Making the public private, courtesy Neil Goldschmidt, Inc.

by Steve, December 6th, 2015

Merry Christmas kids!

At times like these, all I can think about is Fred Leonhardt, once the risen star of political speech-writing in Oregon, and how his career was destroyed by the still-powerful politico-corporate network of child-rapist Neil Goldschmidt. So I dedicate this to Fred and to his family, and all they’ve sacrificed to support Fred’s righteous bravery. (Here’s Nancy’s take.)

Oregon’s Port of Portland and its unique Metro regional government have long been known as warrens of sinecures for ex-Goldschmidt operatives, along with executive positions at private corps like NW Natural and Nike.

Goldschmidt is still praised by many for his civic mindedness, primarily the prioritization of rail over highways. I appreciate that, and benefit from it. (But as a daily user of regional rail transit, I can tell you Portland’s system has proven poorly designed, with many choke points, inefficient routes, and inadequate capacity, especially during any kind of weather. But I digress.) The point is, Goldschmidt’s legacy hasn’t actually been all that beneficial for the public. To the contrary. I would argue that in addition to child rape, patronage and enlarging the public trough have been his enduring legacy.

Now comes Christmas in Portland, prime season for the privatization of public space. As soon as they lit the big tree, it and the entirety of Portland’s Fucking Living Room (Pioneer Courthouse Square) is cordoned off for a privately-organized, for-admission, 21-and-over booze fest. For a week. Merry Christmas, kids! Come back next week after we’ve hauled off the drunks, taken down the tents and hosed off the bricks! To be fair, I don’t know of a Goldschmidt/booze fest connection. But the Metro/Oregon Zoo connections are long-standing and well-known.

Last week, the Oregon Zoo announced that, in an effort to thin crowds, ticket prices are going up. Yay! Fewer poor people to have to stand in line with. Not sure why the Zoo can’t figure out how to, I don’t know, sell timed tickets like every museum that ever hosted a popular exhibit. Better yet, make it free, and have a lottery for available time slots. Our taxes are paying for it, so why should we pay twice? Oh, that’s right, so Metro can continue to host six-figure jobs for the Goldschmidt network.

And who’s quoted in the O, pimpin’ the price hike? None other than Krista Swan, who’s never been shy about her public adoration of “the man” Neil Goldschmidt.

“It should be a magical, fun experience,” said Swan. For those who can spare 50 or 100 bucks to take their families to see lighted cages. (I know, I know, they don’t actually light the cages. But the whole place is a damn cage.)

It’s naked elitism. They don’t give a fuck. I kind of admire the chutzpah it takes to say “screw you” to the people paying your salary and totally get a way with it. But I literally feel sickened by this.

My long-term, ongoing revulsion of zoos was recently enhanced by a $125 million zoo bond that was supposed to provide a large, off-exhibit elephant sanctuary for surviving victims of the zoo’s shameful captive breeding and exhibition program. As a pioneering captive elephant breeder (and one of few remaining), the Oregon Zoo has long used elephants as the face of its marketing campaigns. At some point after the bond was passed, the zoo decided they were going to spend that public money on exhibit space, and maybe think about a sanctuary some time in the future. Let’s not kid ourselves; the improved exhibit space is designed as an improvement for ticket-buying human spectators, not elephants.

The zoo has launched a massive outdoor media campaign promoting the new exhibit. The over-sized billboard hung from the side of the O Dock grain elevator in the Rose Quarter reminds me of Portland past, where there were industrial jobs that paid enough for a family to survive and buy a house. Now their tax dollars are paying to advertise the offensive, unethical exhibition of elephants they probably can’t afford a ticket to see.

I really hate the zoo. It’s a publicly-funded, commercial entertainment enterprise that is cruel to animals and increasingly off-limits to working people. At this point, I would be in favor of full privatization (with fair market price for the land and facilities). And we should legislate an end to captive breeding of elephants. End of story.

This is a salient piece of the Goldschmidt story: how he created an elite and powerful network that survived his rape of a child, and continues to make public policy decisions largely for their own benefit, paid for by working people.

