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

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June 2008 Archives

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bill Clinton: "Obama can kiss my a*s"

So report the Brits.

Sneak preview

Here's a look at where our livability is headed with the whole I-5 toll bridge thing. Once again, New York shows how it's done.

Memo to the judges

You know how sometimes you want to make examples out of people?

Here are a couple:

Portland Water Bureau discovered two people skinny dipping in Mt. Tabor Reservoir 6 early Saturday morning. Water Bureau security personnel spotted the swimmers, who were skinny dipping, and notified the Portland Police Bureau, who apprehended and removed the individuals from the reservoir at approximately 3:00 am and issued trespass citations.

Apprehended were Ryan Langsdorf, age 28 and Ashley Moyer, age 23.

Reservoir 6 is divided into two sections. The section that the swimmers were caught in is currently off-line. Had it been in use at the time, the Water Bureau would have been forced to shut off the reservoir and consider dumping millions of gallons of water, as was done earlier this spring when someone dumped a gallon of latex paint, a construction cone, and hundreds of flyers into the reservoir.

"Not only did this foolish act threaten the cleanliness of Portland's drinking water, it was just plain dangerous," said Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff. "These two individuals could have easily found themselves in a precarious situation where extremely cold water temperatures and a difficult rescue situation could have made drowning a real possibility."

The Water Bureau will work with authorities to pursue this case to the fullest extent of the law.

UPDATE, 3:14 p.m.: Here's old Ryan.

State of Illinois debt: $14,000 per household

Here's a kindred soul trying to hold the government bean counters' feet to the fire in Illinois. Her latest press release notes:

The report, which was issued almost a year after the State's fiscal year end, indicated that each Illinois household share of the State's debt is more than $14,000, totaling $69.7 billion. This debt includes $42 billion owed the State employees' pension funds and $24 billion of health care benefits promised to retired State employees.

This is ironic in a place where the state is supposed to have a balanced budget every year. Sort of reminds us of the City of Portland's annual "surplus" charade.

Of course, the outrage in Illinois over $14,000 of debt per household is in stark contrast to the general silence in the City of Portland, where the debt for a household of four people is currently more than $35,000.

Portland: "Gary, Indiana With Trees"

Our raccoon piece about a week back got a former Portlander, now in Texas, talking on his own blog about his own raccoon experiences in the Rose City. Now, in his followup comments to his blog post, he's written some thought-provoking words about Portlandia generally. You may disagree with the sentiments expressed, but you must admit the fellow does have a way with words:

A few months back, I realized that the sign of a truly great city is when outsiders and locals can point to serious flaws in the city's organization, layout, or government, agree that these are major flaws, and start suggesting ways to fix those flaws.... Portland, though, is the left-wing fundamentalist opposite of Biloxi, Mississippi: both cities don't take criticism well, any residents who frantically attempt to validate their decisions to live there by screaming "So what do you think?" get incredibly pissy or even violent if the response is anything but positive, and both figure that the best way to counteract negative publicity is to stick fingers in ears and hum really loudly.
His post and comments are here.

Nothing accomplished

Here we are nearly seven years after the destruction of the World Trade Center and damage to the Pentagon. We ran into Afghanistan to fight back, and we unseated the Taliban, but our goals of smashing Al Qaeda and bringing bin Laden to justice were never met. Then the White House decided it would be a good idea to hang Saddam Hussein, which we eventually did.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since our arrival in Afghanistan. The U.S. economy has been trashed, as has its reputation throughout the world as a peaceful and law-abiding nation. At so great a cost, what have we gained?

Al Qaeda is as strong as ever, particularly in Pakistan. The Taliban continues to cause major trouble in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whatever victories and alliances we can claim in this part of the world are shaky indeed. And of course, bin Laden is still around somewhere.

Amid all this chaos, one might think that it would be to the United States' advantage to make sure that the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban are contained, even if that means scaling back the impossible mission that the Bush administration insists it has in Iraq.

But no. Quite the opposite.

Iraq is not the end of our frontier. Next it's on to Iran. The delusional Cheney and the Chimp are now reportedly blowing nine figures on a round of covert operations in Iran, trying to destabilize that country and no doubt laying a foundation for a possible overt strike, by U.S. troops, Israelis, missiles from either country's arsenal, or all of the above.

Given the meanness and incompetence with which this fake-cowboy administration has run our nation over the past seven years, it seems almost a certainty that it will try something outrageous before leaving office. No doubt the moves will be timed to influence the election, and the WMD card will be played often, hard, and loudly. Fear is the Republicans' best friend, but Americans are so numb to bad news from this White House that it's going to take a big bang to get them quaking in their boots again. Airport security theater is passé, and in a few months no one will be able to afford to fly, anyway. The GOP needs some serious death and destruction on the TV screens over the next four months to get the voters on edge.

The Iranians are more than ready to supply the battlefield. Quoting our own great diplomat, they're saying, "Bring it on." They've got a couple of nuclear reactors that might as well have bull's-eyes painted on them. My bet is that those will be big piles of rubble by Election Day. But this isn't Qadaffi we're messing with. There will be payback.

"We made this mess, we can't just leave." How many times do we hear that said about Iraq these days? Even some liberals feel that way. Sensing this, the Bush people are going to get us in as deep as they can before they check out of Washington. If it helps McCain in November, they figure, great. But even if it doesn't, they're going for it. All they've got left to offer is fear and death. Come to think of it, aside from greed, that's about all they've ever had.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Holy cow

Here's a baseball video worth checking out.

Look! Look!

All you swing-state voters: Check out this guy.

Back in the day

A reader who's been following our car-free tales sends along the following:

You have been writing about taking the bus around town. I used the bus and MAX to commute to work for over 33 years.

When Tri-Met began issuing bus passes in February, 1975, I started collecting mine. Attached is a sample of the first ones that Tri-Met issued (I'm missing March and May, 1975 and May, 1976) and some from 1980-81. I think I have all the others through July, 2002.

In 1975, the bus pass cost $13.00. Now, it looks like the All-Zone pass will cost $86.00 starting in September, 2008.

The reader has scanned a couple of years' worth of passes into pdf files, and they are here and here.

Double partial governorectomy

Here's a bicoastal co-inky-dink.

She raqs

There's a new Miss Oregon, she knows how to belly dance, and to our knowledge she hasn't been Miss Anything down in California lately. Her name is Danijela Krstic, she is 24, and her official title before the statewide "scholarship pageant" was Miss Tri Valley.

I have no idea where that is. Tigard, maybe? The first story on the contest results says she lives in Portland.

She was Miss Klamath County in 2006. She also ran unsuccessfully for Miss Portland 2008, which raises the question, How many pageants can you enter in a given year?

But you know, after last year's experience, I think I'll let somebody else raise any questions this year. Congratulations to Ms. Krstic.

Just plain weird

Here's a baseball game like you've never seen.

Anything for meth

If it's metal, and in public sight, the druggies will take a run at stealing it. Here's an egregious example. Where are you going to fence those?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What next -- product safety warnings from Africa?

Here's an odd one: The Portland Water Bureau is busy sending out notices about a bottled water recall at supermarkets in the Northeast. Not in Northeast Portland, mind you -- in the northeast of the country -- at Shop-Rite markets. As in New Jersey.

There isn't a Shop-Rite within 2000 miles of here, is there? No matter. City Hall will stop at nothing to poison your mind against bottled water. Fireman Randy knows best!

Card shark nephew update

My nephew is one of 198 players still alive in a $2,000 no-limit hold 'em tourney at the World Series of Poker. Everybody left in the pack will win some sort of money. Our guy will have 32,100 in chips in front of him when cards fly again today at 2. Go get 'em, Gary!

Meanwhile, I won $35 or so in a small game last night. Which at my level is a big deal. Go, me!

UPDATE, 4:12 p.m.: With 139 players left, he's still in there.

UPDATE, 4:27 p.m.: He won $5,060 -- going out 124th of 2317 entrants -- in the 95th percentile. Congratulations to him.

Gettin' bugged drivin' up and down the same old strip

One of the joys of being an academic in the summer is a great deal of freedom in one's daily schedule. This flexibility makes it possible for us to leave our car parked and get around using other means, if that's what we feel like doing. After last Sunday's car-free day up at Peninsula Park, we've been in the mood to travel around town on a bicycle and on Tri-Met this week. It's worked out pretty well.

Our motivations are threefold. First, we're cheap, and for the moment at least, the bus is a little less expensive for us than the car. Second, it's been a long spring of sitting, and we need to get back in shape any way we can; biking and walking aren't as good for that as running, but they definitely help. Third, it's been a while since the weather invited us out onto the sidewalks, but lately it's been calling to us loud and clear.

Now, we're fortunate enough to live near two bus lines that connect us to the world -- no. 9 and no. 33. Both are part of the spokes in the system that run downtown to the transit mall. But lately we've been showing up on some other lines as well. The other day, we were heading over to Higgins for lunch, and when we consulted trimet.org for advice on when to be at the bus stop, surprisingly it told us to switch to the no. 6 at Broadway and MLK. We did so, our connection worked, and we were dropped off virtually at the door of our lunch destination. This saved us about a six-block walk up to Broadway from the transit mall on Third, which wouldn't have been bad, but it was interesting to us how close the system could get us to the end point of our trip.

We tested the system's mettle again last evening, when we called upon it to get us to a friend's house in Northwest Portland for dinner. Again, trimet.org pointed us to an option we had never before considered -- the no. 77. This route is suddenly our favorite of them all. It runs down NE Broadway toward the river, makes a loop through the Rose Quarter transit center, crosses the Broadway Bridge, and then, miraculously, does not head downtown. It zigs around by Union Station, and makes its way through the Pearl and Northwest along a side street (I think it's Northrup). At 23rd, it makes a right and heads north. We jumped off at 23rd and Overton -- two and a half blocks from our buddy's place. Glorious early evening ride, and our walk westward into the sun in a brisk summer breeze was dreamy.

We really prided ourself as an urban guerilla when, during our five-minute wait between the 9 and the 77, we ducked into Great Wine Buys on Broadway and bought a bottle of high-class wine to bring to the soiree.

Coming back home late at night would have been a different kind of adventure -- we were prepared to walk all the way back if the bus schedule or the character of our fellow passengers didn't suit us -- but we caught a ride in a car from another guest. Which was also cool.

Meanwhile, we made a nice discovery on the bicycle yesterday. We were going down to Ladd's Addition, and we were determined to do it on the bike. To go by bus would have forced us downtown, which would have been a waste of time. So the bike it would be.

Planning a southbound jaunt like that requires us to decide where we're going to cross the Banfield Freeway. The usual options for us are 21st and 28th. For Ladd's, 21st is the ticket. But then what? 20th Avenue is the busy street down into southeast, and we've never been comfortable on that stretch (although many bikers do use it).

We dug around a little and pulled out the handy-dandy bike map that the city had mailed us a few years ago. Therein we found the solution. Once over the Banfield, go west on Irving, then south on 16th all the way to the heart of Ladd's. Sure enough, both streets were fairly welcoming to cyclists, and they provided a nice route to our errand of the afternoon. (16th and Irving has an on-ramp to the Banfield, however -- worth knowing in advance.) The roses in Ladd's, of course, are a tonic to see, and the whole vibe in there was a happy one under the impossibly blue sky.

Riding a bike is not a stress-free way to get around Portland. You spend most of your time watching out for hazards of all sorts. You're vulnerable up there. But you're getting there under your own power. It's free -- not even a bus ticket. And depending on where you're going, you can get there safely and fairly quickly on two wheels.

Next week we've got some moves to make that will definitely require that we start up the car. But for any that can be done by other means, we're up for the other means.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quotation of the Day

From the gal who styles my hair: "I don't like jazz music. It makes me feel like something's wrong."

Have a great weekend

Sam Adams: Bankrupt but looking good

And that's his program for Portland. To him the most important feature of the new I-5 bridge is that it look cool. And "a Glenn Jackson Bridge" just isn't cool enough, apparently. Anyway, the latest unintentional joke is here.

And the home of the brave

I see one of the Gerding Edlen boys was playing the big shot last night at some Pearlie brie-fest:

He said development companies should "never get complacent" when it comes to sustainable development and should "not be afraid of making mistakes."
Hey, when you're playing with the taxpayers' money, what have you got to lose?

And babe, don't you know it's a pity

Unless all the weather people are mistaken, it's time to pull the hot weather clichés out of mothballs and dust them off for a busy weekend. You can always get things rolling today with "Hot enough for ya?" By Sunday, "You can fry an egg on the sidewalk." In the meantime, there's always stuff like "It's so hot, I just saw a squirrel rubbing sunscreen on his nuts." For a change of pace, try "But at least it's a dry heat." Or "Last week we were complaining that we were cold." Then some radio station plays that wonderful, horrible song by the Lovin' Spoonful.

Maybe we just ought to assign numbers to these, and to save time and energy, we can just say the numbers to each other instead of the whole clichés. "Hot enough for ya?" can be no. 1, "You can fry an egg on the sidewalk" can be no. 2, etc. Here's a demonstration of the efficiencies that can be achieved with this new system:

Old system:

She: Geez, It's so hot out there, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk!
He: I know, but at least it's a dry heat.

New system:

She: Two!
He: Four.

See? It works.

Now that that's settled, it's way past time to invent some new catchphrases. I've been working on these, but I'm not getting very far yet:

"It's so hot, I'm going to queue up for a sponge bath in a Benson bubbler."

"It's so hot, I just saw a cop dip his Taser in a slushie at the Plaid Pantry."

"It's hotter than Emilie Boyles's armpit in a sauna."

"Hotter than a credit card in a Whole Foods scanner."

"Hotter than the golden showers coming off the SmartPark garage."

"Hotter than an investment with Craig Berkman."

Close, but not quite. Come on, readers, help us out.

In all the heat, you'll need refreshment

Cosmic Charlie's got what you need:

Served in a tall, cold can, this one makes you sit up and take notice. At 10.5% alcohol content, it bitch-slaps your brain. It tastes good, but don’t drink it to kill a hangover. It will perpetuate the activities of the night before, and you’ll be crashing into the bathtub on your first trip to the bathroom.
Read his beautiful survey of your options here.

Change we can believe in

That other one was fake. This one is real.

Who needs a day job?

Remember last week, when I proudly noted that My Nephew the Poker Player had picked up four grand at the World Series of Poker? Well, that night, he went back to his room and logged onto an online tournament, which he won for another $37,500.

And here I am blogging.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

ORS copyright roundup

The recent developments in the saga of the State of Oregon's dubious claim of copyright over its own statutes are now covered fairly thoroughly here.

Kids nowadays... especially from the 'Couv...

