Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old Town homicide - more

See my earlier post on the homicide. KGW had a brief article about Old Town businesses being concerned about the shooting at NW 2nd &  NW Couch. Interestingly enough, and not unexpected, someone "with" (?) the coffee shop seemed unconcerned. Maybe their hours are not in the late evening and early morning. It is interesting too the business that is just across from the bullet hole - Spyce Gentleman's Club.

But, if the bullet hole in the window doesn't raise major concerns in the neighborhood maybe the mayor's response to the shootings might. See too the blog post by Bojack.

So far the omnipresent drug dealers have not concerned anyone in Old Town, at least not to the point that anything will be done about it. And so too their lack of concern about the pervasiveness of sex offenders.

But businesses don't make a neighborhood or a community. The neighborhood ought to make the businesses. But, haphazard and deficient investment in Old Town by PDC has left it undeveloped and still an actual blighted area.

Old Town earns the "dumping ground" designation. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sex offenders - pervasive in Old Town

The Oregonian had a story about the sex offender (Tarwater) who had tampered with the GPS device, i.e., he has escaped. It is not an atypical story. The GPS is the ankle bracelet although it may not in fact be that anymore. The focus was on one sex offender located at 506 NW 5th, but there more to be told.

Medford Hotel - TPI
That building the Medford Hotel is owned by Central City Concern (CCC) and leased in part to the county to house sex offenders on parole, and leased to Transition Projects Inc (TPI) a homeless shelter and service provider. Two big names in Old Town. And by the way CCC's buildings provide housing for most, if not all, sex offenders located in Old Town.

Type 506 NW 5th into portlandmap and the the Medford Hotel is displayed. Select Crime, Sex Offender - a Google map with sexual offenders is displayed.  It becomes readily apparent that Old Town has quite a few sex offenders on parole. But take notice of a common problem - actual location of the offender.

Click on a couple of the red flags on the map to find Tarwater. The map shows him at 406 NW 4th - it is an empty lot. Click on his name linking to the state registry. Interesting rap sheet, but notice they have him at 509 NW 5th - there is no 509. Multnomah County has the address correct. Select Sex Offender Notification page and enter either Tarwater or 97209 for Old Town zip. If zip, scroll down about 37 for him.

The county's zip listing shows the Medford address housing something like 22 other similarly situated individuals. Notice too that there is another escaped sex offender. For a sex offender that only has a GPS device to monitor him - it's location, location, location. Old Town is the major location for homeless housing, shelters and services as well as the same for the drug addicted and mentally ill. This is a menu of vulnerable people.

The county flier notes that Tarwater is particularly predatory towards women who are homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted or otherwise vulnerable. While TPI doesn't appear to shelter women at that location, they do provide services to women, and they will be managing the Resource Access Center (RAC) a couple blocks away. Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has a location as close that houses and serves women.

Ironic in some sense that PDC has its headquarters at 222 NW 5th which is only 2 blocks away from the Medford's sex offenders. It pours money recklessly into other parts of the city while Old Town remains blighted. Ironic too that the train station and MAX stations are so readily available to the offenders. Could the city make it any easier for them?

Shootings, drug dealers and users, sex offenders and general low lifes - Old Town has them all and welcomes them with open arms, at least it is easy conclusion. It is city planning at its worst. Dumping ground seems apt.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exhibition plaza - your tax dollars wasted

The Portland Tribune (Tribune) and the Portland Business Journal (PBJ) both had stories on the demolition of the abandoned Sizzler Hotel space that was to be part of the Headquarters debacle - a project that refuses to die. The Tribune had more substance with the PBJ adding only the number of years that PDC (public) has owned the block. But there are two blocks.

An interesting aspect of this story is that Metro is going to lease the "plaza." However, do not lose sight of the fact that it is still your money. They have only shifted the pots, but still no one will be collecting taxes on the properties.

Basically Metro is helping PDC and the city by place keeping. They (all of them) want to resurrect the Headquarters project. While it has left a bad taste in many mouths it has left PDC, city and Metro with an insatiable appetite.

When it is your money there is no money hurdle high enough that they can't jump.

The Tribune reports that this property and adjacent lot cost the public $10,000,000, but if one goes to the "Assessor" page on portlandmaps.com there is no data on that purchase. Usually it will show the sale price even if a public agency like PDC. But it is probably correct. E.g., see the Sizzler property.

Apparently from PBJ the purchase was ten years ago. That is confirmed by looking at the assessed values showing that 2000 was the last time taxes were paid. In 2000 the real market value for assessment was $2,194,320.00 and the last tax assessment was $26,703.21.

The 2009 real market value is $3,271,520.00 but because PDC holds title no taxes are assessed. If one just uses the last assessed tax of $26,703.21 multiplied by 10 years the city and county have been denied $267,032.10 in tax revenue. 

The other property included in the $10 mil purchase price (Tribune) is assumed to be that of Block 43 just north of the Sizzler property. 1/2 of that block appears to have been purchased in 2005 not 2000. The real market value was $2,584,080.00 and the last tax assessed was $27,031.61. The purchase price is unclear to me but it appears to be $4,250,000.00. Lost revenue: $27,031.61 for 5 years = $135,158.05.

The other half of the Block is a little bit of an oddity. It appears to have been purchased in 2002 for $5,250,000.00. But except for two succeeding years, property taxes have been assessed (it's an operating hotel). In 2009 the real market value was $7,358,550.00 and the tax assessed was $68,758.45.

Isn't there something ironic in that property tax payers paid (are paying) for the original purchase and are continuing to pay because the property is assessed no taxes. A negative double dip. It means too that other property tax payers are taking up the slack whether they know it or not.

There is so much wrong with urban renewal as practiced by PDC. 10 years is just way too long to sit on property keeping it unproductive and off the tax rolls. And they want another urban renewal district

Monday, September 27, 2010

What a pathetic but expected mayoral response

Dozens of shots fired in deadly downtown gang shooting | kgw.com:

"Portland Mayor Sam Adams said later Sunday that “this makes me angry because there are people who knew these individuals had guns, and they just let it happen.”" The mayor's action thus far has been to draft gun legislation that has a snowball's chance in hell. It's his story and he is sticking to it.

The story has been evolving - see my earlier post. It has gone from hearing shots to dozens of shots fired. In the first go around on the story the media just repeated the police press release, but apparently some follow-up is occurring. Probably by the week's end a more complete story will be available.

One might surmise that Old Town ( an area protected by Portland Business Alliance {PBA} police {PPI}) has become a location for gang warfare. See post on the August 11, 2010 shooting. I don't remember seeing any follow-up on the story - remains a mystery. See my post on the disappearing linkage between PBA and PPI.


Whether goes PPI?

It is interesting that the Portland Business Alliance has eliminated references linking it and the Portland Patrol Inc (PPI) - their downtown policing agency. These are the guys that look like Portland Police until one gets close enough to read the patches or badges.

Do a search on PBA's web site for Portland Patrol Inc (PPI) and there is no reference to them, except there is newsletter containing an article about a PPI officer saving a life, but the article is inaccessible. Other articles on the 2008 newsletter are accessible.

