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

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May 2009 Archives

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reaching the limits of human knowledge

An alert reader sends along a link to a nice piece of scientific research, which, due to the nature of the subject matter, may be too graphic for some workplaces.

See you around the Quad

Remember when Randy Gragg went to Harvard for a year? After years of kissing up to the Portland architect and developer sets on behalf of the O, he spent a year or so as a Loeb Fellow at the Yard's Graduate School of Design. The payoff on his return, of course, has been to run Portland Monthly magazine, the city's relentless (but seemingly troubled) directory of plastic surgeons, bankruptcy lawyers, and bars.

Well, now, guess who's next up for a Loeb. None other than the City of Portland's recently ousted planning director Gil Kelley. No doubt the Graggster wrote him a nice letter of recommendation.

Big Brother has just a few questions

A concerned reader writes:

I got a survey in the mail today; didn't look like much out of the ordinary, except that it was mailed to my house after a traffic cam recorded my car crossing the I-5 Columbia River Bridge on Saturday, April 18.

They already know some of the answers, so they are playing dumb when they ask me which of eight counties I reside in. There are a total of nine questions about my habits crossing the Columbia.

Question 7 is typical: Including this trip, how many times on Saturday, April 18 did you cross the (check one) I-5 Bridge; I-205 Bridge

I am neither naive nor paranoid, and I don't mind taking surveys, but I do find it unsettling to be under surveillance.

Ding dong, LeBron is gone

The pro hoops series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic is over, and Orlando prevailed. This sets the stage for a championship series between the Magic and the hated Los Angeles Lakers, and it relieves the world from the nauseating marketing that was already building around a Cleveland-L.A. LeBron-Kobe matchup.

For us, it's better this way. It would have been difficult to spend much time with LeBron vs. Kobe. It's no fun rooting against both teams.

For at least another day or two, the buzz will be about where LeBron is going to be playing next. His frustrations with his Cleveland team may have grown to the point that he'll take big bucks to pull up stakes and head to a better situation elsewhere when he is free to do so next year. Will he do it, who will win the bidding war, yada yada yada.

LeBron stomped off the court after tonight's loss, not staying long enough to shake hands with his victorious opponents, which is the custom. A truly classless, and thoughtless, move. We are all witnesses, all right, to his insane egotism. Buh-bye, Lebron. Don't let the door hit you.

And remember, it rains all the time in Portland. The coach here wants team play. No matter how much money Paul Allen paid you, you really wouldn't like it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hallowed ground for corndogs

The City of Portland is determined to clutter Tom McCall Waterfront Park with more and more "features" and less and less of the greenspace that it was intended to provide. The new Fireman Randy neon sign is just the latest indicator of the city's odd understanding of what a park is supposed to be. If I woke up one morning in charge of whatever bureau's responsible for that thing, I'd have it taken down by noon.

In addition to the dubious long-term program of "improving" (paving over) grassy areas, the keepers of the park play fast and loose with the various monuments that are already there, particularly at Rose Festival time. We blogged about one instance of this last year, and another blogger raises a similar issue today, here.

Uphill battle

The pro hoops playoffs feel so completely and utterly programmed right now. Surprise, surprise, the Lakers won. The league finals start on Thursday, no matter what happens tonight between Orlando (3-2) and Cleveland (2-3). Does the league want a Game 7 on Monday or Tuesday night? Does the league want a Cavaliers-Lakers (Lebron-Kobe) final?

Is the Pope Catholic?

If Orlando wants to win tonight, they had better not let it be close.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Have a great weekend

Not even a linchpin

Up on Council Crest, the hoi polloi have a new neighbor.

Get ready

The big day, apparently, is Wednesday.

Do it right

Don't forget these crucial rules as we head into a serious barbecuing weekend.

Top dog at Metro: $197K (and on the outs)

Following up on our recent posts about what the top executives make at Tri-Met and Oregon Public Broadcasting, we decided to ask Metro -- Portland's unique (the polite term) regional government -- for similar information about its employees. Amy Davis, the agency's payroll chief, responded with a spreadsheet showing the many hundreds of Metro employees, their titles, and what they earned in the last 12 months. As she describes it: "The wages listed are accurate for each job title and the sum of all wages for each employee reflect the total wages paid over the last 24 pay periods representing 12 month’s compensation." Some employees are listed twice because their job titles within Metro changed in that timeframe.

The spreadsheet made it relatively easy for us to sort the workers out by pay level, but the job-title-changers had to be hunted down, and there were several of those in the top ranks.

We count 38 people at the $100,000-plus level. Six make more than $150,000; 13 make more than $125,000. At the tippy-top of the pyramid is David Woolson (right), listed as "general manager," at $197,193. This is a really interesting entry, given that according to the O, Woolson's been asked to leave his post as the general manager of the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission, and the paper gives his salary as only $175,000. Hey, what's 22 grand among friends? I'm sure there's an explanation.

Anyway, next on the list is Michael Jordan, chief operating officer, at $182,663. Only around a hundred bucks behind Jordan is Richard Blandman, who held two different transportation-related posts; together, these paid him $181,629. The rest of the top 10 are as follows:

Cooper, Daniel B.Metro Attorney$163,554.54
Blosser, Jeffrey A.Executive Director - Oregon Convention Center$160,641.23
Robinson, Scott R.Deputy Chief Operating Officer & Director II$153,382.53
Desmond, James L.Director & Director II$140,969.04
Cotugno, Andrew C.Director II & Policy Advisor II$140,574.16
Taylor, Kathleen A.Deputy General Manager$133,735.25
Vecchio, Anthony J.Director & Director II$131,844.00

Whereas the average exec in the top 20 at Tri-Met is making a cool $160,135 this year, over the past year at Metro, the average employee in the top 20 made $140,170.

The whole spreadsheet for Metro is here. The sum total of all the compensation listed is $51,953,572.30. That's no zoo doo, folks.

Coming Monday: the Port of Portland.

UPDATE, 5/31, 4:30 a.m.: A couple of two-title-holders slipped past us in the original version of this post. They're nos. 7 and 8 overall:

Desmond, James L. - Director & Director II - $140,969.04
Cotugno, Andrew C. - Director II & Policy Advisor II - $140,574.16

We have revised the post to add these guys in, and to reflect their salaries.

Why are taxpayers paying Paulson's peanut vendors?

A reader writes:

You may want to revisit the "living wage" subsidy that the [Merritt] Paulson [owner of the Portland Beavers and Timbers] gets from the city. As you may recall, when Portland Family Entertainment originally brought back the Beavers and renovated PGE, the city thought all of the ticket takers, etc. should get a living wage, and so they subsidized all of the hourly wage earners. Well, this is still going on. Paulson pays his minions minimum wage and the City kicks in another $3 per hour (approximately).

Why does this continue? Will it continue after the city kicks in millions more for this [new stadiums] boondoggle and Paulson has to hire more minions? With all of Little Lord Paulson's money, shouldn't we expect him to pay more than minimum wage?

Several questions there.

Why I won't be stepping onto the High Court

Friends have been asking me why Obama hasn't nominated me to be on the Supreme Court. "Did you not get the paperwork in on time?" one high school chum inquired.

No, that's not it. There are several reasons, actually. Consider:

But to detractors, Judge Sotomayor’s sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner — some lawyers have described her as "difficult" and "nasty" — raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen. Her demeanor on the bench is an issue that conservatives opposed to her nomination see as a potential vulnerability — and one that Mr. Obama carefully considered before selecting her.
At least I had a "Nice Week" once.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Convention Center chief getting the boot

The Goldschmidt boys are throwing him to the curb. One of the reasons given is actually kind of amusing: He's not "building a coalition" around the headquarters hotel boondoggle. For that, he should be getting a medal.

Keepin' it weird

Portland public life just gets more and more bizarre. Who knows what this latest chapter is really about?

Just a month to go before what we hope will be the beginning of the end of an era of supreme foolishness. What a waste of a once-great small city.

You can't shine it

But what if you cook it?

Got a Portland jaywalking ticket?

... or have some other bill that you resent paying? Here's an idea that will get you into trouble. Don't try it at home!

Gotta move on

Sometime tonight or tomorrow night, the server on which this blog resides is scheduled to be moved -- physically -- from one building to another, both in the same distant city. They're calling it a "rack migration" -- those who went to all-boys' high schools, make up your own jokes.

While in transit, the server will not be plugged into the electrical grid. This means that it won't work, and when you call up bojack.org on your computer, nothing good will happen. (I know, what else is new.)

Anyway, my wonderful technical director and friend, Jake Ortman, informs me that the outage should be brief. But hey, a lot of things should happen. With any luck, he'll be right and everything will be dandy come the morning. If not, apologies for the delay, and I'll catch you when things are back up to speed.

Good money after bad

It's official. Portland taxpayers are now $4.6 million into the "Heritage Building" on NE Martin Luther King Boulevard: $400,000 to buy the property, which was then handed to a developer for a dollar; $2.4 million in direct loans to the developer, still outstanding; and now another $1.8 million just spent to buy out a construction loan that Albina Bank made.

The developer's whining that neither he nor prospective tenants have the money to finish the inside of the building. The Portland Development Commission says it will try to find the guy financing for the rest of the improvements. But let's face it -- the project's a clunker, having already been in bankruptcy once and default twice. No one in their right mind will lend against it unless they get a lien on the property that trumps the city's interest -- and maybe not even then.

To our untrained eye, a lot, if not most, of that $4.6 million is as good as gone. The city's got the property assessed at a market value of $3.125 million, and that may be pushing it.

Meanwhile, the bank that the PDC just bailed out got some additional good news the other day. They're been awarded eight figures in new federal tax credits:

Albina Bank will get $10 million in new tax credits as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Treasury announced Wednesday.

The bank will receive a reduction in taxes in exchange for making private sector investments in low-income communities over the next seven years. It will earn the full $10 million tax credit in exchange for spending $25.6 million.

Uncle Sam puts up 39% of your play money? Meanwhile, if you make a bum loan on a PDC property, the city takes the bad paper off your hands. Must be nice.

It's got potential

Dick Tracy it ain't, but this video shows a lot of promise:

Creep Suzette

Here's an event that I won't be getting invited to, and if I am, I'm not going. A reader sends along a copy of a breathless invitation that he received from Matthew Stadler, a Randy Gragg comrade in pretention and tortured artist-type gay author who puts together "presentations/symposia/bacchanals in Portland, Oregon, replete with food, drink, music, and general boisterousness garlanding the central pleasure of bright intellects voicing their excellent texts, winging it in conversation, and screening or presenting various textual and visual delights."

This upcoming hoedown is special with a capital "S," however. It's a "back room" happening between Portland's mayor and a group of impressionable college students:

Just wanted to send you a heads-up about an unusual civic event, and food happening: Clyde Common and Nate Tilden have stepped up to the plate to cook some fabulous food for a first-ever "budget back room," bringing students from PSU and UO's White Stag building to the table with special guest Mayor Sam Adams. Seats are $10, and that covers everything you've come to expect from "the back room" — superb food, drink, frank ranging conversation, and some social fireworks. Dinner will be served at 6 pm, Tuesday, June 9th, in the big light well at White Stag.

25 students from the two schools have snagged the seats. Their topic with Sam: policy and real politics around urban planning. How do the deals get done that make our city? Credit Ethan Seltzer at PSU and, well, me at UO with getting the schools together at a common table, and credit Sam and Clyde Common with making it really special. I've cc'ed the lot of them, in case you want more info (like that menu, Nate!)

Stadler's rambling Wikipedia entry notes that he has written four novels about "children, sexuality, and art."

Ewww. Just ewww.

Salem debates Paulson income tax giveaway this morning

Our spies tell us that the Oregon House Revenue Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possible work session today on House Bill 2531A, which expands the 2003 baseball stadium fund. Under the bill, the state would dedicate income tax revenues from soccer team members to financing, developing, constructing and furnishing the proposed "major league" soccer stadium makeover for PGE Park.

We're told that the proceeding, which is to start at 8 a.m., can be watched live at http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/ by clicking on Hearing Room A. The audio portion only can be played later using the same web site (see audio archives).

