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

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June 2006 Archives

Friday, June 30, 2006

Paging Dr. Kohler

The O had a little Q & A with the president of the OHSU Aerial Transit Co. yesterday. The reporter asked some good questions, albeit with tongue in cheek, and it was interesting to watch the interview subject revise history and explain what's in our future. Peter Kohler offered his comments as he wistfully prepares to leave his $600,000-a-year-plus-mansion position as the head of the state's public -- er, private -- er, why do you want to know -- medical school and soon-to-be major tourist attraction.

The good doctor's re-take on the SoWhat development was a doozy. Not too long ago, the stated reason that city taxpayers needed to borrow hundreds of millions to build a condo farm and OHSU facility down there (along with the aerial tram [rim shot], of course) was to bring thousands of biotech jobs to Portland. Now that all they're doing down there is building private doctors' offices and a health club, the story needs to change. And it has, apparently:

The pitch you made to the Legislature was that the investment would help OHSU spark a bioscience industry on the South Waterfront with 6,000 new jobs. Is that vision intact?

I think that was a 10-year plan that we are now a couple years into. I am a believer that this will occur. How much of the bioscience industry is on the waterfront versus somewhere else in the area is unpredictable. We're selling part of the OGI campus (the Oregon Graduate Institute site in Hillsboro), for instance, and that may be attractive to certain bioscience companies. There are a variety of ways this will play out. As much as possible, we'd like to have it on the river, but it may go elsewhere for other reasons.

Uh huh. You threatened to put a bunch of biotech jobs in Hillsboro if Portland didn't build you that stupid ski lift, and now that you've got it, you're putting the biotech jobs in Hillsboro anyway. Thanks, doc, what a guy.

Then there's the matter of OHSU's immunity from being sued for malpractice. Apparently they're thinking of raising their liability limits from $200,000 per botched surgery to something higher. But you've got to love the way he describes the process by which those rules will be changed:

Does OHSU's $200,000 damage liability cap limit your attractiveness for insured patients who have the option to go elsewhere?

I don't know. I don't think so. This is in the middle of change. We're in the process of disclosing it. We'll find out what's going to happen with the liability cap.

Er, ex-squeeze me? They're going to "find out what's going to happen" and they're "in the process of disclosing it"? Fascinating. I thought those decisions were made by our state legislature. But apparently not -- there's some other policymaking mechanism that the OHSU folks need to "find out about."

I remember back when the aerial tram [rim shot] was still being debated in the early days. The Trib dug out some communication or other about it from Sam Adams, then Vera Katz's right-hand man and now the city commissioner. Somebody was asking him whether Vera wanted the tram, and Sam said something to the effect that the mayor "felt that it was going to happen." Of course, in those days Neil Goldschmidt was representing Dr. Kohler, and the reason the Katz crew acted like these weren't their decisions was because they did whatever Neil told Vera had to be done.

Now we're debating OHSU's obscene liability limits, and the process of changing them is once again a force of nature that we'll "find out about" when OHSU is ready to "disclose" it. What arrogance. It makes Kohler's parting quote -- "humility -- that's what I've tried" -- that much more hysterically funny.

Are you ready for some "football"?

Serious doings in the World Cup soccer tournament today. Winners advance to the semi-finals, losers advance to the plane home. Germany vs. Argentina at 8 a.m. -- maybe the best match of the whole shebang so far. Then at noon, Italy vs. Ukraine -- also very interesting.

I've picked Deutschland, the host side, to go all the way, and so I'll be rooting for them to make me look smart. I'll need perfect outcomes from here on out to have any chance in our pool -- I got only 5 out of the 8 matches right so far, and hey, not to point too fine a point on it, statistically speaking a monkey would have gotten 4.

I think Italy's got the better of the second game. The Ukrainians played a very lackluster match against die Suisse, winning only when the Helvetians suddenly realized that they had forgotten to practice penalty kicks.

The winners of today's goings-on play each other on Tuesday. They have Fourth of July in Germany, but it's not that big a deal.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Make up your own punchline

From Washington comes the news that the IRS headquarters building is going to be closed for a month due to flooding in the basement.

Bridge over poopy water

The beat goes on. They're still talking about a new bridge across the Willamette somewhere south of downtown in Portland. I suspect cars won't be allowed on it, if it's ever built. But hey, hipsters -- what about the bridge we already have that's falling down?

We'll get to that, I guess. But first -- oooh, more shiny streetcars! Plus, Opie gets to count the space under the new bridge as affordable housing.

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

"We are not reinventing the wheel here. What we are doing is taking a leadership role in shifting the paradigm of the oil oligarchy's influence on our society." -- Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard
Heaven help us. Hey, Randy, how about some jail beds? Prosecution of property crime? Bridges that work? Getting around to some of that big pile of deferred maintenance on the roads? Decent training for the police? Fixing the obscene bluecoat disability system? Doing something about the Beggarland that downtown has become? You, know -- the stuff you were elected to take care of?

No time for that when you're being "visionary," I guess. Think big! You mark my words, municipal socialized medicine is next. You and Erik should get your heads together -- let's try a hostile takeover of Pfizer! Ban Wal-Mart! We're so-o-o-o-o-o-o "progressive"! Hey, so Jubitz may go out of business -- we don't care! We'll have Joe Weston put a condo tower there!

When it comes to making it difficult to run any business other than ugly real estate development, the City of Roses is truly world-class. Cutting-edge. I'm all for saving the earth, but right now Portland needs to give the whole Oligarchy Alteration Thing a timeout for a bit, while there are still a few taxpaying businesses left.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

That Portland smell

Here's a nasty story in this week's Double-Dub. Oh, the Stennies will be calling people "racists" over this one! (Indeed, how dare I even link to it!) But it's typical Portland -- corruption trumped by misdirected political correctness. All part of the Opie-Grampy-Cruz "visionary" wonderland. "I'm getting sick to my stomach," said one of the Mean Girls. Me, too.

I was starting to get a little worried about Willamette Week, but maybe they're getting back on track. Keep turning over rocks, guys -- there's a whole "sustainable ecosystem" under there.

Blazer draft score: 4 to 2

Well, the Blazers made a number of good moves in the draft today. They got two quality players in big man LaMarcus Aldridge and versatile guard Brandon Roy. And they got rid of the overrated (especially by himself) Sebastian Telfair and creaky old Theo Ratliff, who pretty much couldn't or wouldn't play for them last season. So that's 4 to the good.

On the bad side, to be sure that they got Aldridge, they had to let go of Viktor Khryapa, who's going to be a great NBA player, and to unload Ratliff they had to agree to take on the crummy contract of Raef LaFrentz. That's 2 to the bad, but the Khryapa move is the worse of the two.

Anyway, for a team that's labored more than a decade under one witless general manager and another who was just so-so, these are fine moves. Go Blazers!

Now if we could just move Darius and Zach... maybe waivers...

Bassy's gone

That's what they're saying.

One down, two to go.

Last licks on the auditor's PDC report

Before taking the Portland city auditor's report on the Portland Development Commission off my desk, there are just a couple of additional passages that deserve a few words. I've alluded to the point made by these passages before -- that the PDC either doesn't know whether its programs are actually any good, or isn't telling what it does know about that. And some of the "data" it is passing off about its "accomplishments" is suspect at best.

In particular, the report found fault in this regard with the PDC's Economic Development Department. It noted:

During fieldwork, we determined that we could not fully assess the efficiency of the Department's strategies, such as cost per job created, due to difficulty in obtaining financial information on a refined program basis and the lack of readily available actual jobs created and retained data in most programs....

Data for some reported measures is unreliable: We reviewed 30 out of 152 total Business Finance and E Zone participant files. We traced data on projected loan leverage, projected jobs, loan commitment amounts and QJP average wages. Data for projected loan leverage, loan commitments, and projected jobs did not match source documents, such as Enterprise Zone precertification and loan application reports, in over half of the cases. This is important because data from the ACT! database is used to generate reports to the Commission and the public. We found data for E Zone leverage and loan commitment amounts reliable when checked against source documents.

In addition, we also learned through interviews that some of the jobs created/retained that were attributed to efforts of the Business Retention and Expansion program and entered into the database were based on the best judgment of staff. While these estimates may be reasonable, the data lacked any source documents to support the estimates.

Some published performance data are estimates, not "actual" performance results and their current labeling may mislead readers: We found that some performance measure data presented in Department reports and the Commission budget document were not clear in terms of what the data represented. Two prominent measures the Department routinely reports, for example, are the investment leveraged as a result of business finance loans and the number of jobs created or retained. PDC staff indicated, and we found this published data to be based on initial project estimates, and not on actual program results. This was not clearly disclosed in the documents we reviewed and would likely mislead readers. The absence of actual performance data for comparison to projections hinders the ability of decision makers to make meaningful program assessments....

[T]he number of jobs reported by the Economic Development Department as "created" or "retained" are jobs projected to be established or retained by the business at the time of PDC funding. Because "jobs created" and "jobs retained" are not actual counts of jobs at each business, we could not conclude that the number of jobs reported as created by PDC-funded businesses had been realized. Additionally, we found that the Economic Development Department's reporting of funds leveraged from its Economic Development loans and enterprize zone participation is based on the investment that is projected by the business recipient. Additionally, updates to investment records for business loans were not supported by source documents; consequently it was unclear to us why updates occurred.

The report goes on to conclude that the PDC badly needs to improve its weak performance measurement and spotty data collection. We agree. PDC's total spending for fiscal 2006 is estimated at $248 million. Portland's population is about 554,000. Thus, the PDC spent around $450 this year for every man, woman, and child in the city. I don't know how others feel, but the Bogdanski household would like to know whether our $1800 a year is being spent wisely, or whether it's just being poured into condo developer pockets and other rat holes.

Fanny pats all around

Big congratulations to the Oregon State University baseball team, which won the College World Series this week. A national championship is a wonderful thing, and it doesn't come without heart, sweat, and smarts. Nice going.

If I were Paul Allen...

... I wouldn't have a blog. And I wouldn't be picking a new player from the no. 4 spot in the pro basketball draft this afternoon, because I never would have let the Blazers sink to where they've fallen. But if I were doing the picking, I would go with these four -- the top one who's still available:

1. LaMarcus Aldridge.
2. Andrea Bargnani.
3. Brandon Roy.
4. Rudy Gay.

The one bonehead thing I would not do is trade a quality player (like Jarrett Jack) to move up in the selection process. Nobody in this draft is worth that. As for the 'Stache, I think he's the next Mike Dunleavy Jr. Let Golden State (or somebody like that) have him. Plus, he won't be happy in Portland. You want to see him cry? Have him go through an NBA season with Darius Miles next to him on the bench.

