Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In a Sea of Clouds


Enjoy a moment or two of peace and quiet before the festivities of New Year's Eve.  

You have to be able to imagine it before you believe you can have it.

A Sea of Clouds Fills the Grand Canyon
The Atlantic, December 5, 2013

Weather conditions in Arizona's Grand Canyon last week gave rise to a rare phenomenon called total cloud inversion. Last Friday, and again on Sunday, the ground apparently released some of its heat rapidly enough at dawn to create a layer of cool, damp air inside the canyon, trapping it beneath the unusually warmer sky above the canyon walls and filling the space with a sea of fog. Park officials said the phenomenon is a once-in-a-decade occurrence and ran to capture these fantastic photos.

1998 article from prescient author

Check out the date and consider how prescient the author was, and how Portland has become just what he predicted.  Not good.
San Diego should avoid growth boundaries

Urban growth boundaries may be one of the hottest land-use planning tools to break onto the political landscape in 30 years. State and local officials across the nation have extolled the virtues of using them to contain suburbanization and revitalize city centers.
In California, San Jose and about a dozen other cities have already adopted some form of a growth boundary to limit new development, and the idea is picking up steam.
In almost all cases, advocates point to Portland, Oregon as the pioneer and most successful example of a growth boundary's effectiveness. There, says the emerging conventional wisdom, foresight and a strong planning ethic have forged an urban policy that has netted one of the nation's healthiest and most livable communities.
The growth boundary is already significantly impacting local housing prices. A Portland State University economist found that Portland's housing prices rose by 63.8% from 1990-95, faster than the U.S. median of 18.2% and 50 other large metropolitan areas including Denver, Nashville, San Antonio, Chicago, Charlotte, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Orlando and Houston. Land prices in Portland have more than doubled since 1990.
This raises another troubling aspect of regional planning: Portland's regional plan represents a vision that does not square with the obvious preferences of many citizens. Portlanders, like residents in other parts of the country including San Diego, clearly prefer lower density residential living.
This poses a serious challenge to the ethical foundations of regional planning. If Metro's plan is fully implemented and boundary is not expanded, residents will be forced to live in more crowded cities, smaller houses, and more congested neighborhoods in order to conform to Metro's vision of what Portland "ought" to be.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Quote of the day

Quote of the day: 

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, from his Facebook page:

Unfortunately we now have people in authority who aren't particularly interested in the opinions of We The People as they hold that they still know best. They are incapable of admitting fault or failure amongst their own behalf. This sounds strangely akin to a dictatorship and if we are not very careful and vigilante that is exactly what this nation will become. The changes may not be intentional in terms of our governing structure and the majority of people may not even perceive what is happening until it is too late. Now is the time to understand what the phrase Liberty and Justice for all mean.

In the quote above, Carson is referring to the public's dislike of Obamacare.  The subject could just as easily have been any of a number of issues where government trounces public opinion in favor of a pre-determined political or idealogical agenda.  (Streetcar?  Density?  Sensitive Lands?)  

January 2014 Meeting Dates and Issues

Mark your calendars and prepare your input for the following important meetings.  Several key meetings are being held in the first full week of January, so this week is particularly busy.  Try to make as many meetings as possible and/or email or call your city council members with your comments.  The Comp Plan is in its FINAL round of hearings as a complete document and the Transportation System Plan is nearing completion and due for public input.

Attend the open House on the 8th (or send an email) to let your council know what you want and don't want from your city government.  This is your big chance to be heard before events take place!

1/7   |   Tue.  |  City Council Mtg.  |  7:00 pm  |  City Hall

1/8   |  Wed.  |  City Council Open House / Reception  |  5:30 - 7:30 pm  |  WEB Willamette Rm.
                        Invitation to public to share ideas for 2014 City Council goals
1/8   |  Wed.  |  Transportation Advisory Committee  |  7-9 pm  |  City Hall
                         Meeting with TSP Advisory Committee to review Transportation System Plan update

1/9   |  Thur.  |  Comp Plan CAC  |  4-6 pm  |  Main Fire Station, 300 B Ave.  
                         Review Comp Plan Consolidated Package

1/11  |   Sat.   |  City Council Goal Planning Session  |  9:00 - 3:00  |  Holy Names Heritage 
                         Center, Mary's Woods

