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

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July 2011 Archives

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Found: a gray hoodie

It's the big deal these days at Coney Island.

Obama ready to go for his seventh war?

What the heck, let's attack Syria. We've got money for it.

Lovely, dark and deep

It was a great day for a walk, and so we talked the kids into taking a short hike along the Wildwood Trail, from the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park to the Pittock Mansion. We hadn't walked that stretch of trail in decades, and it seemed as if nothing had changed. The city hasn't done much to it, good or bad, and that's just fine, as it is a gorgeous path. The troubles of the world seem rather muted up that way.

We had plenty of company, and several languages were overheard. Everybody was quite mellow on such a splendid afternoon, even the many dogs. There were some puffy clouds around, denying a full view of the mountains up at the mansion, but the vistas were still pretty spectacular.

A nice deck has been built near the giant sequoias. A few benches, some plaques honoring friends of the local trees -- a pretty resting spot.

Over the rise, we found a tree along the trail whose branches wept over like a willow's, providing a perfect little shelter. The weather was so fine, there was no need for cover, but still it was a cool place to hang out for a few minutes.

Anyway, thank heaven -- and the people who set up Portland -- for the Wildwood Trail.

If the feds default, which bills should go unpaid?

If the federal government doesn't give itself permission to borrow more money by Tuesday, it apparently won't have enough funds to pay all of its obligations as they come due the next day. People are wondering which required payments would be made and which would be missed. Social Security benefits? Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals? Military salaries? Principal and interest on bonds?

Here in Portland, we should do our part. There is so much federal money sloshing around -- surely we don't need all of it.

We should tell the government to go ahead and skip the grants for the Milwaukie Mystery Train. Uncle Sam should also stiff our congressional delegation on their next paychecks. Gatsby Wyden would have to cash in a couple of the Mrs.'s krugerrands, and Ladies Man Wu would have to go without a few doses of whatever he's been taking -- no big deal, he doesn't even know what it is half the time.

The feds could also leave the local immigration jail where it is instead of building a new one next to an elementary school, tell the U.S. attorney that he doesn't need to blow resources on hassling "medical" pot parlors, cancel a streetcar or two, lay off the people who are needlessly forcing the city to irradiate its drinking water and cover its reservoirs... so many options.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forget the naked bike ride

Here's a recreational event that Portland could really use.

Soldiers in Afghanistan wondering if paychecks will bounce

What a screwed-up country we've become.


In just a few weeks it will be time to set up our annual pro football charity underdog pool. Last year's game was won by our nephew, who donated the bulk of the winnings to his favorite charity, his (and my) old high school in Jersey City. The rest he gave to... well, let's not even talk about it.

Anyway, the main donation was used to sponsor a hole at the school's fundraiser golf tournament, and he put it in the name of this blog:

It's a great school, and many of the bright guys who attend there aren't well off. It's nice to have our name up in lights for supporting that place, even though it was his choice, not ours.

Reader poll: Is that Boehner's real hair?

Take a look at the photos and tell us what you think:

Is that John Boehner's real hair on top of his head, or a hairpiece?
His real hair
A hairpiece
pollcode.com free polls

Kicking the PERS can down the road

The folks who run Oregon's big public employee pension system have voted to continue to calculate the required contributions by governments throughout the state based on the assumption that the pension fund will earn 8% a year on its investments. But nobody on the board expects that that will actually happen, and many economists think using that high a rate is irresponsible. Here's a story from last spring about heavy criticism of California's use of 8%, when experts felt that 4.14% was a more appropriate assumption.

Heck, even the City of Portland has wised up and is using 4.5% in its calculations regarding its police and fire pension accounts. But don't pat Portland on the back for fiscal responsibility -- unlike the state, it has nothing set aside for police and fire pensions. That's right -- nothing. It just pays pensions out of current property taxes -- and those annual payments are going to double over the next 20 years.

Anyway, the Oregon state pension system is underfunded, and with unrealistic assumptions about earnings, the problem will only get worse. As for any meaningful reform coming out of the bobbleheads in the state legislature, forget it. The unions will crucify any Democrat who even talks about it. Just ask Greg Macpherson.

Latest woes in Fukushima: heavy rain and flooding

A battered land gets hit again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

When I'm in port I get what I need

No fewer than eight readers e-mailed us this afternoon between 2:30 and 3:20 with the news that Sam Adams won't be running for re-election next year as the mayor of Portland. We missed all the hoopla because we were at the beach and weren't checking e-mail during that time. Finally a "breaking news" alert from KGW buzzed and flashed across the screen of our phone, but by that time we were about to dig into a sublime late afternoon double cheeseburger at the beachside lunch shack that's cropped up next to the tacky brew pub in Pacific City. We put the phone away and kept eating.

Anyway, it was surprising news in some ways. It's hard for us to see the mayor as being employable doing anything else but politics, and so we figured he'd run again to try to avoid unemployment.

But in other ways, it wasn't surprising at all. The mayor seems like an unstable guy, and we said at the start of his term -- even before his teen sex problems arose -- that he wouldn't make it through four years. It's still possible that he won't. If a good job offer comes along with a 2012 start date (or even sooner), he'd be a fool not to take it.

We're also not exactly shocked that it took one poll for him to see that his career as a Portland politician is over. Master campaign orchestrator Mark Wiener sat him down this week and told him the facts of life; no doubt old Winning (usually) Mark's got another horse in the race already lined up.

This afternoon and evening, several readers have left comments on other posts on this blog, rejoicing at the Tweet of Defeat. We'll move those over here later, but to us while the Adams announcement is good news, it's not great. Yes, it's a fine thing to have the lest vestiges of the Vera Katz years swept away, just as the city auditor has noted aloud that the city's rapidly going broke. Yes, it's a relief that in 2013 we will have a new mayor, and no longer have to cringe at being represented by a man of limited skills, plagued by creepy behavior, exhibiting a chronic problem with truth-telling, and sporting questionable values.

But who will replace him? Will it be someone smart, dedicated to middle-class Portlanders, immune to manipulation by the real estate developers and West Hills money, not ready to run off with public funds chasing every planner fad, capable of facing reality, and fiscally responsible? In short, will it be a normal grownup?

Charlie Hales is not such a figure.

Jeffer-Sten Smith is not such a figure.

Eileen Brady might be such a figure, but it's way too early to tell, and her early profile looks pretty Saltzman-esque. She might turn out to be the Obama of Portland City Hall -- big talk on the stump, but business as usual in office.

Then there's the next 17 months. With no more voters to face, the Sam Rand Twins are going to go nuts. It will take three strong colleagues on the City Council to keep them from trashing the place like a hotel scene out of Spinal Tap. And we're not sure there are three strong colleagues. Go-Along Amanda's in a pickle -- she's now running against Goldschmidt money with her own money. Will she be smart enough and focused enough to keep the two short-timers from inflicting their worst excesses? It remains to be seen.

In short, the news is good, but it's not great. The cheeseburgers in Pacific City, though -- those were excellent. [Visitor statistics via Clicky.]

Have a great weekend

Pass the remote

If it seems as if we've been mailing it in on the blog this week, it's because, in a way, we have been. We've been enjoying some friends and family time at our favorite spot on the Oregon Coast. We're heading back to Portlandia now, but with shells in our pockets and sand in our shoes. Summer is sweet.

Doing business in Portlandia

It's one uplifting moment after another.

Remember "civil liberties"?

What a quaint notion.

PDC Centennial Mills flop gets another thumbs down

It seems the Pearlies don't want an office building, even if it's a company in the "cluster." Oh, it's a "cluster," all right. Go by streetcar!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two seniors badly injured on MAX

However they may trump up statistics, they can't deny these: a 65-year-old man with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a train on the west side, and an 84-year-woman thuggerized by a sicko on one of the MAX system's many dangerous east side platforms. Does this stuff happen on buses, and we just don't hear about it?

You'll never guess what just happened with Milwaukie MAX

All together now, kids:

It's too late to turn back now!

Public process in the Portland area is such a bad joke.

Familiar story, unfamiliar source

Portland's city auditor has finally figured out what we've been saying for nearly four years now: The city has borrowed too much money, and it needs to break its addiction to debt before it falls apart financially. The city money guy, who recently abandoned ship, thinks the report is "one of the worst audits I've seen done." Of course he does.

We're happy somebody acknowledged the truth. Counting unfunded pension debt, the city owes $11,000 for every man, woman, and child who lives in Portland. That's ridiculous.

The report also repeats another of our long-time observations: Of the property taxes collected by the city, about a quarter goes to pay retired police and firefighters' current pension benefits, and another quarter goes into the black hole known as "urban renewal." That's also crazy.

The British try to figure out Earl the Pearl

It takes a while.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sweet deal for wayward Portland cop

Even the county district attorney can't vouch for this slap on the wrist. Too out of control to have a driver's license, but he should still wear a badge? Ridiculous. Not too many other people with his record would get away without several days in the clink.

The 'Couv gets a sales pitch

The folks who are proposing to move their Class A minor league baseball team from Yakima to Vancouver, Wash., are proposing that the Clark County public pay 70% of the $23 million cost to build a new stadium. The owners say they'll pay for the rest of the construction and all the operational cost.

They've also got a story about how the place will be a boon to the local economy. We don't believe that, but we do hope the 'Couverites go for it. Short-season minor league ball is great fun, and we'd love to see it. Here in Portland, we're still paying tens of millions for minor league baseball that we no longer get.

More Yap

Here's an addendum to our post of yesterday about Anita Yap: She's also chairing some sort of "commission" whereby the City of Portland and Multnomah County are going to meddle in the food supply chain. "Transparency and food justice," don'tcha know. Cue Fred Armisen, and stock up on canned goods.

Plenty of dough for PDC busy work

The Portland Development Commission, whose mission has morphed from building apartments to some sort of vague "jobs" thing, is giving out nice raises to its union workers and hiring more minions. One vacant gig "[p]lans, organizes, coordinates, implements, reviews and participates in projects and programs related to the Cluster Framework Strategy,... [and s]upports implementation of the City’s five-year Economic Development Strategy and the cluster framework.... Primary duties include preparing, coordinating and conducting business and industry research, retention and recruitment activities/projects, implementing cluster plans, coordinating, preparing and reviewing documents for retention, expansion and recruitment prospects."

The City of Portland -- one cluster after another.

The latest in Portlandia: drive-by panhandling

A friend writes:

I just had a new experience in the new Portland.

My wife and I were driving west on NW Johnson this evening when a car stopped next to us (while we were at a stop sign) and the driver signaled to me. I rolled down my window, thinking he wanted directions. Nope, he asked for money "for gas."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama's toast

We had such high hopes for the guy! But he has sold out, time after time, and the faithful have lost faith. Now he'll either sell out again or go down in history as the President under whom the United States defaulted on its debt. It's as if he lost all political sense the day after he was inaugurated. A much more obvious disappointment than Bill Clinton (the damage from whom is still being felt), Obama will be written off right after he loses the election, and pretty much forgotten within a decade. What a waste.

Some true liberals wake up

They discover that Senator Ron Wyden is a Republican from New York. Hey, kids. You just re-elected him, and you've got five and a half more years. Enjoy.

Speaking of which, his Washington Park condo sale closed two months ago. Anyone know where his new voting address is supposed to be? He's still showing the condo on Orestar.

Revise this

The stronger of the two co-chairs of the Portland city charter revision commission just switched her day job.

Wu quits

But not today -- eventually. When the debt crisis is over.

It's for his children, don't you know.

We always saw Wu as a nut, but a harmless nut. Apparently we were wrong on that latter point.

$8 a month, every month

Portland's mayor hasn't officially announced that he's running for re-election next year, and his campaign activity is pretty much flat-lined. But according to the state campaign finance database, he still spends $8 every month on something. Anybody know what it is?

Did Kellie Johnson really win 200-plus criminal trials?

A person who used to work with Multnomah County district attorney candidate Kellie Johnson wrote us yesterday to question her campaign claim that "she won over 200 trials, locking up drug dealers, gang members, domestic abusers and scam artists." The reader, who claims to be knowledgable about her career as an assistant prosecutor, thinks that "she's including stipulated-facts drug trials in that tally." As the reader explains it, most stipulated-facts trials are more like guilty pleas than what most people would think of as a real trial. The defendant admits all the facts necessary to find him or her guilty.

A national third party -- on the internet?

Here's a very, very interesting concept. Wouldn't it be great it actually became viable?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Woo hoo! Fare-jumper tickets on MAX.

Tri-Met's acting all rough and tough on the legion of scofflaws who don't pay money to ride Portland's wonderful, turnstile-free rail network. Those tickets are $175 apiece!

Yes, but Tri-Met actually nets only $69 of that -- the rest goes to the state and the county. And so, to pay for the six new fare "supervisors," who probably make $100,000 a year including benefits, it would take 8,696 citations that actually get paid every year to break even. That's 24 new paid citations every day, including weekends, above what Tri-Met's already been collecting. Think that's gonna happen?

They don't have this problem on buses -- at least the ones on which the driver actually enforces the fare rules.