Go for size, if it's there, because you'll never be playing basketball in June behind our current pistol-packin', pot-jonesed, street-racin' power forward. Never.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Just damn"

A blogosphere voice that was -- ahem, always distinctive and interesting -- has gone silent. Rob (a.k.a. "Acidman") of Gut Rumbles has left the building. He'll be missed.

UPDATE, 6/30, 10:36 p.m.: Looks like maybe it ended up all right.


The sea breeze is here. The Portland heat wave is on its way to being over. Open windows should make for some good sleeping tonight.

At the Copa

In our World Cup pool, three players have picked all of the first seven matches of "Stage 2" correctly.

And each of those players has Spain over France in the match that begins today at noon.

UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.: And they were all wrong. No perfect scores left in the pool.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Every Monday night

We recyle religiously. Even if it didn't make economic or ecological sense -- and I have some know-it-all friends who'll tell you it doesn't -- we'd still do it. It feels like the right thing to do.

Here in Portland, we're blessed with the opportunity to recycle to the max. A few hours after the garbage men come and take our weekly canload for a ride to the Arlington dump, another truck comes and takes our recyclables to some other place. Paper, glass, metal, even plastic bottles. We take full advantage.

So seriously do Portlanders take the recycling process that the city puts out an occasional newsletter dedicated to the subject. This publication has expanded over the years, and the one that came this week was a four-page newspaper, with all kinds of color illustrations. Mostly it told us what we already knew -- which makes you wonder why we can't opt for an online version of the thing instead of one more paper item to recycle -- but there were a couple of tidbits in there that caught our eye.

First, garbage rates are going up. No kidding -- you think our man Sanitary Dave beams that stuff up to the east side via Star Trek transporter? More money to the oil companies.

Interesting item no. 2: There's a new protocol for glass. Now, the haulers have always wanted the glass separated from everything else -- it's safer that way, and it prevents broken glass from fouling up the recycling of other materials. But starting this week, they're asking that we please leave the glass out in its own hard container, separate from the yellow bins that the waste managers provide to each house. Waste basket, old paint bucket, it doesn't matter, so long as it's not paper. In typical Portland weather (not what we've got going this week), I'm sure many a brown bag has collapsed after an all-night drenching, and sent empty glass bottles and jars crashing to the pavement. Nasty. The new way, that can't happen.

We comply cheerfully. The only blue note in the whole piece is the fact that the newsette now comes from something called the city "Office of Sustainable Development." If you study local government around here, you get an automatic minor in Kafka and Orwell. The thought that the recycling program is coming from the same bureaucrats who are giving this city away to the condo developers is enough to make me want to stop recycling and send all my trash to the landfill. Office of Sustained Blight is more like it.

I think you'll understand

A while back, I asked readers to help me think about the contents of a CD devoted to the best of Motown. After cogitating on it for a couple of weeks, I determined that I couldn't really boil it down to 80 minutes -- 160 would be necessary.

Tonight I'm thinking along the same lines. I just rolled through a half-dozen Beatles tunes, and I'm starting to think it might be a good idea to raise the same issue with the Fab Four. If you had to cram all your Beatles music onto one 80-minute CD, what would be on it?

Part of one's choices, of course, would depend on that quintessential Beatles dilemma -- Lennon or McCartney? And how much George and Ringo? Without some guidelines about that, I suspect, people's mixes would be all over the lot. So let's start with that as our threshold inquiry. On an 80-minute CD, how many minutes of songs principally authored by McCartney, and how many by Lennon? How much George, keeping in mind that the Beatles always pushed him down? And how much Ringo?

I'm thinking 27 minutes each of Lennon and McCartney (truly jointly written songs to come half out of each), 16 of George, 10 of Ringo. Fair? Would one CD be feasible? Would two be required? Would even that not be enough?

And this reminds me -- I never did get the Stax CD together! Hmmm..... Some people do summer reading....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Give it to me

It's taken nearly 30 years of living here in Portland, but I've finally reached that point. I remember how, when I first moved here, I marveled that some of the old-timers were so adamant about this. But now I get it: I WANT HEAT, and as much of it as Portland climatology can dish out. 100 degrees in late June? No problem. I've been freezing and wheezing my sorry old butt off all winter and spring. I've fought off SAD, colds and molds of every kind, foot fungus, hydroplaning down our substandard roads, mushrooms growing out of the siding on my house, green slime and actual lichens growing around all the molding on my car -- enough! I need a dose of L.A. weather, Vegas even, and quick. And if it persists for three months instead of three days, I'll deal with it. I'm fortunate enough to have many avenues of heat relief at hand. I'm a geezer with a.c. So BAKE ME, SOL!

Another two bite the dust

I'm new to The Sport Formerly Known as Soccer, but I'm not sure today's events lived up to the whole "beautiful game" deal. In the World Cup pool, I picked both England and Portugal to lose, since I'm told they're both fold artists and I figured at least one of them would take their lumps today. I was wrong on both counts. Which, although bad for my ticket, is good for my soul, since they were both sentimental favorites of mine before play started.

But back to the not-beautiful part. The second half of the Portugal-Netherlands match made Rasheed Wallace look like a model of sportsmanship. Fouls, ejections, dirty play, and oh, the whining. The Dutch were supposed to be a talented team, but their only consistent move on offense was falling to the ground and crying after every missed opportunity -- a play they executed many a time. Kuyt, go fly yourself!

Just like that, either England or Portugal will be in the final four (or whatever they call the semi-finals). Go figure. Scratching my head, I headed down to the kitchen and fixed myself a nice sardine sandwich in honor of the lads from Lusitania.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Get involved

If you're up late on Friday night or early Saturday morning, there's still time to get in our World Cup soccer pool, here. The deadline is 8:00 a.m. PDT. We've got more than 20 entrants on board so far, and there's room for more. One player chose the winners alphabetically -- not an entirely implausible system, but it gives Australia quite an advantage. They can beat anybody but Argentina!

In Saturday's action, every single one of our players has picked Germany to beat Sweden in the 8 a.m. game. A few of us are picking the German side to go all the way, and so a Sweden win would be crushing.

The noon ga -- er, match -- Argentina vs. Mexico, isn't perceived as such a sure thing. Four brave souls in the group have Mexico taking that one.

I'm compiling all the entries in an Excel spreadsheet, which I hope will make my scoring duties easier. Here's what I've got so far. If you've entered the pool, please check to see that I got your selections and tiebreakers right, and e-mail me if you see anything amiss.

UPDATE, 1:00 a.m.: We just received an entry that picks Sweden over Germany in the morning. It came in before this post went up, and so it wasn't influenced by knowing what our others players said. Indeed, I'm not sure what is was influenced by.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Here's your World Cup "football" pool

Everybody into the pool. There are 16 teams left in the World Cup soccer tourney, and here's your chance to predict the winners. Enter the pool on this blog. It's free. If you're the winner here, we'll get together for a couple of drinks of one's choice at a suitable location here in Portland after the results are official, and (although it would be wrong to gamble for an item of value) I might even be inclined to buy for the winner.

There are 16 games in the pool: eight this weekend through Tuesday; four quarterfinals next Friday and Saturday; one semi-final on the Fourth of July and another on the 5th; a game for third place on July 8; and the big finale on the 9th.

To play, check out the official brackets at the FIFA site here, or on my Excel spreadsheet here. Note that each remaining match has a number assigned to it (49 to 64). Send your picks for each game, plus the four tiebreakers, to me electronically. One way to do so would be by leaving your choices in a comment to this post. You could also e-mail me a filled-in version of the Excel spreadsheet linked to above. Or e-mail your selections to me any old way. On your entry form, please use the official match number for each match, and don't forget the four tiebreakers.

Scoring will be as follows:

One point for every correct selection in the round of 16 (49 to 56).
Two points for every correct selection in the quarterfinal round (57 to 60).
Three points for every correct selection in the semi-finals (61 and 62).
Two points for the correct selection in the third-place match (63).
Five points for the correct selection in the final match (64).

The tiebreakers will be consulted only in the case of a tie in scoring. They will be applied in numerical order, with the earliest of the four breaking the tie. They are:

1. Total number of goals (not including goals in penalty shoot-outs) scored in Match 64.
2. Goals (not including goals in penalty shoot-outs) scored by winning side in Match 64.
3. Goals (not including goals in penalty shoot-outs) scored by losing side in Match 64.
4. Total number of goals (not including goals in penalty shoot-outs) scored, all 16 matches.

Here are the matchups, in a narrative form. If you like, you can cut and paste this to get your entry together:

Round of 16 (1 point each) 49. Germany vs. Sweden. Winner: __________ 50. Argentina vs. Mexico. Winner: __________ 51. England vs. Ecuador. Winner: __________ 52. Portugal vs. Netherlands. Winner: __________ 53. Italy vs. Australia. Winner: ____________ 54. Switzerland vs. Ukraine. Winner: ____________ 55. Brazil vs. Ghana. Winner: ____________ 56. Spain vs. France. Winner: ____________

Quarterfinals (2 points each)
57. Winner of Germany-Sweden vs. winner of Argentina-Mexico. Winner: __________
58. Winner of Italy-Australia vs. winner of Switzerland-Ukraine. Winner: __________
59. Winner of England-Ecuador vs. winner of Portugal-Netherlands. Winner: __________
60. Winner of Brazil-Ghana vs. winner of Spain-France. Winner: __________

Semi-finals (3 points each)
61. Winner of match 57 vs. winner of match 58. Winner: __________
62. Winner of match 59 vs. winner of match 60. Winner: __________

Third place match (2 points)
63. Loser of match 61 vs. loser of match 62. Winner: __________

Championship match (5 points)
64. Winner of match 61 vs. winner of match 62. Winner: __________

Entries must be posted by kickoff of the first game tomorrow -- 8 a.m. PDT! Hope to hear from you this afternoon and evening. Good luck, everybody!

How much damage does OHSU get away with?

A reader writes:

You may not have seen this gem on page 2 of Thursday's Business section in the O -- a quote from OHSU's always credible Steve Stadum: "We're not trying to game these numbers."

