Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suicide by cop - narration

Suicide by Cop (SBC) is a suicide method in which a person engages in actual or apparent danger to others in an attempt to get oneself killed or injured by law enforcement. [ScienceDaily]. See this post for Suicide by cop - the concept.

Aaron Campbell was fatally shot by Portland Police Officer Frashour. The media, in this case the Oregonian, has fanned the flames of racism and has demonized the officer. Irresponsible journalism is the kindest way to put it.

Police documents and grand jury transcripts have been released. There is more than enough information for the public to read and come to their own conclusions without the help of biased media.

The transcripts are probably sufficient in themselves. They are a must read because they tell a story that flows fairly well from beginning to end. It is a documentary, not fiction. It is an education too about police procedure in cases like this. You can't feign ignorance when material is there to be read.

While 445 pages of transcripts might seem daunting, they are legal formatted pages with a lot of white space. There are only 25 lines per page in a question and answer format. The questions are short and direct and the answers are relatively brief. Significant amount of text space is consumed by irrelevant information and can be easily skipped.

It becomes apparent that there are few differences in eyewitness testimony from either the civilian or police witnesses. And whatever the differences – they are insignificant. If one can put the media bias aside and read the story told by the transcripts, the outcome was predictable from the very beginning and it was clear that any police officer put in the place of Officer Frashour's would have fired the fatal shot.

None of the police officers at the scene were rookie cops, most were veterans with many years. They all were trained for a particular role. That is each had a specific job to do. No officer had more than one role to play.

An officer trained in crisis intervention (in fact all officers are so trained) was on the scene; also, there was sergeant from the hostage negotiation team, there was command staff including high ranking personnel, an officer with the bean bag gun, a K9 unit, and officer Frashour providing cover from a distance.

The testimony of Adrieanna (Angie} Jones is extremely important to read. She is often designated as Mr. Campbell's girlfriend but was not. They had two children together but they had ceased their relationship some two or more years ago. Their two children provided the connection between them.

From her testimony, it becomes clear that Mr. Campbell wanted to be fatally shot and that he was going to be shot. From her we come to understand the emotional state of Mr. Campbell. He became very despondent because of the death of his brother Tim earlier in the day (Friday) of the shooting.

Tim died in the hospital while waiting for a second heart transplant. He had one ten years ago, and it was time for another. The heart failure had affected Tim's kidneys. It wasn't clear in the transcripts, but he may have needed a kidney transplant too.

He had been in the hospital for 15 days. Eight of those days Aaron had lived in the same room staying by his brother's side day and night. However, Aaron left on the Wednesday before the incident and went to Angie Jones' apartment.

Angie's apartment was the locale for the fatal incident. She lived there with her three children, two from her and Aaron's earlier relationship. He left the hospital after apparently arguing with his brother about Aaron wanting to give him his heart.

Anyone who has ever had to go through the ordeal of watching someone you care about with a major illness suffering and knowing that death was imminent understands his emotions.

After he went to Angie's apartment the despondency caught up with him. On Thursday Aaron, according to Angie, attempted suicide 4 times which failed because the gun failed. She saw the gun and later she saw him put the gun away in his coat pocket after removing the bullets.

Thursday saw Aaron drinking a lot of wine and doing a lot of crying. Angie testified about past domestic violence of Aaron when they were living together 2 or more years ago. She mentioned that she heard that he was hospitalized at one time for overdosing on pills before she and he were together.

And, Angie testified that Thursday evening he said to her that “maybe I should go rob a bank and then hide the money somewhere and have the police kill me cause if he killed his self he knew he would go to hell and he wouldn't be able to be with his brother, So if he had somebody else do it then he would go to heaven and be with him.”

Friday didn't seem to bring Aaron any relief. He was still drinking wine. He accused his mother of doing something to cause his brother's death. It ought to be clear that his despondency seemed to be increasing and possibly hitting its worst point.

At some time apparently on Friday, Aaron had his mind made up. Angie Jones states in a police interview that Aaron had posted a message on Facebook “that read, "I'm next, I'll see you soon." She also said he had a signature at the end of all text messages he sent out via his cellular phone that read, "R.I.P. to my brother Tim, I'm next, I'll see you soon." [Police documents].

Also, Aaron's maternal aunt in a police interview said “that she was aware Campbell had posted on his Facebook account that Campbell's mother would be burying two sons today.”

I have left out much that additionally points to just how despondent he must have been. From Angie's testimony and that of his mother Marva Davis – there must have been an unusual closeness between Aaron and his brother Tim. Whether there was other factors that might have caused his despondency is not found in the transcripts or police interviews.

