Saturday, October 27, 2007

City Council healing requires return to basics

There were no winners at Thursday’s City Council deliberations that led to the Mayor Tom Potter’s walking out.

The clip of the proceedings that is on-line gives a different impression of the mayor than the one portrayed in print. He isn’t angry. He’s being matter of fact: He has been marginalized and feels “irrelevant.”

What he apparently doesn’t realized is his own role in his marginalization.

Should he have been made to feel this way? Should he have put himself in this position?

Clearly not.

Should he have walked out?

Probably not, but when he did so, he did it with no apparent rancor. He was simply acknowledging a fact.

Anyone who knows anything about group dynamics, knows that you must work at being inclusive, and you must remain open to change. The problem with raw majority rule (and that is what we were witnessing at the council) is that it doesn’t require inclusion. All it requires is a majority.

And the problem with stake-planting like the mayor's, is that you lose your flexibility and place in the discussion.

Commissioners Randy Leonard, Erik Sten and Sam Adams were shaping a majority solution that Potter had rejected out of hand. Hence the mayor became a non-person at the table.

Consensus has no non-persons. You have to address the minority’s concerns. You have to respect their views, even if it is going to take more time and force you to be flexible too.

Everyone has to work together.

Majority rule, which produces winners (and often arrogance) and losers (and often resentment), should be the last resort. (Sadly, partisan government hinges on majority rule. Fortunately, city government is non-partisan and offers the opportunity of consensus and inclusion — Thursday’s session notwithstanding.)

Thursday's meltdown is evidence the council has a lot more work to do on the street naming issue. It is time for the five members to go back to fundamentals by asking what is important.

You don’t honor a Cesar Chavez or a Rachel Carson, a Martin Luther King, Jr. or a Mahatma Gandhi, a Dag Hammarskjold or a Rosa Parks by naming streets, schools, parks or fountains after them.

You honor them by honoring what they believed in and struggled for.

That's worth repeating: You honor them by honoring what they believed in and struggled for.

It is far, far more important to keep their ideals before our eyes than their names.

Name the familiar places of our Commons after the values they espoused.

If you could ask these leaders whether they would prefer a street or park be named for them or for their cause (Justice, Stewardship, Equality, Fairness, Respect, Peace, to name a few), who could doubt what their answer would be?

Honor them by honoring that answer.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Sam, Sam, Sam!

If the headline on this entry sounds like scolding, it is.

On this day, when I took down two commercial signs illegally placed in the public right of way (one from the notorious Jobdango), I find it ironic that City Commissioner Sam Adam's Portland Department of Transportation is relying on intrusive signage in the public right of way to get its message out about public meetings.

What next? Signs scattered throughout our neighborhood for planning commission hearings, City Council meetings, PTA meetings? Where does it end?

At last count, this community was served by three (count'em THREE!) community newspapers plus an on-line newsletter (which I happen to edit and publish). You'd think that would be enough to inform an interested public about a Portland Department of Transportation meeting.

Interestingly enough, Adams and his transportation staff never even notified me, as Hillsdale News' editor, of the meeting he is publicizing so widely and flagrantly on utility poles throughout Hillsdale. (By the way, the last time they did this, the signs stayed up a full week after the meeting had taken place.)

All this from a man who wants to be, and likely will be, our next mayor.

It could be a long four years.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oregon: Refuge from Global Warming?

The raging fires in Southern California and the extreme drought in southeastern U.S. (to say nothing of Katrina) got me thinking about how we in the cool, green, water-rich Northwest must look to folks in these ravaged parts of the country.

“Inviting” comes to mind.

Ten years ago I got involved in Metro 2040 planning, a small piece of which resulted in Hillsdale’s being designated a “Town Center,” a place that could accept higher population density. Back then the regional planners estimated that the three-county Metro area would increase by 1 million residents by 2040. It seemed an astonishing number. After all, we are at an estimated 1.5 million today.

