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

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May 2010 Archives

Monday, May 31, 2010

All better now

The vent cover has been restored to its proper place on the bottom of the Weber grill kettle. The Mrs. discovered that the rotted-out post that previously held the cover in place could be knocked out with a hammer and a nail after some pushing and prodding. That left the perfect hole for a nut and bolt out of the storeroom in the basement; the nut now loosely holds the cover in place:

Seems good for another summer at least -- although we may be performing a similar operation on the other two vents before long.

The colors of money

Worth a try

Worried about the performance of its drivers, Tri-Met is reportedly considering new safety enhancements that would be implemented in partnership with the Portland Water Bureau.

Remember them

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Of bake sales and half-baked ideas

The Portland folks who are protesting the placement of cell phone antennas on poles right next to their homes are holding a combination bake sale and protest at the proposed site of one of the unwanted installations -- 37th and Fremont, where Alameda crosses Fremont -- on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30. I am sure they will be joined by the angry folks from the vicinity of 23rd and Stanton, where the same cell phone company, Clearwire, is also planning to slap up some additional antennas.

Meanwhile, the controversy has led us to a post on city commissioner Amanda Fritz's web site, in which she explains the current regulatory scheme that the city says it's following:

If there is an existing building or structure, such as a business, church, school, existing cell tower, or water tank where the new antennas can be placed, that option is preferred. Approval may require a Land Use review using Zoning Code regulations and approval criteria.

If an existing building or structure is not available, facilities must be placed on existing utility poles, based on a four-tier street ranking, from busy arterials to quiet neighborhood streets. The street rankings are here. [Alas, that link is to an excruciatingly slow-loading pdf file -- but it does show the maps. And both Clearwire locations are shown as Priority 4 -- lowest priority. --JB] The facility must be placed on a pole on the largest street possible, based on the coverage need of the carrier....

If the above choices are impossible, then the carrier can apply to build a cell tower.

This policy has been effective. No new cell towers have been built in residential areas since about 2004, and of the 80 sites with an antenna on a utility pole, only about 20 have been placed on poles on small neighborhood streets in residential areas.

But in the end, it appears that Fritz has realized that the city's current regime of rules isn't going to be satisfactory to the voters once these pole projects insinuate themselves citywide:

We are pursuing new strategies to address the hundreds of upcoming applications for more cellular facilities... I recognize many Portlanders are concerned about the siting of cellular facilities. After a sufficient number of applications have been reviewed and approved/denied, my office will work with Cable staff and citizens to assess whether changes to the current regulations are needed.
Forget reading the handwriting on the wall. On this one, Fritz will be smelling the tar and feathers as they come up Fourth Avenue quite soon.

Evil triumphs once again

It was sad to see the Phoenix Suns meet their inevitable fate last night. There's no sports team I like less than the Los Angeles Lakers. So now it will be another Lakers-Celtics championship series. Stifling a major yawn, I guess it's time to root for the geezers of Boston.

Call it the start of the summer

The weather hasn't exactly been inspirational in this regard, but by our traditions last evening's was the first dinner of the summer. This called for the first grilled vegetable basket of the year, to go with the burgers:

The Mrs. gets it ready -- with some basil, some thyme, a little good oil -- and I tend to it. When the cherry tomatoes start to fall apart, you're good to go. These good rhythms usually take us well into the fall.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Schrunk won't prosecute

Proposed Multnomah County budget cuts have caused District Attorney Mike Schrunk to issue a list of misdemeanors that he may not prosecute if his staffing is reduced. Among them: "Any Portland City Code offense."

Good times.

University of Washington alum propels his team to NBA Finals

No, the other one.

Why I'm not President, cont'd

If I were, I'd be asking Congress to freeze all of the assets of British Petroleum in the United States. The costs of cleaning up the oil spill mess keep multiplying, and the BP face cards keep talking about a fix. But this is a multinational corporation here. It's hard not to think that their bean counters and lawyers are also busy moving assets around so that the victims of their negligence are never compensated.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Have a great holiday weekend

Latest SoWhat apartment sales pitch: Don't own a car

It's hard to imagine what else they can do to make this a most unattractive place to live.

Old pennies don't travel far

We're learning some things as we plow through a huge bucket of pennies to see what's in there. One lesson is that in a Portland guy's change, most of the pennies are from the Denver mint -- even the older ones, which one might have thought had a greater opportunity to migrate east from the mint in Phialdelphia.

Of the 145 oldest cents in the bucket, only 12 are from the Philadelphia mint, whereas 6 are from San Francisco (which used to mint some pennies in an older era), and the other 127 are from Denver.

Now, it's true that they used to mint more pennies in Denver than in Philly back then, but the difference in mint output nowhere near justifies the discrepancy in the pocket change.

Take 1961, for example. That year they pumped out 1,753,266,700 pennies from Denver, as compared with 753,345,000 from Philadelphia. Thus, 30% of that year's pennies came from Philly. But in our reader's pocket change over two decades, of the 50 pennies accumulated from that year, Denvers outnumbered Phillies 46 to 4; in other words, the City of Brotherly Love accounted for only 8%.

I'll bet penny collectors on the East Coast run into the reverse side of this, with Philadelphia coins more numerous than Denver. Maybe collectors on both coasts should throw a bucket of coins from their pockets into their car trunks and meet up in Kansas for a swap. I'll bet that's been done a few times.

In any event, we've got thousands more cents to check out before issuing a final report, but in the meantime, check out the color on this beauty, which was in with all the rest:

Not bad for 49 years old.

A failure of process

Another neighborhood over our way is about to get a bunch of cell antennas on a power pole near homes, and the neighbors are not happy about it. This time the installation is going to go up on a Pacific Power pole on NE Stanton Street west of 24th Avenue. As with the tower about to go up near the Wilshire Market on Fremont Street, it's a gift from the cell phone pushers at Clearwire. The families just across the street from the pole are up in arms, as are many of their neighbors. The lawn signs are up, the flyers are being left on the porches, and the anger is palpable.

The neighbors are making all the arguments: The antennas will reduce their property values, expose them to radiation the health effects of which are not fully understood, make a lot of noise, and be ugly as sin at 90 feet in height. The city is forbidden by federal law from taking the health questions into account in regulating the siting of these transmitters, but it is allowed to consider the other issues. And the city has pretty much decided that the downsides for the neighbors are just tough luck.

Complicating matters just a bit for the homeowners in the Stanton case is that there's a classic old telephone switching station at that location, and it's still owned by Qwest. Inside that building is all manner of scary-looking telephone equipment -- passersby can hear the cooling systems hum away, 24/7 -- and at one time there clearly were cell phone antennas on top of the building. Nowadays there's some suspicious stuff up on the roof that probably is a bunch of transmitters, but it's not obvious what it is. There are usually few, if any, human beings in that facility. If you moved in next to a place that spooky, some folks are not going to be too sympathetic to your complaints about some additional antennas up above.

Unfortunately for the neighbors, the cell phone industry has convinced the city to allow these installations just about anywhere there's an existing utility pole. Today it's 23rd and Stanton and 37th and Fremont, but there will be dozens, maybe even hundreds, more startled and upset Portland neighborhoods over the next few years as the cell phone boys take the city up on its open pole policy.

That so many people are stomping around upset (or soon will be doing so) indicates to us that there's been a failure in how the city's policy was made and implemented. The city held lots of meetings about this -- I believe Commissioner Fritz was at the helm -- and we blogged about them in a minor way a year ago. Did the average person hear about these meetings? Probably not. And of those who did hear, how many of them thought it was worth their time to go? Probably only a few. In the abstract, the issue is not important enough to give up one's scarce free time over. But put a tower 50 feet from your kid's bedroom, and it's a different story.

Maybe the neighborhood associations could have done more to get the word out, and get interest up. But does the average person listen to that crowd, or want to go to a bunch of meetings with them to keep up on things? Again, probably not.

Given the degree of difficulty in getting a meaningful public process going, the city should have proceeded as cautiously as possible. Maybe the cell companies should have been given a three-year or five-year experimental period in which they could install a limited number of antennas for a limited duration to gauge public reaction and increase public awareness of what was coming. The city didn't do that. Now residents all over town are going to stuck with deals of who knows how long -- 10 years, 20 years, maybe more?

In this case, the pole is a Pacific Power pole, in the public right of way, and the adjacent property is owned by Qwest. Are either of those two entities collecting a rent or other fee from Clearwire for the privilege? Is the city? Could any of them had said no? If so, the angry neighbors ought to be picketing and otherwise making life miserable for them, and for whoever else may be benefiting economically from the installation. Protests probably won't change the result in this particular case, but they might send a signal to other landlords in the future that the money they get from the Clearwire types won't come without costs.

In any event, it would be great if the city leaders would put down their own smart phones, stop Tweeting for a few months, and go out and really listen to what's important to the families who make up the backbone of the community. For all the grandstanding Portland does about its public involvement processes, that didn't happen on this issue. The residents who should have known this might be coming, never found out until it was too late. And as readers will doubtlessly attest, this is not the only place in which the city has fallen down on the public involvement job.

A new manor for Little Lord Paulson

Portland's major minor league sports mogul is moving. He and Lady Paulson III have acquired a new shack in Dunthorpe. Nothing too ostentatious -- a mere 6,900 square foot house on just one wooded acre. Four bedrooms, 4½ or 5 baths, built in 1956, remodeled to the studs in 2004 -- and a steal at $2,050,000 (closing price according to the Portland Business Journal). It looks as if the sellers started out at $2,295,000.

One wonders whether Pops Paulson holds the mortgage on the new joint. He did on Sonny's old place in Lake O. -- to the tune of about $1.4 million.

But remember, Henry III's a regular guy -- he answers the door himself, in his socks!

No press release on this one

Oregon law enforcement really screwed up in this case. It apparently took the feds to get to the bottom of things.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

To tell the truth?

The banks want no part of it.

Urban (renewal) cowboys

This time it's outright lawbreaking, down in Eugene.

Nate rates a 6.3 at the end, 6.1 average for the year

We've wrapped up our fifth and final Rate-a-Nate poll for the season, and the Blazers head coach finished up with a 6.3 rating out of 10. This is quite a drop-off from the 7.3 rating he had at the end of the regular season, but a darn sight better than the 5.4 rating that he started the season with.

Here are the results of all five polls, each of which drew a couple hundred voters, and what was going on when each poll started:

As you can see, the average of the five poll scores was around 6.1. Or if you prefer the chart to the table, here ya go:

Nate's contract has got another year to go, and so it appears we'll have ample opportunity to rate him again come Halloween time. But his assistant, Monty Williams, is probably going to be moving up to head coach in some other city. If the chemistry in the Blazer coaching ranks changes, perhaps the ratings will, too. Meanwhile, we're all gearing up for a Phoenix-Orlando championship series. Ha! Ha!

Left off the economic road map

The Kiplinger list of 10 smart places to move to over the next decade leads with Austin and Seattle, followed by Washington, D.C. The bloom is off the Portland rose, however.

If only we had free municipal wi-fi and windmills on all the buildings...

Another "urban renewal" scheme shot down

Down in tiny Stayton, Oregon (population: 7820), the voters have seen the light and said no to robbing essential services to line the pockets of the real estate guys and gals, who would probably wreck the place with the money. And just as in Tualatin, it was the firefighters leading the way to defeating the money grab. Good for them.

Why a place like that would even be considering such a thing is beyond me. It's another example of that curious Oregon phenomenon, "urban renewal" without the urb.

Is Portland's new leaf removal "fee" a Measure 5 "tax"?

Yesterday, we posted something that to us is really important. We suggested that the City of Portland's wild spending of water and sewer bill revenues on programs not directly related to water and sewer services rendered the sewer and water charges "taxes," subject to the state constitutional limits of Measure 5. If you haven't seen that one, you read should head over to it and check it out. The comments do not dissuade us from our view that there's a serious, serious issue there.

Today we'd like to pile just one, small additional point on top of that: The city's proposed leaf removal fee for neighborhoods that have traditionally received that service for free is also unconstitutional, unless it comes out of other property taxes under Measure 5. Unless homeowners in the affected neighborhoods are given the option to pick up the leaves themselves and avoid the charge, it appears that the leaf "fee" is really a "tax" on the property owner, and thus subject to Measure 5. And I'm not hearing anything from the City Council about letting people pick up the leaves themselves.

Is Sam Adams buying off The Oregonian?

The revelation that the City of Portland is planning to buy a large parcel of vacant land from the city's monopoly daily newspaper and turn it into some sort of seldom used "disaster staging area" has raised at least a few eyebrows around town. The reported price in the deal is $10 million, and it's the mayor and Fireman Randy who are pushing it. As we reported the other day, they tried to slip this one into the water bureau budget for the coming year, but when that maneuver came to light, they hurriedly moved it out into some other place in the black hole known as the city's budget.

The boldness of this move -- and the screaming conflicts of interest, both governmental and journalistic -- are breathtaking. Here we are in the midst of a major recession, with real estate prices plummeting, Portland's economy deeply tanking, businesses failing, and the city government faced with rapidly declining revenues. Suddenly it's time to set up a disaster response assembly lot where none existed before? Could the O's headlong decline, which has led to the decimation of its staff, have anything to do with it? Could the mayor, whose resignation the paper has already demanded without effect, be trying to buy off the fourth estate?

And where did the $10 million figure come from? The county lists three lots at that location, totaling about 10.6 acres. The real market value is shown as $8,069,720. (The O apparently bought the property in 2000 for $6.2 million.) Assuming that the city wants to buy all three lots, why is it paying a 23.9% premium at a time when real estate values are in freefall? And does industrial land in Northwest Portland, which has stood vacant for a decade, really merit 61.3% appreciation over that period of time?