Update, 2:50 pm

Poor Krista thinks we’re picking on her.
swan1
Also, we don’t get it! It’s actually cheaper for the masses if they pack in on poor people nights! And she can’t be elitist, she scrubs baseboards with a toothbrush! (?)

And we must be living in the past to continue pointing out Goldschmidt’s nefarious influence. Also, we might need therapy.

swan2

Here’s a public official, complaining about hearing from her constituents. I’m afraid it’s Krista who doesn’t understand how public debates about public policy regarding public spaces are supposed to work.

Wait, listen carefully….

by Steve, February 6th, 2015

That’s the sound of Oregon’s Democratic Party faithful discussing the stench of corruption oozing out of Mahonia Hall.

It’s looking more and more like Oregon’s fourth-term governor John Kitzhaber has been up to his neck in his fiance Cylvia Hayes’s influence peddling, and the political hacks and bottom feeders at Blue Oregon have apparently circled the wagons.

Here’s the thing about being a one-party state… I mean… Ah fuck it, didn’t you guys read Animal Farm?

The Democratic Party in this state is a disgrace. A patronage machine that’s done nothing to reform a revenue system devastated by fleeting anti-tax, libertarian fringe in the 90s, and apparently more interested in holding power than funding schools. Sure they’re nominally pro-labor, but that’s all about the money at the end of the day. What does the Democratic Party of Oregon offer working families besides not being Republicans? Not a hell of a lot.

I argue that we need a moderate, viable GOP in this state just to keep the Democratic Party honest and at least nominally progressive. As it stands we have an allegedly corrupt governor and decades of Democratic control of state government with no progress on revenue reform. If state-level Democrats aren’t willing to take a stand for education funding, what good are they?

In other words, what’s the use of a Blue Oregon if we’re all just being played?

Update 2/9/2015:

Kitzhaber has asked his buddy Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon’s attorney general, to investigate. Pulitzer winner Nigel Jaquiss reports in Willamette Week that this might just be a move to delay releasing documents to the press. And of course Willamette Week is owned in part by…. wait for it…. Ellen Rosenblum’s husband Richard Meeker.

Jesus, way to make us look like a fetid little backwater, guys.

Some people can’t stop talking about child rapist Neil Goldschmidt

by Steve, January 12th, 2015

Thomas Lauderdale has a very high opinion of some people who don’t deserve it.

Most glaringly, Lauderdale can’t stop singing the praises of admitted child rapist Neil Goldschmidt, who, according to Lauderdale, “got people to be better than they were.” Well, Elizabeth Dunham, the woman Goldschmidt started raping repeatedly when she was a pubescent girl, didn’t get better, she got dead (a “circumstance” Lauderdale describes as “unfortunate.”)

Personally, I think serial child rape and a 30-year coverup kind of trump whatever fluffy civic bullshit Lauderdale might be talking about, but maybe that’s just me.

Then there’s Goldschmidt crony and former Metro president (and alleged stripper aficionado and ex of one of Neil Goldschmidt’s top 5 Oregonians) David Bragdon, whom Lauderdale ran into in New York and told “You need to come back and save the city, because it’s going down.”

And of course there’s Lauderdale himself, who thinks he’s the only one in the city with the right temperament to be mayor. “I just don’t see anybody else in the city that has that… even though I think that sounds weird as I say it. But I think that I do have the right temperament for it.”

Fortunately for the good people of Portland, he’s too busy with his own show (and doesn’t want to take a pay cut) to run the show at City Hall.

But wait… is this another instance of Neil poking his head up, testing the waters for a comeback? He was never convicted, but he admitted to behavior clearly defined by Oregon law as serial felony child rape, which would have landed him in the pokey and on the predatory sex offender registry had he been busted before the statute of limitations expired. So forget about it, Neil; crawl back into your hole.

And Thomas, stick to your day (night) job, and maybe find a different political hero to promote. (Prince Andrew, perhaps?)

Oh the places you’ll go

by Steve, December 18th, 2014

pinthehatonthecathatsIn 1999 I finished an associate degree at Portland Community College, and Nancy talked me into doing the commencement ceremony at the old Memorial Coliseum. The speaker was an up-and-coming local politician who condescended to the assembled hoi polloi by donning a red and white stripedy top hat and reading from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the places you’ll go! (By the way, the stripedy top hat is from a different Dr. Seuss story. Just sayin.)

