Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alternative to waiting until dangerous to themselves or others

Lauras Law - SFGate Topics

"Laura's Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered outpatient commitment of mental health clients who refuse voluntary treatment with psychoactive drugs." Apparently the California law is based upon a New York law known as Kendra's Law.

It seems that an Oregon law similarly drafted might help those who apparently cannot or will not help themselves. 

© 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bad Seeds - maybe a shift back to individual responsibility?

Mind - Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds - NYTimes.com:

The central pitch of any child psychiatrist now is that the illness is often in the child and that the family responses may aggravate the scene but not wholly create it,” said my colleague Dr. Theodore Shapiro, a child psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College. “The era of ‘there are no bad children, only bad parents’ is gone.”"

© 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Power of a high school diploma

Can any educator or commencement speaker today honestly state: "With your high school graduation, you now have the power to choose what you will make of your lives." This quote comes from the author of the article "Why start a Charter School" in which he relates a tale about a 1992 graduation speech in Kansas City, MO, by the founder of the Kauffman Foundation.

It struck me that it reflects an attitude of days long gone, and I wonder whether it has any truth in it today. A high school graduation diploma was an absolute necessity to subsequent success. It represented the very basis to future success. Not graduating was a stigma. Without a high school education one could not expect to get any job other than a menial one nor even to be able to join (voluntary) the armed services.

What value is there to a high school diploma? With the high drop out rate in Oregon and elsewhere - arguably it has little consumer value. But, the dropout rate is only one factor that reflects a poor educational system. The focus on dropouts misses the point that those who do graduate do not obtain "the power to choose what [they] will make of [their] lives."

The bulk of the college graduates lack the "power" that comes from being prepared to go to college and to enter the business world. Education has no priority position on Portland politicians' todo list.

Education is a mere budget item that loses to items like the Milwaukee- Portland light rail and urban renewal projects [see graphic].

© 2010

SBA & 1st time job opportunities

Small Business Administration Office of Economic Research: July 2010 – Small Business and Self-employment as Income Mobility Mechanisms [PDF] submitted by Bradley R. Schiller Research Summary [PDF]

"Earlier research on contributions of small businesses to the labor market entry, skill training, and wage growth of youth confirmed that small businesses provide most first-time job opportunities for young labor market entrants. Moreover, the skills and experience of those entry jobs paid off handsomely for the youth, as seen in their subsequent wage growth."

Creating jobs is not about clusternomics, i.e., Portland's economic development strategy.

© 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Firefighters 0 Bioswales 20

Portland Firefighters Accept Zero Cost-of-Living Increases | Willamette Week | Wednesday, July 28th, 2010


According to the Week "four of the seven labor unions whose contracts expired in 2010" have accepted the 0 cost of living increases; and quoting the Oregonian: "if the remaining three groups also forgo the raises, the city will save about $10 million a year."

Save $10 mil on city employees wages but spend $20 mil of bioswales and bikeways.

Somehow this doesn't seem like an appropriate trade off

© 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Portland Public Schools dropouts

Dropouts in Portland Public Schools an entrenched pattern | OregonLive.com

Despite the lack of verifying links, the Oregonian's Betsy Hammond has an excellent article originally published as part of Washington Monthly Special Report. It isn't clear why she didn't get fired when another Oregonian reporter did essentially the same thing, i.e., publish originally in another publication. See Week's article on Lisa Grace Lednicer. But that is another story.

There was one paragraph that was particularly illuminating: "How Portland residents have quietly tolerated the lifelong harm done to thousands of its young people each year is harder to explain. Young adults without high school diplomas will forever find doors shut in their faces and will lose out on a half-million dollars, on average, in potential lifetime earnings. Has our city's famous laid-back tolerance of different life paths lulled us into acceptance as nearly half of our high school students go over an educational cliff?"

Let me count the ways. There is no dearth of articles on this subject. Portland or Oregon is not alone. There is no magic bullet here, if there was, certainly other schools in the nation would have the solution; although there seems to be those isolated schools throughout the country that seems to have discovered the truth.

But the problem and solution is in that quoted paragraph above. To stray a bit - there is a business aspect to the education problem. Businesses are not likely to stay or relocate to Portland, or Oregon for that matter, where the educational system is so dysfunctional. 

We may be one of the few countries where the country's ruling government doesn't play a primary role in determining the educational content of primary and secondary school curriculum. It is basically left to the states and in turn to the counties and cities. Thus while Portland receives dollars from the state - the state leaves it mostly to the cities like Portland to determine content.  Oregon: Here is the money - spend it as you wish.

Of course, as soon as it appears that the feds want a return on their (our taxes) investment - the talk turns to socialism. Meanwhile we keep falling back internationally in measurable results. Talk about ignorance.

It doesn't help that Oregon and Portland, in particular, have dysfunctional governments. Educating children for their future and the future of Oregon is not something on the todo list.

The dropout rate though is only a symptom of a greater illness. Public school education is not quality education, but it is not Portland's issue alone. It is a long-suffering problem for most school districts nationwide. Private schools offer a solution but tragically parents can afford everything else but a good education for their children. Of course it doesn't help that the "good" public schools are often those attended by the children of the wealthy. There is a cause and effect.