1/13  |  Mon.  |  Planning Commission  |  6:30 pm  |  City Hall
                         Public Hearing on LU 13-0068, Comp Plan Amendments (Consolidated Package)
                         Testimony must be turned in by 5 pm on 1/13.  Click for Public Hearing Notice 

1/27  |  Mon.  |  Transportation Advisory Committee Open House  |  4:30-6:30 pm  |  City Hall
                        Presentation of the Transportation System Plan (TSP) Update Draft to the public

1/27  |  Mon.  |  Planning Commission  |  6:30 pm  |  City Hall
                        Transportation System Plan update work session

2/24  |  Mon.  |  Planning Commission  |  6:30 pm  |  City Hall
                         Public Hearing on the TSP.  No details yet.  Date may change.

Note:  The TSP Update Draft has not been made available to the public as yet, though Up Sucker Creek will continue trying in order to report to readers what steps have been taken so far and what preliminary plans have been made.  Another request for information is in the works.  

Why subsidizing developers is wrong - part 2

From the Nanocivics website, the second part of the interview with Economics Professor Zingales has this quote:

How is your son and daughter’s monopoly game relevant to national prosperity?
As a kid, my daughter accepted the idea of losing at Monopoly as long as she trusted that the game was fair. Once she started suspecting that my son was “selectively enforcing rules” she gave up. This is what an increasing number of people are feeling. It is hard enough to support a system where we end up being the loser, it is impossible to do so when we perceive the system as unfair.

Consider Urban Renewal and existing business owners.  When urban renewal is imposed in their city, new development will naturally occur where the city will spend money to make it happen.  The increased value of the property in that area of town creates higher rents for those within the district, but existing business owners may not be able to make the same profit because of this.  Also, property owners who are in the district have an unfair advantage over those who are not given the rise in value of their land within the district.    
If these changing conditions were caused by market conditions only, the playing field would be perceived as fair.  When governments give handouts to some developers, or create an environment that is considered to have a disproportionate advantage, the playing field has been skewed by government manipulation and the system is unfair.  
The consequences for an unfair economic system are dire - cronyism, fraud, theft (of taxes), power lobbies, corruption, etc.  Consider analogies to sports where the system picks winners and losers.  Which teams would you bet on - the ones with the best players and/or ethical practices, or the ones with the best manipulated advantages?  Is this a system that benefits the sport or the fans, and is this a system we should abandon?  The answer is obvious: Our economic freedoms and democratic system of government depend on it.

Why subsidizing developers is wrong - Part 1

In our quest to bring you only the best, Up Sucker Creek has found another great blog for you - nanocivics.org.  The selection below is from a 2012 interview with economist, Luigi Zingales.  This should be read by everyone who still believes that Urban Renewal subsidies for private development (even property conversions) are a good idea.  There is a description of Zingales' book, A Capitalism for the People, at the bottom of the post.  I haven't read it, but it's going on my to-do list!

From the website, Nanocivics (August 28, 2012):