I just checked the state figures on-line and the estimated population for 2040 remains virtually the same as a decade ago. The Metro region will gain 920,000 new residents by 2040.

The site has a brief description of methodology, which looks at three factors: birth rates, death rates and migration.

In light of fires, droughts, hurricanes and other global-warming related disasters, I was particularly interested in how demographers viewed migration.

Here is what the state site says:


Age/sex-specific in-and-out migration rates for Oregon and its Counties were determined for each of the five-year period from 1980 through 2000 (1980-85, 1985-90, 1990-95, and 1995-2000). Detailed in-and-out migration data from the 1990 and 2000 Censuses were modified and utilized to reflect the recent net migration trend.

The problem is that those time periods were very different from the present. In short, that was then; this is now. Tomorrow doesn’t promise to be any better, climate-wise.

Sorely missing is any mention of climate change and its burgeoning influence on life in the rest of the country and on the planet.

I also checked in with Metro, where John Coney, senior public affairs coordinator, flatly told me that climate change is not part of the agency’s calculations.

Until we include migration caused by global warming in our population projections, our calculations — and hence our planning — are virtually worthless.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oregonian headline goes wobbly

Headline fuzzes report
of sheriff’s old affair
with then-governor’s wife

That’s my headline for the way editors at the Oregonian packaged a stunning story on today’s front page.

The story by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger and Les Zaitz reveals (once you slog through the headline's fudge) that current the Multnomah County Sheriff, Bernie Giusto, had an affair with the then-wife of Governor Neil Goldschmidt at a time when Giusto served as state police security for the governor.

Some security.

But never mind that.

Here’s the headline (with “kickers” and “pull quotes”) as it appears on the upper left of today’s paper. See whether you can find any reference to the affair with Margie Goldschmidt— the jawdropper in the story.

“I’ve had relationships. I’ve never let them spill into the workplace.”
Bernie Giusto, Multnomah County sheriff

Giusto’s job
tangled with
his private life

Credibility/ The sheriff says he doesn’t mix his personal and professional lives; the record of his career suggests otherwise

Got that?

Okay, let’s think of the ways our own jobs might “tangle” with our private lives.

“Honey, I’m going to be late for dinner tonight.”

“Dear, I didn’t get that raise. The two weeks in Hawaii are going to have wait.”

“I know I’ve been grouchy; but this new boss is driving me crazy.”

Then there’s the word “relationships” as in “I’ve had relationships. I’ve never let them spill into the workplace.”

We have all kinds of relationships. I relate to the bank clerk, the barista, my son, the bus driver. So Bernie’s had “relationships.” Big deal. And they’ve never spilled into the workplace. Mine don’t either.

OK, listen up, editors. You put two reporters on a story. They worked hard for five months. They write in the story that they interviewed more than 100 of Giusto’s “friends, associates and critics” and “reviewed thousands of pages of public records to examine Giusto’s career.”

And what do you do, editors? You wrap the nugget of their digging in a brown paper bag of limp psycho-babble.

Makes this reader wonder what might have been cut from the copy. That, we’ll never know.

For now, thanks, Les and Arthur, for pulling the plug on the sheriff — at last.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Encountering reality

A few days ago, I shared a quote from the late Alan Watts that continues to challenge me.

Part of it was this: “We’ve run into a cultural situation where we have confused the symbol with the physical reality, the money with the wealth and the menu with the dinner.”

The symbols, he notes, are self-imposed controls that we feel are needed because we believe, as human beings, we can’t be trusted.

But, of course, the controls can’t be trusted either because, as he points out, we made them.

Ultimately we must be thrown back on ourselves and on “physical reality.”

If only we knew how to be in touch with ourselves and nature around us. So much of our understanding of both is mediated through symbols. We are told (and shown) what we should fear, what we need, what it means to be “a success.” We are given — and give — misleading and false measures of our being.

