Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another opportunity for Old Town

There is a special meeting March 31 concerning the potential move of PDC out of Old Town. The public can have their say at about 9:00 a.m. See the agenda. Sad to say there are no documents to review - so one has to rely on the material in the Oregonian. [See my post].

This is probably the last opportunity to express opposition to (or support for) the move.

© 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Over serving of alcohol

A recent Oregonian has a story about a $1.5 million settlement against a bar for over serving the patron who subsequently drove the wrong way on the freeway killing two 21 year olds who had not been drinking.

I am assuming, because the Oregonian didn't address it, that the plaintiffs' attorney looked only to the insurance company because the now former bar owner was basically judgment proof. In some sense a settlement is best for the plaintiffs because typically the “split” of a settlement award puts more money in the plaintiff's pocket.

Not that any monetary amount can undo the deaths, and in this case, it seems that the bar owner will not suffer anything. And the patron who was over served received only 4 and ½ years sentence for killing two. Odds on favorite is that she will be drinking and driving again.

But, the numbers don't work out. The Oregonian reports that accident occurred 4/29/07; 8 months later (12/29/07) the driver pled guilty and received a 4 & ½ years sentence; and that she now has 9 months left. But 4 & ½ years from 12/29/07 is somewhere around May 2012. Even if the driver received credit for being in jail since the accident – the numbers still don't work out.

However, the tragedy is that these two deaths could have been prevented. The easy culprit, and the correct one, is the OLCC. The OLCC is part of the drink culture in Oregon where drinking is posited as a family affair.

My first experience of this Oregon predilection for the drink was at a 'tasting' event on the Portland Waterfront. One of those events where one pays too much for a cup of high alcohol content micro-brew. It was early afternoon and over serving was the accomplished goal.

But what is different too in Oregon as opposed to say California is that obtaining a license to sell alcohol, especially beer and wine, is not only easy but also inexpensive. A license is sure to be provided despite community or police objections.

There is an argument that having the same agency that sells the alcohol to its licensees for the benefit of the state should not be responsible for enforcing the regulations. There is no reason though that the OLCC could not independently enforce the rules – but it seems clear they don't.

The OLCC commissioners are political appointments which virtually throws competence and independence out the window. Arguably, this affects the agency's lack of enforcement. Take a peek at each of the commissioners. Nothing in their bio has relevance to the job. Their claim to fame is being a friend of the governor.

Despite the agency claiming it is not making excuses – it is. Compare and contrast the enforcement efforts related to the bar in question and the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom.

In March 2010, according to the Tribune, the OLCC had this option for McMenamins - $5,280 fine or 32 day suspension. The problem – not over serving – not serving minors – but for “a list of 15 incidents at the ballroom from August 2007 to August 2008 involving “excessive noise, public drunkenness, fights, altercations, harassment and public urination.” It is a list of common occurrences in Old Town.

The Golden Star bar subject of the over serving suit had a 16 year reputation for over serving. ” Despite countless complaints about the practice [over serving] -- including letters from the Gresham police chief cautioning the bar not to over-serve -- and more than 35 DUII arrests of drivers leaving the bar in the five years leading up to the crash, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission fined the Golden Star only once, and that was in 2002 when two inspectors witnessed an egregious episode.”

Interesting in the same KATU article that reported the 2006 arrest of the OLCC director for drunk driving (she promptly resigned) notes that she was an OLCC inspector from 1981 - 1982.

Also, it was noted that during her tenure as director sales were on track to a $77 million increase in 2007; and that OLCC promoted separate liquor stores within supermarkets. A program that the agency said “has brought in more revenue than expected.”

Those who argue that OLCC should not be responsible for the enforcement of the regulations have good cause for their argument. The agency ought to have more primary goals than enforcing the 21 age limit. It has a duty to regulate to insure that bars – there are many – do not over serve.

The agency needs to be revamped to insure independence and uniformity of the enforcement of regulations; and it also should become an agency that, in fact, considers as pertinent licensing factors community and police input.

© 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PDC – 13 RFBs (request for bailouts)

This is more followup to other posts on Portland Development Commission's potential move from their Old Town location of about 5 years. The Oregonian/Portland Business Journal – same company – had the stories. It apparently is of little concern to any other of the media. Not surprising, it is Old Town and Old Town never learned to market itself.

The best list is in the Portland Business Journal. These are all “please rescue me from my inability to finance my project” developers. Also, it is more of PDC's love affair with developers. The proposals are more welfare handouts to developers without a means test.