Is this a bailout for the O? A bailout for the O's shareholders, the Newhouse family -- one of the richest families in the entire world? And what will the newsies provide in return, consciously or not, to the politicians who are flushing out their bosses' odd real estate play with cash? It's an ugly little deal -- but hey, ain't that Portland these days.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Once a Jail Blazer, always a Jail Blazer

Z-Bo is moving on up into the big time of gangsta life.

UPDATE, 5/27, 1:40 p.m.: It gets worse. The man is bad news from coast to coast. He may need some jail time now.

Weasels ripped my bus

Portland's mass transit has been ripped apart by the condo pushers. Today Tri-Met hacked away at bus service again, leaving a system that's hardly recognizable as the once-proud network that it was. Oh, and a 5-cent fare increase to go with it, right in the middle of a major recession.

But hey -- light rail! To Milwaukie! Linchpin! Only a billion dollars! The feds will pay half!

What a downward spiral. Neil Goldschmidt and his pals like Fred Hansen all got rich, shamelessly exploiting a city whose motto is fast becoming "Epic Fail." Go by streetcar!

Next for your Portland sewer dollars: "rain gardens"

Portland City Hall knows that you're unhappy about your sewer bill. And they're doing something about it.

They're giving you the finger.

When the red light camera goes off...

... smile and wave to the boys at Goldman Sachs. This unbelievable factoid is tucked away in a story about red light robo-cops in Florida:

The losing side in the debate contended another motive is in play. Motorist group AAA pointed out a private camera contractor working with West Palm Beach and several other cities, American Traffic Solutions of Arizona, is partly owned by Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs, which gained control of two ATS board seats in 2008.

"It's more about the money than it is traffic safety," said Kevin Bakewell, a vice president with AAA in Tampa who unsuccessfully urged Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the state law.

Those no-good-niks are everywhere.

It's o.k. to guess

If you haven't joined our World Cup soccer prediction game, you really ought to. Think of it as a March Madness bracket, only it's in June and it's in Africa and it's outside and a lot of people on the field pitch don't speak English and they're not allowed to touch the ball with their hands. Other than that, it's very similar. Anybody can play -- it's free, and it promises to be fun. Winner gets fame and beverages!

All you need is a Yahoo account and a sporting spirit. The details are here -- basically, just shoot me an e-mail request and I'll get you started. We've got 13 players so far -- still plenty of room for more.

Portlanders, hold onto what's left of your wallets

Mayor Creepy has cut yet another deal with Homer Williams and Dike Dame for another SoWhat bunker -- this one for homeless veterans to live in, supposedly. And they've been working hard to make the project "pencil" -- that's the signal for the city's taxpayers to "assume the position," as they used to say at the frat house:

The $49.8 million project will use a combination of tax-increment financing from the North Macadam Urban Renewal area, bond financing and tax credit equity from a 4 percent low income housing tax credit available through the state of Oregon. The project’s funding strategy still needs to be approved by Portland city council. That vote will take place in September.
How much more money can the city borrow and hand over to Homer and Dike to pour into their bank accounts, or down a rat hole? Truly amazing. And of course, as housing commish, Nick Fish is in this one up to his eyeballs with the clown princes of high-rise insanity.

As for wheeling out the veterans to sell the deal to the public, it's important to note that less than a quarter of the apartments are apparently going to be reserved for them. As a shining, happy e-mail message from the city points out:

The project will have 209 affordable apartments over ground-floor space that may be used for retail, office or community services. All 209 of the apartments will be affordable to households earning 60% of median family income (MFI).

Providing housing for homeless veterans is a key focus. The building will reserve 42 apartments for veterans earning less than 30% MFI. Support services and rent assistance for residents will be provided by the Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, administered by the Housing Authority of Portland’s (HAP).

And the contractor? Three guesses should be more than sufficient.

And did this job go out to public bid? I must have missed it.

Another bad moment for Tri-Met

Too many of the drivers over there seem to have a serious attitude problem. Go by ambulance!

Are Portland water, sewer bills now "taxes" subject to Measure 5 limits?

Like many people in Portland, I've been brooding about the City Council's unsettling, recurring raids on our already sky-high water and sewer bills for frills like bicycle lanes, neon rose signs, a new headquarters for the Rose Festival, "voter-owned elections," and bailouts for The Oregonian under the guise of buying a disaster "staging" site. (And there's more where that came from.) People on fixed incomes are going to be chased out of their homes, not by property taxes this time (although those aren't exactly low), but instead by fast-increasing utility bills that are funding all manner of City Hall pet projects.

One thing I've thought is that Oregon is going to need some sort of new ballot measure limiting utility bill increases, like the laws that already exist to prevent sharp jumps in property tax bills -- Measures 5, 47, and 50, which have completely changed the state's property tax landscape since they were passed in 1990, 1996, and 1997, respectively.

But on closer inspection, a new ballot measure may not be necessary after all. By subverting water and sewer revenues for purposes far from the provision of water and sewer service, the City Council may very well have already triggered Measures 5, 47, and 50 by turning part or all of the utility bills into "taxes" subject to those strict limitations.

I'll let you be the judge of the validity of this idea. Here is the definition of a "tax" included in the final version of 5-47-50. It's currently contained in Article XI, section 11b of the state constitution. Note especially the last sentence of this excerpt:

(b) 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.

(c) "Incurred charges" include and are specifically limited to those charges by government which can be controlled or avoided by the property owner:

(i) because the charges are based on the quantity of the goods or services used and the owner has direct control over the quantity; or

(ii) because the goods or services are provided only on the specific request of the property owner; or

(iii) because the goods or services are provided by the governmental unit only after the individual property owner has failed to meet routine obligations of ownership and such action is deemed necessary to enforce regulations pertaining to health or safety.

Incurred charges shall not exceed the actual costs of providing the goods or services. [Emphasis added.]

It seems to me that since Portland water and sewer bill revenues are being used for many purposes that cannot reasonably be called "actual costs of providing" water and sewer "services," at least part of Portlanders' water and sewer bills are now "taxes" subject to the property tax limitations of 5-47-50.

It could be quite interesting if one or more of the moneyed folks behind the old ballot measures is still around and willing to bankroll a lawsuit to see if I'm right about that. Perhaps one of our legislators of the Republican persuasion could ask our illustrious state attorney general for an opinion on the point. Or maybe I'm all wet. Our readers are usually pretty good on topics like this. What do you think?

Maybe they're waiting to run the story on Friday night

The O's failure to mention its editorial page editor's arrest for drunk driving has attracted the attention of the national media media.

New Jersey in early February, at night?

Sounds like a Super Bowl in Hell.

Just flew in from Alaska...

... and man, my arms are tired.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Might as well jump

One of the first gifts the Mrs. gave me 18 years ago was an extraordinary book -- a collection of photographs by Philippe Halsman, a famous photographer from the '50s and '60s who, in this particular work, caught dozens of his celebrity subjects in mid-air after he asked them to leap up.

Some of those photos are currently on display in an exhibit in the Big Apple, prompting this nice review, and this slideshow. Check out the whole book if you ever get the chance. Go ahead and jump.

Waking up

It appears that the Phoenix Suns actually have a shot at evening their playoff series with the Lakers. The Suns are ahead in the waning moments of tonight's game. If they prevail, our interest meter in the playoffs may move up to a 5, whereas just a few days ago it was at 0.

UPDATE, 8:30 p.m.: They did it. Game on, a three-game series now.

Spit on me

I need some serious time off.

All I need to know

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan got an "A" in tax at Harvard Law School.

Emergency "land grab" was in water bureau budget

We've been blogging (not entirely successfully) about the City of Portland's plan to blow $10 million to buy from The Oregonian some industrial land in Northwest Portland for a disaster response "staging" site. Today Floy Jones, the gal who tries to keep the city's water bureau honest, reveals to us that the original plan by the Sam Rand Twins was to sneak the whole $10 million cost onto Portlanders' water bills. She writes:

It is unclear to me from your posts whether or not you know that in fact the purchase of this emergency management property was in the Water Bureau budget, unbeknownst to WB watchdogs such as myself, until the rate hearing last Wednesday morning. The cost to ratepayers for this non-mission-critical item, was a nearly 1% rate increase this year. Removing this item from the budget reduced the rate increase from 12.9% to 12 %. Though I attended all of the Water Budget Committee meetings, this item was never mentioned. Why? Because it would not have been supported.

Water bills will still go up close to 15% with a 12% increase because they are, for a second year in a row, also raising the base charge.

It's obvious that Fireman Randy and his pals now see the water system as a cash cow for any ridiculous idea that pops into their heads. Is that legal? That's a point worth considering, and we will in another post.

Rip City

It appears that I am not the only "progressive" person who is less than excited about seeing Oregon regress to another term for Dr. Blue Jeans.

When cash was king, they were Kings of Cash

We've got a few bucks (alas, nothing to write home about) in the Columbia mutual funds, and in that capacity we've been getting notices lately telling us that most of those funds are in the process of being sold. Bank of America, which has owned them for a few years, is shipping them off to an outfit known as Ameriprise. B of A (slogan: "We've got the City of Portland by the grass roots") is keeping only the Columbia money market fund, which it's renaming after B of A.

Knocking the Columbia name off the money market fund brings an end to an era that saw its heyday nearly 30 years ago, when inflation was running rampant and interest rates were sky-high. When we went to sign up for our first mortgage in 1981, the interest rates being charged for a 30-year home loan were in the neighborhood of 16%. The prime rate that year was higher than 20%. Smaller financial institutions -- there were a whole cohort of them operating in the format of "savings and loan associations" -- couldn't survive in that environment. They were collecting tiny rates of interest on home loans that they had made years before, but when they needed cash, they had to pay much higher rates. And the rates they were offering depositors weren't anywhere the prime, and that didn't exactly bring moms and pops rushing in to park their money there. It was a downward spiral.

Meanwhile, here in Portland, a guy named Jerry Inskeep and his partner Jim Rippey had a small group of mutual funds, named Columbia Management, including a money market fund named Columbia Daily Income Company, which was paying double-digit rates of interest. Founded in the 1970's, it was one of the first money market mutual funds in the country. The minimum investment wasn't all that large, and so schoolteachers, secretaries, salespeople, firefighters, and other everyday Joes and Janes pulled lots of their nest eggs out of the banks and S&Ls and turned them over to CDIC. It was all the rage for several years, until the money markets finally calmed down and rates gradually came back down to earth.

The Columbia brand kept expanding, branching into an ever-larger group of mutual funds, which was eventually sold for $460 million to an East Coast outfit named Fleet in 1997. B of A took them over in 2004. Until now, the funds all retained the Columbia brand, and in fact Fleet renamed many of its own funds after Columbia as well.

Inskeep and Rippey retired, made men many times over, and have given much back as philanthropists. Inskeep died last summer, but apparently Rippey's still alive and kicking, giving gazillions to the U of O.

Ah, the 16% mortgage. Those were the days, kids.

Goodbye, cruel world

Here's a serious warning to Portlanders of all ages: As you may have heard, the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] is closed for maintenance this week. The good people at the medical school, who have only your good health at heart, told us when they were pitching the tram to the Portland taxpayers that the entire world would come to an end if they didn't get their "vital" transportation "linchpin." Shuttle buses just wouldn't work, they warned us. It was aerial tram or death.

And since the tram isn't tramming this week, it's a pretty good indication that the world is, indeed, going to come to an end now. I hope we make it to the Memorial Day weekend, but if we don't, it's been nice knowing you.

Oops! We mixed up duelling emergency bureaus.

Well, we screwed up pretty good here yesterday. We were reporting on the moves that Portland's mayor and city auditor are making on the city's office of emergency management, and we mistakenly identified that bureau as the one that handles 911 calls. Silly us! No, 911 calls are handled by the bureau of emergency communications, which is a completely different entity, run by a different city council member, from the office of emergency management. The latest audit is not about the 911 folks, who handle every call from an individual needing help; it's about the agency that's charged with getting the city prepared for a major calamity affecting large segments of the population at the same time.

But as we said, to an observant eye it seems likely that the sudden spotlight being thrown on the emergency management office is connected to the Sam-Rand Twins' latest megalo-move. That is, to blow $10 million to buy a big parcel of real estate -- from The Oregonian, of all people -- for an "emergency staging" area. Any such facility would be run by the same office that was the target of the audit.

Our gaffe has us brooding about some bigger questions, however. If a big disaster strikes, does it make sense to have one city commissioner calling the shots on 911 response, yet another commissioner running "emergency management," potentially a third one running the police bureau, and maybe a fourth one running the fire bureau? When we penned our erroneous blog post yesterday, perhaps we were subconsciously assuming a far more rational form of government than the one Portland currently has.

Perfect timing

Here the State of Oregon is irrevocably headed into the biggest fiscal crisis in its history, and yet the characters out at the Port of Portland have chosen this time to welcome us all to their preposterous, unnecessary new $100-million-plus headquarters building out at the airport. (Together with the attached parking garage, the construction tab is $241 million.) They had just built a headquarters in Old Town 11 years ago, but in order to keep feeding the hungry mouths of the construction companies who pull all the strings in Oregon, they went ahead and built a new one. In this case, the pork went to the sweethearts at Hoffman Construction -- the guys that brought you the Convention Center expansion, endless airport re-configurations, and so many other good things.

But wait -- it gets better.

Guess what the new building has.

Come on.

