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

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

You talk about temptation

What would you have done if this had happened to you?

Portland still talking big community center at Washington High

The City of Portland is proposing development of a two-story, 60,710 square-foot public community center, with an indoor acquatic facility, exercise, activity, meeting and class rooms, a 55,930 square-foot underground parking garage for 168 cars, and an outdoor open space area. The project is proposed to be completed in two phases.

Phase One is proposed to include a full-service, indoor aquatic facility, exercise and fitness facilities, meeting and art rooms, locker rooms, control desk, child care facility, kitchen, offices, lobby, storage and related support functions, for a total of just under 49,000 sqaure feet. The underground parking garage would be part of phase one and, in addition to the 168 auto parking spaces, would include one loading space. In addition, most site development would be included in Phase One, including an outdoor plaza, a multi-use playing field, built over the garage and possible addition of community garden plots, a playground and a natural landscaped area.

Phase two is proposed to include an 11,820 square-foot, two-story addition in the southeast corner of the building to include a ground-floor gymnasium and possible second-floor circular walking track along the gym’s perimeter.

Phase one is expected to be completed within three years, while phase two may be at any time, up to the end of the ten years that would be granted with approval of the proposed master plan.

It sure would be nice if it happened. But Portland has an apartment jungle to build at Lincoln High School. It seems unlikely that there'll be any actual money to spend on recreation in a southeast neighborhood. It's hard enough to get City Hall to leave the existing public pool at Buckman School open and operating.

Clackamas politicians dreaming of new taxes and fees

A reader in Lake Oswego wrote us yesterday with this report:

I typically fall asleep during the televised LO Council meetings, but last night I woke up just in time to catch the discussion of Clackamas County's recent appeal to local jurisdictions to enter into joint funding strategies for transportation projects. The issue was presented to the cities at the Clackamas County Coordinating Council (C4) in April. (See minutes here.)

Cam Gordon, county director of transportation and development, and Dierdre Landon, policy analyst, briefed the council on local transportation funding options, including a vehicle registration fee (VRF), a property tax (levy or road district) and countywide system development charges. An interactive spreadsheet was provided for cities to generate funding scenarios. The user can "determine revenue generation potential of various funding scenarios for the county and cities." C4 members were asked to submit draft funding scenarios to the county who would calculate the revenue generation of each scenario.

I was pleased to see that [Wilsonville] Mayor Tim Knapp objected to the process: "Mayor Tim Knapp referred to the recent Clackamas County community survey results, which indicate substantial community opposition to various transportation funding options, including the VRF, countywide gas tax and dedicated taxing district. [Happy Valley] Mayor Lori DeRemer noted that education is key to overcoming opposition."

During the LO Council meeting last night, one funding scenario was presented and discussed. It included a $20 per car VRF plus a $0.25 property tax levy which would yield about $16,116,510 gross. Each city would get 55% of the money that was contributed from their jurisdiction. The county would receive $7.25M of this and the cities would split $8.86M. Lake Oswego's share would be $1.72M. Unfortunately for LO, not enough to fulfill their capital projects (more urban renewal), but not something they would turn down. In fact, Mayor Hoffman suggested there were other ways to tax or otherwise raise fees for transportation use in the city. Sweet.

So in case anyone was wondering where money would come from for the "placeholder" in the Clackamas County budget for the Portland-Milwaukie light rail, maybe more taxes and fees are in the offing

Rebels, grab your pitchforks.

Brown scopes out counties' finances

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown has taken time off from running for re-election to issue a new audit report on the financial conditions of the state's counties. Not surprisingly, the ones who have relied heavily on federal timber payments are in deep trouble, and Brown's put them on a watch list.

Other interesting facts:

- Multnomah County's unfunded retirement liabilities work out to just under $500 per resident. In contrast, the City of Portland's is more than $5,000.

- Ominously, the report includes a survey of the various states' rules on municipal bankruptcy. According to Brown, Oregon counties are not allowed to file bankruptcy.

- Debt service eats up 6.4% of Washington County's "governmental fund revenue" every year; for Multnomah and Clackamas Counties, it's 4.8%.

Will tariffs on Chinese hurt Vestas?

The Chinese point out that Vestas buys a lot of windmill towers from China.

Do or die for Durant & Co.

They're playing the third game of the western finals in American pro hoops tonight. The San Antonio Spurs took the first two games of the series at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and now the series shifts to a couple of games in OKC. The Thunder, led by phenom Kevin Durant, have always had trouble winning in San Antonio, and that story line has held true in these playoffs. As a result, the Thunder absolutely has to win tonight, and again on Saturday, if they are to have a realistic chance of surviving. They probably won't win two in Texas.

It's amazing to watch the geezerly Spurs go through their paces. They're like an exquisite old chess set, with all the familiar board pieces making all the standard moves. And yet they're still coming out ahead. Their head coach, Greg Popovich, is orchestrating his players beautifully. They'll be tough tonight in their black visitors' uniforms.

Over in the junior league, the Miami Heat won both of its games at home against another fossil collection, the Boston Celtics. They're headed back to Boston for what promise to be a couple of grind-'em-out contests tomorrow night and Sunday.

"Urban renewal" house of cards falling in California

Tax increment financing is starting to look a bit more like tax excrement financing down there all the time. Good luck, bondholders -- you may need it.

Cogen snub makes the Trib

But no mention of this blog, which made a story out of it last Friday.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Timbers lose to amateur team

Held scoreless once again -- funny stuff.

Burnside killer driver hiding out in Colorado?

So says this report. It's time to grow up and face the music, Ashley. Every day you hide is probably going to add a month to your prison sentence if you're convicted. [Photo from Fox 12 News.]

UPDATE, 10:26 p.m.: Here's an interesting Facebook page. And here's the MySpace page, apparently. And if our research is correct, tomorrow (Thursday) is her 23rd birthday.

UPDATE, 6/2, 3:10 p.m.: She was apprehended in Bellingham.

Nanny state says your Coke can't be more than 16 ounces

You'll have to buy two -- or go to a grocery store.

But you can have as big a poison diet drink as you want.

This is going to make you healthy.

Sure it is.

A Welches con man on two wheels

It appears the bicycle set fell for it hook, line and sinker. "[T]he solidarity of the wheel strikes again" -- too funny.

Portland City Hall: Go play in the street

We wish we were kidding, but that's the latest fad: Some dudes from Berkeley are coming up to tell us how "streets can be places that support transportation and community interaction, play, sustainability and more." So precious. The Fellini movie rolls on.

What the radioactive Fuku tuna really mean to us

Here's a good take on the significance of the story we linked to the other day, about radioactivity in tuna being caught off San Diego -- the source of which is unmistakably the triple nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Bureaucrats in places like Salem will tell you there's no need to worry, but perhaps you should think for yourself:

The various media accounts of the study have included some confusing statements. Statements that the findings are "below limits" or "totally safe" are misleading and confusing as they don’t give a clear understanding of what was found. The US FDA level of contamination... before action is taken is 1200 bq/kg, considerably higher than the Japanese level of 100 bq/kg.... [The fish were back calculated to confirm they originally had cesium concentrations that matched those of bluefin tuna found off Japan that had a rate of 61–168 bq/kg....] While the findings in the paper are low it doesn't mean there is no risk. Eating a piece of tuna from the study won't make someone drop dead at the sushi bar, but it does add to your internal contamination level of a man-made radioactive substance that takes 110 days for half of it to clear your body. Internal contamination is worse than external contamination. If someone is continually eating contaminated food from one or many sources every day it does add up quickly....

Other confusing statements [have been] made in relation to the bluefin tuna paper such as comparing it to an airplane flight or an X-ray. Both of these are external exposures, this is not the same as internal exposure one would receive from eating contaminated tuna. Others have tried comparing exposure to a nuclear accident to eating a banana or Brazil nuts, two foods that contain naturally occurring potassium 40. Potassium 40′s natural abundance is quite low. It also clears the body at a half life of 30 days compared to 110 days for cesium. The specific activity of potassium 40 is 0.0000071 (Ci/g) compared to 1,300 for cesium 134 and 88 for cesium 137. Potassium 40′s radiation energy is 0.52 MeV for beta and 0.16 MeV for gamma. Cesium 134 has a radiation energy level of 0.16 MeV for beta and 1.6 for gamma. Cesium 137 has a radiation energy of 0.19 MeV for beta but also decays into barium 137m that has a gamma energy of 0.60 MeV. Cesium 134 and 137 are not naturally occurring isotopes and have a much different energy and composition than potassium 40. Comparing the cesium found in these tuna to the potassium 40 in a banana is just not an accurate comparison....

These media statements are made to try to shorthand the risk level for the public but they do a horrible job of explaining the risk of food contamination or exposure after a nuclear accident. The study isn't really cause for immediate panic. It does show that contamination higher on the food chain happened much faster than anyone including the researchers had assumed. It also shows the ability for migratory sea life to become contaminated in one location, then travel vast distances to be landed as food. The recently published study by Woods Hole researchers that looked for radiation contamination patterns in the Pacific also resulted in some unexpected findings. Both studies concluded that more testing is necessary to fully understand the impact the Fukushima disaster has had on the Pacific.

The State of Washington is now testing returning salmon for radioactivity. Apparently Oregon is not.

Portlandia reality more extreme than the joke, cont'd

Here's a great way to live -- in a shipping container.

Where is Portland City Council on coal exports?

The Portland city commissioners like to pass resolutions about matters over which they have no jurisdiction. So why haven't they joined the chorus of city governments questioning the wisdom of exporting coal through our region? Seattle, Hood River, Camas, Washougal... where's Portland?

This couldn't have anything to do with the planned pave-over of bald eagle habitat for a new port facility on West Hayden Island, could it? The "green" hypocrisy of the City Council on that one is breathtaking.

More nickel-and-diming from the Sam Rands

The Portland City Council is jacking up small landlords' taxes. Which means that rents will go up for those landlords' tenants. More money for the bureaucrats to play with, and a few extra bucks for the big landlords as they raise rents, too. At City Hall, this is what's known as a win-win.

Bust in Burnside hit-and-run death

Prosecutors say it was a drunken Timbers fan behind the wheel. An elaborate cover-up allegedly ensued, involving the passenger (above), who's been booked for tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.

UPDATE, 9:40 a.m.: From the police: "The extensive media coverage and public interest in this case led to several anonymous Crime Stoppers tips [being] received that assisted in the investigation."

Trashing Beaumont

We see that the greedy apartment mongers have set their sights on another nice Portland location. This time it's 44th and Fremont, where there's currently a bright pocket of moderately successful retail, and a village feel. The real estate scoundrels want to slap up a 63-apartment bunker with no parking. That ought to kill off the retail and disrupt the lives of the single-family-home dwellers nearby considerably. No doubt Stevie Novick is standing by with the parking meters.

This human warehouse is so bad an idea that it's virtually certain to be approved -- even subsidized -- by Portland City Hall. Condolences to the people who live and work in the vicinity. For them, as for so many others, the time will soon come when they start thinking seriously about moving out of the city. "They run you out."

Washington County getting Blumenauered

A reader reports that she received a postcard the other day from the Washington County bureaucracy, inviting her to take a survey. "Tell Us What You Think!" it read. "Washington County wants to know how you get around. Fill out our quick online survey to help guide future transportation and safety initiatives in your community."

She took the bait and went to the suggested web address, but when she got there, she was dismayed to see that the "survey" was designed to promote bicycle projects (and to a lesser extent, pedestrian projects). Among the questions:

How would you describe yourself as a bicyclist?

Which of the following are reasons you do not ride a bicycle? (check all that apply)

How likely do you think the following would be at encouraging you to do more biking in Washington County?

Please indicate the top THREE improvements that would encourage you to do more biking in Washington County

Which of the following are reasons you do not ride a bicycle? (check all that apply)

Please indicate the top THREE improvements that would encourage you to do more biking in Washington County

The relentless pushing of cycling as a basic mode of transportation, especially in an auto-centric area like WashCo, is troubling. Cycling on busy roads is dangerous. The more people try it, the more injuries and deaths there will be from accidents. Why the "planning" set sees numbers of cyclists as gauges of their own success is baffling. It's become something of a religion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moment of silence

For Doc Watson. He was more special than words on this blog could ever tell.

Meanwhile, in Gresham...

... garbage rates are set to decrease in August.

Fuku radiation worries?

There's an app for that.

Seattle gangsters taking after Portland counterparts

The shooting sprees and dead bystanders have made their way to our north.

Sam Rand swan song: Be thankful we didn't screw you worse

Portland's creepy mayor has come up with a new mantra for his last 216 days in office: Every time he does something to detract from the livability of the city's neighborhoods (and that's pretty much daily), he tells you how it was going to be worse, but his noble efforts limited the harm. Here's one of the City Hall minions on the latest round of garbage fee increases:

A pending residential rate hike for trash pickup, proposed by city staff at $1.20 a month for the most common monthly service, would be close to $2.00 a month if not for the savings in the new [food slop composting] system, Armstrong says.

Then the mayor himself lets rip with a lengthy self-congratulatory press release about the damaging reductions of basic services in his last city budget. Among the spending cuts that were threatened but not implemented are:

Public Safety and Neighborhood Involvement:

· Full funding for the Service Coordination Team’s work for the first six months. Plus, a plan to cut costs, coordinate strategies and funding solutions for the remaining six months.

· Additional funding for Police ID Techs at the level of City use in County Jail bookings (73%). This requires an additional $393,083.

· Full funding for our program to aid commercially exploited children and youth through SARC and Janus Youth (an additional $97,000).

· Full funding for the Lifeworks NW NOW Women’s program.

· Restoration of a Crime Prevention specialist position at ONI.

· An additional $20,000 for the mediation work of Resolutions NW.

Housing and the Social Safety net

· Full funding for Short Term Rent Assistance (an additional $200,000).

· Additional funding for Homeownership at $250,000.


· Additional funding to keep Buckman Pool open ($79,720).

· Additional funding for daily maintenance of our parks ($93,000).

Education, Youth & Schools:

· Outdoor School ($50,000).

· Funding for the restorative justice program at Parkrose ($27,000).

· Additional funding for our Youth Planners program ($10,000).

"I threatened to close Buckman Pool and stop picking up the garbage in the parks, but then I didn't do it! I am your hero!

"That splashing on your shoe? It's raining. Hard."

Vestas lights too bright for Pearlies

Portland is a funny place. Now that the taxpayers have handed Mark Edlen another bundle to renovate the Meier & Frank warehouse for the moribund European windmill manufacturer Vestas, its neighbors in the toney Pearl District say the lights on the company's logo on the walls of the place are too bright. The story is covered in a mere photo in the current Northwest Examiner, here. The caption:

Ten new signs at Vestas, three of them lighted, have drawn the ire of the Homeowners Association at The Avenue Lofts, located two blocks north. The signs were approved by city staff last fall after notification was sent only to those property owners within 100 feet of the Vestas building. Neighbors object to the number, size and brightness of the signs and question their compatibility with a national historic landmark building.

Another smash success for "urban renewal," Portland-style. Don't worry, Pearlies! The Chinese will probably turn the lights off.

Let's get lost

They've been turning Klickitat Street in northeast Portland into a bike road. Speed bumps, sharrows, changing the stop sign directions, the whole works. Ironically, it makes a great street to drive a car on, if you're willing to go slowly enough to deal with the speed bumps. You can get all the way from Irving Park to the Safeway in Rose City Park without a single traffic signal, and with only a handful of stop signs, for the busy streets.

Klickitat has always been a good bike street, and the bucks that the city has blown on the latest enhancements would have been better spent elsewhere. It was probably sewer bureau money -- at one point, there was talk of bioswales and a few other "green" aspects to justify the diversion of funds, but those features seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, one of the improvements that have been added at several intersections along the way are curb cuts for wheelchairs. Nowadays these are marked by bright yellow textured plastic plates, apparently for the vision impaired to tell that they have reached a corner. We noticed that in the downpour of the other night, many of these have been largely obscured by mud that came rushing down the gutter and collected, as if by design, over the cut-out curb.

So check out one corner near our place. The crews who etched the street name in the curb did their usual professional job:

It's classic Portland. If you put the brain power of this city's leadership in a bird, it would fly backward.

Portland State real estate empire built on backs of students

And we mean that literally.

It's JFK Day

John F. Kennedy was born 95 years ago today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Clacky sheriff siding with rebels

Down in Clackamas County, where a taxpayer rebellion against "urban renewal" is in full swing, the county sheriff is calling for the county commissioners to consider pulling out of the Milwaukie MAX project because of the negative impact it will have on public safety. In a May 10 e-mail message to the commission, Sheriff Craig Roberts wrote in part:

I am neither in favor, nor opposed, to the expansion of mass transit — provided that sufficient resources are made available to ensure the safety of the public. However, the budget implications of this decision [to fund the proposed MAX line] concern me deeply.

In order to pay for its $25 million share of the Orange Line, the Board of County Commissioners will have to allocate $1.9 million from the general fund each year for the next 20 years to cover the debt service. It is my understanding that this money will come from property taxes that are currently paid into the urban renewal district around Clackamas Town Center, which is set to expire in 2013.

Those of us in public safety have been waiting three decades to see the benefits of the expiration of this urban renewal effort, and the need is especially acute at this moment in the county’s history. Since fiscal year 2007-08, our budget allocation from the county’s general fund has fallen far behind allocated costs, emergency dispatch rates — even inflation!

After making do for years with innovative cost cutting — as well as reductions in the training we provide for our deputies and other measures — last year we had to eliminate 18 FTE and had our first layoff in more than a decade. Having twice voted to support a public safety levy, this is clearly not the direction the citizens of Clackamas County want to see for their Sheriff’s Office.

The construction of the Orange Line may well be a worthwhile public project. However, it does not exist in a vacuum — moving ahead with light rail will mean moving backwards on public safety, and likely other basic services to county residents.

