Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

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.  

Truth about transit

Is public transit for getting people to and from the places they want to go?
Or is it a tool to encourage development where government wants it? (Where government wants people to live, not where real people want to live.)

An Oregonian article from 201 explains it all. At first the author makes BRT look like a good economic alternative to light rail that cities ought to consider, but the real purpose of any mode of transit is to spur development where government wants it.  No, not your elected officials - REAL government power - the administrative state (Central Planners).  And if rail or BRT service isn't enough for developers, there are plenty of government monetary and code incentives to go with it.

BTW:  National and local studies prove that more people want to live in a small town in a single family house than in urban multifamily housing.  No government effort is being put into the people's vision.

Oregonlive, September 24, 2013, By Joseph Rose

Study: TriMet MAX Blue Line nation's 

top transit system for spurring development

When it comes to stimulating real-estate investments and combating traffic jams, no U.S. surface transit system has been more successful than TriMet's Gresham-to-Hillsboro MAX Blue Line, according to a new study released Tuesday. 
The 33 miles of light-rail track has generated $6.6 billion in transit-oriented development designed as an alternative to traditional car-dominated suburban growth, the Washington, D.C.,-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found. 
At the same time, with transit systems and cities across the country struggling to recover from the Great Recession, the report questioned whether light-rail is the most efficient way to invest limited transit dollars.
In fact, researchers found that bus rapid transit, a concept first developed in South America that gives buses dedicated lanes through gridlock, offers a bigger bang for the buck than light rail or streetcar.
The study uses Cleveland's Healthline BRT as the model. 
"While a tough regional economy and shrinking population forced many of the surrounding cities to cut public services and reduce jobs in the public and private sectors," the report (PDF) says, "Cleveland managed to transform a modest $50 million investment in bus rapid transit into $5.8 billion in new transit-oriented development."
By placing bus rapid transit in a strategic corridor where government redevelopment efforts were concentrated, Cleveland managed to stimulate $114.54 dollars of transit-oriented investment for every dollar it invested into the BRT system, the study found.

"I think the study validated the decisions we have made and where we're looking to go in the future," Middaugh said. 
The Portland Streetcar, meanwhile, scored "below basic" in the study, when compared to transit-oriented development linked to BRT projects. 
Still, the streetcar, long promoted as an urban development tool, showed a respectable $41.50 invested for every dollar spent, the research shows.
USC NOTE:  Some have suggested that development along transit corridors has less to do with transit and more to do with monetary incentives like tax abatement, code modifications, urban renewal grants, SDC fees waived, infrastructure built, and other goodies.  The Pearl District is an example of monetary benefits to the developer trumping the light rail.  

We will never get the transit system we deserve

Metro (aka "Central Planners") doesn't really care about transportation for real people living independent lives in places of their own choosing.  If you follow their transportation plans to their logical conclusion, the Central Planners will move the majority of the population to subsidized (incentivized) multifamily housing along defined transit corridors.

The first part of the plan was to ditch the old bus system that was cheap, flexible, convenient and well-used to very expensive, fixed light rail. Light rail cannot go where people live - people must move to where light rail is.  Because rail systems are fixed (i.e.: inflexible), developers are more encouraged to build mixed-use developments which are more risky than building housing or commercial separately.  Combine the two - fixed rail and development - and you have a TOD - transit oriented development.

The next step was (and is) eliminating efficient auto traffic by eliminating half of the lanes of traffic on state highways that run through Portland.  This is to encourage people to ride bikes or use transit, even though the new bus system has ravaged bus transit as a real choice for most people.

And fail to expand capacity on freeways and other highly used roadways.  Anything to cause, not ease, traffic congestion.

Now Metro (and its jurisdictional "partners" aka cities) are looking at beefing up the bus system.  Have they realized their mistakes and want to correct years of wrong-doing?  Of course not.  All of the above have set the stage for BRT - bus rapid transit.  The advantage of BRT to Central Planners is the removal of more lanes of traffic and incentivize more development in areas farther away from light rail.  New neighborhoods for mixed use development to screw up.  The loss of more neighborhood charm and livability.  Oh yeah - most all of the newcomers to the developments will have cars.

The final bus system type hasn't been officially decided yet, or should I say announced.  BRT is just an educated guess, but what are the odds that The Central Planners have started to consider how real people live?  And what are the odds that they will persist in their social engineering until... don't kid yourself - there is no end to the tinkering Planners will do in their quest for Utopia.

 The article below is from 2010.  It is not only relevant today - it shows where a lot of the congestion comes from - Planners from Metro, TriMet, Portland, and area cities - and why.  The changes started decades ago, but this is a good 7-year look-back.

For the record, I like BRT in place of light rail, and a grid bus system to go with it - 
just like the original streetcar system - expanded to connect the suburbs.