They didn't even have any fireworks on board!

Wait a minute

This guy is a Republican?

In our inbox we find this:

Joel Haugen, Republican opponent of David Wu in Oregon's 1st District congressional district, is scheduled to participate in Hillsboro's July 4th Parade, which is scheduled for July 4, 2008 at 10 AM and organized by the Hillsboro Rotary Club. Joel will make his way along the parade route on-board "The Haugenator," a self-made contraption that grew out of his commitment to clean energy, and to eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels by the year 2019.

Construction of The Haugenator began with an electric bicycle that Haugen found at a local yard sale. The unit has room for three total passengers, as it also consists of two additional pedal-powered bikes connected to the electric bike in a triangular formation. A tall column at the center carries a 1 foot-square photo-voltaic cell, which provides 12 volts to recharge the electric bike's battery. Haugen has designed and assembled The Haugenator himself with the help of friends, campaign staff, and volunteers.

Joel Haugen believes that the number one issue America must confront is the need to immediately commit the nation to sweeping energy reform. He advocates incorporating a blend of alternative energy sources, focusing on Hydrogen and electricity to power our cars, and also utilizing wind, solar and geothermal energy, as well as new technologies.

To the right of Haugen in the photo is Bob Prohaska, described by the campaign as "the man who's been helping with a lot of the building."

Another great day in deregulated America

A short while back, we needed to contact the registrar of the internet domain by which people find this site. The registrar is called Melbourne IT, and it is in Australia. (It's a long story.) We tried to conduct the business at hand using their website, but the function we were trying to perform did not work. And so we called them at their Australian phone number -- they don't have one in the United States.

After an annoying wait, we finally got to speak to someone -- in Rangoon, no doubt -- who explained to us the secret method that would get our job done. We tried it, and it worked. The whole call took 10 minutes, counting the wait.

Yesterday we got our long distance telephone bill by e-mail from AT&T. The call to Australia was on there, all right.

The charge?


The worst news you can get at work

The "Don't Worry" memo.

Targeted approach

I see the Portland Water Bureau is on a campaign to make plumbers more conservation-conscious.

Power lunch

My eyes have been known to deceive me, but I do believe that was the Speaker of the Oregon House and a guy in a suit looking for a booth in the bar at Higgins at lunchtime today. Alas, they were too late and had to settle for the dining room.

I hope the suit guy picked up the check, and then wrote another big check.

Better than an iPod

Overheard on the no. 6 bus:

Recorded voice over loudspeaker, announcing next stop: "Madison."

Elderly gent across the aisle from me, to his wife: "Dolly Madison?"

Wife: "No, her husband."


Wife: "Old Man Madison."

Back and forth on Peterson's

We don't want to make this blog All-Peterson's-All-the-Time, but the e-mail messages on that story keep a-comin' in. Here's an exchange between a neighbor of the soon-to-be-evicted convenience store and the office of Mayor Tom Potter:

Thank you for contacting Mayor Potter about Peterson's Store on SW Morrison. Mayor Potter has asked me to reply on his behalf. This is a bulk response; if you have more detailed questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

In 1999, the City of Portland informed Peterson's that its lease would not be extended past January, 2004 after a history of neighborhood complaints. An early termination of the lease was discussed in 2002, and since 2004 Peterson's has remained at its location on a month-to-month basis. Some retail tenants have refused to renew their leases, specifically citing Peterson's.

Though I have heard that the aggressive persons loitering outside Peterson's are drawn to the MAX stop, they do not board MAX trains and the City does not have similar problems at other MAX stops. We do know, however, that the loiterers are patrons of Mr. Peterson's store. Mr. Peterson has been asked several times to address a number of different problems associated with his store, but issues continue. Therefore, there are no plans to renew Mr. Peterson's lease.

Thank you, again, for emailing.


Jeremy Van Keuren
Public Advocate
Office of Mayor Tom Potter


Respectfully Mr. Van Keuren, I use that Max stop frequently all hours of the day. My business is located on SW Broadway between Washington and Alder. I have problems with nuisance panhandlers and street people in front of my business and all along Broadway and they certainly aren't my customers. It is much worse in front of Peet's Coffee, and a particular rowdy bunch in front of Rite Aid, than by Peterson's. This is a city problem and you are not doing much about it. Don't blame the businesses because you folks can't even keep the demonstrators away from city hall.


The important distinction here is that the City owns the building Peterson's is sited in, and it would not be responsible for the City to be complacent to activity taking place on its property. We have given Mr. Peterson many years to address it. The City does not own those other properties.

Jeremy Van Keuren
Public Advocate
Office of Mayor Tom Potter

Where your property tax dollars are going

Ah, the beautiful Portland that City Hall's hundreds of "planners" are bringing us. How about some nice 11-story bunkers between Interstate Avenue and I-5? Oh, so livable. Living in an existing two-story house next to those monstrosities is going to be a real experience, too.

But hey, everybody wants some of that wonderful Interstate MAX Station vibe in their daily lives. No doubt this will be a smashing financial success for the city's taxpayers.

No surprise

Yesterday, we speculated that he had one. We were right.

Elect this

The recent shakeup of the Multnomah County elections office -- rumblings about which we had heard as far back as last fall -- continues to generate hard feelings. The latest development: a lawsuit by the terminated assistant director, who claims she was let go in retaliation for her complaints about budget cuts.

Hold one of these next to your brain for a couple of hours

Once again, we're probably the last one on earth to see this but... here's a video that we hope is fake.

A rainbow of reasons

So many to choose from.

It depends on what the meaning of the word "first" is

Former Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Furse acknowledged she misspoke when she praised the Republican senator in a TV ad for his campaign.

Furse said she was wrong when she claimed in the commercial that Smith was "one of the first to stand up to George Bush and other Republicans to end this war" in Iraq. She said she should have stated that Smith -- who supported the war for its first 3½ years -- was one of the first Republicans to speak out against it.

"I know that he wasn't the first to oppose the war," said Furse. "He was one of the first of his party to oppose the war . . . That is what I meant."

What a load. Give it up, Ms. Furse. Your conduct is deplorable. What you need to say is, "My career is over, but I still wanted attention. I'm sorry."

And your partner in crime: "That took guts." Please -- so does lying.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thought for the Day

I’ve always believed that there is only one good thing about extremists: They don’t know when to stop.

Say goodbye to Dr. Death

Looks like the former Portland Kaiser surgeon got tired of paying Steve Houze, and is on his way to Australia to face manslaughter charges. No six letters of recommendation this time. So long, Doc -- thrive.

Hookups in the lockdown

Another distinction for the 'Couv.

See you in court

No Erik Sten Big Dopey Idea® would be complete unless it cost at least a half-million dollars before being pronounced a failure. Here's the latest -- let's hope it's the last.

And for those keeping score at home, it took Nick Fish exactly 15 days in office to prove that he's going to be just like the rest of them. The making a face and pointing out problems with a proposal, and then voting for it, is truly Francesconian. Go by streetcar, Nick!

How City Hall sees Peterson's

Just to add fuel to the fire over the planned eviction of Peterson's convenience store from the SmartPark garage in downtown Portland, a City Hall source sends along a document about the situation from inside the bureaucracy: a timeline of events, prepared today.

The source also forwards a copy of a 2002 Oregonian article, which shows that it's not just Brooks Brothers complaining about the place.

The question remains whether closing that store is going to make the situation on that block better. To me, the answer is no, but obviously, others take a different view.

I'd bet he does

You wonder if this guy has one of these.

Yup, he's right

A reader writes:

Second page story of the O business page had a headline in big bold font about Nau, that yuppie pseudo green clothing company whose assets were purchased by Horny Toad, a California edgy clothing store that will feature the Nau line in their stores, one of which is on 23rd Ave. And at the bottom of the same page in much smaller font, the 180 workers who lost their jobs when Pope and Talbot went bankrupt in Halsey last month will be rehired by the company that bought the assets from the bankruptcy court. Now which do you think is more important or has a larger economic impact on Oregon?

On the bandwagon

Another day, another $44 million of debt for Portland

The City of Portland had a bond sale scheduled for yesterday, but now it's been rescheduled for next Tuesday. Did somebody not want the deal on their books until the third quarter, which starts that day?

Anyway, it's more insane borrowing for "urban renewal" -- this time for the "South Park Blocks" district -- kind of a misleading name when you take a look at the map. Did you realize that the Crystal Ballroom is near the South Park Blocks? Me neither. Even crazier, only about half the South Park Blocks are actually in the urban renewal district that bears their name.

The sales document for the new bonds, which are being sold privately to a group led by Citigroup and Bank of America, is here (a large pdf file). Just a little over $67 million will be borrowed, about half of which is supposed to be paid back within 10 years, and the rest maturing within 16 years. Around $35 million of the bonds will bear taxable interest, which will trigger a higher interest rate than the rest, which will pay tax-exempt interest.

Nearly $44 million of the borrowed money will go for new "urban renewal" toys, while about $23 million is earmarked to pay off similar bonds that the city sold in 2000. Of the new money, quite a bit is scheduled to go for housing:

Table 5
South Park Blocks Urban Renewal Area
(FYs 2007-08 through 2011-12)

Project CategoryAmount (2)
Commercial Development$ 3,875,000
Parks and Public Facilities4,800,000
Housing 24,238,483
Other (3) 643,542
Total $33,557,025
(1) The planned projects are based on the budget of the Commission, and may be changed in the future.
(2) Preliminary, subject to change.
(3) Includes bank fees paid from line of credit and staffing and indirect costs which will be allocated to projects based on final project amounts.

Source: Portland Development Commission

Hmmmm... $23 million to refund old bonds... $34 million for new projects that they're telling us about... That comes to $57 million. But hey, they're borrowing $67 million. I guess the extra $10 million is for art.

Actually, this particular urban renewal district is about to turn into a pumpkin soon -- the borrowing authority for it legally ends on July 23 -- and so it appears they're borrowing even more dough than they know what to do with before time runs out, just to have it around to play with later. But interest, of course, starts running immediately.

The bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody's -- far from a top rating, and just a notch above A1. The likely reason for this is that the bonds are payable only out of increased property taxes from the district. It's not a risk-free proposition for the banks and their investing partners. Good luck to them -- they may well need it. Unlike the 2000 deal, here's no bond insurance this time around, because... well, the bond insurance companies aren't much more creditworthy than the City of Portland these days.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's a girl

Congratulations to Portland City Council candidate Charles Lewis, who became a dad last week. Here he is with his wife Sarah and new daughter Coakley Anna Lewis. [Via Willamette Week.]

Welcome to Portland

Even the fastest men in the world can't outrun our meth problem.

More on the bum's rush at Peterson's

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the raw deal that Peterson's convenience store is getting from the City of Portland. Channel 6 News was out there last night, and now there's a "Save Peterson's" website getting up and running.

Rant of the Month

And it's about the "creative class" snowjob:

a deliberate blueprint for making the city less and less affordable to older, less ambitious, low-wage or working class people by molding it into a place that Yuppies want to move to, e.g., making sure that lots of "lofts," "live/work" condos and other hasty infill development provide fakey "urban" places where the f***s can take out a big mortgage to live in close proximity to caramel lattes; run up their credit cards indulging their stupid lifestyles like good little consumers; work 60+ hour weeks to keep on top of it all; and eventually, of course, crowd out as many of the original uncool neighbors as possible.
Hysterically funny -- and so true.

"But the good news for homeowners..."

Leave it to the O. The residential real estate market hits "a record low for a year-over-year decline in April," but in the next breath they have to have "good news" -- April was a little better than March. "A potential sign that prices bottomed out."


They are so desperate over there to hold onto what's left of their classifieds. So desperate.

About "trading down" in the pro hoops draft

"It's easier to write about doing it and say a team could do it than it is for a team to actually do it.''

It worked in Portland

But will it work in New York City?

What's in your wallet?

Can the local government in these parts buy anything without borrowing money for it? Here's another new line of credit -- $5 million -- for new computers for the Portland Development Commission. A five-year line of credit -- which means that the stuff will probably be obsolete long before the debt is paid off.

In over their heads

A couple of weeks ago, we noted how snakebitten Multnomah County has been when it comes to building new courthouses. For example, the budget for the new Gresham court facility had gone up from $16.35 million to $21.1 million, which was causing consternation.

Yesterday new numbers surfaced, and ka-ching! We're up to $27.5 million. And that's before they've even drawn up the formal plans. If they cut the project back, they'll have a mutiny on their hands from the East County folk who offered to throw in a few million toward a super-duper joint.

Quite the pickle for Wheeler and Little Big Pipe.

And if they can't get this simple little drive-through pop stand built, imagine the time they'll have putting up a $200 million-plus high-rise courthouse in downtown Portland -- where the obstacles are far more daunting. Then there's that little bridge that's falling down...

Suffice it to say, don't expect new-car smell on jury duty any time soon.

Even giveaways aren't enough on MLK

View Larger Map

Remember the Heritage Building deal on MLK Boulevard in Portland? We blogged about that one back in October 2005. The Portland Development Commission gave the property away for a buck after buying it for $400,000. It also made a $2.45 million sweetheart loan to the developers to whom it was handing the place. There was a senior construction loan with Albina Bank, too.

Well, the project's a flop, and now both loans are in default. They're rearranging the deck chairs with a new senior lender this week at the PDC. If the new private loan doesn't get finalized pretty soon, a foreclosure sale is scheduled for less than a month from now.

Meanwhile, taxpayers, you may want to pucker up and kiss a good chunk of that $2.45 million goodbye.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The City of Portland loves me!

At least, they linked to my writeup of Sunday Parkways in the sidebar of the official event web page.

I believe that's a first for this blog. Maybe they'll start linking to more of my city transportation stories. D'ya think?

They're experts about pain

The IRS has raised its estimate of the cost of driving -- a nearly 16 percent increase over just the last six months. It's going to be 58.5 cents a mile, effective on July 1 -- up from 50.5 cents on January 1.

The ultimate in sustainability

We're doing our part as a fuel source.

Courthouse vs. steakhouse

A friend of ours and a former Portlander has had an interesting year:

"You know it’s very interesting to be a lawyer here in China," Ms. Murphy said. "I go to conferences and hear people talk about resolving disputes by taking all the parties out to a big banquet. Everyone has a good time and then comes to an amicable resolution. Some Chinese have argued that they don’t need all these hundreds of laws -- and consequent lawsuits. In part of my heart I agree with them. The U.S. has become lawsuit crazy at times. Yet these laws protect citizens, they’ve established safety standards, medical morality and a myriad of ways to keep the U.S. population safe."
The whole thing is here. [Via TaxProf Blog].