Would you make economic policy with this man?
Photo Credit: Chris Lake
Here’s rest of my interview with Professor Zingales:
The theme of the solutions section of your book is utilizing market structures to regulate entities in the market. Which of your ideas do you think is most likely to be adopted? Why?
To be honest I think that none of my solutions is very likely to be adopted in the very near future. For a solution to be adopted, there must be a powerful group lobbying for it. A group will lobby only if it receives a disproportionate benefit. So in the current political dynamic only biased proposals, which greatly favor a group at the expense of everybody else, are likely to be endorsed and adopted. My proposals are balanced and fair. So it takes a change in the way politics is done for my proposals to have a chance. That is exactly the reason why I wrote the book, to create the awareness that the way politics is done should be changed.
 Why ban subsidies and what’s the alternative?
There is a perverse political dynamic in subsidies. The beneficiaries have great incentives to lobbying for them, hiring the most talented advocates to convince Congress and the public at large of the social benefits of these subsidies. The taxpayers are dispersed and disorganized and have no interest or resources to fight back in this battle, so they tend to lose all the time. Yet, whatever social benefit can be obtained with subsidies, can also be obtained with taxes on competing goods: a subsidy to corn syrup has similar effects on a tax on sugar. Targeted taxes, however, are very unappealing: they have the opposite political dynamic. The payers are very concentrated and powerful and the beneficiaries (the taxpayers) dispersed and powerless. That is the reason why I want to restrict government intervention to take the form of taxes rather than subsidies: it will occur less often and only when the social benefits are very large.
One criticism of your work would seem to be that if we don’t prop up our home grown businesses, then government supported entities around the world will out-compete ours. If other countries support their automobile manufacturers, why shouldn’t we?
It is a very dangerous argument many businesspeople use to justify their request for protection and subsidies. First, if other countries really resort to subsidies that alter competition we have a way to respond. The WTO agreements allow a country to introduce tariffs in response to “unfair” competitive practices, but the unfairness is to be assessed by international judges, it is not enough that is claimed by the local industry. Second, if taxpayers in other countries are subsidizing the products we buy, should we worry so much?
You conclude with a chapter on the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business and hold some hope that academics can push us in that direction. Is there a country that’s mastered this? Did their academic sector take a leadership role?
No country is perfect. European economists, who work in State-financed universities, tend to be pro-government intervention, not pro market. By contrast, American economists, who are more pro-market, tend to be too cozy with the interest of business. Yet, the more intense competition present in American academia fosters a healthy debate that favors pro-market solutions. Competition works the best when there is a level playing field. Public disclosure of economic data, including the regulatory decisions, is the best way to create this level playing field.
It’s a fun and highly recommended read, here’s the book:  A Capitalism For The People
Book Description from Amazon.comJune 5, 2012
Born in Italy, University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales witnessed firsthand the consequences of high inflation and unemployment—paired with rampant nepotism and cronyism—on a country’s economy. This experience profoundly shaped his professional interests, and in 1988 he arrived in the United States, armed with a political passion and the belief that economists should not merely interpret the world, but should change it for the better.

In A Capitalism for the People, Zingales makes a forceful, philosophical, and at times personal argument that the roots of American capitalism are dying, and that the result is a drift toward the more corrupt systems found throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world. American capitalism, according to Zingales, grew in a unique incubator that provided it with a distinct flavor of competitiveness, a meritocratic nature that fostered trust in markets and a faith in mobility. Lately, however, that trust has been eroded by a betrayal of our pro-business elites, whose lobbying has come to dictate the market rather than be subject to it, and this betrayal has taken place with the complicity of our intellectual class.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brady Bunch Country gets hit by UGB

The WSJ article is an example of the ill-conceived "Smart Growth" land use planning that has led to an artificial shortage of buildable land, and consequently higher prices for housing in regions where urban growth boundaries exist.  Many studies agree that UGBs are responsible for the rise in housing costs that rob people of their ideal of the American Dream.  The social engineering that is taking place nation-wide to cram more people into ever-more dense cities also lowers the quality of life for millions of people who prefer a low-density lifestyle - which the majority do.

It strikes me as particularly cruel that the public is being made to pay multiple times for 1) manipulating the market to create higher housing costs; 2) requiring people to pay more of their personal, hard-earned income for housing needs; and 3) being asked to subsidize expensive "low income" housing in markets where housing has become costly.  This is Central Planning at work - selling a utopian ideal for a terrible reality.  The clarion call for reduction of green house gases (and carbon footprint) is the Green red herring that is, and will be, used to persuade us to continue to follow the Central Planners to our own compact, expensive future.

This post should be read along with a previous blog posting, "A Better Way to Sustainability."  The GHG/sustainability needs to be put in proper perspective concerning what is realistically doable rather than the Orwellian Central Planning we have now.

Land Crunch Hits Builders in 'Brady Bunch' Country
Attached Homes Become Far More Common as Single-Family Houses Decline
Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2013

Faced with a dearth of developable land, home builders across Southern California are cramming more houses into less space. Many are dispensing with the single-family homes that have defined the region's development for half a century (Exhibit A: "The Brady Bunch"). In their place they are building somewhat smaller structures in the form of townhouses or pairs of homes that share one wall.

This contrasts with the rest of the nation, where homes are for the most part getting bigger after shrinking a bit during the housing bust. The average size of a new single-family house grew 5.4% to 2,642 square feet in the second quarter from a year earlier, led by fast-growing housing markets in Texas and several Southern states, where land is relatively inexpensive and plentiful.

