Saturday, January 20, 2007

Topsy-Turvy news at The Oregonian

OK, time to play “You be the Editor.”

Consider two stories.

Story number one is about a mysterious company registered in Oregon that rights groups suspect of being a CIA front. Evidence suggests that the company is a shell outfit whose Gulfstream jet was used to transport terrorism suspects to other countries to be tortured. In other words, there may be a link between what has been euphemistically called “Rendition” and operations in Oregon. Oh, and now the Oregon Bar association is pressuring an attorney for the company to reveal who is behind it.

Story number two is about how a well-known developer’s proposal to build a prominent mixed-use high-rise downtown may revitalize commercial activity in the city’s core.

Got that?

All right, your job is to place the stories in the paper. Two places are available.

One story can go at the top of the front page, where you’d have to be blind not to read it; the other can go at the top of the Business page, where readers are generally tracking how the economy is doing.

If you put the CIA/Rendition/Oregon story on the front page and the high-rise/revitalization story on the business page, I say you win “You be the Editor.”

So why, in deciding which would go where in today’s Oregonian, did the paper’s editors do just the opposite?

I’m not casting aspersions here. Inquiring minds just want to know.

How can the Oregonian’s editors see the news in such a topsy-turvy way? And what happens to their credibility when they do?

In this Internet age of information, don’t newspapers have enough problems already?

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Send Charter Commission back to drawing board, broaden mandate to include consolidation

Mayor Tom Potter laid out ambitious new plans yesterday to overhaul the Portland school system by giving principals more power and autonomy, requiring teachers to undergo rigorous review in order to gain tenure and revising the school financing system that has allowed more experienced teacher to cluster in affluent schools.

If only.

Substitute “Mayor Michael Bloomberg” for “Mayor Tom Potter” and “New York City” for “Portland” and you have the lede to a New York Times story earlier this week.

Using his authority to run the schools, Bloomberg announced sweeping school changes in his annual address to New York City Council on Wednesday.

In Portland on Thursday, the Portland City Council, which includes Potter as a "first among equals," reviewed Charter Revision Commission recommendations that said not one word about consolidating city and school governance in Portland.

Obviously the destinies of the schools and the city are intertwined, but in Portland the school district and the City are on entirely different pages in terms of governance and policy.

And the pages aren’t even in the same book. Portland Public Schools and City Officials rarely talk to each other. They aren’t required to. Very frequently they don't want to because of friction over turf and money.

But why should Portland look to New York for guidances? For starters, The Big Apple obviously has some similar problems. Do Bloomberg’s concerns about low school funding and school inequity sound familiar? (I'll leave it to others to comment on how rigorous the review of tenured teachers is.)

The Charter Review Commission clearly needs to expand its mandate to include possible city/schools consolidation. The commissioners could start by talking to officials in cities where city and school governance is one and speaks with one voice, as it did Wednesday in New York City.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Apostrophe gut check in Hillsdale

The clever little book, "Eats Shoots & Leaves" (subtitle: "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation") makes fun of punctuation foibles.

Careful and not-so-careful readers know I've have a few myself. So I'm entering dangerous terrain with the following....

Reading the book's chapter on apostrophes, "The Tractable Apostrophe," led me to do an apostrophe check of Hillsdale commercial signs.

After skimming our signs, I'd give the Town Center a B-plus.

As you can see in the photos, we have some exemplary punctuation practitioners.

The honor role includes Noah's, Salvador Molly's, the Hillsdale Farmers' Market and Papa John's Pizza. You have to look closely for the apostrophe in the Papa John's signage. It's as if the company punctuates grudgingly. Corporate consistency is a problem for Salvador Molly's. The listing for its catering service on its web site mysteriously drops the squiggly.)

Lowering Hillsdale's punctuation grade is Starbucks, a notorious flaunter of apostrophe misuse. Clearly we need an apostrophe to indicate possession here—Starbuck being the first mate of Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, in "Moby Dick." The place is Starbuck's.

Also, pulling us down is Edward Jones Investments, although I suppose you could argue that the investments are the firm's clients', not Jones' (Note the tricky punctuation here! Whew!)

Queen of Diamonds Jewelry is another drag on our grade.

Lynne Truss, the author of "Eats Shoots & Leaves," presents a long list of offenders. The Edward Jones and Queen of Diamonds examples fall under her category "Signs that have given up trying." Examples: Customer toilet, author picture, mens room.

A more likely and forgiving explanation is that graphic design has won out over punctuation.

You be the judge.

The unforgiving can can always find kindred spirits at places like the Apostrophe Catastrophes or Apostrophe Abuse.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Charter review omits neighborhoods, vision

I can't attend Thursday's Portland City Council deliberations on the Charter Review Commission's recommendations at 2 p.m. at City Hall, so I've sent my comments.

I have serious concerns about both the commission's process and its recommendations. Here's what I've written the City Council...