It is just plain wrong for property tax payers and their tenants and the consumers of their products and services to pay for the mistakes of developers. These developers are looking for bailouts.

It is doubtful from the information provided thus far that any of the proposals will match the one submitted by the present PDC landlord Kalberer Company. Nearly all of the others are of the “let's submit a proposal – what have we got to lose” variety.

It is not only the the terms of the new lease that will be important, but the Request For Information (RFI) spells out the other factors. E. g., location near transit is a factor if considered alone would eliminate some of the contenders.

But, look at five locations, other than the present one, that might qualify on the close-to-transit basis. 421 SW Oak contains the Post Office at the ground level and is directly across the street from the “big pink” U.S. Bancorp Tower. Within a couple blocks of those two buildings is the Commonwealth building at 421 SW 6th. Finally there are the SOHO building – East of Pearl – and the Sherlock building at 320 SW Oak. All of these locations are within ¼ of a mile from PDC's present location.

Pray tell – why would anyone move their headquarters less than ½ mile?

Hopefully more information will become available soon. PDC originally stated that the board would be apprised of the proposals at the March 24th commission meeting – but guess what, that has been canceled. Hmmm.

The next scheduled meeting is March 31. It is expected, based on a PDC statement, that the there will be a staff briefing of the commissioners with recommendations at that meeting. PDC also stated they expected a contract by May 12. We shall see – won't we?

The Oregonian's Ryan Frank sees the two favorites as Park West and the present Old Town location. He sees the “biggest economic payoff” coming from a move to Park Avenue West.

It is a project dead in the water mostly from the mistakes of the Mr. Moyer. He went ahead with a project without securing financing or tenants first – now he is in deep dodo crying for taxpayers to bail him out.

The PDC chair said that a relocation would need a compelling basis. Where is the compelling reason for PDC in the Moyer or any other proposal? Clearly, Mr. Moyer would be bailed out and that might just please the mayor who Ryan Franks indicates might benefit politically: “Just think of Mayor Sam Adams standing behind podium to celebrate work re-starting.”

And that may well be the determining factor – politics.

© 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oregonian Editorial – moral posturing re child sex trade

An Oregonian editorial points to the film “Playground” as an expose of the child sex trade in Portland. It wanted to sound outraged – but it doesn't. Instead of providing some detail of the trade – we are informed only that 82nd seems to be the area of the child sex trade.

But the editorial shifts the focus from child sex trade to prostitution in general. It implies that child sex trade is just another form of prostitution and that there are those that see child sex trade as victimless.

Adult prostitution is a complex matter where it can be difficult to categorize prostitutes as victims. Of course there are those that are victims and we see many of them daily on the streets. But that type of prostitution is not the same as involved in the child sex trade.

The editorial also seems to think it necessary to imply that cities like New York and Los Angeles don't care about children in child sex trade. According to the editorial – these cities see children like extras in a movie. What hogwash!

No one, except those predators of the worse kind and those financially benefiting from this trade in children, believes that the children are not victims. They are victims because they are incapable of protecting themselves and these children have no adults to protect them. They need state protection at whatever cost.

The Oregonian owes the residents of Portland more than 12 sentences in an editorial – it owes a duty to expose this child sex trade and all who are involved. The Oregonian has the resources to expose this trade and to put the pressure on the city government to do its job.

Pointing its readers to a film is far from even a first step in adhering to its journalistic duties. Whatever the details of the Portland child sex trade – they must be told. Is there anything more important than protecting children?

Ironic isn't it? We protect children from unsafe toys, furniture, electric outlets, food, etc. yet we don't protect them from the child sex trade. The skeptic might wonder whether it is the money and the people involved that keeps this trade from being exposed.

A further irony is that religious organizations like the Catholic Church are involved in the use of children for the sexual desires of priests. It may not be child sex trade for profit – but it is use of children for sex by adults. There is also an element of trading as seen in this CNN story.

While I focused on the Oregonian - none of the other news media have addressed this issue either.

Who are to protect the children? News media has the wherewithal to see that city government, police and politicians at all levels take all of the necessary steps to protect those that can't protect themselves.

And pigs will fly.

© 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Old Town's impassive response to PDC relocation

Another blog – Old Town – set out some of the details of the Old Town meeting intended as a sort of “top ten reasons” why the Portland Development Commission (PDC) should not move out of Old Town.

But, frankly, what I saw was a lack of passion – but that has always been absent in Old Town and it seems to be consistent with the silly waving of hands at city council meetings as a sign of approval leaving little means of expressing disapproval. Isn't it a form of censorship – a disrespect for freedom of speech?