So what was he talking about? If you guessed the costs for the aerial tram, you'd be wrong. He was referring to OHSU's "study" on what it would cost them if they lose tort claims immunity. The estimated range was $8.7 - 43 million per year, plus $14 - 50 million in one-time costs. One would think that at a level of precision that low, they could have done the study for less than the $35K they spent.

But what is curious to me is that they seem to think that a high number is more compelling for their argument that they shouldn't lose their immunity. Without getting into the well-worn substantive arguments on OHSU's very low percentage of public funding and charitable service, it seems illogical to argue that if OHSU causes *that* much harm to people, it is *more* deserving of immunity from civil liability. If any institution causes the public persistent serious harm, doesn't it seem like it should be held up to higher scrutiny, not lower responsibility?

That's the same thought I had when I read that story. Instead of reading, "If its tort liability cap is lifted, OHSU wll have to pay millions in damages and insurance," it could have read, "If OHSU's tort liability cap is lifted, victims of malpractice on Pill Hill will no longer be subjected to millions of dollars' worth of harm, without any right to recover for it." (Could have, but never would.)

Yes, funny thing, Mr. Stadum, justice isn't free.

Get ready for the World Cup pool

UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: The pool is on! Enter here.

The early, "group," round of the World Cup "football" tournament in Germany ends this afternoon, at which point we will have all 16 teams who will move on to the single-elimination rounds starting tomorrow. As of this writing, 12 of the 16 are known, with Italy, Ghana, Brazil, and Australia all having become official yesterday. (The USA side continued its anemic performance on its way out the door.) The last two groups are largely up for grabs, although Spain looks to be a pretty sure bet to advance, and Togo is a no-go.

Once today's matches wrap up (around 2 p.m. PDT), you're invited to join an informal pool on this blog to call the winners of the remaining matches in the tournament, which winds up with the championship game on Sunday July 9. It would be illegal to gamble for something of value, of course, but there's no law against our getting together for a couple of drinks of one's choice at a suitable location here in Portland after the results are official, and I might even be inclined to buy for the winner.

There will be 16 games in the pool: eight this weekend through Tuesday; four quarterfinals next Friday and Saturday; one semi-final on the Fourth of July and another on the 5th; a game for third place on July 8; and the big finale on the 9th.

Given my limited internet skills, I'm afraid I don't have a fillable bracket for you to submit (other than my feeble attempt at an Excel spreadsheet, here), and so here's how to enter:

1. Check out the official brackets at the FIFA site here.

2. Note that each remaining match has a number assigned to it (49 to 64).

3. Submit your pick for each match in the comments to the "official" entry post on this blog, which will go up around 2:00 this afternoon -- DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR PICKS ON THE POST YOU ARE READING NOW. But do feel free to use the comments to this post to discuss whom you might pick, and why. On your entry form, please use the official match number for each match.

Scoring will be as follows:

One point for every correct selection in the round of 16 (49 to 56).

Two points for every correct selection in the quarterfinal round (57 to 60).

Three points for every correct selection in the semi-finals (61 and 62).

Two points for the correct selection in the third-place match (63).

Five points for the correct selection in the final match (64).

Here are the matchups, in a narrative form. Perhaps you can cut and paste this to get your entry together. I'll fill in the missing teams as they become known:

Round of 16 (1 point each)
49. Germany vs. Sweden. Winner: __________
50. Argentina vs. Mexico. Winner: __________
51. England vs. Ecuador. Winner: __________
52. Portugal vs. Netherlands. Winner: __________
53. Italy vs. Australia. Winner: ____________
54. Team TBA later today (Group G top team) vs. Ukraine. Winner: ____________
55. Brazil vs. Ghana. Winner: ____________
56. Spain vs. team TBA later today (Group G runner-up). Winner: ____________

Quarterfinals (2 points each)
57. Winner of Germany-Sweden vs. winner of Argentina-Mexico. Winner: __________
58. Winner of Italy-Australia vs. winner of match 54. Winner: __________
59. Winner of England-Ecuador vs. winner of Portugal-Netherlands. Winner: __________
60. Winner of Brazil-Ghana vs. winner of match 56. Winner: __________

Semi-finals (3 points each)
61. Winner of match 57 vs. winner of match 58. Winner: __________
62. Winner of match 59 vs. winner of match 60. Winner: __________

Third place match (2 points)
63. Loser of match 61 vs. loser of match 62. Winner: __________

Championship match (5 points)
64. Championship game, winner of match 61 vs. winner of match 62. Winner: __________

If you can fill out a March Madness bracket, you can do this. Entries must be posted by "kickoff" (what's the start of a soccer match called? I'm so hopeless) of the first game tomorrow -- 8 a.m.! Hope to see you this afternoon and evening.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

PDC math: Property values

The recent Portland city auditor's report on the Portland Development Commission revealed some pretty impressive-looking numbers concerning the effects of urban renewal districts on property tax values within them. Examining five such districts in Portland over the period 1996 to 2004, the auditor, using county tax data, charted a property value increase of more than 138%. Citywide, the eight-year increase was much lower (though still nice), at 56%, and in three selected "control areas" chosen for comparison -- areas similar to the urban renewal districts, but without PDC handouts -- the increase was 64%.

Not all urban renewal areas are equal, of course, and the gains were more pronounced in some of the subsidized areas than in others. Here's the tale of the tape -- real property values in 1996, in 2004, and the percentage increase, in the five areas studied. "MM" means millions:

Airport Way: $409MM in 1996; $1,057MM in 2004; a 158% increase
Central Eastside: $496MM, $791MM, 59%
Downtown/Waterfront: $644MM, $1,918MM, 198%
Convention Center: $934MM, $1,734MM, 86%
River District: $408MM, $1,395MM, 242%
Total of five districts: $2,891MM, $6,895MM, 138.5%

All told, there was about a $4 billion increase in property values in the five districts over the eight-year period. The PDC's "investment" in the areas over that time was estimated to be around $400 million. That's 10 bucks of property value increase for every dollar PDC says it spent.

Where did the value increase come from, besides the PDC? Private investors put in lots of dough (much of it borrowed, no doubt), and there was plenty of raw appreciation when the real estate markets in the districts got hot (some of them did, at least). Did the private property owners in these areas put up another $3.6 billion beyond the PDC's $400 million? I suspect they put in less than that, and the difference between the $4 billion value increase and the private investment, whatever it was, was pure profit for some private party or another. You know me -- I figure it all went to Arlington Club dues.

What about the rest of us schmoes out here? Was the property value increase good for the taxpayers? It's a pretty hazy picture, but some very rough calculations on the back of an envelope indicate that it's been a good, but perhaps not great, deal for taxpayers in the city and county.

Here's what's on that envelope. It's math, people, and very crude math at that. If a guy on the no. 9 bus asked me what I thought, here's what I'd be able to tell him by the time we turned left on 24th:

Although real property values may have gone up by $4 billion, that's not $4 billion of additional tax base. Under state Ballot Measures 5, 50, and the like, even when there's big construction on a given parcel of land, property values are multiplied by a "changed property ratio" (CPR) to make sure that they aren't taxed more heavily than nearby properties that haven't been updated recently. It's pure conjecture on my part how much the $4 billion gets cut back because of this rule -- maybe readers can help me out here -- but let's say that shaves the $4 billion of value increase down to $3 billion of tax base. I suspect the ratio knocks it down to less than that, but let's give urban renewal the benefit of the doubt, for argument's sake.

If property taxes are 2% on that $3 billion of new tax base, all taxing jurisdictions combined will net $60MM of new revenue every year. The present value of all that future tax (discounted at 5%) is $1.2 billion, which makes the PDC's $400MM outlay look pretty smart.

But to this, a number of caveats must be added. First, although I have assumed that all taxing authorities combined will get $60MM a year, the City of Portland gets only a portion of that -- maybe 45% or so? Which would cut the city's take down to a present value of $540MM. Still, a profit of 35% on a risky investment of $400MM is a nice return.

Don't forget, though, that with the city's tax increment financing of public infrastructure in these districts, the extra taxes collected from the shiny new and improved properties must be used to pay off bonds for many years -- they don't go to essential services in the meantime. If the city has to wait 10 years to start collecting taxes that can be used to pay for city services, that cuts their present value considerably. Instead of $540MM, the present value is $332MM, which is a losing proposition for the taxpayers, who, remember, have already shelled out $400MM.

Continue reading "PDC math: Property values" »

V-E Day?

This is it -- some big contests in World Cup "football" today. In the morning, the USA, Ghana, and the Czech Republic all jockey for a single seat in the upcoming round of 16 (or "Stage 2," as it's officially known). Two of those three will likely be playing their last World Cup matches at 7 a.m. -- we just don't know which two. (There's a small possibility that two of those three could advance, with Italy dropping out, but to me that seems highly unlikely.)

At noon, Australia and Croatia battle it out, with Croatia needing a win to pass the Aussies for a round of 16 berth. There's even a chance that Japan could steal it from either of them, but alas, Japan will be meeting Brazil, who are already sure to advance out of that group, and overdue for a blowout to boot.

Eight teams have already been eliminated, and eight are already on their way to the next round. By 2:00 this afternoon, there will be a dozen of each. On Friday, the last four dropouts and last four advancers are determined, and then a famliar single-elimination tournament format promptly takes over. We'll have a little pool on this blog after the last Friday match (entries due Saturday morning at 10) to see who can best predict the outcomes of the 16 matches then remaining. Can somebody suggest a suitable, modest, prize?

For now, though, it's go USA, go Italy!

UPDATE, 2:42 a.m.: BTW, beerdrinker is in Germany, taking in the Cup festivities and no doubt living up to his internet moniker! Prost!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving

Here's the document you've all been waiting for: the latest translation of the questionnaire in the City of Portland's "vision quest." Today I believe we have Laotian.

I'm sure both responses they get to this one will make for interesting reading!

Rose City special

I'm working on some additional perspectives on aspects of the Portland city auditor's recent report on the performance of the Portland Development Commission, but I keep stopping on a passage that strikes me as the most telling comment in the entire document. In discussing the PDC's Economic Development Department, the auditor's staff notes:

The Department uses several strategies to accomplish their goals: business loans, technical assistance in working through City bureaucracy, networking opportunities, workforce assistance, and recruitment of new businesses.
"[T]echnical assistance in working through City bureaucracy" -- ain't that a beaut? That's Portland for you: We set up an impenetrable, command-and-control bureaucracy, so thick that there are seemingly 200 "planning" regulators in their own separate high-rise down by their spawning ground, Portland State. Then we hire a bunch of "economic development" bureaucrats at the PDC in their own building up in Old Town to help businesses get through the "planning" bureaucrats down on Fourth. (And hey, we run a streetcar to bounce the hapless merchants between the two.)