I urge you to recognize that the initial planning for this project was developed years ago, when the local and national economy were much stronger. Since then, our economic situation has deteriorated drastically, and so I urge you to take a fresh look at whether or not this project is still in the county’s best financial interest before the full-funding grant agreement is signed.

More commentary from Roberts to the commissioners is here.

Metro comes up with new ways to ignore you

This is pretty funny. Portland's "unique" Metro government is rearranging its "public involvement" deck chairs:

Focusing on developing broader outreach, building public trust and harnessing best practices in the field of public engagement, the new multi-track process includes peer group meetings of public involvement professionals, an annual public stakeholder summit and the establishment of a new standing public committee called the Public Engagement Review Committee. That committee will include at-large community members, representatives from community organizations and public involvement staff from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. An annual Opt In survey and public engagement report will supplement these activities.

You just gotta love that the the most prominent step in the new process is "peer group meetings of public involvement professionals." These are the endless rosters of p.r. flacks that are draining local government payrolls to sell unwanted shinola to constituents. So now they're going to have "peer group meetings." Gee, that'll make the politicians listen to the taxpayers. Sure it will.

Fuku radioactivity in tuna caught off San Diego

But it's still safe to eat. Don't worry.

Developer welfare replaces poor person welfare

It takes a fair amount of pretzel logic to reach the conclusion that Portland's runaway, abusive "urban renewal" agenda could ever be a good deal for the city's taxpayers. But Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, who should be fighting to contract the program, rather than expand it, has offered a classic justification for his complicity with the last "urban renewal" scheme, involving the developer subsidy and political patronage institution known as Portland State. As reported in the student newspaper over there:

In the beginning, Multnomah County representatives were initially skeptical about the plan. County Chairman Jeff Cogan explained that plan alterations since 2010 have allowed the county to support the plan. Under the proposed URA, the county would get a new $19 million facility for the Department of Human Services.

Cogan said that developing PSU improves the community as a whole and actually decreases the need for social services. He cited a College Board study that indicated for every 1 percent increase in the amount of people with bachelor’s degrees, the amount of public assistance paid out by the government decreases. He said he would like for the city to "invest in the front end rather than fix the problems at the tail end."

Now, there's a priceless slice of Portlandia for you, people.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

A familiar story

Gee, Delta Airlines lost somebody's luggage, wrecking their trip. And they were terrible about finding it. Been there, done that.

Nice day for a walk

How not to get hit by a car while riding a bicycle

Since we've been writing about the bike accidents in Portland and vicinity this month, a reader sends along a link to this site, which points out ways to avoid being hit by a motor vehicle while riding a bicycle. She thinks it's worth promoting. So do we.

For sale: 20 sq mi, Hanford vu

Let's hope the birds and the bees get to keep it, and it doesn't wind up a bunch of tacky "ranchettes." Or worse.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Big bam boom

We're in the middle of a second consecutive evening of thunderstorms in Portlandia -- quite unusual. We had started watering the yard last week, but there's no need to do it in these hellacious downpours.

We're one of the 18 people who have American pro soccer on the telly, and we see that the Timbers' fans are getting drenched. A few minutes ago the cameras were on Little Lord Paulson, who was making an important executive decision about how long halftime should last. Given the way he's soaked Portland taxpayers, he's the right guy to make that call.

Oh, and the score of the soccer game is 0-0, with no hope of the paint drying in this weather.

UPDATE, 8:36 p.m.: Here are some stairs at Mount Tabor Park -- a waterfall fountain this evening.

UPDATE, 9:24 p.m.: An exciting 1-1 final score in the Timbers game. It's like hockey, only 10 times slower, and no overtime.

Maher nails it

He's having a lot of trouble understanding Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Another cyclist goes down

This morning, a young woman on a bike was hit by a car and carted off from the intersection of Broadway and Glisan in Old Town Portland. It's the same intersection at which a Tri-Met bus killed two pedestrians a couple of years ago. It seems the carnage there is multi-modal. We sincerely wish the cyclist a speedy and complete recovery.

Urban cycling is inherently dangerous.

It's Miles Davis Day

Today would have been his 86th birthday.

Uncle Sam giveth, and he taketh away

Here's an interesting graphic -- it's been on the internet for years, but we're just seeing it now -- about what states get from the federal government compared to what they pay in. And funny thing, the West Coast and the Northeast are net losers. You have to wonder how well their congressional delegations are doing their jobs.

The red state-blue state distinction doesn't interest us as much as the geographical trends. It gets worse when one realizes that a lot of what the feds do buy us Oregonians are shiny toys that we can't afford to operate.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Have a great holiday weekend

Fukushima reactor building is bulging, leaning

This is unit 4 -- the one that everybody's the most worried about, because its spent fuel pool, on an upper floor, is fully loaded and ready to create an even bigger catastrophe than Fuku has already inflicted. Now surveyors have found quite a bit of leaning. With earthquakes popping off in the vicinity on a daily basis, it's still touch-and-go over there.

Pro hoops down to Final Five

The ugliness of a Game 6 resulted in the Miami Heat eliminating the overmatched Indiana Pacers in the eastern conference of the American pro hoops league playoffs last night. That leaves the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers to vie for the last of the four league semi-final berths in a Game 7 tomorrow evening. Tipoff is at 5 our time.

A Philly win would be a major upset. The Sixers were the lowest seed in the playoffs, and as a consequence they must play the deciding game on enemy turf in Chowdertown. Does anybody think they stand a chance? We think it's possible. Win one for Dr. J. and Moses!

Out here in the west, the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder start their series on Sunday. Holy cow, those are two teeny weeny television markets, and the league must be dreading the ratings bath that this matchup will probably take. But those two teams have both been rolling over opponents, and the contest should be an epic struggle of experience vs. athleticism. It's hard to envision either of the two squads losing four games in two weeks, but one of them is going to.

We still like Oklahoma to go all the way.

Cogen to constituent: Go away

Lainie Wilker is an involved mom who's been agitating to improve funding for Portland public schools. Lately she's been pushing to have the school district postpone asking voters for more money for buildings before it fixes some of the operational problems created by its recent rounds of budget cuts. This morning she sent around a lengthy e-mail missive to about 70 decision makers and pundits, including us, with a plea on that subject. We'll bet she didn't expect this response from the chair of the Multnomah County commission:

Too busy for the delete button or an e-mail filter, that he has to say that to a voter, and an activist at that? Wow. Just wow. At the very least, he ought to look into the difference between "Reply" and "Reply all."

Even worse news at 22nd and Broadway

First Kettleman's sold out. Now Costello's Travel Caffé is closing. Sunday's the last day. We have had such sweet times in there as a family. Another great local institution folds. Awful.

UPDATE, 7:23 p.m.: The O picks up the story here.

Williams Avenue left-side bike lane plan in chaos

Already there are signs that something bad's going to happen on the new, improved hipster highway they're planning for Williams Avenue in Portland. Why not just leave it the way it is now?

Wonder how the Chinese will like it

They've opened up the new Vestas offices in the old Meier & Frank warehouse in the Pearl District. They're some swank digs, and they open just in time for Vestas to either go under or be taken over, probably by its Chinese competitors. Anyway, the photo tour is here. Be sure to pause on this photo of real estate developer Mark Edlen. Bookmark it so you have something to show your children when they ask, "Why did Portland mortgage away our future?" Anything to make guys like this richer, my child.

A Portland convention, but not at the Convention Center

And it isn't because there's no huge hotel across the street. It's because the Convention Center pretty much blows leaves a lot to be desired. Says internet wunderkind Andy Baio of his upcoming "creativity festival" called XOXO:

We could have done it at the Convention Center, which is how most of these things go, but there's not a lot of character there. But the benefit you get is that all of your comforts are taken care of: you have a stage and audio and video and it's wired for wireless Internet access already and power. [Yu Contemporary] is amazing, but it's a blank canvas. So we're building a stage, doing seating, dropping in wireless via satellite, doing our own audio and video.

Writes one reader: "The Oregon Convention Center is essentially an airport without planes. I suspect future conferences, especially in Portland, will be more niche-based, and will shun the Convention Center." It probably depends on which niches we're talking about.

Life is good without "urban renewal"

Down in Tualatin, they're reaping the benefits of having chased the real estate sharpies away from the public treasury. In Portland, of course, we're headed in the opposite direction. It's so sad.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tri-Met orders first Mystery Train cars: $73 million

They'll be built in Sacramento. And they'll have many new features for the teenage gangsters to enjoy.

Is it worth $25 to renew "bojack.co"?

As readers can tell just by looking up a bit on the screen, the domain of this site is "bojack.org." Now, we would have loved "bojack.com," but that one's being sat on by a squatter in Canada who wants thousands of dollars for it, and so it will probably never be ours. Last year, "bojack.co" became available, and we bought it for a year thinking that maybe we'd promote its use. If anything, it would stop some clown from grabbing it and creating confusion with us.

Now here we are a year later, and the domain registrar has its hand out for about another $25 for another year of "bojack.co." We haven't promoted it, and we're wondering whether it's worth the expense. Twenty-five bucks buys a lot of other stuff. And a lot of our readers get here by entering "bojack," or "jack bog," or something similar into Google, anyway. Should we go for another year of the additional domain?

Oswego Lake access lawsuit filed in federal court

Pass the popcorn. This one's going to be fun to watch. Oh, and get the extra large tub of popcorn, because we'd be surprised if this one didn't wind up in the Ninth Circuit. And it could take a detour to the state supreme court as well -- the case turns on a question of state law, and perhaps the federal judge will shoot it down to Salem for an authoritative view.

Dear Facebook

This is a great suggestion you sent me this morning, but Bob's not answering my friend requests:

And let's leave our mutual friends out of this, shall we?

Philly folks think Mitt's the pits

Protesters assembled outside the building. Philadelphia police blocked off an entire city block during Romney's visit, only a stone's throw away from one of the city's most dangerous corners, and stopped pedestrians who tried to stand on the corner.

Residents of the neighborhood stopped to stare, some of whom who had never heard of Romney before.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, held a press conference on the corner, bashing Romney's record on education while he was governor of Massachusetts.

"I don’t know why this guy’s here,"
said Nutter. "[He] has suddenly somehow found West Philadelphia, somehow now wants to talk about education."

Willard's coming to downtown Portland on June 4 (a week from Monday). Could be interesting.

Hef me, Rhonda

Widmer's flagship beer is losing market share to competitors, but they're going full tilt on Russell Street with new brands.

How much longer will the O be a daily paper?

From the looks of things, perhaps not too much longer. [Via WW.]

Oregon drops to 42nd in CEO survey

That's a 9-place drop, worst yearly performance by any state, on perceived business climate. [Via the tax-hater folks here.]

Why Tri-Met is in trouble

This article suggests that maybe Portland's transit agency ought to rethink its bus route structure. And trains that go downtown would apparently also be ruled out.

Another Mattress World

The State of Washington's aggressive tax collection efforts against companies that do business within its borders strike again, here. As a reader points out in linking us to this story, "The guy says he is going to fight the assessment, but my guess is that he will lose. It is sad that people don't understand what 'doing business' in Washington (or any other state) means."

What the Mystery Train is all about

Why spend $1.5 billion to build a crime train to nowhere? It will create "new development opportunities." Translation: More bad apartments in more neighborhoods, all subsidized by existing residents through just about every level of government. It's a shame to see Portland neighborhoods wrecked, but even more maddening to be a taxpayer paying for it.

Speaking of student newspapers

Yesterday's story about the changes at the university student paper in Eugene is followed by this one, about what's going at Portland's high schools. Grant seems in good shape, at least for now, but the others sound as though they are suffering:

Benson, Jefferson and Roosevelt high schools have been without any student publication for years. Madison High School's paper may end next year because of the loss of a grant, says Gene Brunak, adviser for Madison's Constitution.

Lincoln High School was forced to meld its beginning and advanced journalism classes into a single period, resulting in "less instructor time and more difficult access to computers," says David Bailey, Cardinal Times adviser....

Brunak says his situation is a tragic one: "When a school can't afford to have a student voice, I believe it has entered the world of the 'have-nots.'"

Given the financial state of the media these days, journalism, which was never a high-paying field to begin with, isn't a great direct-hit career bet. But learning how to gather facts, write, organize, present information, and perform under time pressure is always a good thing. And as Portlanders know all too well, there are hundreds of p.r. flack jobs in government nowadays.

Memoirs of a dumb kid

They sound familiar to us. In our school, we had "reading groups." Those of us in the A group looked down on those in the B group. One of our buddies in the B group got the last laugh, though -- he was worth about $20 million by the time he was 30.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Emerald to drop daily paper

The U of O student daily newspaper is switching over to a twice-a-week hard copy magazine and the rest of its material on line only. The changes will start this fall. Despite denials by publisher Ryan Frank (former Oregonian apologist for "urban renewal"), it's an obvious cost-cutting measure. Print is expensive.

Breaking news: PGE pays its taxes

This "news story" is nothing short of bizarre. Kissing up to corporate advertisers -- typical Newhouse.

Another day, another $1.20 a month

Portland has become an expensive place to live in these hard times, and the city government is a large part of the problem.

Oil goniffs in annual rip-off

DeHaan warned that tight supply was boosting prices

Memorial Day weekend, every year. It's why we love the oil companies so much.

Motorists beat back toll road plan

But don't get excited -- we're talking about South Africa, people.

Technology marches on

Social networking has just turned another page.

Breaking news: Kate Brown is for the children

We're starting to get the feeling that Oregon secretary of state Kate Brown may be getting a little nervous about her re-election prospects. We've gotten press releases from her office two days in a row now, with announcements of new audit reports. And they're both about those sweet, adorable kiddies whom politicians love so much to kiss at election time:

Audit finds school districts missed out on $40 million in anticipated energy savings

Audit recommends ways to ensure children receive needed mental health treatment

Brown's Republican opponent, Knute Buehler, has been generating some press releases of his own, and they haven't been complimentary of her. For example, he's a-twitter about this. As well he should be.

We're no. 6!

Portland, for parks, that is. According to these folks. Sixth out of 40. Behind cities like New York and Sacramento.


Dream of the '90s finding its way to Beaverton

Hmmm, let's see... "Urban renewal"? Check. Large water rate increases? Check.... Get the food slop buckets ready, baby.

Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead...

... and Willamette Week still hates Eileen Brady. Having assassinated her candidacy, the sort-of-alternative weekly continues to pound nails into the coffin here.

Note to WW: Guys, you won. The next mayor of Portland will be either Hales, whom you endorsed, or Smith, whom you created. You managed to inflate a semantic debate over the word "founder" to greater prominence than (a) tax fraud or voter registration fraud, take your pick, and (b) the mental instability of a lawyer who drives while suspended and blows off court dates when he's busted for it. That's enough of a media accomplishment right there. Brady's gone now. Let her go.

Portland housing bureau is still loosey-goosey

Just a little more than three years old, the City of Portland housing bureau has yet to achieve stability. Created by merging the housing function of the Portland Development Commission and the old Bureau of Housing and Community Development, the new agency, staffed with 57 people and administered by city commissioner Nick Fish, has had its inaugural director recently leave office. And now a new report by the city auditor finds the bureau in a state of at least moderate disarray.

The two criticisms that jump out of the report at our eyes are (1) the bureau still doesn't have a mission statement clearly defined in the city code, and (2) it still isn't doing such a great job administering the unwieldy collection of assets and loans that it inherited from the chaos at the PDC:

The Bureau’s core business functions and authority are not included in City Code, so this information is not easily available to members of the public. As such, the Bureau is less transparent than ones where the core business functions are clearly defined and easily available to the public. Additionally, because the core business functions are not defined in Code, Bureau or City leaders could arbitrarily change the focus of the Bureau or alter the Bureau’s core business functions. Since many housing solutions require long-term approaches, there is a risk that Bureau goals and solutions may not be achieved....

According to Bureau management, they began the process of updating City Code in early 2011, but were advised that the Code changes were not required to conduct business. After we shared information about this risk with Bureau management in 2012, they began working to revise City Code to incorporate detail of their authority and told us they are currently in the process of filing documents to update City Code....

The Portland Housing Bureau manages a large and complex portfolio of housing loans and assets. The majority of the loans and assets were inherited from the Portland Development Commission.... The total loan balance during FY 2011 was $302 million....

During our audit, we found that the Bureau does not have a long term guiding policy for asset management and loan issuance to help determine investment priorities, including whether resources are best spent on maintaining existing assets versus investing in new projects....

According to Bureau staff, most of the loans the Bureau issues are called soft-loans, which have low interest rates and long amortization periods. Repayment requirements for the loans vary and in part, are dependent on the financial condition of the housing project and the borrower, which is also affected by renters' income level and ability to pay rent. Bureau management told us that some of these soft loans may not be repaid. The Bureau has the ability to restructure borrowers' debt, but has yet to develop a shared approach to doing so with City Council....

In addition, the bureau provides financial assistance to developers for the rehabilitation and preservation of housing properties....

Currently, the Bureau is using the MITAS data system administered by PDC to help manage the asset and loan portfolio. However, according to Bureau staff, the current system is not an effective tool to manage, track and report on loans and assets, and data generated from the system is not reliable. The Bureau is in the process of replacing the old data system with a new Housing Development System (HDS). Bureau management told us that the new system will improve their asset and loan management capabilities.

Handouts to developers coupled with weak accounting systems -- it sounds to us like a real recipe for disaster.

Back when the merger took place, Fish promised:

The new Portland Housing Bureau will be a powerhouse agency that will cut through bureaucracy and streamline the delivery of essential services. It will merge the best of the work, culture, history and expertise of two city agencies and blend them into one high-performing bureau. The result will be more and higher-quality housing, delivered faster, with greater accountability.

It appears the bureau still has quite a way to go to meet that standard.

UPDATE, 10:05 a.m.: The O's take on the audit is pretty funny -- we need more taxes!

