Wonks R Us

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Tag Archives: portland

A city that has no confidence in its own ability to prosper is doomed to control by outsiders

That quote by Timothy Egan perfectly sums up how I feel about the direction Portland is heading.  So much energy is going to remaking Portland in the Bay Area’s image that I fear we are losing sight of our own charms.  Something has been luring the creative class here for years, despite the fact that they could make more money elsewhere.  Why do you think that is? Quality of life is clearly part of the attraction, but there is something else that doesn’t get mentioned as often.  Portland is a perfect sandbox.

Eric Weiner traveled the world choosing destinations based on their placement on the the Gross National Happiness Index. Iceland rates as one of the happiest countries in the world.  This is despite the fact that one of their most popular foods is rotted shark.  Weiner’s theory is that Icelandic culture values experience over financial success.  It is neither unusual nor frowned upon to switch professional fields several times over one’s working life.  There is just a cultural recognition that having to choose a single profession is just too limiting. The same holds true for recreational activities like playing in garage bands, of which they have many.  It doesn’t matter whether the only people willing to listen to a band are the people playing in it.  That is beside the point.

Rotted shark aside, Portland shares many of the same values.  Despite ballot measures 47 & 50 decimating funding for the arts, Portland still has an amazing number of experimental theaters, shoved into the back corner of cafes or wherever space is available.  We love our  neighbors ‘ art so much that what started as a monthly gallery walk has spread to neighborhoods around the city. We show up in droves to hear local bands play in parks, outdoor markets and anywhere else people can gather.

Our burgeoning food cart culture is another manifestation of our communitarian values.  We happily travel the city to eat whatever food experiments someone wants to try.  Fried snickers bars?  Yup.  Poutine? Check.   A simple bowl of beans and rice doused with crack sauce?  Now available at 3 carts and an actual restaurant.

So the next time someone complains that Portland needs to be more like Seattle or the Bay Area, smile politely and take them by the hand.  Then go to a free outdoor concert or go on an art walk and treat them to some cart food.  Then remind them that we are happiest just the way we are.

By the way, that quote was said in reference to Seattle at a time when Seattle was struggling with its own feelings of inadequacy.

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Hey software developers, tell us who you are

If you’re involved with Portland’s software community, you know that there’s an amazing variety and depth of work being created at companies large and small, in hobby side-projects, and open source efforts. The City of Portland has selected software as one of its economic development clusters for the economic plan currently being written. Agencies like the Portland Development Commission (PDC) are involved in documenting our software community and developing a plan for working with it, but they lack accurate data on the types of software development local organizations are undertaking, and have limited experience with the kinds of small companies, ad hoc organizations, and independent work that forms much of our technology efforts.

We’d like to assist the PDC and City of Portland efforts by initiating a software community census to:

* Gather some basic demographics about Portland’s tech community

* Flesh out what work people are doing and for whom

* Build a baseline so we can quantitatively track the community’s breadth and depth

How can you participate?

* Take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KTGSH9Q before May 17

* Spread the word to your colleages, coworkers and friends

* We will be posting the results online, so check back with Silicon Florist and your community tech organizations for details.

What do we get out of this? This census will:

* Ensure economic development efforts are targeted to what our industry actually needs

* Provide data that can be used to assess the success of economic development efforts

* Create an accurate picture of our amazing tech community (and give us bragging rights at OSCON).

* Market Portland to companies like Involver who are coming to check out Portland!

How our work fits into the City of Portland’s plans:

* Software is the of the 5 clusters identified in Portland Economic Development Plan. It is the cluster that is least well defined in the plan.

* PDC took the first step with their survey. Now we are helping them flesh out their results and better target their efforts.

* We will be sharing our survey’s results directly with the Mayor and PDC’s Urban Development Director, Erin Flynn.

The survey will be open through the end of May, but we strongly encourage you to complete the survey by May 17th so we can include your data in the results we share at the next Lunch 2.0.

It’s Either This or Rockband

We all deal with stress in our own ways.  Some people jog, some people play games, some people watch movies and then there is me.  I am managing my stress level by reading about public policy.  If you think about it, reading public policy to relax makes a certain amount of sense.  You start with a problem, outline the issues that led to the aforementioned problem and then identify solutions for the problem.  If the problem statement is well defined, causality is well substantiated and the solutions are at least theoretically achievable, it makes me happy.  This is usually a quiet and content kind of happiness because I can take comfort in the knowledge that at least somebody gets it.

