game as an NBA referee.

Now another classic ref, Joey Crawford (left), has gotten into it with Spurs star Tim Duncan. And shades of Jake, old Joey's earned himself an early summer vacation over it.

We know, we know

In press releases, the Portland School Board is now referring to itself as "the volunteer Portland School Board." This is to remind us that the board members are not paid for their time and effort.

We appreciate their dedication. But why the reminder? To soften us up so that we won't look critically at the policy decisions they are making? Nice try, but that's not how it works.

Obama's loaded

Barack Obama has released some of his tax returns to the MSM. And get this: Last year his and his spouse's income was "$983,826, down from $1.6 million in 2005." The Chicago Tribune writes about it here. A copy of the tax return is here. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

And I note -- the s.o.b. is not subject to the alternative minimum tax, the way "rich" families like mine are!

Enjoy that bond rating while you can

The City of Portland is burning money like a drunken sailor these days. A half billion here, a half billion there, the vast majority of it for condo developer toys. And all this is going down while the city's police and fire retirement system ticks away like a time bomb that everybody knows about but is just pushing around under the table with their feet.

The day of reckoning is coming, though. Wait until they have to start showing retirement liabilities on their books the way normal businesses do. Now there's some music they don't want to face down at City Hall. GASB 45, boys.

Moment of silence

It feels a little like 9/12/01 today. We're still watching the show, and it hasn't quite sunk in. For too many others, though, it's reality TV.

Survivor Portland: Day 2

The tribe has spoken. Sam the Tram Adams was voted off the island yesterday in the first day of balloting in Survivor: Portland City Hall. Water carrier for seemingly every noxious developer in the region, out of touch with the needs of real people, shameless b.s.-er, relentless photo-op monger, Sam is a true disciple of his mentor, Vera Katz. He is to leave the island immediately.

Which brings us to Day 2, and the remaining cast of four Portland city commissioners awaits the verdict of you, the tribe. We'll vote another commish off each day, until only one is left. Remember, the ultimate survivor will receive the grand prize of immunity from federal prosecution when the FBI mole finally turns over the rocks that we all know are lying around City Hall somewhere.

Several readers have complained that they would like to vote for more than one contestant, as they can't make up their minds whom they would like to see depart more quickly. Nobody said it was going to be easy, people -- suck it up. You may vote only once a day.

And don't forget that we'd like you to state in the comments section below just why you're voting a particular council member off. You know they'll be reading the comments, so give them the reason for your choice.

Anyway, here we go:

Sam the Tram has been voted off the island. Which Portland city commissioner should go away next?
Randy Leonard
Tom Potter
Dan Saltzman
Erik Sten
pollcode.com free polls

Shining star

On a dark and awful day in the history of education in this country, at least there was a glimmer of light somewhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

No place is safe

So watch where you sit.

Never was there a better time to shut up

In the face of something unspeakable, bloggers should hold their tongues about it for a while. Do you really think anybody wants to hear your position on gun control at this moment? Get a life.

Comon sense in Washington State

At least they're doing something up there about irresponsible cell phone use while driving. Meanwhile, down here below the Columbia, the telephone lobby's too strong.

More environmental problems with the Prius

You can't get it through DEQ.

Survivor: Portland City Hall

It's time to play Survivor with the Portland city commissioners, don't ya think? Cast your vote for the first to be forced to leave the island. The commish with the most votes against him will be gone tomorrow. Then we'll do it again for three more days until there's only one survivor left. The last remaining commissioner will receive the grand prize, federal immunity from prosecution for condo scams, which will be awarded in a special ceremony by Alberto Gonzales.

Here goes. You may vote only once a day:

Which Portland city commissioner should be the first to leave the island?
Sam Adams
Randy Leonard
Tom Potter
Dan Saltzman
Erik Sten
pollcode.com free polls

UPDATE, 1:32 p.m.: Dont forget, you're free to leave a message for the one you voted off, down in the comments.

What they taught me in charm school, cont'd

When performed by $600,000-a-year bureaucrat doctor types, it's not "shameless lying." Please! It's "optimism" and "exuberance."

Meet Preet

Here's an interesting piece about a guy who's been instrumental in the ongoing toppling of Alberto Gonzales.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

We knew it all along

But today at the magical Aladdin Theater, we were reminded once again: Whatever your chronological age, you cannot not have a great time at a Dan Zanes show.

Not surprising

It's what state government is so good at generating.

Tech update

My web host informs me that a server hardware failure was the cause of yesterday's kerplooey on this site. Alas, the best backup they have been able to get for me so far was nearly a week old.

I've been through something like this before, and based on what I learned then, I've been able to get all my brilliant words and images for the week reposted in about two hours' time. Comments are another story, however. I'm turning to those next. Some are salvageable, but how many is not entirely clear at this time. If you left a comment this past week and now it's gone, my apologies for the inconvenience. Please be patient, and with any luck, I'll be able to get it back before your eyes soon.