Government agencies also have played a role in pushing denser developments such as townhomes. As part of a series of air-quality and environmental laws passed in the 2000s, often dubbed "smart growth," California encourages cities to embrace higher-density development by clustering housing around transportation hubs.
There is no legal minium on density, but the policies likely will to be tied to future greenhouse-gas-emission targets that will further push developers toward attached homes, said Benjamin M. Reznik, head of the Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department practice at Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Mitchell LLP, a law firm in Los Angeles.
"To generate the density by definition you have to get away from the single-family-home concept," he said.

A Better Way to "Sustainability"

When the City Council crafts their goals for 2014, and when the Budget Committee meets, all issues pertaining ton"Sustainability" should be on the radar.  The city should make policies that are the most practical for Lake Oswego's citizen-taxpayers.  To be responsible to its constituency, our leaders need to focus on core services, and on what actually works.

Toward that end, I would Ike to offer this video to the city as a way to approach "sustainability."  Eco: Nomics is a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that takes place annually in Santa Barbara.

Are There Better Ways to Combat Climate Change? 
 - WSJ  ECO: Nomics

"Focusing on reducing emissions over the past 20 years has not yielded any results" says Bjørn Lomborg, Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. Joel Kotkin, Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University says we need solutions that do not change people’s daily lives.  Click on image for video link.


Happiness research follow-up

In response to my post titled, "Do we want to be this 'Happy," a reader questions my focus on density and my bias toward suburbs (which I freely admit).  As this blog is about issues affecting land use, I selected certain information to make a point.  I am citing my research sources for all readers to check out.  To get the full picture on the geography of happiness, read the full reports, links given below.

The first research paper, "The Geography of Happiness," looks at how happiness can be measured through the use of geotagging certain words on Twitter that were found to correlate to scales of happiness.  The second is the Gallup-Healthways, "The State of Well-Being," called the "Well-Being Index." The annual report is done using surveys in each state within selected congressional districts. A third research study, "Urban Scaling and its Deviations," looks at economic and social well-being rather than the happiness of cities. And lastly, a Huffington Post article, "The Happiest States In America In One Map."

The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter Sentiment and Expression, Demographics, and Objective Characteristics of Place. 

On wealth:
Happiness within the US was found to correlate strongly with wealth, showing large positive correlation with increasing household income and strong negative correlation with increasing poverty. 

On obesity:
We also observed that happiness anticorrelates significantly with obesity. A similar link between obesity and happiness has previously been reported [33], particularly for individuals who report low self control [34]. However, as some authors point out, the presence of chronic illnesses accompanying obesity can confound the link between obesity and psychological well-being[35], and indeed an inverse relationship between weight and depression has been found in some studies [36].

On population density:
For example, economic productivity [12][13][15][20][22] (value-added in manufacturing, GDP, wages, personal income, etc.) increases systematically on a per capita basis by 15% with every doubling of a city's population, regardless of a city's initial size (whether from, say, 50,000 to 100,000 or, from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000). Remarkably, these general increasing returns to population size manifest, on average, the same statistical relationship (the 15% rule) across an extraordinarily broad range of metrics, regardless of nation or time. Similar increases apply to almost every socioeconomic quantity, from innovation rates [10][14] and rhythms of human behavior [15] to incidence of crime [15][16] and infectious diseases [15][18]. They express a continuous and systematic acceleration of socioeconomic processes with increasing numbers of people [15], so that larger cities produce and spend wealth faster, create new ideas more frequently and suffer from greater incidence of crime all approximately to the same degree.

On socio-economic status:
Only two groups show a large number of attributes which significantly correlate (below ) with happiness; these are shown in blue (with red crosses specifying the median attribute). These two groups might be broadly characterized as representing high socioeconomic and low socioeconomic status respectively, with many of the attributes in the high socioeconomic status group positively correlating with happiness, and anti-correlating for the low socioeconomic status group.  (Image below)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pulse of the Day

Many of you may have seen this graphic of how happiness levels change through the course of a day.  I am posting this to complement the previous post's theme of happiness.  By now (11:30 am) you should all be pretty unhappy, so I offer this advice -  CHEER UP darn it!

For an animated map showing the progression throughout the day, click here:

Do we really want to be this "happy?"

Up Sucker Creek was amazed, but not in a good way, of the implications of this story, in The Huffington Post,   United Nations Calls For Happiness-Based Economy In Landmark Meeting On Happiness And Wellbeing, and also reported in the New York Times in 2012.  It's about a new way the United Nations has to measure the economies of nations, and promote a lifestyle that would achieve both personal and collective happiness.

