Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shields To Introduce Anti-Escalation Bill in OR House

In a move that may not earn Oregon any federal comity points in the quest to get back those timber payments but which is rapidly becoming a statement of moral imperative across the country, this morning House Rep. Chip Shields (HD43) will introduce a joint memorial resolution opposing the escalation of the war in Iraq. Similar in construction to HM38 from the 2005 session, which was itself modeled on the federal HJR55, updated and even with an infusion of Portland's antiwar declaration, the bill will spell out the sentiment of the body against any kind of escalation and calling for withdrawal of American forces.

The bill has been in the works since shortly after the current session began (we've been privately encouraging the House Democrats to take this step--preferably as soon as possible). Scheduling has not yet taken place on committee assignments or voting, but the expectation is for the bill to rest first with the Elections, Ethics and Rules Committee, chaired by Diane Rosenbaum (HD42). When Karen Minnis and Wayne Scott ran the House in 2005, Shields' bill was unceremoniously dumped in the State and Federal Affairs Committee, more informally known as Scott's Trashcan--since that's where bills went to die if Scott wanted them dead. At a bare minimum, expect a different result in committee this time.

As for general passage, I asked Shields whether the resolution would be a surprise to the other side of the aisle, given the minority's well-established pattern of trying to screw things up with futile but distractive shenanigans, and thus the need to keep important things secret until the last minute. It will not be a secret however; there have been discussions on language and tone designed to secure not only Republican votes, but even cosponsors. (At the time of our conversation none from either party had signed on, but the bill text was still being evaluated by House legislative counsel and had not been distributed. I was hoping to get a copy of the text before the bill was submitted, but our usually full-flowing info pipeline to Salem is a bit clogged at the moment). I asked if the word "escalation" appeared, and he said yes, adding that "surge" pointedly did not appear. If bipartisanship on this is wishful thinking by Shields, he doesn't show it: "Support for this bill shouldn't be a partisan issue; Chuck Hagel certainly doesn't think so."

Shields had been approached by his constituency as early as March of 2005 for such a bill, but at the time--a bare two-month veteran of the House--he felt such an audacious bill to be premature. That it only took a couple more months before experience be damned, indicated the importance for him in making a statement--and that passion and urgency has by no means flagged. By spring of 2006, as Shields campaigned for re-election, the drumbeat against war was vibrating noisily in his NE Portland district. In a town hall attended by a robust 200 constituents, the message rang clear: Jane, stop this crazy thing!

I asked why he felt there was utility or purpose in a purely symbolic vote from a body with no power to affect the war. It's the obvious question to ask, but from my perspective it's an easy one to answer. Shields knows his purpose cold, which is the voter's best window into whether this is a serious and sincere piece of legislation or just political showboating:
This is the most important issue of our time. We've lost 3,000 soldiers, some 25,000 wounded, and any where from 60 to 100 thousand Iraqis. If there is one thing to take from the last election, it's that this policy has failed should be reversed. This bill is a message to Congress about Oregon. The states provide veterans' services and there are all kinds of health issues with returnees, plus the Governor is the nominal Commander in Chief of our National Guard. The very lives of Oregonians are at stake.

A majority of Americans support this position--it is Main Street public opinion. The President is drastically off course.
Asked for a speculative vote count, Shields was confident of 31 Democratic votes, but would not venture a guess at how many Republicans would voice their conscience. As a caucus insider told me, it will come down to "[Scott's] ability to lock down their caucus," but Shields remains hopeful: "I hope our colleagues can choose to vote what's best for the country rather than best for the caucus." Indeed. If all the Republicans who want to vote for this are allowed to, I bet it gets 50 votes, and it would be much more than just another vote crushed by the small-minded and power-obsessed cult of the GOP House leadership if they don't let it happen. It would be, in our minds, a failure of conscience and duty.

Another GOP Rep has M37 conflict of interest

Last week we posted the short list of legislators who appear to have marginal to serious conflicts of interest when it comes to Measure 37. Interestingly, all of the legislators in question so far are Republicans.

The latest name on the list is (gasp!) also a Republican: State Senator Roger Beyer (R-Molalla).

Beyer is listed in the Oregon Blue Book as managing partner of Beyer Tree Farm through 2005. I'm not sure how often the Blue Book is updated, but the Secretary of State's office has Beyer listed as a "registrant" on the Business Registry. I'm still working on determining Beyer's exact role with the business.

As you've probably guessed by now, Beyer Tree Farm has a Measure 37 claim. As does Roy Beyer, who is also listed on the Business Registry for Beyer Tree Farm as the authorized representative (aka the person you call when you want to contact the business). Presumably he's a close relative of Roger.

I visited earlier this week with some folks in Salem about the rules on what to do in these situations. Each legislator is required to vote "yes" or "no" on legislation (unless they are off the floor during the vote, apparently). However, all legislators are required to file a conflict of interest letter with their chamber.

Thus we should be expecting to see a flutter of conflict of interest letters coming soon. Both chambers have the exact requirements for committees and the floor.

From the Senate rules:

3.33 Announcement of Conflict of Interest.
(1) When involved in a potential conflict of interest as defined by ORS 244.020, a member shall
announce, on the Senate floor or in the committee meeting, the nature of the potential conflict prior
to voting on the issue giving rise to the potential conflict.

Sanctions for not filing can include a reprimand, censure or expulsion.

From the House Rules:

3.21 Announcement of Conflict of Interest. (1) When involved in an actual or potential conflict of
interest, as defined by ORS 244.020, a member shall announce, on the floor or in the committee meeting,
the nature of the potential conflict prior to voting on the issue giving rise to the potential conflict.

I didn't find the sanctions for failing to declare in the House, so I'll be asking about that this week.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Healthy Kids Plan: If not a cig tax, then what?

Ted says that the best way to fund the Healthy Kids Plan is an 84.5 cents per pack hike in the cigarette tax.

There seems to be a screeching blowback against the idea of this hike. I'll accept the premise (for the sake of argument) that it may be unfair to put the cost of a health care plan for children on the backs of smokers. But this plan is a crucial necessity and essentially everyone but the most ideological hacktackulars are for its passage.

So if not the cig tax, then what's the best way to raise funds for this?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mult Co Dems feature Jim Hightower

On Friday night, the Multnomah County Dems held a fundraiser for their organization over in SE Portland at the Melody Ballroom.

The fundraiser featured a spaghetti dinner (of which I didn't partake--I was there gratis on a press pass so I figured eating their food was bad form...except for one lemon bar which I snuck when the waitstaff forced it on me) and some high falutin' cowboy talk from radio commentator Jim Hightower. Hightower was the keynote speaker for the event.

Here's Jim yakking it up with one of the event attendees before his address. He's got that whole Texas thing going on: hat, boots, accent, sperm jokes about Tom DeLay.

I managed to snap some more highly amateurish photographs....

This event was my big chance to meet Congressman Earl Blumenauer face-to face, who is chatting in this pic with Meredith Wood-Smith, the current Vice Chair of the Oregon Democratic Party and contender for DPO Chair. The young dude with the glasses is one of the Congressman's policy guys who gave me his card which I promptly lost, of course (still figuring out how to do this reporter stuff, I guess).

The event came complete with lots of pro-Dem/anti-GOP paraphernalia, including this stand of bumperstickers, which were for sale.

The Melody Ballroom...full of lefties chowing down on pasta and red sauce (except me).

According to Multnomah County Dems Communication Secretary Sue Hagmeier, the MCD's raised about $6000.

Politically Pushing Sustainability, and One Example of the Fruits

As I mentioned on the weekend, the signs and indications are that Oregon is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the developing forms of the 21st century economy, and so there is a need for our leaders and managers to recognize the opportunity and guide us forward to maximize it. Happily the voices appear to be singing much the same note under the dome and at Mahonia, as this now weirdly-formatted piece from last week's Statesman-Journal describes:
Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, who was chairwoman of the governor's advisory group on global warming, said that it is urgent that global-warming policies are enacted now. She said that conclusive evidence shows that climate change is real and it's happening even faster and with more detrimental consequences than originally predicted.

Lubchenco said that Oregon's leadership -- in concert with actions in California and other states -- could force federal dialogue on global-warming policies.

"If we enact our priorities this session, we will create a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment for future generations," Kulongoski said. "We can't wait any longer."

"Global-warming pollution takes awhile to have an effect on temperature, and temperature takes awhile to have an effect on snow levels and the sea," said Jeremiah Baumann of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. "Even if we could stop all global-warming pollution now, the Earth would continue to warm. It's good news for the country -- and the planet really -- that Oregon is ready to take a leadership role."

