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

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September 2009 Archives

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blackwater -- The Home Game

When a local government had an unused, empty jail and needed cash, the solution is more troubling than the problems.

Just do it

Just bring the protesters to your front lawn, that is.

Wednesday lunch in L.O.

I had a delightful lunch with a friend today in beautiful downtown Lake Oswego. There were some interesting sociological phenomena in progress. Fully half the drivers on the road down that way were holding cell phones to their ears with their cars in motion. Is that illegal yet? And as I walked into this place, I was stunned to see that every one of the 40 or so other patrons was a woman. I wanted to cue this one up. The whole thing was a little scary, to tell you the truth.

What next? Fireworks on Mao's birthday?

Guess we have to keep those investors happy.

Important new heart study out of Kaiser Portland

Details here and here.

Big week for Gatsby

It appears that Oregon got the benefit of a nice amendment to Senator Max Baucus's health reform bill on the eve of its passage by the Senate Finance Committee. And now the public option looks deader than ever, because it's not in the Baucus bill, which cleared the committee yesterday. Senator Wyden and his corporate bankrollers must be lovin' every minute of it.

Oh yes, as his paid flacks will tell you, Ron gave the public option his garbage-time yes votes in the committee yesterday, but these came only after it was already obvious that it was going down. He's been making his New York sour-puss face at the public option for months, and now it's dead. He isn't fooling anyone except the most gullible blue partisans.

But it's not just Wyden. With a Democratic Congress like this, who needs Republicans? I hate to say it, but when there's money on the line, Nader is right -- the two political parties in this country serve the same masters.

Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha -- look out!

There's been a lot of media attention paid lately to the hazards of texting while driving. The practice is dangerously distracting.

How about being filmed for "Cops" while driving? Is that too distracting? And is that what happened here?

Reader poll: Send Roman Polanski to prison?

There's a fascinating debate about whether it's appropriate to extradite and incarcerate Roman Polanski, the fugitive film director, who ran from the United States 31 years ago rather than face the music from his plea bargain, in which he talked rape charges down to having sex with a minor. The strongest argument I have heard on his behalf so far is that the authorities should have arrested him sooner, much sooner, with which I agree. And the timing of their sudden interest in the guy is suspicious; there are allegations that the prosecutor and judge in his case committed misconduct many years ago. But what's the right remedy for the lackadaisical pursuit and the charges of misconduct -- Polanski walks? Maybe.

The man is a most interesting character. His "Rosemary's Baby" scared the starch out of me in high school. And for my money, "Chinatown" is one of the best American films ever. To have his pregnant wife and her friends murdered in his home by the Manson people must have caused deep scars inside Polanski that can never heal -- on top of the ones he got from his mother dying in a Nazi concentration camp. But what he did in his case was profoundly evil, and his flight to avoid his sentence was juvenile.

I'm looking forward to seeing what readers have to say about this one.

What should be done with Roman Polanski?
Lock him up
Let him go, as long as he stays out of the United States
Let him go, and let him come back to the United States if he wants
pollcode.com free polls

Foundation continues to crumble

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is officially insolvent as of this week. But it has a plan to get out of that condition: borrow more money.

Some days reading about America's economy is like watching a football team that's behind by two touchdowns with a minute to go in the game, heaving up "Hail Mary" passes. Here's $3,000 toward a car! Here's $8,000 toward a house! It's long past time for a new offense -- and maybe a new defense as well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's over and done

It's been a wild day, full of real-life adventures and not allowing much time for the news of the day. But we see that the Biggi family has told the City of Beaverton that if the city wants their land for the Paulson family's new baseball stadium, the city will have to condemn it. A negotiated sale is off the table.

Do you pronounce "Biggi" like "Bee Gee"? I may play some Bee Gees music tonight in the family's honor.

Three 'dog blight

I really showed my prognostication skills in last weekend's round of the pro football underdog pool in which I play. I correctly forecast that a team with a long, long losing streak would finally pull out a victory at home. Yay! Good for me!

Unfortunately, that team was the Detroit Lions, whereas I thought it was going to be the St. Louis Rams, who, like the Carolina Panthers, really and truly do stink. Curses, foiled again.

Not only that, but there are two players in the pool who have picked winning underdogs in all three weeks of the season, whereas I have picked none. One guy has 22 points already!

Never say die. It's a long way to the Super Bowl. This week, I'm going to be both smart and lucky -- I just know it. And so, dear readers, please help me get on track here. Which one of these underdogs (in caps) do you think can win its game outright this weekend? Remember, the point spreads don't count in picking a winner -- in this pool, they serve only to determine how many points the winning gambler will get if he or she picks a 'dog that wins "straight up." If I am among those with the most points at the end of the season, I take home cash. Here's this week's lineup:

10 DETROIT at Chicago
10 KANSAS CITY vs. NY Giants
10 ST. LOUIS at San Francisco
9.5 OAKLAND at Houston
7 TAMPA BAY at Washington
7 NY JETS at New Orleans
6.5 CLEVELAND vs. Cincinnati
6.5 SAN DIEGO at Pittsburgh
3.5 GREEN BAY at Minnesota
3 JACKSONVILLE vs. Tennessee
3 DENVER vs. Dallas
2.5 MIAMI vs. Buffalo
2 BALTIMORE at New England

UPDATE, 10/1, 11:30 p.m.: It's Baltimore on the road against New England, not at home.

And here's a last-minute addition to the slate:

11 SEATTLE at Indianapolis

Sticker shock

We had lunch with a good friend in downtown Portland today. We found a parking space on the street. We were there for almost the full 90 minutes that the parking contraption allowed us.

The parking tab: $2.40.

Portland's finest

One great performance after another.

My whole building's out on the street

The Sunday Times had a substantial, and gentle, spread about Jim Carroll's final years, here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Move over, Cesar Chavez

I'm gonna make it on @bojack54 tweetstreet.

Friends and family, please note

I do not want one of these.

You knew this was coming

Yes, it's the Portland City Hall eco-roof! All plants will be fertilized with manure generated in the City Council Chambers.

Literature news

A new book about Portland has just been released.

Local Enron perp heads for prison

As I recall, this was one of John Kroger's cases.

We're going broke -- SoWhat?

Even if Portland gave up on its doomed SoWhat District tomorrow, it would probably bankrupt the city government. But no, Sam the Tram is going to throw good money after bad. A whole bunch of good money. This is supposed to create jobs. But with nine figures of tax dollars already flushed down the SoWhat hole, the thousands of new biotech jobs that were promised several years ago have never shown up. And they aren't going to -- OHSU, the city's wonderful "partner" down there, literally sent them to Florida.

This is what happens when you put people in charge who can't even balance their personal checkbook.

What goes around gets lost

While in the unfamiliar wilds of Tigard today, I enlisted the help of the popular iPhone app AroundMe. It led me to a Burgerville that doesn't exist.

Portland ready with new tax handouts for private pals

When people complain about local government wasting money on frills while letting basic services decay, one of the stock responses is the "pots of money" song. It goes something like this: "You see, the money we're wasting is in a special pot that can be spent only on frills. It can't be spent on essentials. So don't complain about the essentials being neglected -- this money can't be spent on them." It's especially galling when the people giving you this line are the same people who drew up the separate pots, or who have the power to pour their contents all into one big pot at any time, if they wanted to.

Former Mayor Vera Katz, the person more responsible than anyone else for inflicting the current creepy mayor on the city, used to have a variation of this little ditty that she called "colors of money." "We can't spend yellow money on street paving. Only blue money is for that. Yellow money is for Homer Williams and Dike Dame." She was big on the colors. She had a whole "brownfields to greenfields" speech she used to croak out when she was selling the SoWhat District -- now becoming the biggest financial fiasco in the city's history. The ink there turned out to be all red, as the competent among us knew from the start.

Anyway, the politicians are extremely big on the segregation of funds when it suits them.

Another great excuse line is "That's not in our jurisdiction -- that's somebody else's jurisdiction." Just complain to Portland City Hall about the schools, the bridges, the lack of a decent mental health system, aircraft noise, or thinning bus service, and it won't be long before you hear, "We're not in charge of that. That's done by [the county, the school board, Tri-Met, etc.]."

It's with some amusement, then, that one sees right in front of one's nose how little the "pots of money" and lines of authority really mean when the politicians have their visions (or as they're referred to in medical circles, their spells). They'll take tax dollars from the Pearl District and use them to build a school out in the David Douglas School District if they darn well please. County need some cash to slosh around? Fine, have the city borrow a bunch of money under "urban renewal" and park it in some obscure county account somewhere because some day, somewhere, there's going to be a shiny new county courthouse. Sure, right after we fish the Sellwood Bridge out of the river.

There was a new one in the news late last week: Now the city's apparently proposing to hand $300,000 of city tax dollars over to the airlines that fly their few puny international flights in and out of the Portland airport. Without it, the airlines might cancel the flights, we're told. Part of me says, too bad -- things are tough all over. But even if a subsidy is a smart thing for Portland to do, that's the Port of Portland's responsibility, not the city's. The airport is a cash cow, even in lean times, and if the Port needs dough to bail out some airlines, it ought to be able to find it in its own accounts somewhere. Look under the blueprints for the totally unnecessary new headquarters it's building for itself. Let's take that $300,000 and pave some streets in Cully with it.

Speaking of city handouts, that's not all. Suddenly they're saying that Tom Moyer's going to get some checks so that the ridiculous hole in the ground that he made after he knocked down the Virginia Cafe might actually get built into something some day. His major financial blunder there will now become the city taxpayers' problem. Hey, what's more "blighted" than a mothballed skyscraper construction pit? Sounds good to the Sam-Rand Twins. Break out the checkbook.

Pulling no punches in Spokane

As a person who has written more than a few provocative words about wayward law enforcement officers over the years, even I wouldn't go quite this far.

Better get health care done soon

There's a serious throwdown brewing with these guys. I think it's going to get rather distracting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Con man strikes yet again

David Wilson, the "Welches" con man, is hard at work these days. To go along with Thursday night's tale of woe from out near the airport, this evening we get this one from a visitor to Southeast Portland:

We were had! That sack of s***, David Wilson, got $40 out of me and my husband on Saturday night in SE PDX. Same story, we of course had never heard of this a****le because we live in Corvallis and were in town visiting friends. We were headed to Holocene and were already pretty drunk so his story seemed pretty legitimate to our inebriated selves. Once we got back to our friends' house later that night everyone was thinking that guy must have been a scammer that totally worked us over. I went online and sure enough I found your blog and other testimonials from other poor saps like us. We gave him our address so that he could send us the money! Man, we are so dumb! I'm pretty terrified that he could find us but my husband is convinced he is more concerned with weaseling money out of more chumps in Portland than tracking us down. Nonetheless I'm keeping our house locked up like Fort Knox. From now on, I'll be keeping my eye out for this f***head whenever I come to Portland and if I see his sorry a** I plan on burning his f***ng eyes out with pepper spray.
There are lots of folks who would pay $40 to see that.

Seeing single

I just noticed that the Starbucks booth inside the Hollywood West Fred Meyer store is gone. That one always amused me, in that there is another, stand-alone Starbucks store less than 100 yards away, under the same roof. (The latter installation is still there.)

We just can't ride it no more

It appears that the condo magic that is Homer Williams, Dike Dame, and Mark Edlen has landed with a resounding thud in downtown Los Angeles. [Via Randy Gragg, Jr.]

Rock candy and a great big Fourth of July

TRP has rolled his many baseball stadium stories and photos into a new and wonderful website of their own.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moving day

Over the summer we posted a couple of times about the population growth issue in our fish tank. Our guppies were breeding with gusto. We had adopted a no-flush policy, and had additionally segregated the newborns from the adults so that the little ones would not become tasty snacks for the big ones. But all this solicitude for the babies meant that their numbers were outstripping the room we had to house them all.

We tried various means to stop the fish from breeding. We banned the playing of all Marvin Gaye tunes within 25 feet of the tank. We hovered over the fish, hoping that parental supervision might limit the mating activity to heavy petting. On several nights, I rehearsed lectures about tax law right next to the tank, hoping to blunt the male fish's sex drive. Nothing worked.

And so gradually we adopted new policies. As the bowls of fry grew up a bit, we added them back in with the adult population, and as new batches of babies came along, we adopted a don't-ask-don't-tell policy about cannibalism. Although we had three teenage boys chasing around dozens of females, all day long, the numbers have pretty much leveled off, at least temporarily.

As a longer-range solution, we have decided to segregate the males and the females. The guys are now in a new, smaller tank in my office, where manly things tend to happen; the far more numerous gals have been left in the big tank off the kitchen. (Talk about your gender stereotypes.) Here are the fellas in their transitional plastic bag, which is sitting in their new tank waiting for the water temperatures to even out:

We'll be watching the females now for new offspring, of which there will doubtlessly be some, given the frenetic activity of the males in recent days. We may even resume saving the newborns from their fate as Mom's lunch, since we've got only the three boys and so many more females -- we could use more guys. (Although now I feel like the Communist Chinese.) In any event, if our overall population starts to sag, there will always be opportunities for conjugal visits.

Peaceful coexistence

Two of the stories that the Paulson family have repeatedly told in their sales pitch for an expensive remodel of Portland's PGE Park for "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer are: (1) the league requires that the facility not be shared with baseball, and (2) the rousing success of the Seattle franchise is shining proof that "major league" soccer will be a big hit in Portland.

That's their story and they're sticking to it, but I'm watching the Seattle team on television right now, and they're playing on a field in Massachusetts that's also striped for American football. It looks like heck on the screen, but it proves that field-sharing is not a complete taboo, and that the fans of successful teams in the "major" league are comfortable enough with it.

Your Gmail account has been completely blocked

... because a bank mistakenly sent you confidential information that you're not supposed to have. The bank that screwed up asked a judge to block your account, and the judge agreed to do it. Have a nice life trying to function without your e-mail.