Do a Google search and the connection is obvious. Why pretend?

‘Potholes for Poverty’ or if you want something done . . . .

‘Potholes for Poverty’ wants to fix streets, fill charity coffers

Neat story. I can't speak personally but it seems to be a number one complaint by Portlanders - potholes. I seem to remember other stories where the city frowned on residents taking on a job that city just never seems to get around to doing.

It is not like the company is attempting to make money on filling the potholes, although there is a certain advertising value. But there is a certain liability issue and rationale for the city performing the work. If it isn't done correctly and assume that some personal property damage occurs - who is responsible and who will pay?

Thus, the city's expected response: “On public streets, only permitted contractors and city of Portland crews can do that work,” said Cheryl Kuck, transportation bureau spokeswoman." But one wonders about the accuracy of the claim that "[a] city crew is usually sent to fill the pothole within 20 days." The operative word is "usually." Too bad the Tribune didn't check that assertion.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Old Town homicide

This happened in the Old Town entertainment section around the time the bars close after a Saturday night. They were "clearing a disturbance" when they heard shots. Not surprisingly it is suspected that it is gang related, although I wonder how often that is just a knee-jerk reaction? But if it is gang related - then clearly crime associated with gangs is not limited to their neighborhood.

The story in the Oregonian is similar to that in the other media outlets because they all merely repeat the police press release. Anyone who desires can have the same information available from the police department by subscribing. See the top of the press release.

Old Town because of the "entertainment" has more than its share of crimes like assault and what is euphemistically called "quality of life" crimes, i.e., drugs, disorder and liquor. The quality of life crimes do not show in the FBI crime statistics. Check out the crimes in your places of interest.

Men of god

APNewsBreak: 4th man sues Ga. megachurch pastor - Yahoo! News

Bishop Eddie Long has been accused by  "[f]our former members of a youth group he runs [. . .] of repeatedly coercing them into homosexual sex acts and of abusing his considerable moral authority over them while plying them with cash, new cars, lodging and lavish trips." See the Bishop's response.

About time - hybrid garbage trucks

Autocar E3 hybrid garbage trucks now in use in southern Florida — Autoblog Green

No surprise here - PERS costs to double

Sunday, 9-19, I published a post "Pension Gaps - who fills?" inspired by a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article "Pension Gaps Loom Larger." The WSJ stated "[m]any of America's largest pension funds are sticking to expectations of fat returns on their investments even after a decade of paltry gains, which could leave U.S. retirement plans facing an even deeper funding hole and taxpayers on the hook for huge additional contributions."

The WSJ's question from my post: "Are investors in for a sustained period of meager or below-market growth?" Portlanders better care because they will be paying for the deficits. E.g., as of June 30 2008, the city's liability just for the police and firemen pension funds was over $2 billion. [Bojack].

And, Bojack continues: "The amounts the city has put aside for its other employees' pensions through the infamous PERS system are also falling short. As of the end of 2008, there was an unfunded liability of $259 million there."

The Oregonian gave us the heads up on Thursday that PERS rates were expected to double, and KGW confirmed it on Friday. "It means the state of Oregon, already facing budget shortfalls, will need to find an extra $357 million for its workers retirement accounts over the next two years." [KGW]. See the KGW article for some of the increases.

For a decent and better article see the Salem Statesman Journal

Says something too about the medical profession

DEA collects over 3,000 pounds of drugs in Houston |Houston Chronicle

The purpose of the nationwide collection was to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs. Of course I am writing about it after the fact, but after doing a Google search, I found that Maxine Bernstein had written an excellent story about it. Why didn't I see it before? Maybe she will do a follow up.

3,000 pounds is substantial. Prescription containers are very light and the contents even lighter.The article said that this was the result of the DEA's first effort in Houston - a Saturday collection of unused prescription drugs. I wonder how many pounds were not collected.

It is not to hard to argue, at least in part, that there is an over prescribed amount of drugs that, among other thongs, increases the cost of health care. Of course some unused drugs result from change of prescriptions and the absence of a need for them. I wonder what was the costs of those drugs?

Here is the rub. There appears to be little if any effort to make use of those drugs. It does seem a shame that the DEA intends on incinerating them, but the argument is that they are prescribed for an individual and therefore cannot be given to another without another prescription.

For an interesting article, 11/00, from the Health & Policy Institute see Unopened, Unused Prescription Drugs Destroyed at Taxpayer Expense. For an example of the waste, the author, Joseph J. Wang, notes that "[i]t is estimated that in Oklahoma, nursing homes destroy between $3 and $10 million worth of unused prescription drugs a year.

From Mr. Wang's perspective - not related to the DEA collection - "it seems wasteful, imprudent, and unethical to destroy quality drugs that could benefit so many individuals." I wonder how he would feel about the DEA's collection and destruction? But he makes a good point.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kitzhaber continues digging that hole

Kitzhaber Releases Some Tax Information; Payments Contradict Earlier Statement | Willamette Week

I mentioned in a previous post that the good doctor Kitzhaber who is running for governor is digging his own hole by not being forthright upfront. Each new attempt to explain the last attempt to explain ends up leading to more hole digging - and he is doing his own digging.

His recent documents provided to the Week seems to contradict the interest rate he has claimed and the collateral for the odd source of a mortgage.

Public participation is a facade

Lents residents feel discounted by Portland City Hall -- again | OregonLive.com

A Commissioner Fish spokesperson ironically captured the facade and what results. "We did a lot of listening." "This is definitely connected to the feeling of being disenfranchised and marginalized in the stadium conversation." The city and its agencies while touting public participation - too often do not listen unless you are saying what they want to hear.

But you can get their attention. Lents did it by a letter to Commissioner Fish. It is unclear when the letter made it to media print, but I am betting that it had  much to do with the upcoming meeting with the commissioner.

It is important for neighborhoods wherever located to take action to snap the leaders out of their glassy-eyed trance. Fortunately for Lents, the community has activists (not always a dirty word).
 

1st Amendment doesn't protect criminal acts

Politics as a Contact Sport: Videographer Gets Slugged During Kitzhaber Speech | Willamette Week

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is the often quoted basis for proponents and opponents of certain conduct. Sometimes it gets rather silly. The video clearly shows an assault and battery - it is really pure and simple. But the readers to the Week's coverage stepped all over themselves claiming the constitution to justify their position. Of course the amateur legal beagles chimed in.

The good doctor Kitzhaber running for governor was speaking at a public event held at a location on synagogue (apparently not a church) property. There was nothing private about the event and it clearly was not a religious event no matter how one thinly stretches the definition.

An audience member was video graphing the proceedings. He was not a "journalist," but neither does one have to be to come within the 1st Amendment. But, if he was a journalist one can be assured that his treatment would have been different and the media would be up in arms, but that is another story.

Rather than call the police if they felt the person was acting wrongfully - these two individuals (members of the "church"?) used goon squad mentality to bring about the end of the video. He refused to stop claiming his rights to photograph in a public place; in the end, he was hit in the face with his own camera. Rather ironic too that they didn't confiscate the video as they were caught on the video acting out.