UPDATE, 6:27 p.m.: Thanks to Ron Ledbury's amazing archive, we have been able to get quite a few of the lost comments back. However, not all have been retrieved so far; there are still some missing from the afternoon and evening of Friday the 13th (appropriately), and the ill-fated morning of Saturday the 14th. If I can't scrape them up somehow, it will be a shame, if no other reason that Amanda Fritz had a nice conversation going with me and some others on this post.

Repeat with me: Nightly backups of the database. Nightly backups of the database...


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bad scene

There are some ugly vibrations in the air on Northeast Alberta Street around 30th. First there was this bizarre story less than two weeks ago. Now some nut is torching dumpsters and burning down apartments in the process. You have to wonder what the heck is really going on over there.

The crisis deepens

After a brief respite, the devastating shortages of King Harvest Balsamic Hummus have recurred throughout the Portland area. The other varieties are there, all right -- the plain, the lemon, the black bean. But if you want the balsamic, you are out of luck.

This the same weekend that Karl Rove was in town. Coincidence? I think not.

Technical difficulties

There's been some kind of crash on the server on which this blog resides, and about a week's worth of stuff is not appearing at the moment. As soon as I can get hold of my web host, we'll see what's what.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tough day at the zoo

I hate it when this happens. (Via Cousin Jim.)

A mere 28 tweaks for "clean money"

The citizens' advisory committee on Portland's comical "voter-owed elections" system for guaranteeing incumbents' re-elections has made its first report to the City Council. The wonderful new system -- basically sound, you see, but requiring just some "tweaks" here and there -- needs only 28 improvements to work, according to this group.

Among them: limit those who can give $5 qualifying contributions to registered voters, and actually have somebody from the city check their signatures to weed out obvious forgeries.


But a paper trail for the contributions, to make sure they were actually made by the people who say they made them? Nope. Cash will still be good enough.

Whatever. It got Opie and Big Pipe re-elected, and Fireman Randy's sure to follow.

Anyway, the whole report is here.

BTW, anybody seen Vladimir lately?

We know Y

Looks like the days are numbered for the Metro YMCA over at Duniway Park. It's too bad, in a way, because the place is a Portland landmark, and it's in an ideal spot for fitness fanatics. You run the track until you're in good enough shape to tackle Terwilliger hill.

But it's not surprising that the Y is going down, given the bad attitude that hung all over the place when the Mrs. and I were members. Unless they had a radical change in management, which I doubt, they got what they deserved.

Just say no, but vote yes

This week's Portland City Hall kabuki over the Burnside-Couch condo scam (a.k.a. the "couplet") shows the latest technique for wasting public money in a boondoggle that benefits only a handful of greaseball real estate operators. Instead of acting as though they're buying the initial liars' budget, now the politicians come right out and admit that they know that the cost and revenue figures they're being presented (in this case, $80 million construction costs for the thing) are totally bogus.

But then they vote yes on the project anyway!

When the bull-slinging was over and the time came to go forward this week, what was the tally? 5-0. So even though they all made their little Francesconi frowny faces and acted all conflicted, when the chips were down, the boys on the Council all went for the couplet. They could have stopped it where it belongs -- dead in its tracks. But no. On with more millions.

The latest drill also features a new lie: "We can always stop this if it gets too expensive." What a load. Are people's memories so short as to forget the key moment in the construction of the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot], where the business wizards at the O and all the other scam promoters chanted, "It's too late to turn back now"? You know that's coming with Burnside. You just know.

The same thing is happening, on a similar scale, with the Convention Center hotel scam. Now the entire Portland Development Commission has made a face and said, "We know this thing stinks from a financial standpoint." But rather than kill it, they vote another several million in "study" money into it and send it over to the Goldschmidt gang at Metro. And sure enough, the Metro soldiers make the same face, and cast the same vote. "We know this is bad deal, but let's go forward. We can always pull the plug later."

Make no mistake: The couplet and the hotel are done deals. Everybody knows that both projects are little more than legalized stealing by a handful of slick developers, greedy construction companies, and rich property owners. Everybody knows that the public clearly does not want either project to go forward.

But they're going to go forward. Say no, vote yes, and sooner or later they'll be built, because we'll already be high eight figures into each of them, and it will be "too late to turn back." When that Garbage Time gets here, people like Fireman Randy and Opie the Genius can say, "Hey don't blame me. Remember, I made a face before I voted."

Couldn't resist

Here's another one, in contrast to the second poll yesterday:

If Earl Blumenauer runs against Gordon Smith in '08, who do you think will win?
Too close to call
pollcode.com free polls

Putting it all on plastic

I see that one of the national rating agencies upgraded some of the City of Portland's bonds the other day. Sometimes you wonder what those guys are smoking. Of course, in that barnyard the watchdogs are hired by the fox.