Crack epidemic

As weird as Portland is keepin' it, thank heaven this problem doesn't seem to be rampant in these parts.

Fish hatchlings swimming to sea

Portland city commissioner Nick Fish is seeing an exodus of staffers all of a sudden, just a year and a quarter into his term. What's up with that?

I'm not sure what connection (if any) it has to the resignations, but Fish, who is serving out the abbreviated term left when Erik Sten mysteriously quit the council, will be running for re-election in May.

Ime's back

We lamented when the Blazers let go of Ime Udoka two years ago and threw Paul Allen's money at Travis Outlaw instead. After a respectable stint with the Spurs, however, Udoka, a local product, has now re-signed with the Blazers.

With Udoka and Juwan Howard on board, Outlaw may want to check the locker room wall for writing. They're old, but they weren't signed for no reason.

Beaverton playing hardball for Paulson

It looks as though the City of Beaverton is trying to get the land for the proposed new Paulson minor league baseball stadium on the extreme cheap. The city's latest salvo in its "discussion" with the reluctant owners of the prime site for the stadium project (the Biggi family) has been to dump a low-ball appraisal on them. According to the city's "draft" appraisal, the property is worth only $8 million, whereas it is listed in the Washington County tax records as having a real market value of $11.4 million.

It is hard to imagine the Biggis allowing themselves to be rolled on any deal for that land. The city has said it doesn't plan to condemn it, but unless it puts a lot more money on the table, that's probably going to be the only way it's going to get it.

The City of Portland got into this kind of back and forth four years ago when it was trying to secure the land in the disastrous SoWhat district for the poodle poop park there. But the owners of the large block in question -- the folks who run Public Storage -- hung in there under threat of condemnation and wound up getting $7 million for 2.1 acres. And that was $2.4 million more than the real market value on the county property tax rolls. The Portland Development Commission, then headed by the same fellow who just now is taking over a similar agency in Beaverton, had grossly underestimated the land acquisition cost for the SoWhat park.

I also dimly recall that if an Oregon municipality low-balls a condemnation offer and is proven wrong in court, it gets to pay not only the higher price, but also the property owner's attorneys' fees in the litigation. Certainly that was how it went when Portland condemned the old Paramount Theater for the Schnitzer Concert Hall many moons ago. If that's still the rule and Beaverton goes to the mat with a low-ball appraisal, this whole shebang could get expensive indeed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Have a great weekend

Funny smell

Vicki Walker's parole board job has fallen through -- sort of. There has got to be more going on here than meets the eye -- anybody know what it is?

For Adams, photo op becomes knock op

Not to be outdone by the Portland appearance of the Insane Clown Posse, the mayor put on his own buffoon costume and went out on the street for a publicity stunt yesterday, fixing a pothole that had been there so long that geologists had begun studying it. Oh yes, basic street maintenance is in capable hands, folks -- would Sam mislead you?

Even Portland's usually impressionable mainstream media was having no part of it. And Willy Week swung the other way -- calling the mayor out for his repeated raiding of the maintenance budget for high-priced junk that doesn't work well and benefits the few as opposed to the many. Good for them.

Recently, we've been getting an earful ourselves from several city Transportation workers who think the mayor is not a capable bureau director. They say they wouldn't dare speak out publicly by name for fear of reprisal. Their list of criticisms could make a month of blog posts, and anonymous sources are never as good as folks who speak on the record. But since hizzoner has turned the spotlight onto his track record as head of the bureau, here is a highlight reel (if you can call it that) from one frustrated bureau employee:

Transportation was a great place to work before Sam became the commissioner in charge. He started campaigning for mayor from day one. He pushed Transportation's public information officer aside and let it be known that all media contact would be through him. Mary Volm had done an excellent job for years in that role. This last budget totally eliminated her job with the city. Her knowledge of Transportation and mastery of the information led to the media still wanting to contact her rather than go to a posturing politician. This infuriated Sam. She had to go....

The only thing in Paving that changed was a redefinition of the work. They would now pave smaller segments of roadway. That succeeded in making the process more costly. If you have to pay those transport and set-up costs for more frequent smaller jobs, your square foot costs are going to rise. That helped in Adams's effort to show that outside contractors can do the work more cheaply. You have correctly pointed out numerous times that Adams knows where the money resides. He loves contractors and developers....

As part of his new-sheriff gambit, Sam spent about half a million dollars on bringing in Dye Management to analyze the Maintenance Bureau's operations. Note that the money they charged the city does not reflect the wages of our bureau employees that had to attend numerous meetings and interviews with these efficiency experts. Sam had a screaming fit at the Dye personnel that presented him with the final report and recommendations that, aside from some small changes, said that Maintenance was doing its job well. A second management consultant mirrored Dye's conclusions. Sam was not happy....

The one major conclusion that Adams excised from Dye's final report was their statement that Maintenance should be under the direction of an engineer. That would be a tremendous improvement from what we presently have. Our two co-directors (now renamed group managers) are made up of a former site director from Human Resources and a project manager from Environmental Services.... The point is that these two individuals are yes-people for [Transportation Director] Sue Keil and Sam Adams. They do not have sufficient knowledge to push back and explain why Mayor Creepy's ideas are impractical or a waste of taxpayer funds.

Sue Keil is no better equipped for her job. When Tom Potter (no fireball but at least he had integrity) was prompted to ask for bureau directors' resignations at the start of his term, only Dean Marriott survived the Purge. Something in his employment contract prevented Potter from forcing him out. Sue Keil is a friend of Yvonne Deckard, the power-grabbing head of Human Resources who helped suggest the Purge. When Marriott refused to leave BES [the Bureau of Environmental Services], Keil was given the consolation prize of Transportation. With no background in Transportation, she has less ammunition to refute Creepy's ideas.... Sam's desire to repair NW 23rd a foot at a time with hand tools is an indication of the lunacy that is presently unchecked....

I would be really curious to know what truly prompted [former City Auditor] Gary Blackmer to part company with the city. It might just be my suspicious nature, but I am sure that he did not make points with Adams when he questioned the misdirection of paving funds into the procurement of smart meters. It is ironic that our smart meters are apparently losing their mind. The meter system is a major revenue producer for the city and its implosion has led to daily meetings regarding fixing the system. The present Parkeon machines were placed on the streets about six years ago at a cost of about $7,000 per unit. The "fix" is to replace about 275 of them immediately with new Cale machines. The new machines cost about $7,500 apiece, not yet installed. If you go to the Portland Tribune website and type in "Ellis McCoy" [the city's parking director] you will see... McCoy's questionable friendship with George Levey. George Levey used to sell Parkeon machines back when we purchased our meters. He now works for Cale.

I am curious about Adams's involvement. When Channel 8 asked Adams about the proposed sale/leaseback of our meter system, Adams said he didn't know anything about it but would have his staff look into it. The truth was that Adams had come over to Maintenance and met with the meter techs to assure them that the sale/leaseback would not eliminate their jobs. Why did he lie? At least Blackmer and Drummond Kahn killed the proposed idea.

Unhappy camper there. And that's just part of it -- don't forget the management coach -- but enough for one day. The Nervous Breakdown of Portland continues. Go by streetcar!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welches con man strikes again

This news comes in from a concerned reader:

The guy just hit my tavern, five minutes ago [around 6 p.m.], the Crackerbox Tavern, 6420 NE Portland Hwy. (where NE Lombard turns into Portland Hwy near airport), and got $40 from my bartender with the same story. He said his name was David Wilson, and left a hand written note with an address, 25222-4 E. Welches Rd, Welches, Oregon 97045.
That's his name, but I seriously doubt that's his current address. He used to live out there and may still have a relative out there, but he's working out of Portland these days.

The zip code for Welches, by the way, is 97067. The one he gave is Oregon City.

One of these days, something really bad is going to happen around this guy. Let's hope that he, and not some unsuspecting, innocent person, is the victim then.

UPDATE, 10:34 p.m.: Here's his autograph -- his latest victim demanded a receipt. A lot of good that will do. And correction: He asked for $40, but was given only $30:

That address is a trailer park, in which Wilson apparently once lived.

Portland State's new real estate broker

It's Tri-Met.

The Portland Creed

Portland's hipness quotient with outsiders of a certain age and outlook remains high. Here's one of the adoring throng -- another visitor who doesn't have to worry about paying for the wonders that he enjoys on his stays here. Linchpin tram, streetcar "branding," etc. His bottom line: "Sometimes you just have to build stuff and see what happens." I think that says it all.

Uneasy aftermath

Neighbors of the Hillsboro airport say they're more than little concerned about the fatal crash of this helicopter near Forest Grove over the weekend. It was a training helicopter operated by Hillsboro Aviation, a private outfit that the neighbors say has had some safety issues recently -- including, reportedly, problems that resulted in a temporary grounding of most of its aircraft just about a year ago.

One neighbor writes:

Interestingly, I had occasion to call Jerry Gerspach at the Port [of Portland] noise office on two successive days prior to the crash, because HA had an R-22 up in the Alpha pattern over my house, the frequency of which appeared to violate the "verbal agreement" regarding use of the Alpha pattern. The R-22 that was up in the pattern was a red one. The only thing left of the helicopter that crashed and burned was a red tail. I can’t say it is the same heli, since I didn’t get a tail number, but I and others around the airport have long said that the possibility of a heli crash in the neighborhood was a real one. Which HA has dismissed as paranoia. As has the Port of Portland. Which says it can’t restrict anything its airport operators do.
The crash is a terrible tragedy, and it should be everyone's concern to see that it isn't repeated out there.

They can take away flavored cigarettes, but...

... they'll have to pry my chocolate vodka from my cold, dead fingers.

Eat what you kill -- but at City Hall?

The Portland building permit bureau -- whatever Orwellian name it goes by these days -- is broker than broke, and that means it may have to lay off even more employees than it's already pink-slipped. It seems that the department's budget comes from the fees it charges builders, and since the builders aren't building anything these days, there's no money to operate the bureau. It appears as though we're going to have fewer inspections, more undetected and unremedied code violations, more neighborhood blight, less safety. Or maybe some new tax will be invented to cover the shortfall.

Meanwhile, funny thing, people are still using water. And so the water bureau has tons of dough. Read our blog! Try our Caesar salad recipe! Bus rides! Look -- a photo of our bumper sticker in outer Mongolia!

It seems crazy to us that that city bureaus' budgets depend so heavily on the levels of revenue that they raise. Here is one of the most left-wing city governments in the world, and it seems to be implementing a misguided version of the right-wing platform of "running government like a business."

Then again, the whole Portland commission form of government, with its revolving cast of Sim City bureau assignments among politicians with little relevant expertise, is straight out of Mayberry RFD. As is the practice of electing all the council members at large, with no districting. If the Arlington Club crowd weren't making a mint off the current system, they could probably get the public to change it in a New York minute. But they like it just the way it is, apparently, and so we have no choice but to go by streetcar, as it were.

The affordable-Pearl-District-liquor-store tax break

I had no idea such a thing existed. But no sooner do I discover it than I read that OMG! This important tax handout is in jeopardy!

If there is a case to be made that local government ought to keep itself out of the real estate development business, this is Exhibit A. Tax breaks for Safeway stores, bureaucratic bungling about what the state property tax laws allow -- what a mess.

If you want to help poor people with their housing, either hand them a subsidy check or build publicly owned projects. Running the money to developers and private landlords on an ongoing basis through the tax system is sure to cause nothing but trouble.

Wyden drops online gambling tax for health care reform

Like a hot potato.

Maybe that severed horse's head that Harry Reid left in Wyden's bed had something to do with it.

For purple mountain majesties, above the Angus Deluxe

I love maps, and here's a great one. [Via Jake.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SoWhat goes underground

The City of Portland is asking the feds for $44 million for road projects relating to the SoWhat District and close-in southeast. They're still pitching the nonexistent biotech angle. One of the features of the SoWhat side of things sure sounds peculiar:

Moody Avenue will include three traffic lanes, dual streetcar tracks and pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The roadway will be elevated with an additional 14 feet of fill, allowing redevelopers of adjacent brownfields to offer "tuck under parking" without disturbing capped contaminated areas.
Sounds great. The perfect place for health science! And no doubt, it will look good, too.

We will bury... er, the 3

The New Jersey Nets basketball team is being sold to a Russian billionaire.

Question of the Day

Somebody landed on this site this evening after placing this search with Google.

Six acres and a small cabin in Eugene: $375,000

So says this profile (and accompanying slide show) in The New York Times.

Town tells Gadhafi: This ain't no KOA

The ruthless dictator's tent violates the local building codes in the New York suburb in which he's trying to hang out. Don't make us send Fireman Randy back there, Moammar!

Story time with Little Lord Paulson

Here's the latest batch of whoppers from Lake Oswego's minor league sports kingpin:

Portland Beavers owner Merritt Paulson on Wednesday released an economic impact study indicating his proposed Beaverton baseball park would generate 285 jobs and more than $20 million in annual economic output across three counties....

The study was prepared by Economics Research Associates, a Los Angeles consulting firm specializing in sports facilities....

According to the study:

• Construction alone would generate 787 jobs across Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. It would produce nearly $30 million in income and wages, and generate nearly $100 million in economic output.

• Annually, the stadium will produce 285 jobs, would generate around $8 million in income and wages, and more than $20 million in economic output across all three counties.

Is that what the City of Beaverton needed to hear? Good, then they need to run right out and borrow about $40 million right away.

Killer cop in Chasse case may get suspended

It's Kyle Nice who's being disciplined, though -- not "Thumper" Humphreys. As far as the beating that the police gave Chasse, and the hog-tying and the neglect of his many broken ribs and bleeding from the mouth, that was all o.k. -- within bureau policy, you know. "None of the arresting officers knew or should have known that Chasse was seriously injured." But somehow a nurse at the jail, and witnesses on the scene, could immediately see it.

