Friday, January 30, 2009

Terwilliger opened at 11:30 this morning

After nearly four months of being closed, Terwilliger Boulevard was re-opened between Capitol Highway and Barbur Boulevard at 11:30 this morning.

For the past month, crews have been cleaning up landslide debris on a plateau just above the boulevard. The work took place beneath Burlingame Place where an Oct. 5 landslide began that destroyed two homes and damaged five others.

Early this morning, contractors completed their clean-up work to the satisfaction of the Portland Department of Transportation.

The closure of Terwilliger diverted some 6,000 commuters a day. Many used the route to get to and from OHSU. Neighbors on side streets complained about commuters deviating from the designated detour route.

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Putting your $2,730 to work

You’ve probably done the math.

$819,000,000,000 / 300,000,000


The nominator (the first number) is the amount of the Obama-backed stimulus package that passed the House with nary a Republican "yes" vote. A version of it is now before the Senate.

The second number, the denominator, is roughly the nation’s population.

And, unless I’ve lost a zero along the way, the result of the division is $2,730 for each man, woman and child in the country.

I don’t know about you, but it is an exceedingly small fraction of what our family lost in the stock market last year. For many more, it is a very small part of their personal debt — consumer debt and other debt.

Sure, the government could give that $2,730 back to us in tax cuts. That's what the Republicans want.

What would you do with it? I’d tuck it away in a very, very safe place. Like between the mattress and the box springs.

I could invest it in the stock market along with the money of others. There the Wall Street financial managers would rake off millions in bonuses even as they reduce our money to junk status.

Some might use part of the Republican tax cut to buy Chinese-made flat screen TVs or Japanese-made computer consoles. Some might pay down a portion of credit card debt, or part of school loans. Or the car insurance or the health insurance or the back rent. I doubt many would give it to charity, but we can hope.

No, the $2,730 tax cut would do little to stimulate the economy or to create jobs, at least not in this country. But it would continue to grow the government’s debt. (What was it that Republicans once stood for? Fiscal restraint?)

We need to spend the $819 billion so that it multiplies in our economy. It’s called social investment. Think education, health, research, bridges, railroads, clean energy, peaceful diplomacy.

Not bad for $2,730.

It's whole lot better than tucking a tax cut under the mattress or buying a flat screen TV.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Limbo Land along the Willamette

I got most of today’s 10,000 steps in walking along the Willamette Greenway Trail. I started at Willamette park headed north for the surreal South Waterfront cluster of high rises.

I had business to do at Umpqua Bank, which has a pleasant urban outpost tucked under the new, convex and angular skyscrapers.

More condos and apartments are on the way, although it was apparent most of the completed ones are vacant, as are the storefronts along the deserted sidewalks.

The whole place looks in limbo. It’s an un-happening scene that, remarkably, continues to expand in a rapidly contracting economy.

I asked the bank’s assistant manager how things were going. He seemed moderately up-beat until I asked him about whether there are plans for a grocery store. No, he said, not enough people live in the “neighborhood” to support one, at least not yet. Then again, he added, one of the problems with attracting new residents is that there’s no supermarket.

“Sounds like ‘a chicken and egg’ problem,” I observed.

“Exactly, ‘chicken and egg,’” he said as though he had used the phrase to describe the problem before.

To be exact, the place, which is boldly calling itself a "neighborhood," has a ‘supermarket and residents’ problem. Until it is solved and until the sinking economy resurfaces, the place will have the look of a 21st Century Stonehenge. "What did they do here?" future generations might ask? "Where did they buy food?"

Walking back under a towering crane that was heisting concrete up and then lowering it to yet another foundation, I had a strange sensation of doom. “Could this be the way it ends? Building luxury apartments for people who no longer can have the luxury of — luxury? Could this be the final urban tableau? The real estate flippers' inevitable, colossal flop? Is South Waterfront the place where the last light switch gets wired, the last Italian imported tile gets laid, the final oak door shuts — never to be opened again?”

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A "Baffling" tragedy?

Once again law enforcement officials are baffled about why a young man would randomly kill with “no apparent motive.”

This time the toll was two teenage girls killed and seven other people wounded. Three remain in the hospital. One was in critical condition Monday.

The shooter, 24-year-old Erik Ayala, died today from his self-inflicted gun wound.


Everything points to a depressed, out-of-work young man who, for hours on end, escaped to the fantasy world of shooter video games.

Here’s how Ayala’s roommate, Mike Delisle, described Ayala: “He wasn’t big on talking about what was bothering him.” He was “down lately,” and “stuck to playing video games,” said Delisle.

The Oregonian reported today that among the “numerous” video games was “Grand Theft Auto,” the infamous hyper-violent, shooter game.

CAUTION: I’m about to enter into speculation that invites your comment.

The one thing I am not is “baffled.”

Armed with a fully loaded Italian-made pistol and an unstable mind, Ayala took his practiced gamer fantasy out into the very real streets of Portland with very real tragic results.

The gun and its bullets were suddenly real. The dead and wounded weren’t some animator’s depictions.

One mortally wounded victim was Martha Paz De Noboa, cut down at age 17. “Tika,” as her friends called her, was a Peruvian exchange student. According to The Oregonian, she “loved to dance and had never frolicked in snow until last month’s big storm,”

The other murder victim was Ashley Wilks, murdered in her 16th year. She was described as “the consummate best friend.”


I teach at a community college and so I know a lot of good kids and upstanding, bright young adults who play violent video games. Many play for hours on end, yes addictively. I know this because I have them keep media logs of how they spend their time. They very often are surprised by how much time they spend with "screens."

They would never kill a soul.

But they too are often isolated. They too lose touch with others. For many who are still social, their contacts frequently are circumscribed by a shared virtual world. Human interaction is dependent on a shared game.

They lose touch with reality. They lose touch even with themselves, with the value of their lives to themselves and to us.

Of course, the current economic economic vortex also devalues them in the work place.

It’s a textbook situation for depression.

Then add a 9 mm pistol, so easy to score in our gun-obsessed society, and you have the makings of what happened in Portland on Saturday night.


For an insightful psychological analysis the pathology of the “ScreenWorld,” I recommend this article in the current issue of the “Psychotherapy Networker.”

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Recalling Sam

I’ve talked to more than a dozen folks about where they stand on Sam Adams’ decision to tough it out as mayor.

As messy and time consuming as a recall will be, I believe that we need a referendum, a recall vote, on the Adams’ mayoralty.

Adams needs legitimacy, if voters are willing to give it.

Personally, I think Portland deserves and can produce far better leadership than Adams can offer. The guy is damaged goods, and deservedly,

My dealings with the mayor have been “small potatoes” compared to recent revelations, but in every instance they have left me with the feeling that Adams isn’t what the therapists call “grounded.” Sam is out to advance Sam, not the general welfare.

Exhibit A: The lies that have called his very integrity into question.

I voted for him because there simply was no viable alternative.

Now I believe we need to be rid of Sam, find solid leadership and move on from this unfortunate, sordid experience.

Bring on the recall.

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