It was Angie that precipitated two 911 calls. She didn't call herself it seems because she was afraid that what happened would happen and she thought that she could get the gun away and talk him out of any further suicide attempts.

Angie had communicated with Sherry Stewart her aunt about Aaron's situation. The aunt became nervous about the fact that there were three kids there in the apartment with Aaron and Angie and that he was suicidal. She called 911 and told them about the situation.

Courtney Jones, Angie's mother, called 911 after she had received a phone call from her middle daughter about the situation at Angie's apartment. Ms. Jones immediately called 911.

In her testimony she related the consequences of a similar situation where “the dad and mom and the son, and he took – all of their lives.” It is the overriding concern of the police in these situations.

When the police arrived they all knew that Aaron had attempted to kill himself, that he was seeking suicide by cop, that the Angie and three children were there with Aaron in the apartment, and that he had a gun. It would appear too that some, but maybe not all officers, knew Aaron's criminal history.

At this point, neither Angie nor Aaron was aware that the police was outside. She left the apartment because she saw her dad outside. Once outside the police prevented her from going back in. While she was outside, Aaron became aware of the police. She had started texting with Aaron, but the police took her phone; however, Aaron had just texted a message to the effect “I'm out to get my gun. I'm not playing.”

The police starting using her cell phone to communicate with Aaron. It seemed that Aaron had some humor in his texting about the cops texting. The police were attempting to make sure he wasn't going hurt himself or the children. He just wanted the police to go away.

After the police inquired about the children Aaron without being asked sent the children out. This was an unexpected event. And since Angie and the children were out of the apartment, the police determined to take thing slow because time was on their side.

The negotiators were at a point where they were ready to leave if they could be assured his state of mind, that is, he wasn't going to hurt himself or others. They communicated this to him, and apparently through cell phone difficulties the clarity of communication became poor and the line dropped.

Unexpectedly – to all of the police personnel, Aaron came outside without being asked. The testimony by the police and civilian witnesses about what transpired was nearly the same.

Aaron was not facing the police, but already had his hands on his head in the manner they would have asked him to do. The police were shouting their standard phrases like walk backwards, keep your hands on your head, etc.

Most witnesses noted that Aaron started backwards at a fast pace. Some said running, the officer shouting commands called it jogging, but it was clear that it was faster than expected with the police yelling for him to “stop.”

Once he stopped Aaron would not obey any of the commands the police were yelling at him. There was a warning issued that he might be shot if he failed to obey the commands. Aaron's response was something to the effect “go ahead and shoot me.” He was told to put his hands straight up in the air. This is usually the point where the police have the person turn 360 to see if there are any guns in the waistband.

It is not real clear the exact distance between where Aaron had stopped and the apartment or the police cars. The police documents have him backing up to within 15 to 20 feet of the patrol cars. The patrol cars were estimated to be 30 yards from the apartment. It is a good distance.

Aaron refuses to put his hands up. He just stands there. An officer shot a bean bag. When it appeared that Aaron was going to run – another bean bag was fired. But he is off and running. More bean bags were fired. Aaron's hands are off his head. The bean bags are not having the expected compliance effect. In all 6 bean bags were fired.

Aaron is now running away from the officers, his hands are no longer on top of his head, bean bags are being fired, commands are shouted for him to stop, he is nearing the apartment entrance.

As he is running, he is being shot with the beanbags; it is clear that he is using one hand to reach down to his waistband. The police felt he was reaching for a weapon.

One civilian witness, Mr. Snow, in a narration during a police interview stated that he thought that Aaron was “reaching for what, to me, looked like just an object, a dark object. Urn, he did not fully get it from his waistband urn, when a, when I heard a gunshot and the gentleman was hit . . . .”

Later in response to questions Mr Snow stated: “Um, when he then proceeded to go for cover and what appeared to be, he was reaching back, urn, for a weapon. Like I said, it was an object that I was not sure if it was a gun or not.”

As Aaron was running toward the apartment, two things occurred nearly simultaneously as Aaron was reaching a Volvo parked in front of apartment – the dog was set loose and the fatal shot was fired. Witnesses could not definitely say which occurred first.

Given the circumstances, Mr. Campbell died just as if he had shot himself.


© 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PDC move out of Old Town – inevitable?

The Oregonian had another article about the potential move of Portland Development Commission (PDC) out of Old Town. PDC is a public agency that spends mostly property tax payers dollars for urban renewal and economic development. Their lease is up August 2011.