The chief says Nice should have sent the ambulance with Chasse to the hospital because he had just Tasered him. Not because of this, reported earlier but inexplicably omitted from today's media reports:

In depositions in preparation for the federal trial, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy said Chasse suffered 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Fractures to his back ribs also probably did not result from Chasse getting knocked to the ground or someone falling on top of him, but more likely resulted from a kick or knee-drop, state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said.
The chief has "recommended" the suspension, and now more haggling commences. Nice may or may not be suspended; Humphreys walks.

Maybe a federal court will bring justice in this case. As we all expected, Portland won't.

Why Tri-Met is cutting your bus service

Here's an interesting report from a reader down in the southern 'burbs, last night:

I was sitting at the signal at Boones Ferry Road and Tualatin Sherwood Road this evening at 7:51 when the WES train came through. The crossing lights came on, barricades dropped and the train approached and slowed at the Tualatin stop. Then it continued without stopping at the Tualatin station and passed right in front to me in my front position at the traffic signal. There were 2 people on board. TWO.

That's too funny. Good thing TriMet is preserving this transit service.

Tough day, but not the first

The Portland police are in the media today with some touchy-feely stories about how shaken up they are that one of their traffic division leaders and his wife were in a nasty, nasty car crash that seriously injured them both. Here's the article in the O, and there was a similar story on KGW last night. "It's a reminder to all of us of how your life can change in seconds," the uniformed spokeswoman was saying on TV.

I don't begrudge them that. The officer in question had nothing to do with causing the wreck, and he looks like the type of professional that the people of Portland are lucky to have protecting them.

But with all due respect.

I wish the Portland police would show even a fraction of this sensitivity when one of their ranks unnecessarily kills an unarmed civilian. At those times, they do their whole "thin blue line" tough-guy act, fight to hide the truth, and then deny accountability. Maybe they should develop a memory about how it feels when one of their own has fallen, and acknowledge that feeling when their own screwups cost some other family a loved one.

Beaverton breaks out a pencil

And of course, it discovers that the Paulson stadium deal doesn't pencil out.

Maybe we ain't that young any more

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen turns 60 today -- old, perhaps, but not this old (mp3).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gadhafi finds a New York landlord

And it's Trump!

End up like a 'dog that's been beat too much

It was about as frustrating a week as you could imagine in the pro football underdog pool in which I play. Half of the underdogs in the league won their games outright, scoring points for pool participants who were smart enough to pick them. Eight winners! Did I have one of them? Hells to the no.

What makes it even more deflating is that my original instinct -- Houston -- was correct, but I allowed some of my trusted advisors (you know who you are) to talk me out of that one and let me think that Carolina was a better play. There were several voices singing the Charlotte swan song, and that right off should have warned me that it was the wrong way to go. Jake Dahbumme fell through again. Somebody needs to find that fellow a bench to warm.

It gets worse. I was so torn between the Texans and the Panthers that I actually flipped a coin with minutes to go before the deadline to pick the week's underdog. Every time I have used the coin flip method to make up my mind, things have ended in heartbreak. Never again.

The final nail in the coffin was that I awoke on Sunday to see that my buddy Gordon also picked Carolina. When he and I go the same way in the underdog pool, the sporting weekend does not usually end on a happy note.

Oh, well. Win early, lose late -- but now I'm way behind. One guy has 15½ points already, to my zip. This can't go on too much longer, people.

So here's this week's lineup, with lots of favorites on the road, which is always interesting. Let me know if you see a 'dog (in caps) who can win its game outright -- straight-up, without the benefit of the point spread. The points are relevant in this pool only in that they show how many points I'll win if I pick a winning 'dog. Whom do you like? I will take all nominations under advisement. But don't be offended if I go my own way this time.

13.5 CLEVELAND at Baltimore
9.5 CAROLINA at Dallas
7 TAMPA BAY vs. NY Giants
7 ST. LOUIS vs. Green Bay
7 SAN FRANCISCO at Minnesota
6.5 DETROIT vs. Washington
6 BUFFALO vs. New Orleans
6 MIAMI at San Diego
4.5 CINCINNATI vs. Pittsburgh
4.5 ATLANTA at New England
2.5 TENNESSEE at NY Jets
2.5 SEATTLE vs. Chicago
2 OAKLAND vs. Denver

UPDATE, 9/24, 11:05 p.m.: Add one last game to the list:

9.5 KANSAS CITY at Philadelphia

I come to bury Creepy, not to praise him

Jasun Wurster, the guy heading up the Sam Adams recall effort, says he's got a speech to make at the Portland City Council meeting tomorrow morning. He's urging his dedicated followers to show up in support. With only 12 days to go before the petition deadline, you would think they'd have better things to do -- if they were anywhere near on track toward having enough signatures. We'll see in the morning, I guess.

I just want to say one word to you -- just one word

You have to scroll down to see it, but there's quite a story here about a supposedly cheap process for turning plastic back into oil. If we could easily exchange plastic bottles for oil, perhaps we could stop exchanging blood for it fairly soon.

Or is this whole thing a hoax?

Envion Demo from EnvionDemo on Vimeo.

You want these

Polish pastries at this weekend's annual Polish Festival on Interstate Avenue in North Portland. The city may have declined to name the street after Lech Walesa, but this weekend, that's what we'll be calling it.

All you need is bucks

Unlike the Portland mayoral recall effort, some signature-gathering efforts are apparently having no trouble at all meeting their goals.

Wyden: Tax online gambling to pay for health care

One more way to get government hooked on gambling revenue. How much appetite for gambling does our society have? Won't this proposal divert money from the folks who are already feeding at the legalized gambling trough, like the state "lottery" pushers?

House of cards getting new wing

Now the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is going to borrow from the banks -- the very institutions that it insures -- to try to avoid a taxpayer bailout. That will postpone the inevitable, to be sure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Block! That! Buzz!

Here's a college sports innovation: a breathalyzer test on your way into the football stadium. It's only for those who've been problem drinkers at previous games, but still, quite harshing.

Security alert on mass transit

Apparently this weekend's terrorism-related bust has turned up a plot to blow up New York subway trains with backpack bombs. Could be cause for some extra vigilance on trains and buses around the country in the coming weeks.

Found Brooke

A sad, sad story is finally drawing to a close.

A simple thing

To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit.

To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves.

When we listen to "the better angels of our nature," we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things -- such as goodness, decency, love, kindness.

Greatness comes in simple trappings.

The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount what divides us, and cement what unites us.

To lower our voices would be a simple thing.

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another -- until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.

Beautiful sentiments. Do you know who spoke them? Can you guess? (Spoiler here.) [Via this commentary.]

Paying for the iPhones

It's been a couple of months since we've gone over to the iPhone side of life, and we're still scratching around for ways to pay the extra $60 a month that we've signed up for for the unlimited AT&T data lines that the blasted things require. We're getting close.

The first thing we did was kill off HBO on the cable TV. It's been years since we watched any of the handful of channels that this service provided. That knocked 20 bucks off the monthly Comcast bill. Next was weekday New York Times hard copy delivery, which in our favored status as an educator was costing us only $10.80 a month. So there -- already we've got one iPhone line paid for.

Next, we entered into the wonderful world of electronic bill payment. We had resisted this for years -- once upon a time, there was something about the paper checks that gave us a sense of control, and the early versions of internet bill payment had had their limitations. But nowadays, the software writers appear to have the wrinkles ironed out (knock wood), and by clicking instead of licking, we're getting to pay 15 bills a month for free. At 44 cents a stamp and 6 cents a check, that's another $7.50 a month saved (plus a fair amount of time -- priceless). Oh, and throw in a penny or two for return envelopes for the garbage bill and some other merchants who don't supply them.

Long distance voice service was another area ripe for some savings. We were using AT&T for long distance, basically out of spite for Qwest, our local service provider, whose slamming ways and obnoxious marketing people had become a real nuisance back in the late '90s. But by giving in and throwing all the voice stuff under the Qwest umbrella, we eliminated an AT&T bill of about $20 a month in exchange for an increase to our Qwest bill of only about $3.75 (at least for the first year). There's another $16.25 a month for the iPhone kitty.

By my reckoning, with all these changes, we carved out $54.55 a month to pour into iPhone bliss. We also signed up for a neat promotional package at a local bank that's earning us a quick $10 a month for eight months, and so we're declaring our iPhones paid for, for the first year at least. Wonderful little toys, but spendy.

Howdy do

Portland police will now be giving out business cards in their interactions with the public. What's next -- "minty fresh" pepper spray?

UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Or maybe they could program their Tasers to play happy little ice cream jingles.

Portland transit mall tax hit jumps 70 percent

An unhappy reader in Portland writes:

Yesterday we got in the mail the LID assessments for some property we own in the area of the "Portland Mall Revitalization Project Local Improvement District." Our property is on the fringes of this scam.

There is a lot of stuff about the total cost, $22.033 million, and the voluntary (not) LID etc., and how they gave us all an estimate back in November of 2006 of these expenses and how now they are more... blah blah blah... But now the costs are more because of all the increased value this project has bestowed on our properties... blah blah blah...

Well, I went back in my files, and lo and behold, I have actually saved the original estimates... example:

November 14, 2006:
Current LID estimate: $2378.00
Proposed amended LID estimated assessment: $3167.00

This was interesting, as the completion date was years away but this figure already was inflated to reflect increased costs.

Fast forward to September 16, 2009:
Proposed assessment: $4045.00 (One wonders if this is in fact the final assessment or just another guesstimate.)

Now, we property owners and the businesses who will actually pay the tax have until October 7, 2009 to object to these taxes at at "regularly scheduled city council meeting" on that day. However, you must object in writing first and get that in by Sept 30, 2009. I wonder how many folks will object and if a significant number do so, how can this possibly be handled in a regular city council meeting. Or will the powers that be just blow off everyone who writes in? Oh, and I almost forgot... the city in all its benevolence will offer 6.75% financing for monthly payments. Such a deal!

Here we are in the worst depression/recession since 1929-1933 and the city sends everyone who has property within the confines of the area from 1-5 to NW Northrup and from I-405 to the Willamette River a bill for a bus mall that has negatively impacted all the businesses in the area for three to four years. Now that is real economic stimulation. This may be the final nail in the coffin of more than a few businesses.

Not a happy camper, and I don't blame him or her. Portland officials will tell you that the federal government paid most of the money to rip up the mall and bring light rail trains onto it. But that's not much comfort to property owners if the local tax burden for this needless project jumped 70.1 percent between the original liars' budget and now.

You never give me your money

When was the last time you wrote out a check at the grocery store checkout counter or the dry cleaner's? You younger readers out there, have you ever done that? It's still an option at many retailers, as one occasionally discovers when a shopper up ahead on the checkout line decides to write one. Like it or not, you get a few more seconds to look at the tabloids, or wonder to yourself who would actually pay for a copy of Portland Monthly.

Well, the times they are a-changin', and now some stores are beginning to just say no to checks. It wouldn't bother us, but when they start to reject manufacturers' coupons (as at least one is), now that's when they're going to provoke our ire.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

SoWhat condo auction picks up a few stray rubes

But the bottom line: "Even after the auction, the Atwater Place will remain more than half vacant two years after sales began." Hard to believe that the O's official developer cheerleader was actually bold enough to write that. But he did the best he could to bury it -- the very last sentence of his story.

The lead of the article features a Corvallis couple who were hoping to buy a SoWhat condo for $169,000 (and pay hefty monthly condo association fees) so that they and a friend "could sleep over after visiting the big city for a show and dinner." They didn't get their wish. Maybe someone should explain to them the concept of hotels.

Memories on the market

We're winding down from a big day here. Our annual garage sale netted pretty close to 500 bucks -- most of which was ours, although a few friends threw in some items that went out as well. Yard sales are such a great thing. We get room in our basement and closets, plus some welcome cash; neighbors get bargains. Stuff gets reused. Everybody wins.

These sales are bittersweet nowadays, as there's a part of us that doesn't want to let go of the latest stage that our children have outgrown. Today we sold the two-seater toddler chair that the girls watched many a video from. I just saw it in a neighbor's front yard. The Barbie airplane also left us. And the Groovy Girl tent! There was a lot of love surrounding that item.

A blue footnote, however -- somebody swiped a couple of our yard sale signs off telephone poles on Knott Street. These are hand-drawn signs on the backs of some old, professionally produced signs that we had bought as part of a neighborhood protest years ago. We've reused them many times since then as part of our sale promotions, but today somebody decided to take a couple of them away. Here's what they looked like, front and back:

If you are the person who took these signs, because you wanted to re-use them yourself for some purpose -- we've used them for all sorts of functions, including under the kitty litter box -- please e-mail me here and I will gladly give you four new ones in exchange for our two old ones. The new ones will be completely blank on one side, perfect for you to use as your canvas, if that's what this is about.

If you are the person who took these signs, and you did so for some other reason, please e-mail me here and I will send you the names and phone numbers of some excellent mental health professionals. You definitely need to see one.

Road retch

Tough times on the Cycle Oregon bike tour, which ended yesterday. It seems that a nasty stomach ailment was circulating around the group. Dozens of bikers caught it -- one estimate used the number 200, out of around 2,000 cyclists on the ride. A 59-year-old man from Eugene died in his sleep after complaining that he wasn't feeling well -- no word yet whether the gastro- ailment had anything to do with it.

A bug like this worked its way through our house earlier this summer, and it was quite unpleasant. Can't imagine how bad it must have felt if you had it on a trip on which you were trying to push it all day on a bicycle and sleep in a crowded tent camp at night. Sympathies go out to everybody who came down with it. And even more so, of course, to the loved ones of the rider who died, from whatever.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crickets for Creepy

There's been no news from the Sam Adams recall people lately, and that's not a good sign if you want them to succeed. With just over two weeks to go to turn in their gazillion signatures, you'd think that if they were anywhere close to success, they'd be mounting a big, public, final push. The absence of any such push indicates that the movement -- at least as current configured -- isn't going to make it.