Just an hour after the governor's remarks on climate change, the House Committee on Energy and the Environment began hearings on biofuels legislation. The package of proposals includes a requirement that biodiesel and ethanol are ingredients of fuels sold in Oregon, expansion of property tax incentives for biofuel production facilities and creation of an income tax incentive for consumer use of biofuel.

The biofuels package is one of the pieces of the governor's climate change initiative, but it also is touted as a key to economic development and energy independence for Oregon.
Growing crops for biofuels will get most of the attention and focus as our way of slowing global warming while developing our economy, but there are so many other outlets for the burgeoning interest in this sector. Oregon holds a bounty of alternative energy sources in addition to biofuels, waiting to be tapped and harnessed by the creative: geothermal, solar (how's 300 or more days of sun in large sections of the state?), wind, wave...

Hey, did someone say wave? That's right, it's being suggested that the technology exists now to provide substantial electricity using offshore bouys that take in wave energy and transmit it to shore, where it can be distributed through existing power grids. At least I thought it was just being suggested; apparently it's already being done by a company called Ocean Power Technologies, which recently submitted applications to FERC for two power generating systems in Oregon, capable of supplying 200 megawatts of power--enough for about 100,000 homes.

That's a lot of energy for a relatively small profile, near-zero-byproduct system that uses a resource Oregonians collectively own lock, stock and barrel--their coastline. Think of that: what's the only state in the country which can exercise almost total freedom to harvest waves off its own shores? As Madge used to say, you're soaking in it!

And notice what else is bringing OPT to the state:
The company said the projects, which utilise the wave energy resources of Oregon to generate energy, are eligible for the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit and the proposed Oregon Production Incentive.
I'm not a giant fan of subsidies and big tax exemptions in order to entice industry to move to the state, but in this case you have a target-industry market that brings benefit to several different types of bottom lines, and so encouraging this kind of investment is a no-brainer. And apparently it's not only businesses thinking and deciding to move to the state, as AP pointed out yesterday:
Oregon is the No. 2 destination nationally for people moving from other states, according to a study by United Van Lines.

The St. Louis company found that 4,600 people headed for Oregon in 2006, ranking the state just behind No. 1 North Carolina.

The majority of the newcomers moved into areas along the Interstate 5 corridor, from Portland to Salem to Medford, with some settling in Bend, she said.

Some of the reasons they cited include the weather, the landscape and quality of life and affordable homes, said Jeri Scott, the executive vice president of Coldwell Banker Mountain West in Salem.

"Oregon is also seen as an entrepreneurial state," Scott said. "It is a big draw for people who want to open their own business."
Anyone sensing a pattern?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Spanning the State: "Legal doo-doo" Edition

Its a sunny day here in the Portland Metro area. I've got a lengthy list of things to do today which includes some gardening, an unruly stack of reading and some grocery shopping. I spent part of yesterday doing a guest post for this blog, connected with Chemeketa Community College. The post is an article about the impact of local blogs on the November election.

And now let's Span the State!


How often do you see the phrase legal doo-doo in a news story?

The City of Stayton is working hard to revitalize its downtown. Plans include a beautiful new city hall.

Turmoil is broiling in the Sisters School District. Its Superintendent recently resigned and now the School Board Chair has followed suit. The resignations come in the wake of an attorney general audit that could compel the District to re-pay $1.2 million in state funds deemed improperly awarded.

When you're in Seaside, don't forget to lock your car.

A massive new resort is in the planning stages near Prineville.

A large logging operation on private lands near Falls Creek caused a serious problem for the town's water supply. Mud entering the headwaters of the stream that feeds the water supply forced public works employees to shut down the intake to the water treatment plant to avoid clogging filters and sending dirty water into homes. Further, the entire incident is completely legal.

I'm not a big fan of high dollar toll roads, but lets not be ridiculously heavy handed, shall we?

The LaGrande Observer wants to see pay day lending loopholes closed.

Grant County faces a devastating $9.4 million in cuts to local schools and road services if the federal government doesn't come through with timber payments.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Avel Gordly Busts on Tow Co's, Airs Horrifying Horror Stories

This is strictly an urban issue, but for them it's a big one: what's now being called predatory or patrol towing, or sometimes just trolling--where the truck driver drives around, often at night, checking in at contract lots and jacking the car with or without an owner's request, for "violations" like tag expiry other than improper parking.

Sen Avel Gordly, the legislature's sole independent, naturally has no one to represent but the people and has taken on the cause with a vengeance. She has scheduled a public hearing on towing issues January 31st at 3pm in Room B of the Capitol in Salem. This could be a fun/appalling one for legislature junkies (and I know you're out there). The number of stories that have poured into Senator Gordly's office are a collective diary of chicanery, extortion, and nearly outright theft or carnapping in the least. Forgive the length, but some of these stories are just amazing, and they're being entered into the record--so consider this a post with a long appendix. :)

Dear Senator Gordly, I read Steve Duin's column this morning. As you probably know, it is not just the towing shenanigans and overcharges but also the outrageous "storage" charges. I have heard that some lots charge a special moving fee if they have to move your car while it is stored if they do not have the key. The storage costs have nothing to do with actual costs. And it is not just a Portland problem. There was a recent towing case involving Woodburn in federal court. I think that Woodburn had a little profit center going. They also may charge a "drop charge" if you get back to the car after they have lifted it up. And the city charges a big storage and towing fee if the police tow your car, which can have a huge impact on poor people who cannot afford to get their car out of hock and end up losing the car. Go get "em, Senator! Thank you. --GB
I enthusiastically support your effort to control the towing industry as reported by Steve Duin. I have never had a car towed, but am aware of their practices. I regard the towing companies as pirates. They apparently have license to prowl and capture cars for ransom. This must be stopped. I don't think that a tow truck driver looking for a fee is in a good moral position to judge whether a car needs to be towed. Cars should never be towed except by the explicit request of a property owner or police officer. Even then, a towing fee acts like a non-judicially imposed fine and there should be a readily available means for the car owner to contest the fee. Thank you for your work, T.O.
Hello, I live within your district in Se Portland. I wanted to thank you for working to provide some limits on the auto towing business in Portland. I had my Sergeant's towing experience about four years ago. My car refused to start in a restaurant parking lot in inner Se. I went inside the restaurant and got permission to leave it.

I returned a couple of hours later and Sergeants had towed it away. The company wasn't interested in hearing that I had gotten permission to leave it. They were arrogant, rude, and dismissive on the telephone. They were unswayed by the business confirming that I had asked and received an okay to park in the lot. They were unwilling to negotiate a smaller ransom, given that I had done nothing wrong. This was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and had a definite impact on our gifts for our kids. The reality- we felt as if someone had stolen our car, and we had to pay to get it back. It didn't really matter that it was a towing company, or the gypsy joker outlaw motorcycle gang. They did us wrong.

By the way, I have lived in Se Portland for a couple of decades. I have had cars stolen a couple of times. I have paid towing and storage fees to get my cars back on these occasions. I've never been absolutely thrilled at having to pay, but I understood that the company provided a service, and I was responsible for paying. The Sergeant experience totally eliminated the middle man. They took my car, I paid them to get it back. --RS
Thanks for the update on Sen. Gordly's other legislative initiatives. I also want to thank you and Sen. Gordly for your introduction of the bill outlawing predatory towing. I'd like to describe a situation that happened to a couple of friends of mine as an example of what you are trying to do away with.

Pete is a cancer survivor who has one leg and uses a prosthesis. He and his girlfriend Julie live in an apartment complex in West Linn that has a towing contract with one of these vulture companies. Pete parked in a handicapped parking spot, and his handicap tag fell off the dashboard where he normally puts it (although it was still visible to anyone who would have taken the trouble to look down through the windshield.) The car was towed that night, even though Pete was entitled to use the handicap parking spot, he had a current tag, he was a tenant with a lease at the property, and the onsite property manager was aware of his disability and familiar with his vehicle. The fee they paid to recover put a significant dent in their Thanksgiving festivities. Only because of pressure put on the towing company by the property manager were they able to recover a refund shortly before Christmas.

Of course, if the property manager or the property owner had been required to approve of the tow, my friends would not have been subjected to this at all. I think few people object to owner-complaint driven tows. Unilateral decisions by lowest-common-denominator tow truck drivers working on commission are another story.

