Sunday, January 31, 2010

NW Couch & NW 6th drug dealers and users

There are times I really appreciate wet weather as it seems to keep the users off the streets in Old Town and lessens the number of dealers. It is rather nice this afternoon, but once I passed W. Burnside on NW 6th there was that weekend cluster of drug users that gather in the area of Couch and 6th. The dealers are close by.

In that area there are two transit stops - MAX and bus. And that should be important because they allegedly have surveillance cameras. Do they work? Is anyone manning them? Does either TriMet or Portland police care?

Oh, that's right - in Portland's Old Town they are out of sight and out of the minds of the city and community leaders. 

It's my perspective.

© 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Under the Burnside Bridge

Simply put – it is the as*hole of Portland. It has been a problem area for way more than the nearly 6 years I have lived in Old Town. It has been the subject of a many neighborhood public safety meeting. It has been a discussion topic at many neighborhood advisory (stakeholders) meetings at Portland Development Commission (PDC). For years it was left to Saturday Market to clean up the garbage, feces, urine, needles, etc.

In one sense it is surprising that it is the subject of neighborhood concern, but in another it isn't.

This area is part of a Portland Development Commission urban renewal area. Their studies and reports of the area largely ignored the problems. Not that they didn't recognize the problems, it is that for the most part they had the wrong solution.

Primarily, the urban planning philosophy is that safety and livability issues are solved or ameliorated by having more 'eyes' on the street. Thus, with University of Oregon and Mercy Corps moving in – problem solved. It is a Pollyanna misdirection. There is little if any substance to the theory that more people on the streets deters crime. It is all part of the Glad Game.

The 'eyes' are only effective in preventing crime if in fact that they are there for that purpose. And, they need to have more than a transitional interest in the neighborhood. Old Town is mostly a neighborhood with few permanent residents but with a substantial number of people that only work there. They are there for their shift and gone.

PDC Report 08-70, May 2008, illustrates a failure to analyze and identify the issues:

“In addition, the improvements to the Burnside Bridge MAX Station will help activate, revitalize and improve the public safety for the new adjacent developments as well as anticipated and currently underway private development in this district.”

The terms “activate” and “revitalize” are substitutes for “eyes on the street.” Take a peek at excerpted page 19 from the Ankeny Burnside Framework Final Report (December 2006), Existing Conditions. PDC tiptoes around the safety and livability issues under the Burnside Bridge.

Notice that PDC refers to a “canopy” rather than under the Burnside Bridge. The PDC Report talks in terms of “perception” as if there might be an alternative view. It never really addresses the issues that existed then and still today as to deplorable conditions.

Take a peek at "Under the Burnside Bridge” section especially this recommendation: PDC to “Work with Block 9 and Block 10 tenants and owners to develop a safety management strategy for under the Burnside Bridge.” That is, work with the University of Oregon (Portland) and Mercy Corps.

As far as I know it was never done, otherwise the neighborhood would not be concerned. But why shouldn't the two organizations do it on their own? They ought to be standing up and taking the leadership position and not waiting for others. Look - PDC is an irresponsible organization, they essentially ignore the reports unless it suits them, and almost never do they follow through.

My point – issues under the Burnside Bridge ought to be resolved under the leadership of the University of Oregon and Mercy Corps. The neighborhood should not need to assume the leadership role.

It's my perspective.

© 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Disassociated

The editorial board of the Oregonian and the Oregonians against job-killing taxes haven't yet taken a look in the mirror. They exhibit a certain disassociation with reality.

Tax measures 66 and 67 passed with substantial margin. The Oregonian editorial board wasted no time in putting their best face on while still rattling off discredited claims. I would hazard a guess that like politicians they had two scripts prepared – one if the tax measures had failed and the other – the editorial - had the measures passed (and they did).

They had done their best to give an edge to the opponents of the tax measures – including a change in political advertising policy. Frankly, it is difficult to understand why they put so much of the Oregonian's credibility on the line. It didn't help and it backfired.

