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Posts tagged as “portland”

First take/Wheeler

Usually, the presumption for re-election goes an incumbent when the incumbent hasn't done a horrible job or isn't mired in scandal. Portland's Charlie Hales, who is up for re-election next year and expected to seek a second term, has neither of those problems, and has been more or less what he was sold as the first time: A stable, workaday mayor. And he could be re-elected against any number of other contenders. His odds for next year don't look so good against Ted Wheeler, though. If Governor John Kitzhaber hadn't flamed out earlier this year, giving the 2016 gubernatorial advantage to now-incumbent Kate Brown, State Treasurer Wheeler would likely have been the front-runner for governor in 2018 (even though he would have been termed out of office by then). His work has been praised as both competent and innovative at each of the offices he has held so far, as treasurer and as chair of the Multnomah County Commission (his easy election to which showed the already-existing depth of his local support). He has expertise in financial management and a policy palette that makes him appealing to a range of Democrats, a strong combination for Portland. When he announced, he said this: "I’m running for Mayor because I don’t believe we can be a progressive city unless we’re making real progress for the people who need our help the most. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening today. I know we can do better and when I’m Mayor, we will do better." That may sound like boilerplate for a campaign announcement, but his background and track record actually put some meat on those bones. A good many Portlanders recognize that already, which is a big reason Charlie Hales has abruptly become the guy in second place scrambling to keep his job. - rs

First take/California

The hottest recent Oregonian story as measured by heated comments must be the piece about the vandal who's been slapping "No Californians" stickers on house for-sale signs. After the story made its way down to California, a bunch of Californians responded with the predictable "we'd never want to move there anyway" type comments. Some of the idea behind it may come from worries about gentrification and costs of homes, especially in the Portland area, being driven upward; although prices of homes in California are more widely variable than many people think. (San Francisco's through-the-roof prices aren't typical.) Some may have to do with ideas about who these Californians are; but in a state with tens of millions of people, who can say what's a typical Californian? The biggest fact about California is that it's big, and diverse, and the variations are vast. Of course, if you want to go back to the Tom McCall pull-up-the-drawbridge approach, covering entrants of any kind, that would be another argument entirely. - rs (photo/Alfonzo Jimenez)

First take

What's your demonym - for your community, that is? Subject came up at the Salem Statesman Journal, where a write pointed out that few people seemed to know what to call a resident of Salem. Salemite? That seemed to be the closest to a consensus, but it's not commonly used there. It doesn't trip off the mind the way Portlander or Seattleite or even Boisean do. Could have something to do, the article seemed to suggest, with the way people look at the community: Demonyms probably come up more easily when people like to talk about themselves as community residents, and while Salem is a nice community (underrated, I think), there is an in-the-shadow-of feeling there. No, they're not Portland, but then they don't have to be. Our town here, Carlton, is far smaller than either Salem or Portland, but the self-description of Carltonian flows easily.

The Chappelle revolution

Dave Chappelle at Pioneer Square

Yesterday, a remarkable thing happened. The comedian Dave Chappelle came to Portland, and told (by his estimate) four people he planned to show up at the downtown Pioneer Square sometime past midnight, and give a quick performance. He figured word might spread a bit, and that maybe a couple of hundred people might show up. Early in the afternoon, he fought some sound equipment to accommodate the event.

The owner of the store where he obtained the equipment promptly logged onto Twitter, and tweeted about Chapelle's plans. Word shot around the Portland Twittersphere, and when Chappelle showed up about 1 a.m., not 200 but thousands - estimated around five to six thousand - were there to greet him. And he delivered a short show, or tried to given the technical limitations.

The remarkable thing, of course, was not Chappelle's unusual appearance (he has a history of unpredictability) but the fact that a web of individual communications - not any form of mass media - resulted in the crowd. The story of his appearance turned up everywhere from the banner lead in the Oregonian to Huffington Post.

After the fact.

You get the sense that a page is turning.

Portland hate

Interesting singling-out of Portland in a recent blog post by the economist Paul Krugman:

"As I noted a while back, a lot of anti-environmentalism in America these days is about symbolism. And I think the same thing is true about pro-sprawl commentary. Consider the case of Portland, Oregon. Conservatives really, really hate on Portland; examples here and here. Aside from the tendency to engage in factual errors, the hate seems disproportionate to the cause. But it’s an aesthetic thing: conservatives seem deeply offended by anything that challenges the image of Americans as big men driving big cars."

