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

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July 2010 Archives

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Orwell rolls over in grave, collides with Kafka

Google and the spooks in our government just get cozier and cozier.

The mayor won't be Tweeting this

The Little Lord Paulson story gets Portland some unwanted national attention starting at around 41:15 of this video.

Meanwhile, the Senior Crook continues to spout off.

Nice day for a con

An alert reader writes:

I was cycling in downtown Portland Saturday (July 31) about noon when I passed David from Welches walking on SW 2nd at Stark. I recognized him immediately (baseball cap, t-shirt, shorts, beard, Tevas with white socks, clean, slightly tan) and when I turned around to make another casual pass to observe him he had already stopped a young couple and started talking to them on the sidewalk.

When I passed the second time, I heard the young woman say, "Yeah, I've heard of Sandy." So I turned around at the corner, slowly pedaled past again and said, "If he's asking you for money, it's a scam."

A couple of minutes later, the couple walked up to me on the next block, told me that David had walked away after I ruined his pitch and asked me what I meant. So I told them the sad story of the "Welches con man" and suggested that they Google the same. They were flabbergasted that this guy was able to get away with this behavior without drawing attention from the police.

I pedaled away without noticing where David had gone, but I am pretty certain he just continued down the street and put his scam down on the next couple he met.

Next time I will definitely speak to him and try to get an updated photo if I have my cell phone handy.

What's that you say? You'll what? 5,000 what?

You'll have to speak up.

Bang the drum slowly -- or rapidly

The final countdown is on for the worldwide celebration and rally in support of the international treaty banning cluster bombs. All over the world, drummers will be drumming tomorrow, the first day in which the treaty is taking effect. Alas, the United States has not signed this treaty, but supporters hope that will happen soon.

Here in Portland, the drumming will take place at noon, at the Peace Memorial on the east end of the Steel Bridge. In part, the event will honor Travis Bradach-Nall, a Portland Marine who was killed in Iraq by a U.S. cluster bomb. This is pretty much last call for any and all interested Portland-area drummers to show up there around 11:30 a.m. tomorrow and join in making a heavenly sound for an important cause. Rules of warfare have never made much sense, but any step in a humane direction is an important one.

The $21 Portland water bill

A thoughtful reader writes:

Several months ago I was perusing a junk shop in Southeast Portland and came across an old file box which, apparently, was designed to keep correspondence in. Always in need of more storage, I bought the box and promptly forgot about it... until this past weekend when, in a fit of organizing, I dusted it off and decided to keep stuff in it.
The inside of the box has a series of tabbed, alphabetized dividers. Wanting to make sure nothing was inside, but not wanting to flip through 26 dividers, I turned the box upside down and, to my surprise, out fell many small scraps of paper. Envisioning a treasure-trove situation (see e.g., Cesarini v. U.S., 296 F.Supp. 3 (D. Ohio 1969)), I hoped that I had stumbled upon a cache of rare and valuable currency or bearer paper. Alas, upon closer inspection it was just a bunch of old receipts, mostly from stores in North Portland. However, of particular interest was a series of 17 Portland Water Bureau receipts from 1947 to 1951. Knowing your fascination with the Water Bureau, I had to pass along a few tidbits.

Even back in the '40s, the bureau used the same three-month billing cycle as today. The 17 bills I discovered ranged from $2.40 to $9.68, with most in the $2-3 range.

Except for the earliest one, the bills all contain instructions to make checks payable to "Geo. A. Marshall, Supt.," which I find a bit odd. Admittedly, the designation "Superintendent" was probably sufficient to limit Mr. Marshall's ability to negotiate the check only on behalf of the city (see e.g., 1 Daniel on Negotiable Instruments, sec. 415), but it still seems like an invitation to shenanigans.

The bills were payable either at City Hall or a list of "pay stations," most of which appear to be pharmacies. In fact, the back side of the bills contains a list of the pay stations (picture attached), which serves as a great historical list of Portland's long-gone independent drug stores.

Finally, my curiosity overcame me, and I had to figure out just how much these bills were in inflation-adjusted dollars. I couldn't find a historical listing of Oregon-specific CPI (not sure when the regional CPIs were first introduced) but using the general national figures, the attached bill for $2.40 equates to $21.15 in today's dollars. Granted, I don't know anything about the characteristics or occupancy of the property to which this bill relates, but I don't know anyone in town whose current water bill is anywhere close to $21....

Anyway, hope you're as amused by this discovery as I was.

The bill was paid at Willis Hardware and Furniture on North Lombard, currently the site of a convenience store. The house, built in 1942, is currently occupied by a management coach.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Have a great weekend

My new favorite politician

We need more of this in government.

Green, sustainable hypocrites

The Portland City Council couldn't give a hoot about the earth. They force the trucking terminals out of northwest Portland so they can hand the land over to the developer weasels to build condo towers. Then they force the wildlife off Hayden Island to let the Goldschmidt boys out at the Port build new terminals.

Shame on you, Amanda and Nick. And to give it the old "No final decision has been made" makes it even more nauseating.

Just when we were joining the cult

We must have jinxed it the other day when we bragged about tethering our iPhone to our laptop. Now we're seeing a dark side of the surging Apple empire.

We didn't rush out and buy the iPhone 4G -- which apparently you can't hold a certain way if you want to use it as a phone -- but we did upgrade our el cheapo iPhone 3G to the new IOS 4 operating system, along with its latest update, earlier this week. Now the thumbnails of the photos that we have stored on the phone aren't displaying property.

It appears that along with success, Apple is experiencing some fairly serious quality control problems these days. Pretty soon its products may be as cheesy as you-know-whose.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is your e-mail coming across as too emotional?

These folks promise to help you figure that out.

Thank goodness they haven't come up with one of those for blogs yet. We might be out of business.

Having trouble sleeping?

This is just what you need.

The Founding Fathers vs. Salem and Sacramento 2010

I've never liked the Electoral College, which we use to elect the President. But if we're going to change the Constitution, let's do it the right way -- by a duly ratified constitutional amendment. Having our brilliant state legislatures try an end run around it just doesn't seem like a good idea.

It's like Richard Dreyfuss, with a co-pay

We just got a bill from the kids' doctor. When you meet with her, it's no longer a "visit." Now it's an "encounter."

Can't blame MAX for this one

These guys had a car.

You read it here first, a week ago

This story is now here.

Time has come today

I need to flag me down one of them Korean taco trucks. Apparently there are a bunch of them here in Portland, and doggone it, I haven't munched out of any of them yet.

That was quick

We blogged a while back about refinancing our house with Umpqua Bank. Less than a month now after the refinance closed, however, we have received a notice from Fannie Mae informing us that Umpqua has transferred our loan to them. Umpqua will still service the loan, but Fannie now apparently has the downside, and no doubt a little of the upside, of dealing with us. From closing to assignment took less than two weeks.

As long as the processing of our payments is accurate, it doesn't make much difference -- does it? Especially since we're still dealing with the bank that originated the loan.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Once -- just once

I wish I could have an ATM transaction like this.

Cha-ching! Another $50 million of debt on tap for SoWhat

The City of Portland recently played its annual check-kiting game with some of the taxes it collects for the scandalously unfunded police and fire retirement system. In the course of borrowing money on a short-term basis to pay this year's benefits, the city disclosed in this document that it's got two more bond offerings planned for this summer: a $450 million whopper for the sewer system, and another $50 million of "urban renewal" debt for toys in the SoWhat District.

That "urban renewal" IOU is likely to be a spendy one. When the city borrowed for the Lents neighborhood "urban renewal" boondoggle earlier this summer, it got whacked for interest rates that run as high as 6.284% on a 14-year term loan. Who knows what the banker gods who now own our city will be charging for another piece of the financial black hole known as SoWhat?

Two thumbs up for iPhone tethering

Our recent vacation was much enhanced by the ability to tether our laptop to the internet via our iPhone. We had done this last summer, using a hack that some young Austrian guy had developed to allow tethering, despite AT&T's official prohibition on the practice. But Apple soon pushed out a software update that disabled that nifty workaround. Apparently, Apple's bedmate, AT&T, was afraid that all that tethering would lead to a crushing load on its already overtaxed network.

Several weeks ago, AT&T gave in and started allowing iPhone tethering, but only for customers who were willing to forgo the unlimited data feature of the original iPhone service plan. Instead of the original $30 a month for unlimited data, they'd have to agree to pay $25 a month for 2 Gig of data, plus another $20 a month if they wanted to tether. That extra $20 sounded awfully lame to us, but in our household it worked out, because the Mrs. needs only a 200 Meg plan, without tethering, which AT&T sells for $15 a month. In the end, we broke even ($45 + $15 instead of 2 × $30), but now we get to tether on our phone, which we couldn't do a month ago.

The internet service isn't too much slower than the "high-speed" hard-wire version you pay Comcast for at the house, and we had no trouble connecting anywhere we went back east. No more $8 to Boingo for an hour at the airport, or $14 to some thief for a day in the hotel. It's pretty slick.

We can use those savings for all sorts of things -- like paying the parking ticket we got at the boardwalk.

