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

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October 2007 Archives

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Those fake teeth are scary

Really scary.

Bon voyage

The cleanout of holdover stinkers in the Portland "urban renewal" bureaucracy continues, as Norris Lozano, the "colorful" head of the shadowy "Portland Family of Funds," has reportedly taken a hike. The story in Willy does not discuss whether he ever paid those tens of thousands in taxes that the State of Oregon was after him for. But someone by the same name (although listing a different employer) had a couple of thou for Gordon Smith, I see.

But I did not bribe no deputy

You think our sheriff's nuts? Here's a kindred soul of his down south. (Via Joe Wilson.)

Poetry break

Beautiful stuff.

Calling all cat people

If you don't mind letting the black ones cross your path, there's a group holding a confab tonight on what to do about stray and feral cats in your neck of the woods. Described as a "teach-in," this one's going to be at the Potrland Central Library, starting at 6:00. They say they'll have refreshments as well as videos on trapping and neutering these furry creatures, and returning them to the outdoors. Meow!

Plenty of spaces on Titanic deck

Here's one for the ages. As the City of Portland goes broke, it's now running out to enter into a no-bid contract to install electronic sensors in the downtown parking garages that will tell how many open spaces there are in the garages at any given time.

The results will then be flashed on an electronic sign on the Morrison Bridge.

How have we lived all these years without this essential service? And the company that's getting the no-bid deal? An outfit called DGM Systems. This is the same outfit that peddled all the "smart" parking meters around the city's core. Lo and behold, at least at one time DGM was reportedly controlled by the then-mayor of Seattle, Paul Schell.

Now that takes hoopster

Here's an upcoming event I wish I didn't have to miss. While federal regulators continue to fight the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger, the lawyers behind the deal are holding a half-day seminar in New York to brag about their work.

Double header

Not one but two Oregonians mentioned in this editorial in today's Times.

On the Day of the Dead

The morally and politically dead shall speak.

Wanna get away?

If you're a regular flyer on Horizon Airlines, this story can't make you too comfortable.

On Stark's Tote Board

Edwards won the debate. Hillary lost.

That Interstate cheer

On Monday, we relayed an e-mail that a reader had sent us about the infamous cheer that O columnist Renee Mitchell had reported about in her ill-advised column about supposed racism in the opposition to the renaming of Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez. The thrust of the e-mail message was that the cheer had been in response to a speaker's complaint about the lack of a fair process in the decision-making, rather than any threat never to call MLK Boulevard by its real name.

But the reader had her dates mixed up. She said that the cheer had gone up at an Oct. 9 meeting, when the Mitchell column had been published on the 8th. That couldn't be right, and so we e-mailed her pointing out the discrepancy. Here's part of her reply:

Mea culpa -- I've attended so many meetings and read so much on this issue, I got my timelines mixed up....

Here is a transcript of the comment on which Mitchell reported, made at the first public comment meeting on Wed Oct 3. There were big cheers at the end -- but I doubt seriously they were in response to the Union Avenue statement made early in this individual's comment.

From digital recording of 3 October 2007 meeting at Ockley Green School. Recording captured by a local journalist. Editorial comments in ( ), audience responses noted in [ ].

“My name is John Rinehold (spelling?) and I support honoring Cesar Chavez. I oppose changing any more Portland streets. We were surprised by the Rosa Parks change. I even oppose renaming Union because these are streets that were part of Portland’s history and Portland’s character [silence from audience], and I challenge anyone here who is talking about how this will be a great memorial and encourage people and help people with knowing about their culture to tell me all the information about McLaughlin, Couch, Ankeny, uh, Pettygrove. All of these people have streets named after them. Where’s their history? How do kids aspire to be like McLaughlin? Nobody cares. Kids don’t care what a street is named. Kids have no idea what it means.

What I would like to see is something that is more appropriate, something that meets an honor. Naming a street, especially a street that is, I don’t know, maybe average, people -- people won’t even know why it was renamed. It will eventually fade into the sands of time.

I also would like to point out that it is not a very democratic process when we’re allowed to see a presentation that supports the name change but no presentation at all that speaks about the history of Interstate Avenue, the history of Portland, or any of the opposition.” [applause, cheers from crowd]

I think the reader's point about Mitchell, and the speaker's point about the city process, are well taken.

Dog tired

Another miserable outcome for me in the pro football underdog pool last weekend. Oakland -- yeah, right.

We're starting to get a bit desperate here, people, but if you see a winner in caps here, let me know. They have to win their game outright -- the points are just there to tell you what I'll win if I pick the underdog and it wins that game:

9 BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh
7 MINNESOTA vs. San Diego
5.5 INDIANAPOLIS vs. New England
4 CAROLINA at Tennessee
3.5 NEW YORK JETS vs. Washington
3.5 ARIZONA at Tampa Bay
3.5 JACKSONVILLE at New Orleans
3 DENVER at Detroit
3 HOUSTON at Oakland
3 SAN FRANCISCO at Atlanta
2 GREEN BAY at Kansas City
1 BUFFALO vs. Cincinnati
1 SEATTLE at Cleveland

My guesses off the top of my head are Indy or Minny at home. Given how far behind I've fallen in the rankings, any game under 3.5 points probably isn't worth my taking unless it's the only sure thing up there. And none of those dogs looks that good to my untrained eye. As always, however, I am open to expert suggestion.

Hard, of hearing

Here's some medical news from earlier this month that you'd think I would have heard about by now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another "wide stance" guy

This one's in the Washington State Assembly.

You tell 'em, Jack

Coolest link yet

Check me out aquí.

Crisis of the Century of the Week

Now that OHSU has a health club and aerial tram, it's suddenly discovered that it's out of money. In today's paper, the president of the institution (who makes what? $600,000 a year?) seems to be saying that it has only enough funding to run for another 20 months.

No OHSU after June 30, 2009?

Looks like a bailout is in order. Will they go for it in the upcoming "special" session of the Legislature, or wait until the next "regular" session? And how much will they try to bully the City of Portland's taxpayers into paying?

Hold onto your wallets, folks, because the bill for this one is going to be a doozy. We can't let OHSU fail. It must become a world-class biotech and nanotech center, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and serving all the poor Oregonians who presently suffer without health care.

Like the tram, it's the linchpin of the state's economy! Without pumping more money into OHSU, we are all quite clearly doomed.

Down the road a piece

Those who have been following the Interstate Avenue-Cesar Chavez Boulevard renaming flap here in Portland will find some familiar arguments in this story about a renaming issue down in Palo Alto.

Dear Governor Ted

You're up against the wall now. Bernie's going down, but you know he won't go quietly. Margie's been talking. Leonhardt passed the lie detector, and his story is checking out.

You're not going to lie to the state bar, are you? Don't do it, man. It's not worth it.

Another SoWhat setback

The high-tech, vibrant, creative, sustainable Shangri-La known as the SoWhat district is shaping up to be a colossal bust. Not only are the condos not selling, but now the big OHSU campus that was going to be the only interesting thing about the place has been placed on indefinite hold as well:

OHSU President Joe Robertson told The Oregonian that the university has sufficient resources for the next 20 months, but that its current financial course is "not sustainable."

Robertson declined to speculate how the university might address the growing losses or say whether cost-cutting alone could close the gap. OHSU will complete unfinished space in its new hospital wing, he said, because that will bring additional profits. But the university will not go forward with other plans, including a medical school campus on Portland's waterfront, until it stabilizes its finances.

"We cannot embark on development that will strain our finances," said Robertson, president since September 2006. "Our university has to be self-sustaining."

Translation: The whole thing is out of money. Looks like Vera and Sam's breathtaking gamble is going down in flames. What insanity. But look on the bright side: Cirque du Soleil will have lots of empty lots to choose from for many years to come. Go by streetcar!

Boycott the other Sam Adams, too

Now that the intellectual property goons at Boston Beer are backing off their absurd bullying of KEX's Mark and Dave over the frivolous claim of trademark infringement involving their Sam Adams-related web domains, it's time to move on to Phase 2 of the Boycott Sam Adams movement.

And that, of course, is to boycott the candidate as well as the beer.

Picture where we'll be a year and half from now, with Sam the Tram at the helm of our leaky municipal ship. More Jim Francesconi, Vera Katz, Homer Williams, Gerding and Edlen -- only less stable. Hundreds of millions more will be wasted -- all of it borrowed. The heavy loads of bullpuckey emanating from City Hall will get denser, and more odiferous. The caricature that the city has already become will become so extreme that even the east coast groovy people (whose opinions matter more around here than those of the folks who pay the taxes) will start to poke fun.

The public debt will break $10,000 per resident. The monthly mortgage payments will eat up almost all of the city's property tax revenues. Basic services will decline even faster than they have in the Potter years.

The whole place will become as unstable as the man himself. The stage will be set for a major breakdown.

So boycott the other Sam Adams, too. Boycott the stupid gas tax "town halls," and dead bicyclist press conferences, and tram rescue stunts. Tell him what we told the corporate bullies at the beer company: No thanks.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bernie bombshells!

The O's posted the lengthy draft report on the state investigation into the hot pants of Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto. The full document is here. The executive summary by O reporter Les Zaitz is here.

Some lowlights:

▪ He knew about Neil.

▪ He told Fred Leonhardt about Neil.

▪ The former Mrs. Neil ratted Bernie out, but she won't say what she told him.

▪ There's evidence that Bernie lied about Jeddeloh and his wife.

Hey, "Dallas" is gone, but we'll always have Portland.

The state said Giusto wouldn't sign an affidavit swearing to his statements and wouldn't submit to a polygraph examination.
There's the kind of guy you want as your sheriff, eh?

BULLETIN: Sam Adams beer backing down

We have an unconfirmed report that the meanies at Boston Beer are dropping their trademark complaints about the Sam Adams for Mayor internet domains. More details as they become available.

How close would you like to get?

No problem.

Portland Debt-O-Meter: New and improved!

Our recently added City of Portland Debt-O-Meter (a fixture to our upper left sidebar) has become one of our favorite toys ever, but it's had its drawbacks. First of all, it's been static -- the numbers haven't changed automatically to reflect debt and population trends. And second, the data on the meter has been old.

The police and fire unfunded pension liability figure that we've had posted was as of June 30, 2006, as was the city population figure. The long-term bonds and interim debt figure was more current; it went back only to October 3 of this year.

But we all know that the current numbers are higher than that. As we discussed in this post, over the last seven years the police and fire pension liability has been growing at a rate of 9.16 percent a year; the long-term bonds and interim financing, at a rate of 5.18 percent a year; and the population at a rate of 1.32 percent a year. Thus, the numbers on the meter have been too low.

That changed, as of this morning. Introducing the all-new, self-updating City of Portland Debt-O-Meter, now posted for your perusal! This thing looks at the time on your computer and brings you up-to-the-minute estimated tallies of all the relevant figures -- including the debt share of each Portland resident (almost $8,108 at this writing). It updates itself every 30 seconds, or you can just click below the meter, where indicated, to have it update instantly.

As new city financial statements and population figures come out, we'll update the baseline entries with new hard numbers. But in the meantime, these should be pretty good estimates of where we stand. I'm sure the City Hall apologists will wrack their brains trying to figure out a way to debunk these numbers. If they can come up with a convincing case to change them, we'll gladly do so.

But I doubt they will.

So everybody have fun with the new and improved City of Portland Debt-O-Meter!

Return of the Scone

An alert reader points out that the inevitable coronation of Sam the Tram as Portland's next mayor is sure to bring at least one familiar face back onto the scene -- and we don't mean that in a good way. Here's a photo out of the current Sellwood Bee of the Tramster's announcement party at Roots Brewing. Look who's lining up for his PDC chairmanship:

If you don't think the worst excess of the Vera Era are about to resume, you're not paying attention. The only one missing (at least, never photographed) will be Goldschmidt.

Back from the dead

In case you missed it, there was a big writeup of running great Alberto Salazar in yesterday's Times.

Something to cheer about

One of the mysteries of the latest Renee Mitchell incident was exactly what it was at a recent public meeting on the proposed Interstate Avenue name change that made the audience cheer the loudest. Ms. Mitchell originally indicated that it was someone refusing to call MLK Boulevard by its right name, but she later confessed that that wasn't it.

Of course, in the course of making her non-apology, she didn't say what indeed it was. A reader writes in to fill us in:

"Does anyone know what comment elicited the loudest cheers?"

At the 1st public comment meeting, the pro-name change group had a few minutes to present its arguments. The no-name change group did not get a chance to present their opposition. Individuals pro and con were then allowed mike time to state individual opinions.

The 2nd public meeting (described in Mitchell's column) began with presentations from BOTH groups, pro and con name change. Then individuals, pro and con, got to speak.

The comment that got a big cheer at the the 2nd meeting was someone pointing out this difference in meeting formats.

Full disclosure: I didn't attend the entire length of either the 1st or 2nd meeting. But since then I've spoken with many who did. Attendees tell me that the 1st meeting felt like a one-sided sales pitch in favor of the name change. The crowd seemed happy in the 2nd meeting to have someone describe the perceived bias in the 1st meeting. Thus the big cheer.

So there you have it. According to this reader, it was a complaint about the distorted view of "public input" that the bureaucrats of Portland have adopted. For years, they have used the public -- pointing to their sentiments when it suits the bureaucrats' and politicians' agendas, ignoring them when it doesn't.

They're not getting away with it so easily any more. Yay.

UPDATE, 9:10 a.m.: A commenter below questions whether the "second meeting" referred to in the e-mail was the one Mitchell wrote about in her first column, which was published on Oct. 8.

Boom times in southern Oregon

I sure hope there's film at 11.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time?

Here's a baby blog -- less than a day old.

Meteorite auction is a dud

It looks like that chunk of the Willamette Meteorite we blogged about a while back won't be changing hands after all.

Dim the lights

And enjoy a romantic seafood dinner.

Knee-high by the Fourth of July

Here's a Portland native who's made quite a splash with a little gem of a movie. (Coming soon to a theater near you.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How the Whole Foods-Wild Oats deal hurts small organic suppliers

Big is not beautiful to this commentator.

First photo of Wyden twins released

And man, they are cutie pies.

Suddenly, they're all ears

The folks who busted the Portland Parks Bureau last year for sneaking around trying to sell off part of Mount Tabor Park are now being co-opted into a vision-planning-type thingie -- with lots of meetings, no doubt, to talk and talk and talk and talk about the future of the nursery, maintenance yard, and "long block" in the park. The bureaucrats are making many love sounds, but you know they'd just love to sell off some of that land to raise money to pay for the SoWhat poodle poop park, and while they're at it lay off the parks workers for contractors. The minute the neighbors miss a meeting, wham! Condos.

Of course, no public involvement process would be complete without the hiring of an expensive outside "facilitator." Heaven forbid city government should figure out how to run a public meeting itself.

Here's the official announcement inviting us all to get involved with the latest planning effort. Among the ominous words found therein:

Some of the questions the steering group will be considering as part of the update to the Master Plan include:

▪ What are the maintenance and horticultural needs for the Portland Parks & Recreation system?

▪ What are both the current and historic activities at the Yard and nursery and long blocks?

▪ Does this site and its current and/or potential uses fit with the Parks 2020 Vision?

The final composition of the steering group and the selection of project management and community engagement consultants will be conducted jointly by community members and PP&R staff.

You can imagine who the "community members" will include -- Randy Rapaport and Jim Francesconi, perhaps? The Parks people are going to make sure that this process gives them the answers they want. Good luck to the dedicated neighbors who will volunteer more of their time on this, but my advice to them would be not to trust Parks Director Zari Santner and her henchman Grimwad the Privatizer as far as they can throw either of them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Holiday shopping time is almost here

What to buy for those radio hosts who have everything?

Have a great weekend

Poetry break

Here's a sweet one.

On the old story board

For those tighty righties out there who are too busy cleaning their weapons to tune into Lars Larson today, here, as a public service, is a sneak preview. Let the hate times roll.

Portland Measure 26-93: Fair and spendy

Finally, an answer to one of the questions we asked on Monday about how much the ballot measure on Portland police and firefighters' medical coverage is going to cost. From Maxine Bernstein in yesterday's O:

Annual medical costs for the fund total about $3 million a year for disabled police and firefighters. The city has estimated that the fund's medical costs could double to $6 million under the proposed measure.

Nothing more to see here, people, now go about your business

That crooked pro basketball ref? He was crazed, and acting alone. And they're going to relax the rules on refs' gambling a bit so that fewer of his peers are in technical violation.

Case closed. Nice, neat, and tidy.

The $100 burger

Lots of Portland connections in this story about burger joints that you fly, rather than drive, into.

Hmmm... traveling in a private aircraft and eating beef. Not exactly a "green, sustainable Portland" story, is it?

Ain't it the truth?

Here's a very perceptive take on the life of a blogger. (Via TaxProf Blog; may not be viewable without some browser tweaking.)

Showdown a-comin'

It looks like it's going to be the public market vs. the art college over who gets the big federal building over by the Portland Main Post Office. The idea of them sharing it is kaput.

