As you know, the wildly talented Rhett and Link travel the country making AH-MAY-ZING commercials for tiny businesses who need the help—but have they outdone themselves this time? Check out this ulta-sexy-sexy-SEXY commercial for Arlen's Transmission in Burbank, California... and if you can extricate yourself from the erotic tractor beam of his eyes in the final moments? Well... you are a better person than I.
I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU, ARLEN! HELP ME SHIFT IT!!
Preliminary negotiations between TriMet and the union that represents its operators, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, mostly went nowhere this weekend after the two sides failed to agree even on some basic "ground rules" meant to guide more substantive talks on issues like health care premiums and pay.
But before talks stopped Saturday after several hours, the two sides did manage to jointly agree on one thing: the list of publications and media outlets who are explicitly allowed to attend the contract talks. (Once, that is, the talks actually begin; that's still unknown.)
Update 3:40 PM: The union this afternoon has replied to TriMet with a letter (pdf) offering potential dates for negotiations to start. (In it, the union asks TriMet not to use email to schedule meetings, because of technical issues with it system. Emails sent to and from TriMet, it's worth noting, also would be public records.)
The list of approved outlets looks much like a list sent out days ago by ATU, with the addition of the overlooked Portland Business Journal, a helpful suggestion from TriMet. Of note, it includes the NW Labor Press—which receives subscription money from ATU, and also from dozens of other local unions, but retains sole control over its editorial content.
But now let's look at whom it doesn't include: members of the public or any of the voracious, vociferous, and occasionally venomous amateur bloggers who make sport (and sometimes break news) out of charting the transit agency's every snort and sniffle. That includes Al Margulies, who runs Rantings of a Former TriMet Bus Driver. And also Lane Jensen, who runs PDX Transit Lane.
That was deliberate, at least on TriMet's part. Its officials have held fast to words like "mainstream" and "unaffiliated" when discussing this issue, and it's clear the bloggers get under their skin with personal comments aimed at its top executives. But the move is also dicey. Margulies is a former employee and union member but has a following—getting a writeup in Willamette Week this year as someone to watch in Portland. His blog was first to post the video of a MAX train hurtling down Interstate 84 with its door open.
In another slight shift for the Portland Bureau of Transportation—actively in the hunt for a new director while also grappling with the best way to change directions in response to Mayor Charlie Hales' push for paving—the Mercury has learned that both of PBOT's media relations hands are stepping down for new jobs.
Spokeswoman Cheryl Kuck is moving over to a community outreach job with the city's Bureau of Environmental Services, while spokesman Dan Anderson told PBOT staffers he's taking a "great professional opportunity" outside Oregon. The departures come amid news that 44 people have applied for the bureau's top job, the fruits of a national search launched after Hales asked former director Tom Miller to step down. Hales appointed former maintenance chief John "Toby" Widmer to run the bureau on an interim basis.
The departures also come after Hales' team asked Miller to suspend hiring for a deputy director post that would have directly overseen the bureau's communications shop. So are the moves indicative of some kind of restructuring in a bureau that's received a bit more political and media glare, of late, than some others?
"It's a coincidence," Anderson says of his and Kuck's near-simultaneous departures. "It wasn't planned, and it definitely was under good terms, and it was not a restructuring."
It's unclear whether one or both jobs will be filled permanently in light of the search for a new director—and in the face of citywide budget cuts and PBOT's struggle to redirect its own revenue (mostly tied up in big-ticket infrastructure projects enthusiastically approved by city council) toward road maintenance.
Update 11:15 AM: Dana Haynes, Hales' spokesman, said both Anderson and Kuck did "a great job" and are "a loss" for the bureau. The mayor's office's "first instinct" is to wait for a permanent director and maybe bring in an interim flack. PBOT's communications work, Haynes reminds, aren't just about strategically responding to reporters and pushing out story ideas. It's also about getting the word out to regular Portlanders about specific paving projects and road closures and snow alerts and crosswalk stings, etc.
"We totally don't underestimate that," he says.
Anderson made $71,482 in 2012, according to a Portland Business Journal database of city salary information. Kuck earned $79,255.