Decline and fall of the empire

Here's a convenient list of the issues we'll be voting on statewide here in Oregon in the fall. It seems like half of it has to do with drugs and gambling. The rest is from our sterling legislators, who want to get together and act important every year as opposed to every other year. They also want us to make it easier for them to rob our children's future by borrowing more, more, ever more money.

So far, we're not seeing anything worth a "yes" vote in the whole lot.

Fueling the weirdness

No wonder Portland's so odd -- it's seriously hopped up on caffeine. In this study, the Rose City is the second most coffee-addicted city in the nation, just after Seattle.


We just returned from a couple of sweltering weeks on the East Coast, and this morning's Portland air feels downright chilly.

We are not alone

This blog's deep concern about the irresponsible borrowing being done by the City of Portland and other state and local governmental units finds strong echoes in this article.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's a miracle!

The oil in the Gulf is just disappearing.

Yeah, right.


This may sound a bit ridiculous coming from an Oregonian, but among the many highlights of our East Coast trip that winds up today has been eco-tourism in New Jersey. Paddling around Great Egg Harbor near Atlantic City in kayaks, and walking the boardwalks of the Hackensack Meadowlands near New York City, we encountered all sorts of beautiful critters in the salt and fresh water marshes. And quite a few people with a keen interest in protecting and enhancing what's left of a once-grand wildlife habitat.

The birdwatchers are in heaven in these places, but drag a net across the shallows of the bay and a surprising variety of fish species will also turn up. We missed the diamondback terrapin this time around, but we did get up close and personal with egrets, herons, osprey, and all sorts of denizens of the deep, including some impressive-sized horseshoe crabs and some feisty Jersey blue crabs. In the northern wetlands, we were joined by several types of butterflies -- the aficionados counted several dozen varieties on an organized field day on Sunday.

Granted, it's not paradise. Particularly in the Hackensack area -- the swamps are surrounded by closed landfills, both legal and illegal, that are full of heaven knows what. Sure, they're "capped," "remediated," and covered up to look natural, but those of us who were around there 50 years ago know what went on. What's great, though, is that the ongoing damage has been stopped, even reversed a little, and now the area's residents are taking care to see that it isn't repeated.

We must admit, we never expected to fly out of Newark with memories of the birds and the bees. But we do. Way to go, New Jersey.

Nice guys don't always finish last

Congratulations to my blog buddy Dwight Jaynes, who's been elected to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. [Photo courtesy Chris Snethen.]

Day of reckoning

All over America, thousands of lawyer wannabes are waking up this morning to the ultimate challenge: the bar exam. Most of the test takers are recent law school graduates; some are experienced attorneys who want to be licensed in a new state. The test takes two full days in some states, and even more in others.

All of the examinees have their brains just packed with information that they're about to rattle back to the torturers who write the exam questions. They've got years of study, big student loans, and their sanity on the line. For some of them, it's not their first try. It's maximum pressure.

Good luck and strength to all of the candidates.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Milwaukie light rail news goes from bad to worse

The lunacy of spending more than a billion and a half dollars to build a train from Portland to the sleepy suburb of Milwaukie has become even more pronounced than before with the news that some of the projected federal funding didn't come through. That means that we local yokels will have to dig deeper to pay for the construction boondoggle.

According to the story in the Trib, "[l]ocal governments have already committed $600 million to the project," but that's nonsense. A lot of the local money involves "urban renewal" shenanigans that are nowhere near final, and by no means assured of success. The proponents, including Doctor Kitzhaber, are treating this pork project as a done deal, but it absolutely is not.

Nor should it ever be. It is time to shelve this turkey and use all that money for something that the people of this region really need -- and want. There's a long list to pick from.

Cully preview?

Today our travels take us to a park built on a landfill.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Multnomah County employee pay, top to bottom

One of our back-burner projects has been keeping track of the salaries paid to public officials and officers of nonprofits in the Portland area. Here's an outfit that's done a great job assembling the salary and benefit numbers for all of Multnomah County's employees -- they've put it in a searchable database that should satisfy just about anybody's curiosity.

There are probably a few loopholes here and there -- overtime pay, "retention bonuses," and the like -- but this is pretty much how it should be done. For all government agencies, but especially the more weaselly ones like OHSU, Tri-Met, and the Port. Too bad the mainstream media here is too lazy, gutless, or both, to provide the service.

Passing of a provocateur

John Callahan, the hard-hitting Portland-based cartoonist whose edgy work offended some and entertained many others, has left us at the age of 59. That he could get away with his extreme incorrectness is in itself a tribute to how much he made his audience think.

A classic runaround

A friend of ours encounters bloody indifference among the local cops down around Sisters.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A meetup of the highest order

Among the many fine features of a great day today was some serious quality time with this guy. He brought along a road guitar and a bottle of this dangerously good stuff, and farookin' history was made.

But it's a dry heat

Trust me -- that makes a difference.

Confirming the obvious

Friday night, Saturday morning -- perfect time to bury the truth. And so it goes with this story about an outside group's review of the Portland police investigation into the Chasse killing. The conclusion -- no surprise to anyone with eyes and a brain -- is that this internal investigation was pretty much a joke. As they always are in Portland when the cops have acted up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Have a great weekend

Coming soon to Portland

But without the motor, of course. Surely Portland will find a way to combine Mayor Creepy's passion for bicycles with Fireman Randy's fascination with outdoor toilets.

It's official: Duck poop cleanup contract to run $398K

The much-scaled-down Laurelhurst Park duck pond cleanout -- with the hazardous materials left in place and a convenience dump of the dredgings at the "park site" in Cully -- is about to be awarded to Brant Construction, a Vancouver, Washington outfit. The winning bid was $398,000.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trial by media expands in Kyron case

While we're prosecuting the unofficial suspect on the news every night, we might as well try any possible accomplices, too.

Paulson's selling the Portland Beavers

The Padres' ownership group is buying the team and moving it to California.

And so let's see... Little Lord Paulson moves into Portland with dad's money, buys the soccer and baseball teams, sells the latter, and gets the city to rip up its multi-purpose stadium for his soccer empire. He gets exclusive, rent-free use rights to the building for decades. And the city's taxpayers continue to pay part of his beer vendors' wages.

What a guy. And what great deal-making by the City Council.

How Mayor Creepy asks a question

Portland's pathological mayor recently conducted a poll about plastic grocery bags. Here's how it was phrased:

Single-use petroleum-based plastic shopping bags pollute our land, contribute to a swirling mass of garbage twice the size of Texas off Oregon’s coast, and continue our dependence on dangerous foreign oil supplies. Making paper shopping bags is a toxic process that pollutes our rivers. To encourage more use of reusable shopping bags, do you favor or oppose banning plastic bags in the city of Portland and requiring a 5-cent fee on paper bags?
The only thing more pathetic than Portland's current administration is the electorate who's responsible for putting it there. Sad indeed.

Economic collapse continues in downtown Portland

There's not too much left besides government:

As a result of the shifts, the top three downtown employers are the state of Oregon, the city of Portland and the federal government. Although the state and city held the two top spots last year, the federal government was ranked seventh.
It's quickly becoming a city of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats. And not even the state capital!

Is Portland a good baseball town?

A soon-to-be emigré asks a provocative question.

Capitalizing on misery

Some people aren't ashamed to do it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An unfortunately forgotten fact

In certain East Coast resort towns, the parking meters near the beach are in operation until midnight, every night.

Pressing issues of the day

1. Now that the fledglings are getting around on their own, will the mother osprey stop dive bombing our tour guide?

2. When the big wave is about to crash on you, is it better to go over or under?

3. What flavor Italian lemon ice you want -- grape Italian lemon ice, cherry Italian lemon ice, or lemon Italian lemon ice?

Leading the nation once again

Portland's progressive attitudes toward government spending step to the forefront in Washington.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on the Laurelhurst duck poop dump in Cully

The folks who are going to be on the receiving end of the nasty stuff being dredged out of the duck pond at Laurelhurst Pond are getting some more information about what's about to happen to their "park" site. The Cully neighborhood association has announced:

The Bureau of Parks and Recreation working with the Bureau of Environmental Services is proposing to do a Laurelhurst Pond Restoration. The pond will be drained and dredged and the sediment is proposed to be transported to the Thomas Cully Park site at 75th and Killingsworth St.

The material will be combined with compost and utilized as topsoil at the site. Metro will assist in the landfill maintenance and supervision which will include: peeling back the vegetation; mixing the (tested and dewatered) dredged sand and organic materials with compost; and setting grade stakes for leveling approximately 4 inches of soil amendments on top of the capped membrane. Vegetation and topsoil will then be replaced and the area will be reseeded.

There will be a noon meeting with the Park Bureau and Environmental Services on Friday, July 23rd at Thomas Cully Park at the 75th and Killingsworth entrance to discuss this action and ask questions. This is an open meeting and everyone is welcome to attend. Parking is very limited.

If noon on a July Friday doesn't fit into the neighbors' schedule, maybe they could just drop by at Commissioner Nick Fish's office. I'm sure he's looking forward to getting lots of feedback on this one.

By the way, the city got a bid in the high $300K's for the project. Without the hazardous waste cleanout and with the el-cheapo Cully dump option, the price is right, and the green light is very much on.