At a public event the public can take pictures all they want. The fact that the public event was held on property owned by a religious organization is immaterial. But no matter - the assault was unjustified (rarely is justified) and was a crime.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pornland

It is an attribute that seemingly fails to arouse concern in Portland. Portland seems to just add it to the various lists that it often scores high on, i.e., best place to . . . . 

The discourse in the some media, e.g., Portland Home & Living Examiner fail to see the issues. For them the question is whether sex work should be legalized. Taking that route doesn't even begin to correct the abuses. E.g., that is not likely to eliminate the demand for underage girls. 

But most discouraging is that city leadership and the those challenged to enforce the laws have been strangely silent. And it is discouraging that the local media is merely reporting on the national TV coverage rather than focusing on obtaining answers from the city leadership and the police.

Back in the day the Oregonian would have probably published an in-depth article. Now the blog aggregator merely publishes blogs of what others think. Too bad.
ABC News story highlights child sex trafficking in Portland | OregonLive.com

When free speech is dangerous but still protected

Republican Pollster In Oregon Says Slaves "Well-Treated"; Advocates Death for Gays | Willamette Week

And he wants to be governor

Update.The good Doctor has provided some documentation to the Week. First a claim of no ocumentation, then finds the documents that add to the questions. When will politicians learn to be forthright upfront rather than try obscure the facts which might be embarrassing and in doing so embarrass themselves?

Suffice to say - Mr. Kitzhaber may be digging that hole very deep. Take a good read of the Week's stories. See too Jack Roberts guest column in the Oregonian.

“Dr. Do-Over” | Willamette Week

The Week's article was far more informative that the one in the Oregonian. The story is sadly just another one about a wealthy politician using his political relationships to gain economically and reward his friends in the process.

I am talking about John Kitzhaber who really doesn't see the ethical issues since he has probably lived this way all of his life. It is too about how the wealthy stay wealthy and how influence is wielded by those with wealth.


Kitzhaber obtained a loan to purchase a house in 1999. A $306,000 loan. It was not borrowed from a mortgage company but a stock brokerage firm Bidwell & Co. The first curious point made by the Week: "Brokerage firms do loan money against client holdings, but records show the Kitzhabers secured their loan with property, not securities."

The second curious point: Kitzhabers borrowed 100 percent of the purchase price. But, "conventional lenders typically require a down payment," and apparently "few lenders made 100 percent loans in 1999."

The third curious point. The loan term was for 5 years where "conventional lenders prefer 15-to-30-year mortgages."

The fourth - a question whether interest was paid. Campaign manager: "Kitzhaber is certain he paid a market rate of interest but cannot locate the promissory note or any other documentation to support this claim." But in the Oregonian article his memory returned "saying that he paid 8.25 percent interest and paid the five-year loan off early."

While the Oregonian noted that "[a]t the time, 15- to 30-year loans ran 7 to 7.4 percent," it failed to press for documentation. The Oregonian did do a property search and not surprisingly found that there was only one other Multnomah County Bidwell home loan on record "at the time it was owed money by the Kitzhabers."

Mr. Kitzhaber had what many have when caught in the headlights - selective memory loss. When first asked by the Week about the loan - he couldn't remember the details. Subsequently, his campaign manager characterized the loan: "an extension of the existing business relationship they [Fitzhabers] had with Bidwell & Co." Business as usual.

It was clever though that Mr. Kitzhaber neatly used the Oregonian to deny the Week's article, thus, not having to directly respond to the points raised by the Week.

The coup de grace: "In January 2002, three years after the loan was made, Kitzhaber appointed Bidwell & Co. founder Jerry Bidwell to the Oregon Investment Council. That gave Bidwell access to top investors and oversight of more than $50 billion in state pension funds."

Business as usual, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Nothing illegal nor legally unethical (statute of limitations expired anyway). But hardly anyone, except the Kitzhaber's of the world, would see this transaction as anything but disgusting evidence of maintaining wealth and influence through transactions that aren't likely to come to light.

The transaction was well crafted. One can be assured that many attorney billing hours went into the efforts to "hide" this transaction from the public. The public would never have become aware of such dealing had it not been for the Week and the fact Mr. Kitzhaber got tired of doing nothing special so he decided to run for governor again.

Mr. Kitzhaber stated in the Oregonian that he wants to talk about the issues facing Oregon. I would say that his leadership is clearly at issue - we need to talk about it more.

New PDC commissioner - qualified?

City Hall: Portland Mayor Sam Adams to nominate Aneshka Colas-Dickson to Portland Development Commission board | OregonLive.com

Q&A: PDC’s newest, and youngest, commissioner � Daily Journal of Commerce

If you want to read an ingratiating fluff piece on the new commissioner read the Daily Journal. Nick Bjork apparently had his brain, not just his tongue, twisted by a rather attractive 33 year year old and proceeded to lobe softballs. The worst question but not that dissimilar from the others was this one: "You obviously dress well. Can you compete with Commissioner (Steven) Straus and his bowties (sic)?" Oh please!

So many questions begged to be asked about her qualifications for the role. For the Daily Journal it seemed enough that she had an accounting degree from the University of Oregon. But neither the Daily Journal nor the Oregonian thought to ask whether her degree is a BA or BA. If it is a BA - that is a little weak. She is in construction (daddy's company) - is that enough? Or is it enough or particularly impressive that she can "read and understand pro-forma reports?"

Other questions would have revolve around her knowledge of urban renewal and the role of the commission. No one asked. How about conflict of interest? Her firm is involved with the Grant Warehouse project. [See  Bojack].It receives public money from PDC.

The Oregonian noted the conflict but carried the pat answer - she will sit out the vote. But what about her influence while sitting in on all the board's deliberations? The vote is really irrelevant. It is the questions and scrutiny from the commissioners that can and should make funding available.

This commissioner is a pure political appointment. She is weak on qualifications. There is nothing that stands out that says give this person a position on a board that acts (or should) as a trustee for public funds. It is doubtful that someone who has been standing in that urban renewal welfare line looking for handouts is qualified.

Her qualifications pale in comparison to present and past board members, except Commissioner Straus. See his bio on the PDC website. His claim to fame is that he graduated from Berkeley and is passionate about environmental issues. He too is another weak candidate for the job.

Say what one will about the past mayors including Mayor Potter  - they have typically appointed people with real qualifications. Of course, they were political appointments but their qualifications made it difficult to offer opposition.

Chair Mark Rosenbaum and his fellow board members were excellent commissioners. Bertha Ferran was on that board and has been replaced by this new commissioner. She was eminently qualified and acted independently of the mayor who appointed her - Mayor Potter.

This is the most important position in the city. See the City Charter, Chapter 15. PDC doles out millions of property tax dollars. Thus, it is especially important that these commissioners act in the public's interest and not the interest of the mayor and city council. And, clearly they should not act as the rubber stamp for PDC projects.