Maybe blew up in their face is a more apt description. The unannounced change in political advertising policy in relation to the use of a front page Spadea and subsequent allegations of censorship cost the Oregonian. The Spadea flap has been the frequent term for the advertising debacle.

The losers, in more ways than one, have no sense of place. The Oregonian had an article about the passage of the tax measures which included these comments by the spokesman for the Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes:

"It's disappointing and discouraging." "The tone and tenor was often venomous, trying to pit the haves against the have-nots."

”He said the business community now must figure out "how to participate in a system that's largely disconnected from us."”

One would think that the concept of “clean hands” has little meaning to the spokesman; that in this situation (including the effects of the recession) the haves should have been willing 'give' to the haves-nots; and one might remind him that the “system” doesn't exist to serve the business community; and he should take notice that it is the business community that is largely disconnection from the “system” and the public.

It is my perspective.

© 2010

Oregonian censorship

Censorship in the freedom of the press context is typically thought as being the removal or obscuring of content. Often it is direct and obvious. But it can be indirect and not so obvious to the public (unless made public).

The increase of control over the Oregonian by its corporate boss Advance Publications has resulted in the Spadea flap. The flap involves not only the change in policy but censorship associated with political advertising content and stemming criticism.

The Oregonian's policy was to not permit a Spadea wrap on the front page section of the print edition. The rationale is obvious – to prevent confusion between journalistic content and political advertising content.
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But, recently in an unannounced change in policy, the Oregonian sold advertising space via a front page Spadea to the opponents to the tax measures 66 & 67.

One has to wonder why the Oregonian ad sales office instigated the sale of the space to the opponents whose position the Oregonian's editorial board supported but not to the proponents. There has been nothing published to the contrary.

The changed policy which only the opponents seemingly knew prevented the proponents from getting the first crack as well as losing the opportunity to put their ad in the next Sunday's spot (last one before the election) which was taken by the Auto Show.

Arguably, this policy change was driven by more than a corporate demand for revenue – it fit too closely to the editorial board's philosophy. And, it is argued that there has been a recent significant change in the editorial board's political bent.

But the controversy became even larger when the proponents of the tax measures obtained their opportunity for the front page wrap. And this is where censorship reared its ugly head.

The proponents' advertising contained criticism of the recently installed Oregonian publisher who they felt to be the man behind the scenes of the flap. The Oregonian would not permit the ad with criticism.

Thus, it was the Oregonian that created the controversy and then sought to stem criticism by preventing the inclusion of political advertising critical of the publisher.

Doesn't that spell censorship?

A fairly decent article on the censorship issue can be found in the Portland Mercury Blogtown. If one can get by the inarticulate content, apparently it cannot print 'family' content; it is still a good read. See the Willamette Week's take on the flap.

Another censorship was executed by Oregonlive/Oregonlive. [See their connection Two desks in corporate office] A post by one of the community bloggers, Old Town, was pulled apparently because it had raised ethical concerns about the Oregonian's use of the Spadea for front page political ads. That post can be found here.

Apparently the Oregonlive rationale was that the post was not restricted to content related to Old Town. Community blogging is the Oregonian's, AKA Advance Publications, attempt to use local neighborhood, non-paid bloggers to provide localized content.

The upshot – the post was pulled and blogger notified later. An even cursory review of the posts of this blogger demonstrates that Old Town was only a viewing point.

As indicated in an earlier post – this is not your father's Oregonian.

[Postscript: The tax measures passed easily. I would submit that the Spadea flap helped their passage.]

© 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Two desks in the corporate office

The Oregonian and Oregonlive.com are just that. The corporate office is Advance Publications which has many desks, but these are the two of interest because of the Spadea flap and censorship allegations that accompanied it.

The change in publishers seems to be the focal point of articles from the Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury Blogtown. But, in fact, it is a corporate strategy evolving. It is no coincidence that the top management at the Oregonian has substantially changed. Advance Publications has taken firm control over the Oregonian and Oregonlive; notice the two links take you to Oregonlive.com.