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

I think she preceded the reading with a heart-warming story about a woman who overcame her addiction and completed a program at PCC or something. Look, PCC is a community college, not a rehab program. Sure, there are some feel-good stories about people turning their tragic lives around, but primarily it’s working class people of all ages getting a basic post-secondary education. I’m sure she was just trying to be ironic and cute, but I’m not the only one who detected a generous whiff of elitist paternalism.

We’ve joked about this pol’s failure to connect over the years. Whenever her name comes up we say, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” She married the scion of a deeply connected construction baron and later left local government in 2007. Last year she became the head of a local non-profit foundation which we’ve happily supported over the past few years.

When you give money to non-profits, their development staff become your best friends every December thereafter. (I always tell these guys they don’t have to kiss my butt, and politely decline all the perks and galas and wine buses and behind-the-scenes tours offered.)

The other day we got a voice mail message on the home phone, not from the development director, but from my erstwhile commencement speaker herself. Her unctuous tone was markedly different from her speech 15 years ago. She left her cell and office numbers. (I didn’t call her back.)

Oh.

The places you’ll go.

NOTE: That call left me conflicted like crazy. This has been one of our favorite causes over the years, and I don’t want to cast aspersions on their incredibly valuable work (which is why I’m not using names here; if you know Oregon politics, you already know who I’m talking about). We directed some money their way last year, and we’ll no doubt support them again in the future.

The MHLW 2012 Oregon Voters’ Guide

by Steve, October 22nd, 2012

election08Having trouble getting excited about the 2012 election in reliably blue Oregon? Worried that your presidential vote doesn’t count because of our archaic 18th century electoral college designed (in part) to give more power to slave states? Fear not! Here at Chez Wacky, we got our ballots in the mail over the weekend and dutifully filled in the dots for the establishment characters best suited to pretend to represent us! Nancy made her statement by voting on a copy of the International Socialist Review. I think I used a copy of Nat Geo Kids or the Smithsonian or something patriotic like that.

President

Who knew Rocky Anderson was running? Not me! The prog former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City (yes, that Salt Lake City) was on our ballot for the Progressive Party (who?), as was Jill Stein for the Greens. I’ve been registered Green for ages, and I’m sure Stein is cool and all, and I know Oregon prez votes don’t count because there’s a 99.9% chance all the electoral votes are going to Obama and it really only matters how they vote in Ohio and Florida and Iowa and Wisconsin and Colorado and North Carolina and Obama is a killing machine with his drones and kill lists but fuggit, I voted for the incumbent.

Congress

Earl “The Pearl” Blumenauer is up for the rubber stamp in Portland’s third district, and Suzanne Bonamici is up in the first. Both seem like shoe-ins, but why take chances on more GOP votes in the House? Yeah, I voted Dem.

Secretary of State

Brown. I once had lunch with incumbent Kate Brown at the City Club when uncle Ted was giving a state of the state address. She was running her first campaign for SoS, and I wasn’t impressed with her grasp of the issues. She’s shown herself to be a true Blue Dem, making some questionable decisions to favor Dems. She also pissed off a pot activist, fining him $65K for signature gathering violations. The activist, Robert Wolfe, is now running against her (Progressive Party), to the delight of GOP challenger Knute Buehler. The Greens are running Seth Wooley. So the familiar Hobson’s choice is presented to Oregon progs: a vote for the prog candidate is a vote for the GOP challenger. My nose is already sore from holding it, so I voted for Brown.

State Treasurer

Ted Wheeler, of course. I’d write him in for Governor if that race were up this year.

Attorney General

Ellen Rosenblum.

State House/Senate

Ah, fuck it. Just vote Dem, and here’s why. Oregon Democrats have systematically refused to fix our completely broken state revenue system for decades now. As it stands, we have an evenly split House, which gives them an excuse to do nothing. Break that tie, and maybe — just maybe — they can be pressured to do something. (Yeah, right!) Worth a try anyway, and certainly better than the alternative.

