Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Smart cities destroy the soul of our communitiesI

Smart?  No, just dumb.  We are changing our towns for profit and a lie.  

I had a discussion with a friend today about new development over taking our heritage and undermining how people really prefer to live.  Ideology-driven Central Planners, developers' profits, and cities' lust for an increased property tax base are driving the transformation of the character and livability of towns everywhere.  Lake Oswego is no different, even though many wish it were and are trying to push back.  

I first published this post in January, 2015 and believe it deserves a repeat.  Don't be fooled by current fad and Central Planners' rhetoric.  Trust your gut that you know what is best for your neighborhood, your city.  Then fight back to preserve your culture, your history and your way of life that is constantly under siege.

Oh, and look up the source materials - they are extremely good!

The soul-sapping death of smart cities

Jane Jacobs is often heralded as the planning world's heroine - the woman with determination and grit who saved Greenwich Village from being destroyed in the 60s to make way for a freeway.  She fought for a city neighborhood brimming with life that she described eloquently in her 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. 

Unfortunately, only a portion of Jacob's message has made it into the modern planners' lexicon:  "eyes on the street," "walkable neighborhoods," "24-hour neighborhoods," and (ick) "vibrancy."  But they seem to miss what actually motivated Jacobs' campaign - the idea that neighborhoods belong to and should be defined by the people who live in them, not by the professional planners who "know better" how the masses ought to live.  They also missed the part about the blending of the old and new, and the low-rise buildings that gave the streets a human, livable scale. 

In their push to force a top-down, developer-friendly, high-density agenda, planners today are not thinking about who they are designing for, and much like Robert Moses, most do not respect or understand the indigenous cultures they encounter.

On Chatterbox, Brian Libby's blog on Portland architecture, he posts an interview with planning researcher Andrew Powe, excerpts below: 

From simply looking around, Jacobs believed that low-rise streets with mixtures of older buildings provided the most vibrant urban communities, the best places for small business innovation and safer public places.  She railed against skyscrapers and the scrape-and-rebuild philosophy of urban renewal aimed at eliminating urban "blight." 

Many planners struck back with venom.  Old buildings, they said, stood in the way of progress.  Cities that did not renew themselves were doomed to eventual failure.

Now there is impressive new evidence based on massive compilations of data that were not available in Jacobs' day.  Bottom line?  "Jane Jacobs was right," said Michael Powe, senior research manager for the Preservation Green Lab, a Seattle-based research arm of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Powe, who holds a doctorate in planning and design, laid out the results of the trust's "Older, Smaller, Better" research report in a talk in Portland on October 7 at the Architectural Heritage Center.  Based on intensive statistical analyses performed with data from Seattle, San Francisco and Washington DC, the report says commercial streets with a mix of building ages and sizes provide the most economic, social and cultural benefits.  

Powe did not describe himself as a preservationist.  And he expressed no intellectual virulence against new buildings on vacant land.  "Where you have the old and new rubbing together , there is greater friction and greater street life," Powe said.  

Streets with the highest [character] scores were those with the highest variety of building ages and sizes and with multiple ownerships.  In general, these same streets had the best walkability scores, the most independently-owned businesses, the most minority and women-owned businesses, and the most successful independent bars and restaurants. 

"A lot of these things we already knew," Powe said of the Green Lab conclusions.  "The data are important to policy-makers.  It is good to have the numbers to back it up."

The bottom line of Powe's message: "Character and scale of buildings matter.  Think about preservation.  Think about why it works.  Don't be afraid to blend old and new.   Don't tear down all old buildings.  Be smart about design.  Encourage the interplay between old and new."

Score these photos:

Hawthorne Blvd., mix of shops of different sizes and ages.

New mixed-use development on Hawthorne Blvd.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What defines America?


Capitalism is a economic system that recognizes the sanctity of an individual's right to property in himself - what the framers of the Constitution and other thinkers before them called "natural laws."   Man's property in himself is not a right bestowed by government (laws), it is a gift from God, or in secular terms, it just is.  We are born with these natural rights.  Man's property in himself extends to the fruits of his labor (else he would be a slave) such as physical property, his thoughts and ideas, his life, his freedom to exist without restraint, and the right of happiness that comes from the freedoms expressed above.

Capitalism is the best economic system there is for preserving individual freedoms and property in oneself.  Other forms of collectivism make man subservient to government where the state controls what one's freedoms will or will not be.

I was attracted to this article about the dislike and opposition to capitalism that I see more and more of these days.  It astounds me that the benefits of and respect for capitalism are not being taught in schools as early as grade school as it was for most of us older folks.  Perhaps the counterculture movement made capitalism (personal liberty) seem a poor alternative to collectivism (socialism, progressivism, statism).  Unfortunately, without a educational education in economics and political science to show how economic systems define our political systems - and freedoms or lack there of -   collectivism and its variants have gained popularity.  Maybe it's a group thing - a virus of group think that disallows other ways of thinking. Or maybe this generation of teachers don't know what to teach.