The Mercury first reported in September that bus route changes last year were having an awful—and awfully smelly—effect on air quality in the increasingly thriving Woodlawn business district: Because of a decision to end Line 8 at Woodlawn Park instead of the Jubitz truck stop, buses waiting to go back on the return route were left idling in the area, making noise and spilling exhaust in front of popular new eateries.
TriMet promised some changes when we wrote about it again in November—after the union representing transit operators spoke up alongside neighbors. Their big beef? Drivers, no longer parking at a truck stop, now had nowhere to pee—and the few businesses that agreed to give access to their loos were surprised by how many drivers took them up on the offer.
Finally, this afternoon, after starting in changes earlier this year, spokeswoman Roberta Alstadt sends word that a permanent fix is in place:
Beginning on Sunday, June 1, TriMet buses will no longer be laying over on NE Dekum Street. Line 8 buses had been stopping at NE Dekum/Durham since we made changes to the route back in September 2012.
TriMet has been working with residents, businesses and the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association to lessen the impact of those changes. In March we were able to move the layover location for 60 percent of the buses. The layover for the remaining 40 percent of the buses will move to NE Winchell Street. After the move, NE Dekum Street will continue to have bus service with both Line 8 and 75 but will contain no layover locations.
That's a big change from the kinds of complaints Sarah Mirk was hearing back when this first flared:
"It's quickly turning into a nightmare," says Firehouse owner Matthew Busetto, who met with a TriMet representative on Friday about the neighborhood issues for a meeting that he described as "ridiculous" and completely unhelpful. "We're in the height of our patio seating season and we counted 16 buses rolling by an hour. I feel misled. To lay a pollution and safety issue on us without any notice is terrible."
Fareless Square is still dead. Ticket prices are up. But this is, at least, something.
You know how—even though fare inspectors sometimes show up on trains—actually buying a MAX ticket can sometimes leave you feeling like the punchline of an awful joke? Because it feels like no one else does? And they usually get away with it?
This Oregonian post by Joseph Rose might be of some interest. According to the story, plainclothes cops have already begun lurking on trains in hopes of surprising, and arresting, fare evaders. Their presence is in addition to the inspectors who've already been boarding here and there and conducting fare missions (and spawning widespread alerts on Twitter whenever they do).
During Thursday morning's commute, six officers dressed as every day urban professionals boarded trains through different doors and took their seats.
After several minutes of riding and watching for people causing problems, the officers stood up between stations, showed their badges and told riders to pull out their fares.
In one case, a man darted for the door as soon as the train pulled into the next stop.
"Our guys grabbed him," [Transit Police Commander Mike] Crebs said. "He had a history and an existing exclusion. We arrested him for theft of services and trespassing."
TriMet and the transit cops spent some time studying other cities, according to the story, before going in whole hog here. Expect to see patrols happening more and more.
"We want people to always wonder if there might be a police officer on the train," spokeswoman Roberta Alstadt told the O. "This isn't just about fare evasion. It's about security."
TriMet says it's also considering adding the detail to buses—even though, in my estimation, that may not be worth the trouble. Most bus drivers already act as pretty firm gate-keepers. But I guess beware?
Portland's population of motorcycle builders is a photographic bunch, as illustrated by the number of photo and video projects that have come out focusing on them in recent years. The latest is a unique project from Instrument called The Build. Instead of another straightforward stylized documentary, though, the result is something of an experiment:
Instrument’s goal with The Build was to blend design and technology in groundbreaking ways. It pairs traditional filmmaking with new school interactive experiences that push the envelope of browser technologies like webGL and HTML5 video. In short, we crafted a site that plays web video and includes heaps of animation and motion without using any Flash.
The result is a mash-up labyrinth of video, still photos, and audio narration. The video portions alone are beautifully shot by Instrument’s resident filmmaker, Truen Pence, and are bite-sized and compelling enough for the casual viewer, but there are tons of rabbit holes to get lost in and go deep into motorcycle nerdsville, depending on how long your lunch break is.
In this week's Mercury, I led a story about Old Town's nascent "entertainment zone" with a stirring and original metaphor: tow trucks as wolves!
But I was unable to get a hard number, before deadline, on just how many cars were towed from the district. I now have that number: 315.