Labor Commissioner

Avakian.

Supreme Court Position 3

Baldwin. (Labor endorsements)

Court of Appeals Position 6

Volpert. (Labor endorsements)

Measure 77 (Emergency powers for governor)

Yes.

Measure 78 (Constitutional house keeping)

Yes.

Measure 79 (Constitutional amendment prohibiting real estate transfer tax)

No. Real estate brokers really don’t want to pay a hypothetical transfer tax (none is currently in place or proposed), so they’re going over board to prevent one from ever being put in place. This kind of tax would actually make sense, so this ill-advised measure gets an emphatic NO vote from me.

Measure 80 (Legalize and regulate marijuana)

Yes. Prohibition is ineffective and outrageously costly in terms of money and lives. War on drugs was lost before it began. Legalize it and regulate it.

Measure 81 (Gillnet ban)

No. Original supporters of this measure have pulled their support in favor of a negotiated settlement with commercial fishermen.

Measures 82 & 83 (private casinos)

No. These are DOA anyway. Supporters have pulled campaign funding.

Measure 84 (kills estate tax on millionaires and allows tax-free transfers of wealth)

No. Bad idea to reduce a progressive tax and further choke state revenue stream.

Measure 85 (give corporate “kicker” to schools)

Yes. One small piece of revenue reform that is long overdue.

(By the way, here’s the official guide, if that’s what you were looking for.)

The word is still “punch”

by Steve, October 14th, 2012

I accept whatever anyone calls it: a hit, knock, rap, bop, tag, or another word… –Jefferson Smith, Friday, Oct. 12

The word is punch. As in, “I punched a woman in the face and sent her to the hospital for stitches.” Not “It was the worst night of my life and oh I wish that woman hadn’t become injured.” Also, is it a sign of emotional maturation that you’ve gone from punching women in the face to punching guys in the nuts?

The word is “punch”

by Steve, October 9th, 2012

Jefferson Smith explains how his fist somehow became victimized by a drunk woman’s head. (Smith’s words on a photo by TedXConcordiaUPortland, used under a Creative Commons license)

Since Willamette Week broke the story of Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith’s assault charge for punching a woman in the face and sending her to the hospital for five or six stitches, Smith has come up with all kinds of passive-voice ways of not quite taking responsibility for his actions. She wouldn’t stop hitting him! See, he’s the victim, even though she’s the one who ended up with a bloody head wound and he’s the one who ended up with an assault charge.

It’s pretty safe to say his campaign is circling the drain now, with this latest bit added to previous reports of Smith being a general vehicular menace and traffic scofflaw and getting kicked out of recreational sports leagues for such trifling issues as punching opponents in the nuts. But the most troubling thing in all of this is how quickly Smith’s supporters are to rally to his defense, the well-being of his victim be damned. Never mind that he re-traumatized her showing up at her door last week (not once, but twice), leaving a creepy, intimidating letter. It’s all in the past, and we should forgive him! Or so say the chorus of his “progressive” supporters, who insist any opposition to the great white hope must be from the right.

Chief among his defenders are the clowns at the Blue Oregon Home for Wannabes and Also-Rans. Professional comedy writer Bill McDonald (did we mention he’s a comedy writer? and gets paid for it?) summed it up thusly in the very place where many of Smith’s supporters rarely get challenged in their passionate credulity: “What Im saying is that we are in denial here – avoiding an obvious, glaring problem: Jefferson Boo Boo is a mess. A high IQ dunce.” Indeed, this is plain to see to anybody not on his campaign’s payroll and/or angling for a plum job in his administration (or at least some over-priced consulting work).


Photo from Kari Chisolm
used under Creative Commons license

BO editor Kari Chisolm kicks it off with this gem: “I’ve known Jefferson Smith for 12 years…. I’ve never known Jefferson to lose his cool or act in a violent or threatening manner.” Never mind that this is contradicted by a public record of acting violent and threatening going back almost two decades.

Jesse Cornett, the guy who single-handedly destroyed Portland’s public financing of elections by running a singularly lousy campaign on the public dime, can’t think of anything clever to say, so he just calls McDonald a “fcking a*hole.”