The long death of local radio news

Via Oregon Media Insiders, a report on what's happening to news reporting at Portland's radio stations . . . except, of course, that all of those terms need some redefinition, since there won't be any local news reporting out of Clear Channel's Portland stations. Or Spokane's. Or various others, either.

From the site All Access: "In the plan distributed to stations this month, the local Operations Manager is considered the "owner" managing local news for the market, communicating with the hub "anchor markets" on quality control and providing feedback as well as alerting the anchor markets to breaking news. Local OMs will also have to provide the hubs with local pronunciation guides and develop partnerships with local TV stations and newspapers to gather sound for news reports. The plan advises local OMs to train existing staff, including producers and board operators, to provide content and notify the hubs of key stories, and to do additional newscasts outside hours handled by the anchor markets."

In other words, it'll all come from San Francisco.

The death spiral continues . . .

A stadium that crosses the line

Lents

Lents Field visualization

There's a longish list of public-backed sports arena proposals around the Northwest we've thought might be fine ideas as private facilities, not so good as business ventures essentially backed by the taxpayers. So the first reaction here, when Merritt Paulson (owner of the Portland Beavers and Timbers and - should this be a red flag? - the son of former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) proposed a partnership with the city to turn downtown Portland's PGE park into a major league soccer field, was skepticism.

We'd have to say at this point it remains a difficult call, and the hard time that three of the five Portland council members had with it seems entirely reasonable. The 3-2 vote was indicative of how close a call this could be.

Mayor Sam Adams and Council member Randy Leonard, and others around town not least including the Oregonian, have been on a hard push for the project. (Of the three other council members, only Dan Saltzman joined Leonard and the mayor to push it through.) The O's editorial arguing in favor pointed out that Seattle and Vancouver (B.C.) appear likely to have major league soccer teams, as part of a sport that seems to be expanding, and Portland could benefit from being part of that - "If the Portland city commissioners say goodbye to this deal, in effect, they'll be consigning Portland, nationally, to the nosebleed seats."

Such arguments sound wonderful if there's enough private support in town for the entertainment facility, but why should non-soccer fans be on the hook? Well, the advocates make a better-than-usual case for that. Some of that relates to an infusion of money and jobs at a time those things are much needed. The area around the PGE field could use a little rehab, and a fresh major league operation might do that; there is some urban development and geographic logic to this. (Paulson also has agreed to fork over directly a substantial chunk of the implementation costs; much of the rest would be made up through ticket and other fees.) But it also centers around the city's very limited liability: "In the unlikely event that Major League Soccer foundered, Paulson and his family company would make payments on the city's loans. Not only are they willing to backstop the deal, they're willing to absorb a hefty dose of cost overruns," says the Oregonian. Sounds almost as if what the city is really being asked to do is not a lot more than acting as a low-risk co-signer.

That's not quite all, of course. Willamette Week has a series of countering points, noting for example that many of the financial projections for the project come from Paulson's court - not from an independent city review - and that several other cities have dropped out of the race for major league soccer. Several of those are points worth more serious address.

This will take a while to get done, if something else doesn't slow or stop the process. It bears a close look. Albeit, a hopeful one.

The unhappiness metrics

Kari Chisholm does a nice deconstruction at Blue Oregon on the Business Week ranking of "unhappiest" cities in the country, and placing Portland at the top - a proposition likely to generate more guffaws than anything else from most Portlanders.

These national "best," "worst," and so on lists of metro areas around the country are mostly ridiculous beyond measure, mainly because of the metrics they use. (An honestly subjective list probably would be a lot better.) They doubtless make for nice handles for magazine articles, where lists are often prized, but almost never should they be taken seriously. That "almost" is there because someone, someday, may come up with one that's truly meaningful. We're not counting on it . . .

Adams: Staying, for now

Word this afternoon that Portland Mayor Sam Adams is hanging in there, scandal notwithstanding, brings to mind a structural comparison with a politician from another state, former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

Yes, there's the common element of disputes related to gay sex, but there are numerous differences besides that - and the point is a different one. The point has to do with the supposed inevitability of scandal>resign, or be thrown from office. The point is that the inevitability is not always there.

