Monday, December 31, 2007

Back to work

I've taken a break from blogging over the Christmas season. A new year is about to begin, and I'll be getting back to more regular posting.

For the last post of the year, I just have to give a reaction the the completely idiotic editorial in The Funny Paper yesterday about South Waterfront and the Tram. Hat tip to Steve Schopp, who sent an e-mail out yesterday that I have adapted for this post. Steve knows much more about the whole fiasco than I do, and so I have pasted significant portions of his e-mail below.

The Funny Paper says: Bring on the bridge! The Tram is such a success, we just HAVE to add a pedestrian/light rail bridge over the Willamette!

They Tram is a success? By what measure?

We are told the city had to pay "only $8.5 million" for its share of the Tram cost overruns. While negotaitons and politicking by City Commissioners to finish the tram proceeded, millions of dollars in cash payments to OHSU and developers miraculously appeared in SoWa budgets. Those cash payments, under various line items such as jobs accelerator, econominc development and biotech research, have grown to over $50 million to OHSU and many millions more to the developers in SoWa.

So much for the city's small Tram share.

The Funny Paper is still propagandizing that the Tram triggered the $2 billion development in SoWa, which echoes the past lie that 10,000 biotech jobs would be created by the public investment in the district.

Here's complete fabrication: the editorial says "Oregon Health & Science University has completed one research building on the South Waterfront". Anyone who has been paying attention to SoWa knows that first OHSU building in SoWa is not a research building at all. It is an OHSU doctor's owned, tax exempt, clinic, doctors offices, administration offices, a lavish health club with some token components to accomodate some future research if ever needed.

So disconnected from reality is this piece that it never so much as makes a passing reference to the fact that OHSU recently announced that 1) they are losing upwards of $50 million a year, requiring that they scale back research spending, and 2) they are $60 million short of equipping and staffing the big research building recently completed on pill hill. That building was funded with a $200 million bond.

The bottom line? The Tram did not trigger anything but a park and ride lot in SoWa and an extensive cover up of the real public costs.

OHSU has placed a huge bet (at public expense) on the SoWa district, and in the process put fiscal stability at risk. The 10,000 biotech jobs were a scam, a sexy rationale that never had any basis in anything resembling reality, but which The Funny Paper endlessly touted.

Instead we got doctors offices and a high rise condo jungle, scheduled to be completed just in time for the biggest condo glut since the 1970's.

And The Funny Paper says we should spend hundreds of millions more on toy projects, because "money miraculously seems to be attracted to worthwhile projects effectively presented". There is nothing miraculous about elected officials directing funding towards boondoggles while basic infrastructure crumbles and our road system turnss to gridlock. It's irresponsible.

This is in the face of huge cost overruns for the existing SoWa build out, along with hundreds of millions in unfunded road infrastructure needs including, (but among many others) the $60 million unfunded greenway along the river, $200 million unfunded Sellwood Bridge replacement, $50 million I-5 ramp and the $650 million unfunded street maintenance backlog.

The Funny Paper editorial board has lost any pretense at credibility.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Funny Paper hit piece

For years we’ve been reading “Monday Profiles” in The Funny Paper, where they publish a fluff piece on some certified interesting person around the town. The person they choose is almost always some cultural or political liberal, and the treatment they receive is uniformly positive.

But today, The Funny Paper did one of their Monday profiles on a conservative. Randal O’Toole, who just published a book that is scathingly critical of Portland’s planning class. Did he get their famous Monday profile fluff piece? HA!

No, that treatment is reserved for people The Funny Paper wants you to like. People such as New-Urbanism activist Chris Smith, bike advocates, school activists – you know, people who have the “correct” views – they get the kid gloves.

Critics of land use policies? Well, The Funny Paper uses its Monday Profile to let everyone know in no uncertain terms that we should not take them seriously.

Consider the opening of the article, the set-up, where writer Anna Griffen so evenly and without bias provides a glimpse into Randal O’Toole’s persona:

“Slap a Bible in his hand and O'Toole could easily pass for a frontier preacher. He has the look, if not the Good Book: a stern, tight-lipped expression, an impressive display of graying facial hair, a wardrobe that tends toward simple black suits and looping Western-style bow ties.

He has quite the homily to tell with his slides, a story of righteousness vs. sin, of good guys and bad guys and the long-term consequences of bad judgment and poor choices. Bashing Portland has become a cottage industry, and O'Toole is its leading figure.”

