Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another story, another key tidbit buried

Today's Oregonian includes a story by Kathleen Gorman on Washington County's backlog of transportation projects. The story is interesting in its depiction of the county's thought processes concerning road building, but it also buries a key component about that thought process.

The story says a study group has identified $1.8 billion in road maintenance and new projects over the next 14 years, but the group expects less than 40 percent of that total to be available for funding. However, if you read closely, it says (emphasis mine):
The cities and county government have identified $1.8 billion in new road-building projects through 2020, but can count on only about $700 million in funding from the county general fund and developer-paid fees on new construction.
In other words, the cities have their wish lists, but they expect the county to pay for them.

The most interesting aspect to me was the county's solution for how to make up the other 60 percent of funding: the second paragraph said that, assuming the participating parties agree on road priorities, the county could send a tax levy to the November 2007 ballot. Why? Because almost two-thirds of respondents in a 2006 survey said transportation "was the county's most important growth-related challenge." Of course, one-third of those surveyed identified education as the second-most-important challenge, never mind that the county has no role in education funding.

But even though the county is considering a tax levy, let's look at what the respondents -- those who favored more money for transportation -- actually said when given a list of potential income sources:
Fees on new development..................70 percent
Assessment on commercial trucks....55 percent
Business income tax............................45 percent
Gasoline tax increase..........................33 percent
Way down on the list, the story says "others" thought money could come from tolls on major freeways, property taxes, or personal income taxes. Translation: those were the least favored options.

So what does this tell us? Survey respondents like roads, but want someone else -- builders, truckers, businesses -- to pay for them (never mind that those fees will be passed on to the consumer). And the county might consider builder traffic impact fees on builders, but otherwise will ignore the survey and ask for more personal taxes.

Oh, and by the way -- that list of priorities for income sources? Paragraph 15 in a 16-paragraph story. The Oregonian seems to be developing this habit of starting its stories with a claim, but that claim doesn't hold up once you read through the entire story. In this case, Washington County is discussing a tax levy as the preferred method to solve its transportation issues, but it turns out that -- despite Gorman's claim that the survey "showed there might be some support for a tax increase" -- the survey actually showed that tax increases are way down on the list.

Finally, I found it interesting that the fourth and fifth paragraphs quote County Commissioner Roy Rogers:
"People say you're always asking for money," Rogers said. If voters don't want to approve a tax increase, he added, that's OK, "just don't say later that things aren't working."
Translation: stuff costs money, and if you don't want to give us more of yours, then don't complain about things.

I'd argue that if two-thirds of county residents believe road improvements are the most important growth-related challenge, maybe the county should consider rearranging its budget to accommodate those results. Maybe the county should force cities to come up with cash, not just a wish list. And maybe the county should avoid telling taxpayers -- the people who pay the county's bills -- to shut up if they're not willing to pony up more taxes.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

For the last several years, I've looked for a book that told the Christmas story in a way that my young daughters could understand. Not finding such a book, I decided to create the Ken translation describing the blessed event. It's drawn from the books of Luke and Matthew in several translations, as well as an online commentary.

I wish you a blessed Christmas full of the significance and glory of the season!


Mary was a teenage girl living in the country near the town of Nazareth. She was a smart girl, and wanted to do whatever God asked her to do.

Mary had promised to marry a young carpenter named Joseph, and they planned to have children after they got married.

One day, the angel Gabriel visited Mary. Gabriel said, "Hello, Mary! You are a special girl, and God loves you."

Mary was confused and scared by the angel, and she wondered why he was there. Gabriel said, "Don't be afraid! God is very happy with you and has a special surprise: he will soon place a baby inside you, and you will become the mother of a baby boy. His name will be Jesus, and he will be called the Son of God. He will be great, and God will make him king, just like King David. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end."

Mary asked the angel, "How is it possible for me to have a baby? I’m not married!"

The angel answered, "God's power can do the impossible. The Holy Spirit will place this baby inside you. Nothing is impossible for God!"

Mary said, "I will do anything God asks me to do. I am ready for the blessing you have told me about." And the angel left her.

Joseph was about 20 years old. When he learned that Mary was going to have a baby, he decided to call off the wedding, because he knew he was not the father.