Despite their possible placement on the corporate organizational chart the Oregonian and Oregonlive are as symbiotic as two peas in a pod. This too despite a claim from an Oregonlive management person that it is completely independent of the Oregonian.

In practical terms, Oregonlive is the online publisher of the Oregonian, Oregonlive contains no other content but that of the Oregonian. They are two in-house publishers of the same content whose revenue accrues to Advance Publications. Boss man is in New Jersey.

This is not your father's Oregonian.

© 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oregonian's ethical conundrum

The campaign for the the tax measures 66 & 67 have run rough shod over the truth and ethical considerations. But, that seems to be situation for any election issue. At a minimum, the goal is to stretch the truth. That is commonplace and citizens seem to take it in stride. [Ethics as “in accordance with principles of conduct that are considered correct, esp those of a given profession or group.”]
So where do we go for the facts so that our vote can be made on some other basis than false ads? Often, as is the case regarding the tax measures, the state offers non-partisan information. However, this information is available on their website which unless you are referred there – it will remain available and unread.
Of course, there is the voters' pamphlet. I wonder how many people actually wade through information that is statutory content or is so brief its value is suspect? I think people look to the newspaper for help. Problem is that the papers often shun that responsibility.
Some papers by their size and reputation have more of a responsibility than others. One expects more from the Oregonian than from the Tribune or the Week. The Oregonian is well positioned with their resources to provide an analysis of the tax measures and of campaign tactics. But, they have thus far abandoned that responsibility.
The Oregonian in its Jan 4th and Jan 9th editorials supported a position without one shred of evidence as to the claims made therein. It was nothing more than a campaign ad whether that was their intention or not.
Of course, an editorial is merely an opinion but being in the position of reaching so many citizens – their editorial should have gone beyond an opinion without facts. I believe it is safe to safe to say that a majority of the editorial readers assume that the Oregonian is basing their opinion of some homework.
Not only did it not do its homework, it sought to amplify the effect of their opinion by a revenue decision to print the Sunday edition with what is called a Spadea – a removable wrap typically around the front section. It is effectively a three full page wrap. One can only imagine the cost.
The Sunday wrap was an ad for the no on the tax measures campaign and includes excepts from Oregonian editorials. It has all the trappings of an Oregonian newspaper endorsement not just an editorial opinion. It is a mutual support package.
Interesting in that the Oregonian refused in its response to readers comments the amount paid claiming that it was a private matter, but then stated the advertiser paid a normal rate. If a normal rate – why not disclose that? Or is “normal” different depending on the advertiser?
The Oregonian must have had a twinge of ethics in their decision because it felt compelled to announce in advance why it sold the space. Making sure to imply they would sell the space to the proponents, “”subject to our final approval.” They noted too that the proponents had not sought to buy the wrap.
I found it interesting too that in the editorial blog the publisher were quite active in defending their decision against criticism. One might think they are protesting too much.
Arguably, a rather ordinary decision to sell space but drawing the 'best defense is a good offense' response reflects their concern about the ethics of printing this ad because of its prominent placement and content with little differentiation between the advertiser and the Oregonian.
Nobody would have trouble differentiating between a wrap advertiser like Safeway and the Oregonian. Moreover, the same ad in the Thursday Tribune would pose no issue for either the public or the Tribune.
I am not sure that the Oregonian made an incorrect or unethical decision to print this wrap, but I believe they had internal doubts which in of itself ought to have been a sign not to publish.
Different story if the Oregonian had previously objectively analyzed the tax measures and reported factually on the analysis. Column writer David Sarasohn did point out the flaws in the opponents advertising, but his writing is more opinion than factual analysis. Clearly the position of his piece in the print edition was not as prominent as the wrap. My reading shows that he was alone.
It is not that the decision was in fact unethical or irresponsible, but it gave the appearance of impropriety. Perception is often truth. Doesn't a newspaper, especially one with the quality of the Oregonian, have to be especially guarded against losing its mantle of objectively by failing to separate itself from editorial opinion and objective journalism?
[As I was about to publish this I noticed that the Week had a relevant article you might want to read.]