The question of whether the city's water, sewer and stormwater utilities are mistreated is endlessly complex—far more nuanced than the talking points you're likely to hear as a vote on the management of the utilities draws closer.
Those will include the city's bad decision to build a Water House with utility money, and the fact that rates have shot up — 73 percent for water bills, 79 percent for wastewater—in the last decade. Not that those things shouldn't be considered. It's just they're not the only things.
Which is a long way of saying: If you've got a little time to burn and an urge to better understand the issues surrounding this debate, you could do worse than to read the report just released by a City Club of Portland committee.
Over the course of six months, the 16-person committee says it reviewed "volumes" of material and interviewed 31 sources. And after all that—beyond forming a cogent, helpful summary of where Portland's public utilities stand—it came up with some firm conclusions.
•The proposed Portland Public Water District up for a vote this May isn't the answer.
The measure would create a new seven-member board to assume control of the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services. That board would remove cronyism from the rate-setting process, advocates claim, and ease the strain on consumers. But the City Club committee says that's probably not the case.
"While the proponents appear to believe that a new governing entity independent of the City will be able to lower rates, your committee sees nothing in the measure that will guarantee that," the report reads. "Rates will continue to be subject to upward pressure regardless of the utilities’ governance structure"
That's because the big jumps in rates have been primarily dictated by unfunded federal mandates like the Big Pipe project that keeps sewage out of the Willamette River and Columbia Slough. Exasperating expenditures like the Water House play a role, too, but it's vastly smaller, the committee says.
Certainly the cost of projects such as the Water House has had an effect on customers’ bills. And your committee questions whether the full scope of the misuse of funds has come to light. But the non-mission-critical expenses identified in the past few years are small in comparison to the price tag of massive projects such as the Big Pipe and LT2 (the so-called Long Term 2 requirements forcing the city to cover its open drinking water reservoirs) compliance. The Big Pipe project by itself cost more than $1 billion, and the cost of building covered reservoirs will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. These are among the major drivers of rate increases.
A Multnomah County judge is expected to rule in the near future whether certain projects partly funded with ratepayer money were inappropriate. A 2011 civil suit against the city has asked that money be paid back.
•And Portland's sewer and water systems are old. Like the city's streetscape, we're probably not replacing the pipes below it at a fast enough clip. But those projects cost money, which necessitates debts that we—the ratepayers—have to pay off over time. And so the rates have risen, and they're anticipated to continue to rise.
•Importantly, though, the committee also found Portland's rates aren't as wildly divergent as some would suggest. The report notes "a recent independent survey of combined water and wastewater rates for both residential and commercial customers shows that Portland's rates are generally comparable to those in other large cities on the West Coast."
•But the committee, like the Portland Business Alliance recently, says the status quo is due for a change. Portland's water and sewer rates have theoretically no upper limit—unlike the property taxes that help fill city coffers in fat times and leave us scrounging in the lean—and so are prone to potential abuse as city leaders look for money, the report says.
So the committee recommended the city establish a "Portland Water and Sewer Authority," a body of experts that's answerable to council, but which has final say on how the water and sewer bureaus spend their budgets. City Council would still have power to approve or reject utilities' budgets, and a city commissioner would be charged with appointing members of the new authority. But individual line items would be up to the group, not council.
"City Council members may advocate for particular projects during the budget setting process and before the Authority submits a budget for approval," the report says. "The Authority will be responsible for determining whether each such proposed project meets the stated criteria for delivery of utility services."
It's a different solution than that offered by the PBA, which suggested the formation of a "municipal corporation" in which all five city council members have equal control of the utilities.
The report was released to reporters on Thursday, with the understanding nothing would be published until Friday (a pretty standard ask from the City Club when it releases these things). But the Portland Tribune mistakenly published a story about the findings online briefly on Thursday. It was the only account of the report Kent Craford, a chief proponent of the new water district on the May ballot, had seen (his group, Portlanders for Water Reform, refused to be interviewed by the City Club committee).
Craford didn't want to talk about the report without reading it himself, but did critique the new "water and sewer authority" it proposed. To undertand his comments, you need to know the committee was chaired by Chris Liddle, a manager at Portland General Electric, and that former Mayor Sam Adams is now the City Club's executive director (though the group makes a point of noting he does not influence its research).
"You've got a committee of city contractors, chaired by a monopoly utility executive, staffed by a former mayor, recommending a committee of City Hall appointees oversee our water and sewer bureaus," says Craford. "That to me is not a recipe for reform. I appreciate that they're acknowledging the problems, but establishing a PDC (Portland Development Commission) for water and sewer—that doesn't address the issues."
You can find a list of all the committee's conclusions after the jump.
On February 11, Mayor Charlie Hales unleashed a tirade of rhetoric aimed at a group that is both suing the city and backing a campaign to take Portland's water and sewer utilities out of City Council's hands.
