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

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March 2010 Archives

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time to get on the bandwagon again

Portland's Trail Blazers have made it to the American pro basketball playoffs, and so it's time to iron out the flag, hang it out in front of the house for another post-season run, and root like crazy.

It's actually one of the better Blazer teams for many a year. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge now have Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and the quickly emerging Nicolas Batum to play with -- and that's a pretty formidable five. Miller and Camby have an incredible combined basketball IQ -- something that Portland hasn't carried into the playoffs in quite a long time. And Batum, Aldridge, and Camby all have freakish wingspans that make Portland's characteristic defensive lapses less damaging than they might have been previously. If you blow by one of the Blazers on the dribble, chances are you're going to meet up with the long arm of the law closer to the basket.

It's not a team that anyone would pick to win it all, but it is one that can cause a lot of damage in the playoffs. They're loose, and peaking at the right time. Those are all good signs. And yeah, there are some potential opponent matchups that might be easier than others, but heck, at some point ya simply gotta believe. I don't think we'll be dropping the big bucks for playoff tickets, as we did in last year's disastrous playoff round, but we'll be pulling for Portland as sincerely as ever. And expecting some great basketball.

Think Portland is the nanny state?

It could be worse.

PDC office sites narrowed to four, it says

Supposedly the Portland Development Commission has cut the number of potential sites for a future headquarters to four, including just staying put where it is now. But since the latter alternative would be cheap, and it wouldn't help pad the unrealistic projections of any tax-subsidized construction projects, it seems unlikely to prevail. They keep talking "jobs," and that's Mayor Creepy's code for construction pork for friends and family. I'd bet money on an oversized, one-sided lease in the so-far-doomed Moyer tower -- currently an embarrassing hole in the ground that should never have been dug to begin with.

Ain't nobody home

Does it worry anyone that the City of Portland currently has vacancies in both its Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer positions? One would think that in today's economy, jobs like that would have lots of potential takers. Unless there's some underlying problem...

How to save the U.S. Custom House

O columnist Anna Griffin bemoans the fact that the historic U.S. Custom House in Portland needs so much modernization work that the federal government can't even give it away. But she, like everyone else involved in this story, seems to be missing an obvious, cheap, and sustainable way out: Grow vines up the sides of the building. They would provide more than adequate earthquake support, and any existing ADA concerns surrounding the aging structure could be remedied by groups of fit, young creative-class rock climbers carrying sedan-chair-type lifts up the exterior walls. The oxygen-producing plants would mitigate asbestos contamination as well as absorbing deadly greenhouse gases. Come on, Anna -- don't give up so needlessly when cheap, environmentally sensitive, proven technology is readily available. Think green jobs, people!

Next Portland police excuse: "He was reaching for his phone"

It's been known for quite a few years now that there are guns being made that are well disguised as cell phones. Kill your neighbor? There's an app for that, apparently.

But the presence of these weapons raises an issue. The Portland police say they are trained to shoot to kill if they suspect someone is about to use a gun on them, even before they see any gun. Does that mean that anyone with a cell phone within reach is also fair game for a bullet or a Tasing?

Big PDC meeting to discuss location of deck chairs

Apparently the only agenda item for today's Portland Development Commission board meeting is to review the many proposals that have come in for new office space to move the PDC's shrinking staff into. These include a proposal by the agency's existing landlord, Kalberer Co., for the PDC to stay put in its current location, the scene of a failed "creative class" initiative by the commission some years ago. Kalberer's offering a rent break if the PDC remains where it is.

So comically and yet so typically, the board will actually have two discussions of the proposals -- a secret one, where they'll say what's really going on, and a public one, where all sorts of evasive and outright fake pronouncements will no doubt be made. The public will then have half an hour to talk into the microphones while the commissioners eat scones, check their e-mail, meditate, and tune in occasionally.

The agency is refusing to disclose the terms of the various proposals on the grounds that they are "trade secrets," exempt from public record disclosure laws. That claim seems bogus, and worthy of a legal challenge, if anyone cares.

In any event, there's no word yet on when the actual decision, which was probably made a while ago, will actually be announced. But today's ritual dances should be at least mildly entertaining.

Words fail

You could say that the Portland Police Bureau is tone deaf, but that would be grossly unfair to tone deaf people everywhere.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obama's latest slut move

Bring on the oil drilling rigs.

I don't know what we all thought we were getting with Obama -- frank? honest? principled? progressive? peacenik? -- but since the inauguration we haven't seen much of it.

Death wish

I fear that the whole show with the Portland anarchist kids is going to end quite badly.

For purple mountain majesties, above the gulag plain

Here's the latest brainchild of John McCain and Joe Lieberman: If federal prosecutors or the Pentagon decide that you are an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," you can be locked up without charges, without any appearance before an actual judge, and without trial, for as long as "hostilities" persist. Of course, the War on Terror will never end, and so that means the police state can simply make you disappear forever, at its whim. To reach this status, you need merely to have "purposely and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners," as determined by the current version of Alberto Gonzales or Robert Gates.

What a disgrace to the men and women who have fought for our freedoms.

Back to Square 1 on Laurelhurst Park duck pond

The City of Portland has announced that it's cancelling the cleanout of the foul pond in Laurelhurst Park, because it way underestimated the cost. No word on what the bureaucrats will do next, but they're not ready to plunk down $1.5 million or more to get the job done.

It would be interesting to know how much the city has already spent on this project. We sent away for the full bid documents on the deal, and they were quite extensive.

Downtown's new attraction

Wacky anarchist kids in black outfits and masks, blocking streets and breaking windows. Plus the cops who love them. And the youngsters hate the mainstream media, last night damaging equipment on a television truck, on camera. Eight arrests, and three police officers say they were assaulted. It's all part of the fun in Sam-Rand Land. Go by streetcar!

Kroger scrutinizing Bellotti's parachute

The former leader of the Jail Ducks is taking some heat from the master of the press release.

Hold on just a minute

The underlying premise of this story is that 20 years in prison without parole is a lengthy sentence for fatally shooting someone and precipitating further gang violence that led to other deaths. From there the article goes on about what a strong message this is sending, how hard it is for the judge to be that harsh, yada yada.

But do we all agree that 20 years is such heavy punishment? How much less could the judge have given the convicted killer?

How out of it is Charlie Rangel?

Don't answer until you read this. [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Was it the power of the blog?

Last week, we noted this anomaly at the Walgreen's at MLK and Ainsworth:

This week, we find a different story:

Glad that's straightened out -- although the beer might be healthier than the actual meat.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Linear equations

Charlie Rooney, my freshman year high school algebra teacher, died yesterday. He was 89, and had lived a wonderful life, all the way to 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He had taught the newbies math at our prep school for 38 years, and he moonlighted at the local Jesuit college (which I also attended), teaching night school, for more than 20 of those. Mr. Rooney and I caught up to each other just about halfway through his storied career. I was 12; he was 45.

I had many great teachers in my time, but none combined patience, method, and guidance any better than Mr. Rooney. More than schooling us in the x's and y's of algebra, he taught us how to learn. Note-taking was a central focus of his class. He'd collect our brown-covered notebooks once a week and grade them, and his lectures were more or less dictation of what we should be writing down. Did it stifle our creativity? Of course it did, and that was the whole point, I think. This was math, and a bunch of pubescent boys. We could be creative in art class.

Many of his lessons stick with me to this day. I'll never forget the "FOIL method" -- first, outside, inside, last. When simplifying the expression (x + y)(2x -3), you'd multiply first by first, outside by outside, inside by inside, and last by last, and then add them all up: 2x2 - 3x + 2xy - 3y. There was a special place for (x + y)(x - y), because the inside and outside would cancel each other out, leaving x2 - y2.

As much as he drilled us, and as little room as he left for freelancing, Mr. Rooney was a gentle soul. Every once in a while, when something amused him, you'd see a leprechaun's twinkle in his eye to go along with a wry grin. When a student would respond to one of his questions with a really dumb answer, he'd shake his head ever so slightly and say softly, "Not today, son -- not today." And dark-rimmed reading glasses -- as I recall, he'd be popping those on and off a few times per class session.

We'd meet with Mr. Rooney in the late morning, after recess and before lunch. We'd have a test in a different subject every day of the week, and if I'm not mistaken, the math test day was Wednesday.

I remember the word problems, which were much more challenging than playing with the formulas and rules. "Train A, traveling 70 miles per hour (mph), leaves Westford heading toward Eastford, 260 miles away. At the same time Train B, traveling 60 mph, leaves Eastford heading toward Westford. When do the two trains meet? How far from each city do they meet?" To this day, whenever my brain attempts to tackle one of these, I'm revisiting compartments built by Charlie Rooney.

He was not flashy. Some of the characters we had as teachers were larger than life, and we gave a few of them not-so-endearing nicknames. Our religion teacher, who would whack a student every now and then, somehow became "Bwana." The prefect of discipline was known as "Rollo" or "Nutsy." Our art teacher, who showered infrequently, was known off the record as "Stench." The principal, Edward Snyder, was "Duke" -- what else? But there was no nickname for Mr. Rooney that I ever heard. He was a simple guy who worked hard, and all he asked was that you do the same. A teacher of freshmen, he rarely ventured outside the separate building that housed us first-years, which seemed fine with him. As I recall, he never wore the white lab coat that some of the other math guys put on; instead, it was the lowlier black academic gown, every school day.

I could never teach like Charlie Rooney. To me, it's always been about the show as well as about the material. I like to be the one trying to make the big moments happen in the classroom. Not this guy. He'd stick to the core, and let the magic show up unannounced on its own. It worked, and it worked well. See you 'round, Mr. Rooney. And thanks.

Our challenge

Portland's gained some notoriety as an illustration of a locale that has child prostitution at truck stops. Maybe we can gain even better notoriety for doing something about it.

Look on the bright side, Portlanders

When the whole town is covered in streetcar tracks, the bicyclists will have nowhere to go.

Gotta get-get boom boom boom

Apparently the loud noise in Southeast Portland last night was a pipe bomb. Is that what this one was a couple of weeks ago, too?

Bus kids endorse Bradbury

After several "rockin' parties," they also overwhelmingly voted for unicorns that poop rainbows.

Taser a pregnant woman three times over a speeding ticket? No problem.

Just when you were ready to give up on Obama, a reminder of why we need him: to make sure that we don't get more federal judges who are so slow or callous as to let the local police get away with complete garbage like this.

Some days, I am really ashamed of my country.

Welcome to Wydenworld

An alert reader points out that the odd-smelling hash known as health care reform -- particularly its highly controversial insurance mandate -- bears more than a passing resemblance to the insurance company program touted by Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) more than three years ago.

Wait for the wagon, and we'll all take a ride

The Oregon Historical Society is a wonderful institution. But now it's going broke, and it's looking for a new handout from local government. Hey, how about we add it into the Portland sewer bills? You see, respect for history fosters respect for the earth. Respect for the earth means less strain on our sewer system -- people will flush only on brown, hold it in, etc. Obviously, Oregon Trail = compost toilets, people.

Or you could put it on the water bills -- at that bureau, they don't even bother to come up with a story. Just let Mr. Warmth put a neon sign on the building, and you're all set. Don't worry about the auditor -- she's cool. And hey, maybe you need a new wing -- our contractor buddies have some drawings...

It's Monday after spring break. Welcome back to your cubicle.

And to maker matters worse, for a lot of us, it's the end of the pay period, and we're running on fumes.

Need a lift? Here, print this out, grab the Scotch tape, and have some fun with it. Or go here for the version that best fits your office. [Via this sick person.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The world is turnin'

Our recent sojourn to the Oregon Coast found us in Neskowin. This is a darling place, tucked in on the north side of the big rock known as Cascade Head, interesting if for no other reason than the ocean is taking it back. We've watched the beach there recede over the last quarter-century, and regardless of what one thinks about global warming, it's pretty clear that our great-grandchildren will listen to tales of Neskowin with the detached bemusement of people who never knew it.

The surf was its beautiful self, but not without the little bits of blue plastic and other garbage that remind us of our impact on the planet. Some of what's washed up is gross, but there are a few interesting items here and there. What do you think of these -- lightweight metal, two inches in diameter, one embossed with the number 23, the other with no apparent number? I'd like to think I found something, but the Mrs. figures it's nothing:

This place is out of control

Another loud boom in Portland tonight, for which nobody in charge has any explanation. Meanwhile, roving bands of jewel thieves are targeting storeowners' spouses in home-invasion-store-robbery scenarios. Another shooting downtown, and the gangsters are running wild. This is what passes for "livability" these days.

Google is The Man

We're back in town after a relaxing few days at the beach -- and we discover that the gods of Google advertising are displeased. When we update this blog, regularly and relentlessly, every few hours, they smile on us with a buck a day or more. When we take a day or two to go slow, the flow is reduced to pennies a day.

Our clueless municipal leaders have Portland falling all over itself to get into bed with the Google-bots. As a taxpayer, we worry about that. Put it on the list.

Blazers rack up a nice road win

Against the infamous Kevin Durant & Co., no less. Will Portland survive the first round of the playoffs? Not surprisingly, there's just enough of a chance to keep Blazer fans wishing and hoping.

Portland water, sewer mission creep makes the paper

Even the O gets it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lucky day

Spring break bloody spring break, cont'd

While the police are keeping us safe from alcoholic cutters and Jim Jim Chasse, these guys are sure having their fun. Coming soon: armored streetcars!

Flippity flop

Guess who was for it before they were against it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Have a great weekend

My cross to bear

Every once in a while, I throw up a little.

Arboretum killing: Not everybody's buying it

Compared to some of the senseless killings at the hands of Portland police in recent years, this week's killing of a disturbed drunk in Washington Park doesn't seem so atrocious. But some people have higher standards than that.

Try it, you'll like it

Now that the odd-smelling hash known as health care reform has been served up to a leery American public, Gatsby Wyden's bragging, "I diced the onions."

Yes, Ron, and Blue Cross loves ya for it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The brains of the operation

It's hard to believe that the story on the Trail Blazers this week is about whether they're going to ditch their general manager, Kevin Pritchard. In tonight's game, the key for Portland was center Marcus Camby, whom Pritchard just picked up in a trade that unloaded two lead sinkers, Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake. I'd say give Pritchard a raise for that alone.

Sticker shock for Portland duck pond cleanout

The bids are in for the dredging and cleanup of the pond in Laurelhurst Park in southeast Portland -- and the news is not good. The city had advertised the job as running about $775,000. But the two bids it received were for $1,498,000 and $2,195,000. Even the lower of the two is nearly twice what the city estimated. Quack quack!