Look - isn't the solution that Portland parents and residents cannot any longer tolerate the low quality of education provided by Portland Public Schools? While I might have too much time on my hands, I do see almost on a daily basis high school aged people who are without decent jobs and are likely to be without decent jobs throughout their lives. Recently. I watched a recent high school graduate sit in a coffee house and fill out a job application with a pencil for Office Depo. We all see them - they are the future welfare beneficiaries.

Isn't it interesting that Portland has a touted economic strategy, but little to nothing is found in the literature proclaiming future beneficial effects on the economy because of a local quality K - 12 education. It is all about attracting educated others to Portland based upon other similar companies being located nearby and about livability. But it is never about constructing an educational system that will serve the employee's children of extant and relocating companies and that will produce future entrepreneurs.

And how much money is dedicated to the Milwaukee- Portland light rail? And how much money does urban renewal projects divert from education? It is a todo list with a do nothing for education.

© 2010


Monday, July 26, 2010

Boat of recycled plastic bottles - recycling works?

Boat of recycled plastic bottles ends 4-month Pacific sail - USATODAY.com

Where you even aware that such an "awareness" trip was in the making? At best these adventures are nothing more than that - an adventure. What did it prove? That there are alternative uses for recycled plastic or that plastic can be recycled?

Take a look around your home at the items made of plastic. The above image is from Wikipedia. Just how much of an effect does one believe that the banning of plastic bags will have on the environment or whatever is the cause de celebre?
Plastic grocery bags are an extremely resource-efficient disposable bag choice. Plastic grocery bags require 40-70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper bags. For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags, helping to save energy and reduce emissions. It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.  Plastic grocery bags FAQ;  Plastic bag recycling website.  
 Of course that information comes from an industry responsible for plastic in our everyday life - but it doesn't mean that the information is incorrect.

I have asked this question before - what Portland, a city of 500k plus inhabitants, issue will be resolved by banning of plastic bags? County issue? Oregon issue? USA issue? North America issue? On and on.

It is not a different issue just because the state rather than the city might embark upon legislation to ban plastic bags.

© 2010

Bojack: This is pretty much how it should be done

Multnomah County employee pay, top to bottom (Jack Bog's Blog)

As pretty much usual - Jack has it right. Take a look at his link to Oregonpolitico.com where they display current compensation of Multnomah County public employees. It is the compensation number we need to look at to get the best picture.

E.g., the medical direct has an annual salary in excess of $166k but his annual compensation is in excess of $215k. PERS benefits of more than $34k makes up the bulk of the difference. Notice that the annual healthcare benefits exceed $11k.

He also has it right when he says: "Too bad the mainstream media here is too lazy, gutless, or both, to provide the service."

While you at the bojack site check out the left column indicating Portland's long term debt.

© 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Filling space - Oregonian

Elevator fails, strands dozens in care facility | OregonLive.com

In the days of  print media publication space was limited. An editor weeded out the valueless stories. But today the online publication space is limitless. This lends itself to the publication of articles that are superficial at best. But, it is amazing at times just how superficial "news" reporting can be even from ordinarily good reporters. The Oregonian's coverage of a failed elevator is but one example.

The elevator that failed was located in the Macdonald Center Residence in Old Town. The Oregonian did its best to make it look like the elderly and disabled served by the Center were in peril. The 'reporter" even tried to equate the failure of an elevator part as a failure of the Center's mission to the "forgotten poor."

The Macdonald Center Residence does well by its Old Town residents.  In my six years in Old Town - I found the Center to be a "good neighbor" providing much needed services and assistance to the Portland community.

Postscript: Take a look at what I would call the "correction" article. What a difference between reporters. E.g., instead of dozens stranded in the first article - in the second it was 10.

© 2010


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Economic Development Strategy & venture capital

Flipboard: Palo Alto social media startup buys Ellerdale, launches iPad app - San Jose Mercury News

Jive: Aiming for IPO, Palo Alto startup wins $30M from Kleiner, Sequoia - San Jose Mercury News :

Two San Jose Mercury News articles brought to mind the futility in the city's attempt to attract software startups or even retain those that have started in Portland. The city's strategy is primarily based upon the cluster concept, especially software. [See post Cluster economics].

The accepted cluster definition is the one by Michael Porter: “Clusters are geographically close groups of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by common technologies and skills. They normally exist within a geographic area where ease of communication, logistics and personal interaction is possible. Clusters are normally concentrated in regions and sometimes in a single town”. [Design of cluster initiatives - An overview of policies and praxis in Europe].

But what is often missed in the literature is the availability of venture capital as a key location factor. It may be a chicken or the egg analogy, but companies that want to issue public stock need venture capital and lots of it. They will locate or relocate where they can best compete for that funding.

From the two news articles there seems to be a social media, cluster started in the Palo Alto. I would argue because of the availability of venture capital firms new software clusters form. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital have their offices in Menlo Park adjacent to Palo Alto. Palo Alto for many, many years has been a startup place. It is not a coincidence that Stanford University is within a stone's throw.

The city is attempting to leverage $500k to acquire the expertise needed to attract investment firms.  They are still in the process of hiring the talent, but it seems unlikely that they can complete with the highly skilled expertise of firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. Jive has received $57mil from the two firms. [See Techcrunch article.]