"The anti-environment funders behind this suit are also behind a ballot measure to create a new layer of government to run the environmental services and water utilities," the mayor was quoted as saying in a news release. "If the facts aren't with you, and the law isn't with you, unlimited corporate money is a wonderful thing. It can be used to attack Portland's environmental investments again and again and again. It you don't like green programs, these are the best attacks money can buy."
It was by no means a surprising take from Hales, who's spearheading a campaign opposing the so-called Portland Public Water District. But it turns out the mayor never said it.
His spokesman and speechwriter, Dana Haynes, came up with the comments. Hales was a continent away.
"I crafted the quote and shared it with the mayor via email to South Africa," Haynes wrote this week to a Secretary of State's Office employee looking in to the release. "He OK'd it. This is a standard method used in our office for many quotes."
That "standard method" may have bearing on whether Hales' office violated Oregon law. As an elected official, the mayor is free to make comments on political campaigns, so long as he doesn't use public resources to do so. But Kent Craford and Floy Jones, chief petitioners behind the Portland Public Water District, say that's exactly what happened in the case of the February 11 release.
The pair filed a formal complaint with the state the next day, claiming Hales violated a state law prohibiting public employees from promoting or opposing political measures "while on the job during work hours."
"The PPWD campaign has requested Secretary of State Kate Brown investigate and demand an immediate halt to Hales' further abuse of office," the campaign said.
The February 11 press release actually centered on an upcoming hearing in the case of Anderson v. City of Portland, in which angry ratepayers are demanding the city pay back utility revenues spent on projects they argue were improper. Beyond Hales, it quoted Commissioner Nick Fish as saying the lawsuit "lacks merit." But it also folded in references to the water district measure, which would create a new seven-member board to control the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services.
"The high-powered corporate lobbyist behind this lawsuit also represents the chief petitioners in a corporate-funded ballot measure to strip the City of its Environmental Services and Water bureaus," the release said.
On February 19, Secretary of State elections staffer Alana Cox sent Haynes a inquiry letter about the release. It asked, among other things, if Haynes had written the document, who else was involved, and for background on the quote from Hales.
Haynes said officials decided to send out the release on February 3, in a meeting involving Fish, BES Director Dean Marriott, water bureau Director David Shaff, Hales aide Jackie Dingfelder, staffers in Fish's office and two city attorneys. The topic of the release was to be the court case, he said.
"After I drafted the press release on Feb. 8, 2014, City Attorney Tracy Reeve and Deputy City Attorney Terry Thatcher read the press release in a draft form and in a final draft form, and offered legal advice regarding the law suit, which I adopted," Haynes wrote. "Commissioner Fish also read the press release and offered wording advice, which I adopted."
Haynes says he wrote the release on February 8, a Saturday, "when City Hall and city offices were closed because of snow and freezing rain."
Asked if he was "directed" to issue the release, Haynes said no. "I offered to write the press release. Mayor Hales was in South Africa at an environmental conference."
Two of Cox's five questions centered around the Hales' quote, which comprised the sixth paragraph of the press release. Was Haynes directed to include it? It what context was it made?
"The topic of the press release—and paragraph 6—is the law suit against the City," Haynes wrote. "The people behind the law suit also are the people behind a ballot measure. The point of Paragraph 6 was to bring that to light."
Portland Police Association Daryl Turner has answered a jolly announcement late Friday that the Portland Police Bureau, as part of federal reforms and a new contract with the police union, was putting in place a new matrix meant to help the chief of police and his team mete out appropriate discipline for police misconduct.
In a statement to his nearly 1,000 rank-and-file members sent out yesterday, Turner accused Chief Mike Reese of publishing a discipline guide that hadn't been fully vetted by the union, despite talk of collaboration. Turner also says the bureau isn't mentioning something important about the guide: that it's merely advisory.
During bargaining and mediation sessions with the City, the PPA came to an agreement with the City regarding the use of an advisory discipline guide. The advisory discipline guide would be used primarily by the Police Review Board as an advisory tool for sustained allegations of misconduct when recommending discipline to the Chief. To memorialize the terms of this agreement, Mayor Hales and I signed a Letter of Agreement.
The two key provisions of the Letter of Agreement are:
1. that the discipline guide is an advisory tool, and
2. that the advisory discipline guide does not change the just cause discipline standard under the collective bargaining agreement.
During the past two weeks, the PPA and representatives from the Chief’s office have discussed changes that the PPB wishes to make to the advisory discipline guide. The PPA opposed the changes. Those issues had not been resolved when, on Friday, the Chief sent a Bureau wide email without further conversation with the PPA regarding the PPB’s implementation of the advisory discipline guide, which includes provisions that the PPA opposes.
Turner, in an interview, said he wouldn't get into details about differences, because he expects further discussions with the city on the guide. But he did repeatedly mention how important he thought the advisory nature of the guide is.
"It doesn't override our collective bargaining agreement," Turner says.
The full statement is after the jump.