You know....

Continue reading "Perfect timing" »

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Welches con man hit foiled

An alert reader writes:

My wife and I saw the creep in action on SW 5th and Taylor this evening. He didn't get any money that round, but it was a close call. We told his intended "victim" of his infamous ways and he took off. We're on the look out for him and have a plan to photograph him on the inevitable next sighting. Thanks for all these warnings. They worked!
Way to go, readers.

Con man David Wilson.

Big Brother Google

They just get scarier and scarier.

They come right out and say it

One of the biggest laughs we've had recently is when the mayor of Portland announced that, because the city's broke, it would stop hiring consultants. Ha! Ha! Here's another $185,000 out the window, for yet another consultant for yet more bicycle projects.

Nothing new there, except for the key sentence in the description of the work: "The plan emphasizes creating conditions to make bicycling more attractive than driving for short trips and completing a bikeway network that attracts new riders." In other words, if you drive a car, we're going to make your life miserable. What a town.

Portland "spring"

The last few weeks make one wonder: Will the furnace still be coming on on Fourth of July?

Mayor Creepy takes on emergency response

As the kids say, OMG. The Portland city auditor, who has done nothing but carry water for the Sam-Rand Twins since she showed up at City Hall, has suddenly taken an interest in the city bureau that oversees emergency response. And she says she doesn't like what she sees:

We found that the emergency management system lacks both a clear definition of roles and the strategic planning needed to focus limited resources on the highest priority risks. We also determined that many essential emergency preparedness activities are incomplete. However, POEM has made recent progress in some areas, including clarifying and defining operations at the City’s emergency coordination center.
Now, this wouldn't raise an eyebrow except for two things: One, the bureau is currently run by the mayor, whose tenure in office is itself a catastrophe worthy of a continuous 911 connection. And two, the mayor and Fireman Randy have suddenly found $10 million or so lying around to buy a bunch of real estate for an emergency "staging" site, which the city would purchase from The Oregonian (I am not making this up).

It's hard to believe that the auditor issued this report on her own initiative, or that it isn't designed to serve some nefarious purpose of the Twins, probably connected to their latest real estate scam. Or maybe the water bureau is going to wangle itself into the emergency management arena to continue its mission creep juggernaut. In any event, I admire but also worry about the front-line folks who work on emergencies. It's a hard enough job without having an unstable person as your boss.

The few, the proud -- the Bojack bumper sticker

Are you brave enough to display a bumper sticker that identifies you as a reader of this blog? Could be a great way to meet government employees.

To get one, you'll have to pungle up $1.50 to cover snail mail, envelope, etc. Just click here to pay by PayPal:

How many you want?

If you're PayPal-shy, e-mail me here for further instructions.

Our terms of service are simple: that you don't use this item for graffiti or other vandalism.

We got these from an outfit called BuildaSign.com, makers of fine custom vinyl banners. They have provided them without charge, in exchange for a promotional announcement to run on the sidebar of this blog. This may turn out to be a fun moment in the history of this blog, or a really stupid idea. Guess we're going to find out.

(While supplies last. Void where prohibited. Limit 3 per household. Not responsible for traffic stops, sidewalk inspections, "hit squad" targeting, or any other consequences.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Discovered by Seattle

A nice joint on Northeast Glisan makes a big impression.

Out-of-control cops and the people who enable them

The Portland police have company down in Clackamas County.

The Obama Show

If you love the guy, it's must-see TV.

Days of miracle and wonder

Here's an amazing photo taken last weekend.

My kind of politician

Alas, among its many leaders, Oregon doesn't have anybody like this:

His primary is June 1.

Protest this

It's quite disturbing that in a country in which corporate speech is carefully protected by the law, a neighbor who spends $500 in a month organizing a protest movement has to register with the government and rat out all the others who provided more than $25 in value toward the cause.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

National Blowout Association

Runaway scores, swept series -- the pro hoops playoffs sure are a dud so far this year.

God bless America

That Google van was doing more than taking pictures

And it's prompted a class action lawsuit right here in Portland.

How about a "Biggest Oregon Tax Deadbeats" list?

It could be coming. And wouldn't it be interesting reading?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Have a great weekend

There must be some mistake

I don't get it:

Oregon risks 10 years of crushing, multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls unless it immediately puts the brakes on spending and starts offering fewer services, cautions a new report released Thursday.
The authors of that report must not have heard the news. The Oregon state government is currently rolling in money. If it weren't, how could we afford to blow $250 million in state lottery funds on a shiny new train between Portland and Milwaukie?

So is that it for drug-testing the Portland police?

For a while there, Portland city commissioner "Legend" Saltzman was telling people that he was demanding drug testing of the police force as part of contract negotiations with the police union. But now that Saltzman's out and the mayor's in as police commissioner, will that idea be tossed aside?

If I were the police union head, I'd tell the mayor, "We'll take them, if you will." And that would likely be the end of that.

How "urban renewal" kills off livability

A reader who shares our dim view of "urban renewal" and "tax excrement increment financing" has put together a pretty good representation of what we're complaining about. It shows quite clearly why diverting property taxes to pay for condo bunkers and other toys winds up breaking a city or nuking its quality of life:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New principal at Grant High?

Speaking of musical Portland high schools and their principals, this evening we hear from neighbors that Vivian Orlen is going to be the new principal at Grant High School. The current principal is Joseph Malone, who recently made news with his failed prom breathalyzer initiative.

Orlen was co-founder and principal of Landmark High School, a small, self-proclaimed progressive public high school on West 58th Street in New York City. Her husband, Alan Dichter, is a "professional development leader" for the Portland school district.

If it matters to Oregonians...

... it's in Glamour magazine.

Super Carole cans Jefferson High principal, business manager

Hard to fathom, but it happened today. A deputy superintendent has taken over the North Portland high school.

"This does not stem from, nor does it affect, the high school redesign process," Shelby said.
Wait a minute. The school board says it wants to close the school, and a few days later the principal is pulled from her post -- and the two aren't connected?

Forgive me if I don't believe that one -- at least, not before morning.

Forget bike lanes

New York City is way ahead of us.

Your chance at a lovely, free beverage

What's that you say? You haven't signed up for our World Cup Soccer contest yet? Well, please get on the case. Read up on the details here, and shoot me an e-mail from there to get your official invitation. Cameroon all the way!

In Portland, the scams never stop

It's really not possible to keep up with all the dumb moves and swindles constantly being cooked up by the leadership of the Rose City. Here's the latest "urban renewal" nonsense -- more property taxes sucked away from real needs to make some more real estate weasels richer than they already are. And maybe they'll run some more working people out of town by turning their neighborhood into another high-rise Soviet housing bunker zone. Go by streetcar!

Straight outta the Fifties

Gender-wise, local government in Portland has returned to the state it always seeks. The City Council is 4-to-1 male, and the Multnomah County commission is 4-to-1 female. The boys play with the toys and have all the money; the girls take care of the sick and the lame with hardly a pot to piss in. How progressive!

Were so gallantly streaming

We're back in Portlandia from the nation's capital, where we did some business, took in a talk by a member of SCOTUS, jogged around his house but didn't see POTUS, and didn't see many bicyclists anywhere. There was a lot of poverty on the sidewalks, but the panhandling was not aggressive, and there were no dogs to accompany it.

A cab driver asked me about the Portland streetcars. Apparently D.C. is next for those. He asked me if they helped clear up congestion. I had to laugh. Yeah -- the congestion in my wallet. But hey -- when it comes to burning through money, Washington makes Portland look like Mayberry RFD. It's perfect for them.

Duck prez: "You borrow $800 million, hand it over to us, then go away"

If you think the scoundrels running OHSU have hubris, check out this fellow. "We won't ask you for another penny for 30 years." Uh huh.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting to yes

It appears that if the Portland City Council refers "voter-owed elections" (taxpayer finance of local political campaigns) to the voters this November as promised, a "yes" vote will continue the program, under modified rules, and a "no" vote will allow the existing system to expire. The city auditor (Fireman Randy's new BFF) is proposing that a "sunset" clause be added to the existing system, which would apparently set up that yes/no dynamic.

Careless driving that kills people -- not a crime?

The immunity that the Portland police appear to enjoy from effective prosecution by the county district attorney now seems to be extending itself to bus drivers.

As with the cops, however, the taxpayers will pay a big settlement.

Rate-a-Nate, post-season edition

We've been remiss in not giving readers an opportunity to weigh in on the overall season performance of Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan. As the regular season ended and the team headed for the playoffs, Nate's rating jumped to a 7.3 on a scale of 10. Let's see how he does now that he and the Blazers are all playing golf:

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is best and 1 is worst), how well did Nate McMillan perform this season as the coach of the Trail Blazers?
pollcode.com free polls

UPDATE, 5:18 p.m.: After five and a half hours and a little over 100 votes, Nate's at 6.5.

Look out, East Coast, here it comes

This baby's gonna travel.

Welches con man strikes yet again

We received this e-mail message last night:

I am new to town, and he just got me for $25 in front of the Pita Pit on 10th Ave SW in Portland. If I see him again, I'm going to call the cops... after I kick him in the face.
A little later, the same outraged reader wrote:
My wife was with me, and we both afterward said we felt like there was something wrong. I'm usually not a sucker, but I guess I try not to be completely cynical about the world and I didn't grill him hard enough or turn him away on the chance that he was actually in a bad situation with no one to help him out. Then I came home and google-searched the name and felt like a complete idiot. That's the last time I ever give any money to anyone on street, even if they tell me there child is dying and I'm the only one who can save them. It's a shame how a few a**holes ruin social trust for everyone.
Indeed, my friend. By now, David Wilson's many thefts by deception run into the many thousands of dollars. But what will be done about it by the City of Portland? Nothing.

UPDATE, 5:21 p.m.: And yet another sighting, just after midnight last night:

As a loyal reader of your blog, I recognized the Welches con man early this morning when he approached me at SE 7th and Burnside just after midnight. He assured me that he was not "some guy off the street," and he asked me if I had ever heard of Welches or Sandy, Oregon. He still looks like he did in the photos on your blog, allowing me to recognize him and exclaim: "I read about you on Bojack." He was confused, so I clarified, "Your reputation precedes you." He acted very offended and stormed off.

Time to kill off "voter-owned elections" in Portland

Let's face it -- Portland's public financing of City Council campaigns is an enormous flop. The latest beneficiary of this program, Jesse Cornett, appears to have received about 7800 votes.

For all the hundreds of thousands we've spent on "voter-owned elections" over the years, all we've gotten is city commissioner Amanda Fritz -- who would have gotten elected eventually, anyway -- and foppish candidates like Cornett and Emilie Boyles. We have better things to spend our money on. Erik "Opie" Sten, the self-proclaimed genius behind this idea, mysteriously quit the City Council and ran out of town a few years ago. He should have taken his pet program with him.

The City Council has been talking from the beginning about putting this stinker on the ballot this November. They'd do us all a favor if they'd kill it off without a public vote, but if they won't, then let's at least have it out at the polls.

It's coming down to a choice between funding a mental health worker to prevent another senseless police killing like that of Keaton Otis, or financing another stupid political campaign from somebody like Cornett or Boyles, year after year. I know how I'd vote.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Process of elimination, cont'd

Although we're not too pleased with the outcome of today's primary election, at least we're happy with the elimination of some folks from contention in some races. Bicycle clown Rex Burkholder came in last in all three counties in the Metro president race -- that slows down the financial collapse of the region by a year or two right there. With any luck we have heard the last from the pulpit of the Reverend Chuck Currie, erstwhile candidate to join his hero The Other Kafoury on the Multnomah County commission. And Portland taxpayers won't be paying another 200 grand for another round of "act like you're employable" from Jesse Cornett.

In these times, you have to count your blessings.

Change? We don't believe in it.

In Multnomah County, the open county commission seat will be filled by an African-American woman, but we're not sure if it's going to be Karol Collymore (Jeff Cogen aide) or Loretta Smith (Ron Wyden aide). Gee, which version of the status quo would you like?

Coming in third: Tom Markgraf (Earl Blumenauer aide).

Some days I wonder if there's any hope for Portland.

It's Kitzhaber-Dudley

God forgive me, I'm going to consider voting for a Republican. Kitz squandered the biggest boom Oregon had in decades -- old, old, old. When I think "Kitz," I think "Katz." Then I throw up a little.

Moderates don't win primaries

Mary Kremer is pulling further ahead of Steve Griffith in Oregon Senate District 19. If it holds, that's good news for Democrat Richard Devlin, who should have an easier time against a Palinite than against a Hatfield-McCall type.

Portland voters: We don't care / love drama

It appears that we have four more years of nothing under city commissioner Dan Saltzman to look forward to. Congratulations to the West Hills money and Willamette Week. No doubt they're thrilled.

What's it going to take for Portland voters to grasp the weakness of its current "leadership"? I shudder to think.

Griffith-Kremer very close

By my count, the race for the Republican nomination in Oregon State Senate District 19 between my friend Steve Griffith (moderate) and Mary Kremer (Tea Party) is only a couple of hundred votes apart, with Kremer ahead.

Saltzman way ahead; Bicycle Rex has a flat

We're following the elections from 3,000 miles away, but in this day and age, it's no problem.

Chuck Currie and Jesse Cornett: good night.

It can't happen here

Can it?

Questioning the gospel

This one's a classic. Real working people on the one hand, and on the other? A sneering Portland bureaucrat who can't quite disguise his contempt for those people, and a neighborhood association type telling them "You didn't come to the meeting." Meanwhile, stand by for the boycott of Channel 2 by the spandex set:

"Yes, there was a head-butt"

Hard to know what to make of this.