Breaking news (17 hours ago)

Earlier today I noted that Portland's daily newspaper had whitewashed last night's Lloyd Center shooting. And indeed, until almost noon today, here is all that publication had to say. Late this morning, they got around to posting this, which is something a lot closer to doing their jobs. Of course, it's buried in the tangled mess known as OregonLive, and it took an alert reader to find it for us. But for the record, they did report the story -- no doubt after a lot of consultation between the editors and the advertising people.

Guess who's coming to dinner

The city's homeless advocates are planning a demonstration down in the SoWhat District next week to protest the failure by the city to follow through on its promise to put affordable housing in with the toney condo towers down there. Good for the Street Roots crowd. Tell the city it needs to put a methadone clinic in there, too. And in the meantime, check out that brand new park -- it's got camping potential.

Street life, you can run away from time

I see the mayor of Portland [rim shot] has a new idea to deal with panhandlers on the streets and sidewalks. Here's a different idea.

Conversation piece

The other evening as I shopped at a nearby market, I noticed a few of these bumper stickers sitting out for customers to take:

Given that parking issues around these stores are a sore spot among the neighbors -- and given Portland government's general hostility toward all things car -- one wonders what this particular merchant is trying to achieve with this marketing campaign.

Spring break bloody spring break

It's barely half over, but the week has been a violent one in the heart of Portland. We just get over another killing by police when suddenly an early evening gang fight inside the Lloyd Center mall includes at least three shots fired, at customers as well as fellow thugs. Apparently no one was hit, which seems like a miracle.

This sort of thing is particularly unsettling when one considers who's running the police bureau these days. We have a short-timer police chief and a commissioner-in-charge who couldn't even announce the chief's retirement without screwing it up. The mayor, of course, had to recuse himself from managing the bureau because he was too sexy for it. At least Tom Potter gave the impression that there was an adult with police experience at the helm. Those days are gone.

I don't know about Lloyd Center any more, or that Holladay Park behind it. Their scariness quotient is starting to cross over into the red zone. Of course, the media will play this one ever so lightly, given the power of the scarce retail advertising buck.

Meanwhile, the dead guy from the Hoyt Arboretum shooting now has a face and a name: Jackie Collins. Apparently he was a long-term street drunk who kept to himself. Some folks speculate that he was a "cutter" -- a person who engaged in self-mutilation during periods of deep depression. Was there anybody around who could diagnose that, or educate the police officer about it before the officer shot Collins? No. Those dollars are being spent on cultural liaison officers and bloggers at City Hall.

Four more days 'til Monday. If you're heading to Portland, remember to duck and cover.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tell me about it

Once you launch a blog, you will face the relentless, mind-numbing, never-ending task of finding worthwhile material to publish. That burden begins on the day of your first post and ends only the day you call it quits.

What if this happened in Portland?

Up in Everett, Washington, an interesting story is developing: A police officer is reportedly being charged with murder in connection with a shooting in the line of duty. Check out the facts, detailed here, and then ask yourself if even that would get a police officer indicted by Mike Schrunk here in Portland.

I'm guessing not.

Your tax dollars at work, cont'd

Here's an example of government at its finest: One Portland bureau has a p.r. flack whose job includes drafting up a statement informing the world that it supports the work of another city bureau. Then that other city bureau's p.r. flack gets paid to post a page on the internet thanking the first city bureau for its support.

When we read about the impending municipal bankruptcy, and people are moaning "How could this have happened?" some of us will know the answer.


The mayor of Portland [rim shot] was all a-Twitter, literally, yesterday. He or his ghost writer was posting away furiously on the social networking site with several different spins on the announced closure of the Saks Fifth Avenue store downtown. In his view, it's all the recession's fault, of course. The highly disruptive and mostly failed remake of the transit mall, and the general deterioration of the city's core as a desirable place to work and shop, have nothing to do with it. Circumstances beyond our control; it's the "100-year economic storm," you see.

And despite the departure of Saks, the mayor glibly assures us: "With national anchors such as Nordstrom’s, Macys, and Brooks Brothers and regionally significant retailers such as Marios, The Mercantile, and Columbia Sportswear to name a few; Portland’s retail infrastructure is solid.” Is that statement anything like "I didn't have sex with the teenage intern"? How many of those stores will still be here two years from now? I'm sure the Macy's people are kicking themselves black and blue over letting the mayor's predecessor and political godmother, Vera Katz, talk them into staying downtown. And if the city weren't subsidizing it heavily, the luxury hotel upstairs from Macy's would likely be on the rocks by now.

But it's easy to see why the mayor is so hopped up that he nearly hurt himself Tweeting about this. The presence of Saks was Vera's symbol of success. I remember seeing her strutting around that store, basking in the glow of knowing that she and Neil Goldschmidt had finally turned that awful, backward Portland into New York City. It's the same feeling she must have felt standing in the midst of the Fake New York known as the Pearl District, and breaking ground on the ridiculous, doomed-from-the-start economic debacle known as South Waterfront.

Well, SoWhat is an epic fail, Saks is closing, downtown is dead, the Pearl is hurting, biotech never showed up, and Vera's largest gift to the city, Sam Adams, is a political dead man walking. We've got streetcars galore, but no economy, and the flow of blue-haired equity emigrés from California has long since dried up. This is Vera's legacy, and it isn't pretty. All the Tweets you can post aren't going to doll it up much.

The tradition continues

It didn't take Ted Wheeler long to crank out his first press release as state treasurer:

He's picking up where his late predecessor left off -- that office can really express itself to the media. Kate Brown, the Oregon secretary of state, is no slouch, either, but we doubt that anyone can keep with the Master Releaser, the attorney general.

Several alert readers have pointed out to us that Brad Avakian, the state labor commissioner, is also big on the press announcements. Next year, perhaps we'll have to have a four-way race among Kroger, Brown, Wheeler, and Avakian. Think of it as the start of the four-year Democratic primary for governor after Kitzhaber.

Portland Post Office scam: It's worse than we thought

We shuddered yesterday to think that the City of Portland would spend $64 million to buy the Main Post Office property from the Postal Service for redevelopment into some wretched Pearl District outgrowth, especially when a 2007 appraisal valued the property at only $45.5 million. We based our outraged blog post on a newspaper story.

But as an alert reader who's been following these shenanigans much more closely points out, the situation is far more alarming than that. In fact, the PDC has already committed in principle to paying the Postal Service 150% of the current appraised value for the property -- and with some additional appraisals floating around at much higher numbers than the 2007 valuation, the purchase price could easily run into the $80 million range!

And to make matters even worse, the PDC has already plunked down into escrow $2 million cash toward the purchase price; $500,000 of that has gone out to the Postal Service and won't be coming back to the city unless it closes the deal. Another $500,000 will go out long before a final deal closes.

This is such a stinker. It's beyond recalling public officials or firing bureaucrats. With a deal this bad, somebody ought to be going to jail.

When all else fails

The black comedy continues with the Portland Development Commission office move. Now there are 13 landlords vying to get the city agency as their tenant. Given the layoffs at the PDC, it's hard to see why they can't just stay put, or even downsize. Maybe their current host will cut them a deal.

But stepping back for a moment, isn't it remarkable that the city has failed so miserably in its economic development efforts that the economic development bureaucracy itself is the only big fish left in the pond to catch?

How Portlanders sell streetcars in Connecticut: Lie

Here's an interesting story out of Hartford, Conn.: Former Portland Metro exec Rick Gustafson, now cashing a paycheck at the developer enabler firm Shields Obletz, was there last week to pitch the wonders of streetcars. And man, was he laying it on thick:

Higher residential density with nearby stores, offices and service businesses means the transit system is more effective at reducing pollution and highway congestion and cutting needless single-occupant vehicle trips, Gustafson said.

"In 10 years, we've had $3.5 billion of economic development along the line, we have 12,000 riders a day, we have 10,000 new residential units within 750 feet of the line. And we've reduced 70 million vehicle miles a year in our region," he said.

Lighter, smaller and less expensive than subways or even light rail, streetcar systems can be built into existing streets. Gustafson said they're preferable to buses; the flexibility of buses is useful for bus owners, who can redeploy them or adjust their routes. But that flexibility discourages many visitors from taking a bus because they're not secure about where it's going.

What a load. I lived in Connecticut for a few months many years ago. The people there seemed smarter than this back then. Unless the Sopranos are involved, I doubt their children are gullible enough to fall for this one, even if Joe Lieberman offers them some pork to get it started.

Blood on the streetcar tracks

The story that finally emerged from the tightly circled wagons of the Portland Police Bureau yesterday about the shooting in Hoyt Arboretum more than 20 hours earlier appears to be holding water so far. The shooting victim was a crazed 58-year-old homeless guy -- so marginalized that he doesn't have a name attached to him even now, more than a day after his death -- who was running around the park menacing people with a razor knife. The police officer commanded that he drop the knife, and he refused. Four shots were fired, and the guy was struck and killed.

Confident that they have a winning case, the police chief and police union are now going to milk the situation for all it's worth. Process, process, process, transparency, transparency, process, transparency. It will help cushion the blow of the coming Chasse verdict, which should be a big one.

Before we forget about another departed "transient," though, we should all reflect for a minute on the fact that our city and county have a pitifully inadequate mental health "system" -- one that a prior Portland police chief cynically, but accurately, labeled "open air treatment." Our streets, parks, and libraries are populated by all sorts of people who are simply crazy, some of whom are dangerous to themselves and others. The police have to deal with them, and it's now painfully obvious that the boys in blue are going to execute them if they are incapable of understanding or obeying commands.

It's sad, but for all the money we have in Portland for bike paths, bioswales, and soccer grandstands, we have plainly abandoned the insane people, leaving them to a police force that often seems to regard them with a mixture of disgust, resentment, and fear. Add in the police union's mean streak and code of silence, and you have a tragic story that will seemingly never end.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Portland "clean money" goes to work -- in California

Jesse Cornett, one of the candidates challenging Portland city commissioner Dan "Legend" Saltzman, is the only politician getting his campaign natterings paid for by the city's taxpayers this year under the "clean money" campaign finance system pioneered by Cornett's hero, the Suddenly and Suspiciously Disappearing Erik Sten. This makes Cornett the second most likely candidate to prevail in his race, but it also makes him an easy target for criticism.

One of the other players in the field, Mary Volm, alerts us to a curious aspect of the Cornett campaign: He's spent $13,370 of Portland taxpayer money on a poll that he had conducted by a political consulting firm down in the Bay Area. "With all the pollsters we have in city and state," Volm writes, "it's so nice to know our hard earned tax dollars used by a voter owned candidate are going to support California residents."

It seems like a fair point. But it's a shame that Saltzman's challengers are attacking each other when the sleepy incumbent is so obviously a deer in the headlights. He's got the killer cops, the bike-sewer fiasco, and other grotesque bureaucracy currently under his "leadership" -- if you can't take this guy out, you don't deserve to be on the City Council.

By the way, this is the year we Portlanders were supposed to get to vote on the wonderful "clean money" system, isn't it? Where's the referendum, City Council? You weren't lying to us, were you?

The American Dream, Portland style

A nice home, and a nice car.

Portland taxpayers about to *way* overpay for Main Post Office

Here's some fascinatin' rhythm from Portland City Hall: The city and the Post Office are working on a deal in which the city would buy the Main Post Office site from the feds for something like $64 million, so that the post office can be knocked down and some lovely modern development can go in there.

The money would all be borrowed by the city under the umbrella of "urban renewal," of course, and paid for out of future property taxes.

Hasn't the city already bought up enough property and leveled it, just to find that nobody wants to develop it? Take a ride up and down MLK and vicinity, where the fields of weeds mark block after block of city-owned real property on which absolutely nothing is happening. Why would we do even more of this?

But wait. It gets worse. According to the linked story, the $64 million price tag is $18.5 million over the last reliably appraised value of the property -- and that appraisal was done in 2007, before the real estate market swooned! (It also doesn't count the cost of environmental cleanup from all those postal trucks and who-knows-what-all else that's been going on out back on the 13-acre site all these years.)

And then send in the clowns -- here's some guy at the Portland Development Commission wheeling out the "10,000 jobs" malarkey: "Steven Shain, development manager for the Portland Development Commission, said the site could support as many as 10,000 jobs." Yeah, Steve, and marsupials could fly out of my derriere later this week in time for the sweet 16. Probably the only job that's going to come of this deal is the continuation of Steve Shain's.

Bottom line: We Portland taxpayers are going to pay $64 million for property worth maybe half that, and watch it go downhill from there. On top of which, we'll probably sell it for $1 to some Homer-Weston-Edlen developer type, then give him a massive tax abatement and build him a bunch of free infrastructure for some awful apartment buildings and bad retail, further sucking the life out of the city's crippled downtown.

Enough with these "urban renewal" boondoggles, already! This one needs to be stopped. Normally these deals are at least good for a chuckle, but this one's not even funny.

The City of Portland is going broke, people. It does. Not. Need. To buy. The Main. Post Office.

Tax-financed election porn -- it's "for the children"

We got a slick flyer in the snail mail the other day from the Portland children's levy. I can't remember ever getting mail from a tax before, but this piece is more special than just that. Produced with tax dollars, it says it cost a quarter to print and mail, but who knows how much it cost to design, create, write, and edit. It folds out to 9 by 15.75 inches, in beautiful full color:

It tells about all the wonderful things being done with the extra property tax money, yada yada yada. But the real message is on the reverse of the outside of the mailer, down by where you have to pull to open the thing up. (There's a little glue on the inside there holding the package together.) And lo and behold, whose name and sales pitch do you find right there where you go to lift the flap?

Who needs "voter-owed elections"? For an incumbent, there's more than one way to get the taxpayers to pay for your campaign literature.

City of Secrets

About 13 hours ago, the Portland police shot and killed a man in the city's Washington Park, at Hoyt Arboretum. A witness reports hearing four shots being fired. It was the middle of a nice afternoon at the start of spring break, and the park was full of people enjoying the day, until they had to run for their lives.

Here it is 13 hours later, and we know nothing more than that. We don't know why the police were called, other than that there was "a disturbance." We don't know who the dead man was. We don't know whether he was armed, although there are rumors that he had a knife. We don't know who the police officer or officers are who killed him. We don't know why they shot, and specifically why they shot to kill, four times.

It's 13 hour later. The police have doubtlessly been up half the night lining up all their ducks, cross-checking whatever their story is going to be this time. Shouldn't we know more than what we do about this by now? Why isn't the media screaming bloody murder?

