The Oregon Blog
Under grey skies, self-medicating with black coffee


Saturday, September 27, 2003  

Today, as I was getting my morning coffee, I saw this headline screaming from the front-page of the Big O: Poverty's grip tightens in Oregon. Interesting bit of synchronicity as I had just read Fred's "part three" [see below] regarding his own Fantasy Island-esque tale of moving to a Latin American coffee plantation.

The article in the Oregonian carries with it (rightfully, I might add) an almost apocalyptic tone as it describes Oregon's poverty level and unemployment:

Life below the poverty line revolves around rent vouchers, waiting lists and donated boxes full of foods that don't need to be cooked.

From 2001 to 2002, 395,000 Oregonians lived that experience, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday. Although the state's number of poor increased by 5,000, Oregon's poverty rate hovered at 11.3 percent for a second year.


[snip]

Today, 11,000 Oregonians lose the emergency unemployment benefits that helped them scrape by for more than a year. Unless federal money is found to extend the benefits, as happened in December, as many as 400 people a week could be dropped as the program winds down.

"It's a horrible foreshadowing of what is to come," said Jeff Thompson, economist and policy analyst for the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit research institute in Silverton.


Grim indeed...I have friends who are on unemployment and without benefits or a job market, what are they going to do? Apply for welfare? Quite possibly. Or, in the very least, for the Oregon Trail card. This is interesting because these are the same social services that the neocons would like to dismantle even as more and more people are becoming dependent on them. I sometimes wonder what sort of "burden" (i'm quoting neocons here) my friends would become if there were no social services to help them, but, instead, they came knocking on my door for food and shelter. Not that I wouldn't help them, mind you, but add-in your immediate family (many of mine are on welfare or food assistance) and maybe some of their immediate family (ditto above) -- I really don't think my pitiful hourly wage could provide for all of us.

Another interesting bit of the article says:

In 2000, the poverty rate reached its lowest level in 25 years at 11.3 percent. It's been increasing since. [emphasis mine]

National findings released Friday showed significant increases in poverty among African-Americans, married couples and Midwesterners.

It also showed poverty creeping from inner cities nationwide to settle in the suburbs. Inner-city and rural poverty levels remained unchanged, while poverty among suburban residents grew from 8.2 percent to 8.9 percent.


So, the year Bush takes office, the poverty level begins to creep back up again. Who woulda' thunk it?

I suggest what we're seeing here is a good old Reagan-style War Against the PoorTM. Bush gets into office, packs his cabinet with neocons, and begins to give back to his corporate buddies all that was taken during the Clinton era. Hopefully, American's are waking up and realizing they've been had -- brutally -- by Bush and friends.

Of course, his administration inherited the bad economy right?

Well, go read the rest of the article if you want a good scare before Halloween.

posted by iggi | 9:14 AM |


Thursday, September 25, 2003  

part three, to bring it all home...

So I've been mulling over "getting off the grid" and leaving some of the modern conveniences behind (or at least my job, and that's something of a convenience, to me).

This has been in the form of a personal exercise (or even, say, a pretty roaring "pity party.") And some of you have been kind enough to point out that, well, although that's nice and good for me, what the @#%^ does it have to do with the name on the masthead?

Aside from strictly personal things, I've been reading the latest Oregon Economic Review and forecast (warning, .pdf file)

If you like chaos, despair and vulgarity, this is your kind of reading.

First of all, we're in a world of hurt. We don't have a particularly diverse economy (computers, timber, and agriculture are the main industries. Not much else comes close.) We don't have a very substantial non-computer manufacturing base.

Then again, you know that.

The forecast report, though, sounds like a typical Western Oregon Winter day, though--heavy clouds, showers to rain possible.

But just as some analysts are worried about the U.S. economy, the Oregon economy is bouncing between a jobless recovery and a ‘job-loss’ recovery.

This is pretty heavy language (IMO) for a government report.

