Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, November 24, 2017

Don't bet the farm on green

If your city or state does spend taxpayer funds on green schemes, it most likely isn't worth the money, but, you can feel green about spending more on renewables - like on Lake Oswego's PGE bill.  Spending additional taxpayers' money on an unnecessary item is merely a gesture that signifies this noble act is important to our city's "brand."  How many other city councils spend needlessly, burnishing their brand?

At some point there will be a resurgence in (modular) renewable, nuclear energy (fuel recycling) regional plants and ways to store power generate by wind, wave and solar power.  Right now, pouring too much time and money into today's technology is a huge mistake.  Read articles by Swedish ecologist, Bjorn Lomborg for his take on large-scale energy conversions. (Search this blog and the internet.)  America (and Oregon) doesn't need to follow German down an economically destructive rathole.

Unfortunately, some extreme greens in Oregon, Oregon cities and the USA continue to push for increasingly steep and expensive carbon reductions and GHG, and restrict automobile use.

NOTE: USC is all for carbon reductions wherever they are realistic, beneficial on a large scale, and do not harm middle and low-income families. A great idea has been the CAFE standards for cars and light trucks.  Today, with more cars on the road and more vehicle miles driven than ever, the total amount of carbon-based fuel used is lower than in 1995.  Increasing CAFE standards will continue to improve gas consumption in the future as cars achieve better MPG, and more people use electric cars.  Some regular gas cars can now equal the 40+ MPG I get from my Prius. A bad idea is requiring ethanol be used in winter gas.  We turn American fields into gas farms, use coal and oil-based energy creating the biofuel, and take farmland out of food production. give farmers government subsidies to grow indelible corn, and it's crummy gas!  My mileage goes way down with the ethanol mix - rather counterproductive. Bad ideas are not exclusive to Germany; however Germany's virtuous extremism should be a warning.

Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2017
Editorial Board
Germany’s Green Energy Meltdown
Voters promised a virtuous revolution get coal and high prices instead.

Amer­i­can cli­mate-change ac­tivists point to Eu­rope, and es­pe­cially Ger­many, as the paragon of green en­ergy virtue. But they ought to look closer at An­gela Merkel’s po­lit­i­cal strug­gles as she tries to form a new gov­ern­ment in Berlin amid the eco­nomic fall­out from the Chan­cel­lor’s fail­ing en­ergy revolution.

Berlin last month conceded it will miss its 2020 car­bon emis­sions-re­duction goal, hav­ing cut em­sions by just un­der 30% com­pared with 1990 in­stead of the 40% that Mrs. Merkel promised. The goal of 55% by 2030 is al­most surely out of reach.

Mrs. Merkel’s fail­ure comes de­spite as­tro­nom­ical costs. By one es­ti­mate, busi­nesses and house­holds paid an ex­tra €125 bil­lion in in­creased elec­tric­ity bills be­tween 2000 and 2015 to sub­si­dize  renewables, on top of bil­lions more in other hand­outs. Ger­mans join Danes in pay­ing the high­est house­hold elec­tricity rates in Eu­rope, and Ger­man com­pa­nies pay near the top among in­dustrial users. This is a big rea­son Mrs. Merkel un­der-per­formed in Sep­tember’s elec­tion.

Berlin has heav­ily sub­si­dized re­new­able en­ergy since 2000, pri­marily via feed-in tar­iffs re­quir­ing util­i­ties to buy elec­tric­ity from re­new­able gen­er­a­tors at above-mar­ket rates. Mrs. Merkel put that effort into over­drive in 2010 when she in­tro­duced the En­ergiewende, or en­ergy rev­o­lu­tion.

En­ergiewende en­thu­siasts say the pol­icy is rack­ing up suc­cesses de­spite the prob­lems. That’s true only in the sense that if you throw enough money at something, some of the cash has to stick. In electric gen­er­ating ca­pac­ity, for in­stance, re­new­ables are now run­ning al­most even with tra­ditional fuel sources.

Yet much of that ca­pacity is wasted—only one-third of Ger­many’s elec­tricity is ac­tu­ally gen­er­ated by re­new­ables. Berlin has in­vested heav­ily in wind and so­lar power that is eas­i­est to gen­er­ate in parts of Ger­many that need the power the least, es­pe­cially the north. Berlin will need to spend an­other huge sum build­ing trans­mis­sion lines to the in­dus­trial south.

The other costs re­late to pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, which is of­ten in Ger­many. The tra­di­tional plants needed to fill in the gaps are over­whelm­ingly fired by coal, on which Ger­many still re­lies for roughly 40% of its power.

No won­der vot­ers are in re­volt. Sur­veys say that in the­ory Ger­mans like be­ing green, but polls about house­hold en­ergy costs say oth­er­wise. The right-wing Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) won a surprising 13% vote share in part on a prom­ise to end the Energiewende im­me­di­ately. A new study from the RWI Leib­niz In­sti­tute for Eco­nomic Re­search finds that 61% of Ger­mans wouldn’t want to pay even one eu­ro­cent more per kilo­watt-hour of elec­tric­ity to fund more re­new­ables.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Will Gov ever "Get" business?

Willful Ignorance.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
—Aldous Huxley
"Central Planners plan.  Human behavior has no standing in their beliefs."
                                                                            -- USC  

USC Diaclaimer: I have been the owner of Class C apartments for about 20 years and have a great deal of experience with the multifamily industry and low-income housing.

Government runs on policy and popular opinion - emotion - not logic, fact, and unpopular acts.  So when it comes to making financial decisions and policy relating to dealing with businesses, the results are often negative, and sometimes disasterous.  Disastrous to businesses, yes, but also counterproductive to the goals they want to achieve and people they want to help.