I'm writing because I have concerns that the process followed by the Charter Review Commission suffers from serious disconnects.

Specifically, the commission makes no recommendations regarding the role the City wants neighborhoods to play. As the mayor has said many times, the City can't do its job alone. It needs the energy found in the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods should be partners in the business of the city, and yet the Commission's recommendations utterly fail to acknowledge or formalize that partnership.

Moreover, there seems to be an inexplicable disconnect between visionPDX and the Commission's deliberations. As one who has read hundreds of visionPDX responses, I believe ignoring the concerns expressed in the responses is a travesty.

Consider just one area, education. Respondents were nearly unanimous about the need to bring equity to our schools, and yet their concerns were being directed to the City, NOT the School District. There is obvious need to tear down the walls between these two governments, if not actually combine them. The commission is silent on the question of consolidation or structures for improved communications.

I urge you to slow down the Charter Review process so that neighborhoods and visionPDX become part of the commission's deliberations and recommendations.


Rick Seifert
Hillsdale Neighborhood

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Putting U of O Academics before Athletics

Ninety-two University of Oregon senior faculty members are calling for the university's administration to ration back funds for the school's gluttonous athletic department and to start nourishing the university's languishing academic programs.

The professors laid out their case in a letter to the Eugene Register-Guard last week.

Unfortunately, the signers don't adequately address the role of major athletics in anesthetizing alumni in a consumptive/escapist, post-graduation culture.

Just as we need the moral equivalent to war, we need the imaginative/creative equivalent to tailgate parties, bouncy cheerleaders and the 90-yard kick-off return.

One symptom of the problem is the perverse hyping of the annual Duck-Beaver game as "The Civil War." The sad, tired tradition calls for a reminder: Civil war is being waged on the bloody streets of Baghdad. It is nothing to cheer about.

As I've said before, it's well past time for a new name for the game, one that puts the rivalry, the teams and the athletic budgets in proper perspective. The name change, and even the debate about it, would certainly help the cause of academics, knowledge and awareness.

Labels: , , ,

MAX "Springboard" to Barbur as a linear Pearl?

All that shifting of bus routes to make way for north/south MAX line construction through downtown can be seen as a potential opening for a MAX line down Barbur Boulevard.

In answer to a letter from Wilson High School Senior Daniel Ronan, Phil Selinger, TriMet's project planning director, wrote that the new line between Union Station and PSU will "provide a good 'springboard'" for a Barbur Corridor/South line.

The letter is also evidence that the public needs to have more say in TriMet's planning for such a line.

While the Regional Transportation Plan calls for "High Capacity Transit" near or on Barbur, no formal study has been made for it as part of an anticipated south line, writes Selinger.

He agrees with Daniel that the Barbur corridor is "a good candidate for MAX." The planner even makes passing reference to the old Red Electric rail right-of-way. But he also lists problems such as accommodating two tracks "without taking away existing roadway."

But isn't the idea behind MAX to get people out of their cars so that there is less demand for "existing roadway?"

Selinger also writes that steep embankments are another problem. Strange, they sure weren't an insurmountable problem for the hearty souls who built the Red Electric, or I-5 for that matter.

Selinger says a south line could "reach as far as the Tualatin River, south of King City." That's fine, except it wouldn't provide service to PCC's flagship Sylvania campus. A real oversight.

The south line also would connect to the Washington County Commuter Rail line presently under construction, he says. That would make the Barbur corridor a major feeder for commuters from places like Wilsonville. Sounds like commercial boon for the boulevard.

Another issue cited by Selinger is "sufficient housing and employment density." In other words, more projects like the new "Headwaters" development.

Put all this together and it's not hard to envision Barbur as a kind of Linear Pearl.

Now there's a sobering thought.

The photo shows the next iteration of MAX, the Siemens S70, set to go into service in 2009 on the new Southeast line along the I-205 corridor.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reciting Iraq War toll; writing Sen. Smith

Ruth Atkins, who is organizing the peace vigils in Hillsdale, has given me the "Iraq Coalition Casualties" web site that lists the names of Americans killed in Iraq.

The site provides sobering statistics about the killed and wounded, from all quarters in this war.

A link on the site lists fatalities by state.

So far 47 Oregonians have died. Count to 47 slowly, take a breath, in and out for each number...then read each name, with deliberation, breathe in and out for a life lost.

Those at future Hillsdale vigils plan to do it again and again.

Tragically, the list will grow until our protestations here and around the country succeed.

A key legislator to touch with the message is Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, who is up for re-election next year. He's no Oregon maverick of the Wayne Morse tradition, but he is making a mark.

We must not let Smith, a Republican, shy away from the position he took on the Senate floor last month when he called the Bush Administration's Iraq policies "absurd" and perhaps "criminal." He needs to expand his new awareness to include a new energy policy, one that allows us to cut our oil umbilical to the Middle East...and to let its people go.

Labels: , , ,