What's worse, their definitions for what would constitute a "pessimistic" outlook seem to be very possible
Pessimistic Scenario: The hoped for resurgence in business spending following the War in Iraq never materializes. Although the ground fighting is over, the reconstruction phase in Iraq goes badly with increased hostilities in the Middle East. Oil prices stay relatively high and the stock market takes another beating. Consumer confidence fades away and spending is curtailed. The jobless recovery ends and the US economy heads back into recession. Although the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates in the second half of the year, the recession is unavoidable. The very reasons for Oregon’s hard hit through the recession continue to cause this latest downturn to be as painful. Manufacturing sheds more jobs as does the nonmanufacturing sector. The recession lasts through the first quarter of 2004 before lower interest rates and federal government stimulus packages start to revive the economy. Businesses have long overdue capital spending which starts to revive in late 2004, early 2005. By the end of 2005, recovery is in full swing but still employment is below pre-recession levels.

If you're really looking to strike fear in your heart, read the subsection called "Forecast Risks" on page 38.

Ah heck, read the whole thing. Then think about moving to Panama with me...

posted by fred | 3:06 PM |


Wednesday, September 24, 2003  

Have I got a deal for you...

A few days ago, I put up a post about how I wanted to be a farmer. After the initial flush of happiness at my ability to escape the 9-5 (and enter the 5-8) world, reality swooped down and did a strafing-run at my dreams.

Turns out that aside from just being hard work, money people (even the government, which seems to be way more interested in supporting the farming industry than they do farmers) would much rather set you up in a strip club or, say, "Pets.com."

So I started to look south. Farther south even than Klamath Falls. South as in Latin America. And boy, it is quite a bit less expensive down there.

Em even found me the perfect place...a shade-grown working organic coffee plantation in Panama. $175k, including buildings.

There's a slight problem though (and no, it's not to do with my halting Spanish, lack of infrastructure, or even the vagueries of the international coffee market (which is down right now))--Federal subisdies for real estate don't exist.

I know, you're saying "well, so what?" Well, those federal subsidies, created in the New Deal, made it possible for you to get your fixed-rate low (compared to anywhere) interest mortgage at a long, fixed term. Every homeowner or property owner that has every purchased a house with a "long-term" mortgage can thank the Federal Government (and the Democrats) for underwriting real property ownership.

But I digress (what's new?) In Latin America (and most countries other than the US, Canada and...?) there isn't any governmental gaurantees on Real Estate loans. It's Cash, baby. Ok, if you're lucky, you can get the owner to carry you for 10+% for 5-15 years. If you're really lucky, some local bank will provide you with a high-interest short-term loan for your property.

Since that's more "nut" than I can cover, and more loan than anyone (wanting to run a farm) would want to pay out, I propose this deal:

Invest in an organic coffee plantation in Panama. We'll issue shares, and you'll own a peice o' the bidness (and the resulting harvest) I'll volunteer to go down there and run the place.

We'll call it ????

posted by fred | 10:51 AM |


Tuesday, September 23, 2003  

You gotta like this: the Oregon Republican Party is beginning to splinter.

A Friday fund-raiser honoring Oregon's "Republican heritage," including former statewide leaders such as Clay Myers and Bill Rutherford, should raise tens of thousands of dollars for the party, Chairman Kevin Mannix said Monday.

Problem is, neither Myers nor Rutherford want anything to do with the event, even though their names are heralded in the formal invitations.

Myers -- a moderate Republican who was secretary of state when Tom McCall was governor -- is boycotting it because he thinks the party has moved too far to the right, abandoning it's progressive roots. Rutherford, another moderate who served as state treasurer, says "they hijacked my name" and that he didn't even know about the event until he got invited to attend -- for a $250 donation.


Whoops.

Remember when the party hailed Kevin Mannix as the new leader? Seems the Kev man is a bit of a polarizer.

"I find it bemusing that these former Republican office holders being honored are much the same flavor of Republican that I am," said state Rep. Max Williams, R-Tigard, who helped engineer this year's tax increase. "I do wonder sometimes how well they would be treated if they were currently holding office."

Williams said he has other obligations and won't attend the fundraiser, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Crown Ballroom in Portland.

Former Secretary of State Norma Paulus, among those to be feted, won't be there, although she wouldn't say whether she had the same concerns as Myers and Rutherford.

"All I want to say about it is, I'm not attending," Paulus said. "I'm otherwise engaged."

Also passing up the invite as an honoree is University of Oregon president and former Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer, who has conflicting events, Mannix said.