As always, thank you for the good work Sen. Gordly and you do for your own district and for all of us. Kathy Figley, Mayor, City of Woodburn
Dear Senator Gordly, I am a resident of Portland but not in your district, however I strongly support your efforts to moderate the predatory tactics and exorbitant charges towing companies levy against the citizens of Oregon.

I recently had a very painful and humiliating experience with Retriever Towing in Portland. It cost me $278 to recover my vehicle within one hour of it being towed for several questionable charges. I was threatened and humiliated when I asked questions about the charges. The passage of your bills would provide additional consumer protection in a sector that thrives on predatory tactics with little oversight except through the legal venue which is burdensome to say the least for the general public. I would be willing to share my experience and/or testify in support of your bills --Mort A.
Go get it, Senator! Portland has a racket going too, not just the tow companies. I parked in an area of Old Town for dinner and returned to find my car apparently stolen! (It was not in a tow area). When I called the police, they said it had been towed. I retrieved the car at my cost and returned to the area it had been parked. There were NO signs saying I should not have parked there. Yet the city had ticketed me, and the car had been towed. I believe the city should post adequate signage before being able to ticket and tow. I took pictures of the street to show the lack of signs, but the court didn't care. More money for them. As far as I know, they're still running this trap on unsuspecting citizens -- a double whammy for both the city and the tow companies! (PS: I still have the photos). I do wonder if perhaps the tow drivers might even be so low as to remove such signs to increase their haul. That was the first and last time I'd been towed. It's a travesty! --jim d.
Senator Gordly, I wanted to share my own horror story with Pro Tow in Beaverton.

After I got out of the Marine Corps in 2001, I bought my dream car, a 1972 GTO. Within a month of buying the car, I was driving it on HWY 26, when the engine started knocking, and smoke started coming from under the hood. I called AAA, and they sent Pro Tow to my rescue. When the wrecker arrived, I asked them to tow it back to my house for me, but they insisted I have it towed to their shop, so they could give me a "free estimate". Having no prior experience with towing companies, I naively agreed to their offer.

After completing their diagnosis, they told me that I needed a new timing chain, and told me that it would cost about $400 to replace it. I told them that I could not afford the amount, and asked them to tow the car back to my house. They then told me that it was going to cost me well over the $400 to have them tow it back for me. The reason, they said, was that the estimate was only free, if I had them do the work for me, otherwise it was $200, on top of that, there was a "dolly fee" and an astronomical (I don't remember the exact amount) price per mile. The total would have been the same as if I had just gotten the work done. I was very unhappy with the situation, but I agreed to let them do the work, based on my limited options. I also told them that I could not afford anything over the $400 they quoted me.

A couple of days later, they called me back with more bad news. They told me that they had taken everything apart and had replaced the timing chain, but found out that it was not the problem after all. They then said that the cost to have them tow my car back to me would greatly exceed the $400 originally quoted for a fixed car. The reason being that, on top of the "dolly fee" and astronomical towing price, there were parts and labor fees. They wanted me to not only pay for labor on a car they didn't fix, but also for a timing chain and gaskets that I never needed in the first place. I had no way to pay what they were asking, and they were far beyond reasonable, and refused to admit any fault.

Having been backed completely into a corner, I did what I should have done in the first place, which was to call AAA and report the incident. AAA eventually got them to agree to give my car back to me for $460. When I got the car back, it was in pieces. I used money from my GI Bill to pay the bill, and the car never ran again as long as I owned it.

Since then I have heard numerous other stories about Pro Tow, and even talked to a dispatcher for the company, who said that death threats were a part of daily business.

The towing industry is one that has completely refused to regulate itself, and can be described in no other way, then organized crime. Anything the legislature does to regulate the industry is completely warranted. Thank you for your support on this issue.

--Peter S.
Hi Avel! I had an older Toyota pickup stolen from the Gateway parking lot. I reported it. It was abandoned in a Fred Meyer parking lot. By the time I received notice from the towing company, I owed close to $1,000 in towing and storage costs--I paid $500 for truck so I let them keep it. This was four years ago. All I can say is, "You go girl!!!" Take care. Jodi
Senator Gordly, I am not in your district, but I do appreciate you looking into a situation that has gotten completely out of control with the City of Portland’s blessing.

I say gotten out of control as I used to own a towing company in the Beaverton area. We certainly towed our share of illegally parked vehicles, accident vehicles and arrested driver vehicles. And let me just say, the towing business is a thankless business. Nobody gets up on a sunny morning and says, “My god what a beautiful day, I think I’ll have my car towed.” It’s no wonder there are a lot of lowlives in the business.

When we towed cars, we made certain that the area was clearly marked and the authorized property manager or owner called us to request the tow every time. Nobody had spies or patrolled the area. We charged $5.00 hook-up and a buck a mile and $5.00 a day for storage. Of course that was many years ago, but even then is was reasonable. If an owner came up while we were impounding their car, we would drop it for $10.00, even in the 70’s a small price to pay for clearly parking where they shouldn’t.

Back then the courts sided with the car owners. Now the city of Portland gets kickbacks and charges towing companies association fees and a number of other fees and even a percentage on police requested calls! They have figured out that towing companies are a cash cow and are doing everything they can to promote “gray” towing.

About 6 months ago, my wife had a Safeguard Towing tow truck back up to her car. She is a real Estate Broker. She was parked in a private subdivision of townhouses showing a property where parking was extremely limited. She took the time to find a spot that did not have any parking regulatory signs. This tow driver had been patrolling and figured he could grab the car and go. My wife saw him backing to her car and ran out of the home she was showing and told the guy to leave her car alone. He didn’t even have a hook on it. He told her it would cost her $105.00 to get him to move. Thinking she had no choice, she paid him and he drove off.

In Washington County where this happened, there are statutes that govern proper signage and what constitutes possession of a vehicle. I talked to witnesses that said the driver did not have any apparatus attached to the vehicle when my wife went out, therefore he didn’t have possession. Without possession you cannot charge anything legally. Also, improper signage is a big deal. If signs are placed so they can’t be read by traffic going a particular direction, they are ineffective therefore a car parking in an area where from the direction he entered the area he wouldn’t have seen the signs, according to the statutes is not parked illegally.

I went and video taped the area and called Safeguard Towing and talked with the owner. I told him I had witnesses that saw that the driver didn’t have possession of the car and that the neighborhood had improper signage. I also told him that I build Web Sites for a living and I’d be more than happy to build one and post my videotape and dedicate the site to Safeguard Towing and Predatory Towing Companies everywhere. I even emailed him a sample of what it would look like.

I got the $105.00 back! These guys are making a killing off their predatory practices and it needs to stop. ----Greg
Dear Senator Gordly, I support this bill completely. It would be great if these companies were investigated and forced to repay either the victims or the city for years of abusing drivers in the state of Oregon.

In one instance that I was a witness to, Retriever towing towed and entire parkng lot of patrons who had permission to use the lot as an overflow, as the restuarant in question was not even in business at the time. One person had a dog in the car , and the driver would not drop the vehicle without $100 in cash first. 5 cars were towed that night before my friends were able to rescue their vehicles.

Another time I had a vehicle impounded by the police down town. They gave me the option of having a friend come and tow the vehicle, a golf cart, home for me. They gave me 5 minutes to call for a ride, then seized my vehicle.

The company vandalized my vehicle, stole from me, and tried to charge me for over 3 days, when I tried to pick it up a few HOURS later. The lot attendent couldn't decide what to do with the situation as there are no specific laws of roving ownership on a vehicle without a vin number, registration, and that is not insurable. It cost me over $300 for theft, damage, and harassment. sincerely, Angela
I fully support your efforts. I have had some terrible experiences with towing companies and with the city. In fact, I purchased a cover for one of my cars (which is in fine working condition and has been parked in front of my house) and received three green stickers threatening to tow my car. When I explained to the city that my car is operational and has a leak along one of the windows, they told me to take the cover off or they'd tow my car. Meanwhile, there are two cars on our street that have not moved in over 8 months. Cheers, Brad
I'd like to add this story to your list of trolling tow-trucks even though it occurred in Eugene and not in Portland.

Our student daughter parked her car in the gravel lot in the alley behind her apartment at about 11:45 at night last July. Her car was towed about an hour later in the wee hours of the morning. She had to take a taxi ($30) to get to the lot, then paid $160 plus ATM fees (they only take cash) to be able to get her car home. She tried to explain to the company that they had towed the car by mistake since her lot was gravel and had signs with the property manager's name posted. She even took a picture of the skid marks that were left in the gravel to prove it. She told them she had 3 other people in the car with her that witnessed where she parked that night. And she explained that her landlord doesn't require a permit to be displayed in the summer when parking is not a problem. The towing company just said that she was wrong and to call their lawyer because they were done talking to her! Her boyfriend called and tried to explain, her father called and tried to reason with them, then I called and started asking questions. They paid absolutely no attention to any of us, then gave us the lawyer's name and hung up.