Last call for pro football picks

Oh, and how badly I need advice. NFL prognosticators, go here and find me a 'dog that will hunt!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wheels come off Potter City Hall

And it's all over César Chavez Boulevard. Too bad, but it looks like that's it for Grampy.

The guy who ran on the slogan "Bringing Us Together" couldn't get it done.

Here's the EVAK tagger, police say

Police say one of the mentally ill people who run around Portland and vicinity in the middle of the night spray-painting inane "tags" on other people's property has been caught -- by a security camera, at least. Here he is, in as clear a photo as you could ask for. Who is this guy? Turn him in!

Bullies take half step back

The Sam Adams beer people are still behaving like arrogant dum-dums in their ongoing hassle of the fans of Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams over supposed trademark infringement in the use of internet domain names that contain the Adams name in connection with the politician's pending run for mayor.

A reader who sent a critical comment to the beer people yesterday tells us that he got this response:

Thank you for getting in touch. This story has really taken on a life of its own, and we'd like to take a minute to give you a little background.

First, let me say that if City Councilor Sam Adams had registered a web site using his name, we would not have an issue with it. Of course, he has a right to use his name. Our namesake, the patriot Samuel Adams stood for public service and free speech, and we do too.

However, an individual named Dave Anderson registered two domain names: www.mayorsamadams.com and www.samadamsformayor.com. We could find no residential telephone listing for him at the address listed, so we wrote to him. There have been occasions in the past where people have attempted to use our name for commercial purposes, and this clearly is against the law. After he received our letter, we had a call from the legal department at Clear Channel and learned that Dave Anderson was a radio personality at Clear Channel's News radio 1190 KEX in Portland and that he had registered both domain names with the intent to give them to Councilor Sam Adams. Once we learned more about what was going on, we agreed that they could continue to use www.mayorsamadams.com. We asked them (and we thought we had their agreement) not to use www.samadamsformayor.com because it creates confusion on the Web.

While we understand that kicking up a controversy makes good radio, I hope you'll understand that it was never our intent to thwart the efforts of Councilor Sam Adams in his run for Mayor. We have no issue with him using his own name. A more extensive Google search on our part for “Sam Adams Mayor” was in order and might have turned up information about the race for Mayor in Portland before we sent off that letter.

We appreciate your taking the time to write to us and to give us a chance to explain how this all came about.

Todd Bellomy
Consumer Relations Representative
The Boston Beer Company

"[P]eople have attempted to use our name for commercial purposes, and this clearly is against the law." I'm no trademark expert, but that doesn't sound to me like an accurate representation of the law. If there's no chance of anyone confusing "samadamsformayor" with anything having to do with the brewing company, what's their beef?

"[W]e understand that kicking up a controversy makes good radio." Hey, nobody in Portland started the nastiness here. The ugly demand letter came from Boston, and people here are just sticking up for their rights.

"Once we learned more about what was going on, we agreed that they could continue to use www.mayorsamadams.com. We asked them (and we thought we had their agreement) not to use www.samadamsformayor.com because it creates confusion on the Web." Screw that. I read elsewhere that the brewing people's begrudging "permission" to use either domain was going to last only through the election. Screw that, too.

"Sam Adams" is a very, very, very common name. People who brand their companies with a very, very, very common name have to live with the consequences. Letting supporters of a real politician named Sam Adams express their support for him with an appropriately named web domain or two is just something that Boston Beer is going to have to live with.

Mark and Dave: Hold your ground, boys!

And the rest of us, stand with them. Fight back against corporate intellectual property bullying. Boycott Sam Adams beer!

UPDATE, 8:40 p.m.: Here's a petition that addresses the issue.

Brew-ha-ha foaming over

The Sam Adams beer-vs.-politician trademark battle and accompanying consumer boycott have gone viral. Word is out that it's been farked, and national media outlets are on the story. We'll see how the bullies in Boston like the attention they're getting. Meanwhile, the good guys themselves go on the air momentarily to 'splain the latest doings...

But do you recall?

WW has an interesting story this week on what it would take to recall Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto. You'd need 50,000 signatures of people who claim to be county voters in order to get the 38,971 good ones that you'd need. You'd have 90 days to round them up. That's 556 signatures a day. Could it be done? Probably. Will anybody do it? Probably not. It's a shame. The guy's such an embarrassment.

Let's see, if there were 50 dedicated people leading the charge, they'd need 1,000 sigs apiece. That's too many to ask. Could you expect 100 ringleaders to scrape up 500 apiece? Still a lot. I think to do this without a lot of money, you'd need 250 people to go get 200 apiece. But what a way to blow three months of your life.

Are there any big groups that you could line up? How many sigs could the Bus Kids deliver? The good government types like the City Club and the Conservation Voters? Would any of the public employees' unions play? Maybe the Slavic community out in east cou... er, never mind.

The 411 on 311

I love the 911 operators in Portland. They were there when I needed them, at the most important moment of my entire life, and I'll always be in their debt.

And so I read with some interest the other day that the city is thinking about ways to cut down on the number of nonemergency calls that tie up 911 at times. Callers with real emergencies sometimes get put on hold, and the waits can last several minutes. That's bad, especially when the calls that are tying up the lines are just folks who don't where else to phone in their nonemergency city business. Anything that will help eliminate those misplaced calls is a good thing.

The latest proposal is to institute a 311 line, which, as I understand it, would cover all city business other than true emergencies. It's worked in other cities to help keep non-911 traffic off the 911 lines.

I like the idea, but If I'm reading this story correctly, police nonemergency business would get thrown together with City Hall callers who didn't know whom they wanted to speak to, all under the number 311. That concerns me. For us old-timey Portlanders who already know the overall city information number (503-823-4000, which gives out county information, too) and the Portland police nonemergency number (503-823-3333), I'd keep both those numbers active, with the same folks picking them up as the city has now. I've used them from time to time, and they both have worked great. Lumping together every call that now comes into either of them just creates a new bottleneck. The police nonemergency line is already subject to long waits at times, and making those calls wait even longer to wait on somebody looking for a tree trimming permit doesn't seem like the best solution.

If the only real problem here are the callers who are phoning 911 when they shouldn't be, let's give those detail-impaired folks a nice simple 311 for all city business other than true emergencies. But it would be a shame to make every police nonemergency phone call (noisy neighborhood party, blocked driveway, overnight vandalism, etc.) get into a queue with people who are calling to find out where to complain about their sewer bill. If there's any way to do it, have 311 as an umbrella, but keep the two existing nonemergency lines open and separate.

A day late and a dollar short

Every good newspaper story deserves a copycat version. And without any acknowledgment of the similarity -- that's the Oregonian way.

Pitiful. O editors: What (if anything) are you thinking? That no one's going to notice?

If there was any doubt before, this seals it

As usual, I'll be quite glad when the election's over. This time around, it's the "porn" that we're getting in the mail about Measure 50 that's getting tiresome. In the last few days, we've gotten some Philip Morris money and some R.J. Reynolds money, both dumped like the contents of a stinking ashtray into our mailbox. Two different mailers. These guys will spare no expense to preserve their right to kill people through addiction.

The first "No on 50" missive was a letter in an envelope with a Salem return address traceable to the lobbyist who's putting together the anti- campaign -- not the first time. But it was signed by someone who identified herself as the owner of something called "Peppers Deli":

So what the heck is "Peppers Deli," and where the heck is it? No clue from the mailing itself, but our friends in the blogosphere are all over this. It's a little joint somewhere in beautiful downtown Lebanon, Oregon. No doubt equipped with video poker and an ample supply of cancer sticks. Here it is on Google Maps. Don't forget to stop in for a Slim Jim the next time you're down that way.

The bloggers also have Carolyn's home address in Keizer, but we're not going there.

Anyway, of all the hit pieces we've gotten from the tobacco companies about Measure 50, this one was actually the least misleading. Instead of the fake scare about the supposedly catastrophic assault on the state constitution, at least we got a reasonable version of that general argument, along with some others. They're totally unconvincing, of course, but Carolyn seems like a reasonable person.

That said, after being pounded by this Joe Camel propaganda for weeks now, I've never been more resolute about a ballot measure, and that's saying a lot. Smokes are bad, and we ought to tax them heavily and use the money for whatever the government needs it for. Kids' health insurance, fixing potholes, state troopers' pensions -- I could care less. Just do it.

If you got the same letter and you'd like to respond, here as a public service is Carolyn's contact information:

Peppers Three Inc. - 541-259-3899
2752 S Santiam Hwy.
Lebanon, OR 97355

Drop old "CC" a note, or give her a call. I'm sure she wants to hear from you.

Then yesterday comes another one. This one is right out of the Department of Redundancy Department, because we got pretty much the exact same thing, and blogged about it, a while back. But what I love about this one is the exquisite mindscrew that can come only from conscience-deprived minds like those who spout tobacco company p.r. Look hard at the image that's lurking behind the words on the cover of this flyer:

What the Dickens is that round thing in the back there, in the dim blue ink? Some sort of seal, as if it this document is being issued by some sort of official entity -- or any entity at all, other than the tobacco companies? What does it say around the outside of that circle? "Oregon Taxpayers to Stop the Measure 50 Tax Hike." Who is that, and who's paying for all their literature?

And check out the center of the "seal." What in the world is that? Some sort of courthouse, and what? Evergreen trees, because this is Oregon? And mountains? What is this supposed to be signifying? That there's some sort of court, or public agency, or church that's behind the "no on 50" movement?

Oh, and Abraham Lincoln -- he was in the last one, and here he is again!!!

What in blazes is this doing here? Did Lincoln smoke? Or is it just that he's the most respected lawyer in U.S. history? And a Republican?

People, in case you've you've never seen it before, this is the work of the devil. Save your soul and vote yes on 50.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Speaking of Whole Foods-Wild Oats...

... as we were earlier today. The government is still fighting that takeover in court, according to today's Wall Street Journal. They're in an appeals court seeking to unwind the deal.

Methinks something about that Mackey guy rubs people the wrong way.

Swallow all liquids before clicking

Because this is just too, too, too freakin' funny.

Sam Adams beer boycott is on

The trademark flap between Samuel Adams (the beer) and certain fans of Sam Adams (the next mayor of Portland) is quickly shaping up into a consumer boycott. Don't drink Sam Adams! And tell the corporate intellectual property bullies what you think of their harassment, here.

Did Whole Foods pay too much for Wild Oats?

Scroll down in this story and you'll see someone who thinks so.

One good idea, one bad

The Portland Business Alliance (the downtown chamber of commerce) has a great proposal for Portland City Hall -- let some "urban renewal" areas expire on schedule and start paying off some of the more than $600 million of debt (and growing) that "urban renewal" has racked up.

Sadly, the PBA then proposes that the city start up yet another "urban renewal" area for downtown, and rack up more debt subsidizing the real estate fortunes of the property owners there. Just replace one set of debts with another. Let's see if we can get to $10 billion before we go under!

Bury me in Terrible Tillie

Here's a great profile of a little-known Oregon landmark.

The Gordon Smith-Obama connection

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign fired back, saying Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of a bill in March with Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, calling for the Revolutionary Guard to be designated a “terrorist” organization.
Naughty, naughty!

Thank you, Larry Craig

You're still the best thing that's happened to the Democratic Party this year. Now you may even bring about some campaign finance reform!

Jail Blazer Hall of Famer

If Darius Miles walks into a bar that you're in, check to make sure you've got a loaded gun, a clear path to the door, or preferably both. The details of this latest episode are still sketchy, but I see he's already hired old Steve Houze to defend him. And so he must be guilty of something.

It would be easy for the Blazers to tell this guy that he's got to leave town. They're going to need lots of fan sympathy again this year -- especially among the rubes who dropped thousands thinking they were going to see Greg Oden. Another seven months of police blotter entries on Darius aren't going to help. And his influence on the young players of which the roster is full is bad news all around.

Wouldn't be doggone, I'd be long gone

Another bad weekend for me in the NFL underdog football has come and gone. There were several good picks to be had, and commenters here had them, but I decided to go with the majority view and ride on Tampa Bay, said to be "better on both sides of the ball" than Detroit. Gong!

Sebastian told me "Buff at home," but did I listen? No! Travis had Da Bearss, but he pointed out how it could go wrong, and so did I take them? No! My friend Gordon even e-mailed me Kansas City -- Gordon the Gambler! -- and did I heed his sage advice? No!

How to watch your 20 bucks fly away -- pick football games by committee.

Anyway, we're getting a bit anxious, as there's now someone 17 points ahead of us with only 10 weeks left in the regular season. The pool goes into the playoffs, but it's hard to make up ground there because the spreads are low and the picks are few. If we're going to win one of the two prizes, we're going to need much better skill and luck than before. And quickly -- otherwise, pretty soon we're going to have to start going with long bombs only.

Here are this week's 'dogs, in caps, with six of them playing at home. Pick one for us who's going to win their game outright, and tell us about it in the comments. If you were right last week, point that out as well. This week, the majority isn't necessarily going to rule my pick.

Remember, the 'dog has to win outright for me to get anywhere. Comments that allude to beating the spread aren't helpful. The points are there only to show what I'll get if I pick that underdog and they win:

16 WASHINGTON at New England
11.5 HOUSTON at San Diego
9.5 MIAMI vs. New York Giants
7.5 OAKLAND at Tennessee
6.5 CAROLINA vs. Indianapolis
5 DETROIT at Chicago
3.5 CINCINNATI vs. Pittsburgh
3 ST. LOUIS vs. Cleveland
3 BUFFALO at New York Jets
3 GREEN BAY at Denver
2.5 SAN FRANCISCO vs. New Orleans
1 MINNESOTA vs. Philadelphia

If I didn't know I was an idiot in these matters, I'd like Carolina to pull the big upset. They're on a roll, at home, and Indy can't go on forever. St. Louis has not played well, but they're at home against Cleveland -- is Cleveland any good? I'd even think about betting against San Diego given the wildfire situation, but Houston?

Betting against the Bears has been a good play this year, but can the Lions rise to the occasion? Niners at home? Green Bay coming off the bye looks good, and the Denver crowd will be distracted by the World Series, and so maybe there's some hay to be made there.

Let fly with your predictions, folks. And if you fed me six wrong picks last week (you know who you are), please try again, as it may tell me where not to go.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Welches con man -- now in Beaverton?

It looks as though David, our "Welches" con man from over the summer, may have changed venue to the western 'burbs. A reader writes:

Some guy came up to my car window by Trader Joe's in Beaverton Town Center at about 5 pm today. Similar sob story..."never had to do this before, etc." "Work at Merix in Forest Grove, heading to Gresham, ran out of gas over there..." Blazers ball cap, white with logo and blue or grey hooded sweatshirt. Relatively clean cut, maybe goatee stubble. Pretty sure it’s the same guy in your picture.

Same thoughts as you posted... Good Sam, WWJD, etc., but fortunately I'd seen the scam in the Oregonian and I asked him, "Are you the guy from the Oregonian?" He said, "No, what's that about?"

Who goes to Gresham from Forest Grove via downtown Beaverton anyway?

I hope the Beaverton authorities are more interested in the crime of theft by deception than the Portland police were.

If David went into that Trader Joe's and got caught shoplifting a $3 bag of potato chips, he'd be arrested. But if he cons $20 out of somebody in the parking lot, he'd get a free pass -- at least in Portland.

Grieved at their hardness of heart

I stopped going to church back in May. The despicable conduct of the Archdiocese of Portland in the child sex abuse scandals just got to be too much. Bankruptcy, jerking people around, holding back documents -- this is not the conduct of an organization that is truly sorry for the harm it has caused. Spare me the crocodile tears, but I can't give any more money to that. We're going to have to come up with some other way for our kids to learn about God.

Sometimes I wonder whether I've done the right thing by dropping out. But when I read garbage like this, I know that the divine Spirit is confirming for me that yes, of course I did.

The Catholic Church has been a sordid, international child sex abuse ring for years. Even if the priests have stopped having sex with young boys, the abuse continues. I'm glad I'm not bringing my kids in there any more.

Mark & Dave are still getting pounded

Over this.

I know one beer that I won't be drinking, ever again -- Samuel Adams!

UPDATE, 6:10 p.m.: Here's an interesting post that suggests that the folks at the brewing company, and not Mark and Dave, are actually violating the law.

Mark your calendar

I just got an e-mail notifying me of a sure-fire way to start things off right on Christmas Eve in 2008: Attend a Portland Development Commission board of commissioners meeting!

Bruce Warner will be handing out goodies to those developers who have been good all year.

East side, west side, all around the town

Transit-oriented thuggery continues.

Renee needs a break

O columnist Renee Mitchell has screwed up again. Barely had she recovered from wrecking a Starbucks manager's life over an alleged racist slur that wasn't intended as one, that she's now admitting that she misrepresented the facts in her highly charged but poorly written diatribe against alleged racism in the opposition to renaming Interstate Avenue after César Chavez.