Meanwhile, one of our favorite troublemakers reported in yesterday on the latest meetup of the "citizens advisory committee" that's watching over the financial black hole known as the SoWhat district:

Another SoWa URAC meeting was a laugher today. No order, no Roberts-like rules, no old business, no new business, no motions, no votes, no reviews, no opinions wanted. They got the usual incremental budget, which is now reduced to one sheet and looks neither backward or forward. Big gaps and omissions are as common as entries. One member asked why the "North Portal" [street projects] is not in the budget, and Larry Brown said because they don't know how much it will cost. Members, rolling their eyes, reacted like, "Heck, you don't know what anything costs."

The South Portal, which is the Bancroft/Hood/Macadam intersection, is rising above $20 million and it could be $40 million. It was estimated in 1999 to cost $436,000 and finished in 05-06 FY. As were most of the transportation improvements. This was all cooking the books to make the North Macadam plan look "feasible," so that the Katz council could approve it. Of course, no staff report ever comes with any guarantees or consequences for those who cook things up.

All in all, there are probably $150 million in transportation projects hanging out in PDC limbo, off-budget and unfunded.

The pedestrian/bike bridge over I-5 is now a minimum of $11 million and rising. The original cost estimate by the PDC was $1.636 million [it's soon to be $22 million, like the San Diego ped bridge].

Of course, this central district is eating the funding for the entire SoWa. There won't be any money for the greenway/riverbank, either, which is now expected to cost $40 million alone.

How positively Graggalicious.

But hey, another $80 million for Powell, Homer, and Mazziotti over on Burnside! (Which of course will be a quarter-billion before we're through.) Sam the Tram is buying -- with your money! Fireman Randy says to party on, too. Drink up, everybody!

This ugly world

Speaking of not cool in the racial slur department...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad apple

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have a soft spot in my heart for 911 operators.

But here's a story that makes some of them look bad. (Via the 'Couv Operator himself.)

Imus meets Murphy's Law

Here's something else to blame him for.

Test polls

I'm testing some poll-taking software and thought I'd give it a trial with a question for pro hoops fans:

Who was the most valuable Trail Blazer of the 2006-07 season?
LaMarcus Aldridge
Dan Dickau
Jarrett Jack
Fred Jones
Raef LaFrentz
Jamaal Magloire
Darius Miles
Travis Outlaw
Joel Przybilla
Zach Randolph
Sergio Rodriguez
Brandon Roy
Luke Schenscher
Ime Udoka
Martell Webster
pollcode.com free polls

Here's one for the politically inclined:

If Peter DeFazio runs against Gordon Smith in '08, who do you think will win?
Too close to call
pollcode.com free polls

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Game report: Rockets 99, Blazers 95

It was a game that should not have been close. Just before it started, the Blazers pulled forward Ime Udoka out of the lineup, declaring him finished for the season due to an injury. That left the Portland team without three of its five starters -- four if you still call Joel Przybilla its starting center -- and with only 10 players dressed to play. It should have been a cakewalk for the visiting Houston Rockets. And for three quarters it was. The Rockets spent most of the night on cruise control -- up 15 points here, 20 points there. I think they had a 25-point lead at one point.

But in the fourth quarter, Houston got tired and lazy, and a bunch of real no-names off the Blazer bench combined with star point man Brandon Roy to roar back into it. The Rockets were ahead by only five with four minutes left, and they basically played the Blazers even the rest of the way. The result was a narrow victory for the visiting team.

The Portland squad is out of playoff contention, but its players, God bless 'em, come to play whenever they suit up. Tonight recent acquisition (and hometown product) Freddy Jones started pumping in the points at the end, winding up with 18. Unfortunately, on the other end of the floor Houston Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady was going to town, pouring in 32, and Jones was one of several Blazers who couldn't quite contain him.

Except for Roy, who had 20 points and six assists, the Blazers couldn't get a fluid offense together. Travis Outlaw had 16, and big man Jamaal Magloire scored 13, but it seemed that every one of those was off a broken play, a shot that was at least somewhat forced, or a loose ball. With Chinese giant Yao Ming in the middle of the Houston defense, it was tough for Portland to get anything organized going. That the Blazers ended up with 95 is testament to the ferocious output they produced in the fourth quarter -- which they won by the score of 36-21.

Houston's good, but don't look for them in the NBA Finals, or even the Western Conference finals. They're one superstar short of being a championship team. Yao and McGrady are a formidable attack, but beyond that, they're nothing special. Rafer Alston put up 23 points against the Blazers' second and third strings, but against one of the league's elite teams, he'll come up short. McGrady's prone to injuries, of course, and with one minute to go in the game tonight, he went down with a banged-up knee. He was up and walking around, but who knows how bad it is? I saw a sure sign of the frustration that his injuries have engendered. When he hit the deck, one of the Houston assistant coaches slammed his clipboard on the floor before running out to see what was wrong. As if to say, "Here we go again!" With the big lead that Houston had enjoyed a half-hour before, the game should have been in hand, and T-Mac and Yao should have been next to each other on the bench, laughing the night away. But given their lackluster play in the fourth quarter, the visitors had to have their prime players involved right to the end.