Outrage 'R' Us

The proposal to close Jefferson High School in Portland has prompted the predictable response.

Some bad press for Portland

Seriously bad press.

Maybe it's gonna be an ATV ramp

A reader writes:

I took this the other day at the Tanner park in the Pearl. That's the park where you can't go on the grass. We wondered what all the cones were for. Bike lanes, maybe?

Page 24 is missing

A reader sent along a link to that controversial booklet sent home with the fourth graders warning them about the Measure 11 sentences they'll get for offenses like sodomy. It's a Portland police publication, and it's on the city website here. Funny thing, though -- that back cover that caused the uproar is nowhere to be seen. The publication is now only 23 pages long. Did somebody think better of the decision to include that material? Or was it never on the website to begin with?

Way out east

We don't get over to eastern Oregon as much as we should, but in La Grande there's some sort of controversy going on regarding Mount Emily, just north of town. Apparently the county (Union) has a recreation area on or near the mountain, and they're planning to cut and sell a bunch of timber out of there next month. Nearby tree huggers are trying to save the trees by buying them from the county and having them spared the chainsaws. The county and the group Friends of Mount Emily are ready to take donations, but it's going to take about a half million dollars in just a couple of weeks. If they fall short, the trees will come down, but they say the collections will be used to "restore native vegetation."

The website of the private group is here and here; the county resolution on the donations is here. Any further background that readers can share on the story are welcome in the comments to this post.

Vote now!

There's still time for Oregonians to vote. They need simply to fill out their ballots and drop them off at a ballot collection location before 8:00 this evening.

Voter turnout has been lousy, and that's great news for the incumbents. With as poor a job as government has been doing over the past decade or so -- and with the consequences of that poor performance being suffered by more people than ever -- you would think, or at least hope, that people would vote in some new blood. But alas, so far that probably isn't happening.

If you're an Oregon voter, you can still speak up. Today's the day. The ballot drop-off sites can easily be found here.

One of my dad's many recurring speeches used to go something like this: "Jackie, you can't not vote. In some countries, people have to risk their neck to go vote. They're on their way to the polls and bullets are flying over the tops of their heads. You'd better vote, because if you don't, some day when you try to, the bullets are going to be flying over your head."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cogen & Crew to talk streetcars on Thursday

An alert reader sends along this item from the agenda of Thursday's Multnomah County commissioners' meeting:


R-1 Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with City of Portland: Coordination of Activities Related to Construction and Operation of the Portland Streetcar Loop Project.

Presenters: Jon Henrichsen and Matt Ryan (15 min)

By then we'll know who isn't going to be the next county commissioner -- although we may not know who will be. It will be interesting to hear what goes down. I have a sneaking suspicion that with Ted Wheeler gone, the county is about to slide back into Saltzman mode -- go along to get along. Which means that this little session should be a bureaucratic love fest.

It doesn't take much

The new Portland police chief, hand chosen by the Sam-Rand twins after a national search in an extensive winnowing process last week, is already making beneficial changes. This afternoon his office released new safety tips for residents interacting with members of the police bureau. "There are simple steps that everyone can take to avoid a tragic outcome," said Detective Mary Wheat, the police spokeswoman. "When stopped by police officers, let them confirm visually that you are not a threat."

When the music stops, find a seat

When Super Carole announced which Portland public high schools she wants to close -- Marshall and Benson, essentially -- the reaction was typical. All the neighborhoods whose schools were spared the ax suddenly stopped shouting out their protests and went back to living their lives as normal. Over here in Grant territory, for example, the "Close the Gap, Not the Schools" signs pretty much disappeared the next day. Once the victim is chosen, those who avoided death fall silent.

But the show ain't over until the fat condo developer sings, and now there's a new plan afoot. The school board, on its own initiative, is now talking about moving Benson to where Jefferson is now, and closing Jefferson. You can just see the real estate weasels drooling over that Benson building. Can you say "public-private partnership"?

For the backers of Jefferson, which until now had seemed untouchable, it's time to break out the Tums.

Adams invents the internet

I see the City of Portland has met in person with the family of Keaton Otis:

Parents of a troubled Portland man shot by police met with Mayor Sam Adams and his new police chief, Mike Reese.

Adams says the the group agreed that more should be done to help the city's mentally ill.

Even before this recent shooting, Mayor Adams had placed a "mental health triage center" in his final budget.

He says the triage center would serve as an information and referral hub for police and those families trying to find help for someone suffering from mental illness. Adams says the center would also help ill citizens in crisis avoid conflict with police....

For Keaton Otis -- and others who may have fallen through the cracks -- Adams says it's important police not become their first and only contact in times of crisis. He wants his proposed mental health triage center to serve families in crisis at least until federal universal health care kicks in within three to four years.

So now it's "his" project? Last summer, it was the county's project, when the county paid out close to a million dollars in the Chasse lawsuit:

The 16-bed crisis center in Northeast Portland -- to be funded with county, city, state and federal dollars -- will take those suffering a mental health crisis such as suicidal or violent thoughts, hallucinations and severe anxiety.

"The fact that Jim Chasse suffered from schizophrenia and was acting in a manner hostile to the police called out for the need," Wheeler said. "A community of this size should have appropriate services."

The center will provide for up to 10 days of assessment and treatment, monitor medication and come up with a plan for patients once they leave the center, said Joanne Fuller, director of the county Department of Human Services.

I wonder how many police killings will be papered over with the prospect of this center, and how many politicians will claim it as their own, before it finally opens.

That the Mean Girls allowed the last such facility to close in 2003 is nothing short of criminal. The blood really seems to be on their hands.

But would the triage center have helped Otis? It's not clear that it would have. Look at what was said when the county settled the Chasse case:

Still, [Terri Walker, board president of the National Alliance on Mental Health Multnomah,] said the new center doesn't go far enough. In the end, it's still for people in crisis, she said, but doesn't address the needs of people who are on the verge of crisis and find it hard to get help in Multnomah County.

"I hear from family members whose loved ones can't get help until they have to be a danger to themselves or others," she said. "People are told they have to be naked standing on top of a bridge before you can get help. As long as we think like that in this county, people are going to be in danger."

Chillingly similar to what Otis's parents said last week:

We want to bring light to the limited options and restrictive laws preventing families from intervening earlier. In the future we want to expand the law’s definition of harm to self or others for a civil commitment to include additional significant symptoms.
It's going to take a lot more than a triage center to put an end to the tragic stories in Portland, I'm afraid. But at least if the police beat a guy to within an inch of his life, they'll take him there rather than to jail. Maybe he'll survive.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"High levels of public indebtedness could weigh on economic growth for years"

Portlanders who want to be like Europe are going to get their wish.

Pall bearers wanted

When I was in Catholic grammar school, one of the many lists we memorized in religion class was that of the corporal works of mercy. I don't remember them all, but the last two were "to visit the sick" and "to bury the dead."

I couldn't help but think of that list when I saw this notice from the owner of the now destroyed Great Northwest Bookstore, which burned a couple of weekends ago.

The neighborhood's improved

NSFW -- but o.k. for the fourth grade

It's little wonder that there's so much resentment out there toward the public schools. Stories like this set the good teachers back a decade at a time.

Larry's gone

We were in the custody of Continental Airlines for a day recently, and we noticed that they have discontinued the video greeting at the start of the flight from the airline's CEO. This custom goes back a couple of chief execs, at least. The first one I remember was Gordon Bethune, a salty southern guy who seemed as though he could fix and fly the plane himself. Then he was replaced by Larry Kellner, a guy who looked like a wimpy accountant and croaked out his speech as though he had marbles in his cheeks.

On the new 737 that I was carted around on the other day, the video screen is a tiny thing right in front of your nose, on the back of the seat in front of you. They want you to swipe your credit card and pay 6 or 7 bucks to watch Direct TV. We quickly hit the button to blacken the screen and take a nap, but we thought for sure we'd get a mumbly minute or two from old Larry.

Surprisingly, it didn't happen.

It turns out Larry has moved on -- "returned to private equity." I'm not sure if that means being put out to stud or packed off to the glue factory, but he's out like kraut. Jeff Smisek, the new boss, is an ex-lawyer (always a little scary) who either doesn't need the glory of saying "Welcome aboard" or would rather have more Direct TV dough.

Of course, if Continental merges with United Airlines as planned, all manner of head-rolling is bound to ensue. Maybe Jeff doesn't want us to see his face before the corporate executioner offers him a last cigarette.

Anyway, today we're moving in a different way -- on the Acela between New York and D.C.:

I don't think Gatsby Wyden's on board. It's a gorgeous day, and I'm sure he's out on the island with the inlaws and the kids, skimming krugerrands across the sound.

It's World Cup pool time

The start of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament is less than a month away, and it's time to start studying up on the field in preparation for watching the action live from South Africa. Back in '06, we ran a prediction pool, which TRP won, entitling him to free drinks at our expense. We're going to do it again, but this time, we're going to let the good folks at Yahoo do the work.

If you'd like to play, get yourself a Yahoo account, then send me an e-mail message indicating you'd like to join the group. Over the next day or two, I'll send you instructions on how to enter.

We'll chat about the standings on this blog, along with some play-by-play and cheerleading, but the guts of the tournament-keeping will be handled by the gods at Yahoo.

Speaking of which, the scoring will be as follows:

Fantasy Points by StageCorrect Pick
Group Stage2 points
Round of 16 (KO)4 points
Quarterfinals (KO)6 points
Semifinals (KO)8 points
Finals (KO)10 points
3rd Place Game (KO)6 points

The Yahoo system also provides for possible "bonus points" for picking correct scores of games, but that feature will be turned off in our pool.

Apparently, this isn't exactly a "bracket," the way a lot of the college basketball pools are. As far as I can tell, players will get to pick the outcome of each game, right up until 5 minutes before the start of each game, throughout the tournament. In the "knockout" stage of the tournament, that means that one will get to pick the outcome of each game all the way to the championship, even if one's earlier picks were all wrong.

It's possible that we could end up in a tie, and the Yahoo system does not appear to provide a tiebreaker. We'll buy beverages for everyone at the top in the event of a tie, and maybe we'll come up with some sort of tiebreaker just for bragging rights.

Anyway, everybody's invited to play. It's free, and worth every penny.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Breaking news: The mayor's nuts

In case you didn't know.

The new dead guy

The Portland police finally got around to telling us who it was they shot to death on Wednesday evening. It was Keaton Dupree Otis, a 25-year-old black man with mental illness. The family has released a brief statement that does not challenge the police's version of the killing, but does not completely affirm it, either.

There has been no mention of drugs, a criminal record, gangs, or even alcohol, and given the police's pattern in incidents of this type, you can bet that if they had any evidence of that, we would have heard about it by now.

The police say Otis was being pulled over for alleged traffic infractions when he refused to stop. Something about not signaling properly when turning -- the same story that set the scene for the James Jahar Perez killing several years ago. Did the driver's race have anything to do with it?

An amateur videotape of the incident shows many, many shots being fired -- dozens. A police officer was shot in the leg, but was it from a gun fired by Otis? Some are asking whether it could have been "friendly fire" from another police officer's gun. Bullets were flying all over the place -- one reportedly wound up in a Radio Shack more than a block away. There are lots of apartments nearby; were other neighbors needlessly endangered?

Did the police actually wait until Otis shot at them before killing him? They say so, but under their training policy of "By the time you see the gun, you're dead," they would have fired even before it reached that point. That is what happened in the case of Perez, who it turned out was not armed.

One hopes that the official version of this event turns out to be accurate, and can be proven beyond all doubt. Because given the recent track record of the Portland police, there are more bullets in the air these days than trust.

Well, I'll be

It's hard to believe, but the Kobe vs. LeBron pro hoops final isn't coming to pass. The creaky old Boston Celtics, including ex-Blazer Rasheed Wallace, took out the Cleveland squad 4 games to 2. HIs LeBronness wound up being booed by his home fans as he made another hasty exit. He'll likely be playing for another team next year, and his coach may be selling cars.

Meanwhile, the winners of the other three blowout series have had a long time to sleep in in advance of their conference finals. It will be the Lakers against the Suns, and the Magic against the Celtics -- Lakers and Magic with home-court advantage. As we recover from the realization that the league isn't getting its scripted final matchup, there's no doubt that a Lakers-Celtics matchup is far preferable from a money standpoint to a Suns-Magic contest. And so for those fans who need to think the fix is in, there'll still be plenty to speculate about while cussing the referees.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Have a great weekend

A worthless gift from Mayor Creepy

Here's a funny story. Wednesday -- the day that the Portland City Council officially melted down -- was also "Fred Hansen Day" at City Hall. Fred, fearless leader of Tri-Met, was honored for proving how far you can get by knowing Neil Goldschmidt and knowing when to keep your mouth shut his many contributions to Portland's transit system over the years.

And guess what the mayor gave him as a prize -- a lifetime streetcar pass!

Ha! Ha! The O gets a chuckle because Hansen's already on tap to get a lifetime pass to the whole Tri-Met system on his impending retirement. But they missed the real joke: Hardly anybody who rides the streetcar ever pays the fare anyway.

Beautiful game, beautiful blog

My friends the Starks have their World Cup Soccer blog up and running -- it's called The Cup Running Over, and it's worth a look and a bookmark, even if you don't call it "football." The players start kicking on Friday, June 11.

What's your most important vote this time around?