No wonder 19 percent of the city's property tax receipts is getting burned up by "urban renewal." Next we'll have a new agency that will provide "technical assistance in working through the PDC bureaucracy." You want a vision, Mayor? Cut out half of the Planning Bureau and half of the PDC, and spend the money on frivolous stuff like police officers, jail space, and street paving. Let's stop hiring more bureaucrats to help businesses cope with our other bureaucrats.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Soccer nuts may sleep in for a change

Wednesday's a fairly slow day in World Cup "football." The noon matches, Netherlands vs. Argentina and Ivory Coast vs. Serbia-Montenegro, won't make much of a difference. Argentina and the Netherlands will both be moving on; the other two are going home.

At 7 a.m., there's only a slightly greater level of interest. Angola's in roughly the same position that Trinidad-Tobago was in this afternoon -- in order to survive in the tourney: (1) they'll have to win, (2) the other match being played simultaneously will have to come out a certain way, and (3) the margin of victory in one or both of the matches will have to be large. To stay alive and knock out Mexico, Angola will have to win over Iran, have Portugal win over Mexico (Portugal is definitely advancing), and make up a three-goal deficit in goal differential. Tri-To couldn't get that done today (they lost, in fact, not having scored in any of their three games), and I suspect the same sinking feeling will visit the Angolan side in the morning.

In the next round, a.k.a. the "round of 16," so far it's England vs. Ecuador and Germany vs. Sweden. Single elimination, starts Saturday. Germany's been a favorite from the get-go, and it's looking as strong as folks expected. Portugal will play either Argentina or Netherlands; whichever of the latter two doesn't play Portugal will take on Mexico (or, in case of a minor miracle Wednesday, Angola).

No time for losers

Congratulations to Pat Riley, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, the new NBA champions. Riley is a master motivator, and often that is what counts most. Wade is a likeable superstar of a kind not seen since Michael Jordan retired. The rest of the Miami cast was also superb.

I must confess that with "football" on the telly every morning, I almost missed the U.S. pro basketball finale. Note to David Stern: Every fourth year, at least, you might want to get it over with by the first weekend in June. And unless you can require our overpaid hoopster heroes to play in the Olympics, be prepared to move down a notch as true world sports take hold in the States.

Derrick's new gig

Removed as Portland police chief for bad judgment and spreading rumors when he was a precinct commander, Derrick Foxworth's been reassigned -- to being a precinct commander!

And wait. It gets crazier. He's being appointed by Acting Chief Rosie Sizer to Sizer's immediately preceding post -- Southeast Precinct.

This story just gets weirder and weirder. And our local media just keep repeating what they're told about it. They must have allergies, because their sense of smell is extremely impaired.

"Now the joy is dead and done, I'm gone"

More death for Oregon boys in Iraq. Had enough yet? I have. Afghanistan made sense. This is baloney.

Top 10 Things Overheard at the OHSU President Interviews

What? No Kitzhaber? The three finalists for the presidency of OHSU are being shown around this week, and, mirabile dictu, the ex-guv ain't one of them.

It's a crucial week in the history of that august institution. Here now are the --

Top 10 Things Overheard at the OHSU President Interviews

10. "I hope you can squeak by on $600,000 a year and a free mansion."

9. "You're gonna love it. You can be public or private, whatever you suits you at the moment."

8. "There's lots of opportunity out here -- ever think about running an electric company?"

7. "One thing we're very careful about is not to alienate our neighbors."

6. "You want to hear a funny one? Keith, tell him about the time we threatened to move to Hillsboro."

5. "Portland has a wide variety of excellent criminal defense lawyers for you to choose from."

4. "There's just one drawback -- there's a nurse named Amanda that you have to watch out for."

3. "Careful with those hors d'oeuvres -- if you choke to death your family only gets 200 grand."

2. "The hot line from Neil's winery is in the top desk drawer on the right."

and the Number 1 Thing Overheard at the OHSU President Interviews:

1. "You know anything about fixing a ski lift?"

Monday, June 19, 2006

I haven't lived there in 31 years

But you can't take some things outta ya:

You Are 70% New Jersey!

You are definitely Jersey. Well done, my friend. You are most likely from this great state, and you fit right in. Odds are, you love being Jersey!

How New Jersey Are You?

(Via Cousin Jimbo.)

Beginner's luck

Well, the initial eight groups in World Cup "football" have only one match left for each team to decide who's advancing and who's going home. Now seems as good a time as ever to see how the teams I chose to root for in each group are doing.

A - Poland. Done. Alas, Germany and Ecuador will go forward.

B - England. In great shape, they'll advance.

C - Argentina. Looking good as well.

D - Portugal. Ditto.

E - USA. Still barely alive, but they do not, as they say, control their own destiny. The USA side needs to beat Ghana, and most likely for Italy to beat the Czechs.

F - Brazil. They're a lock to advance.

G - Togo. Maybe next Cup.

H - Spain. They're also going to the next level.

In sum, my only faves who are out of it so far are the Poles and Togo, with USA teetering and five of my teams going forward. I felt good about that, until I realized that a completely random selection, by a chimp, of one team from each group would result, on average, in four teams advancing. But hey, if USA makes it, I'll feel pretty good with six out of eight. Go, USA! Go, Italy!

Starting tomorrow and for the next four days, there will be two sets of two matches each being played simultaneously. Tomorrow, the first matches (7 a.m. PDT) are Poland vs. Costa Rica (yawn, both their farewells) and Ecuador vs. Germany (for the top of Group A). The second matches (noon) are Paraguay vs. Trinidad-Tobago (likely, farewells for both) and Sweden vs. England (for the top of Group B). Trinidad-Tobago could still theoretically squeak ahead of Sweden, but Tri-To would need to beat Paraguay, Sweden would have to lose, and one or both of those results would have to be lopsided enough that Tri-To makes up a three-goal deficit compared to Sweden's goal differential.

Barring the latter set of events, the winner of the high-end game in Group A will play the loser of the high-end game in Group B, and vice versa, this weekend in the "round of 16." And so with the exception of the possibility of Trinidad-Tobago nosing out Sweden, no one will be eliminated tomorrow.

The Empire strikes back

A federal district judge in Spokane has overruled the bankruptcy judge up there and ruled that victims of priestly sexual abuse can't recover from the Catholic Church any assets that belong to the church's individual parishes. The district judge bought the church's argument that the bishop holds the parish assets in trust for the parishes, and that the assets can't be reached by the diocese's creditors.

The ruling does not technically affect, but certainly does call into question, the recent ruling of a bankruptcy judge in Portland who ruled the same way that the Spokane bankruptcy judge had. It looks as though the legal jawboning on that issue has just begun.

The district judge in the Washington case, Justin Quackenbush, a senior judge, issued his ruling orally. He told the parties up there that they ought to be settling, and he apparently believes that his legal ruling will help bring that about. I don't know if that's true in Spokane, but I know it's not true in Portland. There are at least a couple of victims down here who want the truth about the abuse and alleged coverup to be revealed fully and in open court. For them, it's not just about the money, or even mostly about the money. If it were, they would have settled long ago. In Spokane, they're scheduling mediation; in Portland, they're scheduling trials.

Big time

Hey, check it out. Linda from Frolic and Detour (a.k.a. Alli, sometimes) has co-authored a book that's getting a lot of attention. It's called "Why You're Still Single," and for me it could be "Why You're Jealous." Way to go, kids!

Happy Monday

Have a good week. (Via Jeremy Blachman.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Foxworth firing: What's the real reason?

I'm not sure exactly what was behind the ouster of Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth. But I'm pretty sure the official story of his removal, as told by the mayor and repeated by the O, doesn't hold water.

We were told yesterday that Mayor Potter really, really didn't want to bust the guy back down to captain, but he had to because of the media "feeding frenzy" surrounding the salacious e-mails Foxworth wrote to a police desk clerk with whom he was having a sexual relationship while he was a precinct commander. Whenever an executive change is blamed on adverse media attention, you know there's more going on that they're not telling you about.

Today the O turned over the race card, which, although a legitimate angle, is just another distraction from the real question: Why in fact was this man cut loose from the top cop job?

The official investigation into the relationship, the e-mails, the accusations of sexual harassment, and the whole nine yards came up with nothing of substance other than the fact that at one point, Foxworth repeated a rumor about internal police business in a communication with the woman with whom he was making whoopee. He told her that then-Chief Mark Kroeker and another bureau bigwig knew about, and were "covering their butts" in connection with, alleged misbehavior by members of the bureau's Special Emergency Reaction Team.

That's what they fired the police chief for -- repeating a rumor in an e-mail to his girlfriend? More than five years ago? That, and having the "extremely poor judgment" of getting it on with a subordinate (technically not a breach of any bureau rule), who appears to have been a consenting adult, and spicing it up with some hot e-mail sex? You take a major demotion for that?

Wow. Spreading rumors? Poor judgment? You could probably can the whole City Council on those grounds, not to mention half the bureaucrats on the city pad (including the fire bureau guy who blogs about politics on many a weekday from his city computer). Besides, we all know that on the Portland police force, officers can have a lapse of judgment so extreme that it results in a needless death, and still not be disciplined.

Thus, the official version of Derrick's Demise is exceedingly hard to buy.

Plus, why did the accuser wait until this past March to start blowing the whistle (so to speak)? What prompted her filing a tort claim after five years had passed since she and Foxworth broke up? Was she really a tortured soul who suddenly snapped? If you ask me, it sure looks as though there are forces greater than Foxworth and his ex-gal friend at work here. And Grampy may very well be giving the Outlook Express Romeo the boot over something different from what's being stated.

Potter's scolding of people who wanted Foxworth's hide immediately after the recent revelations is also pretty clumsy. The mayor said Friday, in effect: "You wanted me to rush to judgment, but see? I waited until the investigation was complete." Yeah, and when the investigation didn't turn up anything serious, he canned the guy anyway for the vague "losing the public's trust," which clearly happened the day the e-mails hit the worldwide web.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Derrick Foxworth should still be police chief. Maybe he should, maybe he shouldn't, as far as I am concerned. But I am saying that the full story of his dismissal may not be being told here.

