Thursday, March 20, 2014

OSU-Pumice Pit opposition growing

Rendering for Juniper Ridge where OSU-Cascades should go
The natives are restless.

Close to 300 citizens showed up tonight at the Armory on Bend's west side to mostly voice opposition to Oregon State University's proposed campus on a pumice pit.

The gathering was coordinated by a new group called "Truth in Site Coalition," which pointed out a number of times throughout the evening that it enthusiastically supports a four-year university in Bend, just not at the proposed site.

It's a group apparently comprised of retired professionals in a variety of fields who would be great assets for OSU, but the college obviously has no use for such talent.

Otherwise, the OSU-Pumice Pit brain trust would realize that 56 acres of land, that is mostly unsuitable for any building and surrounded by single family housing, is an inadequate and inappropriate location for a four-year university.

There were a few people at the meeting who urged everyone "to work with the university and not against the university."

Hello. It is the university that is working against the people of Bend and has no interest in the concerns of the majority living in this town who believe the pumice pit is a horrible location.

The school wants to rush through the acquisition and land-use process so that it can open its doors in the fall of 2015.

That timetable is ridiculous. As the emcee of the event tonight said, "that timetable is fine for a house, but not for a new four-year university."

The Truth in Site Coalition has raised $10,000 and is hoping to raise at least $50,000 in order to hire a land-use lawyer to fight the location of the westside campus.

I hope they succeed, but it's going to be extremely tough.

The group lists six areas of concern. They include:

1) Increased traffic in already congested area.
2) Inadequate campus parking that will spill over into surrounding neighborhoods.
3) Limited affordable housing for students.
4) Single family housing being converted to student housing.
5) The pumice pit is unsafe and unhealthy.
6) Expansion to the north on the adjacent land that what once a demolition landfill will be too costly to ever develop.

Of course, the last two issues are the most critical, but the others are vitally important as well.

The main argument that proponents make about the westside location near the center of town is: what student would ever want to go to a school way out there in Juniper Ridge.

Yes, Juniper Ridge, the huge parcel on Bend's north end that was designed to accommodate a four-year university.

First off, Juniper Ridge is across the highway from Bend's largest shopping and dining area.

Secondly, OSU will have no trouble attracting students to Bend, provided the school is decent enough, because the city itself has had little trouble attracting people to move here from all over the country.

There has never been a shred of evidence presented to show that few students would go to a college at Juniper Ridge. It's a completely bogus argument.

And, as someone noted tonight, more than a century ago a school opened about 45 miles south of San Francisco that was so remote it was called "The Farm." Today, that school is Stanford.

Now, OSU-Pumice Pit will never, ever be a Stanford, but it could be an adequate four-year school at Juniper Ridge.

The biggest impediment to siting OSU at Juniper Ridge is that ODOT now says a $20 million to $30 million highway interchange is needed to offset the impact of the development.

Fair enough, but it'll cost that much or more just to prep the pumice pit.

Certainly, paying to improve a major highway to benefit far more people, is a better use of taxpayer money than to enrich of a handful of developers on Bend's west side.

If proponents want us to "work together," how about having OSU and ODOT figure out a solution to the traffic issue on Bend's north end. ODOT is not some imperious entity above all others. Is OSU?

Anyway, Truth in Site's email address is:

Their facebook page is "OSU Cascades - Truth in Site."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why are Oregon Republicans so wimpy?

Kitzhaber is seeking 4th term            WaPo
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has done such a lousy job on his second go-around running this state that you would think Republicans would be eager to take on such a vulnerable incumbent this year.

But, no, Republicans are so afraid of losing the governorship yet again, that they failed to put forth a viable candidate.

Of course, the Oregon GOP is so fractured that it hasn't won any statewide election for years.

Still, Kitzhaber is sure beatable. Heck, even GOPer Chris "Airball" Dudley, a political nobody, nearly upset Kitzhaber in 2010.

Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor and the state's longtime leader in making health care accessible to all, completely botched the rollout of the Affordable Care Act through Cover Oregon, which still doesn't have a functioning website.

Plus, he wasted thousands on high-priced education "guru" Rudy Crew, who lasted long enough to get a better job at Medgar Evers College in New York.

Kitzhaber forced out the popular president of the University of Oregon, Richard Lariviere, because he gave professors raises.

This led UO to form it's own board to oversee its practices.

Kitzhaber's education initiative, to shepherd students from pre-K through college, is so unfocused and underfunded that it's essentially pointless.

With all these problems, Kitzhaber should be easy to defeat this time around.

Yet, Kitzhaber faces token opposition in the May primary against someone named Ifeanyichukwu C. Diru. Yeah, that's what I said.

He also faces token opposition in the general election when he runs against the likely GOP nominee, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, from southern Oregon.