Hey, remember February 7? Those were the heady days of SNOWPACALYPSE Y2K14, when man and mongrel were laid to waste in a frozen hellscape of ice and frost. The release party/show for the local punk compilation Anarchy in Little Beirut was scheduled to occur that night at Ash Street, but needless to say it was canceled.
The show has been rescheduled for this Saturday, March 8, and here is the flawlessly written writeup that appeared in the paper, lightly amended:
ANARCHY IN LITTLE BEIRUT: THE THORNES, WHISKEY DICKERS, SECND BEST, THE EX-GIRLFRIENDS CLUB, & MORE
(Ash Street Saloon, 225 SW Ash) In just under an hour, the new Anarchy in Little Beirut compilation CD crams 21 of Portland's brashest, snarliest, snappiest punk bands into a definitive snapshot of the current state of PDX punk. (Spoiler: The state is fast, loud, rip-snorting, and surprisingly diverse.) The tracklist runs the gamut from local legends to young upstarts—Monica Nelson and the Highgates, Vodka Wilson Overdrive, the Thornes, and the Ex-Girlfriends Club are just some of the many names on the back cover—and tonight 10 of those bands celebrate the CD's lurching, ear-damaging release into this world. Best of all, the $7 cover charge lands you a free copy of Anarchy in Little Beirut to take home. NED LANNAMANN
The verrrrry funny Inside Amy Schumer returns to Comedy Central at 10:30 pm on April 1st, and here we have an unsurprisingly verrrrry funny sketch from the season premiere, in which Amy contracts herpes, and then gets into an argument about it with God (played to perfection by the brilliant Paul Giamatti). Also? Jean shorts! Watch.
From the New York Times:
The Senate on Thursday rejected a controversial bipartisan bill to remove military commanders from decisions over the prosecution of sexual assault cases in the armed forces, delivering a defeat to advocacy groups who argued that wholesale changes are necessary to combat an epidemic of rapes and sexual assaults in the military.
The measure, pushed by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, received 55 votes—five short of the 60 votes needed for advancement to a floor vote—after Ms. Gillibrand’s fellow Democrat, Senator Clare McCaskill of Missouri, led the charge to block its advancement. The vote came after a debate on the Senate floor filled with drama and accusations that Ms. Gillibrand and her allies were misguided...
Several Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, supported the Gillibrand proposal, and expressed deep frustration with the military’s failure to stem the number of sexual assaults. Congress began scrutinizing the sexual assault problem in the military after a recent series of highly publicized cases, including one at the Naval Academy, and after the release of new data from the Pentagon on the issue. On Sept. 30, 2013, the end of the last fiscal year, about 1,600 sexual assault cases in the military were either awaiting action from commanders or the completion of a criminal investigation.
Critics of the military’s handling of such cases say that the official numbers represent a tiny percentage of sexual assault cases, while Ms. Gillibrand said that only one in 10 sexual assault cases were reported. She and her supporters argue that forcing sexual assault victims to go to their commanders to report cases is similar to forcing a woman to tell her father that her brother has sexually assaulted her.
Because commanders often know both the victims and the alleged abusers, Ms. Gillibrand’s supporters say, victims often shy away from reporting abuse. Military commanders, they say, have not proven themselves able to deal with the issue.
I'm so angry I can't actually process it effectively enough even to RANT about it. This shit is unacceptable.
Police Chief Mike Reese has been pushing back hard against a controversial city council staffing study that suggested, as a worst-case scenario, cutting 23 police command positions as a way to save the city $2.5 million.
The study, overseen by Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, looked at supervisor and employee ratios in the city's workforce, a statistic also known (wonkily) as the city's "span of control"—but focused heavily on the Portland Police Bureau. It was first published yesterday, by the Mercury, though it's been a touchy subject in city hall and in the Portland Police Bureau for several weeks.
Reese, in a memo (pdf) sent to Novick and Fish last Friday, said he wanted to wait for a separate, independent, and police-focused staffing study before making any changes. That study, he wrote, is close to starting—with a contractor about to hired. The chief didn't pull punches when warning what would happen if the city council moved forward on the current report before then. He says it would imperil federally mandated reforms currently sitting in front of a federal judge.
Several Bureau sworn command positions require command officers due to the experience, scope and complexity of the positions, and the need to provide executive-level oversight and accountability. Examples of such positions include (but are not limited to): the Operations Branch Executive Officer, the Professional Standards Lieutenant and the Force Inspector. The nature of this work is critical in our law enforcement agency. The study’s proposed reductions in supervisory positions will severely impact accountability and oversight of Bureau operations.
The elimination or demotion of supervisory positions in the City’s span of control study is also directly counter to several of the recommendations in the settlement agreement between the City and the DOJ. A key focus area of the DOJ agreement is increased oversight and accountability.