The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability commissioned PSU Toulon School of Department of Urban Studies and Planning to do a study of housing options in the Southwest Corridor - especially SW Portland and Tigard.  This is in advance of the new light rail that is to be built from a Portland to Tualatin.

Understanding (intending) that communities that are in the path of light rail will (should) experience increased density and (new, expensive) multifamily housing (and gentrification), government agencies that are responsible for transportation planning and land use are now realizing their plans have an ugly downside.  Perverse consequences follow wherever Central Planning goes.

Transportation funds have flowed toward light rail and streetcars for years, butchering a good bus system, deconstructing area roadways, and intentionally causing congestion on major road systems.  But build they must, despite a noticible decline in transit ridership overall.  Why do they build?  To encourage development.  Why is housing expensive?  One reason, new construction increases demand for land at transit stations, and area gentrification.

Is all the effort worth it?  Especially when affordability and stable neighborhoods are at stake?  Idealogues are running the system.  Government types spew propaganda without understanding the dynamic economics that go with their decisions.  They are playing a complex game of chess with only one move - put government in control!

The Antiplanner, 9-29-2017 By Randall O'Tools, CATO Fellow

Portland’s Transit Experiment Has Failed

It is interesting to note that two of the region’s policies for boosting transit — densification (which makes housing expensive) and congestification (which makes buses late) — are now suspected of hurting transit. Of course, no one at TriMet would ever suggest that these policies be reconsidered.

A new light-rail line will in fact be counterproductive. Increasing property taxes will make housing even more expensive. Increased congestion from trains running in and crossing streets will delay buses even more. Rail’s high operating costs will probably mean higher bus fares. But this is typical of Portland’s light-rail mafia, which cares more about inputs than results.

Portland is so blinded by the urban planning vision of what a transit mecca should look like that it fails to see that cities no longer fit that vision. 

Below is what the PSU Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning has to offer.  (Why didn't the CoP go the
Real Estate and Business Department instead?  Not enough ideology?).   "Preserving the stock of NOAH housing" and "preserving rents" is a pipe dream.  Rents are stabilizing now and in the future may go up or down, but unless government wants to buy or assist non-profits to buy existing, older multifamily housing, they don't have control over sales, pricing, renovations, "upscaling" and rents.  When rents are "stabilized" for older buildings that ned constant maintenance work, insufficient funds can further degrade the property.  It doesn't take very long for affordable housing to look shabby - after all, it's nobody's baby.

It makes just as much sense to control the price of single family houses in order to preserve their affordability.  Perhaps government should prohibit remodeling, upgrades, flipping houses or apartments, renting dwelling space for more than it costs to own and operate it, and generally making any money from a physical asset.  That kind of control of personal property is called socialism.

The irony of all of this hand wringing is that government deliberately causes gentrification, then wants to solve the problems of the people they hurt along the way.   Once people get below-market rents, they will be trapped in that place making rents for other new residents much more expensive.  More government help to come?  They can't help themselves and are unwilling to learn.

"Social scientists don't do math - supply and demand concepts are not understood."
                                                 --- Government Council on Economic Development

Preserving Housing Choice and Opportunity
November, 2017
Prepared for the Southwest Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group


The great majority of the Portland region’s low and moderate income renters do not receive government subsidies or live in regulated affordable housing. They live in Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing — here defined as apartments with lower quality ratings that are usually older and with fewer amenities.

As the population grows, and higher income renters move to the area, preserving the stock of NOAH housing is important for the stability of these low income renting households. As new transit lines are planned, loss of NOAH also means a reduced ability to access opportunities in neighborhoods near transit.
This report focuses on the inventory and market for NOAH type multifamily buildings. 

While the region still has a substantial amount of two and three star buildings compared to newer, luxury type apartments, these lower cost units are under pressure. Rents are rising; and sales of buildings have been rising since the recession. With increasing demand to live in the area, the market moves towards investing in and upscaling these NOAH buildings, which could lead to the displacement of thousands of residents. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Keeping up with Californistan

PDX:  So insecure it has to be "first" - even if it is for doing stupid and things.  Stupid, oppressive and nanny things.  Pretty soon people won't know that they are (were) supposed to be responsible for making their own mistakes.  It's as if progressive governments think the people are so stupid, lazy and weak that we need new more and more laws to keep us from drowning in our own drool.

What ever happened to home inspections?  Buyer beware?  Before one buys a house, they get a home inspection that determines insulation, types of windows and age and type of HVAC equipment?  And don't forget to ask for the printout of the last year's energy use (see your PGE and NWNG bill for information).

How much do you think this will add to the cost of a home?
The most affordable homes are those that are already built.  This program targets these homes.  Government regulations always makes things more expensive, but not always better.  Government regulations give government control over your life, your money and your city.

Maybe low-income home sellers with low-scoring homes will have to sell at a discount, while those with high-scoring homes will make more?  Ah yes, perverse incentives.

And anyone who thinks this law is only for the homebuyer's sake is not thinking clearly.  The law required people proficient in doing home energy inspections.  This is not a jobs program - it is a precursor to requiring every home in the city, for sale or not, to have an energy score.  Then... tax or fine those who don't achieve a compliance rating.  Inspectors will have permanent employment keeping all those homes up to date.  Think I'm wrong?  You might need to live in Portland in order to see how opressive and arrogant government can be.