That's 315 bewildered and enraged oaths to heaven by folks who didn't notice the area was a tow-away zone from 10 pm to 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays. In February, tow trucks were legion, snaking through barricades and absconding with nearly 50 cars some weekends.
That activity was worrisome to some of the neighborhood's bars, which feared the enforcement would alienate customers. It was also, apparently, largely the result of hard-to-notice signage. In March, the district was lined with sandwich boards announcing the closures, after which towing tapered off.
It's unclear right now how much money the city recouped from the tows. The Portland Bureau of Transportation spent almost $30,000 over the course of the pilot project on parking enforcement and street closures.
Here's the info the Portland Police Bureau sent along this morning:
Mayor Charlie Hales found himself playing a very familiar role during a slightly awkward council discussion today on what seemed like a mysterious new expense in Portland's streetcar contract with TriMet: chief booster for the city's troubled East Side extension.
After it was finally explained why the contract is climbing from $1,244,950 to $2,089,816—to pay for operator training, through available contingency cash, and hopefully paid back through federal grants—Hales first found himself defending the arrangement.
"This is an accounting transaction," he said.
Then, after listening to some strong skepticism of the project from Commissioner Nick Fish—who went through the litany of woes facing the street car extension, including funding issues, low ridership, mechanical delays, and "charitably," cars running "at less than full occupancy"—Hales mounted a sales pitch that must've felt familiar.
Hales, after all, helped push for Portland's original streetcar, which opened in 2001. And he spent the decade or so afterward working for HDR Inc., selling other cities on the intertwined forces of streetcar lines and dense development.
"This is a success story," he said, touting the "American-made" streetcar-manufacturing industry that local company Oregon Iron Works is building from scratch. "It's a requirement [for federal grants] and it's a risk. And that's the reason we have to be vigilant and do careful oversight even while we're innovating."
He also quoted Machiavelli, saying any new system earns the "enmity and opposition of those who don't benefit" while receiving the "lukewarm support" from those that do.
Next up is fully completing connections from the downtown streetcar lines to the East Side line (they're already joined at the Broadway Bridge) through the new TriMet bridge going up near OMSI. Hales was rather bullish about what that would mean.
"I don't think we'll have a problem with empty vehicles," he said, possibly to imagined patriotic marching music. "We'll have a problem with not enough vehicles."
The first airline in the world to charge passengers by weight declares their new pricing model a success:
Passengers do not pay for a seat but pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route. Analysts believe other airlines around the world are likely to follow suit, especially as the rising weight of populations adds to fuel costs. Some airlines in the United States have already begun forcing passengers who cannot fit in a single seat to buy two tickets....
The head of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, said the new system was fairer and that some families with small children were now paying substantially cheaper fares. "This is the fairest way of travelling," he told ABC Radio. "There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo."
Did city commissioners have it right two weeks ago when they told me a deal was in the works with Mayor Charlie Hales to preserve $1.2 million for a sidewalk project on SE 136th and find other safety solutions for a stretch of 136th nearby where a 5-year-old girl was hit and killed while crossing the street?
Seems so. The mayor's office has called a press conference at 8 am Wednesday morning out near SE 136th and Holgate, in Gates Park to "discuss plans related to safety."
I asked Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, if the announcement would deviate from what I'd first reported, way back on March 20—safety improvements beyond restoring the sidewalk project. But he declined to comment.
"We’ll hold pat until Wednesday morning," he emailed.
The idea of cutting the sidewalks came as part of the Bureau of Transportation's hunt for street-paving money. In last month's post, three commissioners, Steve Novick, Dan Saltzman, and Nick Fish, all said to expect a restoration. Novick said he was "confident" council had enough votes to force the issue. Saltzman said that wouldn't be necessary, because Hales was already on board. Fish went further and said additional work—because the sidewalk project is planned for a few blocks from where Morgan Maynard-Cook was killed—would be part of the bargain.
"I think they'll go hand in glove," Fish said.
Haynes might not be commenting now. But he was blunt about his boss's thoughts on the sidewalk project after the commissioners had their say.
“Toby Widmer did what the mayor asked him to do: Sharpen the pencil; be creative," says Dana Haynes, Hales' spokesman, responding to questions about the planned sidewalk project. "Some of his proposals are worth pursuing. But as we’ve all heard the mayor say: We’re not pursuing that one.”