But the media rather than providing the scrutiny the public deserves - they pass. The Oregonian's Ryan Frank made a good run at it, but it was still lacking. However, the Daily Journal's Nick Bjork apparently had other things on his mind.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Small business FAQs

The government's Small Business Administration does an excellent job on promoting small businesses. And as with government agencies statistics abound. The FAQs contain many pertinent statistics put in a question and answer form. Examples:

"What share of net new jobs do small businesses create?"

"Small firms accounted for 65 percent (or 9.8 million) of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009. Much of the job growth is from fast-growing high-impact firms [aka gazelles], which represent about 5–6 percent of all firms and are on average 25 years old."

"What is the survival rate for new firms?"

"Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more."

There is a message here that I believe is missed by the city and PDC in their economic strategy. It is the well established firms that create job growth and that it is risky to invest in businesses with no track record.

Nobody knows you like your hometown

Toronto's Take on Mayor Sam Adams | Willamette Week

It was interesting to read the Week's article on the Toronto Star's gushing over the mayor. Here is the favor of that: "He regaled the Tuesday breakfast crowd at the Toronto Board of Trade with the strategies Portland is using to become one of the most sustainable cities on the continent."

It did take some notice of his travails but quickly put them aside: "A quick Google and it's clear that Adams is no saint  -- his personal problems have received a full public airing -- and he doesn't claim his city is Nirvana." Thus, if the Toronto paper is an example, politician's improper activities have little value in the selection of their leaders.

The article quotes too the mayor's penchant for bikes - claiming  "8 per cent of trips by bike and 15 per cent of trips on transit." And that "[h]e wants to double those numbers and reduce by half the 66 per cent of trips that happen in Portland by car by 2030." TriMet (2007-08 Survey) doesn't quite agree with the bike per trip statistic.

Honest Sam: "If these efforts didn't give the public the best value proposition I wouldn't be promoting them." {Toronto Star].

If one reads the full Toronto Star article - it appears that it was more to chastise the absence of local mayoral candidates and not so much promoting Sam Adams and his hyperbole.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Target - interest in the Galleria?

Retailer Target shows interest in downtown Portland location | OregonLive.com

An interesting article by the Oregonian's Jeff Manning. If one ignores the "we love Sam Adams" sub-theme it tells the story of how economic times and the inability of downtown Portland to retain or attract retailers has finally turned on that light bulb. Needless to say the leadership disabled Sam Adams needs something before he is out the door.

Now that "big box" retailers are okay, both Target and Walmart would fill an obvious niche downtown. The city has tried to load the downtown with high end stores despite the need for a Target type store. The location that seems to be high on Target's list is the Galleria.

The Galleria, despite it is a historic building which typically increases development costs, is an excellent location for this type of store because of the Streetcar and MAX lines. It would serve a large downtown population as well the immediate surrounding areas. They will not lack customers. The Streetcar might actually have a ridership that pays. But given the city's past opposition (without merit), it seems unlikely that either of the stores would find downtown attractive.

Frankly though, it seems that there would be an unusual coupling of tenants, i.e., Target and Brooks Brothers. The latter is located on the SW Morrison side of the Galleria. It is difficult to imagine the two together in the same building - clearly there will not be an overlap in patronage. It has always seemed like a strange location for Brooks Brothers - given the surroundings. Maybe they are not long for downtown, or maybe if the hole in ground had been completed . . . .

Finally I found it quite intriguing that efforts were previously made to attract Target to Old Town. According to Homer Williams: "It was a mixed-use project with housing in the upper stories," "a subterranean Target near Union Station in Old Town." Interesting concept.

However, that is an odd location and it is not difficult to understand why being near to Union Station is not a choice location. If Target did their due diligence - they would have known that the location would have for its next door neighbors sexual predator housing, the Resource Access Center, & Transition Projects, Inc. Of course, drug dealers and prostitutes are not lacking in the Union Station area.

But the area proposed for the Asian grocery store Uwajimaya, the extant parking lot at NW Couch and NW 5th, would have been a better location. But PDC has its heart set on the grocery store.

Maybe a wounded Sam Adams will prove beneficial to Portland.

U.S. Custom House auction extended

U.S. Custom House auction extended � Daily Journal of Commerce - Extended again 9/28/10. 

The Custom House has been a hard sell - in fact - it has been hard to give it away. One of the reasons is the cost of seismic upgrades. For whatever reason, the Daily Journal failed to address this fact. It leaves a gaping hole in the content. See my post Custom House Auction for more information.

But
they have an actual bidder - the
PREM Group, a Pearl real estate firm. $1.525 mil is their bid and while the auction has been extended, it is unlikely that a further bid will be forthcoming. One wonders why they made the bid as high as they did.

It is interesting too that the group is connected to Pearl Neighborhood Association. To a skeptic like myself I wonder if we will see a PDC investment, i.e, tax increment funds. Update 9/28/10 - PDC: "The Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area [. . .] has no ability to take on new debt, so [PDC] . . . will not be able to offer financial support . . . at this time . . . ."

Urban Development - Community

[Editor: This was first published on my Old Town Blog in July 2007.]

I am a percipient witness to change in urban history. And, I am just starting to get a feel for how much the 'city' experience has changed, and how that the change has been so gradual over time that it has gone unrecognized.
One of the terms often encountered in readings about urban history and development is 'community.' It is almost never defined. In reality, the term is often used without real meaning and is used repetitively as if the meaning is self-evident. It is not.
Wikipedia provides a decent definition: "A community is a social group of organisms sharing an environment, normally with shared interests. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness."
This definition is on point. What one has to determine is whether their perceived 'community' fits the definition. For example, does the mere sharing of a physical environment make a 'community?'
Isn't it clear that being located within a specific physical area like a neighborhood doesn't constitute a 'community. For purposes of discussion, I am assuming a neighborhood in the geographical sense - thus the question is what elements are needed for a 'community' in a neighborhood?
It seems that for a community to exist - it must first be perceived as a community among those who are within it. Am I in a community if I don't perceive it as such?
In addition to recognition, there must be sharing of some interest. What is, in fact, actually shared may narrow the definition. E.g., for those sharing a religion - the number of people out of particular geographical area belonging to that religion may be numerically small.
Thus, those in a 'community' need to recognize that they share something in common. Certainly this recognition of common interests requires communication. In fact, this may be the most important element.
Communication, a handy tool, is the way people become aware that they are in a 'community.' Mere closeness is not enough. E.g., even businesses even within a limited area may not recognize the commonality among themselves.
So even if we have people who are aware of others who share their same interests - do we have a 'community?' There seems to be a need for some cohesiveness, i.e, there must be something that binds the community members.
Community certainly implies a sense of place - of belonging. There would be too an expectancy of permanency, i.e., the membership is not transitory. There is too a need or desire to be part of the 'community.' Identity comes to mind too.
How is this applicable to Old Town?

Grocery store penciling out

South Waterfront still lacking in services � Daily Journal of Commerce

The Daily Journal of Commerce's Nick Bjork typically produces excellent content. While this article was about the South Waterfront it included numbers about grocery store location that I haven't seen anywhere. It is rare that journalist take that extra step and do research. But I digress.

The whine of the South Waterfront residents was about the absence of a grocery store. But according to the article a grocery store consultant stated that "South Waterfront has a long way to go before getting a grocery store."