Then again, anything's possible, I suppose. We'll have plenty of time to discuss the failings of the recall if and when time actually does run out on it.

And is there any rule against another group filing another recall petition against the same politician? Maybe there could be a recall petition circulating throughout the entire Adams reign. We set ourselves up for this nervous breakdown -- let's do it right.

Portland "ugly" and "minor-league" to Sports Illustrated

Here's how the Little Lord Paulson stadium saga looks to Sports Illustrated. The reporting is mighty lazy. But ominously, it does spotlight another supposedly super-duper important looming deadline for LLP to get his way, or else Portland won't get "major league" soccer. It's October 1.

I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, but the thought of the "major" soccer league turning its back on $35 million in cold cash is ludicrous. They need Portland -- badly -- to keep their dubious business model (or some might call it a scheme) going. Deadlines come and go with these guys, and no doubt they will continue to do so.

The SI piece does have some funny moments. Fireman Randy is portrayed as the lone voice of reason. Shawn Levy, one of the soccer scarf people and a movie critic at the O, basically tells Portlanders that they're a bunch of rubes, and will never be as cool as Richie Rich. He also thinks Portland is like Bologna. He should know, being so full of it himself.

Welcome, veggies

A big confab for non-meatheads today at the Convention Center.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fremont Street bus gets new number to go with service cuts

Now it's called the 24, and it no longer makes it past Emanuel Hospital going west toward the river. No more ride over to the Widmer zone on Interstate, and for a denizen of Fremont to get across the river, he or she will have to stand in the rain to connect to the 4 at the hospital, the 6 on MLK, the 8 on 15th Avenue, or the 9 on 24th Avenue. No more night or weekend bus on Fremont, going anywhere, either.

This is the third number that the Fremont route has had since I started riding it nearly three decades ago. Years ago, it was called the 41, and more recently until now, the 33. The fact that it no longer goes downtown makes it pretty useless for a lot of us former riders. RIP -- go by streetcar.

The bus on NE 33rd Avenue no longer goes downtown, either. It used to be called the 10 and it went downtown. Now it's the sickly 73, dead-heading at the Rose Quarter. Why have sensible buses that actually get people there when you can force them out into the elements and onto a high-priced train?

Everything you needed to see

I tuned in for the ninth inning of the Mariners-Yankees game tonight, being played in Seattle. The Yankees were ahead, 2 to 1, and they sent in their big closer guy, Rivera, to nail down the victory. He struck out the first two Seattle hitters, but down to their last out, Seattle sent up a pinch hitter named Sweeney, who doubled to right center. Next up was Ichiro. He was overdue for a hit against Rivera, but would it be a deep enough hit to score the pinch runner on second and tie the game?

Forget that. Ichiro homers, Seattle wins. Holy cow.

The Portland Convention Center hotel is dead (more or less)

That's what they're saying. But like all bad Portland ideas that benefit a few rich guys, can it ever be truly, permanently dead? These things have a way of resurfacing. Put it on the list with another runway at the airport, after the Port takes over the Colwood Golf Course out there. I'm sure Fireman Randy's still hoping to build Little Lord Paulson a baseball stadium, too -- you watch, after Beaverton comes to its senses and walks.

Have a great weekend

New ritual

One of the changes that the iPhones have wrought at our place is cancellation of our subscription to the weekday New York Times. We still get the Sunday, for several reasons, but the Monday through Saturday editions have gone the way of all flesh, because the savings now help to pay for our data plans.

Anyway, with the daily Times no longer there to occupy us over a solitary meal, we now have the glowing little Apple to provide enlightenment and amusement. One of the "apps" we've got on the thing gets us the CBS News, in both text and video formats. Now instead of leafing through the daily Times on paper, we've taken to watching the evening news with Katie Couric over lunch or dinner when there's nobody else at the table.

On the iPhone, the whole show takes about 20 minutes, and there are no commercials. It had been years since we'd actually sat through that program, but it turns out, it isn't bad. Couric is a pretty good news anchor, and the news segments seem as sharp and succinct as they did in the heyday of Walter. So now we get the Times and the TV news over the internet. Just like they said we eventually would. Having it in the palm of our hand is something else.

New Blazer

Juwan Howard is here. I've always liked this guy as we've watched him bounce around the league. He was Bullet when they were still the Bullets. He even played with Duckworth. (And with Rasheed the next year, but let's not talk about that. In a later season, when "Ra" uttered the now famous line "Ball don't lie," the fellow who had just missed the foul shot was Juwan Howard.)

Howard's past his prime and old by basketball standards, but he's apparently got his act together and can still contribute. When Travis Outlaw goes into his Lost Act on the court, Nate can insert Howard for a few minutes and instantly lift the team's basketball IQ by a considerable margin.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carter seat coming down to Shields, Bowman, Collymore

The race for the Oregon State Senate seat being vacated by Margaret Carter in North and Northeast Portland has been boiled down to three candidates. Several folks have been weeded out, including our friend, who may not satisfy the district residency requirements to hold the position. The county commissioners will make the call next week, and that should be quite interesting, if for no other reason than the fact that one of the finalists currently works for one of the commissioners.

They look pretty tall but their heels are high

The pro hoops season may get off to a rocky start, as "replacement" referees will likely be officiating the games due to a labor dispute with the real refs. Between the games marred by inexperienced officiating and the time it will take for the real refs to run themselves back into shape after they finally get a contract, it could be quite a while before the normal rhythm of the season commences.

Wouldn't it be something if the substitutes started calling traveling on people like Lebron and Kobe? And let people breathe on those guys toward the ends of games? That would be worth watching, if just for the comedy of the big stars' reactions.

Wheels coming off for the Adelmans

It would be just another ne'er-do-well-high-school-coach story, but it's got a real twist. This person has the same problem her brother has, and it's wrecking both their lives. That's beyond just being part of a bad trend. It is profoundly sad.

SoWhat suckers read writing on wall

The upcoming fire-sale auction of condos in Portland's disastrous SoWhat district is worrying some of the retiree rubes who paid top dollar for units in those bunkers:

He says the auction could attract "a different type of clientele" who might not have "the same level of respect" for the building—meaning it might attract young people with less money.
Wait 'til the loud parties start. Too funny.

Hold your breath, again

They'll be inspecting the Sellwood Bridge this Sunday, again.

Changing the subject

I was digging around late last night through the upcoming Portland Development Commission board agenda to see what titillating tidbits it might hold. One deal caught my eye. The agency is about to close on about a half of a block of land and some ragtag buildings just off I-205 on Glisan Street, buying out a nonprofit and a developer who were planning low-income housing on the site. It didn't pencil out, and the PDC is going go pick up the property for $1.9 million. It's only an acre and a half, and so the price seems pretty high to my untrained eye. On the other hand, it isn't all that expensive when you consider that the folks selling the parcels to the PDC apparently paid more than $2.6 million for the property over the last few years. At least, that's what I gathered from PortlandMaps before they went into their nightly maintenance downtime.

Anyway, as I Googled around learning more about the type of project that was originally planned for the site, I came across a national feature story from last May that pretty much made me lose interest in the latest monkey business in the "urban renewal" zoo. I missed this story completely back when it was newly published, but now that I've read it, I won't be forgetting it for a while. I have a daughter just like the girl featured in the piece, and so it had quite an impact. With all the millions the suits are throwing around, here's somebody's whole world that depends on $750 a month that's nowhere to be found.

With that, it was time for a prayer, and bed. The foibles of our local government can wait.

Go, Roberta

A new name has surfaced for the state Senate seat being vacated by Margaret Carter. It's a name I recognize, and I must say, she'd be a great choice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A crooked Portland pastor cops a plea with the IRS

But I'm tellin' ya, with a name like Maximo Garza, he coulda been a contender.

Isn't it rich? Don't you approve?

It really is unbelievable. The City of Beaverton has indeed hired former Portland Development Commission boss Don "The Don" Mazziotti as its economic development director. This at the same time that the city negotiates a major, major public-private real estate partnership with Merritt Paulson, who until late July (and perhaps even later) had Mazziotti in his stable as a paid consultant, heavily promoting the very same project.

When they do this kind of stuff in Chicago and New Jersey, everybody laughs. When they do it in Oregon, people just pass the arugula with a straight face and act like everything's fine. "Human nature doesn't apply here. We're so holy, there is no need for ethics rules." Whatever, people. Party on. It's only the Paulsons taking your money... again.

UPDATE, 5:32 p.m.: The latest load from The Don:

Mazziotti said his former job as a consultant for the Beavers will in no way influence his development decisions at the city.

Those decisions will remain up to Gary Brentano, Mazziotti said. Brentano is Beaverton’s business development services director and is the point person at the city for the stadium project.

"I just plan to do a lot of listening and a lot of learning," Mazziotti said.

The Don? Listen? Now,
that's comedy.

Hounded by defeat

Here we are, already in Week 2 of the pro football underdog pool in which I play. Last week there were three winning 'dogs -- Denver (4), the Jets (5), and San Francisco (6.5) -- and alas, I had none of the above. The Niners had a certain appeal, but I picked Jacksonville over Indiana (7), and came up a couple of points short.

Many readers advised me to take the Jets -- I should have listened. Commenter Kevin actually had both the Jets and Denver -- that guy speaks with authority.

But hey, don't look back -- it's onward and upward. See any underdogs here (in caps) who can win their game outright this weekend? The point spreads matter only in that they determine how many points I rack up if my 'dog actually wins its game straight up. It's still way early in the season, so it's o.k. to throw the long ball. Here's the slate:

10 ST. LOUIS at Washington
10 DETROIT vs. Minnesota
9 CINCINNATI at Green Bay
7 HOUSTON at Tennessee
6 CAROLINA at Atlanta
5 TAMPA BAY at Buffalo
4.5 NY JETS vs. New England
3.5 ARIZONA at Jacksonville
3.5 BALTIMORE at San Diego
3 CHICAGO vs. Pittsburgh
3 CLEVELAND at Denver
3 NY GIANTS at Dallas
3 OAKLAND at Kansas City
3 MIAMI vs. Indianapolis
1.5 SEATTLE at San Francisco

(The Eagles-Sanits game isn't eligible because of an ambiguously-injured-quarterback situation.)

Help me out with some free advice, folks -- I don't want to take a cipher for a second week running.

Beaverton looking at $40 million or more for Paulson

The preliminary liars' budget is out for the Beaverton version of the Lord Paulson baseball stadium, and it's $45 million to build the building. That's not including buying the land. His Lordship is offering to put up $8 million to $10 million, which may or may not be enough to cover the land acquisition costs. Let's assume the rosiest scenario -- the land costs only $5 million, and Paulson puts up twice that. That leaves the city holding the bag on a $40 million construction project.

If the city is able to borrow that at 4% interest, over 25 years it will cost the city $2.56 million a year, just to pay the mortgage. Paulson says he'll pay $500,000 a year in rent.

Sound good to you?

The Beavers officially "drew" about 365,000 fans this year to PGE Park, which on a big night can hold more folks than the Beaverton facility will. On a few nights, PGE attendance was higher than the Beaverton ballpark will be able to seat.

Attendance in the spring months is dismal at best, owing to the weather more than anything else. The weather in Beaverton is not that much better than it is in Goose Hollow. Yes, the new stadium may be nicer, but any estimate of season attendance over, say, 450,000 seems pushing it. That's a 23 percent increase. New stadium smell isn't going to get you more than that, and it may very well get you less.

If 450,000 tickets are actually sold, and the mortgage payment is $2.56 million, around $5.70 of every admission would have to go toward paying the mortgage. That's not feasible, and so a lot of the money is going to have to come from taxes. Or maybe the mayor out there will buy some Powerball tickets.

Ah, you say, but don't forget all the economic development the stadium is going to generate. It's going to have to be one heck of a "linchpin" to pay that mortgage.

Amnesty, but a real wallop if you don't come clean

I love the readers of this blog. When I don't know something that I'd like to know, I just ask, and a wealth of information usually comes my way in response.

Take for example yesterday's post on Oregon's upcoming tax amnesty program. I wondered aloud in the comments section whether this was the Legislature's idea, or instead was purely an initiative of the Department of Revenue. By the end of the day, an alert reader answered that question, and then some. The reader writes:

The legislature implemented this program in Senate Bill 880, which was signed into law by the governor on July 14. It becomes effective on September 28. The full text of the enrolled bill is here.

The Department of Revenue was active in the design and support of this bill. However, officials from Sallie Mae also testified before the Oregon legislature on the design and implementation of the program, as apparently Sallie Mae is very active in implementing these programs in other states that have recently run tax amnesty programs. Oregon is actually in the minority, as most states have had tax amnesty programs at one point or another.

I think, perhaps, what is most important to know about Oregon's tax amnesty program is that it is a carrot-and-stick approach -- not just a carrot. Essentially, the program is designed to bring people into the system who are not currently filing or know that they have unreported tax liabilities. However, the legislation imposes a 25% post-amnesty penalty on those who could have used the program and did not. This penalty is on top of the other penalties such as substantial understatement and interest due. (See Section 4 of the bill.) Given the very short window of amnesty, it is very important to understand the penalties involved with not participating. The legislature made clear this penalty would not apply to those who made good faith errors on their tax returns, but discretion to assess the penalty remains with the DOR. If a taxpayer is assessed with an understatement by the IRS, the post-amnesty penalty does not attach unless the taxpayer has been assessed penalties by the IRS under sections 6662, 6662A, 6663 or 7201 of the [federal] Internal Revenue Code.

Fascinating. First of all, what the heck is Sallie Mae, the firm spawned of the federal student loan administration (and now a private company officially called SLM Corporation), doing messing around running state tax amnesty programs? Is that mission creep, or what? And there they were lobbying in Salem to get one implemented in Oregon. Did they get a juicy contract to run the program? That would be an interesting followup fact to know.