The fissures of this break have been long coming. There seem to be two camps in the Oregon Republican party--moderates who are interested in sober management of Oregon's natural resources and revenues, and anti-tax conservatives who want government stripped down to a bare-bones booster for business. In the 90s, things held together pretty well because there were enough revenues to give tax cuts and pay for services the moderates wanted. But the last legislative session shows where things are now.

Republicans socking it out: that's a sight Dems have been waiting a long, long time to see.

posted by Jeff | 10:30 AM |
 

As you (two) may have noticed, the Oregon Blog continues to limp along, smote by the club of neglect. Even with two bloggers, it remains under-used. So, if at first or second you don't succeed, try another blogger.

Many of you know Ignatius Reilly (palindromic "iggi") from his comments here. Today Reilly turns 30, precipitating what will no doubt be the first of several life crises. In order to spare the state interment costs, Fred and I are hoping to boost his spirits by welcoming him as a contributor here. No doubt this great honor will spare him for this crisis at least.

Iggi's the host of Genfoods and is a contributor to Open Source Politics. There he writes mainly about the environment. He was raised in the wilds of Grants Pass and has an ambivalent relationship to our fair state (unlike Fred and I, who have the zeal of the converted).

I don't know when or what he'll post, but if you see his name, don't be alarmed. Welcome Ignatius, and happy birthday.

(For a nice intro to the man and his work, check his first post at OSP out; it's really fine stuff.)

posted by Jeff | 9:16 AM |


Monday, September 22, 2003  

I want to be a farmer.

No, really.

I can see the future of being a highly overpaid tech-geek...and it's not rosy. There are a ton of 14 year-olds coming up the street that can not only write code in their sleep, but if they aren't creating a commodity of technology workers, the Indians surely are.

And to be honest, I don't see any other form of work that I'm "qualified" for that will ever pay me half of what I'm making now.

I could go back to school to learn another "skill" that is in the process of being outmoded, and commoditized, but I wonder about the cost/benefit analysis of such a thing.

So I decided that what I really want, what is really most useful for my future is to "pull myself off the grid" and get out of the downward spiral looming in front of my eyes.

What better way to do that than to buy a plot of land, put up some wind generators and some photovoltaic cells, and grow food (and nursery stock)? Dig a few big ponds and raise catfish and trout (or some other fish products). Get away from the constant wage-slaveness and return to a simpler life that never existed.

I want to know, though, what other people (that might have more direct experience than I) think about such an idea. I want to consider all of the implications (ok, I know I'm not going to get rich or put in fewer hours) that I don't see.

posted by fred | 10:31 AM |


Wednesday, September 17, 2003  

Before we get very far into this blog, I'll warn you: I'm going to be combining facts I have right in front of me with ones I am recalling from memory. Friends of mine will tell you this is a dangerous prospect. Our topic today: schools. Our theme: the widening gulf between the haves and have nots.

To wit, a study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released yesterday shows that Oregon is in the bottom 12 states in high school graduation rates, with just two-thirds receiving a diploma in four years. Unfortunately, schools and communities do a worse job of supporting black and Latino kids; both groups are around 50%.

There's not a whole lot more info from the study. I'd like to know how this shakes out geographically, particularly given the way politicians waver on support from district to district. I'd love to see that Portland, where the citizens have a commitment to schools, fares best, but who knows.

Now, the remembered stat: Oregon does very well in SAT performance, scoring, I believe, among the top states. I always thought that meant the schools were limping by even with budget problems. Not so. In fact, this current report points out that only 25% of Oregon's kids go on to four-year schools, below the national average of a third.

What I take this to mean is that the group taking SATs is smaller--the kids who really expect to go on--and so they self-select as a higher achieving group. Thus the higher scores. Worse is the implication that if you're college-bound, you get a decent education, but if you're not, you're headed for a tougher road. Maybe this is a poor conclusion, but something's turning our kids into the educationally privileged and neglected. The immediate thought is that it's--probably inadvertantly--a strapped educational system that has to make choices. So it chooses the kids who excel.

Anyone have any better explanations?

posted by Jeff | 8:24 PM |


Tuesday, September 16, 2003  

All righty. As promised, the Oregon Blog brings you and EXCLUSIVE interview with Mayoral candidate Phil Busse. It's longer than standard blog length, so I'll break it up; this may have the concomitant effect of encouraging discussion about different facets of Phil's candidacy. Both Fred and I composed the questions, and we sent them to Phil via email. So if this lacks that snappy patter of a live conversation, that's because it wasn't! So, without further ado, here's Part One.