Moonday, Moonday

A thoughtful reader writes:

It always strikes me as odd that July 20th isn't a holiday or at least noted more. It was 41 years ago today, when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon.

I Googled news for moon landing and saw practically no mention of the event. It makes me wonder why we celebrate Columbus Day.

Beavers moving to San Diego area?

Here's a trial balloon in that general direction.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This pier lights our carnival life forever

A population boom for Roseburg

Now that missing boy Kyron's colorful stepmother has moved back in with her parents in Roseburg, you can bet that all of the tabloids and a lot of the mainstream media will have crews on location. Hot times at the Shari's!

Who says east Portland isn't hip?

It appears to be on the cutting edge.

A rare win over the robots

Arizona is ditching speeding ticket cams. They weren't effective because violators were laughing off the tickets without paying them.

Government by ambush

I'm starting to wonder what's up with Super Carole. First she bombs out with her high school closure fantasies. Now she's playing hide the ball with the local media. The prognosis here is not too good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Facing west

All we need is a drummer, for people who only need a beat

We blogged a while back about the upcoming drum event, in honor of fallen Portland soldier Travis Bradach-Nall, as part of a worldwide effort to bring attention to the effective date of the Convention on Cluster Munitions for those countries which have ratified it. That date is two weeks from today, Sunday August 1.

The local organizer, Travis's mother Lynn, has just announced that the event will be held at the Portland Peace Memorial, at the east end of the Steel Bridge. The gathering will begin at 11:30 a.m., with the playing to start at noon. All Portland-area drummers are invited to join in a worldwide session of playing for the cause.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A summer place

We have arrived at a place where the data waves from AT&T come and go, here one minute, gone the next. The waves lapping up against the dock, however, are pretty steady. Is it really only 60 degrees in Portlandia today? The water temperature here is 76, and the sun is scorching; it feels pretty cool when we take a dip.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Have a great weekend

It's for the childr... er, for the firefighters

It's a Portland classic -- burn hundreds of millions on junk, then come begging for a tax increase for essential services. The Sam-Rand Twins are asking city voters to approve in November a property tax boost to pay off $72 million in bonds for the fire bureau. "Legend" Saltzman put on a show about where the money should be spent, but it's now a certainty that the bonds will be on the ballot. Only Nurse Amanda had the guts to vote no.

Will the voters say no, on the ground that the city should find the firefighters money out of its budget for bike paths, streetcars, bioditches, and bloggers? We doubt it -- the basic maneuvers work pretty well with this particular electorate. Go by streetcar!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sinking deeper off the deep end

The folks who oppose Tri-Met's insane plan to build a light rail line from Portland's moribund downtown to just south of nowhere in the Milwaukie 'burbs report some startlingly bad news. Apparently the Tri-Met board briefing the other day revealed a new price tag for the project. We're up to $1.5 billion -- a recently added $100 million being from moving forward without a commitment of federal funds. The opponents add:

Tri-Met wants to be pouring concrete in the Willamette (for a new bridge) by next June, ahead of federal funding approval that won't come until the following year. Tri-Met has received $55 million to date from the $250 million state lottery share and spent $21 million. All the rest of the $55 million will be spent on property acquisition.
Meanwhile, the local government funding, which is to come from "urban renewal" scams, is far from assured. And if it does come through, the transit agency's own $40 million share borrows against its future operations, which are currently in deep entrenchment.

Even if you like the MAX trains so far, this is fiscal irresponsibility, pure and simple. Somebody needs to call the gubernatorial candidates out on this, and demand an answer.

How is this "green"?

You put your lunch refuse in a bucket, and they drive it to Seattle to be composted.

Religions are pretty irrational, aren't they?

All I gotta do is act naturally

Ringo Starr, on his 70th birthday, donated his gold Ludwig snare drum to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today we got up close and personal with it:

L.O. streetcar sticker shock

The liars' budget is up to $450 million. Why we're even talking about this, and a train to Milwaukie to boot, is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A taste of Portland in the Big Apple

Go by pedicab! There were two adults and two kids piled into the back, and this gentleman got us where we were going, in midtown Manhattan:

The bag we're in

I see that plastic bags at the grocery store are back up for banning. And a proposed new state law would require the grocers to charge for paper bags.

The last part isn't a big deal. Most stores already offer a bag credit if you bring your own bag, so a charge for a bag would be the same thing, only different. Banning the routine use of plastic bags would be a major change, however.

At our place, every plastic grocery bag gets reused, usually for household garbage. If the stores stop handing them out, we'll just buy a box of them every now and then. It's not clear how this will help the planet.

Con man money not going to Welches

An alert reader writes:

The east side toy train and water projects ripping up Grand caused my wife and I to stop for a happy hour bite and a brew. Nonetheless, the below picture was taken by my wife (saying he looked like her uncle) yesterday about 5:15. He was playing songs on the jukebox, feeding the video crack machine and enjoying some mixed drinks.

Wish the photo was better but the iPhone has no flash and the back lighting did not help the cause.

We now have empirical evidence of where the hardship money he scams is spent.

Who's got last word on fire bureau decor? Take a guess.

We blogged a while back about the City of Portland's plan to hire a contractor to decorate two separate lobbies at fire bureau headquarters with displays from collections of the bureau's memorabilia and artifacts. One of the parties who are thinking about bidding the job asked a question the other day that prompted a telling exchange:

Question: It can be very difficult working with a committee to make a final decision. Who will ultimately make the final decision regarding design?

Answer: See Part 1, Section A 3. If a decision cannot be reached by the committee, then PF&R Senior Management will make the final decision.

And we all know who that is. Neon rose, anybody?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tri-Met strategy: Put the memorial plaque up in advance

Here's a future Max stop that will no doubt be the death of some poor soul. But hey, there are millions and millions of people moving here any minute, so what's one or two sacrificial lambs?

What is Bill Wyatt running for?

Out at the Portland Airport, they're now running a welcoming announcement over all the loudspeakers: "Hello, this is Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland..."

What's really going on in the Gulf

We probably don't want to know.

Coming soon: PC brownouts

When electricity grids are taxed to capacity in periods of extreme heat or cold, neighborhoods loaded with electric cars aren't going to fare too well.

This one sets off anybody's hinky meter

When bureaucrats and politicians draw a map like this, you know a scam is under way. And in this case, just attach the label "urban renewal," and you know somebody's about to rob some big money from local taxpayers. Cover I-405 and hand it to the Homer Williams types, build a worthless streetcar because Mike Powell wants one, vacate Lincoln High School for a condo tower, and banish the high school students up to where the truck terminals used to be -- it's all part of the classic Vera Katz-Sam Adams shinola. One can only hope that it doesn't happen, but the voters of Portland truly do deserve it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kyron stepmom drama gets trashier

Now she's allegedly sleeping with and "sexting" some guy who's not her husband.

Please, Lord, turn this show off. And help that little boy.

Missing the cut

Oregon barely cracks this new list of best small American cities in which to live. Beaverton and Hillsboro are down there in the 90's. Sorry, Lake Oswego -- come see us when you have Homer Williams and a streetcar.

UPDATE, 10:11 p.m.: As an alert reader notes, Lake O. wasn't eligible for this particular list because it is too small. Apologies to the folks down that way -- they've got enough trouble on their hands right now at City Hall.

I got your neighborhood involvement, right here

Remember the public process charade that was going to determine the fate of Portland's Memorial Coliseum? Mayor Creepy unilaterally deep-sixed that one last month, after who knows how much time and money were wasted on it. And now, lo and behold, a new process has begun -- a process in which the only party who gets to speak are the Portland Trail Blazers.

And Randy Gragg's in charge, which as we all know guarantees a certain je ne sais quoi. Go by aerial tram!

Reader poll: Which move hurts Dems more?

Ever since the inauguration, I've been rooting for the Democratic Party to use the reins of the federal government to make aggressive moves to the left from where the nation was when the Bush people got the boot. So far, I've been underwhelmed. Except for a couple of good Supreme Court appointments, it's not easy to tell why we worked so hard in the 2008 elections.

But now, with the 2010 campaign heating up, even die-hard progressives will admit it's time for the Congress and the administration to tread lightly. Any bold moves now will be fodder for harsh criticism from the nattering nabobs of right-wing talk media. Here are a couple that have been mentioned in just the past week or so. Which one do you think the Republicans can get more mileage out of?

Which is more harmful politically for the Democratic Party in the November election?
Federal government suing Arizona over immigration issues
Reopening the "death panel" controversy
Neither is more harmful than the other
pollcode.com free polls

Another Saturday, another good Maxine Bernstein story

In case you missed it, Tom Brennan -- the Portland police officer who blew the whistle on questionable conduct by one of his colleagues involved in the Chasse killing -- is apparently getting de-ostracized soon, and sent back out on street patrol. He'd been cooling his heels in a desk job, to which he was sentenced after doing the right thing.

Curiously, the new police chief, Mike Reese, who was the officer's commander at the time, apparently was the heavy who banished him. Now that the chief answers to Fireman Randy (through his puppet the mayor), Reese is coming around to seeing that maybe the whistleblower should be given his old job back. Just like the Fireman said.

Live video feeds from the Gulf floor

Then again, they could just be outtakes from Lost in Space. Does anybody out there know for sure just what in the heck these images are?