Hmmmm.... private corporation lobbying.... ties to Kulongoski.... bill carried by Ginny Burdick.... you know, I do believe I smell the Goldschmidt people in here. Just a crazy hunch. Meanwhile, old Sallie is fading fast...

But I digress. Even bigger news from our reader are the dire consequences for those who don't play along. Wow -- accept our mercy or else! Penalties go way, way up if you could come clean in the amnesty but don't! They're not mentioning that in the television ads. Maybe they'll run a followup spot or two featuring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta just before the November 19 deadline.

Another helpful reader sends along a number of related documents, including this one, which shows that the program is expected to net $16.2 million for the state after payment of expenses, which are required by the law to be capped at $1 million. Do Oregonian tax deadbeats really have $17 million lying around to send in at this point in the state's history? Time will tell, I guess.

The same reader makes a pitch for the amnesty program from the point of view of the harried business owner doing business in multiple states:

I have taken advantage of amnesty in my corporate life in the past. I always felt like what we owed was due to a blindside change of the rules. I felt that a little compassion was due, since I always tried hard to file according to law, but when you're dealing with large corporations it is almost impossible to get everything right. Then again, I took some of our audits to court and won a few over the years.... There are a bunch more out-of-state. I really miss the "thrill of the hunt" now that I'm retired.
Food for thought there as well. There's compassion in the Oregon program, all right, but it seems that there's more than a little bit of vegeance in it as well.

If your iPhone update times out

I had a computer nerd moment this morning with the iPhone. I don't have these too often, and when they happen, I can't resist writing them down on this blog. I think, Maybe they're profound. Maybe they will help some other computer user in need some dark night. But mostly I don't really know what's going on.

Anyway, the iPhones -- oh, we love us our iPhones around here, and when I hooked mine up to the computer for a late night backup and a charge, ding! The gods and goddesses of Apple were telling me that there was a software update available for the phone. Now, one of the smartest guys I know, Mr. Fearless, is an absolute compulsive when it comes to having the latest software immediately installed on all his gadgets, and so seeking to emulate him, I merrily clicked to get the update going.

But fail! As the kids would say. Epic fail! The iTunes program (to which one must succumb to have an iPhone) kept trying to update the phone, but it would stop after a while and tell me "Your network connection timed out."

To a guy like me, that ain't real helpful. It took a bit of Googling, but here's what I figured out. When iTunes gets slapped onto your computer as part of iMania, usually Apple takes that opportunity to put another program called QuickTime on there, too. I'm not much of a fan of QuickTime, particularly the fact that if you don't specifically instruct your Windows computer not to do it, QuickTime is going to start up every time your computer does. It eats up resources and slows down Windows startup times, which in case you haven't noticed are now measured in hours. Whenever I see the little icon on the bottom of the screen telling me that QuickTime is running, I close it right down and cuss out Apple a little, and Microsoft slightly more. (However annoying it is, QuickTime will never be as bad as the loathsome Real Player, which I absolutely will not allow to be installed even if it comes with a free Prius.)

Well, by closing QuickTime, apparently I had doomed my iPhone update. And so just for kicks, I started up QuickTime manually, then ran the iPhone update, and voilà! It no longer timed out. Still, the update took a lo-o-o-ong time, and I'm sure there will be something or other that's new and not immediately apparent about the new version of the software. Fun with computers is endless, isn't it? But it feels good when you're kinda smart about something they're doing to you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More fun and games with Coach

Between molesting students and otherwise showing them how to be losers, athletics coaches are really setting some new standards in the Portland area these days.

And no sales tax

If I do say so myself, I cut a rather dashing figure in a $16.99 Costco dress shirt and a 50¢ estate sale necktie.


The state attorney general's office interrupts its relentless stream of self-congratulatory press releases for the following political endorsement.

Lloyd Center sale -- everything must go

The whole mall, that is. (Flak jackets sold separately.)

Spare change?

Except for our annual holiday charity fund drive, we don't ask readers for donations to this blog. But we are tempted to take up a collection to buy Mayor Creepy and Fireman Randy each a subscription to this. As a reader explained, "Let Sam and his cronies play with a city here instead. They can do all the crazy crap they want."

Paid off your tax debts? That was a mistake.

As viewers of Monday night football now know, Oregon's about to have a tax amnesty period -- when people who haven't filed their state income tax returns, or who have filed such returns with erroneous items in their favor, can come clean without penalty. Not only will the state waive any penalties, but it will also cut the usual interest rate on the delinquent taxes (currently 6%) in half.

This works only if the tax folks are not already on to you. If you've already filed and shown that you owe, or if you haven't and the state has already contacted you about it, no dice. And the amnesty period doesn't start until October 1, two weeks from Thursday.

There are many interesting law and policy aspects to amnesty, which has been run in several other states. It raises money in the short run, but it tends to have deleterious effects on the morale of honest taxpayers, and it may undermine future compliance.

You have to wonder how it will work in the current, rotten economy. Who's going to blow the whistle on themselves and add one more bill collector to a raft of creditors that are already hounding them? Maybe some folks will want to get the debt out in the open so that they can have it on their list when they file for bankruptcy -- that won't raise much money.

And doesn't this leniency breed future noncompliance? Once the amnesty period expires on November 19, won't people with tax skeletons in their closet think, "I'll just wait for the next amnesty period and turn myself in then"? It reminds me of "urban renewal" programs -- once you give some developers tax handouts, no one will develop anything without them.

Lastly, what about the federal IRS? If you're on the lam from both the state and the feds, and you come clean with the state as part of this program, won't the feds come a-knockin'? And are the feds granting amnesty from penalties and interest these days? Nope.

UPDATE, 9/16, 5:36 p.m.: More details on the amnesty program are discussed in this followup blog post.

Metro: Fix the bridges we have

Just got a press release from Portland's regional government:

The current urban growth boundary around the Portland metropolitan area is large enough to contain virtually all of the population and employment growth forecast for the next 20 years, but only if effective, efficient actions are taken by local governments, according to recommendations released today by Metro’s chief operating officer Michael Jordan.

Jordan recommends that we use vacant, dilapidated and underutilized land within the current urban growth boundary before expanding onto farm and forest land; repair, maintain and get the most out of existing bridges, roads, sewers and water pipes, parks and other facilities before building new; and ensure there are enough good jobs for current and future residents.

I love the part about taking care of what we have before building new stuff. Too bad no one at Portland City Hall ever, ever does any such thing.

Holding the line on the existing urban growth boundary is likely to be a controversial proposition. There are landowners and developers drooling over parcels just on the other side of the line. I'm inclined to agree with Jordan, but that gives the city license to wreck my neighborhood with condo bunkers that aren't needed and waste its tax dollars running streetcars.

We need to start talking about trying to control population growth in our region, rather than saying it's inevitable and wrecking the place trying to make it easy. Bunker after bunker of unemployed people living in apartments is not what the people of the area came here for. Yes, let's take care of what we have before building new. We have a perfectly good bus system, for example.

Crossing the line

Can you deduct medical marijuana, prescribed by a doctor, as a medical expense on your tax return? Sounds like a good deduction to me.

But here's a wiseguy whose theory of deductibility went a little too far. He was sick, all right, but the money he spent wasn't to make him well. And sadly, he was a tax lawyer.

Stop the presses

Here's a scientific breakthrough from Portland's daily newspaper: "New evidence, however, suggests that both rain and snowfall may decrease across the region during dry years." What a shocker.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hours of my life, wasted by The New York Times

After encountering this a couple of times over the weekend, I concluded that I had a computer virus. I performed all sorts of scans, and even downloaded and ran some extra anti-malware programs, to see what the problem was. It turns out, my computer was fine. The problem was occurring only when I was browsing through The New York Times, and it was they who were infected. Their mistake -- my hours.

The scam was a rogue popup that tried to sell a worthless security program by informing the viewer that his or her computer had been compromised. I wonder how many readers fell for it, and what, if anything, the Times will do to make them whole.

Meanwhile, I had turned off automatic Windows updates back in May, because they were annoying me, and I had neglected to turn them back on. When I went into diagnostic mode over the apparent virus, I discovered that there were about 50 updates of one thing or another that I had missed. I went ahead and installed them all -- another lo-o-o-o-o-ong down stretch with no discernible benefit. Maybe the updates will come in handy someday, and this episode will be revealed as a blessing in disguise. But certainly I have fallen further out of love with all things Windows.

Chasse's fatal wounds were from kicks or knee-drops

It's been three years this week since Portland Police Officer Christopher "Thumper" Humphreys and his partner caused grievous bodily harm to Jim-Jim Chasse, a scrawny, mentally ill man who Humphreys says may have been urinating on a tree. Humphreys and his companions then allowed Chasse's serious injuries to go untreated -- Humphreys even took a coffee break at a nearby Starbucks -- and Chasse wound up dying in the back of their patrol car.

At the time, the official story was that the "accidental" death was caused by Humphreys "falling on" Chasse as he tackled him or as Chasse "fell." The medical examiner was a big contributor to that story. And of course, the Multnomah County D.A. never prosecutes killer cops -- never.

Willamette Week helped propagate the official story as well:

Did police beat James Chasse Jr. to death?

It's not totally clear, but probably not.

None of the interviews with a half-dozen civilian witnesses details a higher level of violence than the three officers involved described in their statements: several punches and kicks and the application of a Taser (which didn't seem to have much effect).

State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson says the massive injuries to Chasse's chest were not consistent with individual punches and kicks. The injuries are consistent with what most witnesses described: one or more officers landing on top of Chasse.

But now, gee whiz, a different story is coming out. Here is the next-to-last paragraph of the latest story on the incident from the O -- 18 paragraphs down from the top of the story:

In depositions in preparation for the federal trial, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy said Chasse suffered 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Fractures to his back ribs also probably did not result from Chasse getting knocked to the ground or someone falling on top of him, but more likely resulted from a kick or knee-drop, state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said.
That's not what she said when it happened. Meanwhile, we get more official pap about the cover-up. The O leads with this:
Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer said today she expects the police internal review of James P. Chasse Jr.'s death to be released before Chasse's civil lawsuit goes to trial in federal court in March.
Wow, that's exciting news.

The uniformed people who killed James Chasse should have gone to jail. Instead, they were not disciplined, at all. That's Portland, and the media around here seem fine with it. Shame on them. Shame on all of us.

On to Plan D for Paulson

It appears that the Portland Beavers won't be moving to the Westgate site in Beaverton after all. The city has promised not to condemn the site for baseball. The owners have reportedly agreed to "study information" about a possible stadium on their property, but I wouldn't be surprised if after today's meeting they got in their car and said, "Yeah -- study this."

You're better off in jail

In the United States, if you don't have health insurance and are chronically ill, health care is guaranteed only if you get yourself incarcerated.

Here we go again with copyright and Oregon public records

There's an economics professor at the University of Oregon named Bill Harbaugh, and this fellow really has a bee in his bonnet about access to public records in the state. He's of the view that the state's "open meetings" law, which also covers access to records, is too wimpy and needs to be reformed. He's also apparently a frequent requester of documents from state agencies, including the university that employs him, and that apparently hasn't much endeared him to the bureaucrats who have to deal with him. Lately, he says, he's been after records about a lawyer for the university -- one with whom he's tangled over his many requests. Let's put it this way: He won't be getting any "team player" awards from his superiors any time soon, especially since he likes to air out their personal compensation packages when of course, they'd rather he didn't.

A while ago, Harbuagh discovered that the state attorney general's office has written an extensive manual on Oregon law regarding public records -- and that ironically, it isn't posted on a state website anywhere. When he asked the AG's office for a copy, Harbuagh says, he was told it would cost $25 for a pdf file and warned that it was copyrighted material, not to be copied or redistributed without the state Justice Department's consent.

Harbaugh is defying the copyright warning. He says he checked a hard copy of the manual out of the U of O law library, scanned it, and has posted the resulting pdf files on the U of O website, here. He hearkens back to the recent flap in which the bureaucrats who work for the state legislature claimed that the Oregon Revised Statutes could be copyrighted -- a claim that they quickly abandoned once it was publicized to great uproar.

It's interesting that the AG's office isn't claiming that the manual is confidential or privileged, but is claiming that it's protected by copyright and can't be disseminated without payment of money. Especially since they apparently can send it out in a readily available pdf file, why don't they just blow a little bandwidth and post it?

Interestingly, Harbaugh notes that the existence of the manual was mentioned in Willamette Week, when Attorney General John Kroger pointed to it as requiring him to release the drafts of the investigation report in the Sam Adams-Beau Breedlove teen sex case. That incident is surely a gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?

Anyway, Oregon taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to see a copy of the state public records manual. We already paid for its production, and that's enough. Given all the promises of transparency we heard last fall, it ought to be posted officially, as in right away.

Weekend wrapup

It was an action-packed weekend on the blog: a new con man sighting, an even better con at Target, taking on Fish, spotting coyotes, a comment on the 'Couv, a person who died, and some other stuff. If you missed it and are in the mood to kill some weekday time getting caught up, click away on those links.

Jerk of the Year

I recently checked out a Kanye West CD from the public library. It was one of the most juvenile things I've ever subjected myself to. There were 21 tracks on it, including some inane "skits," and my music player log shows I ejected it after track 9. The critics have said good things about this guy, but I'm just not hearing it. They can have his overrated self.

Then he goes and does something this stupid, and well, I guess I go from not giving a darn to what the kids call a "hater." Even if he were a great artist, he shouldn't have done that.

And he isn't.

Now Leno gets to have him on his debut prime time show. Just what The Chin needs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

He was for real

Jim Carroll, the punk rock poet whose book "The Basketball Diaries (Age 12-15)" revealed enormous power and painful vulnerability all at the same time, has died. He was 60. They say he died of a heart attack.