Beauty's where you find it

The New York Times has a fun contest going for young people: It invites them to "find" poetry in its stories. The students are instructed to take snippets from actual news articles and assemble them into poems of not more than 14 lines. The entrants must not add more than two words of their own to make the poem hold together, and so finding the right phrases can be quite a challenge.

Why should the kids have all the fun? Maybe we should try something like that with this blog. Pick a blog post -- any post -- and make a poem out of the words found therein.

The rules are pretty simple:

- Each poem must be 14 or fewer lines long.
- You may give it your own original title if you like.
- The poem itself should use no more than two of your own words. The rest of the words and phrases should come from some post on this blog, past or present.
- You might choose to write in a traditional poetic form, or not.
- Remember that in a poem, every word, line break and mark of punctuation carries meaning, so have fun experimenting with repetition of words, alliteration, assonance or anything else that enhances what you’d like to say.

We'll try to get the ball rolling here with this one from our Monday post about the water bureau:

Tears are 98% Water

This sordid little soap opera
"A suspension of effort to comply"
The usual water bureau watchdogs
Screaming and moaning
Fake expressions of disappointment
Massive hunks of construction pork at play
"It's how I do it."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mrs. Gatsby's got bun in oven

The senator's 63. His wife's 51. They have 4-year-old twins. But she's preggers with another. Exciting in times in New York, where they all live. We sincerely wish them good luck. Pregnancy at her age is risky. Of 4.1 million babies born in the United States in 2009, only 569 were to mothers aged 50 to 54.

Accused Portland cop resigns

So say the police brass this evening about this allegedly wayward character. Ewww. Just ewww.

Dustup at 33rd and Broadway

A 24-hour convenience store is coming. Some of the neighbors don't want it.

More turnover in Portland City Hall money ranks

The City of Portland has a new treasurer. A Goldman Sachs alum, of course. It's interesting -- the city's treasurer, chief administrative officer, and debt manager have all left within the last 14 months. And the chief financial officer bailed just over two years ago.

Maybe they know something that we don't.

Train kept a-rollin'

Wonder if anybody asked this guy about this.

U of O secession pitch ramping up again

The now-bounced president at U.C. Nike raised our hackles when he told the state legislature: "Give us $800 million and leave us alone forever." But any thought that his firing might change the university's tune would be misguided, as this story shows. Uncle Phil is tired of having to answer to anybody in running his toy school, and he and his athletic department cronies are willing to throw around a bunch of money to break free of that pesky state oversight.

We're not opposed to the state's universities becoming independent, so long as they pay the state's taxpayers back for the campus assets. We could use the money. Has anyone done an appraisal of the real estate alone?

Law and order -- who needs it?

We see that the Oregon state government is about to lay off 40 prison lieutenants around the state. The state police are also going to lose several sworn officers.

But we'll bet the Masters of the Universe investment advisors in the treasurer's office are safe.

She's gone where the goblins go -- below, below, below

The pro basketball asterisk season brightened up considerably last night with the elimination of the hated Los Angeles Lakers by the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant. L.A. managed to win just one game in the best-of-seven series. Oklahoma faces the wily old men of San Antonio next; the winner of that one will play for, and be favored to win, the league championship.

UPDATED, 7:45 a.m.: Unfortunately, things got ugly on the streets of OKC after the game.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New business cards for Homer's hired guns

The real estate lawyers responsible for sticking Portland taxpayers with the SoWhat District have been busy lately reshuffling their law practices. Perhaps this is a sign that the "urban renewal" party is just about over. Municipal bankruptcy might be a good alternative specialty for them to pursue.

Yes, we are


The cell phone cam can't do it justice, but this beauty stopped us in our tracks on the way to work this morning:

Reality City

A reader sends along this link to a recent press release from the City of San Antonio. Down there, the local government recently asked voters for authority to borrow money for new projects, and the voters said yes. Here is what they're building:

The $596 million program, divided into five propositions, was approved as follows:

Streets, Bridges & Sidewalks - 72 percent in favor
Drainage & Flood Control – 73 percent in favor
Parks, Recreation & Open Space – 64 percent in favor
Library, Museum & Cultural Arts Facilities – 62 percent in favor
Public Safety Facilities – 67 percent in favor

The 140-project bond program includes:

41 projects in Streets, Bridges & Sidewalks – $337.44 million
17 projects in Drainage & Flood Control – $128.03 million
68 projects in Parks, Recreation & Open Space – $87.15 million
11 projects in Library, Museum & Cultural Arts Facilities – $29.03 million
3 projects in Public Safety Facilities – $14.35 million

What -- no bioswales? No real estate development? No handout to the local state university? No equity office? No sustainability center? No streetcars?

Fred Armisen won't be filming there any time soon.

Crocodile tears from Shaff and Randy

Another Friday afternoon surprise this past week was the news that the State of Oregon health bureaucrats have denied the City of Portland's request to slow down or stop construction of underground tanks to replace the city's open air reservoirs.

This sordid little soap opera goes back quite a ways. The city has said for many years that the federal government absolutely required that Portland's open-air reservoirs be covered. The city bureaucrats swore that they had exhausted every avenue to get an exception, but gosh darn it, those sticklers in Washington, D.C. just wouldn't go for it. Then suddenly came the news that New York City was getting a huge extension of time to cover its reservoirs, and outraged Portland water users, whose rates have nearly doubled in recent years, reasonably asked, "Why not us?"

Then it suddenly dawned on everyone that in Oregon, the ultimate decision makers are in the state government, since the federal regulators have delegated authority on such matters to the folks in Salem. Friday's news was that the Salem bureaucrats have denied the city's most recent request because the city didn't raise any new issues, other than the New York loophole. It's essentially the equivalent of the all-purpose Portland boondoggle rationale: "It's too late to turn back now."

The Portland Water Bureau’s request "does not identify any specific circumstances not previously known" by city officials when they proposed the original schedule in 2009 or modifications in 2010, Dave Leland, the Oregon Health Authority’s drinking water manager, wrote to Portland.

"Further," Leland wrote, "the proposed timing appears to reflect a suspension of effort to comply with mandated regulation, rather than continuing, steady progress toward regulatory compliance."

Could the state have ruled the other way? Of course it could have. But there are massive hunks of construction pork at play here, and no doubt the fix is in, in Salem as well as in Portland.

The most sickening part of the whole episode are the fake expressions of disappointment by the city's water director and theme park tour guide, David Shaff, and by his boss, Admiral Randy Leonard. These guys have been hellbent for nearly a decade now on funneling hundreds of millions of water revenues to their consultant and construction pals to build tank after tank. They've put the water system deep into hock over it, are pricing senior citizens out of their homes with their water bills, and are laying the groundwork (wittingly or unwittingly) for the eventual takeover of the city's water system by Pepsi or Nestle or some other corporate thieves.

Some say the ultimate plan is to start mixing Willamette River water in with the Bull Run water that Portlanders currently drink. Bull Run output can then be sold to somebody like Dasani. Surely the City Hall types would express their disappointment that day, too.

There's a hearing of some kind at Wednesday's City Council meeting, and the usual water bureau watchdogs will be there screaming and moaning. But let's face it -- they're just another sincere citizens' group being roughed up by the Sam Rand regime. The Fireman, just 222 days away from his triple public pension, could care less what they think of him. Like the SoWhat immigration jail for his developer buddies, and the assassination of the charter revision commission, and the endless water bureau mission creep, and the crippling municipal debt load, and the Little Lord Paulson stadium subsidies, and the luxury tour bus, and "urban renewal" galore -- the list goes on and on -- he gets his way. "It's how I do it."

Ah, but the history books will get the last word. And by that we mean the real history books -- not the one he spent ratepayers' money to have his buddies write for him.

UPDATE, 7:17 p.m.: Bad link fixed. Readers, please don't be afraid to speak up about that sort of thing.

Rose City Park getting Blumenauered

Some nice middle class folks along NE 77th Avenue in the Rose City Park neighborhood are suffering from a case of jangled nerves this week, after having received this missive from the City of Portland late last week. It seems that their street has been selected to be some sort of "neighborhood greenway," which is the modern city code for a bike boulevard. And they're being given little if any details about what that implies, which means that they now will have to make time for multiple neighborhood meetings and a lot of inconvenient yada yada to find out what's going on.

Whenever we open the mailbox and see a flyer from the City of Portland, we wonder, "What garbage are they foisting on us now?" We are never pleasantly surprised by what we find.

As usual with Portland City Hall shenanigans, there are a couple of charades in play in the Rose City deal. The first is the canard that no decisions have yet been made. The arrogant 20-something bureaucrats are going to take the neighbors' input at an open house, you see, and then, only then, will they decide what to do. Oh, and the input meeting is this Thursday night, on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend. Uh huh. Give us a break. The maps are drawn and the plans are all set -- all that's left is crafting the thin veneer of public participation.

The other fakery is the coating of the plan with heavy "green" overtones. Mostly they do this to justify spending sewer revenues on what is essentially a bike project. There's currently a lawsuit pending about the legality of such maneuvers. But it's also an effective way to persuade wide-eyed Portlanders to go along, because for most people in this town, anything "sustainable" must be a good idea.

How bad will the "improvements" be? Well, part of the "greenway" is Sacramento Street, which sits on the northern border of the Rose City Golf Course. It is unusually wide, and already has speed bumps, and so "greening" it up may not affect residents on the north side of the street much.

But 77th is a just a normal, quiet little Rose City street, and it's not wide at all. Channeling a lot of bike traffic onto it, installing bioswales and curb bubbles, and adding who knows what other noise, isn't likely to make residents' lives any easier. It can already be a little tough to get out of one's driveway at times, and adding more entitled cyclists to the traffic mix can't make the situation better. Maybe the city will try to remove parking on one side of the street or the other; that ought to go over like a lead balloon.

Anyway, good luck to the residents in the affected neighborhood, as they are probably going to need it. The City That Won't Leave Normal People Alone strikes again. As one neighbor said to us over the weekend, "It never ends."

Only on a Friday afternoon...

... would the O run a headline like this:

MAX Green Line ships gangs to Clackamas County, survey suggests

Even though it was buried at that low-traffic time of the week, we can't believe that the person responsible for such a frank and truthful headline is still employed at that publication. After all, trains don't transport criminals, sneakers do.

And way to go, O, posting photos of the graffiti. It really discourages taggers when you show their handiwork on the internet.

Welcome to Chicago

That toddlin' town has had a heck of a weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


A reader in southeast Portland was brave enough to look up and see this from his front porch earlier this evening:

Holier than thou

This would be funnier if it weren't probably true.

Another bicycle fatality

This one in the "Reach the Beach" event. Condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.

We hear that designer Joshua Berger of Plazm magazine is also laid up with serious biking injuries. Along with a guy who works across the hall from us, who's been out of work for a month after taking a swan dive off his two-wheeler one night. Surgery to insert pins, plates, the whole works.

When cyclists preach to us about the health benefits of their chosen means of transportation, we nod silently. It's not worth trying to question the Portland orthodoxy. As long as people understand the risks, let them ride.

Meanwhile, the stage is being set for what could well be some more tragedy on Williams Avenue. "Let's try something completely new that motorists won't understand, and see what happens." Well, what do you think is going to happen?

Streetcar mom gets a prize

One of the central figures in the Lake Oswego "urban renewal" battles was feted recently by the folks whose interests she championed:

LAKE OSWEGO – On May 11, Councilor Sally Moncrieff received the award for Distinguished Leadership by an Elected Official from the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Quickly on the heels of the defeat of the Homer Williams streetcar proposal, of which she was an enthusiastic promoter, Moncrieff announced that her first term on the City Council would also be her last. Her tenure coincided with one of the most contentious periods in the suburban town's history.

Must reading for Portlanders

Next year at this time, in thinking about the mayor, the phrase problem child is sure to cross one's mind.

Just what America doesn't need

Domestic use of Pentagon propaganda is on its way back to life. You'd expect this sort of thing from some Republican from Texas, but what is this guy from the Seattle suburbs doing leading the charge?

New nickname for Greg Oden

"Doodle Jump."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quotation of the Night


White trash (or is it beige) from the 'Couv

It looks as though Portland taxpayers will get to pay the bill for what was once somebody else's problem. There ought to be a law that would put the guy responsible for this in jail for a while.

Nothing says romance like a hospital waiting room

Here's a two-fer that we'll pass on.

Feds say you have constitutional right to record cops

Apparently, the U.S. Department of Justice is asserting that individuals have rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to videotape police officers as they conduct police business. That's contrary to what you hear in Oregon, where people who tape the cops often have a state privacy statute shoved in their faces.

The story's here. A USDOJ letter taking the position in a Maryland case is here. We quote:

On January 10, 2012, the United States filed a Statement of Interest in this matter. In that statement, the United States urged the Court to find that private individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties, and that officers violate individuals’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or due process.

Let's hope that the promiser-in-chief doesn't back down on this one.

The green phantom

We love our readers for many reasons, but especially for the stories they send us. Here's one that dropped in over the transom last night:

So my wife and daughter and I were out at Ikea this afternoon, and we parked in the "family parking" area, where two of the previous handicapped spots have been converted over to EV [electric vehicle] charging hookups. They didn't even bother getting rid of the extra space on either side that handicap spots usually get, so they're taking up like five spots.

So today we noticed that there was a shiny new Nissan Leaf parked in one of the spots. We've always really doubted that anyone is actually driving these things yet, and joked that the dealers just drive them around and park them in public places to make it look like people own them and that the charging spots aren't a total waste of space. I've noticed that whenever they put in a new spot downtown, there's always a parade of shiny new electric vehicles parked in them for the first few weeks, and then never again afterwards.

Anyway, my wife, half-joking, goes over to look at the vehicle and finds it totally clean inside -- the plastic is still on the floor mats. As she's walking away, a big sedan pulls up and drops off a guy in a dealer polo, who gets in the car and drives it away, presumably to plant it somewhere else.

Good stuff, right? Go by EV!

We give that story a 3-P rating: priceless, and perfectly Portland.

When the puffballs come

A friend of ours who recently moved out of state from the Portland suburbs spent a little time in downtown Portland this week. Her impression: "It's like a Fellini movie."

Friday, May 18, 2012

A ringside seat

Sunday afternoon and evening's solar eclipse should be quite something as seen (make that if seen) from Portland. Here's what we've got the potential to experience, weather permitting. And of course, we aren't going to look straight at it.

The best views in the state should be down around Brookings and Ashland.

Have a great weekend

Dirt cheap money for Portland cop shop

The City of Portland sold nearly $22 million in bonds this week. A little over half of the borrowed dough will pay for the new police training center out by the airport, and the rest will refinance debt that the city's been paying on for a decade or more. The IOU's are backed by the city's property tax revenues. They were rated one notch below the top by Moody's, and interest received by the lenders is tax-exempt. The longest of the bonds is for a mere 10 years. As a result, the interest rates are quite low. As we understand it, the real interest rates are in the "Price or Yield" column:

The bonds sold at a premium, meaning that because on their face they pay interest at 3% or 4%, the bondholders paid more than face value for them -- in this case, a lot more. In all, the city got a little more than $24 million to play with.

Even at the low interest rates, the debt service will be substantial. By our calculations, the first year's interest alone will be more than $714,000. The up-front underwriter's commission and transaction costs come to $135,550.

What's up with Pamplin sites' opinion sections?

A reader notes that the opinion sections of several of the Pamplin-owned community newspaper websites -- including the editorials, guest opinions, and letters -- have disappeared. The papers affected are the Lake Oswego Review, the West Linn Tidings, and the Sherwood Gazette. This also eliminates online reader responses to the columns.

Without the commentary and analysis contained under the "Opinion" tab, the small town news reported by these sites is a lot less interesting and informative. It's not a group-wide problem -- the opinion section of the Trib is up and running fine. Does anybody know whether this change is intentional, permanent, or both?

Watch where you walk

The joy of nice weather is tempered somewhat by the thought of the darker sides of city life. A reader sent us this photo earlier in the week, along with a note:

This has been the fourth -- yes fourth -- hypodermic needle I've found in Portland since late October. I picked up and threw away the last one I found and told myself, "Never again." This was found at the Waterfront while biking near the Saturday Market next to bare-footed frisbee players and sun bathers.

This seems like a post-worthy picture to warn people of unsavory behavior to watch out for when walking in allegedly safe places.

Wonder what's being sold here

They're holding a "civic ecology charrette" in the Mount Tabor area tomorrow morning. With a free lunch, no less. It's hard to read through all the code to figure out what it's going to be about:

Join business and neighborhood leaders as we design a more resilient future for our SE community. This is a facilitated event and an opportunity for us to find ways to support each other in identifying and making changes at the individual household and business level that can lead to a more sustainable community. At the same time we'll be thinking about ways we can collaborate to make better use of our resources and evolving technologies -- all in keeping with the scale and values of our neighborhoods. Participate in a resource mapping exercise to identify systems for energy, waste, water, food production and local economies. The result can be a better bottom line and more livable, resilient neighborhoods.

We wish that so much schlock wasn't being sold as "green" nowadays. It would be nice to approach this sort of thing with an open mind. Alas, suspicion is the watchword. And the word "charrette," of course, has been the prelude to many, many bad public money plays in Portlandia in recent years.

Maybe this is a clue:

Speakers include: Tim Smith of SERA, Steve Couche of the SE Portland Tool Library, Sarah Sullivan of Abernethy's Garden of Wonders, Reuben Deumling of Sunnyside NA and not yet confirmed Steve Gutmann of Getaround

If any of our readers attend, we'd be interested in a report afterward.

Lucky to be here

Thirty-two years ago, we were too close for comfort.

Out by the compost bin

Do the right thing

This Tri-Met driver stuck his neck out to help someone who needed it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Talkin' bail

Our friend Dwight Jaynes and Blazers owner Paul Allen, whom no normal Portlanders have ever met, are going at it pretty intensely over whether the Blazers are for sale. Let's see: no general manager, no head coach, only good player under contract recovering from his second hip surgery, declining fan base, negative goodwill within the industry... There's not all that much there to sell, and our guess is that Allen's asking too much for it. But in Dwight we trust.