While Joseph was thinking about this, he fell asleep, and he dreamed about an angel. In the dream, the angel said, "Joseph, God put the baby inside Mary. God wants you to marry her. When the baby is born, you should name him Jesus. He will show his people how to get to Heaven."

About that time, the emperor ordered all the people to travel to their hometowns so the government could count them and list their names in record books. King David had lived in Bethlehem, so Joseph — who was related to David — had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted.

As Mary and Joseph planned to get married, Mary went with Joseph. It was a long three-day journey covering 90 miles, and was even harder because the baby inside Mary was almost ready to come out.

When they got to Bethlehem, the city was so full of people that they could not find a room at the local hotel and had to sleep with the animals in the barn. Shortly after they arrived, their baby was born, so Mary wrapped the baby’s arms and legs in cloth to keep him warm, and placed the baby in a box full of hay.

That night outside the city, some shepherds were guarding their sheep. Suddenly, an angel appeared, blinding them with a bright light. The shepherds were scared, but the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. Just moments ago in Bethlehem, a Savior was born for you. He is God’s son. When you find a baby lying on a bed of hay, you will know you have found him."

Then, many other angels came down from heaven and joined together to praise God.

After the angels went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go into town and see if we can find this child." They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

The shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said. Everyone listened and was surprised, but Mary kept wondering what it meant.

As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they realized that everything happened just like the angel described, and they praised God, saying wonderful things about him.



Friday, December 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

Troutdale City Councilor Robert Canfield -- noting a Medford Mail Tribune article asking if the Medford City Council was violating the state's open meeting laws -- claims that the Troutdale council tries to follow the letter of the law. But, he notes, it hasn't always been that way (emphasis mine, because it made me laugh):
I've heard that once upon a time, previous Troutdale city council members did indeed decide issues prior to public meetings. There were many 7-0 votes. Some people say that 7-0 votes are a sign of a smoothly running city council. Consensus and all the huggy feely sentiments that go with that kind of thinking are, with all due respect to you consensus fans, a load of crap. A consistent pattern of unanimous votes is evidence that decisions are being made prior to a public meeting.
As someone who sometimes worked as a reporter covering small city councils, I can say that it's easy for them to violate such "Sunshine" laws if they want, because there's really not too much oversight by citizens or the Fourth Estate. I also believe most small-town councils want to follow the law and don't have enough power to tempt them to do otherwise, but for those few ne'er-do-wells, the law (and the oversight) is important.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Confusion on the Interstate Bridge

James Mayer of the Oregonian writes today about a new poll showing a huge jump in Clark County support for extending light rail north of the Columbia River. The poll, to be released today, shows more than two-thirds of Clark County residents favor the extension, a big change since those voters defeated light rail 11 years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.


There are a couple of problems with the story, some with the reporting and some with the data:

The first problem reflects, in my opinion, either reporter bias or bias by his source. The story leads with increased Clark County support for light rail, but nine paragraphs later you learn that those polled prefer to add vehicle capacity first (35 percent), followed by adding vehicle capacity together with a mass transit option (28 percent), followed by extending light rail (19 percent).

In other words, the poll may show support for light rail to Vancouver, but not if it doesn't include expansion for vehicle capacity. Sorry, Rex Burkholder, but most people don't share your disdain for people who drive and the vehicles they own -- they think money spent on vehicle transportation is critical.

The second problem is in the polling itself, as well as the Columbia River Crossing Project that commissioned the poll. As the story said in paragraph 4 (emphasis mine), the CRCP:
. . . proposed removing the existing bridge and replacing it with a new bridge that would include three freeway lanes in each direction and either light rail or a dedicated bus lane.
The poll found that 76 percent of those polled "favored adding a third lane to I-5," implying that the lane would be added to the Interstate Bridge or a replacement bridge.

What's wrong with those things? The Interstate Bridge already has three lanes in each direction!

Yes, portions of I-5 narrow to two lanes elsewhere in Portland, and that needs to be addressed.
But that wasn't the question. So the question essentially framed to ask if voters wanted to keep the bridge at the status quo for vehicle traffic and add a mass transit option. Those polled may have thought they were indicating support for more vehicle traffic, but it sounds like they were really tricked into giving the thumbs up for extending Burkholder's bicycle utopia into Washington.