(For what it's worth, Willamette Week is also citing PBOT sources whose info confirms my previous post.)
As Portland's back-and-forth over parking-free apartments reaches a fresh fever pitch — and council readies itself to discuss new mandatory parking minimums for bigger projects — this study [PDF] is making its way around the web.
It's a look at what happened in downtown Los Angeles when the city eased up on parking requirements and it's essential conclusion is something Portland's known for decades—limiting mandatory parking policy spurs developers to provide more and varied housing. Part of the study:
If a land use regulation increases per-unit construction costs, it can lead developers to supply fewer units, reducing the overall supply of housing and increasing its price. But land use regulations can constrain the supply of housing in three additional ways as well: by making it difficult to build housing for certain types of people, in certain types of buildings, or in certain neighborhoods. A residential minimum parking requirement can do all three.
While LA has enjoyed boons with these policies—finding them useful in repopulating underused areas—the pendulum is swinging the other way here. City council appears ready to scale back [PDF] zoning laws, enacted around 2000, that free developers from mandatory parking if they meet certain requirements.
Anyway, read the study if you can't get enough of this stuff.
Turns out the Portland Streetcar — plagued by lower-than-expected revenues — is looking at something like a $1 million annual funding hole in coming years.
That news cropped up today in a city council work session, as commissioners questioned PBOT officials about the department's budget.
"It looks like it's a problem on the horizon," Commissioner Nick Fish said in the session. "We have a year to think that through and see how we can avoid that."
The program is stable in the short term. PBOT's identified its share of the streetcar's $8.9 million operating costs this year, as well as for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. It's the following years that pose a problem, according to Spokesman Dan Anderson.
As the streetcar ramps up planned service and closes the southern end of the eastside loop, costs are set to increase. PBOT's looking at an average of $1 million yearly deficit beginning in July 2014 and stretching at least to June 2018 — as far as the department has forecast.
That's not how the city hoped it would work. The shortfalls take into consideration revenue from PBOT's Central Eastside Parking Management Plan — which last year began charging for what had been free eastside parking.
"Until those parking revenues exceed the costs of parking district implementation and operation, streetcar operations will be subsidized with other discretionary transportation revenues," the audit said.
According to PBOT's forecasts, revenues will fall short for at least the next five years.
Dean Marriott, the director of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), has a message for the city’s transportation workers: Don’t clean up on account of us.
Marriott, struggling like all bureau heads to lop money from next year’s budget, is making the case BES shouldn’t have to help pay for street sweeping services. The bureau currently kicks in a little more than $1 million to help the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) scrub Portland throughways. It's a $4 million program altogether.
The thinking is PBOT’s helping to improve the city’s water quality by scrubbing the roads of detritus that might otherwise find the sewer system. Marriott says that’s not the case. BES has pointed to a 1989 study that suggested street sweeping improves stormwater quality by only 7 percent.
“If we’re the customer, we’re no longer interested in having them do it,” Marriott tells the Mercury. “Why should we pay 28 percent the cost of street sweeping in Portland?”
The BES director is advocating slicing that money from the his budget altogether, which would result in a rate decrease for utility customers.
PBOT, as you can well guess, has another take, spelled out in a recent City Budget Office (CBO) report: “PBOT, on the other hand, maintains that street sweeping is primarily a stormwater / water quality issue and has suggested that BES’ current $1.1 million contribution was not adequate and that they should assume 90% to 100% of the costs.”
The budget office recommended council form two task forces and commission a study on street cleaning, to be complete by next year's budget season.
Asked about PBOT’s position, Spokeswoman Cheryl Kuck largely deferred to the CBO report, saying in a statement:
"We would gladly participate in a conversation with the various bureaus that benefit from these services to help determine how the services should be managed and funded. At a time when money is tight, it’s healthy to discuss how best to use the money we do have."
The bureau may have something less canned to say on the matter tomorrow morning at 10, when PBOT officials are scheduled to go before council to talk about the CBO's analysis of its budget.
For his part, Marriott expressed exasperation with the call for further study.
“This is supposed to be a year where we’re making significant choices,” he said. “When you’re in a difficult financial time, somebody needs to make some decisions.”