Make no mistake: Yao is a true force of nature. He continues to improve, as he has every month since arriving in the NBA. He's no Kareem, but he's at least 7 feet 6 inches tall and more than 300 pounds heavy. He's got more meat on his upper body now, he's still agile, and he can shoot foul shots (although he missed two big ones down the stretch tonight). When he's out there, the opposition isn't likely to have much of an inside game. And if you're like the Blazers tonight, with neither of your main big men in uniform, you have none. Guys like Dan Dickau take their little drives in to Yao, and he moves them around so that their puny layup wannabes look like those of high school kids. Amazing to watch.

With so many of the Portland main men missing, this should have been Martell Webster's night. But it wasn't. He continues to run around the court, getting rebounds, playing some D, and helping out, but it's starting to look as though he was a grossly overrated high school prospect who burned up a Blazer draft pick. I really have been pulling for this guy, but at least in the current Blazer system, he's not a real factor. Travis Outlaw can put in some points, at least, even though he isn't blowing anyone away with his play. If he had a killer three-point shot, he'd be quite an asset, but as his game now stands, his contribution is just so-so.

The nicest surprise of the night for Portland was Luke Schenscher, a huge center from Australia who's been brought in for a cup of coffee at the end of the season while Przybilla works on an early golf schedule. Schenscher actually gave Yao a little trouble from time to time, and he scored six points in 15 minutes before fouling out. The fans gave him a warm round of applause when his time on the court was up. Sergio and Raef also appeared, but didn't do much to impress. I thought Rodriguez deserved a little more time out there -- he might have loosened up the Blazers' stilted offense -- but when a bench unit without him started tearing things up in the fourth quarter, you can see why Coach Nate stayed with what was working.

In sum, the Blazers at least had that "opportunity to win" that they have seen so often this season. It's only a matter of time before they start to convert those chances into victories.

Off the court, the big surprise of the night came from the Blazers' growing core of walking wounded. I thought for sure that nice guy LaMarcus Aldridge, whose career hit a speed bump when he was diagnosed with a heart problem, would be on the bench in his street clothes. I also figured that Zach Randolph, self-proclaimed "gangsta not a Blaza" whose season ended with hand surgery, would be long gone to Indiana by now. But lo and behold, there was Zach on the bench in his suit. I didn't see LaMarcus.

On with the requisite blurry photos. Here's newly anointed Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard, making his entrance from the visitors' tunnel of all places:

Yao in warmups:

T-Mac practicing foul shots:

Continue reading "Game report: Rockets 99, Blazers 95" »

Yo -- Yao, y'all

Houston Rockets giant Yao Ming and his team are in town. Tonight they're seeking to avenge a recent loss on their home court to the Blazers. Bill McDonald got to reach up and shake his hand last night, and Butterbean and I are about get a close-up look.

Come and get it

I'm not sure what it all means, but the Portland Development Commission says it's got $10 million out there for you if you want to build affordable housing in certain areas of town. The official notice is here.


Amazingly, after 15 months, someone in the Portland mainstream media has taken an interest in a case that has always bugged me: the shooting death of Dennis "Squeaky" Young at the hand of Portland Police Lieutenant Jeff Kaer on Jan. 4, 2006. Willamette Week's cover story this week is all over that incident. Bravo.

Imus as Snoop Dogg

I'd get crucified if I wrote what Renee Mitchell wrote in the O today. So I'll let her do the talking, here.

Thick as a brick

They said it before, and today they say it again:

Turn onto Burnside, and you know where you're headed. You're going east or west. But now the city is poised to monkey with this critical street, which functions as the prime meridian both on Portland maps and in Portlanders' minds.
Shhh! Don't tell them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

God bless Amanda

The Portland City Council has so many dumb ideas going at once, it's impossible to keep track of them all. Fortunately, the city has bloggers. Amanda Fritz has picked up on a juicy tidbit relating to investigations into allegations of police misconduct. Portland has enough of those for a city twice its size, and when changes in the investigative procedures are being greased to slide right through without the public noticing, it's cause for alarm.

Her post on the subject -- here -- is well worth reading and thinking about. She almost completely obscures the key facts by insisting that it has something to do with the merits of the pending charter change. But screen out all that noise, and you'll see that she's come up with a nice find of some significance.

Make it a series

I see that Sam the Tram is giving a speech tonight on what it's like to be an openly gay politician. After the expected vote on the Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" in the afternoon, he ought to give one tomorrow night on what it's like to be a hustler for the condo developers.

City government offices would have to be exempt

Here's a new form of regulation that they're trying out down in Utah: a bad smell committee that would sniff out objectionable odors so that their producers can be fined. A machine called an "olfactometer" would be brought in to verify the stench level before official action would be taken against a violator.

Just a matter of time before we have this in Portland, I suppose.