See my earlier post "PDC an Old Town asset" where I offered a few reasons why PDC's move would devastate Old Town. See too a recent Old Town blog post "PDC move – reality starting to sink in" that discusses the Oregonian article.

As noted in the Old Town blog – the August 2011 is not the date of concern. That date is the one by which PDC must notify the Kalberer Company, the landlord, of their intent to move. The closer one gets to that date the less likely any attempt to keep PDC in Old Town will be successful.

To expound more on the "PDC as an Old Town asset" theme - it is a fact that when a firm moves into an area the jobs that comes with the firm is multiplied in the community. That is, more jobs are are created to serve the needs of the relocating firm. Most are new jobs – not ones already extant in the community.

But a public agency like PDC causes more jobs to be created in the local area than would be by a private firm. PDC as an urban renewal agency has brought into Old Town firms, e. g., architecture businesses, that serve and feed off of their urban renewal activities.

Not only is there a job multiplier, there is a reverse multiplier too. If PDC moves, the firms that relocated to Old Town can be expected to move again; thus, the jobs created by the original move will cease to exist.

The loss of these jobs on the exit of PDC may well be larger than those created by the original multiplier. Commercial property owners or lessors may be hardest hit because many retail and office spaces are leased only because of PDC.

PDC has helped spawn a variety of retail stores that serves the residents as well as PDC employees. A loss of these stores, or decrease in their services, will likely be an incentive for residents to move out of Old Town.

Also, the residents of Old Town's one condo building will face a decrease in property values that will lead to an exodus. Old Town will face a negative gentrification. "Get out while you can" will be the theme of the day.

A decrease in the number of businesses will affect public safety in Old Town as well as its cleanliness. Old Town relies mainly on the Portland Business Alliance under its Clean and Safe services to provide security (Portland Patrol) as well as sidewalk and other cleaning services. Portland Business Alliance is basically funded by businesses in the downtown area which includes Old Town.

Thus, one can expect an economic downward spiral, with its accompanying and accumulating negative effects, that will decimate Old Town and return it to the skid row days.

Chicken little? I don't think so.

© 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

PDC an Old Town asset

The Oregonian essentially repeats (with some addition) a Portland Business Journal (sister publication) story that two developers want PDC as an anchor tenant claiming it would result in new construction jobs and a boost to property tax revenues.

The Portland Development Commission (PDC) is located in Old Town, but its continued presence is threaten by developers who just can't get enough of the free ride. I don't have much appreciation for PDC's urban renewal policies, but their presence has economically benefited Old Town.

PDC's employees spend money in Old Town; they have been supportive of Old Town neighborhood events; they have added much needed character to the neighborhood; and businesses have located there based solely on the desire and benefit of being close to PDC.

I hope that it is nothing more than a 'give it a try what do you got to lose' attempt on the part of the developers. But, in any event, it is a bailout plan for the two developers whose projects have stalled, of course not through their fault.

The costs of moving a public agency like PDC would be substantial. Who would be footing that bill? It was not that long ago, 2004, that PDC moved from its downtown location on 1900 SW 4th to Old Town. That move although welcomed was apparently a bid not to lose on an investment.

In some sense that move was like the proposed move. PDC moved into a building originally set to be a Creative Services Center (Center). PDC in 2000 invested $12 mil [Week 2/15/10] in urban renewal funds (property taxes) to retrofit the building for the Center, an incubator for startups. When that failed, PDC moved in.

Part of the 'failure' had to do with the economy after the dot.com bust. So there are similar argument to be made for the move. This from a 2004 Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC)article:

“According to PDC officials, factors such as the downturn in the regional economy, difficulties in the dot-com industry and general market uncertainty during the past few years created a difficult market for real estate and creative services industries and hampered PDC's ability to attract tenants at the center.”

PDC's had signed a 10 year master lease in August 2001, thus it is apparently up in August 2011. [DJC]. The building is owned by Kalberer Company. That company owns not only the PDC building (historic Mason-Ehrman building) but also the adjacent building and ¾ of the block across from the PDC building.

The adjacent building was also expected to be phase 2 of the Creative Services Center. It obviously never got close. Arguably, PDC lacks a certain expertise in its economic development strategy. .

Once again Old Town is the innocent bystander, the damsel forever in distress waiting for her rescuer. Frankly, I cannot imagine PDC moving out of Old Town, but still it would not necessarily be that surprising. One would hope that the very concept would bring outrage to the city government and the community.