Wait'll we get a load of them

It's hard to wrap our mind around the fact that come January, we may have both Steve Novick and Jefferson Smith on the Portland City Council. After the current four-year collective nervous breakdown, it will be like switching over to a Batman movie.

Just in time for camping season

Portland's Occupy zone is "lush and verdant once more." (Actually, the lushes are across the street.)

The sharrows didn't help

Our condolences to the loved ones of Kathryn Rickson, the 29 28-year-old woman who was run over and killed by a semi last night while riding her bicycle in downtown Portland.

It appears that Rickson was in one of Portland's green "bike boxes" when she was hit. Now she is in a different kind of box. Urban cycling is inherently dangerous.

Government employees vs. everyone else, cont'd

You'll never guess which side Bill Bennett is on.

UC Nike students tiring of shakedowns

While the Jail Ducks and their backers skim krugerrands across the Willamette, the regular Joes and Janes trying to get a bachleor's degree at U.C. Nike are being nickeled and dimed to death. They're starting to get a little ornery about it, and rightly so.

Oregon cities lobby for secret government

It's breathtaking, when you think about it: Local government in the Portland area has millions and millions of dollars to hire p.r. flacks and tweeters to spin the facts for the politicians' and bureaucrats' benefit. But when a resident asks to see a public record, City Hall whines that paying someone to go find it is costing them too much money.

"The thing which amazed me is there's only one opponent to government transparency, and it's the government. Lobbyists for government agencies, like Metro, like the City of Portland fought against having a greater level of transparency," [state attorney general John] Kroger says.

There ought to be a law that no press releases can be written by government flacks until government is current in filling public records requests. [Via UO Matters, which has made a few.]

Mayor Creepy: Portland State will be better than NYU

Thanks to "urban renewal," of course. What a joke. But maybe they'll hire him.

This is about more tax dollars for apartment pushers -- all the rest is window dressing. And we note that Nick Fish is "proud" of the whole thing. No kidding -- his wife works at PSU. Maybe we can move him over there, too, in a couple of years.

Reader poll: Who will be next Portland mayor?

Here's a wild one: Last fall, Char-Lie Hales tried to talk Jeffer-Sam Smith out of running for mayor. What a classic Portland bully move. Remember when the Scone took Fireman Randy to Morton's and told him he'd better endorse quick for mayor or suffer the consequences? That didn't turn out well.

If we had to predict the winner right now, we'd have to bet on Smith. What do you think? Your prediction, please -- not your preference:

Who will be the next mayor of Portland?
pollcode.com free polls 

Last September, a plurality of readers here predicted that Eileen Brady would win in a runoff. Four out of five of our 450 or so respondents called the primary wrong.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Matt Wuerker

Copyright 2012 by Matt Wuerker. Used by permission.

It's Lukens, not Buckstein, for O editorial page editor

Our source of the other day was right about David Sarasohn being out, but wrong about his successor. It was a fun rumor, though.

UPDATE, 6:38 p.m.: Steve Buckstein says he was not offered the job. He declines to say whether he was interviewed for it.

Portland water lawsuit loses a round

With our recent trip and the hoopla of yesterday's election, we've managed to neglect mentioning that the folks suing the City of Portland over misuse of water and sewer revenues lost a round in court last week. The judge threw out one of the plaintiffs, and issued a ruling that could limit the amount of money shuffling that the city has to do if the complainants prevail.

That's unfortunate, but we hope that the challengers of City Hall mission creep keep their eyes on the prize. If the court ultimately declares that the city's politicians and bureaucrats broke the law, and enjoins them from doing it again in the future, the city's residents will have been well served.

To: Cogen -- Re: Library

The Multnomah County commissioners, who nixed the proposal to put a new library taxing district on the May ballot, said they would give it a shot later this year if the library's operating levy passed. Well, it passed by more than a 4-to-1 margin, and so whatever message the county commission was waiting for? It has now been delivered. If they don't put the district on the November ballot, they'll be tarred and feathered.

Oregon blogger gets recognized

We hear that Bill Harbaugh, the University of Oregon economics professor who stirs up all sorts of trouble with his excellent blog UO Matters, is going to receive a prize this weekend from the Oregon chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Apparently Harbaugh is being honored for his work in forcing the state to post on the internet, for free, its official manual about its freedom of public information laws.

Ironically, the First Freedom award, which Harbaugh is about to receive, "honors a non-journalist's championing of First Amendment rights." In our book, Harbaugh is a journalist, even though he blogs what he blogs on his own, part time, and without pay.

How much will Nurse Amanda spend to keep her job?

Amanda Fritz has already lent her Portland City Council re-election campaign $50,000 cash, and thrown in in-kind contributions north of another $60,000 worth. Now she's got nearly six months more of campaigning to do against Mary Nolan, who's got the Usual Suspects laying big checks on her right and left.

How much more is Fritz willing to scratch up out of the sofa cushions to stay on the council? Another $50,000?

Given that she's running neck-and-neck with Nolan, it's going to take some serious jack for her to prevail. In the good nurse's case, the home court advantage of incumbency obviously isn't enough.

In any event, we hope she doesn't throw too much more money at opinion polls like this one.

Who paid for Hales streetcar show?

A curious reader writes:

Apparently Charlie gets the streetcar to run for him on election night, stop in front of his office and honk the horn. The Eastside Streetcar hasn't run but for a day or two for testing thus far. Yet it runs for Charlie on election night? Seems odd to me.

The oddities have doubtlessly just begun, friend.

Why Brady failed

There'll be a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking today about the Portland mayoral election. How could a smart, accomplished woman like Eileen Brady, with literally a million dollars to spend, lose an election to a scatterbrained, unemployable community organizer like Jefferson Smith? There'll be all sorts of criticisms of the way she campaigned, where she spent her money, what she said, how she looked.

But the real reason Brady lost is that this is Portland, and in Portland, it's all about connections. Not what you know, but who you know. And Brady simply got out-connectioned by Charlie Hales and Smith.

Hales is a long-time shill for the real estate developer cabal. That's what he did on the City Council, and that's what he did for a living after he left. As we noted last night, this photo says it all -- that's Homer Williams, whose serial rape of the Portland city treasury knows no bounds, on the platform behind smiling, victorious Charlie. Regardless of what he might say to get elected, Hales will be all about slipping money, a lot of money, behind him to his right, to Williams and guys like him.

And it's not just the developers. Most of the West Hills money was behind Hales. Vera Katz sent up the endorsement smoke signal, Mike Lindberg was campaign treasurer -- it might as well have been Neil Goldschmidt himself patting Hales on the back. The people who own Portland need somebody they can trust to keep funneling the tax dough their way, and Hales is their man. Portland's tired mainstream media -- including Willamette Week, which is no longer an alternative publication, if it ever was one -- couldn't contain their enthusiasm for him.

Smith is just the old guard of the Democratic Party machine in a 30-something-year-old's clothing. His parents run that machine, and he has developed a little auxiliary of his own among the younger set. The soccer fops and the bike clowns love his affected weirdness. Then, importantly, he got the police and firefighters' unions to support him, and then the City Hall AFSCME local, and some teacher union types as well. Fireman Randy weighed in, signalling that Lil Jeffy would protect the PERS. Smith picked up some additional votes by opposing the Interstate 5 bridge, and he managed to deflect the many questions about his personal track record, which is spotty, to say the least.

So there Brady was, with the real estate sharpies and the Goldschmidtters behind Hales, and the party machine and government employees' unions behind Smith. What did she have to overcome that?

Well, she is a strong woman, which counts for something. She had run successful businesses, and she had lots of of rich backers -- including some real estate tycoons that would doubtlessly have moved in as most favored developer-welfare recipients had she prevailed. She said a lot of smart things. But the business on which she hung her star is not a union shop, and that cost her.

And when she tried to straddle jobs and "green," it didn't exactly work. We decided not to vote for Brady when we learned she supported (a) building the insane "sustainability center," (b) forcing light rail on Vancouver, and (c) paving over bald eagle habitat for a pointless Port of Portland shipping terminal on West Hayden Island.

But it wasn't the issues that killed Brady's candidacy. In the end, her initial traction simply wasn't enough to counter her fundamental lack of connections.

This is Portland. You either play along with the unions and the real estate dudes and the Goldschmidt people, or you stay on the outside of City Hall, looking in.

FBI sniffing around Jamie Dimon

Oh man, if ever there was a perp walk that we'd like to see...

Paint still drying

The Portland Timbers battled to another 0-0 tie last night, this time in Houston. The last time Portland scored a goal was in a 1-0 victory on April 21.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Portland voters send important messages

Charlie Hales -- "Nobody's better as Portland mayor than a lying sack who's going to sell us out further to the condo weasels."

Jefferson Smith -- "We want to keep doing the psycho mayor thing until we get it right."

Brady's last 15 minutes?

There'll be a new round of election result numbers from Multnomah County in about that amount of time, and barring a miracle, Eileen Brady will call Jeffer-Sam Smith at that point and concede. She's already congratulated Condo Charlie.

UPDATE, 10:41 p.m.: The new numbers have her down by around 4,000 votes. She's done. Smith killed her candidacy. It will be interesting to see whom she endorses in the general, but we'd bet it will be Hales.

UPDATE, 11:14 p.m.: She has conceded, although as usual, Jeffer-Sam had a little problem giving a straight story. He told KGW minutes ago that she agreed to wait until morning to do so.

Worth 1,000 words

My goodness. Is that old Homer Williams up in the limelight with Charlie Hales at his victory party? It sure looks like him -- shorts and all. In any event, Homer's certainly there in spirit.

Nena Cook surprise leader in Oregon Supreme Court race

She's nearly 6 percentage points ahead of Richard Baldwin. No one will get a majority, however, and so if we understand Oregon judicial election law correctly, she'll face either Baldwin or Timothy Sercombe in November. Right now, Baldwin's got about 3800 votes more than Sercombe.

Egan's ahead in Court of Appeals race

It's surprising news, but not bad news.

Potheads hand Holton his head

The John Kroger Era of Oregon government appears to be over, four years after it began.

Say goodbye to Dave Hunt

It appears that he's hit the ceiling of his political career. It's headed for a runoff -- so far it's Ludlow against Lehan. Supposed centrist candidate Paul Savas is running third, Hunt fourth.

The Clackistani rebels may lose to Martha Schrader on the first ballot. But the third commission seat looks like a Damon-Smith runoff so far.

That county's election results are here.

Brady trailing, Nolan and Fritz neck and neck

Both races appear to be heading for a runoff.

Portland politics: Where incest is the norm

Did you know that the mayor of Milwaukie is a Tri-Met employee? Well, don't worry, he'll be leaving the transit agency's employ soon -- for the Portland streetcar! We wish we were making this up.

The Next Big Thing in the SoWhat District will be...

... wait for it...

Another apartment bunker! And no doubt Portland taxpayers will chip in to make it happen.

Linchpin City! Go by streetcar!

Big night ahead

We've been resting up all afternoon for tonight's election results. Given who the leading candidates are, and the way they've been covered by the local mainstream media, there's no likelihood that we'll be getting good news about the next four years in Portland, but we should be learning which version of bad we're going to be suffering through.

Who wrecked Tri-Met?

There's really no question about it. It was the Goldschmidt people.

Portland food slop program reaches fiasco stage

We wrote yesterday afternoon about a report that Portland is going to have to send its food slop for composting all the way to Kent, Washington, near Seattle, because the local facilities in our region don't have permits to process yard debris that has that much food in it.

A reader points out that the stuff is already going even further away. According to this report by the Portland region's "unique" Metro government, some of it is being shipped by diesel truck to a site between Moses Lake and Yakima (four and a half hours from Portland in good traffic), and more of it is going to Stanwood, which is between Seattle and Bellingham (four hours, and the traffic's usually not too good).

Compared with trucking it to a landfill in Arlington (two and a half hours away) to decay in the ground, schlepping it nearly twice the distance so that private companies can make a buck off it somehow helps the earth. Somehow.

Do you get the feeling there's a mobster aspect to all this?

Meanwhile, on the home front, KGW reported last night that record numbers of dirty diapers are turning up in the contents of Portlanders' blue recycling bins as they get sorted at processing centers. Apparently folks simply aren't going to live with soiled diapers in their driveways for two weeks at a time. And so they've figured out how to continue to have them picked up weekly -- just toss them in with the recyclables.

Honestly, having done the disposable diaper thing for several years in the not-too-distant past, we can't say that we blame the scofflaws. It's not that they're in it to cheat somebody out of money. You simply can't get regular garbage picked up from a house every week in Portland, at any price. And having that crap, literally, hanging around for two weeks at a time is unhealthy and intolerable.

So now the city or Metro government is going to start tracking down the offending garbage customers and fining them. Of course, the customers will deny that the diapers were theirs -- we'd throw ours in our least favorite neighbor's blue bin, which always has plenty of room -- and so the city will have to clog up the courts with garbage cases.

Or maybe we should set up a whole new garbage court. It could have ancillary jurisdiction over Rose Festival duct tape cases as well. Fred Armisen can be the judge.

When we try to explain this kind of stuff to friends and family out of town, we're more than a little embarrassed. It's like we all gave up a normal life to live in a bizarre cult, but instead of the Rajneesh or Jim Jones, we have Earl Blumenauer and Rex Burkholder.

Portland City Hall loves getting in residents' faces. The bureaucrats love adopting the adversarial posture toward their constituents. With a curbside program, that's a real recipe for disaster, as anyone who thinks about it critically will realize. It's like the tax system: A certain minimum level of consumer goodwill is essential. How many people can they fine? What if everybody just starts throwing everything into the blue bins?

Oregon: We make it easy to rip off the public

We'd been wondering whatever happened to the Mike Burton travel fraud scandal at the Portland State Patronage Center. State and local prosecutors have now forced him to admit that despite his earlier, lying protestations, he did indeed bill PSU for personal travel in Europe under the false pretense of attending business-related conferences. And so now Burton, former power broker at Metro, is a convicted criminal, on 18 months' probation, and he's been required to pay back $4500 to the university.

Of course, he's painted as a victim, too -- an alcoholic, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from Vietnam, etc. The guy is 70 years old. He'll no doubt keep his PERS retirement fund, and certainly the PERS-sponsored Medicare supplement will be expected to pick up the tab for his required "treatment." If you were a bookkeeper at the local hardware store and you pinched $4500, you might not get off so easy, but if you're a bigshot politician...

Oh, well. It's always remarkable when a public official is busted for corruption in Oregon, whose residents are pollyannishly blind to human nature when it comes to their clean, green state and local government. But in this case, even more remarkable is the letter that prosecutors wrote to their bosses, expressing their alarm at how lax Portland State is when it's handing out travel reimbursements to bureaucrats like Burton. As posted by Willy Week, they wrote in part:

Of course, the face cards running PSU, which has reduced itself in recent years to little more than a real estate enterprise, can never admit that mistakes were made, or that bad judgment was exercised. Oh no, the provost has given it the scoundrel's best "The system worked" response. Great message for the hapless students.

Something similar happened last week, when an administrative law judge let two Portland school district employees off the hook in connection with last year's election abuse scandal. In that incident, first brought to light on this blog, the district illegally used taxpayer funds to promote a pending ballot measure regarding school funding. Even if the employees in question had violated state elections law, the judge was unwilling to impose a sanction because the Oregon secretary of state's office had dragged its feet in promulgating the necessary regulations needed to interpret state law. Instead, it processed the Portland case based on a manual it had previously produced, which was not strong enough authority to bring an action against anyone.

In other words, without regulations, the law prohibiting use of tax funds for politics had little or no effect at all. A regular scammers' delight, this place is. At least a few of the miscreants at the school district admitted guilt and paid their fines before it was revealed that they had nothing to worry about. They all could have gotten off on a technicality -- a blunder by our secretary of state.

Gunplay at Dittler's Beach

Last summer it was stabbing -- this spring it's shooting. The gang enforcement people are on the case -- sounds like the start of a long summer for those folks.

Couch potato heaven at 35,000 feet

We're back in Portlandia from an East Coast swing, and on the six-hour return flight last evening, we gave in to the temptation to plunk down eight bucks and watch TV on a screen on the back of the seat in front of us. We could pick from dozens of channels in the DirecTV lineup, and it turns out that pro sports fit our flight schedule perfectly.

First we watched the Sixers and the Celtics on the hardwood, switching over at halftime to the Rangers and the Devils in hockey. Then it was back to hoops for more Sixers-Celtics, and after some more hockey, it was the first game of the basketball series between the evil Lakers and the saintly Oklahoma City Thunder.

It was a satisfying menu -- at least, the basketball was. The Celtics got complacent and let the Sixers steal the game from them, which was fine with us. And the Thunder absolutely humiliated the Lakers, pretty much from start to finish but definitely in the third quarter. We relished every second of that one -- nothin' betta than showing up Metta. When we touched down in Portlandia and they pulled the plug on the video, there were only about three minutes left in the wonderful rout. The time had passed quickly.

The Devils lost to the Rangers, and we were a little bummed about that. Our original hometown of Newark doesn't need to be kicked around any more than it already is. Lately they've started having some serious security problems around their new arena, and if they don't get that cleaned up immediately, the city's few bright spots are likely to go dark once again. When the place opened, there was a heavy police presence at every event, but times have changed, and Newark is laying off cops. Not good.

But despite our sympathies for the Devils, we're mindful that the Rangers and Madison Square Garden go way back, and it wouldn't be terrible if they took home the Stanley Cup this year. That honor sure as heck doesn't belong in Southern California or Arizona. As Woody Allen once noted, "Santa Claus will get sunstroke."