What transpires at most meetings is an arrangement of bobbleheads around the table while the chair of the meeting 'leads' the participants (if bobbing your head is participating) down the primrose path. This one was little different.

PDC – while there seems to be a good argument that they will not leave – has sh*t on Old Town so much that Old Town seems to enjoy it. One wonders what it takes to get people involved? Having an opinion is a negative.

This lack of passion had one Old Town exception – meetings on the Resource Access Center location. People on both sides were emotionally involved – passion was rife – things were said that later beget apologies. That is when one recognizes an important issue.

Any issue that affects the neighborhood development and economic infrastructure demands passionate responses – but a potential PDC move did not bring out the passion.

Not that there wasn't some well stated opposition. Those that did speak – too few – raised valid issues and noted specific ramifications should PDC move. But passion was absent.

But, it should be noted that the chair of the meeting Alexander Mace was appropriately (he was the chair) near passionate in his arguments. Maybe too exhibiting a feeling of exasperation.

Certainly, Mr. Kalberer comments came close to passionate argument. And had the mayor, who disappeared soon after arriving, stayed around he and the PDC chair may have reached a near heated discourse on PDC decision making.

But, there is way too much emphasis put on consensus such that argument is lost. Meeting environments often have an air of resignation. Rather than speaking up, meeting participants never utter a word. A look at meeting minutes will not indicate either positive or negative comments on any issue. This meeting was not different.

The Old Town blog expresses a hope that Mr. Kalberer will prevail in his aggressive pursuit of PDC as a continuing tenant. The argument seems to be that the ball is in Mr. Kalberer's court – but without fan support he may not succeed.

I don't see that support will materialize. C'est la vie.

© 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is wrong with this picture? Teacher deals meth gets 45 days.

The meth dealer is (may still be) a teacher at Benson High School who along with her roommate sold drugs out of their Portland home. Over a six month period police informants purchased meth at least three times. According to one Oregonian story when the police searched the home they found “about 19 grams of meth, $8,700, scaled (sic) and packaging materials . . ,” and in another Oregonian story it was “just short of one ounce of methamphetamine, about $10,000 in cash, scales and packaging materials. . . .” 19 grams is about 2/3 of an ounce.

In addition to the 45 days sentence, unlikely to be served in full, she received 3 years probation and is required to serve 64 hours (not quite 3 days) of community service, and must pay a fine of $500. Wow – that sends a message.

Apparently, the Oregonian could not determine whether this teacher will be back at her job after her jail time. But, it may be a moot point because she may be deported.

Also interesting is that nothing is said – Oregonian too busy to investigate – about where she obtained her supply of meth. And, while she may have sold meth to a confidential informant three times in a six month period, how much meth did she sell in the 6 month period? How long had she been selling meth? How much money did she make selling the meth? And, pray tell – what other drugs had she sold?

Much seems to be made of the fact that she is a popular teacher and that she needed money to take a trip to Mexico to “help out her sick mother.” What has popularity with students to do with her crime? And, did anyone investigate whether her mother was sick or not and why that is a valid excuse to sell meth?

Somehow too the Oregonian played up the fact that she did not sell meth to students, well at least not Benson High School students. And how do we know that this is true? The authorities said so. And so what? Can she guarantee that the meth she sold was not used by students?

The Oregonian – soft on drug crime when it involves someone unexpected – seems to find that the sentence was just about right. They failed to ask even the most trivial questions. I am surprised that they didn't chastise the police department for arresting a popular teacher who needed money to help a sick mother.

A decent person doesn't sell meth. A teacher ought to be held to a higher standard. 45 days is too light of a sentence. She ought to be fired. She ought to be deported (her mother needs her anyway).

Benson Tech Spanish teacher investigated in meth case

Benson High School teacher pleads not guilty to meth charges

Portland school teacher sentenced for meth dealing

© 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hear ye! Hear ye! - Old Town meeting re PDC move

A couple posts here and in the Old Town blog and a couple of Oregonian pieces have discussed the contemplated move by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) from its Old Town location to anywhere else, or so it seems. See links below.

The Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association is conducting a town hall type of meeting Tuesday March 16th at PDC's Old Town headquarters, 222 NW 5th Avenue, at 5:30. Those interested in effects on Old Town and the potential reasons for the move should attend. If you get there a little early you can sign up to speak.

I am not going to restate the potential negative effects on Old Town when PDC moves – but suffice to say it will be a substantial blow to Old Town's economic infrastructure.