Reese's memo was released today by Mayor Charlie Hales' office, following reports on the staffing study by the Mercury and then the Portland Tribune. Reese appears to have some backing from the mayor, who oversees the police bureau as police commissioner. A statement released by Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, thanked Fish and Novick for the report. But it also thanked Reese for providing such a detailed response. And, most importantly, it included the following line:
Obviously, more debate is called for in regards to the Portland Police Bureau and other bureaus as well.
OKAY, CHEAPOS! Here is your very last chance to win tickets to what has been called, "objectively, the best event ever"—okay, fine, I was the one who called it that, but I'm right. IT'S THE MALT BALL! Read all about it in detail here, but in short, it's a two day festival featuring tons of awesome bands (such as Genders, Summer Cannibals, Red Fang, and many more) paired with the finest local craft beer makers (such as Widmer, Fort George, Burnside Brewing, and many more). You get a glass mug, a handful of tokens, some awesome beer, and some amazing bands... I ask you, WHAT MORE DO YOU REQUIRE???
Oh, of course... you want it for free. Well, okay—but only if you're really lucky! While I still advise you to buy your tickets here, here's your FINAL opportunity to win a PAIR OF TWO-DAY FESTIVAL TICKETS. Deadline is noon tomorrow, and be sure to tweet it or like it on Facebook to gain even more entries. Either way, WE'LL SEE YOU AT THE MALT BALL... this weekend!!
For anyone still suffering from PTSD thanks to Cameron Diaz's unbelievably awful turn in The Counselor, here's some terrible news: She's in another movie! Specifically the Annie remake produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith, who in a perfect would would be collaborating on... I don't know. Not this? A movie based on "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper," maybe. He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, This Is a Movie. Anyway, you'd think if Jay-Z was going to remake Annie he'd turn Annie into something moderately enjoyable, but based on the trailer, this Annie looks exactly the same as any other Annie, despite starring the goddamn delightful Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild. And Cameron Diaz. Consider this your Cameron Diaz trigger warning.
Wait, my mistake, that was a video you actually might enjoy. Here's the Annie trailer.
Maybe it's the weather but emotions seem to be running high on this week's Mercury Letters page:
—First, the latest last word on fluoride via Jann is that when it's natural.., it's ok! And on a related note, antidepressants are "horseshit." Whatever, man!
—Robert really did not like the two sentences we published on the PIFF film Ida, which elicited a rather florid response on his part, accusing us of insulting everyone from the director to the Polish people and "the millions of people who died." Why does it seem like there's something else going on here?
—This business with the cops and their semi-secret (not anymore!) policy targeting the homeless is not going sitting well with folks, unsurprisingly enough. David says that "If you can't see this as anything less than a tool for cops to harass anyone they don't like the look of—homeless or otherwise—then you are most likely a fucking snob yuppie douche, who just can't stand those pesky homeless people who beg for your change after you buy that $6 latte from Starbucks on the way to your soul-sucking corporate cubicle." ... But tell us how you really feel.
—And then someone stepped to Ann Romano, and that never goes well. The fans came out in defense (they always do!), with Peyton making the ironclad argument that "Non-psychopaths actually read One Day because, unlike you, we do have the ability to care about Miley Cyrus and find it important to keep up with her latest antics." So there!
No really, tell us how you really feel.
Portland might get Google Fiber, which would be a pretty big deal—but amidst all the talk of blisteringly fast internet speeds, there are a lot of questions. How much would it cost? What would Google get out of it? Why is Portland on the short list? Will everyone be able to use Google Fiber, or could this jump in the city's technological infrastructure end up leaving some people behind?
The answers to all of those questions—and more—can be found in the feature Denis and I wrote this week. If you use the internet and live in Portland, you should read it.
Ordinarily, the OG keeps their taps under strict supervision, but starting at 4 pm, GoodLife Brewing is taking them to the prom for the most magical night of their lives. Beers from the Bend brewery will be flowing from most of the taps, and there will be rare brews, plus special beer-and-whiskey pairings designed just for tonight. The Old Gold's menu, too, will be centered around GoodLife beers—we have been told there will be offerings like: Beer-braised pork sandwich with Mountain Rescue Pale Ale pickles and fresh beer mustard; Pass Stout beer cheese fondue with warm bread and apples; and Comatose Imperial IPA doughnut bites rolled in sugar, which have been described as "totally ridiculous."
Host of The Soup, Joel McHale teams up with his buddy Jim Rash from Community to produce what very well may be the best True Detective parody the internet has to offer. Why? Because McHale and Rash recognize True Detective's most basic problem—YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND A GODDAMN WORD THEY'RE SAYING. (Hat tips to Rash, who does a great chaw-chewing Woody Harrelson. Watch.)
I began reading "Savage Love" at the young, impressionable age of 13. At the age of 13, I could comprehend the concept that humans are not only attracted to opposite-sex humans, but can and are attracted to a very broad spectrum that defies being limited to a fixed number of categories. Reading "Savage Love," I saw examples of normal heterosexual activity, alternative heterosexual activity, homosexual activity, alternative homosexual activity, very alternative homosexual activity, freaky and kinky heterosexual activity, transgender topics—pretty much everything on the large spectrum of sexual and romantic actions and attractions. It was an adventure to say the least.