Gotta love a good joke

One of the great joys in life is having friends with a sense of humor. Look at what one of our zany buddies left on our front door over the weekend -- a positive howler that on first glance looks real, but on closer inspection couldn't be.

It starts off innocently enough -- a come-on from one of the neighborhood wreckers in the "urban studies" tank at Portland State:

This study "will help Portland and other cities create better neighborhoods"? That must be code for "make your life miserable if you drive a car, and knock down older single-family homes and replace them with condo bunkers." Plus, can you imagine the enormous self-selection bias that such a study would suffer from? It would be so huge as to make the results meaningless. Witness the mom in the photo accompanying her kids to school on her scooter -- we rest our case.

So it's already looking a little hokey. But then you turn it over, and see that it's all just an insane prank:

Ha! Ha! Whoever you are who left this on our door, you had us going there for a while. Good one!

You crack me up.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Your attention, please... ladies and gentlemen...

Farewell to Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer for more than 50 years at the one and only original Yankee Stadium. As a kid I was lucky enough to be taken to that hallowed place to see Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, and so many other greats play the game. For entertainment, there was somebody playing the organ, and for the announcements and lineups, Mr. Sheppard. With beautiful diction and impressive poise, he was like a talented reader of sacred scripture in a great cathedral. He lived to be 99 years old.

Spain wins, and so does "Teutonic Knights"

The Dutch finally folded -- they always do -- and so Spain wins the World Cup final match, in whatever they call double overtime. In our match-by-match prediction "pool," Teutonic Knights scores a come-from-behind victory, to join Ricardo, winner of our brackets game. Congratulations to both prognosticators, and thanks to all our players for giving us somebody to root for, all tournament long.

Our winners each get a beverage and glory. If they will just step forward, please.

Will Juwan go over to the dark side?

I wouldn't blame Juwan Howard if he called it good after one year in Portland. Blazer management is in pieces at the moment, and Coach Nate may be walking the plank pretty soon. It's not exactly an inviting atmosphere for a free agent.

But would he really go over to the Miami Heat, which is about to become the Lakers of the East in terms of arrogance and general despicability?

Hey, at this stage in his life, I'm sure money talks. But when Greg Oden's legs give out again -- probably sometime between Halloween and Christmas -- we're going to wish we still had Howard around. His departure could be a seriously bad omen.

Meanwhile, Travis Outlaw descends into the pro basketball inferno known as the New Jersey Nets. Perfect.

This blog is bad news enough as it is

Which is why we're posting this meter just this once -- it won't make it to our sidebar with the City of Portland debt, despite the obvious parallels:

Stepmom fever -- parking garage ambush edition

Wherein Channel 2 gets to add to the drama.

This story was really gripping for a while, but now that the stepmom has been both convicted and diagnosed with a mitigating condition in the media, it's gotten a little like "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."

Is she going to confess? I doubt it. Is Norm Frink of the DA's office going to back off? Of course not -- it's too good a ticket to something bigger. So where will it end?

If she hired somebody to commit a crime, they'll spend the rest of whatever money she paid them. And then they'll be back asking her for more. The next stop after that would be bunking with Diane Downs.

All you zombies show your faces

Well, maybe not.

From bad to worse

The headlines are scary. Deadly contamination -- three times as much as the authorities have previously let on about. And they don't have safe and effective technology for cleaning it up or preventing harm to human life.

Gulf of Mexico? Try Columbia River.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deutschland über (fast) Alles

Germany has taken third place in the World Cup soccer tourney, which means that Ricardo is the winner of our bracket game. Congratulations to him. Over on our match-by-match prediction board, the Fake Dutchman has slipped into first place with just the championship match to go.

The octopus is going with Spain.

Tar balls in my coffee

The Gulf oil well disaster is a real drag to think about. But it may turn out to be the greatest man-made environmental disaster ever, and so maybe we ought to meditate on it a bit more, just so that we don't look any worse in the history books than we already will.

The first thing I don't understand is, why haven't gas prices shot up on account of this? Here you have a big player in the oil industry potentially facing bankruptcy, and showing no reliable signs of being able to avoid it. Why haven't the prices of oil and related derivative gambles been spiking upward? I used to think that I was just too dumb to understand how these things work. But now a much better working hypothesis is that Henry Paulson and his buddies at Goldman Sachs are jerking us around once again.

The other thing to think about is whether they're ever going to get the undersea gusher under control. Here's a website that's not only predicting that the relief well efforts will fail, but also painting a scenario in which the gradual deterioration of broken well pipes under the seabed would lead to a catastrophic volcanic explosion creating tens of millions of refugees. That sounds pretty extreme, but since neither the oil weasels nor the federal government have any credibility at all any more, I'm reluctant to just laugh it off.

As one commentator wrote a couple of weeks ago:

What strikes me as odd is the way the leadership of BP and the Obama administration is acting.

BP is running around apologizing to everyone they can find. Obama says give us $20 billion in escrow and $100 million for the people Obama put out of work on the oil rigs due to his six month ban — and BP says, "Sure thing mate, no problem."

And all of this in a 20-minute meeting?

I've been dealing with oil companies for a long time and it just doesn't add up...

Contrast it, for instance, with the Exxon situation in Alaska or the Union Carbide disaster in India.

Exxon fought tooth and nail for its shareholders; it appealed court rulings for 19 years. Union Carbide wasn't settled for 25 years.

BP is rolling over like a simpering dog. Why?

The only reason I can think of is that the company knows — better if not as well as the Obama administration does — that it will get worse.

Much worse.

Back to beautiful

Sea air has begun creeping into Portland, which means that the heat wave is on the wane. You can hear pretty much the whole town heave a sigh of relief when the coastal breeze arrives after one of these spells. It's pretty much on schedule this time around, leaving a blistering stretch of only three days.

When the temperature gets above 90 degrees Farenheit, Portland becomes a different place from what it is the rest of the year. On an afternoon walk, you get the sidewalks to yourself. A few pedestrians who would never think of carrying an umbrella in the rain put one up to keep the sun off. Not as many bicyclists as usual get out there when it's so hot, either.

Oh, but the cars. In a Portland heat wave, there are usually too many cars. The locals see the sun and figure that they ought to be out in it, but since they don't want to deal with the heat, the air conditioner in the vehicle seems like the perfect solution. Yesterday these factors teamed up with the usual Friday uptick in traffic to make for a pretty unpleasant day on the roads.

We're past Fourth of July now, and a lot of the Portland green that comes on like gangbusters in June is already started to slow down. There are dry days ahead for the next five weeks or so, and most of the lush emerald patches will gradually turn a citrine brown. Things have a way of clouding up a bit in mid-August, but in a typical Portland summer, there are some things that the locals come to bank on. Like dry Julys and Augusts.

Last night we grilled a few sausages with peppers and onions, sipping on a local beer while tending the barbecue (keeping a wary eye out for the skeeters). Threw a little slaw on the plate and called it good. Finished things off with a slice of watermelon. Life is good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Portland is doomed

The reins of government in our fair region have been handed over to twits. Strap on your barf bag before you watch the video.

I'm all for land use planning, but we've clearly jumped the shark. What a waste of money that we don't have.

Have a great weekend

What should BP's new brand name be?

They say the name "BP" will soon disappear, along with Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and some others. What would you replace the BP brand with?

Easy money

Just bet with the expert.

Wasting money? Might as well be "green" about it.

It's not just the eco-roof. The new $100-million-plus Port of Portland headquarters out at the airport will also have recycled water in its toilets.

Today's free ad on the City of Portland website

There's no sign of any public or charitable connection with this come-on. Your tax dollars at work.

Keepers of the leaves

Last week, while driving in Ladd's Addition in southeast Portland, we noticed that all the stately old trees had been tagged:

And so we pulled over to take a closer look at the signs:

And as it turns out, they're doing it again tomorrow. If you ever wanted to inoculate a tree, here's your chance.

Man bites dog

A Washington, D.C. lawyer files an unusual paternity suit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baking pot brownies?

Please keep it legal:

Preparation may be completed in a home-type kitchen equipped with a sink available for hand washing (this sink may be a dishwash sink), liquid soap, and paper towels. No other food preparation should take place during the production of edible cannabis products, in order to avoid cross-contamination. During preparation, children and pets should not be in the kitchen/preparation area. Clean and sanitize all utensils, equipment, and food contact surfaces before and after preparation. Equipment and food contact surfaces should be in good, cleanable condition. Ingredient storage areas should be kept clean and vermin-free....

All items shall be individually wrapped at the original point of preparation. Labeling must include a warning if nuts or other known allergens are used, and must include the total weight (in ounces or grams) of cannabis in the package. A warning that the item is a medication and not a food must be distinctly and clearly legible on the front of the package. The package label must have a warning clearly legible emphasizing that the product is to be kept away from children. The label must also state that the product contains medical cannabis, and must specify the date of manufacture.