UPDATE, 10:10 a.m.: We're up to 19 hours now, and now we're told that the police chief is going to have a press conference at 11:30 a.m. Sounds as though the official story on this one is going to be fairly elaborate.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not just for breakfast any more

An alert reader sends along this photo from the Walgreen's at MLK and Ainsworth:

Poor Dan Saltzman

Just when he's supposed to be hitting up his mom's friends for campaign money, "Legend" has to go run out and inspect another guy killed by the police. And hours later, no details at all about the incident have been released. "Come back tomorrow (when we have our story straight)" seems to be the official order of the day.

The rumor is that the guy had a knife. But if he had been committing a serious crime, or truly dangerous, I suspect we would have heard about it by now. Sounds like yet another stinker. Go by hearse!

Portland cops: "We can't threaten you with other people around"

It's hard to make a backroom deal in the front room.

Obama's Mission Accomplished moment

Well, they've passed health care "reform," and the Democratic Party crowd is whooping it up. I'm just glad it's over with, for a while. It got old, and depressing, about six months ago.

Gee whiz, guess who made out. The hospital corporations and the drug companies, who are now guaranteed more customers than ever. The insurance companies may have been dinged a little, but we can count on those lovely people to figure out a way to protect their profits.

Folks who can't get insurance will now at least have a shot. And the insurers can't pull their "lifetime limit" and "pre-existing condition" trash. All good. But it's the least we should expect. And for that, we waited 14 months.

Single payer? Dream on -- never. Not even a public option. Instead, we get Gatsby Wyden's goofy state-by-state "market" where people are supposed to "shop" for insurance. Whatever. And employers will have new excuses to take the cheap route in providing for employees' and their families' health.

The folks who are strutting around today as if Lincoln just freed the slaves don't seem to get it. One thing the Blue Birds are crowing is "This is just the start -- if it doesn't work, we'll fix it." Do you think so? The slim majorities that passed this are about to get even slimmer this fall -- if they're not lost altogether. Don't look for any fixes that move this in any direction but reverse.

Perhaps the height of naïveté is the conclusion that the main battle is now over, and the Democrats won. Are you kidding? Many of the "reforms" (including the taxes on the wealthy that are going to pay for this) don't take effect until 2013, and many not until even later. In 2013, Mitt Romney may be President, and the Republicans may control Congress. Everything that's passing this week can be repealed, and the tighty righties aren't going to let go of this any time soon.

Take it from somebody who's watched the toupees on Capitol Hill dink around with the tax laws for the last 30 years: When Congress tells you what the law is going to be three years from now, or five years, or 10 years, the only thing to do is laugh.

It's a historic week, all right. But it could have been a lot more, and it may wind up being a lot less.

Dead horse receives another blow

Phil Keisling takes his case for open primaries to the New York Times op-ed page.

Another land grab dream fulfilled in Portland

Oh, it's a big week in the Rose City. They have started the three-week process of making Burnside Street -- a four-lane road plus parking on both sides -- a one-way street on the east side of the Burnside Bridge. Couch Street, a two-lane road one block north, will also become one-way, going in the other direction.

It's gotten so in Portland that it's hard to remember any more which lies are being made up for what. I think this one is supposed to "calm" the traffic, which is pretty ludicrous. If you want to see how "calm" these "couplet" streets get, try crossing NE Broadway or Weidler, or SE Belmont or Morrison, on foot during rush hour. The whole one-way thing doesn't slow down the drivers; it speeds them up. And if all the new traffic that's being thrown onto Couch is supposed to make that a happy place for bikes and cars to co-exist -- all I can say is wow.

Let's cut through the City Hall shinola and talk about what this is really about. What happens to the real estate created by this move? You don't need four lanes in a single direction on Burnside. How long before we start talking about narrowing the right-of-way, giving extra square footage to the adjacent property owners, and watching the publicly subsidized high-rises spring up? That may be impossible given the current real estate trough, but you just know it's what the developers' puppets at City Hall want.

Then there's the storied intersection of Burnside, Sandy, and 12th. They're going to block Sandy off in both directions there and at 14th, making a nice fat new block for somebody to develop:

Here's the artist's conception, which we blogged about in October 2006:

How much would you bet that that somebody has already been picked out in a backroom deal that the public has never heard about? Go by streetcar, people.

And how much is this Sim City exercise costing the taxpayers? I heard something like $18 million. That's only the beginning of the tax hemorrhage in that neighborhood, for sure -- unless the city goes bankrupt first.

Love those teabaggers

A class act all the way.

Blazer front office bloodletting gets uglier

It appears that the real story behind the firing of Tom Penn isn't going to stay buried. And it sounds like a doozy.

UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.: Yes, it is.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Step right up and ride the Doesn't-Matterhorn

It looks as though OHSU is getting serious about trying to make a tourist attraction out of the aerial tram [rim shot]. They're marketing it as a fun thing to do over spring break, and starting in mid-May, they're going to operate it on Sunday afternoons.

Nothing says fun like a trip to a hospital waiting room in a tightly confined space with a collection of tourists, medical workers, sweaty bikers, and sick people. I wonder if the concierge is going to get paid overtime for the Sunday hours.

The folks down on Gibbs Street are no doubt thrilled to have their one day a week of rest from the creepy floating Twinkies taken away, just in time for backyard cookout season.

Jesus would have loved it

In 2010, His followers don't.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Had a bad day?

Cheer up. It could be worse. An alert reader sends a photo, taken this afternoon, of a car on Route 217 over on Portland's west side:

Crazy Sweet 16

Knowing nothing about this year's March Madness men's "bracket" turns out not to be much different from being an "expert." Eight of the final 16 teams have been determined, and check out their seeds:

Washington - 11
St. Mary's - 10
Northern Iowa - 9
Tennessee - 6
Butler - 5
Baylor - 3
Kansas State - 2
Kentucky - 1

If the seedings had been right, nobody up there would be a larger number than a 4.

Closing an escape hatch

The O declares today that the Portland school board's tightening of its once-liberal transfer policy is "[l]ost in the drama of sign-carrying parents protesting potential school closings." Really? I don't know whom they've been talking to, but everyone I've heard from about the schools lately has mentioned it prominently, right up there with the impending high school shutdowns.

There's only one way that closing Grant as a neighborhood school (turning it into some sort of specialty focus school) is going to get some affluent and middle-class white students into Jefferson -- which is undoubtedly among the primary goals of the current shuffle. And that is, if the school district doesn't let those students opt out of Jefferson.

But of course, what Super Carole and her bobbleheads are missing is the fact there will always be alternatives to Jeff -- several private high schools will take the displaced students, and the parents can always move them the heck out of Sam-Rand. I'm sure they'll miss the streetcar, but sometimes you have to sacrifice for your kids.

Straight outta Bluehour

Hold on to what's left of your wallets, Portland taxpayers. The real estate venture known as Portland State University is talking big -- lots of new apartment towers for a projected sudden wave of new students. They'll knock down their parking garages, because all of the students will soon be arriving by streetcar. And hey, let's cap I-405 and build over it!

Sound familiar?

This is the latest maneuver from the same West Hills developer-construction Mafia that brought you the SoWhat district and will soon have you paying for the "sustainability center." The university doesn't have the money for any of it, really. I'll bet it's all supposed to be done with "urban renewal" -- property taxes that will be diverted from the ever-dwindling basic services that government provides around here.

There's a recession bordering on a depression in progress, and now's the time for the city's taxpayers to invest eight or nine figures in housing at Portland State?

"Major" soccer league avoids strike

Good news for soccer fans -- the American "major" soccer league and its players have reached an agreement and called off a strike that was set to take effect on Thursday, the league's opening day. Not-so-good news for Portland taxpayers, who are ripping up PGE Park for soccer, is the prognosis for the league's finances. Here's the president of the league this morning:

Garber said Seattle and Toronto were the only profitable MLS teams last year.

"We also collectively agreed that we need to grow our television ratings and attendance," Garber said. "Perhaps five years from now we have a league that's operating with all teams at a profit."

Funny thing, I don't remember a lot of "perhaps" when that guy was in Portland selling the stadium deal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Have a great weekend

Ring it up! Now Portland needs consultants for "planning"

How many "planners" are on the Portland city payroll? A hundred? Two hundred?

Then why does the city have to pay an outside consultant $75,000 to do "strategic planning" for the housing bureau?

Oh, and the housing bureau needs that special somebody to help it build a "brand." Are we running public housing here, or a chain of submarine sandwich shops?

Here's the money paragraph from the official amalgamation of bureacurat psycho-babble surrounding the bid invitation:

The City of Portland, Portland Housing Bureau is seeking proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants, hereafter called “Proposer(s),” with demonstrated experience in Strategic Planning and proposes to engage the successful Proposer for the following services:

Analysis: Review and synthesize data, planning work and community and stakeholder input gathered to date towards setting a community housing needs framework to guide the development of PHB’s strategic directions, goals, priorities and direction.

Public Participation: Conduct needed community and stakeholder engagement to fill informational gaps, validate assumptions and set a standard for PHB’s public process.

Strategic Plan Development: Facilitate with staff and stakeholders the development of a 3 year PHB Strategic Plan that will include the following:

- PHB Mission, Vision, Values and Priorities
- PHB’s Impacts:
- How will the community benefit from the formation of PHB?
- How will the new organization measure its improvement from past models and going forward?
-PHB goals, objectives, strategies, performance measures and deliverables.
- Programs: defined outcomes, goals, strategies and deliverables for our direct community investments.
- Influence: Strategies and outcomes for resource development, legislative agenda, community engagement and intergovernmental work that serves PHB’s mission.
- Community Equity: complete the process underway to define PHB’s vision for community equity and to set corresponding goals and strategies to achieve the vision. Proposed structure for PHB public involvement and advisory bodies.
- An organizational development critical path to achieve change.
- PHB Business functioning and community relationships: optimized to meet and exceed new objectives and performance measures.
- PHB Communications: Identify key strategies for establishing a PHB Communications Plan, including PHB branding work and Strategic Plan marketing and distribution.

We don't need to "market" public housing for the poor, any more than we need slogans and "branding" for Fireman Randy's water and building permit empire. And if we did, we have plenty of city employees sitting around blogging and Tweeting who ought to be required to get the work done. City Hall has gone so far off the deep end, it's gotten really hard to fathom.

Sewer till raid for bike toys continues to rile Portland public

Portland's unzipped mayor and his court jesters on the City Council have really hit a nerve with this sewer-bills-for-bike-boulevards thing. Last night members of the citizen utility board gave the council a piece of their minds, although of course, the politicians weren't around around to hear it. And there will be another opportunity for public expression on this issue quite soon. Sewer customers who live in town will get to vote on city commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman again in May. The sewer-bike scam is the kind of issue that can sway many people's votes, if their opponents handle it properly.

Apparently commissioner Amanda Fritz is also learning a bitter lesson here: When you cast your rush-rush vote for one of these Sam-Rand pigs in lipstick, don't try to explain yourself. You make yourself look really foolish when you do. Now she's correcting her highly inaccurate justification from the other day for voting yes on the sewer money raid, when she said the cost of the diversion would be just 90 cents to the "average" sewer customer. Er, no:

If $20 million were cut from BES's Capital Improvement Projects for the purpose of cutting rates and reducing ongoing debt service, the impact to a typical residential customer would indeed be about 7.5 cents per month, in the first year. The impact in the second year would be greater, up to 15 cents per month, and top out in the third year at 22.5 cents per month. So the annual return to ratepayers would be $0.90 in year one, $1.80 in year two, and $2.70 in years three through twenty-five. Overall, the total amount over 25 years would be about $65.

I don't know if having the information about ongoing rate impacts would have changed my vote, if I had received it earlier. Our federal government borrowed billions of dollars last year, and by doing so was able to send money to states to fund projects to provide jobs. This investment in jobs, instead of paying off the debt, can be seen in the same light. On the other hand, our Portland Utility Review Board voluteers are charged with commenting on ongoing rates, and I would have liked their input on a decision that affects ongoing rates in this manner.

This has been a challenging week, with the proposed changes to the Independent Police Review process being considered today after only being released for public review on Friday, and with the intense Council debate on the Hurley case in the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement system yesterday. My staff and I work long hours doing our best to find out accurate information, and to make good decisions based upon thoughtful consideration of facts and public input. I am not always successful in these goals. I will continue to base my actions on what I believe is best for the public good in Portland, recognizing that reasonable people can and do disagree on what that means. Sometimes I disagree with myself after further discussion. You're welcome to continue the debate and input here, however I will be unable to check back until Sunday due to a packed work schedule on Friday and family obligations on Saturday.

"I do what Sam Adams wants first, voting on an emergency basis even when it isn't really an emergency, and ask questions later." Not acceptable. Not even close.

And besides, this isn't about jobs. I'm sure most sewer customers are fine with the city using their sewer bill payments to hire construction workers to build improvements to the sewer system. But when you take the money and throw it at some la-la bike plan, those are the wrong kinds of jobs -- jobs that sewer users rightfully resent being placed on their backs.

This one is another Sauvie Island bridge move -- Sam Adams showing his impulse control problems again -- and it deserves a similar outcome.

Wholesome family fun

Can't wait until this is a regular thing down here in Portland.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Latest Blazer front office rumor: Pritchard's getting the ax

If it happens, it will be quite shocking.

Another day on the freeway

Which make of car has ruder drivers?
pollcode.com free polls

An inconvenient truth

And spoken by the owner of the Seattle "major" soccer league team:

Roth said he doesn't think the players fully understand the league's economic situation, or choose not to accept it. Only a couple MLS franchises make money, Seattle and Toronto. Coupled with low television ratings and sagging attendance, he said it is hardly the time to radically reform the league's structure.
Meanwhile, back in my old stomping grounds in New Jersey, they're ready to cut the ribbon on this baby. It's going to get really interesting if this very shaky league implodes.

Cosi fan tutti

It's hard to beat Portland local government for comedy, but as usual our rival to the north gives us a run for our money.

Consultant craziness continues at Portland City Hall

It seems as though the city government of Portland is pumping out money to consulting contractors at the rate of $1 million a day. Here's yet another advertisement soliciting more outside expertise, this time from the transportation bureau. You'll recall that yesterday, we reported that that agency is going to an outside firm to draft up its new tax assessment system for the SoWhat-Portland State real; estate black hole. Today we've got another $1.2 million for "Graphic Design, Organizational Development Services, Public Involvement and Public Outreach, and Transportation Finance & Economic Analysis."