While in some sense it is commendable that the city seems to recognize that venture capital is critical to the location of software companies it is unlikely to be able to generate $57 mil of needed venture capital for companies like Jive. 

More than that, it is unlikely to attract fund managers with needed technological expertise. The city is trying to invent the wheel not realizing it has been done. City government playing on the venture capital playground is rather silly. 

© 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Moscow Coffee shops

A Guide To Russia � The Moscow Coffee

Bears & Vodka, a magazine style blog, has this enlightening article about Moscow coffee houses. Who would have ever imagine - a Moscow coffee house - Photocafe - that out does anything Starbucks or anyone has done in the U.S. Interactive menus at your table and the ability via your flash drive to have your pictures displayed on your screen. And the coffee isn't all that expensive, "a mojito-flavored coffee for 132 rubles ($4) a cup)."

There is the Starbucks look-a-like The Big Fish. "These places are like Starbuck's on Manhattan: you sit in one and you see another one right across the street. These places occupy every crack in the city landscape and are known for their unreasonably high prices, poor service and, as some people say, crappy coffee. "

Yes there is Starbucks with 28 in the Moscow chain. Bears & Vodka appropriately  has a 20 word 3 sentence paragraph.

The import of the story is found in the images of the various shops and just how much the Russian capital is much like any other large city in Europe and possibly New York.  See Wikipedia for a decent article.

© 2010

Car-less in Portland

A permanent car-less city or part thereof doesn't seem practical or realistic. The "bikers" like to cherry pick cities in Europe or anywhere to "support" their anti-auto mania.  But these places are so different in their history and culture that it is an irrelevant comparison. 

We are still a car culture. Maybe that car should be electric or propelled by something other than non-renewable fuel, but the design of cities and towns requires cars. Where the goal is to eliminate cars, the city's 20 minute neighborhoods concept is hogwash, more on that later.

Entrepreneurship - small businesses - is the economic growth engine of the U.S. Street design ought to have as its priority the connection of consumers with businesses. E. g., downtown Portland street design favors the commuter; the focus is on moving traffic through the downtown. Virtually any time of the day one can stand in the middle of a downtown street and get the feeling that the downtown is already car less. 

Take a peek at Pearl, especially Couch street, where the two-way streets directs auto, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic to the local businesses. Pearl has a come and stay feel where downtown has a keep on moving feel. 

But it is not an either or proposition - cars, bicycles,  and mass transit can easily co-exist. Look - it not insignificant that China is quickly becoming a car culture despite its extant bike and mass transit modes of transportation. Cars are people movers and a positive sign of being a developed culture.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

© 2010

Anna Chapman goes topless

Anna Chapman goes topless… in doll form - RT Top Stories

Anna Chapman fits well in capitalist Russia which is not unlike capitalist U.S. In the late 50s and into the 80s - the likelihood that a Russian spy might be posing for Playboy would have been incomprehensible.

Not that many years ago this story would not have been played out in the press of either Russia or the U.S. For someone who in the 60s was working in the defense industries and did a stint at National Security Agency - the change in Russian politics and economics is stunning.

Lenin is spinning in his glass coffin.

© 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Portland Officer Daryl Turner elected union president, the first African American to lead the union | OregonLive.com

Portland Officer Daryl Turner elected union president, the first African American to lead the union | OregonLive.com

Maxine Bernstein wrote the above piece that was well written. It gave a fairly good insight on Officer Daryl Turner. It is interesting that an organization that is so heavily criticized for lack of diversity elected Mr. Turner.

Given the article - it seems he is well qualified, but the readers found ways to insert "racism" into the election. It seems too that they didn't recognize that the union is made up of police officers and is not in any way controlled or influenced by the police bureau and city politicians. It is a rank and file union.

He would have had my vote just from this from Bernstein: "More recently, he suggested Commissioner Randy Leonard “wants his own little Gestapo to walk into Internal Affairs Division interviews and torture officers to get the outcome he wants,” when Leonard sought to increase the Independent Police Review Division's oversight of police internal affairs investigations. "

Mr. Turner's tenure ought to be interesting.

© 2010

The city has strayed from its core mission

Oregonian: "Mission-creep madness: If Samuel Bowles could see us now."

Mr. Lister has offered a well thought out and reasoned opinion. Mr. Lister's main point is that we, as a city, are not taking care of the home front and are misdirecting our goals and priorities to development not core services.

The readers who commented missed the opportunity to place something into "print" that was as well thought out and reasoned. One said that he (or she) was tired of Mr. Lister's whining and moaning.

Maybe the readers overlooked this paragraph in Mr. Lister's opinion piece:

"My last property tax statement shows that 11 percent went to city of Portland urban renewal. Of the city's share of my taxes, the urban renewal portion was more than one-third. With a third of our money funding 40 years of continuous, subsidized redevelopment, it's no wonder that core services are coming up short. "

See this graphic that helps illustrates Mr. Lister's point.

c 2010

No One Way About It - Austin makes a choice

No One Way About It: Which Way for Our Downtown Streets? Austin News

"One-way or two-way for downtown? After nearly a decade of debate over Austin's downtown streets, urban planners say it's coming down to this: Do you prefer ease for commuters, or city pedestrians?" Austin chose city pedestrians.