Speaking of Opie

This morning we mentioned ex-Portland city commissioner Erik Sten in a post about his look-alike, Jefferson Smith. Perhaps coincidentally, an alert reader has found Sten, who quickly and mysteriously vanished from Portland after quitting the City Council in 2008, wheeling and dealing real estate. Not just any wheeling and dealing -- his company, Further Development, reportedly has a contract to buy up upside-down mortgages in Deschutes and Jackson Counties, with TARP money, and re-do them to help the borrower. The deals are being done by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department through a nonprofit, Oregon Affordable Housing Assistance Corp.

A story on the program (without reference to Sten) appeared in yesterday's Bend Bulletin, but it will cost you 75 cents to read it here.

Sten's business partner is a guy named Morgan Smith, who once ran a Portland mortgage outfit called Morgan Financial. Also listed as a principal of the firm is David Thurman, who was the treasurer of the City of Portland during the Sten boy-wonder years. Apparently they'll get paid some kind of fee for sprinkling the TARP money around Bend.

A successor to Schrunk?

Here's someone who seems eager.

Here comes Jeffer-Sten Smith

According to Willy Week, which loves the guy, the Harvard Law grad from Felony Flats is making noises about joining the fun in trying to unseat the current mayor of Portland. We're way leery of this fellow, Jefferson Smith, who seems prone to the same Brilliant Idea spasms as his Bus Kid buddy, Erik Sten. Apparently Smith is thinking that the unions won't go for Brady, and maybe he can get a bunch of them behind him rather than Hales.

Hales pulling in bucks from the 'Couv

This one's pretty funny. Portland mayoral candidate Charlie "Streetcar" Hales, his campaign damaged by the revelation that he voted in Oregon while claiming Washington residency for tax purposes, is now raking in many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Clark County, Washington. Here are a few recent entries on his Orestar money page:

David Nierenberg
19605 NE 8th St Camas WA 98607
Nierenberg Investments Management Co, Inc. Vancouver WA

Candace Young
1708 NW 79th Circle Vancouver WA 98665
Self Employed

Kevin McFall
14207 NE 82nd Ave Vancouver WA 98662
Civil Engineer
Stacy and Witbeck, Inc Portland OR

Not only did Hales enjoy avoiding Oregon taxes, but he apparently doesn't mind spending money that hasn't been subject to any income tax, federal or state -- like the investment income of Washingtonians.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Missing the point

We took a rare look at the hard copy edition of the O this morning, and were a little surprised to see this (without the photo) on the front page of the Metro section. We couldn't help but think, "Don't they have anything better to write about?"

We were also a little dismayed that they made it out to look as though we disapprove of Mary Nolan's ACLU track record. Actually, we don't disapprove -- she's got more backbone on those issues than, say, the President or Senator Wyden. What the O completely glossed over was the real reason we're skeptical of Nolan -- and we'll re-post it here just so there's no missing it:

But what troubles us is her connections, and those of her husband, Mark Gardiner. Nolan's been a City Hall insider in past careers, and she has the Old Money that controls Portland fully in her corner. Moreover, she's hired the consummate local political fixer, Mark Wiener, who will do what it takes to rub out Nurse Amanda. Not an attractive package.

Gardiner, meanwhile, has so many strikes against him that it's hard to know where to start. He owned part of the "private" side of the doomed public-private partnership that led to the city's disastrous 2001 renovation of what is now Jeld-Wen Field (then PGE Park). When last we checked, the city's taxpayers were still holding a $24.7 million bag on that one -- and that's before you count the additional eight figures (plus rent holiday) handed to new sports huckster Little Lord Paulson. Gardiner ran the finances at City Hall when Neil Goldschmidt, an early endorser of Nolan in politics, was mayor. Since then, Gardiner was one of the members of the Oregon Investment Council, sitting next to Goldschmidt's wife as they funnelled public money to pals like the Texas Pacific Group. And Gardiner served as a "business advisor" to Peter Kohler and OHSU in connection with the catastrophic SoWhat District, its aerial tram, and its false promises of thousands of high-tech jobs.

It's funny that the O went checking the truth of a background factual assertion that we relayed neutrally, and ignored the actual criticism that we made. Whatever. It's nice to know they're paying at least some attention.

We're still here, just goofing off

Between the relative slowness of the news this weekend and the long-awaited arrival of beautiful summer weather, our blogging fingers are hitting the keys only sparingly. No doubt it's the calm before a storm. The next couple of weeks could be quite historic on the national level, and the outlook isn't too good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

End of the line for Wu?

Now that his mental health troubles have picked up a sex scandal element -- with a teenager, no less -- the Portland west side congressman is meeting with party leaders. He'd do everyone a big favor if he took the 401(k) and walked away from office.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Have a great weekend

Wack in the cul-de-sac

Is there something in the water in Lake O.? First we had one of the Baldwin brothers' wives go off. Now this guy takes a bite into crime.

More bald-faced "urban renewal" gerrymandering

We went through this last fall, when Portland's mayor was proposing a wildly disjointed new "urban renewal" area downtown. The map of the proposed expansion was breathtaking in its gerrymandering -- obviously cherry-picking among properties on the same blocks to shovel tax money to certain well connected buddies in the real estate community.

That particular goofball plan went away, but check out the latest one -- the proposed expansion of the Interstate Corridor "urban renewal" scam zone. The map of that one is even crazier. The "Interstate Corridor" now runs west out Lombard, way past the St. Johns Bridge, and east on Alberta Street into the 20's avenues.

Even if this isn't illegal -- and of course, Portland doesn't have a real watchdog group to take City Hall to court when it violates state law or the city charter -- from a policy standpoint, it's a can of smelly garbage. "Urban renewal" in Oregon has lost all focus, other than being a pot of money for fops like the mayor to hand out to friends and family. The Interstate expansion is yet another telling exhibit in the case for getting rid of "urban renewal" once and for all.

There's no stopping eco-progress in Portlandia

Fresh from banning plastic bags at grocery store checkouts, and concerned about the wave of gang violence sweeping Portland, the City Council is expected to vote next week to ban single-use plastic body bags at homicide crime scenes. Police and the state medical examiner would be required to switch to paper cadaver pouches, which city sustainability experts say will use less petroleum and natural gas, and bio-degrade more quickly in landfills. Reuse of body bags at crime scenes is not feasible because it might taint evidence in a murder case.

"It's tragic that 99% of plastic body bags aren't reused," said Mayor Sam Adams in a Twitter post last night. "Their [sic] a bad habit worth kicking."

The ban, which would take effect in November, would be limited to neighborhoods with two or more gang shootings per year. But under that criterion, most of North, Northeast, and Southeast Portland would be included. The council is also expected to take up an exception to the city's new gun control ordinances that would lessen penalties for possession of stolen handguns if they are carried in reused cloth Crown Royal bags.

Desperately seeking a Subway and a Cricket store

The Don and the Beaverton mayor who loves him are getting ready to hand out public dough for more "mixed use" apartment bunker ugliness, this time at the corner of First and Lombard. Mmmmm.... apartment buildings... so green... so Oregon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oregon government "ethics" on parade, cont'd

Here in the Beaver State, you can't give the governor a gift. But you can contribute to his campaign fund, and he can use the money to buy his ex-wife a $7,400 home security system. Or spend it any other way he wants, apparently.

The charter change comedy club

As noted here before, Portland currently has a charter revision commission in session, and it has the power to refer changes in the city's government directly to voters, without having to go through the five overlords on the City Council. One of the things the charter group is considering is a utility ratemaking board, which would have a say in the city's outrageous (and often outrageously misspent) sewer and water rates.

Now the City Council is debating setting up just such a utility board, apparently to try to pre-empt what the charter revision commission is doing. No doubt the council's version of the ratemaking board will be toothless.

If we were on the charter panel, we'd laugh and ignore the council's antics. But since the charter commissioners are council appointees, some of whom are probably looking for some sort of paying gig out of this, they'll probably allow themselves to be led around by the nose. Too bad.

Adams and Fritz: We created 1,900 jobs in Portland

Here's the claim. And here's the glossy 15-page brochure (heaven knows how much it cost to produce). If you can figure out what in heck they're talking about, please let us know.

Breaking news: Bicycling isn't practical

Here's a rare confession from the car-o-phobes in Portland city government:

[N]ew research by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals (APBP) suggests that time and convenience are playing a more important role than safety for women bicycling. A Publicola article from last week entitled, "Why More Women Don't Ride," summarized the APBA study:
When researchers actually ask women themselves why they do not ride more often, safety barely registers. The number one reason? Women say cycling is inconvenient. And the number one factor in determining convenience is the time it takes to get from place to place. And time is something women simply have less of than men.

The article continues by citing research that women are doing more errands than men on their way to work and that womens' [sic] family and childcare obligations are much greater. Overall, women drive 60 to 70 percent more than men! This research makes me wonder about the prevailing notions we have about our transportation options and about women bicycling.

Wonder on, anonymous city Tweeter. You and Earl the Pearl and your Portland Building pals need to splash some cold water on your faces and get real. Bikes alone will do for the 10% or less of the population who can get by on them. For the rest of us, a car is essential most of the time. A healthy local economy isn't going to be predominantly powered by bicycles, ever.

Tolls now, new bridge later?

The absurd saga of the new I-5 bridge between Portland and the 'Couv took a turn for the even weirder yesterday, as Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler bluntly pointed out that the people who were projecting the toll revenues from the new span must have been eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. This means that there's no way they'll be able to sell bonds to build the thing unless they come up with a different bridge, a different financing plan, or both.

At this point, the biggest challenge may be figuring out who "they" are. All sorts of face cards are talking about what's supposed to happen, but it's not clear exactly who, if anybody, is in charge.

A funny moment came in the afternoon, when Governor Rerun cleared his throat and remarked that "it is time to start planning for a project that adapts to the available resources and fits into today’s economic reality." John, old buddy -- start planning? The taxpayers have already blown $130 million on "planning" this project. And that's before we "start"?

And the guv is talking about "phased" construction now. That's when you start building something before you let on how you're going to pay for it. Once you get it a quarter of the way built, you tell the public "It's too late to turn back now," and force them to pay through the nose for something that they wouldn't have wanted if they knew what it would cost them. They're doing that with the delusional Tri-Met Mystery Train to Milwaukie, and now the technique will also be applied to the I-5 bridge.

The hilarity continues with the dance that's being done along the political third rail of the project: tolls. There's always been a plan to put tolls on the new bridge, but given Wheeler's inconvenient truth of yesterday, the rumblings have suddenly begun for tolling the existing I-5 bridge now (and probably I-205, too), in order to rake in some immediate cash and get the pork flow started to the construction contractors.

New tolls on old bridges? We double-dog dare them to try that one. It's recall territory. But you can almost see the politicians racking their brains trying to figure out how to get advance tolling started without any of them actually looking like they're the ones imposing it. Should be fun to watch.

Also interesting is Willy Week's attitude on the story. They were all "BREAKING NEWS," stop the presses, on the Wheeler angle. It's obvious they don't think the bridge is a good idea, and they've sent the best reporter in town, Nigel Jaquiss, out to kill it. Now they're up on a high horse about the problems with the funding plan, but you don't see much ALL CAPS from them on the Milwaukie MAX project, which also has big funding holes and doesn't even have a proven commuter base.

And they're wrong about the I-5 bridge. Of course, it needs to be replaced. To still have a drawbridge going up and down on a heavily used interstate freeway is so utterly 1952. But this being Portland, Oregon, any transportation project has got to be thoroughly Blumenauered, with trains and bikes and logos and design competitions and petroleum-hate speeches and delusional "icon" and "linchpin" talk and all the smart growth yada yada you can stand. It's like a bird flying around in ever-smaller concentric circles until it rams itself up its own keister.

Then you realize it's a highway project, which kinda gets the theme song from "The Sopranos" rolling in the background. Put it all together, it spells disaster.

More "Don't ask, don't tell" from Fukushima

Here it is more than four months after the triple meltdown and explosions at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, and the government of that country is only just now releasing the results of testing of radiation levels from air samples taken one meter above ground level. These tests weren't even conducted until the last week in June. Before that, there was testing done of soil, but not of the air above ground, through most of the country.

And guess what the new tests show. The air at one meter high is just as contaminated 90 miles away from Fukushima as it is 30 miles away.

They sure do break the bad news to you slowly over there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Darwin was on to something

Folks, when you visit a national park and you encounter a barricade, don't be an idiot. Stay behind it.

Nice day to -- start again!

This morning's sun brought out two drive-by shootings in the gang war zone known as North and Northeast Portland. Both sets of shots were fired from a shiny, new silver or gray SUV. One incident was at around 9:30 up near 22nd and Lombard. The other was at noon on North Failing, about three blocks west of the Pix and Lincoln restaurants, which are nearby on Williams.

It seems it won't be long before the first yuppie, hipster, cyclist, soccer mom, or kid gets hit in one of these. The mayor's minions are no doubt already composing his Tweet with the condolences.

Can you hear me now?

From the looks of this, the Wilshire Market, where Alameda crosses Fremont in Northeast Portland, is up for sale -- the business, at least. The market was the target of a neighborhood boycott a while back when the owners made a deal with the rogues from Clearwire to put up a cell tower installation that the neighbors didn't want. Clearwire has backed down from its plan, at least for the moment, and it looks as though the store operators are looking to call it a day as well.

Portland Water empire keeps expanding

Here's the next boondoggle from the Admiral:

The City of Portland Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) is the location from which City officials coordinate local response and recovery to an emergency.