The details:

Service Area I: Graphic Design a. Graphic illustrations b. Graphic design c. Desktop publishing d. Presentation graphics, displays and posters e. Logo design and illustrations f. Public meeting displays

Service Area II: Organizational Development Services
a. Internal organization meeting facilitation
b. Strategic planning
c. Professional coaching
d. Employee mediation/resolution
e. Diversity and work force planning
f. Organizational design
g. Business process improvement

Service Area III: Public Involvement and Public Outreach
a. Public outreach campaign strategy development and implementation
b. Communication services
c. Public strategic planning
d. Internal and external meeting facilitation

Service Area IV: Transportation Finance And Economic Analysis
a. Revenue and expenditure analysis
b. Modeling revenue and expenditure alternative scenarios
c. Economic Analysis
d. Development of revenue mechanisms
e. Database development
f. Presentation of analysis

Do the full-time city employees ever do anything themselves any more? Do they keep these contract opportunities on the shelf just in case the mayor meets someone cute in a bar?

A different kind of bracket

Alas, I'm not doing the whole basketball tournament prediction thing this year. As usual, I haven't been following the college game hardly at all, and as a result I have no clue as to what's going to happen in the "big dance."

I see that the President has filled in his bracket, though. It must give him a feeling of relative accomplishment to get that out of the way.

Anyway, of all the madness, here's one of the more interesting pieces of fandom we've seen this year: the outcome of the 64-team men's tourney based on graduates' starting salaries. Kansas is eliminated in the first round! [Via TaxProf Blog.]

A tragic mistake

There should have been a fail-safe program in place to prevent this. [Via Al, my palster.]

Small Americano to go

"Soccer won't ever reach the height of baseball or [American] football and it probably won't be as popular as ice hockey," suggests Wangerin. "But it will find its place. One analogy I've read is that soccer will be more like a boutique coffee shop, rather than a massive supermarket."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things are rough all over

Even Repo Man has been replaced by a computer.

You left the water runnin' now

Here's a rough one for rock fans of a certain age -- Alex Chilton has died.

Center Garage

Word is out -- Fred "Crocodile" Hansen is retiring from Tri-Met. But the Goldschmidt Gang's grip on the agency will doubtlessly continue as long as Governor Ted and his appointees are calling the shots. Hey, maybe the Guv will want to run Tri-Met himself!

The O sends Fred off in style, with a photo of him in front of the WES train, which should have been named EPICFAIL. He will leave the agency weaker and less effective than it's been in many years. They'll blame the economy, but I don't think so. It's clueless management as much as anything else. Go by streetcar, Fred!

Hey, wait a minute, he's only 63. Perhaps there's one more Network appointment before he is weaned from the public breast. The Port? OHSU? Oh, the possibilities.

The ultimate in consultant pork

When it comes to throwing money at consultants, Portland takes the cake. Now it's even going to farm out writing its own tax rules. Here's a new request for proposals on a so-far-open-ended contract to create the new system of "transportation system development charges" on the hapless fools who build buildings in the SoWhat district and vicinity:

The expansion of lightrail and the streetcar requires significant funding. On June 17, 2009 the City Council adopted resolution 36709 (attached as Exhibit E), which directed the Bureau of Transportation to pursue the final funding plan for the City’s contribution to the Portland to Milwaukie Lightrail project. Exhibit A of the resolution proposed a TSDC overlay or Local Improvement District (LID) for the South Central City/University District/Science and Technology Triangle (see attached map, Exhibit F). Opportunities for additional TSDC Overlays may be favored by property owners over LIDs or other fees because of the deferment of the assessment until development of the property....

The City of Portland, Bureau of Transportation is seeking proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants, hereafter called “Proposer(s),” with demonstrated experience in the creation of system development charge programs, financial and economic analyses, transportation modeling and traffic analysis, and public coalition building/outreach abilities.

The Bureau of Transportation proposes to engage the successful Proposer for the following services:

1) develop the boundaries of one or more potential TSDC overlay district(s);
2) develop a TSDC overlay project list for potential district(s);
3) create a new rate study, and make recommendations to the Portland Bureau of Transportation on potential TSDC overlay districts.

With the updated project list(s), the City would like to target future TSDC funds to: 1) maximize the use of TSDC overlay revenue as leverage; and 2) obtain the most beneficial transportation infrastructure improvements needed within the potential district(s).

Good heaven, don't they have in-house people in the bloated planning bureaucracy, the Portland Development Commission, or Revenue Sue's bailiwick to do this kind of work? Or maybe the better question is, which "friends and family" member is this one set aside for?

Worrying about Multnomah County

Now that the wise, calm, steady hand of Ted Wheeler has left the Multnomah County commission for the state treasurer's office, suddenly the makeup of that board looks pretty scary. Jeff Cogen will be jumping into Wheeler's still-warm seat as commission chair, and he is going to wield quite a bit of power. But he's still a relative unknown, and of the other three continuing commissioners, two are of grave concern.

Judy Shiprack (nee Bauman) wasted no time revealing her role as construction contractor shill when she ran out to Lents with Fireman Randy last summer to try to cram the Paulson baseball stadium down the horrified neighborhood's throat. And yesterday The Latest Kafoury, Deborah, popped up in Willy Week to tell the world that she's so happy that Wheeler's gone, because Cogen is going to supply a new brand of leadership -- "pushing the envelope," whereas Ted was merely maintaining the status quo.

Uh oh. Major uh oh.

Can you say "Convention Center hotel"? Can you say "new urban renewal districts"? It certainly sounds as though the stupidity in these arenas, skillfully stalled by Wheeler, could be about to resume.

Will Cogen stay the course and stand up for fiscal responsibility at the county level? I don't know. He's a former protege of Dan "Legend" Saltzman, the resident West Hills rag doll on the Portland City Council, and you'll soon see a lot of the two of their lawn signs side by side. Saltzman has never stood up to the big money real estate weasels, or the cops, or to anybody else for that matter, and it remains to be seen whether Cogen will do so. One can only hope.

It gets even scarier when one considers who's up for Cogen's soon-to-be-vacated seat. The Reverend Chuck (Inside Track to God) Currie is one of the candidates there, and he would likely be a second vote for whatever Deborah Kafoury wanted to do. When she tried to stay on in the state legislature despite actually moving out of her district, old Chuck was quick to defend her actions. He's also on the record, on this blog and elsewhere, as believing that Erik Sten was one of the greatest leaders Portland has ever seen. If Currie makes it onto the commission, any similarity between the county government and an adult enterprise would be strictly coincidence.

The other candidates include Karol Collymore, a current Cogen staffer who one might think would be a second vote for Cogen's agenda; and Roberta Phillip, whom we like a lot but is a political rookie with the potential for being eaten alive by the big money interests from the west side. Paul Van Orden is another attractive young candidate, but he reminds us of a cute orange tomcat left out in the yard at night and surrounded by hungry urban coyotes. Tom Markgraf, an Earl the Pearl flack? Great, if you like spending money on things that don't work.

Shiprack, Kafoury, a rookie, Cogen, plus Diane McKeel, the token member from Gresham... Go by streetcar, people. Go by streetcar.

More open questions about "closed" Portland parking bids

We blogged last week about how Portland's now changing or bending the rules on the bidding for its parking management contract, long after the bids were received and closed. Yesterday they issued yet another set of "clarifying" pronouncements, in effect making up yet more rules and interpretations.

This particular bidding round is tainted beyond recognition. To prove that it's not rigged, the city needs to pull the plug on this contract and put it back out for another round of bidding.

Amanda joins raid on sewer till for bikes, but is it illegal?

Amanda Fritz, Portland's psychiatric nurse-city commissioner, continues to minister to the patients at City Hall. But now she's defending the creepy mayor's plan to divert $20 million of sewer bureau revenues to bicycle improvements -- a plan that will be passed, with no public testimony allowed, today. Fritz does a better job of selling it than the mayor can, but that's not saying much. The whole thing is insane.

Meanwhile, an alert reader questions whether the sewer-bills-for-bike-paths maneuver is illegal because it violates the state's property tax limitation. The Oregon Constitution limiting such taxes states:

A "tax" is any charge imposed by a governmental unit upon property or upon a property owner as a direct consequence of ownership of that property except incurred charges and assessments for local improvements....

"Incurred charges" include and are specifically limited to those charges by government which can be controlled or avoided by the property owner.... Incurred charges shall not exceed the actual costs of providing the goods or services.

When sewer revenues are being used for bicycle improvements, does that mean that sewer charges "exceed the actual costs of providing" sewer service, and are therefore a "tax" subject to Measures 5 and 50? Now, that seems like something worth taking up with a judge.

Another "Thumper" Humphreys encounter

Before he killed James Chasse in the summer of 2006, Portland's violent man child in blue had one of his moments in another alleged fare evasion case on MAX. The injured citizen in that case has now reportedly had the charges against her dropped, but she's still not too happy about the stitches she got back then.

Come on now

Is there really nobody in town who can tell us what this was all about? And it appears from the comments there might have been two of them.

The Grand Dame of Deem

This is a depressing illustration of the sorry state of our federal government.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trouble in Blazerland

Here's a front-office development that has fans scratching their heads.

County health doc does 180-degree turn on covered reservoirs

First Multnomah County's public health director said there was no scientific evidence that Portland's open drinking water reservoirs needed to be covered. Then he said there was no scientific evidence that they didn't need to be covered. Now he's saying that they do indeed need to be covered.

Way to go, Doc. Follow along with what Fireman Randy says, or else you'll be working at Kaiser.

Blast from the past

Speaking of trees in Portland: On the west side of I-5 between John's Landing and Terwilliger Boulevard in SW Portland, crews have been up on the roadside hill, logging! Ah, those were the days.

I always thought those trees were probably what kept that hill from sliding down onto the freeway. Is there a retaining wall in the works?

Important ethical question from Salem

Scroll down to see that at least somebody down there has a conscience.

Springwater Trail will close for eco-work in summer of 2011

They'll be working on the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge next year, and as a result, bikers and hikers will be detoured around to some less wild places for that summer. Your friendly neighborhood bald eagles will enjoy the improvements to their digs, but some of the other trails down that way will be getting an extra workout.

Cut down a tree in your backyard? Not in Portland.

Walking around inner northeast Portland lately, we've noticed that many street trees that were planted 75 to 100 years ago are really wreaking havoc with the sidewalks, and that many large, gangly, unstable limbs are swaying around overhead waiting for the next big storm. As just one example, a widow maker fell off our neighbor's gum tree last fall, and around the corner a sidewalk that was completely redone about three years ago is already being broken up from below by the roots of the monster trees nearby.

A friend of ours suggested a while back that street trees have a useful life, and that many of the trees in the city's older neighborhoods, although beautiful in the abstract, are starting to become problems as a practical matter. Maybe, he mused, Portland should think about adopting a plan to replace them -- a gentle and gradual process.

There's no sign that City Hall sees things that way at all. Indeed, rather than loosen up the rules about street trees, the City of Portland's moving in the opposite direction. It's about to adopt new rules that will put more of a burden on property owners, and of course expand the regulatory empire, all in the name of "green." Under the new code, even single-family lot owners won't be allowed to cut down any trees on their property with a diameter of 12 inches or more, and any tree that's taken out will have to be replaced, even if the old one was dead, diseased, or dangerous. Both of those rules would be new.

The official spin of the benefits provided by these and many other proposed changes is here. One big reason given is simplification of the existing rules. We love it when they take away our rights because it's simpler if we don't have them.

Streetcar dementia worsens

It's bad enough that Portland's building streetcar lines to nowhere, when there is not enough money to operate the transit system it already has. But now it's also planning to rip out streetcar tracks that it laid just a few years ago and move them!

First it was the Moody Avenue tracks to the SoWhat District, which the feds apparently have agreed to pay $23 million to help elevate. The projected cost on that one at last report was $66 million.

And now the locals are also scratching around for $4 million* to move the streetcar tracks down by Portland State so that they run through the hippy-dippy new "sustainability center," where businesses are supposedly going to pay super-premium rates to relocate to a building with compost toilets:

One project would shift streetcar tracks from Southwest Montgomery Street and Fourth Avenue through the site of the future Oregon Sustainability Center. Although the $2 million in stimulus money didn’t come through, Pearce said, there’s a pending state Connect Oregon grant that could replace that portion of the project’s $4 million* cost.
Meanwhile, over on the east side, they're going to reroute Water Street so that streetcar and light rail toys can be run through that area:
Another project site, Southeast Water Avenue, plays heavily into the future of the area’s rail systems. Riders would board light-rail trains and streetcars there before crossing the river on a new transit bridge.

Rerouting Water Avenue would make connections easier for commuters, and move traffic around an area where both the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Portland Opera plan to expand.

The project would cost around $7 million.* There aren’t any obvious grant sources that could replace hoped-for federal stimulus money, Pearce said.

Excuse me while I wipe the coffee of my monitor. Did he just say OMSI and the freakin' Opera? That's the economic engine justifying the multi-millions in the middle of a long and painful recession? Wow. Just wow.

* - Preliminary, liars' budget figures.

A bad place for bikes

Reading the latest Irvington neighborhood newsletter last night, we learned that the neighborhood association's land use committee is suggesting that the city abandon the idea of encouraging bicyclists to use Northeast Ninth Avenue as a main thoroughfare between Broadway and Irving Park. In particular, the committee is concerned about that block of Ninth between Broadway and Schuyler, which they say is bicycle-unfriendly.

We couldn't agree more. That particular block is scary to travel on, whether you're on a bike, on foot, or even in a car. With the OnPoint Credit Union parking lot across Ninth from the credit union itself, there are many moments of chaos each weekday, with all sorts of unexpected maneuvers by cars and plenty of pedestrians marching across the street in the middle of the block. Meanwhile, the doors of short-term-parked cars along the curb swing open into the street with reckless abandon. And the four-way stop at Ninth and Schuyler is a hot spot for impatient drivers who tend to roll through the eastbound stop sign on Schuyler after dealing with parallel parking delays from customers of the nearby post office branch. (The post office traffic makes Eighth pretty undesirable as well.)

We've seen several close calls and angry verbal exchanges at Ninth and Schuyler as it is, and running a lot of bicycle traffic through there would be crazy. When we're in that neighborhood running errands, we often get off the bike and push it across the intersection, or ride on the sidewalk and behave like a pedestrian in order to avoid the many hazards out in the middle of the street.

The neighbors say that Eleventh would make a better north-south bike boulevard, and as usual, the neighbors have got it right. Ninth is not the best choice for a bike until one gets north of Tillamook.

Here are the docs on the PGE Park loan deal

The City of Portland released to us yesterday a copy of the $12 million five-year line of credit "facility" that it's taking out from Bank of America (its favorite private lender) to pay the city's share of the cost of the half-fast re-renovation of PGE Park by the Paulson family for "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer. You can read the final B of A contract in all its glory here. We also asked for and received the agreement whereby U.S. Bank will parcel out the pork during construction, and the legal opinion that Harvey Rogers, the city's "special" bond counsel, gave on the financing. They are here and here, respectively.