It's an interesting bill. If we are reading it correctly, the proposed rehashing of PGE would be allowed to suck up not only the extra income taxes that "major league" soccer would bring Oregon -- over and above what the Timbers bring in now. No, it would be allowed to take all the income taxes attributable to professional soccer, including what the Timbers bring in now. The bill calls the dedicated funds "incremental soccer tax revenues," but "incremental" is a pretty misleading word given the way that quantity is defined.

Included would be the taxes paid by anyone who makes more than $40,000 a year rendering service to a professional soccer team. The taxes are so sketchily defined that even those paid by independent contractors such as outside lawyers and accountants could be included. And if somebody decided to crank up a "minor league" pro soccer team in, say, Medford, their taxes would probably go to the Paulson stadium project, too.

Shame on the sponsors of this bill -- Representatives Read, Hunt, Bruun, Roblan and Schaufler, and Senators Devlin, Monroe, and Morse. May it die on the vine. Two of the sponsors are on House Revenue, but let's hope they get outvoted by more sensible folks. The full roster is:

Representative Phil Barnhart, Chair
Representative Jules Bailey, Vice Chair
Representative Cliff Bentz, Vice Chair
Representative Scott Bruun
Representative Vicki Berger
Representative Chuck Riley
Representative Sara Gelser
Representative Tobias Read
Representative Nick Kahl
Representative Sherrie Sprenger

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recession? What recession?

The Portland City Council just voted itself a 2.8% pay raise, along with all the other non-union bureaucrats. "We gave this to the union, so we have to take it for ourselves, too." Whatever you say, folks.

Ridin' Wyden

The special election just past was such a dud. No direct mail political porn! No blog ads! But the public employees union, AFSCME, is currently filling the void (at least somewhat) with ads on blogs such as the one you're reading right now, plus this handsome mailer that arrived at our place this morning:

Another bum pro hoops call

At least this one -- last night's spurious technical foul called against Dwight Howard in Game 4 of the Orlando-Cleveland series -- has been reversed by the league front office. Add referee Scott Foster to the list of NBA whistle-tooters who can't seem to get the important calls right. It's been an epidemic in this year's playoffs.

Winners and losers

For a while there, we produced an annual set of top 10 lists of our favorite and least favorite public figures of the year. We let that feature peter out a couple of years back, but lately we've been thinking of bringing it back as a monthly post -- maybe with just five people (or groups) in each category.

Right now, we've got a couple of candidates for our top five favorites -- Ted Wheeler and Nick Fish -- and three for our least favorites -- Randy Leonard, Sam Adams, and Judy Shiprack. But that leaves room on our inaugural lists for plenty more heroes and villains. We're taking suggestions from you readers. The figures (or groups) can be national, or even international, as well as Oregon or local.

Give us your candidates, and we'll see if we can cobble up five and five for the end of May. Be sure to explain why you're nominating someone (or suggesting that I delete one of my nominees already mentioned).

How to get fired from a city job

Say something that challenges bunk coming from a city commissioner:

"They feel like it’s their time right now," says Alan Stubbs, a loan officer with the Portland Development Commission who helps small businesses in Lents with money set aside for the neighborhood by City Council. "[The stadium] would basically devastate our budget and hamper our ability to help small businesses. If our budget gets blasted by this, we could be sitting there with an empty building and no budget to attract businesses. That to me would just be horrible for Lents."
That was brave, Mr. Stubbs. Extremely brave. Good for you.

Cautionary words

Before anyone spends another nickel of tax money on pro sports facilities, consider what one seasoned observer of the genre is saying these days:

I’m 5+ years removed from the main media sports biz now, so I’ve got a completely different perspective on where the spectator sports industry is going.

Kids, the golden years are behind us....

As I’ve been saying in this space for many months now, what you are going to see in the next five years is a spate of consolidation in the NHL, NBA and perhaps even MLB. I expect a handful of teams to relocate, and a few others to cease operation....

For those not in the affected markets, that consolidation will be good news for the sports industry. There’s too many teams, too many games, too much dilution to keep the typical person interested. (Yes commenters, there are exceptions!)

I would love to be able to say that pro sports will soon make a comeback and you will see sold-out stadia and TV ratings through the roof in the very near future. But the facts support that sports as a major investment in people’s lives, like so many other things in our culture, is being lapped every day by advancing technology.

Latest global warming idea

It's a whitewash.

Up to their old tricks

Portland's favorite civic-minded developers are now proposing to condo-ize San Diego City Hall. A million square feet, with three towers of condos, retail, even a hotel.

Some of the locals down there are a little skeptical, however. "They continually manipulate numbers to benefit their case for building a new City Hall," one says.

No -- d'ya think?

Let's hope the deal goes through and the boys keep themselves fully occupied down there for many, many years. Go by streetcar, San Diego!

Not pencilling out

A reader in Texas writes:

I thought I'd pass along a little "market reality" on what things might look like when Portland gets its own stupid HQ hotel--



San Antonio used empowerment zone bonds -- creating jobs for low and moderate income inner city residents -- for its "Grand Hyatt." Enjoy!

It's going to be a little difficult paying of that quarter billion of public debt at a hundred bucks a night.

Good morning, sycophants

Did you know that some of you are regarded as sycophants of mine by the bleating sheep in Fireman Randyland? You'd have to scroll down quite a ways in this post to read it -- nah, take my word for it. Then another person bleats: "I am a progressive, not a Jack Bog sycophant!" Those blue kids are too funny.

I love it when the critics, on either side of the aisle, go for the ad hominem stuff. That's when I know I've got the subject at hand -- in this case, the insane Paulson stadiums deal -- exactly right.

Have a wonderful day, my little ones.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The railroading continues

Portland's transit mall now has many fewer bus stops. Just another way in which buses are being ghetto-ized in the Rose City under the Goldschmidt Kulongoski regime at Tri-Met.

When in Aloha...

... don't harsh this guy's buzz.

Fish on Lents stadium deal: Nuh-uh

A reader sends along this update from Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, who runs the city's parks and housing bureaus, on the latest permutation of the ill-advised Paulson stadiums deal:

May 26, 2009

Earlier this year, the Portland City Council voted on a stadium deal that would renovate PGE Park for Major League Soccer and build a new baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers. As you know, I voted against the proposal (which passed 3-2).

Although I am a big soccer fan, I concluded that the proposal was the wrong deal for Portland. It requires too much public subsidy for too little economic benefit – at a time when we face the worst recession in my lifetime.

My core priorities during these tough times include public safety, family-wage jobs, education, parks, and affordable housing. Stadium deals are "wants" not "needs."

The process of identifying a site for a baseball stadium is now underway. With the Rose Quarter/Memorial Coliseum proposal off the table, the focus is on Lents.

While no formal proposal has been made public, options on the table include siting a stadium and related parking in Lents Park, and financing the stadium with urban renewal dollars dedicated for housing.

Here are the principles which will guide my deliberations going forward:

(1) I strongly support significant City investments in family-wage jobs, infrastructure and housing in Lents.

(2) I am skeptical of claims that a minor league stadium will jump-start economic development in the Lents community. The experience in many other cities is otherwise.

(3) I do not believe that any stadium deal should come at the expense of promised investments in housing, infrastructure and small business development.

(4) In particular, I am opposed to using dedicated affordable housing funds to pay for a stadium deal. This is the wrong time to reduce critical investments in foreclosure prevention, down payment assistance, home repair, housing renovation and other safety net housing programs.

(5) I am generally opposed to using public parks for private ventures, absent a compelling public benefit.

Lents Park, a thirty-eight acre community treasure, is a vital public space for community gatherings, youth sports, relaxation, and much more. The public benefit must be very compelling before we remove up to 16 acres for private use.

(6) I can't think of any justification for locating hundreds of parking spaces in Lents Park. And I am concerned about the potential removal of dozens of mature trees from the park.

Even if the case could be made for siting a baseball stadium in Lents Park, any lost parkland must be replaced in the neighborhood. And the full cost of a replacement park must be part of any proposal.

Thanks again for contacting me with your thoughts on this issue.


Nick Fish

Fine with them

We're getting more reports of jaywalking tickets being given out in downtown Portland, particularly around the bus lines. All part of the welcome of the newly (and expensively, and unnecessarily) refurbished transit mall, we guess. Pedestrians, toe the line!

Cosi fan tutti

Another politician is in hot water after hanging out at his cute friend's 18th birthday party.

Portland Lawsuits of the Future

Here's a distressing scenario that you can see coming a mile away if Portland is ever stupid enough to spend public money to build a Convention Center hotel. The outfit that's brought in to run the hotel looks out for its own interests, to the detriment of the people who own the place. In Portland's case, that latter group would likely be you and I:

The contracts are supposed to give owners the benefits of a hotel operator’s reputation and its marketing and management prowess. But provisions in those operating agreements also usually require owners to cover the costs of operating the hotels, in addition to paying the hotel manager a fee, often a percentage of gross revenue.

"It gives the operators all the benefits of ownership with none of the burdens," said James R. Butler Jr., a lawyer at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro in Los Angeles. "It pushes to the owner all of the costs — the capital costs of buying, maintaining and operating the property — and lets the managing companies take most of their money off the top."

Meanwhile, a reader writes:

A friend who knows hotel deals and who must remain nameless comments on our proposed Convention Center hotel project that Starwood's apparent indifference to the prudence or lack thereof in the revenue forecasts for the project are probably based on the presence of something called a "non-disturbance agreement" in their deal with Metro. Such an agreement protects the hotel operator from loss of management income in the event the hotel underperforms. My friend observes that elsewhere, Starwood is demanding not just its full management income payments, but additional capital investments in upgrading the property to keep it in top shape, where the property hotel in question is having big losses.
Hmmmm. Maybe it's time to take a look at that contract between Starwood Hotels and whichever public entity around here -- Metro? The PDC? -- is paying Starwood to take us to the cleaners. Go by streetcar!

Monday, May 25, 2009

You *can* have it all

Two essential food groups in one.

She remembered

The Times hits a home tun today with this Memorial Day story.

Another clutch bad call by an NBA ref

Once again, in the tense final minute of an important playoff game, a referee in perfect position looks right at the play and gets it wrong:

And guess what. Our old pal Mark Wunderlich was in the officiating crew. Funny thing! Although in this case the wrong call appears to have been made by his referee partner, Greg Willard. Incompetent or fixed?

Speaking of war stories

An alert reader sends along another one.

Update: Pringles *are* potato chips, after all

We blogged last summer about what we thought was the definitive ruling on the subject of "potatoness." But no -- a higher authority has determined otherwise. Yes, a Pringle is a potato chip (or potato "crisp") for purposes of the British value-added tax.

Up next: Is a fat-free cookie "food"?

Meanwhile, in other tax news... [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Amidst the remembrances

Here's a story I don't think I knew about in the first place. [Via this story.]

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day weekend 2009, cont'd

Staying close to home on a holiday weekend is always appealing to us. But our friend got as far as Dog Mountain yesterday, and he says the view was fine:

Dressed it up and they called it we

Here's a GPS and camera gadget called an Oregon 550. Why'd they name it that?

Exclusive poll

Should the prisoners currently housed at Guantánamo be moved to Wapato Jail?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day weekend, 2009

After a tumultuous four months, I got some great advice from Mom: Stop and smell the roses.

So I did.

And I didn't have to go far. They're in my own yard:

I only wish my camera and photography sense were stronger. It's quite a scene.

Two birds, one stone

Move the Beavers to Lents? How 1950's.

A friend of ours whose family's roots in Portland go way back told us an interesting story recently about moving the Portland Beavers baseball team to the Lents neighborhood. Apparently that was the plan back in the 1950s, when the Beavers were planning their relocation out of their old stadium on NW Vaughn Street -- an all-wood, turn-of-the-century firetrap, according to our buddy.

Anyway, the move was supposed to be to the current site of the Eastport Plaza shopping center, which is just a stone's throw from Lents Park. Back in the day, there were even signs posted prominently on the Eastport lot that said "Future Home of the Portland Beavers." For some reason, it didn't happen -- the Wikipedia entry for the team blames the Korean War, and other, unspecified factors -- and in 1956 the Beavers relocated to their present home at Civic Stadium, which had previously been called Multnomah Stadium and today (at least for the moment) bears the name PGE Park. The Eastport Plaza retail center opened in 1960.