Richardson is another anti-government extremist who is anti-gay rights, anti-public education except for arming teachers, and a devout Mormon. He'll win the Tea Party vote, but fail to win over many independents.

He's a perfect representative for southern Oregon, which wants to secede from Oregon and form the state of Jefferson along with some disgruntled counties across the border in California. Maybe Richardson can be Jefferson's first governor.

At least Richardson has a spine to take on Kitzhaber.

That says something about the current state of GOPers in Oregon.

In other words, they're wimps in "mom-jeans."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rep. Walden at center of ethics complaint

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, appears to be representing his constituents well in that he resorts to fraudulent means to bring home the bacon.

Unfortunately, those campaign contributions do nothing for residents in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District.

This article lays out the case against Walden, a lifelong politician. Here is the official letter of complaint filed by the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Apparently, Walden, as chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, approved websites that look like they're for Democrats, but when you want to contribute to that Democratic campaign, your money instead goes to the NRCC.

Yeah, that qualifies as deceptive, if not fraudulent.

Republicans are struggling to attract donors to their brand because it's proving toxic to young people and those who are more tolerant.

This doesn't mean that Walden, first elected in 1998, faces any obstacle to reelection this fall. This is the only safe Republican district in Oregon. It comprises a geographical area the size of New England, but with a voting population of roughly 400,000. Republicans enjoy an estimated 50,000 advantage in terms of registrations.

Walden is tight with House Speaker John Boehner. It's safe to assume the highest ranking Republican in the nation is cool with using fraud to attract donations.

Some party, that GOP.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Conger a 'guaranteed loser'?

Straw polls don't amount to a bushel of wheat, but they can provide some insight into political trends.

The comments by former Sen. Bob Packwood, who founded the conference 50 years ago for a more moderate GOP, were a little brutal.

"I cannot pick a guaranteed winner," he said during the debate before the votes were cast. "But I can pick a guaranteed loser. Jason Conger is a guaranteed loser."

Of course, Packwood has his own credibility issues since he was forced to resign from the U.S. Senate in 1995 over sexual misconduct allegations from a number of women. It was ironic because Packwood was a bigtime supporter of abortion rights.

Conger is the Republican state representative from Bend who is giving up that seat to take on Merkley.

As reported in The Oregonian: "Packwood later said that he thought Conger's opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage put him on the wrong side of the Oregon electorate. Conger disputed that analysis, saying he thought Oregon voters are more concerned about economic issues."

Yes, Conger is right. Oregon voters care more about the economy than social issues.

But, Republican primary voters care more about social issues than the economy. They have for years now and that is one of the main reasons why their candidates can't win statewide races in the general election.

Wehby is pediatric neurosurgeon from Portland. She a political neophyte, but she came out strong against Obamacare. It's a stance that the GOP believes will take them to the promised land.

Wehby, though, says she's pro-life but doesn't believe the government should govern the abortion issue.

This puts her at odds with her opponent, Conger, and also the diehard GOP primary voter.

The fact that she's from Portland helps her chances, but Conger is the safe bet to claim victory, particularly in this era of the Tea Party.

To beat Merkley, though, Conger needs to attract almost all Republicans to his candidacy. He's not likely to do that since those at Dorchester and other moderates like them in the GOP ranks will have a hard time voting for Conger.

He'll also have a tough time winning over the majority of independents with his extremist views.

Plus, Conger doesn't have much of a chance of peeling off many votes from the Democratic ranks. There are about 200,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Oregon.

So, while Conger should lose handily in the fall, assuming that he wins the primary, it's a bit premature to say that he's a "guaranteed loser."

But, it's close to guaranteed.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The end of the Oregon GOP?

Oregon doesn't get many earthquakes, but it did get hit by a big one today.

The 50th annual gathering of Republicans at the Dorchester Conference in Seaside saw attendees endorse a ballot measure to support gay marriage.

Now, 10 years ago, Oregon Republicans turned out en masse to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the state constitution.

Today's vote is a stunning turnaround.

Granted, the Dorchester Republicans aren't as socially conservative as the GOP at large. In fact, former Sen. Bob Packwood formed the conference in response to the drubbing that extremist Barry Goldwater endured against LBJ.

But, all Republicans in the state threw their lot in with the social conservatives more than 30 years ago and haven't won the governorship since. This fact is crucial because, until then, only two Democrats had won the governor's race in a 100 years.

The Oregon Republican Party used to be the progressive party in this state in terms of race relations and land-use issues.

But, that was a generation ago.

The Republican brand, in Oregon and nationally, is suffering from the correct perception that it endorses hostile attitudes toward minorities, women and homosexuals.