In Minneapolis a conversion from one-way to two-way had a "goal to allow downtown visitors to drive more directly to their destinations." See Driving downtown Minneapolis will soon be 2-way street | StarTribune.com

It demonstrates that the downtown streets are for business traffic - not just for morning and evening commuters. Downtown workers will not sustain businesses.

© 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cluster economics

[Editor: This was originally posted on my Old Town Blog on Oregonlive December 2009. Some editing.]

The city has determined to create 10,000 net new jobs in the central city in 5 years. It is unclear the start date, but it is highly unlikely that this goal will be achieved by 2014 following thePortland Economic Development Strategy (Strategy). [See earlier post].
The plan as set out in the Strategy is an ambiguous, maybe ambitious too, attempt to further economic development in the central city of Portland, Oregon. Primarily, it seeks to achieve this with cluster initiatives (aka cluster development).
cluster initiative is an effort to promote economic growth in geographic concentrations of interconnected firms and supporting organizations through collaborative means among cluster businesses.
Clusters have received much attention since Michael Porter introduced the concept of cluster based, economic development in 1990. He saw that “. . . clusters, or geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, are a striking feature of virtually every national, regional, state, and even metropolitan economy, especially in more advanced nations.
A better working cluster definition that builds on Michael Porter's can be found in “Design of Cluster Initiatives” However, Professor Porter was not the first to discover clusters. That credit goes to Alfred Marshall who in 1920 offered the definition. The point – clusters isn't a new concept.
Thus, clusters is more of a conceptional (academic) method of describing and understanding something that exists: geographic concentration of related and interrelated businesses, etc.
It is important to note that most of the cluster literature and the Strategy relates to traded sector clusters. A definition from the Regional Business Plan (RBP): “The traded sector consists of businesses that sell their goods and services to customers outside the region, bringing in new income that gets re-spent locally, prompting growth through a multiplier effect.” [See post].
Globalization and the Internet have unintentionally brought the focus to clusters as the means to compete not only within the US but also internationally.
These naturally occurring geographical concentration of businesses are centers of competition where 'talent' and 'creatively' resides. Production of the end product or service is the embodiment of the creatively of the business. Move the production elsewhere – the creative process still remains.
Thus, the knowledge based portion [see a distinction in earlier post] of the traded sectors became the focus of increased competition. E. g., designing the better shoe, or at least the better marketing, is the new (relatively speaking) arena of competition.
There is some irony in that globalization has brought increased competition among and between nations, states, metros, counties, and cities. Also, it has brought or wrought an ever increasing role of government (mostly below the federal level) in 'promoting' competition.
Portland's policy found in the Strategy concentrates its cluster initiatives on 4 (out of the 9 identified in 2006) traded sector industry clusters: Clean Tech and Sustainable Industries (CTSI), Activewear, Software and Advanced Manufacturing; these are well-established clusters. [PDC Reports 06-78; 09-128].
Online research demonstrates that there has been a large growth in the public-private partnerships in cluster initiatives; however, it is almost universally recommended that cluster initiatives be for-profit business led.
I would argue that the partnership should to be constructed on the basis of invitation by the private sector. That doesn't preclude a request for an invite by policy makers, but the policy maker remains an invitee.
Several other fundamental constructs come from the research:
The recognition that:
• “[c]lusters are generally built up spontaneously by the local business players;
• “[i]nnovation is not just the sole preserve of universities or research centres, it is mainly the result of a series of businesses initiatives and experimentation. In a cluster, enterprises voluntarily or involuntarily learn from each other and copy each other. In such contexts, making mistakes is allowed and is part of the learning process;
• “[t]he presence of potential benefits from cluster initiatives does not in itself suffice as rationale or justification for policymakers to interfere;” private enterprise should undertake cluster initiatives on their own; maximum benefits of policy intervention should come when there is one of three failures: market, government policy or systematic;
• government should not intervene unless it can be presumed that it can do it better.
The above were selected from “Design of cluster initiatives - An overview of policies and praxis in Europe.” The study is European focused, but is US applicable.
In “Blueprint for American Prosperity:Clusters and Competitiveness: A New Federal Role For Stimulating Regional Economies” the argument is made for a federal role to stimulate regional economies. It is advocated that the approach should be flexible, “bottom-up,” and collaboration-oriented, rather than prescriptive, “top-down,” or input focused.”
While this discusses the federal approach, it seems the same bottom-up approach is appropriate to any public policy cluster strategy. Several concepts from the bottom-up approach:
•“ The government should facilitate cluster initiatives that have strong industry leadership. Firms form the essential foundation of clusters—the role of public purpose organizations, be they non-profits or government, is to support and enhance the capacity of firms to compete. Industry is in the best position to know what it needs collectively to compete. Further, collaborative industry leadership of initiatives facilitates and promotes a culture of interfirm collaboration in realms such as marketing, research, and training;

• The government should not “pick winners,” pre-determining those industries and clusters eligible or desirable for assistance. Rather, the government should seek to engage the passion, interests, and creativity of traded clusters throughout the country regardless of sector;