I blackened a lot of circles on my primary election ballot before mailing it in the other day. Some of the votes I cast didn't seem to matter much, but others did. Here are my top priority votes:

Mary Volm, Portland City Council
Tom Hughes, Metro
Paul van Orden, Multnomah County Commission
Ted Wheeler, State Treasurer
Jack Landau, Oregon Supreme Court

Which of your votes do you consider to be the most significant?

36 hours

It's been a day and two nights since the police killed a man in a shootout in Northeast Portland near Lloyd Center. If they had arrested him, his mug shot would have been made available in an hour or two. Why, when they kill somebody, does it take a couple of days before they even identify the deceased? I'm checking around, and the public doesn't even have a name or age yet.

The culture over at the police bureau is hard to understand, and sadly, I sincerely doubt that it's going to be any different under Fireman Randy's new police chief.

One stamp is enough to mail your Oregon ballot -- now!

Here in Oregon, everyone votes by mail -- even dead people -- and that can raise some interesting questions. We wondered aloud yesterday about whether one first-class postage stamp was going to be enough for our Oregon ballot, which weighs almost exactly one ounce. We're assured by the guy at the top of the Multnomah County elections heap that yep, that's enough postage:

Mr. Bogdanski,

One first class (or “forever”) stamp is sufficient to return a Multnomah County ballot for this election. That would include the regular ballot, PCP ballot and secrecy envelope inside the return envelope.

If you have any other questions please let us know.

Tim Scott, Director
Multnomah County Elections
1040 SE Morrison St.
Portland, OR 97214

There you have it. But just as important -- don't miss the deadline! Your ballot has to reach the county elections office by Tuesday. That probably makes today the last safe day to put that puppy in the mail -- after today, hand delivery to an official ballot drop box is probably advisable.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May is full of promises

Portland's new budget ploy: slow pay

A reader who works for the City of Portland writes:

Here's a memo that's been floating around the city for several weeks, and is just getting to the bureaus now. Item #2 is especially interesting -- the expectation is that every commissioner and/or their delegated bureau director will sign off on every invoice greater than $10K.

Fine for ONI [the Office of Neighborhood Involvement], but for the large infrastructure bureaus (such as the Bureau of Environmental Services), where construction payments can routinely run hundreds of thousands of dollars and many other contractually required and legitimate payments occur every week, this could be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Not to mention that it really doesn't slow down the spending -- it slows the time down (potentially) that money actually gets out to our vendors. Oh, well, enough of keepin' it local.

Nothing sours a business relationship faster than slow pay. But who says the folks who deal with the city have to like it? In the current economy, government's one of the few sources of work left. Slow pay is better than no pay.

Salem made out better than it let on

Oregon tax revenues increased in 2009 -- one of only five states to show increases last year -- according to this new report. The 1.9% boost was the third largest in the nation. Individual income taxes increased 9%, while corporate income taxes fell 59%. All of this, of course, was before Measures 66 and 67. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

In between Margaritas

Fireman Randy took a break from his honeymoon with No. 3 yesterday to issue this important statement:

Mayor Adams' decision to bring the Portland Police Bureau under his authority and appoint Mike Reese as Portland's Police Chief is the right decision at the right time for Portland. The Mayor's recognition of the need for course correction and his courage in making a swift decision to do so is a testament to his skill as the leader of our City.
Translation: "He did what I told him, which means he knows what's good for him."

Revenue Sue overcomes

She came in fourth in our Portland bureaucrat version of Survivor, but she's now No. 1 in Royal Rosaria.

Can't put my finger on it

I'm no mental health professional, but to me there's something not right here. What is it about the mayor's demeanor that makes him seem so dangerous?

Business people and experts agree: Stay away from Portland

An alert reader who was listening to NPR the other day caught an interesting exchange about Portland, which he kindly sent along. It was on the Talk of the Nation show. Professor Michael Shires of Pepperdine was a guest on a segment entitled "The Job Search: Have You Moved for Work?" Here's how it went (about 21 minutes in):

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. Here's an email from Jenny in Utah. I'm ready to move to Oregon, maybe Portland, because I feel I'd fit in better there than in Utah. I'm interested in wildlife biology or animal rehabilitation. I'm wondering how the economy is in Oregon, as I've heard the job market is not so great there. Michael Shires, can you help her out?

Prof. SHIRES: Well, Oregon is kind of a mixed story. In Portland and some of the cities that have really targeted the knowledge class, you really have a situation where, you know, the information technology sector is just not carrying it along.

Portland is also highly regulated, and I mean, one of the keys to firms coming out of this recession is going to be their ability to be agile. And if you have a highly regulated environment like Portland, that's going to be a problem.

However, places like Salem actually do quite well. Salem placed 23rd in our mid-sized category, and you know, again it's government. It's college. You know, it's education. There's not a major university there, but you still have a pretty decent infrastructure for community colleges and the like.

So, you know, I'd say if you avoid the Portland-Vancouver, Washington area, you'd probably do okay.

Then there's this story in the Trib today, about a businessman who thought about locating a tavern in downtown Portland. But when the city bureaucrats told him he'd have to pay $42,000 in system development charges, he wisely walked.

Where and when did we go so wrong?

Does my Oregon ballot need two stamps?

With the extra sheet it in for the precinct committee persons, and the secrecy envelope, the Oregon ballot that I hold in my hand weighs in at just about one ounce exactly. Does anybody know for sure whether it could possibly be a hair heavier than an ounce and need another 17 cents postage?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PDC shocker: They're not moving their offices

Our source for this afternoon's blog post on the story was dead wrong -- the Portland Development Commission voted this evening to stay put in its Old Town headquarters. Looks like the Curse of the Virginia Cafe lives on for Tom Moyer -- not to mention the felony charge pending against him.

The O's Ryan Frank captures some excellent drama at the commission meeting:

On Wednesday, the commission faced impassioned pleas from Park Avenue West's supporters. Some members of Moyer's team spoke in clipped tones to convey the importance of the decision on Park Avenue West's prospects.

"On an economic basis there is no comparison," said Vanessa Sturgeon, TMT's president and Moyer's granddaughter.

As the meeting wore on late into Wednesday, Sturgeon rose from her seat several times to interject during the meeting. At one point, board Chairman Scott Andrews halted one of Moyer's finance executives from talking further.

Construction workers also pushed Moyer's project for the work it would create for an industry that's lost more than 30 percent of its jobs statewide in the recession.

"It doesn't seem right," said Richard Sells, a superintendent for Hoffman Construction at the Park Avenue West site. "If this project goes, I would venture to say that other projects would have the courage to go also."

Lili Mandel, a downtown resident and frequent commenter at city meetings, exclaimed in criticism: "This is short-sighted. Just for a few dollars."

Not to mention the comedy:

PDC officials suggested the Stoel Rives and Niketown commitments were less firm than they originally thought. Neither tenant is legally committed, lawyer Steve Janik told the board.

"I've talked with Stoel Rives. We can't even get Nike to give me a call," Andrews said. "Personally, I'm just not willing to take the risk for this organization under those circumstances."

What a day. Way to go, PDC.

Right on cue

A Portland police officer is involved in a shooting at NE Sixth and Clackamas -- the Lloyd Center Bulletproof Vest Zone. Lord help Portland at this hour.

UPDATE, 8:34 p.m.: KGW has a suspect dead and an officer hospitalized with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the leg or groin area.

UPDATE, 8:45 p.m.: The bullets were really flying. There could have been a lot of collateral damage.

Portland breakdown shakes Worldwide Pablo from slumber

Even a sweet, laid-back guy like WWP can no longer bear to watch the collective nervous breakdown in silence. No kidding, friend.

Another Welches con man sighting: NE 47th & Sandy

A reader writes:

Encountered him on NE Sandy Blvd. @ about 47th Street, probably about 1.5 - 2.5 weeks ago. It was definitely a weekend day, just can't remember now which one. I didn't know about him until I noticed the sidebar on your blog just now. I didn't give him any money, mainly because I didn't have any to give. I wouldn't have given him $20, but I might've given him a little bit of money if I'd been able. He certainly seems sincere, even if it gets harder and harder to imagine someone in the predicament he describes in this age of instant communications.

I guess the reason I'd have considered giving him a little cash despite my doubts is that, every once in a blue moon, it is worth a few bucks to believe that it is that easy to help someone out of a jam, and no great loss if he's not really in the jam he describes.

Anyway, thanks for the sidebar ... now I know it would've been money wasted on a guy who doesn't have the integrity to make a legit plea for help.

His name is David Wilson. If you see him, please take a cell phone photo of him and give him our regards.

Portland's collective nervous breakdown worsens

Now it's really going to get ugly. Mayor Creepy has fired the police chief and removed "Legend" Saltzman from running the police bureau -- both well deserved moves after their pathetic performances yesterday. But get this -- the mayor's taking the helm himself!

Oh yeah, that will help.

Do you think he's going to make it through a full four-year term? Every day it seems less and less likely.

PDC moving to Moyer tower at $184K a month, source says

Among the items to be handled at this afternoon's Portland Development Commission meeting are a closed executive session, followed by a vote, authorizing the agency's management to go ahead and "negotiate" a new lease for its office space. The report from one source this afternoon is that the lease is going to be in the mothballed office tower currently (not) being built by indicted real estate mogul Tom Moyer -- no surprise there, Mayor Creepy has been carrying his water on this for weeks -- and that the rent is going to be $184,000 a month.

It's the last item on the agenda. I love that they're taking "public comment" immediately before voting. The public doesn't even know what's being proposed until after the executive session; then it gets a few minutes to think over whatever's been announced and comment; and then the board votes. Sometimes some of the board members read a little speech that shows that the decision was wired long before meeting day, but even without that, you know the fix is in at the PDC. Because it always is.

UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.: Surprise, surprise! The PDC is not moving. Our source was dead wrong.

The great recession: Maybe it isn't all bad

The 2000 master plan was completed in a time of steady economic growth, with the expectation of continued expansion and the need for major Airport improvements. Thus, a process was designed to maintain the viability of the Airport, preserve capacity, evaluate potential environmental impacts, and involve the public in the planning process. At the conclusion of the 2000 master plan, the expectation was that, during the 2010 Master Plan Update, significant Airport expansion would be considered, including a potential third parallel runway and new passenger terminal.

Numerous events since the 2000 master plan was completed, including the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001; the worst economic recession since the great depression of the 1930s; and climate change, have resulted in more modest expectations for the future. The long-range development plan from the 2010 Master Plan Update maintains the viability of the Airport and preserves capacity while providing the flexibility to accommodate the level of activity previously anticipated; however, it also recognizes that a third parallel runway and new terminal are not needed in the foreseeable future.

Lane County waking up to insanity of "urban renewal"

Between this encouraging development (no pun intended) and the recent Tualatin throwdown, people in this state may be coming to their senses.

O.k., not in Beaverton.

The postman only rang once

Man, this primary election is a snooze. Even the flow of direct mail election porn is a mere trickle. Here's all we've gotten so far this week:

We love dreamers

Lost in the latest depressing news in the Chasse killing yesterday was a "travel rally" headed up by Portland's mayor. He should know about that topic -- it seems as though he's been running out of town on weekends ever since he took office and was immediately disgraced. But not to knock the city's initiative in bringing visitors here. It's already paying off, as shown by this photo snapped just this morning on Vera Katz Esplanade.

Sometimes a fantasy is all you need

As the Portland Development Commission skims $10 million (all borrowed, of course) off the SoWhat District "urban renewal" pot today for the crazy new light rail train to Milwaukie, check out the latest snake oil about all the new employment that the train is going to "support":

In addition, based on Metro forecasts, project benefits include support for:

• Nearly 100,000 new jobs along the corridor by 2030, driven by growth at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland State University (PSU), and in SE Portland and north Clackamas County

• Nearly 40,000 new jobs in downtown Portland within the next 25 years

• More than 9,900 residents and 13,600 jobs in South Waterfront by 2030

And that's supposedly on top of 8,000 to 8,800 short-term construction-related jobs.

No wonder Rex Burkholder's TV ad looks like a bunch of people on hallucinogenic drugs. The people at Metro are obviously on some bad acid.

City Hall on Chasse killing: misleading to the bitter end

Portland city commissioner Dan "Legend" Saltzman joined the city's police chief yesterday in gratuitously piling just a little extra manure onto the steaming heap that the city was already dealing with over the all-time-record $1.6 million settlement of the Chasse police killing case. "Legend's" comments included the following:

The total settlement amount of $1.6 million will come from the City of Portland's self-insured reserve and from our excess insurance carrier. There will be no impact on the settlement, on the city's general fund.
Well, even if he had read the script correctly, that's a silly statement.

The self-insurance reserve account, established in 1976, consists of money that is taken out of various other city funds to pay liabilities, up to $1 million per claim. (The rest of the $1.6 million payment is covered by third-party insurance, for which the city also pays a premium, of course.) On the city's last annual accounting statement (slow, iffy load of the whole thing here), the self-insurance reserve took $9.4 million in cash from other funds. The general fund transferred $59.1 million to other funds; how much of the $59.1 million wound up in the $9.4 million self-insurance pot is not entirely clear, but surely it's a large number.