When we recently posted about this pending transaction, we wondered whether the city would actually promise to take out a permanent loan at the end of the five years to pay off the B of A debt. We questioned whether such a promise would be enforceable. From our first reading of the final contract, it doesn't appear that such a covenant was made.

Utility board cries foul over Portland bike raid on sewer till

Not that it matters to the Portland City Council, but the official citizens' advisory commission on water, sewer, and garbage rates is lining up against the plan to divert $20 million from the city sewer budget for bike lanes and paths. The council is going to pass the bonehead proposal tomorrow, whereas the advisory board vote won't be until Thursday. It's all a waste of time to protest, of course, because the Sam-Rand Twins have their votes, and it's a done deal.

A perfect audience for Gatsby

Senator Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) will be touting his new bi-partisan tax plan today before the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation. Maybe that will stop them from writing checks to the campaign war chest of Jim Huffman (who was once a resident scholar at Heritage).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Best economic development plan ever

Instead of some goofball "clusters" idea, here's a way to improve the business outlook in downtown Portland immediately.

Breaking news: Condomania is over

Here's further proof that Portland is way, way overbuilt when it comes to condominiums and doesn't need any more for a long, long time.

Sister city potential galore

Here's one right out of the City of Portland playbook. You'll be charged for water, even if you don't buy any from the city and aren't hooked up to the water line.

Parks bureau goes passive-aggressive

Bureaucrats sometimes seem to go out of their way to antagonize people. Here's an example -- an exchange between someone thinking about bidding on the Portland parks bureau's latest consultant contract (to the tune of $1.45 million). The prospective contractor asks for information that would help in deciding whether to prepare a bid, and is basically told to buzz off. But the response is couched as if the mighty parks bureau official is actually being helpful:

Q. I'm wondering if it would be possible to come in to look at proposal submissions and scoring from PP&R's last on-call RFP in preparation for submitting on the current one. Also, could you please tell me what firms currently hold contracts?

A. PP&R believes the current RFP (PKS030) contains all the necessary information for proposers to complete the RFP.

However, it is possible to look at proposal submissions and scoring from PP&R’s last on-call RFP (PKS023). Please review and submit a public records request. Please note, due to record request processing time, it may not be possible to look at the information prior to the due date for PKS030 proposals.

City of Portland Public Records Request Information and Forms: http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=35190&a=185815

As for the contracts held by Parks, again this is not pertinent to the proposal development. However, please submit a public records request and be specific if you are interested in this information.

What a small, small person.

The sustainble thing to do

With all the p.r. flacks, bloggers, and Tweeters that the City of Portland has on its payroll these days, it has apparently run out of money for a proofreader at the Parks Bureau. From our mailbox over the weekend:

Typographical problems aside, it's good that they've stopped sending out hard copy catalogs to everyone and her brother for every recreation season. We'd hardly look at them before into the recycling bin they went.

Now if only our City Council, which purports to be so "green," would stand up to the weasels who dump big, fat, unwanted phone books on everybody's front porch a couple of times a year, we might start believing that they really care about wasting paper.

Buyouts, layoffs coming at PDC

A little bird over at the Portland Development Commission informs us that there are going to be some serious staff cuts over there later this month. Here is what appears to be a memo from the agency's management to its neophyte employees' union. In it, the PDC outlines three ways that people are going to disappear: five-figure buyouts, "severance" with a couple of months' pay, and straight layoff with the right to "bump" folks on a lower rung. In all three cases, employees who leave get six months of medical under the same terms as they do now.

According to the memo, the official word is going out to the workers themselves today.

Coming soon to your mailbox, not

Your state tax refund, at least in some states. As state governments start dropping into bankruptcy or its equivalent, this could be the coming thing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A shorter circuit

The start of Daylight Savings Time reminded me of how attached to technology we've become. In cruising around the house to reset clocks, I found there were quite a few that didn't need my help. The computers, the cable TV box, the iPhones, even the little mini-weather station that we picked up as a gift a while back -- they all take their marching orders from afar. They make clear that they're telling me what time it is, and not vice versa.

Oh, there were still plenty of times to jump ahead by hand. But there are more robots around this place -- and smarter ones -- than ever before.

That time again

Breaking the chains of discrimination

Here's a story that the local media is tiptoeing around: Big-time regional advertiser Les Schwab was busted by the feds for not hiring women as tire changers, and it's paid the government a $2 million settlement to make the case go away.

We love Schwab and wouldn't buy tires anywhere else. Glad to see them putting this behind them. Which reminds me -- my rig is looking a little low on air.

Take off your cheaters and sit right down

European tax law can be fascinating at times. Now that we know that a Pringle is indeed a potato chip, we can ponder whether a coin-operated porno booth is an "automated recreation device" or a "cubicle cinema." The tax in Belgium is much lower if it's the latter. [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Something for Portland to look forward to

"Major league" soccer scoring celebrations.

We are the world, not

Daylight Savings Time has begun in North America this morning, but not in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Iran jumps in next weekend.

Bad moon rising

Here's a scary report from a Washington, D.C. think tank. Congress is spending so much money that it doesn't have, that to eliminate the deficit, you'd have to raise the top federal income tax rate to 84.9%!

And the report includes a dire warning from an economist not noted for hysteria:

"Mind boggling" is the term Martin Sullivan of Tax Analysts uses to describe the tax and spending changes that would have to occur just to get the deficit down to 3 percent of GDP.

"Our gridlocked, dysfunctional Congress simply cannot bring itself to absorb these types of painful shocks," says Sullivan. "Given these unprecedented pressures I believe that within the next decade there is more than a 50-50 chance there will be an upheaval either of the political system or the economy."

Better keep one's powder dry, I suppose.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The plan-o-cratic mind

Commuting home last evening at rush hour, we were amazed at how little traffic there was on the freeway. At least the anemia affecting the economy is good for something, we thought.

Then we opened an e-mail message from a reader, which linked us to this page. It's part of the City of Portland's economic development plan, created by the Portland Development Commission.

It's good, we suppose, that the city is trying to do something about the decay of its economic base. But does anybody really think that this strategy is worth pursuing? It's so full of planner psychobabble and bureaucratic jargon -- it just doesn't seem to correspond at all with the way businesspeople think. "Cluster Organizing Framework"? "Allow for cluster leadership to emerge"? "Develop action plan with stakeholders"?

We hope this ends up creating some jobs other than at the PDC.

A sting waiting to happen

Does this look legit to you?

Here's another one from the same phone number. And here's the Google search for that number.

Game report: McNary 61, Franklin 50

At a friend's suggestion, we took the kids over to the Rose Garden this morning to watch some of the state high school basketball tournament. It was the last game of the consolation round on the girl's side of class 6A (the biggest schools), and phenom Shoni Schimmel was on the court with her Franklin teammates against McNary (from Salem) in a contest for fourth place.

Shoni may have been the best talent on the court, and Franklin's wicked full-court press was tough to handle, forcing a lot of turnovers, but McNary played much better team basketball overall and won the game easily. Shoni, whose mom is the Franklin coach, is not shy about shooting. She was launching up shots from all over, and several went in from well outside the NBA three-point line. At one point, she drove right and landed an incredible hook shot -- that wasn't luck, either -- which she converted into a three-point play at the free throw line. But after she picked up her third foul, she showed some pretty bad judgment, hacking away on defense and basically begging for no. 4. She then fouled out on a technical after mouthing off to a referee, and it was still a ballgame when she left.

Her sister, Jude, got the player of the game trophy on the Franklin side, but Shoni was signing autographs on the way out the door of the arena. Will she be a big-time college player? Possibly. But nobody knows how she'll do with an actual coach who's not her mom. It could be a disaster, or it could be the hall of fame. It's too early to tell.

McNary was much better organized, exploiting weaknesses in the Franklin half-court offense and never surrendering a first-quarter lead. The tall Deven Hunter led the way with 21 rebounds and 20 points, 12 of which were earned at the foul line.

I don't think I've been to a high school basketball game since I was in high school myself. To put that in perspective, it was pre-Kent State. Today's outing was a lot of fun, especially in the relaxed setting of a 9 a.m. game in the giant Rose Garden. I'll bet the high school players get a kick out of playing on the Trail Blazers' floor -- I know I would if I were they.

We stayed for a quarter of Sunset vs. McKay (also from Salem), the consolation bracket final game on the boys' side. Sunset had the situation well in hand when we left, and they brought a heck of a band with them. They've retired the tuba in favor of the electric Fender bass. I can go with that.

The tallest player on the court was a 6' 9" Sunset player named Lucas. Any relation to Maurice?

On Wheeler's new to-do list

One of the things the board that runs Oregon state pension fund investments is working on these days is plunking $100 million into buying up assets of failed banks. The deal, which would involve a number of public employee pension funds around the country, is being put together by Sageview Capital, some sharpies formerly employed by the nationally known vulture venture capital firm KKR. The new company holding the assets, called Community Bancorp, would be run out of Houston by some banker big shots down there named William Harrison, formerly the main man at Chase, and Robert Steel, former Henry Paulson protegé and one-time vice chair of Goldman Sachs.

At its last meeting, the PERS investment board gave its o.k. into buying into the deal. The pitch that they approved is here.

Ted Sickinger of the O filed a nice report on the transaction earlier this week. In it, he explained:

The OIC clearly liked the pitch, though they questioned the deal's rich fee structure, which could include stock options for the board and management equal to a 20 to 25 percent stake in the entire holding company. That's in the neighborhood, if not richer, than private equity transactions -- and fees that the council says it's trying to control.

One outside observer at the meeting was alarmed by the deal. Bill Parish, a local investment advisor who tracks the state pension fund's investments, said the deal's architects are showering themselves in stock options. He questions whether Sageview, as one of the deal's orchestrators and board members, would really be exercising some form of control.

"Rather than functioning as a fleecing catalyst for (leveraged buyout) artists, the OIC should instead roll up its sleeves and find better partners to accomplish the same goal of investing in failing banks," he said.

Keith Larson, an Intel Capital executive who is vice chairman of the state investment council, did express concern that a direct investment in a bank holding company doesn't offer the diversification that the pension fund typically gets by investing in funds.

"There's risk in everything," Ron Schmitz, Oregon's chief investment officer, said in a later interview. "It's not a free lunch, but we think the risk-reward profile is favorable."

More taxpayer money enriching sweethearts from Goldman Sachs and Chase? Why, it's the American way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Have a great weekend

Mission Creep Manor

One of the biggest problems facing Portland residents today is that several of the city government's bureaus are totally out of control -- particularly the water bureau, that cash cow milked daily by the commissioner-in-charge, Fireman Randy. The water bureau's now the landlord of property in Waterfront Park downtown -- property that has no connection whatsoever to the water system. Just because Fireman Randy decided that was the way he would do it. It's also running the enforcement of the city's mandatory biodiesel program, for no good reason. The examples of such mission creep are many -- an alarming number.

But perhaps the worst is this one. Now the water bureau is going to sponsor a demonstration project for eco-smart infill houses in the city's neighborhoods. We have a planning and sustainability bureau, we have a development services bureau, we have a whole development commission, but no -- the extra cash is lying around in the water bureau, and so that's the bureau that will sponsor the Boss' infill housing demonstration.

And even though no contractor wanted the work the first time they tried to start it up, they're now rejiggering the specs to make the "green" part less rigorous. Come hell or high water, Randy's going to get a sustainable palace that he can pose in front of. Maybe they'll torch it and he can stand on the roof, saving the children.

This is the way things are done back east, and in Chicago. The local machine bosses could care less about the niceties of the city charter and code. They just do what they want, and if you ask any questions, the fire inspectors (in Portland, also run by Fireman Randy, of course) will be all over you like white on rice.

Let's hope that Great Leader and Dear Father doesn't read another book this weekend, or Monday morning we'll see the water bureau blow some more of our water bill revenues (set to double over the next few years) on something else that has nothing to do with its legally defined job. And its crew of paid Tweeters can make up poems about it.

Heading out to play music on downtown Portland sidewalks?

Please read the rules first.

Musicians love rules.

Jig is up for public employees' unions

In New Jersey, it appears that the state's about to start busting them up in the name of "disaster control."

Need to calculate child support? Guess whose face you see.

As Phil Collins was to music in the '80s, so is John Kroger to Oregon politics in the '10s. After a while it gets more than a little annoying.

Portland closes secret loan deal for PGE Park remodel

The interim (up to five years) line of credit that the City of Portland is taking out from Bank of America for the $12 million city share of the PGE Park remodel closed on Wednesday. We've asked to see the documents on the deal, but nowadays the city's "debt management" people jerk us around royally when we ask for access to such public records. We had to fight to see the bids that four banks made on the deal (which we finally got after calling in the county D.A.), and we may have to do the same to get our hands on the final closing documents. We'll let you know what we find after we're deemed worthy.

County doc: "What I really said about the reservoirs"

Last weekend we posted an e-mail message we got from one of the folks opposing the disconnecting or covering of Portland's gorgeous open drinking water reservoirs. In it, she pointed out that the chief county health officer, Gary Oxman, had testified at a recent Public Utility Board hearing on the proposed disconnect. She characterized Oxman as saying that "there isn't any sound science linking open reservoirs to any public health risk/problem."

Perhaps in response to that e-mail message, yesterday Dr. Oxman sent a memo to the utility board clarifying what he said:

In my comments, I reviewed my interpretations of some literature and community conversations related to the documented and potential health risks of open reservoirs. I stated that the science of public health tells us relatively little about how to resolve the policy question of whether Portland should cover its existing reservoirs. I also stated my belief that, as a community, we should strive to ensure that all the people of Portland have high-quality drinking water for the next 100 years (as our forebears did 100 years ago). My intent in making these comments was:

1) To point out that the science on documented health impacts alone does not give us a clear and compelling answer to the policy question of whether to cover the reservoirs; and

2) To acknowledge the resulting need to consider a variety of factors – e.g., documented and potential health impacts, best public health practices, legal constraints, and assuring broad and enduring community support for the water system – in making this policy decision.

Interpreting my comments in other ways (for example, to construe them as supporting a case that there is no scientific basis for covering the reservoirs) is not consistent with either my words or my intent.

To us, it sounds like a different spin on the same point. But if we're going to mortgage the water system for some really spendy new capital projects, the burden of proof ought to be on the people wanting to blow the mega-millions. And as the good doctor points out, they can't make the case any more than their opponents can.

Part of us also gets the sneaking feeling that Fireman Randy threatened to either break his legs or get him fired.