Currently, the City's ECC is situated in outer southeast Portland at the Portland Communications Center. Concern has grown in recent years that the current ECC is inadequate because of its small size, split-level design separating ECC functions from one another, and lack of modern communications equipment.

A centralized and expanded location will also house the daily operations of the Portland Office of Emergency Management (POEM) and the Portland Water Bureau’s Emergency Management and Security programs.

Anybody seen a liars' budget for this one? No doubt it will be coming out of Portlanders' water bills -- everything else is. Bigger, bigger, ever bigger... and with "modern communications equipment," of course. We do so well with that stuff.

Money isn't everything

Here's a new study suggesting that stimulus may be counter-productive. [Via The Atlantic.]

Streetcars are slow in more ways than one

The strange and unnecessary Portland eastside streetcar project appears to be running into trouble. According to this report, Oregon Iron Works, which is making the cars, isn't getting the work done on time or under budget. So now the opening will be five months late, at least. You wonder whether Tri-Met will wait that long to start canceling the buses.

Why Barbur Boulevard needs a train

The fix is in, and the planning cabal is about to ram another unwanted rail line all the way to Sherwood. Here's the 38-slide PowerPoint presentation in full, but this one's all you really need to see:

Taking away two lanes of vehicle traffic for a rail line, at a cost of a billion or more, is going to fix all that. Uh huh. Bring on the trashy apartments! And after that, it's on to Sandy and Powell!

Portland staring at major hit to its balance sheet

The City of Portland is about to be forced to put its unfunded pension liabilities -- currently in the $3 billion range -- onto its balance sheet. The Government Accounting Standards Board is in the final stages of making that a requirement beginning in 2013.

In theory, it shouldn't make much difference, because the city's financial statements already discuss those nasty liabilities, back in the notes following the main numbers. But now the figures will have to be included as liabilities in the front part, putting the city's net worth way lower. And apparently the bond markets aren't going to like that:

“It really doesn’t affect anything. It doesn’t change the way people do business, but it will if all of a sudden you show a deficit and you can’t borrow money at a good rate because you are no longer a AAA rating,” said Bob Lemon, a liaison between the Portland Fire Bureau and the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund....

“It’s bad, it’s bad because all of a sudden the city has to account for 2.5 billion, and they have to put it on their balance sheet. They don’t have that money. It just affects their bond rating,” said Lemon.

It appears that the days in which Portland can boast a triple-A credit rating -- already a highly misleading claim -- may be numbered.

Poor Terry Porter

Last season he was left to roam the sidelines at Blazer games as a TV color commentator -- a gig normally left to... well, blondes. Now he's interviewing for a job coaching for David Kahn, perhaps the least likable and least successful executive in American pro basketball.

Radioactive cow numbers keep climbing in Japan beef scandal

Now the Japanese government is saying that radioactive contaminated meat from 578 head of cattle has been sold in supermarkets and restaurants across Japan in recent weeks -- up from the original six head of cattle, then 42, then 143, that it was admitting to last week. And the way it happened is nothing short of a crime against humanity:

Radioactive material has been detected in a range of produce, including spinach, tea leaves, milk and fish. Contaminated hay has been found at farms more than 85 miles from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, suggesting that the radioactive fallout has reached a wider area than first suspected.

Still, because of a severe shortage of testing equipment, and local governments that are still swamped with disaster relief, only a small percentage of farm products grown in the region get checked for radiation.

The government has suspended agricultural shipments from within a radius of about 12 miles around the Fukushima plant, as well as a number of other identified radiation "hot spots." But farms outside those areas, even those relatively close to the plant, have faced few restrictions in shipping their produce....

Cattle from some areas with high radiation readings, including here in Minamisoma, a city in Fukushima Prefecture, had been checked for radiation on the surface of their skins before being shipped to market. But those checks do not sufficiently measure whether cattle have been exposed to radiation internally by eating contaminated feed, officials say.

The scary thought is that if it happened in the United States, the government response here probably would not be a whole lot better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Tri-Met does things

You can't make this stuff up. Portland's transit agency is the laughingstock of the fare-dodging public, and it's needed many, many more fare inspectors for years now. So what does it do? Hire six new supervisors. Gee, Neil, how many actual fare inspectors could you get for the cost of six supervisors? Nine?

Dismal enough for ya?

We generally try to emulate Mark Twain's hilarious prologue, "No weather will be found in this book." But here it is, the middle of a mid-July day in Portland, and it's 61 degrees and damp. Been that way for what seems like forever.

This while the rest of the country is dying in the heat. The two are no doubt related. It's a little like the foggy, cool scene that usually prevails at the Oregon Coast when the Willamette Valley is overheating.

We recall one summer in the mid-'80s in which sunny, hot weather never really reached Portland. We waited and waited, but wound up in a jeans jacket all summer long. This year is starting to have that same feel.

Absolute cluck and fuster

We can't decide whether this is more like the setup of a Mel Brooks movie or a Monty Python sketch. Either way, it's coming to Portland next May to talk about "planning healthy communities." And what better picture of health than a personal welcome from our fair city's mayor?

Actually, by the time the international confab arrives here, he may be a lame duck. The primary election's just a few days before the conference. And interestingly, Streetcar Charlie from Camas is on the board of the "true urbanism" planner outfit.

We're not sure what to make of the fact that the board consists of 26 men and 2 women. Maybe women are too real for them.

More than they can stand

Friends across the country are e-mailing to alert us to this one: There's a mutiny of sorts going on within the Portland-based Stand for Children child advocacy group. Volunteers say the place has gotten way too corporate. They're refusing to be co-opted by an agenda that they say is far different from the group they originally signed up for.

The discontent broke into the open after the fast-talking founder of the group, Jonah Edelman, stuck his foot in his mouth and 'fessed up to taking down the Illinois teachers' unions by whatever means necessary. His arrogant performance, captured on YouTube, opened the door to criticism on a number of levels. We'd never seen him before, but we wouldn't give a nickel or five minutes of our time to an organization run by a pushy smart-aleck like that. Then he tries to take it back, which only makes it worse.

Beyond that problem, we agree that skepticism is warranted whenever you hear that something is "for the children" these days. It's kind of like "green," or sex -- used to sell all sorts of things, a lot of which you don't want.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Turnover at switch of Reed nuke reactor

Steve Frantz, the Segway-riding director of the toy research reactor at Reed College, has retired and been replaced by Melinda Krahenbuhl, who formerly directed the University of Utah reactor for four years. Those years were not without controversy.

For the last three years, Krahenbuhl, 49, worked as research reactor director at Dow Chemical in Michigan. She's leaving Dow while its reactor, like Reed's, is in the midst of a license renewal application. The Reed reactor, which has no backup electrical supply, is 43 years old, about the same age as Dow's.

Beauty's only skin deep

Here's a survey that ranks the Portland Trail Blazers as the fifth-hardest-to-root-for team in the NBA.

Portland arresting more out-of-towners for graffiti

The city's chief graffiti battler is quoted in the New York Times today:

In Portland, officials said taggers from other communities were defacing their property. "We’re arresting more people from out of town," said Marcia Dennis, the city’s graffiti abatement coordinator. "For every one we get cleaned up, something else takes its place. For every two we arrest, three people take their place."

The Times wrings its hands wondering why tagging is on the rise, but in large part it's because mainstream media like the Times don't condemn it. They're more likely to show photos of some of it, thus adding to its glorification as an art form.

Tagging isn't art. It's mental illness.

Cogen's out

The Multnomah County chair won't be running for mayor of Portland, leaving two previously announced challengers, Charlie Hales and Eileen Brady, and the seemingly heavily medicated incumbent vying for the position. Given Hales's residency troubles and spotty track record on the City Council, Brady's looking like the front runner at this point. She has all the money, and there's more where that came from. But of course, there's a long way to go.

It will be interesting to watch the Usual Suspects in the real estate sharpie set and the Goldschmidt clan to see where they throw their dough. Unless "Legend" Dan Saltzman decides to make a move for the mayor's slot, it's not exactly clear on which candidate they'll bet. So far Joe Weston has given Brady $500, but for you and us that's like dropping a penny in the Fred Meyer parking lot. Among her other contributors are lawyers Jonathan Ater and Susan Bragdon, both with Goldy connotations; Eric Parsons, the uber-loaded Standard Insurance dude who served on the Portland Development Commission board; and Erin Flynn, whom the Adams administration unceremoniously dumped from the PDC and is now working at a handsome salary at a real estate development firm, Portland State University.

Kitzhaber's education chief: old face, strong union ties

Oregon's retread governor has named Tim Nesbitt to run his initiative to revamp the state's education system, kindergarten through grad school, under a single board. Nesbitt was Ted Kulongoski's chief of staff, and before that he was a heavy hitter in the AFL-CIO, credited with building greater political clout for government employee unions and bringing down Bill Sizemore. He teamed up with Bob Stacey to fight Measure 37, throwing some serious hands with Measure 49. More recently, he was the guy cracking the whip to make sure that university employees felt the same pain from budget cuts that other state employees did. Willy Week has called him "one of the smartest men in Oregon politics."

It will be interesting to see how much Nesbitt does to rein in a state university system that seems to be careening out of control, particularly in Eugene. Whatever he does, you can bet that it will be blue as blue can be.

Don't touch that dial

Last Thursday's Trib story about the spendy new police radio system that the City of Portland is planning to buy had some really interesting material buried at the end of it. It implicitly raised the question whether the fix was in -- whether it was already pre-ordained that Motorola was going to get the lucrative contract -- even though a case could be made that other firms should be invited to bid on the job. Veteran reporter Jim Redden laid it between the lines this way:

During a December 2010 council briefing, Klum and Greinke said options for choosing the replacement system include soliciting requests from qualified companies or entering into a sole source contract with Motorola, the company given the contract to replace the system’s controller.

Although the final decision has not yet been made, Motorola may already have the upper hand in winning the contract to replace the radio system, according to the minutes of a public safety systems program advisory body.

The Radio Project Oversight Committee was appointed to provide an independent review of the project as it proceeds. At its March 22 meeting, project manager Larson told the committee about the previous Motorola contract to stabilize the controller. Board member Shea Marshman asked if there were any concerns that the work performed by Motorola might cause any difficulties if the city went with a different system provider in the future.

According to the meeting’s minutes, "Larson said there was a risk in having to replace the controller again if the city went to another vendor; that would be part of the analysis, asking the questions – does it make sense to go out to another vendor? Does it make sense to try to migrate our system onto a current Motorola system? Does it make sense to go out to RFP (request for proposals)? Larson said those are the kinds of analyses that need to be completed to make sure the city is looking at the right things."

Motorola was also the biggest contributor to the campaign in support of the public safety bond measure that is funding most of the radio replacement project. The company contributed $35,000 to the campaign.

The only other equipment provider contributing to the campaign was Emerson Electric, which donated $500.

Hmmmmm... you give five figures to one of you-know-who's pet political causes... then you get a $50 million contract...

Cheap Trick brings down the house

And we don't mean that in a good way.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend at Frank's

We just returned from a lovely couple of days and nights in scenic Bend, Oregon (elevation: 3625 feet), where we had successful family business at this well organized and truly uplifting event.

We stayed and ate at the St. Francis School, a fine part of one of Portland's most successful brands ever. It was a hoot. The sandwiches at this other place were first-rate as well.

We got rained on a couple of times, but nothing like what Portland got on this unsettling "summer" weekend. And despite best efforts to remain innocent, we heard the outcome of the women's World Cup championship match before we got home to watch it on the DVR. That first goal allowed was a tragic mistake for the American team.

It's nice to be home, but Bend was intriguing. If we were rich, we'd think pretty hard about picking up a distressed house over there for future recreational adventures.

Here's the O, whether you want it or not

We've been wondering for years why the City of Portland, which is now about to try to ban plastic grocery bags, isn't doing anything about the unwanted phone books that show up (wrapped in plastic bags, of course) on our front porch several times a year. Yesterday a reader wrote us to note that she was about to get a 13-week free subscription to the Oregonian, paid for by the O, Oil Can Henry's, and the Portland Timbers, and that got us thinking about the subject again.

If Portland banned dumping phone books, would it have to ban handout subscriptions such as the O's as well? If the city banned only the unsolicited delivery of free books and not of free papers, would that be an unconstitutional abridgment of the phone book publishers' rights of free speech? That might explain some of the City Council's reluctance to move forward. Free newspapers are a big deal in Portland -- and their publishers can bury just about any politician if they want to.

Stupidity tax doing well in Oregon

Here's an interesting table about state-sponsored gambling, misleadingly referred to as mere "lotteries." Oregonians will note that our state's lottery rakes in the fourth highest revenue per capita in the nation -- the state's take is $158 a year for every Oregonian. Washington State shows only $17 a head, and California only $28.

Either something's wrong with the Tax Foundation's numbers, or Oregon has a terrible gambling problem that the state is making a lot worse.

Trouble on the "green economy" front

Here's one big plan for Portland-area solar manufacturing jobs that fizzled.

You have to wonder how things are going with this one. It's been more than two months -- have they identified the site of their new factory yet? It's supposed to go out here, by Kelley Point. The company, Solopower, keeps raising money, and in this press release said that it "aims to begin preparing the new plant" this month.