In contrast with her nonapology in the Starbucks case, Ms. Mitchell is actually saying she's sorry in the Interstate case. But of course, she has to insist in the same sentence that the mayor apologize, too. And she takes this opportunity to point her finger one more time, whirling around at everyone else in the picture:

Approving the resolution also publicly acknowledges some mistakes were made. Potter's jam-it-'til-they-swallow process, for one, was wrong. The street renaming committee, which believed that the mayor's support was all that was necessary, is wrong.

The way some North Portland residents have layered their comments with racial undertones is wrong. Our city's lack of acknowledgement of Latino heroes -- through the naming of streets, schools or parks -- is wrong.

Creepy. And pitiful.

Ms. Mitchell, your story was wrong. And unfair. Now sit down.

I'm keenly aware of how hard it is to churn out Portland-centric content with a point of view, on a consistent basis. At times, one gets tired, or stumped for content, and in those situations the tendency is to fall back on a familiar theme. It's a dangerous tendency, because sometimes the story of the day doesn't fit the theme. I've proven it myself on this blog from time to time.

With Ms. Mitchell, her fallback when she's out of fresh ideas is to see racism everywhere, and to level charges of racism at various strangers in this very small town without careful reflection or good judgment about (a) the accuracy of the accusations, or (b) the reaction those charges will evoke. In both the Starbucks case and the Interstate case, the charges were not fairly verified. In one case, they destroyed a person's career. But the ever-present pressure of a deadline forced both stories into print before they were ready.

I have enjoyed and appreciated many of Ms. Mitchell's columns, but to me it looks as though she needs to get off the columnist treadmill and contribute to the newspaper in other formats. She's racked up two strikes in rapid succession, and one more could really wreck what minimal standing she has left.

Of course, one can imagine how difficult it would be for her superiors to move her off her current position. Because guess who would be branded as you-know-what.

They're gone

My Sunday morning post about the Bailey court case has fallen off the front page of fark.com, and so traffic on this site is gradually returning to normal. Both Sunday and yesterday were record days for numbers of visitors, all because of the fark link. Some other sites have picked up on the story, and so there will be some additional strangers coming in for a while to read it, but nothing like the 36 hours after the fark pointer first went up.

None of this is really all that noteworthy, except for the fact that the server on which this blog resides performed like a champ throughout the 29,000 page views on Sunday and more than 22,000 yesterday. If I had still been at my old web host, by now I would have been in a crisis, with the site crashing or the system administrator threatening to banish me for overusing resources. Thanks to my good friend at my current host, we just shrugged and went about our business as the traffic spiked.

Bloggers, if you decide to break out on your own server, let me tell you, whom you select to host your site makes all the difference in the world. Choose wisely, as I finally have.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Big trucks 2, cyclists 0

Sadly, another bicyclist has met his or her maker on a busy Portland street.

This is why I stay on the side streets. If I absolutely have to cruise on a main artery, I use the sidewalk. And I never ride downtown.

Don't say "Sam Adams for Mayor"

Because if you do, you're going to get your a*s sued off.

His and hers

First this. Now this. I'm gonna have nightmares for a week, at least.

Got Gocco?

If you're in Portland, it's nearby.

What's the price tag on Measure 26-93?

You can't argue with fair. Fair is good. Equitable is excellent.

Play fair. It's only fair. Fair and square. Fair is fair. Fair and balan... whoops.

Anyway, we all want to do the right thing, and that means doing what's fair. And the folks who have placed before us City of Portland Ballot Measure 26-93 know that's how we all feel. Thus, their sales pitch: This measure is fair.

It requires the city to provide medical benefits from its police and fire disability system for work-related injuries after an injured officer retires, for the rest of his or her life. Under current law, not all such officers get such benefits. Only those whose injury causes them to retire immediately get reimbursed for life for their medical bills stemming from work-related injuries. Any who return to work after recovering from the injury get such coverage while they're still working, but not after they retire.

The arguments in favor are listed in the mini-voters' pamphlet that came in the same envelope as our ballot the other day: The current rules create a disincentive for injured officers to come back to work, and most other workers in the state don't have such a restriction -- they get reimbursed for medical and hospital expenses arising from a work-related injury for life, even if they get back on the job.

And besides, the current setup's... unfair.

The City Council wants the change. The police and firefighters' unions want it, too. (Is that redundant?) And no one is speaking out against it.

No, I'm not going to break the ice in that regard, but I do have a few questions that no one's answering too clearly, at least not in what I've been reading about this:

1. How much is this going to cost? The voter's pamphlet states, "The monthly cost to the average residential property tax bill is estimated to be 92 cents." Gee, guys, why not say "3 cents a day"? "An eighth of a cent an hour!" How about a total number?

2. Does the 92 cents take into account potential savings on disability payments that won't have to be made when marginally disabled officers flock back to active duty? If so, what is the cost without those savings?

3. How many officers are currently out there refusing to come back to work even though they could, because they'll lose medical benefits?

4. The voters' pamphlet arguments assert that injured officers have no way to pay their post-retirement medical bills. But aren't retired officers eligible to buy medical insurance, through the city, through Medicare, or both? Wouldn't that insurance cover their on-the-job medical problems?

5. Has the city figured out yet what its unfunded actuarial liability is for post-retirement health care benefits? It recently said it had actuaries working on generating that number, which has never been made public before. Any chance we could hear what it is before we vote on this?

As I say, we all want to do what's fair. But it would also be nice to know what the heck we're going to have to pay, and what we're getting.

Super-creepy transit-oriented burglary

Here's a guy who's been stealing from dead people's homes -- and guess how he gets around:

Based on a tip, they discovered him hiding in a dilapidated trailer with dozens of newspaper obituary clippings and bus route maps to the homes of the newly deceased.
Can't say as I blame him. The bus system here is particularly good.

Buckle up

Could be another bad day for your 401(k).

The feds go after Oregon realtors

Here's an interesting development. The Bush Justice Department has embarked on a campaign to convince Americans that the real estate brokerage industry is anti-competitive. It's pushing to force some states to loosen up their laws regarding real estate brokers, in order to allow more competition and lower commissions.

One of the features of its new website is a state-by-state evaluation of various laws that restrict or allow what the feds call good competition in the industry. Oregon, for example, gets a green checkmark for "Allows choice of brokerage services," but a red X for "Prohibits brokers from offering rebates to consumers." The site explains:

Oregon law prohibits real estate brokers from paying part of their commission to unlicensed persons. As a result, because consumers do not have real estate licenses, Oregon law prevents them from receiving rebates. Oregon consumers are unable to benefit from rebates that consumers in other states may receive.

In the 2007 legislative session, Senate Bill 673 was introduced, addressing the ability of brokers to offer rebates. The legislative session ended without passage of SB 673.

Meanwhile, Washington State and California both get two green checkmarks on both issues, while Idaho gets a green checkmark for rebates but a red X for "Limits choice of brokerage services."

It's been my impression that real estate commissions are negotiable in Oregon, and that generally, you get what you pay for. Since the realtor's fee can be haggled down, does it really matter much that a price cut can't be styled as a rebate? Are we really that anti-competitive?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How soy chips and silicon chips are different

Word's out that there's not going to be a formal Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation into alleged anticompetitive conduct by Oregon's largest employer. That agency took a run at Whole Foods, but they're laying off on this one, at least for now. Meanwhile, other nations are throwing the book at Intel for allegedly squeezing AMD out of their mutual market.

Is this D.B. Cooper?

The other night I made a sarcastic crack about D.B. Cooper. But it looks as though I was on to something. He's very much in the news -- and his real name may be Ken Christiansen.

Here we go

We'll be bombing Iran soon. Before Christmas, or just after the first of the year? Hard to tell.

I've been farked!

Which definitely gets attention.

This would make an interesting ballot measure

With all the talk around Portland City Hall about biofuels a while back, did anybody mention that the city is paying a more-than-33 percent price premium for the biodiesel it's buying for its fleet?

Portland is using fuel blended with 50 percent biodiesel (B50) for the city's diesel fleet. Under a contract with Salem-based SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel -- Oregon's only biodiesel plant -- Portland officials agreed to pay the refinery and Madison the cost of production plus a little profit. That means the city will pay more than $4 a gallon for biodiesel, compared with about $3 for petroleum diesel.

City officials acknowledge that canola-based biodiesel costs more and that budget-minded consumers might go for cheaper blends.

But the city "wanted to create a dependable demand for the product," said Ty Kovatch, spokesman for City Commissioner Randy Leonard, one of Portland's chief biodiesel advocates. "We'd rather pay a premium for a product grown and refined in Oregon than get a good deal on something that comes from the Middle East or Venezuela."

One can debate whether the huge premium price, being paid to a Salem company and an eastern Oregon farmer, is money well spent. I just don't remember hearing about it at all up until now. Of course, the O has buried it way down in its story.

Your old junk could come back to haunt you

A good friend in the lawsuit business alerted us the other day to an important, recent decision of the Oregon Supreme Court that could reach down into the pockets of anyone in the state who has ever used Craigslist or a garage sale to unload used goods -- or anyone who's ever sold their home, for that matter. The case is Bailey v. Lewis Farm, Inc., and the full text of the court's opinion is here.

The facts of the case are pretty simple. May Trucking had a Paccar tractor-trailer that it drove about 500,000 miles over six years. Then it sold it to another party, who in turn sold it to Lewis Farms. About a year after May had gotten rid of the truck, the wheels came off on the highway due to an axle failure. They hit a car, which then crashed and burned, and the car's owner, Jerome Bailey, was badly hurt. Bailey sued Paccar, Lewis, and May. His allegations against May were that it had negligently failed to maintain the axle, and that that failure is what caused the awful accident.

May said it couldn't possible be liable to Bailey, because it sold the truck a year before the axle failure. Lewis was responsible for the safety of the vehicle it was operating, said May, and so May should be off the hook to Bailey. May moved to dismiss the case, arguing that even if it were negligent, it had no duty to Bailey, and that the harm Bailey suffered wasn't reasonably foreseeable when May owned the tractor-trailer.

No way, said the court. Just because Lewis had a duty to Bailey doesn't mean that May was relieved of its obligation to act reasonably in maintaining the truck. And of course the harm could be reasonably foreseeable -- if you let your truck run down without proper maintenance, it's no surprise if somebody gets hurt in an accident as a result.

And so back the case goes to Multnomah County Circuit Court, where May may very well have to pay up whatever damages Paccar and Lewis aren't covering -- at least if it's proven that May was negligent, and that its negligence caused the axle to fail. (Evidence on those points hasn't been presented yet.)

How far does the rule of this case go? Would it cover tools that you unloaded at a garage sale last year? How about the house you sold last year, or five years ago? Surely, it would cover that used car you got rid of, although the court hinted that maybe you'd be off the hook if the dangerous condition was obvious when you sold it, or if you traded the car in at a dealership.

What can you do to protect yourself? I doubt that your insurance covers it -- at least auto policies end when the vehicle is sold, and I'd be surprised if a standard homeowners policy wouldn't work the same way. There's no way to get a release in advance from everyone who might be hurt by breakdowns of your former stuff while it's in the hands of future owners whom you don't even know.

I suppose you could try to make the person who buys your junk sign a contract that says from here on out, they'll pay for any harm that's caused by problems with the stuff, even if it's due to crummy maintenance by you. Those ought to be some interesting negotiations. Particularly at the garage sale. And that contract's only as good as the future credit of the person you're dealing with. Heck, in a lot of cases you probably wouldn't even take their check.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Helpful update

Family recipes are wonderful things. Today the Mrs. is making Swedish meatballs from one of her cousin's recipes. It's supposed to be out of the 1959 Betty Crocker Cookbook, but we noticed that it's been adapted somewhat for modern cooks' sensibilities:

Selling conservation by the pound

Whenever we get political direct mail -- or "election porn," as we sometimes call it -- we like to blog about it and post some fun excerpts. Often the stuff is coming from groups with which we disagree, but on occasion it's from folks whom we consider to be the good guys.

Yesterday -- the same day we received our ballot form in the all-mail election from the county -- we got the Mother of All Election Porn, and lo and behold, it's from the good guys at Yes on 49. The political campaign artists have really outdone themselves this time, with a full-color, 8-by-10¼-inch, glossy, 16-page magazine about why we need to vote yes on 49.

For a group that's so interested in saving the forests, they've got no qualms about killing trees for paper, that's for sure. The darn thing is reminiscent of one of those slick little booklets that the car manufacturers throw around touting this year's model. Never has a Civic been made to look so much like a Jaguar.

Anyway, this is an impressive document. After testimonials by those five Oregonians designed to somehow mirror you and me and that farmer we used to know down in Amity, and following breathtaking photos of Oregon scenic beauty straight out of a tour guide, it runs a series of maps showing all the property on which Measure 37 claims are threatening ugly and destructive development. With each map comes some frightening revelations -- "new subdivisions equivalent to the size of 5⅓ Beavertons"; "21 subdivisions on 7,647 acres" in Yamhill County, "larger than McMinnville"; "nearly 25% of all the land zoned for Exclusive Farm Use" in the Hood River Valley "under a Measure 37 claim"; etc. The maps and text sections cover Washington County (two-page spread), Clackamas County (two pages), Portland (one page, including "Wal-Mart in Sellwood"), Hood River Valley and Central Oregon (half-page each), and the Willamette Valley (two pages), in that order.

I'll bet those space allotments and the order of the presentation of the maps are carefully calculated. If Measure 49 is going to pass, it's going to have to win in Washington and Clackamas Counties. Everybody with an ax to grind on this measure cares about those other wonderful places in the state, too, but the key votes are in the Portland 'burbs.

As powerful as the book is, maybe it's just a tad too impressive. When this much money is being thrown at us, with this corporate a package, with such a long list of big shots in favor, people like me who were once enthusiastic supporters start to feel uneasy. Pacificorp and Portland General Electric are voting yes, as well as the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and AFSCME. That ain't me, babe.

More importantly, this book makes it look as though the Measure 49 train is unstoppable, which could lead to a dangerous complacency. Measure 37 (which 49 unwinds) won big, and although the proponents of land use laws have an excellent ballot title this time and the benefit of being a "yes" vote, they cannot afford to have anyone who sympathizes with them sit this one out.

The worst part, of course, are these guys, who prove conclusively that this is no grassroots document, but another unctuous marketing piece put together by a Mark Wiener type:

It's like some sort of bizarre cult signal.

That said, I fervently hope that the literally millions of Nature Conservancy and Eric Lemelson and Phil Knight dollars that have been spent on this campaign are successful. I believe that the proponents of Measure 49 have it exactly right, and I'm a proud endorser of a yes vote on that ballot measure.

And as heavy-handed as this latest come-on is, it's more effective than the campaign flyer that I would have produced. Let's hope it works.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Closing the barn door

This is pretty funny. Next week they'll indict D.B. Cooper and finish up their Y2K planning.

Have a great weekend

Is Comcast violating "net neutrality"?

In a way, yes. And they may have started their practice right here in greater Portlandia:

Comcast subscriber Robb Topolski, a former software quality engineer at Intel Corp., started noticing the interference when trying to upload with file-sharing programs Gnutella and eDonkey early this year.

In August, Topolski began to see reports on Internet forum DSLreports.com from other Comcast users with the same problem. He now believes that his home town of Hillsboro, Ore., was a test market for the technology that was later widely applied in other Comcast service areas.

Time is truly wasting

It's getting on to be time to make a call in this week's underdog football pool. If you know pro football and want to help me break a streak of a couple of bad weeks, head over here and sound off with what you know.

Congressional throwdown over wiretapping

And Wyden's in the middle of it.

Portland urban renewal property tax jumps 14.7%

We got our property tax bill yesterday, and we were not surprised to see that it had risen substantially over last year's. We remembered that an expired school district levy had been voted back in, and that we had also voted to place a small band-aid on the severed carotid artery of money called the Portland police and fire pension fund. We figured an 8 to 10 percent overall increase was in the offing.

We were close, but we undershot it. The overall bill is up 11.36 percent.

The big surprise, however, comes elsewhere in the City of Portland category, where the wonderful line "Urban Renewal - Portland" shot up 14.72 percent above where it stood last year. You can be darn sure we didn't vote on that. It's particularly startling when held up next to the police and fire pension tax, which increased at exactly half that rate -- 7.36 percent. You wonder where your tax dollars are going? Read it and weep.

In the past, we've focused on what percentage of City of Portland property taxes goes toward "urban renewal." "Urban renewal's" share of the city's property tax pie has been creeping up steadily -- three years ago it was 18.9 percent, two years ago 19.17 percent, last year 20.53 percent. Well, now it's 22.24 percent of the city property tax levy, close behind the cop and fire pension tapper at 23.06 percent.

We're now to the point where 45.3 percent of the property taxes that the city collects -- at least from guys like us -- goes to "urban renewal" and police and fire pensions. Less than 55 percent of what the city gets from us in property taxes goes for anything else.

That is profoundly sad and scary at the same time.