I must concede however, I did not like your attitude or approach. Raised a Catholic, I had core values that you broke and encouraged other people to break. I had no disdain or judgement towards people not of heterosexual orientation; however, I was not fond of the idea that so many people did things against my core Catholic values, and was possibly angry but intrigued by what you said to these people who contacted you with their intimate stories of their love lives.
If you have continued reading at this point I thank you, because up until this line of text it seems as if I am telling you my life views and then expressing my distaste for your opinion, but really this is so much more.
Last weekend, I was at a party at my university. To preface this, I feel it appropriate to state that I consider myself straight, and have only been attracted to women for my whole romantically-active life. This last weekend, I met someone. A boy. I ran into him and struck up a conversation, about who knows what, and continued to talk through the night. He was perfect. His physical appearance, his personality, his mannerisms, his voice, everything made my heart melt. And with an instance of him close to my face, I blushed, and my heart stopped while I basked in the radiant glow of his face. We are currently still getting to know each other, but I now see him as the first guy to ever make me swoon, the first guy who I would love to hook up with (and lucky for me this boy is gay). I am not attracted to males. I do not find the idea of another male caressing my body and kissing me to be pleasant, it actually makes me cringe (however I am glad other men find solace in these actions). I have never looked at a male and thought that I would love to pull my sweater over my head to expose myself to him. But, for me, this boy does it.
The day after meeting him, I felt scared. I have no problem with homosexuality, but the fact that I was experiencing same-sex attraction was new and frightening. I didn't and am still not sure how to handle these feelings. All I want to do right now is get him into my bed (maybe just for cuddling), and the next party may be my chance. I have confided this in one friend so far, who has been very supportive, and has reassured me that these feelings are fine, and I am not crazy. (But I may be crazy about this boy.) And however scared or confused I may be about these feelings, I have to say this: Thank you, Dan. Thanks to you and the exposure I got on the Internet to diverse sorts of communities, I do not feel completely terrible. I understand sexuality as a continuum with no limiting barriers that can cast me into any label of straight, bi, gay, or anything else. That may be what I fear most. I just want to hook up with a guy and then resume my life and date women with no stigma attached to me and without any limits being put on the heterosexual dating game. Labels are necessary for the sake of discussion and consideration, but for the most part labels are bullshit. They mean nothing. I feel like I can explore my feelings without having to be labeled as gay or bisexual, and although I am indeed confused, I am okay with the idea of me liking this one boy. Thanks to you, I feel okay.
Thank you for making me feel normal and helping me know that liking this boy means nothing. I like this boy, and whether or not I, in the future, may come to have feelings for another guy is irrelevant. You helped me to never demonize sexuality and romance, and I feel like a better person for it. Continue to do the work you do, because I'm sure every other day there is another man, young or old, who may just find the perfect guy, even when they have only ever had heterosexual feelings. Thank you, and if you have advice, any is appreciated.
One Hot Boy, Oh Yes
Monday morning, Kickstarter announced that the crowdfunding platform has received over $1 billion in pledges for projects around the world. $215 million of that has gone into games projects. That's so much money, you guys. Kickstarter loves sharing its data, especially this data—but we went ahead and broke down some Portland-specific stats for you.
First of all, the most funded games project in Portland ever ended last weekend! A board game called Lagoon: Land of Druids, by local company 3Hares Games, raised $147,762. It is one of 54 successful games projects in the history of Portland Kickstarters. 52 percent of games projects in Portland have succeeded: just under the 56 percent success rate for Portland Kickstarters in general. Our success rate is higher than Kickstarters overall, which is only 43.55 percent.
Keith Baker is a local Portland game designer whose game The Doom That Came To Atlantic City is Portland's third-most funded games project, which raised $122,874. He's also published his card game Gloom through a traditional publisher, and told me that Kickstarter has changed the game for independent designers like him.
"Kickstarter makes it possible for someone with a good idea for a game to make a game in a way that was impossible before, by raising the capital directly," Baker said. "It's also very dangerous, though. Just because you have a good idea for a game, doesn't necessarily mean you know how to produce it."
The direct-to-customer model puts a lot of pressure on designers to also be businesspeople, which he has seen not always work, Baker said. Kickstarter also cuts game stores out of the equation, which is another complicated problem. Overall, though Baker says Kickstarter is a helpful tool and he will be using it to fund a new RPG project later this year.
I sat down with Russell Rinker, a trained Shakespearean actor and former lumberjack who's been with the company for over 7 years. My only regret is not asking him about Blue Man Groupies.
ALEX: You started out with the Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. How was that?