Mother Nature's still doing the talking

The next chapter in the Japanese triple meltdown saga is about to play out, as another monster storm is expected to hit land south of Tokyo Monday night our time. The typhoon is expected to rake the east coast of the country, heading north and reaching Tokyo before hanging a right and going back out to sea. That trajectory would mean that the eye of the storm would miss the trashed Fukushima reactor complex, on the northeast coast, but that area would still get a mess of rain and wind.

Over the ocean, the sustained winds in the storm are being clocked at 130 miles an hour. If you look at the blown-out frames of Fukushima reactors 3 and 4 -- both of which have packed spent fuel pools in them -- you can't help noticing that winds at even half that force could cause something disastrous to occur.

Tokyo Electric and the Japanese government have now reportedly agreed that getting the fuel rods out of those pools is the number 1 priority. But given how bad the destruction is at reactors 3 and 4, it's not going to be an easy task. In a typhoon, of course, it's impossible.

Meanwhile, here in the states, our two pending nuclear disasters appear to have been avoided, at least for now. Apparently the big wildfire near the contaminated Los Alamos atomic bomb factory didn't burn through any major nuclear waste materials, and they're claiming that no major amounts of radioactivity were released into the air, but stirred-up radioactive materials in the soil are expected to be sloshing around if and when it ever starts raining there again. The fire is only about half contained, but there's no longer talk of the nuke facility being immediately threatened.

In Nebraska, the two civilian reactors that were surrounded by floodwaters from the Missouri River are still surrounded, but the river levels have been going down a bit at one of them this week, which is the right direction. The other reactor, at Fort Calhoun, is still shut down due to the flood emergency, but they have managed to reinstall the temporary dam that they inadvertently broke -- the one they claimed they didn't really need. And of course, they're still pumping out river water like crazy. In short, things there are seemingly getting no worse for Nukebraska at the moment, but there are still likely to be troubles there for another several months. Until the rain and snowmelt stop racing down from north of there, the river's going to be more than anybody can handle.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A kick in the butte

The mayor of Portland spoke at the press conference Friday about the discovery of the remains of murder victim Yashanee Vaughn on Rocky Butte in northeast Portland. Alas, he identified the site, on which he was standing, as Powell Butte, which is several miles southeast of there. The goof comes at 3:35 of this video. Overall, a pretty spacey performance from inside the cloudy bubble.

Papa's got a brand new ban

Well, the City of Portland's going to ban free plastic bags at grocery store checkouts. This will save the earth, apparently. The problem for us is that we reuse most of the plastic bags we take home, and we recycle the rest. We'll still need plastic bags for some things -- wet household garbage, and cleaning up dog doo left on our parking strip by neighborhood jerks, to name two. And for those tasks, we'll buy plastic bags, driving out of Portland to buy them if the city bans their sale altogether.

The city's move will have no positive effect at our place. There will be no reduction in plastic bags ending up in the landfill or main recycling stream, because none of ours go there now. We will wind up with more paper bags than we can reuse, and we'll recycle the surplus. Extra expense, no benefit to the earth. You have to think that there are many other households in town with the same profile. But a ban sounds green, and if you're a mayor and a city commissioner looking apprehensively at the unemployment line, anything that might pull in a few votes is worth doing.

And what about the plastic bags used to deliver newspapers? It would be amusing if some politician tried to outlaw those. It could be problematic come endorsement time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Have a great weekend

More tax millions to the historical society

That outfit's quite a black hole. We love the study of history, and we support some public subsidy for it, but a high-overhead bricks-and-mortar facility in downtown Portland isn't sustainable. The smartest thing would probably be to scale it down, put more of it on line, and move the physical plant to somewhere much cheaper. If the West Hills bluebloods don't like that plan, they ought to pay up with donations and stop taking money from the schools.

The worm has turned

It's interesting that the O decided this week to go after Portland commissioner Randy Leonard for his pet project spending with water bureau money. None of the antics that the newspaper splashed across its front page were anywhere near new. The O didn't make a peep when Leonard pulled those stunts, and they were all well known -- why the big hubbub now?

The obvious answer is that now he's not running for re-election. If he were, you can bet there'd be no big feature about his abuse of the system. The O runs scared of most government officials, because without their cooperation the paper's people would have to work a lot harder to put out a product. You get guys like Randy or Goldschmidt or Packwood on your case, and suddenly they're not calling you with tips and leaks any more. Suddenly they're giving stories to your competition. Suddenly they answer everybody else's phone calls but yours.

But once they're on their way out, it's a lot easier to point out all the shinola they've done -- which at the time you sat there quietly watching. That's where we are with the Fireman now. Should be an interesting 18 months ahead -- if both his tenure in office and the newspaper make it that long.

He's running for something

Jack Roberts is back on the op-ed page, with happy talk about the Oregon economy and blasphemy to his Republican brethren:

It's worth noting that this rebound in our economy came after the passage of ballot Measures 66 and 67, the so-called "job-killing" tax increases approved by voters in January 2010. This may not settle the continuing debate over the wisdom of those measures, but it does remind us that it's a mistake to overemphasize the impact of taxes and other government policies on the overall performance of the economy, positively or negatively.

Oooooh, that's so moderate! We'd bet his hat is about to go into some ring or other.

"Where do we put the bird?"

A reader who works in downtown Portland sent us this photo yesterday and wrote:

This shot was taken this morning between SW Oak and Stark on the EuroMall™. There were ten "planners" looking at the new transit shelter. From my observation, they were "problem solving" the ugliness of dried rainwater on the roof of the all glass structures.

I wonder who will get the contract to upgrade all the shelters?

It's a question that we've been asking for a couple of years now.

Fireman Randy flips another bird

This time it's at the chief of police in Fairview:

"I haven't heard an explanation of why this needs to be done at this time," says Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson. "The radio system is working fine."

Leonard says the radio system needs to be replaced for the same reason as the 9-1-1 system. Although the users think it is working well, he argues that it is out of date and growing increasingly hard to maintain.

Leonard also defends the management of both projects, saying the users always have the option of not using Portland's services if they are not happy with them.

"How we manage the system is our business. The users are contracting with us for services and they are free to stop contracting with us if they don’t like them," says Leonard.

That kind of attitude is why everybody loves the guy.

A dubious achievement

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian's congressional campaign sent out an e-mail alert yesterday bragging about how Avakian "had raised $195,000 in the latest reporting period of his campaign for Congress, the highest initial quarter for any candidate running for the U.S. House in Oregon history."

Not only was it not true, but what kind of statement is that, particularly coming from a Democrat? "I've got a lot of money behind me." Gee whiz, Brad, tell your writers to save that line for a wonky meetup somewhere. For some of us it's a major turnoff.

Another distinction for Portland State

It means so many things to so many of us -- but now it's truly triumphed, as the no. 5 most hipster college in nation. Go by streetcar!

Bernie gets it right, as usual

Those are the choices that our right-wing Republican friends are giving us. Default with horrendous economic consequences for working families in this country and for the entire global economy or massive cuts to programs that working families desperately need.

Neither of those options is acceptable to me. Neither are those options acceptable to the vast majority of the people in this country. Every single poll that I have seen says that the American people want shared sacrifice. They don't want or believe that deficit reduction can simply come down on the backs of the weak and the vulnerable, the elderly, the children, and the poor. They believe that the wealthy and large corporations also have to participate.

In all honesty, I also must tell you that I have been disappointed by President Obama's role in these discussions....

The whole thing is here. You tell 'em, Senator.

Better dying through chemistry

DuPont does it again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I am not a crook

And so a nonstory becomes even more of a nonstory.

The maximum security immigration jail next door to a grammar school, though -- that part's not going away. And now the city bureaucrats will have even more of an excuse for sneaking around on the project: "The feds say it's top secret."

Nothing comes between the Twins

In Portland, they're calling for the mayor to take the Fireman off the water bureau on account of his abuse of that office's treasury. The mayor did what he always does when something needs to be decided -- he called the Fireman and asked him what to do. The Fireman said, "Tell them no." And so he did.

A natural woman

If, like us, you love Aretha Franklin, here's a story about her recent doings that you'll probably find worthwhile.

106 years of history vs. developer money

Guess which one is going to win out at Portland City Hall.

The miracle of life

Yesterday we posted a link to this article in the Oregonian, about the news that the future Barbur Boulevard MAX line is now supposed to have a tunnel linking it to OHSU. Our breath was taken away by the sheer stupidity of it, but our friend Bill McDonald read carefully and thoughtfully. And he left a comment that is so perceptive that it deserves a post of its own. Indeed, it deserves a whole blog of its own. And so here it is:

Behold. This is the definitive "birth of a project" Oregonian article of all time. If Portland lasts 1,000 years, you will not see it done any better. This is like looking back at the primordial ooze of bureaucracy and witnessing the beginnings of life. The article doesn't just report on something -- it actually serves as an incubator, or a petri dish, while the new life form begins to grow.

In the beginning there is an idea -- and I think, right away, we can rule out intelligent design. A few paragraphs in and the idea has turned into a speck of dust. That's quite a description, isn't it? This signifies creation. A speck of dust is a huge leap from just an idea. It's come into existence. Remember, man, that thou art dust. It's biblical.

Next the selling begins as we slide into the happy talk: "A mosaic of planning efforts." That's beautiful. The planners created it and it was good. But there can be no light without darkness -- there can be no good without evil -- so we get a little uneasy feeling with the phrase, "determining first where the population growth and employment centers should be." Aren't we supposed to decide that?

Something has happened to the dust particle by now. It has floated in the swamp and is now coated with a rich layer of fertilizer. As it begins to get bigger, bureaucratic phrases like "long-term vision" and "cost-effective" start oozing out. My favorite? "The plan will dovetail." I like doves, don't you? They represent peace. The selling continues in earnest with a reminder of how great the zoo tunnel turned out to be.

Then the miracle of life happens. This idea that hadn't even turned into a speck of dust on a desk at the beginning of the article is now here. It has officially crawled out of the swamp and is now roaming the city. The Metro guy says, "It's in the mix." Congratulations, and welcome to Portland.

Naturally we have 18 months of studying before the final decision of what to do with it. That's standard -- it'll give our new life form time to grow strong and healthy, while the consultants nourish themselves on its nutrients.

More happy talk: 2 or 3 alternatives will be looked at, but the option of doing nothing -- that existed just a few paragraphs up -- is already gone: "The timeline calls for federal funding and construction between 2017 and 2023." That doesn't sound like more buses -- also mentioned as one of the options. Hmm, what's that leave? Light rail and the new creation? Tunnel vision anyone? We have a new life form and we already have a timeline for graduation day.

But what is it? What do you call it?

First, we get one last, little hint about what is coming with a comment about how intriguing the tunnel is and then it happens: "a working group has been formed to oversee the planning, and a community advisory committee will be formed soon to keep an eye on the project."

The project? It's not just in the mix anymore. It's not a speck of dust. It is not just an idea. We have just witnessed the birth of a project. Within this article you have seen the routine and somewhat dubious miracle of planners giving life. Now watch as the budget goes forth and multiplies.

Liars' budget on Lake O. Foothills boondoggle: $61 million

Homer Williams and Dike Dame have come up with a "preliminary estimate" of how much it's going to cost taxpayers to let them convert the east end of Lake Oswego into a six-story condo bunker complex: It's $61 million.

"Right now we feel it's a good cost estimate at this stage," said Christe White, vice president of development for Williams, Dame & White. "We've had the numbers peer reviewed by city consultants, but those numbers could change based on the new streetcar refinement numbers and changes of designs in the redevelopment plan."...

The cost estimate also identifies a variety of potential sources for funding the project, including tax increment financing, local improvement district, the Federal Highways Administration and others.

Hold on, let me wipe the coffee off my monitor.

What, no aerial tram? No Neil Goldschmidt? Man, those guys are funny, but the politician puppets that they're manipulating down in L.O. are the real stars of the show -- comedy gold.


We found ourselves at the corner of Southeast 122nd and Stark in Portland the other day -- not our neck of the woods -- and we had to wait quite a while for a "walk" sign to cross the street. As we waited, we looked up and noticed:

On every corner there was a surveillance camera, and the four of them covered traffic in all four directions. These didn't seem to be red light cams -- just Big Brother. Is this a regular thing now in the Rose City? Or does that intersection warrant special attention for some reason?

Hold out your wrists

Another lame moment in Oregon "government ethics" comes to a close. Ted Wheeler's smug Masters of the Universe are laughing all the way to the golf course.

Is this handbasket fireproof?

We don't find ourselves talking back to the car radio much these days, but last evening's news got us going. First they put on the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, who was prattling on about how the Fed would do more to stop the invisible "recovery" from slipping back into an undeniable depression. Gee, Ben, you've got the money market at about 0.000001% interest; what else can you do? Print money is all. And apparently that's what he'll do. Our kids will eat that $20 loaf of bread yet.

Then they tell us that Moody's is threatening to lower the federal government's bond rating below AAA. What a joke. Moody's -- are they still in business? Those are the grifters that assigned AAA ratings to all the garbage securities that went bad three years ago. Somehow they're still pontificating about creditworthiness, and not from a jail cell, where some of them belong. Anyway, they're making their usual Wall Street Republican noises. As the financial collapse they engendered illustrates, the smart thing to do with Moody's is to not pay too much attention.