A few other oddities: Tri-Met and Multnomah County bond levies are actually down from last year (did I hear somebody say "Sellwood Bridge"?); the Metro bond levy nearly doubled; the library tax jumped sharply, as did the PCC bond levy; and the tiny east county soil conservation levy more than doubled.

Well, enough of the dry facts and figures for now. We did a little spreadsheet for the wonkier among us, and here's a big piece of it:

"Urban renewal." Cop and fire pensions. Nearly half of all the city property taxes. Sheesh. But is it any wonder, really, when you look at our City Council? Two police and fire pensioners, a lapdog of the developers, and two other guys who never had real jobs. Pay up, people.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How far we've come

A reader sends along this one, which no doubt has been circulating on the internet for a while:

Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1957 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2007 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.
1957 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2007 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1957 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 - Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.
1957 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.
2007 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant mound.
1957 - Ants die.
2007 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1957 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2007 - Physical activity during recess is banned. Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Anyone got the source on this one?

Save that kicker check

You'll be needing it to fix your car.

Show what you know

This author's got a bunch of questions, and I know our readers can answer some of them.

Mutual back-scratching

Here's a funny bit from a new e-mail message from my friend Greg Macpherson, who's running for state attorney general:

Rep. Macpherson was appointed last month to the Oregon Law Commission by House Speaker, Jeff Merkley.

"I'm honored by this appointment to serve with leading Oregon attorneys on the improvement of our state's laws," Rep. Macpherson said. "The Oregon Law Commission provides an important service by tackling difficult issues." The Commission's recent projects include governmental ethics reform, how paternity is determined, and uninsured motorist statutes.

Merkley's running for the U.S. Senate. He and Macpherson are both strongly endorsing each other in their respective races. Jeff appointing Greg to a commission is a little like Bush naming Cheney "Hunter of the Year."

In the klink

If you're hankering to know who's been locked up (or released after booking) in Multnomah County lately, you're in business with the county's new "inmate data" website. The search box asks for a name, but if you just enter a letter in the last name field, you get everyone with a last name beginning with that letter. Fascinating stuff, although they apparently don't show you people who've been released more than a week ago.

And hey, you folks in the burbs can play, too. Both Washington and Clackamas Counties have similar sites. It looks like WashCo only lets you in on the action from the last 24 hours, though -- plus no mug shots, which is half the fun.

Happy browsing!

Looking good while saving lives

A reader writes:

Well you don't typically put "Portland" and "fashion" in the same sentence, but check out the November issue of Esquire magazine to see a few of the Portland Mountain Rescue volunteers decked out in Gucci and Prada with Mt. Hood as a back drop. This link shows one of the photos: http://www.esquire.com/style/.

Why Portland is going broke

Shinola like this and this.

I love the "nonprofit" entities that the Good Old Boys stick in these scams. If I were a young IRS agent out to make a name for myself, I'd be paying those fine "charities" a call.

A warm, embracing dance away

Thirty-nine years ago this evening, at a Friday night dance in the darkened gym of a Catholic girls' high school in Jersey City, I met my first truly serious girlfriend. Oh, it was love at first sight, a match made in heaven, love forever, etc.

Well, it was the teenage the equivalent of that, which is to say it went on for three or four years.

How do I remember the exact date? When it's that serious, you vow to remember that magical night forever.

What else happened that day? Let's see, a police raid on John Lennon and Yoko Ono's flat found 168 grams of marijuana... the U.S. Olympic Committee suspended two black athletes for giving a "black power" salute during a victory ceremony at the Mexico City games.... Bob Beamon set a world record of 8.90m in the long jump there... Lisa Chappell was born... a Laotian soldier shot and wounded a United States Embassy official because he thought he saw a ghost... Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy dined on roast suckling pig aboard the yacht Christina, anchored in a secluded bay off the island of Skorpio's...

Funny thing, I don't remember any of that stuff. But I will always remember that night.

Ron Paul as Nader

Steve Stark says that if a conservative third-party candidate shows up, the Republicans are toast in '08:

[T]he election may be a repeat of 1992. Though Democrats like to forget it, Bill Clinton was an enormously damaged candidate that year because of the personal scandals surrounding his candidacy. It’s debatable whether he could have won a two-way general election. But 43 percent in a three-person field? That was child’s play, as a three-way race would be for Hillary next year.

It's not for everyone

Nor is it safe for work! But this post tells an interesting tale. (Via Pinktalk.)

OHSU study: High school drug testing doesn't help much

"In reality, kids are using just as many drugs and the administrators are walking around in their dream world.''

Curious come-on

Here's a funny one that popped into the old e-mail inbox yesterday -- a message from the mayor:

Gee whiz. Merkley's obviously the party establishment's candidate in the primary. He's got the bigwig endorsements already, and I thought he was supposed to have some big national money already committed. But now he's the "grassroots" guy?

The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it is natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.
And he needs me to give him my friends' e-mail addresses, presumably so that he can hit them up for dough? Add this one to the Think I'll Pass series.

You know hoo

... gets us into this morning's Times.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When a Wild Oats lease expires

This one in Tennessee isn't being renewed by the new owners, Whole Foods. There had been a bit of suspense about that one over the past month or so. But there shouldn't have been -- they're opening a Whole Foods about a quarter of a mile away.

Tell the customers what you think of them

This ought to generate some fun reading. (Although they had better change their template, because some of us won't read white on black.)

Great template, still filling

Beerdrinker.org has a new look.

Dear China

Buzz off.

Your friends,
The United States of America

You can't handle it

For this is where we are in the United States, nearing the end of the Year of Our Lord 2007: the truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed. To attempt to speak the truth on any subject of importance requires a deep reserve of determination, for to speak the truth requires that one first sweep away an infinite number of rationalizations, false alternatives, and numerous other failures of logic and the most rudimentary forms of thought -- as well as the endless lies. On that single occasion in a thousand or a million when a person overcomes these barriers and speaks the truth, he or she discovers an additional, terrible truth: almost no one wants to hear it. This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them, we would die, certainly in psychological terms.
The whole thing is here.

One that got away

I read with sadness that Judge James Oakes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has died. Judge Oakes is the main reason I'm in Portland -- in quite a backhanded way. In 1977, when I was in law school, I interviewed to be his law clerk the following year. It would have been a plum job -- living in Brattleboro, Vermont; working for a leading judge who seemed like quite a special person; and spending one week a month in New York City -- and after the interview, I thought for sure I had landed it.

But I was wrong. The good-news call never came; the letter did. He hired someone else.

And so back onto the market I went, eventually securing a clerkship with a Ninth Circuit judge in the obscure burg of Portland, Oregon, a place on which I had never laid eyes when I accepted the job. The rest is history. The Portland judge turned out to be one of the great figures in my life, and the town and its surroundings completely knocked me out. I decided to stay, and that's going on 30 years ago.

Judge Oakes, wherever you may be now, nothing personal, but thanks for rejecting me. And may you rest in peace.

Family ties

I am not making this up: Obama and Cheney are cousins!

The spokesman for Obama had a classic response: "Every family has a black sheep."

Nothing new under the sun

I got a kick out of these recent stories from my old east coast stomping grounds: They're kicking several Jersey City, N.J. municipal judges off the bench for fixing parking tickets for their friends, and even themselves.

OMG, someone fixing tickets in Jersey City? I'm shocked -- shocked!

I mean, come on. What's the point? That's the way it works back there. You can put everyone who does it in jail, and within a year, their successors will be doing exactly the same thing. It's a way of life. Deciding once every 10 or 20 years to bust a few of the many practitioners of this age-old craft -- more or less at random -- is kind of silly.

The funniest part of the whole caper is what one of the Hudson County Superior Court judges had to say about it: "The shadow that has been cast over the integrity of the Jersey City Municipal Court is unacceptable." As the kids say, ROTFLMAO.

Sam and Ted's regressive adventure

Now that the Mean Girls have been broken up, guess who are the new Best Friends around the schoolyard. It's the next Portland mayor, Sam the Tram, and the rookie county chair, Ted Wheeler. They're whistling happy tunes together all of a sudden, and they've got some fascinating ideas for the local tax system.

According to these guys, the venture capital firms are paying too much local tax, and the rest of us are paying too little. And so the venture capitalists will get a tax cut, and the rest of us will pay more.

Doesn't sound very "progressive," does it?

They might have floated these two proposals a little further apart, to make the contrast a little less obvious, but they're out there promoting both of them simultaneously. On the venture capitalists, here's how it was reported the other day in the PBJ*:

Portland and Multnomah County may soon kill a local business income tax on capital gains.

Both the City Council and County Commission are expected to approve the change later this month. If they do, venture capital firms will no longer pay a combined 3.65 percent tax on the gains made by investing in small companies. The change will rectify what venture capitalists say has been unfair treatment that has driven them out of town.

Well, gee, guys, if they're not going to pay taxes, then why the heck do we want them in town?

On the other side of this coin -- us little folk who work for a living -- the tax increase would come in the form of a new package of taxes and fees that the city and county are proposing to pay for transportation needs. The Tramster outlined some of this in the Trib last weekend, but it includes (a) a 3 cents per gallon city gas tax; (b) a $4.50 a month "street safety and maintenance fee," which would be on every household's water and sewer bill, plus a business fee ranging from $27 to more than $700 a month, depending on the size of the property and the number of vehicle trips it generates; and (c) either a county vehicle registration fee or a county general obligation bond, which would eventually get paid off by property taxes.

For a while, the city's part of this was being described as either the gas tax or the household "fee." But heck, we never saw a tax we didn't like, and so Sam the Tram figures, let's go for both.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, we got another direct mail piece on the city's transportation "problems" (downgraded from a "crisis," apparently) yesterday. The latest is a four-page full-color job, reminiscent of the inserts that were stuck in a bunch of neighborhood newspapers last month, only smaller. The text is mostly new, and now the county's name and logo have have been added to the sales pitch:

These things just keep coming at you. It's the second direct mail piece we've gotten on the subject, and as noted here before, we've also seen many (seemingly illegal) signs tacked onto utility poles touting "open houses" on it. Not to mention the robo-phone call that we received one day, steering us to one such meeting. The expenses on this promotional effort must be well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As I've declared on this blog previously, in theory I don't have a problem with the gas tax. The current gas tax, set as a fixed number of cents per gallon, hasn't been adjusted even for general inflation, much less at the rate of inflation for fuels, since forever. Indeed, I wold hope that if it passes, the 3-cents-a-gallon city tax would be automatically increased or decreased (say, once a year) to track changes in the price of gas. I would be opposed to the street fee, though. It isn't fair to tax those elderly folk who mostly stay at home and walk wherever they go, to pay for streets. And besides, the Portland water and sewer bills are already enough to make one faint upon opening them; adding another $13.50 per quarter is going to wind up giving someone a heart attack.

And then there's the matter of all the wasteful spending on the streetcar system, which is costing the city something like $1.6 million a year to operate, and will wind up rising to over $2 million if we implement the the ridiculous plan to extend it to the east side. As long as we're hellbent on wasting money on that toy, I'm inclined to vote no on all of the taxes and fees. And it looks as though we'll all get a chance to have our say, as this tax package is apparently going to be sent to the voters in May.

The "tell us what you think" line in the literature is a hunk of phony baloney. The city's made up its mind, the county's on board, Sam and Ted are going to do their seven open houses, and you can be darn sure that a referendum on this plan is a done deal. No matter "what you think" at this point.

But probably the saddest part of the relentless sales pitch is the tired "for the children" aspect of it all. Everywhere you turn on the flyer, there they are:

Sam and Ted -- dudes -- I think I'm gonna hurl. Especially you, Ted. Please, please be different.

* - No, that's not Peanut Butter and Jelly.

A mulligan for Streetcar Smith

Another triumph for the City of Portland's "voter-owed elections," the wonderful system that funnels that "clean (property tax) money" to pay for politicians' junk mail and attack ads. The "system," having been tweaked and tweaked over the past year and change, is now off to another flying start in the second election in which it's being played with.

Yesterday we read in the Trib that three candidates in next year's City Council election have already broken the rules, but the city auditor has decided that he can simply, and unilaterally, just waive the rules and let them all slide. Not surprising when one considers that among the offenders is the darling of the existing City Council, Chris "Streetcar" Smith -- tool of the condo developers who essentially run the spendthrift city government. If he doesn't win, Opie, Sam the Tram, and Fireman Randy will cry for a week.

It's especially ironic given that last time around, when a couple of the campaigns had obviously committed fraud, the city decided to disqualify one of them on relatively minor technicalities instead. Now, when their boy is caught screwing up, the city can simply declare that rules are made to be broken. It's a "work in progress," you see.

Nice machine! Back east, we used to call this kind of thing "corruption." In Portland, it's called "progressive government."

Political commentator Jim Moore said the incident raises troubling ethical questions about the way Blackmer is administering the program. Blackmer co-sponsored the program with city Commissioner Erik Sten.

"Ethically, it’s really troubling to change the rules after the campaign has already started. It means the program is not strictly adhering to a set of rules, but is being manipulated by an official who has a stake in it," said Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Ethical troubles? In Portland? Whoever said that must be a grouchy old crank.

How come my 'dog don't bark?

Man, was I ever wrong in the pro football Underdog Pool last weekend. I agonized between Houston and Tennessee, finally going with Houston, and both of them blew. The pick of the week was Carolina, and several readers here urged me in that direction. Alas, I paid them no mind, figuring that the quarterback turmoil on that team was a bad thing to under-estimate. Was I ever wrong!

I continue to lose ground to the leader of the pack in the season-long pool, but hope springs eternal. Here's the rundown for the weekend ahead (underdogs in caps), and some stupid thoughts that immediately pop into my head. Remember, the point spreads are operative only in determining what I get if I pick a winner. My team has to be an underdog that wins its game outright, and I get to pick only one:

16.5 MIAMI vs. New England
9.5 SAN FRANCISCO at New York Giants
9.5 MINNESOTA at Dallas
9 ATLANTA at New Orleans
8.5 ST. LOUIS at Seattle
8 ARIZONA at Washington
6.5 NEW YORK JETS at Cincinnati
5 CHICAGO at Philadelphia
3.5 DENVER vs. Pittsburgh
3 BUFFALO vs. Baltimore
3 JACKSONVILLE vs. Indianapolis
3 KANSAS CITY at Oakland
2.5 TAMPA BAY at Detroit
1 HOUSTON vs. Tennessee

Mostly road dogs, which is scary. I'm thinking the Bears might snap out of it. Otherwise, I'd throw a long bomb with the Jets or even the Niners. But mostly, I'd like to have a winner, even if it only gains me only 3 points. Those zeroes I'm stringing together hurt worst of all.

Ted's "testy" again

Our governor has never been polite when asked what he had heard, and when, about his former political mentor's now-documented sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl. When asked about it in 2004, the governor angrily denied that he had heard even a rumor about it a decade before.

Now he's past angry denial -- he's into angry walking off the stage. Here's the video from KGW.

In Ted's case, he probably had no duty to report a rumor. But he did have a duty to the public to admit, when asked about it, if he had heard one and did nothing about it. If he lied, he deserves the heartache he's getting, and then some.

And if he thinks reporters are going to stop asking about it -- that he can just act mad and brush them off -- he's delusional.

Old Lars Larson, who's started the latest episode of this soap opera, has great timing. It is just in time for the upcoming election, in which the gov has championed two statewide ballot measures, including one "for the children." Think that's a coincidence?

The current state investigation into Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto over related accusations has really turned the heat back up under the governor. I'm sure old Bernie has gotten a couple of phone calls explaining to him that he needs to spend more time with his family (or with some woman and her family), but he's not even facing up to his own foibles, much less taking the fall for the guv's. And so the show goes on.

The governor's certainly not asking for my advice, but I'll offer it anyway: Ted, you look really bad. You're acting as if you can't bring yourself to tell the lies any more. Why don't you try walking up to the microphone and telling the truth? If it costs you your current job, you know the Neil Network will find you another one. The Port, OHSU, Tri-Met, Metro, the Lottery, PacifiCorp, the gas company... you know. If you've been living a lie, get it off your back and live out your days in peace.

(Via Metroblogging Portland.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Heartfelt sentiments

Here's a blog that's not work-safe -- heck, it's not anywhere-safe. I'm surprised the authors let it lapse, though; I would have had enough entries to keep it going for years. (Via Tales from the Stump.)

How Mackey screwed up

The Whole Foods founder and CEO's ill-fated foray into anonymous postings on chat boards gets a thoughtful once-over in this post. The author also considers the downsides of being an instant pundit, and how your job might have a legitimate influence over what you say in your private life.

Dead heat

There are two sentences vying for the honor of most telling quotation of the day -- one because it expresses the truth so well, and the other because it's so utterly absurd.

First, the sublime:

Sports passions and longstanding rivalries can unhinge even the most circumspect, well-adjusted people, as my e-mail messages regularly attest.

Then, the ridiculous:

Redeveloping the post office has always been one of my top priorities, and I want to make sure we have enough money to do it right.
What a clown. "Have... money"? I split a gut on that one.