Laurelhurst duck poop to be trucked to Cully "park"

The twists and turns of the Laurelhurst Park Pond duck poop cleanout just keep a-comin'. You'd think the city would have the terms of the deal ironed out by now, since they've been trying to bid it since February. But no -- today we learn where the nasty stuff taken out of the pond is going. The liquid part is going into the city sewer system. The mucky solid part is going to the old landfill at 75th and Killingsworth:

Contractor has the option to deposit dredged material at the City’s Thomas Cully property at no disposal cost. This is the former Killingsworth Fast Disposal land fill with the entrance at 5690 NE 75th Avenue (just off of NE Killingsworth). Contractor to be responsible for all costs associated with hauling to this site. Contractor will be issued a key and will be required lock up after 3:00 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturdays.
When last we heard, the Killingsworth site was supposed to become a city park, as long as the methane in the landfill didn't blow. Now the muck from Laurelhurst will be added to the mix. We wonder how the Cully neighbors are going to take this news.

Portland parks planning, 1903

Here's a fascinating historical document that just showed up on the city's website.

Another great quotation

They are just rolling in today. This one's from the United States Tax Court:

The free provision of sperm may, under appropriate circumstances, be a charitable activity.

Some serious coinage

As we continue plowing through a hoard of American pennies, looking for rarities, a guy in England takes it to a whole 'nother level.


Our ride up from Salem on 99E the other day -- the first time we've ever traveled that road, in 32 years living in these parts -- may have jinxed it.

County backslide continues

The Multnomah County commissioners have decided to ask voters yet again to end term limits. I guess we're supposed to be sad we don't still have the Mean Girls running things. They're also requesting a vote on changing the rules that forbid county commissioners for running for other office without resigning the county board. (Ominously, Willamette Week is already running Jeff Cogen for mayor of Portland. Mom Saltzman will be so proud if she gets two of her boys on the City Council. And Karol with a K can run the county for her.)

The county has a lot of problems, but its charter is not one of them. The proposed "reforms" sound like a giant step backward -- even worse for the taxpayers than the resignation of Ted Wheeler, and that's saying something. They deserve a resounding "no" vote at the polls in November.

It's interesting that while Multnomah voters are being asked to get rid of term limits, they'll also be asked to bring back John Kitzhaber as governor. Many of them are going to say, "I thought we got rid of that guy with term limits," but he got around them. If the opponents of the charter changes need a poster child, they'll have one, ready-made.

Quotation of the Week

One of the things the development community is really good at is spotting an opportunity and then overbuilding it.

East side Sunday Parkways may have to pay "volunteers"

Sunday Parkways -- the program in which the City of Portland turns streets over to bicyclists on selected summer Sundays -- has expanded to five Sundays this year, but the pool of volunteers to stand at the key intersections and keep an eye on things has not grown so quickly. The city recently hired a "volunteer coordination" firm, Good Sport Promotions, to marshal the troops for the events, and it's put out an urgent call for the East Portland bikefest scheduled for the 18th. A reader copied us on that message:

Hi Everyone,

We're a little over a week away from the Sunday Parkways in East Portland. Unfortunately, volunteer recruitment has been a bit challenging. We all want this event to succeed, and volunteers are the #1 way to make this happen. Intersection Superheroes are the life-blood of the event and while we need to fill 130 shifts, we have only found the volunteers to take care of 41.

Without volunteers, this is simply not going to work and the community will take notice. We can't let this happen. Fortunately, we still have time and you all have connections.

You all helped bring this event to your neighborhood and you are the biggest supporters of this event, so I'm calling on you to help us get the word out for a couple different opportunities.

1. Send out the word to volunteers.

* Groups you know
* Listserves, websites, facebook pages, twitter - everything you have in
* Churches, schools, social groups.
* Non-profits and small enterprises - they can be both volunteers as exhibit on the street. A great way to market their ideas and services!
* Friends and family
* Call in personal favors - Janis is bringing her mother. It's that serious right now.

2. Plan F - we will compensate groups of volunteers - volunteer for fundraising.

* We don't want to do this, but this may be a last resort. We're looking for teams and groups of people who would be willing to work for SP for fundraising. The requirement is that these groups need to be adults (no school groups or teams).
* Sports teams are ideal, as they usually are looking for quick fundraising and would be great for the job - Rugby teams, Dragonboat teams, etc.
* Churches may be good too. We have an afternoon shift from 11:45-3:30pm that may be perfect for folks just getting out of church.
* If you know of any groups, please let me know. 5-55 people is a great size. You can either contact them with the info or make an email introduction and I'll take it from there.
* I would love to have groups who live near the SP event and will give them preferential selection of volunteer location However, I may have to reach out to the Greater Portland area to fill those spots.

Thanks for all the help. I would love to hear from you with any thoughts, questions or suggestions.

Have a great week,
Neal Armstrong
Good Sport Promotion | 503.473.3547
Coordinated Events | GoodSportPromotion.com

I wonder what Good Sport is getting paid, how much the pot of money for the "volunteers" is going to be, and whether it will be coming out of sewer bills.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Welches con man makes another friend

Here's a familiar e-mail message:

I just met the Welches con man on Wed. July 7, 2010 at NE 6th & Weidler, about 8:30 p.m. His story sounded vaguely familiar to something I had read a few years ago but I wasn't sure, and I didn't give him any money. When I got home and searched the Google my suspicion was confirmed, thanks to your efforts. I was amazed that this guy has been pulling the same scam for so many years. He looked the same, like an honest, hard-working guy, with a beard and a blue baseball hat. If I ever see him again I will put him in the hospital.
Somebody really needs to take this fellow off the streets, for his own protection as well as that of the public. But this is Portland, where stuff like this obviously no longer matters to the people running the city. All they have to offer are crocodile tears when the inevitable happens.

Guess what else is "for the children"

The proposed casino out at the old dog track.

I'll bet it's green and sustainable, too.

The high cost of incompetence

I see that the folks at the O are up in arms about the hiring of outside "management coaches" to help out the top brass at the Oregon state human services department. The outrage is justified. If you need a coach, you shouldn't be managing.

Of course, management coaches are commonplace at the City of Portland. Remember the wild times they had with coaches at the Portland Development Commission toward the end of The Don's reign? Too funny. As I recall, the people who run Fireman Randy's permit bureau have also had coaches, and even Transportation Sue got into the act with one of her mid-level people getting a coach after some kind of trouble or other.

I love that the state's consultants are using the "Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument." I wonder how many times they put that on a state bureaucrat and get a flat-line reading.

Anyway, if government is as broke as it claims to be, then all the management coaches need to be let go, as in yesterday. And if their charges can't handle life without a coach, they need to be shown the door as well.

Ah... green, sustainable, eco-friendly Oregon

... unless you are a goose.

¡Hola! ¡España!

Die Deutsche fall to the Iberians, setting up a Holland-Spain finals in the World Cup. If Spain wins, or if Germany takes third place, Ricardo wins our bracket game. If neither of those teams wins, we have a three-way tie at the top (Ricardo, Alan, and Kelly), and we go to the tiebreakers.

In our game-by-game prediction contest, Mojo (108) maintains the slimmest of leads over the Fake Dutchman (106), Beau Breedlove (102), and the Teutonic Knights (102). Over there, the third-place game is worth 6 points and the championship 10 points, and so there's no room for error.

My own prognostication skills have gotten so bad at the end here, if I were you I'd bet against what I've picked for the two final games -- Germany and Spain.

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.: Interestingly, in the game-by-game pool, none of our top five players had today's game right.

A smear and cheers

No Pulitzer for this story in today's Willy Week -- if that's all they've got on Dudley, he could actually win -- but here's a crackling good local angle on World Cup soccer.

Saltzman's $790K year? That was nothing.

About a month ago, the guys at Willamette Week raised our eyebrows with their report that Portland city commissioner Dan Saltzman had raked in a cool $790,000 of cash flow from his and his family's real estate investments in 2009. We went ahead and got copies of his financial disclosure forms from the state government ethics folks, and blogged about them here.

Intrigued by these findings, we asked the state for additional years' disclosure statements from the City Council, including Saltzman, and we have now gotten some of these. It turns out that 2009 was a slow year for "Legend" Dan compared to 2006, when he was on the receiving end of more than $1 million of distributions from real estate entities, including a $994,474 distribution from an entity known as Bridgeport Commons LLC. Saltzman had a 20% interest in Bridgeport Commons at the time, which means that if it made pro rata distributions to all its members, the LLC disgorged $4.97 million in cash to its owners in 2006. Burp!

2007 was not as big a payday for the commish. His report for that year shows distributions from four real estate LLCs, totaling a mere $285,517. We didn't get his data from 2008, which would have been reported in April 2009, in part because of a misunderstanding about which years we were requesting. But we'll keep after that one.

Meanwhile, we were also interested in the disclosure reports filed by former commissioner Erik Sten, who mysteriously quit the City Council in early 2008 and left town thereafter. Sten didn't file a disclosure statement after he resigned, and so the last disclosure report we have on him is for the year 2006. His dad, an attorney who worked in the state Justice Department, had died the summer before, and a rumor was that the younger Sten quit politics rather than disclose the extent of his inherited wealth.