After we parked the car and went into the house, we started reading last Sunday's New York Times magazine, where we found this valuable interview with Sheila Bair, the just-departed chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. When people like Henry Paulson and Tim Geithner were picking the middle class clean, handing the spoils over to Wall Street, Bair did what she could to stand up to them.

Here are a couple of money quotes from the interview:

"They would bring me in after they’d made their decision on what needed to be done, and without giving me any information they would say, 'You have to do this or the system will go down.' If I heard that once, I heard it a thousand times. 'Citi is systemic, you have to do this.' No analysis, no meaningful discussion. It was very frustrating."...

"I've always wondered why none of A.I.G.'s counterparties didn’t have to take any haircuts. There's no reason in the world why those swap counterparties couldn’t have taken a 10 percent haircut. There could have at least been a little pain for them." (All of A.I.G.’s counterparties received 100 cents on the dollar after the government pumped billions into A.I.G. There was a huge outcry when it was revealed that Goldman Sachs received more than $12 billion as a counterparty to A.I.G. swaps.)

Bair continued: "They didn’t even engage in conversation about that. You know, Wall Street barely missed a beat with their bonuses. Isn’t that ridiculous?"

She looked out for bank depositors, homeowners, and taxpayers -- you know, the folks who make this country a great place. Bair thought that investment banker fat cats, who privatized profits without paying government insurance premiums, should also absorb their losses, like grown adults.

But no. Too often she was ignored -- certainly by thieves like Paulson, but also by hot shots like Geithner in the Obama administration. The President's heart may be in the right place, but the crew he's assembled around him is continuing right along in the Bush and Clinton traditions of feeding the very few rich and pushing everyone else down.

I wish Bair, a Dole Republican from Kansas, would run for President. I'd vote for her, over Obama or anybody else in the field at this point.

Hanford neighbors settle cheap in thyroid disease lawsuit

The federal government will reportedly be paying just $800,000 to settle 139 lawsuits claiming that living near the atomic bomb factory at Hanford, on the Columbia River in south central Washington State, gave people thyroid diseases. There are still about 1,350 such claims still pending. The litigation has dragged on in federal court in Spokane for 21 years.

A familiar story, with a funny accent

They're building a light rail system in Edinburgh, Scotland, and OMG! They're way late and way over budget. They need another $323 million to get it done, and they don't know where the money is going to come from. But hey, it's too late to turn back now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Barbur Boulevard MAX will have tunnel for OHSU

That is, if the government bankruptcies at various levels don't get here first. It's just stupid enough and expensive enough for Portlandia. Linchpin City, baby!

What's on your list today?

You can get everything at your local Fred Meyer store.

Randy gives ratepayers his other finger

The O keeps asking more questions, and the Admiral keeps giving two-word answers. The wronger he is, the blunter he gets.

What he's done with the water bureau is so thoroughly and blatantly illegal, and there's nobody in this town who cares enough or has enough resources to try to stop him.

What Portland really needs now is a better-government league. Not the City Club, which has evolved into a flock of toothless sheep, bleating in approval at whatever progressive, green-coated shinola comes out of City Hall, the county building, and Salem. What we're talking about is a new organization that would exist primarily to haul city government into court and stop it when it blatantly violates state law and the city charter.

What would it take to get such a group going? It would probably have to have a budget of about $150,000 a year to start, to pay for a lawyer or two. And let's say it would start out with a timeline of 10 years. If it could earn 2% on what it has in the bank, then to generate the operating budget, it would take about $1,350,000 up front.

Could you get that kind of money out of Portland residents and businesses, to insure that the Sam Rand Twins' reign of terror is not repeated? It's a question worth asking, although we're not optimistic about the answer. Go by streetcar, people -- no doubt it's coming out of your water bill somehow.

Deck chair rearrangement under discussion

The City of Portland currently has a charter review commission sitting, and that group has enormous power. It can refer fundamental changes in city government directly to voters, without passing through the City Council, which pretty much opposes any serious alteration of the rules of its cozy little clubhouse.

We're skeptical that anything major is going to come out of the charter review group. They've been expressly instructed by the council to restrict their inquiry to "housekeeping," and now apparently at least two members of the group have recently resigned. But one idea that they're batting around is some sort of commission that would have a say in setting the city's water and sewer rates, which as Portlanders have learned are being frittered away on whatever goofy project the Sam Rand Twins dream up on weekends.

This new utility body is being pushed by "Legend" Saltzman, which gives it a presumption of ineffectiveness, and as we understand it, the council members would still have the final say. They don't listen to what anyone tells them about water and sewer rates now, and they are routinely violating with their mission-creep antics the city charter we already have. So what makes anybody think that they're going to listen to a ratemaking commission?

Anyway, if you're still taking the charter change group seriously, here's its latest pronouncement on the proposed utility board. There's a hearing on the subject at City Hall Monday evening, and apparently the commission is willing to listen at that confab to other ideas for charter changes as well. Good luck with that.

Cop and fire pension chickens coming home to roost

They're panicking in a city in Rhode Island, because the fund that the city has put aside for police and firefighter retirement is about to run dry. This kind of story amuses us to no end, because all that does is put the Rhode Island municipality in the same position as Portland, Oregon, which has zero set aside for its police and fire pension system. That's right, zero, at least for officers who have been working more than a few years. Portland just pays the benefits out of current property taxes -- annual payments that are expected to double over the next 20 years.

Here's how they're describing the situation back east:

The city, just north of Providence, is small and poor, but over the years it has promised police officers and firefighters retirement benefits like those offered in big, rich states like California and New York. These uniformed workers can retire after just 20 years of service, receive free health care in retirement, and qualify for full disability pensions when only partly disabled.

Just over one square mile, Central Falls has a tightly packed population, filled mostly with immigrant families, that struggles on a median household income of less than $33,520 a year, according to the Census Bureau’s 2005-9 American Community Survey. The typical single-family house, after a recent revaluation, is worth about $130,000. It is hard to see how anyone thought such an impoverished tax base could come up with an additional $80 million for retirement benefits. If the city were contributing the recommended amount to the plan each year, it would take 57 percent of local property tax revenue.

In Portland, the percentage is lower, but the problem is the same: Too much money going out to the public safety officers of the past, with not nearly enough money left over for a livable present or future. Portland will soon be paying more -- much more -- to retired police and firefighters than it does to current police and firefighters.

In any event, the Rhode Island case is definitely a harbinger of things to come.

Every day they have the blues

Life at the triple meltdown site in Japan continues to muddle along. There hasn't been much news to report of late. The desperate dousing of the three melted reactor cores is still creating way more radioactive water than can ever be accounted for, some of it continues to pour into the ocean and groundwater, and there's still radioactive smoke or steam coming out of the plants as well. This will go on for years, with dozens of aftershocks every week and the constant threat of further disasters. It's profoundly sad.

There's a pretty interesting, if not totally unbiased, presentation of what happened at Fukushima posted here. It's a video that will take almost an hour of your time if you sit through the whole thing. But it's in fairly plain English, and it shows how badly designed nuclear power plants are in general.

On the mass media front, the Fuku stories we've been reading are mostly about closing doors after the horse has left the barn. For example, they just discovered that they let some radioactive beef from the Fukushima province into the market before it was tested, and some people have already eaten it. Mmmmm... cesium. I hate it when instead of telling you how many ounces the steak will be, the restaurant rates it in chest X-ray equivalents.

Meanwhile, local environmental authorities here in the Pacific Northwest have been called out for failing to inform the public that back in March, there was a lot of radioactive iodine in rainfall in our area. According to the nuclear watchdog group Heart of America Northwest --

Radiation levels in rainwater collected in Portland, Oregon on March 25, 2011 were 86.8 pCi/L for Iodine 131 (I131), amongst the highest recorded in the US after Fukushima. Rain in Olympia had even higher levels of radioactive Iodine. The Portland result was not posted by EPA until April 4.

The maximum level of Iodine 131in rain in Olympia, WA was 125 pCi/L on March 24, which was not posted by EPA until April 4.

Highest levels in rainwater in California were collected March 22, 2011 in Richmond, CA with levels of 138 pCi/L.

The Drinking Water Standard is just 3 pCi/L (picoCuries per Liter, which is a very small measurement). Thus, people drinking undiluted rainwater n Portland would have consumed and been exposed to Iodine 131 at levels nearly 30 times the DWS, and 41 times the standard in Olympia....

EPA refuses to make public who is collecting data samples for its RadNet program, preventing independent review of accuracy and raising concern that the choices as to sampling may be biased, and leaving numerous questions such as why some collection stations were only collecting monthly even at the height of the crisis (e.g., Portland).

EPA's announcement that it was returning to "routine" sampling implied that there was across the board increased sampling from mid-March to May3, 2011. However, a review of the posted sampling results show many locations, such as Portland, OR, did not increase precipitation sampling from once a month during the crisis....

Heart of America Northwest's review shows that EPA's claim of "near real-time data" is belied by EPA taking a week to post data. In the event of another explosion releasing radioactive particles and gases, the serious week long gap in time between collection of results and posting could prevent a proper public health advisory and response. By taking a week to post results, the public is deprived of the ability to make its own choices in time to make a difference.

Now the State of Washington is going to start sending up a helicopter with radiation detection equipment on it to fly around the Seattle area collecting data on airborne radioactivity. Four months after the meltdowns, it's about time. But there's a caveat: "The data collected will be part of a report after quality assurance review. The report will be available to the public, though some information may be withheld for national security reasons." No doubt.

And don't get the idea that this is going to be a regular thing. After July 28, when the helicopter has supposedly collected sufficient baseline data, the flights will stop. Who knows what it would take to get a chopper back in action after that? Breathe at your own risk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Neighbors getting tired of Moyer's Hole

Can't say we blame them. Time to take down the Hoffman Construction crane and put that block to better use. The curse of the V.C. lives on...

Little shakers off Oregon coast

Last night there was a 2.7 quake seven miles off Gold Beach, and a 1.5 an hour and a half later 20 miles off Yachats.

Oregon government ethics on parade

It was illegal, but your boss knew about it and let you get away with it, so it's o.k.

What YouTube is like in hell

It has only one video.

Cops on steroids

In our old stomping grounds in New Jersey, a newspaper exposé of police officers abusing anabolic steroids has led to some meaningful reforms:

The Assembly has unanimously approved a bill to combat the recreational use of human growth hormone, particularly among law enforcement officers and firefighters, by adding the drug to the list of those monitored by the state. Under the program, pharmacies must report every prescription they fill for controlled dangerous substances, a class of drugs that includes narcotics and hallucinogens. Should the Senate concur with the Assembly, HGH would be regarded as a controlled dangerous substance.

Another bill before the Legislature would require law enforcement officers and firefighters who have prescriptions for the substances filled to undergo fitness-for-duty evaluations by a doctor. A third calls on Attorney General Dow to include anabolic steroids in the list of drugs for which officers are randomly tested.

Random testing of Portland's police officers for steroids is reportedly beginning this month. If it prevents one tragedy from a hopped-up policeman's 'roid rage, it's well worth it.

A little more fuel for the fire

The ongoing public debate about the monthly Last Thursday blowout on Alberta Street has been going on for a long time -- a couple of years, at least. We've been to the thing a grand total of once. As a taxpayer, though, we have a question: Since the city is not only waiving for Last Thursday all the permit requirements that other groups have to comply with, but also affirmatively subsidizing the event, will the city be held liable if somebody gets hurt? If we were a personal injury plaintiff's attorney, we'd figure out some way to get into the deep City Hall pocket in a case like that.

The other fiefdom

Here's the latest glossy newsletter from the City of Portland building permit bureau of development services, which relates some important news:

1. The bureau's hiring!

Workload has increased slightly, and our revenues are allowing us to bring back former employees to BDS. At the beginning of last fiscal year, we held approximately 7 positions vacant then filled them temporarily later in the fiscal year. Now that revenues are a little more certain, we are filling them permanently. In addition, for Fiscal Year 2011-12, the City Council approved 16.5 new positions in our budget which will enable us to serve our customers better. Of the 16.5 new positions in our July 1 budget, we’ll be filling 11.5 positions (8 positions will be fee supported and 3.5 positions supported through General Fund) via recall between July and September. The remaining 5 will be filled as revenues are more certain.
Another day, another example of how the government pad grows while the private sector stays dead.

2. The city's "skinny house" infill promotion program has been discontinued:

The Living Smart House Program, spearheaded by Commissioner Leonard, was the outcome of the 2004 Living Smart Design Competition to create a pool of well-designed homes that could be developed on narrow lots in the City of Portland with affordable plan sets of well designed narrow lot houses.

Since 2006 when the program was started, a total of 13 Permit Ready building permits have been issued and are either completed or currently under construction through the Living Smart House Program. In addition, the narrow lot houses and the Living Smart House Program have been recognized and received notable attention by jurisdictions all around the world. I am very proud of this and feel that the program has been a success.

The City contract allowing BDS to use Permit Ready plan sets as part of the Living Smart House Program cannot be extended past June 30, 2011. Due to resource limitations, BDS has discontinued the program.

Thirteen permits in five years ain't a lot, but our condolences go out to the neighbors who have to live near those things. Meanwhile, we have to chuckle at the article. First it refers to Randy Leonard in the third person, and later it says "I am very proud of this." But the article isn't signed, and we are left wondering who "I" is. Then again, given the mandatory lockstep in the commissioner's bureaus, they may no longer feel the need to attribute the party line to anyone in particular.