Cleaning up YouTube

Google says it's got a way to prevent, effectively and efficiently, the many copyright hassles that its YouTube service creates. But apparently the solution requires the content owners to turn over copies of all their goods to Google!

Meanwhile, Google's marketing experts have devised a new logo for the company. Although it has not been released to the public, insiders at the normally secretive corporation have leaked a preliminary version into the blogosphere.

Dirty money

I see my old buddy (not) Rep. David Wu has been caught in his familiar pose -- looking sleazy. People give him money -- he becomes the champion of their interests in Congress -- and it's all just a coincidence.

Uh huh.

Wu's latest embarrassment is that some of the clothing he's been pushing to the Pentagon for one of his little banker buddies, InSport, turns out to be hazardous to the troops. He's "horrified," he says. But I think his horror comes more from being busted for taking payoffs than about the technical problems with the T-shirts.

The story, broken by the Seattle Times yesterday, also clears up a little mystery that cropped up in one of our own blog posts a while back. Remember Terry Aarnio, the Oregon Iron Works guy who's landed the contract for streetcar pork? He's a red-meat Bush man, but I noted that he's also dumped some campaign contribution dough on people like Washington's Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Brian Baird.

In the Times story, we find out part of what he got for his money: fat subcontracts on boats that the Navy builds and then throws away -- the prime contractor being something called Guardian Marine, which also writes the big campaign contribution checks to Murray and Baird. Both of those fine lawmakers have slipped "earmarks" into bills to insure that Guardian and Oregon Iron Works got the lucrative contracts, some of which seem awfully wasteful.

All in day's work on the Hill, I suppose.

Preview of the next 100 years

When you owe somebody billions of dollars, eventually they start telling you what to do and what not to do.

Opie's thinking "outside the box" again

"The box" being common sense, of course. I'm all for trying to help the David Douglas School District, but making it part of an urban renewal district that's 10 miles away has got to be illegal on about three different levels -- especially under Measure 5, which when last I heard had something in it about diverting nonschool funds for schools that have maxed out their levy.

But hey, this is Portland City Hall, where the more ridiculous the idea is, the warmer a reception it gets. Free wi-fi, taking over PGE, forcing Comcast to share its cables, turning the coliseum into a fitness center, clean money campaign financing -- none of it ever works, but we blow millions studying it all and trying it on for size. It's not a surprising outcome when a humanities major with no real-world experience gets seniority in a government job.

Meanwhile, if the Pearl and the River District are so successful that they don't need their urban renewal money any more, then it's time to close down the applicable urban renewal districts and start paying off their debts -- not keep them open and divert the funds for other purposes. It's crazy enough to expect the Portland Development Commission to learn on the fly how to play affordable housing agency without also suddenly making it a local education finance authority.

I tell ya, If Hillary would promise to give Opie a high-paying position in her administration, I'd hold my nose and vote for her. It's that bad.

SoWhat fun facts

The Portland parks folks keep posting amendments to the request for bids on the design work for the new poodle poop park in the SoWhat district. Lots of interest in that project, I guess. In answering prospective bidders' questions, the city reveals some interesting facts about the emerging condo tower jungle "neighborhood" down there:

Q - Is the neighborhood sufficiently developed and occupied to have a representative constituency involved in the process?

A – The newly developing South Waterfront District is part of the more established greater South Portland Neighborhood. The City has held off on developing this park a few extra years than originally planned in order to allow some of the development in the District to occur for that very reason. It’s hard to say if the existing District population is representative or not. Residents of the greater South Portland Neighborhood will also be involved in the public involvement process.

The Meriwether and John Ross Condominiums are the only completed residential buildings so far, although the Atwater will be opening a few units by the end of 2007. There are approximately 500-550 people living in the Meriwether and John Ross Condominiums currently, with approximately 25 more residents moving into the Atwater Condominiums by the end of December 2007. All 245 units of the Meriwether Condominiums have been sold. Approximately 60 units, out of 303, are still for sale in the John Ross Condominiums. The Atwater Condominiums include 212 units. There are also several other projects breaking ground in the District that will be completed prior to the June 30, 2009 date.... There are approximately 1,100-1,200 employees currently working in the District, excluding construction employees. The entire build out is projected to be 5,000 residential units, with 788 units designated as affordable housing, and 10,000 employees.

The City bureaus involved in planning and development can provide information for projects that have started their planning processes and those that are designated to be particular housing and employment types, so we are working with the best projected demographics available at the time we start the park project. However, projected demographics will not be available for a good portion of the district further from the park site that is several years out from being developed....

Q – Is the site designated a “brownfield”?

A – PDC did use some EPA Brownfield funds for cleanup based on a prior Phase 1 and Phase 2 performed at the site which indicated some recognized environmental conditions; so technically it was a "brownfield" at that time. However, they removed all suspect and unforeseen environmental issues during their demolition and cleanup, obtained a DEQ “No Further Action” determination with no limitations on reuse. Therefore, today, the site would be considered a "greenfield". An average of three to five feet of clean fill was imported to raise the entire site, so PDC feels very confident that there are no issues (even latent) that will be uncovered during the park project. No limitations on design, construction or use.

Monday, October 15, 2007

And she's off

Amanda Fritz has her campaign website up, in addition to her blog. She's going to be one busy gal in the months ahead.

Tek's being sold

This is a serious story. An important local company is about to get swallowed up by a big outfit back east. Not the best economic news the area has ever received.

No Fish for you

Nick Fish just sent me a statement that says he won't be running again for the Portland City Council, at least not this time around. He writes:

Today I am formally announcing that I will not be a candidate for Portland City Council.

My love for Portland, and my passion for public service, made this a very difficult decision. However, the need to focus at this time on my family, my law practice, and my commitment to public affairs programming on KRCW and to community service outweighs the need to run for public office now.

This decision does not foreclose a future race. I intend to stay engaged in the public debate about the best ways to move our city forward.

For now, I want to devote my time to working on issues I care deeply about – providing access to justice, eliminating discrimination in the workplace, promoting civic engagement, advocating for the arts, ensuring that Portland remains senior-friendly, and developing affordable housing for all of our citizens.

I am grateful for my family and my friends and all those who continue to support my public and private aspirations.

Earth friends

It's Blog Action Day, when we're supposed to say a word or two about the environment. I'd like to send a shout out to these guys. If you don't have them working for you, you really ought to give it a shot.

The Neil legacy lives on

Here's an ugly one. But what's good for the sheriff should be good for the governor, I suppose.

Attention procrastinators

If you didn't get your act together on your taxes last April, and you got your automatic six-month extension for filing your 2006 return, a reminder: Today's the deadline.

But relax. You've still got an hour before the post office closes.

New York City

It ain't Portland.

Portland vs. Seattle city debt: It's not even close

During our recent series on the long-term debt of the City of Portland, some commenters wrote in to tell me I should express my opinion on the optimum level of municipal debt per resident. I didn't take that bait, but I surmised that $7,842.47 per resident, which is where the city stands at last reckoning, was too high. Some asked for a comparison with other cities. I replied that I wasn't sure how relevant that would be. Remember what your grandma used to tell you about what not to do if your friend jumps off a bridge.

Relevance questions aside, the prospect of a comparison did pique my curiosity. And so I put in a call to folks at the City of Seattle, who were nice enough to steer me to all the documents one needs to get a picture of the municipal debt situation up there. They issued a huge wad of refinancing and construction bonds back in April, and the "official statement" (bond sales document) for that borrowing provides some excellent data. Then there's the massive "comprehensive annual financial report" for 2006. Between the two documents, you get a decent look at Seattle's finances.

They're in way better shape than we are in Portland.

First and foremost, their employee pensions are actually pretty well funded. They show an unfunded pension liability of $225.8 million, which is a far cry from Portland's $1.8 billion (with a "b") unfunded police and fire pension liability. There's an additional twist here, however: Seattle has an old police and fire pension system, changed back in the early '70s, that's still paying benefits to police and firefighters from the good old days. The city does not label the liabilities of that system as "unfunded," but based on what the financing documents say, it appears that in essence they are. (The firefighters' fund gets a share of the state tax on fire insurance premiums, and the city has started a small sinking fund for some of the liabilities, but it's not clear how much of the benefits really come from city taxpayers on an ongoing basis -- probably most of them.) If you treat the actuarial liability of those pension programs as completely unfunded, Seattle's pension debt goes up to $499.6 million.

As for long-term bonds and other long-term liabilities, Seattle comes in at $3.48 billion -- higher than Portland's $2.61 billion, but there's a big asterisk there. Seattle has public power -- the city owns and operates the power delivery system up that way. And if you subtract out long-term debt for the power system, which you'd have to do in order to make an apples-to-apples comparison to Portland (where we residents also pay off the private power companies' debts, as well as the city's), you get a long-term debt total for Seattle of $2,078,530,528 (not including pensions). Pensions and other long-term indebtedness together come to $2,578,130,528.

I guess I hadn't thought about it in a while, but Seattle doesn't have many more people within its city limits than Portland does. Its most recent population estimate is 578,700, compared to Portland's 562,690. When you divide the Seattle long-term debt by the population, you come to a debt of $4,455.04 per resident. That's nowhere near what the debt per capita comes to down here. If you don't count the Seattle power bonds (and again, you shouldn't), Portland residents are saddled with much more in per capita city liabilities than Seattle residents are -- something like 76 percent more.

Just to placate the naysayers out there, I've also run the Seattle numbers with the power company debt included. Emerald City residents are still better off than Rose City dwellers, even in that apples-to-oranges comparison. Their total pension and long-term debt comes to $3,987,345,528, compared to Portland's total, which is about $425 million higher. In other words, even if the entire Seattle power system suddenly stopped generating money and all its assets became worthless, the residents up there would still be left holding a smaller bag than Portland residents are now. Seattle's long-term debt per resident, counting the power system's bonds, is $6,890.18.

As I've said, I'm not all that keen on the comparative approach to managing one's finances. Just because my next door neighbor has run up $60,000 on credit cards shouldn't make me comfortable with the fact that I've run up only $40,000. But if you think you're going to feel better about the City of Portland's obscene debt load by looking to a place like Seattle, forget it.

Reader poll: New name for an east sider?

Given all the commandments he's been bringing down from Mount Scott, we've been thinking about changing Fireman Randy's blog nickname to Moses. This would be in keeping with our recent change of Opie's name to Richie Rich. Do you think it's a good idea?

Should we officially switch Randy Leonard's nickname on this blog from "Fireman Randy" to "Moses"?
Keep "Fireman Randy"
Switch to "Moses"
pollcode.com free polls

Wyden health care plan makes national splash

It isn't exactly news, but the attention it's getting may be. This description of it is pretty sketchy, but it sounds as though you wouldn't be insured through work any more, and you'd be guaranteed at least a minimum level of coverage. It looks from this as though Earl the Pearl and Hawk Baird are also behind it.

Some of the heavy fine print is here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dark hours

It's been a tough weekend here in town. The other night we had a major vigil for the young gal who was killed on her bicycle. Tonight a much smaller ceremony was held for the fellow who was run down by a motor home on Friday. Our reader in the neighborhood captured a moment on his camera:

Walkin' on sunshine

A nice little road win for the Blazers.

Opportunity knocks for undocumented workers

They do the jobs Americans don't want.

Civil rights leader

it's e e cummings's birthday

and if he were alive today

to behold the beauty of the internet

how happy (whee)

he would be

to see

that in so many contexts


capitalize any more.

Beavers, Beavers, fighters through and through

Real life had me in its grasp yesterday afternoon and last night, and I regret to say I didn't see the Beavers beat Cal, ranked second in the nation, in football. Awesome! That kicker guy (one of my favorite athletes anywhere) was in on it, I bet.

What an unpredictable league this year. First Stanford over USC, and now this.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Next freedom we'll lose: Travel

You'll have to ask permission from the feds 72 hours before you get on an airplane.

Will somebody tell me what in heaven's name has become of America?

Old friend

Paul Simon turns 66 today.

Can anything stop Google's meteoric rise?

Eventually, yes.

What could be clearer?

When a conservative like David Brooks tells you she's the next Alexander Hamilton or Abraham Lincoln, you need to run, not walk, away from Hillary. Bill was the best Republican President of our lifetime, and she won't be any better.

This way to the Promised Land

Wal-Mart fights property taxes all over the country

And scroll down -- some communities are so anxious to get a Wal-Mart that they subsidize its construction.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sad, sad night in Portland

The MSM has these stories, but...

... our readers have the photos. The victim of the apparently intentional hit-and-run near NE 60th and Prescott this afternoon can be seen in these pictures, taken by an alert, regular reader who lives near the scene of the crime. I saw at least two TV news satellite uplink trucks out there for the evening news, but by then it was all over.

And here are those red light cameras at SW Fourth and Jefferson, which a reader photographed yesterday:

Had I known how hot a story they'd be, why, I would have posted the shot immediately.

The cams busted a lot of people today, but the police are letting them all go with a warning. By this time next week, people will mostly have shaped up. Better compliance, but not much ticket revenue. Can't have it both ways, I guess.

Trib drops editorial early: Bernie should resign

In a rare move, today the Portland Tribune posted an editorial on line four days before it was scheduled to run in its dead-tree edition. Message: Sheriff Bernie Giusto should resign immediately.

Have a great weekend

The holding pattern for boondoggles is getting crowded

Oh boy. As if Portland isn't in deep enough hock. Now they're getting ready to appoint a "blue ribbon panel" -- of Good Old boys, no doubt -- to "champion" a "public-private partnership" to buy up big chunks of contaminated property along the Willamette River in Portland and turn it over to a "master developer." The panel will have people on it from the Portland Development Commission, Metro, the Port, and Governor Ted's office.

Sounds like Neil Goldschmidt's Rolodex. And here's what they'll be up to:

The Master Developer would be responsible for negotiating purchase sale agreements with individual property owners in order to gain control of multiple parcels of land and would perform vertical build out in accordance with a development plan for the area. This improves economies of scale for remediation and redevelopment by having one entity in control....

The STAMP team recommends the creation of a legal entity in which all 25 properties could be transferred to, this could be a public/private partnership. This new legal entity would manage and finance the remediation of upland environmental liabilities, geotechnical engineering, infrastructure development and vertical build out.

The STAMP Team Feels that this option benefits the current property owners because it allows them to deal with upland environmental liability by pooling government resources and using disposition and lease proceeds to offset a portion of or all of the cost....

You might want to head down to the Arlington Club some afternoon in the near future and watch your tax money get sucked in.

Double whammy

While we're all reeling from yesterday's news that Portland's been rated the third most toxic city in the United States, today I notice that Oregon's pollution control tax credits are about to expire at the end of the year. That doesn't sound very good -- at one time the state was in the forefront on those tax incentives. What happened?

It's not that simple sometimes

Before you run off and use someone's photo based on a Creative Commons license, you might want to think about this. (Via The Fire of Genius.)

On a related note, links from others are a big part of what bloggers crave. But is that compensation enough for someone stealing your content?

Speak now or forever hold your dog

Time is running out for my weekly pick in the pro football underdog pool. If you know about such things and haven't weighed in yet, please do so here.

Portland tax levy appears back on the rise

The other day, as part of our examination of the City of Portland's financial health, we noted that the city's tax levy apparently declined slightly last year (2006-2007) below what it was the year before (2005-2006). Now that the current year's tax roll (2007-2008) has been published by the county, we thought we'd try to see in which direction the city's levy is moving this year, and by how much.

It looks as though it's going up. Adding up six "categories of City of Portland" tax levy in the county's new figures, we come up with a grand total of property taxes this coming year of $378,265,819.40, which would be about a 4.2 percent increase over the $363,073,000 shown in the city's recent bond offering document as the tax levy for last year.

Over the past seven years (including last year's down year), the city's tax levy had grown at a compound rate of about 5.01 percent a year. And so this coming year's increase, while notable, is still less on a percentage basis than it's been over the medium-term past. Keep in mind that over the last seven years, the city's long-term debt has risen at the compound rate of 6.66 percent per year, and so property tax growth still lags well behind growth in long-term liabilities.

If I've got my math right (and since the city and mainstream media are studiously avoiding me, I can only hope), the city's long-term debt of $4.4 billion is roughly 11.7 times the coming year's property tax levy. In other words, you could take every single penny of the city's property tax levy this year, and take that same amount annually for more than another decade, and it wouldn't pay off even the principal on the city's existing long-term liabilities, much less principal and interest. That money's all been spent.

For the record, the six categories of Portland property taxes that we added up to get to our $378.3 million total were labeled as follows by the county: City of Portland; City of Portland Children's Local Opt.; City of Portland Parks Local Opt. and (related) Bonds; and Urban Renewal - Portland and (related) Bonds (the last category being zero). If the city levy includes something else, I hope savvy readers will let me know.

Although our property tax bill typically breaks out separate lines called "City of Portland - Bonds" and "Portland Police/Fire Pension," the county spreadsheet does not do so. I assume that those two are somehow subsumed into one or more of the six categories I have found. Please let me hear about it if I've got it screwed up.