City of Portland Home Energy Score requirement beginning soon

Program provides new insight into energy use and costs of Portland homes

Know the score. Outsmart energy waste. www.pdxhes.com  
PORTLAND, Ore. – The City of Portland Home Energy Score ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2018, requiring sellers of single-family homes to disclose a Home Energy Report and Score at time of listing. Portland City Council unanimously adopted the policy (Portland City Code Chapter 17.108) in December 2016. This new policy will require people publicly selling single-family homes to obtain a Home Energy Report (which includes a Home Energy Score) from an authorized Home Energy Assessor. Complying with the policy takes two simple steps: getting the Home Energy Score and showing the Home Energy Score in any listing or public posting about the house.
Like a miles-per-gallon rating for a car, a Home Energy Score is an easy way for sellers, buyers, real estate professionals and builders to get directly comparable and credible information about a home's energy performance across the housing market.
In advance of the policy taking effect, the City of Portland Home Energy Score website is now live at www.pdxhes.com.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Climate alarmists continue regrettable history

How is climate change related to acid rain?  Bert Bolin.

This article is shocking.  Because the WSJ is difficult to access, this article needs to be discussed.

The practice of science starts with the application of the scientific method. A hypothesis (guess, theory) is posited and then tested.  Tests must be replicated by others to validate the theory and proof.  Overwhelming evidence is still conjecture and does not reach the level of proof.  Climate change theorists and activists rely on the concensus (general agreement, but still not proof) that global warming is taking place and that carbon emissions are the major cause.

Climate realists (skeptics, doubters) have been demanding proof for the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  This article reveals the history behind the big lies.  Propaganda masquerading as science has degraded science to something less honest than the truth, and certainly nothing to be relied upon.  Not if government policies pushing for major and costly changes in our way of life are based on mere theories, and when the theories are disproved, government continues to cover up and expand the big lie.  Skeptical scientists are all we have to keep the scientific community and government agencies honest.  Praise and thanks goes to these brave souls.

Wall Street Journal,  October 26, 2017. By Rupert Darwall
Climate Alarmists Use the Acid-Rain Playbook
The parallels between the two environmental frenzies are many, but the stakes are much higher now.

A ma­jor­ity of sci­en­tists might say a sci­en­tific the­ory is true, but that doesn’t mean the con­sensus is    reli­able. The sci­ence un­der­pin­ning en­vi­ron­mental claims can be fun­da­men-tally wrong—as it was in one of the big­gest en­vi­ron-men­tal scares in re­cent decades.

The acid-rain alarm of the 1970s and ’80s was a dry run for the cur­rent panic about cli­mate change. Both be­gan in Swe­den as part of a war on coal meant to bol­ster sup­port for nu­clear power. In 1971 me­te­o­rol­o­gist Bert Bolin wrote the Swedish gov­ern­ment’s re­port on acid rain to the United Na­tions. Sev­en­teen years later he be­came the first chair­man of the In­ter­govern­men­tal Panel on Climate Change.

There are many par­al-lels be­tween acid rain and global warm­ing. Each phe­nomenon pro­duced a U.N. con­ven­tion—the 1979 Geneva Con­ven­tion on Long-Range Trans­boundary Air Pol­lu­tion in the case of acid rain, and the 1988 Frame­work Con­vention on Cli­mate Change. And each con­ven­tion led to a new pro­to­col—the 1985 Hel­sinki Pro­to­col and the 1997 Ky­oto Pro­to­col.

Pub­lic alarm sur­round­ing acid rain was far more in­tense, es­pe­cially in Ger­many, where pop­u­lar reaction to me­dia sto­ries about acid rain reached a pitch of hys­te­ria not yet seen with global warm­ing. A 1981 Der Speigel cover story fea­tured an im­age of smoke­stacks loom­ing over a copse of trees with the ti­tle “The For­est Is Dy­ing.”

The most strik­ing par­al­lels are the role of sci­en­tific con­sen­sus in un­der­pin­ning en­vi­ron­mental alarm and the way sci­ence is used to jus­tify cuts in emis­sions. The emis­sion of sul­fur diox­ide into the atmosphere “has proved to be a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lem,” Bolin wrote in his 1971 re­port. National sci­en­tific acad­emies across North Amer­ica and Eu­rope were in com­plete agree­ment. “We have a much more com­plete knowl­edge of the causes and con­sequences of acid de­po­sition than we have for other pol­lu­tants,” a re­port by the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences’ Na­tional Re­search Council said in 1981. Ac­cord­ing to the NRC, the cir­cum­stantial ev­i­dence was “overwhelm­ing.” Many thousands of lakes had been af­fected, rivers were los­ing salmon, fish­eries in the Adiron­dacks were in a bad way, red spruce were dy­ing, and pro­duc­tion from Cana­dian sugar maple trees had been affected. Acid rain was a sci­en­tific slam dunk.

Politi­cians duly parroted what the sci­en­tists told them. “Acid rain has caused se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­mental dam­age in many parts of the world,” Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carterwrote in his 1979 en­vi­ron­men­tal message to Con­gress. He signed an agree­ment with Canada to es­tab­lish five acid-rain work­ing groups, and Con­gress set up a 10-year Na­tional Acid Pre­cip­ita­tion As­sess­ment Program, which went by the catchy acro­nym Na­pap.

To Cana­dian anger, Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan was more skep­ti­cal than his pre­de­ces­sor. The head of Cana­da’s Fed­eral As­sessment and Re­view Of­fice ac­cused Mr. Rea­gan of “bla­tant ef­forts to manipulate” the sci­ence be­ing done by the work­ing groups. A for­mal note of protest from Ot­tawa pointed to the more than 3,000 sci­en­tific stud­ies on acid rain yield­ing “suf­ficient sci­en­tific ev­i­dence” for policies to cut emissions.