Let me start this post with the obvious: I am not hip. Once I might have been a hap'nin' guy, but now I'm just a creaky old fool muttering into his beard. There are many things about this modern world that I don't understand, and I suppose I'm getting less and less capable of figuring them out on my own.

That said, maybe you readers can help me. Yesterday as we rode the bus to the no-car thingie, there boarded the bus a young woman, apparently in her 20s, who was dressed in a mostly white, flowing, full-length outfit befitting a china doll. Her face had the same look -- all made up completely white, with her features... well, dolled up.

The four of us sat there agog, and although she acknowledged that she was dressed a little differently from the rest of us, the conversation never turned to exactly why that was. She was not attending the same event as we were -- maybe this was just her everyday look -- or maybe her regular Sunday look?

It was beautiful but... you know, different.

Anybody out there have an idea of what might have been going on?

Long time coming

The bureaus of the Portland city government must have a competition to see who can send out the most high-priced junk to residents to remind them of things four or five times. The other day we got yet another mailer telling us about the groovy new blue recycling cart we're going to get -- along with a $43-a-year jackup in our garbage rates.

Funny thing -- the current timetable is for the cart to arrive "between May and July," which comes as an interesting revelation in mid-to-late June. Does that mean by June 30, or by July 31? One thing the mailer is quite precise about: The garbage bill increase takes effect July 1.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good night

George Carlin

Another heck of a job

Two phrases that should not be allowed anywhere near each other: Bush administration and bioterror research.


Ah, the trials and tribulations of living in the hills on the west side of Portland. A reader sends along an e-mail thread that shows they've got some problems in the Willamette Heights neighborhood. Roving bands of brazen thugs! But don't worry -- not the human type:

As we returned from a walk this afternoon, one of the exterior restorers of the pink house on the corner of Thurman and 31st stopped us. He had just heard what he thought to be a dog fight, but it turned out to be an attack on a dog and a woman by a raccoon at the north upper end of the Thurman St. Bridge. The raccoon had emerged from the laurels at the edge of the canyon and bit both of them.

Last night at 10:30 T***** spotted a coyote coming up 32nd to Thurman.

We inhabit the edge of the Forest. Beware!


A week ago Saturday at 4 pm I had the french doors open between the kitchen and the patio. Less than five minutes later, I turned around and there was a large raccoon sitting *in our kitchen*. I did the movie version of a good loud scream and he did not budge. I jumped up and down and pretended to run toward him. He just looked at me. I grabbed two metal lids and banged them together (I was running out of options) and he finally fled down the back stairs. Five minutes later he was back on the patio staring at our twelve year old cat. I did the lid act again. It worked.

This is not normal behavior for a raccoon.


Well, it may be normal for the raccoons in our neighborhood. We have had raccoon families living under our deck in the past,and it seems one of the young males does not adhere to the "raccoons are noctural" norm. He is out just about any time of day hanging around looking for food etc. And while he (or she) is very bold I can usually just clap my hands loudly and he runs away -- although it takes 3-4 time before he moves on.

I have called animal control in the past -- they no longer trap raccoons and release them as the people in the release areas started complaining. So if you want to be rid of them you need to call an exterminator, meaning they will be killed -- and while they are a nuisance I am not willing to have them killed as they really do no harm. We have two cats and they come face to face but the raccoons never go after them -- it seems they just want to eat.

Over all they are bold but relatively harmless from my perspective -- but if anyone has a bigger issue I would be happy to discuss trapping alternatives.


I'm not sure raccoons around here are so harmless. I took a baby raccoon who had been abandoned by its mom over to the Audubon Center and they told me they would euthanize it simply because many area raccoons have rabies. They said they refused to take chances.

Which could explain the biting attack on the woman and the dog off the Thurman bridge.

I recently saw a raccoon the size of a border collie on my neighbors' deck and could not scare it away.

City of Roses still

The family spent a couple of hours today over at the car-free event in North Portland. Actually, we walked along the route only for around four blocks. But we had a spectacular time based on what we did before and after that brief stretch.

First, we took Tri-Met to get up there. Two buses, but the connection between them wasn't that long, and it was a nice enough day to lounge around in between. We had two day passes from the Chinook Book and so we had to buy only one additional fare. From the bus windows, we discovered some places we hadn't seen before, and we were surprised to pass by some familiar places that we hadn't even pictured being served by a bus near us.

We hopped off the 72 at Killingsworth and Kerby and walked our four blocks, north on Kerby to Peninsula Park. The street was basically a bicycle freeway, but everything was moving along at a mellow pace. Walkers were relegated to the sidewalk, which seemed a little out of the spirit of the day. Far from being a hostile group, the residents along the route seemed in pretty good spirits, even blasting some music out the windows here and there for inspiration.

We stopped our walk at the park, which I do not believe I have ever visited previously in my 30 years of living in this town. What a gorgeous place -- a stunning rose garden at the height of its powers, big rolling fields, a first-rate playground, and we're told a nice swimming pool, but we didn't get a look at that. We were too distracted by everything else that was going on.

In the span of an hour and a half, we caught a jazz band, an acrobatic act, a gaggle of bike-dancers called the Sprockettes, and a corny rapper guy. They were handing out Clif bars, the Zoo was there with some pettable critters, the kids did some art work, and there were all sorts of mechanical assistance and instruction available for cyclists. I guess there had been more substantial food around in the morning, but it was nowhere to be found by the time we made the scene.

Just as we reached the point at which we wanted to leave Peninsula, the clock struck 2 and the streets reopened to gas-powered vehicles. So much for our making a dent in the six-mile course. We caught a ride back to our bus in a couple of pedi-cabs that were winding up their day -- the only way to travel, my friends -- and during our bus connection we hit a taqueria on Alberta for some belly-expanding grub. When Tri-Met deposited us a few steps from our door a while later, we had had a nice afternoon indeed. So had our cars, which hadn't moved.

From this family's perspective, there was not much to criticize in Sunday Parkways, and a lot to praise. It was amazingly well attended -- obviously, there is a "market" for this sort of thing. One fellow we chatted with allowed as how "they ought to do this once a month all summer." Assuming that they moved it around to bring it to different parts of the city, I'd have to say I agree.

But even if they don't, here's a tip for you Portlanders who, like I, haven't seen Peninsula Park: Head up there and check it out while the roses are still in their full glory. We're told that it was the original Portland rose garden -- even before Washington Park. The century it's been there has been kind to it -- it's quite the classic.

"What are we going to do with these guys when we get them?’"

Somebody smart once warned that you shouldn't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. That may explain the Bush administration and torture.

I need a good cut man during the commercials

This morning from 9 to 11, I'll do my best once again to play the lefty foil for the tenacious conservative Rob Kremer on KXL Radio (750 AM in Portland). I fill in on a somewhat regular basis for Rob's usual counterpoint, Marc Abrams. After the show, I typically require medication, but it's all in good fun, and once in a while I get a zinger in.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pandora's Box

We've been blogging about bananas the last few days, and as we bit into a creamy, sweet Cavendish this afternoon, we realized what a rich topic that is. Indeed, one could devote an entire blog to that wonderful fruit. Anyway, shortly after that moment of reflection, we checked our e-mail and found a link to this. Something tells us that we've only just begun.

Live blogging the City Council meetings is not cool...

... if you're a City Council member.


The longest day of the year, and here at 10 to 8 in the evening it's still with us. Great day to get back in touch with the parts of the yard that we've been neglecting. A bike run to the Freddy's garden section for a couple of gadgets, spreading rose and azalea food, buying a 50-cent pair of work gloves from the garage sale down the street (they "fell off a truck"), that sort of thing. Then a gin and tonic while the kids perform their modern dance moves on the backyard grass to a KBOO soundtrack. Life is so good.

Mark your calendar for ugly

Get ready for another Obama renunciation. Al Sharpton may get indicted by the feds between now and November. If it happens, you'll be seeing plenty of these photos.

How to blow a nice lead

This is really tacky. It needs to be taken down, put in a closet, and never resurrected again except as some kind of joke after the inauguration.

Any way you slice it

We linked the other day to an op-ed piece in The New York Times about the uncertain future of the banana as a food staple in this country. An alert reader points out that the same author told much the same story in a more comprehensive article in Popular Science, just about three years previously to the day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Have a great weekend

Moving again

The people who own the server on which this site resides have decided to jack up the rent, and so with the help of the greatest IT guy in the universe, we are moving again. The changeover will take place tonight sometime. If something on the site looks screwy, or access is interrupted, rest assured that it is only temporary. We should be back up to full strength in a couple of days at the latest.

UPDATE, 10:50 p.m.: If you can read this, you're looking at the right server and the move worked fine.

Where the bellies once jiggled

The Portland Development Commission really doesn't have a clue about what they're ever going to get somebody to build over on the east side of the Burnside Bridge. But that doesn't stop them from buying up the neighborhood and knocking everything down in the meantime. Next to meet the wrecking ball will be the site of the Ararat Restaurant at 111 NE MLK. If you'd like to demo the place yourself, here's your chance to bid.

Meanwhile, the Ararat is reportedly heading out to Felony Flats. Good luck, folks.

State of Oregon backs off claim that its law is copyrighted

So reports this blog.

UPDATE, 1:01 p.m.: A more comprehensive story is here. Our prior coverage is here and here.

"Mayhem a mi izquierda"

After another assault on the Interstate MAX system last night, we get the reassuring news that Tri-Met --

is changing the way it informs passengers of disturbances on trains and buses. MAX operators and bus drivers will now inform passengers if there is an incident on the train and whether police are being called.

Just another day at the office

My Nephew the Poker Player still has chips and has made it to the second day of a no-limit hold 'em event at the World Series of Poker. This one is a $1,500 buy-in, with a top prize of around $600,000. (The biggest event in the tournament, the world championship, starts on July 3.)

With $72,500, he's 25th in chips out of 187 players left after the first day, which means he'll definitely win some money. Play picks up again today at 2.

May the day bring him many A-J suiteds.

UPDATE, 6/21, 10:43 p.m.: He won $4,008 on a $1,500 buy-in in this particular tourney. No doubt he's staying in Vegas until the main event, and so we'll see if we can keep track of him (never easy) from now 'til the end.

Another reason to love AT&T

While tooling around the neighborhood on my bicycle yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the majority of drivers at that hour were females between the ages of 20 and 40, and just about all of them were talking on a cell phone while driving. Probably on their way to Trader Joe's. I even saw a gal that age yakking it up on the cell while bicycling.

Anyway, I wonder whether these moms are aware of what their cell phones are doing to our world. It ain't pretty.

How government works: Borrow at 6% to invest at 3%

To close the loop on our stories on the planned move of the west side offramp from the Hawthorne Bridge, we hear from the folks at Multnomah County that the $8.9 million that the county received from the City of Portland for that move is safely invested, and will remain so until the county spends the funds, one of these days. The money is earning around 3.1 percent as part of the county's investment portfolio, which we are told is made up of this:

Cash and Equivalents44.4%
US Government Agencies18.5%
Collateralized Certificates of Deposit 15.8%
Corporate Debt and Commercial Paper 10.2%
Bankers’ Acceptances7.6%
US Treasuries3.5%

The problem for the taxpayers, of course, is that the city's paying around 6.03 percent interest on those funds -- they're all borrowed as part of the "urban renewal" red ink fest and have been incurring interest at that rate since April -- while the county's earning only 3.1 percent. It's a spread of 2.93 percent, which on $8.9 million comes to $260,770 a year. That's money that you and I are paying to Citigroup and Bank of America... and until the county starts moving that ramp, we are getting absolutely nothing for it.

Mission accomplished

Those hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives in Iraq have not died in vain.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In the midnight hour, she cried, "No, no more"

I was downtown having a BLT with a guy I know today, and I travelled to and fro in the capable hands of Tri-Met. On the way home, I picked up my occasional hard copy of Willamette Week, where I always get more than I could ever extract from their website. "Win a dinner with Ron Jeremy," indeed.

Anyway, I saw with interest that bad-boy rocker Billy Idol will be playing at Edgefield soon. Yowza! "Take me back home-eh!"

But then I read the fine print: "Show starts promptly at 6:30 p.m."

On a Monday night. Metamucil City.

I'm Chiquita Banana and I'm here to say

You'd better eat me now before I go away.

Another newspaper swooning

This time in Eugene.

We're still not sure where everyone's going to go for news when all the traditional media outlets fold. Don't say the bloggers, because without the mainstream folks to do the basic reporting for us, most of us wouldn't have much to write about.

It's just a question of when

Some day, some bureaucrat will be fired for spending too much time on this blog.

"Open primary"? Not really

We blogged yesterday about Greg Macpherson's solicitation of our support for what he calls an "open primary." But as an alert reader points out, that isn't what he ballot measure that Macpherson is touting creates. It's more like a runoff system in a nonpartisan election. We'll let the reader explain:

The use of the term "Open Primary" is nothing but bait and switch. This scheme in no way resembles Open Primaries as the term is used or understood anywhere. In fact, the term "open primary" was turned down for inclusion in the ballot title, because it doesn't describe what is proposed. It prohibits parties, any parties, from nominating candidates to the General Election. It doesn't "open" the Primary in the way that term is understood in other states. In other words, instead of allowing voters who are not members of a party to participate in that party's nominating process, it eliminates the nominating process altogether and replaces it with a top two runoff. Plus, It uses invented, intuitively meaningless terminology for a core concept, which offices it will affect, "voter choice offices." Huh? And races for non-partisan positions it would not affect are not "voter choice offices"? This is just classic obfuscation.

The measure asserts without evidence that: "A primary election process that advances the two candidates receiving the most votes to the general election ballot, and that allows every qualified voter to vote on which candidate to advance, helps to ensure the election of officials supported by a majority of the electorate, thereby promoting citizen confidence in their government."

In fact there is plenty of evidence that this measure would lead to the opposite result. In a crowded primary election, we would have no way of knowing who was supported by a majority of the electorate. The pluralities received by the top two would be dependent on the preferences distributed among the other candidates. In fact, we would not necessarily elect a candidate from the party supported by a majority of the voters. In the not far-fetched scenario in which four Democratic candidates split 60% of the vote, two Republican candidates could go to the general election, denying a majority an opportunity to elect a candidate or party they mostly agree with. And the party elected is significant, since both the Congress and the Legislature are organized around parties, and nothing about this measure changes either one.

It violates the principal of independence from irrelevant alternatives as described in studies of electoral systems. (Look up Arrow's Theorem.) A group's preference for A over B can be radically subverted if a subset prefers C over A. In other words, in an election in which a majority would prefer A over B or C in a two-way race, in a three-way it's quite possible that B and C would advance to the runoff election, and that A would appear to come in third.