You can hear 'em in the back room plannin'

Our Sister City in Fiscal Irresponsibility -- San Diego -- is keeping right in step with Portland.

Mark your calendar

Monday, April 9, 2007

LaMarcus's heart

Blazers rookie big guy LaMarcus Aldridge has been diagnosed with an electrical problem in the heart, for which the team says he has received "successful treatment." He's done for the season, but they say he can play ball again soon.

The particular abnormality he's said to have is discussed here. I'll let the medically more astute explain what it all means, but it appears possible that it may be curable, and even that Aldridge has been cured. Let's hope so.

Whoop this

Just what I wanted on a Monday afternoon -- a robo-phone call from Bud Clark urging me to vote no on Portland charter reform. It's almost enough to make me want to vote yes.


Go figure

In Portland, "smart growth" has no place in it for families with children. In New Jersey, "smart growth" has attracted too many families with children -- and it's chasing everybody else out of town. It doesn't seem to be working too well in either place.

Dave's not here

While we were out of town, a letter came to the house informing us that our refuse carrier had been sold. Dave's Sanitary, the outfit that's been picking up our trash and recycling for the last eight and a half years, is no longer. Dave and Pauline Weir, of Vancouver, Washington, were in the garbage business for more than 35 years. They sold their outfit to the Heiberg brothers, whose family has been at it in the Rose City for more than 60 years. Starting tomorrow morning, the new guys will take custody of the contents of our can and recycling bins.

I've been impressed by Dave's operation. It was always first rate. The gal who answered the phone up there was one of the most polite, cheerful, and helpful customer service people that I've ever dealt with. To those who aren't moving over to the new ownership, a heartfelt thanks.

Good egg

Here's a nice story about one of the area's law enforcement leaders, Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Civilizing the blogosphere

Rules for blogging? Some people think it might make the internet a more pleasant and effective place.

But what should those rules be? No anonymous comments? No repeating rumors? Bloggers responsible for every comment left on their blogs?

Beyond funny

Like so many people, I can't read David Sedaris's books without laughing out loud. On a long plane ride recently, I came across a hysterical riff about Easter in his Me Talk Pretty One Day. I hope that the intellectual property police won't mind my snipping a bit of it out for you:

It was, for me, another of those holidays I'd just as soon avoid. As a rule, my family had always ignored the Easter cel­ebrated by our non-Orthodox friends and neighbors. While the others feasted on their chocolate figurines, my brother, sisters, and I had endured epic fasts, folding our bony fingers in prayer and begging for an end to the monotony that was the Holy Trinity Church. As Greeks, we had our own Easter, which was usually observed anywhere from two to four weeks after what was known in our circle as "the American version." The reason has to do with the moon or the Ortho­dox calendar -- something mysterious like that -- though our mother always suspected it was scheduled at a later date so that the Greeks could buy their marshmallow chicks and plastic grass at drastically reduced sale prices. "The cheap sons of bitches," she'd say. "If they had their way, we'd be cele­brating Christmas in the middle of goddamn February."
It gets better, especially the part about "he die one day on two... morsels of.... lumber." If you want to read the whole thing, it's here or here.

Suits from Orchard Street

It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon on Easter, and already some Catholic kid somewhere has blown the knees out of the new suit that he wore for the first time today. I know that was me back in the day. One Easter, a friend of my father had everybody over for dinner, and the parents made the call that we would all stay dressed in our holiday finery and behave.

But there were a bunch of empty lots around that guy's house -- the bombed-out lots of industrial Newark -- and we boys loved to roll around on them. Baseball, football, dodge ball (which we called "bombardment"), Army, "hide the belt," ringalario -- anything that involved running, chasing, diving, sliding, and often tackling and pounding each other. I forget what game it was on that particular Easter, but by 2 o'clock the knees of my suit pants were gone. And mine weren't the only ones.

Chances are, the suit came from Orchard Street. This was a street in the garment district of Manhattan, maybe 20 minutes away, where the grownups would drag us once in a while to buy dress-up clothes. The proprietors of the shops over there were mostly Jewish, and you could get an amazing price from them if you haggled. At least, that was the adult thinking in our household. For First Holy Communion suits (right), Confirmation suits, any kind of suit we kids needed, Orchard Street was a prime option. If it wasn't available, you'd wind up in Goldfinger's department store in our neighborhood, just up Ferry Street a ways, and there weren't many deals to be had there. Or maybe you'd find a Robert Hall store out on the highway somewhere. Not as rich or satisfying a shopping experience as Orchard Street -- not by a long shot.

To get over there, some dad would drive through the Holland Tunnel and wind around through downtown Manhattan. This was always an exotic experience for us little Ironbound Newark kids. The tunnel itself was, and is, a marvel, and of course there is nothing like the streets of New York City. Every sense is engaged in a way that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

One year, for some reason, we drove down the Bowery for a ways. The place was crawling, literally, with men who were, as the saying of the day went, down on their luck. Beggars. "Bompies," as some of my relatives called them, or just plain "bums." Some of them were lying in the gutters. It was sad to see, but my parents made sure that we got at least a glimpse. We didn't have much -- we had to go to Orchard Street for cheap suits, after all -- but we had the essentials of life covered, at least for now, and we should be grateful for that. And we were.