Vice Pres­i­dent George Bush promised Canada that if elected pres­i­dent, he would act on the prob­lem. But as acid-rain cap-and-trade leg­is­la­tion was mak­ing its way through Con­gress, the En­vi­ron­mental Pro­tec­tion Agency en­coun­tered a ma­jor prob­lem. Na­pap’s draft re­port con­cluded that the sci­ence was wrong. Yes, powersta­tion emis­sions make rain more acidic—rain is nat­u­rally acidic, and more so dur­ing thun­derstorms—but changes to ecosys­tems, the re­port said, were mainly caused by changes in land use. The felling of trees and the burn­ing of stumps in the Adiron­dacks had re­duced the acid­ity of the for­est floor. Af­ter con­ser­va­tionists put a stop to it, the soil grad­u­ally re­turned to its pre­vi­ous acidity.

Rather than ad­mit it had the sci­ence wrong, the EPA set about sup­press­ing the in­con­ve­nient find­ings. The Na­pap re­port was de­layed un­til af­ter key pro­vi­sions of cap-and-trade leg­is­la­tion had been agreed to in Con­gress. As out­lined in a 1992 ar­ti­cle in Rea­son, the EPA then waged a dirty-tricks campaign to dis­credit Ed­ward C. Krug, a soil ex­pert and the lead­ing dis­si­dent Na­pap sci­en­tist. It as­sembled a group of com­pli­ant sci­en­tists to con­duct a sham peer re­view and con­clude that Mr. Krug was a bad sci­en­tist. The episode ended with an as­sistant ad­min­is­tra­tor of the EPA, William Rosen-berg, apol­ogiz­ing to Mr. Krug to avoid a threat­ened li­bel ac­tion.

To this day, the zom­bie sci­ence of acid rain lives on at the EPA’s web­site, which falsely states that acid­i­fi­cation of soil, streams and lakes is caused by emissions from power sta­tions. The EPA reck­ons the an­nual cost of anti-acid-rain mea­sures in the U.S. will reach $65 bil­lion in 2020, but it no longer claims that the money will pre­vent ecosys­tem dam­age. Now it just claims to be im­prov­ing pub­lic health.

In its ap­proach to the sci­ence of global warm­ing, the EPA un­der cur­rent Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt couldn't of­fer a greater con­trast with the acid-rain coverup per­pe­trated by the EPA dur­ing the late ’80s and early ’90s. In­stead of at­tack­ing dis­si­dent sci­entists, Mr. Pruitt’s pro­posal to hold red-team/blue-team ap­praisals would put dis­senters on the same foot­ing as con­sen­sus-sup­port­ing sci­en­tists. This will en­able proper de­bate be­tween both camps to re­veal the strengths and weak­nesses of the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on global warming.

Open de­bate is as cru­cial to sci­ence as it is to democ­racy. Cap­ping sul­fur-diox­ide emis­sions is an eco­nomic pin­prick com-pared with the mul­ti­tril-lion-dol­lar cost of cut­ting emis­sions of car­bon dioxide. If peo­ple’s way of life is to be forcibly changed in an ex­pen­sive at­tempt to de­car­bonize so­ci­ety, at the very least it should be done with their in­formed consent.

Mr. Dar­wall is au­thor of “Green Tyranny: Ex­pos­ing the To­tal­i­tar­ian Roots of the Cli­mate In­dus­trial Com­plex” (En­counter, 2017).    

Saturday, October 21, 2017

When politicians try to be developers ..

... you can pretty much guarantee it won't work the way it should, and that it will cost much more than it should.  But you have to admit, they're cute.

I call it the Hobbit Effect.  Or maybe the Doll House se or Cabin in The Woods or the Kidz Klubhouse on wheels.  Tiny Houses seem to appeal to our youthful fantasies of building a fort and hiding away from the world (parents).  Whatever the reason, they are popular enough to have a TV show devoted to the style..

What, How, Where and Why? Solving or making problems?

In real life, how would you like one of these in your back yard?  How about your next door neighbor's back yard?  Or the yard behind you?  How small is too small? How many people can live in one of these tiny houses? Would they be solely for one's family or friends, or rented to strangers - and who would screen the tenants and enforce rules (if there are any)?   How many Tiny Houses can fit onto one lot?  In which residential area do they belong?  Can they be placed singly on their own lot, or in clusters on a lot?  Do Tiny Houses belong in established neighborhoods at all?  Do they get plumbed like a real house?  What would this do to zoning and density, neighborhood and city character, parking, noise, livibility, etc.?

Reality and magical thinking 

Some people believe that the smaller a dwelling is or if the dwelling units are in apartments that are very dense, the resulting housing will be affordable.  (Silly idea.). Maybe less expensive than a large house on a large lot, but Affordable isn't always measured by the size of a dwelling - it's the cost of the land stupid!  All over Lake Oswego (and the Metro area within the UGB) affordable homes are being torn down to make room for unaffordable new ones.  Apartments are going in, but heavy demand, expensive land (especially n desirable locations) and cost to build are making new dwellings unaffordable.

If location and the cost of scarce buildable land (up to $550k for a lot down the street and not on water and no view!) are climbing, how could anything, tiny or otherwise be affordable in LO?  Without government subsidies.  When taxpayers are footing the bill for anything, 3 things happen - a very few people get lucky, the price of the commodity goes up, and taxpayers get poorer.  Oh yeah - and progressive'oliticians feel better about themselves.

Government makes a stab at affordable housing 

During the 2017 State Legislative Session, the State passed a bill that requires the Department of
Consumer and Business Services to adopt construction standards for building small dwellings, under 600 square feet. The thinking is that these small homes will be affordable homes for people who can't afford or don't want to buy a regular sized home. Tiny houses are not now legal anywhere in the state except as RVs or mobile homes and most are not built to any code.  .