Or would we have to rely on backroom deals to limit the number of candidates to prevent that kind of paradoxical result? Of course the pressure would be intense to stay out of the race if your entry would cause your party's vote to be split more than the other's. In that sense, from both the candidate's standpoint and the standpoint of voter choice, this system would be more closed than the one we have now.

Questions have been raised as to whether it bars alternative means of reaching the general election ballot. Some think not, some think only to the major parties, and so far the Oregon Supreme Court says yes, the only way to the general election ballot would be via the top two primary. The text of the measure can be cited to support any of those positions. Ah, the litigation opportunities abound.

It uses the term "open primary," and yet proposes a system that is radically different from how that term is used in law and political science. This makes the initiative process a bait and switch scheme. And even though the Oregon Supreme Court declined the petitioner's request to put that term into the ballot title, they use it on the street as part of the standard signature gathering script. It must have had good positives in a poll or focus group, as a term disembodied from the measure it is supposed to describe.

Sounds fishy to us.

Everybody wants to get into the act

Did you know that Oregon's Red Cross chapter has a blog?

Well, now you do.

It's Juneteenth

Have a great day, and remember.

Puertas a mi derecha

Obama takes a turn and starts heading toward November.

Gonna dress you up in my love

There's something about this story that makes me want to break out my early Madonna albums.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The next eco-battlefield

Light bulbs.

Already I can't get the regular kind at Costco.

Still working the e-mail

I just got a message from Greg Macpherson, who's about to be out of public office for a while soon, encouraging me to head on over and sign a petition for this. He writes:

Under this initiative, all candidates for an Oregon office would be listed on a single ballot in the primary election. Every registered voter, regardless of party affiliation could vote for any candidate. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would go forward to the general election.

I favor an open political process that invites broad participation. I support the open primary because it would broaden voter participation. Nonaffiliated voters would be given a voice in the primary election. Voters registered in a political party that has smaller numbers would have a voice in both primary and general elections.

Having just been through a traditional primary, we're all in a position to judge the merits of this. Is there something broken that needs to be fixed?

Journalistic Ripoff of the Week

The O has this today.

WW had this yesterday.

Pitiful. Sandy Rowe, turn in your Pulitzers.

Beta, and greata

Betsy Richter, Dieselboi, PAgent, and somebody named Cosmic Charlie have quietly opened a new site called Our PDX Network. We have every reason to expect great things from it.

Never mind

The doctor who led the petition drive for universal health insurance for Portland public school students, paid for by the city, is now saying he'll withdraw the ballot measure on the subject because the city is promising to study such a program.

Without getting into the merits of his decision, I'm a little surprised that can he do that unilaterally. With the signed petitions already turned in, I would have thought it would no longer be up to him. But hey, what do I know?

One more reason to think twice before sign petitions, I guess. You never know whether the group you're signing for is going to go through with "their" measure. And it appears they don't have to come back and ask you before they change their minds. Your signature becomes their bargaining chip.

Way ahead of his time

Here's a guy who envisioned the World Wide Web -- in 1934.

Reader poll: Are you up for "Sunday Parkways"?

The City of Portland's going to try something new on Sunday -- "Sunday Parkways," a day in which it will block off six miles of streets in North Portland to traffic from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only other time local residents get this kind of treat is after a snowstorm.

Now, the tighty righties will probably have their shorts in a knot over this, but to us it sounds like a fun idea, and pretty harmless. If the weather and everybody's schedule permit, we may even take the family over there just to see what it's like. How about you?

Are you planning to participate in the "car-free day" in North Portland this Sunday?
I'm in the area, but I won't
I'm too far away
pollcode.com free polls

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Glory be

A match made in heaven

My decision to stop showing up and giving money to the Catholic Church has just been vindicated in a major way. [Via Worldwide Pablo.]

MetroFi to pull plug on Friday

So says this story. Another Sten-Leonard Genius Idea down the tubes.

And then there's this one, which will probably rack up six figures in legal fees before they let go of it. More money and time wasted by the Big Thinkers.

Hey hey, my my

Maybe the Rock 'N' Roll Cafe didn't die.

When a city spends itself into the tank

A reader who shares our interest in municipal bankruptcy sends along this comprehensive piece about what's going on down in Vallejo.

Sponsored by a generous grant from Smith & Wesson

I see that the City of Portland has its legions of planners (mostly they plan Homer Williams's retirement fund) "studying" livability issues around the east side MAX line. It was quite the snooze of a story until we hit this part:

Jack Vahey of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association said he’s glad that his neighborhood isn’t located on a MAX light-rail line because "it’s a waste of money."

He said he was also concerned about safety.

"We’re glad we don’t have it because it’s not safe," he said.

Blasphemy! But true, of course.

Yay! We won! (What?)

If you owed money to a bank or other commercial lender at any time over the last 21 years, you just won something in court. Free credit monitoring and a buck-three-eighty, it looks like. Details (and I hope this is legit) are here.

You could fill up Wapato with these guys

My neighbor would definitely have a cell.

Time for a change

Oregon cities (and counties and Metro's) need to get out of the real estate development business.

Wow, what will they think of next?

Green is the new sex -- it's being used to sell everything. It's always especially funny when the real estate developers start telling you how green their handiwork is. A while back we had good laugh when the one builder bragged about how green he was because the windows in his new tower were going to open.

Now the tram-masters at OHSU are blathering about the new campus they're going to build in the Portland's SoWhat District as soon as they find a billion dollars or two lying around somewhere. Not only will it be the center of all of our universes, but it will be green, green, oh so green!

The most recent plan incorporates an impressively long list of environmental features. Among other things, it calls for the street grid to be angled slightly to the north to take full advantage of the sun for passive heating.
Now, there's a good one. We'll get more passive heat in the walls by rotating the streets a little! Man, if they keep this up, we'll have our energy and climate problems solved in no time.

The kindness of strangers

A safety tip from the City of Portland:

Choose a safe person on the MAX train. When you get on the train, use your intuition to choose someone that you feel would be safe to help you. If someone makes you uncomfortable, or you need help, you can ask this person for help by being direct, "You in the red shirt, I need help! Call 911!"
This and many more are here.

Monday, June 16, 2008


My vote for President is being determined in part by who I think is more likely to get us out of this vicious, counterproductive mindset in dealing with the many people around the world who hate us.

Fine -- thank you

Now you and Sharpton get the heck outta here.

People always told me

Be careful what you do.

State of Oregon as cyberbully

I blogged here a while back about the nasty threats that a committee of the Oregon Legislature has been making against those who would dare publish the Oregon Revised Statutes -- the state's legal code -- on the internet. According to something called the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee, the state owns a copyright on the Oregon Revised Statutes, and no one can publish them without paying the state a fee.

The claim that this committee makes is extremely broad. It recently told a private outfit whom it was threatening with a lawsuit that the state's copyright extends to "the arrangement and subject-matter compilation of Oregon statutory law, the prefatory and explanatory notes, the leadlines and numbering for each statutory section, the tables, index and annotations and such other incidents as are the work product of the Committee in the compilation and publication of Oregon law." That leaves the text of the law itself in the public domain, but without the other materials, the text of the law itself is truly meaningless. The section numbers? You're kidding, folks. The law itself refers to those section numbers constantly. If you can't tie the code section to its number, the law becomes gibberish.

As a practical matter, the bottom line is that the state is claiming that its law cannot be copied by anyone in any meaningful way without state permission.

For example, here's what Chapter 289 of the Oregon Revised Statutes looks like. (According to the legislative committee, I have just broken the law by copying it in full onto my own website.) Now here's what it looks like without the material that the committee claims is copyrighted. It's worthless. But worthless is all I can give you, Salem says, unless I pay the state a fee.


Anyway, now the legislative committee is planning a hearing on the matter, to be held Thursday morning in Salem. The Wiki kids are all over it, here, and they're planning to head down there, presumably to blast the legislative committee for its arrogance.

For those of us not sufficiently motivated to schlep all the way to the state Capitol for this, there's no reason why we couldn't express our views by e-mail to the members of the committee. It's quite a list of Legislature honchos:

On the Senate side: Peter Courtney; Kate Brown, who's running for Secretary of State -- the keeper of Oregon's law and protector of the public's access to the law; Ginny Burdick; David Nelson; Jackie Winters; and Floyd Prozanski.

On the House side: Jeff Merkley, who might need your vote sometime soon; Greg Macpherson (never too late to do the right thing); Dave Hunt; Andy Olson; Dennis Richardson; and Diane Rosenbaum.

Brown and Merkley especially deserve to hear about this as they aspire to higher office. If this misguided committee doesn't back down, I certainly hope that someone will take it to court and embarrass the heck out it, prominently tying these politicians' names to the copyright bullying being done on their behalf.

New use for that unsold condo in the Pearl

How about as a construction trailer?

Lab Holding, the Southern California-based development company for the adjacent Centennial Mills project, has discussed leasing a condominium to house its Portland office during the construction of the Centennial Mills site.

Ted Wheeler: Don't even try it

Here's a county head honcho who's making a name for himself back east -- for better or worse.

Fool's gold

[E]ven Democrats have bought into the underlying premise of the Bush years — that the best thing you can do for American families, or at least the only thing that can win their votes, is to give them a tax break.


A little problem with that Whole Foods soap.

Portland admits it blew $250K on "free" wi-fi

First time we've seen that number. And of course, if they're owning up to $250K, the real costs are doubtlessly higher.

And the scam goes on

If you want to stop the taxpayer-built, privately owned Portland Convention Center hotel, you'll have to watch it like a hawk all summer, and even then, the Old Boy Network, through its cronies and dupes, will probably give it the go-ahead in early October.

What? You've go better things to do with your summer? Too bad. Hank Ashforth's people are getting paid to come to every meeting all summer long. If you can't make it, you lose.

"The Metro Council is paying the project development team led by the Garfield Traub Ashforth Pacific development group $600,000 for the initial feasibility study..." Too funny. He gets his money even before he gets his hotel. How long before "We've spent so much, we can't turn back now"?

They're everywhere

The latest generation of Blazer believers, that is.

Whatever's next (if anything), he's ready

Brian Hines had a thoughtful post about being a dad, and a granddad, on Father's Day.

Call it what it is


The best there is

It's easy for the casual spectator to take him for granted, but this guy is nothing short of amazing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Middle East: mellow by comparison

Dad, if you run fast, you can get to your bedroom and lock the door before she gets to you. Don’t come out until I tell you it’s okay. RUN!!!
The whole story is here.

Sign of a good Father's Day party

When the Grand Marnier spilled on the Formica counter, I licked a little of it up.

Document shred was a show

Guess what: The nuclear weapons rogues have computers.

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What they do

Poor Merkley. First he's got to parade around with a Skoal can in his pocket, and now he's got to deal with traitors:

With enemies like this pair, John McCain doesn't need friends. [Via BlueOregon.]

Come on and take a free ride

We're not sure what to make of it: Just as roving bands of armed Portland inner-city teenagers start going on rampages of harrassment, assault, and robbery on the city's mass transit system, the City Council starts putting the heat on Tri-Met to give all teens free passes to ride wherever and whenever they want.

At this point, wouldn't more teens mean more crime? Or is the number of gangster wannabes terrorizing folks going to remain the same, because the bad apples don't pay their fares anyway?

We'll tell you one thing: If we had teens and pre-teens, they wouldn't be going anywhere unsupervised on Tri-Met.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another loss

It's a day of bad news, I guess. Our deepest condolences to our friends at the Alexis Restaurant.

Have a great weekend

Getting renewed straight outta the urb

The kids at the Merc have an interesting story -- the force-out of Peterson's "newsstand" from the SmartPark garage building on Morrison Street in downtown Portland. The developer overlords who run the city have decided that there needs to be some sort of infernal tower on top of the perfectly good garage. I'm sure that the original idea was for condos, but the death of that market never stands in the way of these guys. Apartment tower, hotel tower, office tower -- it doesn't really matter what kind of tower, so long as it's tower, tower, tower, and more and more money in the developers' pockets. With plenty of local taxpayer subsidies, too -- always.

Anyway, even though there's no money to build any such thing at the moment, the city is apparently hot to get rid of Peterson's as soon as possible, which would probably suit the uptight Brooks Brothers store across the street just fine. It seems that with the arrival of the yuppie suspender merchants, the city has decided that it needs to clean up the block. The twisted logic appears to be that by getting rid of the newsstand, all the sleazy people who hang around the MAX line in the vicinity will magically disappear.

Of course, they've got to be kidding. The place is and always will be a light-rail stop, the last free one downtown to boot. Getting rid of Peterson's isn't going to decrease the population of sketchy types; indeed, it's likely to do just the opposite. With the store boarded up, there would be no one for blocks who could provide help if something ugly starts to happen at the train stop.

Granted, the place is rundown, but without a solid lease the owner can't take a financial risk to pretty it up, only to be evicted. He reportedly just dropped $50,000 to fix up his Fourth Avenue store. The rent there is apparently higher than the Morrison store now, and yet it appears to make only half the money. The Morrison store reportedly keeps his operation afloat.

They don't just cater to drunks and kids with pitbulls. Office workers, security guards, cabbies, tourists, and hotel visitors make up a lot of the store's night business. Sure, they get their share of crackheads and rowdy types. But the place has a group of dedicated employees who keep things inside the store under control.

If Peterson's goes, at least nine people will lose their jobs. Some of them could land another gig, but there are reportedly some employees that wouldn't have a chance elsewhere. The owner is known for taking chances hiring people that have trouble getting on elsewhere, sometimes at a greater expense than he should have to bear.

What does Peterson want? To be allowed to continue to do business there, at least until the city has a viable use for the site, rather than becoming just another shuttered business downtown. He has gone on record as saying he'd be willing to refurbish the site, but will need assurances that it won't be for naught.

If the city and the button-downs shut the place, food options in the vicinity after 10 p.m. will be limited to takeout at Dante's, or Voodoo Donuts. Need a bottle of water or some cigarettes that still cost less than at the bar? Or condoms? Second-shift workers, want a reasonably priced bottle of wine to take home? You'd have to make an extra stop, instead of dashing in before your bus or train comes.

Guys who want to do a legit business in a place like downtown Portland in the middle of the night ought to be given some of the gazillions that we shell out to the developer weasels at the drop of the hat. They surely deserve much better than an eviction notice.


Tim Russert of Meet the Press just keeled over dead.


Sweet sounds: the kids in the school across the way, counting down the last seconds of their school year.

What to get your blogger dad for Father's Day

Just about everyone who has a blog has at least one traffic tracker -- a program or service that keeps an eye on who's showing up to read the blog, and from where. For our entire six years in the blogosphere, we've been using SiteMeter, which is probably as close to an industry standard as you can get when you're talking about an unruly herd of cats like the bloggers.

