Portland off the road, stuck in a snow drift… Who’s in charge?

by Steve, December 26th, 2008

Stuck in a driftIt’s a well known fact around Portland that an inch of snow can shut the town down. So what happens when we get a series of storms over two weeks dropping over a foot of snow and ice? Bedlam.

A lack of equipment, which is usually only needed once a year or less, is compounded by a lack of strategic planning and tactical expertise. While in other major cities efficient snow removal is a political issue that makes or breaks politicians and high-level bureaucrats, in Portland we have the Marion Barry approach. His infamous snow removal system? The sun.

In Portland, we depend more on the jet stream to swing back north, bringing us warm, wet Pacific storms like the one currently looming, threatening flooding as it melts off several inches of snow and ice.

But while we wait for the flood to clear the snow and ice, the city has been shut down to various degrees for two weeks.

So, who’s in charge?

There’s TriMet, running public transit across three counties and several cities, at the mercy of the various state, county and city transportation agencies for snow removal. They kept the blue line light rail running, but shut down the yellow and red lines for various periods during the storm. All bus lines had significant delays, and many routes were canceled completely for days. Their Web site at least had reasonably up-to-date information, as did electronic reader boards at transit stations.

Metro picks up the trash, but their Web site offers no information on delays of trash pickup (already interrupted by the Christmas holiday). Are the trucks running today? Our cans are in the snow bank by the curb, waiting.

The storm caught Portland during during the final weeks in office for mayor Tom Potter. You can’t expect much from a lame duck mayor, but where’s Sam Adams, incoming mayor and, notably, current commissioner of transportation?

You might expect a reassuring message to the citizen’s of Portland in the midst of the worst winter storm in decades. Instead, we hear Adams paraphrased on our hysterical (in both senses of the word) TV news that there are no snow chains available in Portland. With the sight of snow flakes striking abject fear into the hearts of Portlanders, that’s not the kind of message you want to send as a leader.

(Here’s a funny parody of our local television “storm team” coverage).

The exceeding rarity of this much snow on the ground may excuse a certain amount of chaos, but there are many things Portland could do better, even with its limited budget and its small, aging fleet of 50 snow plows. Sure, it costs money to be prepared for the occasional winter storms we get around here, but what’s the economic cost of shutting down the city for two weeks?

Mainly we’re lacking leadership and communication. What’s the plan, who’s going to implement it, and what are we going to do if it doesn’t work out? If this were any other city, the 2008 Christmas Storm would be considered Sam Adam’s first test of leadership… and he would be getting failing marks.

What’s going to happen if we have a real crisis, like a major earthquake? Will we have leadership, or is it every fool for himself in Portland? The way things have gone over the last two weeks, I sure hope, for the sake of us all, that the Adams administration isn’t presented with that kind of leadership challenge.

The big thaw

by Steve, December 25th, 2008

Global (spherical?) warming

Merry Christmas!

by Steve, December 25th, 2008



by Steve, December 22nd, 2008

Stand off
(The cat won.)

Solstice greetings!

by Steve, December 21st, 2008


Planned and unplanned outages

by Steve, December 21st, 2008

Due to ever-increasing visitor loads, the server that hosts this blog (and a few others) is no longer able to keep up. Coincidentally, our router is failing. And we’re dealing with snow and ice in Portland, which could easily lead to prolonged power outages.

A new, more powerful server is on order for the new year, and a new router should be installed in the next two days. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if we’re offline from time to time in the next couple weeks!

It just keeps coming

by Steve, December 20th, 2008

Ten p.m. drift

Holiday drink recipes for Nan

by Steve, December 20th, 2008

A couple variations on kid favorites for the grown-ups for Nan who was expecting drink recipes from Wacky Mommy.

Snow Snake

  • Hot cocoa
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Whipped cream
  • Creme de menthe

Add a shot of schnapps to a cup of hot cocoa. Top with a mountain of whipped cream. Drizzle a line of creme de menthe around the whipped cream (that’s the snake). Sip carefully and keep away from the kids!

Shirley Tavern

The working title for this has been “Dirty Shirley”, which I like for the assonance/alliteration (what do you call it when it’s both?) but it’s not dirty like a martini.

  • Vodka
  • Grenadine
  • 7-up
  • Ice
  • Maraschino cherry

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add a splash of grenadine, a shot (or more) of vodka, top of with 7-up and garnish with a cherry. Serve to your lovely wife and pour a shot of vodka on the rocks for yourself (I’m partial to Grey Goose.)

The snow so far

by Steve, December 20th, 2008

We got another inch or so last night, with the big blast still pending… 6-10″ predicted for the valley floor, over a foot for the gorge (and tons more for the mountains).

The snow so far

Piling on Fritz and VOE

by Steve, December 16th, 2008

With Amanda Fritz poised to be sworn in January 3 as a pioneer in Portland’s public campaign financing, voter owned elections (VOE) skeptic Jack Bogdanski threw some red meat to his libertarian right readers last week.

Bogdanski simply notes the amount of public money spent, $482,227.79, which is enough to whip up a tempest in his comment teapot. He does not mention that this amounts to about 84 cents per citizen of Portland, and, for whatever reason, he refuses to see any value in displacing private money in our elections (including that of his arch nemesis, uber-developer Homer Williams) with a little scrap of well-regulated public money.

Meanwhile, on his OregonLive Portsmouth neighborhood blog, Richard Ellmyer asks of Fritz “Was she worth it?” and suggests we should base the answer to that question pretty much entirely on whether she joins him in his monomaniacal opposition to the lease of the former John Ball school site to Portland Hope Meadows, a non-profit, intergenerational housing project.

Say what you will about New Hope Meadows, Fritz is going to have a lot more than that on her plate come January 5. I’m willing to at least let her get sworn in before rendering judgment on whether she was “worth it.”

VOE allowed Fritz to focus on running a street-level campaign that is probably unprecedented in modern city council history. She ran a completely positive campaign and enrolled the help of countless volunteers. She is clearly different kind of candidate, and we wouldn’t be getting her voice at the table if not for public financing.