Still not affordable 

Given that it is the land that is the most precious part of home buying in urban areas, consideration must be given to the affordablity of the lot the houses will sit on.  In Lake Oswego, that would be about $400,000.  At that price, it doesn't matter how much the structure costs, it will still be unaffordable.   Unless - it is an accessory dwelling on an existing lot, or the city approves the creation of tiny lots, or several houses are put together on one lot as unique condo units.  So why are Attached y houses even being considered ?  (Special interest groups...)

What do residents of Lake Oswego want?

What will City planners want and what will the City Council agree to?  Whatever the citizens and Planning Commission want is immaterial.  The City has no minimum dwelling size in its CDCs now and has never made a move to create one. I think citizens would be surprised to learn that, and shocked to see Tiny Houses pop up in their neighborhood.  A bohemian, anything-goes atmosphere is not the character that most neighborhoods identify with.    What type of housing do you want to see in Lake Oswego - in your neighborhood or someone else's?

Legislators (Planners, City Councilors, etc.) suck as builders and developers

The biggest problem with creating building standards for such small houses for permanent residency is that they are inherently unsafe. Building codes are written to make houses safe for occupants and neighborhong structures.  International Building Codes require Easily accessible emergency egress from every sleeping area that is of a certain size and placement to be useful.  The small home codes are being written to get around these requirements because most of these houses have sleeping areas in lofts that don't have legal ceiling height, walkable space to get to a window, no window in the loft, and stairs that are not to code and may be just ladders. If a fire broke out on the lower level, there would be no escape.   Other codes dealing with plumbing, fixtures, heating and cooking appliances, minimum space requirements, energy erefficiency, building strength and structure, glazing, sanitary hookups, heating, open flame source appliances, electrical wiring, etc. may be affected. 

Safety sacrificed for olitical agenda

The push to adopt building codes for small houses is not supported by organizations that deal with
 building and fire safety.  However. only politicians get to make laws - even careless and dangerous ones.  For political reasons they can ignore good advice, normal code review processes, and proven methods, and do stupid things.  Among other things, politicians should not try to be builders - the list of what government is not good at is endless.   Some mistakes can be fatal, while others can disrupt lives and hurt people they intend to help.  The more laws they make, the more opportunities to screw up.   

Experts slam tiny house codes

"Allowing “tiny homes” to be built to a lesser standard and occupied on a permanent basis could be interpreted that it’s acceptable for anyone who occupies them to have a lesser MINIMUM standard for life safety than those that have a traditional home built to the Oregon residential specialty code."
"Writing codes at the legislative level undermines the system that has placed Oregon as a leader on building code compliance and has the buy off of key stakeholders. Putting code provisions in statute would undermine the professional and technical expertise of Oregon’s statutory boards and the experts who serve on those boards."

Enrolled House Bill 2737

Sponsored by Representatives BARNHART, BYNUM; Representatives KENY-GUYER, NATHANSON, POWER, Senators MANNING JR, MONNES ANDERSON (at the request of Tom Bowerman, Oregon Housing Alliance)

CHAPTER .................................................


Relating to construction standards for small homes; and prescribing an effective date.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
       SECTION 1. Section 2 of this 2017 Act is added to and made a part of ORS chapter 455.
       SECTION 2. (1) As used in this section, “small home” means a dwelling that is not more than 600 square feet in size.
       (2) The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services shall adopt con- struction standards for prefabricated and site-built small homes for incorporation into the state building code. The construction standards for small homes must include, but need not be limited to, standards that:
       (a) Allow sleeping lofts; and
       (b) Allow the use of ladders or alternate tread devices as the primary means of egress from a sleeping loft.
       SECTION 3. The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services shall complete the adoption of initial construction standards for small homes under section 2 of this 2017 Act in time for the standards to become effective no later than January 1, 2018.
       SECTION 4. The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services shall report to a committee of the Legislative Assembly relating to construction in the manner provided by ORS 192.245 no later than March 1, 2019, regarding the implementation and use of construction standards for small homes adopted under section 2 of this 2017 Act. The re- port may include, but need not be limited to, any recommendations of the director regarding construction standards for small homes.
       SECTION 5. This 2017 Act takes effect on the 91st day after the date on which the 2017 regular session of the Seventy-ninth Legislative Assembly adjourns sine die.
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Enrolled House Bill 2737 (HB 2737-B) 

Big government

All politics are not local.

The author is from California and has a first hand look at the oppressive, progressive California state legislature and governor.  As a blue state, Oregon's runaway progressive legislature can be lumped in with California's war on freedom.  Would local politics be any different?  Do people have to move to cities and states to maintain their freedom?  Or will newcomers destroy it there too?  Wasn't all of America supposed to stand for maximum freedom for the individual?  Where do we go next when all our freedoms have been claimed by the government?

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground."

--- Thomas Jefferson
Orange County Register, July 30, 2017  By Joel Kotkin

State governments can be as oppressive as Washington 

... increasingly, the clearest threat to democracy and minority rights today comes not just from a surfeit of central power concentrated in Washington, D.C., but also from increased centralization of authority within states, and even regional agencies. Oppressive diktats from state capitals increasingly seek to limit local control over basic issues such as education, zoning, bathroom designations, guns and energy development
This follows a historical trend over the past century. Ever since the Great Depression, and even before, governmental power has been shifting inexorably from the local governments to regional, state and, of course, federal jurisdictions. In 1910, the federal level accounted for 30.8 percent of all government spending, with state governments comprising 7.7 percent and the local level more than 61 percent. More than 100 years later, not only had the federal share exploded to nearly 60 percent, but, far less recognized, the state share had nearly doubled, while that of local governments has fallen to barely 25 percent, a nearly 60 percent drop. Much of what is done at the local level today is at the behest, and often with funding derived from, the statehouse or Washington.