There's a nice profile of the Vaughn Street facility here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Have a great holiday weekend

All cha-chings considered

We seem to have hit a nerve with yesterday's post about the top salaries at Tri-Met: more than a quarter million a year for the main man, 10 drawing more than $150,000 in annual salaries, and 20 over $125,000.

In addition to several comments about the Tri-Met salaries, we also got an e-mail message from a reader who thought we might like to take a similar look at what folks are making over at Oregon Public Broadcasting. The reader sent along a copy of OPB's annual disclosure form to the IRS, a public document that lists some of the big-money employees for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008. (We get the distinct impression that this reader has a grudge against the management over there, but hey, whatever his or her motive, the reader piqued our interest.)

It occurs to us that information like this merits a website all its own. Somewhere there ought to be a place where Portlanders can go to see the compensation levels of all the high-priced bureaucrats at public agencies and charities, at state and local levels. Something like an Orestar system, but for executive compensation. Does such a site exist? And if not, who out there is ready to lay a nice grant on us to get one started? Just a thought.

Anyhow, given the interest, we'll be following up with more salary information from various government agencies and nonprofits in the coming weeks, but what the heck -- here are the top eight individual execs from the OPB annual report:

PayeeTitleCompensationBenefit plans and deferred comp.
Steven BassPresident & CEO$296,500$34,331
Dan MetzigaSenior VP - Development$170,000$20,666
Maynard OrmeFormer officer, director, trustee, or key employee$159,810$14,383
Jan HeskissCFO & Asst. Secretary-Treasurer$120,000$15,566
Dave DavisVP - National Production$117,500$15,341
Jeff DouglasSenior VP - Station Manager$117,000$15,296
Debbie RotichVP - HR & Admin.$108,000$10,056
Tom DoggettVP -TV Programming$105,737$15,242

As best we can tell, Bass arrived in 2006 from Nashville, after Orme stepped down as president and CEO at age 68. But between just those two current and past top dogs, the organization paid $456,310 plus $48,714 in benis last year. How many days of pledge drive is that? Sheesh.

Anyway, not to pick on OPB in particular. We promise, we'll sniff around some other institutional payrolls in the weeks ahead and let you know what we find.

Is it time for the city to fold on the "Heritage Building"?

Summer's almost here, and that means it must be time for Portland taxpayers to get soaked some more on the infamous "Heritage Building" deal over on MLK. This one has been a financial bomb since forever -- long before we first blogged about it in October 2005. Here's what we reported then:

[L]ast week [the Portland Development Commission] announced that they had closed on the sale of the bombed-out "Heritage Building" on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to a group of developers for, literally, one dollar. This is property that the PDC paid $400,000 for in 1999 -- now gone for a buck. That and $2.4 million in low-interest loans is supposed to get the new owners cracking, finally, on turning the property into something useful, after years and years and years of talking about it.

Back in 2001 (when the property was still being called the Weimer Building), the story was that the PDC was going to sell the building to a developer for around $500,000.... "But just like everything else, I guess those crazy dreams just kinda came and went."

By last June, things had deteriorated quite a bit:

The [PDC] 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.

Last year, the talk was that Bank of the West was going to take over the Albina loan, but apparently that never happened. Instead, the developer reportedly went bankrupt. And now there's talk of the PDC taking over the Albina loan -- essentially, paying off the first mortgage -- to try to salvage the $2.45 million that it has into the deal as lender on a second mortgage. The latest from the O includes this:

The [PDC] will consider buying a private bank loan to avoid a second foreclosure on a key redevelopment project....

The development company, the Heritage Building LLC, finished the work in September 2007. Since then, the company has defaulted once on the loan with Albina Community Bank, and the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. The building remains just 56 percent leased, according to the PDC.

Commission officials, worried about another default, say they want to take over the Albina Community Bank loan to get the rest of the building leased and "protect its own investment in the property in the event of another loan default," according to a staff report....

[Eric] Wentland [manager of the developer] said his company has restructured and re-emerged from Chapter 11. He said he has letters of intent from more tenants.

But he said neither his company nor the tenants can afford to pay to finish out the space.

No word on how much is still outstanding on the loan, or how much the PDC is planning to pay to buy that paper. Last year the balance on the Albina loan was in the neighborhood of $2 million.

Let's see: We taxpayers paid $400,000 for the building, and shelled out another $2.4 million more in loans for construction. That's $2.8 million of tax dollars (and maybe more that the media hasn't reported) poured into a building that isn't happening, and probably never was going to happen. So now the call is to pungle up another $2 million so that the developer can string the PDC out even further?

And then what? More "loans" to finish the building so that additional tenants might actually be arm-twisted into moving in? How many hundreds of thousands -- or even millions -- are the additional improvements going to cost?

Maybe it would be better to let the bank take the thing over. If the building's worth more than the balance on the Albina loan (say, more than $2 million), the taxpayers will at least get something back on the $2.8 million they have sunk into this turkey. That might be as good as can be expected.

After an entire decade of struggling with this property, the PDC and its developer pals haven't been able to get anything going with it. Only a fool would think that somehow things are going to improve, especially in this economy. Dropping another dime of public money on this project -- much less more millions -- would seem like a highly questionable move.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little Lord Paulson critiques his new surroundings

An alert reader writes:

Go out and waste the $5.00 on this, it's worth it for the chuckle and the idiotic quotes.

The New June/July Mix Magazine has a goofy profile of Merritt Paulson on where he likes to eat, why Portland should give "rich sports owners" money for soccer, the typical lamenting of ex-pat NYers on not being able to find a good bagel in Portland, his favorite Lake O restaurants --- you know, that kind of thing.

It's priceless for its absolute stupidity. You know, my brother and sister went to pretty exclusive private schools back east. Paulson reminds me of those preppy privileged d****e bags they went to school with. Arrogant, out of touch and entitled to the core. HATE.

Now, now. We peons are lucky to have him talk to us.

Airline pricing, now for sporting events

I hear the Blazers are going to require that luxury box occupants stay over Saturday night.

Smackin' the flack? He'll fight back.

Several helpful readers alerted me yesterday when the news broke that former Portland mayoral spokesman Wade Nkrumah is preparing to sue the city and Mayor Creepy for allegedly defaming him after Nkrumah abruptly quit just a few weeks into his job back in January. It was when WW blew the Beau Breedlove scandal wide open, and Nkrumah walked out soon after the mayor admitted that he had been lying his sorry backside off all along about his relationship with the teenage intern.

The mayor had suggested that Nkrumah quit because he couldn't handle the stress of the job, but Nkrumah, who said nothing publicly about his motives at the time, now says he quit because the mayor had proven himself to be too much of a liar to be a spokesman for. Gee, who do you believe, Wade Nkrumah or Sam Adams?

I thought a lot about Nkrumah when I listened to the audiotape of the infamous January meeting among him, the mayor, mayoral {joke} "sustainability advisor" {/joke} Amy Ruiz, and Nigel Jaquiss, Hank Stern, and Mark Zusman of WW. This was just days before the weekly newspaper dropped the bomb on the mayor. Nkrumah and Ruiz were acting all rough and tough with the boys from the Double Dub, copping an attitude of "You don't have anything, so don't mess with us." (Nkrumah pipes up at around 22, 24, and 27 minutes into the tape, and he turns a bit nasty at about 25 minutes.) When soon thereafter it became clear that everything Jaquiss said was true, and most of what Adams had told him was a lie, Nkrumah did the honorable thing and cleaned out his desk.

Would you lie for your boss? I wouldn't, particularly if I had recently left my job as a legitimate journalist and was newly entering the world of public relations. In that line of work, all you've got to sell is your credibility, and there are few people or causes worth wasting it on. Certainly a guy like the mayor doesn't qualify -- not even close.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Ruiz, another ex-journalist who's toughing it out as part of the Creepy damage control team. When her time with Adams is over -- and it could be any week now -- she may wish that she had made the same decision as Nkrumah. It will also be fascinating to see how far Nkrumah's replacement, Roy Kaufmann, will go for the mayor as the scandal and the recall wear on.

Fireman Randy's new BFF

It looks like Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack is going to be as bad as I thought.

Meanwhile, the Lents Neighborhood Association last night voted 2-to-1 against the Paulson minor league baseball stadium disaster being pushed for their neighborhood park.

Mayor resigns over gay love scandal

His partner wasn't legal.

That ain't Vegemite

When we found out the other day that Fred Hansen (right), the general manager of Tri-Met, will be flitting back and forth between here and southern Australia to play the role of some sort of Down Under philosopher, it reminded us of the famous Peter Kohler. For those of you just joining us, Kohler was the Father of the OHSU Aerial Tram and, like Hansen, an associate of the one and only Neil Goldschmidt. Remember when Kohler was going to take over Portland General Electric and run it on his half-days off? Good times.

But we digress. Getting back to Hansen, his new moonlighting gig under the Southern Cross made us wonder just how much Tri-Met pays that guy. The usually productive Google research method didn't shed any light on the subject. And so we sent a public records request over to the transit agency to see what we could find out.

They were accommodating. What we got in response was, according to a Tri-Met attorney, a list of the employees who are making salaries greater than $100,000 for services rendered during fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30. It turns out that Hansen's salary for this period is $256,954. Which proves once again that it really pays to have been friends with you-know-who, you-know-when.

Next in line on the gravy train (no pun intended) are two "executive directors," Neil McFarlane and Stephen Banta, who each got a "retention and performance award" on top of his base salary. With the awards added in, McFarlane pulls down $213,085, and Banta makes $196,892. Right behind them is Brian Playfair, Tri-Met's main in-house lawyer and its human resources head, at $196,715. Daniel Blocher, a "senior director," is a ways back, at $163,078, followed by another "executive director," Carolyn Young, at $162,001.

In all, the list shows 10 people making more than $150,000; 20 making more than $125,000; and 58 making more than $100,000. The average listed compensation of the top 20 employees was $160,135.

The whole list is here. Like the man says, that and $2 will get you on the bus.

Convention Center hotel numbers are bogus

So say some folks who ought to know -- the people who actually operate hotels around here. They say that the projections that the City of Portland's planners have been working with overstate the proposed hotel's operating income by 29% to 40%.

Here's what the local operators, the Tri-County Lodging Association, predict -- compared to what the city has been estimating, through its project partner, the Starwood hotel group:

Net Operating Income After Reserve for Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment

These net income figures do not take into account any amounts that would be needed to retire the massive amount of public debt that the proposal would require -- around $247 million, at last report. To pay off that much debt at 6% interest over 30 years would suck up more than $17.9 million a year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For the children

One thing we'll say for the Sam Adams administration at Portland City Hall: He's made local government funnier than ever. The jokes just make themselves up these days. Here's an excerpt from an all-employees e-mail that the mayor sent out the other day, encouraging bureaus to participate in the city's summer jobs program for poor and troubled young people:

Hello All,

I encourage every bureau to take advantage of an excellent opportunity available to have Youth Corps Interns as well as WSI funded youth Summerwork employees between May and September of this year. Your bureau can benefit from the youths' employment as well as supporting and helping youth in our community. The youth will be paid through Federal Recovery Act Stimulus dollars for up to 180 hours; the program manager is Work Systems Inc. and one of the twelve providers the City can work with to hire employees is IRCO....

In addition to the 25 Youth Corp interns, the Federal Recovery Act Stimulus has allowed for a Workforce Investment Act program expansion during Summer 2009. This will be managed by Work Systems Inc and the recruitment will be contracted through 12 providers; IRCO being one of the twelve. The City has agreed to take 35 positions for this program for the summer. These youth will range from ages 16-24 years old and must meet the Federal low income and/or "At-Risk" guidelines....

I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to make a difference in a youth's life and to bring your bureau an exciting experience....

Who says he doesn't lead by example?

The thrill is gone

For the record, Sam Adams is no longer listed as one of Merritt Paulson's Facebook friends.

Sunday's on the phone to Monday

Today's Joe Cocker's 65th birthday.