But about a month ago, an alert reader turned us on to a much more fun service called Clicky, which at least in its premium edition provides all sorts of data about readers that we didn't even know you could get. Here's the gadget that you get to put on your page:

Clicky Web Analytics

If you play around on there, you'll see many interesting categories of information about who's been visiting the site. And as the account holder, we can get to a "dashboard" that has other features as well. It translates IP addresses into real-world company names, for example, which can make for some interesting reading. But probably the coolest button is a feature called "Spy," where the blog owner can watch readers come, go, and move around within the blog in something that closely approximates real time.

Who cares, right? On one level, we agree. But whatever urge drives people to blog is sublimely satisfied when they can watch readers that way. We've tried all sorts of blogger gadgets over the years, but this thing has a hook like no other we've encountered.

Now, Clicky ain't free. They give you a month's free trial, where you get to play with the whole system, but after that, you lose most of the fancier stuff unless you pay a fee. They do make deals off their list prices from time to time, though, and so a year of the full magilla probably won't break the bank.

Who the heck is Clicky? They don't say much about that on their own site, but it appears that at least one of the main Clicksters is right here in the Rose City, which makes it even more appealing to buy-local types like ourselves. Anyway, we're not getting paid anything to say nice things about their product, but we like it. A lot.


This month, for the first time in my life, I will be making a mortgage payment that is more principal than interest.

Handbasket accelerating

Not that it's any surprise, but today they're reporting that inflation last month was a nasty 0.6 percent. Gas alone rose 5.7 percent.

So you wanna be the City of Portland's repo man?

We've been following the City of Portland's request for proposals for a new municipal collection agency. It's had some interesting twists and turns. Yesterday, the city published yet another addendum to the call for bids, with some more questions and answers:

3.1 Q: The RFP and the State regulation are clear in the fact that a collection fee CAN be added. However, in the case of a partial payment, who gets paid first? Collection Agency or State?
A: As the State allows for the addition of a reasonable fee to the amount of the debt, it is up to the Proposer to indicate how it is determined.

3.2 Q: With regards to section 3 of the RFP request, please provide more detail with reference to the term "cost control". Is the City of Portland interested in the average cost to collect a debt? Total operating costs derived from financial statements?
A: In this section the City desires to gain assurance that the Proposer is able to provide a quality service within a reasonable cost which will allow the Proposer to provide the service on a sustainable ongoing basis.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What a waste

[T]he U.S. military is not the stabilizing force politicians like McCain have insisted it is. The Iraqis they encountered came to see our military as simply another armed group among many beating a path of bloodshed and misery everywhere it goes to advance its own narrow mission.

Sergeant Dustin Flatt recounted to us the bloody aftermath of a shooting in Mosul in January 2005 that occurred when an elderly Iraqi couple zipped past a checkpoint:

"The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn't even see the soldiers," he said. "The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they [the couple's corpses] literally sat there in the car for the next three days while we drive by them day after day.

"It's a battle zone," Flatt continued. "I think Americans don't understand that it's absolute chaos and it's beyond what you can imagine."

The whole thing is here.

If only Maxwell Smart had had these

The Cone of Silence never worked -- but it might have, with "sonic crystals."

More Countrywide sleaze

It wasn't just the creepy fellow who just got kicked out of the Obama campaign. Lots of other government honchos took bribes from the crooked mortgage company. Ain't that America.


Here's something that could never happen in Portland. Darn you, Randy Leonard!

Looking the part

If you didn't already know who he was, what would you say this guy did for a living?

I'd say maybe he just got off work as a manager at Les Schwab.

Hawthorne ramp move may not close bridge

The other day, in writing about the plan to move the westbound offramp to the Hawthorne Bridge, we suggested that the project would cause a closure of westbound traffic on the bridge for many months. Today we learned from Multnomah County facilities chief Doug Butler that that's not necessarily the case:

[T]he County’s intention has always been to minimize disruption related to the construction. The westbound bridge ramp will certainly not be closed for a year. One of the advantages that we saw to this approach was that it allows the construction of the new ramp independent of the existing ramp or street connection. They can then be "hooked up" at the last minute and in a relatively short period of time.

Portland bond refinancing goes well

It appears that Tuesday's sale of $17.7 million in "refunding" (refinancing) bonds by the City of Portland was successful. The city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, reports that there were nine bids, and that the bonds "were purchased by Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co. at a true interest cost of 3.4248%." The interest yields on the new bonds were quite a bit lower than what they were on the original bonds that were paid off -- 4.6 to 5.0 percent.

The bottom line appears to be that the city's taxpayers will get to pay off this sliver of the city's huge debt at a much lower rate of interest. Even given the transaction costs of putting the refinancing together, that's a decent deal. And make no mistake, the taxpayers are going to need all the help they can get when the time finally comes to pay back the billions that the city is borrowing, and continues to borrow.

UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Johansen further explains that "the refunding reduces annual debt service costs by about $155,000 per year over the ten remaining years of the financing. The present value of the annual savings amounts is about $1.32 million. The savings amounts are all net of transaction costs." That ain't hay.

Colwood Golf Course: Airport runway or park?

It's amazing that there's any question what should happen in a conservation-minded, progressive city like Portland. But when you're up against this town's old money and their infernal p.r. machine, it's always a nasty battle.

Don't be ovarily concerned

It's almost that time of year -- Portland will probably be turning on the underground pumps soon and adding well water to the Bull Run reservoir water flowing through our taps. And now, in addition to getting free Tylenol when you drink it, you get birth control, too!

But only in small amounts. "It's like a grain of sand in an Olympic swimming pool!" It can't hurt you. Really.

Look! On the wall! Is that handwriting?

We were a little surprised to hear not a peep out of the local media this morning about the lovely parachute that the Portland Development Commission board packed yesterday for the PDC's executive director, Bruce Warner. The commission set up a nice new compensation package for Warner, as follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that effective July 1, 2008, Bruce A. Warner shall receive an annual base salary of $179,500 for his service as Executive Director, to be paid in accordance with the Portland Development Commission’s (Commission) regularly established policies;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that except as otherwise provided in this Resolution, Mr. Warner shall be eligible to receive employment benefits as generally provided by the Commission’s policies and benefit plans for its non-represented employees;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that effective July 1, 2008, Mr. Warner shall receive a one-time grant of 40 hours in accrued vacation and approval to accrue vacation, at his current accrual rate, in excess of the Commission’s 250-hour limit;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Mr. Warner shall continue to be eligible for reimbursement of reasonable and ordinary costs associated with the maintenance of his current Professional Engineering License and for reimbursement of reasonable and ordinary business expenses, with appropriate documentation and in accordance with the Commission’s current policies...

But hang on -- here comes the real kicker:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that if the Commission terminates Mr. Warner’s employment prior to July 31, 2010, for other than malfeasance, then Mr. Warner will receive a severance package that includes six (6) months base salary, at the rate in effect on termination, and payment of medical and dental insurance premiums for six (6) months if he wishes to continue such coverage under the Commission’s plans and policies...
Now, if we were a gambler, we would not bet a nickel on Warner's still being the head of the PDC two years from now. The PDC board is about to be remade in its entirety by Mayor-elect Sam the Tram, and the transformation will be complete during that period of time. Indeed, today we read that the current lame duck mayor has already handed over to the Tramster two of the five seats on the board, which are about to become vacant next month. (I believe it's Mark Rosenbaum and Sal Kadri who will be leaving at that time. Too bad -- those were our two favorites.) The Adams appointees will clearly be in control by next summer (2009).

Since the board controls the executive director's position, and the board is about to start turning over -- back to the developer interests that Sam the Tram and his mentor Vera answer to, no doubt -- we'd say there's a better-than-even chance that Warner will be getting his walking papers sometime in the next two years.

At least he'll get six months' pay and benefits along with his pink slip. Not to mention what appears to be something like a couple of months of accrued vacation.

Speaking of poison tomatoes

All this talk about salmonella in tomatoes has caused one reader of ours to drift back to the time when the Rajneesh cult food-poisoned a bunch of salad bars in the Dalles on the day before election day to rig some local races. And in Googling about, she made a most interesting find.

Remember Ma Anand Sheela, the evil dame who ran the dirty part of the operation? Here's what she's been up to more recently.

It wasn't something I said

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that when I tried to navigate to a Portland Development Commission web page, I was abruptly informed that I had been unsubscribed from the agency's "PDC-All" mailing list. I wondered how that could have happened.

My being from New Jersey, and having grown up in the '60s, paranoia set in. Had my criticisms of "urban renewal" earned such enmity within the PDC that they cut me off?

Later in the day, I received a friendly e-mail from the PDC staffer in charge of its web pages. She pointed out that what probably happened was that I clicked the wrong link in an e-mail alert from the PDC and inadvertently unsubscribed myself. Looking back at the e-mail message that I clicked when the startling message appeared, I see that that is the most logical explanataion for what happened:

And so, fear not! The PDC is not working behind the scenes to silence this critic.

If Steve Law over at the Trib starts having problems with his PDC subscription, though, I'll start to worry again.

"Heck of a job" continues

Disaster relief is just not the Bush people's thing.

It's what happens when you put people like Chertoff and Bush in jobs they have no business holding.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The latest plague facing the public schools

Only in Oswego.

Don't nuke me, bro!

You think Tasers are bad? Wait 'til the police have these babies.

Bernie drama extended another two weeks

This time the delay saves the county a few hundred thou.

More bad news on Interstate MAX

Until there's a cop on every train, at least temporarily, the thuggery is just going to get worse, even in broad daylight. Here's last Wednesday's version. Here's today's story, of an incident that took place on Monday. How long 'til the gunfire starts?

They love me in Precinct 3248

Made my day: Two people voted for me to be the Republican nominee for Oregon attorney general.

Another Homer Williams condo flop

2121 Belmont. How many can he rack up? Next come the lawsuits, then the poor farm.

We always knew the judge was an interesting guy

We just had no idea how interesting.

Was it something I said?

The 4/15 ran late

I don't envy the boys and girls at Tri-Met these days. Diesel prices are through the roof, ridership on transit is way up, and so the money and the system are both being put to the test.

On the financial side, their situation can't be helped by a phenomenon we experienced at our house this year. We mailed our Tri-Met self-employment taxes (around 0.6 percent of our self-employment income) to the Oregon Department of Revenue on time, on April 15. But the ODOR didn't cash our checks on behalf of Tri-Met until May 20 -- 35 days later. Now, the time value of money on a relatively small check like ours isn't that big a deal, but when you add up all the checks that apparently sat around for a month, it would probably pay a couple of drivers for a day or two.

Maybe somebody in Salem ought to put on more some help opening those envelopes at crunch time. Of course, it can't be just any old temp, given the security concerns involved, but still... time is money.

More TurboTrouble reported

A reader whom I don't know writes:

Hey, more TurboTax problems! Yay!

A janitor in my office stopped by yesterday to lament that he spent an eternity on the telephone, waiting to discuss a surprising Notice of Tax Assessment he received. He said that eventually, someone at the state's Department of Revenue informed him they "did not accept payments through turbo tax" and he indeed owed the money he had already sent them when he completed his return.

Well, I thought something had to be amiss; I used TurboTax and made my state payment through their website and no problem...

... until I checked my PO Box this morning.

Indeed, they state I also owe, PLUS penalty and interest.

I googled this in a couple different manners, and there doesn't seem to be anything out there about it. So maybe you can be the first.

When we wrote about the troubles Oregon taxpayers were claiming that TurboTax caused them with their state income tax "kicker" refunds, a TurboTax exec was right on the case, even leaving comments on this blog. We'll see what happens with this latest report.

Strike a pose, there's nothin' to it, vogue

Gordon Smith's acting moderate again -- must be an election year. Now he's all for an oil tax:

Six Republicans voted "yes" on the oil-tax bill. They were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, John W. Warner of Virginia, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan M. Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine. Only two Democrats voted "no," Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, may have voted "no" in a parliamentary move to preserve his right to bring up the proposal again.

I hope not, but it sounds about right

Are we using Navy ships as floating prison camps?

County courthouse blues

When it comes to building courthouses, Multnomah County is having its troubles these days. As the O made glaringly clear last week, even the county commissioners can't get honest answers when it comes to planning for such projects. Take the new courthouse going in in East County, for example -- Commissioner Jeff Cogen pointedly asked last year whether the $16.35 million budget he was voting on was based on current, as opposed to stale, projections. Here's the exchange, which was caught on tape:

"I just want to make sure we're not committing ourselves to a project, and then we find out it's costing twice as much money," Commissioner Jeff Cogen said at the time.

"Well, these are estimates," responded Pam Krecklow, then the project manager. "So I can't guarantee a price at this point."

Cogen pressed.

"Are these current estimates?"

"I'm comfortable with the estimates," Krecklow said.

Her comfort was misplaced, if not misleading. The numbers were nearly two years old at that point, and the current budget is now at $21.1 million, and no doubt rising. The county's still scrambling to find the money to pay for the construction, although the contractor has already been hired and the music plays on. If this is planning, I'd hate to see chaos.

The other hard-luck courthouse story involves the county's main courthouse downtown. It's old, overcrowded, and tired -- one earthquake away from disaster, really -- and it's already been determined that it won't be refurbished in any major way. A new courthouse will be needed somewhere else downtown.

Exactly where it will go still isn't entirely clear. The current fantasy, which dates back to the heyday of the "Mean Girl" county commissioners, is that the new courthouse will be situated right at the end of the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge -- so close to the bridge, in fact, that Naito Parkway (Front Avenue) will have to be lowered eight feet and the westbound offramp from the bridge torn down and completely rebuilt in a much more abrupt alignment. A more logical spot for the new courthouse would have been a block west, across Second Avenue from the Justice Center, where inmates are housed awaiting their appearance in court. But the Usual Developer Suspects got their hands on that block, and they're already building a soulless office tower that will sit between the jail and the new courthouse -- if indeed the courthouse goes there:

And of course, where the money is going to come from for the new county building is, so far, a complete and total mystery. It isn't going to be a $20 million deal, that's for sure -- more like 10 times that much. Rumors out of the old courthouse are that the county recently commissioned a poll to see if it would make sense to put a levy on the ballot in 2010 to pay for the new facility, and the results were negative in the extreme. Voters are not in the mood to increase their taxes for it.

Oh, well. At least the old one will probably outlast the Sellwood Bridge.