Mark Bunster, erstwhile BO competitor (with a blog nobody remembers), pigeonholes McDonald with the biggest insult he can think of: “See what happens when you let bojack people out into the light?” Evidently, Bunster’s still butt-sore from being fully pwned by Portland’s cranky megalomaniac blogger-in-chief.

Then comes Carla Axtman who is (or was) on Jefferson’s campaign payroll, but doesn’t see fit to disclose it. (Since BO basically comes down to bottom-feeder Democratic political operatives arguing among themselves on behalf of their respective employers anyway, this should surprise no one.) Carla apparently fancies herself a “writer” and lets loose with some florid prose in defense of her man. “Rarely do we get to see this sort of unintelligible BS blend so spectacularly with pontificatory jackassery.” Now this is funny, because, uh, Pot, meet Kettle, and also, I can just imagine her polishing that turd for half an hour or more before depositing it on BO.

On Twitter, Jefferson’s campaign staff took umbrage when OPB radio host Dave Miller questioned Smith. “Dave Miller: How are you diff. from when you were 20?” To which the Irony Department replied, “Yeah, Dave, when did you stop punching women in the face?”

Which is what this all comes down to. Smith’s supporters are all over Twitter and blogs defending him, saying how much he’s changed since then. Here’s somebody who punched a woman in the face 19 years ago, but can’t quite admit it, and who continues to lose his shit and punch people, and who can’t understand that approaching his victim will likely be perceived as an act of aggression. And we’re supposed to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that 39-year-old Jefferson Smith is a totally different person than 20-year-old Jefferson Smith.

Echoes of child rapist Neil Goldschmidt’s story are abundantly clear in all of this, as sycophantic supporters, with complete disregard for the physical and emotional safety of his victim, close ranks around a volatile candidate who has obvious untreated “issues.” All in the name of how “progressive” Smith is.

(I’m not sure when women’s rights were dropped off the prog agenda, and, yeah, I know, Charlie Hales used to be a Republican. Worse than that, he’s totally in the pocket of Homer Williams and the Portland gentrification mafia — just like Sam Adams, Vera Katz, et al. Don’t delude yourself into thinking those fuckers wouldn’t get to Smith in a New York minute if he got elected, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, you might expect your elderly male relatives to not get this basic concept: It’s never okay to hit a woman. Period. Debating this with Portland “liberals” and “progressives” would be precious if it weren’t for the fact that some of us are tired of telling our daughters It’s a man’s world; get used to it.

There are real victims in this story. And Jefferson Smith isn’t one of them.

[Disclaimer: I don't live in Portland proper anymore, so I don't have to hold my nose in this election, even if I'll be holding it after...]

What is Portland’s most Awesome!-ist Web site?

by Steve, June 19th, 2012

Portland may have a shortage of affordable housing, family wage jobs, diversity, good public schools and trustworthy leadership, but there is one thing in ample supply: enthusiasm about how great Portland is. There are any number of white people with blogs who want to tell you all about it!

So, herewith is our list of Portland’s Top Ten Most Awesome!est Web Sites! (As measured by Google hits on the word “awesome.” See, Portland also seems to have a shortage of thesauri.)*

Number 10: Byron Beck is beyond Awesome! (and he probably owns a thesaurus); consequently he barely tips the meter with 203 Awesome!s.

Number 9: Food Carts Portland suffers an unexpected dearth of Awesome!ness with only 283 Awesome!s. (We think this might be a technical problem with Google.) This site is self-described as “an ode to Portland’s food carts,” with a focus on the “positive,” though “we will always be honest in my findings.” (We try to be honest with my findings, too, even when they don’t support our preconceived notions.)

Number 8: You wouldn’t expect grouchy megalomaniac blogger BoJack to score high on the Awesome! scale, but you might be surprised. Maybe it’s by sheer volume, but in his approximately 36 years of tossing out red meat for libertarian gubmint haters, he and his followers managed a respectable 526 Awesome!s. (There used to be a blog called “Portland’s Future Awesome!” that was a direct response to BoJack’s crankiness, but I think they ran out of exclamation points and had to shut down!)