Oregon Blog: First, let's clarify the pronounciation of your last name for the readers. Rhymes with...?

Phil Busse: Rhymes with Gary Busey.

OB: Who are you?

PB: Unlike my non-uncle actor, I'm the managing editor for the Portland Mercury. Four years ago, I ditched a career in law, law firms and universities for writing. (I'm currently writing a book on disabled sports.) For the Mercury, I write about local politics. I've become so frustrated over the past few years with what I see as the gap between what the city wants/needs and city hall.

Before this job, I was on the faculty at the UO School of Business. I also worked for the State of California, as an attorney. Oh yeah, political experience? I worked on the 1992 Clinton campaign and worked for a stint for Jimmy Carter, during his esteemed ex-president days.

OB: Aside from hiring the police chief, what's a mayor actually do? Are you qualified?

PB: The mayor can implement policies and help guide the city's philosophy. Both of these are tasks that Vera Katz has not done. Or, I should say that she has done, but she has steered the city away from small businesses and towards big corporations (the mayor helps recruit businesses, etc.).

The mayor also can serve as a "leader" in the broadest sense. After Kendra James, the 21-year old African-American woman, was shot by a rookie cop, I believe that Katz should have been out apologizing and talking with the community (ala Bobby Kennedy, post-MLK assassination). Saying that she is sorry to the family for their loss is not admitting legal liability. It is simply saying that we (Portland) are a community that does tries to be caring and humane. Isn't that why most people live in Portland? Isn't that what we want our leaders to embody?

OB: What's your favorite beer?

PB: Mirror Pond. Who's buying?

[Editor's comment: Fred.]

OB: What are your central priorities as mayor?

1. Improve Portland schools. Whatever it takes.

2. Undo the sit-lie ordinance and implement programs that work to help underlying issues of juvenile crime and homelessness.

3. Encourage small businesses.

Moreover, the central premise of my CAMPAIGN is to help inspire and define a young voting demography, a group that maybe doesn't have enough of a political voice or does not use it enough.

OB: How is a Busse administration any different than a Francesconi administration?

PB: My concern is about the community, not my career. I do not think that Jim could say that. Francesconi clearly has courted large corporations and has their interests in mind. I'm still burned about Francesconi's vote AGAINST an anti-war resolution. There was a memo from the Portland Business Alliance lobbying for him to vote this way. He says that did not affect his vote, yet he also ignored 5000 postcards from constituents lobbying him to vote the opposite way. That just sits funny.

I would like to think that at the end of four years in office, the disenfranchised, the less fortunate, the poor, the city's minority residents would all feel as if their political voice had been raised at least a few decibels. I believe that the mayor needs to do everything possible to represent those who can't or don't have the access to represent themselves. We need to work on remedying homelessness. We need to improve educational opportunities. We need better small business opportunities.

posted by Jeff | 4:19 PM |
 

The Phil Busse Interview--Part 2

Oregon Blog: The Oregon Blog is interested in small business--they're the backbone of a city, its main employer, and they give the city its character. How will you promote small businesses while balancing the interests of the environment and the people?

Phil Busse: First, get rid of most licensing fees for small businesses. Yes, there need to be licenses to maintain standards. But to charge $1700 for a business to hang a sign outside their building? In addition, businesses under 10 employees should be given tax incentives during their first year of operation.

At the University of Oregon, I worked as the assistant director for the entrepreneurship center. There, I started a "business incubator" which gave student-run businesses a year of infrastructure (office space, computers, accountants, lawyers, etc.). City hall needs to realize some of these same issues and help support start-up businesses during the first year.

Portland's character is best characterized in business districts like Hawthorne and Alberta. City hall needs to provide viable support for these micro-businesses. Oh yeah, get rid of the ban on murals!

OB: Portland's a white town with a racist history. What will you, as mayor, do to speak for non-whites in the city?

PB: I think one of the main issues for non-whites in most American cities is that those communities are disenfranchised from city hall and from the city's power structure. I spent a few months working with the ANC in South Africa and Zimbabwe during the post-apartied era. What I realized is that in spite of de-segregation, the entrenchment of segregation remained. Schools in black neighborhoods would still sub-standard.