Meanwhile, as previously reported on this blog, the City of Portland, through the Portland Development Commission, borrowed $9 million this past March and handed it over to the county to move the Hawthorne ramp -- a move which all by itself is budgeted at $10.7 million (and those were 2007 numbers). If the county either builds the courthouse at the Hawthorne Bridge or sells that property to raise money to build the courthouse elsewhere, it gets to keep the city's money. If it doesn't do either, the city gets the $9 million back with interest, although the agreement between the PDC and the county does not set a firm deadline.

It was reported last week that the county is ready to get going on moving the ramp now, even though the overall courthouse timeline is still way up in the air:

Doug Butler, facilities and property management director for the county, agrees.

The realignment of the Hawthorne Bridge will go out to bid shortly, he says. Last week, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to move the project forward.

The resolution referred to didn't do all that much. The commissioners noted that "[c]urrent zoning on the North Hawthorne Bridgehead Block limits the height of development and precludes the construction of a building of sufficient size to meet the needs for a new courthouse," and they directed the county facilities folks to "begin work immediately to obtain the required zoning modifications needed to support the construction of a new courthouse on the North Hawthorne Bridgehead Block." That sounds like the start of a long process. And there's no guarantee it will succeed; the proposed courthouse is going to be gigantic, and the city could conceivably say no to something so massive right at the bridgehead.

One mystery that we previously wrote about, now solved, is what the county will do with the $9 million it got from the PDC while it's waiting to spend it on the bridge ramp move. We speculated half-kiddingly that given the tightness of funds these days, the county might use it to meet its current payroll. However, we have since learned that an agreement between the county and the PDC requires the county to place the money in a segregated interest-bearing account pending its expenditure on courthouse-related matters (or its eventual return to the PDC, which seems highly unlikely).

Looked at from a wider perspective, the $9 million forked over by the city to the county seems like hush money. The county has been whining a fair amount lately about how the PDC's "urban renewal" programs take bread out of the mouths of county programs, and the modest financial help with the courthouse deal seems a lot like a PDC effort to quiet the county's criticisms. It's ironic, though -- the city adopts "urban renewal," sucking revenue from all sorts of local taxing jurisdictions, and then cuts backroom deals with those agencies who scream the loudest.

Yesterday we saw that the school district is next for this kind of buy-off. You can't blame them for complaining. The PDC robs the schools of tax dollars, then hands some of their dough over to the county for a courthouse.

Why is this distortion of functions happening? Why are large county and school district budget items now being run through the Portland City Council and its agency, the PDC? The whole scene seems vaguely illegal, and certainly violative of the spirit of the laws that divide up our local government functions. The head of the PDC should not be calling the shots on the financing of the county courthouse, or of the new Lincoln High School.

Continue reading "County courthouse blues" »

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solution to our problems

Let's all carry guns on our hips.

The NBA is, indeed, fixed

So says the cheating ref.

Has a nice ring to it

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Now let's hope his immune system is strong enough to fight off the insanity that seems to descend upon many occupants of seats on the council.

Nothing stops greed

Now that Peak Oil and a deep recession are going to cause all sorts of cutbacks in air travel, you would think the Port of Portland would give up its megalomaniacal plans to expand Portland Airport beyond its already overbuilt state.

But that would mean that the Old Boys at Hoffman Construction, Bechtel, etc., wouldn't get the pork they need to maintain their lives in the style to which they have become accustomed. And so onward with the foolishness we go.

Heaven forbid we should spend all that Port revenue on something the region really needs.

Did the duct tape ban hurt parade attendance?

Fireman Randy's crusade to stop people from marking off places along the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade route may have satisfied his burning desire for law and order. But attendance seemed to be down this year, and some folks are thinking that the inability to reserve a spot may have kept people home. Certainly sounds plausible.

Portland needs a new motto

We read yesterday that the City of Springfield, Oregon has a new motto: "Proud History, Bright Future." This reminded us that the City of Portland is overdue for a new motto itself. "The City That Works" has gotten old; it was copied from Chicago to begin with; and, well, it doesn't seem too accurate these days.

But if we get rid of "The City That Works," what should we put in its place?

School board to city: Waaaaaahh

The revolt against the lifeblood-sucking juggernaut known as Portland "urban renewal" continues apace. Now the local school district has gained a seat on some sort of token committee that's supposed to have some input into whether, or rather how, the city decides to expand its unnecessary and ineffective developer welfare program. On that panel the school folks are joined by Multnomah County, which has also noticed that it's starving for tax revenue while the shiny, and empty, apartment towers rise on the money that it otherwise would have gotten.

The problem, of course, is that the future of "urban renewal" rests as a legal matter with the City Council and the Portland Development Commission, and not with some quaint advisory group on which disgruntled constituencies like the school board and the county will get to throw their little tantrums. As with all public "process" in the city, these advisors will be wheeled out when it suits the council and the PDC, and otherwise ignored. Mayor Sam the Tram will appoint a new slate of PDC commissioners within a year or two, and they'll do what Sammy and Randy's developer overlords tell them to do. The Post Office, the Convention Center, North Pearl, streetcars galore, the works.

Congratulations to the school board and the county on getting a chance at formal input. But don't bet on anything changing any time soon. Indeed, the new advisory committee will only speed the demolition of Lincoln High School and the surrender of the land beneath it to the developer weasels:

PDC officials also have committed to work closely with Portland Public Schools as the PDC considers a new urban renewal area downtown. There are conversations about adding a new urban renewal district around Portland State University, which could include land surrounding Lincoln High School.

The district expects to work closely with PDC on plans to redevelop the Lincoln site or add new development to the site, Sargent said.

No kidding. In Portland, the fix is always in. One can only hope that the real estate sharpies will wind up broke or in jail before their grand plans come to fruition.

Monday, June 9, 2008

On the day New Orleans died

... where was John McCain?

Somewhere he now wishes he wasn't.

This was intended as dark humor, but sadly, it wasn't far from the truth.

Bush family selects retirement locale

It appears they're going to sell the Crawford ranch and settle down here.

Who cares? It's just some dumb memorial

Apparently more than one of our readers noticed that the Navy chopped up and trampled on the Japanese internment memorial garden in Waterfront Park to stage a security zone and a tour entrance for its Rose Festival ships. In response to our blog post of this morning on the subject, a reader sends along some photos of what the memorial looked like:

We tend to agree with the sentiments expressed by a few readers: If the Navy, the festival, and the city can't do better than this with respect to our monuments and memorials, maybe the ships ought to stay at sea.

He was there -- so we didn't have to be

We missed the Grand Floral Parade because we were out of town.

But come to think of it, we always miss the Grand Floral Parade. On purpose. Even when we're in town.

Have no fear, though -- Brandon the blogger was there, and his live reports are all available for our reading pleasure:

This state has entirely too many rodeo queens. I pretty sure Oregon has more rodeo queens per-capita than any other state in the union.
"The whole thing," as they say, is archived in wonderful detail on his site, Another Portland Blog.

Labor beef affecting other beef

And Whole Foods is throwing its weight around on this one.

Which memorials are o.k. to trample?

Folks ragged on Barack Obama recently when his campaign crew set up portable toilets for his rally in the middle of the police memorial down near the Hawthorne Bridge. Rightly so. Apparently the outrage at such sacrilege is somewhat selective, however. We haven't heard a peep, except from one reader, about this one:

Walked through here this [Friday] morning:
"Japanese American Historical Plaza/ Bill of Rights Memorial map, site # 3 -- Walk from Couch Street to the waterfront along Northwest Naito Parkway where 13 stone markers commemorate the history of the Issei and their descendants. Many of the stones, engraved with short poems and names of internment camps emphasize the story of Japanese Americans. Begin at the first stone, featuring a bronze plaque inscribed with the United States Bill of Rights. Each spring (March-April) the cherry trees here are resplendent with pink blooms. This award-winning monument was designed by Portland landscape architect Robert Murase. Guided tours are offered by the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, 503.224.1458."

I was directed by signs and armed guards to use it as a detour to avoid the waterfront where the largest Navy vessels are tied up. The Navy has set up its sign-in tent and assembly area for tours of the vessels in the middle of the Plaza/Memorial, seemingly oblivious to the spirit of the place and the stories told there. Well, it was just a bit jarring. I didn't have a camera with me.

Portland bond rating up a notch

Given how much debt the City of Portland is piling on these days, it's a wonder that the rating agencies aren't downgrading some of its bonds. But it appears just the opposite is happening. Last week, in response to our inquiry, the city revealed that a $17.5 million bond refinancing deal about to go down tomorrow will do so at an improved rating over the debt that's being paid off.

According to the city debt manager, Eric Johansen, Moody's has rated the new bonds Aa1 -- which is a notch above the Aa2 rating that the original bonds, issued in 1998, received. The "refunding" bonds are of a smaller amount than the original debt, and they have a shorter term -- perhaps those factors explain the rating upgrade. In any event, it will be interesting to see what kind of interest rate the new bonds get. The bonds being paid off bore interest at rates ranging from 4.6 to 5.0 percent. Both sets of I.O.U.'s, original and new, generate tax-exempt interest for the bondholders. Both are backed by the full faith and credit of the city -- namely, its entire taxing power.

Meanwhile, Moody's has signaled that the two major bond insurance companies, MBIA and Ambac, are probably about to get a rating downgrade, which means that the city's longstanding practice of buying an even higher rating -- Aaa -- through insurance has probably been killed off once and for all.

Wheels coming off in SoWhat

Here's another sure sign of impending financial doom in the folly-filled wasteland known as Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) district. Now the Portland Development Commission is asking the city to hustle up a two-year extension of the "temporary" line of credit that it took out from Bank of America to pay for the SoWhat streetcar. There's currently about $5.9 million outstanding on that line of credit, and the money that the PDC hoped to have to pay it off when it expires this Sunday(!) hasn't materialized. Apparently the funds were supposed to come from two parcels of land in the RiverPlace area that haven't sold.

The official report to the PDC commissioners, who are scheduled to approve the extension request on Wednesday, describes the situation this way:

Office of Management and Finance (OMF) have prepared an ordinance for City Council which will authorize OMF staff to negotiate with Bank of America for a two year extension to the maturity date of the Line of Credit which currently expires on June 15, 2008. The extension is required since the originally anticipated source of repayment (sale of Parcel 3 and/or Parcel 8 in the North Macadam URA) is not expected until at next fiscal year at the earliest. To expedite repayment of the Line of Credit, repayment will occur from $1 million in available cash balances and any unencumbered property sale proceeds for North Macadam URA in FY 2008-09 and FY 2009-10 including Block 49, Parcel 3 and/or Parcel 8, depending on timing and amount of the transactions....

If the proposed two-year extension is approved and the entire outstanding balance of the Streetcar Line of Credit is not paid, interest will continue to accrue on the current outstanding balance on the Line of Credit. The higher payoff balance will require a greater amount of resources from the eventual sale of property (Block 49, Parcel 3 and/or Parcel 8). The budget and five-year forecast will need to be adjusted to reflect the timing of the property sales and anticipated payoff amount of the Line of Credit....

There is a potential that the properties being used to secure the Line of Credit will not sell to private parties in the two year extension period. This will result in the need to identify an alternate source of repayment for the Line of Credit from North Macadam URA’s available resources.

Of course, the PDC isn't the only one asking for extensions from banks over SoWhat. The condo developers down there have also been unable to pay their loans when due, and they too have been seeking revised payment schedules from their lenders. You have to wonder when the banks are going to see the handwriting on the wall and pull the plug on the whole misguided adventure.

Leaving work behind

Our recent trip to Eugene (a couple of readers correctly identified the location this morning) was business-oriented, but from there we headed off on a most scenic drive for a day and night of R and R. Can anybody guess where that was?

UPDATE, 9:01 a.m.: We stopped for gas where Cruzan sold stamps.

UPDATE, 10:08 a.m.: There was still some snow on the ground up on top of the pass, where the fire had been.

We get results

Here's an interesting sequence of events: Friday morning, we posted a City of Portland update of its solicitation of bids for a new debt collection agency. Part of the update was as follows:

1.2 Q: When is the anticipated contract award date?
A: Notice of Intent to award is expected approximately Jul 23rd, 2008

1.3 Q: When is the anticipated contract start date?
A: Contract Start date is expected to be retroactive to July 1, 2008

An alert reader called the city out on that one:

How can you award 7/23 and be "retroactive" to 7/1 unless you intend to award to the incumbent?
A darn good question, and apparently it was what caused the city to issue yet another amendment on Friday afternoon:
Q: When is the anticipated contract start date?
A: Contract Start date is expected to be on approximately August 1, 2008
It will be interesting to see whether the incumbent contractor, Active Credit, gets the new deal.

Consider your options

The City of Portland continues its campaign for alternative methods of commuting:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Off the road

We are unpacking from a nice weekend away, in not one but two locations. It's always fun to see if readers can figure out where we've been.

Let's start with our first stop. Here's your clue: The water was fast, but the guests were faster.

UPDATE, 9:13 p.m.: At times, I felt as though I was in "Graceland."

UPDATE, 10:20 p.m.: A single road divides the law from the shrine.

UPDATE, 11:00 p.m.: They came from all over for the Pre-Function.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Putting the Portland City Council on YouTube

Are you like me? Do you hate the RealPlayer program for showing video on your PC?

A few years ago, I noticed that Portland City Council meetings, and other city bureaucracy proceedings, were available on the city's website, portlandonline.com. Cool, I thought, and I set about to watch some. To view them, however, one had to have RealPlayer installed. Wonky guy that I was, I went through the process of downloading and installing that program.

I soon regretted that decision. RealPlayer was a nasty, invasive little program that insinuated itself into the computer's startup routine, running unwanted in the background and creating a dopey little icon that not only took up space along the bottom of the screen but also would start blinking maddeningly whenever it decided I should "update" the program by paying the program's creators money for something I didn't want.

I tried to get it to stop running when the computer started up, but the usual way of doing that wouldn't work. Finally I decided that the only way to get rid of RealPlayer was to uninstall it, and never make the mistake of installing it again. I'd have to miss the scintillating City Hall meetings, or catch them on cable TV. Such is life.

Now, that was in the days before YouTube, and due to the tremendous rise of that internet engine, things may be changing. Pete over at Our New Mind has come up with a routine that can take those Real-format videos from the city's website, convert them to a more universal format, and post them on YouTube:

He describes this project this way:

Citizen activists/journalists, take note! I’ve managed to free some City Council video footage from its RealPlayer prison on portlandonline.com, and republish it on YouTube.... Is the process incredibly time-consuming? YES!! Is specialized equipment needed? YES!! But it’s possible. And worth doing, for any 5-10 minute clip of a Council meeting that might be of interest to the public. So let me know if you need any such clips converted!
I'm sure he'll get a lot of business with that offer. But the real question (no pun intended) is when the city is going to get off its duff and unlock that "RealPlayer prison." In this day and age, every video the city produces ought to be YouTube-friendly.