Parks Board to Paulson: Take your stadium and shove it

Good for them. [Via WW.]

It will be interesting to watch Fireman Randy try to save face as the colossally misguided Paulson deal dies (as it now seems virtually certain to do).

Pie Chart of the Week

funny pictures

Watch out, strange kind people

Are you like me? Do you enjoy this stuff every now and then?

I think the first time I had it was at a bento cart. Good eatin', but a little goes a long way.

PGE steps up to help with energy bills

Portland General Electric announced this morning that it is donating $1 million to help some distressed Oregonians cope with unprecedented energy bills that resulted from last year's surge in oil prices.

PGE executives told a Portland press conference that their company is contributing the $1 million to another local energy utility, NW Natural, to help the latter company cope with yesterday's news that it will have to pay its customers immediate refunds of $32 million for overcharges in natural gas prices over a five-month period earlier this year and in late 2008.

"Huge heat bills like these are hard to cope with," PGE CEO Jim Piro told the assembled media. "It's always been our practice to see that thousands of Oregon residents receive assistance with their power costs when they have needed it most. We know that some of our industry colleagues have had their bonuses and stock options cut this year, and with the recent cost increases everywhere, they’re having trouble meeting all their payment obligations."

Piro noted that the number of corporate executives requesting financial assistance from the government keeps growing. "Rises in prices at Strohecker's, special condo association assessments, and diminishing subsidies from the Port of Portland and the Portland Development Commission are putting tremendous pressure on entrepreneurs in our region. Unfortunately, our people are having to make hard choices between paying for basic needs like customer refunds, sailboat maintenance, Botox injections, and Ermenegildo Zegna suits," he said. "Our corporate support will help NW Natural tough out these hard times, and keep the shrimp cocktail at the Arlington Club at sustainable temperatures."

PGE will also place a special flyer in its customers' electric bills over the summer, asking them to pitch in to the effort.

Another priceless comedy moment from the O

Reporter Ryan Frank swallows hook, line, and sinker with this one. About the Poodle Poop Park in Portland's SoWhat District:

In South Waterfront, work has started on a new park that will create 39 jobs.
Now that's too funny. Hey, Ryan! Did you ask them what these 39 people are going to be doing for a living -- scooping droppings from Fluffy the Shih Tzu?

Time out while I get the glass cleaner for my computer screen.

Only slightly less hysterical is his description of why the city has an urban renewal agency:

The Portland Development Commission offers grants, low-interest loans and discounted land to encourage developers to build projects they wouldn't otherwise. The theory is the subsidies benefit the public with more affordable housing or taller buildings than the market alone would support.
"Mommy, what is a PDC?"

"They make the buildings taller, honey. It's for the public good."

I'm going to miss the O when it's gone. Even without Randy Gragg, it manages to be mildly pornographic.

Earthquake news you can use

Forget L.A. -- did you know there was a quake in close-in Southeast Portland a week ago Sunday night? Me neither.

WW says it was a 2.6 in Ladd's Addition, but this more official-looking site is pegging it at a 1.9, just north of Ladd's. The coordinates given by the latter source place the epicenter here, roughly a block north of the Barley Mill Pub, at 11:27:53 p.m. on Sunday the 10th.

Plan to close Gitmo gets less

It's been quite a month for the Democratic Party leadership so far. First we find out that the charade of military commission trials is going to continue, and now we won't close our prison camp in Cuba. For those of us who voted for change, it's pretty disappointing. I'm starting to worry about the Supreme Court nominations.

Is Mayor Creepy still in Belgium?

This blog had eight more hits yesterday from Villers-le-Bouillet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Plus, it creates construction jobs

I see a lot of benefits to this project.

On their way

There's still a little over an hour to drop your ballot off in Oregon. Meanwhile, here in Multnomah County they're picking them up for counting about as fast as you can drop yours off:

Didn't Bush want the same thing?

Senator Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) is taking some heat these days for his proposal to tax the health care benefits Americans receive through their jobs.

It's Election Day

At our place, there are a few contested education board elections that close today, but that's about it. We've filled out our ballots, but will we be motivated enough to take them to the local drop-off center? Probably; the thought of passing on a chance to vote is just depressing enough to get our walking shoes on. Plus, there's the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses factor: I know our dead neighbor down the street has already voted.

No good deed goes unpunished

As credit card companies are told they can't gouge their weakest customers any more, they're planning to sock it to those of us who pay our balances in full every month.

Coming soon to that telephone pole outside your house

Cell phone antennas. The Portland City Council is about to adopt some new rules on these things, but of course, since the cell phone companies have bought off Congress with copious campaign contributions, federal law forbids cities from even thinking about the health effects of living next to them in deciding where they can go.

Portland's new regulations rely heavily on "priority maps," but try as I might to click around on the city web page on the subject, I can't find them. Any readers out there know where they might be found? And if they're not available on line, is that omission intentional? Not that the council would purposely avoid stirring up any neighbors...

Putting the antennas on utility poles all over the place is being billed as an alternative to those unsightly tall towers you see riding around town. But if it's a choice between having them on tall towers somewhere else or on a pole 20 feet from an infant child's nursery, I know what I choose.

UPDATE, 4:48 p.m.: Drafts of the maps are here, but they take forever to load.

Fred Hansen leaving Tri-Met?

According to this report, he's taking a gig in Australia.

UPDATE, 2:41 p.m.: Fred's just moonlighting in Australia -- he won't be leaving his bloated salary at Tri-Met. I should have known. He's doing such a great job here, his crackerjack board of directors would hate to lose him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lents Park, according to Paulson and Fireman Randy

They'll cut down 30 to 40 trees for 780 parking spaces. But get this -- the parking spaces will be on "green" bricks!

These people have no shame -- none whatsoever.

Kroger report on Adams imminent, sources say

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is said to be getting quite close to releasing the results of his criminal investigation into the conduct of Portland Mayor Sam Adams. A reliable source tells us that the report could be out as early as this week. And, the source adds, "It won't be a matter of whether Adams resigns, but when."

Given that our publicity-conscious A.G. wouldn't want his big headlines to get lost in the holiday weekend, one would think that any news this week would come by Thursday at the latest.

A modest proposal

There are always construction cranes working out at the Portland Airport. The Port of Portland is truly the Pork of Portland when it comes to keeping the tax cash flowing to the construction company boys up in Dunthorpe.

There's expansion stuff going on out there right now, even as actual passenger traffic is down more than 15 percent this year. For some reason they need to keep making the place bigger and bigger until finally nobody goes there.

It's reminiscent of the Oregon Convention Center. The less popular it got, the bigger the City of Portland had to make it. Maybe we could just jack up the Convention Center and move it out to the airport. You could build the headquarters hotel next to the Ikea, and the Paulsons could play their bush league games in a new stadium where the Convention Center is now. A real win-win, as they say. Maybe even some day, a linchpin.

City of angels

Here's that list we asked about this morning -- those civic-minded business people who gave the money at the last minute to save the Washington Park free summer concerts this year:

Washington Park Summer Festival Donors
Sondland Durant Foundation
Hotel deLuxe
Hotel Lucia
Bank of America
Craig Boretz
Starlett & Stephen Brown, NW Securities Advisors LLC
City Center Parking/Greg Goodman
Dewey Dental
FutureWorks Consulting
Kaiser Permanente
Key Bank
Laborers' Local 483
The Irving Levin and Stephanie Fowler Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation
The Mark Spencer Hotel
Jay Martin
Ms. Willi Martinsen
Marylhurst University
Melvin Mark Companies
Miller Nash LLP
Susan Newman & Phil Goldsmith
NW Natural
OSU Foundation
Pacific Power
Wendy Popkin, Popkin Solutions
Portland Trail Blazers
Reser's Fine Foods
Luisa Simone & Robert Obrinsky
Star Park/Schlesinger Companies
Stoel Rives
US Bank
Wells Fargo

Way to go, people.

Pill Hill reshuffling its financial deck

OHSU is going to the Wall Street well this week to borrow $109 million by selling revenue bonds. And they're planning to put another $125 million or so on plastic next month. And here I thought they were so strapped up there these days that there wouldn't be any revenue to borrow against.

This press release is pretty sketchy. But there are a few interesting tidbits. It looks as though most of this debt will be to refinance old debt, and that the money picture up there may be showing some slight improvement:

The series 2009A bonds are anticipated to be structured as traditional fixed rate bonds while the series 2009B bonds will be issued as weekly variable rate demand bonds (VRDBs) with a letter of credit (LOC) from U.S. Bank, N.A.... Bond proceeds will be used to refund close to $90 million in outstanding series 2005A&B revenue bonds, repay a line of credit that was used to refund series 2004 special revenue bonds, and fund $10 million in capital project needs.

OHSU's financial and operating profile is mixed. On an obligated-group basis, OHSU posted operating losses in the last two fiscal years despite profitable Hospital operations that yielded 4% operating margins in recent years. Lagging state appropriations have led to an increasing structural deficit in University's operations, and in FY'08, the obligated group reported an operating loss of $3.2 million. In response, management has embarked on an operational improvement plan that targets revenue enhancement and expense control and reduction. To date, these efforts have had a marked impact on profitability as year-to-date data for FY'09 show an operating gain for the obligated group.

Balance sheet metrics for the obligated group are weak for the rating category and exhibit a relatively high debt burden. At FY-end 2008, OHSU had 107 days-cash-on-hand (DCOH), a 56.9% cash-to-debt position, and a 6.9 times (x) cushion ratio. On a consolidated basis, OHSU's balance sheet is healthier with 158 DCOH, a 100.4% cash to debt position, and a 12.3x cushion ratio. With this issuance, OHSU's proforma maximum annual debt service (MADS) is estimated at $47.8 million, with an adequate historical proforma MADS coverage by EBITDA of 2.7x for the obligated group and 3.8x on a consolidated basis, at FY-end 2008. The Stable Rating Outlook is based on the expectation that OHSU will continue to reap the benefits of its operational initiatives, improve its overall operating performance, especially the University's, and strengthen its balance sheet.

Who were those masked heroes?

Well, the business people have pungled up, and the Washington Park free summer concerts are back on. The happy announcement is here -- anybody got the complete list of sponsors?

Only with envy

The 15 greenest mayors in America have been named -- and guess which state is not represented.

I don't know -- it's probably pretty bad when the mayor of Jersey City is more of an environmental leader than you are.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Walk around time

We made our second appearance in a row today at the Northwest Pilot Project's annual walk-a-thon in the Park Blocks at Portland State. People of all ages and from all walks of life walked, ran, or rode their motorized wheelchairs around the loop for an hour -- raising thousands of dollars for an important Portland charity.

Once again, we were blessed with exquisite weather, and friends of the NWPP provided all sorts of refreshments for everybody, and prizes for the best fundraisers. These guys supplied the soundtrack -- classic sounds that warmed us up and kept everybody on the beat for the whole event. Good vibrations all around.

An apartment bunker in your neighborhood? If it's "delightful."

Here's another interesting tidbit out of Salem. I am late to this party, but if I am getting it right, the authors of this piece are giving a thumbs-down to the City of Portland's proposal that it alone among Oregon cities be given wide discretion as to what kind of infill housing it accepts and rejects, to be judged more or less on an ad hoc basis.

This may be the land use bill about which Mayor Creepy gave his impassioned little press conference that turned off all the state legislators. In any event, the more discretion the city has, the greater the opportunity for cronyism and mutual back-scratching. I don't like most of the Soviet-style human warehouses that are wrecking Portland, but nonetheless I'm for clearer standards and less discretion for the mayor and his ilk down at City Hall.

As Tom McCall said... sort of...

A cool place to live, but don't expect to get a job here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New arrivals

Let's make it simple

I've decided: The new no-cars bridge to be built over the Willamette River is hereby named after me. Bojack Bridge. From now on, no matter what the bureaucrats tell you it's called, you and I, let's call it the Bojack Bridge. No signatures, no hearings, no votes. We don't need no stinkin' planners. Just us, let's get 'er done. Name that baby after somebody who actually lives here, and who has contributed to the public good for many years.

Call it the Bojack Bridge.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Have a great weekend

An idea to save newspapers

Have one person buy them all.