Hope of this sort is ephemeral. The fact that it is just now being publicized suggests that negotiations are more at the end that at the start. But the removal of PDC from Old Town would be economically disastrous.

Talk about the nail in the coffin. I wonder how this will play out?

See Old Town blog for complementary view.

© 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What influences new firm formation?

Why surely “[i]t is reasonable, for instance, to expect that external factors such as the current economic slump would create large, and potentially volatile, fluctuations in firm formation from year to year?.”

Not so says a Kauffman Foundation Study. (Study) It seems that new business creation is constant over time. “[N]one of the factors that might bear on prospective entrepreneurs' decisions to form new companies recessions, expansions, tax changes, population growth, scarce or abundant capital, technological advances or others has much impact on the pace of U.S. startups.”

What? Interesting is that “the study showed that entrepreneurship education and venture capital [. . . ] had no appreciable impact on entrepreneurial activity . . . .”  [Take notice mayor Adams.]

Stretching for what does impact firm formation, it is suggested that the volume of new firms is irrelevant and that it is the impact of the firms that matters. Sounds circular. But, using Google as an example the Study states that Google “was one of dozens of search engines founded during the dotcom frenzy, but it has had more impact than all the others combined.”

What does this impact concept mean to the cities like Portland who are striving to encourage new business formation? Again the Study reaching to specify some concrete steps to encourage new business formation, suggests that “we should enact policies, provide education and make available capital and technologies that will enhance the possibility of success for every new company."

But that sounds contrary to the basis of the report – doesn't it? But it has this interesting statement that preceded the quote above: "It is possible that we'll only be able to perceive the fast-growing companies that emerged out of a particular year's class of new firms in retrospect."

Impact can only be defined after the fact? Seems so. See Economic Gardening.

Isn't business formation and innovation something that occurs almost naturally, a sort of innate human trait that can be encouraged, but not created. The Study suggests that “the most important thing we as a nation can do to encourage entrepreneurship is to provide a hospitable environment that helps more startups become fast-growing, job-creating companies."

What is a hospitable environment? The Study doesn't offer factors that might constitute a hospitable environment only those non-impact factors. It does seem that a hospitable environment is organic. See post for additional information on impact firms.

This Study and other research material is contrary to Portland Development Commission Economic Development Strategy. PDC seems to be under the impression that they (government) can actually create or incubate innovative startups.

But maybe they don't believe it either. The mayor in his State of the City speech offered a measly $500,000 to fund a Small Business Seed Fund.

As I have said before – this mayor hasn't a clue.

© 2010

Economic gardening

Portland in its economic development strategy (Strategy) has latched onto the concept of economic gardening as part of their attempt to promulgate economic growth in Portland's central city.

“Economic gardening” is a coined term (1989) by two Littleton, CO employees: Christian Gibbons, economic director, and Jim Woods, now city manager. Mr. Gibbons is the author of an excellent article Economic Gardening.

It was built on a simple concept from the research of David Birch at MIT: “that small, local companies were the source of jobs and wealth and that the job of economic developers should be to create nurturing environments for these companies.” [Economic Gardening].

It is important to note that this concept grew out of the economic needs of Littleton a small city in the suburb of Denver and part of the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Statistical Area. [See Wikipedia for demographics].

As of the 2000 census, the city's population was 40,340 occupying 13.3 sq. miles. It has a council-manager form of government. [ Wikipedia]. And, in the Littleton article, other successful cities (and a state) were mentioned, but they too were small but not as small as Littleton. None were as large as Portland.

One size does not fit all. Factors appropriate for the growth in one city or area doesn't necessarily translate to the needs of other cities. Littleton's situation, while maybe not unique, is not similar to Portland. Frankly there is little to no comparison.

But that doesn't prevent the benefits of their situation from having utilization. There is much to learn from the Littleton's experience. A primary lesson is that cities like Littleton can rebound economically after loss of a major employer.

Other lessons can come from their extensive research and of the trial and error application in their quest for economic recovery and growth. It would seem by all accounts that they were successful.

While its “economic gardening” was central to the Littleton program, i. e., “small local entrepreneurial firms would be the engine for the creation of sustainable wealth and new jobs;” in Portland, it is merely a feature.

Portland focuses on a select (yet to be determined) small businesses in the traded sector instead of Littleton's consideration of all small businesses. Thus, however as Portland's actual plans evolves not all small businesses will be included.