I knew Carroll when I was in law school in 1978. He was this scrawny red-haired guy with an East Coast accent who hung around the law school -- more specifically, he hung all over one of the smartest and most attractive women in the school. She was platonic roommates with a friend of mine, and Jim would stay over at their place most of the time. I will never forget a night I had dinner at that rented flat in Palo Alto. After we ate and sat around for a while, Jim wanted to go across the street to the schoolyard to shoot some hoops. So we did. It was too dark to see much over there, but we did hack around for quite a while. More than a token shootaround, to be sure. He played with passion.

"I write poetry," he told me. "I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize." I took a long look at him and at his fabulous girlfriend and I thought to myself, "Yeah, sure, buddy. And I'm F. Lee Bailey." But I had to hand it to him -- he had a great thing going.

So I graduated and moved to Portland, and I'm rummaging through Cameron's Used Books one sunny afternoon when I come across this:

Well, I'll be darned. It was him, all right, and he had been telling the truth. And what a book! An amazing story, about a place and a life that I knew pretty well myself. New York, adolescence, Catholic school, the schoolyard, then smack, and corruption, the things people do for smack. He got it exactly right, with words beyond anything that I thought could be assembled. It was breathtaking.

I think I was in the same room as Carroll only once after that. It was the fall '78 Springsteen concert at Winterland, the Bill Graham venue in San Francisco that was about to close. I seem to recall that he and his girlfriend, who by then was his wife, were in the audience. But I don't remember seeing them -- someone in the party I was in reported the sighting. It was a general admission, no-chairs affair, uncomfortable and hard to see. I do recall that you didn't have to see much to realize that Springsteen was at the height of his powers.

A few years later, MTV arrived, and shortly thereafter, there was Carroll again. Now he was on my TV screen, fronting a punk rock band, and droning out his latest poems. "They were all my friends -- and they died!" This time, I wasn't surprised. I knew he had the goods. There were at least two albums produced from that time frame: "Catholic Boy" and "Dry Dreams." We cranked them up for a few years.

Carroll had once been a pal of Lou Reed -- in the Velvet Underground-Andy Warhol days, I believe -- but Carroll and Reed had had a major falling out. One of the stories Carroll told me was that Reed stole the song "Sweet Jane" from him, and that was a part of why they were no longer on speaking terms. At the time, I thought that this was an egregious line of b.s., but I was so wrong about everything else Carroll said that now I think it might be true.

I knew from watching a cousin of mine up close that there was rarely, if ever, any such thing as an ex-junkie. Given Carroll's past, I figured his life would never be easy, and it wouldn't be a long one. But he lived six decades, and he produced work well past the turn of the millennium. He had a website, here.

Leave it to me, when in the presence of a true artist, to see a scammer instead and miss a chance to tap into something great. I'll never forget Jim Carroll, because the brief time I knew him wound up teaching me a lot about myself.

A girlfriend for David

I was telling the "Welches" con man story to a friend today, and she topped it. She was in an elevator at the Eastgate Target a couple of weeks ago when a heavy-set late-40's-ish woman got on with her and started sobbing into a cell phone about her supposed predicament. She was in Portland because her ex-husband had died in a car crash the night before, and she had come to pick up their children and take them home with her. Now her own car had broken down, and she was stuck. She tearfully begged the person on the other end of the line to wire her $40.

After she hung up, my friend, who had her own child with her, gave her $35 cash.

A little later my friend saw the woman hanging around outside the Target, talking with some other shoppers. After she moved on, my friend went over and asked the other shoppers if she had told them her story or asked for money. Oh no, they explained, she had just bummed a cigarette off them and was shooting the breeze.

Yin and yang

On the rear cab window of a large pickup, two bumper stickers. Driver's side: Keep Portland weird! Passenger's side: Keep Vancouver normal!

Hold your breath

They're inspecting the Sellwood Bridge today.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wild, wild life

Check out a pack of seven coyotes in a field in Damascus this morning (video-ed from inside a nearby house):

The scene from that house is always full of critters, but usually a little more serene.

Funeral for a friend

Almost a month ago, we declared here that true health care reform is dead. This story, published today, would appear to confirm that analysis.

But frustrated progressives, remember who your friends were on this one. And take due note that Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) wasn't one of them.

Condo bunker banker goes under

A reader writes:

Corus Bank, the party largely responsible for a lot of the bunkers around town, has been seized by the FDIC. I wonder if the pennies on the dollar crowd are going to be excited about "waiting for prices to return back to normal" instead of liquidating these overpriced bunkers?

I think things are about to get very real for Homer and the boys.

The challengers

It's hard to believe, but two guys have already thrown their hats into the ring for the Portland City Council seats currently sat in by Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman. The primary election isn't until May 18. Fish will be up against Jason Barbour, a student and "transit activist," and Saltzman will face Spencer Burton, a self-employed stone mason and avid follower of politics. And no doubt there will be others -- if there aren't, the incumbents should coast. The filing period opened on Thursday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bad penny

Of the dozens of interesting stories we've covered on this blog over the years, one of our favorites is the "Welches" con man. This is a fellow named David -- I think it's David Wilson -- who stops people on the street in Portland and dupes them into giving him cash with sob stories about how his truck has been stolen (or he's run out of gas) and he needs car fare back to Welches. David used to live in Welches, and so he's ready with the details in case anybody asks questions. But it's all a fraud. He's more or less a street guy now, with personal problems, and giving him money just makes those worse.

We wrote about him a couple of summers ago, in a series of posts that merited a category of its own, after we foolishly fell for his con. As a result, he was featured on KGW News, and Margie Boule of the O wrote him up a couple of times. We created the warning poster you see over on the right and ran it on this blog for quite a while. But then we got tired of looking at him, and we took it down -- exactly two years ago yesterday.

Fast forward to today, when lo and behold, Betsy Richter of OurPDX writes about her recent encounter with David, on familiar turf, NE Grand. Same old con, but Betsy called him by his name and let him know that he wasn't fooling anyone in that party. And so it was on his next prospective victim.

No one in local government is willing to do a thing to get this cockroach off the streets and out of the faces of the unsuspecting, even though he is committing crimes that in the aggregate, swindle people out of thousands of dollars. And so he's doubtlessly getting by on what he can defraud. He's been doing it for at least six years.

He's still out there -- no doubt working outside the bars tonight -- and so you may see him soon at an inner Portland site near you. He's also been reported in other parts of town, and even in Beaverton. If you're approached, take a cell phone photo of David and send it our way. We understand that he's shaved off some of his facial hair, and it would be nice to have the updated look on file.

Call him by his name. Tell him he should get himself off the streets and get a real life before it's too late. Waste his time. But whatever you do, don't give him any money.

For our part, reluctantly, we'll have to get the warning poster back up in our left sidebar. Maybe we'll take down our Portland Beavers attend-ometer, now that minor league baseball season is over. Merritt Paulson and David the Welches Con Man -- two peas from the same pod.

Another thought is that maybe we ought to try to get David designated a tourist attraction. Get him in every guidebook and travel brochure about Portland. Let him give his spiel to the tourists, and see if they'll throw a few bucks his way in gratitude for his dramatic performance -- but knowingly so.

Just leaving him out there to steal people's hard-earned money and then kill himself with it doesn't seem like the right answer. But alas, it's the Portland answer.

Have a great weekend

Cost-benefit analysis

Is there anything to be gained from watching it yet again? You can see it in your mind's eye, can't you, even with all the screens turned off? The obscene taking of innocent human life. Grand dreams and noble aspirations snuffed out by exploding hatred.

If you watch it now, a couple more times, or a dozen, or a hundred, under the amber glass of the internet, will that count as much as one person watching it, live, while it was actually happening, on the scene, hearing it, smelling it, feeling the heat of it?

It was as close to a glimpse of hell as we have ever gotten -- and there was no place to avert one's eyes. Red-orange fiery death, and then a smoky plunge to more death, mass murder played out on video screens in every home, in every workplace, in every bar, in all the hospital rooms and on all the monitors in the video sections of the electronic stores. And what we saw was not coming to us from some far-distant battlefield, or from some capital square in a country where nobody spoke English, or from some spooky street in Texas that we'd never been on and would never ride down, or from a dimly lit hotel kitchen somewhere in California, or from the balcony of a fleabag motel down south. It was ground that we all knew, a place where many of us had stood and posed for tourist photos not long before. We had magnets on our refrigerators from this place, which now no longer existed.

We had no real clue what was next, but suddenly we noticed that the flawless blue sky of late summer no longer had the bright light it had had on Labor Day. They grounded all the airplanes, except the military fighters. It was quiet, too quiet. Even fear didn't say much, but it didn't have to. A few days later, its letters would arrive in the mail.

We looked at our kids. They looked up at us. If they were old enough to ask the questions, we really didn't have good answers.

The hospitals set up emergency first aid stations in Greenwich Village for wounded people, but there were few survivors to help. Some of the missing were never found. There was stench, and poison gas, and fires, which went on for weeks. We wanted an eye for an eye, and many of us hated ourselves for that, but it couldn't be helped.

The Times undertook to run a small obituary for each and every one of the dead. They produced pages and pages, sometimes a couple of sheets a day. They eventually got around to nearly everybody. It took months. It was inexorable. We would read them night after night until tears would come.

There are days now on which it seems that things have gotten progressively worse for America since then. Yes, we should be thankful for eight more years of life. Eight Fourth of Julys, eight Christmases and Hanukkahs and Kwanzaas and Ramadans, eight birthdays, eight World Series, eight "buy nothing" days. But so many of our worst traits have come back to punish us. It seems to be getting ever darker. We have a lot of new problems now, and the terror of that day is fading into the background a bit. But the day before it happened was surely a better time for our country than today will ever be.

Is there anything to be gained from watching it yet again? If you think there is, you know how to call it up, right now, right where you're sitting or standing. But think about whether it's worth it. It's going to hurt you, diminish you, take something away that you might need later.

Watching it as many times as we have already -- has it helped us turn anything around? Maybe what we need to do is turn it off and never look at it again.

Or should we go the other way -- watch it again, many more times, not just once a year, never forget, click replay on a regular basis? Maybe our eyes will finally see, somewhere amidst the unspeakable horror, something that was planted there for us to see.

When we fall down, we like to declare that we'll rise again, stronger than ever, some day. But lately we're realizing that sometimes we promise more than we could possibly deliver. Maybe what we said after this tragedy was one of those instances. Let's hope not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A Portland guy and a partner he's never played with before have won the U.S. Open mixed doubles tennis tournament in the Big Apple. Congratulations to Travis Parrott and Carly Gullickson.

Football query

Will the Tennessee Titans beat the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight? I tend to think not, but if I'm going to be persuaded otherwise, I have just a few hours to change my mind.

Buying himself out

Fred Stickel has announced he's retiring as publisher of The Oregonian. When asked why, the 87-year-old confided, "I wanted to be sure to get my retirement tributes in the paper before it folds."

The publication is conducting a national search for a replacement for Stickel. Already a prime candidate has been identified.

So much for the principle of the thing

The City of Portland has bought off the folks who had brought legal action to stop the abuses in the city's "urban renewal" program. You know -- where toney districts like the Pearl are declared "blighted," and "satellite" districts are set up to funnel property taxes from the inner city to pay for new public schools way out in the boondocks. According to this story, the case has been settled, and the opponents are going to drop their claims.

It's not clear what all they got in return for going away. All the story says is that "the city will reduce the maximum indebtedness of the River District to $489.5 million" from some $60 million higher than that.

Whoopdee do.

Now the city can go ahead and build its new homeless facility down by Union Station, and the Sam Rand twins can make good on their promise to deliver the Main Post Office to one of the usual developer scoundrels for some ghastly bunker or another. Plus who know who else will line up at the trough, and for what. It's all to combat what prominent Portland State sociologists have labeled "Bluehour Blight."

If you're really upset about the fundamental nature of what's going on with the "urban renewal" juggernaut in these parts, it's obvious that the group that brought the legal action had a different agenda from yours. They must have gotten what they wanted. You just have to wonder what that was.

It's sort of like the burning question of why absolutely no one in the business community has pitched in with the mayoral recall. They have their reasons -- for them to know and you to find out.

John Kroger isn't running for governor yet...

... is he?

He's raised more than $22,000 in "campaign" contributions since he took office in January, most of it from out of state. And his "campaign" is showing more than $26,000 in cash in the bank. He's got three years before he's got to run for re-election -- why pile up dough so early? Does he just want to give it to other candidates in the meantime, or is it about him?

Thank heaven

This horrible, horrible property is going to be turned into a Wal-Mart. That's a relief. For a minute there somebody was talking about a park.

All systems go

We just got a breathless press release from City Hall: "City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade says Portland is ready to receive federal stimulus funds."

Me, too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A blue print for bankruptcy

When mass transit usage is down, employment is way down, and there's no real hope in sight for the local economy, what does Portland do? Why, spend years devising plans to build more streetcars, of course. They're so clean, so green! (Unless you're a salmon being chopped up by a turbine at a hydropower dam, that is. Or somebody downwind of Boardman.) And best of all, no essential government services are ever cut to raise money for streetcars -- they cost nothing to build or run.

So go by streetcar! Save the whales and be a part of the magic.

Ask me any question

I feel as though I'm channeling Dear Abby today, as I pass along this question from a concerned reader:

So Jack, seriously -- with a potentially dangerous flu season coming up, I'm wondering how to politely deflect an outstretched hand.

I work in hospitality and sales, and even though I hate shaking hands with people under any circumstances, I really don't want to after reading about how easy the swine flu spreads. In the course of a day, I have guys of all races and backgrounds coming at me for a greeting, and I can't have my reluctance misinterpreted. And I can't do an Adrian Monk (wipe!) after every handshake.

