Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Choices the wealthy make

If you work to unscramble the news, if you strive to make sense of its seemingly disparate stories, truths often emerge.

Today's Oregonian noted the death of philanthropist Jean Vollum, the widow of Tektronix co-founder Howard Vollum. She and Howard gave away tens of millions of dollars. Such stories are heart-warming but the fail to mention the roles thousands of Tektronix workers played in earning the money that the Vollums gave away to worthy causes.

But never mind; that's not my point.

My point comes from connecting the Vollum story to another story, one about sports on the business page of the same Oregonian issue. It's about how the luck-of-the-draw Portland Trailblazers have set out to capitalize on their number-one draft pick and the hype surrounding it.

Turns out that the wealthy, in addition to not being like you and me, aren't like themselves.

On the one hand, a Jean Vollum can be giving money to the Mt. Angel Abbey, the Oregon College of Art & Craft and the Native American Center at PSU, while well-healed Blazer fans prefer to fork over megabucks to get up close to the pick-and-rolls, jump shots and trash talk at the Rose Garden. "Premium-priced seating" goes for...ready?....$66,000 a seat per season.

So here we have a class of folks who will pay for a well-situated seat at a season's worth of basketball games an amount greater than most Americans will earn in a year.

Taken separately, the Vollum story and the Blazer story are what we call news. Taken together, they offer a truth about values and choices.

P.S. Related — I'll leave the relationship to you — is the front-page story (same issue!) of how former Blazer Scottie Pippen took a hit on selling his 18,700-square-foot West Hills manor and estate for a shade under $3 million. The buyers are described simply as "Florida transplants," Razvani and Felicia Andreescu. If they hurry, they might still be able to pick up a pair of those "premium priced" seats at the Rose Garden. Then again, there's always Mercy Corps....

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