• At the same time, the government should only support cluster development grounded in economic reality. As Cortright [economist Joseph Cortright] notes: “Although government policy can play an important supporting role, it is abundantly clear that government can almost never create clusters where none exist. . . .””
Should policy makers have a role? Professor Michael Porter notes: ”that in response to the market [c]lusters emerge spontaneously, and the process of cluster formation will occur naturally . . . .But he argues that that public policy has a role to play in cluster development, however, neither he nor others argue that public policy is appropriate to create clusters.
And there doesn't appear to be an argument for policy makers to intervene (interfere) in established clusters unless there has been one of the three failures: market, government policy or systematic. [See Design of cluster initiatives above].
But what we are talking about in Portland is a government agency, in this case PDC, exercising public policy on behalf of the city, and arguably that policy is designed to interfere (intervene if more palatable) with the role private enterprise.
My read of the Strategy is that PDC in implementing the cluster initiatives will violate many of the tenants of public policy resulting in an inappropriate, and therefore cluster resistant, interference in free market system.
Because it is so common to seek comparison with Europe, it is important to recognize that the inherent relationship between businesses and government is very different that that in the US. It is different even in those other countries that are democratic, e. g., United Kingdom.

In the US, I believe it is fair to say that there is a barrier between business and government. Theoretically, they do not have common or overlapping interests. Of course a real problem is that often through lobbying business interests becomes government interests.
While there are those that push for public policy that does in fact interfere with private enterprise, it is not a favored approach nor should it be an accepted policy without strict scrutiny. Government influence in the affairs of business, however minor, is a 'be careful what you wish for' item.
This is especially true given that elected officials' support for a particular development initiative is quickly modified or eliminated via an election. I would argue that the years of progress towards economic growth by Mayor Katz was quickly undone by the election of Mr Potter and subsequent election of Mr. Adams.
If it isn't obvious – I don't have the confidence that PDC can or will implement public policy to Portland's advantage. PDC has been at this for several years with little to show..
Portland's economic future is in the hands of PDC, but they are not necessarily good hands. It is important for residents to explore cluster initiatives, especially since they will be funding the work. [See post].
Below I have provided some research sources. Google will lead you to many others.

Resources:
Portland Development Commission:
Meeting Minutes of October 14, 2009
Report 09–128, November 10, 2009
Report 06-78, July 26, 2006
Clusters and Economic Policy: Aligning Public Policy with the New Economics of Competition, Professor Michael Porter, November 2007, Rev. May 2009.

THE CLUSTER APPROACH TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TECHNICAL BRIEF NO. 7
, September 2008.

Cluster and Cluster Initiatives
, Center for Strategy and Competitiveness
Stockholm School of Economics, June 2008.
© 2009, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pearl District goes horn-free - No, but quieter


The story is that $250,000 was spent to upgrade railroad crossings in Pearl near Union Station to effect a quiet zone. People who have moved into Pearl next to the tracks have whined and moaned for years about the train horn noise. Boo hoo! But the train horns are not being eliminated except at night. 

The Business Journal had virtually nothing correct in its story - but hey - one doesn't want to put too much effort into journalism. It is just a job - that seems to be the attitude of many of the "news" media. 

The Tribune had the better and correct article - well written and factual: "Train whistles on the way out for Pearl residents." By the way Pearl urban renewal dollars paid 1/2 the cost. Urban renewal at work.

© 2010

One way streets - a Dallas view

Drivers may soon see fewer one-way streets in downtown Dallas | Dallas Morning News, July 2, 2010.

"Officials say the proposed changes will allow motorists to better navigate downtown's road grid while helping drive customers to center-city retailers and restaurants. The plan aligns with City Hall's goal to make downtown a vibrant urban core filled with life beyond standard business hours.

During the 1970s, while stores and people were fleeing to the suburbs, the reigning philosophy among traffic engineers was that the faster you could move people into the city at 9 a.m. and back out at 5 p.m., the better.

City planners now see things differently. Two-way streets encourage people to linger by allowing easier access to retail businesses and expediting valet parking to bars and restaurants."

© 2010

Politics in Portland - a really small circle jerk

Former deputy DA Mike Kuykendall to serve as Police Bureau's director of services | OregonLive.com: "

The Oregonian Blog had this brief statement, clearly not a news story but a news release, on Portland Business Alliance's Mike Kuykendall appointment. One can get these ""news releases" by subscribing to them from the police bureau.

Very troubling. There is nothing positive in this appointment. Probably the most blatant political appointment in recent times. What is the pay structure - the full compensation? Can it be assumed that Mr. Kuykendall will be giving up his association with Portland Business Alliance?

Mr. Kuykendall is the architect of the earlier version of the sit and lie ordinance. He comes from the organization that runs the downtown police department known as Portland Patrol - the PBA's private security arm whose effectiveness and worth is often questioned.  It is the same organization that tried to bypass citizen vote on public financing of elections. While it is ostensibly a chamber of commerce type of organization - it has insinuated itself into Portland politics at every level.

Who do they serve?

© 2010

The loo in Old Town - just right for Jamison Park?

Government downsizes: every fifth official to lose job - RT

Right idea - too bad it is Russia and not the US.

© 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Indecent speech and obscenity - who determines?