Portland recognizes the central theme of Littleton's program (inside-out) that “[e]conomic gardening is premised on the belief that local entrepreneurial firms, rather than firms recruited from outside the region, are the engine for the creation of wealth and new jobs, and the role of the city is to provide a nurturing environment within which these small firms can flourish.” But Portland's Strategy, in fact, seeks to recruit from the outside (outside-in).

Moreover, the Strategy takes that which the Littleton's program discarded and uses it as a 'success' element. E. g., Portland utilizes the “gazelle' concept, i. e., there are a few fast growing companies creating a majority of the jobs, to focus efforts on these companies (yet to be selected). Yet, Littleton found that it wasn't small businesses creating the jobs, it was the few companies on the way of being large companies. [Littleton].

The Littleton program also determined that its attempt to “expose local business people to “best practices” would develop superior business people” failed miserably. It recognized that you can't make superstars out of small business people.

Yet, Portland is adopting the exposure to best practices approach, They intend on identifying high growth firms (good luck with that) and pick out 20 for the first year exposure. [Strategy].

Littleton recognized that the temperament of the small business
executives were often an impediment to efforts to affect the growth rate of businesses. Portland misses the point entirely.

But having said that there is something in the Littleton's program that
I believe Portland grasps, at least the conceptually: the value of “providing tactical and strategic information;” “quality of life infrastructure and intellectual infrastructure;” and “connections to trade associations, think tanks, academic institutions, and other similar companies.

While Portland may grasp the concepts, it hasn't determined how to implement the three elements. Specifics are absent. There are more questions than answers. E. g., which companies and at what cost will tactical and strategic information be provided? Better yet – who is paying the freight?

Most of all, Portland has missed Littleton's sobering conclusion: “economies are massive biological organisms and not very amenable to control by anyone. Neither economic gardeners, nor economic recruiters nor politicians nor anyone else is running them. At best, we are adapting to everyone else's adaptations.

© 2009 Larry Norton. Originally published November 12, 2009 on Oregonlive.com. Some modifications or changes may have been made as an update, and may include additions and or corrections.
© 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gazelles and High Impact firms

This is an extension to the post economic gardening attempting to update the concept and its application in the implementation of Portland Economic Development Strategy (Strategy).

The Strategy's goal is to create 10,000 net new jobs in Portland's central city within 5 years by spurring economic growth among small businesses in 4 targeted traded sector, industry clusters.

But is arguable whether the Strategy will ever work. Ignoring the "pie in the sky" 10,000 jobs promise, the city of Portland has chosen to go it alone rather than be part of a Metro plan. The city's plan is one that nearly defies comprehension, but one can safely conclude that they haven't a clue as to how to create new jobs and new businesses.

For this post heavy reliance is on a Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, Report, June 2008, “High Impact Firms: Gazelles Revisited.” A News Release containing a summary is available.

Economic gardening had as its basis research by David Birch that concluded that economic growth creating the majority of jobs was accomplished by 3 to 5% of the small businesses. It was the small and young firms (“gazelles”) that were responsible. [Economic Gardening].

The SBA Office of Advocacy Report takes it a step further [apologizes for the inclusion below of so many quotes] From the News Release: “High-impact firms create America's new jobs and growth …. Distributed across all industries, high-impact firms account for almost all employment and revenue growth in the economy . . . .” [Underline added].

The Report notes: “The data suggest that local economic development officials would benefit from recognizing the value of cultivating high-growth [high impact] firms versus trying to increase entrepreneurship overall or trying to attract relocating companies when utilizing their resources.”

The high impact firm is more akin to an update of the gazelle theory. The distinction comes about because today “there are better datasets available for studying firm dynamics.” The Report states: “In fact, we find support for Birch’s gazelle findings with respect to firm size but not firm age.”

While our measures are not strictly comparable, the findings offer support for Birch’s observation that gazelles (high-impact firms) account for almost all the job creation in the economy. On average, high-impact firms are smaller and younger than other firms.”

However, they are not new firms and they are found in all firm-size classes, not just the 1-19 employee firm-size class.” [There are two other class sizes 20 – 499 & 500 +.] “Moreover, the trend accelerates as firms become larger, lending support to [earlier studies'] contention that large firms grow faster than small firms.”