When you ripped your pants, Granny could usually sew them back together. But as I recall, the damage that we inflicted on them that one Easter was irreparable. "Boys will be boys," I'm sure somebody said as they passed the ham and potatoes around the table. And to us kids: "Don't do that unless you're in your dungarees."

Christ is risen -- do not attempt to buy a lawn mower

Many years ago, the Mrs. and I purchased a house down in the Buckman neighborhood of Portland. The man we bought it from had landscaped it to perfection, and this was the first garden that the two of us would take care of together. The house, which was on a corner lot, sat up about a full story from street level, and the front and side yards sloped steeply down to the sidewalk. Most of the ground was covered with lovely grass.

We closed on the house in late January, at which time the lawn was short and neat. But as spring arrived, it began to grow -- rapidly -- and not only was I too busy with other new-house chores, but I also didn't have a mower to cut it with.

Easter fell in early April that year, and by that time the jungle outside had grown so dense that it cried out for attention. Being that I was a hopelessly lapsed Catholic at that point, and there were no children around, Easter didn't mean much to us. It was just another Sunday, and the weather was decent enough that it presented an opportunity to get hacking on that knee-high grass. I figured that it was an ideal day to run out and buy a lawn mower. The stores would be relatively empty, since all of the Western Christians would be busy with their ham or lamb or roast whatever all afternoon long. And so off we set.

I was looking for a push mower, for a number of reasons. I liked the idea of not burning gasoline to do yard work. I also enjoyed getting a bit of a workout while I was sprucing up the grounds. Most importantly, that steep slope on which the grass was growing looked downright treacherous. I surmised (quite correctly, as it turned out) that sooner or later I would fall on my butt while cutting that lawn. And if I wound up being run over by my own mower, I predicted that a manual model would do a lot less damage to my body than one with a running motor driving the whirring blades.

I don't know what I was thinking, but as we pulled up in front of one closed hardware store after another, I was starkly reminded that Easter is not just another Sunday. People take the day off. Stores close. As I recall, we couldn't even get a mower at the Fred Meyer store, which I had originally been trying to avoid. Either the garden section wasn't open because of the holiday, or they didn't have a decent push mower, I forget which.

And so after a couple of hours of hunting around, I was mower-less. It was clear that I would have to delay my purchase by at least a day. We returned home to our embarrassing grass, and I sat and sulked about it. Christmas has its Scrooge and Grinch; that day, Easter had me. "What about Jewish people?" I complained, bitterly. "They have grass."

It's more than a decade later now. We're in a different house, with no big slope. We take the kids to church on Easter. We hire a guy to cut the grass.

But some things don't change. I wouldn't be surprised if you still can't buy a lawn mower on Easter. My advice is, don't try.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

How about "Money for Nothing"?

Fireman Randy's looking for input on an official song for the City of Portland. He's got a new one he thinks might fit the bill. But before we jump on the bandwagon, we shouldn't overlook some of the existing tunes that might be just as appropriate, if not more so. I'm thinking tunes like:

"Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"

"Chain of Fools"

"Let's Live for Today"

"You Never Give Me Your Money"

"Jive Talkin'"


"Stairway to Heaven"

"A Town Without Pity"

"Suspicious Minds"

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

"Nothing But Heartaches"

"I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself"

"Voyage to Atlantis"

"It's a Man's Man's Man's World"

"Super Bad, Parts 1 & 2"

"It's Too Funky in Here"

"Yakety Yak"



"Look What They Done to My Song, Ma"

"Too Much Monkey Business"


"Something Stupid"

"Games People Play"

There have got be dozens, if not hundreds, of other worthy candidates out there. Please, Commissioner, let's not rush into this. It's too important.

Pass the peanuts

Baseball season is upon us, and the feelings it evokes are familiar. But here's a spring story from the diamond unlike any I've ever read.

Flexcar users, take note as summer approaches

The Friday afternoon drive-time blues show on KMHD always has some amusing audio clips between songs. Last evening they played a hysterical riff in which a man -- obviously African-American, maybe it was Albert Collins -- explained that he was having "more fun than eating watermelon in a rented car."

Friday, April 6, 2007

Zach's gone again; so is losing

The Blazers are a beautiful group. Now they're on a little winning streak without Zach Randolph and without LaMarcus Aldridge. Oh yeah, the nattering nabobs will tell you that it's garbage time now -- that the opposing teams are holding out their best players and just coasting. O.k., maybe. But at this point in recent years, the Blazer squads would be truly pitiful. This year, they most definitely are not. Things are coming together, and the future looks bright, dum-dum management in Seattle permitting.