Well it turns out that the adjacent landlord with paved parking has a 24-hour prowl contract that allows any car without a permit to be pulled from their side of the alley at any time, night or day, without warning. When I called the towing company I asked them which side of the alley they towed from. The driver didn't know which side but he let it drop that the car was towed from gravel. (So I'll give the driver the benefit of the doubt and say he was probably new and thought the gravel lot was tow-able.) But even after that admission the towing company didn't budge. At our urging, our daughter filed a complaint in small claims court which only made the towing company madder. Their lawyer sent a sleazy, threatening, menacing letter to her saying they would counter-sue if she didn't retract her false and malicious claim immediately. The towing company backed down in court when they saw that all the witnesses showed up, pictures of the skid marks were printed, a transcript of what the driver said was printed out, the landlord's affidavit about summer parking was presented, and a diagram of the alley was drawn. My daughter got her $160 and court fees back but not the cab fare, ATM fees, court-house parking fees, gas money, and time.

This is not how citizens should be treated 'by license'. The towing company acted irresponsibly for not knowing which lot was which. Towing cars at 1:00 am from a dark, half-empty alley when school's out, and there's plenty of open parking, is pretty low. And after this incident I sincerely believe the towing company in Eugene takes advantage of students and poor people who don't have the time, money or skills to fight back. --Jan N, Corvallis
I am writing in regards to the incident (my car being towed) that occurred on the morning of Sunday, June 5, 2005. I had an appointment with a realtor to present an offer for the sale of a property. I parked in the front lot at approximately 10:10a.m. and realizing that I was early, decided to walk across the street to Cameo Cafe to get a cup of coffee. There must have been no more than a total of ten vehicles parked in that entire front lot. I noticed a man looking rather suspicious (who turns out to be your “private parking auditor”) walking right in front of the Ace Hardware store. There was a line at The Cameo, so I was there maybe 15-20 minutes. When I returned to the parking lot to retrieve my folder to proceed to the meeting, my car was gone. By then, there was a parking attendant in a neon vest directing traffic. I asked him and was informed that my car must have been towed by Retriever Towing at 15th & Quimby. She told me that this was a constant occurrence, and has caused major inconveniences for them.

We arrived at Retriever Towing only to be told that I had violated the rules in parking at that shopping center. The realtor from Hasson confirmed to them that I was in fact meeting at their office. I could not understand 1) why they had towed my vehicle even though I was conducting business with one of their tenants; and 2) how on earth were they able to be called, drove over to the parking lot, hitched up my car within 12 minutes of when I left my car. I almost felt like being stalked and watched. At one point during our discussion with Retriever, one of their people even said "that's just not right". However, I had no choice but to pay for my vehicle.

When I returned to Uptown Shopping Center for my appointment, the parking attendant in the neon vest confirmed that the suspicious guy I saw was the one who call in all the tows. He was busy taking photos of vehicles parked at the lot and subsequently I have been told not to be surprised if he actually took a photo of me (without my permission) walking away from my vehicle. By the time I was done with my meeting (within an hour), I saw AT LEAST one or two more cars being towed during that time. While I understand the management’s efforts to monitor unlawful parking on your property, the management should also recognize and correct an obvious error when one has been made.
--Sincerely Elaine T.

#2 LO Crushes #3 OC as Love Reigns, Again

Oregonians who love basketball--and I suspect even a lot who don't--loved Bill Walton. Somehow in a place with all those evergreens, it made sense that the best player to ply his wares in the Beaver State was a giant redwood. Big men just seem like our style.

If you liked Walton, get ready for another big man who has all but been anointed the Next Big Thing in basketball, Kevin Love. A 6'9'' manchild who is the son of former Duck, Baltimore Bullet and Oregon Hall of Famer Stan Love, Kevin is a senior for #2-ranked Lake Oswego, already has one state championship and is working on another, and will head for UCLA in the fall (like a certain Deadhead center 35 years ago).

The reviews of the #1 ranked college prospect are awesome, in that Reggie Bush only-every-so-often kind of way:
We have graded Love as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2007 because we believe he is the most fundamental high school basketball player in the last 25 years. He is the poster child for what is right with basketball today. The movement in our country is toward skill development and skills academies. Love has been in a skill development program from a young age with his dad, former NBA player Stan Love. Young players should study Love and use him as a role model to learn how to improve their own games.

Through hard work, discipline and dedication, Love has changed his body in the past three years. He has become a conditioned athlete with much better stamina. Love has dominating size (6-foot-9, 255 pounds) and has perfected his post repertoire so that he is deadly when he catches the ball down low. He can shoot with range, rebound and is the best-passing big man we have ever seen at his age. In fact, Kevin's middle name is Wesley, named after NBA great Wes Unseld, who had the best outlet pass in the pro game. Love understands shot selection, commands double teams in the post and knows how and when to deliver the ball to his open teammates.

Beyond that, Love is a warrior in the paint. He thrives on physical contact and is fearless around the hoop, where he can power the ball to the rim, take a hit and finish with a three-point play.
Nice review, eh? And once the games started this season, Love began delivering on the hype night after night, as much as 30 points and 20 rebounds a game. Friday night was no different, as the Lakers went just across the Willamette to Oregon City, and delivered a decisive thumping on the previously 3rd-ranked Pioneers by 22, holding them 25 points under their season average. Love had 39 points and 20 rebounds, including 21 points in a fourth quarter where the Lakers simply overpowered and abused the Pioneers down low, clearing the way for seven consecutive Love buckets, several of them dunks.

None of the bowl-flushers shattered the backboard like the thunderous slam he laid down during their game against Putnam two weeks ago, forcing it to be rescheduled, but this game had to be just as satisfying. The Lakers, now at 14-1 and 5-0 in the tough Three Rivers 6A conference, can be expected to roll over most teams. But the Pioneers have also been outstanding this year, and they are one of the few high school teams with the height to try to deal with Love. Jared Cunningham and Sam Schafer both stand 6'9'', and presented a rare in-state challenge (Love has played extensively against the best in the nation during several big tournaments, as have the rest of the Lakers). And to win like that on the road is impressive no matter who you play.

So as the season winds down and the Lakers try to become repeat champions (and Love continues his assault on Pudgy Hunt's 50-year state points record, currently 5th and 400 points from the title), keep an eye on the big man and go see him if you can. You may well earn the opportunity to say "He looked just as dominant to me before he became an NBA star, back in Oregon..."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Development Report Card: OR in Top Half, Barely

One of the perennial complaints from the right wing and business interests in Oregon is that the state is a poor crucible for economic development: stifled by a lackluster educational system, overdemanding taxation, and a too-dense thicket of operational regulations, Oregon companies or those based elsewhere but seeking a new location tend to view the state unfavorably as a good place to do business.

Is the perception true? Maybe so, if we mean that businesses really do believe these things. But is their perception an accurate reflection of reality? One of the problems in formulating an educated response is how one seeks to address the question. The nonprofit Corporation for Economic Development (CFED) offers some useful insight:
[E]conomies are fundamentally about people. Healthy economies offer greater opportunities for everyone. They should provide economic livelihoods, financial security, and an environment of opportunity for the people who live there. State and local economic development efforts should foster creativity, productivity, and inclusion.

In the 1980s, “economic development” was frequently viewed as primarily about companies. This outlook was further popularized by the many tools available that compared states’ “business friendliness.” While these ratings captured some important points, they often emphasized “low cost” instead of “high value.” The cheapest locations—those with low taxes and wages—got the best grades. These tools encouraged policies to weaken regulation, even if that regulation protected things like the environment and worker safety. An area’s good business rating could be damaged if workers were paid wages and provided benefits that were sufficient for their needs, even when public incentives were provided to their employers.