Some characteristics (quotes selected from the Report because I am making a point) of the high impact firms:
"• The average high-impact firm is not a new startup.
• The average age of a high-impact firm is around 25 years old. These firms exist for a long time before they make a significant impact on the economy.
• High-impact firms come in all sizes.
• High-impact firms account for almost all employment and revenue growth in the economy.
• High-impact firms exist in all industries. While some industries are characterized by a higher percentage of such firms, high-impact firms are by no means all in high-technology industries.
• High-impact firms exist in almost all regions, states, MSAs, and counties. The share of high-impact firms in most jurisdictions varies from 2 percent to 3 percent of all firms.
• Fewer than 3 percent of the smallest high-impact firms came into being in the previous four-year period.
• Super high-impact firms are more numerous among large firms (500-plus employees).
"

And so how many high impact firms resides in the metro area and the county. For all practical purposes, Multnomah County and Portland city are identical.

In the large MSA, the Portland -Salem (Oregon/Washington) area is ranked 15 out of 52 with 3702 (2.36%) high impact firms. The ranking of Multnomah County (medium size counties) is #3 with 1305 high impact firms. In the small county category - Washington County is ranked 482 with 680 high impact firms. Clark County, Washington, is ranked 254 among the small counties with 510 high impact firms.

Thus, Portland, i. e., Multnomah County, has the highest number of high impact firms in the region. But, PDC in its Strategy is ignoring the high impact firms.

The Report indicates the young firms, in the 1-19 employees category, are not likely to be identified as high impact (growth) firms in their first 4 years. That suggests that PDC should focus on the those high impact firms that have moved to the next level beyond startup.

Local economic development officials should recognize the value of cultivating high growth firms versus trying to increase entrepreneurship overall or trying to attract relocating companies when utilizing their resources.” [Report].

Thus, with the number of high impact firms identified by the Report, Portland and the region is poised spur economic growth across all industries, that is, it should abandon the selected traded sector cluster industries approach. Development money ought to be spent on expanding and retaining existing firms, i,e., employ economic gardening techniques. [See the Report].

© 2009 Larry Norton. Originally published December 9, 2009 on Oregonlive.com. Some modifications or changes may have been made as an update, and may include additions and or corrections.
© 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mayor Adams' State of the City

Portland's mayor Sam Adams recently gave a state of the city speech which at best failed its purpose and was poorly composed. It was a lame and pathetic attempt to wrap himself in the “green” coat, but alas it was all too transparent.

His spokesperson, according to the Oregonian , “said the point of the State of the City speech is to tell people this is what's coming down the pike in the next few weeks." How patently false.

The purpose of the State of the City speech is self evident. It is about the extant state of affairs. But the fact that he felt that he had to redefine the purpose says much about the speech.

The use of “Palin” characters was especially pathetic. Whoever wrote the speech ought to have know better than steal a conservative's attempt to identify with the “common folk.” And to use “Jean” and “Mike” as middle class identities seemed especially lame.

An example of lameness: The mayor speaks of spending $16 mil for sidewalk development in those areas that never had sidewalks. And there is quite a bit. And how does this help Jean?

Well if you are Jean with two children who lives in one of these areas, can't afford a car, relies on transit – these sidewalks will make it easier and safer to get to a transit stop.

Now Jean stop your whining about jobs and the economy - you got sidewalks. Isn't it rather odd that a city the size of Portland that will spend bathtubs full of dollars for bike lanes, but has many areas without sidewalks. It is rural.

There was something clever in avoiding the elephant in the room – source of funding for the $16 mil for sidewalks. Rather than state the source, he shifts the focus to the anti-tax types that “have submitted an initiative to the state to repeal that source of funding.”

Apparently he plans on tax increase or an assessment for financing the $16 mil. Maybe he is thinking or adding a tax to the electric (or some utility) bill as seen in the Portland Development Commission's (PDC) Economic Development Strategy, page 10. Think of Jean – he pleads – when the signature gatherers approach.

And while he attempted to have one believe that he was interested in the Jeans and Mikes, never does he provide anything to ease their plight. Never does he address unemployment and underemployment. At the end of the speech, they are no better off nor is their future prospects any better.

Mayor Nero hasn't a clue. It is bad enough that this mayor has added a scandal to Portland's folklore but he has nothing to show for his time in office. His proposal for the future is based on non-funded initiatives.

The mayor says he has Portland's Jeans and Mikes backs. If I were them, I would be watching my back very closely.

Full text of the speech. The Weeks' analysis (good) and the Oregonian's take.

© 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oregonian's stories on police conduct - fair and balanced?

I often wonder whether Maxine Bernstein is as biased against the police as I perceive. There are others who see her as a 'truth teller' and blame the Oregonian for 'hiding' her pieces on the police.

This latest 'police' story “PCC student says she was slammed to the ground by Portland officers” has me on the side of biased reporting rather than fair reporting. It is not so much what she put into the story - it is what she fails to mention.