An appeals court properly affirms that FCC rules to prevent indecent speech are unconstitutional | OregonLive.com

The editorial: ". . . advertisers and viewers can keep broadcast networks largely in check without overly punitive, unconstitutional rules by the FCC." Yeah - like that will work. Take notice of how self policing in the network community works: CBS producer who blackmailed Letterman up for Emmy | kgw.com


The editorial continues: "The real issue for parents trying to keep their children from being exposed to obscenity is how to best use available tools to monitor and limit access to unregulated cable channels, late-night programming available at all hours with DVRs, and the Internet." The role of government "it is in developing and encouraging the use of those tools." That sounds great.

The Oregonian editorial on "indecent speech" is just not rational. It wants government to develop and encourage tools for the use of  parents. It also has a role for advertisers. It sidesteps the issue of what is indecent or obscene. I guess they know it when they see it, but fortunately the courts have not yet let editorial boards sit as arbitrators of good and bad.

But, isn't there a host of extant "tools" for parents to control access to TV and Internet? Yet they are not being used, or if used, they are ineffective. Arguably, if the concern is only for children's exposure to obscenity (and how does one define that), doesn't the control of that exposure lies in the hands of the parents and not government?
©2010

Plastic bags and the poor

 [Editor: This was originally published on my Old Town Blog once hosted on Oregonlive.com. It is nearly 2 years old, but it is still appropriate.]

I know that plastic bags are bad - so I am told. Although, I have to admit that I am never quite sure that the advocates for banning them have it right.

It is always a single solution that is offered for the many ‘liberal’ causes: ban plastic bags, ban trans fat, ban cars, etc. Worst yet - is that there is great need to impose the authority of state upon the daily lives of residents that bothers me.

It is never education or alternatives - it is ban, ban, ban. ‘Liberals’ know best.

It is no wonder that the conservatives look at the liberals as not just left but nearly socialist (in a most negative sense). Virtually every issue that bothers the liberals is to be remedied by proscription, or taxation.

But this is what is interesting - while the liberals purport to represent the middle and lower income - it is that group, especially the poor, that pays the price of liberal policies.

Often these liberals are driven by minority groups (tyranny of the minority) and they don’t research the topic. They don’t see the effect on other related issues. They see it as a single issue. It is a short sighted.

They are often prone to point to some other place (typically a country) that has done something similar without the slightest analysis. It is just enough for them that there is some other place that they can point to as ‘successful.’

Analysis is absent. They never question what happens that if something is banned - what is the net effect? They never question whether there is a disproportionate effect on a particular segment of society.

Typically - they, like other politicians, don’t care because those likely to feel the disproportionate effect have little say (political clout). Politicians seem to have little concern with those votes they sought to get elected - it is some need to serve a minority (numbers) who did not represent a majority.

Issue politics. Path of least resistance - works for electrons and politics.

Ironically, if one bans plastic bags and the shift is to paper - that is all it is - a shift of the problem.

Ironically too, if stores are essentially given carte blanche to charge for the bags - and they will one way or another - they will be found to be supporters of the ban because it costs them zip - nada - zero.

Who feels the pinch - the $15,000 a year income person or family - or - the $90,000 a year person? Isn’t this ban,  in the most enlighten view, a regressive tax? Isn’t it exponentially negative?

Doesn’t the low income person and family feel the effects much more than the those who might even be considered working class?

If there is a charge of 20 cents for a plastic bag - who are likely to be able to either ignore the cost (because it is small) or to seek an alternative, e.g., bring their own bag?

If one priced plastic bags in the grocery stores - similar to the grocery bags costs less than 10 cents. And, these bags are far superior in bag quality than the regular grocery bag.

This ‘bag’ cost is a disguised sales tax - isn’t it?

Recently, I purchased a little over $10 from a grocery store and took home the groceries in about 6 bags - a couple were double bagged. The six bags, if 20 cents was the added cost, would have added $1.20 to the total. That is 12%

If I were a person trying to live within the food stamp guidelines $3.00 per day - $1.20 is a lot of money especially since it is likely that there will be multiple trips to the store.

But, you say - all you have to do is buy a bag or two [alternative bag that consumer brings to the store] and that cost prorated over time will more than pay for itself. Problem is that it may work if one can afford the initial cost of the alternative bag.

Again if I am a low income person - making a decision on purchasing the alternative can be difficult. How many do I purchase? Just how many groceries will a bag hold? Will one hold what I am purchasing today?  Do I need to purchase many bags and take them just in case?

What happens if I forget to bring the bag or bags? It is unlikely that I will have a car - so I must remember to bring the bags, which means that purchasing groceries or whatever articles that would ordinarily purchase will fit into the bag.

If I want or need to purchase something on the moment - it is likely that I either cannot make the purchase or will pay the cost of a bag that is not equivalent to the real cost of the bag.

Bottom line is that those who ‘think’ up these charges are those who don’t have to live with the consequences. They don’t have to walk in the shoes of the poor.

And to take it even further - maybe poorer people don’t have access to regular grocer stores, e.g., Safeway. For a host of reasons they are forced to deal with the ‘convenience’ stores which already are ripping them off.

Often too these same people - poor - disabled - older - have a day to day determination on what they can spend. More often than not - there is no discretion in their expenditures.

Purchasing an alternative bag might seem inexpensive to many but not to those whose daily existence is dependent on conserving every penny. Without this conservation what they can purchase is extremely limited.