In 1987, the Development Report Card for the States offered a different way to assess state economies and a different way to think about economic development. It continues to do so in 2007. Measuring the standard of living and working in a state and how well the state is building foundations for future growth is just as important as how hospitable that state is to businesses.
That sounds like an analytical basis tailor-made to treat Oregon fairly, given our emphasis on promoting the common welfare even if it costs a little more in the short run. Putting their philosophy about "true" economic performance into action, CFED has released its 20th annual Development Report Card, which evaluates state economic performance in three broad categories: wage-earners, businesses, and the capacity for future development.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at how Oregon did:

Earnings and Job QualityD
Quality of LifeA
Resource EfficiencyA

Business Vitality--D
Competitiveness of Existing BusinessesF
Entrepreneurial EnergyC

Development Capacity--A
Human ResourcesC
Financial ResourcesB
Infrastructure ResourcesA
Amenity Resources and Natural CapitalA
Innovation AssetsB

The overall ranking of the state is 22nd. You can click on the categories that are hyperlinked above to see where the other states ranked, and you can also view Oregon's detailed profile here {pdf}, along with 5-year trends here {pdf}. To answer the question I posed above--is Oregon a lousy place to do business?--you can see why some people say yes. At the individual wage earner level, economic prospects are currently rather dim--but it certainly appears true that you get what you pay for, when you consider the returns in quality of life and the way we use our resources to maintain that quality. The state is #9 overall in the former, and #4 in the latter.

Since corporate "quality of life" doesn't have a real qualitative component, the cold hard numbers of economics weigh heavily on Oregon's 'D' grade in business performance. On business competitiveness (covering subjects like Business Closings, Manufacturing Investment, and Industrial Diversity), the state ranks a lowly 48th, 3rd from the bottom. Happily, on more forward-looking measures such as startups, IPOs and the technology sector, the state earns what amounts to a C+, two slots from a B ranking.

So where we stand now, things admittedly aren't all that great compared to the rest of the country. On the other hand, the present is already past, and if you're reading this you've survived it--and if things are managed properly, the future outlook is mighty rosy. The fervent talk from Governor Kulongoski and others about Oregon's potential to be a leader in the dominant economic sectors of the 21st Century appears to be right on; according to the report card we've got the resources, know-how and creativity to get it done. Despite the worries about a decaying infrastructure the state ranks 3rd in that area, and 5th in the category of "amenities and natural resources." If biotechnology, information technology and "green tech" are really the new economic engines that will drive development, Oregon clearly has what it takes to fulfill Kulongoski's vision of the future.

So the next time someone tells you Oregon's a rotten place to start a business or put food on your family, you can say, "Well, maybe right now things aren't so great. But hang in there--if we work together and take advantage of our strengths, better days are definitely ahead." And instead of being taken for a wishful pollyanna, now you can be confident you're right.

Washington State takes on pay for signature

Since this isn't really an Oregon issue, I didn't publish it here at LO. But Washington State is looking at a Measure 26 style law.

Blumenauer gets specific on Iraq

Standing in stark contrast to the vague prattlings of Oregon's junior senator, Congressman Earl Blumenauer has come up with an expressly specific plan for Iraq.

Blumenauer's “New Direction for Iraq Act of 2007” contains specific directives for the President, including the nullification of contracts with companies that have not met the terms of their Iraq reconstruction contract as well as the recovery of lost funds. The Act also prohibits the escalation of the Iraq War without Congressional approval as well as permanent bases.

And that's just the beginning.

Blumenauer's approach is a definitive step in the right direction. Its also an opportunity to bravely lay things out for the record--something that a less-courageous legislator wouldn't touch.

GOP Reps continue their incestuous relationship with the Douchebag of Dirt

Recently appointed State Representative Vic Gilliam promised his appointers some guerilla warfare should they send him to Salem to replace the newly elected/dubiously-newly-retired Mac Sumner.

It would seem that Representative Gilliam has begun to load his guerilla arsenal.

During the last campaign cycle, we referred readers to the antics of Chuck Adams whose political consulting firm Adams and Company was responsible for all manner of disgusting bullshit and political hucksterism.

Among Adams and Company's staff is a young woman named Rebecca Tweed.

Guess who answered the phone at Gilliam's office when I called to see about an appointment to talk with the Representative?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

With Western Help, OR Delegation Renews Timber Payments Fight

From the Mail Tribune in Medford, where it may rank 2nd only behind Iraq as the most pressing issue of the day, comes news of a trip once more into the breach: Oregon's Congressional delegation has picked up where they left off in the 109th Session, re-introducing bills to restore the federal "timber county" payments that currently prop up the budgets of several Oregon counties. Unlike in the rush at the end of the silly season (otherwise known as the midterm elections), however, this time the state's restoration proponents are getting some help from other western states:
Spearheading the effort on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., cited Jackson County as one of many in the state that depend on the Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act.

"Another of our counties, Jackson County in Southern Oregon, is prepared to shut down all of its libraries and that will be coming up very shortly," he said.

Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., received support from California Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats.

The bill also was introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also has been pushing legislation through the House to extend the federal program, which offsets financial losses brought on by restrictions on harvesting lumber. {links mine}
It's good to see both Washington senators on board with sponsorship; neither seat participated that way on the original bill in 2000. It's great to see new ally Jon Tester on the sponsor list; a little surprising to see Ted Stevens. Lisa Murkowksi's father cosponsored the original, but not Stevens. Now the seats have essentially switched places. And of interest from Idaho is that Larry Craig claims to support bill, but doesn't want to sponsor it because he thinks Oregon gets too much money out of the deal.

Ask Jackson County about that:
Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith welcomed news of the legislation to reauthorize the funding.

"This is the largest domestic funding crisis," he said, heartened to see senators from California also backing the legislation. "I'm glad to see our neighbors to the south finally woke up."

Smith said that if the funding was fully restored, libraries would not be closed.

However, if Congress only reauthorizes a one-year extension, he said the commissioners still might not be able to keep all the libraries open.

"It at least buys us some time," he said. "It might mean that we wouldn't have to close down all the libraries — and that's a big might."
Another curious thing is why the Trib sought to attach Walden's name to the House version of the bill, rather than DeFazio's--considering that DeFazio is the one carrying the bill. I'm not suggesting that Walden isn't working hard for passage--he is--but it's weird that they chose him to discuss instead of DeFazio, just because he's Medford's rep. Obviously they wouldn't likely mention Blumenauer's support given his distance from southern Oregon, but DeFazio's district is literally right next door to Jackson County, and as I said he's the one whose name is at the top. Not even a mention? Whatever.

The counties are definitely hoping for quick action, but Iraq threatens to almost singehandedly push most domestic agenda items off the table for the time being. Hard to fault them for prioritizing a Constitutional crisis, I guess. Wyden signals in the article that he's not forgetting the issue, however:
"We are trying to push this as fast as we can," he said.

He said continued pressure by counties has boosted the chances of the legislation passing. Wyden said that other financial pressures on the federal government shouldn't be allowed to undermine these efforts.

"If you're rebuilding Iraq, you should do something not to turn rural communities in Oregon and throughout the U.S. into sacrifice zones," said Wyden.
Sacrifice zones--niiice!

Another way to spell "conflict of interest"? G-O-P

We've established here at LO of late the disastrous mess that is Measure 37.

The Oregon Legislature is promising to wade into the Measure 37 imbroglio. To get the ball rolling, they've created the Special Joint Land Use Committee. The Committee's charge is to decide what, if anything, to do with Measure 37 and presumably take their recommendations to the full compliment of legislators.

The committee's apparent force to promote a hand's off approach to the law is Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood), former president of Oregonians In Action (OIA). OIA was the driving force behind the passage of Measure 37 in 2004.

While Larry George's role here is crystal, his seating on the committee has a problematic element to it. George has some obvious conflict of interest issues given that his parents have a whopper of a Measure 37 claim in Yamhill County.

A guy whose parents have a big ass financial stake on the committee deciding what to do with the law?

I'm not able to find a copy of the Oregon Senate rules online, but this would seem like the definition of "conflict of interest" to me.

Larry George isn't the only legislator who requires scrutiny on this matter. Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) also has a parent with a Measure 37 claim (scroll down to claim #37CL0320). The claimant happens to be his father, former legislator Charles Starr (who ironically lost last Spring in the primary to Larry George).

On the House side, there's the constantly ethics-challenged House Minority Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby). Scott and his wife Marlene have their own Measure 37 claim.

I've also located two claims that are so far a bit of a mystery. Two Washington County claims belong to a Marvin F. and Joann Winters (claim 37CL0104 and 37CL0105). I've been trying to determine if Marvin is the son of GOP State Senator Jackie Winters, but nobody (not even the people in Winters's office) seems to be able to verify it one way or the other.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Gordo Passes Up Minimum Wage Hike--Again

Who says Senator Gordon Smith is a waffler, a flip-flopper, an inconsistent mystery wrapped in a tortilla with enchilada sauce? Well OK, we said it about his various stances on the Iraq escalation--but here I'm talking about his general voting behavior. And on that score, you can pretty much predict Smith's movements like a sundial's: he won't say anything meaningful on the subject until the zeitgeist is clear; and if he can sell out one of his promises with some kind of convenient rationalization, he'll do it. If he says he'll protect ANWR for instance, don't let him vote on it as part of an omnibus spending bill, because then he'll vote for drilling. Or if he says he opposes a troop surge, don't say anything the least bit impolite in the nonbinding resolution to that effect, because that will offend his tender sensibilities (as opposed to calling the President's policies absurd and possibly criminal, I guess).