One item is that on January 10, 2010 she authored a story on the gang shootings in that area. It contains a map and information on 11 shootings. The title of her story: “Police call Portland- area gang wars a 'crisis'.”

I submit that this is an important piece of information in determining the propriety of police action. Another piece of information is that the Crips' colors seem to be similar to the KC Royals.

Try as I might, I could not find a conclusive reference indicating that the Kerby Blocc Crips' (KC?) colors are blue (not all Crips are the same), but it is something that the Oregonian could have easily stated.

I don't know whether the police did or did not apologize, and I am not even sure they should have, but I am inclined to agree with Sgt. Tony Passadore statement to the student:

"I wish this hadn't happened to you. Trust me," he said, in a phone call. "As an officer, I can see how it did. As a citizen, I can see how you think it shouldn't have."

I know that I don't trust Maxine Bernstein to author a fair story on the Portland police

© 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

High Speed Rail grants - a drop in the bucket without ripples

Portland, Oregon had its hand out for a share of the federal “high speed rail” grants ($598 mil) in the Pacific Northwest corridor. We are talking passenger trains, not freight. $8 million (1.3%) for the Eugene – Portland portion will be used mostly for deferred maintenance of Portland's Union Station.

High speed rail is for the most part a misnomer for Pacific Northwest. Sometime in the future the hope is that new tracks can be laid that will offer dedicated passenger service at bursts of 150 miles per hour, but stops in between will lower the average speed considerably.

Right now as most know the tracks are owned by private companies and used for freight. It is typical in a trip between Portland and Seattle to find that the passenger train has been sidelined waiting for the freight train to clear.

Interesting is that the trains are ready for 125 mph travel, but the signaling regulations keeps the top speed at 79. Although, inexplicably, 110 is expected to be the top speed anywhere in the near future.

The immediate benefit from the grant money between Seattle and Portland is some bypass tracks for increased train frequency and signal upgrades. [Grants].

The immediate benefit for the Eugene – Portland tracks is nil. $$7.5 mil is for Portland's Union Station which has a minimum of $40 mil of seismic rehabilitation and deferred maintenance. [Daily Journal of Commerce]

I say minimum because in August of 2007, the Portland Tribune had the story about Portland Development Commission (PDC) looking to unload Union Station, and it had the $40 mil figure – that is 2.5 years ago. PDC owns it and has used urban renewal money to maintain it.

While the feds are printing the money, one [article] mentioned that the states receiving money were expected to be providing some matching funds. How much was never discussed.

As one might guess – the $598 mil for the Pacific Northwest corridor is a minuscule drop in the bucket with little effect on implementation of actual high speed passenger rail traffic.

“The conservative Washington Policy Center's policy blog says the high-speed rail plan is more about high costs with tiny benefits. "Let's be more clear. This money is not to build a high-speed rail system between Portland and Seattle. This money is only to help Amtrak reach better on-time performance. And Amtrak trains are already highly subsidized, losing an average of $37 per passenger." [Seattle Transportation Watch].

Its my perspective.

© 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

WES – what is the return on investment?

The Portland Tribune laid out the WES statistics for year 1 in their article. It is not good picture.

The cost to date is $161.2 million that is $43.9 million over budget, 37.4% of the original cost projection. Ridership is 1,170 daily. According to the Tribune, ticket cost is $2.50 and operation cost is $18.50.

But KGW [link was broken when checked] had reported that in May 2009, operating costs was $33 per passenger and that the average fare was $1.15. No matter how you draw it is not a pretty picture.

We are not told by the Tribune the financing costs. Nor did they bother to provide a link or source for their facts. And who is paying for the financing and difference between ticket revenue and operating costs? I guess that is one of those rhetorical things.

One has to also review the TriMet news release to grasp that they are savvy marketers. Spin the positives ignore the negatives. E. g., TriMet, according to the Tribune) is blaming the loss of jobs in the area (55,000) as the cause for low ridership.

But doesn't that line, Wilsonville – Beaverton, connects to an area where job loss has been minimal? And how many jobs could have been lost in the almost 15 miles? Or, how many of the 55,000 now jobless would have ever riden WES in the first place?

Even with a full train, 154 seats, each trip, it will not break even at $2.50 a ride. Of course when the economy recovers, WES will be rolling in dough.

Can you say boondoggle?

Its my perspective.

© 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Commenting with anonymity are you?