Indeed, the official account of this personnel action is thin enough that it could conceivably be held invalid someday. In which case Foxworth probably wouldn't be reinstated as chief, but he would no doubt wind up getting a much bigger pension, maybe some back pay, who knows what else. He's got a good employment lawyer (and indeed a good criminal defense lawyer) who I suspect won't let this drop. It will be interesting to watch it all unfold and to see if some hints of the real story appear. If they do, however, you know where you won't be reading them first.

From Tony Scalia's PDA

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New day editor

Regular readers know that most of the blogging around here is not done during the day. But to decrease the lag time between posts, we have enlisted the help of a new editor, who will keep an eye on things when we can't. Here she is on her first day of duty at blog headquarters:

The plot thickens

The USA World Cup team still has a shot. By tying Italy in a bruising (and controversy-filled) battle, and with Ghana surprising the Czech Republic, the Americans insure that it's all going to come down to the last matches in the group Thursday morning. It's Ghana vs. USA and the Czech team vs. Italy.

It will take a USA win for the red, white and blue to have a chance to advance. And unless I'm misreading the rules, USA fans will be rooting for Italy. Here are the scenarios:

USA loses or draws -- USA is out.

USA wins, Italy wins -- Italy 7, USA 4, Czech 3, Ghana 3. USA advances.

USA wins, Czech wins -- Czech 6, USA 4, Italy 4, Ghana 3. USA-Italy tie in standings, decided by best goal differential. Right now Italy is at +2, USA is at -3.

USA wins, Italy-Czech draw -- Italy 5, USA 4, Czech 4, Ghana 3. Czech-USA tie. Goal differential currently is Czech +1, USA -3.

Both Thursday matches are at the same time -- 7 a.m. Unless Team USA falls way behind, expect to see a lot of switching back and forth between the two matches on the TV.

If the USA advances, its next (and final) opponent will likely be Brazil.

Disclaimer: I don't know what I'm talking about. True "football" fans, feel free to correct this amateur analysis.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In the valley of the jolly

I have just returned from my 10th annual journey down the Willamette Valley to lecture on tax law to groups of recent law school graduates who are studying for the upcoming Oregon bar exam. So experienced have I become at this drill that I am now in the running for a choice position with the CIA as head motivational speaker at Abu Gharib.

Anyhow, Salem was a four-hour lecture yesterday morning and Eugene was another four-hour beauty this morning; that and 120 miles a day on I-5 can take the starch out of you. As a fellow freeway rest area patron blurted out as he passed me in the parking lot yesterday: "I'm getting too old for these trips." My heartfelt response: "You and me both, buddy." All I did in Eugene yesterday afternoon and night was sleep and eat. Go for a run? Take in the sights? Check out the scene? No way, kids. Inhale some sustenance, stare at Shaq, and hunker down under the covers.

I did manage to eke out a tiny bit of anemic blogging from the hotel's one public computer last evening. But with other users breathing down my collar, my time on line was cut short. Tonight it's the sleep fairy who's tapping me on the shoulder. World Cup has Portugal vs. Iran at 6 a.m. -- interesting, but I think I'll have to miss that. And of course, the underdog USA in a last gasp against Italy at noon. See you sometime in there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Will wonders never cease?

The City of Portland announced today that ne'er-do-well City Council candidate Emilie Boyles has returned $68,565.01 of the nearly $145,000 in taxpayer funds that she was paid by the city's controversial new public campaign finance system.

Of course, the city says she also must pay back the rest for various campaign fund violations, and we're suspecting she won't be able to. And no word yet on the state investigation into her campaign's possible fraud in the funding process, and I know you're all holding your breath on that one.

Anyway, in our recent pool on the amount she'd return (I said zero), our reader Ellie came closest at $63,584.02. Congratulations to her -- I owe her a nice lunch on the east side of town. Step forward and claim your prize, young lady -- for the good of Portland!

Father's Day gift

Introducing Lily:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Farewell to "trackback"

I'm discontinuing the posting of "trackback pings" on this blog. These are little notations that show where other bloggers have linked to entries on this blog. This feature comes with several disadvantages, the biggest being that it is a magnet for spam. Even with a halfway decent anti-spam program at work, fully 99 percent of all trackback pings I have received lately are spam. A little cost-benefit analysis reveals that it's time to pull the plug on it until I can get around to a better way to fight the vermin that have made a mess of the internet.

So this is the last trackback-able post on this blog, at least for a while. I'll leave up all the spam that gets through my filter. Watch what happens.

UPDATE, 7/3, 3:20 a.m.: I think the point has been made. Time to close down "trackbacks" on this post, too. Goodbye, spammer jerks! Enjoy eternal damnation!

Go for the dough in NoPo

Hey, you folks over there in North Portland! The Portland Development Commission is giving away some modest grants to make the "Interstate Corridor" area more livable. Got a fixer-upper idea for that neck of the woods? Here's your chance. It looks as though community facility repair and restoration projects sponsored by neighborhood groups and nonprofits are mostly what they're after.

Early exit

From the World Cup, good news and bad news.

First the good news: The Polish side played Germany even for a full 90 minutes.

The bad news: Most soccer games last just a few minutes longer than that.

That sends the Polish team home after the first round. One more game, against Costa Rica, and that's it. Better luck next time, przyjaciele.

They hit it and quit it

The Concert for Curtis was held here in Portland last night -- a sweet night in Northwest music history. Curtis himself did a fine set to start the evening off -- can't go wrong with 15 strong pieces behind you, including Linda Hornbuckle and Janice Scroggins. "Tonight, you're going to get knocked back," he promised, and his own performance alone was enough to make good on that one. Salgado was obviously touched by the outpouring of affection he's received since the news of his illness hit the streets. "I've been crying like a three-year-old," he observed at one point. And yet he kept things light and upbeat for this, the largest so far in a series of concerts in his honor.

Little Charlie and the Nightcats then proceeded to steal the show with a blistering (and hysterical) set of up-tempo blues numbers. They said they'll be in Vancouver on Saturday -- and they mean our 'Couv -- Butterbean, you'd better see this one.

Everclear came out next and was... well, Everclear, which I don't understand, but hey, they did throw a bone to the predominantly geezer audience with "Brown Eyed Girl." After intermission, Taj Mahal rocked the house, showing what can be done when you're 64. He even conjured up the ghost of Otis Redding with "Mr. Pitiful."

At which point John Belushi's widow, Judith, got up and said a few words about Curtis's being the inspiration for the Blues Brothers. Everybody already knew, but it was nice to remember, and nice that she was there.

Then Robert Cray came on and did his usual spectacular job -- not flashy, not jump-out-of-your-seat-and-dance music, but as pure a blues as you'll ever hear. Cray's voice and his guitar licks have always been impeccable, but they've only gotten crisper since I last saw him in a live show more than a decade ago. If you're not in the right frame of mind for his performance, you may find it boring -- the sound is so perfect, it almost seems canned. But if you think of him along the lines of a classical musician, and keep your ears attuned to the songs he's written, and watch him get in touch with something bigger than the whole show, you realize how special he is. Cray started his set with "Phone Booth," one of his early, early hits and an obvious tribute to his days as a guy who played all the hot spots in Eugene with Curtis. Now he's touring Europe with some guy named Eric Clapton.

I never did see the band that had both Cray and Salgado in it. With Robert so tight and Curtis so loose (especially then), it must have been quite a combination. And I suspect the parting must have been hard.

Anyway, the babysitter clock precluded our staying for Steve Miller, but no doubt he took things in a different, more frenetic, direction at show's end.

The Rose Garden Theater of the Clouds configuration, which I'd never seen first-hand, turns out to be a fine venue. The sound is surprisingly good, all the seats that they use have clean sight lines, and you've got nice facilities for auxiliary functions like the bars and last night's silent auction. A few shrink-wrapped longboxes of the early CD "Curtis Salgado and the Stilettos" were going for a hundred bucks and up -- cool. (While queueing up for an $8 microbrew -- ouch! I hope Curtis got some of that! -- I got to see Gary Payton hit his big shot and Dirk Nowitzki miss his last free throw, much to the pleasure of some hoops fans that were huddled around a Rose Garden TV set.)

It was a good-sized crowd, to be sure; although there were some unsold seats, the place felt packed in pretty well. I don't know how much money they raised for Curtis's medical care, but I hope that it and the other benefit shows they've been holding for him on the West Coast are enough to get the guy around the big corner up ahead. He is a treasure.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

PDC math: $384 million, 705 jobs

So, is the Portland Development Commission getting it done? The city auditor's recent study of the agency, though tightly limited in scope, provides some interesting data with which to make an assessment.

The auditor's study zeroed in on five urban renewal districts -- those which the auditor's staff "determined had economic development as a primary goal and which had enough history that one would expect results to have occurred." It then went to the state Employment Department and Metro to see what had happened in the realm of private sector employment in those districts between 1996 and 2004. Since "job creation and business development" are "what is generally thought of as economic development," the study group saw the employment trends as a key indicator of PDC success (or lack thereof).

Refining the analysis further, the auditor's staff looked at the same data in "three separate control areas in the City with land use patterns similar to" the urban renewal districts. The control areas were not in urban renewal districts; they did not receive significant PDC subsidies during the period in question, and the auditor's group did not see any other governmental investment in these areas, either.

The five urban renewal districts selected for study were Downtown/Waterfront, River District, Convention Center, Central Eastside, and Airport Way. The "control areas" were (1) just east of the Central Eastside district, straddling the Banfield Freeway out to around 39th, (2) a westerly section of North Portland, and (3) a large area of southeast Portland, between Division and Powell just east of I-205.

The findings? The "control areas" had better job growth than the urban renewal areas -- 3 percent vs. 1 percent! Both those groups did better than those areas of the city outside any urban renewal district, where employment declined 9 percent.

Here's the tale of the tape for the 1996-to-2004 job changes within the five urban renewal districts:

Airport Way: + 11% (+ 1,403 jobs)
Central Eastside: - 9% (- 1,337 jobs)
Downtown/Waterfront: - 8% (- 2,017 jobs)
Convention Center: + 2% (+ 383 jobs)
River District: + 21% (+ 2,273 jobs)
Five districts combined: + 1% (+ 705 jobs)

Although the auditor was too polite to do the math, the report does reveal that in these five districts, the PDC spent around $384 million over the period studied. Yielding 705 jobs, that works out to $544,681 of PDC "investment" per job added!

Of course, who knows what would have happened in the urban renewal areas without all those PDC subsidies? But the "control areas" did even better without them, thank you very much.