It wasn't just Georgia

The political witch hunting from the Rove Justice Department extended to other states as well.

Dear John Kroger

Please clip this story for your "to do" file.

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize, but...

Bush immediately appeals to the Supreme Court; Justice Clarence Thomas issues an injunction against holding the award ceremony pending a further hearing.

Interesting exchange

Stark: "Obama, get over yourself."

Obama: "O.k."

Smart housing for kitties

This Portland company made its way into a recent writeup in the Times.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sit, lie, sleep...

It's all o.k. in L.A., at least for a good long while.

Slim Jim boycott succeeds

Our suggestion this morning turned into a groundswell of grassroots action, and suddenly we've brought the mighty ConAgra to its knees. The power of blogging!

The clerk at our local 7 Eleven on NE Broadway reported zero sales of Slim Jims all day. "We usually get one guy who comes in for a couple in the middle afternoon, and usually some Camel Lights," he said, "but he didn't show up today."

Law enforcers, or law obstructors?

The Portland police are arrogant lawbreakers sometimes. Not only do they kill people without reason, but then they behave like jerks when they get sued for it. Now a federal judge is noticing the mean streak, and he's not going to stand for it. Good for him. Meanwhile, for a city who has a former police leader as its current civic leader, we should all hang our heads in shame. Is this what you want your legacy to be, Mayor?

Our sick nation

While you're on the street protesting the latest outrages, be sure to swat every insect you see.

Transit-oriented bank robbery

East side MAX is sure getting its share of (cough) interesting riders these days.

Read it and weep

For the wonkier among you, the Multnomah County tax roll is out, and an alert reader has sent it along as an Excel spreadsheet file. If that's your cup of tea, you can see what he or she sent me here.

World class

Guess which city's been rated the third most toxic in the United States. And that's not counting the condo developers.

Feeling lucky?

Try a nice Banquet beef pot pie. Only 430 calories (230 from fat). I've got a hunch the prices on those will be coming way down the rest of the week.

Can't blame the Chinese for this one.

And the gall of those ConAgra people to resist a recall when they don't know what's poisoning people in their food! Maybe it's time we boycott some of their other products until they wise up. I'm doing my part to send a message -- no more Slim Jims until further notice!

Portland debt series takes a breather

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been digging each weekday morning into another aspect of the huge long-term debt that's being racked up by the City of Portland. There's a lot to think about in what we've reported so far, and while we've still got more in the works, this seems like a good time to knock off writing for a time and keep researching.

Goaded by readers who insist that we compare Portland's debt to that of other cities, we're now checking into the situation in Seattle. Not that it's all that relevant -- I don't see how some other municipality's decisionmaking should be judged any better or worse than ours -- but we heard from at least a couple of different commenters that the Portland numbers are not meaningful to them without something to compare them to.

Fine and dandy.

Alas, there's not as much openness with the public documents on the internet in the Emerald City as there is down here in Portland, and it's going to take a while to get to the level of detail we have achieved for the Rose City. A little preliminary sleuthing, however, indicates that the debt burden per capita up there is going to be lower -- much lower -- than the $7,842 that's weighing each of us down here in Portland. More on that later.

Before moving off the debt topic, we'd like to use this post as a placeholder for links to the various writings that we've generated in the series so far. Here's the list, to which we'll add in the future as we write more:

1. Portland: A city deep in hock (9/28/07).

2. Grampy's payday loan (10/1/07).

3. These numbers crunch you (10/2/07).

4. The saddle's about to get heavier (10/3/07).

5. Buying white elephants on time (10/4/07).

6. Drop in the bucket (10/5/07).

7. City of Portland debt update (10/8/07).

8. City of Portland debt is rising faster than condo towers (10/9/07).

9. While City of Portland's debt rises, its tax levy falls (10/10/07).

In the meantime, just remember a simple executive summary: $4.4 billion of debt, and rising five times as fast as the population.

UPDATE, 4/15/08, 2:08 a.m.:

Additions to the series:

10. Portland tax levy appears back on the rise (10/12/07).

11. Portland vs. Seattle city debt: It's not even close (10/15/07).

12. Portland Debt-O-Meter: New and improved! (10/29/07).

13. Take it to the limit one more time (11/6/07).

14. Portland population growth continues to slow (11/19/07).

15. Where's the new PDC debt? (12/4/07).

16. Portland debt clock ratchets back slightly (12/28/07).

17. How to borrow $277 million from B of A, very quietly (2/1/08).

18. Bond market and bond insurance implosions can't be helping Portland (2/14/08).

19. Portland to put another mid-nine figures on plastic (2/15/08).

20. Has Portland's credit card expired? (2/16/08).

21. Back over $2 billion (2/22/08).

22. Like I've been saying... (2/23/08).

23. City of Portland to borrow $750 million in April (3/24/08).

24. Portland sewer debt climbs 21.63% over 13 months (3/25/08).

25. Portland bond sale still behind a curtain (4/1/08).

26. Sold (4/3/08).

27. City of Portland bond refinancing put off (4/14/08).

UPDATE, 4/15, 2:27 a.m.: Given that this will be a topic of continuing interest to us, we've created a separate blog category for it. This way, the computer will do the work of keeping the list of series links current. For the complete list, go here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blazers win!

Just a pre-season game against the Clippers, but better than a loss, for sure. Some good photos here, including this one of Channing Frye, who with a good game looks like he has a future in Portland after all. He's wearing Brian Grant's old number -- thus starting off on the right foot in my book.

The future of Portland

Here's your new housing and transportation, brought to you by the Portland City Council. Green and sustainable!

Novick-Kroger vs. Merkley-Macpherson

The new kids against the establishment -- that's the way the big ongoing races in the Oregon Democratic Party are shaping up.

Portland parks to take a bigger bite

It looks like City of Portland "systems development charges" for parks are going up. How else could one read this e-mail message this afternoon from the Parks Bureau?

Systems Development Charges are one tool to ensuring that Portland’s quality of life is able to keep pace with our growing and changing city. Park System Development Charges are one-time fees assessed on new development to cover a portion of the costs of providing the additional parks and recreation facilities needed as a result of population growth and new development. Right now, if you receive a residential building permit from the City of Portland for new building, you will be charged a one-time Park Systems Development Charge fee.

Parks Commissioner Dan Saltzman will release his recommendation for the new Park SDC rate on Friday, October 12. This will start the 60-day comment period leading up to the City Council hearing on the new Park SDC in December.

Oh, and they're holding a series of "open houses" where folks can "weigh in" on the issue. That's an interesting way of putting it.

Perhaps most sadly, the e-mail came from someone who identifies herself as working at "Marketing & Business Development, Portland Parks & Recreation." When public parks think they need a bureaucracy for "marketing and business," something's fundamentally wrong.

Here come da judges

Bad times for bad guys in Oregon courts.

More on the meteorite

If you followed our link in this post, you should probably follow this one, too.

Would you stick this in your nose every day?

I don't think I'm ready for that just yet. Even with a Prince album on.

Union turns its back on Governor Ted

Looks like those fat raises for top state bureaucrats didn't go over too well with the "little people."

Fireman Randy's new taboo

No trans fats in restaurants. No gasoline without ethanol. No duct tape at the Rose Festival. No spray paint in stores without a prescription. And now: Don't drink bottled water.

Tell that to somebody with lead pipes in their old house.

While City of Portland's debt rises, its tax levy falls

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been examining the City of Portland's long-term debt -- not a pretty picture at $4.4 billion and climbing steeply. But hey, as long as there's enough tax revenue to pay off that huge pile of IOU's over time, who cares, right?

That's where one more piece of the puzzle needs to be revealed. The city's tax levy actually declined last year below what it was the year before. According to the city's own bond sales document, recently released (the "preliminary official statement," or POS, for last week's bond issue), here are the tax collections over the last 10 years:

Look at the last two lines in the "Total Levy" column. From 2005-06 to 2006-07, the city's tax levy decreased. It was $363,683,000 in 2005-06, and slightly less, $363,073,000, the next year. That's negative growth in the tax levy, people -- not a good sign when, as noted here yesterday, Portland's long-term debt is growing at a rate well north of 6 percent a year.

How can tax levies be going down, when property values increased during that last year? According to the POS, assessed values in town went up, from $35.2 billion to $38.6 billion, and yet the tax levy declined. The best guess I can muster is "Measure 5," which causes non-school tax levies to be "compressed" when they exceed a flat rate of $10 per $1,000 of real market value. Perhaps other taxing authorities that get a piece of Portland's real property owners picked up a bigger share of the constitutionally limited property taxes, leaving the City of Portland with less tax levy to collect.

I'm not the world's greatest Measure 5 expert, and maybe I've got that screwed up. But something decreased the City of Portland tax levy last year, and whatever it may be, the crucial point here is that the levy is not growing at anywhere near the rate of the burgeoning municipal debt. If anything, the levy appears to be drifting in the opposite direction, at least in the short term.

Taking a somewhat longer view, tax levies over the past seven years grew at a compound rate of 5.01 percent a year. Meanwhile, the city's long-term debt increased at a compound rate of 6.66 percent a year. We're borrowing and spending faster than we're making money. Our standard of living is decreasing while we continue to pay for past years' excesses.

And the spending orgy's just beginning, with Sam the Tram and Citizen Smith about to take power. Streetcars everywhere! It's hard to see how Portland is going to fake its way out of the deep hole it's digging. How the city can pay off all its debts, preserve what livability it has left, and build shiny new condo marketing toys, all while its tax levy declines, is a mystery to me. Maybe that's why it's hard for me to put the POS down and get back to other important topics -- like illegal sidewalk newsracks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Walkin' the dogs

Another week of pro football has come and gone, and the favorites won all but three of last weekend's games, leaving everyone in the underdog pool in which I play without a winner. None of us had Chicago, Carolina (Usual Kevin was brooding about that one), or San Diego (not much of a dog at only a 1-point spread). Based on several tips I received here, I chose Seattle, who stunk the place up in Pittsburgh -- a shutout! Sheesh. At least I didn't pass up any juicy winners.

But another round of games is just around the corner, and surely there will be a shocker or two in the pack. Our job is to figure out who it's going to be. Remember, the underdog (in caps below) must win the game outright -- the points listed are significant only in that they tell how many points I'll win if I choose the winning dog:

10 OAKLAND at San Diego
9.5 ST. LOUIS at Baltimore
6.5 HOUSTON at Jacksonville
6.5 NEW ORLEANS at Seattle
5.5 MINNESOTA at Chicago
5 DALLAS vs. New England
4.5 MIAMI at Cleveland
4 CAROLINA at Arizona
3 KANSAS CITY vs. Cincinnati
3 WASHINGTON at Green Bay
3 ATLANTA vs. New York Giants
3 TENNESSEE at Tampa Bay
2.5 NEW YORK JETS vs. Philadelphia

Fascinating set of choices there. Atlanta at home over the Giants? Could depend on Plaxico's ankle. Dallas at home over the Mighty Pats? Will home cookin' straighten out the Seahawks, or should I go way out on a limb with the 'Aints? Tennessee or Houston -- I haven't a clue. Football fans?

Starbucks chokes small children

Not intentionally, but still.... (Via LND.)

How ya doin'?

I'm feeling a little sick myself...

Google map street views now available for Portland

This technology is amazing, albeit somewhat creepy. (Via Mika Lepisto.)

Interesting contrast

A reader sends along this note:

On the one hand, the White House and/or its agencies has no shame in revealing intelligence means and methods so long as it gets to scoop Al-Qaeda in the news:

On the other hand, the Supreme Court will refuse to accept a case of torture and abuse because it would cause the government to reveal its secret means and methods of intelligence collecting:


So, if it makes us look good, we can throw away a year's worth of work, but if it makes us look bad then we will not reveal the systematic violations of law. Awesome.

Worm turning?

Attitudes toward San Francisco's homeless population appear to be changing.

Ga-ga over Whole Foods

Here's a stock picker who's hot to trot -- or at least, so he says.

What part of "no" don't they understand?

Aaron Hockley on the Cesar Chavez Boulevard fiasco: "Let’s end this 'we’re trying to get community input' crap." Read the whole beautiful (and dead-on-accurate) rant here.

City of Portland debt is rising faster than condo towers

Part of what prompted our ongoing study of the City of Portland's long-term debt was our perception that the debt was growing more rapidly than ever before, and that it was outstripping population growth within the city limits. Now that we have a pretty good grasp on the current debt situation -- $4.4 billion of long-term debt, and climbing -- it's as good a time as ever to look at past years and confirm or disprove this perception.

As a comparison measure, we downloaded the sales document -- the "preliminary official statement," or POS -- from the city's early 2001 bond offering, when it borrowed almost exactly $100 million to expand our white elephant Convention Center, against the clearly expressed wishes of the local population. In that document, the city disclosed the debt it had outstanding as of January 1, 2001, pretty close to seven years before the date of the most recent POS, which we have been studying over the last 10 days or so.

The comparison of the two reveals these figures:

The increase in all categories of long-term debt is stunning. Seven years ago, the city's long-term bonds and "interim" financing (which is later turned into long-term bonds) stood at around $1.8 billion. Today, they're at roughly $2.6 billion -- an increase of 42.41 percent over seven years, or a compound growth rate of 5.18 per year. The city's unfunded police and fire pension liability has grown even more frighteningly. The figure the city gave at the end of 2000 was $976 million, compared to today's $1.8 billion -- an increase of 84.63 percent over seven years, or a compound annual growth rate of 9.16 percent.

During these seven years, the city's population has grown from 513,325 to 562,690 -- a compound annual growth rate of only 1.32 percent. Which means that the debt per resident has gone up by a compound growth rate of 5.27 percent a year.

Put another way, despite the growing population, the average individual Portlander's share of the city's long-term debt, expressed in dollars, is growing at a rate of 5.27 percent annually. It's gone up by 43.3 percent over seven years. If your credit card debt was $10,000 in 2000, and now it's $14,330, how would that make you feel? More and more of what we pay in taxes is going to pay principal and interest on money that's already been spent, and as a consequence less and less of what we pay is available for the ongoing needs of running and maintaining the city we have.

Here is a comparison of the total long-term debt on the dates of the two bond offerings:

Pretty sobering.

The rapid growth of the debt -- and the City Council's blindness to its utter lack of sustainability, as indicated by the proposed east side streetcar expansion, continued folly in the SoWhat district, and the coming debacle known as North River District -- is especially troubling in light of the awful reality in the condo market, outlined in today's O. Much of the city's "urban renewal" debt -- $600 million, and about to increase by another $100 million or so -- is supposed to be paid out of the property tax "increment" that arises from condo development and rising property values.

Problem: The condos aren't selling any more; suddenly, their values are dropping, not growing. Not only does this mean that the projected increases in property values on which the borrowings are based may not be forthcoming, but it also indicates that some of the taxpayers who have invested in the condo developments may find themselves in such dire straits financially that they won't be so prompt in paying their taxes. (Buildings don't pay taxes, their owners do -- if they can.)

Can you smell a perfect storm? The people who own the city's bonds may very well get paid in full and on time -- hence the city's favorable "bond ratings" -- but what kind of city will Portland be when far too much of its tax revenues is going out to pay off old debts, and not enough is available for ongoing basic services?

The taxpayers of Portland are constantly being told that all the public dollars being siphoned off to pay for infrastructure, streetcars, and an aerial tram [rim shot] in the new condo jungles are actually "investments." That may be true, but they are already looking like investments in overpriced dot-com stocks. And unfortunately, they were purchased with borrowed funds. When the margin calls come in, somebody's fortunes are going to be ruined. Guess whose.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Your Royale with cheese is waiting

"I'm goin', that's all there is to it, I'm ****in' goin'."

What'll they think of next?

Here's an interesting toy that I got here:

Send a message to Bush: Yes on 50

Last week, the Chimp vetoed a bill that would have increased federal cigarette taxes to pay for children's health care.

Sound familiar, Oregonians? It does to me. In addition to telling Big Tobacco where to stick their greasy advertisements, I'm looking forward to telling the White House what I think of it, by voting yes on Measure 50.

City of Portland debt update

A while back, I sat down and tried to get a handle on just how much long-term debt the City of Portland is in. Between pension obligations and long-term bonds, the amount I came up with was more than $4.2 billion, with a "b." That's a startling enough number that I posted a box summarizing my calculations in the left-hand sidebar to this blog. Yikes.

In continuing to study the city's numbers, I now see that my earlier calculations actually understated the city's debt. In addition to the long-term bonds and the unfunded pension liability, the city also has outstanding $172.2 million of nominally "short-term" debt obligations that are inevitably going to be turned into long-term bonds as soon as the city gets around to issuing the permanent IOUs. From the preliminary official statement on last week's bond sale (page 29 of this pdf file):

The City has issued short-term notes and lines of credit for a variety of purposes including interim construction financing of local improvement districts and interim financing for urban renewal district projects, housing, transportation, and other capital projects. The notes are paid primarily from bond proceeds sold at completion of the construction projects. The City currently has approximately $172.2 million of these short-term obligations outstanding.
This number is about to increase substantially as the PDC goes to the well for more "urban renewal" interim debt -- see the agenda for the next PDC meeting -- but just to keep our earlier report accurate, we need to show the existing $172.2 million on the city's debt clock. Moreover, the additional $11.5 million of debt that the city racked up in new bonds last week also needs to be reflected. The two new items total $183,690,000, which brings the city's grand long-term debt total up to $4,412,880,469 -- roughly $4.4 billion. Per resident, the debt comes to $7,842.47-- more than $31,000 for a family of four.