Portland suffers to obviously a lesser degree, but still those gaps remain. (I live in North Portland, in a primarily black neighborhood and am amazed at the difference between city services from my former, mostly white neighborhood.) Jefferson High is in horrible shape. On average, Hispanics and blacks in Portland earn a disgraceful amount less than whites. City hall needs to close those gaps with outreach programs.

When I worked for Jimmy Carter, I worked in the inner city of Atlanta. When I worked in the California courts, I worked with at-risk youth (east Oakland African-American teens). One of my favorite programs I've ever started was "drive-by rowing" (the boyz named it, not me). The program was a rowing program for potential gang members. By providing them with a sense of belonging, discipline, pride, I helped replace some of those reasons that teens join gangs.

I think that there are very distinct issues for the gaps between communities and for some of the educational, vocational, etc. gaps that minority community suffers. First, City hall needs to figure out what those issues are. Second, city hall needs to design unique and smart programs to directly address those issues.

Portland should serve as a laboratory for ideas and programs. It is a small city with a good brain trust. City hall should tirelessly be creating unique programs, ones that can help other cities.

OB: Portland as a city is pretty 'homeless-friendly.' While that is a topic that has both positive and negative qualities--what do you think, if anything, the city needs to do to address the cities' homeless?

PB: I don't agree that Portland is homeless-friendly. The sit-lie ordinance is mean-spirited. It makes homeless men and women criminals and does nothing to remedy their plights. Moreover, Portland has an estimated 2000 homeless nightly with shelter space for only one-third that population.

Currently, Sisters of the Road is interviewing homeless men and women who have transitioned to stable housing and employment. Those "exit interviews" need to be turned into a blueprint to help others. AND, the sit-lie needs to be abolished and apologized for.

posted by Jeff | 4:12 PM |
 

The Phil Busse Interview--Part 3

Oregon Blog: Kendra James shooting--a cop gone bad, or an unfortunate mishap?

Phil Busse: Bad police training. Horrible internal investigation. The dividend from this tragedy should be a police oversight committee that is external to the bureau. How could the investigators allow the officers involved confer AFTER the shooting? Moreover, horrible public relations. How could city hall NOT apologize? How could city hall NOT immediately call for community forums? (It took two months, and even then they delayed the first meeting.) It was rude and inhumane. No one in any town should be dead from a routine traffic stop.

OB: MLB, yay or nay?

PB: Let's talk football. . .or a casino! Either way, the city should be extremely careful about its financial commitment here (i.e., spend nothing) and demand a cut of proceeds which should go 100% to local schools.

OB: What, if anything, can or should we do to try and encourage non-automobile transportation in portland?

PB: Portland rests on its laurels as a "bike city." I bike to work every other day. (My dog comes the other days.) It is not that great. More bike lanes. More driver education. I loved an ad that River City put out: It showed a bicyclist through a windshield. "Isn't waiting 10 seconds worth a life?," it asked.

Again, when that drunk driver killed the two musicians earlier this year, where was Katz? Francesconi?

I think that any business that can prove at least half of the employees commute to work should receive tax breaks. How to prove that? Well, that's another question but one that I would like to work on.

On a related note, there should be free motorcycle parking downtown. No, it is not a bicycle, but it is better for the environment (and so James Dean cool!)

OB: I doubt you've raised nearly the $300,000 Councilman Fransceconi has. How will you compete?

PB: Senator Feingold is an inspiration. As the co-author for the campaign limiting law, he put his money where his mouth is. He campaigned without big donations and by pounding the pavement. In a town this size, our candidates should serve as examples for campaign reform and show that a winning campaign can be run through townhall meetings, face-to-face meetings and outreach programs. We don't need to elect whoever can afford the best TV ads, do we?

OB: A lot of young folks think there's no way for 'real' candidates to win in politics. As a groovy Merc guy, if you appeal to them and lose, will this enforce that view?

PB: If I inspire 100 Mercury readers to understand how local politics impact their life - and get them involved in making gestures to change city hall to work for them - then I've succeeded with my campaign. This campaign is not about winning, it is about defining and inspiring a political bloc that I don't think yet exists (but should) in Portland. This town is about young, smart, hip people. But that same group is not a political voice. Even if they don't vote for me, I want them to vote and be active in making city hall OUR city's city hall.