It's hard to get that out of his financial report for 2006. It showed that Sten's city salary provided half or more of his and his wife's income, and that her job with Neighborhood Partnership Fund provided between 10% and 49%. That leaves 40% at most as coming from investments. The report shows that Sten owned three homes in Portland: his personal residence on NE Brazee in Irvington, a condo at 1221 NE 21st, and a third home, which was sold in 2006, on NE 63rd just south of the Banfield Freeway. Sten went on to buy a much fancier, $1.28 million West Hills home in March 2007, but he lived in it for only a short time before selling it in July 2008 and moving to Bend. The 21st Avenue condo, in Sullivan's Gulch, was sold in May 2007; Sten and his wife are still listed as owning the house on NE Brazee.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spain's a lock over Germany

The ultimate expert has made his call.

They bite me

Most of us complained about the weather in Portland last month -- the wettest June on record -- but somebody liked it. The mosquitoes, that is. This year's local crop of Culicidae is bigger and nastier than any I have ever encountered in nearly 32 years living in the Rose City.

Bug spray doesn't stop them. Citronella candles? They laugh in your face. Barbecue smoke may deter them a little. At least the meat right over the coals is safe. Anybody else who steps outside in the evening is automatic Lean Cuisine. And they're starting earlier and earlier. Today the females were out biting in broad daylight and despite a brisk northerly breeze.

Mosquitoes love me. In a group of people, I'm invariably the one who gets bit first and worst. Maybe they like whiter meat -- or is it the wine content?

Skeeters this wicked remind me of growing up in Newark, N.J. in the late 1950s and early 1960s. On the east side of the city, where we lived, were what they now kiddingly call the Meadowlands. Back then, before the land was largely filled in with human garbage and the remains of the occasional Teamsters official, this part of town was rightfully called "the swamps."

The mosquitoes from the Jersey swamps were as big as birds. The beat of their wings was audible. Before you went to bed at night, you'd run around your flat and try to kill them before they bit you in your bed. If you were lucky, you got them before they got you. If you caught up to one with the fly swatter after she had gotten you, she'd gush your blood back at you when you smacked her.

These were the skeeters who bit Frankie Valli, and Connie Francis, and Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen, and me.

Most of the kids we hung around with had nicknames. One guy just a little older than I, Michael Hudak, was called "Swampy." I never got the full story on that one, but I think on one childhood foray among the reeds and cattails of the swamps down by the Passaic River, Mike had tripped and fallen into some swampy goo. The accepted wisdom was that there was even some quicksand down there that you had to watch out for. Swampy used to run with Stevie Clemente, who somehow got dubbed "Bebop." We spent many a happy night hanging with Bebop and Swampy, mosquitoes notwithstanding.

Back then, the approved way to battle the skeeters was with "punks," or cattails cut from the marshes. If you dried these out a little, they'd burn slowly, like a fine cigar, giving off a distinctive, and fairy pleasant, smell along with their thick smoke. They kept the bugs from coming around. The spirits of the Indians who had once roamed that part of the world no doubt looked down on the practice with approval.

The skeeters in "Down Neck" Newark were so bad that the city used to send around trucks that would spray big loads of insecticide into the air every night in the muggy summers. I'm not sure what those trucks were shooting off, and I guess I don't really want to know now.

But the skeeters of my youth, and the Portland skeeters of 2010, are kid stuff compared to their cousins in Montana. I remember the Mrs. and me camping out near the Custer Battlefield one July, and the mosquitoes were intolerable. The local tribe came through with a truck and sprayed the campground, but within an hour the buggers were back with a vengeance. We lit a lantern inside our tent, and the skeeters started dive-bombing the outside. They were hitting the tent walls so hard and frequently that it sounded like a serious rainstorm.

We haven't been back that way since, but we're getting a reminder of that flavor right here at home this summer. And of course, nowadays there's the whole West Nile virus aspect to fret about. Portlanders, if you haven't already experienced this phenomenon, beware.

The Dutch make the World Cup finals

They usually self-destruct before this time.

In our bracket game, if we've tallied everything up right, Kelly and Alan each finish the tournament with 13 points, which leaves them tied for the lead at the moment. But Gaye and Ricardo are still in the running, and still have points to win. Gaye could still pass Kelly and Alan, but she could not win the top prize (glory and a beverage).

If Germany wins tomorrow, Ricardo is out, and Alan and Kelly go into the tiebreaker for the win. If Spain wins, Ricardo clinches at least a three-way tie.

Another money grab by Portland City Hall

Another set of fees, that is, to pay for Mayor Creepy's bike dreams. Ah, the infamous "system development charges." Isn't that where City Hall charges you $36,000 to move your pizza shop across the street?

At least this time the developer weasels will have to fork it over -- the ones who are poised to wreck the central eastside industrial district and cash in with Wim Wimoweh, the chief realtor over at Portland State. But of course, since the city can't give these guys sneaky handouts fast enough, any extra charges are all for show, as they're all ultimately coming from you and me.

If you're connecting the dots at home, construction jobs in the Portland metro area are down 11% over the past year. What a time for the city to be piling fees on that industry. It seems sure to push any recovery in those numbers to the suburbs. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Go by streetcar!

Under the holiday weekend rug

We've noted here several times the well known tendency that politicians and bureaucrats have to release controversial news on Friday afternoons, where the fewest number of people will see it -- and the willingness of papers like the O to bury inconvenient investigative findings on Friday night and Saturday, when many readers aren't around. Three-day holiday weekends are particularly susceptible to this kind of manipulation, and sure enough, there were three local stories released last Friday afternoon that are sure to escape some folks' notice unless someone calls attention to them again today, when workers are back in their cubicles surfing the 'net instead of working:

1. Major hanky panky with the City of Portland parking contract.
We were all surprised -- mildly pleasantly so -- when Portland announced that it was awarding the lucrative contract to manage the city's parking garages to a relatively unknown outfit from Tennessee. New blood! It proved that the Portland Old Money, such as the Goodman family of real estate and parking tycoons, doesn't always rule the roost around here. Both the Goodmans and the outfit that currently has the garage contract, Smart Park (run by the Schlesingers), were shut out in favor of a newcomer.

But not so fast! On Friday, Mayor Creepy threw out the results of the public bidding process and announced that the city's starting all over in its search to find the perfect contractor. He issued one of his pathological press releases that was so disingenuous, it almost makes you want to dig around his rental houses looking for Kyron Horman. Anyway, look for Goodman or Schlesinger to get the contract. And when West Hills Money wins, The Natural Order of Portland is restored. Dan Saltzman's mom can then mingle with the other moneyed blue hairs without getting dirty looks, which is all that really matters in this town.

2. Taxpayers will pay big bucks for John Minnis's "second chakra" escapades. Former Oregonian John Minnis, a tighty righty favorite politician, has settled the civil case stemming from charges that he tried to force himself on a subordinate in his police training gig. He'll pay her $65,000 -- but his employer, the State of Oregon, will pay her another $385,000 on account of the incidents. Will the state's taxpayers (or the state's insurance company) get to recoup those funds from Minnis? We would hope so, but we wouldn't bet on it.

And why is the state liable in the first place? Minnis wasn't acting in the scope of his employment when he did whatever he did to the woman, was he? Did state supervisors know that he had a problem? In any event, that the state (or its insurer) is forking over nearly 400 grand to pay off the fallout from some sleazebag's horny business trips is a scandal of the highest order.

3. Mazziotti and Edlen closer to renewing their vows. Out in Beaverton, which is in the early stages of a new "urban renewal" scam, the city's redevelopment manager, Don Mazziotti, is running the same plays he used to run as head of the Portland Development Commission before he was let go from that gig. Bevo recently embarked on a search for a "master developer" for all sorts of future taxpayer-subsidized projects, the nature and extent of which are deliberately being kept oh-so-vague. And in no time at all, The Don has got it narrowed to two candidates, one of which is his old-time sweetheart from Portland, Mark Edlen. Edlen, along with The Don, Homer Williams, Peter Kohler, and Neil Goldschmidt, led Portland's taxpayers into the financial black hole known as the SoWhat District. This time, an outfit named Specht is also in the running, but most dogs prefer the smell of familiar pack mates. It's a good bet that the fix is in, and Edlen will get the gig. Let's hope for their sake that the voters of Beaverton cut this scheme off at the pass, but in the meantime we Portlanders can thank our lucky stars that these bandits are operating outside our own city limits for a change.

Still crazy after all these years

Eight years ago on this night, this blog was born. It seems so long ago, all alone on Blogger. No comments. No images. A borrowed template, reaching out. Since then, we've had more than 4.5 million unique visits, posted more than 12,000 entries, blown the place up a couple of times (once on purpose), drawn in some sponsors, and received more than 120,000 comments.

We had early inspiration: Tony Pierce, Howard Bashman, John Dunshee. And many more since that first night. We've even inspired some blogchildren ourselves.

There have been so many magic moments. Take just the past few months, for example. From the Welches con man to Little Lord Paulson to Bicycle Rex and His Acid Freaks to off-duty cop road-'roid rage to your unconstitutional water bill to the $681,000 red-light cam to Kyron's freaky stepmom -- Portland's a really interesting place, if you know where to look. And our readers supply more wonderful leads than we can figure out what to do with, all day, every day. It's fun.

And Lord willing, there's more to come.