Here's a revised debt clock:

There's at least one more category of debt that is likely to be added to the clock soon. Government entities are now required to state their unfunded liabilities for retiree health care benefits. The city subsidizes retiree health insurance to some degree, and it's going to be required to come up with a figure representing its obligation to continue this subsidy. Multnomah County has already got an estimate of this figure in its bond sales document: $44.7 million. So far, Portland's been saying that it doesn't have a handy figure for this liability. When we see it, we'll be adding it in.

How soft are the East Side streetcar budget numbers?

The City of Portland is well on its way to extending its expensive and inefficient streetcar system to the Idaho side of the Willamette River. There's federal money out there to pay some of the construction costs, and around here that's enough of an excuse to build whatever the condo developers want, even if there are substantial construction and operating costs that local taxpayers are going to have to cover.

The initial liars' budget for the project construction is $147 million. Everybody knows that in the early stages of transportation infrastructure projects, the proponents of the system can barely hold back their laughter when it comes to discussing costs. They're always underestimated, and often by wide margins.

At this point in the east side streetcar fiasco, the Portland Development Commission is looking to spend $50,000 to $75,000 to hire a firm to conduct a "risk assessment" of the plan. This will supposedly instill some realism into the scope, budget, and schedule for the project; and give a critique of its sponsor, management, design, and construction contract.

Bids for the risk assessor work are due over the next two business weeks, and the winning contractor is supposed to have its first phase of findings to the PDC by Christmas. (A perfect time for it to get lost in the holiday shuffle.) The final report will be due in late March.

You knew this was coming

What would an overheated discussion of race in Portland be without a contribution from the Starbucks Cartoon Monitor? If someone can translate this grand circumlocution into plain English, please help me out.

Pushing the envelope

At what point does this violate this?

ORS 260.432 [A]ctivities of public employees during working hours.


(2) No public employee shall solicit any money, influence, service or other thing of value or otherwise promote or oppose any political committee or promote or oppose the nomination or election of a candidate, the gathering of signatures on an initiative, referendum or recall petition, the adoption of a measure or the recall of a public office holder while on the job during working hours. However, this section does not restrict the right of a public employee to express personal political views.

More nice words about Portland

In this article in yesterday's Times magazine (but not 'til page 4).

No potty in the SoWhat park?

They held a meeting last week for people interested in becoming the designer of the new park in the SoWhat district (a.k.a. Bankruptcy Village). As discussed here before, this is the single two-acre block of land down in the condo jungle that's already cost the city about $9 million to acquire and level down to an expanse of muddy grass. They've got another $3 million in the construction budget, plus whatever they pay the designer.

Lots of people showed up for the meeting, and there were lots of questions, which the city has posted and answered on its official bid solicitation site for the project. I'm not sure the city will let you read the whole thing without registering first, but the file is here. Among the interesting revelations:

- There may not be a public restroom in the park.

- If there's a "water feature," it will be small and begrudgingly included.

- The block just north of the park is owned by OHSU, and it's not clear what they're going to do with it.

- The block between the park and I-5 is going to be a parking garage with affordable housing on top. The current fantasy is for it to be built in 2011, but there are no guarantees.

- The Parks Bureau does not have "wind studies" for the area. (You wonder if maybe the folks involved with the aerial tram [rim shot] have one?)

Proposals are due a week from Thursday. Should be an interesting process.

How was your Portland Marathon?

Be glad you weren't running it in Chicago.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Porn in my inbox

First Amendment be damned -- this photo, which I just got in my e-mail, is obscene.

Baseball faces apathy

Major League Baseball's month of October -- in some years, the focus of broad-based fan interest and stellar television ratings -- may be a bit of a dud this year. Already the National League has devolved into a playoff finals series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Oh, man -- those are two small media markets, and in time zones that only the most dedicated east coast fans will stay up for. Plus, those places are largely devoid of baseball tradition. Except for people in those two states, does anyone care who wins? And one of those teams is going all the way to the end.

In contrast, over in the American League, relatively old-time teams control the scene. The Boston Red Sox have advanced over the Anaheim Angels, and the last first-round series still up for grabs is between the Yankees (the biggest draw in the sport) and the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland needs just one more win to advance -- a prospect that the baseball bean-counters doubtlessly dread -- but they failed to get it tonight, losing to the New Yorkers in the Bronx. Another game between them is set for tomorrow evening.

I'll bet Wyden gets good seats.

If the Yankees work a miracle and face Boston next, it will be a huge bonanza on the financial side. But if they don't -- well, neither Boston-Cleveland, nor either of them vs. Arizona or Colorado, is going to deliver the viewership that the leagues crave.

In a way, I think the sport deserves a weak turnout in front of the tube. The announcers whom they hired to call the first four series have been awful. They alternate between boring and dead wrong. Don't expect that kind of product to build an audience if the action on the field won't.

Say hi to Fred, everybody

Remember Farhad "Fred" Monem, the Oregon state prison food guy who's on the lam under suspicion of taking bribes? A couple of months ago, I wrote a couple of posts about the guy, and the pathetic job law enforcement did of bringing him to justice.

Well, somebody out there is very interested in Fred. Every time I take a look at who's been visiting this blog, there's a hit from somebody who's been searching for information on the guy. It's different IP addresses, too, from various locales around the country. Maybe I've watched too much "Law and Order," but part of me thinks that sometimes it's old Fred himself Googling away, trying to see what the latest news is from those who are pursuing him.

If that's you out there, Fred, everyone here in Oregon wishes you a pleasant flight back to Iran.

One less car on the road

Another innovation in bike-friendly Portland:

Have you ever wondered what happens to your car...

... when the dealer has it in the shop all day for service?

Made my day

Another smash hit review from a regular reader:

your blog is like going to the Library without all the street people to deal with

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Today Stanford beat Southern Cal -- in football.

Men's football.

American men's football!

Oregon, my Oregon

This piece in the Times about co-op winemaking explains that it all started in the Willamette Valley.

I'm usually the last to see stuff like this

This one's been running around the internet for a while, I suspect. Make up your own caption:

And if you know who's to credit for the image, please let us know that, too.

American prayer

Psalm 79

O God, the nations have invaded your heritage;
they have defiled your holy temple,
have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have left the corpses of your servants
as food for the birds of the heavens,
the flesh of your faithful for the beasts of the earth.

They have spilled their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and no one is left to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
Will your rage keep burning like fire?

Do not hold past iniquities against us;
may your compassion come quickly,
for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God our savior,
for the glory of your name.
Deliver us, pardon our sins
for your name's sake.

Yet his heart was hardened

And yea, the Lord sent down his vengeance in the form of locusts upon Pharaoh Steinbrenner and his men.

Somebody noticed

The New York Times-Paley's Place favoritism controversy stirred up by local blogger Kevin Allman has found its way into that newspaper today.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Wro-o-o-o-ong -- do it again!

I see that Fireman Randy is blowing the whistle on the wildly unpopular Cesar Chavez Boulevard project. The process is flawed, he says, and needs to restart from scratch. "There’s a message being sent that [the street to be renamed] is Interstate, and if it’s not, you’re a racist." Really? You don't say.

This comes the same day that the Polish-American community in the affected North Portland neighborhood declares its strong opposition to the name change for Interstate Avenue. Coincidence? I leave it for you to decide.

If the West Hills Saltzmanites who instigated this P.C. exercise won't let us rename a street on Council Crest for Chavez, how about the new chi-chi Public Market that the city is spending zillions on? You know -- farmers' market... farm workers?

Oh, that one's got to be named after slain civil rights leader James Beard. I get it.

Whole Foods board sticks with wacky Mackey

The founder and CEO of the Whole Foods grocery chain, John Mackey, is quite a character. For a while he was posting tons of messages about Whole Foods and Wild Oats on internet chat boards, using a pseudonym ("rahodeb"). Earlier today, the board of directors of Whole Foods said it had complete its investigation into the postings and was still supporting Mackey.

No word on whether critics who have called for his resignation, or investigators at the SEC, will be satisfied. Mackey's blog is still on hold, however...

Here's his picture

If you see this guy, kick him hard in the groin for me.

Hey, Fred Stickel and Sandy Rowe! Thanks for the photo. Now will you stop glorifying the guy? Thanks.

Have a great weekend

Portland's free wi-fi dream is over

Now can we lay off the city employee who's been working full-time on this ill-fated big idea? Maybe Richie Rich can give him a caretaker's job up at the mansion.

Coming soon: Son of 11?

Somehow, a long time back, I got on a mailing list of folks who might be sympathetic to the idea of doing away with the tough minimum sentences that are prescribed for certain serious crimes by the Oregon law known as Measure 11. Actually, I'm not, and I usually throw the mailings out without looking at them carefully.

But I'm intrigued by the news that there's a movement afoot to extend the principles of that law to other crimes. Here's a postcard that came yesterday:

The tradition continues

Halloween may be a few weeks out, but already the ghost of Randy Gragg haunts us. He may be gone from our recycling bin, but his ex-employer, the O, still knows how to gush over obscenely expensive toys. This piece has it all -- Gil Kelley natterings, references to something in Spain, Sim City fantasy issues, even mythical biotech jobs -- and as ever, no discussion of the financial burden on the city's taxpayers.

Drop in the bucket

Our survey of local governments' long-term debt, which has already covered the City of Portland and the Portland School District, today turns to Multnomah County. The county goes to the Wall Street well every year to issue "tax and revenue anticipation notes," whereby it borrows money against upcoming tax collections. The notes are short-term -- repayable in about a year. When they borrow the dough, county officials have to disclose the government's finances in an official statement, and this year's is here.

From that document, we gather that the county has $336,913,160 in long-term debt outstanding, including $170,908,160 of pension bonds, which are used to pay county employees' retirement benefits through the state PERS system. In addition, the county estimates that it's got $44.7 million in obligations outstanding for health insurance benefits for retirees. The grand total comes to $381,613,160. With a population of 701,545, that comes to $543.96 per resident -- less than half the $1,211.84 per capita debt owed by the school district and truly chump change compared to the $7,516.02 per resident racked up by the City of Portland.

But if you're keeping score at home, with the city, school district, and county aggregated, we're up to $9,271.82 of long-term debt per head, or more than $37,000 for a family of four.

For the record, here's the debt clock for the county:

Lech Walesa Boulevard!

I am not making this up. The Polish-Americans from the parish of St. Stanislaus over in North Portland -- the folks who put on the annual Polish Festival, just concluded -- are opposed to renaming Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez. Indeed, they say they want the street rechristened for the great Polish labor and political leader and Nobel Prize winner Lech Walesa!

From Marek Stepien, head of the Polish Library Building Association, in last night's e-mail:

The Polish Community is for keeping the historical name "Interstate Avenue". Large parts of N. Interstate has been built by hard working immigrants from Central Europe, with a majority of immigrants from Poland. There are two historical Polish buildings on N Interstate (Polish Library Building, 3832 N. Interstate, and St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church, 3916 N. Interstate).

If Interstate must be renamed after anyone, we recommend it re-named: "Lech Walesa Boulevard," after the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose heroism helped many people leave Soviet Communism and come to Portland, and helped end the Cold War for Americans and the world.

There will be a public hearing at 6:30 pm, Tues, Oct. 9 at Ockley Green School, 6031 N. Montana. Also there will be a meeting at the Polish Library this Sunday, 1:00pm to prepare for the hearing and eventually to proceed with the name "Lech Walesa Boulevard".

This is starting to get really interesting.

Time to call it

Time is running out for my weekly pick in the pro football underdog pool. If you know about such things and haven't weighed in yet, please do so here.

More on Rove's Justice Department

The saddest part is, garbage like this is probably still going on.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What color is your Betty? (Rated R)

One of the all-time most popular posts in the long history of this blog is the story I told about scrotum waxing. No, I have no first-hand experience with the topic, but my friend Michele the aesthetician, who waxes my back periodically, has seen it done. All I had to do was re-tell Michele's account, and internet immortality was mine. Google "erection during scrotum wax," people, and see for yourself. You'd be amazed how many web surfers have arrived on these shores after searching for just that.

Michele always has a fascinating tale to tell me as she's depilating my pasty little Polish-Irish skin. On my most recent visit, she showed me a personal care product that I hadn't heard of before -- something called "Betty." It's dye "for the hair down there."

I had no idea. And it's not just your standard Breck girl colors -- how about hot pink? Moreover, coming soon, we're told, are "[b]eautiful bright reds, greens, pretty lilac and even blue! Plus stencils, glitter, and special promotions."

I asked Michele whether guys ever use Betty; she said she didn't think so. Maybe this is something I should go for, if just to be the first. But I think I'd like to try a test patch in an armpit before venturing any further.

Do you know where your wallet is?

Here's a stealth ballot measure that's headed voters' way in the City of Portland. Looks expensive.

Thank you, Larry Craig

You're the perfect symbol of Republican values. Stay on and serve a proud nation!

Everybody loves a chimp

Brandon over at Welcome to Blog collects some glowing European tributes to the Uniter/Decider.

And now, a word from Sam Bowie

Buying white elephants on time

Our recent review of the City of Portland's long-term debt turned up a host of interesting facts about our local government's finances. One of them was how much debt encumbers the city's "general fund" -- the one that's filled each year with our property tax dollars (or your landlord's property tax dollars, which he or she passes on to you, the tenant, in the form of higher rent). Between the city's "unlimited tax general obligation bonds" and its "bonds paid and/or secured by the general fund," the amount of the long-term debt is just shy of $720 million.

Of that amount, about $298 million are "limited tax pension obligation revenue bonds," already floated to prop up the pension fund for city employees on retirement. That's on top of the $1.8 billion (with a "b") unfunded police and fire pension liability. Geezer bureaucrats are spendy to support.

But o.k., that's all stuff we covered last week. Today, let's focus on the next largest category of debt that's "secured by the general fund." After pensions, do you know what it is? Well, it's something called "Limited Tax Revenue Bonds (Visitor Development Initiative)," to the tune of $127,923,888. The $128 million borrowed for "visitor development" is said to be embodied in "self-supporting bonds."

From the bond sales document that the city recently released, we see that these bonds paid for the Convention Center expansion ($96.6 million), the Civic Stadium refurbishing ($29.655 million), and the performing arts center ($1.66 million). These bonds are all supposed to be paid off out of the city's hotel and motel occupancy and car rental taxes.

You have to wonder whether those taxes will really be enough to pay off all that debt. And even if they are, wouldn't it have been wonderful if the city had spent those tens of millions more wisely than on expanding a white elephant convention center and installing luxury boxes in a minor league baseball stadium? If the interest rate is, say, 4 percent, those bonds are costing us nearly $5.2 million a year in interest alone.

Moreover, you have to pay back the principal at some point. In the current fiscal year, the debt service payments (principal and interest due and payable) on that $720 million of debt come to around $59 million. That means that $59 million in revenues (mostly taxes, I suspect) that Portland collects will go right out the door to pay back money that the city's already spent.

It gets crazier as the decades roll on. In 2017, the current fantasy calls for mortgage payments of about $68.5 million. And in 2027, the debt service will be around $77.7 million -- all for stuff that will be more than 20 years old at that point.

And that's if Portland never borrows another penny. (Dream on.)

Party on, people. But sure to show the kids some other locations for them to grow up into, just in case.

Back to torture

The vicious people who run our national government are back to their old tricks. God forgive our shameful country.

John Edwards is the Dems' best shot

I've been saying it for nearly four years now.

The smartest pundit I know agrees with me.

Among the fallen

Another blogger runs out of steam.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Brain drain

Here's a story that makes me nervous. It seems as though most of the members of the Oregon legislature who actually have something on the ball are packing it in. Now State Sen. Ben Westlund is going to run for state treasurer. He joins a growing list of smart legislators who've decided they want to get paid if they're going to continue to drive all the way to Salem and run our government: Rep. Greg Macpherson (running for attorney general); Sen. Vicki Walker (for secretary of state); and Sen. Kate Brown (ditto). House Speaker Jeff Merkley is splitting to seek greener pastures in the U.S. Senate, and I'm probably forgetting some other important departure in my old age.

The legislature has never been mistaken for a Mensa chapter, and with this much experience leaving both chambers, that situation is not likely to improve next session. Meanwhile, good luck to Ben. I quit the Democratic party over the guy.

Talk about "multiple use" park areas

Earlier today, we linked to a story about how valuable Portland's "urban canopy" is.

They weren't kidding.