The neighborhood population is estimated to be 2,749, but apparently it takes about 10,000 to locate a 20,000 sq. ft. store. I don't know what the population numbers were in Pearl - but it seemed to take a while before Safeway built their store.

And I am wondering what kind of numbers are pertinent for the proposed Uwajimaya Asian grocery store in  Old Town. In 2000 Census the total population of Old Town was 2,916. Incidentally, the total Asian population was 67 ((it is not a percentage). The 2010 Census ought to be interesting. [See my Old Town post Urban Development - Neighborhood.]

And certainly there is more than just total inhabitants that creates a potential location. Discretionary income must come into play. The South Waterfront has and will continued to have a fairly high income population, but the income for Old Town residents is economically dismal with 56.5% living at or below the poverty level. This doesn't include the homeless in Old Town. [See PDC Existing Conditions Report.]

It is difficult to imagine a private business making the investment in Old Town without massive subsidies. But there is no need for an Asian grocery store; however, a Walmart, Walgreens or even Riteaid store would more likely match Old Town's needs.

Massive subsidies - the PDC signal is in the night's sky.


TriMet driver caught reading (with updates)

Rider records TriMet driver reading Kindle on I-5 | KGW Local News

TriMet: "Totally unacceptable." Unacceptable? It is a lot more than that. What kind of hiring process allows this guy to drive a bus? Why does it always take someone other than TriMet to catch these guys red handed. Doesn't the on-board cameras' view include the driver? Cell phone cameras - a tool for accountability. KGW has the footage.

Update. I was too strident in my comments about TriMet. In a recent KGW article it turns our that this driver was fired once before "for contact with a customer that constituted 'posing an immediate threat to public safety.'" Through mediation via grievance procedure he got his job back. It sounds like more of the problems with unions - difficulty of ridding troublesome employees.

And the driver's response when he became aware that he was caught on camera: that the passenger "was not allowed to take his photo while he was driving." Will he be fired? Should he be?

Update: And now for something completely unexepected - Lawyer: TriMet driver wasn't reading Kindle

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Talk about leveraging (among other things)

Portland Fire Bond: Motorola Spends Money to Make Money? | Willamette Week

More property taxes. Why do Portlanders stand for it? Maybe most of us are not property owners.

Isn't this a conflict of interests, shouldn't it be? "Motorola, which supplies the current radio system Portland police and firefighters use to respond to emergencies, just gave $35,000 to the campaign that urges a “yes” vote on the $72.4 million fire bond measure . . . ."  Every one dollar "invested" returns >$2000. Not bad.

The text of the city bond measure doesn't appear to contain all of the four excellent amendments offered by Commissioner Saltzman. It is missing three of the four. See too Week's July 14th article.

Although there is to be a committee appointed to assure that the funds are used as intended, it isn't clear that it would prevent another Fire Station 1 debacle where PDC intended on using 1998 Fire and Rescue seismic bond proceeds for Ankeny Burnside urban renewal project. 

The project failed because of cost overruns highlighted by the Tram cost overruns. Not only was it nearly 8 years later that the seismic upgrades began, it appears that the Fire Bureau was never made whole. See my September 2008 blog post: "What happened?"

 Of interest - Portland Fire and Rescue is having an open house for the finished Fire Station 1.

How apt from The Week: Insert your own joke here"

Mayor Sam Adams Heads to Canada, Then D.C. | Willamette Week

The story is about the mayor traveling to Canada and subsequently to DC. One purpose according to Adams’ spokesman Roy Kaufmann: "This trip also provides an opportunity for Mayor Adams to export Portland’s leadership in active transportation planning." The Week appropriately followed that comment with: "Insert your own joke here."

Interesting too - the political bedfellows. "[T]ravel companions to Canada include executives from Gerding Edlen, which just got a $3.2 million city subsidy for its new Vestas project in the Pearl, Glumac, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, McKinstry, RDH, Green Building Services and Columbia Green Technologies."

God works in mysterious ways

Italian police seize $30 mln from Vatican [bank] in probe - Yahoo! News

The bank became infamous because of an earlier scandal (1980s) that apparently led to "God's Banker" being found hanged. Suicide?

The Vatican bank's stated mission: ". . . to manage assets placed in its care that are destined for religious works or works of charity. But it also manages ATMs inside Vatican City and the pension system for the Vatican's thousands of employees." Hmmm.

"The bank is not open to the public. Depositors are usually limited to Vatican employees, religious orders and people who transfer money for the pope's charities." Hmmm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Middle class too weak to save economy?

Wealth disparity: We've left the middle class too weak to save economy | OregonLive.com:

"The richest one-tenth of 1 percent, representing just 13,000 households, took in more than 11 percent of total income in 2007." "That does not leave enough spending power with the rest of the population to sustain a flourishing economy."

"
With so much of the middle class and the rest of working America tapped out, there is not enough consumer demand for the goods and services that the U.S. economy is capable of producing. Without that demand, there are precious few prospects for a robust recovery."

Interesting perspective by Bob Herbert, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, originally titled: A Recovery's Long Odds. A good read.

Killing civilians for sport - the volunteer army?

Members of U.S. platoon in Afghanistan accused of killing civilians for sport

My first thought was that this conduct was symptomatic of the volunteer army - but then I remembered the My Lai Massacre. I guess the Army hasn't learned from the past and seem doomed to repeat their mistakes. And doesn't the media have the responsibility to remind us of our past transgressions? The Washington Post had no reference to the My Lai Massacre.

This incident occurred in South Vietnam in 1968 when a unit of the Army committed mass murder on "unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, all of whom were civilians and a majority of whom were women, children (including babies) and elderly people. Many of the victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies were found mutilated."

So many lessons never learned.

Pension Gaps - who fills?

Pension Gaps Loom Larger - WSJ.com:

Subtitle: "Funds Stick to 'Unrealistic' Return Assumptions, Threatening Bigger Shortfalls"

The point. "Many of America's largest pension funds are sticking to expectations of fat returns on their investments even after a decade of paltry gains, which could leave U.S. retirement plans facing an even deeper funding hole and taxpayers on the hook for huge additional contributions."

"Return assumptions can affect the size of so-called funding gaps—the amounts by which future liabilities to retirees exceed current pension assets. That's because government plans use the return rates to calculate how much money they need to meet their future obligations to retirees."

The expected (assumption) return on investment is 8% based upon 2001 data, but "the country's 15 biggest public pension systems have an average expected return of 7.8%." "Public pension plans posted a median, annualized return of 9.3% over the past 25 years, but just 3.9% over the past 10."

But
, "t
he Oregon Public Employees Retirement System has had an 8% assumption since 1989, [while] [i]ts actual return averaged 10.7% annually from 1970 through 2009." Not bad.

The question: "Are investors in for a sustained period of meager or below-market growth?" It is far from a who cares? Portlanders better. As of June 30 2008, the city's liability for the police and firemen pension funds was over $2 billion. [Bojack].