But a pressing question remains: Why can't we move a few dozen bumper stickers? People, even if you don't put stickers on your car, you want one of these for your bowling bag, camping cooler, or gun case. Like they say, Own a piece of history. Heh.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bad penny

Ever since we discovered pdxmugshots.com, we've been heading over there now and then to see if anyone we recognize has been busted in Multnomah County lately. In particular, we keep searching to see if David Wilson, the "Welches" con man who commits petty theft by deception day after day, for a living, ever gets picked up.

So far, no, but check out this guy, Wyman D. Wilson. He is doubtlessly costing the taxpayers thousands with whatever his problem is. Starting on April 24, he's been booked no less than six times, five of them on charges of "INTERF W/PUB TRANS," which we assume means interfering with public transportation. There are also indecent exposure and offensive littering charges mixed in. Fireman Randy, can't you direct this fellow to one of your loos?

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

There are so many sad stories in Portland. Maybe it's always been that way, but after living here more than three decades, sometimes we feel as though the fabric of the place is falling apart.

The old way home

We had business in Salem today, and decided to return to Portland via Route 99E. We crossed the mighty Pudding River, and then the Molalla, to arrive at the friendly confines of the Canby Burgerville. This has got to be one of the original installations in the chain:

That must be a Vietnam Memorial there on the corner.

The hops are growing down this way, along with the wheat and the hazelnuts and all the berries. Downtown Aurora was beautiful in its own way. A much more scenic route than the freeway, to be sure.

Bob's next of Kin meets similar fate

An alert reader comments:

From the people who brought you a hardware device named Bob, that received 7th place in PC World Magazine's list of the 25 worst products of all time, a spot in Time Magazine's list of the 50 Worst Inventions and number 1 worst product of the decade by CNET.com. (From Microsoft around 1995.)

Noticed the TV ads for the past six weeks for a media-phone type of gismo called Kin? Another Microsoft product, whose ads were really pending death notices. Kin is RIP after six weeks on the market.

But the Kin website is still up. And no worries, suckers! Microsoft said in a June 30 story: "We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current Kin phones."

As for the future, Microsoft says: "Additionally, we are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases."

Windows Mobile 7 early release version anyone? Can't wait!

Remember when Microsoft was the powerhouse and Apple was almost dead? What a difference the iPod made.

Another shaky step by the O

Have you noticed that the O now runs little headshots of its reporters next to their bylines? I'm not sure that's such a great idea. The reporters are smiling, even when the stories are tragic:

Navas looks as though she just left a party at the American Legion hall, not as though she just watched it burn to the ground.

Maximum Maxine at least looks a little less enthused, but even so, she's writing of murder while looking like she just won the pie-off:

If you were going to do this right, you'd have three different headshots of each reporter to pick from, depending on the nature of the story. But then again, what does the reporter's likeness have to do with a news story, as opposed to a column?

They'll get the hang of this intertubes thing over there one of these days.

Keeping up with Sheriff Dan and the deputies

In our years of blogging, we've bounced around lots of government agency websites. But we didn't notice until now that the Multnomah County sheriff has a newsletter going called The Green Hornet. It's actually not bad.

Is today a holiday?

We always celebrate Independence Day on the fourth of July, even if it falls on a weekend. But I seem to recall that the weekday closest to the fourth gets holiday treatment in most workplaces. That makes today a holiday. Some people will have to work (including yours truly), but it won't be as lamely observed a holiday as, say, Columbus Day. Most people will get the day off.

What about parking meters in the City of Portland? Do you have to feed them? Those people are so cut-throat that you don't dare assume that they'll be giving anybody a break. They get you on Sundays -- do they get you today? I can't figure it out from the city's website, and I wouldn't hazard a guess without official confirmation somewhere.

Metro's idea of fun

Ride a bike across the I-5 bridge to the 'Couv.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reader poll: Call the last two rounds of the World Cup

What will happen in the championship match of the World Cup?
Uruguay defeats Germany
Uruguay defeats Spain
Netherlands defeats Germany
Netherlands defeats Spain
Spain defeats Uruguay
Spain defeats Netherlands
Germany defeats Uruguay
Germany defeats Netherlands
pollcode.com free polls

Kyron stepmom murder-for-hire bombshell!

Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian scores a major hit with this stunning news.

Let's sing this one together

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates
Music by Samuel A. Ward

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How Henry Paulson & Co. starve people to death

We should all be so proud.

Cry for me, Argentina

The Germans' elimination of Argentina from the World Cup scene puts an end to quite a few gamblers' brackets. It also turns the semi-finals into a largely Euro event, with Holland, Germany, and Spain joined only by Uruguay.

In our bracket game, there are still 13 points in play, but nobody left who can rack up all 13. Yours truly is out already at 9 points; our leader, Alan, has 13 and can make it to 23 if Uruguay goes all the way and Holland comes in third. If Spain wins out and Germany takes third, Ricardo will be our bracket winner. Other outcomes are possible as well -- we haven't done all the combinatorics yet.

In our game-by-game prediction contest, Mojo maintains the slimmest of leads with four games left to pick and tons of points still sloshing around. They don't play again in South Africa until Tuesday.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: It appears that in our bracket game, there are some scenarios in which Kelly can finish tied for the lead -- there is even a three-way tie possible among Kelly, Ricardo, and Alan. But if Uruguay beats Holland on Tuesday, Kelly is out.

SoWhat poodle poop park open for business

They say it cost $3.5 million to build. Acquiring the site cost $7 million, and there were no doubt some additional costs in between, like paying off the old storage space tenants and cleaning up the hazardous waste. Maybe $13 million or $15 million total for two acres of bare-bones park? Go by streetcar! Bring your poodle!

And stand by for the pedestrian bridge over the freeway. What recession?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reader polls: Pick Saturday's world cup winners

Shockingly, the Dutch did not their Dutch act, and suddenly Brazil is out of the World Cup tourney. There go a lot of people's brackets. What do you think about tomorrow's matches?

Who will win the first World Cup match on Saturday?
pollcode.com free polls

Who will win the second World Cup match on Saturday?
pollcode.com free polls

Have a great holiday weekend

More monkeying with the duck poop cleanup bids

When bureaucrats keep changing the rules in a public bidding process, it always waves a red flag with us. So it goes with the City of Portland bids for the cleanup of the duck pond at Laurehurst Park.

Not only is the city in the second round of bidding on the project -- the first attempt resulted in bids that were almost twice the city's anticipated maximum -- but now they've pushed back the bid deadline, hastily scheduled a third pre-bidding meeting (second on this go-'round), and issued answers to some questions that one would think should have been asked and answered long ago.

It just smells, well, fishy.

Anyhow, the new deadline is July 15. Go via duck!

Like music to the dancer

Seven years ago today, Travis John Bradach-Nall of Portland was killed by a cluster bomb while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq. Of course, his family has never been the same since. But beyond feeling the ache of losing such a bright young star, his mother and uncle, Lynn and John Bradach, were transformed by his death into tireless activists for peace.

John writes:

Lynn is organizing a "Travis Drums" event in Portland, as part of an August 1 worldwide drum event to bring attention to the effective date of the Convention on Cluster Munitions for those countries which have ratified it. More information on the international drum event is available here. This drum symbol and demonstration has special force for us. Travis was a drummer. He was in the Grant High School Band and marched with them in Portland’s Starlight Parade. He was happiest pounding on a drum set. Several of his Grant band buddies accompanied the bagpiper with drum cadence as Travis’s flag-draped casket was carried by the Marine honor guard into and out of the funeral at our All Saints Church.

Travis’s ashes went into a drum, then into the casket. Below is photo of his snare drum, awaiting that service in my front hall, with his personal copy of Ghostbusters. That also went into the drum, with a package of frosted Grandma’s oatmeal cookies (Travis’ favorite when he visited Aunt Cathy in our kitchen).

Lynn is looking for ways to stir up drummers for an event in Portland on the waterfront, on August 1. She wants all kinds of drums and drummers. She is particularly interested in finding someone who is capable of organizing drummers into a cognizable concert, after the initial cadence with the bagpipes in memory of Travis.

If you or someone you know might be interested in participating in this event, Travis's uncle and namesake, John, can be reached here.

Part of the program

Yes, you should take reusable bags with you to the grocery store. But don't forget, you have to wash them, at least once in a while.

A Portland parking Catch 22

Parking enforcement in Portland has come to reflect City Hall -- a bit vicious at times. A reader with property in the Pearl District writes about the experience of buying reserved on-street parking for construction:

We had recently had a professional roofer come and re-roof one of our commercial buildings. This roofer arranged for the parking meters to be "hooded" (now they put up little signs with the permit pasted to them) next to the building. The roofer arrived with multiple trucks and did the job in about three days.

While the roofer was busy working, the local parking Nazi ticketed all the trucks for being over six feet tall and parking on the corner for which the permits were issued.

In checking the regulations on line, it is in fact an infraction to block the visibility on corners with ANY vehicle over six feet tall (or even to have obscured views through car windows on corners). So don't go blocking those car windows with your dry cleaning, or parking your van within 50 feet of any corner in the CoP.

Now since these construction use permits are issued and not to be used by any passenger vehicle or SUVs, what else but a truck would use this permit; and why would the city allow the permits to be issued for what are obviously corner locations?
I guess this just shows how desperate for money the city really is.