Now, Republicans are realizing that they're losing out on a ton of money because of its attitudes towards gays. So, by endorsing gay marriage, Republicans hope they can stanch the bleeding of losing the younger voters, but, more importantly, they hope to receive a ton of cash from gay Republicans.

Of course, this recent shift towards a more tolerant, if fake, attitude toward gay marriage meant that the social conservative wing of the GOP, along with Tea Party types, had to stage their own well-attended gathering this weekend in Clackamas, the southeast exurb of Portland.

This division within the Republican ranks means that Oregon Democrats will win any statewide election this year and, most likely, in 2016 when a woman should win the presidency for the first time.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Retail shakeup affects Bend

With news that the investment company that bought Albertsons last year and appears to be buying Safeway, it's safe to say that grocery prices will soon rise here.

Also, Staples, which is on Bend's north end, could close since the company announced it would be shutting down 225 outlets. The Bend Staples doesn't seem to generate much business.

And, Radio Shack said this week it would shutter 1,100 stores. Again, the one in Bend doesn't attract a ton of customer and could be one of those to close.

Losing Staples or Radio Shack would be no great loss.

However, having Safeway become more like Albertsons would be terrible.

First off, Albertsons stores, at least in Bend, are small with pathetic produce sections. Plus, the new owners got rid of the Albertsons card and raised prices across the board.

Walmart has set the bar so low for supermarkets that the other chains are in a race to the bottom.

This will help Trader Joe's on the high end of the market and the Grocery Outlet on the low end.

Fred Meyer, in spite of its grumpy staff, should become the go-to market for everyone else.

Also, Food 4 Less should hold onto to its customer base, at least for the time being.

The retail shakeup is expected since we still haven't recovered from the Great Recession.

We can expect more consolidations and closings in the future since corporations expanded recklessly during the boom years, not to satisfy customer demand, but to show stockholders that they were growing.

This is what happens when business serves the interests of the stockholder before the customer.

The chickens have come home to roost. And they will, in all those empty buildings.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Media mania for Ukraine

I turned on the cable news tonight, CNN/Fox/MSNBC, to see what was new with Ukraine.

Well, it seems that the trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend in South Africa has supplanted Russia's takeover of Crimea as the top story, at least on CNN.

Of course, President Obama's proposed $3.9 trillion budget was getting some airtime, too, particularly on Fox News.

MSNBC was the only network still devoting much time to Ukraine.

Now, with all due respect to murder trials and budget squabbles, nothing draws viewers or readers like war.

NBC News with Brian Williams, though, led with the Ukraine story, but not in a breathless push for war as was the case over the weekend.

Russia's Vladimir Putin held a bizarre press conference today where he showed a tenuous grip on reality. Apparently, his Crimea gambit isn't even playing well at home.

During the Cold War, the message could be tightly controlled, but, in the era of cell phones, Facebook, twitter, e-mails and Instagram, the word gets out instantly throughout the world.

Not that anyone on Fox News or in other extreme right-wing media care.

No, they're busy trashing President Obama and his response to the situation in Crimea/Ukraine.

In fact, there appears to be some serious love showered on Putin by American conservatives from former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani to ex-veep candidate Sarah Palin to disgraced former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Maybe, if President Obama rode bare-chested on horseback, he would get some respect from American right-wingnuts. That, and invade Iran for good measure. (Take that back, President Obama will never, ever get any respect from any right-wingnut ever).

Just so right-wingers don't fall completely head over heels for Putin, here is a link to show how dangerous this gangster is, not only for the world, but for Russia as well.

Thank god we have President Obama in office. He's cool, calm and collected when those qualities are needed most. Compared with the media, he's the only adult in the room.

Now, no disrespect to Ukraine, but Americans don't really care about you. First off, we have no idea where your country, let alone Crimea, is located. Second, we're still trying to deal with Iraq, 11 years after we invaded it for no reason. Plus, we're still trying to get out of Afghanistan, nearly 13 years after 9/11.

In the interest of fairness, though, it's worth pointing out that Ukraine, like Poland, is an unfortunate place.

We may have flyover states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, but Eastern European countries are runover nations. Over the centuries, powerful European nations have killed millions on their way to Russia, which then killed millions more on its way to Europe.

You have to feel some compassion for Ukraine. After Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the 1930s, the country welcomed Nazi "liberators" in the 1940s. That's how desperate they were.

Still, Ukraine's problems can't be solved by the U.S. or the E.U.

We can help, but Ukrainians must determine their own fate.

This is not 1940 nor is it 1991 when the USSR dissolved.

This is 2014, 100 years after Ukraine's Balkan neighbors plunged the world into what would become two catastrophic wars.

There is no desire anywhere to see 1914 repeat itself.

To paraphrase John Lennon, if you want to save Ukraine, go save Ukraine.

Otherwise, let us get back to the Pistorius trial.