Number 7: Willamette Week scores a middling 663 Awesome! points.

Number 6: The shameless political bottom feeders at Blue Oregon clock in with 807 on the Awesome! scale. You might think it would be higher, what with their shilling for paid clients and all. But then they try so hard to be taken seriously. (Erstwhile wannabe BO competitor Loaded Orygun shut down and nobody noticed, so we can’t even do a query there.)

Number 5: Silicon Florist is a continual gush about how cool the Web and mobile app startup scene is in Portland (never mind the thousands of engineers working at Intel and Tektronix and the like in the actual Silicon Forest), so you’d think they’d score higher than 853 Awesome!s.

Number 4: Urban Honking, the Portland blog nobody ever heard of that once hosted a lame sycophantic blog nobody read called Portland’s Future Awesome!, takes it to the next level with 2,500 Awesome! points.

Number 3: The party rockers at PDX Pipeline up the Awesome! with 5020.

Number 2: The alt weekly Portland Mercury serves the hipster demographic, so it’s hard to know what to expect. On the one hand, they try to come off as jaded. But they also like to appear ironic. Despite that, they’re some of the biggest suckers when it comes to gentrification polices shrouded in the Awesome!ness of sustainability, bikes, pop music, fashion, public nudity or gayness (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The results? A whole next next level with 27,000 on the Awesome! scale!

But what’s the singular, most incredibly Awesome!est Web site on the scene?

Portland, I give you the inspiration for this whole ridiculous Awesome! exercise…

Number 1: Bike Portland, with an Awesome! 52,500 Awesome! points. How can Bike Portland beat the closest contender by a nearly two-to-one margin of Awesome!? We don’t know… Maybe because everything is Awesome! when your majority white male demographic wields out-sized policy influence at City Hall. (Now listen, take it easy, I’ve been a white male Portland metro bike commuter since I moved here in 1989.)

Disclaimer: This study is non-scientific. Actual Awesome!ness may vary. Some Awesome! sites we’ve never heard of were probably omitted. Our own Portland blog, which nobody reads, was never even in the running, with a mere 52 on the Awesome! scale (not counting this post, which still wouldn’t put us in the running). The only people who will read this post are my wife and people with Google alerts set up for mentions of their Awesome! Web sites. Yeah, that’s right, I’m looking at you.

Why Beaverton should support BSD

by Steve, May 16th, 2012

schoolsWith the independent Beaverton School District facing cuts of 344 teachers and five school days, budget committee member Susan Greenberg suggested asking the City of Beaverton to help out.

It’s a tough time to be asking for money from anybody, but here’s why Beaverton should say yes.

Beaverton’s recently approved urban renewal district will siphon $150 million (plus interest) of property tax revenue away from schools, county services, parks and public safety. About 40% of that –$60 million — would otherwise go to education, but will instead go to benefit businesses in the downtown core of Beaverton.

(Through a complex quirk in Oregon’s broken school funding system, property tax revenue collected on behalf of local school districts is remitted to the state’s central education fund, then doled back to local districts on a per-student basis. This was the logic the school district used when approving the UR district; most of the revenue loss is spread out across the entire state. But this doesn’t change the fact that the city of Beaverton is diverting some $60 million of Oregon education money for the benefit of a small number of business owners.)

The city of Portland has used and abused urban renewal extensively over many years, but they have also helped out the school districts in Portland from time to time. Most recently, Portland struck a deal to pump some $5 million into Portland Public Schools to stave off cuts there.

Beaverton School District is facing much deeper cuts than Portland because they’ve used reserves to stave them off longer. Obviously the city of Beaverton isn’t going to pony up $37 million. But they could at least offer something — anything — to help lessen the blow to our children. Beaverton schools are, after all, the main reason families move to Beaverton (and not, say, Portland proper, or Gresham). They’re not moving here for the “downtown core,” I can assure you of that, and a $150 million facelift there isn’t going to change that.

So how about it, Denny Doyle and crew? A little help?

History Lesson

by Steve, April 25th, 2012

schoolsI’ve maintained a two-year public silence on Portland Public Schools, after devoting countless hours to speaking out and finally deciding to get my kids out of harm’s way. Not everybody has that option, of course, which is why recent events cause me such grief.