On the other side of the ledger, the average wage in the five districts increased substantially over the eight years in question -- by 25%, compared to a 14% decline in the control areas and an 8% increase in the rest of the city. The tale of the tape by district for the eight-year period was as follows (total jobs multiplied by average annual wage, difference not adjusted for inflation):

Airport Way: + $104,342,973 wages
Central Eastside: + $7,442,302 wages
Downtown/Waterfront: + $84,995,545 wages
Convention Center: + $255,631,262 wages
River District: + $228,541,767 wages
Five districts combined: + $680,953,849 wages

Taking 20.4% inflation into account, however -- inflation over that eight-year period was around 20.4% nationally -- the payroll results are not as flattering:

Airport Way: + $19,420,476
Central Eastside: - $89,517,190
Downtown/Waterfront: - $109,877,505
Convention Center: + $159,004,223
River District: + $151,493,485
Five districts combined: + $130,523,489

So in inflation-adjusted terms, a net annual wage increase of around $130.5 million was seen in the five districts. Assuming that inflation makes that $384 million PDC "investment" look more like $400 million in 2004 dollars, it works out to about $3.07 of PDC outlay for every $1 of annual payroll created. In other words, to create a $50,000-a-year job in the five districts, the PDC had to "invest" $153,000.

Of course, statistics often lie, and the auditor's report is full of caveats -- among them the reminders that the PDC is also trying to create "affordable or mixed-use housing," and that "there is a complex relationship between housing, jobs, and other livability issues." Nonetheless, when you look at the expenditures and the results, it doesn't seem that the PDC is succeeding as a job creation engine.

Which makes you wonder just what it is that it's supposed to be doing. (Don't we already have a city housing authority to create low-income housing?)

Continue reading "PDC math: $384 million, 705 jobs" »

You love him and I don't blame you

Reminder: Curtis Salgado benefit show tonight. Taj Mahal, Robert Cray, Steve Miller, Little Charlie & the Nightcats, some band named "Everclear," more. Very serious illness. No insurance. Walking iPod loaded with the choicest blues and R&B. Rose Garden Theater of the Clouds, 7:30. See you there.

Ready or not

The night before the big match, and they don't even know who their coach is. The players get into fistfights with each other on the bus. They're the lowliest team on the field.

They're almost as messed up as the Trail Blazers. And that's what I love most about the Togo "football" team. Go, Sparrowhawks!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Don't go there

While the City of Portland gets ready to rip up the downtown transit mall for a needless reconstruction, the Water Bureau's previewing its upcoming tear-up of parts of Clay, Third, Columbia and Broadway downtown for new water mains. The water work will take a year.

You'll visit downtown again when it's all finished -- won't you?

Foot bawl

Well, that was terrible. On a brighter note, the upcoming U.S. match against Ghana will be interesting to watch. Two decent squads, but outmanned.

The noon match tomorrow gives us Ronaldinho. I'm told that this promises to be one of the better first-round contests.

Alternative dispute resolution

Lawyers acting like jerks, you say? One judge in Florida orders that they settle things in a manner befitting their level of maturity.

Now you see him

Hey, finally we get a photo of one of my great blogging influences, Howard Bashman of the legal powerhouse How Appealing.

Prostate health tip

Drink 17 beers a night...

Bill McDonald explains in plain English

If you went to your neighbor's house and murdered him and then told the police you did it because he was building a weapon to kill you, you'd go to prison -- especially if no weapon could be found.... You might feel the Iraqis are not innocent, so let me give you one example: A girl, 5 to 7 years old was also killed in the raid on Zarqawi. She had to be innocent, and if the United States was going to come to her country and kill her, we should have at least been in the right. Instead, we were wrong -- not arguably wrong -- just plain wrong.
As they say, read the whole thing.

How the Bush tax cuts wreck your lungs

Sunday, June 11, 2006

World of discovery

You know what look alike and can easily be mistaken for each other? A travel-size tube of Colgate Cavity Protection toothpaste and a tube of Preparation H anti-itch cream...

Three out of four

Half the sides have now played their first matches in the World Cup, and three of the four teams that I have been rooting for have won their first matches. Today the Portuguese defeated their old colony, Angola, joining England and Argentina in my winners' circle.

Of course, tomorrow's the real test as the "group of death" matches take place. USA! USA! USA!

(Disclaimer: I don't know what I'm talking about.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nothing to shout about

Hey mon, Trinidad and Tobago played Sweden to a draw. 0-0.

They're going nuts in Port-of-Spain right now, over a game -- er, match -- in which neither team -- er, side -- scored a goal.

This "football" is a little crazy.

52 cards, 7 players

It was poker night for me and the boys in the Bogdanski Hut. The whole home team (and a cousin) worked hard to make it the perfect evening, and it was. I even had a lucky rock with me -- so designated by the kids, who rubbed it a few times for extra good luck. I was down when they slipped it to me, but I promptly rallied and wound up breaking even for the night (down 50 cents) after an up-and-down game.

I'm lucky, and poker is the least of it.

And the playlist for the heart of the evening turned out better than I anticipated (you can never tell with these things):

Frank Sinatra - Luck Be a Lady
Randy Newman - It's Money That Matters
The O'Jays - Back Stabbers
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - Bad Luck, Pts. 1-2
Cannonball Adderley - Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Hall & Oates - I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)
Elvis Presley - Good Luck Charm
Muddy Waters - Stuff You Gotta Watch
Alice Cooper - No More Mr. Nice Guy
The Kinks - Low Budget
Dire Straits - Money for Nothing
Billy Preston - Will It Go Round in Circles
The Beatles - Get Back
Billy Preston - My Sweet Lord
Wilson Pickett - Hey Jude
The Beatles - What Goes On
Statler Brothers - Flowers on the Wall
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Losing End (When You're On)
Billy Joe Royal - Down in the Boondocks
The Four Tops - Reach Out, I'll Be There [Extended]
Jerry Butler - Hey, Western Union Man

A swell night, but something tells me I won't be checking out the first game in World Cup, just over four hours from now.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-oll! Not

Wow, so much for Poland. It will take a minor miracle for them now. Hats off to Ecuador.

I don't understand any of this, but it's been fun to watch so far. Maybe at some point I could even learn to play the game of socc -- um, football.

Dagoba Chocolate recall: Blood test results

I've been stewing for a couple of months now about the fact that I consumed several Dagoba Chocolate candy bars (the Eclipse variety) that were recalled for high lead content. As has been discussed here before, I even had a half-eaten bar tested for lead content, and the results were through the roof. Dagoba won't reveal the results of its own tests (other than to say that the lead levels exceeded allowable limits), but a month after the recall was announced, they did get around to informing me that they would pay to have my blood tested for lead.

In the meantime, however, I had discovered through the kindness and attentiveness of this blog's audience that blood screening for lead is available in Portland for free. The tests are regularly administered by an outfit called the Josiah Hill III Clinic. And so last evening I biked through the rain over to the Dishman Community Center, where the clinic gives the test to anyone who wants it, on the second Thursday of each month.

Thank goodness, my result was a mere 2.0 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood -- nothing to worry about, as I understand it. That's a relief.

A silver lining for me, then -- I came out ahead, having discovered an important community resource. If you live in an older home, and especially if you have children, there's no excuse for missing out on being screened. (The greatest risk for childhood lead poisoning occurs between 1 and 3 years of age.) The test takes about 10 drops of blood from your ring finger (I didn't feel a thing, and I'm a real nervous nellie with medical stuff), and you get the results in about two minutes.

Thank you, Josiah Hill Clinic and National College of Naturopathic Medicine Natural Health Centers Laboratory, for the peace of mind. I'll still follow Dagoba's response to its alarming quality control problems, but not with the urgency I was feeling up until now. At least I appear to be in the clear.

Oh, and another thing I learned: Josiah Hill III (below) was a pretty cool guy.

UPDATE, 6/9, 3:05 p.m.: A reader writes:


Your blog grabbed my attention this morning. As part of its lead hazard reduction and mitigation program the Portland Water Bureau provides some of the funding that enabled you to get your blood lead level test at the Josiah Hill III clinic.

Although there is no lead in Portland's source water and Portland has removed all known lead service connections from the city's distribution system, exposure to lead through drinking water is possible if materials in a building's plumbing contain lead. In addition to paint, lead in household plumbing is a primary source of lead exposure.

The Water Bureau's Lead Hazard Reduction Program is a comprehensive program that addresses lead hazards throughout the community. The Water Bureau offers free lead in water testing to all Portland customers - and many of our wholesale customers offer the same service. The program also supports the LeadLine (503-988-4000) which can coordinate getting the lead and water test kit to you. Certified lead risk assessors at the LeadLine can also provide information about risks from lead paint dust, pottery, children's toys, lead fishing weights, cosmetics and more. They can advise on ways to remodel older homes to avoid exposure to lead paint dust.

The Water Bureau's Lead Hazard Reduction Program in 2005 won an EPA Children's Environmental Health Recognition Award. The Portland Water Bureau is proud of the work we do to educate the community about lead hazard - and the services we provide to reduce exposure to lead.

Get the lead out - it takes on a new meaning in this community health context.

David G. Shaff
Interim Administrator
Portland Water Bureau

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Jail Blazer forever

Blazer punk Zach Randolph is at it again. Now he and his pals are busted for allegedly racing his cars down Broadway outside the Embers at 3 o'clock in the morning. Two loaded guns in the front seat, of course.

Note to Rob Kremer and Mark Wattles: Please find this fellow a new home. Sacramento or Oakland sound about right. Put him on eBay if you have to. Or make it a condition of closing with Allen that Randolph's gone first.

We are the world

Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "vision quest" questionnaire continues to get a thorough workout. Today's installment is in Arabic.

I'm all for inclusiveness, but at some point you've got to wonder how much all these translations cost, and how many of these foreign-language versions are actually going to get filled out and returned. How much money per response will it work out to?

If I lived in Portland and I couldn't communicate in a language other than Arabic or Russian, I'm not sure answering "visioning" questions on a City Hall form would be high on my list of priorities. Maybe a block party with an international flair would be a better way to sound these folks out.

All in the family

Mmmmm, more of the sweet smell of local government ethics, Oregon style. Nothing to worry about in these parts, folks -- it's squeaky clean. Now go on home and watch American Idol.

You can't take a sharp picture of a fuzzy object

Does the Portland Development Commission do a good job? Is urban renewal working in Portland? City Auditor Gary Blackmer (right) sent out a crew to start asking these questions, and they came back with few answers but many additional questions.