Before you cheer about this grand, utopian dream all nations should aspire to, understand that the model for their outcomes, Costa Rica, wrote a NEW constitution to achieve the goal of sustainable happiness.  Should America do the same?  Heck no!  But it takes education and vigilance to retain and regain our liberty as promised in our constitution - not substitute "liberty" with "happiness," as it requires the former to have the latter, nor to redefine it as a new social construct, or reduce it to a collective rather than an individual pursuit.  The themes of collective, community and global ownership of ideals and policies will be challenged against our traditional rights of individual liberty,  ownership of private "property" and self determination (for the individual and for a city or town).

Here is the Infographic link for the Happiness Map.  Notice that densily populated urban areas are far less happy than small towns.  Scale does matter.  But USC readers already know that.   http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671961/mapping-happiness-in-american-cities-using-twitter.  This reality hardly squares with the push toward greater densities in urban areas does it?  And watch for word usage and what commonly understood words and concepts might actually mean here.

These are excerpts from the Huffington Post article:  (see above for link)

"A high-level United Nations meeting on happiness has taken place, marking a significant step towards governments placing wellbeing at the heart of economic progress.

The first of its kind, the meeting took place at UN headquarters in New York on 2 April, 2012, and brought together more than 600 participants from government, academia, business, civil society and spiritual and religious groups.
Following the conference, wellbeing is now intended to be at the centre of new sustainable development goals, which are expected to replace the millennium development goals when they expire in 2015.
Policy recommendations from the meeting are now being drawn up, ranging from prioritizing investment in renewable energy, public transport and green spaces; to introducing work sharing schemes that increase leisure time and prevent unemployment; discouraging materialism by banning advertising to children; and creating accounting systems that factor in the value of ‘services’ provided by nature.
The idea of placing wellbeing at the centre of economies will also be carried forward to the Rio+20 sustainable development summit on 20-22 June this year.
“This is not about being anti-growth,” said Williamson, “it's about redefining what we mean by progress. We should be aiming for growth in human happiness. A healthy economy is part of this, but other things are essential too - like vibrant communities and greater equality."
A New Economy
At the UN meeting the prime minister of Bhutan, Jigme Thinley called for a “great transition” to an economy that creates the conditions in which all citizens are able to pursue “the ultimate goal of happiness.
The president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, a keynote speaker, said that wellbeing includes economic, social, cultural, environmental and spiritual factors, and that it demands a balance between individual and collective interests. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon cited Costa Rica as an example of holistic development and “a beacon of peace and democracy.”
Awarded first place in the New Economics Foundation’s(1) Happy Planet Index in 2009 and regarded as the ‘greenest’ country in the world, Costa Rica made primary education free and mandatory in 1870 – before the UK or US – and abolished its army in 1948. In 1970 a network of national parks was set up, protecting nearly 30% of its territory and it now aspires to become one of the first carbon neutral countries.
The conference closed with prayers from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Islamic leaders. The Bhutanese prime minister hoped it marked “the crafting of a new and bright chapter in human history.”
(1) "nef is the UK's leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Our purpose is to bring about a Great Transition – to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet."  Description from website.  http://www.neweconomics.org/

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

Wishing you a world of peace, joy, and good health.

Merry Christmas!

Your faithful Up Sucker Creek servant has been busy with family and holiday preparations and lake minute everything.  But after Christmas, we will resume serving up more food to digest - hopefully more cake than fruitcake.  In this season of eggnog, holiday lights and reruns, don't forget to check
back and see what is new as well as catch up on some past posts - there are about 200 to choose from. If there's any topic you would like to see discussed, drop me a .ine at:

And have a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Key Calendar Dates

The new year starts with a rush of activity at city hall.  The Council will be setting goals for 2014, and the Transportstion System Plan (draft) will be presented to the public before the final rounds of changes.

On Jan. 8, there will be two important meetings back-to-back, the Council Open House to meet with citizens and have a cookie, and share their thoughts for the upcoming year.  Later the same night, the Transportation System Plan Advisory Committee will meet at city hall.

Council Open House and Community Reception

Open House/Community Reception 
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Willamette Room at the West End Building
Wednesday, January 8.  

Later that week, the Council will meet to set goals for 2014.

