Portland’s “arts tax” smells fishy

by Steve, October 22nd, 2012

electionOn the ballot in Portland is measure 26-146, which supporters say would “restore arts education to Portland schools.” Hey, great idea (and full disclaimer, I don’t vote in Portland, but I’d probably vote for it if I did), but there are some significant questions to consider with this $35 head tax.

  • Why can’t Portland schools fund universal access to K-12 music education like Beaverton schools do (with the exact same funding per student from the state), and why should the city bail PPS out (again)?
  • Why does only a little over half of the money go to schools with the rest going to RACC’s friends?
  • Why a regressive (and possibly illegal) head tax to the city instead of an operating levy to the district?
  • Why does it spread equal resources to rich and poor schools instead of focusing on the schools that need it the most?

The answer to the first question is tightly linked to the last question. Portland Public Schools has for years shifted funding out of its poorest neighborhoods to its wealthiest neighborhoods. The result is wealthy, white students have largely maintained arts education while non-white, poverty-affected student have lost it. This is the direct result of attendance policies implemented over the years by the school board. They should be held to account for it.

The PPS school board should be ashamed that this flawed measure is even on the ballot. It shows their total lack of ability to run their district in an efficient and fair manner. Yes, the state does not provide enough funding, and that should be dealt with. But this is not the way to do it.

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 I’m 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...]

Thin-skinned journalists who schmooze with the powers-that-be

by Steve, October 2nd, 2012

The Oregonian clings to the outdated 20th century charade of objectivity, even while nagging their reporters to get with social media, and even while editors and reporters continue to socialize with the people they’re supposed to be covering. (The pretense of “objectivity” is, in the end, just another way of comforting the comfortable.)

It’s well known that former editor Sandra Rowe and late editorial page editor Bob Caldwell partied with child rapist Neil Goldschmidt. Then there was golden boy reporter Tom Hallman taking gifts from Andy Wiederhorn, the subject of a Hallman puff piece who later plead guilty to federal tax charges.

Now, with twitter, the schmooze fest between reporters and the powers-that-be is occasionally revealed in all its quaint naiveté, as when self-absorbed columnist-cum-beat reporter Anna Griffin glibly invited the mayor’s deputy chief of staff over for brunch.

The thin-skinned part comes when she’s called out on this…

…and then blocks the twitter user calling her out.

Of course, anybody can continue to see (and laugh at) her tweets (variously begging for story ideas, telling scatological stories on her child or just creating found poetry), which, as has been pointed out, don’t necessarily fit with Bhatia’s pleas to use social media to drive traffic to the O’s comically horrid Web site.

And, as one reader notes, “All her stories make me go WTF….” Just another “Digital Day” in the life of a soon-to-be unemployed hack writer.

Schadenfreude

by Steve, June 22nd, 2012


Even though I don’t live in Portland anymore, I spilled some bits trying to keep Eileen Brady out of City Hall, mainly based on having crossed swords with her distinctly anti-union husband, Brian Rohter, while working for him in the 90s.

Brady was the first to declare, raised (and spent) a ton of money, had the support of the business community, and was the early front-runner. But she was ultimately eliminated in the May primary. She spent $1.3 million and took only 22% of the vote. Willamette Week notes this all-time spending record comes out to a whopping $46 per vote.

(About $31,000 of that scratch went to none other than BlueOregon publisher Kari Chisolm’s Mandate Media, which took close to $17,000 of public finance money from Jesse Cornett’s third place city council run in 2010. “In a rational universe,” one astute observer remarked to me, “Chisolm might develop a reputation as an over-priced loser.” But Portland is many, many miles from any kind of rational universe — see, for example, “Goldschmidt, Neil, continuing political influence of.”)

Willy Week published this map showing precinct-by-precinct results. Despite her massive spending (and Kari Chisolm’s campaign work) Brady only managed to win two (very small) precincts city-wide (marked blue on the map).

View Larger Map

I would guess that Brady, who floated trial balloons for a US Senate run in 2008, is done with electoral politics. The same can’t be said for the Kari Chisolm clown show. I’m sure they’ll keep taking money from clueless candidates and delivering virtual bupkes.

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.

Stupid, stupid Oregonian

by Steve, May 17th, 2012

You know I’ve repeatedly dinged The Oregonian for failing to “get it” with new media. Like that time back in 2009 when they were experimenting with Reddit (right about the time the rest of the world was big time on Twitter and Facebook) and everybody got excited because they could get their links on the front page of the local daily’s Web site.

All the SEO morons were loving it, because they could drive a ridiculous amount of traffic to their clients’ sites really fast. Many people clicking through links on the Oregonian Web site didn’t even realize they were going to third-party content, as evidenced by this comment on a post I wrote about buying a new car (for another crappy outfit that didn’t really get new media).

Sure, it was juvenile, but when I punked The Oregonian (and their hack reporter Bryan Denson), there was a point to it. We also had fun putting other links on the Oregonian’s front page under the heading “Today’s hottest links,” like “No Arguing With Assclowns On The Internet Day” (Nancy’s brainchild) and “Oregonian: a Day Late and a Dollar Short”.

(Reddit, by the way, is owned by Advance Publications, which also owns The Oregonian and its ugly Web step-sibbling, OregonLive. No wonder it sucks so hard.)

Some time in the past few years (I don’t know, I don’t bother with their clunky Web site much), they got hip with the Twitter program. I noticed this yesterday when checking election results.

Take a closer look at that Twitter feed:

Heh heh heh. Ohhh…. You fracture me, Oregonian.

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.

The Schnitz

by Steve, April 8th, 2012

The Schnitz