Let me tell you how it will be

The new 11% state income tax bracket that the Oregon Legislature is considering for rich folk is sure to provoke a lot of commentary. But taking their cue from Obama, the wily solons in Salem are defining "rich" as having income greater than $250,000 a year. If that's the dividing line, then I say lay on, McDuff!

As I recall, the state actually had a 10.8% bracket there for a while in the 1980s. And it didn't kick in at any $250,000, that's for sure. I think I even paid it!

Oh no, Guadalajara won't do

Not when you can freeze your trasero off in Astoria.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just don't do it

Five hundred layoffs at Nike headquarters in Beaverton (well, not really Beaverton, because they control the state, and being part of Beaverton costs more in taxes...).

Jail Blazers 4 Ever, cont'd

Looks like Darius Miles is into self-medicating for his knee pain.

David Stern, please bench this incompetent

Another terrible job in progress tonight by pro hoops referee Mark Wunderlich. He just called a mystery technical foul on Kobe Bryant. There'll probably be a fistfight before the game is over.

Fireman Randy and Paulson robbing from the poor

Literally depriving them of housing.


Another big sports night (burp) at PGE Park

An alert reader sends along a photo, taken earlier today, of the star of Portland Timbers soccer arriving at the stadium for tonight's game:

Just don't call me Chief

A reader formerly from our nation's capital sends along the text of an interesting speech made this week by a blogger type who's been keeping an eye on local government in his town. He is Gary Imhoff, his and his wife's site is called DCWatch, and here is what he said as he received an award for extraordinary public service from the district's Federation of Citizens Associations:

I don't open a morning newspaper or turn on the evening television news — I wish I could stop that sentence right there, but let me start it again. I don't open a newspaper or watch the news with an eager anticipation that I'll find out something good that the DC city government will be doing for me. Instead, I approach the news dreading what I'll find out the government will be doing to me, or my neighborhood, or the city as a whole. It will be pushing some developer's plan to screw up another neighborhood, and it will be devoting millions or tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to fund those plans. It will be diverting public property to somebody's private interests. It will be passing some bill to regulate our private lives so that we'll live them in line with councilmembers' personal preferences. That's why news is so important; it's citizens' first line of defense. If we don't know what they're up to, we can't defend ourselves against them.

When Dorothy and I started DCWatch.com in the mid-1990's, we were looking for a better, more efficient way of distributing government information, and the Internet provided it. I had tried for a couple years to convince the DC government to start its own web site, and when it didn't Dorothy and I started DCWatch to post city council bills, government reports, and so on. A few years later, DC.gov opened, and a few years after that, with its large staff, it became a bigger repository of government documents than anything we could hope to maintain.

We still post government documents that, for one reason or another, the DC government doesn't want to become too public. But the more prominent mission of our web site became providing an outlet for citizen-generated news and opinion in our biweekly E-mail forum, themail@dcwatch.com. That mission has become even more important now that almost all print news outlets are in financial trouble and are cutting back their local coverage; and now that local television news is mostly lifestyle reports, sports, and weather. How do we gather serious local political and community news, and how do we get it to the people?

I think the second part of that question is already answered. The Internet is an inexpensive delivery method, almost free compared with printing or broadcasting, and it doesn't have the space limitations of newspapers or the time limitations of television. In the future, news about serious subjects will be delivered by the Internet first, and papers and television stations will be supplements. But how will news be gathered for Internet news services? Big newspapers, with big advertising and subscription revenues, as well as big television stations with big advertising revenues, could afford big news gathering staffs, numerous reporters and several editors. But Internet sites have limited to no advertising revenue and limited to no chance of charging their readers subscription fees. (I'm very skeptical that newspapers' dreams of walling off their web sites and charging fees to readers will lead to anything.)

So who will support these large staffs of reporters and editors? I'm not sure that anyone will. Most travel agents have been replaced with travel booking web sites, and the few remaining travel agents handle only the most difficult itineraries. I suspect that in the future most newspapers will have only two or three reporters and editors devoted to gathering the local civic and political news that we are interested in, and the days when a newspaper like The Washington Post had fifty Metro reporters on staff are gone forever.

If there are fewer professional reporters gathering and covering the news that we find necessary, who will replace them? We will. We, the people in this room and hundreds and thousands of people like us who are interested in the well-being of our city and the operations of our city government. We are already the sources for our local newspapers and broadcast stations. We try to convince reporters and their editors that they should cover the stories that are interesting and important to us. Occasionally, we succeed; more often we don't. But in our local neighborhood listservs and in themail, we are able to act as reporters ourselves. We escape the filters of ‘news judgment' that keeps a lot of important news out of our news outlets. We get to inform others directly, and in the end we all end up better informed.

I thank you for this award, but I'm not the one who earned it. What you read in themail, the things you may have learned about from it, are the work of many people cooperating to invent another way of keeping each other in touch and informed. You deserve the credit. And if you don't deserve the credit, if you haven't contributed to themail yet, go home and write now. Send your messages about what's going on in your neighborhood or in your area of interest to themail@dcwatch.com, and let the rest of us know about it.

Here in Portland, the address would be jackbogsblog@comcast.net.

More biotech lies from OHSU and the PDC

Those guys just never stop.

How not to recall a Portland mayor

The Sam Adams recall folks are already playing right into Mayor Creepy's hands. The "kick out" party this evening at Nick's Coney Island restaurant on Hawthorne Boulevard is going to have Victoria Taft broadcasting live from the scene.

By putting right-wing talk radio front and center, the recall proponents are going to turn off the silent majority of the city's voters, who -- let's face it -- are notoriously liberal. If you want to win an election in this town, you have to enlist the greenies, the unions, and the Bus kids -- or at least not turn them against you. If the recall movement devolves into a right-vs.-left battle, it's a sure thing that Adams will stay in office for his entire four years, and maybe even then some.

KMHD could be on the rocks

An alert reader reports that the board of Mount Hood Community College has voted to turn the college's radio station, KMHD (motto: "Jazz, blues, and NPR News"), over to Oregon Public Broadcasting. "I'm afraid this is the beginning of the end for KMHD," the reader writes. I would tend to agree with that assessment.

I can just imagine

Here's a nascent website of a group of architects, developers, planners, and community leaders who say they're promoting "practicable strategies for citizen-led community development in Portland." The site is still in development; at this point it still has that new-streetcar smell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Getting the job done

The pro hoops playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks has ended, with Denver prevailing. Although it hardly made up for two crucial bad calls in pivotal games of this and another playoff series, tonight's officiating crew actually did an excellent job. They let the players play just enough, and they kept their eyes open when it counted. Then again, the game wasn't close, really, and the series was effectively over as of several days ago.

Anyhow, our hat's off to referee Joey Crawford and his colleagues, Bill Kennedy and Ron Garretson, in Denver this evening. (Kennedy was part of the trio who stunk up the Rose Garden in the Blazers' first game against Houston, but tonight he did no harm.)

More signs of life in Salem

It looks as though the Oregon State Senate has seen the error of its ways and voted to repeal the hideous law that we complained about here. Now it's time for the House to do the same, and for Governor Ted to sign the bill into law. Misguided and probably unconstitutional, the restrictions on party members' nominating independent candidates need a speedy interment.

What's on your mind? Too many make-work jobs.

Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler took a lot of flak over the past week for proposing to hire a staffer to post county information on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. But at least he was talking about posting information that actually pertains to government business. Meanwhile, over at the City of Portland, we're getting more and more of this on city bandwidth and city time. Where's the pushback on that?

Value system

The politicians who stood by and said nothing while our country tortured people are now quite vocal about opposing release of photos of said torture.

Super snoop

My friend Phil Stanford, who made all sorts of waves in this town as a newspaper columnist and crime historian before the newsprint industry imploded all around him, is alive and well and doing private investigations these days. Stanford has always been great at turning over rocks and finding interesting specimens underneath. Here's wishing him well in his new venture.


Looks like the whole alternative fuels thing is having trouble accelerating.

It's about that time of year when the oil companies jack us all around at the pump, however. Maybe when we're back at $4 a gallon, bio-gas will be profitable.

Meanwhile, out at the wind farm...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad refs take another NBA playoff game

It happened again in tonight's crucial playoff game between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. With 36 seconds to go in a close game, a Celtic shot an air ball, resulting in a 24-second shot clock violation. But the referees, who first called the violation, then changed their minds, ruling that the shot had grazed the rim. Video replays showed that no such thing happened. Orlando should have been handed the ball, but instead Boston got another chance, on which it capitalized. And with that went the game -- along with the series, probably.

Sure, the Magic could have pulled it out, even with the bad call. But their chances were greatly diminished. Now they trail Boston 3 games to 2, and they know they don't have the league's officials on their side.

Tonight's bozo crew: no. 13 Monty McCutchen, no. 22 Bill Spooner, and no. 24 Mike Callahan. As in so many NBA playoff games, they were either incompetent or biased.

I'd pay to watch

I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

Portland "urban renewal" abuse hits new low

Check out the latest from Scam Central (Portland City Hall). Pretty soon the entire city will be declared "blighted," and all property taxes will be handed directly over to the developer weasels. This town is way off its rocker.

Fish and Fritz, are you on board with this? If so, you should hang your heads in shame.

Cleaning up after Mayor Creepy

An observant reader caught this scene at Jantzen Beach this morning:

Get a good look, Portland taxpayers. This is what you and I will be doing for the rest of our lives.

Paul Allen bails on Portland radio

Lars Larson and Co. have been sold.

OnPoint first quarter nothing to write home about

The first quarter of 2009 showed a continued slide by Portland's economy, as reflected by our quarterly run-through of the regulatory financial report of locally owned OnPoint Community Credit Union. But perhaps the rate of decline has declined somewhat. Here are the categories of numbers that we've been following with our untrained eye over the past year or so:

Item3/31/0812/31/083/31/09Quarterly increase (decrease)12-month increase (decrease)
Total investments$266,999,202$199,685,297*$247,615,14024.00%(7.26%)
Federal agency securities$99,580,429$126,745,213$124,075,055(2.11%)24.60%
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans$7,289,749$23,621,140$27,041,58614.48%270.95%
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending$3,141,885$8,891,285$8,725,911(1.86%)177.73%
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies$2,047,768$14,364,478$4,978,864(65.34%)143.14%
Ratio of delinquent loans to total loans (percent)0.341.051.22    
Ratio of total delinquent loans to net worth (percent)3.0510.27**11.59   

* - Revised from previously reported figure of $204,032,809. ** - Revised from previously reported figure of 9.25. Delinquent loans are those delinquent for two months or more.

Net income for the quarter ended March 31 was $3,388,178, down 43.65% from the same quarter last year ($6,012,897). On the brighter side, however, deposits rose for the first time in three quarters, from $2,191,035,640 to $2,321,865,874 -- a 5.97% increase. Deposits a year earlier were $2,303,473,491, and thus for the 12-month period deposits were up 0.80%.

Stop phone book dumping now!

Finally the Oregon Legislature is talking about doing something sensible about the piles of unwanted phone books that get dumped on everyone's doorsteps by several pushers every year. They're considering a bill that would require that residents affirmatively say they want a particular directory before the publisher can have it left, like a present from an unleashed dog, on their front porches.

And of course, the lobbyist weasels are working hard to derail the idea. Somebody named the Yellow Pages Association from Berkeley Heights, N.J. is in Salem pushing the lawmakers to kill this perfectly sensible measure. "Think of the senior citizens!" They'll burn for that one.

This is where we find out whether the politicians who talk "green" at every town hall meeting really mean what they say. Keep an eye on Democrats like State Senator Ginny Burdick and Governor Ted along with the usual crew from the other side of the aisle. These folks rarely meet a corporate lobbyist they don't like.

And where is Metro? Where is the Portland City Council? Why aren't they, our waste disposal overlords, out in front on this? Off to Brussels, I guess.

If there was ever a "call or write your legislator" moment, this is it. The bill is House Bill 3477, and any legislator who votes against it ought to have a darn good explanation.