Diversity vs. regimentation
This trend is particularly notable in the country’s two megastates: California and Texas. Each is increasingly controlled by ideological fanatics who see in their statehouse dominion an ideal chance to impose their agenda on dissenting communities. In California, Jerry Brown’s climate jihad is the rationale for employing “the coercive power of the central state,” in his own words, to gain control over virtually every aspect of planning and development.
 Yet, in a nation — and in states — ever more divided, it seems imperative that more leeway be given to communities. A policy that may seem fine in Malibu should not unnecessarily be imposed on Modesto. Nor should something like bathroom laws — affecting, at most, 0.6 percent of the population — be used by activists to ban travel to entire states, often hurting most those places with a more progressive worldview.
If he accomplishes nothing else, President Donald Trump has opened the door for radical localism. Progressive loathing of a putative blow-dried Caesar may be tediously overdone, but the point has been made: The presidency, the apex of government control, is not owned by one party. The progressive notion of inevitable triumph over all comers has been at least delayed in most of the country.
This is not to say that radical localism can be easily accomplished. Even as people disperse to increasingly distinct communities, the concentration of corporate power — the Fortune 500 companies’ share of GDP has more than doubled to over 70 percent since the mid-1990s — favors the large state. Narrow, often single-issue lobby groups increasingly dominate legislatures — whether in Austin, Albany or Sacramento — and are often more obsessed with imposing their agendas than allowing for differences in communities.
Yet, a political constituency for radical localism exists. As the American Enterprise Institute’s Sam Abrams has pointed out, whatever their party or ideology, people generally favor local government over federal government for most issues. The notion of radical localism may not be popular among those in both parties who crave to exercise unchecked power, but it represents perhaps our last, best hope to preserve a democracy worthy of the name.
Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org).
USC NOTE:  In an ideal world, if small communities could agree on social issues, there would likely be better acceptance of minority views at the state level too.  Lake Oswego is now similarly divided and a new, unabashed partisan group is bringing its agenda to the whole city - even if a large segment of the population doesn't agree. Add to that the ever-increasing slew of special nterest groups that represent only a fraction of  people, and many citizens have lost any power to influence the course of their town.  
  It isn't only people of color or those suffering some inequity  who are disenfranchised by the majority .  More local control might help in some places, but not all cities, and not for long, and not in Oregon. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

No cheap solar power for you

Who's your daddy?  

Capitalism, freedom and the American Dream are being destroyed by special interests.  If citizen-consumers are not free to choose what to buy and use to improve their own lives, how free are theY really?  When government steps in to favor one company (crony capitalism) in the marketplace, the impact to the rest of us is a limit on what we can do with our lives.

Our choices are being limited to a select few government-approved companies and goods rather than allowing a plethora of products and ideas to compete for our approval. In the marketplace. If choices are artificially curtailed this time, what else might have come to market that was, is and will be discouraged by government favoritism, and how will you know what you have lost?

Any voting that takes place on what products and ideas should survive, ought to be done by citizen-consumers who do the voting with their own hard-earned property (money).

O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave,
O're the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

WSJ. September 13, 2017. By The Editorial Board
Solar Power Death Wish
Subsidies aren’t enough. Now solar-panel makers want tariffs.

Bil­lions of dol­lars in tax-payer sub­si­dies haven’t made the U.S. so­lar in­dustry com­pet­i­tive, and now two com­pa­nies want to make it even less so. Suniva Inc., a bank­rupt so­lar-panel maker, and Ger­man-owned So­lar­World Amer­i-cas have pe­ti­tioned the U.S. In­ternational Trade Com­mis­sion (ITC) to impose tar­iffs on for­eign-made crys­talline sil­i­con pho­to­voltaic cells.

So­lar cells in the U.S. sell for around 27 cents a watt. The pe­ti­tion­ers want to add a new duty of 40 cents a watt. They also want a floor price for im­ported pan­els of 78 cents a watt ver­sus the mar­ket price of 37 cents. In other words, they want the gov­ern­ment to dou­ble the cost of the main com­ponent used in the U.S. so­lar in­dus­try. So­lar elec­tric­ity prices could rise by some 30% if the ITC says they’ve been in­jured by for­eign com­pe­ti­tion—a de­ci­sion is due by Sept. 22—and the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion goes along with the tar­iff re­quest.

U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ers won coun­ter­vail­ing and an-tidump­ing du­ties against im­ports from China and Taiwan in 2012 and in 2015. But now they’re re­sort­ing to Sec­tion 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 be­cause they don’t need to show they are vic­tims of dump­ing or for­eign gov­ern­ment sub­sidies. They only need to show that im­ports have harmed them.

The harm is real but that’s due to changes in the mar­ket­place. The U.S. so­lar in­dus­try has dis­covered that its com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage lies not in mak­ing pan­els, a ba­sic prod­uct, but in adding value to imported cells and mod­ules. This involves mak­ing and installing rack­ing or framing sys­tems and incor­porat­ing in­no­va­tions like track­ers that ori­ent to­ward the sun.

To turn sun­shine into en­ergy re­quires in­vert­ers that trans­late the en­ergy cap­tured on a so­lar panel into some­thing that can be sent on the elec­tri­cal grid. While there are fewer than 1,000 jobs in U.S. panel man­u­fac­turing, some 260,000 jobs rely on ac­cess to imported pan­els.

Higher prices for pan­els will also hurt util­i­ties that have in­vested in re­new­able fu­els. In an Au­gust 21 let­ter to the ITC, Di­ane Den­ton of Duke En­ergy wrote that over the last five years Duke has in­vested heav­ily in so­lar and has plans for more. But Duke needs “ac­cess to so­lar CSPV mod­ules at glob­ally-compet­i­tive prices” so it can “pro­vide cost-com­pet­i­tive so­lar power to our customers,” Ms. Den­ton wrote.