The Blackmer report was written up by Oregonian reporter Ryan Frank the other day, and he offered readers his rose-colored glasses, to be sure. "Portland renewal zones flourish," proclaimed the headline. But a careful reading of Blackmer's report paints a much different picture -- an assessment that would better be described as lukewarm. It finds the PDC's job creation strategies only "somewhat effective," and concludes that the jobs picture didn't differ much in several of the city's urban renewal areas from what it was in comparable areas of town that didn't receive PDC subsidies. Employment in two key urban renewal areas was about the same as in the rest of the city -- down around 9 percent. And what additional jobs the PDC creates, the people who live in the urban renewal districts typically don't get.

The O article did own up to the fact that the report criticizes the PDC's data collection and performance measurement systems. But the O summary -- "the city needs to do a better job measuring the success of its business recruitment work" -- is putting it rather mildly. The Blackmer report found that "on an organizational level,... PDC lacks clear goals, measures and data it needs to continually improve its decision-making processes and better link its investments to community results." Indeed, in two key areas, the report finds, the PDC publishes misleading data -- showing projected economic development results for projects that are already completed, and leaving the impression that these are actual, observed results. And the scope of the auditor's investigation was limited by the fact that there isn't enough information readily at hand to evaluate the PDC's performance.

Indeed, a fairer summation of the Blackmer report is that there's no way to tell whether the PDC is doing a good job, because the agency has poorly defined goals and doesn't keep the information necessary to determine whether it's succeeding at whatever it's supposed to be doing. What data the auditor's office dug up on its own reveals mixed results, and some of the records that the PDC shows around are less than candid.

There's enough interesting material in the report that concerned readers ought to read the original document and see for themselves. It's here. Don't let the number of pages scare you -- there's a lot of white space in there. I'm going to post some more entries on various aspects of the report over the next week or so, and I invite readers to help me steer the additional discussion.

Before leaving the study for now, however, just one additional observation is in order. The Blackmer report spills most of its ink on the end results of urban renewal, but it never mentions the opportunity costs of the many hundreds of millions of dollars that ordinary Portland taxpayers have been forced to throw at urban renewal over the years. Remember, more than 19 cents of every property tax dollar the City of Portland collects, from every taxpayer in town, goes to pay for "urban renewal." If the PDC weren't blowing that money by way of its $200 million annual budget (estimated spending for this fiscal year was actually $248 million -- a 167 percent increase over just four years), what else would the money be available for? Expressed another way, how badly does "urban renewal" drain needed funds away from core government functions?

Oregon state law requires cities to estimate the financial impact of urban renewal activities (such as tax abatements) on tax collections, but as has been mentioned in this space before, Portland refuses to comply with that law. Other cities can do it (Lake Oswego, for example), but Portland says it's impossible.

There have been several calls by urban renewal critics for the city to start complying with this law in earnest, but so far they have fallen on deaf ears. You would have thought that the city auditor, while he's busy talking about unavailable data and missing performance measures, might have said something about that. But there's not a word in the report about it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

He promised to exalt us, but low is the way

Here's another guy I'll miss. I'm proud to say I was there when he did this:

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

I love the smell of numbers cooking

Portland Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams has published a supposed life cycle cost analysis for the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]. Under this analysis, the tram comes darn cheap. Be aware, though, that in Sam's world, trams last 50 years, major maintenance will be less than a half million dollars a year, nobody pays interest when they borrow tens of millions of dollars, and you don't need insurance. Oh, and the land and the design competition -- those don't count as costs to the city.

It's on the menu under "linchpins." Try it with the teriyaki sauce.

Two percent for Marx

Were you aware of "the dominance of bourgeois values in Portland's developing self image"?

I guess I felt it a little, but unless this is a fake, there's an art exhibit in the Portlandia building right now that shows you exactly where that's at.

A sense of where you are

There's a new paper over in Central Oregon. It's called Bend Weekly.

They've even got the police blotter:

A Bend man was arrested for driving while under the influence of intoxicants. He was leaving K.O.'s south when stopped, and during his arrest interview his response to the question "Where are you now?" was "Trouble." 5/19/06

Monday, June 5, 2006

Santa Rita comes through

I'm a believer.

Of free passes and goal posts

The verdict is in -- Emilie Boyles is guilty, guilty, guilty and has to pay the City of Portland back nearly $150,000 for breaking the rules in the city's wonderful "clean money" system, whereby taxpayer dollars pay for politicians' campaigns (and trailer rent and back cell phone bills).

I'd be surprised if she had $150 left to pay back.

But why face that fact when it's so easy to kid ourselves? I'm sure there'll be a bunch of "case closed -- great work, Opie and Blackmer" stories circulating in the morning. The city's mainstream media seem to have lost hold of their critical faculties on this subject. For example, this morning the O's City Hall reporters give us their expert "analysis" of the "voter-owned" (but never voted upon) system. The piece has got a spin on it that's sure to please the city commissioners on whom the reporters will be relying for their livelihoods over the next four years: "Clean money" is successful because it reduced overall campaign spending in its first election. Its only failing, apparently, is bad, bad Emilie.

No further mention of Lucinda Tate, who, like Boyles, turned in signatures and certified supposed grassroots donations that appear to have been dummied up. All that's forgotten now. Tate's free pass is apparently universal and permanent. And the fact that the system obviously invites fraud is not worthy of much serious consideration, either.

Let's see. The grand new giveaway spent around $450,000, plus who knows how many hours' worth of bureaucrat time. (Now that the city's only elections officer is resigning, I'm sure there will be two people hired to replace her -- one to do nothing but screw around with the "clean money" system.) The end result: Sten and Saltzman were handily re-elected. Four candidates turned in signatures. Two of those turned in signatures that apparently were faked. One of the two legitimate recipients of the public money was the incumbent who pushed the system into law.

The original promise of "clean money" was that it would bring many new faces into politics. But with three races eligible for funding his time around, it clearly didn't do that. And as the O story itself acknowledges, it will probably provide even less of an incentive for new faces to appear in the future.

Why? Well, as Amanda Fritz learned, you can't beat an incumbent without outspending him or her. And under the new system, you will never be able to do that.

If a challenger takes the public money, as Fritz did, the best the challenger will ever do is to match the incumbent in the money department. The incumbent will have no problem raising enough privately to match the taxpayer handout that the challenger is getting; alternatively, the sitting commissioner can just go for public money himself or herself, thus assuring equal war chests.

And if the challenger doesn't take public money, the incumbent can and probably will do so, as Sten did. The incumbent can get his or her $5 donations to qualify for the taxpayer handout with just a few phone calls to some union buds. And so again, the best the challenger can do is match the incumbent in the money department, because the system guarantees that the public-financed candidate always gets as least as much as the candidate who doesn't take the tax dollars.

So now, as the story indicates toward the end, "clean money" is going to make a positive difference only when there's a vacancy on the City Council. It guarantees victory for incumbents in perpetuity.

Still, it's wonderful. The goal posts are moved. The evildoer has been caught and punished. A Vietnam victory. Classic Portland City Hall.

Dogs across the water

It looks as though Dog Day Afternoon, the doggie day care place that got kicked out of Northwest No-Longer-Trendy-Third, is going to rise like a phoenix in the otherwise unwanted retail space on NE MLK just across from the Oregon Convention Center. I think it was most recently a cell phone place before it was abandoned.

Maybe we can call it the "Convention Center Destination Hotel and Spa" and save the taxpayers $100 million or so.

All around the world

O.k., so I'm starting to get into the World Cup soccer thing. This week, I'm going to start calling it "football" and wear my one yellow t-shirt around. The action starts Friday morning at 9 our time. It looks like all the games -- wait, I think they're called "matches," right? -- are on cable, but not streaming live on the internet (at least, not in America). I'll try to watch at least parts of a few ga -- er, matches -- at the beginning, although it looks as though it may take a couple of days for the real fireworks of the tournament to start in Deutschland. (I wonder if Cousin Jim will get into this, since he was stationed over there in the Army. Which reminds me, when is he going to blog about the time that Granny Bogdanski came to Germany to visit him? But I digress....)

I know virtually nothing about the World Cup, but I've now taken a look at the tourney setup. There are 32 teams in there, broken into eight groups of four. They play a kind of round robin -- each team plays against the other three in its group, which takes around two weeks all told -- and then the two best in each group advance. There's some kind of scoring system based on win, lose, or draw, but that's for the advanced kids at this point.

Some of the groups are stronger than others, and so it matters which group you wind up in. I take it that the USA got itself dropped into a difficult group, while the powerful Brazil squad got into an easy one. Is that part of it fixed? Is this like women's figure skating?

Anyway, just to keep me awake during the June Madness that's about to begin, I've picked a team in each group to root for. Given my lack of "football" expertise, the selections are almost random, but does it matter at this stage? I don't know or much care if they stand a chance, dang it, but here are my boys:

A - Poland. I mean, come on, that one's obvious. The match against Germany should be a good one.

B - England. So I have something in common with the Kinks.

C - Argentina. Because it's all the way down there.

D - Portugal. How I wish I were watching the games from there.

E - USA. Of thee I sing.

F - Brazil.
They've got this Ronaldinho guy who's the next Pele, maybe.

G - Togo. This is the year.

H - Spain. See Portugal, above.

All right, the excitement mounts. Now you soccer types out there, help me out with the rest of this -- is there a halftime? And you can't touch the ball with your hands, right? Can you bump guys out of the way? Do they do that hockey thingie where the ball can't go across the line before the players? They don't have "icing the puck," obviously, but is there something like "grassing the ball"? Is it like baseball, where you can read a good book while the game's on and not miss much?

When the fans get nasty, will ESPN and ABC show it, or will they act like nothing's happening in the stands? Are there cheerleaders? Who buys advertising time for these games -- are they selling cars and beer, or is it sardines and hair mousse? Is that guy who screams "GO-O-O-O-OAL!" still around?

Nyet way

Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "vision quest" has now taken the form of a questionnaire that's been translated into several languages. Here's the Russian version. Make up your own jokes. Here's what I've got so far:

My Russian isn't too good, but I think it starts off with "Pancakes, Ham or Cheese?"

About an hour after these were distributed, Emilie Boyles turned a thousand of them back in, all in the same handwriting.

Too bad Diane Linn's on the way out. We could have had a Klingon version.

A time to weep

And while we ponder Travis, we read this.

It's really beyond words. God help the Scherzinger family.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Best in the West

They're weird, but they won. (Via Snethen.)