This is a highly regressive tax that punishes the poor to satisfy the social ‘desires’ of liberal politicians who seem to believe that they are going to save the world. They are self-centered in the sense they think that a change in Portland will effect changes throughout the world.

It matters not to these liberals that they were elected to solve local problems - not international. It seems too that they quickly forget their electoral base while solving the problems of the world.

I am tired of liberals solving world problems at my expense.

Are there not other alternatives?

© 2008, 2010

Plastic or paper - why ask?

[Editor: This was originally posted in July of 2008 on my Old Town Blog hosted on Oregonlive.com. Slightly edited. Notice too that this was originally posted before Sam Adams became, as Bojack calls him, the creepy mayor.]

According to the Oregonian, Sam Adams wants to tax your transit to and from the grocery store -or to any store that might put your purchases in a bag. This excerpt gives the sense of the article.
Love it or hate it? There was no shortage of opinion Friday on the idea to charge up to 20 cents to get a plastic or paper bag at Portland stores:
City Commissioner Sam Adams is saving us from ourselves. He's taking more money from the poor. We already use cloth bags. It's just another tax. Go Sam! Aww, put yourself in a recycling bin.
As I get older I see my conservative side grow larger while my liberal side is rapidly deceasing, i.e., I am tired of liberal politicians - in this case Sam Adams - intervening in my life. 

Portland is full of liberals who think you ought to believe, and therefore, think as they do. They know what is best for me. Pop off. [Thanks Joel].

It matters not how it effects those who have no say - 'they' know they are right. What is the difference between the 'they' and the 'them?' Not much.

Of course there is a problem between the conservatives who decry government intervention in business affairs and the liberals who use the government to intervene in business affairs for social purposes.

I don't believe in the 'invisible hand' of economic conservatives. But, neither do I believe that it is economically or politically correct to burden, in a tax sense, the poor or the middle class with taxes that are 'social.'

Lordy, lordy - was bojack right? In the Adams vs Dozono contest - shouldn't Adams have won? I think bojack says different. Was he was right?

I don't know, but if there would have been some other choice for mayor - I might have voted differently.

Without going into any of the issues that I might disagree or agree with Mr. Adams - I can say that thus far - and he is not even the mayor - I am not pleased.

He seems to me to be seeking a higher office. His focus is not on local issues - like or not,  Portland is not a large community or even influential considering the big picture - the US.

And, it is this focus by social liberals that is an extreme concern. While they are focusing on their next job - the job they were elected to do is ignored.

Portland has Portland problems that the politicians were ostensively elected to solve or at least address. But, our liberal politicians want to solve global problems. Shouldn't they be working with our representatives in the Congress to exert a Portland influence?

Point - isn't it Wyden and Smith's job? Gee - isn't that the way this republic is set up?

Politicians - Mr. Adams included - ignore how their decision affects others not economically situated as themselves.

It is also interesting that Mr. Adams is considering taxing, in a non-progressive sense, those who can little afford the added cost.

It really matters not that it costs five cents or twenty cents per bag - in any economy - especially today's - the lower income feel a dis-apportioned effect.

Consider the low income persons who are already unlikely to be able to afford to eat given the limitation of food stamps - now the have to pay for their frigging grocery bags.

What about those who cannot carry much of their needs in a single trip. Multiple trips will require multiple taxation.

But you say - just bring your own? What about those who walk to the store? What about those who use the bags as 'garbage' bags. What if you forget to bring it.

For those better economically situated - forgetting your bag or having to pay for the grocery bags - has little effect. 4 bags of groceries costs the affluent a buck. If you are trying to live on $3 dollars per day - a buck means something.

Look - isn't it time that the 'liberals' focus on those who have to live an everyday life. And, stop adding to their economic burden because they have some 'social' agenda.

Quit positioning yourself for that 'higher' office - just do the job you were elected to do - take of Portland problems.

© 2008. 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good intentions gone awry?

Ford "pop-up" shop draws on local appeal to promote new Fiesta | OregonLive.com:

The story relates how Ford is using the pop-up concept to promote their Fiesta. But clearly that isn't the intention of the pop-up concept. Pop-up shops is actually a decent concept apparently coming from PDC to use temporarily unoccupied retail space to turn ". . . these spots into opportunities to enhance exposure and business development skills for local designers, artisans and the burgeoning activewear fashion cluster." [PDC Sucess Story: Downtown Portland Pop-up Shops.]

Apparently there has been some success: "'During least year's holiday shopping season, for example, 47 designers, artists and businesses opened four temporary stores in downtown Portland and made $98,000 in sales over six weeks. "

It provides entrepreneurs at the very least exposure. While it does aid the lessor it benefits startups, but with companies like Ford looking for temporary space for product advertising who benefits? Isn't it pretty clear to whom the lessor will lease its space? One can expect more giant corporations to take advantage pushing aside those that need the exposure.

© 2010

Now this is getting serious on DUII

Russia on verge of introducing total ban on drunk driving - RT

“Tough laws are the only solution. People have to know: you get in the car drunk, you get caught, and you lose your license. If it is your second time, you go to prison,”journalist Fred Weir from the Christian Science Monitor told RT.