It's a good thing we had the tube to take our mind off the fact that there wasn't a scrap of food offered to us at any point in the transcontinental flight. Not a pretzel, not a peanut. The CEO of United Airlines came on the screen and gave his little pep talk at the beginning, but hey Jeff, old buddy, you can't not feed people, even those willing to pay for the food. Between that and all the clods dragging the equivalent of covered wagons on board to avoid paying 25 clams to check a bag, the whole experience has become even more absurd than it was just a couple of years ago.

Not to mention the TSA, of course. On the way out of PDX, as we waited to be puffed and X-rayed and goosed and generally violated, a portly middle-aged guy in a uniform and a loud voice harangued us with a nonstop stream of commands and banter that he thought was funny. It's 6:30 in the morning, and this fellow was being paid to give us a lame standup routine. We couldn't help but think, "This is what single-payer health care will probably be like. Our poor kids."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saltzman recuses self from Lincoln High "urban renewal" vote

An alert reader forwards us this e-mail message from Portland City Council's own Legend Dan:

Thank you for writing me regarding the Education URA proposal. Because my family owns property in the potential district, I will not be participating in this Wednesday's Council discussion and must abstain from the vote. Because hundreds of you have lent your voice in opposition to this URA with emails like the one below, I still wanted to thank you for taking the time to advocate on this, as I think it will help force a more careful, thoughtful vote from Council.

Dan Saltzman

It appears, then, that the vote will be 3-1 or 4-0, depending on Nurse Amanda's post-campaign druthers. If she's in a runoff, she'll vote no. But if her race is decided, we wouldn't be shocked if she voted the customary hypocritical yes-with-conditions.

UPDATE, 5/15, 3:28 a.m.: Fritz wrote to constituents yesterday afternoon to say this:

Thank you again for contacting me with your views on the proposed Education URA. After listening to the testimony and reviewing all the information, I've concluded I cannot support the new district. While I am a strong supporter of Portland State University, I don't believe it is prudent to earmark millions of taxpayers dollars for buildings downtown, when we have so many urgent infrastructure needs all over Portland. Further, the expected return in increased property tax money benefiting the taxpayers when the district is complete is far less than other URAs.

I appreciate your participation in the review of this proposal.

It's a garbage time vote, of course. The fix is in.

Where my thought's escapin'

We're jetting back to Portland this afternoon and evening from a remote location at which we've spent the last several days. Like Portland, our destination has had some wonderful summer-like weather. And it's where the PATH Series is about to begin.

It's been fun, but it's time to get back to where we belong. Tomorrow night, we'll learn a few things about the future of our hometown of nearly 34 years. The news won't be good, but it's important to be there to hear it as it breaks.

Opie Sten is at it again

His new Bend enterprise is working every bit as well as his many bright ideas when he was on the Portland City Council:

Elsewhere, the program has paid $750,000 to a private company headed by former Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten to craft a refinancing program for homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. While the program shows promise, after more than a year of work, Sten's company has refinanced 11 mortgages.

Wait 'til Jeffer-Sten Smith is mayor. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Portland food slop pushing processors over legal limits?

A reader writes:

A friend-who-would-like-to-stay-employed tells me that because all the PDX green-bucket slop includes more than 5% food stuff, all the regional compost pits/processors are now in violation of permits. So he says that at a point here soon, all the trucks head up I-5 to Kent, Washington as the only facility that can take it with food.

Care to bet a beer that Mayor Adams finds this fabricated "emergency" the compelling reason the city must give his buddies a pile of cash to build the biomass electricity plant on the poor side of town? The blind pilot project end-run around public review is once again driving the city off the side of a cliff, but hey, it sounds like a cool idea, right?

Wish we had a pilot project for prosecuting corruption.

UPDATE, 2:26 p.m.: In other news, guess what's going to happen to your garbage bill over the summer. The official press release is here.

Time to vote

It has seemed to go on forever, but Oregon's primary election actually ends tomorrow. We doubt that there are many readers of this blog who haven't filed yet, but if you haven't voted, you have only until 8 p.m. tomorrow to get your ballot into the hands of county election officials. It's too late for the Post Office, and so you'll need to deliver your ballot by hand. If like us, you're in Multnomah County, the dropoff spots are listed here. Apparently, you can drop off at any elections office, anywhere in the state.

Portland crud, May edition

Are you like everybody at our house? Have you been tussling with hoarseness, a cough, and sinus trouble the last couple of weeks?

Sometimes it seems as though the bugs of Portlandia run in cycles. We had the same symptoms at this time of year (or a little later in May) 22 years ago. We went to an urgent care center, where a newly minted doctor told us that he'd prescribe a pill, but he was all but certain that it would do no good. We started taking the pill and felt better in less than 48 hours.

It would be nice to get this one behind us, but it feels as though it's going to hang on for a while longer. Not debilitating, but nettlesome and draining.

Until they're done

You have your C-Span for the politicians -- now, finally, there's a cable channel focused on the taxpayers. (And of course, there's an online stream, here.)

Why Johnny can't count

Maybe it's because the school board can't, either.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Winterhawks fall in Alberta

It's a dang shame, but Portland's fine hockey team dropped Game 7 of its playoff series on the road to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Ya hate to see that. Congratulations to the young men of the Rose City for getting as far as they got, but also condolences on getting the door slammed in their faces.

Speaking of rumors

Here's some juicy gossip from a source somewhat close to the situation: David Sarasohn, who has been acting editorial page editor of the O since shortly after Bob Caldwell died (Rick Attig came back for a week or so), was reportedly told Friday he's not getting the gig long term.

Word is that arch-conservative Steve Buckstein has been offered the post. If true, that would be remarkable. If the report weren't coming from a solid source, we'd say there's no way.

UPDATE, 5/16, 6:40 p.m.: As it turns out, this rumor probably was not true. Buckstein says he was not offered the job, and someone else in fact got it. Buckstein declines to say whether he was interviewed for it.

Little Lord Paulson buying the Blazers?

That's the rumor.

There's still time for the Big 3 mayoral candidates to tell him and his father that they won't get a penny of public money.

Happy Mother's Day

Get Mom up to dance a little:

Weekend at Bernie's

Our favorite senator has a good idea, as usual. Should have been done three years ago.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Winterhawks force epic Game 7 in Edmonton

Portland's hockey team evened its series with the Edmonton Oil Kings at 3 games apiece this evening. Now they're on a charter flight, on the same plane as their opponents, from Oregon to Edmonton, where they'll play the deciding game tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. West Coast time. With a brutal schedule like that, the home team will have at least a slight advantage. Portland's going to need everything it's got to take the cup. It did win Game 2 up there on May 4. Go Winterhawks!

The ugliness of Game 6

In a seven-game playoff series, Game 6 is never pretty. One team is out to close out the other, and the latter has to win two straight to prevail in the series. It's not quite as exciting as Game 7, because there isn't equal pressure on the two sides. But it's do or die for the trailing team, which has already shown, twice, that it can beat this particular foe. Everybody's got their game faces on. They've been going at it with the same opponent for too many games straight. People are playing through injury. Things get chippy.

We caught some of last night's pro hoops contest between the L.A. Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies on the tube, and it had all the grit and grime of a Game 6. The Clippers led the series 3-2, but their main guys were pretty banged up, and the referees seemed biased against them. L.A. lost by two points at home, and so now they have to win Game 7 on the road. They were pretty unhappy campers as they shuffled off the court.

We also watched the beginning of the Lakers-Nuggets Game 6 the other night before falling asleep. That other Los Angeles team was in the Mile High City with a 3-2 lead in the series, but its star, Kobe Bryant, was sick to his stomach, and the game wasn't close. And so back to California the caravan comes for a deciding game this evening at Jack Nicholson's house.

We've grown to love George Karl, the head coach for Denver, over the course of the series. They have mikes on the coaches these days, and Karl's exhortations to his team during timeouts have been nothing short of brilliant. "Nobody has to do anything special," he said to his charges at an early point in Game 6. "Just play solid basketball." And he was absolutely, 100%, spot on. Avoiding the temptation to get fancy was a key to the team's success that night.

And Karl's got Andre Miller on the court at the right times. Miller is a brilliant floor captain and an excellent solo performer, especially in the clutch. He's an even better baller in Denver than he was in Portland, and he was pretty darn good when he was here.

Speaking of Game 6, the Portland Winterhawks come home down 3-2 against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It's do or die for the Hawks at 6:00 today at the Rose Garden, where they lost in overtime earlier this week. They also lost in Canada the other night, and so they've got to go from a two-game losing streak to a two-game winning streak to become league champions. The Oil Kings smell blood, and so it isn't going to pretty.

It's Game 6. It's never pretty.

Another Kate Brown oopsie

Here's a Friday afternoon surprise that we'll wait for next week to address fully: The last two Portland public schools officials charged in the election abuse scandal from a year ago have been let off the hook because the Oregon secretary of state's office botched the rules in the area.

The bad news comes just a few weeks after Brown, who has a Republican opponent in the fall election, engaged in some egregious pretzel logic in connection with the scheduling of this year's labor commissioner election. That had already put her under some heavy criticism.

Despite the weekend, the weather, Mother's Day, and the election, we will have a thorough discussion about the latest misstep. But you gotta admit, the media couldn't have done a nicer job of trying to bury the story.

Illegal? No problem for the O.

The flow of toxic editorials from Portland's daily newspaper is usually pretty awful, but this one's egregious. "This project should move forward, but it must remain transparent at every step." Give us a break. And the blatant illegalities should simply be "balanced" away.

We try hard not to root for the demise of print journalism, but some days it's hard.

Guess we've been blacklisted for election porn

From reader comments, we deduce that we've been purposefully taken off the list for election mailers by the local political campaign folks. Either that, or our address has been. Because readers report that they've recently received campaign flyers by mail from mayoral candidate Charlie Hales and City Council hopeful Mary Nolan, and we didn't get any of those. Could it really be that the posting of those flyers on this website has led the political operatives to pull our name from the list? In any event, in future elections we'll have to start collecting reports of the election porn from readers starting earlier on in the process.

Jamie Dimon, screwup and overlord

Chase Bank has suddenly announced that it lost $2 billion since March by gambling in the derivatives market. The president of that bank, Jamie Dimon, broke the news the other day in a press conference. Dimon, who made $23 million last year, is the ultimate schmoozer and a one-time best pal of the supposed change agent currently occupying the White House.

The Obama administration had substantial leverage that it could have used to impose a sensible regulatory framework. Citigroup and Bank of America could not have survived without public largess, and AIG was a ward of the government. The administration could have attached stiff conditions to the next capital infusion, while threatening to withhold it. It could have demanded serious rules on derivatives. It could have required that too-big-to-fail institutions be broken into smaller pieces. It could have pushed for updated incentive structures at banks, with rules threatening executives with surrendering their compensation when their companies took undue risks and failed.

But the Obama administration didn't do any of these things. It just handed over the money, while buying into the same perverse logic that had allowed the financial crisis to gather force: The guys on Wall Street must always be made happy, or terrible consequences result.

If Obama loses in November, he will have no one to blame but himself. He already does the bankers' bidding -- maybe next year they'll give him a job. Dealing with the Romney Supreme Court will be the kids' problem.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Have a great weekend

Vatican's latest target: the Girl Scouts

It just gets sicker, and sicker, and sicker.

Stanford jumps the shark

You won't believe who they've got writing for them now. Oh, well. It will look good on his resume at the Portland State Patronage Center.

Another one bites the dust

Our post of the other day about the destruction of a nice little private park in the Mount Tabor neighborhood brought a response from a resident of the Argay neighborhood (also known as Argay Terrace) in outer northeast Portland. Apparently something similar has happened or is about to happen there. Some vacant land on 141st Drive, across from Argay Park, has been divided into three lots, and three "skinny houses" are on the way.

The land, which has never had buildings on it and people always considered part of the park, was once owned by Multnomah County. But the county sold it to a private owner about 20 years ago. When the neighbors heard of the new owner's development plans, they opposed the division into separate lots. But their appeal to the City Hall bureaucrats has gone nowhere, and the bulldozers could arrive any time now.

At one time, the reader writes, the city reportedly would not approve even a single house on the property, because it was too narrow. All that has changed, of course, with the planners' aggressive "infill" philosophy, which is wrecking the character of the city's old neighborhoods to the benefit of the real estate developers who control local government. Despite our hype, livability concerns are no match for real estate money in Portland.

So suck it up, Argay Terrace! It's for the millions of people who are going to be moving here any minute.

He got here before we did

By the time we really began paying attention to Portland city politics about a decade ago, Charles Jordan was starting to be referred to in the past tense. He spent 10 years on the City Council, starting in the Goldschmidt years, and another 14 as the director of the city's parks.

We do recall some folks saying that he was given the parks job, in 1989, on the condition that he not run for mayor. Apparently there had been some dispute about hiring him between then-Mayor Bud Clark and then-Commissioner Mike Lindberg.

Anyway, Jordan, now 74 years old, is being honored by having a community center renamed after him. This might be as good a time as any to fill in the gaps about him in our Portland history. Readers who were paying attention then, please help us out.

Where have all the mailers gone, long time passin'?

We're moving into the last weekend of the agonizingly long process known as an Oregon vote-by-mail election, and it's an interesting time. Two of the Portland City Council races are too close to call, but in the state attorney general race, Ellen Rosenblum is apparently going to crush Dwight Holton.

If Holton loses big, we won't be surprised. He's the law-and-order candidate in a Democratic primary in Oregon. You talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight; he might have had a better chance as a Republican. Rosenblum's got most of the establishment behind her, and the potheads, too, and that appears to be the winning combination.

Whoever wins that primary race will probably take office over the summer, as the incumbent, John Kroger, is set to begin the term of his medical retirement as president of Reed College on July 1.

One thing we're disappointed in is the paucity of election porn mailers that have arrived at our place, even though we haven't voted yet. Was it just us, or were there a lot fewer of them this time around? We heard from Rod Underhill and the library -- that was it.

We wonder if our practice of displaying the campaigns' direct mail and critiquing them on this blog has gotten us removed from the applicable mailing lists. Not that that would be a bad thing necessarily, but if Portland-area readers get election porn that we didn't, part of us feels a little deprived.

Lousy schools? Go by streetcar!

Ah, Portland's "angry school supporters" are going to march today. That phrase has gotten to be redundant any more, hasn't it?

The rhetoric will no doubt include swipes at those who voted against recent tax increase proposals for schools. Some of the opposition to those taxes was mean-spirited and anti-union, but many of us who voted no did so after growing tired of watching local government burn millions on streetcars and other developer welfare while letting the schools rot.

We wish the marchers a safe and productive event, but if they think that a lot more tax revenue is needed to solve their problems, our advice to them from last year, here, still stands.

The march is set to start at the Rose Quarter and end at Pioneer Courthouse Square. We hope the angry people walk over the Broadway Bridge, and look at the shiny streetcar tracks that have been laid there. It's the best symbol we can find of the root cause of their problems.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Missing the whole point

Here's a disturbing (but not surprising) reader comment that came in a little earlier:

Meh, Nolan will win, so I will vote for her

People! This is not a prediction contest. You're supposed to vote for the person you actually want in the office.

If you need to say your candidate won, don't tell anyone who you voted for until after the election. Then lie as necessary. But don't vote for someone because you think he or she is going to win. If that's what you're going to do, please don't vote.

Barburian rebels face familiar runaround in Tigard

When the citizen rebellion in Clackamas County placed on the ballot a measure that would require future "urban renewal" shenanigans to be out to a public vote, the county commissioners put another measure on the same ballot as a decoy, to try to confuse voters. It was a dastardly thing to do -- one of the worst performances by local government that we've seen in our 34 years in Portlandia -- and fortunately, it failed.

In September, Clackamas voters will also be asked to require a public vote before the county pays $25 million to Tri-Met for the $1.5 billion (liars' budget) Mystery Train to Milwaukie. There's a good chance they'll say yes, and that could very well kill the county's contribution to the project.

Now, the folks in Washington County are working on similar initiatives, and at least in the City of Tigard, reports are coming in that the City Council is threatening its own decoy measure if the signature drive for an initiative is successful. One of the Tigard rebels writes:

In a conversation on Saturday May 5th about Tigard’s initiative to require a vote on light rail expenditures, with Clackamas County activist Lauri Hein, Tigard City Councilwoman Gretchen Buehner said, "You will never get the signatures needed to put it on the ballot." Buehner added, "If you do manage to get it on the ballot, I will make sure there is a companion measure to stop you." Hein replied, "The Commissioners tried that in Clackamas County and we still beat them."

Another decoy measure? For shame.

Meanwhile, the Pamplin newspapers seem to be doing their best to frustrate the signature gathering. Little wonder, since Steve Clark, former publisher of the Portland Tribune, a Pamplin property, is still on the Tri-Met board, despite having taken a job in Corvallis nearly a year ago.

Anyway, the ongoing regional battle over rail projects, which are largely a cover for taxpayer subsidization of apartment complex construction, promises to get mighty ugly in the months ahead.

Following the money down in Duckville

The excesses of the football team at UC Nike get more astounding by the month. Now it's revealed that the school spent $123,851 on transportation for 56 bigwigs to go to the Rose Bowl. That's $2,211 a person. And it doesn't count food and lodging, which was another $1,705 per VIP.

How do you spend $2,211 to go from Eugene to Pasadena and back? Private jet? Sedan chair?

The regular students are wondering if some of that money couldn't have been spent, on... you know, academics. Ha! Ha!

Bad news from Paul Allen

1. I'm not in a spending mood on the Blazers.

2. I'm not selling the Blazers.

And apparently he's also going to ignore the fact that his organization is getting a reputation for destroying players physically.

"We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward." Good luck with that, bud.

All sewer lines are not created equal

Legend Dan, Dean the Dream, and the rest of the crew at the Portland sewer bureau have decided to back off all their rough, tough handling of homeowners whose sewer lines are out of compliance with city rules. Now it appears that the owners of the offending pipes will get off the hook for a mere $5,000, whereas previously the threat was to put them through much heavier expense.