OB: Hawthorne, Marquam, Broadway, or Sellwood?

OB: North Mississippi, mo'fucka'

[Editor's note: we were going for bridge affinity there, but what the hay.]

posted by Jeff | 3:51 PM |


Monday, September 15, 2003  

So out there among the John Deere tractors and sage, they're actually considering exanding government. In Harney County (Burns), folks are considering ponying up six bits for every hundred dollars to pay for schools.

Last year, the community cut seven days from the school year and used a four-day school week. The district enters this school year expecting to cut as many as 25 days.

And even though the Legislature passed a statewide income tax surcharge late in the session that should help relieve school funding problems, Burns hesitated to celebrate. For one thing, its residents know there could be a vote early next year that could wipe out the surcharge. On top of that, the financial difficulties in the Burns district are so deep that funding for activities could remain a problem for years to come, surcharge or not.


You may go ahead and call me an incorrigeable (and poor-spelling) lefty, but I'll say it: great job, guys. What would you pay for a full school year? What's a reasonable investment in the community? Keep in mind, farmers no longer operate with two mules and a plow. Out there in the sage, farmers have gone high tech. They use computer-operated drip irrigation. They have sensors in the ground to tell them when to water. They plow the surface of the earth so flat that water spreads evenly across the fields--thanks to help from sophisticated equipment.

Education isn't optional for anyone. It's certainly not an option for a community which at one point last winter had the highest unemployment in the country. Economies rest on hard work and ... education. Spending a little bit now will help Burns weather storms in the future. It's money well-spent, and nice to see that ideology isn't getting in the way of taking care of the kiddies.

(Well, it still has to pass. I predict it will.)

posted by Jeff | 5:44 PM |
 

Another in an endless series of reasons "why we live here..."

I give you Saturday. Sky that impossible shade of blue, unbroken in any direction. Temps just peeking into the eighties after a crisp morning reminding you that the rainy season is almost on us. Nice breeze pushing the wood processing smell out to sea.

What a day for a trip to the beach, or to the mountains, or, if you were like me, working in the yard all day, then grabbing some fried chicken and heading out to Suavie Island to play in the sand until the sun sank behind the Levee.

posted by fred | 9:35 AM |


Wednesday, September 10, 2003  

Now that Fred's all right, we should get right back into the news. I'd like to note something I caught in the Tribune recently.

If the past is any clue, the May 18 election will feature a crowded field. In 2000, Katz faced 16 opponents in the May election. Already, six candidates have filed to run, including Phil Busse of Northeast Portland, Bart Hanson of Southeast Portland, Lew Humble of Southeast Portland, James Posey of Northeast Portland, Dave Roche of North Portland and James Smothers of Southeast Portland.


Did you catch it? That's right, Phil Busse. Back when he announced his candidacy in the Merc, I couldn't tell if he was kidding or not. It wasn't exactly the most convincing pitch:

I am excited to serve and please you, Portland. And, if a more worthwhile candidate enters this race--one more concerned about his or her community than career--I will gladly step out of the way. Until then, feel free to contact me with issues and concerns, and please, please make me your bitch (aka "Mayor").


He went on to mention that he'd be handing out sawbucks every day of his term if he's elected (I'm not sure that's a legal campaign platform, but I'll let Chief Foxworthy look into it). He'd also "provide incentives and tax breaks for small businesses, clean up the Willamette River, and bend over backwards to assist public school teachers and administrators." Well, I've heard worse.

As many of you know ("many," heh), I worked closely with Phil to produce what now appears to be a failed radio program (not particularly auspicious). He's a pretty good guy. He's got that wavy blond hair the people like, and is fairly quick-witted. Based on my extensive contact, the hair, and the sawbucks, I'm prepared to seriously consider getting on the Busse Bus and offer my recommendation. I'll even lobby Fred to see if we can get an official "Oregon Blog" recommendation going. (My support of Kucinich is evidence of my power.)

But before I can do that, Phil will have to submit to an interview for posting on the "Oregon Blog." No interview, no support. that's how we play politics when the stakes are City Hall and the crucial Goldman nod. So stay tuned--and keep your eye on the blond kid.

posted by Jeff | 8:14 PM |
 

An interesting example of budget reductions?