If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any puddin'

And if you don't sell the whole album, you can't sell the individual tracks.

Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Major league" soccer players vote to strike

And if it's a strike of any noticeable duration, the league will implode. Why we're letting Henry Paulson take over and rip up our multi-purpose stadium for an organization in this kind of shape is one of the many mysteries of living in Portland, Oregon.

Will Fireman Randy, former union boss, stand up with organized labor against the grossly unfair contract imposed on the players by the league? At least Nurse Amanda will be out there on the picket lines, I assume.

War has been declared -- on you

Here's a blog post that should be of interest to Portlanders:

Painted on police cars is, "to protect and serve." Whom were police protecting when they drew their guns on a sleeping man? Whom were police serving when they shot an unarmed man?

Modern police forces have become militarized, as Radley Balko covers in detail here. Police officers are not trained to protect and serve; they are trained to shoot first, and ask questions later.

The whole thing is here.

Bike-o-crats gone wild

Two City of Portland transportation employees -- Janis McDonald and Rich Cassidy -- are apparently heading off to Guadalajara, Mexico tomorrow, "presenting Portland Sunday Parkways to ciclovia organizers from other countries and U.S. cities." They're also "[l]ooking forward to riding around on the Recreactiva route!"

I'm sure they are.

Hey, am I paying for this?

Big Apple Stumptown is a hit

At least with the Portlandophiles at the Times. It and many other coffee joints in the big city are reviewed here.

Getting ready for the Lincoln High condo tower

They're shrinking the Portland Airport "urban renewal" district to make way for the massive new district that's going to suck up Northwest Portland, Goose Hollow and more land down toward Portland State. You know the drill -- divert the property taxes to Homer, Edlen, Hoffman, Walsh, the Usual Suspects, and build those big, ugly, empty apartment towers!

Apparently the new district will put the city over the limit in terms of acreage subject to "urban renewal" pillaging, and so they're yanking land out of the old airport district, which has long since maxed out on the bonds it can issue and is a massive flop anyway. Go by streetcar!

Over Jim Jim's dead body

Fireman Randy and his new BFF, Auditor LaVonne, are huffing and puffing about how Portland needs to shake up the way police brutality cases are handled. The Randster is pointing to the James Chasse homicide at police hands as an example of a system in need of fixing.

If this was coming from just about anyone else, I'd applaud it. But this is just Mr. Warmth getting even for being denied control over the police bureau when our creepy mayor decided he couldn't handle it himself. Once Randy gets the police power into his portfolio, everything about the bureau's internal discipline system will be fine, because hey, at that point it will finally be managed well.

Calling John Kroger

Here's a wild one from the City of Portland. It's got a bid process going for a parking management contract. In late January, it reported that bidding was closed, and that five companies had submitted proposals.

Yesterday, the city announced that it is now changing the criteria by which the contract is going to be awarded!

I've got one word: Wow.

Willamette Park pumping station site revealed

Our blog post of yesterday about the new water pumping station in Willamette Park appears to have led to this internet posting by David Shaff, the head of the Portland water bureau. The new entry also contains a map, purporting to show approximately where in the park the new building will go:

Here's some more detail of that area, courtesy of Google:

Since the new station is supposed to be one and half times the capacity of the old one, which sits on 6,000 square feet, we'll leave it to readers to think about whether the new facility will be as non-intrusive as the Shaff map suggests. Won't our sudden obsession with water security require a barbed-wire fence and armed guards around it?

A smaller version of stupid

Yesterday we raised our cyber-eyebrow at the City of Portland's search for a "fiscal agent" who would receive a 7% commission just for handing out grants of city money to "community organizer" groups. The whole concept seemed utterly insane, and we suspected that this contract, which is not new, is designed to flow some tax money to some well placed person's nephew or cousin.

Anyway, noting as we did that the header on the city bid solicitation (pictured above) says it's a $40,000 contract, we assumed that the total amount of grants was $570,000. But as a reader points out and the city has confirmed, the header was misleading. It's not a $40,000 contract -- it's $40,000 of grants, and so the "fiscal agent's" take will be only $2,800.

That's a relief, but the whole thing still stinks to high heaven. Whose "friends and family" are on the receiving end of this pork?

Bring back 20 city employees, to do nothing?

The City of Portland's department of buildings (a.k.a. the Bureau of Development Services) doesn't as much to do these days as it used to. The recession has killed off construction, and so the permit and inspection work, and its concomitant fees, are a shadow of what they were in their heyday.

As a consequence, the bureaucrats have had to lay people off, which is what happens in hard times.

But they don't like it. So now they want to hire a bunch of people back, just so they'll be around if and when building activity picks up again:

[T]he BDS' 36 remaining building inspectors continue to struggle to stay on top of their workload....

The BDS last summer laid off 150 employees, including approximately 40 building inspectors. Jim Nicks, inspections manager for the BDS, said his department previously completed 98 percent of its inspections within 24 hours. But in February, only 70 percent of commercial and electrical inspection requests and 90 percent of residential inspection requests were met within 24 hours....

Is that so bad? I suppose the delays are annoying, but do they warrant bringing 20 people back onto the public pad?

Portland City Council on Wednesday approved a $1.5 million loan that will ensure the BDS can operate through the rest of 2010, the bureau will soon ask the council to approve $3.7 million in general fund support to restore 20.5 full-time positions to the bureau.
I could think of 100 better ways to spend all that money. Especially since nobody knows when the building slump is ever going to end:
Senior building mechanical inspector Jim Zarr said he has heard rumors that the construction industry could see a turnaround later this year, but he isn’t betting on it.

"It’s like fortune-telling," Zarr said. "We hear rumors that people have plans to build, but it comes down to funding. And my understanding is the banks are requiring more collateral. The work is doable, but if someone is sick or goes on vacation, we don’t have anyone to fill in."

To me the money quote is "The work is doable." Let's not blow money on rehiring staff who were laid off for a perfectly good reason.

It's bad enough that the Great Leader and Dear Father Fireman Randy wants to blow millions on new computer systems for this bureau in the middle of an unprecedented recession. But to re-pad the payroll on top of that? Bad idea.

And in LaJail Ducks news...

One star accused, the other reportedly about to cop a plea. Domestic violence, burglary -- go Ducks!

A typographicitous problem

An interesting headline on this post on OregonLive.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bob 2.0

It takes guts to just wipe out your blog after years and years, and start over. I almost had that happen to me involuntarily at one point a few years ago, but fortunately some good friends saved my site from disappearance.

Anyway, the always entertaining Bob Borden has decided to give his blog a completely new beginning. We wish him luck with wherever things lead this time around.

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain

There's an outfit called Sunshine Review that checks out whether state and local government websites are as forthcoming as they could be with public information. The group just gave out "Sunny Awards" to 39 state and local governments for having excellent transparency via their websites. Alas, there wasn't a single Oregon jurisdiction among those recognized.

First Tech gets engaged

One of the four local credit unions that we've been following in our quarterly review of their operating results is merging. First Tech is set to merge with Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union of Palo Alto, and the combined entity will be called First Tech Federal Credit Union. The two parties to the merger are of roughly equal size.

Of the local outfits that we've been watching, lately First Tech has appeared to be the strongest or the second-strongest, depending on how one measures.

Cogen to be crowned

Word on the street is that Margaret Carter, like Steve Novick, is dropping out of the Multnomah County chair race.

Once coveted, now unwanted

For a while there, there was hope for the old federal Custom House on Broadway near the Main Post Office in Portland. The next owner for the building was going to be the International School. But now we learn that the school, seeing what it would take to bring the old structure up to snuff, has decided to take a pass. And so it appears that the Custom House can be yours for a very reasonable price.

New pump station to be built in Willamette Park

Here's an interesting one. The Portland water bureau has given up on rehabbing the Fulton Water Pumping Station (above) on SW Nevada Street near Macadam Avenue, and is instead going to build a new pumping station (with a projected footprint of 6,000 square feet) inside Willamette Park:

The original plan was to rehabilitate the existing pump station facility. Subsequently, replacing Fulton Pump Station and building a new facility on the existing pump station site was proposed. After further examination and analysis of the existing station in 2007 and 2008, it was determined that the option of reconstructing a new station at the existing location was not practical, was too expensive, would take too long, and presented an operational risk to the City. A decision was ultimately made to construct a new pump station facility at an alternate location.

The current proposed project will construct a new pump station facility inside Willamette Park east of SW Macadam Avenue, located in the confluence of the vacated right-of-way (ROW) of SW Bond and SW Nevada Streets....

The overall goal of this project is to provide a reliable supply to the BSA capable of meeting the installed peak day capacity of 12 million gallons per day (MGD) expandable to 18 MGD through the year 2025 for the service area.

The site would apparently be somewhere around the shady grove and soccer field down toward the south end of the park. Here's where Nevada Street comes in -- it seems like prime parkland:

When this one gets on more people's radar screens, there could be some controversy. It's one thing to talk about this kind of land takeover in the abstract, but when park users see the map, not everybody's going to be happy.

The current liars' budget for the project: $12.2 million.

The chefs at Cafe Creepy

Sam Adams is at it again -- telling a totally preposterous story, hoping no one will notice how patently absurd it is. Today he's babbling that although he wants $20 million immediately diverted from the sewer bureau (a.k.a. Bureau of Environmental Services) budget to build portions of the city's quixotic bicycle plan, somehow the commandeering of that money isn't going to affect the sewer system at all. It's classic Adams -- his spiel is so ridiculous that there's no way to even paraphrase it without one's head exploding, although Jim Redden at the Trib gives it his best shot:

According to Adams, the city finance office has identified $15.4 million in recession-generated cost and contingency savings on existing project that can be redirected to bicycle-related street projects. Those savings, combined with other transfers, can pay for the $20 million Adams promised to find for the bicycle plan without postponing sewer projects previously authorized by the City Council....

On Tuesday Adams responded by releasing a matrix that he says shows BES has enough money to kick start the plan without delaying other projects. He says the bureau has saved millions of dollars in recent years because contractors are bidding lower than expected on projects, primary because the recession has increased competition for jobs.

Even if these assertions are true -- and considering the source, that's doubtful -- the pretzel logic is amazing. They have suddenly found $20 million sloshing around, and so they can spend it on whatever they want, and it doesn't cost anybody anything.

How about using the found money to cut city residents' outrageous sewer bills? Doesn't this new discovery mean that ratepayers have been overcharged $20 million for the projects currently in the bureau budget?

"Adams responded by releasing a matrix." We really are crossing over into science fiction, Portland.

But beyond casting a harsh light on the mayor's deep-seated character flaws, today's story raises an even more alarming issue. Why aren't the folks who are running the sewer bureau giving us these new facts and figures? Indeed, last week the sewer folks told us the truth -- that other projects wouldn't be funded if the bike toys are. Why is today's magic "matrix," laying out the miraculous sewer savings, coming from the city's management and finance office, rather than the people who actually oversee the city's sewer projects?

The answer's pretty obvious. The sewer folks don't answer directly to the mayor, but the finance people do. And so the finance people are doing as they're told, and telling the mayor what he wants to hear. I know which group I believe.

In a city that's approaching $6 billion of long-term debt, seeing the finance people cooking up "matrix" documents to help the mayor make bogus political points raises all sorts of red flags. What other numbers are they massaging to obfsucate the obvious truth? I fear we'll find out in bankruptcy court.

City of Portland burns $40,000 before breakfast

Now the City of Portland can't even give away money without hiring a middleman who takes a cut. Here's a bid solicitation by the planning bureau for a "fiscal agent" who will make a nice commission for handing out $570,000 of city money as community organizer grants:

The successful Proposer will serve as a fiscal agent for BPS to distribute funds to Community Organizations for outreach projects and events. The goal of this contract is to create an avenue of communication and to offer innovative incentives to engage community organizations that may not traditionally participate in BPS programs. By involving neighborhood associations and community organizations, the City builds a positive partnership within the communities, encourages diversity at the grassroots level, and encourages neighbor-to-neighbor interaction. To facilitate this involvement, these Community Organizations coordinate volunteer-based education outreach and events, Through this program the City helps these organizations earn money to be used in their operations.

The anticipated funds to be disbursed to the Community Organizations for the services described herein are approximately $40,000.00. The incumbent fiscal agent is being paid an administrative fee of 7% of the total disbursement value paid to the Community Organizations to cover their administrative expenses.

There aren't enough bureaucrats in the planning department to process grant requests without shelling out 40 grand for a paying agent? Unbelievable. And note, they already have some outside outfit skimming this 7% now.

To make things even more lame, note that they're already stating in the announcement that the winning bidder will get 7% as its cut:

The successful Proposer would receive an administrative fee based on 7% of the total amounts paid to the participating groups.
Shouldn't the bidders be allowed to underbid that percentage? Oh, never mind. That would be good fiscal practice, and this is the City of Portland.

Does anybody know who's got this contract now? It seems a lock that they'll get it again.

UPDATE, 3/11, 11:50 p.m.; Despite the screwed-up bid solicitation, the contract is only for $2,800. It's the grants that will total $40,000. Further details here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And now, a message from Ron Wyden

"I'm way ahead. No one can beat me. Please don't make this a race where I actually have to spend the summer in Oregon. Pretty please! I've got the house in the Hamptons booked through Labor Day. If you need to talk to somebody in Oregon, please call Josh Kardon or Kari Chisholm. Thank you, and God bless America."

Mad scramble

As Jeff Cogen seeks to move from Multnomah County commissioner to county chair, four familiar names pop up to jump into his vacated seat: Karol Collymore, Chuck Currie, Gary Hansen, and Paul van Orden. It's early, but I'd bet Collymore has the best shot. Surely she'll be Cogen's pick, although I would guess current rookie commissioner Deborah Kafoury will probably support Currie. Hansen's a retread who likely won't get much traction, and van Orden is going to have to prove himself to somebody besides Willamette Week.

UPDATE, 7:39 p.m.: The PBJ story to which we linked has just been updated, and as readers noted, there are other names to add to the list:

They are: Karol Ann Collymore, communications and project manager for Cogen; the Rev. Charles S. Currie Jr.; former Multnomah County Commissioner Gary Hansen; Paul van Orden, a city of Portland environment law officer; Maria Rubio, a consultant; Irma Castillo, program manager for the county; Roberta Phillip, a county policy adviser; Thomas Markgraf, a consultant; Enrique Arias, a film producer; and Loretta Smith, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

Portland loses a good one

The news that Ted Wheeler is going to be the new state treasurer is shocking and saddening to those of us in Multnomah County who appreciate what he has been -- an island of common sense, decency, and smarts in a sea of local government arrogance and incompetence. Wheeler killed the Convention Center hotel, put a serious brake on the runaway "urban renewal" fiasco in Portland, and steered the county government through some tough economic straits. He was the 180-degree opposite of his predecessor, whose tenure on the county commission was a sick joke.

