Still undecided about City Council seat #1?

by Steve, April 29th, 2008

election08Maybe you won’t be after you take a look at this.

(The things I miss when I’m busy sitting through school board meetings.)

Happy birthday, Amanda!

Military & Draft Counseling Project Action Alert

by Steve, April 28th, 2008

schoolsThis just in from the Military & Draft Counseling Project:

Portland high school students need your help. Jollee Patterson, chief legal counselor for Portland Public Schools, is now advising high school administrators and the Portland School Board to no longer allow counter-recruitment activists equal access to respond to military recruiting in Portland high schools.

This is a change in long-standing practice. For many years, the assumption has been that, if military recruiters maintain a presence in schools, then counter-recruiters have a right to a comparable presence. In practice, this usually means that, if military recruiters do tabling during the lunch hour, then counter-recruiters should be granted the opportunity to do the same.

The National Lawyers Guild has written a letter to Jollee Patterson, at our request, challenging her arguments and her advice to the school district. Her main argument is that, if Portland Public Schools grants access to counter-recruiters, that opens the door to a myriad of other political groups who might want to set up a literature tables in a high school. This is a bogus argument because it ignores the crucial fact that military recruiters are already in schools and spreading their lies and a response is required!

ACTION #1: Please email all 8 school board members and/or phone the two school board co-chairs and assert our right to equal access Tell them:

  • Students deserve at least a balance of information about military enlistment.
  • Military recruiters cannot be trusted to tell the truth about what students can expect from military service.
  • Most school districts throughout the nation grant some form of access to counter-recruiters because it is morally and legally the right thing to do.
  • Jollee Patterson should be told (by the school board) to stand down on this issue and stop advising high school administrators to exclude counter-recruitment activists.

Portland School Board members

ACTION #2: You are invited to the next Portland School Board meeting on Monday, April 28th at the school district admin. building (BESC), 501 N. Dixon St., Portland 97227.

  • Meet at 6:45pm at the main entrance. We will stand with signs as people enter.
  • After the meeting begins (7pm), we will stand with our signs in the foyer behind the board meeting room. We will be very visible to the school board members.
  • School board meetings often last until 9 or 9:30pm. Stay as long as you can, an hour is great.
  • There is an opportunity for citizen comment at the end of the meeting, but you must sign up ahead of time. Call me if you are interested.

For more information, please contact the Military & Draft Counseling Project, 503-238-0605.
Email: jgrueschow@comcast.net.

The Pearl

by Steve, April 27th, 2008

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Gentrification is the issue

by Steve, April 22nd, 2008

election08So why aren’t the candidates for Portland mayor talking about it?

It is undeniable that housing prices in Portland have outrun the ability for the local job market to sustain them. Yet our city government continues to promote and subsidize the kind of high-density development that seeks to encourage (and cash in on) this trend.

As I wrote yesterday, Sam Adams and Sho Dozono represent real estate developers and the business community respectively, so they’ve got no real interest in tempering the trend of total gentrification in Portland’s residential core.

Adams went so far as to posit that there is “too much affordable housing in North Portland” at Sunday’s North Portland Candidates’ Forum, exposing himself as someone who 1) can easily be construed as a racist and 2) doesn’t have the faintest clue what gentrification means to the working and middle classes of Portland.

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to use Google to plumb the depths of this issue in the current races for city government. I searched for the term “gentrification OR gentrify” on the candidates’ campaign sites, and was not surprised to be greeted with the sound of crickets chirping on most of them, starting with Sam Adams and Sho Dozono.

Going down the ticket to city council seat #1, the seat Sam Adams is leaving to run for mayor, we’ve got more crickets from Chris Smith, John Branam, Charles Lewis and Jeff Bissonnette.

Amanda Fritz wins the prize for actually using the word “gentrification” on her campaign Web site, stating “The most pressing issue is the gap between people who are doing well, and those who are not.”

On to seat #2, being vacated by Erik Sten mid-term, things get a little more interesting. Nick Fish gets a hit on his response to a housing opportunity quiestionnaire, where he states (PDF) “Lower home ownership rates for people of color translates into lost opportunities to create wealth, less stable neighborhoods and leaves minorities more vulnerable to displacement because of gentrification.”