Is there any agreed-upon protocol in the professional workplace that can be widely communicated via your blog to avoid any hurt feelings/rejection?

Offhand, the best I could think of would be to tell people, "Sorry, I think I'm coming down with the flu, and so I had better not shake your hand. I don't want to get you sick." Then make a little bow.


Latest condo fizzle: 38th and Belmont

The folks who built this monstrosity, where the old Fou Lee Market was, now appear to be finding that not too many buyers want to pay $300 to $350 a square foot to live in it -- even with the eco-roof. After many months of hard marketing, the fairly desperate sales pitch now includes all manner of incentives, including 100% financing with no mortgage insurance. That doesn't sound like a success story in the making.

The developers (or whoever's running the deal now) say they've sold 11 units, with "only" 15 left to go. As Granny Bogdanski used to say, "God don't punish with a stick."

Can we stop destroying the nice old neighborhoods of Portland now?

Portland auditor: Nobody's watching for fraud at City Hall

But here's the best part of her report:

The audit notes that the city code and administrative rules direct city employees to act ethically. But, the audit notes, the city has not provided its employees with comprehensive training on ethics or on reporting fraud, abuse and waste – a failure that increases the risk that suspected cases will not be reported.
A need for ethics training? At City Hall? You don't say...

Fight! Fight!

"He yelled at me!"

"No, I didn't!"

"Yes, you did."

"Did not."

"Did too."


"You scared me! I'm telling Kate Brown."

"You think she cares? Go ahead, liar."

"No, you're the liar."

"Look who's talking."

"Takes one to know one."

"You don't even live here -- go back where you belong, weirdo."

Such is the nature of political discourse in Portland these days, as the city's creepy mayor, Sam Adams, confronts the oddball crew of volunteers who are out gathering signatures trying to recall him from office. With more than three years left in the city's four-year collective nervous breakdown currently in progress, it's par for the course.

It wouldn't be surprising if the mayor actually did say some intemperate things to one of the petitioners. His comedy sex tape co-star, Fireman Randy, recently cut loose with some nasty words defending the mayor to one heckler outside City Hall, and the Fireman later seemed proud about it. The fact that people are seriously questioning the city's direction under this pair seems to be getting under their respective skins. Can they properly administer their bureaus and make sound decisions about the city's future when they are regularly distracted by shouting matches on the sidewalks? A good question.

Speaking of questions, we have never found out who conducted the shady telephone "poll" on behalf of Adams back in early July. These unsolicited phone calls seemed designed as much to spread positive messages about Adams (and negative messages about the recall effort) as they were to gather opinions about him. A hired defender of All Things Blue assured us at that time that the campaign finance reports on the poll would "presumably" reveal who conducted it, and who paid for it. But funny thing -- here we are two months later, and no reports of any kind appear to have been filed about it on Orestar. At least, none that I could find. Maybe such a filing isn't even required, allowing the dark forces of City Hall to operate in the shadows. That's certainly the kind of practice we've come to expect from these folks.

I remember the last mayoral election -- the one Adams stole by lying -- when he and his supporters absolutely crucified his opponent, Sho Dozono, for allowing a poll to be taken on Dozono's behalf without disclosing it. And now here the mayoral camp or its friends seem to have done essentially the same thing during the recall season. It's profoundly wrong, but the people of Portland (particularly the ones with enough money that they could have canned the creepy one) appear to be satisfied with this kind of government. And so we shall get what we deserve. Go by streetcar!

He's good enough, he's smart enough...

... and doggone it, he can do this.

Paulson's real whopper

We blogged yesterday about the recently uncovered "major league" (by U.S. standards) stadium design guidelines, which set all sorts of requirements that even a spendy re-renovation of PGE Park will not satisfy. But an alert reader who perused the guideline document more carefully found something even more interesting: Despite the official story that has been repeated over and over by the stadium project's proponents, the "major league" does not absolutely require that stadiums in the league be soccer-only. It's a preference at most, and by no means a hard-and-fast requirement:

1.9. Other Sports

The playing area can be designed to accommodate other sports. However it should be noted that if the viewing requirements (field dimensions) of these sports differ greatly from Soccer it will compromise the viewing experience as spectators will be further from the field than would be necessary. This effect on this standard of viewing should be considered at the beginning of the design stage. Stadia designed for a particular sport will always offer a better viewing experience than multi venue facilities. It is not recommended that a Soccer stadium be combined with an athletics track.

They're kicking the Portland Beavers baseball team out of Portland and putting all of the city's sports bets on the continued existence of the "major" soccer league, but it clearly doesn't have to be that way. The teams' owner, Henry M. Paulson III, and the league simply want it that way. And the City Council is rolling right over and giving them what they want.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The latest rankings are in, and Portland...

... is the No. 9 college town in the country, according to the American Institute of Economic Research; the second greenest city in the world, according to the Chinese People's Daily Online; and the 14th most stressful city in the country, according to Forbes.

Please make up your own jokes.

The 'dogs are on the track

Here we go again -- time for me to make some money, and for readers to help me while proving how smart they are. Once again I am participating in a pro football Underdog Pool, the object of which is to pick one NFL team every week that's going to win its game outright despite the oddsmakers' predictions that it's going to lose.

Here's is this week's lineup. The underdogs are in caps. To the left are the number of points that they are favored to lose their respective games by. But in order to win, I have to pick a team that's going to win outright -- not just beat the spread. On the other hand, the points are not irrelevant, in that if my pick wins, I get the number of points shown for that game. The player with the most points accumulated by the end of the playoffs wins the pool.

13.5 DETROIT at New Orleans
11 KANSAS CITY at Baltimore
10.5 BUFFALO at New England
9.5 OAKLAND vs. San Diego
7.5 ST. LOUIS at Seattle
7 JACKSONVILLE at Indianapolis
6.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Arizona
6.5 WASHINGTON at NY Giants
6 TAMPA BAY vs. Dallas
6 TENNESSEE at Pittsburgh (Thursday)
5 NY JETS at Houston
4.5 CLEVELAND vs. Minnesota
4 CHICAGO at Green Bay
4 MIAMI at Atlanta
4 DENVER at Cincinnati
2 CAROLINA vs. Philadelphia

Especially in the first couple of weeks of the season, anything can happen. That being the case, the Lions actually don't look that bad. San Diego tends to get the chokies, and so could the Raiders pull it off? The Browns are going to win some games this year -- will they prevail at home in Week 1? All good fodder for some conversation over the next few days. But if you think the Titans will beat the Steelers, you've only got a day or two to speak up, as they play on Thursday.

Last year I took third place in the pool, which means I won some dough. Readers who helped me get there won... well, my undying gratitude. This year, let's hope we take it all, in which case I'll really love you.

Gimme shelter -- not these

Back in July, down on the Portland transit mall, we gazed in wonder at these structures, which had gone in where the nice old bus kiosks used to be, and we wondered what the heck they were supposed to be doing:

It turns out that they were works in progress -- as a more recent trip down there revealed:

A fairly chintzy replacement for the kiosks, if you ask us. They'll be pretty worthless when the wind's blowing the rain around. But now a reader, Mark in Portland, writes in with another layer of concerns about them:

Although I am a big supporter of public transportation... Have you checked out the new kiosks on the bus mall? Please tell me how they drain and how they are going to keep the tops clean. A horrible design. In a few weeks the tops will be covered with leaves. They are already dirty with dust and bird crap. Have they budgeted the maintenance?
Mark, Mark, Mark. This is Tri-Met. Managed by the KulonGoldschmidt crowd. Heck, Homer Williams's daughter is on the board! Surely you are creating issues where none exist. Everything must be fine.

You're worrying about little things of no importance to the visionaries. Go by streetcar, my son, and ask no more silly questions.

Another substandard story about the PGE Park soccer renovation

When it comes to criticizing the City of Portland's plan to blow eight figures turning PGE Park into a soccer-only stadium for a "major league" (by U.S. standards) team, that fellow Peter Apanel is even more annoying than we are. Last week, we wrote about how Apanel had dug out the stadium regulations promulgated by FIFA, the international soccer authority, and found that the proposed renovation would not satisfy many of them. Among those he cited were seat depth and type, restroom facilities, and concession stands. He also complained that MLS, the "major" soccer league calling the shots on the Portland deal, did not appear to have any written standards at all, suggesting that they were making them up as they go along.

Several readers predictably noted that the "major" league is, technically speaking, not bound by FIFA regulations, and that in any event those rules were written for high-end World Cup soccer matches only (one of the real major league events). And so Apanel's argument was, in their view, weak.

Later in the week, Apanel wrote us back with a surprise: Apparently there are in fact written stadium guidelines put out by the "major" soccer league. At least some of them are contained in this document, which Apanel says he obtained from Dave Logsdon, the city's spectator facilities manager. And lo and behold, in several ways the league's guidelines are even stricter than FIFA's guidelines, and so the Timbers' expensively renovated stadium clearly won't meet them.

Apanel notes:

Restroom requirements:

Based on 20,000 capacity, and a 60:40 male/female ratio, here are the minimum MLS requirements: Men's restrooms -- 20 toilets and 171 urinals; along with 40 sinks. Women's restrooms -- 228 toilets, with 114 sinks. Family restrooms -- 4 toilets, with 4 sinks. Total toilets/urinals: 423. Overall ratio: One per 47 people.

FIFA standards: 180 men's toilets/urinals, and 160 women's toilets. Total toilets/urinals: 340. Overall ratio: One per 58 people.

MLS standards exceed FIFA standards by 24%.

I still don't have an exact count on the number of existing restroom facilities in PGE Park, but according the Oregon code, based on the same figures shown above, PGE Park would need [only] a minimum of 64 men's toilets/urinals, and 56 women's toilets, for a ratio of one per 166 people.

Seating requirements:

All seats must be individual. Armrests are recommended.[Many seats in PGE Park are bench seats that would not be upgraded. -- JB]

Reserved seats: 33" minimum row width (riser depth); 36" recommended. Minimum seat bottom width: 19".

FIFA standards: 33.5" recommended minimum row width (riser depth).

The row width for all existing seating at PGE Park is 30". The proposed row width for new grandstand seating at PGE Park is 30".

Food Concession Stand requirements:

MLS recommends one point of sale (POS) per 150 people, with four linear feet of counter space per POS. That adds up to 133 POS locations, and 532 linear feet of counter space.

FIFA recommends one point of sale per 200 people, with 1.0 m - 1.5 m (39" - 59") of counter space. That adds up to 100 POS locations, and over 300 linear feet of counter space.

So where does this all leave us? If one asks Apanel, he'll tell you that a new soccer stadium -- not a renovation of PGE -- is the way to go. Whether one agrees with that or not, one would have to admit that after blowing tons of dough, Portland is not going to get a facility that's a showcase for the league. And in a few years, you can bet that Little Lord Paulson or his successor in fiscal irresponsibility will be griping about that, and the public money will again be summoned for the next phase of unnecessary "improvements."

That is, if the league doesn't fold first.

O brother, thou art right on

We are confident that, in light of the experience of the American colonists with the abuses of the British Crown, the Framers of our Constitution would have disapproved of the arrest, detention, and harsh confinement of a United States citizen as a "material witness" under the circumstances, and for the immediate purpose alleged, in al-Kidd’s complaint. Sadly, however, even now, more than 217 years after the ratification of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, some confidently assert that the government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because there is evidence that they have committed a crime, but merely because the government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing, or to prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world. We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.
Who wrote this -- some lefty? Hardly. It was this judge, appointed by this President, and the brother of you-know-who.

The whole opinion is here.

Portland Beavers 2009 "attendance": 5,297 per game

The Portland Beavers have ended their season -- presumably their last or next-to-last at PGE Park -- and so our tally of the official attendance at their home games this year comes to a close. The official numbers totaled 365,473 on 69 regular season game days (not including the once-in-a-blue-moon all-star game and accompanying home run derby). This works out to 5,297 fans per date. (There was one doubleheader after a game was cancelled due to spontaneously falling light fixtures.)

According to this source, last year's attendance was 392,512, and so this year's turnout was down nearly 7% from last year.

But as we've seen throughout the season, these numbers do not represent the actual number of people who show up for a game -- that number is lower, and often much lower. On a night on which the Bevos report "attendance" of more than 2,400, there might be only 400 people actually on hand watching the action. In judging what a wonderful stimulus the team will be to Beaverton, Clackamas, or wherever it goes next, policymakers should keep the rampant attendance inflation in mind. In reality, the Beavers should supply about 40 strong nights a season, mostly in August; that may not do all that much to keep neighboring businesses afloat. And we hope the new neighbors like fireworks, because they get much bigger crowds when they shoot those off.

Meanwhile, with three regular season games plus playoffs ahead, the Portland Timbers soccer team has reported total official attendance of 153,967, which pencils out to about 9,500 fans per game. They're on pace to total about 200,000.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fond farewell

Labor Day is always a big weekend for block parties in Portland, but down the road from us a little way, they had a bittersweet one this evening:

It seems the neighborhood pot-bellied pig left us a couple of weeks ago, and dozens of his best friends turned out to bid him goodbye:

It even made the paper. Mooshi will be missed. (And no, I didn't ask what was on the menu.)

Breaking up is hard to do

Here's a new Oregon court case at the intersection of two hot-button topics: same-sex couples and public employee pensions. If a retired state employee who's in a gay domestic partnership designates his or her partner to receive a continuing retirement annuity after the employee dies, and then the couple breaks up, can the retired employee cut the "ex" out of the contingent future annuity and thereby increase the employee's own monthly benefit? Apparently, hetero- married employees get this option, but the state retirement board says it can't allow the same option for gay ex-domestic partners without risking running afoul of the federal tax code. (Federal law does not recognize same-sex marriage.)

Last week, a state appeals court ruled that the board couldn't deny the option simply because it might screw up the tax treatment of state pensions -- the board would have to find that it would definitely do so. And so round and round the legal wheels spin.