As it stands, the bill already has a big loophole in it:

(2) A person may not distribute a hard copy of a telephone directory to another person at the other person's residence in this state unless specifically requested by the other person to do so. A request under this subsection may be made in writing or submitted using the Internet.

(3) Subsection (2) of this section does not apply to telephone directories that are made available electronically or on the Internet.

As I'm reading that language, so long as the publisher also puts the directory on the internet, anyone can still dump a hard copy of it on your doorstep without your asking. The folks in Salem ought to get rid of that exception. Unlike the cell-phone-driving rules, get it right the first time.

The bell hop's tears keep fallin'

The Portland hotel market is really in the tank. It turns out that when it comes to declining room rates, we're no. 5 in the nation.

So tell Aunt Martha in Poughkeepsie to get out here for Rose Festival! And tell your city council members that Mayor Creepy and his friends in the developer Mafia need to kill their Convention Center white elephant project.

Not that I loved César less

A big episode in the César Chávez Boulevard Sóap Ópera is in the offing today. The Portland Planning Commission is meeting this afternoon to consider the three streets that have been placed in the renaming ring: Broadway, Grand Avenue, and 39th Avenue. It's not exactly a fair contest among those three any more -- the city's history panel has pretty much tied 39th's arms and legs up, and it's writhing on the deck as the city presses the button to open the gates for the lions.

There's a story in the O today suggesting that there could be trouble for the renaming proponents over the wording of the city code, but we're skeptical. It wouldn't be the first time that our moribund local daily paper attempted to play a note of uncertainty about a train that's already started to leave the station. At least one street is going to get the green light as the planning board makes its recommendation to the City Council.

Of course, there will be lots of hemming and hawing -- there always is when neighborhoods are getting trampled. One idea being floated last night was that, in the spirit of compromise, Commissioner Randy Leonard would agree to have his Caesar Salad recipe (coincidentally posted on the Water Bureau blog yesterday) relabeled "39th Salad" as part of a package deal. Esparza's Restaurant would also be renamed, "Bob's Steak House." Alternatively, there is talk of giving everyone who owns property on the new Chávez Boulevard two free tickets to a Tuesday night Portland Beavers game next April.

Welcome, viewers in Villers-le-Bouillet!

View Larger Map

Yesterday, this blog had no fewer than four visits from that small burg in Belgium.

[Private message: No, you haven't been indicted yet.]

The next Portland "urban renewal" disaster: the Rose Quarter

It couldn't be plainer. The mayor of Kansas City is warning Portland not to take on a Cordish "entertainment district" in the Rose Quarter unless it is willing to, as O reporter Ted Sickinger puts it, "hemorrhage public money." Between the dubious and predatory business model and Cordish's "reputation for hardball negotiating and tin-eared community relations," the city should be laughing the Blazers brass right out of City Hall with this one. If I owned a restaurant or a bar within two miles of the Rose Quarter, I'd be screaming bloody murder about it. But of course, the stupider it sounds, the more the city commissioners like it, and so we can look forward to heapin' helpin's of tax excrement financing and all sorts of other gyrations trying to make it happen.

And you can bet it will be "green" and "sustainable" development -- LEED super-platinum! That will get the sheep into the pen for the shearing a whole lot quicker.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prolonging the agony

The meaningless pro hoops playoff series between the Cleveland LeBron and the Atlanta Hawks mercifully ended in a sweep tonight. But the matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Dallas Mavericks, just about as ugly as you can get, lives to disgust another day, as Dallas narrowly avoided elimination at home. Dallas now trails 3 games to 1, with Denver needing only one more win in three tries to move on to the next round.

We've already blogged about how bad things got at the end of Saturday night's contest in Dallas. Referee Mark Wunderlich had one of his characteristic spells, giving the Nuggets a game that the Mavs legitimately won. But apparently things got even uglier than we acknowledged. After the game, Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who had pushed a TV cameraman and sworn on national TV against the officiating crew, reportedly had some unkind words for -- get this -- Denver forward Kenyon Martin's mother, who was in attendance.

At tonight's game, which featured seven technical foul calls and at least a couple of flagrant foul calls, some Dallas fans continued heckling Martin's mother, even throwing things at her before they were ejected. There was at least one other incident in which a fan threw something out onto the court. After the game, Martin was seen on TV mouthing off at someone, presumably Cuban, as he headed for the locker room.

The referees have totally screwed up this series, and there's no way Dallas is going to win it now. If ever the fix was in on a game -- and more and more fans every year think that's the way it is in the NBA playoffs -- please, David Stern, let's have Denver win on Wednesday and put the series out of its misery.


If you questioned whether the Portland city government should be publishing Fireman Randy's Caesar salad recipe, check out this page from the State of Louisiana.

How quaint

Look, Honey, they're talking about enforcing the antitrust laws again.

Croutons from scratch

Finally, something productive from Portland City Hall! Fireman Randy's Caesar salad recipe. With raw egg, no less.

More on OnPoint Credit Union's fourth quarter

Last week we noted with some surprise that OnPoint Community Credit Union, our barometer of the Portland economy, had suddenly changed its fourth quarter 2008 operating results from a profit to a loss. Thanks to our readers, we learned that this was as a result of some toxic assets in other, larger credit unions in the insurance pool with OnPoint, but that explained only part of the newly disclosed losses. Then we learned that OnPoint has hired a new chief financial officer, with no kind words said for its former officer in that position, who had been there for many years.

Prowling around on the internet for new information about this, we found another document that adds to the puzzle. This is the glossy annual report that OnPoint hands out to the world. Dated in March, this document disclosed the hit that was taken due to the insurance pool loss, but it still showed a profit for the year. This confirms our hypothesis that its auditors found other things, running into the millions, that had to be fixed before the final annual figures were set.

The glossy report disclosed in a footnote "the $16.9 million impact of member insurance and NCUSIF impairment costs that resulted in 2008 from National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) regulatory actions, and related impacts." But sanitizing that out, the "pro forma" income statement that the OnPoint brass reported showed the same $22,569,000 annual profit revealed in its "call" report in January.

Something else changed since March, because even subtracting out a $16.9 million insurance "impact," OnPoint would have shown a profit of $5,669,000 for the year. Indeed, no doubt embarrassingly in retrospect, the top brass at OnPoint included the following brag statement in the glossy report:

Although OnPoint, along with the rest of the nation's 8,300 credit unions, paid an assessment as part of the NCUA's Corporate Stabilization Program, due to our outstanding performance and sound management/business practices, our net income still showed a sizeable profit.
Not. The numbers submitted in April to the NCUA -- presumably, audited numbers -- showed a loss for the year of $2,871,665. That's an $8.5 million change, beyond the "$16.9 million impact" discussed in the managers' narrative.

Looking at the two quarterly reports filed with the regulators, the changes on the income statement were as follows: The provision for loan and lease losses was increased by $1,200,000; gain and loss on investments changed from a gain of $979,626 to a loss of $3,367,886; and member insurance expense went up from $93,709 to $19,986,634 -- a change of nearly $19.9 million, not $16.9 million.

Whatever's been going on among the bean counters at OnPoint the last few months, it hasn't been a mellow time. Members can only hope that things calm down a bit going forward.

Time is truly wastin', there's no guarantee

Years ago, when some friends and I were protesting the Reagan administration's latest nuclear shenanigans at Hanford, a public relations expert told us that if we wanted public support, we had to stop sounding like we were against everything, and start sounding like we were for something. We didn't take that advice, and after a while the issues we were most vociferous about died down (although Lord knows there will always be some hellish pollution problems up there).

It will be interesting to see how much of a positive spin the folks who want to recall Portland Mayor Sam Adams will be able to place on their efforts. Let's face it, a recall is about as against-something as it gets. But apparently they're going to give it a go, at what they're calling a "kick out party" on Thursday evening at 6 at the famous Nick's Coney Island on Hawthorne.

Gee, it hardly seems like something to have a party about. But interested folks can at least gather, check each other out, and start talking up an organization, I guess. The formal recall effort is forbidden by law from commencing until July 1, which is 50 days away.

Up in smoke

Last year a terrible fire destroyed three homes and damaged a couple more on the block on which I grew up on the east side of Newark, New Jersey -- Cortland Street, in the Ironbound (or "Down Neck") section of that city. I wrote about the fire here.

My old schoolyard friend Mike Dobzrelecki, who alerted me to this sad occurrence, e-mailed me the other day to add that the internet now has dozens of photos, and even some videos, of the blaze in progress. The photos are here, and the videos here and here. They're even more distressing than the aftermath photos that Mike sent originally.

Eleven families -- seven children and 18 adults -- were affected by the fire, according to the Red Cross. There were no injuries that I know of. The last I heard, the fire was classified as suspicious.

Still can't hold his tongue

Bounced U.S. Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) had an op-ed piece in yesterday's Times. If government keeps jacking up its spending, he noted, new taxes on the middle class will be necessary.

Packy doesn't sound too keen on raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, either. As he has been a chief proponent of getting rid of the federal gift and estate taxes, that is not surprising.

Packwood's arguments have a certain appeal, much like some of the better boxed wine on the market these days.

And here we all were, wondering who would like to take over Portland City Hall if Adams is recalled.

On the itinerary

The New York Times' resident frugal traveler reports:

When I heard that Beau Breedlove, the former intern who at the age of 17 began an affair with Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, was signing copies of Unzipped magazine, in which he appears 98 percent naked, I hurried to Fantasy, an adult store, dutifully bought the latest issue ($8.99; no sales tax in Oregon!) and stood in line for my autograph — a piece of history.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why we need to run 10 miles this week

Yesterday we had a fantastic lunch at this joint. We went for the Mother's Day Weekend special, which was simply too good. The proprietor of the place is a darling man with a long and illustrious Oregon history, plus a shining about him that made his fine food great.

Tonight we waddled over here and had a holiday dinner that couldn't be beat. The dessert was an irresistible custard-strawberry-chocolate thing. But every bite of every course was good.

Ten miles. We need 10 miles in 7 days. Even though the going will be slow.

Happy Mother's Day

You only get one.

Blazer fans had it right: Mark Wunderlich is a lousy referee

The referees in yesterday's pro basketball playoff game between the Denver Nuggets and the Dallas Mavericks missed a crucial call at the very end of the contest that handed the game, and the playoff series, to Denver. So egregious was the mistake that the league actually admitted it after the game.

The offending officiating crew were no. 15 Bennett Salvatore, no. 18 Mark Wunderlich, and no. 41 Ken Mauer. It was Wunderlich (left) who missed the call.
Remember that Blazer playoff game in which the officials were so bad that the crowd chanted "These refs suck"? As bush league as it was for the Portland crowd to do that, it was right -- the refs in question really did a lousy job. And guess what. Wunderlich was in that crew, along with no. 55 Bill Kennedy and no. 49 Tom Washington. Two of that three did a crummy job two nights later for the Mavericks and the Spurs.

Wunderlich's history in previous playoffs is not impressive:

The official closest to the play was Mark Wunderlich, the same official who did not call a foul on Los Angeles' Derek Fisher at the end of Game 4 of last year's Western Conference finals.
Now that he's screwed up an important series beyond repair, Wunderlich needs the rest of the playoffs off. Is he incompetent, or is he on the take?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gone tomorrow

It appears that the hysterically funny Adrian Chen is busting out of Portlandia for the Big Apple.

NBA Playoffs slip into snooze mode

The last 24 hours have done considerable damage to our enthusiasm for the pro basketball championship tourney. Houston giant Yao Ming's bad left foot is acting up -- last night he was limping and hopping around as the Lakers got the upper hand in their series. Today Denver took Dallas out with a highly controversial noncall at the end of the game -- a Bennett Salvatore officiating crew characteristically made itself the story, rather than the players -- and now the Nuggets lead that series 3 to 0. Over in the east, the Lebron juggernaut continues. As we predicted here back in mid-April, Cleveland is making mincemeat of Atlanta.

All that's left to follow is the Celtics-Orlando series, which is interesting, at least for the moment. (Orlando's ahead 2 to 1.) But the other three matchups are making a perfect backdrop to good, long spring naps.

The script for the Kobe-Lebron showdown is being played out, but perhaps with a little too much precision. There's more drama going on in our flower beds at the moment.