But Jim Middaugh also gets a hit for his “issues” page, where he notes “Portland’s African-American community, with its traditional base in North and Northeast Portland, is determined to thrive in the face of the powerful forces of gentrification and hold together a sense of community.” He also talks a good game about “Keeping Portland Affordable.”

Middaugh is Erik Sten’s chief of staff, and Sten is known for his work on housing. Specifically low-income housing and homelessness, i.e. the very low end of the spectrum. Middaugh, of course, wants to carry on this work, which is commendable. But we need to distinguish between issues of subsidized housing and gentrification. Yes, they’re both pieces of the same puzzle. But my reading of Sten’s policy is that while he’s done great work on the low end, he’s done little to nothing on the issue of preserving affordable housing for the working and middle classes. In fact, he’s been right on board with the development policies that feed gentrification.

Middaugh has shown himself to be in league with the “smart growth” crowd, citing the 300,000 coming residents and the need to continue subsidizing (and otherwise encouraging) high density condo development all over our city.

Maybe I’m being unfair to Middaugh, but I don’t think we should expect any great departure from Sten’s policies, and the proof is in the pudding. I know I couldn’t afford my North Portland house at today’s prices, and I just bought it eight years ago.

Unfortunately, the seat #2 race has been quickly reduced to a two-way between Middaugh and Sten. It’s unfortunate, because Ed Garren has been quite up front about how city policies encourage gentrification. “The current gentrification model encourages persons of lower and moderate means to move to the edges of, or out of the city. The issues involving traditional communities of color in the city relate directly to this issue, and it is a nationwide situation, not just in Portland. The city needs to decide if all neighborhoods in the city are going to offer economically diverse housing, or are we going to continue to ‘red line’ neighborhoods and create policies that favor some groups and discriminate others,” writes Garren in response to the Housing Opportunities questionnaire.

That’s the kind of plain talk I’d like to hear from the other candidates.

Actually, I’d settle for any kind of talk.

Charting Portland’s Political Landscape

by Steve, April 21st, 2008

election08Local politics, particularly in a liberal city like Portland, are not a localized version of the national scene. There is not a labor/business split in our governing bodies, for example, and nary a Republican in sight serving in any significant local public office.

The historic split in municipal politics has come between real estate developers, who want to maximize the value of their land by increasing density, and those who have stood in their way: neighborhood preservationists and environmentalists.

Siding with the developers, you often find labor, since commercial real estate development usually means union jobs.

But a funny thing happened on the way to global warming. The developers managed to co-opt environmentalists with the idea of “smart growth.” Without the environmental movement in their way, the developers now have virtual carte blanche to run things as they please.

One of the only constituencies left in opposition to this juggernaut are those who oppose gentrification and favor rent controls, that is, people who are virtually powerless by definition.

There’s also the business constituency, relatively weak in Portland compared to other big cities, which takes issue with using tax revenue to subsidize anything, except maybe parking. But they don’t object to gentrification, since it tends to grow markets for the goods and services they sell.

To be clear, I like the ideas of limiting sprawl, preserving green spaces, and developing housing near employment. But the “sustainable” label has been used and abused beyond recognition in Portland. We’ve significantly over-built condos in the central city, publicly subsidized to the tune of millions of dollars annually with a streetcar system that does not solve any identifiable transportation problem and an aerial tram to no place in particular.

Additionally, the “sustainable development” crew has pushed “skinny lots” in our core residential neighborhoods, and multi-story condo developments in our distributed town centers, like Belmont, Hawthorne, Alberta, and now Interstate and Mississippi. All of this is predicated on the notion that we’ve already maxed out our available housing stock, and must choose between building up or building out.

People who object to having a nine-story condo building towering over their back yards obviously don’t understand that we’re going to have 300,000 new residents in Portland, Real Soon Now.

That’s the canard that’s repeated ad nauseum and without qualification or any sense of irony by the candidates who represent big developers. Oh, they’re coming, whether we like it or not, they assure us, and we better make sure we build up rather than out to accommodate them.