A BLUE MAN: It's surreal, you know? It's a weird place to live. But definitely moving out there with something like the Blue Man show is the best way to do it because you have this instant network of friends, you get to meet people in the show community.
You got into the show network? You mean you were hanging out with showgirls and magicians all the time?
Actually, yes. I was the captain of the Blue Man bowling team and we had a midnight league so we would bowl against Cirque du Soleil performers and people from Mama Mia and Avenue Q. It was crazy.
That may be the coolest thing I've ever heard of, the Vegas Entertainers Midnight Bowling League.
It was pretty awesome. You have all these interesting, talented people who are all like "How did I end up in Vegas?" Nobody knows anybody there so you end up getting close to people like that.
You left the Las Vegas show for the glow of Hollywood, right?
I was there for 5 years and I left on good terms. I just wanted to try something else, so I moved to LA for a couple years. I pretty much chose the worst time because right as I got there the writers' strike started and the economy tanked so it was pretty much the hardest time to break in. The opportunity to join the touring show came up and I love to travel, especially to be paid to travel, and I was ready to leave LA so it was a no brainer.
Wait, you mean you showed up in Los Angeles and your time as an anonymous blue drumming monster didn't make you an instant success?
Surprisingly, no. It's a really tough business.
So what were the other skills you needed to get hired with Blue Man Group? You've got an acting background but you've also got a musical background and a lumberjacking background. Which of those skills landed this job?
It's such a weird thing that we get all types of people. We have hard core drumline drummers or rock drummers who have no acting experience and we have actors with no drum experience, and clowns and dancers. I drummed in high school and after school I was doing some musical theater, some light opera. Sometimes the acting background even gets in the way because the show is so different. You've got this framework that you layer over your own character so you need to be a Blue Man, not play a Blue Man. Obviously there are certain rules to a Blue Man, he doesn't talk, he doesn't swing his arms, other than that it's up to your interpretation.
Whoa, don't skimp on that! What are the other rules of what you can't do in make-up, besides talking and swinging his arms?
The Blue Man has no ego, so he's just very innocent and curious. In the training process we go to the dog park and watch dogs interact with each other. Very curious: What's that, what's new, what's next? And just let that affect your personality.
What else did the training involve? Because so far it sounds pretty easy, just watching a bunch of puppies.
I try not to hate-read conservative racist comments anymore, because they just take up room in my brain and they don't do anyone any good. But Mary Noble at Politix linked to this astounding review of 12 Years a Slave by James Bowman in the conservative American Spectator, and it's forced me to break my self-imposed ban on hate-reading:
If ever in slavery's 250-year history in North America there were a kind master or a contented slave, as in the nature of things there must have been, here and there, we may be sure that Mr McQueen does not want us to hear about it...Yes, there was much cruelty and hardship in the slave-owning South, as there has been in most of the rest of the world most of the time, and Mr. McQueen's camera is all over that. But it strains ordinary credulity to suppose that there was nothing else.
Sometimes, it's worth reading idiotic pieces like this to understand how the other side thinks. The modern Republican Party is so excited by its own contrarianism—the globe is not warming, health care does not need reform—that it's basically become a giant no-producing machine. To the conservative mindset, if a liberal institution like Hollywood comes out with a statement about slavery, then that statement must be inherently wrong. This is what has become of William F. Buckley's famous statement about conservatism:
A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.
Buckley's statement has never been so true than with Bowman's piece. He's trying to rewrite history, because history embarrasses people like him.
Lawmakers in Crimea, the autonomous peninsula in Ukraine currently hosting a large amount of Russian troops, unanimously approved a March 16 referendum on whether the Russian-leaning province should switch countries. They claim it's an answer to "lawlessness" in Kiev, Ukraine's capital. The vote comes amid a European Union summit on Ukraine and what to do about it, and a move by the White House to impose visa restrictions on Russian officials.
Funny fact! Crimea was a part of Russia for all but the last 60 years, when Nikita Kruschev rather bureaucratically transferred it to Ukraine. It looms large in Russian history and in its cultural memories. Crimea's largest city, Sevastopol, was a Russian naval port for 200 hundred years. The unrest in Kiev cave Crimean partisans their chance to rewrite the past.
NATO forces, working with Afghan soldiers, killed five of them in a horrific "friendly-fire" airstrike.
The CIA spied on Congress? The spy agency's inspector general is investigating claims its operatives searched Senate intelligence committee computers to see who was reading up on what was supposed to be an internal review of the CIA's interrogation policy. The CIA's director has angrily denounced the claims as "spurious."
A journalist facing several (intimidating) federal charges after he republished a hyperlink containing hacked email addresses and other data from a government security contractor saw many of his more serious charges mysteriously dropped yesterday.
Someone found the fellow who pretty much invented Bitcoin. But he really didn't want to talk about it.
In Massachusetts, the state's supreme court ruled, it's currently legal to take nonconsensual upskirt photos on public transit or in other public places that have surveillance.