(One caveat: the actual poll is not available online, so once I see the questions, I reserve the right to revise my story about the last issue. It may have been that the poll was broader than simply the I-5 route over the Columbia River, but at this point it doesn't sound that way, considering that the group specifically proposes a new six-lane bridge.)

Now, watch the CRCP use this data to proclaim public support to spend tax dollars on a light rail bridge without doing a thing to improve vehicle traffic. As a spokeswoman for the project said in the final paragraph of the story:
. . . the survey results confirm that the public generally supports their efforts and that critics who charge officials from Olympia and Salem are trying to force a solution that residents don't want are wrong.
No, really. They have the data to "prove" it.

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PC 'Holiday' Greetings

For My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings, you are accepting the aforementioned terms as stated. This greeting is not subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself/himself/others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

For My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quote of the Day: Bush's Support vs. Blindness

Today on The Corner, John Podhoretz of the New York Post makes an important observation about President Bush's management style -- namely, that he's so intent on supporting the people who work for him that he sometimes takes that too far and blindly allows them to run their particular show.

This is showing itself in the Iraq War, where Bush continually says he's following the leadership of the military leaders. Recently, the State Department and Pentagon (among others) have been promoting troop increases in Iraq; but Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, are arguing against such increases.

Podhoretz observes (emphasis mine):
As a student of management — and Bush is a student of management — he believes in setting goals and then providing unquestioning support for the organizations who are responsible for reaching those goals. The problem is that too often he has confused supporting the titular heads of those organizations with support for the organizations themselves.

Thus, in an effort to demonstrate how central he believed the CIA was to the war on terror, he stood behind George Tenet long after Tenet should have been cashiered. I think the same might have been true about Norm Mineta when he was secretary of transportation. And, most notoriously, we saw this at work in the days after Katrina, when he told FEMA incompetent Michael Brown that he was doing "a helluva job." Hundreds -- thousands -- of government workers from the Coast Guard to the lower echelons at FEMA were indeed doing an amazing job. But Brown was doing a horrible job, and the praise Bush offered seemed not only out of touch, but also demeaning to those who were working 24 hours a day without sleep pulling people off roofs.

And then, of course, there are his generals. It seems clear that the titular leaders of our military have long subscribed to a doctrine that says victory in Iraq has little to do with American action against armed Iraqis. Victory will only come with political progress, they believe, and we're there to give the Iraqis room to achieve the political progress that will save the day. In other words, they don't quite believe this is a war that can be won.

Bush has listened to them. But there are other voices from Iraq — voices of the day-to-day military, thousands of them too, who believe what they are doing is noble, that they are fighting for the right cause and that they can achieve victory over the bad guys if they are permitted to do so.

Supporting the military doesn't necessarily mean supporting the generals. It can also mean supporting the troops in the field by letting them win this war. If the president can separate his correct belief that the military needs his unconditional support from a belief that this means he needs to accept the recommendations of generals who are living examples of the triumph of hope over experience, we can win this thing.
I think Podhoretz is right. The Iraq plan has, for a while, displayed the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, hoping for different results. It's time to do something differently, and since I believe a troop withdrawal would be disastrous for both the Iraqis and our country, something else has to change

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday sports rants

Topic No. 1: The San Francisco Giants
As a long-time Giants fan, I was hoping they would do two things in the off-season: improve their pitching by keeping Jason Schmidt and signing another decent starter, and bidding a fond adieu to Barry Bonds.

Instead, much to my chagrin, they signed Bonds for one year at $16 million, meaning he's taking up a fifth of the club's salary in the hopes that he will hit another 21 home runs to catch Hank Aaron, and draw fans who want to see him do it. In the meantime, he (again!) shows he's not a team player -- he could have taken a much smaller contract (it's not like he needs the money) to allow the Giants to pursue some pitching, but instead he took a whopping $2 million less than last year (a year, by the way, in which his 42-year-old knees couldn't handle the AT&T Park outfield duties).

I can't wait to watch Barry Bonds hobble uselessly after fly balls to left field, knowing that we could have used $10 million from his salary to make the team more competitive. I can't wait until his records are asterisked in the books because of his steroid use, thereby proving it's all about Barry.

I also went into convulsions when I read that, not only were the Giants not going after the free-agent Schmidt (their ace pitcher, sporting a 78-37 record since coming to the Giants in 2001), but he had signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, for Pete's sake! You can't be a Giants fan and like the Dodgers. In fact, I'm pretty sure you have to hate the boys in blue.