Now, normally when City Hall lightens up, we think it's a good thing. But a reader reminds us that 20 years ago, when the state DEQ and then-city councilman Earl the Pearl were forcing sewers on the poor saps in what was then known as mid-county, they weren't nearly as nice. The reader points out:

During the Mid-County Sewer Project, people who were forced to upgrade and connect constantly said, "If these were some close-in properties owned by people with college degrees and connections, you would find a way to make this deal better." Over and over, city staff said, "Not true. This is the best deal we can do under the city charter and DEQ regulations." Many long faces were pulled by city staff before the City Council, the Mid-County Sewer Commission, the county commission and the Environmental Quality Commission on this question.

Now, here comes a bunch of close-in properties owned by people with college degrees and connections, and guess what, they are finding ways to make the deal substantially better.

I think they are shooting to run this through while the news noise is all about the primary election, and hope nobody notices.

The reader's got a point. Twenty years ago, what is $5,000 today would have been only $3,050 pre-inflation. A lot of folks out in mid-county got socked for way more than that when they were required to disconnect their cesspools and hook up to Portland's delightful sewer system.

The new magic buzzword in Portland government these days is "equity." Where is the equity in that?

Those green, sustainable shopping bags?

You have to wash them. Preferably with germ-killing chemicals, which then go into the sewer system. Don't think about it -- just do what they tell you.

More thumbs down for Portland City Hall

On the heels of yesterday's stinging rebuke, the Trib has another unfavorable opinion survey for Portland's city government:

In a February poll, 58 percent of respondents said they thought Portland was moving in the "right direction." But by late April, when the new poll was taken, the percent has slipped nine points to 47 percent.

At the same time, the number of respondents who said Portland was on the "wrong track" increased nine points from 30 percent to 39 percent.

Forget the gang violence and crumbling schools. Chop down the trees and go by streetcar!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stenchy's cousin's in the news

He was big enough to play rat ball at Boise State. Now he's leading the Tri-Met strikers.

Google don't lie

Here's a funny Google image search result we just got. The search was suggested by one of the Clackistani rebels:

The first two pictures are of Dave Hunt and Charlotte Lehan, both currently running for county commission chair. Both are big pushers of MAX trains and apartment bunkers, to which the rebels are shouting no.

City of Portland debt picture worsens

The City of Portland's new IOUs for $69.8 million of "urban renewal" play money in the Convention Center area sold yesterday. The interest rates range from 3.623% for an eight-year loan to 4.323% for a 13-year loan. Our discussion of where the money has been, and will be, blown is here.

The interest charge on the first year of the bonds is, by our calculations, about $2.8 million. That's just the interest. But hey, we'll be planning the eco-district and the industry clusters -- whatever they are.

And the latest borrowing spree has just begun. Here's another $23.1 million in red ink that the city is loading on -- bonds that will be sold next week to finance the police training facility and donut center out by the airport. Unlike the "urban renewal" bonds, these will have the "full faith and credit" of the city behind them. And they'll represent only a 10-year loan. That will mean lower interest rates, but it should be noted that the Moody's rating for this debt is Aa1 -- one cut below a top rating.

It doesn't stop there. The city's planning to borrow a whopping $162 million in July, for more "urban renewal" malarkey and construction pork for the water bureau. And there'll be sewer bonds, too, in August. By the time the Sam Rands leave office, the city's bonded debt will be approaching the $4 billion range. Stunning when you think about it. But the City Council never does -- so why should you?

Why deny the obvious, child?

Here's a report that tons of radioactive water are leaking out of the triple-meltdown site at Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean. Well, of course. They've been dousing the blown-out reactors continuously for nearly 14 months now. The buildings are pretty much gone. The basements are full. Where else would people think the water is going?

Meanwhile, up in Washington State, officials are starting to test returning salmon for radiation. It's about time.

Lincoln High sellout will include garage for Paulson, MAC

Apparently, the Multnomah Athletic Club's parking situation is "blighted."

Reed nuke reactor license renewed for 20 years

The official document from the federal nuclear lapdogs regulators is here. The Reed College facility, which is housed adjacent to the school's psychology department, is already 43 years old.

Meanwhile, the federal Energy Department -- the country's biggest promoter of all things radioactive -- has awarded a $1.1 million grant to Oregon State University to keep tinkering with nuclear power down in Corvallis. Oregon State is working on making nuclear power safer, although probably nobody will ever figure out what to do with nuclear waste. The last commercial nuclear plants built in the United States came on line in the late 1970's.

"Bunkers on Barbur: Good idea, or great idea?"

In contrast to today's Oregonian survey about Portlanders' opinion of the city's hipster theme park orientation, it's almost comical to look at how public opinion is gathered when the bureaucrats are doing the asking. Here's a version of the pitch the City of Portland "sustainability" types are giving about running a new MAX train down Barbur Boulevard, and piling up the apartment bunkers on either side of that street all the way down to Tigard. There's a hysterically loaded survey to go with it, so slanted toward endorsing the city planners' pre-approved program that it's meaningless except in the eyes of the bureaucrats whose schemes it legitimizes.

"Here's what it looks like now:

"Now here's what it will look like under our plan*:

"Which do you prefer?"

* - If you'll just blow about a half billion of local tax dollars on a new MAX line, and hand out more tens of millions to Homer Williams, Mark Edlen, Jim Winkler, and others to be named later. Infrastructure sold separately.

Portlanders think city government's off track

If you ask them in a neutral way, they'll tell you: The childish agendas of the people populating Portland City Hall are not what the vast majority of the residents of the city want:

In a poll conducted for The Oregonian and KGW(8), 79 percent of the respondents said the city should spend more resources on maintaining streets, and 70 percent said the same for luring new businesses to the city.

Only 17 percent listed bike lanes and other facilities as a spending priority, and 57 percent said the city should reduce its bicycle spending. About a quarter of the respondents said more time and money should go to light rail and streetcars, while 44 percent said less should.

And yet like sheep, they'll re-elect puppets and children, like Earl the Pearl and Legend Dan, election after election, without much, if any, opposition. Look at the Big 3 dominating the mayor's race -- full of more of the same. It's little wonder that the city's livability, and its financial future, are being wrecked. If Portlanders want sanity, they'll need to start voting for it.

The mayor's reaction was good for a laugh. "That survey's invalid. You didn't slant the questions my way!"

Last digs

It's election week, and WW takes this opportunity to test local candidates' "job creation" claims. And gee, guess who comes out looking the worst. Amanda Fritz and Eileen Brady -- the two candidates that the paper least wants to succeed. Granted, none of the candidates comes out smelling like a rose, but Fritz and Brady get the roughest handling.

Meanwhile, on Mary Nolan, in the first paragraph: "Nolan actually has business experience. Yet she’s making fewer job-creator boasts than Fritz." And on Charlie Hales, in the lead paragraph: "Mayoral candidate and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales could legitimately claim some credit for jobs created through public-sector projects like the Portland Streetcar and Cascade Station he helped champion while in office from 1993 to 2002."

And they still keep pounding on "Brady wasn't really a founder!" It's such a weak criticism that you'd think they'd let it go. Where is the repetition of the other, much more serious, personality problems on display in the mayoral race? Streetcar Charlie either filed a false Oregon voter registration or a false Oregon tax return -- take your pick. And Jeffy has a record of blowing off court dates while a lawyer, getting kicked out of the state bar for not paying his dues, driving while suspended, bombing out of his one and only real job in Portland, and running a crazy-quilt collection of political organizations that seem to be pushing the tax envelope really hard. But "Brady wasn't really a founder" -- what is that, three or four times now? Maybe it's subconscious, but the Willies' slip is showing.

And it's an establishment slip, at that. Hales and Nolan -- that'd be some old, old Portland money behind that pair.

Linchpin leakage

For years now, there's been a rumor going around that one of the hideous condo towers in Portland's failed South Waterfront (SoWhat) District is leaning. Oh no, say the self-appointed experts in the blogosphere -- it's impossible.

Maybe so, but there are apparently some other serious construction problems down there. At the Gerding Edlen monstrosity known as the Meriwether, the eco-roof is allegedly screwed up to the tune of $200,000, and the basement garage is allegedly leaking like a sieve, needing $2.7 million in reworking. Accusations of faulty duct work, misplaced sprinklers -- they're all part of a $5 million construction lawsuit currently heading for mediation. Go by streetcar!

And we still wouldn't bet against the leaning rumor.

Tokyo Electric is nationalized

As we predicted last summer, the government of Japan has decided to nationalize the company that is responsible for the triple meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. They're just one new major earthquake away over there from an even bigger catastrophe than the one they've already got on their hands. Heaven help the people of Japan; they are going to need it for decades to come. The crisis is far from over.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another mixed-use flop in Washington County

A real dud in downtown Hillsboro. But it's gonna happen with The Don in Beaverton. You just watch.

Even "Onward Oregon" hates new Portland "urban renewal" scam

The Jefferson Smith outfit (one of his many facades) sounds off on the proposal here.

Tax dollars hard at work?

Make up your own joke.

Portland bike share outfit in trouble in Chicago

Speaking of Chicago, according to reports there are questions being raised about alleged bidding irregularities involving Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland outfit that's masterminding bike sharing here as well:

[T]wo top [Chicago] city transportation officials once worked for the firm that ended up getting the deal.

One of the two, Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, has previously admitted he once was a paid consultant for the winning firm, Alta Bicycle Share Inc., but he said he'd recused himself from the Chicago selection process...

Bike Chicago, in its complaint, said it lost the award even though its startup costs are more than $7 million lower than Alta's and its operating costs just $6.2 million a year, compared with $7.8 million.

In a news release issued late Monday and in a formal complaint filed with the city, the firm makes it pretty clear why it thinks that happened.

Though Mr. Klein says he recused himself, in fact he played a significant and continuing role in the contract award, the company asserted.

For instance, it contended, Mr. Klein temporarily hired as an assistant Jeremy Pomp, who immediately before had worked for Alta. Mr. Pomp stayed at City Hall just long enough to prepare bid documents on the bike-sharing pact before returning to Alta's employ, Bike Chicago contends.

Ah, the interns. So often in Portland, it's the interns.

That smell? A public-private partnership.

It's not going so well in Chicago.

Do Tri-Met bus cuts violate your civil rights?

It's an intriguing question. Down in Los Angeles, the transit district has gotten into deep trouble with the federal transportation agency for failing to gauge the impact of bus service reductions on minority groups -- cuts that have come as the district has gone ga-ga for light rail. Sound familiar?

Civic duty

Oregon's vote-by-mail system is really something. Unlike old-fashioned voting at actual polls, we denizens of the Beaver State can take our time over several weeks and cast our votes from the comfort of our own homes. This saves the county the expense of operating polling places -- money that it can put to much better use, such as hiring people to open all the mail it gets.

Voting by mail also ensures that every Oregonian gets a chance to participate in democracy, even if he or she is a shut-in. Indeed, comatose people get to vote -- even dead people. And if you live with a spouse or roommates who don't follow politics, all you need is for them to sign over their envelope to you, and you get to vote multiple times. It's a veritable land of opportunity out here.

There are other advantages. With our busy schedule, we do a lot of multi-tasking, and we like to peruse our ballot while performing other tasks, such as eating dinner. Vote-by-mail fits fight in with this kind of active lifestyle.

Take last evening, for example. We were able to take the ballot with us into the john for study. The ballot this time around is long and complex, and fortunately the task at hand was of a nature that could be handled at a leisurely pace. As we made headway, the Mrs., in the next room, heard us grunting and sighing. She called in, "Is everything o.k.?" "Fine, dear," we answered cheerfully. "Just looking at the Metro races."

When our business was finished and we stood up for the winding up of the process, we discovered to our dismay that there was no tissue available. The nearest supply was two stories down, in the basement. Ah, but there! There on the bathroom counter... was the Oregon voter's pamphlet.

Let's just say we were happier than ever to see Earl Blumenauer, and for once we got our money's worth out of that guy. We finished tidying up with a state race -- it might have been Tina Kotek and Daniel Ticknor -- and called it a night.

Does Metro now have three "reporters" on staff?

The amount of money that Oregon governments blow on public relations flacks is astounding. The Portland area's zany Metro government is a prime offender on this score. Not only do they have one of the highest paid p.r. dudes in the state on staff -- Erik Sten's old buddy, Jim Middaugh -- but they also have an in-house "reporter," Nick Christensen, who publishes articles on the Metro website. Christensen's writings are supposedly his unbiased views -- we're supposed to believe that if he disagreed in a big way with management, he could call them out on it all he wanted and they'd still pay him. Uh huh.

Well, now there are at least two more Metro staffers writing "articles" that purported to be of the same "independent" sort. Here's one by somebody named Michael Burnham, and here's another, by one Peggy Morell.

How many "reporters" do we taxpayers really need at Metro?

The piece signed by Morell is actually quite funny, because although she's supposedly writing as an unbiased journalist, she delivers a tired Metro party line, about the wonders of handouts to real estate developers, with enormous gusto. You couldn't get a puffier puff piece if you deliberately paid somebody to write one:

Communities in the Portland metropolitan region are seeing streetscapes and skylines change with multifamily, mixed-use developments located near transit that not only provide needed rental housing, but create jobs and generate economic activity.

Two transit-oriented projects at different stages of development tell a story repeated throughout the region and the nation: the smart money – in both public and private dollars – is on development projects that push economic recovery.

Gimme a break. And what's worse is that Middaugh kicks the whole thing off with this silliness:

Stories with a byline do not necessarily represent the opinions of Metro or the Metro Council. Metro news is committed to transparency, fairness and accuracy.

Really? Morell's post is so pleasing to the people who pay her salary that Metro councilor Rex "Psychedelia" Burkholder couldn't contain himself -- he had to run right out and Tweet it:

The whole scene is utterly absurd.

Given the attention that's been paid to the excesses of government public relations spending in our area lately, it's important to note the number of candidates in the current elections who are vowing to do something to curb them. That number is zero.

We'll eat you up -- we love you so

Maurice Sendak has passed away. From "Little Bear" to "Wild Things" and beyond, he tucked us in many a night. A peaceful rest to him.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Is Brady really 12 points behind Jeffer-Sam Smith?

Nothing would shock us in this crazy town of ours, but this poll seems off the mark. A Hales-Smith runoff? The saddest possible outcome. Anyway, our readers are making their own predictions here.

Ellen goes all un-cuddly

This has definitely got an edge to it.

Another great moment on the intertubes

A reader points out that he had to sit through an Eileen Brady ad this afternoon before he could enjoy some of his favorite '80s heavy metal rock on YouTube:

Another nice little corner of Portland, trashed

They're about to get three new skinny houses on the corner of SE 52nd and Stark, where a little park used to be. No doubt the acolytes in the planning bureau are delighted:

One of the neighbors sums it up well:

Nolan-Fritz may go all summer

According to this poll, the Portland City Council race between Nurse Amanda and the Goldschmidt Party candidate is pretty much even. The closer they are to each other, the more likely that they'll be forced into a runoff. All told, there are five candidates on the ballot.

We don't like either of the leading contenders, and so rather than hold our nose and give one our vote, we are going with Bruce Altizer, who seems like a common-sense guy.

In the mayor's race, the pollsters say that phony baloney Jeffer-Sam Smith has wangled his way into a three-way tie, with Char-Lie Hales now running slightly behind Smith and Founder Brady. If Hales got eliminated in May, that would be quite humorous, but we still think it will be he against Brady in November. We are voting for Scott Fernandez, a far superior choice to any of the "Big 3."

What do readers think about where this is all heading? We're asking for your predictions, not your preferences:

How will the Portland City Council election for Amanda Fritz's seat come out?
pollcode.com free polls 

What will be the result of the Portland mayoral primary?
pollcode.com free polls 

New York bike share prices almost as high as a cab

But it's going to work. Really. Just keep saying that. It's going to work.

Assignment editors alert

So, was there a large brawl, with 50 combatants and lots of police involved, last night at Holladay Park in Northeast Portland? Or not? Today we hear nothing but crickets.

"Urban renewal" skim for PDC economic development payroll

We read with interest this post about how the shells hiding the pea keep moving in the new Portland State-Lincoln High School "urban renewal" district in Portland. Apparently the authors of this illegal boondoggle can't make up their mind on the details; so long as there are lots and lots of ugly apartment complexes, it's all good.

One of the big budget items for the district is the "cluster development" program, which is code for the Portland Development Commission's economic development efforts. Unlike bricks and mortar projects, this is staff people sitting around thinking about how nice it would be if Portland could become the "green" industrial capital of the world, or sports apparel, or biotechnology, or something. Their budget keeps going up while everybody else's goes down.

We see it again in the current round of city borrowing for the Convention Center "urban renewal" district -- of the $70 million the city's about to borrow, $3.2 million is expected to go to --

various business development activities. The majority of this amount is allocated to PDC’s Business Incentive Fund ("BIF"). The BIF program supports PDC’s Economic Development Strategy by promoting target industry clusters (i.e. Clean Technology, Athletic and Outdoor), high growth businesses and neighborhood economic development.

"Urban renewal" is supposed to remedy urban "blight." It wasn't designed to be used as a funding device for general economic development activities, and one has to wonder whether use of tax-increment financing for staff time on such activities is even legal. But then again, the legality of so much of Portland's version of "urban renewal" is dubious. This is simply par for the course.

This is a recovery?

We keep hearing that unemployment is easing, but that doesn't stem the tide of layoff announcements. Last week Portland had AT&T Mobility and Capital One, for a total of 165 jobs gone between them.

For wonky eyes only

Here's a tool that only the geekiest of readers will probably get into. It lets you see all the annexations of property into the various political subdivisions of the Portland region over the last 40 years. And all the withdrawals, too.

Hours and hours of valuable time can now be incinerated looking up esoterica about your neck of the woods, or anybody's else's for that matter. To give just one example, here's an exciting recent transfer of a portion of a road from the City of Beaverton to the City of Tigard. Signed by Denny Doyle and everything! Enjoy, everybody.