We have two more buildings to roof, so I guess we will be paying more parking tickets to get the job done. I guess construction crews are supposed to "go by streetcar," too. UG!!

The "greenest" thing to do with the airport

Stop expanding it.

The Moon and the Cobra

They're compatible.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kyron's bio-mom: "We think he's alive and safe"

The dramatic plot thickens. So the stepmom has him stashed somewhere, alive? There's an accomplice? And it's all just to get attention for herself? Let's hope so.

It certainly puts Steve Houze in an interesting spot. If the stepmom tells him she's got the child somewhere, does Houze have to turn her in?

UPDATE, 6:02 p.m.: If anyone thinks the family-minus-stepmom trio is going to be a long-awaited anchor to reality, however, this should disabuse them of that notion.

Private-sector jobs are gone, but government is hiring

A couple of news stories today paint an intriguing picture of employment trends in the Portland metropolitan area. One covers private-sector employment, and the other covers employment overall. Put together, they seem to demonstrate that while private-sector employment is dwindling, other employment -- which we assume to mean public-sector employment -- is in fact growing.

Let's start with the private-sector first. The Portland metropolitan area has lost 88,800 private-sector jobs in the last two years, according to these statistics from the federal Labor Department. That's 9.94% of the private-sector employment in the area. May 2010 metro area private-sector employment is estimated at 804,300, down from 893,100 in May 2008.

Over the last decade, the private-sector job loss in the area has been 32,300, or 3.86%. On a percentage basis, that's 36th worst on the list of 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country.

In the last year, private-sector employment in the area declined by 21,700 jobs, or 2.6%.

But then there are the overall nonfarm employment statistics, which are over here. According to those numbers, in the past year overall employment in the area in the area was down 20,100, or 2.1%. But if private-sector employment is down 21,700, while overall employment is down 20,100, one could reasonably conclude that the public sector actually added 1,600 jobs.

Or maybe I'm misinterpreting unfamiliar data sets. Here they are in a table -- readers, help me out if I'm missing something:

DatePrivate-sectorOverall nonfarmDifference (public sector)
May 2010804,300958,500154,200
May 2009826,000978,600152,600
Increase (decrease) 2009-2010(21,700)(20,100)1,600

The figures also show that while Portland is being hammered economically, Bend and Corvallis have had an even rougher year, each posting a 2.9% overall employment decline since May 2009. Funny thing, though -- Salem, the state capital, lost only 0.4% of its jobs over that year. Eugene was at 0.7%, and Medford 1.2%.

In Portland, "stakeholders" are disposable

Unlike the O, which never connects any dots, the Trib's got a classic analysis today:

Two weeks after changing the process for redeveloping the Memorial Coliseum, Mayor Sam Adams is changing the process for working out the remaining issues of the River Plan for the North Reach of the Portland Harbor.

In a June 14 letter to the Rose Quarter Stakeholder Advisory Committee, Adams postponed the competition to choose a development team for the coliseum. Then on June 25, he unilaterally canceled a meeting of the River Plan/ North Reach Stakeholder Committee set for the following Tuesday.

In a letter to the City Council, Adams said changes to the plan would be developed in-house and presented to the public at a September open house.

Adams apparently can take such unilateral actions because he is chairing the two stakeholder committees. Although the City Council has previously discussed the committees, no votes were ever taken on their work schedules.

Dictatorships are so much prettier when adorned with fake public involvement.

More on the Tasered grandma

Apparently, she was suicidal and threatening to take the cops with her as she lay in her bed. And the stun gun was more convenient than waiting for her to fall asleep and taking her knife away from her.

A tale of two refinancings

Earlier this year, we got a come-on in the mail from CitiMortgage, which held the mortgage on our home. We didn't deal with them originally -- we had taken the loan out from a Dutch outfit, ABN-AMRO -- but Citi wound up with our paper.

In the mail piece, Citi offered to waive $500 of fees if we would look at refinancing with them. We took the bait and called in, and were greeted by a nice, knowledgeable loan officer in St. Louis, who told us we could refinance at 4.375%, which was nearly a full percentage point below our existing interest rate. Our credit score was high, there was plenty of equity in the house, and so things looked good for approval. We chatted with the loan officer as he filled out application forms for us on January 11, and on January 27 and 28, we scanned and e-mailed quite a bit of supporting documentation -- within a day or two of being asked for it. It took hours, but if you want to save money, you have to work at it sometimes. We also forked over $545 cash for an appraisal, which the appraiser knocked out in a matter of days after a drive-by of our house.

Then the wait set in. No one at Citi touched our file for nearly two months. By the time a loan processor finally started working on the file, it was March 8. On the phone from her office in Roanoke, Texas, she didn't listen very well, and she kept coming back to us with more dribs and drabs of documents and information that she needed, including some stuff we had already gone over with, and sent in to, the loan officer guy. O.k., fine, we thought. These things take time, and mortgage lenders are more careful these days than they were a couple of years ago. We told ourselves to be patient.

By April 13, with no progress in sight, we started asking what the heck was going on. The loan officer tried to be helpful, but he wasn't getting anywhere in moving things along. Finally, on May 11 -- four months after we applied -- a new loan processor called us from Roanoke and informed us that all the documentation we sent in in January was now too stale and would all have to be updated. If we did that, she told us in a robotic tone of voice, maybe she could get underwriting approval and we could close by the end of the month. Maybe. If we were good.

It felt a lot like starting all over. We thought to ourselves, "If we're going to start all over, why would we do it with these people?"

We called the loan officer in St. Louis with a proposition: Can we get our $545 appraisal fee back and call the whole thing off? After checking with a supervisor, he agreed. And that was the end of that.

On May 28, we contacted Umpqua Bank, the Roseburg institution that's as close to a local bank as one can find these days. We had moved a few deposit accounts there in recent months, and we suspected that they'd be much more attentive to our deal. We were right. We filed our loan application on line that day, and paid $460 for another appraisal shortly thereafter. The appraiser was quick to contact us, was surprisingly thorough, and spent about an hour with us at the house. The loan officer, in Portland, was every bit as knowledgeable as the Citi guy in St. Louis, and she answered phone calls on her cell phone after business hours and on weekends to see the deal through. The loan processor, in Tigard, stayed focused on the file. It seemed as though the next thing we knew, the title company was calling with escrow information.

We signed the papers last Thursday, the deal closed on Tuesday, and the old loan was paid off yesterday. That's 33 days from start to finish. Our new interest rate is 4.25%, which by our calculations cuts four months off the end of the term of our loan. In our geezer way of looking at things, that's four fewer months of working for the man. (O.k., at least not for the banker man. At that point we may be paying Yale.) Our net out of pocket, with all the fees, was about three quarters of a month's mortgage payment. That's a darned good return on investment, if we keep the house and pay the loan off gradually, which Lord willing we hope to do.

Not to jinx it, but our whole Umpqua move has been pretty amazing. Chase and Citi are out of our lives, at least for now, and now we like the people at our bank. Their branches, which they call "stores," are goodwill-generating places, but more importantly, Umpqua's paying 2% interest on checking account balances at the moment. Dealing with a financial institution has not been this satisfying in a while. We're getting nothing for saying this, but even if you're not ordinarily into the "buy local" bit, that outfit is definitely worth a look.

In Kroger press release betting, the under looks good

Well, whaddya know? 2010 is half over. And for those of you who joined us at the start of the year to pick the over-and-under on the press release count for the year from Oregon attorney general John Kroger, the under is looking mighty good. We set the betting line at 190, and with six months under our belt, Kroger's only at 73. If he keeps up that pace, he'll hit only 146 by year's end.

And so it looks as though readers who took the under (58% of those responding) are going to prevail when everything's counted up on New Year's Eve. Kroger issues only three press releases a week -- it just feels like four.

Just to keep interest up, we've got two new versions of the game to play. First, let's re-set the betting line at 146 and see what people think:

How many press releases do you think will we receive from Oregon Attorney General John Kroger's office in 2010?
Fewer than 146
146 or more
pollcode.com free polls

And second, let's zero in on the comparison in press release numbers between Kroger and secretary of state Kate Brown -- two likely future gubernatorial candidates. (Recall that we substituted Brown for state treasurer Ben Westlund when the latter died.) Compared with Kroger's 73 press releases, Brown's issued 35. That works out to Kroger issuing 2.1 times as many press releases as Brown. Will Kroger wind up issuing at least twice as many as Brown for the entire year?

Compared to Secretary of State Kate Brown, how many press releases will Kroger issue?
Kroger will issue at least twice as many as Brown
Kroger will issue fewer than twice as many as Brown
pollcode.com free polls

Please note: These games are for entertainment purposes only.

That clinking, clanking sound

Former Bulls and Blazers great Scottie Pippen has won a $2 million verdict in a malpractice lawsuit against lawyers who represented him in an ill-fated airplane purchase deal. He had been seeking more than $8 million, but apparently the jury thought Pippen himself bore some of the blame for his losses.

Pippen, who reportedly earned about $120 million in his basketball career, is also reportedly broke these days.

All in all, it's just another brick in the wall

KATU has deduced that Kyron Horman's stepmom was posting on the TV station's web page early in case.

If my child were missing and I didn't know where he was, I don't think I'd be doing that.

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