Mayor Charlie Hales is receiving scads of reasons to reconsider the proposed scrapping of a Southeast Portland sidewalk from this year's transportation budget—a move that would free up cash for road paving.
Not that he needed them.
The matter has been a flashpoint since 5-year-old Morgan Cook was struck and killed while crossing SE 136th Avenue on February 28. That's eight days after Toby Widmer, the Bureau of Transportation's interim director, suggested the city should waylay plans for a sidewalk a few blocks away from where the girl died. In the tragedy's immediate aftermath, Hales issued a statement saying safety has to be the city's "North Star" in transportation planning, but stopped short of saying he'll push for the walkway.
Now 18 local organizations have sent the mayor a letter urging him to fund the project, along with curb ramp projects Widmer suggested axing. And a coalition of state lawmakers representing East Portland have chimed in, too.
Their March 1 letter reads, in part:
The Portland Bureau of Transportation recently revealed its plan to remove $1.2 million slated for sidewalk construction on SE 136th Avenue in order to fund street paving projects in other parts of the city. East Portland's lack of basic infrastructure was brought into stark and horrifying reality last night. We trust that you agree: this is unacceptable.
Capping off the pressure is an online petition by Portland advocacy group Oregon Walks asking Hales and the rest of city council to:
• Improve transportation safety for everyone by reducing conflicts between people driving and walking, until we reach zero deaths ("Vision Zero").
• Commit to funding sidewalks, crosswalks, and curb ramps for people with disabilities.
• Build an equitable, accessible Portland in which children can walk safely and people can move and age with dignity.
As of this morning, the petition had gathered 635 "signatures," many referencing the young girl's death.
For all that, Hales isn't taking a hard stance on the project. The reason we're even talking about cutting the sidewalk, after all, is that the mayor assigned Widmer to come up with the funds to pave 100 miles of bruised and battered city streets. The back-to-basics approach was a big part of Hales' campaign rhetoric and has continued to loom large as the mayor grapples with up to $25 million in needed budget solutions.
"He was not 100 percent for (the sidewalk project) before the terrible tragedy, nor is he now," Hales spokesman Dana Haynes told the Mercury on Monday. "Paving is a safety issue and that’s why it’s got to be on top of the list."
It's true: while some TriMet drivers are dicks, others are heroes. HOWEVER! I think that even in their dickiest moments, they are not dicks like this Russian bus driver is a dick. According to NBC News, this bus driver—known as "The Punisher"—rams the back ends of drivers who cut in front of him, records it on his dashboard camera, and then uploads them to YouTube as "an educational service." Alexei "The Punisher" Volkov claims he's had 100 such "accidents." Watch.
"The situation is gradually improving ... due to my educational work," he said.
Volkov says his passengers have nothing to complain about because none have been injured.
And what does the bus company he works for in Zelenograd, Russia, think about his vigilante antics?
"If there is no fault of mine, the management doesn’t care," he said. "The bus usually gets only minor damage. If the damage is more serious, they just wait for the insurance payments and then repair [it]."
You've maybe seen this already in GMN, but it bears a bit of reflection.
Turns out TriMet—which very publicly held out its hands last year to snatch millions from riders in fare hikes amid service shifts—very quietly decided at the same time to up the pay of its
top managers non-union administrative employees by $910,000, including bumps to top management.
That bombshell came from two stories posted yesterday—first by Portland Afoot and then by the Oregonian. The news is sparking reader accusations of disingenuousness and malfeasance at an agency that held up years of employee pay freezes to bolster its arguments last year while wrangling with a sizable a budget shortfall.
From the O's story:
[TriMet General Manager Neil] McFarlane said a 3 1/2-year pay freeze had contributed to rapid turnover in the executive and management ranks at a time when the transit agency is fighting for its life.
However, as TriMet held several months of public hearings on proposals to trim $12 million from its fiscal year 2013 budget last year, the pay raises didn't come up. Not once.
Indeed, the general manager praised the sacrifice of non-union workers "now in their fourth year" of a pay freeze.
Meanwhile, the agency used an opaque budget item labeled "contingencies" to fund raises for managers making around $111,000 or more.