And today we learned that he's just as nimble going the opposite way--refusing to vote for something he's claimed he supports, BECAUSE it's a standalone bill without poison pill amendments. He said this about the minimum wage in 2005 (before voting yes on a version of the bill that he knew was preordained to fail--another useful face-saving tactic):
Although Oregonians receive a wage higher than required by federal law, it’s important to raise the minimum wage across the country. Working families are facing increases in home heating costs and high gas prices, and their wages should reflect these circumstances.
So you'll never guess what he did today! OK, maybe you will--he was one of 43 Republican Senators voting against cloture for the "clean" House bill, stripped of any tax breaks to sweeten the pot for businesses. The resulting conference bill is likely to emerge with some of those breaks, crafted by Finance Chair Max Baucus, and I predict right now that Smith will vote yes, enabling him to come back and tell constituents he voted for the hike in the minimum wage--just like he promised! There were five Republicans who voted for cloture on the clean bill--Coleman, Collins, Snowe, Specter and Warner. Notice that all of them hail from blue or blue-trending states, and thus were likely conscious of their constituency as they voted. I'm not even sure if Smith was conscious, period, when he voted--he's got this little dance down so well, he might be able to do it in his sleep by now.

Remember this in 2008 when he tries to tell you he's a friend of the working man--and he will. Don't buy the bullshit.

M37: Arnold Rules, Hunnicutt Rebuts

"You're not going to call me a moronic fucktard, are you?"
I've been having some good phone conversations lately. After assuring him it was unlikely the interview would warrant that kind of reaction, Oregonians in Action President Dave Hunnicutt was happy to explain how he saw things in the wake of Judge Arnold's surprisingly quiet ruling on transferability of development rights {pdf} earned from a Measure 37 claim. Well, he wasn't happy to have to defend the losing position to me of course, but for a lawyer he's a lot less haughty and perspicacious with his words than you'd guess.

When I spoke to him he was reacting to the ruling without having fully read it, but he knew what the arguments had been. Hunnicutt's core position is that because there is no mention of transferability in the text of Measure 37, generally in law the default position is to allow something unless specifically proscribed, and to use the appropriate standards and principles that are traditional to that area of the law. In land-use decisions, he argues, the ruling stays with the property and not the owner. This makes some sense; the zoning laws themselves apply to the new owner of the property just as much as the previous one.

But Arnold sees the lack of language differently, and makes clear why the M37 claim isn't analogous to land-use rulings themselves:
“Owner” is defined by Section (11) (C) as “the present owner of the property, or any
interest therein.”
The terms “transfer,” “transferability,” “transferable,” and “subsequent owner” are not found in Measure 37.
Measure 37 did not repeal or amend any existing land use law. All land use laws which were in effect prior to the passage of Measure 37 remain in place today. What Measure 37 does is provide a method by which the “present owner” of a parcel could receive compensation or relief from enforcement if the land use regulation diminished the value of his/her property.

When read in context, Measure 37 makes it clear what is meant by “present owner.” The “present owner” must satisfy a requirement of being the owner on two dates. First, she/he must be the owner at the time the restrictive regulation is passed. Section 1 does not apply to land use regulations “[e]nacted prior to the date of acquisition of the property by the [present] owner.” Section (3) (E). The second date on which the present owner must qualify to receive the benefit of Measure 37 is “the date the [present] owner makes written demand for compensation… .” Section (2). In both cases, the definition of the owner is the same. There is no provision in
Measure 37 for previous or subsequent owners. {emph mine}
Hunnicutt believes that while the owner is the claimant, the relief is applied to the land. But Arnold takes pains to hang Hunnicutt by his own rope, using the language of the measure to show how ownership is the key feature of Measure 37, being the sole way to qualify for rights and relief on a property. The relief is compensation from having those rights previously "taken" after purchasing the property under different land-use rules.

But for new owners, the blues song applies: You Can't Lose Something You Ain't Never Had. There's no right to restore to the new owners, so there's nothing to compensate--the prospective buyer knows that he would be buying property under current zoning laws--laws that Arnold reminds us were not amended or altered. Hunnicutt believes the state admitted the permanence of the "modify, remove or not apply" provision (otherwise known as the approval waiver) as a non-temporary allowance. But that really does a tightwire logic act, and either I misunderstood his point or he's spinning hard here.

Hunnicutt was game in his defense, skirting the idea that maybe if there was an intent to make sure that development rights were transferrable, there should have been something--anything--about transferability in the measure. But there's nothing. It's not even set up to imagine a process whereby the rights would transfer, based on the definition of ownership. But Hunnicutt is sure that since it's not mentioned, it's legal. "The measure doesn't restrict that change [banning transfers] in the legislature--but it's not in the measure," he noted. Arnold doesn't buy that line; because the law is from a ballot measure, the legal standard Hunnicutt cites is usurped by what the public can know about the question from reading the title. The public is not expected to evaluate a measure based on legal arcanities; they only see what is presented to them on the ballot. And if there's nothing about transfers on the ballot, Arnold reasons, it cannot be fairly said that Oregon voters voted for transferability in M37.

Interestingly, Hunnicutt allowed that he essentially blew off the other half of his argument for Jackson County, regarding the necessity of the county to make sure of compliance with state law before issuing building permits. "I'll be honest; I spent about 5 minutes on the state-local thing," he said. Because the waivers needed to come from every locality that has jurisdiction over the area, a separate state claim is usually judged to be needed before actual development can begin, to assure it complies with state law.

The judge was not impressed at the county's stated antagonism for that due diligence:
It is not enough for the County to include a notation in permits granted to successful
Measure 37 claimants to the effect that the State may disagree about whether a state-law waiver also is required. The County does not have the authority to sanction a wholesale disregard for compliance with state statutes that also may govern a particular claimant’s application for building permits. Order No. 300-05 sweeps far too broadly.

The County also argues a property owner “may” wish to apply for a state waiver or “may choose not to make such application.” This argument misses the point. The Order directs county employees to issue permits without regard to possible state requirements and it is that mandatory disregard for whether state waivers also are required that renders the Order invalid. If there are cases in which no state waivers are required, the permit can be issued. But it is not for the County to declare in advance that permits “shall” be issued without even an inquiry about whether state
requirements also continue to apply.
I think Hunnicutt bailed on this part of the case because he knew he had a loser with it. It's clear just from reading it what a combative tone the county takes with state law, and I think it made Judge Arnold a bit mad.

The county has not yet announced a decision to appeal, but sentiment appears mixed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cascade On Rail: If Facts Are Oxygen, Get the Ventilator

Carla's obviously braver than me to visit the Cascade Policy Institute on a recurring basis; I've been there once and ran screaming from all the prejudicial inquiry and shoddy misuse of statistics. She knew I'd get a kick out of the latest "Quick Point" from the Institute's President and CEO, John Charles. I'm sure he has quite a busy schedule running a think tank with so much damned science to cast aspersions on, which is why there's apparently no time left for things like references, stated facts or honest reporting of the numbers in his own work.

Start reading and shout out "says who?" when you get to the parts Charles concocts from whole cloth (if you can't shout where you are, furrow your brow and cock your head in a gesture of skepticism at the monitor instead):
The current transit mall is highly productive, moving a lot of bus passengers in a small amount of space. When rail construction is finished, the mall will actually have lower passenger throughput then it has today, because light-rail is a low-speed, low-capacity system.
Brrrp! Stop right there. First of all, let's confront physics, my good man. A standard two-car train will hold 200 people comfortably, a stuffed bus no more than about 50. That four buses weaving in and out irregularly will crowd the transit mall much more than one smooth-moving, predictable-path train seems demonstrably obvious, does it not? Regardless, mere recognition of the fact that buses and trains will share the mall, and that the number of bus lines moved off it will be few, renders bogus Charles' claim that "the mall will have lower throughput." Bus + train > bus only. Duh.