Notice I said “when” not “if” PDC moves because I believe that decision has been made and this meeting will be used as an attempt to justify the move and to placate as many as possible.

Let's see if Old Town has any gonads.

PDC move out of Old Town - Town Hall Meeting

PDC Move - reality starting to sink in

PDC move – understandable

PDC move out of Old Town – inevitable?

PDC an Old Town asset

Sales pitches - and some politics - on the Portland Development Commission's new home talk (Update 1)

Developers Tom Moyer, Jim Winkler court PDC for aid -- as a tenant

© 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Custom House auction

This is an exquisite building situated on the North Park Blocks in the Pearl District with MAX and Portland Streetcar within a few blocks. Sometime ago the GSA determined “that removing the structure from its inventory would be more beneficial to taxpayers than keeping it.” This meant proceeding according to GSA Property Disposal procedures.

The GSA under a public benefit program offered to certain buyers the property for zero dollars “as is.” Just like buying anything “as is” one takes the item with all the warts. Bottom line is that a $10.5 mil property would have been given free to qualified applicants.

An Old Town Blog post has pertinent information and links to recent articles, but suffice to say the latest applicant, International School, felt that the “warts,” i.e., the seismic and disability access costs, were too great even with a free building.

There has been two applicants since 2004 both under the public benefit disposal procedures. The first one was a boutique hotel and the second was the International School. But since neither applicant followed through, the GSA determined to auction the property.

But why hasn't PDC via the River District urban renewal district taken advantage of this give away when they had a chance? Yes, the seismic upgrades are expensive, but the property would have been a great community center for Pearl and Old Town/ Chinatown neighborhoods.

I may be wrong, but I believe that the remaining part of the property not used by the community center could have been leased. Thus, various non-profits in the two neighborhoods could have been centralized. As a community center its availability would have been a tremendous asset, especially since it is situated between the two neighborhoods.

Arguably, in the 3 storey building with nearly 79,000 sq. ft. enough rent could have been collected to offset the cost of seismic upgrades. Thus, it is possible that the upgrades and continuing maintenance would have been achieved without any subsidies.

If there would have been a will there would have been a way.

I can't necessarily put all the blame on PDC because the neighborhoods should have never lost sight of the potential benefit of this property.

© 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

PDC move – understandable

I have seen nothing more in the news media about the potential Portland Development Commission's move out of Old Town. It makes economic sense for the developers. But I wonder how the 180 plus employees feel about a move?

Old Town is a safe part of the city – meaning that personal security is not at risk. One can walk around Old Town at virtually any time of the day or night without incident, although there is a fear factor that is hard to ignore.

There are the occasional disturbed that one feels the need to avoid, although I have never seen any actually cause harm to another. There is little to no panhandling in Old Town. But, the drug dealers often pose problems especially when they nearly block the sidewalk. And, while there are the county housed sexual predators, they seem to be safely out of the way.

Suffice to say that while Old Town might in fact be safe, the perception is that it is not safe. It is often not an inviting environment. Charitably - it is a cheap part of downtown that development has essentially ignored.

Would it be an enticing work environment? I would say not given the environs. Furthermore, options for lunch time eating are few. Places to sit outside and soak in the sun are virtually non-existent. Yes the waterfront is not far, but it is far enough and it is nearly inaccessible. At this very moment I can't think of one positive work environment factor, except the transit system.

I am not going to run down the list of Old Town inadequacies of Old Town. But Old Town is not a neighborhood for residents with discretionary income or for employees like those of PDC. Old Town might well be the last place I would want to spend my workday.

While I still maintain that PDC move would economically devastate Old Town, it seems more and more like an inevitable and rational move. And maybe the neighborhood doesn't care. There doesn't seem to be any groundswell of opposition from the neighborhood organizations.

I took a peek at the Old Town Neighborhood minutes from their last meeting and the issues are those of 6 years ago when I moved to Old Town. But, interesting is that there was not one word about a PDC move. Maybe the reality has sunk in.

The neighborhood gets the neighborhood it deserves.

© 2010

Underemployment – Oregon is third worse nationally

An interesting Economix piece is the depiction via an interactive map of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' state by state underemployment percentages.

Underemployment, designated U-6 by Bureau of Labor Statistics, is “a broader measure of unemployment that includes underemployed and discouraged workers. Across the country, the (standard) unemployment rate was 9.3 percent last year. Including the underemployed and discouraged, however, the national rate rose to 16.2 percent.”

Oregon comes in third with an underemployment rate of 20.7%. Michigan at 21.5% and California at 21.1% are number one and two respectively.

© 2010