I have been seeking to understand the appeal of collectivism since the basic freedoms we cherish in America are in opposition to this economic system.  If collectivism takes over directly or through regulation, we will have become a socialist tyranny.. or what fans refer to as utopia and justice, equity, etc..  This article offers one point of view as explained by a prominent market economist.  Visit the FEE website to read this article and many others.

Foundation for Economic Education, August 15, 2017. By Alberto Mingardi

Why Do So Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

Friedman also speaks on a matter which has likewise been pondered by many of his contemporaries: why intellectuals oppose capitalism.
To these questions, some have replied that the main reason is resentment (intellectuals expect more recognition from the market society than they actually get); some have pointed out that self-interest drives the phenomenon (intellectuals preach government controls and regulation because they'll be the controllers and regulators); some have taken the charitable view that intellectuals do not understand what the market really is about (as they cherish "projects" and the market is instead an unplanned order).
Friedman rejects the resentment view and proposes a version of the self-interest thesis by looking at the demand-side, so to speak. And it shows – behind the veil of his civility – very little consideration for the tastes of his fellow intellectuals for complex arguments, which seems to me quite a criticism.
Here's the passage:
REASON: Perhaps we can go back to your comment about intellectuals. What do you think of the thesis put forth by von Mises and Schoeck, that envy motivates many contemporary intellectuals' opposition to the free market?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I don't think we'll get very far by interpreting the intellectuals' motivation. Their critical attitudes might be attributed to personal resentment and envy but I would say that a more fruitful direction, or a more fundamental one, is that intellectuals are people with something to sell. So the question becomes, what is there a better market for? I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there's something wrong pass a law and do something about it. If there's something wrong it's because of some no-good bum, some devil, evil and wicked – that's a very simple story to tell. You don't have to be very smart to write it and you don't have to be very smart to accept it. On the other hand, the individualistic or libertarian argument is a sophisticated and subtle one. If there's something wrong with society, if there's a real social evil, maybe you will make better progress by letting people voluntarily try to eliminate the evil. Therefore, I think, there is in advance a tendency for intellectuals to be attracted to sell the collectivist idea.
REASON: It's paradoxical but people might then say that you are attributing to the collectivist intellectual a better feeling for the market.
FRIEDMAN: Of course. But while there's a bigger market for Fords than there is for American Motors products, there is a market for the American Motors products. In the same way, there's a bigger market for collectivist ideology than there is for individualist ideology. The thing that really baffles me is that the fraction of intellectuals who are collectivists is, I think, even larger than would be justified by the market.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Democrat candidates' views on property rights

and sound economic policy:

Warped, misinformed and dangerous.

At a Town Hall in LO last week, seven candidates for the vacant seat for House of Representative District 38 answered questions in front of members of the public.  I don't know why the forum took place since the winning candidate will be appointed by the Democrat Party and not through a public vote. Oh well.  As I read about the event in the LO Review, comments about housing naturally stood out.

The second question of the night focused on affordable housing policies. All of the candidates called for the state to take action to increase housing availability, although they emphasized different approaches.  If they were smart and did their homework. They would understand that the market is working to stabilize housing prices.  The problem with pro-government Democrats (and progressives and socialists) is that they see every problem as one government MUST get involved in.  They get into politics to grab the power and public money to further their own stupid ideas that sound vaguely like they ought to work;  their plans make them seem altruistic without having to be factual, logical or responsible for the consequences.  

If Democrats want to help with housing affordability, easing urban growth boundaries would be the biggest boost by increasing land availability and therefore cost of homes.  Maybe do something to help slow the demolition of sound, existing housing.  
Josephy said he supported the idea of rent control, but he worried that it would lead to unintended consequences and said combating gentrification needed to be a higher priority.  If the guy already knows there are "unintended" consequences, WHY does he support the idea of rent control?  Or does he just like the IDEA of rent control and understands that the reality sucks?  Can you really call negative consequences of rent control "unintended" if they are well-known to economists and housing experts?  I suppose politicians and progressives like to use the word "unintended" because their political ideas are more magical thinking than hard reality.  "Oh my, we didn't mean for that to happen!"

Nguyen argued that increasing the housing supply must be a focus of the discussion.   A Democrat who knows about how supply and demand works in the housing market!  Nothing magical about it.  
Simon said Democrats need to do more to put human faces and personal stories on the issue, Here I am!!  And there are plenty of other rental owners who have sad faces and pitiful stories too!  Rent control would seriously hurt US!  And if politicians don't think our personal stories - and property rights - are as important as renters', they will find that as they hurt landlords, the people they want to help will be dragged into the morass along with us.  Rent control is a lose-lose.  But don't take my word for it, read the personal testimonies of landlords HERE.  (Unfortunately there are no human faces on the digital documents, but any of the writers will be glad to talk the you personally.)