The people behind the SAT have put forward a sweeping overhaul of the near-ubiquitous college application test—realizing that, maybe, you know, it's not been as useful for helping low-income kids.
It's been harder and harder getting the kids interested in Japanese organized crime these days. Yakuza membership is reputedly at an all-time low.
Three third-graders caught smoking pot in their California elementary school's bathroom somehow scored their very own pot pipe.
Justin Bieber's penis will be blurred out of a Miami Beach jail video before it's made public under Florida's public records law (which is way better than Oregon's).
THE ICE CAPS REALLY ARE MELTING. AND TINY TIM IS A GODDAMNED PROPHET.
Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Atlanta Hawks.
The Blazers are covered in stink after their loss to the Lakers on Monday, their five-game winning streak snapped by the island of misfit basketball players. With a brutal road trip on the horizon, dropping one to a bad team at home is just the pits.
Good news, though! Portland has one more chance to atone for their purple and gold sins before hitting the road, this time against the scuffling Atlanta Hawks. There was a time this season when the Hawks were sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference—which, to be fair, is like getting a participation award for trying extra hard—but they have won only once in their last twelve games. Atlanta has slipped all the way to eighth in the East, and unless they can get back on track a trip to the lottery seems likely. A trip to the lottery might even be the end goal, because the Hawks don’t appear too concerned with winning at the moment.
Adding injury to insult, Paul Millsap will be out for tonight’s contest. That means Mike Scott will log a ton of minutes at power forward tonight, and we’ve all seen what happens when Mike Scott plays basketball.
Police Chief Mike Reese was pointedly clear when he wrote the Citizen Review Committee—a volunteer panel tasked with handling police misconduct appeals—and said he wouldn't overturn a discipline finding that cleared a controversial cop accused of menacing his ex-wife and her new husband.
The letter, sent January 23, was first reported by the Mercury last month. Reese wrote, in part:
I found no evidence that the basis of the recommended finding was unreasonable and find that there is sufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable fact finder to come to a finding of UNPROVEN WITH A DEBRIEFING.
The cop in question, Jason Lobaugh, has a bit of a checkered history. His ex-wife, Laurie Grant, accused him, while off-duty, of instigating three confrontations over a six-week span in late 2012 as part of a custody dispute. Among the accusations: he called her new husband a "little bitch." Lobaugh, however, was cleared by his commander of violating the bureau's rules on professionalism. The CRC disagreed and urged Reese to overturn that ruling.
That impasse, with the chief refusing a unanimous vote by the CRC, was supposed to head back to the panel during a hearing tonight. And if the CRC and chief couldn't come to a decision, the appeal would head to the city council for a decision. (That's only happened once. Ever. In 2003. According to Portland Copwatch, that case saw the council split the difference and opt for an "unproven" finding.) But the chief, it was announced tonight, has asked for more time before a final decision is issued. Faced with that council hearing, Reese is thinking of changing his mind.
"Chief Reese reconsidered that and asked for additional time to think bout the committee's findings and look at some other material," said Jamie Troy, the CRC's chairman.
Constantin Severe, the city's Independent Police Review director, said he expects a decision in April, in time for the CRC's next scheduled meeting.
"That would be my expectation," Severe says. "All of these cases have clocks on them. And we can't have it staying in stasis. I've expressed my concern that this case cannot be hiatus on a longterm basis."
A potentially controversial report examining notably low supervisor/employee ratios across the city of Portland's workforce—part of an ongoing effort to further scrub the city's budget for extra cash—offers some potentially bitter medicine for the Portland Police Bureau, the Mercury has learned.
According to the report (pdf), obtained this afternoon via a public records request, the city could save as much as $2.5 million, largely by eliminating 23 police bureau command positions and reclassifying six others. The report, drafted by Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick, requires the bureau to come up with a "position-specific response," and projected savings, by April 1.
The findings in the report suggest much of that culling would be among the bureau's lieutenants and captains, which it says are a hotbed of "redundancy." At issue is what's called the city's "span of control," its ratio of supervisors to workers. The report focused on supervisors with three or fewer employees—finding several in the police bureau. It also makes clear, however, that the bureau wasn't much interested in having a discussion about how to increase its "span of control," choosing instead to defend the status quo.
Overall savings could be lower—down to just $500,000—under a best-case scenario that swaps 22 command positions for non-supervisory police officer jobs. Sergeant Pete Simpson, the bureau's lead spokesman, said the bureau will work to provide an answer in time for April 1 but that he wasn't sure yet about the timeline and who was heading it up.
The span of control study follows a note approved by the council during last year's budget deliberations. It's unclear where the rest of the council might land. And that's no small calculation, because this isn't just about dollars and positions. There's an element of politics—even if city sources would argue the report and its political implications are separate.
This finding lands near the end of a push by Mayor Charlie Hales to decertify the union that represents police commanders, captains, and lieutenants, the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association (PPCOA). Hales' argument is that supervisors shouldn't be allowed to form a bargaining unit.