The ITC hasn’t in­ves­tigated a 201 trade case since the Bush Ad­min­is­tra­tion slapped a 30% tar­iff on steel im­ports in 2002. That fi­asco cost an es­ti­mated 200,000 jobs in U.S. steel-con­sum­ing in­dus­tries be­fore the Ad­min­is­tra­tion dropped the tar­iffs 18 months later.

So­lar tar­iffs would be an­other de­struc­tive ex­ercise that ben­e­fits a hand­ful of Suniva and So­lar­World in­vestors at the ex­pense of every­one else—in­clud­ing the rest of the so­lar in­dustry. This is protectionism at its worst.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mental health through social media

Who and what is controlling your thoughts?  How about your kids?
My son gets the news and information that shapes his world view from his Facebook account.  Given recent revelations about how Facebook and Google manage - censor - filter - cleanse - manipulate - news, information and opinions to suit their cultural bias, I consider this dangerous.

Social media use can be dangerous because information that goes out to, a or is filtered for, a vast portion of the population, especially younger people, is biased and does not tolerate differing points of view.  For all intents and purposes, Facebook and Google (and most likely other) corporate media giants whose owners and/or employees have strong political views are indoctrinating our youth, and adults to a lesser degree.  You receive a product for one purpose, for free, and in turn get heavy doses of biased political content for the favor.  Nothing is really free.

But what affect is this having on our society?  My son is convinced that whatever he reads on Facebook is the whole truth and is unwilling to be challenged by any other opinion or fact.  He knows what he knows; His belife's are (nearly) unshakable, especially within the last year of the all-out, hostile "Resist" movement.  Social media is a contributor to our cultural divide. Social media makes us stupid.

Dangerous too is the general unhappiness - the depression, anxiety and loneliness connected to use of social media.  (Read the Atlantic article below.)  No wonder our country is becoming emotionally fragile.  The group-think fostered by social media explains how young people split into identity groups.  They belong to larger packs rather than become more independent thinkers and doers.  Without the group, they don't even have much of an identity to cling to. Sadness, disconnection, anxiety, lack of confidence - these are not the traits of a healthy, adolescent or adult human being.  What are we being fed and where are we headed?  Can this be changed?

USC NOTE:  My personal bias is that social media is overrated and I do not have any social media accounts.  Even this blog and all the research I do takes up too much of my time.  I don't know how anyone does it.  Plus I hate being tied to a computer - there are too many other things I want to do with my life before I call it quits!

There is a great article on the Atlantic website,  "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"   Researcher from UCSD takes an-in depth look at how a whole generation is being affected by a technology that is novel to all previous generations, and it's not pretty.
"More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis."

The subject of the Atlantic article has to do with adolescents' use of smartphones, however other  studies link the use of technology by adults to their mental state also.  This article,  "You asked: Is Social Media Making Me Miserable?" in Time magazine online speaks to these issues and gives a bit of history to those who don't remember a time without computers, much less mobile phones.

"Back in 1970, the technology writer Alvin Toffler published a book called Future Shock, which became an international bestseller. The book is about how humans struggle with too much technological change in too short a time—and it's all-too relevant today. Social media now dictates how people interact with friends, read the news and navigate their day-to-day existence.
One recent study examined the links between Facebook use and wellbeing. “We found that the more you use Facebook over time, the more likely you are to experience negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction,” says study author Holly Shakya, assistant professor and social media researcher at the University of California, San Diego."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

More trains - not enough riders

For all of us suckers:  Here are some sobering facts about light rail.  Is it too late to stop the PDX to Tigard and other planned light rail projects?  Probably.  Once the Central Planners get their teeth sunk into raw meat they won't ever let go. Not only don't they want to see their long-range plans foiled, getting new projects into the chute means job security, empire-building and more administrative state control.  Developers are their fiercest cheerleaders.  Light rail lines aren't worth the skinny tracks they are built on.  Can you say 'boondoggle'?

Newgeography.com. by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox 08/30/2017


Over the past decade, there has been a growing fixation among planners and developers alike for a return to the last century’s monocentric cities served by large-scale train systems. And, to be sure, in a handful of older urban regions, mass transit continues to play an important — and even vital — role in getting commuters to downtown jobs. Overall, a remarkable 40 percent of all transit commuting in the United States takes place in the New York metropolitan area — and just six municipalities make up 55 percent of all transit commuting destinations.

But here’s an overlooked fact: Most urban regions, such as Southern California, are nothing like New York — and they never will be. Downtown Los Angeles may be a better place in which to hang out and eat than in the past, but it sorely lacks the magnetic appeal of a place like Manhattan, or even downtown San Francisco. Manhattan, the world’s second-largest employment center, represents a little more than 20 percent of the New York metropolitan area’s employment. In Los Angeles, by contrast, the downtown area employs just 2 percent.

As we demonstrate in a new report for Chapman University, our urban form does not work well for conventional mass transit. Too many people go to too many locales to work, and, as housing prices have surged, many have moved farther way, which makes trains less practical, given the lack of a dominant job center. But in its desire to emulate places like New York, Los Angeles has spent some $15 billion trying to evolve into what some East Coast enthusiasts call the “next great transit city".

This experience is not limited to L.A. Most of the 19 metropolitan areas with new mass transit rail systems — including big cities like Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and even Portland, Ore. — have experienced a decline in transit market share since the systems began operations.