How to pay the Arabs less for gas

Here's one idea: Tax the heck out of it.

What terrifies me most about nuclear power plants

They're probably running Windows Vista.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Have a great weekend

He wasn't selling zucchini

Check out this booth at the Corvallis farmers' market.

More on that City of Portland collection agency contract

We blogged yesterday about the City of Portland being in the market for a collection agency. Today the city posted some additional information about that deal. Readers who found yesterday's news of interest may also appreciate this:

1.1 Q: Why is the contract out to bid at this time?
A: Existing contract is expiring. Under Fair contracting Laws (State Purchasing, City Code, City Policies, Procurement Rules) an RFP is required.

1.2 Q: When is the anticipated contract award date?
A: Notice of Intent to award is expected approximately Jul 23rd, 2008

1.3 Q: When is the anticipated contract start date?
A: Contract Start date is expected to be retroactive to July 1, 2008

1.4 Q: Who are the incumbents?
A: Active Credit

1.5 Q: How long have the incumbents been providing the requested services?
A: Since 2004

1.6 Q: To how many vendors are you seeking to award a contract?
A: One

1.7 Q: Has the current contract gone full term?
A: Yes

1.8 Q: Have all options to extend the current contract been exercised?
A: Yes

George Bailey, won't you please come home?

Here's a sad scene that's likely to be replayed a fair amount in the months ahead.

Feds sniffing around Intel

Could be some antitrust problems.

Warm up your laugh muscles

Brandon over at Another Portland Blog (formerly Welcome to Blog) says he's planning to live-blog about camping out for, and attending, the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

You don't say!

Breaking news: Bush and Rumsfeld lied to get us into the war in Iraq.

No.... you're kidding... really?

Accentuate the actuarial

Yesterday the grand total on our City of Portland long-term debt clock (in our left sidebar) officially broke $5 billion. The city finally revealed that it has a liability of around $90 million attributable to the subsidies it provides to its retirees for health insurance. That, along with more than $2 billion in police and fire pension and disability obligations and $2.9 billion of bonds and other long-term I.O.U.'s outstanding, adds up to more than $5 billion.

This morning, we want to add an asterisk on that pension number. It's probably too low. The way the actuaries compute the present value of such obligations tends to underestimate it.

Most of all, public pension actuaries use old methods that have fallen far out of sync with the economic mainstream. That does not necessarily mean their figures are wrong, but it does make them vulnerable to distortion, misunderstanding and abuse.

"Financial burdens have been hidden" as a result, said Jeremy Gold, a New York actuary and economist who was one of the first to call attention to the gap between actuarial figures and economic reality. Many economists now agree with Mr. Gold, saying they believe actuaries are routinely underestimating the cost of providing governmental pensions by as much as a third.

What we find most alarming about the new stories trickling in from other cities on this issue is that even if its numbers are accurate, Portland is in far worse shape than the other municipalities are. In Fort Worth, for example, the city is suing its actuaries for underestimating its pension liabilities and thus creating "a crushing $410 million deficit." In Portland, the police and fire pension is completely unfunded -- pay as you go -- to the tune of $2 billion.

With a "b."

And city commissioners babble on every year about how to spend their budget "surplus."

Even more startling is the debate in other cities about the discount rate to use in estimating the present value of the government's future payout obligation. As a recent article from the United Kingdom explains:

Financial theory requires one to discount pension fund liabilities at the market return on investments with the closest characteristics to those liabilities. This is why AC1 16 requires the use of interest rates on low risk bonds to discount post-retirement benefit obligations. Actuaries, on the other hand, argue that pension fund obligations should be discounted at the return expected from the assets in the fund.
No such debate can take place regarding Portland police and fire pension, because there are no assets in any fund to pay them!

In any event, put an asterisk next to that $5 billion on the debt clock. The real number could be higher.

UPDATE, 11:42 a.m.: An alert reader points out that the city changed actuaries recently. A new actuary will make the call as of June 30 of this year.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Seasons to take over Daily Grind space

Seems like a natural evolution.

Slouching back toward nuclear

With energy prices suddenly dragging the country down in a major way, the proponents of "safe, clean, cheap" nuclear power are no doubt gearing up for a big campaign to get back into action. The timing seems right -- by January, we'll even have a President who can pronounce it.

On the plant construction side, it appears there are some serious federal subsidies in the works. On the waste dump side, the push is still on to get a "repository" open underground in Nevada, despite staunch opposition in that state and many questions that have been raised about the safety of such a facility.

Many of us who are old enough to remember this and this are not too keen on the prospect of a nuke comeback. But between the global warming crisis and the meteoric rise in the price of oil (with no end in sight), it has an aura of inevitability about it.

A response from City Hall

The other day we ran a message from a King neighborhood resident who is upset about a drug and alcohol recovery facility being sited near her home. Today we received from Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office a copy of a response. Here it is:

Richard & Maureen,

Let me explain the process as I understand it to date:

In December 2006 Council grants Miracles $500,000 to find a new facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (MLK) as the facility Miracles had been operating in on MLK had been sold.

In early 2007 the Miracles Club found an available property across the street from where they have been operating for more than a decade.

When the Miracles Club is in escrow for the new property, the Club went to their neighborhood association (and yours) to talk and discuss their plans for the property.

In October of 2007, when PDC was considering bringing the subject property into the Urban Renewal Area, the Miracles Club made a presentation about the new proposed development. The presentation included preliminary proposed architect's drawings of both the exterior and a visual overview of the property in sort of an aerial view. And neighbors made comments on the initial drawings. The neighborhood association gave their support for Miracles to be brought into the URA. By being brought into the URA a property is potentially able to access urban renewal funds.

A number of other interested/stakeholder groups were contacted and consulted during this time including the N/NE Business Association, MLK Advisory Committee and others.

In March of 2008 notice was sent to the King Neighborhood Association and the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods requesting a meeting about the proposed project.

That meeting occurred in May of 2008 at the King Neighborhood Association. The Miracles Club offered to have further dialogue with Mr. Boardman and immediate neighbors. Mr. Boardman rejected that offer.

Another meeting is scheduled next week at the Neighborhood Association, where Miracles will make a special presentation about the proposed development.

After hearing from neighbors on Grand -- Charles Boardman & Maureen Kenny, the Miracles Club decided it will flyer the neighbors surrounding the proposed new development to invite them to attend the neighborhood meeting on the 11th of June. That flyering will occur this weekend.

Maureen Kenny emailed a list of questions to the Miracles Club. The Club responded to those questions within 24 hours, and offered to have a pre-meeting with immediate neighbors even before the neighborhood meeting to occur next week.

Which pretty much brings us up to date.

Richard as I let Maureen know in an email, the Miracles Club is eager to continue the conversations they have had with neighbors and the neighborhood association, take and respond to your input, and ultimately continue to be good neighbors. T

Miracles Club has been in your neighborhood for 14 years, and across the street on MLK for more than a decade. They have been and want to continue to be good neighbors.

Now let me explain what will happen going forward.

According to the City Code the new development will be subject to two different reviews - A Conditional Use Review and Design Review.

Once the Club submits their proposed drawings to the Bureau of Development Services (BDS), BDS will review the application and make an initial determination as to land use related issues with the site.

The Conditional Use process will involve and extensive layer of public comment and notice. The following groups/individuals will be notified:

- Neighborhood Association
- Neighborhood District Association
- Property owners within a certain range (400 feet of the site)
- Neighbors can be added to the mailing list at their request please contact Sylvia Cate if someone wishes to be added to the list

A public hearing before a Hearings Officer will then occur, comments can be made in person or in writing. A decision by the Hearing Officer is subject to appeal.

The Design Review will also progress, for complete details on the design review process please contact Chris Caruso at 823.5747.

For more information on the Conditional Use process please contact Sylvia Cate at 823.7771.

Also, BDS will be setting up a special page on their website for information about the proposed Miracles Club development. Hopefully, this additional website will help clear up some misinformation about the proposed development that appears to be floating about. I will let you know when that special website is up and available for viewing.

Thank you for sharing your comments and concerns,

Shannon Callahan
Office of Commissioner Saltzman

Two-fer Thursday

Here's another great photo:

And the story behind it is also a fine one.

Calling all repo men

The City of Portland is looking to hire a collection agency.

A city of two tales

From last Friday's Portland Business Journal:

The John Ross condominiums have sweeping views, an elegant shape that inspires architectural envy, and a whole lot of unsold units.

To date, just 177 of its 303 units have attracted buyers.

From the City of Portland offering document for bonds that it is selling next week:

Construction of the John Ross Condominium Tower began in mid-2005. The 31-story elliptical shaped building with 286 units is nearly finished and has an expected cost of $75 million. At the end of January 2008, approximately 57 units remain for sale.

Classic Rose Festival

Our furnace is still coming on.

Must see

Here is a photo you shouldn't miss. And here is the story to go with it.

Portland retiree health care tab: $86 million to $98 million

For some time now, we have been noting that the City of Portland would soon be required to quantify and report the subsidies that it provides to retired municipal employees toward the cost of health insurance for them and their families. The Government Accounting Standards Board is requiring all state and local governments to report this number annually beginning this year.

In an offering document released this week for a new round of city borrowing, the city has finally released an estimate of its "actuarial accrued liability" for these subsidies as of July 1, 2007. Depending on how one calculates it, the liability is somewhere between $86.3 million and $98 million. We'll be adding the average of those two amounts ($92.15 million) to our City of Portland debt clock later today.

In the meantime, for the wonkier among us, here is the discussion of this issue from the bond sales document:

Distinct from the PERS program, the City is currently assessing its liability for other post-employment benefits ("OPEB") in anticipation of expanded reporting requirements specified by GASB Statement No. 45 ("GASB 45").

Continue reading "Portland retiree health care tab: $86 million to $98 million" »

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

In corpore sano

I got some great medical news this week. I am going to live forever, thanks to this and this.

"Respect my authoritay!"

Fireman Randy's obsession with the way people reserve spaces on the sidewalk for parades has gotten out of hand. Now it appears that he's willing to suspend the First Amendment over it. Question the wisdom of the City Council, or refuse to waste resources on trivial nonsense? For that, a cop should suffer "swift, severe and certain" punishment.


When Oregonians start having to deal with tropical pests, we may find ourselves wondering whether this was such a good idea.

Profile in courage

Senator Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) is crossing party lines to endorse Barack Obama.

Ba ba ba, ba Bar Review

It's that time of year again. Today is the second stop on our annual three-city tour, helping future Oregon lawyers try to remember something about federal income tax for the upcoming bar exam. Today we're on our home turf here in the Rose City -- all the fun of a captive audience for four hours, with a lot less of the freeway driving that we get with our Salem and Eugene stops.

By my unofficial count, this is the 47th time that I have given this talk over the years. Some details have changed, but it's basically the same speech. It's getting so that I don't look at my lecture notes much over the four hours. No wonder I'm insane.

Hayes Pool is closed, for now

Earlier this year, our childhood friend Michael sent us some photos of how the neighborhood we grew up in -- in the Ironbound section of Newark -- looks today. One of the shots that we displayed on this blog was a picture of Hayes Park East Pool, the public swimming pool where we spent many a summer day throughout our childhoods.

It was a pretty forlorn-looking place, even considering that the photo was taken in the dead of winter:

But more recently, news has reached us of a wonderful development. Hayes Park, and the pool, are being renovated, thanks to the generosity of some folks who love the City of Newark and want to see it rise up again under its new leader, Mayor Corey Booker. A story about the project in the Newark-based Star-Ledger, sent to us by our correspondent Michael, is here, and even The New York Times had the news recently.

That photo accompanying the Times story is a real kick. Word has been trickling out that good things are trying to happen in Newark, but that image brings the news home to us like never before. Good for the city.

In the short term, though, the temporary closure of the pool has got to be tough. When the mercury really starts climbing in the mid-to-late summer, that place is a safety valve, and this year it will be unavailable. We remember that for one summer when we were kids, the pool was closed due to a serious drought that was affecting the whole region. We were told that there simply wasn't enough water to fill it up. A couple of our buddies were photographed sitting outside the closed pool complex with glum looks on their schoolboy faces, and the photo appeared on the front page of the Ledger.

No doubt there are some equally disappointed kids this year, but it sounds as though they're really going to have something to cheer about next year. Let's hope that everybody figures out some safe, fun alternate ways to keep cool between now and then.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Now playing in selected weird cities

The movie will show first in Austin, Tex., where its writer-directors, the brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, got their filmmaking careers in gear. Then ''Baghead'' will probably move on to Dallas, Houston or, maybe, Portland, Ore. -- cities that, in the words of Tom Bernard, the co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, ''tend to connect with what's new and different.''

Muni wi-fi working o.k. in OK

Here's a model that, unlike Portland's failed idea, apparently works. The wi-fi is dedicated to government use, at least for now. There are 1200 nodes, covering 555 square miles, and they cost $5 million.

Trouble in the 'hood

Seems like Commissioner Big Pipe Saltzman has endeared himself to yet another group of Portland neighbors. We're sure there is more than one side to this one, but the neighbors have reached us first, and here is what one of them writes:

Dear Jack,

Thought you might be interested in this story. The Miracles Club, a center for drug and alcohol recovery, will soon be obligated to move from its current home on MLK and Mason to a newly-purchased location, just across the street to 4218 NE MLK Blvd. The move sounds innocuous enough until you hear Herman Bryant, the Miracles Club Board Chairman, speak about the proposed development.

What he proposes is a facility that would encompass the entire lot from MLK to Grand; the section of Grand Avenue in question is currently a quiet, family-centered block (I live on this block.) That will all change if Mr. Bryant has his way, and we neighbors are alarmed and angry.

The proposed facility is to house 30-40 low-income transitional housing apartments, which will sit atop a space for recovery meetings which will occur at literally all hours of the day and night (starting 6:30 am to 12 midnight.) In addition, the space will be used for parties of 200 + persons every weekend night that get out at 12 midnight. The space will also be home to a coffeeshop. Finally, the developers and architects (Guardian Management and Carlton-Hart, respectively) plan to create a thru-way for cars to stream across the lot from MLK to Grand and back, essentially creating a road in the middle of the block. Total number of parking spaces for this multi-purpose facility? 15. Yes, that's right -- fifteen.

This is all a pet project of Commissioner Salzman, who appeared before the PDC last October to ask them to move the Urban Renewal Area boundary from the Oregon Convention Center area in order to recieve stop-gap funding from the PDC (which they gave in the amount of $3 million dollars.) This is in addition to the massive city dollars already sunk into the project, as well as county dollars.