TriMet, predictably, says the pay bumps were needed to retain talent. The knowledge of such top-flight administrators might come as cold comfort to TriMet users, who now pay up to $2.50 per ride, part of a rate hike that disproportionately affects low-income riders.
As mentioned briefly in GMN this morning, a 5-year-old girl was struck by a car last night when she wriggled out of an older boy's hand while crossing SE 136th
StreetAvenue—making her the fourth pedestrian hit and killed in Portland in 2013.
It's a sad story—KGW has a heartbreaking interview with the 13-year-old boy—and it's also gotten a little political.
The stretch of road where the girl was hit is notoriously lacking in sidewalks and crosswalks and other safety improvements. And although money for those fixes was previously set aside for the corridor, the city's street-maintenance backlog has Mayor Charlie Hales' transportation bureau looking to shift those funds ($1.2 million) to road paving. Update: To be clear, that project would have stopped just north of where the girl was hit.
It's not clear that, in this case, whether sidewalks would have prevented what happened. Maybe, if there were marked crosswalks, the two kids wouldn't have been crossing in the middle of the road. But the girl's mother told reporters she's long been concerned about the state of the roads. And mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, who lost to Hales and lives east of 82nd Avenue, also has been calling attention to East Portland's years of neglect.
"We have to rethink our transportation priorities," he told KGW. "We have to prioritize safety over smoothness. I would take a little bumpier ride, for another kid to stay alive, and I think most Portlanders would too."
Hales' office today put out a statement reacting to the awfulness of Morgan Cook's death as much as to the criticism that followed it. Hales previously told BikePortland.org that the sidewalk funding shift came from the interim director he hired to run Transportation, Toby Widmer.
"I didn't craft that part of the proposal," he said, "but I'm not unhappy with it." Asked about the chances the sidewalk project cut would survive, Hales said, "I'd say it's about 50/50 that the cut will remain."
Hales' statement, and a list of car fatalities this year, is after the jump. You tell me if the reported criticism is fair or not.
Representative Jules Bailey—a longtime skeptic of the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing highway-bridge-and-rail project—joined several other lawmakers earlier this week in reversing their opposition and advancing a $450 million state financing plan to the Oregon Senate and, presumably, governor's desk.
That 45-11 vote enraged and saddened critics of the I-5 project who see the CRC as a financial and environmental boondoggle. And last night, at an Oregon League of Conservation Voters forum where Bailey was building support for a tough-to-pass state carbon tax, a few tried to drive home a point.
Activist Hart Noecker strode up to Bailey during a question-and-answer session and handed him a "Cars Rejuvenating Carbon" award for his "courageously increasing the carbon and car capacity" of the 10- to 12-lane CRC project—a behemoth that raises the serious possibility of making lousy air quality in North Portland even worse.
Bailey didn't seem so pleased... and neither did some of the people at the event, maybe because it was such an awkward moment. Only a couple of people clapped during the prank. And Bailey decided to leave the award behind.
Bailey, for the record, has written a lengthy explanation of his CRC vote. Reached for comment this morning, he defended his record on carbon and climate change and said he would have welcomed a discussion about the vote even after a somewhat amusing political prank (my words) that he described as a "sarcastic grandstanding maneuver."
"They were asked if they'd like to ask a question. They declined. I'm sad they passed up that opportunity," he says.
Bailey also says he stuck around after the event, along with Senator Jackie Dingfelder, who has yet to vote on the highway project.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," he says. "I wish they'd have taken the opportunity to talk to me. I was standing near them. They huddled near the bar with their beers... It was a tempest in a teapot. I'm not worried. It was a good event."
The Oregon House of Representatives has given a big thumbs-up to the Columbia River Crossing bridge, the proposed and intensely controversial new Interstate 5 bridge connecting Oregon to Washington.
Earlier today, lawmakers voted 45-11 to approve HB 2800, a bill that would allow the sale of $450 million in bonds (to be matched by the state of Washington) for the CRC. The highway project is meant to replace two very old I-5 bridges that, yes, won’t hold up in a major earthquake and really need to be replaced. But $450 million is only a fraction of the $3.4 billion the project is expected to need, and approving state funding probably won’t be the end of this story.