Although this narrow case may be resolved within a few years, the underlying legal mess regarding the rights of gay couples probably won't get straightened out for another few decades -- at least.

Society notes from all over

Here's a Portland-area wedding written up in the Times.

Red, white and blue = not so green

The U.S. State Department is refusing to pay the $13-per-car "congestion charge" that folks have to pay to enter central London. They're saying that it's a tax, and therefore the embassy has diplomatic immunity from having to pungle up. The Brits say it's just a toll, and so the rich countries who are refusing to pay are deadbeats. And polluters to boot! Where is Earl the Pearl to send a container full of bikes over and solve this international crisis?

Oh and BTW, the whole thing is enforced with Big Brother cameras that record every vehicle coming and going into the "congestion charging zone." I suspect that the Sam-Rand twins and Sustainable Susan are already considering the possibilities for this sort of thing in downtown Portland. People who drive cars should take their business elsewhere.

When a lime "mentors" a lemon

Here are some candy wrappers that so outraged a British dad that he got into a screaming match with a store manager, and his wife "had to sit down in the car park."

Not my idea

I give nasty nicknames to public figures and corporations from time to time, but let it be noted for the record that I was not the first one to refer to Whole Foods as "A-Hole Foods."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A long season begins -- and we don't mean football

There are about 2,000 students at Washington State University sick and likely to have the swine flu, according to this report. As one alert reader said about it, "Let the frenzy begin."

Live better... than this

Here in the enlightened People's Republic of Portland, we don't allow Wal-Marts. But through the wonders of the internet, we can still see what we're missing.

Professor Florida's kids get *really* creative

The creative class that was somehow going to lead Portland on to a brilliant economic future is instead bumming Percocets from friends because they can't afford to see a doctor:

As a graduate of a top liberal arts college, Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in studio art, he expected to find nonprofit work. Instead he is working as a dishwasher and running an art gallery out of his garage in Portland, Ore....

So when Mr. Pavlacky got hit by a car while biking in May, he decided that a hospital visit was out of the question. Instead of seeking treatment, he had friends bring him prescription painkillers they had left over from procedures like having their wisdom teeth removed.

I feel bad for young people who wind up in this predicament. The fact that our city will have nothing meaningful for them to do any time soon makes the feeling even worse.

What could go wrong?

It worked so well with mortgages -- let's have Wall Street package up old people's life insurance policies and invite "investors" to gamble on them. Henry Paulson organizing a circus casino where speculators root for Grandma to die -- you talk about a death panel. But hey, repeat after me: The free market is good, the free market solves all problems, surrender to the free market...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Comments policy question

How would you feel if I said that in order to post a comment on this blog, you have to leave your real name and Social Security number?


Tonight, for the first time in a long time, we're grilling under the lights:

The excitement builds

Another bright, fresh face in the Oregon governor's race.

Black Joe Lewis broke a string in Portland

And you know what? It didn't matter one bit -- he and his band just kept rockin' the house. Another amazing night, right here where we live.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Have a great holiday weekend

Friday morning

Plan C for Paulson

Maybe Clackamas County for the Portland Beavers. Gosh, two communities that he can play off each other -- LLP's so happy that this morning he jauntily skimmed a krugerrand across the surface of Oswego Lake.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Notes from a sleeping bag

Here's a first: Tonight we're blogging from a tent. A big old mansion-like family tent, lent to us by a friend. The whole clan is on hand. The moon looks pretty full, and it's got a planet next door. The lanterns are turned off, and they weren't really needed.

One of the local guys came around and made us as welcome as could be. He even brought us some of his awesome homemade salsa to go with his stories of growing up in this place. He and his foundling dog have a little comedy routine that was a big hit. Probably done it hundreds of times.

Several things about this fellow reminded us of a friend of ours who passed on last year. We're listening to several levels of messages all at once.

We shared of a bottle of red wine that showed up just today, as a thank-you for a good deed. A nice coincidence.

The night air is telling us that summer's checking out. We hate to see it go, but we won't clutch at it desperately. We had some deep drinks of it this year, and fall is always a blast anyway.

The traffic on the nearby road has stopped now. The air is still, cool, damp and quiet, in true western Oregon fashion. There may be better places to hang out, but at the moment, it's hard to think of one.

Surf with your head -- not over it

Just as the "lottery" (gambling) weasels in state government feel obliged to mention gambling addiction programs, bloggers should probably stop from time to time and point out this service.

Don't let the lunch lady breathe on your pizza, either

This year's innovation: To prevent the spread of swine flu, children should no longer touch each other. No chest bumps, high fives, hugs, or handshakes -- all too dangerous.

Bootleg paradise

Music lovers who have not spent time here probably should. And soon -- it seems too good to be true.

It's pickin' time again

They're playing college football already, and soon -- very soon -- the big daddies of pro football will be going at it, too. For the last couple of years, we've enhanced our enjoyment of the pro game by entering into a season-long underdog pool. The cost is a big $20 for the whole year, and it's been well worth it (especially since we won third prize last year and came out way ahead).

The way the game is played is pretty simple. As the organizer has put it: "Each week, you will select one and only one [NFL] underdog. If that underdog wins outright, you win the number of points they were an underdog by." The point spreads are established fairly early every week; you make your choice, send in your e-mail, and then root for your underdog that weekend. Whichever player has collected the most points at the end of the season (including the playoffs) wins top prize, and last year the next three highest pickers also got some dough.

At last report, there were 25 players signed up, with room for up to five more. If you're interested in being one of them, let me know right away and I'll put you in touch with the grand poobah of the pool. He can give you the full rules and procedures, and tell you where to send your twenty.

The first lines will be published in less than a week, but already we're peeking at the schedule. Can Jacksonville beat the Colts? How about the anemic Rams over the inept Seahawks? Could the lowly Chiefs beat the Ravens, or their own grandmothers? Should be fun guessing.

What, no Denny Smith?

Oregon's next governor is going to be John Kitzhaber, Bill Bradbury, or Allen Alley. How refreshing. We can hardly stand the excitement.

"I am out of your league. Period."

Here's a new blog by some women who are dating in Portland these days. Not a pretty picture so far.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Minor" soccer league coming apart

We blogged last week about how Nike is bailing on its majority ownership of the soccer league in which the Portland Timbers play. Now a bunch of owners in that league are threatening to break out and start a league of their own, because they don't like the way the existing association is being run. Meanwhile, the Timbers, who will be moving up to the "major" league in a couple of seasons, say they'll remain faithful to the current league -- at least for another year.

Ah, instability in American pro soccer -- just what Portland's taxpayers need to hear about as they plunk down eight figures to remodel the city's stadium for soccer only, and throw pro baseball forever out on the street. It's going to be a big hit, people -- you can trust City Hall on this one.

Justice Stevens apparently ready to retire

So say the tea leaf readers who follow the Supreme Court.

Year of the Fish

Commissioner Nick Fish says he did a lot of good in his first year at City Hall. We'd tend to agree, by and large. And there are several dumb things that he didn't do, which in many ways is even better.

Read all about nothing

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor massive layoffs in operational staff keeps the City of Portland p.r. machine from grinding out one glossy publication after another.

Take me when I'm gone to Forest Lawn

The story of Michael Jackson's way-over-the-top final resting place brings to mind this wonderful song by one of the great folk voices of the late 20th Century.

May it please the Court, just Google it

Not a chance:

Petitioner asserts in a posttrial memorandum that he was "duped by a charlatan and in essence Robert Gruntz tacitly implied that I should fabricate a log that would show 'material participation'". Petitioners assert that the liability would be a financial burden for their family and "petition the Court to consider reducing the liability, throwing [themselves] at the mercy of the court." They conclude with: "Just Google Robert Gruntz to see more."

This Court cannot reduce a liability without any basis in law and directly contrary to the law applicable to the facts appearing from the record in this case. We cannot "Google" or otherwise consider information outside of the record.

[Via TaxProf Blog.]

Latest SoWhat casualty: affordable housing

One of the tradeoffs that the developer birds gave in exchange for permission and free money to build the monstrous, soulless condo boxes in Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) District was the assurance that affordable housing would be included in the mix down there. Well, kind of like the 10,000 biotech jobs that OHSU promised in SoWhat, the affordable housing in the doomed district is now on "indefinite hold."

The city's pulling the plug on the veterans housing complex in which it's already got close to $2 million invested (and that amount is by its own admission). Indeed, they're already talking about alternative uses for the site, where 209 units for veterans were supposed to be built.

What's more depressing than the financial disaster that SoWhat represents is the way the people of the Portland area have failed to hold the chief proponents of this fiasco responsible for their hideous judgment (or worse). Don Mazziotti, who led the Portland Development Commission into this mess, is currently a finalist for the same job in Beaverton. Vera Katz, the mayor who went for SoWhat hook, line, and sinker, at last report was teaching at Portland State, as an authority on effective city government. And her economic development guru in SoWhat's formative years? Now the mayor himself, of course.

On the bright side, at least now the city is admitting, in a backhanded sort of way, that the whole idea of affordable housing in SoWhat was misguided. Here are the reasons being given for abandoning the veterans housing deal:

• The housing bureau lacks the in-house capacity to effectively provide asset management, ownership and general project oversight.

• There's too much uncertainty in the housing market.

• It’s difficult to manage a “somewhat untested mix of populations” in an emerging residential market.

The second bullet point is relatively new -- what incompetent decision-maker isn't blaming the recession these days?-- but the other two flaws have always been there, even in boom times. In other words, Portland never should have even thought about public housing in SoWhat. That place is going to be a glaring monument to incompetence for a long, long time.

New home of the (stab, stab) Portland Beavers

The Beaverton neighborhood in which the new minor league baseball stadium is supposed to go sure is seeing some interesting times. Do you think adding a big facility that's empty a couple of hundred nights a year is going to help?

Multi-tasking? You're not as sharp as you think.

Our friend Jake has warned us that although you may think you're good at multi-tasking, you really aren't. And science is now backing him up on that.

What they're saying makes a lot of sense. But man, doing several things at once -- particularly when the computer is involved -- is going to be a hard habit to break.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lights out at the Portland Hilton

While Portland's mayor continues to "mentor" the Convention Center hotel idea, here's confirmation that he is, well, nuts.

It's a small world after all

Former Portland Development Commission boss Don "The Don" Mazziotti -- one of the original Goldschmidt Network -- is a finalist to head the community development department in Beaverton. This at the same time that Mazziotti's very recent client, Lord Paulson III, is arm-twisting the elected officials of that lovely 'burb to build him a new minor league baseball stadium.

The Network's official newspaper, The Oregonian, reports eagerly tonight that Paulson is no longer Mazziotti's client: "Mazziotti has not been working for Paulson as Paulson considers moving the Triple-A baseball team to Beaverton." That would be nice if it were true, but as late as July 22, The Don was identified in that very newspaper as Paulson's development consultant involved in the Beaverton talks:

"There are other communities interested in accommodating a stadium facility, so I think we're very early in the process," Don Mazziotti, Paulson's development consultant, said Wednesday. "The Beaverton discussions are certainly promising."...

Mazziotti said he plans to visit Beaverton on Friday [July 24] to review possible locations for a 6,500- to 8,000-seat baseball stadium. So far, the only area being mentioned by city officials is the former Westgate Theatre site, next to the Round.

It's sad that the remaining handful of reporters at the O don't even read their own stuff any more. The same reporter wrote both stories.

In any event, maybe The Don can get the city job in time to ram home a sweet deal for His Lordship. Neil would be so proud. And if The Don doesn't get the gig, we'll see how long he stays out of Paulson's stable.

Low-hanging fruit

We see that Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is starting to make some headway with low-level public corruption in the state. Over the last two days, he's announced that he's taken out this guy and this guy. Here's hoping that these are just appetizers.

Hulky pro football scared of a little Twitter

They won't let the players tweet (or post to Facebook) during games, and referees are prohibited from using social media ever, for anything.

Intelligent life in the universe

The gifted actress and comedian Lily Tomlin turns 70 today. I think the hardest I have ever laughed was when I watched her do a certain routine on a late-night TV show (probably Johnny Carson) years ago. Tomlin had been a cheerleader at Detroit's Cass Tech in real life, and her portrayal of a "soul" high school cheerleader cracked me up. If anyone knows where I can find that clip, please let me know. I'd love to see how well it held up.

Speaking of those red-light cameras...

Our post of yesterday about Portland's plan to expand the city's red light camera program prompted some interesting responses. One alert reader pointed out that unlike Oregon, Pennsylvania prohibits the private contractors who run the cameras (the biggest being an Australian outfit called Redflex) from being paid a percentage of the ticket revenue. Is that what's going on with Portland's current program (in which the contractor is an outfit called ACS State and Local Solutions, formerly known as Lockheed Martin IMS)? And is that the way we want the new contractor to be paid? What do you say, Commissioners Fritz and Fish? Is this a public safety program, or a revenue program? We don't pay our police officers or judges by the ticket -- why do it with these guys?

We also came across a 2005 KATU story (scroll down) that showed a steep increase in rear-end collisions at the Portland intersections at which the cams were installed. And Portland isn't the only place reporting this unfortunate side effect.

In Florida, the legitimacy of the cameras is headed to court. Meanwhile, in Maine, Montana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and West Virginia, they're forbidden by state law.

Meanwhile, people are finding their own ways to fight back. First of all, as one might suspect, iPhone users have the ubiquitous "app for that" -- a program that alerts users when they are approaching a red light cam or known speed trap. Elsewhere, one outfit is selling a spray called PhotoBlocker, which claims to make one's license plate illegible to the red light camera.

But the best story of them all: In New York City, a red light cam gave a ticket to a rowboat. I am not making this up.

Newark wasn't available

Hey, Portland has landed another "green" industry!

Nothing says "green" like a battery manufacturing plant.

Glad I don't live anywhere near that baby. (Do I?)

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