Transportation System Plan Advisory Committee
7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Council Chambers at City Hall
Wednesday, January 8

There will be time for public comment at the beginning of the meeting.  It is extremely difficult to know what one should be commenting on.  The last TSPAC meeting on December 11, did not have any staff reports or handouts posted to the TAB meeting website.

Another important date for Transportation planning will be an Open House for the public to learn about plans, changes and projects for the city.  The same night, the Planning Commission will be having a study session on the TSP.  if there are any documents posted to the PC meeting website for the TSP discussion, it would be a good idea to read them prior to the Open House.

Transportation Advisory Committee Open House
Time and place TBD
January 27

Planning Commission Study Session     
Time TBD
Place TBD
January 27 

 There will be a more thorough discussion of transportation issues in future posts, but these dates are key in the decision-making process, so get them on your calendar now and plan to attend.

After all, it's our city.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

West Linn recall petitions ready for signatures

Once again, West Linners are at odds with their mayor and council, no doubt over the controversy over handling of the Lake Oswego - Tigard Water Partnership.  The ripple of discord among citizens crosses many boundaries.

West Linn Tidings
December 19, 2013

The four petitioners — residents Karie Oakes, Reena Heijdeman, E. Marie Horvath and Sommer — allege that the city councilors broke their oaths of office by violating public meetings laws, “failing to represent the best interests of West Linn citizens,” “ignoring recommendations from city advisory boards and commissions” and “failing to assert proper control and direction over the city manager and city attorney.”
With their paperwork officially approved by the city and Secretary of State Elections division, the petitioners will each have 90 days to gather the 1,844 signatures needed to trigger an election.

Petitioners get approval to begin signature gathering to recall West Linn mayor, 2 councilors 
Oregonian, December 11, 2013

The residents also accuse the officials of putting regional interests ahead of those of West Linn residents, risking the community's physical safety and financial security by ignoring the recommendations of commissions and advisory boards, and failing to assert their authority over City Manager Chris Jordan and the city attorney's office. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why Millennials Are Headed To The Suburbs

The Geography of Aging:  Why Millennials Are Headed To The Suburbs
Forbes, Reinventing America, December 9, 2013
Joel Kotkin

A young bicycle commuter in Portland, Oregon. People are most likely 
to move to the core cities in their early 20s, but this migration peters 
out as people enter the end of that often tumultuous decade. 
(RyanJLane/Getty Images)

Urban theorists such as Peter Katz have maintained that millennials (the generation born after 1983) show little interest in “returning to the cul-de-sacs of their teenage years.” Manhattanite Leigh Gallagher, author of the dismally predictable book The Death of Suburbs, asserts with certitude that “millennials hate the suburbs” and prefer more eco-friendly, singleton-dominated urban environments.

"But a close look at migration data reveals that the reality is much more complex. The millennial “flight” from suburbia has not only been vastly overexaggerated, it fails to deal with what may best be seen as differences in preferences correlated with life stages."
"We can tell this because we can follow the first group of millennials who are now entering their 30s, and it turns out that they are beginning, like preceding generations, to move to the suburbs."

See the accompanying article that shows just where people are moving to.
Where Working Americans Are Moving
File this under: DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR.  Of course people will want to raise their kids in the suburbs.  The vast majority of Americans now live in suburbs, and more people move to suburbia than urban areas despite claims to the contrary.  
BUT - that is not what you hear from the Central Planners and sustainability folks.  Ever denser, more connectivity, bike, walk, pathways everywhere - even through private property - nature in the neighborhoods, government control over every tree...  Not exactly the American Dream.  Listen to what the PEOPLE want, not the Central Planners.

Around and around we go...

City Notes
Lake Oswego Review, December 19, 2013

WATER PARTNERSHIP — Officials coordinating the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership’s infrastructure projects are looking for new routes for a pipeline in the Oswego Lake area. This change in direction stems from cost proposals that “substantially exceeded program estimates” for running a pipeline under the lake, according to the partnership. Instead, officials are now considering routes around the lake instead of underneath it, and they expect to identify an alternative plan by the end of the year. Survey, design and geotechnical work and permitting for the alternate alignment are expected to follow.

Which route do you think LOTWP will choose - State St. Or South Shore?  

Which of the available routes will cost more money? 

Will going over land rather than under water actually save any money? 

This will be one to watch - after all, it's our money.  