I like Schmidt, and I like that he's a Northwest boy, but I hate his decision.

So, I sulk. Grumble grumble.

Topic No. 2: The Jesuit High School football team
The Crusaders, who won the state 6A title on Saturday, were a juggernaut. Their closest challenge was an 11-point victory over Lake Oswego in Game 3 (the latter team, by the way, lost in the state semifinals).

They won their 13 games by an average score of 49-9, never gave up more than 21 points, and recorded four shutouts.

But what really caught my eye was the fact that Jesuit will lose 41 seniors from this year's team, but thanks to their ability to recruit (Jesuit is a private school, after all), they will probably contend for post-season honors in 2007 as well.

Topic No. 3: The Bowl Championship Series
I've written about the stupidity of this topic here and here, and don't really have anything I can say to improve on those posts. I still want a playoff, and even if Ohio State beats Florida in the BCS championship game, it will cap off an unbeaten season but it will not be a "true" national title.

That said, I think the American sports-watching public is growing tired of the BCS. This is the first year I can remember hearing sports announcers dissing on the BCS by noting that every other level of college football manages to overcome its obstacles to settle the title on the field.

And I will say one other thing: this year's BCS was a perfect example of what's wrong with the BCS: the voters didn't want Michigan to be in the title game, so they voted against the Wolverines and in favor of the Florida Gators in the polls, and that pushed Urban Meyer's team past Lloyd Carr's and into the National Championship.

In other words, it was a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, not a football game.

They say you can't put lipstick on a pig and make it something more attractive. Someday soon, I hope they'll stop pretending the BCS represents the public's desires as the true determinant of a national champion, and they wipe the lipstick off the BCS pig.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Why does John Kerry even think of running again?

The Gallup organization recently did a poll in which it asked, "What comes to your mind when you think about John Kerry?" The answers, given by the respondents in order of the percentage of people giving them:
% Answer
13 Nothing/Not familiar with him/No opinion
12 Already lost/Had his chance
7 Don’t like him
6 Dishonest/Don’t trust
6 Wishy-washy/Too indecisive
6 Other
5 Poor choice for candidate
5 Poor speaker/Needs to think before speaking
5 Weak/No backbone
4 Traitor/Disloyal to military
And finally, after a majority of the respondents gave a negative impression of John Forbes Kerry, we have the first positive answer:
4 Would make a good candidate
Other traits included Unintelligent, Phony, Incompetent, Conceited, Uptight and Pushy. With that list of impressions, and considering almost two-thirds of the answers were negative, why would John Kerry ever think about running again for president?

Oh wait, the answer is probably in the list above, starting with "Conceited" and continuing with "strong-headed."

(HT: The Corner)

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dear Pearl & SoWa: Kiss off

That seems to be the message from MetroFi and the city of Portland, which flipped the switch Tuesday on their fancy dancy wi-fi network.

While huge chunks of inner Northeast and Southeast (from the river to almost 30th, and from north of Broadway to South of Hawthorne) are covered, the same can't be said of the Pearl District or the new South Waterfront District.

The downtown chunk of Wi-Fi coverage stops at Burnside on the north end (except for a couple of slivers that run up Northwest 10th and 13th) and leaves even Portland State University in the wireless wilderness by stopping cold at Market Street on the south side.

That's not to say the Pearl and SoWa couldn't be covered by expansion down the road, but I find it surprising that the two "up-and-coming" areas of downtown are not covered by the free wireless network

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Syncing house christmas lights to music: redux

In the last few weeks, I've been getting several hits looking for this post from last year. Unfortunately, the link has gone bad, so I found it on YouTube.

It's thoroughly cool, especially the music (a song called "Wizards in Winter" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra).

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Quote of the Day: the Iraq Study Group

National Review's Rich Lowry, who pulled yeoman's work reading through the entire report, notes that page 51 of the report lists Libya "as an example of a rogue state we constructively engaged." He continues:
But Libya played ball with us for a very important reason: it was frightened. Unless and until Syria and Iran think there is some serious downside to defying us, they will keep doing it, whether we try to talk to them or not.
I agree, and find nothing to indicate that either Syria or Iran think they have anything to worry about.

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