"Current law affords me flexibility and keeps financial risk to acceptable levels.
If HB 2004-a passes, I will need to add a line item to my expense budget for an attorney and add an allocation for the 3 times rent provision. I will never rent to less than qualified applicants again and I will take whatever rent increases are allowed in my community each year like clockwork.  In other words my base rents will rise, the frequency of rent increases  will be more frequent and my ability to give a break to future less than qualified applicants will be curtailed. ". Eric B.

"It is well known that government cannot provide affordable housing. Every time the try there homes or there apt end up costing about 3 times as much , it has been proven thousand of times. Every time there is a restrictive law punishing the land owner, there is less incentive to build or to invest into new or affordable housing. HB2004 will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. You liberal hens that control our state will be will be crying FOUL waving your arms asking what your are going to do about the diminishing middle class, the working poor, and homeless that you misguidedly created buy your idea of fairness. Tim M.

"Please stop with all the regulation trying to punish landlords and loosen up the restrictive regulation. I have lost two more properties in my portfolio from landlords fearing the new regulation and pulling properties out of the rental pool at a time when we need MORE properties to rent. It only HURTS the renters, not protects them."  Douglas O. 

"I strongly urge you to oppose HB 2004-A. The majority of my clients can't afford the real impacts that this bill would have on their investments and livelihood. These aren't rich, out-of- state investors. These are local, honest, good people who rent out their homes when they leave town, who inherited properties that they now offer as housing to others, or who have saved their hard-earned money to invest in their communities by offering high-quality housing.
These people don't deserve to have their hands tied. We live in a society that is founded on the principles of free speech, free market economy, and social justice. I firmly believe that all people deserve a roof over their head, a warm meal, and the right to exist. However, I don't think that the measures invoked by HB 2004-A do any justice. Rather, HB 2004-A strips landlords of their rights to manage their property and imbues local governments with the ability to set a "fair rate of return" on landlords' investments. This will unduly impact small landlords and will do nothing to address the real causes of the housing crisis.
Again, I strongly urge opposition to HB 2004-A. As an accountant, landlord, property manager, and lifelong Oregonian, I firmly believe that this legislation will negatively impact our state and our communities."  Adam K. A.

and Buck cited his own experiences in Lake Oswego as an example of the need for better housing policy. Many of his own employees are being forced to move further and further away from the restaurants he owns in the city, Buck said.  If Joe paid his employees more they could afford to live closer.  But how near are we talking about?  

$1353 / 2br - 884ft2 - 2b1b in Lake O! $300 Visa Gift Card + $99 dep oac! Avail Now N208 (Lake Oswego)  

 $1075 / 2br - 750ft2 - Beautiful 2 Bedroom 1 Bath Ready Today (Tualatin) 

 $1359 / 2br - 1035ft2 - ONE MONTH FREE!!! Newly Renovated Unit! Gorgeous Interior! (Wilsonville)  

 $995 / 1br - 510ft2 - 1 bedroom duplex sw portland close to Lewis and Clark college (9220 SW Terwilliger) 

Kohlhoff pointed to her candidacy for the Lake Oswego City Council last year, when she made affordable housing a centerpiece of her platform. She said she was warned that such a position would get a chilly reception in Lake Oswego, but she said the fact that she won a council seat shows that voters support new ways to improve housing, and she said she'd keep fighting for it if appointed.  Exactly what appreciation Kohlhoff's ideas to make housing affordable?  Does she believe like others who like rent control that private property owners should bear the burden for implementing her ideas? 
Salinas called for an end to no-cause evictions and referenced House Bill 2004, which would have ended no-cause evictions but failed to pass the state Senate in the most recent legislative session. She said its failure was "the biggest disappointment of the session" for her.   Of course politicians like appeasing tenants - but they don't have to put up with regulations that make business more difficult and therefore more expensive.  Government "help" doesn't help anyone.  
Ross cited his own experience as a longtime renter in Portland, saying housing costs in the city have more than doubled in the past six years alone, and he called for action to keep people from being priced out.  Any ideas that actually work?  Like encouraging builders to build more housing?  Release more land to build on?  Or does he support the tired progressive landlord punishment that hurts tenants?
"I'm fortunate enough to still be able to afford it," he said, "but I'm an outlier."   "Outlier", really?  This assumes that all of the people who can afford to rent in Portland are overwhelmingly outnumbered by those who cannot.  By this logic, all of the luxury apartments, and most of the mid-range units in Portland would be struggling to stay filled.  But then they'd lower their rents to raise occupancy.  None of that is happening, so Ross is talking through his hat.  I guess this is his mea culpa to the social justice crowd for being successful; He has to minimize his good fortune and most his own hard work.  What lame kind of thinking is this?  Democrats seem to demand a lot of self-loathing in order to be in good standing within their party.