3. Food establishments are about to be paid a visit by the Commish's charm school graduates, who will be busting their chops about sending grease down the drains. Now they're even going to "discourage" garbage disposals, along with jacking up sewer rates and playing grease gestapo on future restaurant construction and rehab. In a few years, they'll be in your kitchen at home with the same program. Can't wait.

There's other stuff in there, but those are the highlights for another couple of months.

How to stop City of Portland computer purchase bungling

Of course -- form a committee! Each member of the City Council will appoint a member, and the appointees will have some meetings and maybe a few charrettes, and soon the city's computer system disasters will come to an end.

Sam Adams will appoint somebody who will tell him what he wants to hear; Randy Leonard will appoint somebody who will tell him what he wants to hear; Amanda Fritz will appoint somebody who will tell her what she wants to hear, and so on. It's gonna be so much better.

Mitt was here

But now he's gone. He took the money from Dunthorpe and ran away, before the common folk could get so much as a look at him. Maybe he'll be back next summer with the Decemberists opening.

The bureaucratic mind

It's as if the folks in City Hall in Oak Park, Michigan went out of their way to elicit universal condemnation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fireman Randy to Portland residents: "I am the law"

He doesn't care that it's illegal to raid water revenues for whatever pet project pops into his head, even if it has nothing to do with water delivery. "It's how I do it." Thank heaven his reign is almost over. And let's be sure he takes his puppet, the mayor, with him on the way out.

Meanwhile, David Shaff, the water bureau director, is quoted in the article as standing up to the Admiral on some of his folly. If Shaff hasn't yet decided that he needs to move on to the next challenge in his career, it seems likely that he will pretty soon.

Like a door that keeps revolving

Mainstream media may be fading, but government p.r. jobs continue to flourish in Portlandia. Here's the latest episode.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Back in May, a we ran a note and some photos from a reader who works downtown and wondered why the transit mall had to have expensive bricks laid on it instead of less expensive pavement. This past Friday, we heard from that reader again:

I am not making this up, nor re-sending the same photos, but the same company is back in the EXACT same intersection (SW 5th and Washington) "fixing" the EXACT same bricks!

The recursive nature of this work is truly shovel... er, I mean, sand-ready. 68 days later!!!

For once, my snarky pejorative mind is at a loss for words and/or assessment. As always, go by credit card!

Here are the reader's latest pics:

Feds, landlord had power to bump charter school out of SoWhat

Here's a bizarre twist in the saga of the SoWhat immigration jail. The folks at the charter school that's right next door to the site of the proposed maximum security holding tank say there was a clause in their lease that allowed their landlord, an outfit called J.D. Watamull, to kick them out if the feds challenged the school's right to operate in that location:

"It is understood," the lease read, "that if the G.S.A. takes specific land use or legal action to contest the occupancy of the space by the Tenant in the subject property, the Landlord may terminate the lease within the first 12 months."
That's an extraordinary provision if you think about it. If the feds so much as raised a challenge -- meritorious or not -- the landlord could throw the school out.

The feds never took the type of action specified in the lease. That clause has now expired, and the school is finally free to speak its mind in opposition to the jail, which the feds are still hellbent on siting there.

But true to form in this drama, neither the federal immigration folks nor the landlord will say whose idea it was to put that clause in the lease:

GSA spokeswoman Chelsea Turnbull, asked about the school's lease provision, said, "We have no idea where or why that came into being in their lease."

Watumull said he couldn't recall why that clause was added, either, other than he wanted to notify the school about the proposed facility next door. Asked about adding a clause that could force the school out, he said, "You don't want to fuss with the federal government, do you?"

Does that sound like an honest, complete answer to you? Me neither.

The school officials also say that the owner of the jail site, Lindquist Development, which has vague ties to Watamull, threatened them if they testified against the jail at the Portland City Council back in January:

[T]hey say a representative for Lindquist, whom they declined to name, gave them a warning in a conference call. School office manager Marlene Dorfman can't remember the exact wording but said the remark was to the effect of, "You need to control your people."

But school parents testified the next day, Jan. 19, at a City Council hearing on the ICE proposal. So did students at the K-8 school, including a fifth-grader who told politicians she wanted to "feel safe while I'm playing" outside.

The next day, work on the school building stopped, school officials say....

Watumull, asked whether work stopped after parents and students testified, said, "not to my recollection." He said it was his company that served as the general contractor on the school renovations but Lindquist "was helping me out with some subs," which he said meant giving him names of subcontractors.

Threats, intimidation, implausible explanations... all par for the course for the immigration people, whose reputation is legendary. And alas, not atypical of a certain city commissioner who's been the ramrod behind this deal from the start. Some days it seems as though nobody's safe when one of his developer pals wants to make some money.

What I don't understand is where the school's congressional representatives stand in all this. Hey Merkley, Wyden, Wu, Blumenauer! Do you really think there should be a high-security federal deportation tank -- so sensitive that its proposed floor plan must be kept secret -- right next door to a grammar school? And where are the local champions of the children, Dan Saltzman and Jeff Cogen? As the kids say, LOL.

Farewell to Sharita

We were casually glancing at the Sunday New York Times over a late dinner last evening when this photo caught the corner of our eye from the obituary page:

We looked a little further and saw that the deceased was from Portland. Her name was Elinor Friedberg. She was a dancer and a singer, who died at age 41.

When we got up to the blog desk, we hopped on the intertubes and looked around a while to learn more about her. Her specialty was belly dance, which she performed under the name Sharita, and she took it places it probably hadn't gone before. Would you believe Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" done as a belly dance?

With a little further browsing we discovered that a five-year battle with breast cancer was her demise. She was a member of the Bach Cantata Choir, and for that group she arranged a piece of Edward Elgar's, which was well received. Here she was taking her bows the day it was performed:

We never got to know Elinor, as Sharita or otherwise, but from all appearances she was a special person in our midst -- brilliant and funny and full of life. Her husband says she loved publicity, and so here's another few thousands eyes, Sharita. Condolences to her loved ones.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lyin' eyes

Yesterday's post about the new Bat Bump on Klickitat Street in Portland prompted a reader to send us a photo of the latest traffic improvement in his neck of the woods, SW 35th Avenue just north of Multnomah Village. It's the same striping as on the ubiquitous speed bumps that are slowing things down all over town -- but without an actual bump:

This is apparently supposed to work on the same principle as lines painted on a road to resemble a cattle guard. Cows are pretty dumb, and most of them can't tell the difference between real cattle guards -- a series of parallel metal bars installed in a roadway to trip them up -- and stripes painted on the road in the same shape. City Hall thinks Portland drivers are as dumb as cows.

After a very short time, of course, the neighbors in that area won't be fooled at all -- they'll go right back to speeding along. But occasional visitors, such as those of us from the Idaho side of the Willamette, will presumably be faked out and slow down.

Anyway, ya gotta admit, it's cheaper than an actual speed bump. Who says the city isn't being frugal? Besides, this way they can get in your face and mess with your mind at the same time. Maybe throw in a red light camera and a robot radar unit up the road a ways. Perfectly Portland -- you've been Blumenauered, people.

Ah, bureaucracy

If you wonder why government at all levels is broke despite constantly nickel and diming folks, here's an example. Supposedly it's all better now, after eight figures of good tax dollars were flushed down the toilet -- but just watch as matters get screwed up even further.

Run for your life

Up around Syracuse, New York, the suits are running two nuclear reactors at a power plant. The rank-and-file workers at the facility have gone out on strike. But don't worry! The scabs strikebreakers have been training for this for two weeks.

The fact that this facility isn't being shut down until the labor dispute is settled goes to show you how little the nucle-heads in industry and government value your safety.

Another restless Sunday in Fukushima

There was a 7.0 earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan this morning (late Saturday afternoon Portland time). They're calling it an aftershock of the 9.0 quake of March 11 -- let's hope they're right, and that the two shakers aren't precursors to some larger, more destructive event yet to come. Today's quake was in roughly the same place as the March 11 quake. This time, there was no major tsunami.

And since today's 7-pointer, there have been a series of 4.7 and 4.8 aftershocks close by -- six of them in four and a half hours. You can imagine what all of this is doing to the minds and hearts of the workers at the Fukushima triple-meltdown site. Four nuclear reactors there are in deep trouble, and the delicate work of trying to keep them from even greater disaster has got to be a lot harder when evacuation sirens are blowing and the ground under you is throwing you around. Here's a video of the 7.0 quake, as seen from the videocam posted by the reactor operator, Tokyo Electric (a.k.a. Tepco). Things really get going about 25 seconds into it:

Among Fuku watchers, all eyes have been on reactor 4, which is way in the back from that viewpoint (just to the right of the center of the frame). The plant building is on the verge of collapse, and the spent fuel pool has been shored up by steel posts beneath it, as the walls around it appear on the verge of collapse. If the spent fuel pool in number 4 should fall and go dry, it may be tough getting a plane ticket out of Tokyo for a long time.

Tepco reportedly is just now bringing in shrinks to counsel its employees at Fukushima -- four months into the worst and most prolonged nuclear crisis in history. Maybe the workers could use some counseling, they say. Gee, guys, d'ya think? They'd better keep their heads together -- it may be 10 years before they start working on the trashed fuel itself.

The latest big one in Japan is the third 7-point earthquake around the Pacific Rim in the last 18 days. There was a 7.6 between Tonga and New Zealand on Wednesday of this past week, and a 7.2 rocked the Aleutian Islands on June 24.

Meanwhile, closer to home, there was 4.1 earthquake off the coast of Oregon last evening, just as the 4.7 Japanese aftershocks were going off. The epicenter of the Oregon temblor was about 200 miles off shore, at a depth of about six and a half miles. From the looks of the mainstream media, nobody felt it. Two hundred miles is a long distance. Let's keep it that way.

Another threat on Mount Tabor

Watch out for goats.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cool guy

Ya gotta like a fellow who knows what to do, and gets it done.

Holy modality!

Over here near Blog Headquarters, Klickitat Street has always been a great street for cyclists. With Irving Park blocking motor vehicles to the west, and a steep hop onto the Alameda Ridge causing a one-way stretch to the east, car traffic on this avenue is pretty light.

But that hasn't stopped the City of Portland from blowing who knows how much money turning the street into an official "bike boulevard." Apparently this will allow the planning cabal at City Hall to claim that the good quality of the street for cyclists was somehow the result of the prevailing local social engineering, rather than an organic phenomenon.

The project has undergone a couple of phases so far, with more apparently to come. First, the surface of the street was adorned with bicycle insignias; then some stop signs were rearranged to give Klickitat a more favored status than crossing streets. Most recently, speed bumps have been added:

Whatever this cost, it didn't help bicycling much, as little or no help was needed. But there's a silver lining. Up around 31st Avenue, one of the diamond shapes painted on the speed bump looks to have been altered:

What's that in the middle of the diamond? Uh oh -- it looks as though one of the neighbors has embellished it a bit:

Too funny. Wouldn't it be something if we saw more of this all over town? Maybe someone could work in a smiling Earl the Pearl stencil. No doubt readers will have other suggestions. But of course, as a famous man once said, it would be wrong.

From dude to dud

Having sold the middle class out on taxes, now the Jellyfish in Chief is going for their Social Security and Medicare. No doubt aristocrats like Earl the Pearl and Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) will fall right in step. It took some of us until this administration to realize, finally, that Nader was right: These guys are all alike.

The President thinks we liberals will have to vote for him, because we won't have any other choice. Not voting for anyone next time is a choice. Given the way the White House is behaving, there'll be little difference if he loses. Other than the Supreme Corp., of course, but that's already a bit of a lost cause.

Mr. Obama also thinks he's going to win over some voters in the middle by cutting their and their parents' benefit checks. Good luck with that.

The President had a solid year in which he could have changed America, as he promised. But he either was insincere in his campaign, or didn't have the guts to do anything -- either way, he frittered away all the power we gave him on a muddled health insurance program that will likely be unraveled. That and more wars are just about all he's got to show. Now he's play-acting the big Deal Man in a desperate attempt to get re-elected in a deep economic trough that to the average American is starting to look a lot like a prolonged depression.

While he's at it, he should start interviewing some ghost writers. He's got only 16 months before he'll be back in Chicago writing his memoirs.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Portland police mantra: "Because I said so"

What incompetence. Cops talking stupid trash right out of the car. It works so well.

Then coming on hard with their beanbag gun with live rounds in it.

Who trains these guys?

Oh wait -- I remember -- it's people like John Minnis. Another one of Portland's finest. That explains some things.

The latest screwup will wind up costing the taxpayers seven figures. We'd suggest that a grand jury be convened, but since there's no real district attorney in Portland on matters like this, it's not even worth it. At times, we're ashamed to say we live here.

Have a great weekend

The friendly skies

Don't mess with Tonialla G. Because taking a picture in a public place is a crime these days, especially if Tonialla is having a bad day.

I'm so glad I got out of Chase Bank

So very glad that I gave them the pink slip right after they stole Washington Mutual, and my account with it.