Taking away nearly 30 positions, even if those officers are reassigned under the report's best-case scenario, would significantly hamstring the PPCOA, even if the state Employment Relations Board sticks up for it. At any given time, with vacancies and other issues, that union has maybe 50 members at best.
One of the PPCOA's executive officers, Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, met with Hales for an hour last week on union business. That meeting came while Fish and Novick's offices were putting the finishing touches on this report. Messages left for Day and the union's president, Training Captain Bryan Parman, have not been returned. Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says he hasn't yet had a chance to talk to his boss about the report and its implications.
• News editor Denis Theriault spills news all over the music section with an excellent investigative piece on what went down at the Blue Monk on Saturday night. Rapper Illmaculate chose to forgo his performance in protest of excessive police presence, drawing to light a far bigger issue between Portland police and the local hiphop scene. Could Saturday night mark a turning point? I for one sincerely hope so.
• Tacocat are fun and games, but they're not all fun and games. Still, they're pretty damn fun. And who doesn't like games?
LISTEN: Tacocat - "Bridge to Hawaii"
• Angel Olsen's voice is an instrument with thermodynamic capabilities, and her songwriting ain't bad, either.
LISTEN: Angel Olsen - "Forgiven/Forgotten"
• The Dharma Bums' Jeremy Wilson went to Florida to give it a go. It didn't work out. (Because Florida.)
LISTEN: Jeremy Wilson - "Empty Through Empty Space
• Solids' sweet and serrated noise pop puts emphasis on the noise.
LISTEN: Solids - "Haze Away"
• Plus a malty, music-y festival's worth of Up & Coming shows.
COMICS—Will Eisner was one of the most influential cartoonists ever to practice the form, and to honor his life and work, cities all over the world are celebrating "Will Eisner Week," with workshops, readings, and other events. Portland's in for a treat: Tonight, Eisner's former editor Diana Schutz—of Dark Horse Comics—will go in-depth about Eisner's 70-year career. AH
Art Institute of Portland, 1122 NW Davis, 7 pm, FREE
ARTS—Maybe the easiest way to go back to school is simply to take advantage of Reed Arts Week, the student-curated mini-festival, which has a "daemon" theme this year. Take advantage of visiting artists like Trisha Donnelly and Berlin's Oliver Laric, plus there will be a masquerade ball, a local-music showcase, and more. MS
Reed College, 3202 SE Woodstock, Wed-Sun, see reed.edu/raw for details
The steady-ish stream of design showcases that have already come and gone in these early days of 2014 seems to be taking a slight pause, but there are still a few things kicking on this week's calendar for those in search of the new, the discounted, and the shopping experience that includes free booze:
THURSDAY MARCH 6
—Lena Medoyeff Studio is hosting their semi-annual sample sale over two days, with 20-70% off select merch from past seasons as well as some of their current dresses and Souchi sweaters. Plus they'll have refreshments that involve Bull Run Distillery liquor. Lena Medoyeff Studio, 710 NW 23rd, Thursday & Friday
—Kevia Jewelry is also having a sample sale, to benefit The Friends of The Overlook House Foundation. Look for 50-70% off retail prices plus door prizes. The Overlook House, 3839 N Melrose, 5:30-8:30 pm
—Danner and Beckel Canvas got together and made a
baby boot, the Danner Light Beckel. Tonight they celebrate its birth with music by Denver and Barna Howard, plus our good friends Bull Run Distillery again! Danner at Union Way, 1022 W Burnside, 6-9 pm
—On a juniors note: Amy Vining Photography is hosting a fashion show featuring prom-wear vendors (Charlotte’s Weddings and More, Switch Shoes & Clothing) to raise money for "I Have a Dream" Oregon, with raffles, an afterpaty with DJ Paradox, and performances with the Jefferson Dancers. The Cleaners, 1022 SW Stark, 7 pm, $12
—Wildfang is hosting one of its newly regular happy hours, with complimentary drinks to sip while you shop. It's an extra-special edition this time, though: It also doubles as the launch of the retailer's exclusive TOMBOY collection, so be there if you want to get first dibs. Wildfang, 1230 SE Grand, 5 pm
—Small-batch t-shirt artists Dreem Street get their first proper Portland debut. Look for limited editions of hilarious and poignant designs that double as intelligent cultural commentary. Up through the month! Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch, 6-9 pm
—Portland Fashion Week is hosting a casual First Thursday mixer for any and all who want to stop in and chat up staff about their next event. Cerulean Skies Winery, 1439 NW Marshall, 6:30-10 pm
FRIDAY MARCH 7
—Montavilla boutique Union Rose is kicking off the new season with its fourth annual spring cleaning sale. That means discounts on local apparel and accessory lines like Amelia, the in-house Big Brown Eyes, Sarah Bibb, Clair Vintage, and more. Union Rose, 7909 SE Stark, 6-9 pm
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