Angry young man

Billy Joel is 60 today.

Movin' on

Oregon's non-wave-making U.S. attorney, Karen Immergut, has been rewarded with a circuit court judgeship. Governor Ted made the announcement on behalf of the Old Boy Network yesterday.

The search for a new U.S. attorney continues, with Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) in charge. So far all that is known for sure is that it won't be Brandon Mayfield.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beavers Friday night

Here's the crowd for tonight's Portland Beavers baseball game -- announced "attendance'" of 4,035. That brings the season average over 12 games to 3,362 per game:

Changing of the guard

Just as we were blogging about some unusual financial reporting twists at OnPoint Community Credit Union, that institution announced that it has a new chief financial officer. Who knows if there's any connection there? The new CFO's name is James Hunt, and the terse announcement of his appointment is here. The OnPoint folks left out the part about who the departing CFO was, but for many years until recently it was Roxanne Giffin.

Have a great weekend

In the off season

The great ones never let the grass grow under their feet.


This could explain some things:

When they throw me in prison...

... please come visit.

What your Facebook friend didn't tell you

He's working for that lawyer who's suing you.

What's in a number?

The César Chávez Boulevard Sóap Ópera rolls on quietly behind the scenes in Portland. The ruthless gamesmanship of the proponents of renaming-a-street-after-the-fallen-civil-rights-leader still leaves three streets in contention: Broadway, Grand Avenue, and East 39th Avenue. It would be nice of them to narrow it down to one sometime, but apparently that trio of candidates will remain in play until the moment before the City Council approves one.

The committee of nonhistorians called together under the city charter to rule on the historic significance of the streets and their names has spoken: 39th Avenue has the least significance. And so despite the overwhelming opposition of the folks who own property over there, it looks as though 39th is the leading contender for the renaming. It seems almost inevitable.

One of the arguments that the opponents of the 39th name change offered to the city panel was that renaming their street would screw up the numbered-street array, thus potentially confusing motorists. It's obvious that 39th comes between 38th and 40th, but where is Chávez? It could be anywhere.

This "navigational" argument went nowhere with the history committee. Apparently the street numbering system isn't so important as to preclude a politically correct exception here or there.

Tell that to the ghosts of the folks who used to live on Glenn Avenue.

Glenn was a street in the northeast part of town, between 32nd and 33rd Streets. A hundred years ago, when the neighborhoods were being laid out, it stood proud. But sometime later, someone decided that the name had to be changed to make matters easier for motorists trying to find things. And lo and behold, NE 32nd Place was born.

The Glenn name survives only in curb markings on scattered corners where progress has not yet arrived in the form of cutouts for the disabled and other wheeled sidewalk users:

It won't be long before they're all gone:

But if you're over that way, check them out. And when the bureaucrats tell you that names should trump numbers in the grand scheme of Portland street labels, remember Glenn Avenue.

OnPoint swoon partially explained

Faithful and knowledgeable readers have supplied a partial answer to our question of yesterday of how OnPoint Community Credit Union's fourth quarter 2008 results took a $25.4 million nosedive between the time they were first reported (in late January) and the time the latest quarter's results were reported (in late April). Apparently $13.8 million of the change came as a result of the meltdown of a few big "commercial" credit unions, which we blogged about here in late March. That collapse reportedly required that all insured credit unions in the country take a big hit to their balance sheets, and the regulators let them take it to their fourth quarter 2008 financials, rather than their first quarter 2009's, if they wished. OnPoint apparently opted to do that. Maybe somebody's performance bonus looks better that way -- who knows with the executive class these days?

The accounting move doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the credit union deposit insurance system. OnPoint had been showing an asset of $20.7 million as its "deposit" in that system. After the writedown for the latest unpleasantness with the commercial credit unions, that asset dropped to $6.8 million -- a 67 percent drop in the insurance "deposit" in a single stroke. Gulp.

Even this doesn't sum up all the bad news, however. In addition to the insurance hit, there are nearly $11.6 million more of downward adjustments in OnPoint's audited numbers from where they were when the institution first reported its quarterly results in January. What was the rest of it all about? The full picture is still unclear.

We're still digesting the first quarter of 2009 while we ponder the mysteries of the fourth quarter of 2008. More on that first quarter momentarily.

Mayor Creepy in action

This should be required viewing in Abnormal Psychology classes:

Check out the expression on the guy's face just as he gets into the car. Now that's a sick man.

And Roy Kaufmann, the mayor's spokesman -- what a gig. You can almost see him up late at night rehearsing "Springtime for Hitler."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Adams resigns

They're breaking the story here.

(Heh heh. Just practicing.)

World news tonight

This story from li'l ol' Lake Oswego will doubtlessly make waves around the globe.

Own a piece of Lloyd Center

Bulletproof vest not included.

The Mentee, meandering

A reader who lunched on the steps at Pioneer Courthouse Square today noticed one noontime stroller without a care in the world:

Now I've got this song stuck in my head:

While strolling through the park one day
In the merry merry month of May
I was taken by surprise
By a pair of roguish eyes
In a moment my poor heart was stole away

Don't it always seem to go?

If the Portland Beavers baseball team moves to Lents Park (at SE 92nd and Holgate), where would the fans park their cars? On new parking lots, paving over the existing park? On neighborhood streets? Note that I-205 is just a few blocks to the east -- no one will be parking east of there.

We've been through this question before. The Paulson shills say they'll need a 1,500-space parking lot. Just by way of comparison, the long-term lot at the Portland Airport holds only 1,400 spaces.

More rush-rush on the Paulson stadiums deal

The latest from OPB:

Randy Leonard: "Well, we have to have a deal on Lents within the short term, like in the next week."
Remember the April 15 "drop dead" deadline? It came and went. Now we're on May 14. I don't know about Randy, but I'm starting to feel numb.

Meanwhile, the new "urban renewal" slush fund that's going to pay to re-do PGE Park yet again has apparently been drawn up behind closed doors, and the public will get to see it the night before Randy's new deadline:

The Portland Development Commission (PDC) and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) would like to invite you to attend a special briefing session regarding the possible formation of a new Central City Urban Renewal Area. Location: PDC, 222 NW 5th Ave, Commission Conference Room, Wednesday, May, 13 2009 at 5:30 PM
Go by streetcar!

Mayor Creepy update

A day away from the collective nervous breakdown known as Mayor Sam Adams was refreshing. While we were off the story, the eyewitnesses to Sunday's crash -- the mayor totaled two cars, ramming his pickup truck into them -- noted that when the mayor emerged from his vehicle, in addition to smelling like he had been drinking beer, he had his fly unzipped and the button on his shorts undone.

Meanwhile, the national media have picked up on the story, and it's been all over the local talk radio. The recall PAC has been unveiled. The junket to farookin' Belgium is still on; we'll be paying his salary while he's sightseeing there.

Still no official word from John Kroger.

Did I miss anything?

OnPoint Credit Union fourth quarter was loss, not profit

For a while now, we have been taking a series of quarterly snapshots of the operating results at OnPoint Community Credit Union -- as a barometer of the economic times in Portland's neighborhoods. As one might expect, over the past year, things have not been so rosy.

But the latest news from the green-eyeshade set is of a little different kind. We recently opened up the credit union's March 31 financial report filed with the National Credit Union Administration, to see what went down in the first quarter of 2009. That report is in this Excel file. As we plotted the progress of the recession in the figures, we noticed that the numbers for the fourth quarter of 2008 have been changed, and not for the better, from what they were in the original report for that quarter, which we blogged about here.

For example, total investments as of Dec. 31, previously reported as $204,032,809, have now been downgraded to $199,685,297. And more significantly, year-to-date net income as of the fourth quarter, previously reported as $22,568,772, has been restated as a net loss of $2,871,665. That's a $25.4 million correction. Ouch.

What happened? To our untrained eye, it's not entirely clear. But here are some of the other figures that got changed -- perhaps our learned readers can help us read between the lines:

ItemOriginally reportedRevised
Allowances for Loan & Lease Losses$8,562,880$9,762,880
NCUSIF Deposit$20,668,234$6,823,468
Accounts Payable & Other Liabilities$17,813,073$23,841,232
Total Other Operating Expenses$30,470,037$50,362,962
Non-operating Income & (Expense)$1,052,725-$3,294,787

We'll get into OnPoint's first quarter of 2009 shortly. But in the meantime, it's worth puzzling over what happened with the accounting for the last quarter of 2008.

Ain't nobody home

As we ponder whether new stadiums for the Paulson family's second-tier sports teams are worth $85 million or more in public funding, let's not lose track of how many people the teams do or don't put in the seats. We've been running photos of the near-empty PGE Park for Beavers weekday night baseball games, discovering that the announced "attendance" is at least 1200 more than the actual "crowd" on those nights. Even if the official numbers are to be believed, interest in minor league baseball in the first month of the season has been anemic, to say the least. Here are the figures:

The Paulson soccer team, the Timbers, has played two home games so far this year. The announced attendance was 6742 and 8549, for an average of 7646 per game. If Paulson gets his new stadiums, the team will upgrade to the next higher level in U.S. pro soccer, the "major" league. Query, however, how many additional fans that would mean. Pro soccer plays only around 17 home games a year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breaking news: Schrunk lets killer cop slide

If that isn't the nonstory of the century.

Cue the "Honeymooners" theme

We've been waiting for it, and after four months it's finally starting. That match made in heaven -- Fireman Randy and Nurse Amanda -- is heating up like the engine of a pickup truck that's being gunned as it totals a couple of cars.

Say it with music

If Oregon got a new state song, what should it be? "I Can't Stand the Rain"? "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" "You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine)"? "Hanky Panky"? "Busted"?

Ask your doctor, and she may ask about you

There's a bit of a flap going on in Salem about a Senate bill that would establish an electronic pharmaceutical database in Oregon of all prescriptions for a large number of drugs of a type that are deemed ripe for abuse. These are the drugs listed on Schedules II, III, and IV of the federal drug law.

Some people I know and admire support this measure. The folks who treat heroin addicts without hooking them on methadone tell me that there's been a rise in methadone-related deaths lately. They attribute this in part to patients getting multiple methadone prescriptions for pain from different doctors, without the doctors realizing that the patients are playing them off each other. A prescription registry, it is suggested, would alleviate that problem, not only with methadone, but with other drugs as well. Doctors could check out a patient's prescription collection before adding to it

My civil liberties buddies, on the other hand, are screaming that the registry isn't necessary, that it will include far more information than is called for by legitimate needs, that too many drugs are going to be covered (including common shrink pills like Xanax, Ambien and Valium), that it will invite all sorts of snooping on innocent Oregonians, that too many people (including every pharmacist in the state) will have access, that there's no patient notice or remedy for security breaches, and that the crazed druggies who are currently shopping for prescriptions are going to find some other way to get their buzz on anyway.

It's an interesting debate. The optimal solution probably lies somewhere between no registry at all and the massive one that's being proposed -- under the current bill, the prescriptions being tracked would apparently run into the millions each year. If people are getting heavy stuff like speed or opiates, then sure, keep tabs and let the doctors have access. But every mother's little helper? Pharmacy clerks all over the state getting to surf around through the data? And no meaningful recourse if your privacy is illegally violated? No way.

Now make it 'Melo

Chauncey Billups has turned the Denver Nuggets into a real championship contender. They're grinding the Dallas Mavericks down. Whoever wins the Lakers-Rockets series is going to have its hands quite full.

One thing I can't get over is how relaxed and happy Carmelo Anthony looks out there. You talk about being in your prime.

Averting our eyes from the wreck (literal and figurative)

Unless he resigns or Kroger says something, we won't be writing about Mayor Creepy today. We need a break from that story. Tune in again tomorrow for the latest on our city's collective nervous breakdown. Today we'll look at some other subjects.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Annual ritual

In the rainy Northwest, we have to wait until Fourth of July to get into this. But back east, summer comes a little earlier.

Another big night in Paulsonland

They might have had 125 people show up for the Portland Beavers' game tonight:

Wonder how many fans they would draw to a $40 million stadium in the Lents neighborhood. Fifty?