Peers to Tokyo Electric: Stop hiding the truth

The company running the Fukushima meltdown disaster in Japan have been getting away with murder in how little information they have revealed to the public about what actually has occurred and is occurring. Today even its colleagues in the Japanese nuclear power industry gave the company, Tokyo Electric (a.k.a Tepco), quite an earful:

The society notes that there is the possibility that the damage to people's health from radiation exposure has increased because the government, Tepco and other related institutions did not properly disclose information on the status of the nuclear accidents and the environmental contamination by radioactive substances....

The cases clearly show that the information disclosure process is flawed. (The society also gave other examples.) The society notes that such vital information as the temperature of the lower section of the pressure vessels, the volume and temperature of the coolant water in the lower part of the pressure vessels, and the temperature of the molten nuclear fuel have yet to be released.

What the government over there is waiting for before nationalizing Tepco is anyone's guess. But the rest of the world ought to condition all assistance to Japan on a thorough cleanup of the firm's disgraceful misinformation act.

Put it on the list

Among the many alarming things happening to individual civil liberties in the United States is increasing militarization of civilian police work.

Finally, some good news for Duck fans

More practice time for the student athletes!

City of Portland still living on plastic

The City of Portland's scandalously unfunded police and fire retirement system is so broke that every summer is borrows eight figures for about 11 months to cover holes in its cash flow. This year it's borrowing $16.7 million; last year, it was $21.8 million. The city, which gets a big wad of property taxes every fall, doesn't pay off the notes until the following summer.

The bonds don't pay much interest, and the stated transaction costs of the annual trip to the well are probably less than $100,000 a pop. But it's still an ongoing annual expense, and one wishes that the city could wean itself from borrowing for something so basic. Of course, since there's no money set aside for most police and fire pensions in Portland, any dollars that go to retirees are taken out of this year's budget for essential services, such as the current city police and fire payroll. As is typical in Portland, the City Council would rather borrow than face up to reality.

Although the city doesn't show it on its website, it does have a sales document current floating around for this year's bond offering, and we have posted a copy of it here. One interesting aspect of the latest offering statement is a slight change in the way the city reports its outstanding debt. This page, which shows all of the debt, now includes the city's shadowy lines of credit in the main tally. Previously, those weren't in the table -- they were discussed only in later text. The bottom line is pretty sobering: $3.34 billion (with a "b") as of June 1. That's about $40 million higher than where our City of Portland debt clock (in our left sidebar) pegged it as of that date. In other words, it's about $67 of difference for each man, woman, and child who lives in the city limits.

Anyway, we've adjusted the debt clock accordingly, shaving off the difference between last year's pension cash-flow IOUs and this year's equivalent, but pushing the base number upward from what we had to what the city current shows. We're sticking with our 5% annual growth rate for long-term bonds and interim debt, because if anything it seems to be conservative. The bottom line is about $10,975 of long-term debt (including unfunded pension liabilities) for every resident of the city.

And that's just the debt of the city. Not the state, the county, the school district, the Port, Tri-Met, Uncle Sam...

Montana governor unhappy with Exxon jerk-around

Can't say we blame him.

Juicy Rumor of the Month

It's probably not true. It can't be true. But then again, at Portland City Hall, anything's possible.

We have heard, from a source that is not always 100% reliable, that a high-profile city bureau chief is about to step down. We won't name the official, since we have no corroboration of the rumor. But has anyone else out there heard the same thing?

On liars' budgets

A fellow who has studied major transportation projects worldwide for years finds depressing new statistics all the time:

On average, urban and intercity rail projects run over budget by 45 percent, roads by 20 percent, and bridges and tunnels by 34 percent.

And the averages tell only part of the story. Rail projects are especially prone to cost underestimation. Seventy-five percent run at least 24 percent over projections, while 25 percent go over budget by at least 60 percent, Flyvbjerg finds.

By comparison, 75 percent of roads exceed cost estimates by at least 5 percent, and 25 percent do so by at least 32 percent....

Promoters of rail and toll-road projects also tend to substantially overstate future use, making those projects look more appealing to whoever is footing the bill. Rail projects attract only about half the expected passengers, on average, while in new research still in progress, Flyvbjerg finds that toll roads (including road bridges and tunnels) fall 20 percent short. (Non-toll roads also miss their traffic projections, but their errors go in both directions.)

The most recent story, here, is worth looking at. Then again, it's nothing new to Portlanders, who are taken to the cleaners time and again. All aboard for Milwaukie!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lister on Hales for mayor

That'd be a big negatory, Bob.

Jail Duck has plenty of cash

Cliff Harris, the U of O student athlete busted for going 118 miles per hour in a rented car -- not rented by him, as he has a suspended driver's license -- has come up with a cool $1,620 to pay the fines for his latest traffic infraction. The fine was paid on his behalf by an unidentified lawyer, who probably doesn't work for free. One wonders what kind of summer job the player is holding down -- maybe cataloging in the library.

Portland's solution to every problem

Parking meters. Oh, and permit fees to park in front of your own house.

It won't be long before the Sam Rand Twins will have a pay turnstile installed on the front door of every house in town.

It's getting ugly in Clackistan

Many of the natives down there don't like being Blumenauered.

Lake O. streetcar: shell game in progress

Homer Williams and Dike Dame are tinkering with their plans for condo bunkers with a streetcar at the eastern end of Lake Oswego. Now they're making the streetcar line shorter, so that it will serve even fewer Oswegans, and they're talking about building fewer of their ghastly apartments. But still 120 units to a block, six stories high. And without the streetcar, of course, they say "it won't pencil out."

Good -- let's not have it "pencil out." Use your eraser, fellas.

It's ironic that they've got old Matt Brown working the deal. If we recall correctly, Brown worked for the City of Portland when the economically disastrous SoWhat District was being pushed on that city. Promptly after helping hand the Portland tax coffers over to Homer and Dike, Brown went to work for them. Any city who goes along for a ride with that type of operative will get what it deserves.

Red flags galore

A no-bid contract, awarded by the Portland City Council, on an emergency basis, on Christmas Eve. And over a paid consultant's objections. Is it any wonder that the deal went wrong in a big way?

Low grades for a Type A

Portland product David Kahn -- who with Vera Katz was going to bring major league baseball to town -- is proving to be quite the fizzle as the general manager of pro basketball's Minnesota Timberwolves. And he's not what you'd call well-liked. We keep waiting for the flash of genius here, or for something that will endear us to Kahn. It may be a long wait.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

About that "public input"...

Here's a typical, and sad, phenomenon. The Portland Business Journal, in covering today's city hearing on the proposed immigration jail in Portland's SoWhat District, recounted one witness' testimony as follows:

Pat Prendergast, a prominent developer and South Waterfront resident, said the GBD-designed building will be a "handsome" addition to the neighborhood.

What they don't mention is that Prendergast has been identified as a paid consultant to the developer on the project. He isn't exactly speaking as a typical neighbor, as he's making money off the deal.

Sending in shills to muddy the voice of the real neighbors is classic corporate-government mindscrew. It's a universal practice, it appears. Over in Japan, one of the knuckleheads running nuclear reactors pulled the same stunt recently:

'"It is really outrageous behavior," Edano said at a news conference. He called on Kyushu Electric Power Co. to work harder at restoring public trust in its operations of nuclear facilities.

The remarks were made a day after Kyushu Electric admitted that one of its executives sent e-mails in late last month to other employees and the operator's subsidiaries, requesting them to post comments supportive of the resumption of the reactors on the website of a local television program.

The nukes are notorious for this sort of stuff. We remember 25 years ago, when the feds would come to town with their latest snake oil pitch about nuclear waste dumping at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Portlanders would sign up to speak their two minutes' peace, and then have to wait an hour while Hanford employees and their cousins from Tri-Cities would clutter up the record talking about how wonderful nuclear garbage was.

All of these public involvement shows are a bit of a joke, but the least the media could do is call the shills out for what they are.


Here's an interesting visitor to this blog, just a few moments ago:

Mary's other half

We've started our due diligence on Portland City Council candidate Mary Nolan, with whom we've had little contact. In the legislature, she has been a party-line Democrat, showing a 100% track record in harmony with the American Civil Liberties Union.

But what troubles us is her connections, and those of her husband, Mark Gardiner. Nolan's been a City Hall insider in past careers, and she has the Old Money that controls Portland fully in her corner. Moreover, she's hired the consummate local political fixer, Mark Wiener, who will do what it takes to rub out Nurse Amanda. Not an attractive package.

Gardiner, meanwhile, has so many strikes against him that it's hard to know where to start. He owned part of the "private" side of the doomed public-private partnership that led to the city's disastrous 2001 renovation of what is now Jeld-Wen Field (then PGE Park). When last we checked, the city's taxpayers were still holding a $24.7 million bag on that one -- and that's before you count the additional eight figures (plus rent holiday) handed to new sports huckster Little Lord Paulson. Gardiner ran the finances at City Hall when Neil Goldschmidt, an early endorser of Nolan in politics, was mayor. Since then, Gardiner was one of the members of the Oregon Investment Council, sitting next to Goldschmidt's wife as they funnelled public money to pals like the Texas Pacific Group. And Gardiner served as a "business advisor" to Peter Kohler and OHSU in connection with the catastrophic SoWhat District, its aerial tram, and its false promises of thousands of high-tech jobs.

It isn't taking us long to conclude that this couple has been feasting at the public trough for too long, and that having Nolan on the City Council would be an invitation for further looting by the West Hills set. It doesn't seem likely that she'll get our vote.

U of O football scandal moving faster than offense

Well, you knew it was going to happen, but who knew that it would go down so quickly? No sooner did the Oregon Ducks football team crack the national title game that they were placed under a cloud of suspicion by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for apparent recruiting violations. The story being told is that they paid a street agent $25,000 to help influence high school athletes to attend the U of O, and did so in such a clumsy way that they were easily caught. Then the Ducks allegedly covered up what occurred to make it look as though they were paying the guy for services that didn't break the rules.

Now they're hiring a Kansas law firm at $330 an hour to help fight the NCAA charges, and apparently they're also hiring someone to follow the jocks around and make sure they stay out of trouble.

It looks to us as though they're tailing the wrong guys. If there's anybody who ought to be shadowed at this point, it's the football coach and the athletic director, both of whom are an embarrassment to the state. We are not better off than we were when the Ducks stunk in football; instead, we've sacrificed what was left of our value system at the tainted altar of big-school sports. Phil Knight's legacy sure has a wicked odor to it.

Good times

We spent an interesting 20 minutes or so on the public radio this morning as a guest on Think Out Loud with Dave Miller. We talked about our recent immigration jail floor plan flap and a few other angles of our ninth anniversary in the blogosphere. It was probably more interesting than The Delicious Dish, but not too much so.

We were grateful for the invitation to appear, but we hope to change back now, from being the story to writing the story. It's easy to see that media tours, even mini- ones, are not our thing.

Fun Quotations of the Day

"Mary Nolan knows what it takes to sustain a prosperous economy. She will be an outstanding legislator." -- "Governor" Neil Goldschmidt, 2000.

"Mary Nolan is my new hero." -- Chris "Streetcar" Smith, 2009.

"$5,000." -- Wal-Mart, 2010.

"$4,000." -- Philip Morris, 2010.

I sit in for a few

With the cool spring and early summer we've been having in Portland, it didn't seem as though the local strawberries would ever get here. But we picked up some Hoods yesterday, and they're good. The strawberries you get the rest of the year are like turnips in comparison. The farmer guy selling them out of his truck told us that they've got another 10 days or so to go out at his place. We'll be eating them every conceivable way until then. Anybody got a good recipe for strawberry chicken?

Welcome to Day 3,288

This blog was born nine years ago on this night. Back then, it was something we were just trying out; these days, the place seems to have a life of its own. We have written about 15,000 posts, and there have been about 5.7 million visits to look at them. Readers have left about 150,000 comments.

Most people never really know where their influence starts and stops. We've been blessed with at least a little bit of insight into how this blog affects our city, and sometimes maybe even the greater world. But by and large it's all intuitive. Something tells us that you are there, and we are here, and it's a good thing that we are communicating with each other. Thank you, and here's to another year in the blogosphere. (Photo, Ninth Street PATH station, courtesy ampersandwich / New York Pictures.)

Rotten to the core

The public school system in Atlanta has been exposed as being fundamentally corrupt:

[T]he investigation shows that cheating on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test began as early as 2001, and that "clear and significant" warnings were raised as early as December 2005. Dr. Hall’s administration punished whistle-blowers, hid or manipulated information and illegally altered documents related to the tests, the investigation found. The superintendent and her administration "emphasized test results and public praise to the exclusion of integrity and ethics," the investigators wrote.

What a terrible lesson for that city's children. Heads should roll, including involvement of the prosecutor types.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nurse Amanda has a real challenger

Portland city commissioner Amanda Fritz suddenly has a race on her hands in her re-election bid next spring -- and her opponent won't be some wet-behind-the-ears kid. It will be State Rep. Mary Nolan, who's been in the Legislature for 10 years and who worked for many years at City Hall.

Self-identified as the owner of an aviation business, Nolan has had a lean and hungry look in Salem for a while, but she never made it to the top of the heap down there. She reportedly isn't shy about speaking her mind, and she'll probably have a lot of old money behind her. She's already got the Neil Kelly vote, and developer John Russell is on her list of early endorsers.

In addition to having the advantages of incumbency, Fritz can be pretty mean when cornered. Ask her former opponent Charles Lewis. And so a most fascinating campaign has officially begun.

Don't ask, don't tell in Lake O.