But let's not just toss away the lame attempt to pretend that rail service is inefficient. On the contrary, rail actually not only creates its own ridership, it also has been shown to contribute or at least coincide with an increase in bus service as well. At least that's what the Transportation Research Board of the NRC had to say just as MAX began to take hold in Portland:
In Portland, as post-WWII conversion of rail lines to bus accelerated, ridership dropped 14 percent per year—one of the sharpest declines in the nation. The exception was ridership on the suburban rail lines before conversion. After the less-severe decline that occurred when Saturday was phased out as a workday, ridership began to grow again, paralleling the experience in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Then the highway department closed the bridge into downtown for repairs, truncating rail service short of downtown and requiring a shuttle bus to complete the trip. This depressed ridership severely (although not as severely as Portland’s bus ridership) until a 33 percent fare increase was applied. Service was then discontinued in defiance of the Public Utility Commission. An appeal to the court was fruitless because the highway department had rebuilt the bridge without rails. Bus ridership continued its sharp decline, and by 1958, ridership was down 74 percent (14).

A 15-mi eastern radial rail line opened in Portland in 1986. Declining ridership on the all-bus system became increasing ridership on the new combination system. The cost per passenger declined. Light rail is now carrying 11 percent of the passengers on 4 percent of the service. The cost per rail passenger-mile is only 20 cents, compared to 40 cents by bus (36). The synergistic effect has now increased the number of bus riders.
Care to have it put into ubergeeky abstractese, so that Charles can understand it? Here are two colleagues of the TRB presenting their findings at an APTA conference:
Rail modes attract greater utilized capacity per unit of offered capacity during peak period than bus modes, and this aspect of consumer choice may be quantified by regression analysis. Data and observations fail to support alternative hypotheses to a consistent and observable consumer preference for rail.
The mall will handle greater capacity, not less. And I believe it will actually make buses more efficient as peak-hour commuters out of town dominate that mode, while short-hoppers and tourists will stick to the train. But that's just my analysis. I don't have a reference. Thenagain, neither does Charles when he says this:
The mall will also be much more dangerous. TriMet bus drivers have warned public officials that mixing rail, buses, cars and bicyclists in tight quarters will lead to fatalities, especially since the rail cars will weave back and forth in a serpentine pattern.
I've watched that movie he links to a dozen times or more, and it tends to look safer and more natural every time I watch it. The number one enemy of traffic is irregularity that throws off flow. The pattern of bus/rail alternation as they move down the mall is the very same one done bus-to-bus now. The only change is instead of three bus slots--any of which may (and do) pull out into the middle traffic lane at any time--there's a single train slot that always pulls into traffic starting at the intersection, and always has the right of way compared to the center lane. The left lane is for cars all the way down; no reason ever to stray into other lanes.

Am I going to stand up and say there will be no accidents? Of course not. It could be pretty confusing at the beginning (although people said the same thing about the move to 3rd and 4th, and I'll be damned but I honestly think it runs BETTER that way so far), but just like when the original mall was built, confusion will fade. Of course I'm not forced to prove it won't be dangerous; what I'd like to know is what--besides fearful, unnamed bus drivers--proves it will be, as he so categorically states.

One of the best features of light rail is where riders come from. The Tuscon project linked above indicated a fairly consistent 30% share coming from car drivers choosing to use rail (whereas bus riders often have no other choice). Portland is actually kind of spoiled; in other towns I've been in it's nowhere near as socially acceptable to be a bus rider by choice. It's true for Portland Metro in spots too; the service for Lake Oswego's 30,000 people is among the most dismal of any area TriMet covers--and they say it's because no one will ride it. But you bet your ass the downtown Oswegans will line up for a smooth streetcar ride into town. Actually, I was a little disappointed to see Charles fail to tee up one of the most popular canards of the anti-rail railers, that rail increases congestion. Seat for seat, nothing takes cars off the road like rail, so you do the math.

Let's go back one more time to what he did tee up:
TriMet will be spending more than $200 million for this project, despite the fact that rail is rapidly losing market share. According to a recent employer survey, light-rail’s share of downtown commute trips dropped by 29% over the past 5 years, despite the addition of two new rail lines during that period.
That last bit is correct as far as it goes, although you can see from comparing the years that the ridership share fluctuated back and forth, hitting the exact same rate in 2004 as in 2001, before dropping in 2005. Even then, the figure used is for the downtown commute share only, which is hardly indicative of the full extent of rail usage (I've done enough MAX rides to PGE Park to prove that).

You know Charles was fishing for a convenient number, because he used such a bizarrely narrow way to view ridership comparisons. There are all kinds of comparative measures, and TriMet made a nice little graph so you could compare them {pdf}, on page four. And you know what? From '01 to '06, the "market share" for rail vs buses was up in each of these categories:
  • vehicle hours
  • revenue hours
  • vehicle miles
  • revenue miles
  • passenger miles
  • originating riders
  • and boarding riders--usually by 50% or more.
Ah, but that's just flimsy data--actual recorded ridership, mileage and revenue. Charles has a business survey that debunks all that in one tangentially worded question!

C'mon, John. Don't waste our time with that premature ejaculate of a column. You should know better after (correctly, to an extent) calling out Portland's Kyoto numbers. That was an honest mistake in a still-remarkable result. What you write in your latest column is misleadingly stated at best, totally unsupported and contradicted by the actual literature at worst. Booo.

Disassembling D'Souza

There's a cottage industry out there for rightwing pundits who articulate wild-eyed theories and stupendously outrageous rhetoric. Ann Coulter is one of the leading scam artists in this vein, for example.

The latest work in this serious of over-hyped diarreah comes from the pen of Dinesh D'Souza, whose newest collection of shallow prevarications entitled The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 received a justifably brutal review from political science professor and New York Times contributor Alan Wolfe (thanks to Steve Duin for the head's up).

But even better than Wolfe's obvious disgust at D'Souza's lack of shame (not to mention intellectual heft) was this morning's complete and utter disassembling of D'Souza by KPOJ's own Thom Hartmann.

An excerpt:

Hartmann: But in your book you're actually deadly serious about it. Throughout this book you use phrases like "the liberal left" and "the liberals" and you characterize people who are actually frankly not communists and not socialists. They're just good old trade unionists and basically Democrats in the United States--and characterize them as if they are in some way responsible for 9/11. I think this is despicable, sir.

D'Souza: Well lets be clinical about it. I don't just use generalizations. I think for example the blunders of the Carter Administration which withdrew American support for the Shah were instrumental in installing the Khomeni Regime.

H: How about going back to the Eisenhower Adminstration that helped put the Shah in place?

D: Well, maybe so.

H: How about overthrowing Mossadegh, overthrowing a
democratically elected government and having the CIA go in and install a dictator. And now you're upset because the dictator falls???

This interview is chock full of wonky goodness so as to delight your soul. Plus Hartmann throughly takes D'Souza to the woodshed and spanks him silly. Its a fairly long snippet..but so very worth your time.

Make Your OR News LO's News, From Google News

I can't wait to be slain in comments for approvingly noting our partnership with evil Chinese-internet-coddlers, but we are now represented on Google News as a provider. This page shows all our most recent posts with a brief header for each, which is pretty cool. Scroll down to the bottom and you'll see you can get an email alert when our page is updated. That option is pretty much just reserved for our stalkers with least one restraining order filed, so don't use that one unless you know what's in our garbage. But you can put us on your Google homepage or Google News page, and that IS cool. I know BlueOregon is also a provider now; as more get on the service you could even create your own personal NW aggregator!

How blessed can one readership get!

Quotation Vexation

Dear Statesman Journal, Associated Press and McMinnville News Register:

Yesterday after I published this blog post at Loaded Orygun, my eagle-eyed blog partner spotted a problem.

The Associated Press reporter (via the Statesman Journal) attributed a quote to David Molina, a Beaverton businessman who sits on the Oregon Commission for Hispanic Affairs:

"They're trying to be attentive to their conservative base. Why else would they bring this up?" asked David Molina, a Beaverton businessman who sits on the Oregon Commission for Hispanic Affairs.

Mike Davis, a University of California historian and co-author of the book "No One is Illegal," said the English-only movement feeds on historical misunderstandings and silly paranoia.

English, he said, is the fastest-growing language on the planet and far from endangered.

"Why then English only? Because it allows racists and nativists to pursue their dirty business with the plausible denial that they are not advocating discrimination, only Americanism," Molina said.

The McMinnville News-Register carries essentially the same story on January 20, but attributes that quote to historian Mike Davis of the University of California:

Mike Davis, a University of California historian and co-author of the book "No One is Illegal," said the English-only movement feeds on historical misunderstandings and "silly paranoia."