So commercial real estate developers not only get to maximize their land values by increasing density under the cloak of “sustainability,” they’re given significant public subsidy to do so.

And what about the “G” word? Yes folks, “smart growth” is progressively gentrifying every neighborhood in Portland’s residential core. This isn’t very “smart” if you, like me, value the diversity of your neighborhood.

And that brings us to what’s wrong with the Mayor’s race in Portland. You’ve got Sam Adams, unabashedly pushing the big developer’s agenda, and Sho Dozono unabashedly pushing the big business agenda (criticizing Adams for opposing Wal-Mart).

But this is a false dichotomy, since they both essentially represent big money. Neither candidate says “boo” about rent stabilization, preserving affordable housing (as opposed to building it per the big developers’ “smart growth” vision) or preserving the historic quality of our neighborhoods.

Both, of course, are “green” candidates, as is virtually every candidate running for city office (Mike Fahey nothwithstanding). But neither of them seems to have much interest in affordable housing.

At yesterday’s North Portland Candidates’ Forum, Adams went so far as to say North Portland has too much affordable housing, a reference to all the public housing on the Peninsula. Which could be taken as thinly-veiled racism.

It could also be construed as missing the point, since it isn’t just the poor and working poor who struggle with housing prices in Portland, but increasingly two-income, middle class families.

At least in the council races, there are a couple candidates who will speak earnestly about issues of housing and gentrification.

For seat #2, being vacated mid-term by Erik Sten, Ed Garren has been the only candidate to actually talk about rent control. Nick Fish talked about “fixing the roof before putting in a jacuzzi” at yesterday’s forum, which is nice. But Jim Middaugh, Erik Sten’s chief of staff, mostly wanted to remind us of those 300,000 people moving here. (Sure, Middaugh talks a good game on his campaign Web site, but I can’t get over the feeling that it’s just boilerplate. He wanted to talk a lot more about those 300,000 new residents yesterday than the communities displaced by the City Hall business as usual his candidacy represents.)

Likewise John Brannam, running for seat #1, who was the first to intone the 300,000 figure at yesterday’s forum. We all know where Chris “streetcar” Smith stands, of course, so much so that he doesn’t even have to speak of the 300,000 promised ones.

In his Willamette Week endorsement interview, Smith talked of replicating the kind of development supported by the central city streetcar loop on the east side. Yes, folks, condos and streetcars for all your friends! To Gresham with the unwashed masses! Let them ride MAX! Somehow, Smith thinks we can cut our carbon footprint in half by pushing all the po’ folks to the margins of our metro area. Well, maybe he doesn’t really think it through that far. But that’s the upshot of gentrifying our close-in neighborhoods with the kind of development he champions.

Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis stand out as candidates for seat #1 who want to focus on neighborhoods. Lewis had the audacity yesterday to speak of affordable housing (gasp!), and Fritz has been steadfast in her advocacy for shifting the city’s budget priorities to basic services in the neighborhoods. (I’ve already endorsed Fritz for this seat.)

So our Portland body politic is divvied up into a handful of sometimes-overlapping camps, with an overarching “sustainable” umbrella big enough to offer refuge to all kinds of scoundrels. (“Sustainability” is to Portland politics what patriotism is to national politics.)

Dozono is alone in his big retail fealty, but Sam Adams has good company in the real estate developers’ court with Jim Middaugh and Chris Smith.

Those seeking to preserve the character and livability of neighborhoods, affordable family housing, and communities of color are harder to come by, and they aren’t going to have any mayoral coattails to ride this election season. Ain’t it a shame?

April Showers

by Steve, April 19th, 2008

April In Portland…

April in Portland

Blossoms

Blossoms

Showers…

April Showers
Snow showers, that is. Then some sleet. Hail? Ice chunks of various sizes and shapes, hurtling out of the sky, at any rate.

Now it’s sunny.

Ship Spotting on the Willamette

by Steve, April 13th, 2008

Portland Shipyard
Vessels lined up in berths 301-305 at Portland Shipyard, North Portland.
Update: The ship in the foreground above is the navy refueling tanker USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187).