This leaves Jeff Cogen the only bright light at the county. Sitting next to him are The Latest Kafoury and Judy Shiprack, a contractor sympathizer who readers will recall headed out to the Lents neighborhood with Fireman Randy last year and tried to jam the Paulson baseball stadium into the park. With the county government greatly weakened, Randy and Portland's creepy mayor will have more power than ever, at a time when their many excesses need to be reined in.

Let's hope Wheeler wises up quickly, realizes what a drag the commute to Salem is, and gets back to Portland soon. To say he will be missed up here is a gross understatement.

"Urban renewal" blows up in Oregon City

There were multiple problems, but the phrase "lifestyle center mall slated for the former landfill site next to Home Depot" says it all for me.

Congratulations, Central Catholic High School

You're going to be in greater demand than ever, very shortly.

Empire crumbling?

Build a new wing on the castle.

House of cards gets additional story

Now the feds are pushing PERS into buying up failing banks. Sounds like a plan.

Monday, March 8, 2010

City of Portland's lobbyist bolts

Portland's "government relations director," a guy named Dan Bates, has a new gig. He's opening a new local office for a national influence-peddler firm.

The Portland lobbyist post is not a job that holds people for too long these days. I remember when a previous occupant of that chair wound up on an expense account report for a Valentine's Day dinner with The Don -- a night in Bend that she claimed she wasn't there. Lobby on, everybody!

Translating the O

When the real story is EPIC FAIL, but the Goldschmidt Network is involved, here is how it's reported in Portland's monopoly daily newspaper.

Revolving door keeps turning

Hey, guess what! State Senator Rick Metsger wants to be the new state treasurer. Mildly amusing, especially in light of his position on a bill in the recent regularly scheduled "special" session of the legislature, which would have forbade the governor from appointing legislators to vacant executive posts:

But the bill ran into trouble in the Senate Rules Committee. Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, said he was troubled by some of the definitions in the bill and questioned whether it would unfairly hinder legislators who seek routine jobs for any government agency in Oregon.
It will be interesting to see if the governor puts Metsger in the vacant treasurer's seat through the end of the year. Or maybe he'll go with this guy.

The City That Works (on Prozac)

Here's some blue news for Portland. As bummed as I am about the state of our local government, even I don't think it's that bad.

A new C-note is coming

Next month, the U.S. Treasury will unveil a new $100 bill, with new security features meant to foil sophisticated counterfeiters:

The new bills will contain a Crane & Co. security feature called Motion, containing up to 650,000 microlenses embedded in the printing which will allow for an underlying image to shift when the bill is moved.
Apparently, when you turn the new bill slightly at an angle, Franklin's photo will change to this.

"Urban renewal" money scheme starting to unravel

"Tax increment financing" is the basic premise on which all of Portland's "urban renewal" gyrations rest. Wonderful developments like SoWhat and the Pearl are supposed to cause property tax collections to rise, and after the mega-bonds that the city uses to pay for these projects are paid off, the rest of us taxpayers are supposed to enjoy the benefit. If the taxes don't roll in, the taxpayers get burned first, and then maybe the banks (depending on the terms of the bonds).

While the huge debts are outstanding, tax revenues from the "urban renewal" districts apparently also pay for the staff and other overhead at the Portland Development Commission, and some of the taxes apparently even make their way to the city's public housing system.

Well, folks, it appears that things are not going so well in "tax increment" land these days. On Friday, staffers at the city's housing bureau got this e-mail message from their director:

All ~

As the budget process continues to unfold, I want to make you aware of
a reduction I have agreed to with respect to the tax increment funds
(TIF) portion of our FY 2010 – 11 budget. In concert with PDC
leadership, and in consultation with the PHB executive team, we will
reduce the amount of TIF we spend on direct and indirect staff costs
by $427,000, which is 10% of the amount of TIF we had budgeted for
those costs in the coming fiscal year. The steep decline in TIF that
PHB is facing in the coming few years tells me that a reduction
commensurate with that being taken by PDC is prudent and appropriate.

Please note that no decisions have been made about how these
reductions will be achieved. Our budget team is hard at work
identifying a series of options that will include not filling existing
vacancies, reallocating staff to our non-TIF funds sources, and
realignment of certain functions. The executive team is open to
suggestions you may have about cost saving or realignment measures as
this analysis proceeds. I expect to actively follow the analysis of
options and be prepared to communicate some decisions about our
direction before April 30 when we are required to provide our next
budget submission to OMF and Council.

Our friend Bill McDonald long ago rechristened this program as "tax excrement financing," and that label may be particularly apropos now. The bursting of the TIF bubble will no doubt have repercussions well beyond what's happening in the public housing operation. One wonders how the ratings on those hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds are going to hold up.

Meanwhile, of course, the spendthrifts on the City Council are getting ready to create another massive "urban renewal" district, sucking up a lot of Northwest Portland, Goose Hollow, and the Portland State environs. The whole program loses money on every block, but they're going to make it up in volume. And Williams, Edlen, Hoffman, Walsh, and their ilk will keep themselves busy building some more awful apartment bunkers that nobody wants to live in.

Insanity, thy name is Portland.

Unlike any other

Here's a wild one. Mercedes Benz dragged its feet on a "lemon law" claim in Wisconsin, and a judge has whomped the car maker upside the head with a $482,000 damage award to the unhappy customer.

Bike raid on sewer funds means flooded basements

The $20 million that Portland's creepy mayor is ordering the sewer bureau to spend on bike paths this coming year isn't going to fall from the sky. As this story makes clear, the money's going to be diverted from... you know... sewer projects...

According to a memo prepared by BES, providing the $20 million to the bicycle plan will require it to reallocate funds already identified for existing projects. The largest amount — $12.4 million — would come from sewer projects intended to reduce basement flooding and replace aging pipes before they fail in Northeast, Northwest and Southeast Portland.
Portlanders have been wading through stinky, knee-deep muck for the last 14 months under the current administration. Figuratively up until now, but I guess it's time for what the bureaucrats call "actualization."

He went away, and you hung around, and bothered me every night

If that rings a bell, you'll probably find this intellectual property lawsuit of interest.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snake keeps biting Blazers

Time to turn off the meter

We've been giving Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund a hard time about all the press releases he issues. But our running contest between him and state Attorney General John Kroger for most press missives released has ended, because Westlund succumbed to cancer this morning. Word had been circulating for several weeks that he was a goner.

I've always liked him. I even quit the Democratic Party so that I could sign a petition when he was running as an independent for governor. He really was an independent. When he rolled into the state treasurer's gig a year ago and change, it seemed like a classic case of a legislator who wanted to get paid a better wage for working in Salem. But it was comforting to know that there was an honest guy sitting atop the state's shaky financial accounts.

Westlund's last press release was issued on Friday. It reminded schoolchildren of an upcoming deadline for a scholarship contest. It was his 16th press release of the year.

Our condolences go out to his family and to the many other folks who will sorely miss him.

Perfect for Metro

If Portland residents aren't already under the watchful eye of local government because of these things, I'm sure we soon will be. Right out in the driveway with the electric meter, reporting your every move to Big Brother. The camera on the internet bridge taking your picture as you cross. Governor Ted's toll monitor on your car. And don't think Fireman Randy isn't going to watch you flush.

And notice how most of this surveillance is being done, and will be done, in the name of "green."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wyden's running scared

His dog is barking really loudly today.

Sorry, Ron, you'll have to leave your home and family in New York City and spend the summer in Oregon, where you used to live. Try the local pinot gris; it's excellent.

County doc not so sure about reservoir covers

Stephanie Stewart, the land use chair of the Mount Tabor neighborhood association and one of the opponents of disconnecting Portland's open drinking water reservoirs, writes:

I went to the PURB (Portland Utility Review Board) hearing on the reservoirs Wednesday night. Speakers unanimously opposed the PURB recommendation to "expeditiously close" the reservoirs.

Most notable was the testimony given by Dr. Gary Oxman (Multnomah County/City of Portland Health Officer), declaring there isn't any sound science linking open reservoirs to any public health risk/problem. So, it seems there is no public health justification for spending $400 million to build new tanks. As I see it that leaves two arguments for burial: "closed storage is the industry standard," and "rule of law requires burial." Arguably, both the industry standard and the law have been heavily influenced by industry lobbyists.

A local filmmaker (Brad Yazzolino) captured the meeting on video, and plans to post it online by Monday/Tuesday. As the mood in the room was more like an old-time Southern church than a board meeting, it might be good viewing. I don't think I heard an actual "amen," but I might have heard a "sing-it-sister" or two.

Reportedly, the city will eventually make the transcript available online along with all of the "for the record" written comments that were submitted before the meeting. I submitted a 34-page packet on behalf of the MTNA land use committee. The cover letter is posted here.

PURB members cast their votes either for or against this recommendation March 18.

Fish begins to spoil

While they're dismantling Portland's parks and schools, the city's politicians cry crocodile tears about how suddenly there's no money for essential services. City Commissioner Nick Fish pulled this act earlier this week, in talking to KGW about impending cuts to summer programs for children in the parks:

The Brooklyn Park summer playground program and others like in Portland dating back a hundred years are on the chopping block during one of the worst recessions in decades.

Parks Commissioner Nick Fish says he'll do all he can to protect kid-related programs.

But he and other bureau leaders are under orders from the mayor to cut budgets.

"Do we cut a program in parks? Do we close a fire station? Do we reduce the number of police officers on the street? I mean, these are terrible choices that we have to make," said Fish.

Nick, please, give it a rest.

This is the city that has money for all the streetcars Homer Williams wants. This is the city that has money to put a farookin' neon rose sign in Waterfront Park. This is the city that has dozens of p.r. flacks and official Tweeters and bloggers sitting around, some of them literally making up nursery rhymes all day. This is the city with a super-sized "development commission," which continues to blow countless millions on overhead while presiding over the economic collapse of the city. This is the city that has $12 million, a year's worth of Steve Janik, and who knows how many staffers for Little Lord Paulson's soccer stadium. This is the city of bike boxes, bike boulevards, bike paths, bike everything. This is the city of endless "urban renewal," robbing tax dollars from every essential service. This is the city whose water bureau has gone into the residential construction business. This is the city that's rushing out to cover all its reservoirs without any real showing that it's necessary. This is the city of "voter-owned" elections. This is the city of consultant after consultant. This is the city that's saving the planet by inventing one new bureaucracy after another to impose its "smart" way of living on families who are just trying to make it.

Come on, Nick. We elected you because we thought you were going to do us better than Creepy and Randy. There are no hard choices here, only easy ones.

If you and Zsa Zsa want to dismantle the parks, no one's going to be able to stop you. But when you start preaching about how you have to do it, you aren't fooling anybody.

Burning Question of the Week

Readers have been asking me what I think about this week's announcement by my colleague, Jim Huffman, that he's running against Ron Wyden for the U.S. Senate. I don't blog about my workplace, and as with John Kroger's attorney general race, I'll keep this short. Jim is a staunch Republican. I can't imagine I would want his party having any more sway in our nation's capital than it presently has, and so I won't be endorsing him or voting for him.

On the other hand, as readers know, I have no use for Wyden, who's essentially a moderate Republican dressed up in blue clothing. Obstructionist on health care, obstructionist on tax reform -- whenever the chips are down and the party needs him, he starts talking about how he has a better idea, blah blah blah. He's neither a leader nor a follower. He won't stand up to the Republicans. And so I'm still waiting and hoping for another option, although I'm not optimistic.

In sum, though I hate to disappoint, don't expect too much commentary here on a Wyden-Huffman race. There's not much on either side to get excited about.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Have a great weekend

The latest in airport security theater

I see that the geniuses who have been keeping our commercial aircraft safe from bottled water are now going to subject some lucky passengers to a virtual strip search. I can tell you right now that Greg Oden had better allow himself an extra half hour to catch his flight.

You're living in your own private Greek Cusina

Here's some important news for Portland apartment dwellers: If your charming landlord doesn't pay his or her water bill for your building, Fireman Randy's shutting off the water to your apartments. You get to play the role of the collection agency on the city's behalf.

Hey, you're famous!

Did the tow truck vultures grab your car in Portland in February? If so, you should be honored that you're on the official list compiled by the city.

It's interesting to see who the property owners were who reportedly requested these tows. Chopsticks at NE 27th and Burnside, the Lloyd Center Denny's, the Lloyd Place Apartments, the Sixth Avenue Deli by Portland State, the Green Building on SE 12th, the Stockyards on Marine Drive, the Garden Home Dairy Queen -- these guys are a gold mine for the tow truck trollers, according to the city. And hey, you go, Margaret Carter! Pulling the trigger a couple of times on close-in NE Sacramento.

Cha-ching! Portland City Hall keeps hiring consultants

With the City of Portland going broke over expensive employee pensions, you'd think it might try to take care of business on its own for a while, without running out to hire outside firms. But you'd be wrong! Yesterday we got news of a bunch of new consultant contracts about to go out. Here's three new ones for the parks bureau -- they're putting a total price tag of $1.45 million on them. At the bureau of sustainable planning and whatever (I think they handle zoning and garbage), here's a contract for another $1.45 million. And over at the water bureau, where Fireman Randy doles out the pork from his throne, here's five more of them, for a total of $1.9 million.

You math majors out there can see that that's $4.8 million in new consultant contracts in a single business day. (And don't forget the $2 million deal currently pending at the sewer bureau.) At this rate, the end of the city as a viable financial entity is nearer, much nearer, than we thought.

The slicer is turning for the Portland high school shutdown

And first thing next week, it appears, the baloney is going to hit it:

On Monday, board members will consider a resolution outlining the design elements of a PPS High School System and directing Superintendent Carole Smith to develop a proposal detailing:

• The core program offered at each community comprehensive school.
• The number, size and location of those schools.
• The uses of campuses not utilized as community comprehensives.

Under the resolution, Superintendent Smith has 45 days to complete her work and present a proposal to the school board. School board and community engagement around the proposal will follow, with final decisions occurring by June, with implementation for fall 2011.

This might be a good time to open a private high school in Portland or vicinity. The kids can go by streetcar.

And a good time for the local pack of real estate developers! Some prime Portland real estate is about to come on the market -- perfect for some boxy Fake New York apartment buildings. Yum!

"Smart" electric meters: easy prey for terrorist hackers?