English, he said, is the most rapidly and aggressively growing language on the planet, which hardly merits putting it in the "endangered" camp.

"Why then English only?" he asked rhetorically. "Because it allows racists and nativists to pursue their dirty business with the plausible denial that they are not advocating discrimination, only Americanism."

We would appreciate clarification on which person made the statement. We want to make sure they are properly credited and any appropriate retraction made at Loaded Orygun.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Agent Provocateur


One of the State's Hispanic Affiars Commission members made an outragous comment in the Statesman Journal today.

"They're trying to be attentive to their conservative base. Why else would they bring this up?" asked David Molina, a Beaverton businessman who sits on the Oregon Commission for Hispanic Affairs....Why then English only? Because it allows racists and nativists to pursue their dirty business with the plausible denial that they are not advocating discrimination, only Americanism," Molina said."

This was in response to Rep. Donna Nelson's legislation to make english the official language of Oregon. For a citizen serving in a public leadership role designed to improve relations among ethnic communites, his words were highly political and slanderous.

"Highly political"? Maybe. But, "slanderous"?

slan·der (slān'dər) n.
1.Law Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation.
2.A false and malicious statement or report about someone.

I'm not seeing how Molina's statements are false at all, especially given the fact that Nelson's bill doesn't actually change the way the government does business.

Its just a piece of conservative political correctness that tosses red meat to the base.

It doesn't help the argument to have Victoria Taft pimping her radio show in the comments to the post in question, either.

Write Your Own Caption: Gordon hearts Grover Edition

(via Blue Oregon)

Its way worse when the "good guys" subvert due process.

Perhaps I'm not fully informed when it comes to the job of Oregon Attorney General. Clearly its terribly naive of me to believe that the top legal job in Oregon would work to ensure due process rather than dump all over it:

Teenagers who purchase or possess alcohol would face almost-immediate suspension of their driver licenses, even without a court conviction, under a bill that awaits its first hearing.

The bill is one of nine proposed by a state task force and considered by the House Judiciary Committee to further tighten laws against underage drinking.

"Swift and sure consequences are the best way to get a youth's attention," said Philip Schradle, special counsel to Attorney General Hardy Myers, who led the 37-member task force.

House Bill 2152 would be a significant new restriction in Oregon law, which already requires suspension of driver licenses if the 15-20-year-olds are convicted in court of possessing, delivering or making illegal drugs or possessing, using or abusing alcohol -- even if the offense is not connected with driving. The Legislature added the nondriving restriction in 1991.

The bill would allow the state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division to suspend the license of an offending teenager once police issued a ticket for a minor in possession of alcohol, rather than await a conviction in court. The bill would allow for appeals and hardship permits for work or treatment.

Are we really considering giving the DMV the ability to suspend someone's driver's license? No court hearing? No testimony?

This is the kind of crap I'd expect from Republicans. The GOP in general seems to have a unique disdain for Constitutional protections afforded to the citizenry under the Bill of Rights. I find myself unfortunately surprised that our Democratic Attorney General would trot out his spokesperson to tell us that we need to subvert due process in order to "get a youth's attention".

The problem is underaged drinking. The idea here is to SOLVE the problem.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are a series of steps that communities can take in order to curb underaged drinking.

None of them include suspending a person's drivers license without the benefit of going to court.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spanning the State--English Only Edition

In what can only be an effort to prove that Oregonians correctly took Republicans out of power in the House, a group of Republican House members from Yamhill County and elsewhere are sponsoring House Bill 2459 which would make English the official language of Oregon.

Business is booming in Ashland.

The Canadian Geese population is overwhelming Bend. A plan is in the works to feed the geese bread laced with nicarbazin, an anti-microbial compound which will render the geese sterile. The idea isn't to kill the entire geese population, but to lower the population which is estimated at 700-800.

The mayor of Brookings is playing defense against charges of incompetence and corruption by Shannon Egeland, a developer.

Mike Keiser, developer of Bandon Dunes Golf Course, is buying up more land south of Bandon. Keiser has purchased over 500 acres, some of which may be for later development. But Keiser is also planning to conserve at least some of the land in its natural state.

The proposal for a new WalMart in the Cottage Grove area is dividing local residents.

Will Lane County switch to publically financed elections? The Lane County League of Women Voters considered the "Clean Money" alternative to holding elections last week at a local workshop.

The paper of record in Madras has a wonderful editorial praising the local high school sports efforts...smallest program makes good and all that. Nice stuff.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The BEST place to watch the SOTU

Nowadays, its best to watch Bush give his speeches and press conferences with a drink handy. He's apparently not giving them sober (anyone who can spit out these policies has to be wasted) why should you watch them sober?

In any event, mark your calendars for this coming Tuesday, January 23 for the Bus Project/Progressive Happy Hour State of the Union Pub Game to be held at Acme Food and Drink from 6:00-7:45PM.

If you live in Lane County (or its just closer to go there) contact the Lane County Bus Project to get details on their SOTU plans.

At least you won't have to be all by yourself while Bush tries to put the country deeper into the crapper.

BREAKING: Judge Says Transferring M37 Rights Not OK

Just over the wires from the Medford Mail Tribune:
A Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that Jackson County overstepped its authority and added language that doesn’t exist in Measure 37 in asserting that claims can be transferred from one property owner to another.

“Under any legal analysis it is clear the voters did not intend Measure 37 claims to be transferable,” Judge Phil Arnold stated in a 13-page ruling that shot down every legal assertion made by the county.

With the judge’s ruling, county officials will determine the legal standing of Measure 37 claims that have been approved and also the status of building permits issued based on an approved claim.

Arnold said the county also erred in not requiring property owners to file a separate claim with the state of Oregon, and the county cannot continue to issue permits without regard to possible state requirements.

“The county does not have the authority to sanction a wholesale disregard for compliance with state statutes that also may govern a particular claimant’s application for building permits,” stated Arnold.
It will surprise no one that we support this decision wholeheartedly. In particular beyond transferability rights, I'm very pleased that Judge Arnold rebuked Jackson for failing to consider state regulations as part of the Measure 37 process--not that their own ruling should necessarily take state law into account, but that they recognize that a claim must pass muster for any locality that governs the property, and they cannot prematurely grant building rights before those conditions are satisfied.

Related both to this post and the previous one about the formation of a Joint Land Use Committee in Salem--Kulongoski completed the government branch Measure 37 trifecta today by sending a letter to the Legislature {pdf}, commending them on the formation of the committee and urging them to concentrate first on small landowners with claims directly related to plans for family residences, the so-called "Dorothy English" people:
We estimate that fewer than a thousand of these claims came from property owners asking to build a home on land they bought for that purpose years ago. Their requests represent the reasons that voters supported Measure 37 in 2004. And, we would like to continue to process these requests as quickly as possible.

Oregon is facing a forced choice as the 180-day clock runs down – either allow these developments to proceed, with irreversible impacts on local communities, or pay compensation for speculative claims that we cannot afford to pay. Oregonians now recognize the unintended consequences of Measure 37. They are demanding – and they deserve – better options than the forced choices that confront us under Measure 37.
Right on, Ted! He gets it. And lest you believe that he's merely projecting the party viewpoint on Measure 37, today's Statesman-Journal aptly describes the amount and tenor of confusion that is reigning across the state:
The problem: There are still more questions than answers.

Measure 37 -- fewer than two pages of text -- is very general, [state DOJ attorney Richard] Whitman said.

"It leaves a lot unsaid," he said. "There are a lot of practical questions that we have no answers to."

That means that there are no uniform procedures across the state's county planning departments, which deal with property owners who want compensation for lost value due to land-use regulations or to have those regulations waived.

The answers need to come from legislators passing laws or by the court system interpreting the measure. Court decisions are made after lawsuits are filed.

So far, there are 130 court cases involving Measure 37, but Whitman estimated that number could double.

Most of the litigation is at the county level, and those decisions are not binding statewide. Until the Oregon Court of Appeals weighs in on Measure 37, individual counties will be interpreting the measure based on their own circuit courts' decisions, he said.

Whitman estimated that if the 2007 Legislature doesn't pass laws refining Measure 37, it will be another three to five years before officials have clarity on the rules about filing claims, transferring rights to develop, assessing the value of property and the laundry list of other problems that have developed.
And what do people want to do with M37 as a result of this confusion? It's not a scientific indicator, but the Statesman reports that many attendees of the forum signed on to a petition to suspend M37 and require public hearings to discuss how to move forward. Amen.