If you’ve followed the winding and sometimes dramatic tale of the CRC, you know the project has been plagued with many problems—including fights over how to fund the damn thing, over light rail, over how many lanes the bridge should have, whether the initial design was too ostentatious, and, my personal favorite, the possibility that the current design (which looks like it was rendered by a humorless Soviet), is not actually tall enough for commercial ships to pass under.
Which is perhaps why a statement put out by the Office of the House Speaker announcing the passage of HB 2800, doesn’t once mention the CRC by name. Instead it touts the bill, and the bridge it enables, as a way to “spur job growth.” Like consultants maybe?
The bill is expected to go to the Senate as soon as early next month.
Bringing up every city road to good or fair quality would cost something like $85 million a year for the next 10 years, about $75 million more than the Bureau of Transportation has recently been allotting. But instead of immediately seeking new revenue, Hales says he wants to cut in some other places first, never mind that much of PBOT's money is already spoken for.
So how much more money is Hales hoping to find? According to Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org, who was covering PBOT's budget presentation today, it's not much: a little more than $7 million. That's about a tenth of what the auditor says it would take to get current, and not even all of that will go toward paving.
Here's the list of cuts Maus posted:
• $4.5 million from debt service on Sellwood Bridge bonds (this money was originally slated for the city's general fund, Hales is attempting to keep it all for PBOT);
• $1.2 million from a sidewalk project slated for SE 136th Ave;
• $950,000 from the Downtown Marketing Initiative program;
• $500,000 from the City's ADA curb ramp program.
Even this list won't be easy to swallow. Maus reported some immediate blowback at the meeting about the 136th Avenue sidewalk cuts. Taking money from the general fund could mean other cuts in other bureaus. Hales also told me yesterday, when asked point blank about the Portland Business Alliance-affiliated Downtown Marketing Initiative, that it was "on the table."
Of course, PBOT has tried and failed to make that cut before. Last year, when the bureau, under fired director Tom Miller, submitted a requested budget without that line item, the money was restored, plus some, by the time council and then-Mayor Sam Adams got through their annual budget exercise in making as many people happy as possible.
Hat tips to Blogtown reader Elijah who pointed us to this Qualcomm Mobile advertisement that's actually useful instead of annoying! Their bus shelter ads ask if the waiting riders are bored or in a hurry—and when the rider goes to the site... BINGO! Their much improved ride arrives, which could be a Lamborghini, a dog sled, or a mini-bus full of puppies. As Elijah so correctly put it, "Believe me when I tell you I would get into any vehicle that has a dozen puppies in it."
Washington state is in a dither over how to deal with now-legal recreational dope smokers driving around stoned out of their gourds—AS WELL THEY SHOULD BE. So in the name of "journalism"—let's stop and giggle about that for a moment... giggle. Giggle. Giggle.—Seattle's KIRO news asked three volunteers to get increasingly and completely baked and then drive around a closed course, accompanied by a cop. And the results may NOT surprise you! In fact, everything that you expect to happen does happen, and the drivers' ability to operate their vehicles safely disintegrates with every puff, puff, pass.
HOWEVER! I will admit that baked drivers are funnier than drunk drivers—as proven by test subject Addy, who runs her smart cute mouth during the entire demo, AND showed up to the test already high! Here's her extended cut, and you can watch the other participants here.
How's this for scare tactics. In starting up its budget process this morning, TriMet—currently locked in a bitter dispute with its operators union over rising benefits costs—dropped a financial bomb.
To keep from going broke, the agency is warning, it would need to slice out 63 weekday bus lines, and cut overall service by 70 percent, by 2025. Mostly rapid bus service would be left in place.
The news was presented at today's board meeting and picked up by the Oregonian. But it was first reported very early this morning by Portland Afoot, which got an early look at the slideshow TriMet presented to its directors.
According to reports, General Manager Neil McFarlane explicitly connected the doomsday service cuts to TriMet's difficulties with Amalgamated Transit Union 757 and made a plea for deeper concessions on health care and pension costs. An arbitrator has already allowed TriMet to raise its employees' share of health care cost, but the union has appealed that ruling to the Oregon Employment Relations Board—an agency seen by some (hi, Portland!) as pro-labor.
