Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dave Lister, Jack Bog, and the Truth

When it came to his endorsement for City Council Position 3, Curmudgeon-in-Chief Jack Bogdanski wasted no time in backing the Bogdanskiesque candidate in the race, Dave Lister. Fair enough--Dave's not a whackjob, and he has a perspective seemingly shared by many in the community. If Jack wants to support his candidacy, that's swell.

I'd tell him it's swell myself, by the way, if I could post comments at his blog. Alas, I am a two-time loser on the Jack Bog Wall of Shame. Apparently, calling him "Johnny three-note, all of them in a minor key" in the midst of a substantive debate was a death penalty offense, similar to my first banning for posting 2 comments in a 24 hr period. Like Carla, I chafe at needlessly repressive authority, but I take responsibility for my bannings. It is 100% allowable and fine for Jack to decide who comments on his blog, and how. I was a bad person, and I have been punished. Again, fair enough.

What's _not_ fair, or at least something I cannot abide silently, is Bogdanski's distortive effort to pump up Lister's campaign and knock down Erik Sten's. In his own post and his comments that followed, Jack makes at least two statements that are either factually false or empirically dubious. Since I can't set the record straight for his audience there, I'll do it on my own nickel.

In the first case, it was hypothesized by another commenter that "Portland is not going to elect a Pro-37 conservative." It's not provably clear that's true, but on balance I'd have to agree with that assessment. Jack's response was "Measure 37 is very popular, even in Portland."

Er, what? This didn't sound right to me. I knew that very few localities in the state actually voted down M37 outright, but even if Portland approved it overall, I knew it had to be close--and thus to say "very popular" seemed quite a stretch. A third commenter helpfully supplied the Multnomah County totals, which were just 51.5% in favor...like I said, not really "very popular."

I gave those figures a second thought, and then realized that of course the totals reflected all of the county, including Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, etc. Dave Lister cannot get votes from East County, and in any case Jack was quite specific about Portland. Since the county helpfully summarizes the votes by precinct , it was a relatively simple matter to cut out just the Portland numbers (pdf) and see how the city voted:

YES: 47.9%
NO: 52.1%

In my book, less than 48% <> "popular," much less "very popular." You may argue that Lister can overcome his position on M37, but don't try to dismiss the question entirely by saying Portlanders supported it when they didn't.

When it comes to taking Sten down a peg, Jack's taste for hyperbole can also get the best of him. In the City Club debate, Lister's response on how to combat homelessness was a bit of a surprise, since in essence the response was "I don't have a plan, and I don't see that as a problem." Especially in a race where the incumbent is staking much of his claim on addressing that very issue, it was a curious answer. No matter, says Jack:
I understand that Lister's taking some heat for not spouting the prevailing party line on the homeless last week at the City Club. Sten apparently paints himself as the champion of the downtrodden. But ask yourself, folks, after 10 years of Opie in City Hall, are Portland's homeless better off or worse off than before he got there? To me the situation appears as bad as ever. He's had his chance, made 10 years' worth of speeches, and he's gotten next to nothing done.[emph mine]

I suppose the factual meaning of "next to nothing" is open to debate, but it's patently absurd to suggest that Sten's Council career has not had a positive impact on the city's homeless community. As mentioned in the debate, the first year of the 10-year plan has gone far better than anyone hoped, putting over 600 chronically homeless people into housing and keeping most of them there after a year. In addition, high-cost events such as jailing and hospitalization are sharply down among this group, saving the city those costs. I challenge Jack to gather those 600 people in a room and ask them whether Portland has gotten anything done to help the homeless. Furthermore, this project represents a continuation of the Shelter Reconfiguration Project started by Gretchen Kafoury, which also got people off the streets and into affordable housing--places like The Ritzdorf, a direct result of funding championed by Sten and former Mayor Katz. And then there's New Columbia, the redeveloped housing project built with $20mil of City money, currently running under budget (pdf).

Defend Lister all you want, Jack. If he's your guy, work hard to get him elected (and no, sitting up in your office space at home tapping out screeds for the blog doesn't count). But don't delude your readers into thinking that your guy's weaknesses are strengths, and his opponent's strengths, weaknesses. Grumpy, I suppose I can tolerate from you. Distortive and inaccurate? Not so much.

And by the way, feel free to comment! :)