Think for yourself, not like the crowd

This is what we were taught in elementary and high schools a generation ago.  Thinking for oneself.  It is so basic and logical that it hardly needs to be said.  The purpose of education to teach students  how to research subjects and think for themselves  - not merely parrot the teacher.

Education has become so politically polarized that only certain acceptable thoughts are allowed; indoctrination has replaced a real education.

Some Ivy League professors have taken note of the anti-intellectual culture on American campuses and are encouraging incoming college students to think for themselves.  It's obvious, it's logical, and it is what education is all about.  Intelligent professors of integrity and courage are fighting the cultural morass of ignorance and group-think.

Think For Yourself

“Think for yourself” used to be a platitude. But in today’s climate of political correctness, it’s radical advice—advice being offered to incoming college students by sixteen professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students

August 29, 2017
We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:
Think for yourself.
Now, that might sound easy. But you will find—as you may have discovered already in high school—that thinking for yourself can be a challenge. It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.
In today’s climate, 
it’s all-too-easy to allow
your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion on your campus or in the broader academic culture. The danger any student—or faculty member—faces today is falling into the vice of conformism, yielding to groupthink.
At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them.
Since no one wants to be, or be thought of as, a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies.
Don’t do that. Think for yourself. 
Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions—including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.
The love of truth and the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself. The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry. 
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.
So don’t be tyrannized by public opinion. Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber. Whether you in the end reject or embrace a view, make sure you decide where you stand by critically assessing the arguments for the competing positions.
Think for yourself.
Good luck to you in college!
Signed by 16 professors from multiple universities.  See the website below: 

Escaping the Echo Chamber: Overcoming Intolerance and Conformism in Academia

'Free' money, strings attached

"As government expands. liberty contracts."
--- Ronald Reagan

Great commentary from the Wall Street Journal!  8/14/2017 by Zach Maher

What Swedes Give Up for 'Free' Money

When the state treats childrearing like a job, make sure 

you don’t run afoul of the boss.

I moved to Sweden for love, not money, but I was happy to learn that merely living in this social democracy also entitled me to paid parental-leave benefits. Who could object to free money, handed out by the government to all Swedish parents? Then I became a father.
Two hundred years ago, Sweden was a nation of smallholding farm families, many of whom were poor enough to prefer emigrating to North Dakota or Minnesota. Today, workers in Sweden are offered a welfare smörgåsbord of free health care, subsidized housing, paid leave, unemployment benefits, job training and pensions.
For one year after the birth of of our son, the government's social-insurance agency will pay 80% of the salary my Swedish wife earned as a lawyer working in public service.  I was surprised to learn that I too, could receive parental benefits, for up to six months, at the generous minimum level.  Only after a recent family crisis did I understand why.
Six months ago, my 2-year-old niece broke her leg.  The physician who treated the girl told my brother-in-law that his daughter would be given a full-body CT scan.  The doctor insisted that the procedure was mandatory, but not for any medical reason.  Rather the Swedish social-services administration requires such scans to look for evidence of child abuse.  While the doctor did note that the broken leg was the result of an accident, he told my brother-in-law the matter was "out of my hands."
When the girl's parents refused to subject her to this unnecessary procedure, the hidden machinery of the Swedish welfare state sprang into motion. My brother-in-law and his wife were required to attend multiple interviews with social workers and to submit friends and neighbors in their small town for questioning.  Social workers even inspected their home.  Suddenly, decisions as benign as what milk to buy seemed potential evidence of parental deficiency.  My in-laws feared their two children might be taken from them.  
In Sweden, the state reserves the right for itself ultimate responsibility for children's well-being.  As a parent my job was to give my kids the trygghet (security) necessary to become productive, tax-paying members of Swedish society.  This is why I receive financial support and medical benefit.  The state is paying me to be a parent.  I am, in effect, an employee - and if I do a poor job, my responsibility as a parent might be taken away from me. 
Some parents insist, as my wife and I do, on having their own ideas about raising children.  In our opinion, anesthetizing a 2-year-old girl and subjecting her to an unnecessary medical procedure is not lagom (what everyone thinks everyone else thinks: conformity).  Does this mean we can't accept parental support from the state?  Does this mean we can't live in Sweden? 
Although the welfare state is often debated in economic terms, we have yet to put a price on self-determination or freedom of conscience.  What I once thought was free money may cost more than I am prepared to pay.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Surfing in Alaska?

Yes - Alaska!

But it's not like anything you've see anywhere else - unless you visit areas with bore tides..the whole thing was a surprise to me.

Surfing the Alaskan tidal bore wave can be a 20 minute ride on a single wave, but there is only one daytime wave a day.  If you fall off your board, it will take about 24 hours to try again - if the moon and tides allow.

The best bore wave in Alaska (there are two in Alaska and 60 worldwide) is at Turnagain Arm outside of Anchorage.  There are several good viewpoints on the Bay, but stay off the mudflats- people get stuck and drown in the waves.  Yuk!

Bore tide surfing is less dramatic and technical than traditional if wave surfing,  ut practitioners look like they are having a great time.  Suit up, ride the one wave, have fun, and then go home.  Plus, no crowds.

Read about bore waves here (science related):  Alaska.org

Information and a video from Alaska.org:  Alaska Bore Tide

First-person video on surfing the Turnagain bore wave.  Extreme Alaska Bore Tide Surfing

Watch a PBS short video from Indie Alaska, about one person's experience searching for waves and  surfing all over the state:  I Am A Surfer 

Drone view (beautiful, not experiential):  Alaska Bore Tide Madness

KTVA News story:  Alaska's bore tide attracts surfers from all over the world

The Go-Pro video (music questionable): SUP Surfing in Alaska  

There are dozens if not hundreds of videos of the bore tide experience on YouTube if you want more.