UPDATE, 10:28 p.m.: Pictured above is what they called "paid attendance" of 1,511. If no one at all showed up, it would be about 1,400. For this we're going to screw up Lents Park.

Second Adams car crash witness: He was drunk or impaired

Last night we linked to a report in the O that one of the witnesses to the auto crash caused by Portland Mayor Sam Adams said the mayor smelled like beer at the time. Now comes a report from a second witness -- a co-worker of the first -- who says the mayor was drunk or impaired. KATU, who broke the story, now reports:

Scott Joslin (not pictured), who works at Car Toys and was there the day of the crash, said that in his opinion, the mayor had a dazed look, his eyes were glazed over and were even bloodshot. When asked on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very certain), how certain he was that Adams was drunk or impaired, he said an 8 or a 9.
That's two eyewitnesses against the word of an admitted liar. I know what that would mean to me as a juror.

Smell test?

When a witness to an accident tells a responding police officer that he thinks the driver who caused the accident was drinking, what is the officer's duty at that point?

In the report, Sgt. R.K. Berry said a witness approached him and said Adams might have been drinking. Berry wrote that the first officer on the scene did not smell alcohol on Adams, however.
And that's that, I guess.

Get out the checkbook

I'm not the world's greatest expert on campaign finance, but I'm told that tomorrow they're announcing the formation of a political action committee to recall Portland Mayor Sam Adams. They're calling it Recall Sam PAC, I believe. If they look like they know what they're doing, our house is good for $100.

Grimwad's gone

A source in the Portland parks bureau tells us that Robin Grimwade, the Australian guy who was brought in a few years back to raise money by commercializing the city's parks, is no longer with the bureau. "I'm sure he's disappointed not to have managed to get a McDonald's in one of our parks before his tenure was up," the source adds. "Poor fella."

Grimwade had had his résumé out a few times in recent months. We wish him bon voyage, and look forward to see where he lands.

Grimwade was recently identified as one of two new managers for the doomed greenway project in the SoWhat district. That fantasy is now scheduled to be completed by the turn of the century.

UPDATE, 4:49 p.m.: Here's the official announcement:

From: Santner, Zari
Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2009 4:42 PM
To: Parks - Parks and Rec All
Subject: Announcement

Yesterday, Robin Grimwade, the Senior Manager in charge of Strategic Planning and Business Development (SPBD), submitted his resignation, effective May 11, 2009. He will be on vacation the balance of this week.

In light of the financial challenges faced by the bureau, I have decided to eliminate this senior management position in order to retain a few direct services that would be lost as a result of the Mayor's Proposed Budget. Consequently, I have reassigned the units within the SPBD to other Senior Managers in the following manner:

The Property Management, System Development Charge, Business Development, and Grant Procurement programs will all be in the Director's Office portfolio, reporting to Fred Kowell, the Finance Manager.

The Strategic Planning, Asset Management, and Parks Planning will also be in Director's Office portfolio, reporting to Brett Horner, the Planning Supervisor.

The Design and Construction Unit, managed by Liz Moorhead, will become a Unit within the Parks and Recreation Services Department, managed by Eileen Argentina.

I am working on the reassignment of staff within the Marketing and Business Development Unit and hope to make a decision by next week.

Robin's tenure with the bureau was short, however, his contributions to the bureau will be long-lasting. Robin helped me, the Senior Managers, and his staff to understand the value of strategic thinking and planning for establishing a solid organizational foundation for a sustainable and enduring future. He recruited great staff to fill critical positions when opportunities arose and he remained steadfast in advancing the bureau's interests in the context of the city-wide planning and policy development.

I appreciated his counsel and his service to the bureau and the City.

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

Our source adds: "I'm surprised Zari didn't mention his efforts to sell Mt. Tabor Yard off to Warner Pacific. Perhaps she's saving that to put on her own resume... one can only wish."

Check the extradition treaty

Several alert readers point out that Portland's creepy mayor is headed for Belgium next week with two aides in tow. Everything's going so well in town, it make sense.

His sustainability advisor says that if he gets charged with crimes before then, he might not go.

I did not know that

Check out this former Portland Beaver.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tick, tick, tick

It's just a matter of time now.

Yay for Yao

The Rockets beat the Lakers in Los Angeles tonight. That Rick Adelman guy does it again.

Adams smelled like beer at car crash scene, witness says

It's over. So long, Sam. Don't let the door hit you.

And the cops were pitiful. Where are the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers? Where is Nurse Amanda?

Grim news from Grimwad

Another fine accomplishment from the Portland parks folks -- they've cancelled the free summer concerts in Washington Park. Somehow the millions for the SoWhat park keeping rolling out, however. Nick Fish, got any straight talk for us on this one?

City Hall death rattle

One way you can tell that a Portland politician's career is almost over is when, after years of wasting public money on one luxury toy after another, he or she suddenly announces that it's time to get "back to basics." Remember when Jim "the Scone" Francesconi ran for mayor? One of his speech points was how the City Council needed to get "back to basics." Everybody looked at each other and replied, "Haven't you been on the City Council forever? Why haven't you stuck to the basics?" A few months later he was riding his Vespa down off the ridge to a real job.

And so it was with some mirth that we read this piece of Mayor Creepy's recent press conference on his budget for the city that he is bankrupting with one goofball project after another:

"This is a basic-needs budget," he said. "In the face of the worst global recession in more than a generation, this budget strives to keep all Portlanders safe and secure in their homes, their neighborhoods and their jobs."
Yeah, right. And at that point, he turned on his heel and headed into a meeting with Merritt Paulson about the two new bush league stadiums we're going to build, along with another white elephant hotel. Don't forget taking over the bridges. Too funny.

Back to baseness, maybe.

Bowie vs. Oden: the comparison

Whenever anyone says "Greg Oden is the new Sam Bowie," the Blazer faithful are ready to pound on the speaker. That isn't fair! He was injured! It wasn't his fault! Give him time to mature! Bandwagon fan! Etc.

Are the faithful right? Let's take a look at the two players' rookie seasons side by side:

Field goals299198
Free throws160144
Offensive rebounds207169
Total rebounds656424

Here are some per-game statistics that are also illuminative:

Minutes per game29.221.5
Field goals per game3.93.2
Free throws per game2.12.4
Offensive rebounds per game2.72.8
Total rebounds per game8.67.0
Assists per game2.80.5
Steals per game0.70.4
Blocks per game2.71.1
Turnovers per game2.31.4
Fouls per game3.73.9
Points per game10.08.9

To me, there is nothing unfair about comparing the two rookie Blazer centers. Statistically, they are similar, but if either of them had a better rookie season, it was Bowie.

See for yourself

The condo monstrosity ruining the intersection of SE Division and 26th here in Portland is now finished, and people are now living in it. Walk or ride by for yourself and tell me: Is that not the ugliest, cheesiest building that's been built in this town for many years?

Aside from its ghastly bulk, the structure has siding that looks like it already needs to be replaced, or at least painted. Maybe they need some more cash flow before they paint the exterior? The windows are looking a little ghetto, too.

The greedy developer who built this thing, the bureaucrats who approved it, and the City Council and Metro council who are forcing this trash down the neighborhoods' throats, should be taken out and whipped. No, wait -- a few of them would actually like that, and so we'll have to dream up another punishment. How about they have to tell the truth to the public for a month or two? That might kill them.

Fairy tales to start your day

Here's a $45-a-plate breakfast you won't want to miss. You might win a ticket to join the delirious crowd of 250 people at a Beavers baseball game!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make up your own joke

Some Portland motorists got rear-ended by Mayor Creepy -- literally -- at Jantzen Beach this evening.

Portland, 1974

It was four years before I got here, but it looks awfully familiar in this wonderful blog post.

The Depression scare is ending

So they say. But maybe not for you.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More doublethink with the Fireman

I love stuff like this:

As late as this afternoon, Leonard told WW the idea was to have a new financial agreement with Merritt Paulson on where to put his new baseball stadium by the new deadline, Thursday, May 7.
Let's take that one apart together, shall we? "A new financial agreement... on where to put his new baseball stadium."

When did the siting of a major public facility become a mere "financial" decision? Only because the city fathers think that means they can cut the deal behind the public's back. After the "financial agreement," committing the city to a location, is done, the affected neighbors will hear the details and have their meaningless "input" moment.

Backroom deal first, public process second -- that's the Portland Way. All fueled by the "urban renewal" scam juice. Go by streetcar!

Taking no chances

You can't be too careful.

Safety is Job 1

Let this be a lesson for all of us.

Pro hoops rumbles on without the Blazers

The Blazers' season is over, and the inevitable topic of conversation among fans of the team is roster moves that would improve the lineup next year. (Our view: Trade anybody but Roy and Aldridge, if it means an upgrade.) This will go on for another week or two, and then the internet buzz will turn to what moves are actually being contemplated by the team management. By the time the league playoffs are over, the trade rumors will be flying.

But sports fans, the playoffs are far from over. This evening (5:00 our time) will see the conclusion of a first-round war between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics whose length and intensity can only be described as "epic." (All the journalists are attaching that word to the series today, but our buddy Bill was on it as early as Tuesday.) The teams have played seven overtime periods in six games. There was a scuffle in Game 6, which went to three overtimes before the Bulls pulled it out. The defending world champs are without one of their big three, and it's given the Bulls their opening. It all gets settled tonight on the parquet floor in Boston. Game 7, baby.

A few ex-Blazers are still functioning in the playoffs. James Jones, who was around Portland for a cup of coffee last year, is starting at small forward for the Miami Heat, who have their Game 7 with the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow (10 a.m. our time). Jones has averaged 10 points, 2 rebounds a game in the playoffs -- shooting in the high-50-percent range and hitting 90% of his free throws. His teammate is Jamaal Magloire, the backup center who played for the Blazers a couple of years ago. He's been coming off the bench in Miami, and the other night he had 7 rebounds in 13 minutes against the Hawks, in a blowout for the Heat.

The starting center for Miami? Jermaine O'Neal -- another one of the Blazers' big man prospects who never prospered in Portland. He's bounced around quite a bit since leaving Mike Dunleavy's Portland pines. Alas, he suffered a concussion taking an elbow to the head from someone named Zaza Pachulia a couple of games back, and he may not play tomorrow. (Zaza Pachulia? Hey, don't forget, Fiat owns Chrysler now.)

Elsewhere, did you know that Houston guard Von "illa" Wafer was once a Blazer? I missed that one, too. Of course, he's still playing, as long as the NBA playoff script will let him.

There are probably a few other Blazer ghosts still on the court in the playoffs. I was surprised to see Theo Ratliff still playing, as a Philadelphia Sixer. Apparently, he was unhappy there, and if his 36-year-old legs are still in the league next year, they will be somewhere other than in the City of Brotherly Love. His Philly squad bowed out in 6 games against Orlando.

Motor City shakedown

I was reading about the upcoming Chrysler bankruptcy last night, and several aspects of the news held a bad vibe. First and foremost, the new company's going to be owned by the workers' union and Fiat. The union's getting stock instead of the cash it was entitled to; Fiat, as we know, stands for Fix It Again, Tony. Somewhere Mussolini is laughing, but our World War II vet Teamster dads are rolling in their graves.

Another dynamic is that a sly change has been worked to our bankruptcy laws. Now that the TARP program has many of the big banks at the mercy of the federal government, the majority of the creditors in the bankruptcy will do as the feds want -- they don't have much choice. Which means that the other creditors -- the ones who haven't gotten any TARP money -- will also have to go along, as they're outvoted. They're not happy about that. And they shouldn't be. Wall Street deserves all the bashing it gets these days, but something tells me that some day this twist is going to come back to bite us.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Joe Weston: Adams recall may succeed

So he says in this letter, picked up by the O's Steve Duin.

Have a great weekend

Before the bust

If you want to hear the mayor of Portland uttering one outright lie after another, scroll down a bit on this story, click on the green arrow, and listen to the tape. Hellishly ugly.

Of course, the sordid details provided by the text of the story are also not pretty. The middle-age man calling up the 17-year-old 30 times over three months. Isn't this what the prosecutors call grooming?

Singing bird with rainbows on her wings

Judy Collins turns 70 today.

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