Portland Shipyard
View of Portland Shipyard from University of Portland, downtown Portland in background. Dry docks #1 (left) and #3 (far right, partially visible, with lifted vessel).

April Flowers

by Steve, April 12th, 2008

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Rats!

by Steve, April 9th, 2008

Rat Log

I used to be a produce guy. For around ten years, I worked at co-ops and natural foods stores, including the predecessor to New Seasons Markets, Nature’s fresh! Northwest.

While at Nature’s, I agitated for the union, of course, and had a run-in with current New Seasons president Brian Rohter. But I’m not here to talk about anti-union grocery store magnates today.

Back in ’96, Nature’s had a different kind of rat.

The Nature’s store I worked at was in an ancient, poorly maintained building on SW Corbett St. in John’s Landing. There was a crawl space under the wavy fir floors, with ready access to the great outdoors. Combine access to lots of high quality food with the great flood of 1996, which drove herds of river rats off of nearby Ross Island and into the neighborhoods, and you get a serious infestation.

The exterminator placed traps (but no poison), and insisted that staff keep a sighting log (162KB PDF), detailing every sighting, as well as every kill. Kills were denoted with Mickey Mouse ears. At its best, the log, spanning nearly three months, reads like black comedy. At its worst, it’s a shocking expose of the rats I once worked with.

Here’s a transcription of the log:

Sighting Log

4/2 puffed ceral eaten
4/4 puffed cereal eaten, Great Harvest white bread, too
4/5 Abiqua Rye bread eaten
4/7 Bean sprout mix attacked produce walkin
4/9 Puffed cereal again
4/10 Rice cake attack
4/11 one culprit D.O.A.! Bulk
4/13 another one apprehended! and another one too!
4/14 nectar nuggets were re-discovered
4/15 puffed corn eaten
4/17 puffed rice eaten and 10 grain cereal
4-21 Hole located between produce rack & plactic recycling literally smelled a rat
4-19 Polenta tube found by customer eaten out
4-23 Arborio Rice Bag Chewed Open
4-23 Caught two Broom Closet Many more to go!
4-23 Abiqua bread eaten
4-23 potato in produce eaten
4-23 scared one that was absconding w/ cliff bar by candy rack
4-24 another one bites it in the broom closet
4-24 abiqua bread eaten
4-24 Ate through lids on yogurt in free box in produce cooler
4-25 another casualty in the broom closet and another loaf of abiqua bread
4/26 cuke tasted on top left shelf of produce cooler
4-27 Cliff bars keep disappearing
4-28,29 + 5-1 abiqua breads hit
5-3 caught one by candy rack
5-6 two caught — one by candy rack — back half of bady was missing!? one by bulk Peanut Butter machine — it was huge! Moby Rat!
5-12 Happy Mother’s day! Caught one behind bulk honey the trap ended up on the other side of the pnt btr machine Good size one too!! (Threw this trap away — messy, messy)
5-25-96
5-28-96 Corner of Lundberg Rice bag eaten & nibbled on, in addition to the one eaten sat, 5-25
6-9 Large (8″ body, 7″ tail) Rat found mired in a sticky trap behind Weinhard beer stacks, next to cheese case very much alive! Killed by a totally traumatized pg manager with a shovel. Couldn’t find the valium in the medicine cabinet either.
6-13-96 il riso Berretta arborio rice — eaten by one of our furry friends with good taste — un tolpo grande!
6-20 4 (yes, 4) Rats caught under candy rack need more sticky traps

Former Winter Hawks in the NHL Playoffs

by Steve, April 9th, 2008

hockeyWinter Hawks play-by-play man Andy Kemper has a great summary of former Portland players in the NHL playoffs, which start today. Recent Hawks grads Brandon Dubinsky (NY Rangers) and Braydon Coburn (Philadelphia) should get some serious ice time, and Cody McLeod (Colorado) should get a few shifts.

Check out Andy’s write-up of older Hawks grads, including Marian Hossa (Pittsburgh), Andrew Ference (Boston), Brendan Morrow (Dallas) and Scott Nichol (Nashville).