More bad news from Bojack: "Nothing -- nothing! -- is ever put aside in advance to pay benefits to retired police and firefighters in the future. Everything is paid out of the current year's property taxes." And, he continues: "The amounts the city has put aside for its other employees' pensions through the infamous PERS system are also falling short. As of the end of 2008, there was an unfunded liability of $259 million there."

And who will make up the deficit?

Beijing buys more US debt

Beijing buys more US debt

Increased to US$846.7 billion.

And the spin: "'A strong and growing China benefits the US, just as a strong and growing US is good for China,' Mr Geithner [Treasury Secretary] said."

Tracking the Arctic Sea Ice

Tracking Sea Ice in the Arctic - NYTimes.com

Say it isn't so!

"The Arctic seems to be warming up. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen and the Eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions, and hitherto unheard of temperatures in that part of the earth. Old glaciers have disappeared and land once covered with field ice is bare."

It's from a 1922 New York Times article. See the above link for the reader's comment for more of the same.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

There is no upside

Did Portland's unfunded pension liability just break $3 billion? (Jack Bog's Blog)

Freedom of expression

NorthJersey.com: No penalties for Jets

Too often political correctness equates to censorship. The players' behavior might have been immature - but harassment? Way too big of a deal was made out of this. Just where are we going with political correctness in this country? Check out the subject of the "harassment." Check out her website, especially her photo gallery, while you are at it.


Afghan vote buying

Afghan Votes Come Cheap, and Often in Bulk - NYTimes.com

The inference is that vote buying occurs because of the backwardness of Afghanistan - "feudal capitalism." Interesting how we forget. It wasn't all that long ago that in certain areas of this country similar vote buying was nearly as acceptable. [Check this article for some history.]  And depending on how one defines vote buying - it is still rampant in the US. e.g., see "On-the-Take at Any Margin? Seniority, Electoral Marginality and Vote-Buying in the U.S." Modern capitalism?


PDC overdraft protection

Report-No-10-82-Extend-Interfund-Operating-Loans-for-EOI-GF

The Report supports the borrowing between funds to protect against negative cash balances.

"Due to inevitable time lags between the end of a billing period and reimbursement from the City of Portland, PDC periodically experiences negative cash balances in [certain] funds."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Isn't this great?

The Associated Press: Colbert to rally against faux nemesis Stewart

The better story: Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart's Washington D.C. rally: Are they serious? - The Week

Playing in the technology field

Tokyo team develops high-voltage iron-based phosphate cathode for li-ion batteries — Autoblog Green

I read the above article and it just strikes me as wrong that Portland and Oregon seem compelled to hand out "incentives" to companies that promise jobs. The article details the latest in promising battery technology. What comes to mind is the subsidies given to ReVolt the electric vehicle battery maker.

Arguably, ReVolt sold its "promising" technology to state and city officials, but I suspect it sold promise of jobs. And the city and state were more than willing to exchange the promise of jobs for immediate subsidies.  It was politically astute. But, incentives are public investments and should be should be subjected to due diligence.

This state and Portland clearly do not have the expertise to judge the technology potential of the businesses and projects, but they seem more than willing to invest our money. And never mind that these public entities fail to set conditions that might in fact guarantee the promised jobs.

And one can be assured that these industries receiving public financing will not stand for any public regulation. That would be contrary to the free market.

Public investments that are politically motivated are wrong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tough on crime? Not if it costs

Vote no on Measure 73, another unfunded crime mandate | OregonLive.com

The Oregonian editorial couched its objection to the measure that would increase penalties for drunk driving and sexual predators in terms of cost, but in fact it is opposed to the measure because of content. The editorial board has company in Chris Dudley.

"Measure 73 has two provisions. One would require a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for all repeat sex offenders. The other would require a 90-day sentence for all drunken drivers on their third conviction, which is typically the fourth DUII arrest." [Oregonian].

Ballotpedia: "Result of "Yes" Vote: "Yes" vote increases minimum sentences for certain repeated sex crimes (300 months), imposes minimum incarceration sentence for certain repeated driving under influence convictions (90 days).

Result of "No" Vote: "No" vote retains mandatory-minimum sentences of 70 to 100 months for certain sex crimes, provides no mandatory-minimum incarceration sentence for driving under influence.
"

"A poll conducted August 18-21, 2010 by Grove Insight revealed that 62% of polled voters favored the proposed measure, while 21% were opposed and 16% were undecided." [Ballotpedia].

The Oregonian's earlier opposition expressed support for the provisions: "Everybody's sick of reading about convicted sex offenders preying on somebody else or rapists trying to coax the parole board into letting them out of prison. Moreover, nothing Oregon's doing seems to stop drunk drivers, and why should anybody get one, two, three, four DUII convictions before being tossed in the slammer?"

But, given the perilous economic times that Oregonian sees - it is no on crime measures. Even though it admits that the financial impact is not clear - it knows that is will be too much to bear especially given the financial distress of Oregon's school system.  As if money is going to remedy that.

It seems simple that the two priority items for government expenditure is education and crime, and not necessarily in that order. But now  for the Oregonian - it is complicated. But is it? On the sexual predator provision their argument seem more like the new law is redundant. Oregonian claims the only benefit is to give the prosecutors a bigger hammer in plea deals. But isn't plea deals part of the problem. Doesn't the public see an absence of enforcement of the extant laws?

The Oregonian sees the drunk driver provision similarly complex without explanation. It says that "[o]n paper, the measure would require all drunken drivers to serve 90 days in jail on their third conviction, which sounds very reasonable. But in real life, because of state sentencing guidelines, those same drunken drivers would actually face more than a year in prison."

What seems to be bothering the Oregonian is the "mandatory" part. Frankly, 90 days mandatory sentence for a third conviction is not reasonable enough. Again, doesn't the public see the absence of actual imposition of significant penalties as the problem?

"Current law imposes mandatory-minimum sentences of 70 to 100 months for certain sex crimes; no mandatory-minimum incarceration sentence for driving under influence of intoxicants (DUII). Measure imposes mandatory-minimum sentence of 300 months for person convicted of "major felony sex crime" if previously convicted of major felony sex crime; defines "major felony sex crime" as first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, using child in sexually explicit display; previous conviction includes statutory counterpart in another jurisdiction, and separate criminal episode in same sentencing proceeding. Measure makes DUII a class C felony if defendant previously convicted of DUII, or statutory counterpart, at least twice in prior 10 years; imposes mandatory-minimum sentence of 90 days, at state expense. Other provisions." [Ballotpedia quoting Oregon Secretary of State].

Now that sounds reasonable.

Kevin Mannix has given expression to the public's desire [Ballotpedia poll above] for enforcement in these two serious areas. Arguably, until the legislature starts doing its job, we will unfortunately see more and more of these measures. Legislation via initiatives - now that is democracy.

Seeking more credible . . . candidates

The mid-term Republican primaries: Seeking more credible GOP candidates | The Economist:

"The question to ask is why the GOP has been unable to find more competent candidates who are less-vulnerable to a populist challenge, why the establishment has, too often, put itself in the position of either fighting a populist insurgency or appeasing it, rather than doing what they are supposed to do: lead."