The button

So there we were, my beautiful young daughters and I, on the carousel in Orlando. The two of them were buckled in, and it was just a few seconds before the thing was about to start moving. I was standing between their horses -- fantasmagorical Seuss characters, actually -- and I had a moment to catch my breath and look around us a little.

In the row behind us was a nice little family, including a boy wearing a lapel button on his t-shirt. I looked down at the button -- simple dark letters on a white background. It said "Make a Wish."

And everything froze for a few seconds.

I took a quick second look back. A perfectly normal, healthy-looking, beautiful boy. With that button on.

A lot of thoughts flashed all at once. So they make the ill child wear a button on his big day? Why? To make sure everyone is extra nice to him? To advertise the program? How did the boy feel? Did he even know what it all meant?

I looked around one last time as we started rolling. I smiled and smiled, just as I would have if there had been no button. What a cool carousel, what a wonderful evening. There's no way to know why things are the way they are. But at that moment, we were all getting something we had wished for.

Memo to the jokers at the O

The very second one of the web pages on OregonLive starts playing an audio ad, I leave the OregonLive site entirely, and I don't go back for a long while. I've already stopped getting the print version of the paper, and I don't miss it at all. Keep making it unpleasant to get to your content online, and see where that leads.

If I wanted to listen to mindless radio ads, I'd turn on Lars Larson.

Flushed with anger

From Cousin Jim, and I quote:

if covering the seat with toilet paper so as to ensure that your precious heiney cheeks never touch anything but toilet paper makes you happy, that’s fine, BUT when you are finished, kindly flush the g*ddamned a*s paper down the toilet. Don’t leave it for the next poor slob ME to flush your g*ddamned Howard Hughes a*s-protection paper down the toilet.
The whole thing is here. "Let me say this," indeed.

Break out the knockers

Today's the day.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The building's eight years old -- throw it away

The topic of moving the Port of Portland headquarters (a.k.a. Goldschmidt Political Cemetery) to the airport must be heating up again in the media. In Portland, usually that means we're about six months to a year after the pork deal has been sealed. We've been aware of this scam since October 2005, which doggone it, is getting to be quite a while ago. More tax dollars ladled out to Hoffman Construction, or Bechtel, or one of the Usual Suspects. Good crab louie all around at the Arlington Club.

Anyway, tonight a reader is worked up about it and writes:

Didja see in the Oregonian where the Port of Portland now wants to spend $69 million on a new headquarters near the airport? Jeez Louise. How long is a public building supposed to last these days? They spent $20 million on a new building downtown that was completed in 1999. I'd think government buildings ought to be used for more than eight years. (And as I recall, they spared no expense on this building, either. The Port is no Mercy Corps.)

Yet Bill Wyatt says the new building will save the Port money on duplicated costs, such as having two reception areas and two security staffs (in addition to the downtown office, they maintain a separate facility at the airport). They say eliminating this duplication will save $3 to $4 million a year. Hmmm. Does anyone do math anymore. Say you pay two full-time receptionists $25 an hour, which is damn good pay for a receptionist. That would cost you $104,000 a year. Now maybe the security guards cost more, maybe they are from one of Dick Cheney's old buddies like Blackhawk and cost millions. But how many guards do you think the Port of Portland needs for one building? Two, four, six, eight... Okay, let's go with eight at 40 hours a week and $25 an hour. That seems generous. That's $416,000 a year. So with the guards and the receptionists that would get laid off from the downtown office, they would save around $500,000. How do they save the rest of the $2.5 to $3.5 million?

My guess: Composting.

While we listen to the crickets chirping

The local media sure were exceedingly willing to take the quick brush-off from the Portland cop brass about this story. Let's see. The policeman's house was reportedly searched on March 9. Something was found there to have the officer placed on leave. We goaded the local press into at least asking about it on March 25.

It's now almost four weeks since somebody was busted, and nearly two weeks since the reporters were told to go away, and still the public is not entitled to know what happened? That's the Portland media for you. For some reason, the cops have them right where they want them.

Well, you don't need the local media to find out some things. The officer involved is named Hythum Ismail. How many people with that name can there be? If you run that name through Google, you come up with some intriguing reading material. First there's this -- don't ask me what it's about. He goes to school reunions, apparently. He owns a business of some kind. Last fall he said he was opening a restaurant in Hillsboro on the side.

That's all I've got. Maybe the people who get paid to report to us on these sorts of things will tell us more.


UPDATE, 5:35 p.m.: Oh, and check this out about the restaurant!

Guest sports and media rant

A reader writes:

Is it just me or does anyone else find it odd that page one of today's (April 5) Oregonian sports page carries a picture of late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson wearing a cap sporting a rather large swoosh? The man coached for 57 years and this is the only photo they have of him? Shouldn't the drive to promote one's favorite local brand stop at the obituary -- at least -- of a great man and coach? I don't rant often but this really bugs me.

We love Brandon Roy

"As long as I'm on the court, I'm going to keep trying to hurt that lottery selection,'' he said. "I'm playing to win.''