Breaking the Al Qaeda-Calvin Klein axis

This really has become quite a country.

County reportedly starts internal fraud hotline

A reader using a fake e-mail address sent me this today:

sent to all county employees today...

The County Auditor's Office has launched the Good Government Hotline to provide County employees and the public with a method for reporting suspected fraud, abuse of position, and misuse of County resources.

Why does the County need the Good Government Hotline?

The presence of a reporting system reinforces the message that all County officials, managers, and employees are expected to follow the highest standards of ethical and legal behavior and to act as stewards of taxpayer resources.

A confidential reporting system administered by the elected, independent Auditor ensures objective review of reports. An effective reporting system can be the most useful tool in reducing losses due to fraud, abuse of position, and misuse of resources. In fact, the 2006 Report to the Nation from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that tips received through hotlines and other sources accounted for 40% of the frauds initially detected in government organizations participating in the study, nearly double the number detected through any other source.

The Good Government Hotline uses the EthicsPoint system, a comprehensive and confidential reporting tool. The EthicsPoint system helps ensure that individuals can file a report anonymously, if they choose, and in the manner most comfortable or convenient to them. Reporters can access the Auditor's Good Government Hotline in a variety of ways:

Proceed directly to the Multnomah County EthicsPoint reporting page at www.GoodGovHotline.com to submit an online report.

Access EthicsPoint at this address from any computer in the world: www.ethicspoint.com.

Follow the "File New Report" link and enter "Multnomah County."

Call EthicsPoint at 1-888-289-6839 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Reports will be taken by a live intake specialist. Calls are not recorded and caller ID is disabled.

Hard for me to tell whether this is real. Readers?

Cha ching

The City of Portland held its auction for its latest $11.4 million or so in bonds yesterday. The money will be used to set up a new city archives in a building at Portland State. According to the official auction site, the winner was Bank of America, who agreed to buy the bonds (i.e., lend the money to the city, in this case over 20 years) at 4.27 percent interest. B of A apparently has specified that the city must buy bond insurance through an insurance outfit known as MBIA.

The total interest cost will be $6,196,598.41. Not to mention whatever the bond insurance premium will be, plus another nice fee for the city's outside bond lawyers. Making those fancy archives an ever-more-expensive proposition.

Mimes on the tram?

If you think SoWhat traffic and parking are a little dicey now... wait 'til these folks show up again in March.

There's hope yet

Encouraging news from Washington, D.C.

I think that I shall never see

Today the City of Portland is bragging about the enormous value of all the trees in town.

I agree. But don't forget, they're all mortgaged to the hilt.

No wonder he loved it

Remember that big foodie splash about Portland in the Times last week?

Turns out, there's a dark side to the whole thing.

Ah, me. Isn't there always these days?

The saddle's about to get heavier

Last week, when we were summarizing the City of Portland's long-term debt load ($4.2 billion and counting), we noted that the Portland school district and other local taxing authorities also have a large amount of debt outstanding. The figures we had for the school district were a little sketchy, however, because they came from a city bond sales document, and not from the school board itself.

An alert reader of this blog has noted that, like the city, the school district has got its own bond sales document -- a "preliminary official statement" -- currently floating around. It's about to borrow more than $15 million to pay damages to the janitors that it illegally fired, and it will raise that money by issuing bonds payable over the next seven years.

In the POS, as it's known for short, the school district breaks the news to us on how much long-term debt it has outstanding. It's there on page 5 of the document (page 9 of the pdf file). There are $39.5 million of "full faith and credit obligations," and a whopping $476.4 million of pension bonds (apparently, money the district borrowed some time ago to pay the state retirement fund for retirees' pensions). Apparently there are some miscellaneous long-term debts out there, because those two amounts don't quite add up to the total long-term debt reported, or $533,208,079.

The school district says it has a population of 440,000. That being the case, the school district has $1,211.84 of long-term debt outstanding for every man, woman, and child who lives in the district. If you also live within the city limits of Portland, you can add that to the $7,516.02 of long-term debt assignable to you from the city alone. And so with just the city government and the school district, we're up to $8,727.86. For a family of four, we're pushing $35,000, and that's before we get into Metro, Multnomah County, Portland Community College, and Tri-Met, who are also racking up the loans.

Since we drew up a debt clock for the city, we may as well draw one up for the school district as well. Here it is:

Those figures include the $15 million of new bonds whose proceeds will be used to pay the janitors. The interest on those bonds will be something like 4.25 percent, I suspect -- that would be more than $600,000 a year of interest at the outset. Plus an underwriter's commission and lots of lawyer fees, of course. Just another day in local government around Portland.

Warning: Do not try this at home, with your own personal finances.

Tell the Merchants of Death what you think

I don't care how you might feel about sin taxes. You need to vote yes on Measure 50 and send a message to these sick, sick people.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Public service announcement

I'm all for helping to make a dent in the military budget. And so to save everyone at the Pentagon scarce millions of dollars, here's a little something to help you find your next bombing target.

Ding dong, the Wal-Mart's dead

Always low prices... never in Portland.

Barkin' all the time

Another mid-week is upon us, and with it another slate of pro football games to prognosticate about. The underdog pool in which I play calls upon us to pick a team that's favored to lose, but will win its game outright, this weekend. Last weekend, with the help of commenters here, I had a winner for the third straight week -- Detroit over Da Bearss. But that win netted me only 3 points in the season cumulative tally, while the one player in the pool who was brave enough to take lowly Kansas City over the stoned San Diego Chargers racked up 11.5 points and has taken a lead that may turn out to be insurmountable.

Did any of our commenters alert us to that Kansas City game? Oh, yes. Some choice quotes from last week:

"I'd go out on a limb and guess Kansas City. Either San Diego will figure themselves out and play up to their ability, or KC might actually have a shot...." -- John

"[W]hy not KANSAS CITY over San Diego? Hungry Herm could prove a handful to the confused Chargers. Maybe it's too easy a pick." -- Mark Mason

"KC over SD. I think the chargers are tanking due to the firing of Marty. NBA players do it, why not NFL players. Norv is the worst coach ever. WHEN he gets fired, he'll never coach in the NFL again." -- don reyes

"My jury is out on KC and SD. I'm scared that would be the bonehead smart pick and then have it backfire when SD wins. Smart pick is on Oakland. If you're a gambler, go with KC." -- PDX East

Here's this coming weekend's lineup. I need one underdog team (designated in caps below) that will win its game outright. The number to the left of the each matchup is the number of points I will win if I take that underdog and it wins. Right now I'm tied for fifth among 16 players, and so there's no need to do anything rash. I'd rather have another modest win than swing for the fences and come up with nothing. But hey, I've got to make up 10 points over the rest of the season against someone who obviously knows what she is doing, and so everything else being equal, the bigger the upset, the better:

16.5 CLEVELAND at New England
10 TAMPA BAY at Indianapolis
10 BUFFALO vs. Dallas
8 ATLANTA at Tennessee
6 SEATTLE at Pittsburgh
5.5 MIAMI at Houston
3.5 NEW YORK JETS at New York Giants
3.5 DETROIT at Washington
3 CHICAGO at Green Bay
3 ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona
3 SAN FRANCISCO vs. Baltimore
3 CAROLINA at New Orleans
2 KANSAS CITY vs. Jacksonville
1 SAN DIEGO at Denver

Help me out again, folks. I'm all ears.

Kroger's website is a blog

He's even submitting a few posts to it over his own name. Plus, embedded video!

Smart guy.


This sister speaks for so many of us. (Via Your Average Horseplayer.)

So who's the red-side AG candidate?

I'm still waiting to find out who the two attorneys are who are said to be mulling over bids to become the Republican candidate for Oregon attorney general this year. Rumor had it last week that they both have past governmental experience. Sounds like Kevin Mannix to me, but who's the other one? My friend Jack Roberts says it's not he. Who, then? This guy?

More on Super Smitty

The O gave us some more information about Portland's new school superintendent, Carole Smith, today. Here's a quotation that jumped out of the story:

"She was geared to be an advocate for those who didn't have a voice in the system," said Mason. "She's a very cooperative and consensus-building leader but she can be as fierce as a mother bear when she feels the things closer to her are being affected."
Gotta like the sound of that.

Have another hit of Oregon air

A fall day in Portland. Moderate temperatures, in between two rainstorms. Perfect day for a run...

... if you like breathing grass smoke, that is.

Yep, it's fall, and there's rain somewhere in the forecast, and so even though the wind's blowing straight up the valley, a few clowns who grow grass south of here get to poison us all for the better part of the day.

The last time I checked, we're the only state around here that still allows this 18th Century "technology." It's illegal in Washington and Idaho, I believe. It makes a mockery of Oregon's reputation for being a clean, healthy place to live. It's way past time for the grass seed boys to put an end to this ridiculous practice, or for the state to outlaw it.

More crazy people walking the streets

And they're getting younger and younger.

These numbers crunch you

Exactly how much long-term debt does the City of Portland currently have outstanding to pay for "urban renewal" projects? It's not an easy number to come by, that's for sure.

The Portland Development Commission, which runs the show on "urban renewal," has an "annual report" posted on the internet that's supposed to cover these things. But it doesn't seem quite "annual," as it covers the fiscal years 2006-07 and 2007-08. When last I checked, that would be two years, which would make this document a biennial report.

Anyway, on the question of the "urban renewal" debt total, the best this document can offer is where the city stood as of June 30, 2006, which is 15 months ago. At that time, as page 5 reveals, there was quite a boatload of indebtedness outstanding. They're not daring enough to add the various rows up, but I've got a calculator, and I can do that. "Indebtedness Issued as of 6/30/06" adds up to $596,806,370.

Let's stop there for a second and ponder this. The city has already borrowed $596 million -- more than $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the city -- just for "urban renewal." And that's as of 15 months ago. One would think that the number's gone up in the meantime.

And it's about to grow even more. It was recently announced that they're about to add a new $277 million in "interim lines of credit" in the near future for more "urban renewal" hijinx. I don't know why they're going the "interim" borrowing route -- maybe the credit markets are too tight for permanent debt at this point. But that's another $500 a head or so that's about to get loaded onto taxpayers' shoulders.

It gets worse. There's lots more borrowing "capacity" in the pipeline. According to the PDC's table and my calculator, "Indebtedness Remaining as of 6/30/06" adds up to another $1,344,523,248. That's $1.3 billion of debt that the city can run out and incur for "urban renewal," which would amount to nearly $2,400 more of long-term debt for every resident of the city, over and above where it was 15 months ago.

Urban renewal sure is pretty, and it's making some developers, construction companies, and streetcar builders rich, but is it worth putting everyone who lives in Portland $3,400 in hock?

Now, the apologists for this fiscal irresponsibility will jump up and tell you that the bonds that are floated to borrow this money are going to be paid back out of all the increased property taxes that are sure to flow when all the shiny "urban renewal" toys are finally in place. But the city's latest bond sales document -- the "preliminary official statement" that we blogged about last week -- casts some doubt on that assertion.

If you look at the big scorecard of debt on page 13 of the POS (page 25 of the pdf file), you'll see that only about $272 million of the city's urban renewal bonds are "revenue bonds," which could never be collected by the bondholders out of general fund property taxes. Now, remember, the PDC tells us that there are nearly $597 million in "urban renewal" obligations floating around out there. If only $272 million of that amount are "revenue bonds," then the other $325 million must be classified as "bonds paid and/or secured by the general fund."

Which, unless I'm mistaken, means that if it turns out that the property tax pot of gold is not at the end of our "urban renewal" rainbow, all the taxpayers of Portland will get to pay those bonds off. Indeed, in an important sense, we're already paying them. As will be seen on the property tax statements that will arrive in the next couple of weeks, around 20 percent of all property tax collections by the City of Portland already goes to "urban renewal."

Bottom line: When you consider why the city's so far in hock ($4.2 billion and counting), "urban renewal" plays a major role. It's behind only the police and fire pension pit and the continuing sewer debacle as a source of fiscal heartburn for the city's taxpayers. Before we run out and drive all the businesses out of inner southeast to make way for more condo towers and streetcars, maybe we ought to consider putting away the credit cards and taking a breather, for a few years at least.

New airline no-no

Remote-control toys. Not as dangerous as bottled water, perhaps, but still a major concern.

Have the Russians really left Bushehr?

That's the site of the Iranian nuclear reactor that the Russians are helping to complete. If the entire Russian nuclear crew has abruptly flown back to their home country, it could mean any of a number of things, but some of them are frightening indeed. On the other hand, the source of the story about their departure is not necessarily reliable.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Move over, Foster Brooks

And let this comedy master take over.

School board goes inside (sort of) for new super

Super Vicki's successor has been named. She's Carole Smith, who was the Vickster's "chief of staff." Smith has been employed by the school board since Vicki brought her on board in 2005. Before that she spent many years running Open Meadow Schools, a nonprofit alternative school program in North Portland for middle and high school students who've had difficulties in the academic mainstream.

Here's a short video clip of an interview she did with the editors of the O. Initial impressions?

Portlandia's Academe

A couple of Portland mentions in stories about colleges and universities in yesterday's Times -- here and here.

Old Boys line up

I see Ted K. and Barbara Roberts have endorsed Greg Macpherson for state attorney general. As expected, the Network has spoken. Might as well get the Oregonian endorsement out there right away, too. It's going to be a long campaign.

A Times mention that Portland probably didn't want

There's been a lot of talk of ending exclusion zones in Portland, but here's a practice that's got us on the national map.

It's the time of the se-ea-son for loving

It's October, that month when musical recording artists who appeal to boomers make sure to get their product on the shelves. Unlike their kids, graying Americans still buy CDs, particularly as the holidays approach, and so it's the perfect time to release some new geezer sounds.

This year we've got Bruce, Joni, Fogerty, and Annie with new albums. Tons of box sets full of nostalgia, of course, and maybe a few more recordings of new stuff that I've missed. So get your Prius down to Music Millennium and turn up the hearing aid.

One of a kind

The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial celebration has come and gone. Two hundred years ago, by now the Corps of Discovery was already a year off the road, basking in the glow of their heroism.

Except for William Clark's black slave, York, who spent at least a decade more in captivity. Mostly forgotten for a couple of centuries, York's enjoyed a mini-revival in the Portland area over the past several years. An elementary school in the Couv has been named after him, and a street in Northwest Portland, which has long carried the name York, has been confirmed as being named after him.

A group that's working on creating a permanent memorial to York on the Lewis & Clark College campus informs me that they're getting close to their fundraising goal for the first element, a sculpture. There's also hope for an academic center to study public memory, which in York's case suffered a bit of a lapse. There are some interesting podcasts about him here and here, and more information about the memorial project here.

There are worse things you could do with a few bucks than remind people to think about this remarkable American experience.

Quotation of the Day

"I think the impacts of Measure 37, if it's not amended, will be disastrous, long-term, for Oregon," [Eric] Lemelson said. "Filling up the Willamette Valley with subdivisions all over the place, even over 15 or 20 years, I think, is nuts. I don't know how else to put it."

Grampy's payday loan

Remember last year, when we Portlanders voted to increase our property taxes in order to begin making a dent in the $1.8 billion (and growing) unfunded liability known as the city police and fire pension and disability fund? If you've forgotten, you'll be reminded soon. The annual property tax statements are due out within a couple of weeks. This is the first year we'll be paying the increased tax.

But did you know that the city's already spent that money? Our little examination of the city's finances last week revealed that the city ran out this past July and borrowed $23.7 million to "fund cash flow deficits" in the police and fire pension fund, with the newly-voted-in property taxes being designated to pay off the debt. Although tons of property tax cash will be flowing into the city's coffers in November, the bonds will remain outstanding until late June of next year. The interest rate (tax-exempt) is 4.25 percent. On $23.7 million, a year's worth of interest at 4.25 percent comes to $1,066,500. That's more than a million bucks in interest, because the city can't seem to manage its cash flow.

Portland, it appears, can't stop borrowing money. It's running out to the bond markets a half dozen times a year or more. There's another $15 million in bonds getting ready to be issued for emergency facilities, and new lines of credit totalling a whopping $277 million are about to be opened up for more "urban renewal." Every time Portland borrows money, a certain law firm is involved, no doubt earning a nice fee, and there are probably underwriters or other go-betweens who pick up a sizable commission on the placement of the debt. Portland's like a desperate family that can't pay its bills, and the payday lenders are making a pretty penny on the resulting mess.

The times of living within our means are ancient history in Portland -- that we probably will never reverse. But the size and frequency of the expensive borrowings are becoming frightening, and something ought to be done about them.

Yes? Maybe

At first, I didn't give "reform" of Measure 37 much of a chance, but now that there's big, big bucks behind it, it looks as though it may actually have a shot at passing. In addition to a major campaign bankroll, Measure 49's got the benefit of asking people to vote "Yes" on something, and of course, there's the green. It will be close, but I spy a glimmer of hope there.

Nothing like a great caption

From OregonLive this morning.

Ain't it the truth

This cartoon hits the nail right on the head.

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