Convention hotel may face vote

Convention center hotel:  Too early to say how subsidy referendum would affect project, Metro says
Oregonian, December 19, 2013

"Backers of a proposal to publicly back a Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center say they’re not adjusting their plans after a group of opponents announced an effort Thursday to put the subsidy to voters."

The Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) that keep springing up, however nice they sound, are based on debt incurred by the taxpayers - without having the ability to vote on them.  And that's the way the government wants it these days.  The option would be to go to the voters to ask for a general obligation bond for each set of projects, and have to justify the project and the expense.  Horrors.  We should all have the ability to vote on these corporate welfare programs - it's our money after all.

"These convention center hotels are very high-risk propositions," said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the group. "The way the deal is structured, if the hotel is successful, this already highly profitable multinational corporation is going to make some money. And if it doesn't succeed, the taxpayers are going to be on the hook."

The paragraph says it all - profits flow to the developer, the risks go to the tax payer.  Only government would make a deal this bad, but it's Other People's Money at risk and they don't have any skin in the game.  The only thing this deal says to me is that Metro has too much of our money to spend.  And they aren't very smart.

"In a written statement, Metro President Tom Hughes called the group a "small but well-funded" minority and defended his agency's record on promoting tourism, pointing to a 76.5 percent occupancy rate at downtown hotels this year at an average daily room rate of $121.88."

Isn't this what an entrenched power group always says when they face opposition from a group?  "It's just a minority" (ignore them), "well-funded" (must be businesses or rich people, not the public behind this - ignore them), and, though Hughes did not say so, you can add "dangerous," "emotional," and so forth.  Anything to marginalize and diminish the opposition.  Typical political rhetoric.

"The hotel project is a jobs initiative," Hughes said. "Beyond the project itself, many local jobs will be created and sustained by the new convention business that will come to town because of the hotel," Hughes said. "With the addition of 5 to 10 new national conventions meeting in Portland each year, the local economy will experience an infusion of $120 million more each year in tourist spending."

How many of the jobs in the tourist industry are living-wage jobs?  If Metro or any other layer of government wanted to create a "robust economy," there are higher paid, value-added industries that should be fostered.  They can't keep shelling out public subsidies to developers / developments with retail shops, restaurants and tourism as the employment base and say that will elevate community prosperity.  

"The city of Portland, Metro and the state would kick in $18 million in loans and grants, but the biggest subsidy would come in the form of $60 million in Metro revenue bonds to be paid back with the lodging tax.

Mortenson and its partners would put $119.5 million toward the $197.5 million project."

I am not a mathematician, but that's about a 40-60 split with public subsidies making up a cool 40% of the cost of development, mot including interest on $60 million of debt.  Does anyone wonder why hoteliers in Portland might be a bit miffed that their competition gets such a deal?  Using public money, the government gets to pick the winners and losers - it's called CRONY CAP ITALSM.  It's such a bastardization of the concept of capitalism it's unfair to use the word at all. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A few words can change a city

The Comprehensive Plan Evolution: 
Enabling, not setting a direction, for public choices

What a difference a few words make.  Instead of encouraging people to walk and ride bikes, the city will enable residents to walk, bike and drive.  Thinking adults can make their own choices about how to get around without overreaching government central planners trying to manipulate their preferred outcomes.

From original Comp Plan Vision Statement
Connected Community
We have safe, efficient and convenient transportation choices.  There are frequent and reliable public transportation options that make it easy to move around our city and the region. Pathways, sidewalks, roadways and bike routes encourage residents of all neighborhoods to walk and bike safely.

From Comp Plan Vision Statement  (as of 12/3/13)
Connected Community
We have safe, efficient and convenient transportation choices for all users. There are frequent and reliable public transportation options that make it easy to move around our City and the region. Safe pathways, sidewalks, roadways and bike routes enable residents of all neighborhoods to walk and bike and drive. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A "Step into the Void"

Pictures are worth thousands of words.  A "Step Into the Void" is a gift to the world, even if one never leaves home.

California's Bullet Train Derailment

This WSJ editorial (Dec. 18, 2013) is not available online without subscription.  It's a good lesson about the financing and politics of rail development in the US.  It takes to task the California Rail Authority for ignoring serious financing gaps and legal requirements of a 2008 state bond measure in order to continue on track toward construction of a ($70 billion) high speed train from Anaheim to to San Francisco.  A Sacramento Superior Court Judge ruled that state funds are off limits until certain requirements are met, there are no private investors willing to put up money for a federal match grant, and environmental clearances are not complete for 270 miles of the 500-mile track.  There is no finance plan at all for the first 300 miles of track.