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Neither here nor there

Is John McCain's presidential candidacy dead yet? My buddy Steve Stark thinks about why it may be.

Take it from Fireman Randy

"If we are creating a community down there where a car becomes more of a liability than an asset, people can buy more of a house and have amenities that they couldn't otherwise afford," he said.
Translation: In the near future, the working class people of Portland will be giving so much of their money to Joe Weston, Homer Williams, Gerding-Edlen, Trammell Crow, and the rest of the johns who patronize City Hall, that they really should give up hope of ever owning a car.

From SPF 50 to 50 degrees F

We're on our way home from another splendid family vacation. Everybody's darker, but we're lighter a tooth thanks to the tooth fairy. (She's leaving Sacagawea dollars these days.) The gators may be national champs, but we ate one of them last night on his home turf. There were some bumps in the road, but we got what we came for. If only we had another week.

You know what's decent? Landshark Lager. Yeah, it's a Bud, but it'll pass for a Corona.

Our itinerary passes through Houston, where the local wi-fi thing makes MetroFi look good. And so we'll likely have to catch up with blogging tonight back in the Rose City.

Where the little people die

We urinate away millions of Portland transportation dollars every year running streetcars and an aerial tram, and building more and more condo-selling toys that will continue to cost more and more millions to operate and maintain. But we can barely spare a million, even on a one-shot basis, to help safety at those many eastside intersections where people are being killed in crashes. Sorry, times are tight.

But Tram Boy cares. He really does. “When I see a concentration of injuries and accidents on specific roads, and when I know that with some specific moderate investments… we can reduce deaths from both drivers and pedestrians, I’m going to focus on that.” You do that.


Please forget the b.s. we sold you. Thank you.

For the first time, OHSU is openly contemplating housing -- condos, apartments or student housing -- in floors above medical education centers. Making room for biotechnology industries, for years an anchor of OHSU's planning, has faded.
Every lie they tell you in Portland these days -- it's the condos, stupid.

Wasn't that a man

It's Muddy's birthday, and so if you have any of his music lyin' around, go on and get your mojo workin'.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

One last game

Before turning out the light on college basketball for another year, check this out.


The news (or is it just a rumor) that Blazer rookie big man LaMarcus Aldridge is sidelined indefinitely while they run tests to find out what caused his dizziness and irregular heartbeat the other night is scary. I'm not talking team-will-be-worse-without-him scary, although there's some of that. I'm talking affable-cleancut-talented-young-man-who-could-suddenly-be-a-heart-patient scary.

Let's hope it's something simple and correctable. He was dehydrated. Some sort of dietary supplement that he's taking knocked him out of whack. He's low on some vitamin or mineral. Not enough potassium, something like that.

He seems like a guy who deserves a long and prosperous career as an athlete. So for the love of the Rose City, pray, keep your fingers crossed, cast your spell, do whatever you can do to affect the outcome.

Goofball government, day after day

In Portland, when the city breaks down and spends a few bucks to paint some crosswalks, it's such a big deal that they hold a "press event" over it. Tram Boy will be front and center in the spotlight, no doubt. "The markings are intended to provide drivers with a visual cue that they are in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic and can expect pedestrians crossing the street." Wow, you don't say.

What this town needs is for a couple of the unemployed creative types to start up a pie-throwing company.

And now, your moment of WTF

If you don't think Portland's efforts to quell gang violence are seriously screwed up, can you tell me what this is all about?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Moving right along

The headline on SI.com supplies all the LOL you'll need on this one: "Allen buys Rose Garden... again." The bankrupt billionaire made a big deal of announcing earlier today that his reacquisition of the Portland arena was "complete." Financial details were, as they say, "not disclosed," but if DOS Boy thinks it's going to stay that way, he's dreaming. I'm sure that we educators whose pensions financed construction of the Rose City hoops palace will soon have the lowdown.

My guess is that he paid pretty much what he owed when he decided to play sissy-boy hardball and drag the lenders and his hapless employees through bankruptcy. Tens of millions in legal fees burned for nothing, no doubt. And now it's on to the next financial blunder.

Cops straight out of high school?

Now that every cop in Portland over age 50 is doing the smart thing and taking his or her obscenely cushy retirement, the force appears to be hard up for bodies. So they're proposing to lower the minimum educational requirements for being a police officer -- once a college degree -- from the current two years of college to a high school equivalency diploma.

Geez, even the NBA is making kids go to college for a year nowadays. Not mature enough to shoot the pro three-pointer, but mature enough to have a license to kill? Sounds like a recipe for more of this.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Calling Chris Smith

If something has a direct benefit to an individual or a class of people, and a theoretical, abstract, or amorphous benefit to everybody else, realize that the proponent’s intentions are to benefit the former, not the latter, no matter what bullsh*t they try to feed you.
And lots of other darn sound advice, here.

Almost believable

Can't let the day pass without an April fool's joke.

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