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It happens that way, of course, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being maybe the most spectacular example. But what first looks inevitable sometimes looks less so with time. A decade ago, the resignation of Bill Clinton as president after the Monica Lewinsky affair was widely thought to be inevitable, and ouster by impeachment was considered a very serious prospect. But he finished out his term.

The Craig comparison may be more pertinent. Think back to August 2007, to the explosion that greeted news of Craig's "disorderly conduct" arrest in the Minneapolis airport. Within a day or so, the common wisdom was that Craig would quit. This blog bought into that, briefly: "Our initial thought (on hearing the news reports 24 hours ago) was that, since his arrest in a Minneapolis airport mens room had little to do with his work as a senator, he might be able to ride it out, at least through this term (though re-election seems a lot cause). We no longer think so: While Craig is very unlikely to be forced out, conditions are deteriorating so quickly that his staying may soon become impractical."

But we also wrote not long after that Craig could stay if he chose. After all, there are no recall provision for U.S. senators; the only way he could be thrown out was to be expelled by the Senate, and since he broke no major laws (just a misdemeanor), that was highly unlikely. And while his clout in the Senate would be diminished if he stayed, he retained his vote, his grasp of how to work in the Senate, his staff and his public platform. That apparently is how Craig read it, when days later he announced that he would finish out his term. Which, earlier this month, he did.

Mayors, those in Portland included, can be recalled - the only way an elected official in Oregon can be made to leave. But not until six months have passed following a swearing-in, and weeks would pass after that before an election actually would be held.

Will the current Adams fury last that long? If Adams turns out to be a pretty good mayor in the months from here to there, will the anger be hot enough for the voters to fire him?

Maybe. But in the meantime, while circumscribed and while suffering some diminished clout and reputation, Adams would retain the prerogatives of office, his highly sophisticated grasp of how things work in Portland, and some (albeit not all) of his useful political relationships. (Of course, as Steve Duin's Thursday Oregonian column suggested, Adams would be wise to not stand in the way of any attempt to recall him, and should - at least publicly - welcome the verdict of the voters later this year.)

Taken as a whole, Adams' call on this sounds not so drastically different from Craig's, and from Clinton's. How well will it work? Check back in six months . . .

Adams’ survivability

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Our first take on the scandal storm surrounding Portland Mayor Sam Adams (now a national story) was that it was significant but probably survivable, on grounds that his actions has no involvement with the handling of his current office. There also seemed to be a limit to the water torture effect: What else could come out to keep the story alive, to justify ongoing headlines?

As we get into Day 3, though, the question of Adams' survivability is moving rapidly in new directions, and becoming a lot less clear. There's an accumulative piling on effect, and it could make Adams' position untenable in short order. There are four factors here: The fact that he lied; that he lied about the whole case in response to charges from a fellow candidate for mayor, developer Bob Ball, which led to Ball's statements being dismissed as untrue; acknowledgment that another part of his story (relating to mentoring) was untrue as well; and the appearance at least that as a city council member he hired away a reporter at the Portland Mercury who was working on the story, essentially to quash it. The line between private activity and abuse of office has gotten a little blurrier.

There's a recall effort underway; the grounds: "1. Alleged illegal sexual misconduct with a minor under the age of 18; 2. Alleged ethical misconduct during his mayoral campaign of 2008 by making false statements; 3. Alleged ethical misconduct by encouraging others to lie about his own misconduct; 4. Alleged ethical misconduct by awarding city jobs to members of the media that were reporting, or were professing to report, this issue." That effort is somewhat stymied, though, because under state law elected officials cannot be recalled until they have served at least six months in office.

Although there's been no specific allegation of an illegal act, a state attorney general's inquiry is under way. Multnomah County is doing likewise.

And the news media is all over the story. The print Oregonian this morning had six news stories about Adams' scandal this morning - probably more space devoted to it in the local section than to everything else there put together - along with an editorial concluding: "He's already said he doesn't plan to quit, but we submit that it is not in the city's interest to have a mayor who cannot vouch for his own character under fire. He should resign." The Portland Tribune called for resignation too. And so have piles of letters to the editor around the area.

Can Adams ride this out, or is he being swamped by the storm? Today, even though a resignation may be the only way he would depart, his odds of survival in office much longer look a little less than even.