And unless the city is planning to operate in the future with a self-insurance reserve that's $1 million smaller than it was two days ago, the reserve fund will eventually have to be replenished for the Chasse settlement. Again, a lot of that is going to come from the general fund -- either that or your water and sewer bills. For Saltzman to say "There will be no impact" is like his good buddy, Little Lord Paulson, telling you "The PGE Park bonds are almost entirely paid off" -- you're smarter than that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Portland cops: still utterly tone deaf

Here the City of Portland is supposed to be making nicey-nicey to the family of James Chasse, who was senselessly killed by the police, and yet even now the police chief can't seem to own up to the truth:

But Sizer, who said she felt frustrated by not being able to publicly address the death-in-custody case because of the pending litigation, said today that she believes the police bureau and officers involved "have been unfairly demonized." She called Chasse's death a "horrible accident and not a 'beating death,' as Chasse's family lawyer has argued.
No, Chief Sizer, you are wrong:
In depositions in preparation for the federal trial, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy said Chasse suffered 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Fractures to his back ribs also probably did not result from Chasse getting knocked to the ground or someone falling on top of him, but more likely resulted from a kick or knee-drop, state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said.
It was indeed a beating death, under your watch. For months you stonewalled and protected the totally unfit police officers who killed this man. They continued to make serious mistakes on the job and in their lives as a result. And now, on the day that the city admits liability for killing Chasse and pledges a record $1.6 million to pay for it, you still play fast and loose with the facts.

You are all a disgrace to the uniform.

Worst campaign ad ever

If you needed a reason to vote against this guy, now you've got it:

You want out of touch with reality? Rex Burkholder is, quite obviously, the leader for you.

Portland City Hall + computers = endless fun

Here's an odd one out of the Portland fire bureau. They're going on a fishing expedition to see if they can find somebody to convert the bureau computer system from some homegrown products created using a now-obsolete Microsoft program to open source software. But they're not even offering a contract at this point -- they just want some free advice in the form of "information" to be submitted by potential future contract bidders.

Included in the unusual announcement were these bits of background:

[Portland Fire & Rescue]’s current information system provides information services to PF&R related to emergency incidents, fire inspections, station scheduling and many other operations (See Exhibit A). The applications that comprise the FIS were developed in-house by City staff for the Windows VB platform. Due to Microsoft’s termination of support for development on this platform, PF&R and [the Public Safety Systems Revitalization Program] are evaluating various options for ensuring that PF&R continues to have reliable and extensible information systems for the next seven to ten years....

The current PF&R information system is comprised of fourteen applications. Six applications are classified as "critical" or "core." This classification is based on the volume of users, nature of the information recorded in the system, need to meet State of Oregon and Federal reporting requirements and necessity to train staff, protect and provide safe equipment to emergency responders. The remaining eight applications are classified as "necessary." These applications collect, track and store data needed for managing the effective operation of PF&R. The applications access data in a collection of SQL databases, several of which are used by more than one application.

I believe by "Windows VB" they mean this, which drew this Wiki comment, among others:

Criticisms levelled at Visual Basic editions prior to VB.NET include:

* Versioning problems associated with various runtime DLLs, known as DLL hell
* Poor support for object-oriented programming
* Inability to create multi-threaded applications, without resorting to Windows API calls
* Inability to create Windows services
* Variant types have a greater performance and storage overhead than strongly typed programming languages
* Dependency on complex and fragile COM Registry entries
* The development environment is no longer supported by Microsoft

Converting the products of this tool looks like it could be a doozy. Better keep those fire extinguishers charged up, Portlanders.

Call off the dogs! The Voters' Pamphlet did get here after all.

Turns out, it was stuck between a magazine and an IRA trustee disclosure booklet in a misplaced pile of low-priority mail. Apologies to the Post Office, the county elections folks, the Oregon Secretary of State's office, Ron Wyden, the estate of Moe Biller, and anybody else I maligned when I complained that we hadn't received our hard copy.

Now, where did I leave my fountain pen?

Money isn't everything, we hope

It appears they've put a final price tag on the life of James Chasse -- the slight, fragile, mentally ill man who was senselessly beaten to death by unfit Portland police officers in September 2006. Reports are that the Chasse family and the city have reached a settlement of the pending civil lawsuit.

The exact amount that the city or its insurers will pay is sure to make headlines when it's revealed. But far more important for the future of the city is the question of how much of the evidentiary record developed in the lawsuit will be made public. The Chasses will never get James back, and they have every right to put this tragedy behind them on whatever terms they find acceptable. But we pray that they bargained hard enough to make the record public, so that the city's residents will see exactly what happened, and take steps to make sure that this sort of police violence does not recur.

When people criticize the police after they kill someone without justification, the police defenders and enablers are always quick to pop up and say, "Don't jump to conclusions until we have all the facts." But we never seem to get all the facts. Chasse's been dead more than three and a half years, and there is still evidence that hasn't seen the light of day. Let's hope it does, and soon.

Now, this guy would make it interesting

Are you like me -- does the Oregon governor's race make you yawn? Kitzhaber -- again? Bradbury -- again? Alley -- again? Dudley -- he went to Yale, but so did Bush.

It's hard to get worked up, pro or con, about any of these dudes. This state is really lacking in local color. You want excitement? Try this guy on for size.

Can you dig it? Well, don't.

Folks in these parts who have been following the tragic saga of nuclear waste disposal in the United States -- including at Hanford, Washington -- might be interested in this article about what's going on in Finland.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Old Town, new address

Blogger Larry Norton has left the OregonLive blog stable and is now doing his own thing. It's always worth stopping in; leave it to the O to chase him out.

Two more NBA z-z-z-z-zweeps

That's three out of four series in the second round of the playoffs determined by 4-0 margins. Strange league.

I know you rider

Where have I been the past year, while Punkrawker has been blogging away about mass transit here in Portland and points north? I don't know how I missed it, but as of today, I've got a lifetime pass. Check out this golden photo of the new head of Tri-Met with the Scone -- Goldschmidt City, baby!

Beavis and the budget

He can't even pay his own mortgage -- you thought he could run a $3.5 billion-a-year enterprise?

He does have envelopes full of cash for the sexy interns, though.

This is what I mean

It's just too, too cozy.

NIMBYs, meet the enemy

When your neighborhood's being wrecked, there'll be a guy like this helping the developer weasels get the job done.

"There are two types of people that oppose development: those who have legitimate concerns and those who have way too much time on their hands and just like to hear themselves talk," Owendoff said.
I'd like to see them put a methadone clinic on the same elevator bank as that guy's law firm.

Your tax dollars at work, cont'd

As Portland cuts essential services, it's fun to see where all those property tax dollars are going. The children in Mayor Creepy's planning department have blown countless hours and who knows how many millions to come up with... wait for it... a "wordle"!

Meanwhile, at the Water Bureau, somebody's being paid to blog about the weather.

What a sad little City Hall we have.

Time to close the police stations at night again

When Portland needs money for streetcars and ditches bioswales, you can always count on public safety to be the first service choked off.

All in the family

One of the reasons that I decided not to vote for Karol Collymore for Multnomah County commissioner is that she used to work for Jeff Cogen, who used to work for Dan Saltzman, and Saltzman's gotta go.

But I missed the half of it. According to O's Anna Griffin, now Collymore's dating Saltzman's "chief of staff," and Cogen's spouse is running Saltzman's pet "for the children" initiative. Ick.

And after it rains, there's a rainbow...

Sedan delivery

It never ceases to amaze how Portland continues to mar its neighborhoods with grotesque apartments and crammed-in infill, supposedly for the millions of people who are going to be flocking here any minute now. Here's a survey showing Portland as the seventh-worst of the nation's 50 largest cities when it comes to finding a job.

When that senator with all the hair came to town

This coming weekend marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's visit to Oregon as a candidate for President in the Democratic Party primary. He spoke at the University of Portland, and in the Dalles and Eugene as well, on a visit that lasted two or three days.

An archive of his speeches shows the following:

Young People for Kennedy Rally, Portland, Oregon. "The Presidency." May 15, 1960.

The Dalles, Oregon. "The Oregon Presidential Primary." May 15, 1960.

Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. "Defense." May 16, 1960.

Hillsboro High School, Portland, Oregon. "The President's Responsibility in Foreign Affairs." May 17, 1960.

Weyerhauser Lumber Company, Eugene, Oregon. "Labor Reform." May 17, 1960.

He also showed up at opening day of the Riverside Little League, at its new field up near the Columbia off NE 33rd. JFK threw out the first ball and wowed the kids (especially the teenaged sisters) and their parents. The little league, in which our daughters play, is still there, and it will be holding a special shindig on Saturday to mark the occasion.

Kennedy had been through this way less than a month earlier, with stops in South Eugene, at Milwaukie High School, at a North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, and somewhere in Portland for an address on Social Security. It seems that our part of the country was very much on his radar screen. And he'd be back out this way in September of that year as well, campaigning against Tricky Dick.

Police brutality much more genteel in Seattle

There's a flap developing up in Seattle over apparent police misconduct in dealing with a suspect in a late-night robbery -- a guy who later turned out to be innocent. One police officer stomped on the suspect's hand as he was lying face down on the concrete, and another officer appears to have stomped on his knee. The first cop also told the suspect that he was going to "beat the f***ing Mexican p**s out of you, homey." The whole thing was caught on videotape.

After watching Portland's police brutally beat James Chasse to death and fatally shoot Aaron Campbell in the back -- and seeing the same officer who killed Campbell viciously Tase someone merely for videotaping him -- we Portlanders know that the outcomes of the Seattle case could have been much, much worse.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scoundrel Quote of the Year (so far)

"The kingdom of God is not run on generally accepted accounting principles." (Via TaxProf Blog.)


The family took in the latest Cirque du Soleil offering this evening, and it was a blast. Kooza is another version of this troupe's highly successful formula, and unlike Dralion, which we found rather tired when it came to town many years ago, this show had high talent, strong spirit, and great artistic sensibility. The athletes in the cast were superb, and the rest of the characters were pretty amusing.

The show will be in town for another couple of weeks. Try to ignore the acres and acres of mindless development you'll go through to get there -- resist the question "What the heck has happened to Portland?" -- and be sure to allow plenty of time however you go. But it's worth it to get in touch with something much bigger than your immediate surroundings.

Sweep and snooze

The second round of the American pro hoops playoffs is turning out to be about as interesting as watching paint dry. The Lakers, Suns, and Magic are poised to sweep the Jazz, Spurs, and Hawks, respectively. No surprises there. Too bad for the Blazers, though -- they could have beaten the geezerly Spurs and found themselves in their conference's final round had they been able to outplay the Suns. Utah's putting up a decent fight, but Atlanta's horrible.

In the other series, Cleveland leads Boston 2 games to 1 at this writing, and we all know that it will take a miracle for Boston to win that series. Somebody wake me about three games into the Los Angeles Kobe vs. the Cleveland LeBron. That should be around Father's Day.

Happy Mother's Day

Best wishes for a happy day to all mothers, and to all women who play that role in someone's life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fuel for the fire

While Portlanders learned this week that the city's red light cameras are not infallible, one new study in Atlanta suggests that they increase the number of collisions.

Fish falls off sustainability bandwagon

You know he thinks he's got his City Council race locked up if he dares ride around Portland in this baby:

Thanks to LeLo, who's also posted some other excellent photos of today's St. Johns Parade on her wonderful blog.

Three times fast? I can't even say it once.

That Icelandic volcano has inspired a rock tribute in Ireland.

From "world-class city" to "first-tier suburb"

The Don is never at a loss for a sales pitch. Bring on the apartment bunkers!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Easy go

Matt Davis of the Merc announced today that he's leaving town. His selfless devotion to improving Portland lasted only four years; he's suddenly in love with New Orleans. At least he didn't stoop to taking a City Hall job.

I never liked Davis, and won't miss him, but there goes another pair of eyes that's been watching what goes on around here. Perfect conditions for the Sam-Rand Twins (and Mayor Creepy's flack, former Merc kid Amy Ruiz) to work their magic with even greater gusto.

Davis was supposed to be writing the James Chasse movie. I wonder if that's out the window now, too.

Oh, well. We'll always have Randy Gragg, I suppose.

Have a great weekend

Latest Portland sewer fund raid: Community college scholarships

What's another $350,000 when you're burning tens of millions on toys?

What else can we blow sewer money on? Bike helmets for the poor?

John Tripp: RIP

Our buddy who used to blog as TRP has let his blog lapse, but he still writes on Facebook from time to time. Late last night he posted an entry there that's worth a wider readership than just his social media friends. We hope he won't mind our reprinting it here:

John Tripp, a longtime colleague, passed away from cancer this afternoon. He battled hard and gracefully for years.

John was a fantastic science teacher -- so kind, so unflappable, always working with kids, always wearing his onmipresent smile. I can only imagine the calming influence he had on students who may have had a fear of the subject matter... anxiety in his presence felt unnatural. He was loved by colleagues, students--everyone. He was the kind of guy nobody could possibly have any kind of problem with.

He was a tremendous guitarist as well, accompanying me at least 4 times in EHS talent shows. My best memories of John will be staying in his room into the early evening as talent shows approached, practicing. We'd talk to each other about possible songs to perform every year, bouncing ideas off of each other. He'd play his choices (he was partial to Bruce Cockburn), I'd ask him if he knew a few songs... and, ultimately, I'd email him links to chords for a couple songs, and he'd pick one, which we would rehearse for a couple days after school before the talent show. He never tried to take center stage, but he was on there quite frequently, accompanying anyone who would ask.

He wasn't old enough to go, but I'm not sure a guy of his caliber ever would be. The world is a less gentle place tonight.

He leaves his family, countless grateful students, and at least one sad English teacher who will think of him when he sings along to "Rocky Raccoon." RIP, John.

Heavy G

A reader in Portland sends along a scan of a notice that showed up on his garbage can recently. His comment: "Weeeellll, excuuuuuse me!"