Don't be surprised if that turns out to be the case.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beginning of the end for Rangel

He's lost the Ways and Means chair -- which he should, since his personal finances raise far too many questions for that position -- and he'd better hope he doesn't wind up following his predecesor, Dan Rostenkowski, to a low-security federal corrections institution.

Duck poop rescuers are plentiful

The City of Portland held a pre-bid conference yesterday for contractors wanting to get in on the planned cleanout of the pond in Laurelhurst Park. And six pages of interested parties showed up. (Including one man who identified himself as Jesse Jackson.)

Are public employee unions' days numbered?

Down in arch-conservative Orange County, one columnist thinks so.

Will the Fed be a good watchdog for bank consumers?

Sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse to us. And Oregon's Democratic senator, Jeff Merkley, shares our suspicions.

Public soccer stadium project is colossal flop

So it goes in Rochester, New York.

Norwegians wouldn't -- would they?

Is this a hoax?


We blogged a while back about hidden treasure we had discovered over on Portland's east side. Apparently, some of it wasn't hidden well enough.

Broken record

The Portland police union head says, "It's all the unarmed dead guy's fault."

Scenes from a disaster

Haiti may have fallen out of the headlines, but the suffering there will take a lifetime or more to end. Portlander Conrad Radzik was there recently, and he took a bunch of photos, which are posted here. What a mess. And the rainy season hasn't even started in that part of the world yet.

Two painful experiences for the price of one

The New Jersey Nets are one of the worst pro basketball teams America has seen in a long time. They've got 6 wins and 54 losses this year. Fans are staying away from their games in droves. At one recent game, the actual attendance was about 1,000, although they did have an official attendance of 17,000 to watch the Nets get creamed by LeBron James last night.

To draw people into the seats, the Nets are offering a new deal: If you show up for the game Friday night, you get a coupon to have your state income tax return done by a professional return preparer firm for free, and $30 to $50 off a federal return prepared for you by the same company. Fans in attendance also get entered into a drawing for tickets to a future Nets loss.

Coaching the New Jersey team at the moment is former Blazer sharpshooter Kiki Vandeweghe.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Look, kids, it's a letter from Mr. Landlord

For an agency run by a lawyer, the Portland public housing bureau sure isn't looking too sharp in these cases.

Palin gets into it with actress with Down's

As usual, anyone who gets anywhere near Caribou Barbie's family suffers her wrath. But one of her targets zings her right back:

My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in Smudge" but I was a blonde in "Life Goes On". I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm".

In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

When you use kids as a shield, sometimes they get dinged up a little.

Paulson already pouring concrete at PGE Park

It's amazing that Little Lord Pauson gets to do this before his zoning variance and design issues are resolved by the city and county. But the sports guy on KGW News excitedly told viewers last night that he watched His Lordship's construction crew "pouring 375 feet of concrete" at the stadium yesterday.

Something to like about health care reform

There'll likely be an excise tax on tanning parlors. Well deserved.

Ring, ring goes the bell

My first foray into blogging about the impending closure of one or more Portland high schools has put me in touch with "school activist" sorts that I hadn't met before. There are some interesting blogs here and here on which a few of them air their views. And I suspect there are more.

One ticked-off mom raises an interesting issue about a Pentagon-funded program that takes Portland public elementary school kids out to military bases to show them what cool science and technology training they can get there. It's almost like something out of the TV ads for the armed forces, only perhaps a little more sinister.

Whatever one might think about the appropriateness of military influence on the youngest and most impressionable of the city's school kids, it's really surprising that Portland's war protesters aren't all over it. Maybe they have been and I've missed it; as I say, I'm a newcomer to the whole public schools thing, and a somewhat reluctant observer at that.

Silver bells and cockle shells

There's an eco-roof conference coming to Portlandia a week from Friday. And "Legend" Saltzman will be there planting some campaign seeds.

The two-day event will be held in the newly remodeled space between Weidler and Broadway just across from the Rose Quarter; that site looks pretty fresh and interesting from the outside. The high school basketball state tournament will be going on there at the same time, however, and there's a remodeling show as well on the second day. You may wish to fly in by helicopter.

Life in the Network is good

Governor Ted has moved Dale Penn, former prosecutor in the shadowy Michael Francke murder case, out of his post at Lottery Commission director and onto the bench as a Marion County judge.

Wrong place, right time

Here's a Southern California couple who would be welcomed with open arms by Fireman Randy's bureaucrats up here in Portland. Growing lawns and roses are so totally out these days. Portland's nickname will soon be changed to the "Drought-Tolerant Boxwood City."

Taps for the General

The illustrious life of a Portland native is remembered.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Running Windows XP?

Don't press F1.

Just another brick in the wall

Remember those Portland police and fire pension reforms that were going to require "disabled" but able-bodied retirees to get back to work in city desk jobs, rather than running restaurants and taping drywall while collecting their city benefits? Forget it. An arbitrator says the reforms were illegal, and of course, Substitute Mayor Randy, the former firefighter's union head, is all for rolling right over.

Oh, well. Move up your predicted date for the municipal bankruptcy by a few weeks, I guess.

Neighbors bust cell tower pushers for jumping the gun

The angry neighbors who don't want a cell tower monstrosity looming over their Northeast Portland homes report that they blew the whistle on some illegal construction work at the site today. It seems the cell phone company people don't care all that much about anything but getting their way.

More "if's" from Wyden

Heaven forbid he should actually come out and take a stand on anything:

Wyden, in a statement, said, "I've long believed we need a more competitive insurance market. If the House version of the public option came up for a vote in reconciliation I would vote yes."

His office did not immediately say whether he plans to sign the public option letter written by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) to send to Senate leadership. That letter now has 24 signatories.

Last week, Wyden sent out a press release saying he was holding off on signing the letter until after the White House summit.

"He intends to first join the President in a good faith effort to see if a bipartisan solution is possible," the release said.

In a do-nothing Senate, he's the perfect leadership figure.

Do you Tweet?

Your insurance agent may soon want to know.

Tax season special

Here's some fodder for continuing tax policy discussion, courtesy of the friendly folks at the IRS statistics branch, who just published the latest edition of their nerdly research:

Taxpayers filed 142.4 million individual income tax returns for 2008, which was 0.5 percent fewer than the 143.0 million returns filed for 2007. Adjusted gross income (AGI) also declined between 2007 and 2008, falling by 3.7 percent to $8.2 trillion. This was the first time since 2002 that AGI decreased from the previous year. Also between 2007 and 2008, taxable income decreased 5.1 percent to $5.6 trillion, total income tax decreased by 6.2 percent to $1.0 trillion, and total tax liability fell by 6.0 percent to just under $1.1 trillion.

Individual income tax returns reporting a tax liability in 2007 faced an average tax rate of 13.8 percent, the same as in 2006. Taxpayers with AGI of at least $410,096, the top 1 percent of taxpayers, accounted for 22.8 percent of AGI in 2007, an increase of 0.8 percentage points. These taxpayers accounted for 40.4 percent of total income tax reported in 2007, an increase from 39.9 percent in the previous year.

Oh, that top 1%...

Rendering not unto César

Folks who live and work along what used to be 39th Avenue on the east side of Portland are gradually resigning themselves to the fact that their street is now César E. Chávez Boulevard. They're not even going to let you shorten in to Chavez Boulevard -- you have to say the whole thing, and put the little accent marks in there too. I'm surprised they didn't add in the guy's Social Security number.

The new street signs are up, but the change is not going over well with everyone. The folks who live on the northernmost stretch of that street have got to be most displeased. For one thing, their quiet little residential street isn't a boulevard -- not even close. There's not even room for two cars to pass each other.

But hey, we all must suffer some inconvenience in order to honor a great man, I guess.

Funny thing, though -- the bureaucrats down at City Hall don't seem to be into it, either. Check out this document, just posted yesterday, as part of a bid solicitation for garbage pickup:

Here's a drawing sent out on the recent bid solicitation for the cleanout of the pond in Laurelhurst Park. No accent marks here, either:

I'm sure there's more where these came from.

When a street gets renamed, angry neighbors say "I'll never call it that." Eventually, they're forced to. I never would have suspected, however, that city employees would themselves be dragging their feet on this wonderful innovation. Where are our city commissioners, who run these bureaus? Shouldn't they be telling their minions to "Césarize it," immediately?

"We hate you!" "We don't care." Meeting adjourned.

The neighbors who are livid that Clearwire's going to stick a very tall, very noisy, very ugly cell antenna array on a giant pole at the Wilshire Market on Northeast Fremont Street are getting their one-and-only face-to-face meeting with the cell phone villains tonight. It's in the office space above the Soluna Grill (formerly Fife), up the street from Ground Zero aways, at 6:00.

Clearwire is apparently required to hold this meeting, after which it can send in its application to the city and start zapping away soon thereafter. What the confab is supposed to accomplish is anyone's guess. If they already have a lease signed with the people who own the market, then the chances of the Clear dudes changing their mind and not putting the installation there are 10,000,000 to 1. If there are two things that the cell companies do well, they are (1) owning politicians and (2) never, ever, ever backing down from a siting decision once they have a cash-hungry landlord signed up.

It's pretty funny -- a guy named David Soloos from something called the city Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management set up the meeting, but when asked if he'd be showing up himself, he wisely said no. "Once the meeting time was set," the neighbors report, "he declined to attend, saying that it wasn't an official city meeting and it wasn't necessary for him to be there."

I don't blame him. If I wanted to observe a half hour of pure vitriol and suspicion, I'd crack open a beverage and turn on Fox News. I hope the police have one of their cool-headed young officers standing by in case things get too heated.

Creepy's revenge

Everybody's been pointing me to this story, and I can see why: It's a Portland classic.

The Recall Sam Adams movement has its headquarters in a building owned by the City of Portland. It's the same forlorn block, under the SmartPark garage by the Galleria, in which the whole Peterson's convenience store saga played out two summers ago.

The recall folks got a donation of the use of the space as a sublease from a prime tenant. But now the lease is up, and the city is kicking the recall folks out, even though they're offering to pay rent up front for the period between now and the petition signature deadline, April 20.

It isn't because you're the recall, says the city. Oh, no -- it's just that we want to get some high-end retail in there right away, and you know, in the current vibrant economy of downtown Portland, those retailers are just chomping at the bit to get into that space. There's very little other storefront space available right now.


The recall staff sent around this message to supporters last night:

This is our last week at the 940 SW Morrison Street Office.

Office hours this week: Mon/Wed 10:30-1:30 and Tues/Thurs 3:30-6:30

The city that works so hard for you this past year is our landlord at this site. The Portland Development Commission is in charge of upgrading this site and desires to have a "more retail frontage" presence even though there are several vacant store fronts in this same building. This particular site has not had a permanent tenant for years. The PDC does not have a tenant or permits in for improvements at this site and does not anticipate this until this summer. We only need the site until April 20th. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. You might want to make a few phone calls to our city leaders....

The recall people should have seen this coming, but they haven't proven to be the sharpest knives in the drawer. And given that the mayor has shown himself to be a petty, vindictive, liar, no sane person will easily accept the city's explanation that the eviction isn't due to who the tenants are. (The mayor is in complete control of both the finance bureau and the PDC.) What a soap opera.

The collective nervous breakdown known as Mayor Sam Adams continues -- but just think, only two more years and 10 more months to go. Then Fireman Randy will formally assume the mayor's office, and at that point things will really stabilize.

Horror story

While digging through old pennies with the kids the last couple of evenings, I've been trying to teach them a little history as we sort them out by decades. "That one's from the year you were born." "This one's older than Mom." "That's the year there was a big war," etc.

Tonight as I came across a 1984, I tried to think of how to tell them about George Orwell's novel, what it was trying to warn people about, how a lot of it didn't come to pass by 1984, but some of it did, and now even more troublesome things have happened. But I decided it was too heavy a story for them yet, and went with something like "They made a lot of pennies in the 1980s, because they changed the metal and people were keeping all the old ones." Which I'm pretty sure is true.

A little later, a reader sent me a link to this news item, which makes me think that maybe I had better get onto the Orwell topic with the kids pretty soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Birds

This stuff is starting to get a little spooky.

Fireman Randy saves lives

If there had been a "Portland loo" nearby, this man might not have perished.

The ultimate Ticketbastards

They'd better have good bodyguards. These are the guys everyone loves to hate.

Pushing it

The direct-mail come-ons to the OHSU health club in SoWhat just keep on a-rollin' in to our place:

How Clackamas County is different from Portland

This guy is still alive.

A piece of history

Here's a Jail Blazer story I had forgotten, if I had ever heard it to begin with. After an on-court fight with Bonzi Wells in 2002, Golden State forward Chris Mills blocked the Blazers' team bus from leaving the arena -- and allegedly brandished a gun at the Portland team? I definitely don't remember the gun part.

Not impressed

Former Rep. Greg Macpherson's latest newsletter reviews the special session of the legislature and concludes: "This February session didn't attempt much and accomplished even less."

Multnomah County gets into the ramrod act on Paulson stadium deal

Did you know that the Multnomah County board of commissioners gets to pass on the remodel of PGE Park for Little Lord Paulson and his soccer team upgrade? There it is on Thursday morning's agenda -- the county has to approve the City of Portland's recent zoning change to allow a 15,000-square-foot private sports clinic to be built inside PGE Park as part of the stadium's re-renovation.

And get this -- the county is declaring an "emergency," rather than going through the normal process for adopting ordinances. Other than making up for bad planning on the part of the city and Paulson, it's hard to see what makes immediate adoption of this ordinance "necessary for the health, safety and general welfare of the people of Multnomah County," as it declares.

Shame on Wheeler and Cogen if they rubber-stamp this without a full process. They don't need to join in the kissing of Paulson's ring.

Guess what else is being paid for out of your Portland water bill

Did you know that the Portland Water Bureau is now enforcing the city's mandatory biodiesel law? What else can Fireman Randy think of to pay for out of water revenues? Unless the voters wake up and stop him, that is. Mission Creep City!

Meanwhile, those pesky folks who don't want the city's open reservoirs covered or disconnected are howling about the steady increase in what they call "cozy consultant contracts" in recent years at the bureau. Floy Jones, a gangleader of the reservoir set, pulled some juicy numbers out of the sales document for the city's recent round of water bonds. She writes:

During Randy's reign consultant spending increases -- $9 million spent on consultants in 2005 increasing to $19 million in 2009, $67 million in 5 years to consultants! A few years back when budget committee members balked at the hiring of 14 additional engineers we were told that doing so would result in fewer dollars spent on consultants. The engineering group received a big upward classification this year. Tons of money is being spent on consultants.
Professional services9,203,88513,448,99611,783,04912,606,40419,163,084
Salaries and wages24,467,68623,516,40228,640,78234,693,06935,779,508

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