Clackistani rebels in harsh spotlight

The Usual Suspects are doing everything they can to make sure that "urban renewal" scam artists retain control of the Clackamas County commission. They've been throwing out all sorts of scary names to try to convince voters that it's really right-wing extremists who are pushing back against the developer cabal that currently runs Portland. Kevin Mannix! Loren Parks, whom they keep calling a "Nevada sexual hypnotist" (which would be a great name for a rock album, by the way). The Koch brothers! The Tea Party! We've also heard Karl Rove's name. So far there's been no mention of Beelzebub, but it's still early.

Now the O has flashed a few more names that could help work the voters into a pro-light-rail frenzy. In this story, the paper points out that a group called the Oregon Transformation Project is bankrolling some of the rebel candidates, and they name some of the names behind that organization. One of them is Rob Kremer, the charter school guy whose decades-long ill will toward the state's unionized public school teachers is returned in kind by the teachers. If you wanted to wave a red cape in front of the public school soccer moms and taunt them into charging, there would be no better photo to show them than Kremer. He doubtlessly sees this as a badge of honor, but his track record in elections is not impressive.

Given that there are four candidates for two of the seats, including the county chair, and three for the other one, runoffs are likely. But in the chair race, which is in theory nonpartisan, there are two Democrats and two Republicans; if the rebels aren't careful, the two pro-rail D's could be the ones advancing to the fall. Let's hope not. We dislike the right-wing social agenda, but on stopping "Portland creep" from taking over Clackistan, the rebels have got it exactly right. No matter who's giving them money, their message is spot on.

Somebody's gonna get composted

We noted last week that the City of Portland is borrowing several millions of dollars to turn the Lloyd Center area into an "eco-district." Maybe they could start by turning it into a riot-free district.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The night was clear, and the moon was yellow...

It's been an interesting supermoon weekend here in Portlandia, with all kinds of stuff flying around. Political rhetoric, yellowjackets, bullets...

There was another gang shooting at Lloyd Center late last night. Two people were hit, both apparently bystanders. Meanwhile, some kid allegedly killed two people out in scary Southeast, reportedly over a cell phone SIM card. And west of town, two people were shot in a neighborly argument in St. Helens last night. The suspected shooter is charged with attempted murder.

This place is rougher than people let on.

And on the ice...

The Portland Winterhawks are playing for the championship of the Western Hockey League. Their seven-game league final series against the Edmonton Oil Kings is tied up at 1 game each as the teams come to Portland for contests this evening and on Tuesday. The winner gets possession of the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which if we're not mistaken Portland hasn't seen since 1998.

The Rose Garden is actually sold out for this evening's game, but it will be shown on the Root cable network (which is Channel 34 on our TV). Faceoff is at 6:00. Go Winterhawks!

UPDATE, 8:37 p.m.: It was a little shaky at the end there, but the Portland team held on to win. Way to go.

Meanwhile, in pro basketball...

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have swept the defending world champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. They'll play either the Lakers or the Nuggets -- most likely the Lakers -- in the next round. This season will always have an asterisk attached to it in the record books, but it won't be surprising if those books also show the Thunder winning it all.

All of Japan's nukes are turned off

The extreme mistrust generated by the triple-meltdown disaster at Fukushima has led to all of Japan's nuclear power plants being shut down at once -- for the first time in nearly 50 years. The public seems to be telling the politicians that they'd rather have less power available than deal with the awful risks created by atomic energy. Bully for them.

It's a defining moment for that country. But the pressure to restart some of the reactors is enormous. Guess we're about to see what Japan is really made out of these days.

Match report: Timbers 0, Crew 0, paint almost dry

It wasn't our idea, but the Mrs. and the kids were going to the Timbers game, and they had a ticket for us, and so away we all went. Our daughter who plays the beautiful game was part of the pre-game ceremony, in which local kids get to escort the players out onto the field. That in itself was a lot of fun. So was hanging out together as a family, along with many friends, for the game. Alas, nothing much happened on the field, or the pitch, or whatever the heck they call it. But it was still a thumbs-up night.

Our journey to Jelled-When? Field began well in advance of kickoff time, and it's a good thing, as there was a hefty crowd. We went in a car -- yes, a private passenger automobile, despite all the intense pressure from the City of Portland to get there some other way. We dropped off our party a half-block from the field and went hunting for a legal parking space -- any parking space, at any price. After some cruising, we found a free one on the street, 11 blocks from the stadium. It was a nice night for a walk. Score one for the grouchy old guys.

We would not have dared to leave our car on the street any closer to the stadium, where parking was limited to an hour, or 90 minutes without a resident permit, or two hours. The Portland parking enforcement pests were out in full force, on their sickly little scooters with their yellow lights blinking. They were ready to raise some revenue from the unsuspecting.

Once we got inside the stadium, it was slow going to our seat, as the main concourse is woefully narrow for the number of fans that the place holds. Matters were not helped by the tables that were set up along the perimeter to hawk worthless goods, like subscriptions to the Oregonian. Memo to Little Lord Paulson: Move that junk out of the way and let the people get to their seats.

We tried really hard not to think about it, but we couldn't help but do the math in our head as we crept along. Let's see, the city's taxpayers have thrown about $45 million into this building over the past decade or so. That's about $75 or $80 per resident, not including interest. And after all that, the older section is still an uncomfortably tight little place.

Once we reached our assigned location, things mellowed out quite a bit. We were close to the concessions, the vendors came around frequently (cotton candy $5; bottled water $3.75), and the restrooms, though tiny, didn't seem to back up much. Although we were not in the luxury seats that we had for the U.S. women's team a while back, we were still quite comfortable.

We beamed with pride at our girl when she appeared in the pregame walk-on, and we applauded the young gal who belted out the national anthem -- she nailed it. Then the soccer began, and it slowly went downhill from there.

For the first 20 minutes or so, the social misfits in the Timbers Army bellowed out songs or chants or something, at the top of their lungs. It was loud, unintelligible, and annoying -- a veritable Losers Tabernacle Choir. Eventually they got tired and simmered down considerably, which was a relief. Timber Joey came around the stands and revved up his chainsaw, which seemed a little hazardous, but he got a lot of high fives from the faithful.

The action on the field was spirited, at least for most of the first half, but neither team looked too good. The Timbers took a lot more shots than their opponents, the Columbus Crew, managed. But only a few shots by either team were great. And none of them went in.

We tried as hard as we could to stay focused on the play on the field, but after about 40 minutes of uneventful back and forth, our mind started drifting. We started missing baseball. No score halfway through a baseball game? Well, that's what they call a "pitchers' duel." Meanwhile, we weren't sure what this was that we were watching.

By 70 minutes of scoreless action, the cliches about the boredom of soccer matches were beginning to ring true. And when the match was over, and we inched our way out of the packed, cramped building, we were left to wonder why so much ado had been made about nothing. "Nil nil," indeed.

As we understand it, Columbus is an inferior team, and Portland's failure to win didn't do anything to help the Timbers coach, whose job may be on the line. But to the people in the stands, we doubt that it matters much. They mostly seemed happy to be there, to be Portland, to be Euro, to be weird. There will always be a following for soccer in this town. But we still honestly wonder how long the league can possibly last.

On the way home, we got to see the super moon, rising in the southeast. And we had shared an evening as a family, with good friends. We'll never get what the fuss is about the Timbers, but life is good anyway.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Couplet's done -- time for some apartment bunkers!

Why Portland blew $20 million on the goofy Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" on the east side may seem like a mystery at first, but if you've watched the city government for the past decade or two, there's usually a simple explanation for everything: It's all about building god-awful apartment towers. The construction boys make their bundle, the real estate sharpies make their bundle, the union bosses get theirs, and the only losers are the homeowners in the neighborhood who lose light, air, and precious parking spaces in front of their homes.

And so it seems to be going in Coupletland, where an alert reader points out that they've started ripping up the parking lot near the Foursquare Church at 11th and Burnside. The trees and the landscaping go first, of course:

What's going in on that site? Why, 132 apartments for senior citizens, brought to you by the friendly folks at Walsh Construction. Which means it's going to be "green"! And "smart"! Oh, joy!

One can only imagine how much taxpayer dough is being funneled into that kind of deal.

It seems like an odd place for elderly folks to live. Drivers are so confused at that intersection any more that they go plowing into the sides of buildings with alarming regularity. Some night some drunk or confused motorist could take Grandma out, right in the lobby. That is, if she doesn't fall into a bioswale first.

One neighbor suggests that the city paint its famous "sharrows" on the streets all around the place -- but instead of a bicycle, they should show an old person on a walker.

Strange corporate gyrations at Einstein Bagels

The corporate dudes at Einstein Bagels are a curious bunch. Here there are, just having bought out Portland's Kettleman Bagel outfit -- they haven't even converted all of the stores over to their brand yet -- and now they've up and announced that they're putting their entire company up for up for sale.

It's obvious that these folks are focused on only one kind of dough -- and it's not the kind you make bagels out of. Whatever the wisdom of their takeover of Kettleman, now they're looking to pass the outcome of that $5 million transaction on to a new owner. It makes no sense, but that's corporate America. Besides, to these guys, $5 million is like a quarter. The market capitalization of the company is nearly 60 times that.

Here are the top officers of Einstein and their compensation. The CEO made a mere $1.26 million last year. Maybe he's just tired of working for slave wages.

It turns out that the Einstein company, whose shares are publicly traded, is controlled by hedge fund wunderkind David Einhorn. Maybe he sent up one of his famous smoke signals, saying that he wants out of the bread business. We can't say that we blame him. A bagel empire based in Lakewood, Colorado? Sounds way too white bread for our taste.

You are what you eat off

Some of them cries about it...

Friday, May 4, 2012

America's right wing is killing itself

The conservative zealots seem to think that going after birth control is going to get them somewhere in November. They couldn't help the Democratic Party any more if they tried. What breathtakingly bad political judgment they are showing.

Have a great weekend

Portland backing off a little on monthly water bills

Our spies report that the Portland water bureau is withdrawing its proposal to require most or all of its customers to switch to monthly billing, instead of the current quarterly bills. But the bureau's reportedly still going ahead with a plan to let ratepayers "opt in" to a monthly plan if they want. Given City Hall's history with computers and billing, the "improvements" will probably wind up being more expensive than anyone ever imagined.

The apparent point of the switch was to try to camouflage the huge rate hikes being inflicted on water customers. Now that they've been talked out of mandatory monthly bills for all, we wouldn't be surprised if the city bureaucrats lose interest in the whole idea. Let's hope so.

Is City of Portland school bailout plan unconstitutional?

We need some education here, folks -- no pun intended. We thought that Measures 5 and 50, which are part of the Oregon constitution, put an absolute cap on how much property tax revenue can be raised for public schools. And we thought that the school districts had reached that cap. If that's true, how can the City of Portland simply write a check to school districts for $7 million plus, out of the city's general fund, for basic school programs such as teacher salaries? Isn't the city's general fund fueled by property taxes? And so doesn't the city subsidy violate Measures 5 and 50?

Can anybody out there straighten us out on this? Please use plain English, if that's possible. We're all ears.

The other aspect of the school bailout proposal that raises concerns is the mayor's idea of leaving the money in cash at the City Hall reception desk for the school superintendents to come in and pick up.

What they're planning to do to Lincoln High

While the City of Portland rams home a rush-rush (and probably illegal) "urban renewal" plan for the Portland State and Lincoln High School areas, many Portlanders aren't aware of what's being planned for the high school. An alert reader points out that here is a study from 2009 that gives one an idea of what the developer weasels have in mind: a new high school, all right, bunkered in by about 1,700 new apartments.

It's all about the apartments, people. Taxpayer-subsidized apartments and the streetcars and bike hype that sells them -- they're the only things that matter to our city council, our school district, and our state university any more. No wonder there's nobody to pave the streets or bust the smack dealers.

The study was produced by the "PSU Center for Real Estate." That's redundant.

A guest post from Dave Lister

Dave Lister, an area businessman and former Portland City Council candidate, recently resigned from writing opinion columns for The Oregonian. Here he shares with our readers a new column. -- J.B.

For Lents, another insult from City Hall
by Dave Lister

Frank Fleck is on a mission. Fleck, a Lents resident and president of the Springwater Trail Preservation Society, is on a quest to protect his neighborhood’s property values, employment opportunities, and livability, which he believes have been jeopardized by the City of Portland’s fast-tracking a conditional use permit for a food-composting transfer facility right next to Johnson Creek at 101st Avenue and SE Foster Road.

In March of last year, Fleck, along with all the Lents residents living within four hundred feet of the proposed site, received a mailer. It advised them that Recology, Inc., the same company that has North Plains residents up in arms over the putrid odors coming from their Washington county composting operation, was seeking to expand their yard recycling transfer station to include food scraps collected by Portland’s new composting scheme, scheduled to go into effect at the end of October. In Fleck’s view, the selective mailing was just the first of several disingenuous acts on the part of the city.

"To begin with," Fleck said, "the impact of this site will extend much further than 400 feet, but the city was only conforming to the minimum legal requirement for notification. Most of the residents didn’t know anything about it." Fleck was equally disturbed by what appeared to be a rigged game at a Bureau of Developmental Services hearing to consider Recology's request on April 6th of last year. "The BDS hearings officer, Gregory Frank, approved Recology’s request to waive the 120 day appeal period virtually without discussion. That cut our appeal time to fourteen days. Why would the hearings officer offer that up to Recology on a platter?" Fleck asked. "It looked to us like the fix was in."

Despite their disappointment over the BDS hearing, Fleck and his allies looked for support at the county and state level. The Portland City Council received two letters dated July 7, 2011 urging them to reconsider Recology’s request, one from Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack and the other from Oregon State Senator Rod Monroe. Shiprack commended the city’s composting program but wrote "it is my view that the site on SE 101st is not the appropriate place to help achieve this goal." Monroe wrote: "It is my view that the site on SE 101st is not the appropriate place to help achieve your recycling goal, and we encourage you to consider the impact that this facility will have on the citizens near the site." Unfortunately, these protestations did not sway the city council. In October the council tentatively approved Recology’s request "with conditions." In November it gave Recology the green light by approving those conditions.

Fearing the worst, the Lents Neighborhood Association attempted to work out a "good neighbor" agreement with Recology to mitigate the operation's impact on the neighborhood, but the results have been disappointing. Recology rejected most of the neighborhood's proposed amendments, nine points in all, and the city pointed out that it had no authority to enforce any portion of what they considered to be a private agreement. With all other options exhausted, opponents of the site have now referred it to Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals, the final arbiter in the matter.

You can't help but wonder why the city is ignoring the neighborhood concerns, the environmental concerns over the possible impact on Johnson Creek, and the recreation concerns of the impact on the Springwater Trail. Fleck thinks that it simply comes down to the fact that Lents is, and always has been, the city's stepchild neighborhood. "We feel like the city has always treated us like a dumping ground, and now they want to put a dump here," he concluded.

They hear you -- they just lie to you

When folks like us scream about the crazy spending priorities of local government in Portlandia and vicinity, most of the neighborhood politicians and bureaucrats act as though they're not paying attention. Their attitude is that we critics are in such a small minority that we're not even worth acknowledging. But when election time rolls around, the pols always have a sound bite or two that makes it crystal clear that they've been listening. And now they're ready to tell us what we want to hear, at least for the moment.

Take the current TV ads by Charlie Hales, candidate for Portland mayor. He tries to come off as a guy dedicated to core public services. He fixed the potholes; he'll look out for your water and sewer bill, "delivering the basics no matter what neighborhood you live in." Meanwhile, the recent mailer from Dave Hunt, running for Clackamas County chair, proclaims: "Stop borrowing money and mortgaging our future."

Of course, there's more than a little hypocrisy here. Hales and Hunt bear significant responsibility for the twisted, spendthrift agendas that dominate our local scene. While on the City Council for roughly a decade before quitting, Hales (along with Vera Katz and Sam Adams) set Portland off on its current path of bottomless developer welfare and budget-busting projects such as the city's inane streetcar lines. (Hales then left and made a nice living touting streetcars to unsuspecting cities around the country and the world.) All the while, the council ignored the crippling pension liabilities that will trash basic services for many decades to come, if they don't bankrupt the city outright.

In the legislature, where he's more or less being shunned these days, Hunt has championed many questionable outlays of public money, most notably borrowing $250 million against future lottery collections to build the misguided Milwaukie MAX line. And there's no doubt he'll be pushing "urban renewal," density infill, and other debt-fueled Blumenauerisms on Clackamas if he wins the county chair.

The false lines that these guys are currently delivering from beneath their makeup are reminiscent of 2004, when Admiral Randy Leonard bragged in his campaign ads that he had "stood up to Pearl District developers." Once he was safely re-elected, his posture vis-a-vis the developer crowd turned out to be quite a bit different from standing up. Then there was his city council colleague Jim Francesconi, who tried to sell a message of "we need to get back to basics" in his heavily bankrolled mayoral campaign against Tom Potter. The voters were smart enough to ask, "Hey Jim, haven't you been on the City Council for the last six years?" And that was the end of him.

We can only hope that the voters will be just as perceptive this time around. It's a shame when deceitful politicians get away with using the voters' own outrage against them.

They say this guy's been busy

The Portland police have busted Bryan Wiedeman (above), a reputed anarchist, and charged him with 36 counts of criminal mischief in connection with the trashing of various ATMs and other bank facilities since July 2010.

Looks like he's been patronizing the same stylist as this fellow, busted on May Day and a repeat Occupier from last fall's mess in Lownsdale Square:

Hairdos aside, we understand the rage, but we deplore the whole vandalism thing. If the top guy's guilty, he needs a long timeout.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

City unveils new Rose Festival Fun Center ride

This one's called Portland Taxpayer:

Who needs a bike lock?

Not this guy.