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Weekend update

"Travis John" won first prize.

The song and the story are here.

"We'll miss you Whac-A-Mole"

It's a sad day on Staten Island.

Kahn job

David Kahn, the former basketball executive who for a while was one of the main people promoting major league baseball in Portland, has new interests these days. It seems he's going to build a luxury hotel in the Oregon wine country down near Dayton. "He envisions a 50-room hotel, spa and restaurant on a hilltop with a view of the rolling vineyards." Yeah, and I envision a lot of unhappy neighbors, but that never stopped West Hills Portland money.

There's a big emphasis on how the joint will be "Napa style." There's plenty of room at the Hotel California... Why save ag land when you can have Disneyland?

Kahn scored a win the other night with a 7-1 favorable vote from the Yamhill County Planning Commission. And if he doesn't get his way with the county commissioners, he's got a Measure 37 claim in his back pocket. What a sweetheart. Hey, Vera loved him, and the Trib thinks he walks on water. Maybe I'm missing something.

Beast in the East

Congratulations to Dwayne, Zo, Riley, White Chocolate, even Shaq, on eliminating Sheed and the Motowners and advancing to the NBA Finals.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Benefits for Curtis

They're throwing a benefit bash for ailing Portland R&B master Curtis Salgado in Spokane this weekend. Curtis is set to perform there tomorrow night.

Good luck with it, everybody.

It looks like Oregonians will get a chance to catch a bigger version of the same vibe on June 13. The Steve Miller Band, Taj Mahal, Robert Cray, Everclear, the Phantom Blues Band, and Little Charlie & the Nightcats are scheduled to play in Portland, along with the Curtis Salgado Band, at the "Concert for Curtis." That's a week from Tuesday, starting at 7:30 in the Rose Garden.

Tuesday night? Hey, consider the reason.

Taxpayers, take a ride

Preparations are already under way for ceremonies at the upcoming inaugural run of the OHSU Aerial Tram [rim shot]. Apparently the Pill Hill planners are working on a special tribute to those who made the tram possible, and are hoping that disgraced former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt will agree to participate in a low-key way. (Via Chris "Butterbean" Snethen.)

Gordon's on the spot

A reader writes:

I grew up LDS (Mormon) and I have nothing against the church. Traditionally, the church has specifically stayed out of politics and refused to tell members how to vote on specific issues or candidates. This has changed over recent years.

Anyway, the reason I think that this is relevant in Oregon is Gordon Smith is also LDS and I wonder if people in Portland should know the competing influences. Generally I like Smith and I think he is the better of the two Oregon Senators, so I will be interested to know how he votes.


Me, too.

Score one for the bloggers

Bloggers cannot be hit with libel suits on the basis of anonymous postings on their Web sites because federal law grants them immunity by explicitly stating that they cannot be treated as the "publisher" of such comments, a federal judge has ruled.

Read the whole thing here or here.

Stranger in a strange land

Some unusual circumstances led to the kids' and my roaming around First Thursday in the Pearl District for an hour last evening. Heaven help me, I'm an old geezer, but I don't get any of it down there. Big, cold nothing. Cheap wine, the obligatory brie, mostly crummy art, the smell of burning money, beautiful people and their beautiful dogs striving to pose for magazines that don't exist. And overwhelming, dead seriousness about the whole thing -- all these earnest looks like something important is going on.

There's more happening at the Beavers game.

Overheard from a female member of a group of middle-aged adults that passed us on the street: "Where would children play here?" Indeed.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

It's that time

Already they're taping off spots along the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade route. And that parade isn't until a week from Saturday.

We've got Rose Festival weather going, that's for sure.

Name that troll

Does anyone know who "Torrid Joe," the City Hall troll, is? He publishes the Loaded Orygun blog, and he likes to come on here on weekdays from his city job and act obnoxious. I met him at Candidates Gone Wild, but he didn't give his real name. He's a largish guy, maybe around 30 years old, and not exactly GQ.

Can we get his real name out here and get it over with?

And does the city have a policy about surfing the internet on company time? Here are the IP addresses this guy has come from recently, all during business hours:

By 6:15 p.m., he's at home, posting via Comcast.

Is there some way to trace back to the guy from these addresses? Is the "254" an identifying marker?

UPDATE, 4:37 p.m.: We have a winner! See comments.

UPDATE, 5:37 p.m.: I've taken down the comments and complete IP address that reveal "Torrid Joe's" identity. And if he stays away from this site, that information will stay down. If not, I'll post it again. His choice.

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m.: Oops! Spoke too soon. Here's the latest from Mark Bunster, data analyst in the Portland Fire Bureau, alias "Torrid Joe":

Man, are you running scared. Threatening people? And I don't live anywhere near Metzger. That should be a tip that maybe you might want to think about the accusations you made, without the information to actually back them up.

I guess you realized how totally classless what you did was. Since you have banned most of the IPs I use, and some of the email addresses, it shouldn't be too hard to stay away from Bog's blog. I'm sure it will make it easier to pass your bullshit unchallenged, which is of course what you want. Petulance doesn't suit you, but it does fit the pattern.


Please, folks, don't give me a hard time about this. He had his chance to stay anonymous.

Cashing in on "smart growth"

There's a fairly lightweight profile in the O today about Joe Weston, Portland real estate mogul. Weston's piled up so much dough he doesn't know how to deal with it, and he's set up a foundation to give most of it away. In addition to the gushy words about that, and all the usual irrelevant nonsense (the license plate number on his VW bug, his divorce, blah blah blah), the O reporter fills in the basic outlines of how Joe made his money:

When Weston began building apartments in the 1960s, Buckman and the other close-in neighborhoods were filled with Victorians, four-squares and bungalows. But the areas were zoned for apartments. The zoning, says urban historian Carl Abbott, reflected the deterioration of the housing stock and the notion at the time that people with means buy homes in the suburbs, relegating the city for higher density. Weston accepted the invitation that the zoning extended. He began knocking down adjacent old homes and built two-story, 10-unit, brick-on-aluminum-siding apartments with the parking lot out front. By the early '70s, he had gotten quite good at it. Homeowners watched and worried.

"He was viewed as a threat," recalls Jim Andrews, who along with his wife is an architect. They bought a house in Buckman in 1974 across from one of Weston's buildings. "I don't think anyone regarded him as having malice toward the neighborhood. He was a shrewd businessman. There were worse developers, but he was so successful that people were concerned that he would just keep going and going."

Weston's buildings became a rallying point for activism in the '70s. Portlanders fought the national trend toward paving super highways to the suburbs and ceding the core to the poor. Neighbors such as Andrews got Buckman and other close-in enclaves rezoned. They re-emphasized single-family homes and established middle-class commitment to the city.

Today, Andrews says most of Weston's buildings wouldn't win a beauty contest. The projects substantially changed the character of neighborhoods. But "he built a decent product and he owned them for the long term," Andrews says. "Most neighborhoods benefit from having some diversity of income and ethnicity.... What we ended up with in Buckman is a pretty diverse neighborhood."

That's for sure. What you ended up with in Buckman includes drugs, and plenty of it; a ghetto of high-impact social services deliberately sited there by the Stennies; and lots and lots of turnover of residents.

But Weston's biggest insult to the place is aesthetic. If you cruise around Buckman and Sunnyside, and if you look at pictures of what was there before the apartments went in, you'll see what Weston did to those neighborhoods. Blocks of beautiful old Portland homes are littered with awful low-rise apartment bunkers that look like bad motels. The buildings are hanging in there, but in addition to being ugly, they're showing their age.

This is where density gets you. Since then Weston has cashed in big time on the Pearl, and now he's licking his chops over the area over by the Rose Garden. He'll try to talk the school board out of its headquarters building at a lowball price, get out his wrecking ball for the umpteenth time, and bam! Up goes another condo tower. If he'll put in a dozen $900-a-month studio apartments, the City Council will probably give him a free ride on property taxes. He's way smarter than they are, and he'll have them eating out of his hand, as usual.

Buckman is not a better place because of what was done there 35 years ago in the name of "urban density." If Weston has so much money to give away, he ought to pay to build the long-promised, never-delivered Buckman community center at the old Washington High School. He's got enough wealth to do it single-handedly, I suspect. And one might conclude that he owes it to the people of Buckman. It's a rough neighborhood to raise a kid in. Maybe the original "smart growth" kingpin could make it easier on the people who have made him so rich.

Dagoba Chocolate recall: Update

While I was on the road for much of the month of May, I finally got a response from Dagoba Chocolate, the Ashland-based outfit that sold several varieties of chocolate goodies that turned out to be contaminated by unsafe amounts of lead. I had purchased a bar out of one of the recalled lots, and had been eating other bars of one of the recalled varieties for some time before the contamination was announced.

I had placed calls to Dagoba and its liability insurance agent on April 5 and April 10, respectively, asking whether Dagoba was going to pay for a blood test for lead. As of April 25, the last time I blogged about this, I had gotten no response. My April 25 post noted that the half-eaten bar I had, tested out at nine times the regulatory action limit on lead in candy.

On May 12 and again on May 19, a person from Dagoba named Melissa left voice mail messages for me, saying that Dagoba would pay for a blood test for me for lead. In the second message, she noted that Dagoba's insurance company "isn't covering the test, but we [Dagoba] are." Not a very encouraging sign from anyone's standpoint, one would think.

Anyway, yesterday I got a nice e-mail from someone named Elyce Brown, who writes:

I couldn't figure out how to post this on your webpage about the Dagoba bars, but I'd love for anyone who reads your blog on that issue to know about the Josiah Hill III Clinic. We offer free blood lead tests at regular monthly clinics at two NE Portland locations and at community events, including free workshops on lead poisoning prevention (www.communityenergyproject.org for workshop info). A blood lead test mostly shows exposure which has occurred in the past 3-4 months, so the sooner you get tested the better. You can see our schedule and contact us at www.jhillclinic.org.

Any chance you could post this info? Thanks, and I have to say from a personal note, I am soooo glad and lucky to have not been eating Dagoba chocolate bars, since I was pregnant still at the time of the recall and I'm a chocolate lover who assumed that organic would mean no lead!

I see from the clinic website that they indeed have a test date that I can make, and I plan to do so. I also see from their photos that the test may involve just a pin prick on the finger, which would be nice.

Anyway, if you ate one of the recalled Dagoba products late in 2005 or early in 2006, one way or the other you shouldn't have to pay to find out how much lead you have in your blood.

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