The Oregonian, May 2010,  by Dave Lister, Guest Columnist
A transit system designed for the few

A s the city of Portland embarks on its quest to add bioswales and more bicycle infrastructure to its streets and boulevards, traffic congestion is bound to increase and automobile commuters will be encouraged to use mass transit. The problem is, TriMet's spoke-wheel system, intended to move people from the suburbs to jobs downtown, simply doesn't work for most people.

A case in point is that of Gay Stryker. Styker commutes from her home in Southwest Portland to her pet and pet supplies store, Creature Comforts, which she has operated in Oak Grove since 1984. 
"I called the Portland Bureau of Transportation shortly after they changed the traffic pattern and reduced the lanes on Tacoma Street," Stryker told me, "and asked them why they had decided to slow the traffic and create congestion. They told me that they hadn't created congestion, they'd 'calmed' the traffic and 'extended' the commute. They also suggested that if I didn't like the new commute, I should consider riding the bus." 
Approaching the issue with an open mind, Stryker decided to consider her transit options. She discovered that, after walking to the stop nearest to her home, she would have to ride one bus into downtown, transfer to another to get across the river, transfer once again to a southbound bus and end up at a transit station a couple of blocks from her business. 
Because of the hours she keeps the commute home would include waiting alone downtown at 11:15 at night to make a transfer and then be left with a lengthy walk home. Having once experienced a nighttime MAX ride from the airport to downtown to catch a bus home, she didn't relish the prospect of being on the mall alone after dark. 
"There I was, a woman alone with a bag of pineapples fresh from Hawaii," Stryker recounted, "when a man boarded smoking a marijuana cigarette and started passing it around with his buddies. I was terrified." 
A long-time native like myself, Stryker remembers the old Rose City Transit, which operated on a grid system. "It was easy to get around on the bus back then," she said. "Why do we have a spoke system when the majority of people no longer work or shop downtown? The bottom line was that my half-hour round-trip daily would become more than five hours. I decided to keep driving my car despite the 'traffic calming.' Clearly they do not consider my time to have value." 
Rather than making the system more flexible by adding additional busses and bus routes, TriMet's infatuation with light rail is ensuring that it becomes less flexible. And its only attempt to consider a commute pattern other than to downtown, the westside commuter rail, has proven to be a phenomenal financial disaster. Nevertheless, the planners love rail. They view it as a development tool, where businesses will be born and thrive. 
Business owner Gay Stryker doesn't see it that way. 
"If providing more transit to this area is such an issue out here, they should simply increase the bus service," she said. "But I'm afraid their answer for more transit in Milwaukie will be light rail down McLoughlin and that will destroy all the businesses on either side. People simply do not shop where the MAX is because it is too hard to get in and out of the stores." 
With the exception of strip bars, porn shops and adult arcades, Stryker doesn't see anything thriving by virtue of light rail. 
"If they put light rail down McLoughlin, the community can kiss itself goodbye."

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland's Small Business Advisory Council. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

City Hall feedback wanted on Aug. 30

   Your opinions wanted.  Will they count?                                      

  • Is there some reason they can't build one building instead of two?
  • How much will this project cost after all borrowing costs and taxes from lost private property are factored in? 
  • Couldn't the police station (and City Hall) be built less expensively on less valuable land? (Old Walmart site for City Hall and the police building nearby?) Building re-use is typically less expensive and more sustainable.
  • Is the City having this forum just to check off a box on the requirement for public involvement?  
  • What will happen with Citizen suggestions?

If the City really cares about our opinion, they should put the designs in the Hello LO along with a survey to send back about what we thought.  I'm sure there are a number of ways to elicit public involvement other than their scantily attended open houses.  That is, anyone in City Hall actually wanted our opinion and was willing to give up some ownership of the project.  Legal requirements aside, if there were no such things as (never-ending) urban renewal districts, we could go back to General Obligation Bonds and  make decisions about the whole project.

Lake Oswego Review,  City Notes, August 24, 2017

Lake Oswego residents are invited to share their vision for a new City Hall and police station during a community forum scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at City Hall (380 A Ave.) The City's plan is to replace the current City Hall and office buildings next to it with two new buildings along A Avenue between Third and Fourth streets. The proposed civic center would include a smaller City Hall, a new police station, underground parking and up to 5,000 square feet of public space for tenants such as the Arts Council and Booktique. At the Aug. 30 meeting, participants will be asked for feedback on different design schemes for the site and for their input on a vision for the development's exterior spaces. For more information, visit www.ci.oswego.or.us/lora/civic-center-project.

Cars, busses, trains, bikes - but mostly cars

Once again, Metro proceeds on a path that THEY think is best for the masses while their charges are interested in something else.
"Do you like this kind of bus system, or this other kind of bus system?"
"We want to drive our cars and need bigger and better roads! Maybe add lanes to existing ones."
"You can't have better roads to ease congestion.