We missed the memo

Just got a breathless e-mail message from Portland City Hall about the upcoming Sunday Parkways, on Mothers Day in Northeast. All well and good, but it included this:

Take it even further and join the Cyclo Femme ride at 11am beginning at Woodlawn Park, NE 13th & Dekum. The Cyclo Femme ride celebrates and empowers women in cycling. All genders are welcome on this ride, just look for the Women on Wheels banner and booth.

"All" genders? Do they mean "both"?

From Matt Wuerker

Copyright 2012 by Matt Wuerker. Used by permission.

Jersey boy

Frankie Valli turns 78 today.

Another rush-rush deal before the Sam Rands hit the road

Having turned gold to lead in the SoWhat District, Homer Williams and his crew are now going to get to build a hotel there. The Portland Development Commission has approved the Homer proposal over the two others that were vying for the site.

Apparently, one factor tipping the decision was the Williams group's willingness to put down a nonrefundable deposit and close more quickly than the other bidders. Ah yes, time is of the essence with just about everything in Portland these days.

If a successful hotel is actually built in SoWhat, we'd be mighty surprised.

Portland "urban renewal" bond sale -- the forecast calls for pain

The City of Portland's going to the well again -- it's about to borrow $69.8 million for past and future "urban renewal" boondoggles in the Convention Center district. The bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody's -- that's the fourth rung from the top. Some of the money will be borrowed for as long as 13 years, and most of the bonds will bear taxable interest. Apparently, the money's to be repaid only out of increased property tax collections from the district, and there's already around $37.2 million of debt outstanding against those funds.

So what kind of interest will the banker types charge for that kind of loan? The city recently sold 12-to-15-year taxable Paulson stadium bonds, rated two notches higher, at yields in the low 3% range. We'll see what the Convention Center bonds go for next week. In the meantime, the official sales pitch is here.

What will we taxpayers get with the borrowed money? About half of it's already been spent, but here are the goodies that the rest of it is to be spent on:

Infrastructure. Approximately $236,000 is expected to be spent on infrastructure through FY 2012-13, including funding for the Holladay Green Street Master Plan.

Property Redevelopment. PDC is expected to invest $34.3 million in property redevelopment activities between FY 2011-12 and FY 2015-16 to support revitalization of the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District. Specific investments are expected to include the following:

• Rose Quarter Development. The City and PDC staff are working closely with representatives of the Portland Winterhawks hockey team, the veterans community, Portland Arena Management, and AEG Facilities (facilities manager of Rose Quarter venues) on the conceptual design of the renovated Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Discussions are currently focused on necessary capital and code mandated improvements and arena improvements needed to support the Portland Winterhawks and enhance venue programming. Approximately $23 million is currently allocated for this project.

• Convention Center Hotel. Property redevelopment includes an allocation of $4 million in FY 2012-13 for potential development on blocks currently owned by the PDC.

• Eco District. Budgeted at $3.6 million, Eco District is a public/private partnership to identify and implement district-wide solutions for energy, carbon use, water, and urban design. This project provides funding assistance to the Portland Oregon Sustainability Institute.

Housing. Through an intergovernmental agreement, PDC expects to invest $12.3 million on affordable housing activities between FY 2011-12 and FY 2013-14. The Commission’s housing budget and plan over the next five years anticipates expenditures that will meet the 26 percent City policy target.

Business Development. Approximately $3.2 million is anticipated to be spent through FY 2015-16 on various business development activities. The majority of this amount is allocated to PDC’s Business Incentive Fund ("BIF"). The BIF program supports PDC’s Economic Development Strategy by promoting target industry clusters (i.e. Clean Technology, Athletic and Outdoor), high growth businesses and neighborhood economic development.

Are these things worth the millions and millions of dollars of interest that will be burned to acquire them? They'd better be -- funds will be taken from all sorts of other public services to pay the tab.

Smacktown USA

Here's a side of Portland that doesn't get much play in The New York Times. And it's not new -- it's been this way for decades. No one has come up with the definitive solution to the problem, but doing nothing while the situation worsens certainly isn't it. One can only hope that some day City Hall gets out of the real estate development business and saves some lives.

Public power debate still going strong on Oregon Coast

It's a time-honored struggle in the Pacific Northwest: private corporations supplying power, or public ones? In Washington State, public power pretty much won, whereas in Oregon, the private companies did. But there are exceptions in both states, and on the Oregon Coast, where there's some of each, the debate rages on.

It ain't *that* weird

Everybody's gone gaga about this video, focused on the beauty of Portland. It's pretty neat, but we can't get over how much of it is focused on the sight of automobile traffic at night. That certainly isn't consistent with the official story of how people in this city get around; it's much closer to reality.

Cops to citizen review panel: Beat it

The City of Portland's anemic civilian police review board just got laughed off by the police brass:

The man, in a written statement reviewed by internal affairs, wrote that he had said out loud at the scene to the officer who arrested him, "You broke my arm on purpose." The man who was arrested said he overheard the officer involved say to another officer, "Yes, I did."

Citizen committee members questioned why internal affairs investigators did not ask the second officer if the officer involved had made that remark.

An honest answer to that question was too much to ask, apparently.

Is Smith catching up to Brady and Hales?

His supporters would like us to think so, and this poll suggests it. But we sincerely doubt it.

One proposition we do agree with, however: Brady's hit the wall. If she doesn't come up with a better pitch over the summer, Streetcar Char-Lie is going to take her out.

Which brings us to a sad realization: Watching the two of them kiss up to Smith for his and his parents' machine support isn't going to be pretty.

Blazers to season ticket holders: Trust us

It's pretty much the same message they'll be sending out to prospective managers, coaches, and players over the next few months. But is anybody going to believe them?

Magic Sam pulls another $7.3 million out of nowhere

This time, the Portland mayor's miraculous treasure find will go to the public schools. Even if this diversion of city funds is legal (and we wouldn't be at all sure of that), where does this guy find that kind of dough at the drop of a hat? It's always the mysterious "savings and efficiencies." Who is he kidding?

We'd like to see the public schools get the money they need, but this brand of shenanigans is outrageous. The finances of the City of Portland have become a bad game of three-card monte. Downright scary, is what it is.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Is Portland the next art capital of America?

None other than the Wall Street Journal seems to think so. Seriously.

Why the Portland aerial tram is a failure

It doesn't go over the river! If it had been done right, it would reach to the Belmont hipsterlands -- with bicycles hanging off the bottom, of course.

City credit cards: What could go wrong?

Bureaucrats would never abuse them -- would they?

What it's all about in Clackistan

Here's a pretty good piece summing up the current elections down that way.

Portland: We block streets, not pave them

The latest joy from the Sam Adams transportation department is coming soon to the Lloyd District. They're going to knock NE Multnomah Boulevard down from five car lanes to three:

A road diet project for Multnomah Blvd emerged from a public process designed to develop a high-quality east-west bikeway through the Lloyd District on NE Holladay. When a representative from powerful real estate development firm Ashforth Pacific was the sole dissenting vote on a citizen committee for the Holladay project, PBOT decided to hit the pause button and focus on Multnomah instead. Now PBOT is promising to make Multnomah "one of the coolest streets in Portland" (according to PBOT Director Tom Miller).

Multnomah currently has five standard vehicle lanes and standard bike-only lanes. It's the classic, auto-centric thoroughfare. The road diet will turn the road into a three standard vehicle lane cross-section, giving more room to bike lanes, crossing features, and perhaps tiny "parklets." This, along with major residential and retail development in the works, could significantly liven up the streetscape.

Every day we get a new reminder of how they are wrecking the city, financially and otherwise.

Vestas shows crummy quarter

The first quarter was a bad one for Vestas, the European windmill manufacturer that's got its American headquarters in Portland, at least for the moment:

Vestas, the world's biggest wind turbine maker, plunged to a larger than expected first-quarter loss due to delayed deliveries and rising costs, the latest blow to the renewable energy sector and piling pressure on its embattled boss.

Shares in the Danish firm dropped as much as 13 percent on Wednesday as analysts warned the group was heading towards the lower end of its financial forecast ranges for the full year. ...

Vestas's first-quarter loss before interest and tax widened to 245 million euros ($324 million) from 69 million a year earlier. That fell below all estimates in a Reuters poll of analysts ranging from a loss of 125 million euros to a profit of 45 million.

Revenues rose to 1.11 billion euros from 1.06 billion a year earlier, also undershooting all forecasts in the poll, As well as sluggish deliveries, the results were hit by the high cost of new technology, and provisions for gearbox problems affecting the V90 3.0 MW turbine.

We see they have their logo on the walls at the spiffy new Pearl District headquarters building that Oregon taxpayers are helping them refurbish (the old Meier & Frank warehouse). But we continue to wonder if they'll ever actually move in there:

Vestas still expects its number of employees at year-end to be around 20,400, which will contribute to a fixed cost reduction of more than 150 million euros. During the third quarter, Vestas will make a decision on its future footprint in the U.S. market in the event the production tax credit is not extended.

Rumor has it that its Chinese competitors are considering buying out Vestas, and one seriously doubts that they're going to pay top dollar to have a management complex in Portland. Even though they could... all together now...

Go by streetcar!

15 more arrests listed in Portland May Day

We wrote last night about the Portland police releasing the names and ages of 21 people arrested in yesterday's May Day festivities downtown. This morning they listed 15 more:

21-year-old Lana Liana
22-year-old Diana Banda
27-year-old Silvio Poot
28-year-old Ricardo Varela
29-year-old Catherine Garcia
19-year-old John Garcia-Guasch
33-year-old Tommy Wayne Murray
36-year-old Kevin Martinock
26-year-old William Evan Storaasli
50-year-old Dirk Lewis
18-year-old Daniel Austin Dorn
20-year-old Marjorie Hoover
25-year-old Justine Verigin
60-year-old Philip Greene
33-year-old Ivan Henry Scharbrough

With this group, the average age increased a bit -- to just over 28½ years old. Greene was the oldest person arrested yesterday, according to police. None of the newly listed arrestees were repeaters from the Lownsdale Square cleanout last November.

The other zombie

Homer Williams's plan to slap up a taxpayer-subsidized apartment jungle on the east side of Lake Oswego just won't die, despite the demise of the streetcar component of the plan. Now it's for "equity" -- the new developer buzzword that the politician puppets chant as they hand out tax dollars to their buddies.

If the Lake O. city council had any sense, they'd look at the failure of Williams's SoWhat District in Portland and send him, his henchman Matt Brown, and his bevy of EcoNorthwest consultants home. But no.

Leave it to beaver

He's still hanging out in Forest Park.

Steve Novick is going to be trouble

It's hard to like what you see here. He wants to put parking meters everywhere. And his role model? Erik Sten. No, we are not making that up.

He's got lots of crazy ideas, and a smugness that's starting to grate even before he gets elected to anything. It will be a relief to put the Sam Rand Twins out to pasture, but if you think the Portland City Council is going to improve next year, you are cruising for disappointment.

New "urban renewal" district is illegal, says League of Women Voters

The group gives a big thumbs-down to the proposed "education urban renewal" district at Portland State and Lincoln High School, and it makes this important point about it:

The Urban Renewal Law (ORS 457) provides a mechanism for local governments to address areas within their boundaries that are in serious decline. Under ORS 457, each proposed urban renewal area must meet a "blight test" to determine whether the area in question merits the "excessive and disproportionate expenditures of public funds." It is this blight and the "growing or total lack" of economic prosperity that justifies taking tax dollars from other taxing districts and their programs and dedicating such funds to an urban renewal area.

Urban renewal is not intended to be used to improve areas that are attracting substantial private investment, whose property values are increasing and simply need thoughtful public investment to achieve desired ends. It is difficult to understand how an area with a relatively new light rail line and an extension in the works, the street car, picturesque Park Blocks, and buildings under construction or recently completed could be considered blighted. The purported blighting conditions described in the urban renewal report do not exhibit a "growing or total lack" of economic prosperity that warrants an urban renewal designation.

The league also complains, quite rightly, that the plan that the City Council plans to pass is so lacking in detail that it fails to satisfy the requirements for an urban renewal plan as specified in state law.

And so who is going to go to court to stop the council's obviously illegal move? If the answer is that no one will, it's a major statement about the civic health of Portland. And not a good one.

A different kind of high

Universities around the country are buying drone aircraft. Maybe the U of O ought to pick up a few to keep an eye on the football players. They could put a swoosh on it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cops list 21 arrested in Portland May Day

Today's May Day mischief on Portland streets has resulted in at least 21 arrests. Police report that they picked up protesters on a variety of charges, including assaulting a public safety officer, interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct in the second degree, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief. Here's the list released tonight:

19-year-old Robert P. Oliver
47-year-old Angela Irene Hammit
30-year-old Blair Jacob Stuwe
26-year-old Levi James Talbot
18-year-old Justin Natzel
28-year-old Lauren Marie Foree
32-year-old Danielle Reynolds
40-year-old William Roy Cook
47-year-old Neill Seigel
21-year-old Adrian Liwanag
22-year-old Adrian Vincent Guerrero
19-year-old Carlos Gabriel Benavides-Montes
20-year-old Damien Santori Phillips
18-year-old Eugene Ryan
43-year-old Joseph Bennie
20-year-old Karyn Mariko Smoot
21-year-old Kyle Wade Dolan
21-year-old Samuel Gates
52-year-old Theresa Sayles
25-year-old Dane William Kingsley
15-year-old male

The average age of those arrested today was just under 28 years old -- the same as it was when the Occupy squatters were cleared out of Lownsdale Square last November. This time, no one over 52 was arrested; in November, there were two arrestees in their 60's and one in his 80's.

Blair Stuwe and Angela Hammit, below, were in both groups, according to police.


Friends don't let friends eat Einstein Bagels

Now they've outlawed the tip jar at the old Kettleman locations. These guys really, really don't get Portland. They'll be closing locations here within a year.

Up against the mall

Well, it's May Day, and the angry and the dissatisfied are out in the streets, venting. About a dozen have been arrested in Portland so far. They chanted for a while inside the Pioneer Place mall, then adjourned for a Cinnabon. Jeffer-Sam Smith is out working the crowd in his business suit -- pretty funny.

In Seattle, it's quite a bit more violent. They're busting windows on stores and cars. The federal courthouse and the Washington Athletic Club have also had glass shattered. It sounds a lot nastier up there than down here.

Anyway, we're finding it hard to get too worked up in either direction today. Readers who want up-to-the-minute news should head over here and follow the twittering Tweets.

County sells out to Portland "urban renewal" money grab

The Multnomah County commission has foolishly voted to go along with the latest "urban renewal" scam in Portland, involving the Portland State Patronage Center and Lincoln High School (motto: "We're underutilized"). The vote was 3 to 2. Voting against were the two commissioners who are currently up for re-election -- funny thing.

"We have other really pressing priorities," Kafoury said.

Urban renewal zones, generally speaking, take money from other local governments to create funding for large capital projects inside designated areas. Adams' new zone at PSU would drain about $50 million from the county's coffers over the zone's 30-year life. It would also divert about $60 million from Portland Public Schools.

To soften the blow, Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with city officials. If the Portland City Council approves the zone, the Portland Development Commission will carve out $19 million so the county can build new Department of County Human Services headquarters at PSU.

"You end up trading service dollars for new buildings," Kafoury said. "And, at least in my opinion, they're not equal."

Voting in favor were the county chair, "Little Big Pipe" Cogen; Loretta Smith from Wydenville; and Diane McKeel of East County, who really ought to know better. All three have lost our confidence, which wasn't great to begin with, from here on out. It was a better board, much better, when Ted Wheeler was running it.

The other thing about May 1

In addition to today being May Day -- with all the craziness that the day is going to entail in downtown Portland -- it's also Law Day. Now, before the lawyer-haters out there start hissing and casting disparaging remarks, let us just point out that the Oregon court system is currently being decimated by budget cuts, and without more dough, it is not going to be there for you when you need it. This is not a question of higher taxes, but one of better spending priorities in Salem. Tell your local legislator about it the next time they come asking for your vote. Better yet, run against them.

Nurse Amanda and the Men of Principle

One unflattering trait of Portland city commissioner Amanda Fritz is her tendency to lay it on thick when she's fibbing to you. When the city's new 911 computers got negative reviews last year from the police officers who had to use them, she not only denied the problem but actually asserted that the new system was "close to perfect." Uh huh.

Yesterday she tried to spin her vote, against concerned neighbors and in favor of cell phone corporate hacks, as some sort of gift by her to the people whose livability she just trashed. On reversing a hearings officer's decision that had gone in favor of the neighbors -- just as she did in October with the SoWhat immigration jail next door to a grammar school -- she gave this account:

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who voted to overturn the Hearings Office’s decision, said that even though the code is unclear, the city has interpreted it this way for hundreds of other applications and is maintaining consistency. She also said that federal health guidelines suggest that the code is referring to antenna ERPs.

However, she added that the appeal would force the council to re-examine the code and regulation of cellphone towers.

"The fundamental, big-picture question is: Do we still want to put the antennas on the right-of-way preferentially? Or do we want to look at industrial sites or other sites?" Fritz said. "Within the federal mandate, we can't stop any company from providing service anywhere it wants to, but there are some potential changes that we could make."

That splashing on your shoe? It's raining!

But perhaps the best example of the Nurse's posing came recently when she was asked an obvious question about the influence of campaign contributions on City Council members' votes. Here she is in the Huffington Post, discussing the current taxi-limo licensing flap:

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz denies the accusations. "Even though my colleagues are funded by traditional (campaign donations), they are very principled men and I don't believe they would be voting on the basis of who gives them money."

This from the poster child for "clean money," who preached for years about the corrupting influence of campaign money so that taxpayers would front more than a half million tax dollars to put her in office!

It's a little too much for us. Which is why we're now casting our own principled vote -- for Bruce Altizer.

Blessings of liberty secured

Here in Portland, the Lincoln High School team just won the national championship at the "We the People" academic competition, focused on knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. Not bad coming from an "underutilized site." Our heartfelt congratulations to the students on the team, and all their coaches.

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