© 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

White cars with grass roofs - how cool

Eco-roofs could keep solar panels cooler � Daily Journal of Commerce

The Daily Journal's article was noting the PSU project, hardly off the ground, that is to examine the results of combining solar panels and eco-roofs. The question is whether eco-roofs can keep solar panels cooler. It turns out that solar panels are ironically inefficient at higher temperatures. And eco-roofs which are touted as cooling ambient air will, it is surmised, keep the panels cooler thus increasing efficiency.

But, it isn't expected that " . . . an eco-roof to increase photovoltaic efficiency significantly, but the benefit would increase eco-roofs’ (sic) value nonetheless." Isn't this counter to the project's premise? And, we are left in the dark as how that increase in value follows.

One wonders whether the Daily Journal's article wasn't a bit premature in " . . . that the researchers have not yet set up equipment to track temperatures and other performance criteria." Off to a good start - winter will be here before the first measurement. I wonder if this will be another self-fulfilling study where the 'desired' results are sure to follow. I wonder if the public will ever see the study and not just proclaimed results?

It is interesting too the problems associated with becoming "green." While it is doubtful that there is the 50 to 90 degree heat differential at the top of Portland buildings as the article relates, but if so, it would seem that photovoltaic cells may be inherently very inefficient. Combine the eco-roofs with the panels and isn't the dollar cost of "green"  becoming prohibitive? 

And there are those who want to paint every roof white. "White reflective roofs are used in hot climates because they reflect the sun’s rays before they can heat up a building." Are we talking about Portland as being in a hot climate? Really?

Wishful thinking: “White roofs, eco-roofs and solar panels are all positives in terms of climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. When those combine, there’s even more of a positive return.” .

It is not clear that any of these, or a combination thereof, will produce a net reduction in the carbon footprint. And, if so, at what cost? Let's hope that the PSU project is more than a fun project and will produce tangible and useful results.

Taking this to its logical conclusion one might surmise that painting all vehicles white and covering the top surface with grass would eliminate the need for air conditioning making the vehicle more efficient resulting in less use of gasoline. Silly - isn't it?

But - in the end I wonder what is to be gained?

© 2010

The Nines - misuse of urban renewal funds


The Oregonian which has devalued itself into a blog aggregator and social media site via Oregonlive published this "news" story about the downtown hotel for the wealthy - The Nines. Well it started out to be a luxury hotel that had to take a detour to being something less than luxurious in cost. Even with its temporary lowering of its room price standards - it is still a hotel not designed to service the residents of Portland.

The magazine that rated the hotels - US & Canada -is American Express owned. This selection thus has limited value. But the story is really in the "investment" in and subsequent "bailout" of the hotel by PDC. The Hotel was rated at number 25 and this is what we get for urban renewal loans in excess of $16 mil that are basically interest only loans? And they are low interest (0 to 5%) loans at that.

So if business is good - have the Nines started making their loan principal payments? In 2009 the city delayed their principal payments until 2013. "That means a loss of about $400,000 in payments in 2009 and about $600,000 in payments each year after that."

Check out Ryan Frank's excellent 2009 article for the sad state of affairs. And the city wants another urban renewal district downtown - see my earlier post.

© 2010

Demolition Man setting - Portland 2032 or sooner

It is explained that anything "not good for you" is deemed "bad" and therefore illegal, including alcoholcaffeinecontact sports, non-educational toysmeatspicy and unhealthy food, table salt and tobacco. Firearms can only be seen in museums. Physical contact was recognized as causing the spread of disease and is now seen as unusual. Even high-fives have been replaced with energetic wavingDemolition Man (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This film is a 1993 humorous film if a violent film can be funny and violent. But if one excludes the ongoing battle between Stallon and Snipes - it is funny in a tragic sense. The setting is 2032 and the "liberals" have had their sway. The energetic waving reminds me of Portland city council meetings where the only outward demonstration of approval is waving of the hands. There is no sanctioned method to express disapproval.

They, government, knows what is good for you and you are going to comply.

© 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The trap has been set by PDC - have Portlanders learned anything after 50 plus years?

PDC drafts new downtown urban renewal area - Portland Business Journal
New Portland URA to focus on blight � Daily Journal of Commerce

Howard a commenter to the Daily Journal article noted among other things that "TIF is dead and the PDC better get over it soon; If this new scheme were appproved it would continue the perpetual expansion of UR and ever increasing misappropriation of basic services budgets; and Look for strong oppostion coming from the public at large who have caught on to the scheming."

Sadly I believe the only thing that may be true in that selection is that urban renewal will continue its perpetual expansion with an ever increasing misappropriation of basic services budgets. He also references an excellent graphic - a picture is worth a 1000 words. 

I don't think the public has yet grasped where PDC obtains its money and what the public gives up by that appropriation. Nor do I see much in the way (at least not yet) of strong opposition from the public. Mostly opposition comes at a project level not at the urban renewal district level. Once the district is in place - there is virtually no public oversight. Districts initially set for 20 years are routinely extended. 

See Bojack's take: This one sets off anybody's hinky meter; check out these documents (in my Google cloud) for some basic info on urban renewal: Tax Increment FinancingUrban Renewal. See too PDC's webpage containing info on current studies, in particular Central City. Look at the map.

© 2010