As a result, we lose our very sense of who we are and what is important. Tragically, we also lose the knowledge of how to regain what we have lost.

As for “physical reality,” we spend less and less time with it. Instead we inhabit a fantasy world that has little to do with the real one, except that our addiction to fantasy will contribute to the neglect and ultimately destruction of our neglected reality and of ourselves.

Watts died in 1973. Ubiquitous computers, high-definition televisions, video games, cell phones, and iPods — mass disseminators of alluring symbols — were not part of his world. And yet even then, he warned of a confusing of symbols with reality.

If he only knew what the next third of a century would bring. The confusion has spread unabated. Out of it has emerged a symbol-manipulating, reality-averse, fear-mongering government more controlling than any this nation has seen.

The hope, if there still is hope, resides in our direct encounters with each other — in families, in communities, in civic and service organizations. Being together, working together, knowing and addressing each other’s needs, trusting, we have no need for external controls, no need for media-generated symbols.

We desperately need to experience and respond to the fullness of our shared, immediate reality.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Boys of October flumaxed by Flomax, Play Station

More troubling and strange (but less embarrassing) than all the flubbed pop-up flies in game seven of the American League Playoff Series, were the ads.

I don’t watch much TV, but the last game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox reeled me in — at least until Boston ran off with it.

Another enticement was the new HD TV we got on Saturday. We finally retired the 17-year-old pre-digital, low-definition boulder hulking in our sitting room.

If the new 32-incher isn’t exactly a revelation, at least I now know the score — literally. I can actually make out the little numbers along the top of the screen. Talk about high definition.

So what was it about the ads that perplexed me?

Think: Flomax and Play Station. (How far we’ve come from Budweiser and Gillette!)

Consider what the two products have in common.

Like audience.

Hmmmm. Gamers who have trouble peeing? Unlikely, unless they are even more addicted than I imagined.

There’s no question that the generation that cut its teeth on Gameboys is getting on. But are they so far along that they have — and here I quote from the Flomax web page — “difficulty urinating (hesitation, dribbling, weak stream, and incomplete bladder emptying), painful urination, and urinary frequency and urgency”?

Just out of curiosity I Googled “Prostate” (the main culprit here, particularly an enlarged one) and “video games” and found only a remote, but curious, connection.

(Did someone say, “Get a life.” Bear with me. Trenchant point ahead!)

Turns out that surgeons who do laparoscopic surgery do better after playing video games. (See, I told you so.)

Or to quote:
“Hand–eye coordination: video games and laparoscopic surgery
A new study has demonstrated that some of the skills needed to perform laparoscopic surgery are similar to those used when playing video games.”

Score one for video games. (Personal historic note: My dad was a urologist and did his share of laparoscopic surgery. He was damned good at it. That said, the closest he came to playing video games was shooting pool, which he did badly. As a kid of 10, I routinely cleaned his clock.)

Moving right along….

Turns out that cancers, including prostate cancer, are less common among males older than 65 when they exercise regularly (that is to say they are NOT playing sedentary video games...and yes I realize that some games now involve physical exercise, but most don’t.)

Again, to quote: “The results showed that men older than 65 years of age who engaged in three hours or more of vigorous physical activity a week had a marked reduction—of nearly 70 percent—in their risk of developing high-grade, advanced or fatal prostate cancer.”

Score one against video games. Okay, okay, score one for exercise.

But the study found no correlation between exercise and prostate cancer among the young. The young rarely get prostate cancer in any case. Count that as a draw.

Fascinating, huh?


Well, let’s see what the World Series brings.

I don’t know about the Flomax and Play Station ads, but I’d like to see better communication between infielders and outfielders on pop-ups. Less hesitation and dribbling.

I’m not sure what can be done for weak streams, but a little Flomax might help.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

October Sunday Haiku

On a winding road,
scootering, merging with the
curve’s constant coming.

Fallen maple leaves,
Too brief Fall’s celebration
Of our summer joy.