It is a question that can be asked considering all levels of government and political parties. Where are the leaders? Why can't they just do the job rather than look for ways and means of prolonging their stay?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When there is P G E in the name

San Bruno blast: PG&E backs bid to bill public

San Bruno located just south of San Francisco suffered from the failing of a 30" gas line installed in 1948. Pacific Gas and Electric has proposed to California regulators a plan "that would require customers to pay all costs of catastrophic fires, such as last week's gas-line explosion in San Bruno, that exceed a utility's insurance coverage.

"There is a theme [PGE's relations with the public] here: It's called contempt for the consumer. And it's born out of PG&E's stranglehold as the dominant power supplier in the state. The Public Utilities Commission can regulate its rates. It cannot mold a culture." [Herhold: Time for PGE's boss to go - San Jose Mercury News]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oregon SAT: increase in participation and in reading scores - not

Oregon students increase participation and reading scores on SAT | OregonLive.com

The Oregonian had an article whose headline and content did not match the source - 2010 College Board SAT scores. The numbers just didn't add up. And further it never seems to amaze me that source links are typically a general link and not one where one finds the information referenced.

The author compares only 2010 with 2009. That comparison results in a meaningless article. Thus, looking at the archived data since 2008 Oregon has stayed steady at 523 in critical reading, but has dropped from 525 to 524 in math and dropped from 502 to 499 in writing. Isn't a trend more important?  A table or graph of Oregon's data over the last ten years would have been more meaningful and informative.

Thus, it is incorrect that the reading scores have increased. And student participation while increasing from18,377 in 2008 to 18,461 in 2010 dropped in 2009 to 18,061. But those numbers are statistically insignificant. And while the article searches for more meaningless comparisons, it missed the fact that students in religious schools do better than those in public schools. 

The Board cautions against making comparisons, but they do make it easy to do just that. The format for national and states is exactly the same. I believe what they are guarding is any reliance on the scores alone to make policy. But policy ought to be rethought when Minnesota has these 2010 scores: reading 594, math 607,  writing 580; Oregon 2010 scores: reading 523, math 524, and writing 499.

See Oregon data 2010, 2009, 2008

Weapons ads on Washington subway

Weapons ads on Washington subway-just part of the scenery - RT Top Stories

"No where else in the world are multi-million dollar war machines being marketed like soft drinks and cell phones as on the Washington D.C. subway."

Take a peek at the Russia Today's view of US military spending. The numbers are not likely to be found in American press.

Another view on failure in education

Op-Ed Columnist - We’re No. 1(1)! - NYTimes.com

This article is by Thomas Freidman making a general comments about how in fact the US is no longer #1 in many, many things, but a key comment had to do with one of the reasons why - education. It is not a blame the teacher but blame the student's motivation.

Motivation seems to be one of those obvious and needed ingredient in a student's education. And motivation isn't all in the hands of the teacher. In this case motivation is the expectation and desire to learn. Seemingly, the two go hand in hand.

Motivation is not economic or social dependent. E.g., where parents have high expectations for their children to learn - they do. And, children have a higher reading proficiency where reading in the home is practiced and encouraged. [NCES].

It shouldn't be a surprise that cultures that put a high premium on education and have high expectations of their children to be successful in school have higher success rates. Asians, e.g., typically score better on educational testing than others, e.g., see College Board SAT Total Group Profile. But see Oregon's state profile for a surprising, contrasting view.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Newspaper readership

Another one of these posts that I write because I can. These are often of interest only to me and have nothing to do with anything in particular. What gave me the impetus for this post is that I spend a good part of my daily time in a coffee shop and I see just how many people will pick up a paper previously purchased and read something of interest. Where I drink coffee I almost never see secondary reading of anything but the Oregonian.

These newspapers are often called passalongs and the readers make up a secondary (non paying) readership. The industry makes a point of estimating this secondary readership because of the advertising value.

Secondary readership is international. E.g., see this from Buenos Aires: 35% of newspaper readers are secondary having "obtained the copy at work, school, and public places (such as doctors' offices, hairdressers' salons, libraries, etc); received free copies; borrowed someone else's copies; found a copy left behind by someone; or by some other means."

The Oregonian is Oregon's newspaper and consistently ranks in the top 25 US newspapers. In 2008, daily primary readers - 304,399 and Sunday readers - 361, 988. But secondary daily readers - 712,500 and secondary Sunday readers - 920,200. It becomes obvious that Sunday is the publishing day, e.g., primary Sunday readers are just slightly more than the total daily readership; more dramatic considering secondary readership.

Secondary readership has always been with us, but I wonder how much that it has increased in the recent decade? And what real effect has it had on industry revenue. Arguably since advertising is the primary source of revenue - increased secondary readership benefits the industry.

Something to keep in mind is that reports usually reflect circulation, typically paid circulation, not readership. And these reports seem dismal. But the trend appears to be a gradual upslope in readers per copy. And, what is missing from most reports is the effect and value of newspaper websites. It doesn't seem appropriate to continue to separate the two - print and online.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Waterfront: You can’t get there from here

Vancouver’s waterfront: You can’t get there from here � Daily Journal of Commerce:

"“We got into the visioning process for what we wanted to see on the land, and then we realized there wasn’t a convenient way to get to the waterfront from downtown.” [. . .]  “It’s funny because downtown is so close to the water, but you can’t get there from it."

It would be just as appropriate if instead of "Vancouver" it was "Portland." In most places throughout the downtown Portland, the fact that the waterfront is only a few blocks away is lost on most. Naito Parkway and MAX are often barriers.

Even in the Pearl and certainly Old Town one would not realize that the Willamette River is so close, but even if were known it is inaccessible. Even on the other side of the river inaccessibility prevails. E.g., the East Bank Esplanade is virtually unused. It has a boating docks without boats. Access is a secret apparently known only to a few runners and bicyclists.

Development has ignored the waterfront as it is virtually sacrosanct park property. Even the Ankeny Burnside urban renewal project (original plan appropriately terminated because of costs) was not designed to improve access to the waterfront but only to provide a front yard for high-end condos.

Isn't the Willamette River underutilized and unappreciated?

Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt - what's the message?

Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in USA - USATODAY.com:

"Oddly, some students don't even know how much they owe — or to whom."

D.C. teacher fathered student's child

D.C. student files lawsuit, says teacher fathered her child:

"Staff at a D.C. high school suspected that a teacher was having sex with an emotionally disturbed student in his darkened classroom but did nothing to stop the encounters that led to her pregnancy"

Reminded me of the teacher-predator situation in Oregon. I wrote about it in 2009, but one wonders just how devoid of sexual predators is the educational system?

Your tax dollars at work -White Stag sign

City reaches deal to buy White Stag sign - Portland Business Journal

$200,000 for the sign and $2,000 monthly for maintenance. Appropriate use of tax payer money? Hardly seems likely. And just recently, the city via the Portland Development Commission paid $45,000 for the installation of the Hung Far Lo sign. Amazing where priorities lie.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Portland's vindicative mayor

Mayor fires citizen police budget advisors | kgw.com | KGW Local News | Portland, Oregon

All of the media have unloaded on the mayor for his decision to fire the police advisory committee that dared to publicly disagree with him. This mayor with more than the average character flaws is an easy mark for negative criticism. As I have mused - why does Portland with its abundant talent has as its mayor a Sam Adams?