With all this taxpayer money being poured into this project, which is supposed to help the poor, troubled residents of King... wouldn't you think that someone would think to alert the residents of the King neighborhood, in detail, that this hugely impactful project was happening in their neighborhood? The ONLY notification that was given, at a neighborhood association meeting, was back in October -- and that notice was merely to say that the PDC had expanded the URA in association with the project. No details about the project. No notice whatsoever to residents that their tax money is shortly going to be used on a project that is going to seriously and negatively impact their quiet neighborhood. We know the impact on the neighborhood to be negative not due solely to common sense -- we also hear the remarks and comments from the neighbors who surround the current location, who are all too glad that the club is moving.

We on the block are extremely angry and upset. I am enclosing my letter to Commissioner Salzman's office; I did receive a polite call today from Sara King from the PDC in response to this letter; she assured me that the PDC's part in the matter had ended, and encouraged me to contact Commissioner Salzman. The upcoming King Neighborhood Association's upcoming board meeting on June 11 will most certainly result in a KNA official position on the matter.

What upsets me the most is the condescending attitude inherent in the hasty and underhanded way this project was rushed through the system; plenty of public funds are being used, with NO opportunity for public participation of the process. Would the powers that be try this in Alameda? Hillsdale? Irvington? And yet, for the King residents, it is foisted upon us like an unwelcome gift. Ironically, there is absolutely no data nor evidence that the majority of the users and members of the Miracles Club are from the King area.

I'd be very interested to hear your and your readers' thoughts on the matter... Thank you for your attention.

Most sincerely,
Maureen Kenny
Portland, OR 97211

She asked for it. Readers?

Who's really to blame for the federal deficit

Jodie Foster.

Is evangelism a hate crime?

Maybe so, in England.

Was Fred Flintstone's carbon footprint small enough for Portland?

We got another goofball flyer from Sam the Tram and Transportation Sue yesterday, telling us about our "options" in getting from Point A to Point B. We don't know how much the City of Portland is paying people to create these glossy mailers, but whoever it is must not get paid enough for any new ideas. Here's the cover photo on the latest one:

Here's the cover photo on the one we got last fall:

Hey, Sam, that's pretty shallow, even for you. Give it a rest.

But after drying our eyes from that belly laugh, we opened the four-page brochure to behold a sight that stopped our heart. For years, we have been searching for that single image that epitomizes the arrogance of the Portland city government. Today it arrived. Maybe some day something better than this will come along, but for now, this picture is worth a thousand words:

Yes, there you have it. When it comes to delivering transportation services to its residents and visitors, Portland says, "Get off your butt and walk."

In a way, it's got kind of a New Testament ring to it, but when you think about it, it's stunning. A cynic might accuse Sam the Tram and his spandex partner Fireman Randy of forcing people to live the way they did a hundred years ago. But let's be fair -- that would be a wrong-headed view of it all. Because notice -- nowhere in the pyramid do we find "Ride a Horse." People have been riding and driving horses to get them and their stuff around for around 5,000 years. In Portland, you must go back further -- you must walk.

One wonders if we are allowed to use the wheel, or whether we're supposed to go all the way back 6,000 years and just drag stuff around on pallets.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A day on Tri-Met

Over the weekend, a guy named T.A. Barnhart posted an anti-Tri-Met rant on BlueOregon. Apparently his daily commute is not moving as swiftly as he would like lately, and he has some unhappy words for the Portland-area transit agency as a result.

"Be more like a business!" he shouts, which is one of the more ludicrous lines we've heard in a while. Modern mass transit is the exact opposite of a business. It loses money on every rider, and exists only because of tax subsidies -- in Tri-Met's case, a lucrative payroll tax backed up by a self-employment income tax. Now, we're not saying that that's a bad thing -- we support bus transit, and light-rail to the 'burbs. But to exhort Tri-Met to act like a business is kind of like saying the same thing to the Portland police. You're barking up the wrong tree, T.A. It's a public service, not a business.

Nonetheless, there are some things that Tri-Met needs to hear. Today, as our van was in the shop, we were in Tri-Met's custody for nearly three hours, and there were a few things we noticed. First, the buses and trains we took (six boardings all together) were amazingly on time. The Tri-Met web site gave us keenly authoritative advice on what to do and where to go. That aspect of the system worked to perfection, albeit under non-rush-hour conditions.

But some other parts of the experience were worrisome. In particular, the 122nd Street westbound MAX station -- full of pigeon crap and human litter, and both ticket validators were broken. Memo to the Tri-Met board members: If you can't keep the fare machines working, you need to resign your jobs and go home. What a joke! We can't imagine how forlorn, if not downright scary, that place is after dark.

And what's the deal with all the cigarette butts? We sat right next to one on the no. 56 bus, and there was one on the floor right in front of us on the MAX blue line. Are people smoking on the vehicles, or were the butts just dragged on board from the piles lying all over the ground at every stop and station?

Tri-Met is never going to be run like a business. But it doesn't have to look and smell like the Newark subway. Here is where Portland needs to stay different. Transit ridership is up, and many folks are experiencing it for the first time in a long time (or ever). Barnhart is ultimately right, that it would be a good thing for Portland if they didn't instantly hate it.

What's up with the PDC budget?

We got this notice this morning:

The Portland Development Commission Budget Committee will hold a special meeting at the Portland City Council Chambers in City Hall on Wednesday, June 4, 2008, at 10:30 a.m. The special meeting is held pursuant to ORS 192.640(3), which allows the PDC Budget Committee to hold a special meeting with 24-hour public notice. The purpose of the meeting is to consider further, and possibly act upon, the proposed PDC Budget....
Nothing says "nonemergency" like an annual budget, but obviously there's something unusual going on with this one. Perhaps some observer in the mainstream media or blogosphere will enlighten us.

Money's too tight to mention in La Grande

The nation's credit crisis -- which has retreated under the radar for a while -- is having some nasty effects on student loans. Some lenders are nixing off students at community colleges, and other smaller institutions of higher learning, entirely -- including Eastern Oregon University, which got an unwelcome mention about this in a front-page story in this morning's New York Times.

World overlords retreat to their hidey-holes

It appears that the "New American Century" lasted only eight years. Even when they got their "next Pearl Harbor" and a blank check to fight back, it's a funny thing, but that "full spectrum dominance" never happened.

Labor of alienation

Here's another internet gem that I'm sure I'm the last person on earth to see. If not, and it's new to you, enjoy:

The Honorable Tom Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Phone (202) 224-3254
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Harkin,

As a native Iowan and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. citizen to illegal alien stems from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out.

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

Additionally, as an illegal alien I could begin using the local emergency room as my primary health care provider. Once I have stopped paying premiums for medical insurance, my accountant figures I could save almost $10,000 a year.

Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications, as well as 'in-state' tuition rates for many colleges throughout the United States for my son.

Lastly, I understand that illegal status would relieve me of the burden of renewing my driver's license and making those burdensome car insurance premiums. This is very important to me given that I still have college age children driving my car.

If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative. Thank you for your assistance.

Your loyal constituent,
Donald Ruppert
Burlington, IA

Little guy may be big in Norway

Steve Novick's U.S. Senate campaign may be over, but his video ads are still entertaining folks the world over via YouTube.

A true inconvenience

There's something about TurboTax that doesn't like "kicker" checks. We've blogged here previously about problems that Oregon TurboTax users have had getting that tax preparation software to deal with last year's large Oregon "kicker" refund checks. First, users were complaining that the program had inadvertently (or perhaps even erroneously) donated their Oregon "kickers" to the state school fund. Then we ourselves complained about how hard it was to get this year's TurboTax to report correctly the "kicker" we received last December.

Now the federal "stimulus" payments are making for some mildly unhappy TurboTax customers, and not just in Oregon. Although the IRS has almost finished wiring the stimulus money to taxpayers who got their regular tax refunds electronically, many TurboTax users who e-filed will have to wait for a paper check, which may not arrive for several more weeks. The reason? They availed themselves of too many TurboTax conveniences.

A reader who has found himself in this boat e-mailed us over the weekend to point out his problem. "It took me some digging to find this," he writes, but the situation is described here. According to the official TurboTax site --

Even if you have received or will receive your tax refund by direct deposit to your bank account using Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, the IRS will not do the same for your tax rebate. It will mail your rebate instead.

This situation applies only if you chose, at the time you filed your tax return, to pay your tax preparation or filing fees by having them deducted from your expected refund. The payment arrangement with the bank, which carries an additional fee, offers an alternative to paying with a credit card.

Why can't I have my rebate direct deposited just like my tax refund?

When TurboTax customers decided to pay their tax preparation or filing fees with their refunds, they authorized a bank to set up temporary accounts to be used only to receive their 2007 income tax refunds from the IRS. The temporary bank-account information was transmitted to the IRS along with each tax return.

The IRS sent the refund to the temporary account and the bank then transmitted the tax refund (minus the tax preparation fees) directly to the customer's actual bank account.

Because the IRS does not receive a taxpayer's bank-account number, under this payment method, it cannot match a taxpayer with that taxpayer's regular bank account.

That's why the IRS decided that taxpayers who entered into financial transactions with third parties, such as SBB&T, would get rebates by mail.

And so if one took the path of greatest convenience -- getting one's refund electronically, and having tax prep or filing fees taken out of the refund -- one gets the most inconvenient version of the stimulus money: a paper check, and a delay of a month or more.

Isn't that special?

Even crazier than this turn of events, however, is the fact that people would pay these fees in the first place. We asked the reader how much they were, and he reported:

$29.95 "SBBT Refund Processing Fee"

$35.90 "Electronic Filing Transmission Fee and/or service fee for web users"

And that's on top of paying for the TurboTax program, I believe.

People, that's just nuts. Do as we do: Buy TurboTax with a coupon at Costco -- this year, it cost $21.99. File a paper return -- cost of postage, a couple of bucks at most. Get a paper refund check. Walk or bicycle it down to the bank and deposit it -- cost of processing, zero.

To me the larger tragedy here is not the delay in receiving the stimulus payment, which is bad enough. Rather, it's somebody paying TurboTax and its cronies $66 for something that should cost about $1. If you've got a computer, put it to work for you, not against you.

If you don't know Diddley

It's too late now.

So they can call all y'all

The City of Portland announced last week that it's going to buy a mess of emergency notification equipment without bid from an outfit known as FirstCall. I believe they mean this Louisiana company, whose somewhat Spartan web site is here. Anyway, there's no sign whatsoever in the city's notice of how much the gear is going to cost.

UPDATE, 10:52 a.m.: Wow, that was quick. We just got another breathless e-mail informing us that the "posting" of the no-bid contract has been cancelled. I don't think that means they're not buying the stuff, but rather that they discovered that they didn't have to tell anybody about it. "The estimated amount for this one year contract," the city now says, "shall not exceed $50,000.00."

This calls even more attention to the deal, of course. What is going on -- anyone?

Biz Journal: "Condo shortage coming"

Here's some comedy to start your week. An article in Friday's Portland Business Journal tells the story of Portland's condo market, which is as dead as a doornail. But no real estate article in a Portland publication would ever be complete without a sunny veneer, no matter how delusional. "Now's the perfect time to start a condo tower project, because you never know, some day soon the current glut could become a shortage. A million more people are going to be moving to Portland next week."

Uh huh.

Fox News is lousy

There's a bunch of vermin in that place.

A match made in the front office

The pro basketball finals matchup between the Celtics and the Lakers, which starts on Thursday, culminates one of the most noneventful NBA playoffs ever. The lower-seeded team won just one round, and that was the creaky No. 3 Spurs over the upstart No. 2 Hornets. Yawn.

Despite the utter lack of drama over three rounds so far, the league must be happy with the money aspect of the way things have turned out. Think of how many times they will get to replay video clips from the classic Celtics-Lakers matchups of the 1980s during this year's finals games. Many fans of a certain age will remember those older series with great nostalgia. I hated the Lakers with great fervor then, and I still hate them now.

With all the sweat being poured out on the court, this finals showdown was pretty much engineered off the court. In the last off-season, the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, from which he was traded by former Celtic (hmmm) Kevin McHale; and Ray Allen from Seattle. In mid-season, the Lakers traded basically nothing in exchange for star big man Pau Gasol, and the league blessed it despite its lopsided nature. The next thing you knew these two teams were going through the rest of the league like Grant through Richmond.

While the Lakers have several years of dominance ahead of them, the Celtics probably do not. This means that Boston may need to win its title this year, or else wait a long time for another shot at it. They'll be up against a referee corps that unabashedly calls fouls night after night on anyone who even breathes heavily on their darling Kobe Bryant. The Celts are an emotional team that is going have to keep its cool when the calls don't go its way, which will be often.

These playoffs have been so deeply manufactured that the cynics are wondering whether the ultimate outcome is already set. Surely the series will go six or seven games, if there's anything the league can do about it. And barring an early-game injury to a key player, I suspect the winners will be the men in purple and gold.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Get in the way"

I blogged last weekend about the highly inspiring speech I heard from Congressman John Lewis, one of our nation's living legends. That speech is included in this video, from the 20-minute mark to about the 39-minute mark. There are other interesting speakers as well, but on the same platform as Lewis, they get a little upstaged.

Popular music, for those who learn visually

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Mystery in Albina

Perhaps you can help with this situation.

Thanks for nothing

This is kind of silly. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (right) has "endorsed" his fellow Democrat, Jeff Merkley, for the U.S. Senate, but at the same time he has nothing but nice things to say about Gordon Smith (left), the incumbent Republican whom Merkley is opposing in November:

Smith talks often about the good working relationship he has with Wyden and says it demonstrates how he can be an independent, bipartisan force in the Senate.... Wyden -- who has also benefited politically from his bipartisan friendship with Smith -- told the crowd, "I will not be criticizing (Smith's) service as a senator, or anybody else's."
Gee, Ron, could you spare it? The only way Merkley can even hope to unseat Smith is by attacking him, ruthlessly and constantly. Tie him to Bush, and pound him for his many, many right-wing Republican votes. If you're not going to say anything negative about Smith, why bother uttering token support for your fellow Democrat?

And Wyden actually helps make Smith's case. The two of them have been playing the whole "bipartisan cooperation" game to perfection for the better part of a decade.

There are three kinds of endorsements: slow, fast, and half-fast. This one is clearly in that last category.

I kiddingly refer to Wyden as "(R-Ore.)." The "R" part is becoming ever less funny, and I'm starting to think that we may as well throw in "N.Y." instead of "Ore." for good measure. Why this guy walks on water in these parts becomes more puzzling to me every year.

Sing it, Fats

Sunday morning, my head is bad
But it's worth it for the time that I had
But I've got to get my rest
'Cause Monday is a mess

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