Joe Rose at the O has some good numbers. But you should read what Portland Afoot has to say—including some questions about the assumptions behind the numbers and, if you click over, some links to the ATU's views on all of this.
It’s not yet clear what assumptions lie behind those projections. General Manager Neil McFarlane said Wednesday that they include a 70% cut to administrative costs, but no further tax increases.
"Before anybody wants to invest more money in TriMet, we want to be able to demonstrate that we can invest that money dollar for dollar in restored service," McFarlane said. "We can’t demonstrate this yet."
McFarlane said restoring any lost transit service will be impossible unless union workers’ health care plan is reduced to the same benefit level as the management plan, with reduced medical coverage in retirement.
Even if that happens, he said, TriMet wouldn’t be able to improve service without new revenue. Nor could it devote any existing revenue to future rail lines after the Orange Line to Milwaukie.
"All we can hope for is the current service," McFarlane said.
There were a lot of ads for movies during the Super Bowl. And fine, I'm looking forward to Iron Man 3. I'm warily intrigued by World War Z and Oblivion, and I'll probably end up seeing Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz thing against my better judgement, and—much to the palpable discomfort of everyone who has to share physical space with me—I'm
practically literally tumescent about Star Trek Into Darkness. But you know what movie leaves all of those in the fucking dust? Motherfucking Fast & Furious 6, motherfuckers. If Sunday's all-too-brief look at what's sure to be one of the finest films of all time frustrated you as much as it did me, behold: Here's a whole three minutes and 22 seconds of immaculately edited and scored Fast & Furious 6 hype, highlighting how former bitter enemies Vin Diesel and The Rock are about to TEAM UP to DRIVE SOME CARS and SAVE THE WORLD. Last night I was telling some people in the Mercury offices about how awesome F&F6 is going to be and one of them rolled his eyes and was all, "What, are there planes in this one?" FUCK YES THERE ARE PLANES YOU FUCKING IDIOT, WHY ARE YOU WASTING MY TIME, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR EYES. And there are also trucks getting clotheslined and Gina Carano and beautiful ladies in short skirts dancing in slow motion and Vin Diesel growling "Ride or die" and important lessons about teamwork and family. Are you ready to live life in the fast lane? Because I am. There is no doubt about it.
Thanks to Mike Russell for making today worth living.
Charlie Hales this morning announced John "Toby" Widmer, the city's former maintenance bureau director, as his interim pick for the Bureau of Transportation—celebrating a city official who "came up through the ranks,” "understands that street maintenance is his first priority," and "could start up every piece of equipment in the maintenance yard and run it.”
But that's not the only thing that makes Widmer stand out: He's also a campaign donor. Campaign finance records show Widmer gave Hales hundreds of dollars toward his run for city hall, most recently with a $50 check last month. Update! That initial figure only looked at contributions under Toby Widmer—Widmer, using his given name, also cut an additional $600 check. And, as Toby, he gave $500 back in 2011. The actual total is $1,650.
It's a slightly sticky subplot for a personnel move that has the aura of a political housecleaning. Widmer will replace Tom Miller, former Mayor Sam Adams' ex-chief of staff, who took over the bureau in 2011 without the benefit of enduring a national job search. Hales campaigned on his desire to oust Miller, complaining about that lack of a national search, and made good on that promise as soon as he took office. (And let's not forget that Hales hasn't been a model citizen when it comes to enforcing standards for campaign contributions, before or after the election.
Hales' news release highlights the 61-year-old Widmer's deep ties to Portland and 28 years of experience before his retirement from the city in 2002, the same year Hales left politics for the private sector. The goal is to let Widmer run things for six months, while that national search plays out and Hales leads PBOT and the rest of the city through budget season.
Asked for a comment, Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says he wasn't aware Widmer was also a donor and was checking with the office to see if anyone else knew about before he was hired. With the caveat that even if they did, it may not have been seen as an issue.
Another ex-city official whose name Hales has floated as a potential helper during budget season, ex-Parks Director Zari Santner, had given Hales $1,550. Of Hales' 14 city hall staffers, only one gave him money during the campaign. Ed McNamara, a policy director and affordable-housing developer making $84,656, gave Hales
Read Hales' full release below.
|Most Popular||I, Anonymous||Best of the Merc|
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!