Oh, thanks for the neutral introduction, Anna. Thanks for the heads up that nothing this frontier preacher has to say needs to be taken seriously. She hurries to tell us that O’Toole has it all wrong:

“Times are flush in Portland. Planners and civic leaders from around the world come to see how we do it. The New York Times can't stop writing about how great we have it, whether we're sipping tea, buying big vacation homes or biking to work. Although the housing market has cooled, Portland hasn't suffered the same steep decline as the rest of the country. “

Times are flush? I thought Sam Adams wanted a tax increase to pay for the huge backlog of street maintenance? If the NYT likes Portland’s planning culture, well, then what could Randal O’Toole possibly have to say?

Nothing that needs to be listened, to, she so very carefully points out:

"Yet the people in power say they don't take this would-be shadow government very seriously. Homer Williams, one of the city's most prominent developers, called O'Toole "an idiot" in the Daily Journal of Commerce. Ethan Seltzer, head of Portland State University's urban planning department, wonders why anyone would waste time writing about O'Toole -- or even listening to what he has to say. "

Can you imagine any such quote about one of The Funny Paper’s liberal activists finding its way into the story?

And how about this:

"He's crafted a complicated narrative to explain the Portland region's evolution into a national smart-growth darling: Once upon a time…”

Oh I get it, he is just telling fairy tales about how Goldschmidt started the whole light rail thing going in Portland. Again, no reason to take him seriously. He doesn’t analyze what happened, he “crafts complicated narratives.”

Then she so evenly presents the two competing visions for Portland (in a batant example of the liberal’s favorite logical fallacy, the fallacy of the false alternative:

"Vancouver [BC] is, of course, the urban planner's dream city, sleek and sophisticated, laid out as carefully and creatively as blown glass. Houston is the planner's nightmare, a sprawling monster of a town with no zoning code and a love affair with the automobile."

No bias in these two descriptions! Then she says:

Judging from recent elections, most Portlanders would rather trade in their Keens, give up their microbrews and swear off fleece than live in Houston. Portland's annual survey of residents suggests that most like where the city is headed, even if they might prefer a quicker commute or cheaper real estate."

Oh really, Anna? Is that why Portlanders twice voted down light rail lines, but got them shoved down their throat anyway? Is that why Measure 37 passed overwhelmingly?

Nowhere in this article did the writer so much as pretend to consider any of O’Toole’s substantive critiques of the effects of planning on Portland. The high housing costs, the congestion, the pollution. What could have been an interesting profile of a very interesting person with well researched and well considered conclusions was instead just another dismissive hit piece, intended to silence the contrarian view rather than present it so people can consider it.

Typical Funny Paper.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Interesting article in The Funny Paper today about the efforts to engage Hispanic students at Centennial High School.

The pathetic dropout rate and achievement levels of Hispanic kids in Oregon has been well documented, and Centennial is trying to figure out ways to get these kids engaged, both socially and academically.

The good news is that an increasing number of Centennial Hispanic kids seem to be engaging, according to the article. If Hispanics are this century’s immigrant story, like the Irish and Germans of the 20th century, it is essential that they assimilate into our culture, and become Americans in both thought and deed.

But guess what? The article explains that the primary motivating factor and social organizing point for these kids is the MEChA Club, whose membership has tripled, making it the second largest student club at the school.

What’s wrong with that? Far from encouraging assimilation, the ideology around which MEChA was formed in 1969, which is has quite unconvincingly distanced itself from nowadays, is overtly racist, separatist, and anti-American.

Quoting “FrontPage Magazine:”

MEChA is an acronym for "Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlán" - Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan. The goal of Aztlan is the secession of the Southwest U.S.A., which it calls Aztlan. The MEChA Constitution clearly calls for "the struggle for the self-determination of the Chicano people for the purpose of liberating Aztlán".

Another key document , "El Plan de Aztlan", states that "Aztlan belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent....We declare the independence of our mestizo nation...Nationalism as the key to organization transcends all religious, political, class, and economic factions or boundaries.

Nationalism is the common denominator that all members of La Raza agree upon." The MEChA slogan "Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada" (Everything for the Race - Nothing oustside the Race) -what is that if not racism? According to Miguel Perez , mechista of Cal State Northridge, "The ultimate ideology is the liberation of Aztlan....Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled....opposition groups would have to be quashed because you have to keep the power." "National revolution" was the theme for the 1997 MEChA conference, which called for becoming " a nation within a nation with a national plan of action as new soldiers in our struggle for national independence and an emerging XICANO nation."

Simply judging from its own documents and statements, MEChA is a racist, anti-American separatist hate group, and actually shares much in common with such groups as Aryan Nations, and the White Aryan Resistance, another California-based organization."

The Funny Paper article somehow neglected to so much as breathe a whisper of this information, oddly enough. I wonder if a bunch of rural white kids were re-energized by school due to a growing membership in a White Aryan Nation club, The Funny Paper would studiously avoid mentioning the club’s ideology?