The editorial also points out that, "Public opinion has swung sharply against the bullet train since 2008.  Polls show that others by two-to-one would derail the choo-choo in a referendum.  High-speed rail helped cost Democrats a special election for a state Senate seat this summer and a Congressional race last November, both in the Central Valley."

But ....

"Despite these setbacks, which make completion of the first 300-mile segment a virtual impossibility, the White House is not blocking the authority from using federal stimulus funds to seize property and prepare ground for construction.  On Friday, the State Public Works Board approved the authority's first request to take a commercial property under eminent domain.

The rail authority hopes that once enough businesses and homes are destroyed, politicians in Sacramento and Washington will feel obligated to ride to the train's financial rescue.  Maybe that's the Obama Administration's plan too."

Four thoughts:
  1. Sounds like the PMLR  or LOTWP - once started it had to be finished.  "We've come too far to stop now."
  2. The bullet train will undoubtedly cost more than the original estimate - if the project is ever finished.
  3. If politicians become concerned that a significant portion of their electorate is against rail (or whatever), you can expect they will be hesitant to divulge their real feelings on the subject.  
  4. Even if we don't live in California, it's our money and our debt too!  

Et tu Shiyan?

In Shiyan, China, mountains are literally being moved to "make land" for development.  At sea coast locations, new land is being created by creating small islands off- shore.  Local officials are being rewarded with promotions by creating more opportunities for industrial and commercial development no matter the cost to their own towns and districts.  Multiple high-rise apartment buildings mass at the new satellite cities for the potential population expected.  But many of the newly created cities or city expansions are suffering lower than expected occupancy rates and customers are being offered free cars to buy apartments.

Debt for the new development is now 30% to 60% of China's GDP, compared to state and local debt in the U.S. of 18% of GDP.  The model of borrowing to build and paying the loans with land leases from tenants only works as new tenants keep coming.  But as the economy cools, municipalities are vulnerable and lenders are unwilling to loan to governments or apartment buyers.  Even farmers pushed off their land are unhappy - the cost of their land does not compensate for the loss of their livelihood or for the loss of arable land.

The similarities to current development patterns in the U.S. and other countries are strong and point to underlying problems withdrew direct government involvement in commercial and residential development - if only because economic missteps put an entire city, state or country at risk rather than affecting an individual business.

The Chinese experiment is fascinating if only because of the dramatic efforts to reshape the earth to their needs at such a breathtaking scale.  You can read the article and see the photos on the WSJ website  - worth the look!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Railway art, with "the ephemeral nature of traveling"

Art installed along light-rail line
Clackamas Review, December 4, 2013

Two major public art sculptures were installed last month at two of the 
future Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail stations.
by: PHOTO COURTESY: TRIMET - Mixed-metal sculptures, collectively titled 'Trio,' are installed at the Lincoln St./SW 3rd Ave. Station in downtown Portland.
by: PHOTO COURTESY: TRIMET - Mixed-metal sculptures, collectively titled 'Trio,' are installed at the Lincoln St./SW 3rd Ave. Station in downtown Portland.

Artist's statement:  “My artwork for this space is a respectful reference to the ephemeral nature of traveling from one place to another, with a glimpse of movement, light and shadow, out of the corner of the eye.”
TriMet’s policy allocates 1.5 percent of every light-rail project’s civil construction budget toward public art, so about $3 million of this project’s overall budget of $1.49 billion is dedicated to art.
The round sculpture is 28 feet in diameter, and it’s the first time this type 
of fabrication has been used on a TriMet light-rail art project.                                                                                                
Sayre and team were assisted by PMLR’s East Segment General Contractor Stacy and Witbeck.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: TRIMET - This is the first of two cast sculptures being installed near the future Southeast Tacoma/Johnson Creek Station.

No matter what you think of these sculptures, it could have been far worse.  
Remember the baby-faced deer?  Ouch!  

With the cold comes fragile beauty

Enjoy this slideshow of one of Earth's glorious creations.

Shooting Snowflakes
Alexey Kljatov takes photos of the intricate shapes and patterns of snowflakes with a standard camera and a macro lens.