The school board’s decision to close two North Portland schools is deja vu all over again. Here’s a little history lesson for the board members who evidently don’t know — or don’t give a shit. (Dates are approximate; I don’t feel like looking them up. Feel free to leave corrections in comments.)

  • 1982: Harriet Tubman Middle School founded as part of a comprehensive desegregation plan pushed by the Black United Front. Middle schools, you see, draw from a wider population area than K-8s, reduce segregation, and allow for more curriculum with less money. Who knew it could be so easy?
  • 1990: Oregon voters pass Measure 5. Universal art, music and PE are cut in PPS. Schools with adequate enrollment and fundraising (i.e. rich schools) are able to maintain some of these “enrichments.”
  • 1996: Oregon voters pass Measure 47, further limiting school funding.
  • 1997: Oregon voters pass Measure 50, reiterating their desire to continue choking off school funding.
  • Early 2000s: A student transfer lottery is instituted. Superintendent Vicki Phillips embraces a free market enrollment policy and encourages schools to compete with one another for enrollment. As Portland’s black neighborhoods gentrify and get whiter, their schools are drained of enrollment and funding as white students transfer out. Phillips also decides to close most middle schools in poor neighborhoods, and revert to the K-8 model that was done away with by the 1982 desegregation plan (and which costs more while delivering less). Tubman middle school is closed, and the Jefferson cluster is left with no middle school. Facing budget cuts, the Phillips administration closes many schools, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods, and the Neighborhood Schools Alliance rises up to oppose her. Future school board member Ruth Adkins emerges as a strong voice in defense of neighborhood schools. Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt and Marshall High Schools are sliced up into rigidly divided “small schools” pushed by corporate philanthropists (notably the Gates foundation).
  • 2007: As part of the Jefferson re-re-design into Gates “small schools,” Harriet Tubman is re-opened as the all-girls Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
  • Late 2000s: Vicki Phillips departs for a job with Gates and is replaced by Carole Smith. It’s become painfully obvious that the conversion from middle schools to K-8s has suffered a catastrophic lack of planning. Schools like Humboldt, already hurting for enrollment, are unable to offer anything resembling a comprehensive middle grade program. The district’s response: these schools must increase enrollment. But who wants to send their kid to a school that offers so much less than other schools? The district ignores the writing on the wall and refuses to re-examine its ill-fated decision to abandon middle schools in poor neighborhoods.
  • 2012: A majority on the school board, including erstwhile neighborhood schools advocate Ruth Adkins, votes to close Humboldt and Tubman due to low enrollment. Converting Tubman back to a comprehensive middle school and Jefferson K-8s back to K-5 is not even considered. Balancing enrollment (e.g. via reform of the transfer policy that drains enrollment from Humboldt) is also not considered. Rebuilding Whitaker Middle School (as was once promised, years ago) is definitely not considered. Apparently the current superintendent and school board are completely ignorant of the 1982 desegregation plan — not to mention completely unwilling to address the inequities wrought by their open transfer enrollment policy — and believe poor and minority students can learn better if we close their neighborhood schools.

This isn’t just about closing a couple more schools in North Portland. This is part and parcel of a continuing history of institutional racism in Portland Public Schools. Humboldt and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy were set up to fail several years ago. There was never a model in place to support a comprehensive middle grade program in K-8 schools, especially those with enrollment drained by the self-reinforcing death spiral of the open enrollment system (the majority of students in Humboldt’s catchment area — 57% — transfer out). And there was never a funding plan for the “small schools” model once the Gates grants ran out; the YWLA is the last one standing.

This week’s board vote was the inevitable outcome of bad leadership decisions over the past decade (ya can’t say we didn’t tell ya so), and official indifference to issues of race and poverty (even as the district makes much of its “equity” and racial sensitivity programs).

I realize it’s none of my damn business now, having moved out of the district two years ago in disgust. Except it’s everybody’s business how we educate our children, and it’s everybody’s responsibility to speak up about injustice when they see it taking place.

And this, my friends, is some serious injustice being dropped on the heads of North Portland’s children.