"(This [firing] is about) winning and losing, not the greater good. It's not good public policy it's hanging onto power. It's arguments. It's personal pettiness," said TJ Browning, a leader on the citizen volunteer committee. [See Maxine Bernstein's excellent coverage of the firing and Elizabeth Hovde's take.]

Arguably, winning or losing in itself is not necessarily wrong, but it is how one goes for the win. For this person - anything goes. Ethical behavior is not a trait possessed by this mayor, e.g., lying about his relationship with Breedlove arguably to win the election. We now see him publicly - but one wonders who was Sam Adams during the Vera Katz years?

Remember the firing of chief Sizer? The Oregonian characterization: "This smack-down was graceless, it was shabby and vindictive treatment for a chief who will be remembered as one of the best, and most revolutionary, in the city's history.":

Vindicative seems to be the operative word describing Adams, e.g., Commissioner Saltzman "accused Adams of having a vindictive streak" in the manner that Adams retook the police bureau from him. But we see Commissioner Leonard standing by the mayor in the Canzano Adams debate,  Bojack calls Adams and Leonard the Sam-Rands Twins.

But see Leonard, via his chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, voicing "concern about Adams' decision to ask the teen [Breedlove] to lie.""It reveals a much more strategic and planned effort to mislead people." [Huffington Post].

But what I see as significant is the absolute control that this mayor is applying to the police department. From public comments it appears that chief Reese is along for the ride. Commander Reese seems like he is Adams' poodle. Ironic is that Rosie Sizer had the balls, maybe Reese will grow a pair.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tolerance or cowardice?

Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?

An excellent article in the Portland Tribune. Unfortunately there is the continued misrepresentation of the issue as either "homeless" or "panhandling." The issue is the conduct of a very few - the so called "road warriors" which they are not.

While not explicitly mentioned, what is being questioned is the effectiveness of the mayor's Free Sidewalk Plan of a year ago. A prime example of cowardice using tolerance as an excuse. [See my take on the sidewalk problem in September 2009.]

Enforcement by using the extant laws has proven successful. But, the police department doesn't want to dedicate the manpower and sees it as too expensive. All of our city leaders hide behind the "our hands are tied" rubric, i.e., the courts will not let us.

Sadly, Portlanders and others coming downtown will just have to wait until the city leaders grow a pair. And the downtown businesses will have to grow a pair and challenge the Portland Business Alliance an organization that taxes them to deal with the problem and fails to provide solutions.

Tolerance of the "road warriors" is not a virtue - it is cowardice.

Crime - will it cross the bridge with the Streetcar?

I lived in Old Town for 5 years and it was acknowledged by all concerned that MAX brought crime into Old Town and not vice versa. The Streetcar across the Broadway bridge is a fact but the reasoning for it is lost.

I can't see any value to "bridging" the two areas. Neither area will likely benefit from any additional consumer spending. But this seems clear (to me) - Pearl an area nearly bereft of crime, especially that related to drugs, will see an unacceptable increase.

Not until the silver spike is through the heart

[Editor: This was originally published on my Old Town Blog, Oregonlive, Saturday, September 12, 2009. It was one more diatribe against the various sit-lie sidewalk ordinances designed to make downtown off limits to the homeless rather than curb the conduct of a small group. At the time the mayor had proposed one more iteration called the Free Sidewalk Plan. A Tribune article September 9, 2010 describes without intention the failure of this plan. Cute name though.]

The Portland Mercury sees the city as putting the nail in the sit-lie coffin - I am not so sure. Pure evil takes more to kill it.

I wrote about the retailers having their say before the Mercury published its piece. So I will have to backtrack a little because their coverage brought out different details than that of the Portland Business Journal's (PBJ).

From the Mercury I do get a sense that the city attorney may understand the role of the state constitution viz a viz personal freedoms. In response to the question - "Can't we make all of downtown a park?" The city attorney's answer - ". . . the courts would see through the obvious attempt to target "behavior we don't like."

The police are still claiming as their doing that the crime rate is down. They say 34%, but since they are the gatekeeper of the statistics I am not quite buying it.

Crime is down nationally, but I don't believe by 34%. But 34% is difficult to believe. I have heard those 'crime is down' stories before. Moreover, I believe they still don't count statistics from Portland Patrol, Portland Business Alliance security force.

And, it has been my experience that when there is a look under the hood, we see crime is down overall, but not in the categories that have any import.

I am a disbeliever.

To solve problems - the city is apparently offering up a Free Sidewalk Plan that will, among other things, "essentially puts all the existing laws around sidewalk access under one banner, is easy to understand, constitutional, and legal."

That has to be suspect if for no other reason than the different categories have different levels of constitutional protection. The obvious difference - placement of restaurant tables on the sidewalks and persons walking on the sidewalks.

One size doesn't fit all.

"The Free Sidewalk Plan will put more focus on providing opportunities for Portlanders to donate their change to services, instead of giving money to beggars, and there will also be a public education component." [Mercury].

This is an excellent consideration, but it has been offered as an alternative before. "Beggars," an interesting choice of words. But, remember when old style parking meters were offered up as as a point of donation? The last time I was in PDC they still had one in the lobby.

Public education provided it is convincing may be the key to success to curb general panhandling. Panhandling would disappear if the public stops forking over the dough.

Convincing the public is difficult and if successful it may work against the general panhandling, but not against the intimidating panhandling that is the object of complaints.

The city is still not listening and still doesn't grasp that the homeless are not the cause of the retailers' woes, but arguably the retailers do. ""Don't lump the homeless issue in with the road warrior issue," said Powell's owner Michael Powell." [Mercury].

The mayor is talking homelessness (chronic type) and the retailers are talking aggressive transients, young people and those who have chosen to make the streets their home.

It's apples and oranges.

Thus, the proposals made public don't address the retailers' issues nor do they address the real homeless issues. In between are still the thugs and criminals who will be free to continue their activities.

Consider. Which of the proposals found in either the Mercury or the Portland Business Journal is directed towards solving any of incidents complained about by the retailers?

Not the incidents of urine filled balloons.
Not the incidents of drug sales.
Not the incidents of intimidation by panhandlers.
Not the incidents of threats against employees.
Not the incidents of bad behavior by the 'road warriors.'
Not the incidents of aggressive young transients.

Like it or not - beat cops even if in a limited downtown area might be the solution. None of the incidents require a sit-lie type of ordinance. Laws exist to protect against these incidents.

I mean real beat cops - not the PBA security guards. There is a qualitative difference between the presence of a real cop and the security guards. The thugs, drug dealers and other criminals on the street know the difference and exploit it.

". . . Fish and Adams were clear: The era of coming up with unconstitutional end-runs around the law to target homeless people is at an end." [Mercury].

That is one of those 'I will believe it when I see it' items.

It takes more than the a nail in its coffin to stop sit-lie. A silver spike must be driven through the center of its heart. Nothing I have read comes close to the mark.