I can understand that there need to be limits on the weight of one's can. I love the guys who haul our trash, and their backs can take only so much abuse. But what I never understood is why the weight limit varies based on the volume of the can. For example, if the hauler can lift a 55-pound 32-gallon can, which can't he handle a 40-pound 20-gallon can?

And if this isn't all about the workers' occupational health and safety, what the heck is it about? The weight of the loaded truck? Can one of Sustainable Susan's people fill us in? Or are these Metro's rules?

I'm sure it's somehow related to bicycles.

Delinquent loans nag OnPoint in first quarter

Our regular quarterly look at the financial statements of Portland's OnPoint Community Credit Union provides another glimpse into the state of the local economy, as it has since we first started checking into those reports more than two years ago. And no surprise this time around, there are still quite a few credit union members suffering out there. Delinquent loans continued to swell at OnPoint in the first quarter of 2010, erasing some of the recovery in that department that had been noted in the immediately preceding quarter.

Here are the numbers, as recently filed with the National Credit Union Administration:

Item3/31/0912/31/093/31/10Quarterly increase (decrease)12-month increase (decrease)
Total investments$247,615,140$432,665,342$556,611,18628.65%124.79%
Federal agency securities$124,075,055$285,152,450$420,887,98747.60%239.22%
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans$27,041,586$22,551,519$31,397,46239.23%16.11%
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending$8,725,911$4,449,517$3,598,018(19.14%)(58.77%)
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies$4,978,864$29,565,449$7,004,332(76.31%)40.68%
Ratio of delinquent loans to total loans (percent)    
Ratio of total delinquent loans to net worth (percent)11.598.7311.96   

Delinquent loans are those delinquent for two months or more.

Two of the figures that we were watching closely when the economy started to implode -- federal agency securities and indirect lending -- no longer seem to be much of an issue at OnPoint. However, the delinquent loan ratios, which had improved toward the end of 2009, slipped in the first quarter of 2010, to worse levels than a year before.

It's also sobering to looking back to OnPoint's delinquent loan ratios not so long ago, in the third quarter of 2007. At that point, delinquent loans to total loans were just 0.17%, and delinquent loans to net worth were just 1.56%. Today they're at 1.51% and 11.96%, respectively.

Over on the profit and loss side, OnPoint's net income for the first quarter of 2010 was $4,166,831, up 22.98% from $3,388,178 in the first quarter of 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, deposits increased from $2,381,752,154 to $2,446,618,429 -- a third consecutive quarterly increase, of 2.72%. Deposits a year earlier were $2,321,865,874, and thus for the year, deposits were up 5.37%.

That brings us to our comparison of some of OnPoint's financial data with that of three other Oregon-based credit unions: Unitus here in Portland, First Tech in Beaverton, and Oregon Community down in Eugene.

One number that we've been tracking for the group has been the ratio of delinquent loans (two months or more) to total loans -- the higher the number, the worse the portfolio from a delinquency standpoint. Here are the percentages for all four credit unions in that department at three recent reporting dates:

Credit union3/31/0912/31/093/31/10
First Tech0.901.090.96
Oregon Community0.971.511.19

Another ratio that we've been watching is delinquent loans to net worth. Here are the percentages for the group on that score:

Credit Union3/31/0912/31/093/31/10
First Tech6.146.635.71
Oregon Community11.6716.9113.11

Only OnPoint's delinquency ratios worsened from the end of 2009 to March 31, 2010. The other three institutions' ratios improved during the quarter.

Finally, here are the year-to-date net income (loss) figures for the group, worth noting for the trends:

Credit Union3/31/093/31/10
First Tech$1,033,887$2,677,963
Oregon Community($7,699,749)$689,385

Everyone's operating results improved from the year before, but OnPoint's improvement was the least dramatic.

This may be the last quarter that we'll be able track First Tech in a meaningful way for a while. It's planning to merge into Addison Avenue Credit Union in Palo Alto, and at that point it will be hard to compare First Tech's past with its present. Perhaps we'll have one more quarter of First Tech as we know it, but even then, we may find some last-minute accounting maneuvers in preparation for the combination of the two institutions.

Nightmare on Fourth Avenue

Can you imagine if the Sam-Rand Twins took over the Portland public schools?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

OHSU overlord to change hats

An alert reader who always has the lowdown on Pill Hill writes:

This week, in the middle of "Integrity Week" (May 3-7… a five-day week? Well, there’s a loss of integrity), Steve Stadum, OHSU’s flak catcher and chief lying front man… is leaving… finally.

But crap… He’s not going far. Just to become the chief operating officer of the Knight Cancer Clinic. He’ll become OHSU-Nike blend. At way, way too much salary, I’m sure. That was announced this afternoon.

Another blow to OHSU integrity.

Stadum has been the COO of OHSU throughout all of its many recent hijinks, including but not limited to forcing the ludicrous SoWhat district down the throats of Portland taxpayers; building its ill-fated health club complex with aerial tram [rim shot]; and shipping off its biotech research center to Florida. Quite a résumé.

Probably his defining moment was Jan. 16, 2006, when he told us: "However disagreeable its price tag, the tram remains a vital linchpin in the future growth of OHSU and, indeed, of Oregon's economy." Classic.

Now maybe he'll do to the medical school what Phil Knight's money has done to the state university down in Eugene.

Weird moment on the campaign trail

The Advantis Credit Union isn't endorsing Rick Metsger for Oregon state treasurer -- or is it?

Grouchy old coot vote: No on Measures 68 and 69

On the current Oregon election ballot, there are two measures that are designed to make it easier for the state to issue general obligation bonds -- that is, to borrow more money -- for various purposes. We think that any change that encourages the state to drag the taxpayers further into hock is a bad change. This is a time to pay off debt, not rack up more of it. And so we're voting no on both measures.

Blazers in first round of playoffs: 8-20

Some sobering statistics over on The Godfather.

Novick goes hack

I strongly supported Steve Novick back when he was running against Jeff Merkley. But now he's become a bit of a Blue Oregon caricature. Today he waxes poetic on that brave, thoughtful fellow, Portland city commissioner Dan Saltzman. Apparently the big issue in the race is the Aaron Campbell homicide, and he doesn't blame Saltzman for that. Therefore he votes for Saltzman.

Novick also paints Saltzman as fiscally conservative. Never mind that "Legend" Dan is responsible, more than anyone else on the City Council, for the massive hole that the city's in today.

Obviously Novick's "shake-things-up" shtick is limited. It's been fun thinking about having him in public office some day, but now I think he'll have to get there without my vote.

Fill in the blanks

[T]he City of ________ touted its internal controls in the municipal bond issuing documents, noting that the City of _________ received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. At all relevant times, however, the City of ________ was improperly and illegally shuffling money between various City of __________ accounts in an effort to cover up its existing fiscal crisis.
No, it's not Portland. At least, not yet.

How it's done, cont'd

If this had happened in Portland, we'd be talking about another dead guy today.

No tears for those guys

Just a stone's throw from our house, where the nice corner grocery used to be, there's been a bank branch for a number of years now. I have not set foot in the place since circa 2001, when they stopped selling baby food there, nor have I ever seen an actual customer walk in or out the door of the bank since it was converted. There have been a couple of different financial institutions in that spot, as I recall, the most recent being something called Frontier Bank.

That set of signs is about to come down, however, as Frontier has gone under and been taken over by Union Bank. There's a Union banner hastily strung up over the ATM this week.

I wonder if the new owners will keep that branch open. Or if they don't, whether anyone but the bank workers will miss it.

Entre nous

Some Parisians have come with a money-saving idea that could catch on here in Portlandia some day: fare inspector insurance.

Can we afford Milwaukie light rail?

Republican gubernatorial candidate [rim shot] Allen Alley really hit a nerve the other day when he suggested that the Portland region should put aside, at least for now, the plan to build a $1.4 billion,* seven-mile light rail line from downtown Portland to the sleepy suburb of Milwaukie. (It works out to around $38,000 per foot of light rail track.) Alley suggested that any state and local money available to pay for a Max extension down that way should instead be spent on an immediate replacement of the rotting Sellwood Bridge. He also posted some telling photos of parts of the Sellwood span literally being held together with shrink wrap.

Alley's proposal makes too much sense to be accepted by the region's "planning" bobbleheads. Metro clone Rex "Founder" Burkholder screeched to a halt on his beloved bicycle and spoke in his robot-like planner voice: "But we would lose the federal subsidy. Thanks to Earl the Pearl, the feds are paying half the cost of building the line. And that money can't be used for the Sellwood Bridge."

Ah, the Colors of Money™ -- a Portland specialty. True in this case, as far as it goes. But even with the feds kicking in a hefty percentage of the construction cost, the local share of the liars' budget pencils out to something like $700 million. Where is that kind of jack going to come from in this economy, and why isn't that money available for a new Sellwood Bridge?

$250 million of it is going to come from state lottery money, which can be used for darn near anything, as best I can tell. That leaves another $450 million of Oregon greenbacks. $30 million of that is apparently supposed to come from the City of Portland -- out of increased parking charges on city streets; a citywide "system development charge"; and tax money from the SoWhat "urban renewal" district, through which less than a mile of the new Max line would run. That district is, of course, broke, due to the colossal failure of its real estate dreams, and many promised features of that high-priced ghost town will never be built. But hey, somehow it's got eight figures for light rail passing through. Leave it to Mayor Creepy -- he's got envelopes full of cash for friends in need.

There would supposedly also be new "urban renewal" shenanigans enacted down in Milwaukie and Clackamas County, to divert many years of future property taxes to the construction maw. Surely it would be a minimum of $30 million in front-end borrowing for Milwaukie, and another $30 million for the county.

Could that money be used for a new Sellwood Bridge? Heck, if it's o.k. to spend it on a new no-cars bridge from OMSI to Schnitzerland between the Marquam and Ross Island Bridges way the heck up in Portland -- the bridge being biggest expense in the light-rail pipedream -- it should be o.k. to spend it for a more traditional span a lot closer to Milwaukie.

Another $39 million is supposed to come from borrowing by Tri-Met, which is already careening into insolvency, particularly under the heavy weight of operating its doomed WES commuter rail line. And the Tri-Met part of the equation's got even the transit groupies up in arms. You know you're looking at a bad deal when Streetcar Smith, citizen face card for every mode of transportation other than the automobile, opposes it:

TriMet will issue bonds for about $39M for the Milwaukie project. That translates to about $3.2M/year for the next 20 years that will not be available for operations.

While I support the overall project, I'm adamantly opposed to this particular funding component. It's just over 2% of the overall budget. Surely we're smart enough as a region to avoid this.

I'm still not getting where all the rest of the money's supposed to come from, but even with what the proponents are showing at this stage, it's pretty clear that a lot of folks around this way who are about to be hit up to pay for the thing really don't want to buy more light rail right now.

There's still time to pull the plug on Milwaukie Max. But of course, that would disappoint the contractors who have long since divvied up their shares of the pork over scotch and cigars at the Arlington Club. Already Tri-Met's talking about making this a largely no-bid deal -- the same way it strong-armed the Airport Max contracts. The aroma of the Goldschmidt crew hangs heavy in the air. The West Hills boys could care less about some little old lady or teenager in Milwaukie who needs a ride to Portland. As always, it's all about the Benjamins, baby.

If Alley's mothball idea gains any real traction, I'm sure Earl the Pearl will offer up another $100 million or so from the federal printing presses. But even at $500 million in state and local dollars to build it, and all the local money it will take to run it (for which the feds provide no help), can we afford to go by rail yet again? Maybe we ought to just buy a dozen new buses and put them on the 31 line.

* - Preliminary liars' budget figure.

Beginning of the end for Newsweek?

Depending on who, if anybody, is interested in running it, its days as a serious media institution could be numbered.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scary yet irresistible

Leafing through mugshots of local arrestees is a strangely absorbing pastime. I believe there's even a tabloid print version of collected mugshots for sale at your local convenience store.

The Multnomah County sheriff's site is a fine destination for free online viewing, but the photos of the suspects disappear from that site after a short while. Not so at PDXMugshots.com, which has many booking photos far older than that. There's a search function by name and by crime, but it won't allow searches by crimes that the website operator deems to be victimless.

Jesse, I can easily change my mind about you

It seems that Portland City Council hopeful Jesse Cornett tried to pull off an Al Gore "I invented the internet" on his role regarding a legislative bill to diversify college athletics in Oregon. Which he followed with a Clintonesque "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is" defense.

The whole hilarious episode is recounted here -- and promptly picked up by the Saltzman partisans over here. To them, it appears that puffing one's progressive credentials is as wicked as funneling a half-million tax dollars to your girlfriend's company. We see a substantial difference.

Long-time Portland finance aide packing it in

One of the more senior people in the City of Portland finance bureau is jumping ship. Laurel Butman, the "principal management analyst" whose tasks include answering our many questions about the city's alarmingly increasing rate of borrowing, says she is taking a position with Clackamas County. Her last day at City Hall will be next Tuesday.

In Googling Butman for this story, we discovered that in 1996 she ran for the state legislature from then-House District 17 in north Portland, losing to Mike Fahey by a 2-to-1 margin.

The bureau that Butman is leaving got a new boss, just a few years senior to Butman, a couple of weeks ago.

Missing voter's pamphlet: They say it's just us

We noted yesterday that we never received the Oregon voter's pamphlet in the mail for the current primary election. We e-mailed the county elections folks to ask whether there was any particular problem this time around, and here is what they wrote back:

Mr. Bogdanski,

In the Primary and General Election, the Oregon Secretary of State's office manages the mailing of the Voters' Pamphlet (VP). Their mail house vendor directs the USPS to mail the VP to all residential households. The USPS provides the list of residential households to the Secretary of State's mail house vendor.