The Lake Oswego City Council voted a while back to take a survey of public opinion in town about the proposed streetcar from Portland to Homer Williams's ghastly new condo complex on the east side of Highway 43, euphemistically known as the Foothills District. But funny thing -- now the survey's been postponed, and the reasons given for the slowdown in the proceedings seem spurious indeed:

Two months later, Adam Davis of public opinion firm Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc. says he’s "ready to rock and roll," but he isn’t sure now is the time to proceed.

"I’ve got a concern," he recently told the council. "I want to be able to deliver to you statistically valid information."

The survey would provide "a snapshot in time" based on the information now in the community, regardless of whether that information is accurate, he explained. But with additional work being done over the next six or seven months to analyze the project, information about Lake Oswego’s share of project funding, possible financing strategies and the streetcar line’s likely impact on the downtown area could change.

It will be interesting to see what part of "no" the council down there won't understand.

Oregon's twisted priorities on full display

A big story this past weekend was about how Oregon can't afford to staff its state trooper patrols.

And yet it has $250 million (plus interest) for the Mystery Train from Portland to Milwaukie.

When they ask you to vote for a tax increase for more cops, keep Milwaukie MAX in mind.

Our SoWhat immigration jail flap makes headlines

It's always an awkward moment when the reporter becomes part of the story, but that's where we find ourselves this morning. The O has decided that the federal takedown request to this blog, which we wrote about last week, is newsworthy. And unlike police misconduct, which the editors over there like to bury on Friday night or in the middle of the holiday weekend, they decided to hold this one for the morning after a three-day weekend.


We committed no crime by publishing the floor plan of the proposed immigration jail in the SoWhat District in southwest Portland. In fact, we performed a public service. And now, with or without our influence, the city is rightfully conducting an appropriate land use hearing into the suitability of siting that facility in SoWhat.

The legal arguments that were made in the feds' takedown letter do not appear to have any merit whatsoever. But the point that we intended to make has been made, and it's not worth our time to pursue the matter further.

The tone of today's O story seems to hint that we have done something wrong, but if that's the editors' view, we're not sure whether the bad action was posting the floor plan in the first place, or taking it down. Either way, an important aspect of the story is that the person who sent us that image apparently didn't think that she or he could trust the city's monopoly daily newspaper to do anything worthwhile with it. That's a real shame.

In any event, the city has a hearing on the immigration proposal scheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m. It won't be at City Hall, but rather in the Tower of Planning Babel at 1900 SW Fourth Avenue. Fireman Randy's minions will be there glaring at the neighbors like they're crazy -- you know, the usual stuff. This proceeding is before a hearings officer, who will likely see things the Fireman's way and vote approval. But who doesn't enjoy theater?

Brains behind WES leaves his Portland State gig

If I had anything to do with the WES rail line between Beaverton and Wilsonville -- one of the biggest mass transit failures in history -- I would be slinking off into a dark corner somewhere and keeping my name out of the limelight. But here in Portland, nothing succeeds like failure, and so a lazy, gushy tribute for a weak track record is always available.

Forcing the light into all those stoney faces

We had the great pleasure of attending an Independence Day party last evening on the Alameda Ridge in Northeast Portland. Dozens of fireworks displays were going on below and before us, and fully 90% of them were illegal. Somebody in the group asked a question that's worth repeating: Since so many Portlanders drive wherever they need to in order to pick up real fireworks, as opposed to the wimpy sparklers and snakes and stuff for sale locally, why does the government in Oregon continue prohibition? Wouldn't it make more sense to legalize, and tax the heck out of, the bottle rockets, Roman candles, and other stuff that the public really wants and always actually gets?

It was a glorious night, but the festivities ended earlier than they have in the recent past. Guess that was because this morning is a working day.

City of Portland: Lawsuits 'R' Us

The gal whom Randy Leonard fired from the City of Portland emergency response operation after she criticized the city's lame new police car computers says she'll sue the city. The Fireman says she wasn't fired for her comments about the system. Perhaps we'll see what a judge or jury thinks about that factual question.

Between that move, mistakenly shooting the guy with real buckshot instead of a beanbag, and then arresting the wrong guy on a murder charge, the boys and girls in Portland law enforcement are really racking up the lawsuits -- and that's just in the past week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

More on iTunes freezing when iPhone plugged in

We continue to run into problems syncing our iPhone with iTunes on our Vista computer. For the complete tale of woe, start here. Today none of the tricks we've developed to deal with the iTunes freeze were working, but we tried another one, and it got the job done: We plugged the phone into a different computer of ours -- a laptop running Vista -- and turned on iTunes. The phone purported to sync with the laptop iTunes. Then we unplugged it from the laptop and plugged it into the desktop computer that we've been trying to get it to sync to. Voila! Go figure.

Slick Willie, doing what he does best

Shilling for the CEO types who have pulled his strings throughout his career. Hey, thanks for this economy, Bill! It's worked out so well -- can't wait to implement your latest ideas.

I know, the wealth will trickle down. Really. Honest.

Bike rage, eastern Oregon style

There's hostility toward the two-wheel set in Pendleton.

Another miracle

An Exxon pipeline passing through the massively flooding Yellowstone River in Laurel, Montana -- just west of Billings -- broke the other night. About 1,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the river, creating, at one report, a 25-mile plume. People were evacuated from their homes, to get away from the fumes. The pipeline has been the site of safety concerns for some time, and it had already been shut down once during the current flooding.

I've actually gone out on the Yellowstone near there once. The Mrs. and I were staying at the world headquarters KOA in Billings, and we took a ride on a jet boat powered by a local guide. It's some beautiful country, or at least it was.

But cheer up, world! Exxon says there's no harm to wildlife, and the oil is no longer in the water. What colossal liars. The fact that nobody goes to jail for this sort of behavior is another dark sign on a day set aside for national celebration.

Scratch that collar in Portland murder

The fellow that Portland police arrested and charged with murder in connection with last weekend's killing on 82nd Avenue has been released from jail. Apparently they got the wrong guy. No tweet yet from the mayor.

Happy 235th

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
It's nice that we aren't a colony of England. But this text could be seen as a living document rather than a historical artifact. Is America still operating out of "the consent of the governed"? Some days, it doesn't quite feel that way.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A guiding hand

My buddy Jake, who's singularly responsible for the technical side of bringing this blog to you, had his picture in the paper over in Bend yesterday, being a dad. He's a good man.

A great Portland moment

When we heard that Black Joe Lewis was coming to the Portland blues festival, our ears immediately perked up. Jimi Hendrix and James Brown are dead, but Black Joe is carrying on spectacularly in both traditions. With his band, the Honeybears, he's been known to blow out clubs all over the country. And here in Portland, he was allotted two sets at the tightly choreographed blues fest -- a main stage hour coming up this afternoon at 5, and an "after hours" set last night at the Marriott, across the street from the main event.

We fumbled the ball in getting a ticket for last night's show, but our good friend Chris was on the case, and next thing we knew we were in the hotel ballroom waiting for Black Joe to step up on the stage.

As expected, based on the previous time we saw him, Black Joe tore it up. His band appears to have lost a keyboardist, but at least for last night, it gained a dancer. Her name was Ruby. This seemed to fit right in with the title of the band's new album, "Scandalous." The highlights of the night were "Bobby Booshay," "She's So Scanadalous," and "Booty City," but you could tell these guys were holding the even better stuff in reserve for the big crowd this afternoon. God bless 'em, they made a righteous noise.

By the way, please forgive the quality of the photo at the top of this post. It was taken on a cheap cell phone, and the floor on which we were standing was bouncing up and down, in time with the music, pretty vigorously.

We're proud to say we attended the very first Portland blues festival, when it was held up toward the other end of the park. The logistics of what it's morphed into in the 20-plus years since are pretty complicated, and if memory serves, it's been nine years since we last ventured down there. But sneaking in and out of the Marriott for one band was easy, and so rewarding. We're definitely going to be feeling a pull in that direction this afternoon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A visitor

A reader in downtown Portland saw this out his office window late Wednesday afternoon:

The reader writes: It was squawking (looking upwards) and startled me greatly in a very good manner. I enjoyed the wake-up, the challenge, and the metaphor.

Wheeler outpaces Kroger

Here's a first: Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler sent out more press releases than Oregon Attorney General John Kroger in the month of June. The tally for the month was Wheeler 7, Kroger 6 -- with Secretary of State Kate Brown and Secretary of Labor Brad Avakian lagging behind at 4 and 3, respectively. Our sidebar counter has been adjusted accordingly.

For the year, Kroger's way ahead, of course -- he's issued exactly twice as many press releases as Wheeler, and exactly four times as many as Avakian. And the A.G. has already cranked out his first broadcast missive of July, yesterday morning.

Seattle phone book opt-out system off to flying start

With 30,000 businesses and households saying they don't want phone books dumped on them any more, the City of Seattle has already done the earth a big favor. And that's just in the first couple of months.

Why won't Portland do this? Is somebody being bought off? It's a question that Nurse Amanda and the mayor should have to answer, again and again, when they ask for your vote over the next several months. We'll bet Mary Nolan and Eileen Brady could get it done.

All in the family

Grandpa walked, but Grandson has a wee problem.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Have a great holiday weekend

Hit by bike on Portland sidewalk? Don't expect a cop.

Here's a story of a cyclist who reportedly caused $30,000 worth of physical injury to a pedestrian on a Sandy Boulevard sidewalk and was allowed to pedal off scot-free without so much as leaving his name.

If one were making the case for requiring Portland's checkered cycling "community" to get and display licenses, it is Exhibit A.

Echo in here?

Portland police have made an arrest in connection with the murder at Northeast 82nd and Thompson Saturday night. The KGW story on the arrest includes a familiar refrain:

At 23-years old, Mandley has already spent five years behind bars for shooting a girl in the head in 2004. The 14-year-old girl was an unintended victim when Mandley opened fire on a group in Northeast Portland.

Mia McCorvey was temporarily paralyzed after the bullet stopped just half an inch from her brain. She was a member of the Jefferson High School Pep Squad and hoped to dance again someday after surgery and rehab.

Meantime, Mandley was released at the end of 2009 and was on community supervision through the Multnomah County Gang Unit.


Sounds an awful lot like the track record of the guy who allegedly fractured some poor five-year-old girl's skull with a frying pan in a home invasion in the Alameda neighborhood a couple of weeks ago:

At age 14, Parker pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter in the Jan. 16, 1999 fatal shooting of Markus Anthony Harris, 20 , and the wounding of 19-year-old Laquandre L. Taylor, then 19. Taylor was shot in the neck. Harris was found shot in the back and chest in an alley in the 3100 block of Northeast Sumner Street. Parker was sentenced to spend until April 2006 in custody. At the time, police said Harris and Taylor were visiting someone at an apartment building when Harris and another man got into a fight. Parker went into the apartment and came out with a gun.
At this moment, we are not feeling great confidence in our "juvenile justice" system. Maybe teenagers who shoot people need to be kept in jail for a long, long time.

Another Adams initiative derailed

Fast on the heels of the news that the West Burnside streetcar is dead, Portland City Hall announces that the River Plan, championed by the mayor, is also on hold for a couple of years. It seems as if His Honor doesn't want to run for re-election on his record, and so he's putting some of his worst ideas on the shelf until after that. If we are lucky, it will be somebody else's shelf by the end of next year, if not before.

Meanwhile, the PDC has a $13 million dud on its hands. The new car-hater CEO over there is off to a great start.

Did Tom Moyer just walk away from felony charges?

According to an alert reader, the Multnomah County judge presiding over the felony case against developer and former movie theater mogul Tom Moyer has thrown the charges out, as he had done once before. The state appealed the last dismissal all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, which reversed the trial judge and sent the case back to Multnomah County.

The case has been knocking around since Moyer allegedly made contributions to the 2004 mayoral campaign of then-city commissioner Jim Francesconi under false names. If the charges have been tossed out once again, it would probably be on grounds other than freedom of speech, which was the circuit court judge's erroneous rationale before.

Is the local mainstream media going to let this once-high-profile case disappear without a peep?

At the Oregonian, bleach cycle at touch of a button

The editors at the O can be a heavy-handed bunch, and we suspect they're behind this little gem. Here's how the reporter originally wrote the story:

Here's how the story was rewritten a couple of hours later:

Do you think that whitewashing change was her idea, or did the new spin come from up the newsroom chain of command? It's a familiar lameness from Portland's moribund daily newspaper. Pulitzer is spinning in his grave.

Troubled times, they have come

Here's a sad story from the east side of Newark, N.J., where I grew up. Though Newark is an extremely dangerous and violent place, "Down Neck," as the east side is known, is relatively calm. But now that money troubles have led to laying off a large portion of the police force, it's getting bad, and probably about to get worse. It's particularly distressing since things were looking up there for a while. Thoughts and prayers go out to the folks who still live in the Ironbound section, and everywhere else in that city.

Like I tried to say

Many years back, when I was writing about Bruce Springsteen's beloved saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, I undertook to explain this, with imperfect results. But Bruce himself summed it up at Clarence's memorial service:

Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety, and in some funny way we became each other's protectors; I think perhaps I protected "C" from a world where it still wasn't so easy to be big and black. Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence's celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps "C" protected me from a world where it wasn't always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up.
Yes, indeed.

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