(ok, so maybe in the halcyon days of the "Suplus Years" the scenario would have been the same--not having this particular set of circumstances happen to me before, I admit some ignorance. However, no other place I've been have I ever run into the absence of this service, so would like to make sure someone corrects any invalid assumptions I'm making.)

I was in an accident yesterday morning, in Portland, on Southbound I-5 and the Capital Hiway on-ramp. A tractor-trailer rig had to swerve out of the middle lane to avoid crushing a car that had cut him off. In doing so, he attempted to circumvent a certain law of physics--you know, the one where two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Given that I was already occupying that particular bit of space, it resulted in a battle of mass, vector and momentum/velocity.

My mass, although more than I wish to personally carry, was enclosed in a compact-sized sedan of far smaller mass than the tractor-trailer. That meant that the tractor-trailer's wish to occupy the physical space that I already occupied was granted, while my intention to continue occupying that space was over-ruled by the greater mass of the truck. Luckily for me, I had enough time to slam my foot onto the brake pedal to miss the rapidly approaching drive wheels of the tractor and make the trailer wheels hit the right side of my car instead of the back of my car (either one, I figure, would have resulted in some serious bio-cleanup afterward) and the trailer tires slid from the back of my car to the front, leaving me pinned up against the barricade in the center, but physically unharmed.

The car is, as you would expect, much less pristine than it used to be.

But what flabbergasted me is this: the police never showed up at the scene of this accident. The O-Dot "safety patrol" did--and escorted us out of the center median and onto the right shoulder. He then had us fill out "contact information cards," gave us accident reports to fill out, and then sent us on our merry ways.

So we don't treat accidents as police business now, or has this always been the case? Is it too expensive to tie up cops who could be otherwise writing speeding tickets to ensure that proper investingations take place? (not that this matters in my case--only property was damaged, and the facts weren't disputed by either party) Having worked for many years as an evil insurance adjuster, I know how "nice" it is as an insurance company to be able to question liability, and thus weasel out of paying.

But the larger question be whether the police should ticket obviously unsafe/negligent drivers? Isn't that part of the whole system of traffic law enforcement?

Is it too expensive for the police to come to the scene of the accidents or is it too expensive for the courts? Is this a result of budget reductions or has Oregon always allowed the civil legal system to determine traffic accident liabilty and consequences?




posted by fred | 1:13 PM |


Tuesday, September 09, 2003  

I guess while I'm playing partisan politics, I might as well go all the way. The Statesman-Journal also did an interview with Peter Courtney, in which he was far more candid and willing to own up to his own failings. It contrasts sharply (in my partisan mind) with Minnis's responses.

On the failure of not getting the budget taken care of earlier.

Far and away that was my biggest disappointment because I really did believe that we were going to do it, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, together. I thought February was an indication that, by God, we were going to surprise the world. We were going to be out of here in late June or early July.


On the media's harsh treatment (note how he avoids condescending to the media or calling them stupid):

It depends. If you judge us after it’s all said and done, I don’t think it did. But if you looked at any given day, the way we were acting by breaking agreements, not finding a solution, then on that given day we deserved the criticism. We weren’t playing very good and weren’t doing a good job.


On whether Courtney would like to stay on as President:

Yes, but I wish you wouldn’t ask me that question. I’m not out beating the bushes for this. I’m not obsessed with this. I’m not going to spend every waking moment just to try to stay as Senate president. But I’m uncomfortable with your question.


posted by Jeff | 4:17 PM |
 

I don't know if you have the stomach for it, but the Statesman-Journal has an interview with Karen Minnis today. It's mostly spin, which I suppose is par for Minnis' course. She made no mistakes, things are rosy, the session was a success. Get her in a room with George Bush and you'd have your own little unreality series as interesting as any on TV.

But I digress. Here are a couple of things I found particularly interesting. On her biggest disappointment:

I think, given the economy and the challenges, we passed the tax increase, the surcharge. That was my biggest disappointment of the session. When the state economist came and gave us the state forecast, we asked him: “What happens when you raise significant taxes?” And what he indicated at the time was when you raise taxes, it slows down the recovery. I think, had people’s expectations for spending been less, we could have managed it in a different way that would not have impacted Oregonians so directly.