We always receive a certain amount of calls from voters saying that they haven't received their VP. In these cases we try to get the voter's address to try to determine if there is a systemic issue or whether it is isolated. We also work closely with the USPS to determine if it was a delivery issue and attempt to resolve it.

We (Multnomah County Elections) have not heard of any unusual issues in this election compared to other elections. For more information I would recommend contacting the Oregon Secretary of State's office. We also have additional copies available in our office or, as you already know, on our website.

Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.


Tim Scott, Director
Multnomah County Elections

We took Scott's advice and wrote to the secretary of state's office, to which we received this reply:

In most elections, we receive a small number of calls from voters who didn't receive their VPs. This year, I understand the numbers have been in line with previous elections. We've had a Portland City Council candidate and a blogger with problems this spring and we've taken extra care to check, but we still haven't seen any systemic problem. We will, though, continue to look for problems.

Meanwhile, as you point out, voters can get their VPs at the county elections office or go to oregonvotes.org, the Elections Division web site. BTW, voters uncomfortable with entrusting their ballots to the USPS are free to drop them off at an official drop box or at any county elections office. The deadline is 8 pm Tuesday May 18. Postmarks don't count.

It's like being out of work: when it happens to you, it's a totally unacceptable rate....

Don Hamilton
Director of Communications
Oregon Secretary of State

Guess we're not the tip of an iceberg.

Big Pipe says he's pushing to drug-test police

KOIN-TV reported last night that Portland commissioner Dan Saltzman is calling for drug testing of the city's police in the current negotiations with the police union on a new contract. But it's not clear from this first report exactly how much testing he's asking for. According to KOIN --

In current police union negotiations, Saltzman is pushing to make mandatory drug testing part of the hiring policy. He says the prospect of steroid abuse by officers is part of the reason.

"I think here are a lot of people like myself who are concerned, particularly when there are significant events like officer-involved shootings, and things like that, that we have no policies around drug testing," Saltzman said.

Note: The testing would be "part of the hiring policy." Does this mean just one test, before someone is hired? Or that only new hires would be subjected to drug tests -- the existing force would be exempt from testing? It remains to be seen whether Saltzman's contract demands are meaningful, or just more flimsy window dressing at City Hall. But any drug testing is better than nothing, I suppose.

You can't get there from here

They're shutting down the Broadway Bridge again -- this time for the wasteful eastside streetcar construction. The traffic flow on the bridge gets choked off to one lane in each direction -- and trucks banned from the span entirely -- starting Monday. On July 6, the bridge will be closed completely until Labor Day weekend.

The traffic mess already created by the streetcar project on NE Broadway and Weidler has had us avoiding the Rose Quarter area like the plague for several months now. Anything west of Seventh on Broadway simply isn't worth the hassle any more. Someday the construction barricades will come down, but they'll be replaced by slow city trolleys mixed in with all the frantic I-5 commuters. Those of us currently using alternate routes to where we're going should probably treat them as permanent.

Saltzman's previous nonprofit girlfriend

This week's scandal involving Portland commissioner Dan "Legend" Saltzman's voting of $600,000 of public money to his girlfriend's employer evokes memories of another woman with whom Saltzman was romantically linked in the 2000's. Reports were that it was Teresa Dulce (real name: Joanna Berton Martinez), a stripper and self-proclaimed "sex industry worker" who for many years ran a respected nonprofit organization that she formed to help other nude dancers and prostitutes. There was a fair amount of lobbying involved, including of the Portland City Council, of which Saltzman was a member.

The nonprofit group, Danzine, gave out condoms and clean hypodermic needles to people on the streets. Dulce appeared several times before the council, including one speech that is forever etched in bureaucrats' memories:

Tribune: The most absurd thing you’ve witnessed at City Hall?

Kovatch: It was kind of a visual thing. We had Teresa Dulce, who was a sex worker. She crafted and recited a performance piece before the City Council. The performance had good meter and rhyme, but it was very sexy. The words of the poem were about sex workers’ rights, but the performance of the poem was the buildup that would (match) the trajectory of (a sexual climax). And the best part was, (after the performance) Randy says, "Madam chair, can she have three more minutes?"

More recently, Dulce has become a more established figure; she is currently listed on one website as managing a needle exchange program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was also identified as one of Jeff Cogen's supporters in his run for Multnomah County commission several years back.

It is not clear that the city or the county spent any significant money on Dulce or Danzine during the time she was reportedly dating Saltzman. But if indeed "Legend" was intimate with a nonprofit organization figurehead back then, around the same time that the organization was actively lobbying the City Council, then taken with this week's events, it could indicate a pattern that some voters might find a concern.

There's also the question whether Saltzman has violated the children's levy bylaws by accepting gifts from his girlfriend. Those bylaws forbid accepting "any contribution, gift, bequest or devise valued at greater than $10 from any organization, or any individual representing an organization, that is currently seeking funding from the Allocation Committee." Whatever his current amour has given him, his old girlfriend doubtlessly used to charge people more than $10 for it.

That way Madness lies

"Will you take it off our hands?"

The other disaster

In case you missed it, the capital of Tennessee is a serious wreck.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

See Thumper Taze. Taze, Taze, Taze.

The full parody edition of this publication will be ready in 3... 2... 1...

Why we can't get married

Because if we do, then Honey, I can't use my public office to funnel tax money to your employer any more.

Saltzman's "for the children" cred takes a couple of hits

One of the big items on Commissioner Dan "Legend" Saltzman's thin 12-year résumé at Portland City Hall is his founding of the property tax levy that Portlanders pay for child welfare programs outside the public school system. Yesterday not one but two interesting questions were raised about Saltzman's performance in his much ballyhooed "for the children" role.

One was why he didn't disclose the fact that as a member of the board that awards the grants of those property tax dollars, he was voting to funnel $600,000 to an organization whose chief fundraiser is his own girlfriend. Even WW, which has been urging people to vote for sleepy Dan, has picked the story up after the Merc broke it. The O got into the act earlier this hour.

The other question was raised by a commenter on this blog, who questioned why Saltzman, defender of children, would advertise his endorsement by Matt Hennessee, the Goldschmidt lieutenant and Baptist preacher who was disgraced a few years back when it was revealed that he had sexually abused a young female relative of his.

It's amazing that a guy like Hennessee is still in any sort of bizarre Portland limelight. But to show up on an endorsement list of a self-declared children's champion? That's quite an eye-opener. Granny always used to tell me, "Show me your friends, and I'll show you who you are."

On a side note, a few readers have noted that the effectiveness of the children's levy has never been carefully studied. But even if it's as good a thing as it's cracked up to be, "Legend's" halo is not as clean and shiny as his fans describe it.

Ain't it the truth

Nowadays the President is "lobbying" corporate weasels like Jamie Dimon. I think I'm gonna be sick...

Sad statement

The cutbacks at the Post Office must be taking their toll. We got our ballots, but not our voter's pamphlet, for the current Oregon primary election. I guess we can read the pamphlet here (and here), but it's worrisome indeed that with Oregon now totally reliant on the Post Office to get the basic election materials to the voters, the latter is starting to crumble.

UPDATE, 1:52 p.m.: And so now, of course, Gatsby Wyden wants to spread the program nationwide.

Irvington bunker plan: 49 units, no parking

The story we broke a couple of weeks ago about the revival of a proposed apartment complex project at NE 15th and Hancock has made the mainstream media. For the immediate neighbors, the news is not good: 49 apartments, ranging in size from 400 to 600 feet, and no parking except on the street.

At least the thing is supposedly going to be only three stories high, but 49 residents on a 10,000-square-foot lot seems awfully cramped. As for the utter lack of parking, the developers are pointing out that there are Max and streetcar lines nearby, but of course, that's a stretch. The nearest streetcar station will be around 10 blocks away, and it's a roundabout 11-block walk through the Lloyd Center Bulletproof Vest Zone to get to the Max.

It will be interesting to see what kind of look the exterior will have for those lucky folks who will be living in 400 square feet. Maybe Joe Weston will lend these developers one of his motel floor plans, with which he trashed much of the Buckman neighborhood 35 years ago. "Workforce housing" -- what a perfectly Portland way of putting it.

High achievers

Cops on steroids: Feds are closing in

If we're not going to test our police for illegal drug use, then we'll have to incarcerate the users on the force. Let the dragnet be cast wide before some other innocent person is terrorized or killed by, as one prominent defense attorney put it, "[p]eople who are using steroids and packing Glocks....

"I cannot think of a more frightening thing in terms of the safety of the public."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Luckiest guy in America

This fellow is fortunate that the police found him before a group of average New Yorkers did.

America, the gated community

It's a shame what's happened to the entrances of our nation's landmarks. Forget having a normal person ever walk through the front door of the White House. Nowadays you almost have to crawl through a tunnel on the side of the building to get in to see the small fraction of the complex to which the public has access.

Today it was announced that the Supreme Court will be the same way. The sign over the front door says "Equal Justice Under Law," but the fine print will now read "Go around to the side door -- we're not sure we are going to let you in."

It's kind of like the Pioneer Courthouse here in Portland -- once a busy federal building with congressional and federal agency offices and a working post office branch in addition to court functions, but now a forbidding bunker in which the judges seem to be hiding. Why have the judges go to a courthouse at all? Maybe they should just stay home with a Secret Service agent at the front door, and do their work on the internet.

The Supreme Court justices don't want cameras in the courtroom, and they won't even release same-day audio of their oral arguments -- maybe their pictures shouldn't be on the internet. Or maybe they should wear black hoods over their faces.

Maybe we shouldn't even know their names.

Oh, really? You don't say!

I see that the former manager of the O is a little upset that he can't get potholes fixed on his street:

[T]he city's bureaus have requested nearly $25 million more in general fund money from us next year, including plenty of money unrelated to cops, firefighters, sewers, parks or streets. The mayor's asking for an additional $907,000 to fund pet programs in his own office.

The requests run the gamut. They include money for school athletic fields, money for the Portland Schools Foundation, money for school arts education, money for a city education director -- all noble goals, but when did the city take over functions traditionally performed by our school districts? And how about the money for Last Thursday, the symphony, the food bank, the Hispanic and African American chambers of commerce, children's theater and concerts? Each a worthy cause, I'm sure. But from where I stand on my battered little street, if you can't find the time to fix my potholes, you can't afford things that aren't basic city services.

I wonder if this fellow recalls all the editorials in his own newspaper a few years back about how the streetcars and trams and PGE Park Remodel 1.0 and Pearly totem poles and SoWhat aerial tram [rim shot] were "snazzy" and "linchpins" and "catalysts" that would "pay for themselves."

Because they don't pay for themselves. Which is why basic services in Portland are in the toilet and about to be flushed away beyond recall. You reap what you sow, pal. Go by streetcar!

Burkholder denounces Times Square car bomb

Portland Metro president candidate Rex Burkholder held a press conference this morning to condemn the attempted detonation of a large bomb inside an SUV in Times Square in New York over the weekend. "This near-tragedy shows the consequences of our dependence on foreign energy sources," Burkholder said. "In this era of peak oil, we need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. An attack on Times Square is an attack on all of us, and it's particularly offensive in that it was done with a Nissan Pathfinder. Terrorists should realize the enormous benefits that come from use of alternative modes of transportation, such as bicycles. In this case, cycling would have saved on fuel costs and tolls, had virtually zero carbon footprint, and would have had numerous health benefits for the rider."

Burkholder noted that there are now bike lanes near Times Square that could have been employed for the bomber's mission. "In this era of climate change, economic uncertainty, and over-dependence on foreign oil," he told reporters, "we have to plan for and create viable transportation options."

Another reason to vote for Dan Saltzman

It's not just Homer Williams that loves "Legend" Dan. Now one of the Bus kids chirps up: "He's the best politician we have since Erik Sten ran away."

Another bubble waiting to pop

Municipal bonds. And you can bet that Portland will be right in the middle of it.

Your tax dollars at work, cont'd

In addition to buying space on this blog, Portland City Council candidate Jesse Cornett is blowing some of his "clean money" -- taxpayer financing of his campaign -- on some pretty spendy media real estate:

But I still can't help thinking he looks like a BBC comedy show host in that ad.

Anyway, on another front, Kari Chisholm has also built Cornett a pretty slick website, jessecornett.com.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Did the bookstore fire hurt the aerial tram?

Rumor has it that the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], which runs directly above the site of today's tragic fire that destroyed the Great Northwest Bookstore, is going to be closed until the tram bureaucrats can inspect the cable and tram cars for possible damage.

Nothing burns like paper

The Great Northwest Bookstore, a venerable old joint under the aerial tram between Front and Barbur in Portland, has been destroyed by a three-alarm fire.

Price of admission

We took the kids to downtown Portland today for a charity event. We had to pay $4.80 to park the car on the street, on a Sunday:

But it was worth it! We got to see Dan Saltzman out there campaigning:

Hey, dude -- this ain't weed

It's tea!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What matters on the streets

Some vendors of the publication Street Roots list their priorities.

Tipping point at UC Nike

''It's time for the athletic department to do a little soul searching on how they can serve the university,'' said Nathan Tublitz, a biology professor and the president of the university senate. ''The athletic department is out of control here.''

How Portland, Maine is different from Portland, Oregon

In Maine, the naked demonstrators are not on bicycles.

Drill, baby, drill

Once again, Halliburton leads the way to a great America.

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