I like the idea of remaining anonymous when adding one's comments to Portland's news articles and blogs. Of course there are two sides on issue. There is the 'they would not be saying that if they had to use their real names' side which is nearly exactly the other side's point.

And what is it that seems to be the bother? Is it the course language? Granted comments can be non-family friendly – they get an 'R' or 'MA' rating. But, these are easily weeded out by the publisher at their discretion.

Are the comments defamatory, e. g., libelous? “Defamation may be a criminal or civil charge. It encompasses both written statements, known as libel, and spoken statements, called slander.” The Free Dictionary as part of their definition has a decent article explaining defamation.

Suffice to say – public officials are rarely defamed nor private individuals. Think about the number of lawsuits filed or tried in the recent decades. Not many, but a lot of threats. Thus, while commenters are disparaged for how they express their opinion – remaining anonymous gives a certain freedom to speak freely.

The freedom seems more reserved to newspapers and the like. The days of town hall meetings are long gone and the newspapers have for decades stood as the people's representative to watch over government. How has that been working?

Today the newspapers and the like have reached out and embraced (not too tightly) the bloggers and commenters. It suits the purveyors of journalism to have comments posted on the newspaper's online blogs and reporter's articles.

All of the primary local newspapers' online version permit the commenter to remain anonymous to readers, but not to the news organization itself. At the very least email and IP addresses are recorded and maintained for however long they see fit.

But what is it that keeps the news organization from ratting you out? It is common knowledge that news organizations protect their sources and that the constitution protects news organizations. But are bloggers and commenters news sources or news organizations?

Nationally, that has not been resolved, but Oregon provides a measure of protection to them. The Oregon Media Shield Law, ORS 44.510 et seq has been broadly interpreted “to protect a broad range of media activity, not simply news gathering.” [Fifth Judicial District, County of Clackamas (Oregon Media Central)].

In that case the Willamette Week and Portland Mercury 'joined' forces to defeat a request for commenters identification. The two newspapers understood their responsibility and took the appropriate action to prevent the disclosure. Arguably, the commenter could have sought protection without disclosing his identity.

But therein lies the problem. The newspapers are not required legally bound to protect the identities except as they may have promised in their privacy statement.

Thus, as Oregon Media Central article reported, the news station KTVZ used the privacy statement as the reason to disclose the identity of a commenter. 

What about other news organizations privacy statements? The Week and the Mercury withstood the test. See the Tribune's and the Oregonian's.

While the Oregonian's is not as clear as either the Weeks or the Mercury, none necessarily state that they will defend against or otherwise challenge the validity of any legal process such as a subpoena. However, it is clear that the Week and Mercury will.

But see the Oregonian article “Anonymous blog commenters shield by Oregon ruling.” “In other words, . . . , you can say almost anything about anybody on an Oregon media Web site without fear of being unmasked by a lawsuit or prosecuted for libel, defamation or invasion of privacy.”

One might argue that the Oregonian will defend commenters as did the Week and Mercury.

Know your news media before you make your comments.

[Post script 2/13/10. See Chicago Tribune article: Anonymity is no guarantee in online postings.]

It's my perspective.

© 2010

Congressperson Murray Hill Incorporated

Corporation Says It Will Run for Congress And why not? It seems like a logical extension to the recent US Supreme Court's decision humanizing the corporation.

LA Times: "In a landmark 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates."

A little tweak to the constitution and we have one day: Mr. Speaker the President of the United States Murray Hill Incorporated.

© 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Digging in the sand

Portland's memory of the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII is ephemeral. The Old Town portion of Old Town/Chinatown that was once Japantown has been forgotten. Poet Kaia Sand is making an attempt to give continuing persistence to that memory.

An excellent article in Street Roots says it this way: “Poet Kaia Sand helps keep Portland's troubled history from fading into invisibility.” It is a great read. The portion of her “troubled history” that I am focusing on is the Japanese American internment during WWII.

My title metaphor is an attempt to describe that she has embarked on a continuing task. An unpopular or troubled history requires much more effort than otherwise.

In Portland's Old Town there has been a large effort to preserver historic buildings, but there has been little (nearly none) to preserve Japanese American history of the internment or their presence via structures extant at the time of internment.

Take a walk throughout Old Town – you will not come to know about the Japan America presence in Old Town that was once called Nihonmachi (Japantown) unless your walk takes you to Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

There you will find information on Portland's Japantown circa 1940 as well as their experiences in establishing Nihonmachi. It is the traditional immigration experience in American history.

Visit the Center's website and most certainly visit their center.

It is my perspective.

© 2010