 You must understand - we have finally achieved our goal of creating congestion just so you would be glad to take a bus or ride a bike  instead of drive to work.  Besides, we took all the transportation money and spent it on light rail and walkable streets where we took out lanes of traffic!"
"Your busses don't come near my house and don't go near my work or help me get my errands done at the end of the day.  We want to drive our cars! 
"That is not what we have planned for you. We are the professional Planners and know what's best."
"We like the idea of mor busses, but we really don't want you to cannibalize more major thoroughfares and state highways for your bus plans."
"We just asked you about bus plans because the law requires public involvement.  We will be choosing a transportation system for you.  We always do." 

Portland Tribune, August 24, 2017. By Jim Redden

Traffic jams undermine essential bus service

City studies ways to relieve congestion on TriMet routes to help meet future growth goals

Portland is concerned about the problem because so much of its future growth plans are based on a robust regional transit system. An additional 260,000 people are expected to live here by 2035. But the streets cannot handle the additional traffic if most of residents drive to work, shopping and recreation. Numerous reports document the long delays being caused by the current level of congestion, and Portland has no plans to increase street capacity.

Portland officials became so concerned about problems caused by increasing congestion a few years ago that they applied for a Transportation and Growth Management grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to study the problem and develop solutions in 2015. 

Bus-only lanes already are used on the downtown Transit Mall and other versions exist in other parts of town, inlcuding Southeast Madison Street and Southwest Barbur Boulevard. 
The study identified four relatively inexpensive ways to move buses more quickly through congested streets. As explained by Bertelsen, they include: 
~  Full-time, dedicated, curbside, bus-only lanes. 
~  Rush hour-only dedicated bus lanes (available for parking other hours) and bus-only turn lanes.
~ Signal controls that allow buses to use a curb lane to jump ahead of cars at intersections.
~ Consolidating bus stations to increase the distances between them and reduce the number of stops on a line.

All of the ideas were discussed by Metro and TriMet planners working on the Powell-Division Bus Rapid Transit Project, which dropped the Southeast Powell Boulevard portion before being submitted to the federal government for partial funding. The final design — including the number and location of station stops — has yet to be determined. 
Bertelsen told the board the plan identified three other corridors in Portland where such projects are being considered. They include Northeast Sandy Boulevard, 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue. Of the three, 122nd Avenue is especially intriguing because TriMet already has agreed to provide frequent bus service along it in exchange for city-funded improvement projects, such as new curbs and sidewalks. Several projects already are underway or being designed. 
In addition, Bertelsen said three other potential enhanced transit corridors are being studied further. They include downtown, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and outer Stark Street
City documents list additional potential corridors in Portland as Belmont Street, Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Columbia Boulevard, Foster Road and Lombard Street. Potential corridors outside Portland include the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and the Tualatin Valley Highway.

Then on Aug. 4, the Portland Business Alliance released a survey that found almost all city residents— 97 percent — consider congestion the city's most serious transportation problem. Eighty percent of respondents said they have altered their travel behavior because of congestion, with the largest block, 38 percent, changing their travel times. 
The PBA survey found that most respondents prefer their transportation dollars be spent on road projects, however, not transit enhancements.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Message from Romania

Amerika is changing.

We had a new fence built this summer.  It is the most beautiful wood fence I've ever seen.

A Romanian carpenter built the fence - he an extremely hard worker.  As it turned out, our house sits on some very large rocks - so big that the carpenter spent a day or two jackhammering the stone just to place posts.  Though his English was poor, we happened to converse a little.

Mr. R said that he came to America in 2002.  He said while Oregon is very beautiful, Romania is beautiful too.  He said he did not leave his home country because of geography, but the government there.  Romanian people were very controlled and he wanted to be free.

R's drive for freedom must have been great; for the first years he worked multiple jobs and slept only 4 hours a day.  This continued until he got a job that paid well enough so that he only had to have one job.  He is glad for the one job and extra sleep because while he is very skilled, he is getting older.

But then R's face took on a sad countenance and his tone became terse as he expressed that America was changing - more and more like Romanian socialist tyranny than the freedom he sought she explained.  He was beginning to wonder why he came to the United States at all.

I felt sad for him.  But I felt sad for the rest of us as well, especially the younger generation who will not know of the freedom from government previous generations enjoyed.  They are or will be taught that government interference and expanding control is still "freedom" because they are free to choose their leaders.  Most dictatorships are democracies, so that alone will not save us or them.  Socialism always moves in the direction of government gaining more power and control over citizens and industry.  It takes a revolution to regain individual freedom - like what is happening in Venezuela now.

R is right: It's easier to stop slipping deeper into a bigger governent hell, than return to liberty.  We have entered a period of mob rule.  On a happier note, R has another fence to build.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground."  
-- Thomas Jefferson 

"Government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough 
to take everything you have."
-- Barry Popik

"Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual."
-- Walter E. Williams