I am reluctant to call the Speaker a liar, but I'd love to hear what the state economist would say if the Statesman-Journal, say, asked the same question.

On the media's treatment of the legislature throughout the process.

Well, I think sometimes they didn’t appreciate all of the complexities of the issues we were trying to grapple with. Certainly, when you’re losing revenue as quickly as you’re trying to balance the budget, it just takes more time. Even the media have come to recognize in the post-session, as they look back, the weighty issues we had to grapple with were extraordinarily difficult. Given all of that, it was a pretty decent session.


Translation: we got nothing but bad press, but it was because the media is too stupid to understand the budget problems, not because we were stunningly lame. No doubt the media will treat her well in the future.

Q: The Emergency Board, which serves as a sort of mini-Legislature between sessions, has been packed with seven mostly conservative House Republicans and only two Democrats. Reflect on your selections.

A: The individuals we put on E Board are individuals who proved themselves throughout the session to be productive, who actually worked hard to find solutions to some of the knotty issues that we had to address. I think the folks we put there not only did a good job in the session but will do a good job moving forward.


Translation: I'm not much into democratic process. I like streamlined process. Ann Coulter has it right, as far as I can tell--if you disagree with Republicans, it's tantamount to treason. That's why I packed the E Board with my toadies--they'll do what I tell 'em.

posted by Jeff | 3:59 PM |
 

Build your own mayor of Portland

Ok, here's what I want to do: If you were able to put together the perfect mayorial candidate for the Portland mayor position, what would you want? It seems to me that the mayor is more "queen of england" than "city dictator" as far as Portland's city government, more a "weak mayor" system without the "city administrator" position thrown in.

So as we sit here, almost a year from the election for Portland's most powerful city council spot, what would you mix and match to make up the perfect candidate.

posted by fred | 10:49 AM |


Wednesday, September 03, 2003  

Thoughts from the Fair...

The Oregon State Fair wrapped up this weekend, so I wanted to include a few observations from my visit.

I hadn't been to a "state fair" before I moved to Oregon...Not so much because I'm some suburbanite that wouldn't know the input end of the horse from the output. But I lived north of Denver and the Colorado State Fair was in Pueblo, about 70 miles south. In "The Old Days" Colorado was A Big Place and my parents (or at least my mom) would have considered driving across town to be a long trip, let alone 140 miles round-trip.

But I've been to the Oregon State Fair twice now in the three years I've lived here. It represents a "different group of folks" than I normally interact with in Little Beruit, which is a good thing.

So, in no real order, are my my thoughts

  • The "small animals," the rabbits and the poultry, are on display on alternate days. I always end up there on "poultry day." On the other hand, I would have never thought that there were so many kinds of "fancy" chickens and ducks. I can't imagine what farmer had enough time on their hands to say "hey, you know, that duck over there has feathers that look like hair. I wonder, if I do enough selective breeding, I can create a duck that has a head so covered in feathers that you wouldn't know which way was up unless it was eating..."

  • It's also interesting that "fancy" ducks and chickens look quite a bit like "fancy" goldfish. Which makes sense, I suppose

  • After listening to some of the livestock competitions, I realize that I "discovered" a new brand of geeks. Farm geeks. They have their own code words, catch-phrases, and of course, manner of dress.

  • Fishermen (OK, I know it's not PC, but a "Fisher" is a mustelid, and I just can't wrap myself around using it to describe a generic version of someone who fishes) and hunters are some of the staunchest micro-environmentalists out there. The trick, in my opinion, is to figure out how to "convert" them to a macro-environment view.

  • A day at the State Fair is expensive. Don't even think that you're going to ever going to get out without spending $10/person (above the cost of admission). I think we ended up spending $20/per.

Anyone else have observations that they'd like to share? (call it an attempt for an "open thread")

(by the way, the beauty of "blogspot" says that I posted this on Wednesday, like I promised, even though I didn't publish it until Thursday)

posted by fred | 1:41 PM |


Tuesday, September 02, 2003  

I will have some thoughts from the State Fair Tomorrow...

I promise.

We've all been busy with the NEW and EXCITING Open Source Politics project!

posted by fred | 3:06 PM |
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