If the problem statement is poorly defined, the arguments are weak, causality and correlation are referenced interchangeably and the solutions are ridiculous, then I get to annoy those around me (a trick I learned from David).  I stomp around angrily and people stupid enough to ask me what’s wrong get an earful. Someone who partially hears the discussion and asks what we are discussing gives me the opportunity get to rant to a second person. By then the first person has had time to process my rants and we all get into a heated discussion (I have found this last point to be true whether or not everyone in the conversation agrees).  Rinse and repeat until I have achieved full catharsis and can go back to what I was doing originally.

Either way, I win.

Anyway, I was poking around my RSS feeds this morning and I ran across a link to this article listing 2009’s best cities.  There are seemingly endless sets of “best cities” lists and I generally ignore them.  What caught my eye in this article was the criteria used: both the overall number of jobs and the likelihood that those jobs would be retained in a soft economy. At the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Cabinet meeting last week, it was very interesting to hear which industries were bouncing back and which were stagnant or losing additional jobs.  I wanted to see how Oregon would fare using the same criteria.

I poked around on Google Scholar and found this great publication, Working in Oregon, that contained analysis by both public and private sector economists. It offers some useful context for many of the perennial complaints about our commercial competitiveness and projected job growth.

  • Oregon’s wages are low, on average. Oregon’s wages are lower than the national average, but typical of similar-sized economies on the West Coast.
  • Wage gains since 2002 have generally equaled or exceeded CPI. The economic boom benefited workers at all income levels. The median wages across all earning quintiles (from the lowest-earning 1/5 to the highest earning 1/5) rose more rapidly than inflation in each year from 2002-2005.
  • Oregon has a moderately diversified economy. Oregon ranks in the middle of all states in a measure of the diversity of the US economy.
  • Oregon’s employment is concentrated in a few sectors as compared to the national economy. We have above-average employment in greenhouse and nursery production (there is a reason we are known as the Grass Capital of the World), logging and forestry, fruit and vegetable preserving , wood and paper product manufacturing and electronic component manufacturing. We have below average employment in petroleum and coal mining, textile and apparel manufacturing, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, spectator sports organizations (also not news, Oregonians seem to prefer playing sports to watching them), and amusement parks and arcades.
  • There are two categories of jobs that will be becoming available by 2016. Replacement job openings (those created by retiring boomers, or by others who have left the workforce) are almost twice the number of jobs created through growth.  The authors estimate that approximately 250,000 growth jobs will be created in Oregon between 2006 and 2016. They expect approximately 450,000 replacement jobs in that same time period.
  • Job training is critical for filling both replacement and growth jobs. Employment projections were developed for 700 occupations, only 40 of which are going to be employing fewer people in 2016.  Six-hundred ninety five on those occupations will need newly trained workers to fill replacement jobs in the next 10 years.
  • Only 1/4 of Oregon’s projected 700,000 job openings (both replacement & growth) will require post secondary-education. Job applicants for half of those jobs will need a post-secondary education is they want to be a competitive candidate for the job.
  • Formal education is not all job applicants need to be competitive. Employers are attributing a labor shortage to employees who lack the most basic skills: coming to work on time, a willingness to work hard, a willingness to learn, basic communication and teamwork skills.  I see this as one of the easier education deficits to address.  These basic “life skills” can be easily integrated into middle and high school curriculum.
  • Focusing resources on high-demand, high-wage jobs targets less than 40% of projected job openings between now and 2016. Should we be re-examining our job training and education programs to make sure that they really meet the need out there?

For the record, I did end up playing RockBand as well.

The Little Engine That Might

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have significant issues with corporate executives’ ignorance of the implications of their actions on their employees and communities they serve.  My patience is shortest with the financial institutions whose greed led to the collapse of the worldwide economy.  I still wax poetic about the days when a family or a business could go to their local bank branch, and their credit was assessed based both on their financial situation as well as their social capital.  Historically, default rates drop significantly when social capital is factored in to underwriting decisions.

Obviously I was naive, but when we, CubeSpace,  started trying to negotiate with our landlord, US Bank, in August 2008, I had assumed that since they had accepted TARP money, they would show some flexibility to their tenants who were also being impacted by the economic downturn.  Instead, they turned a deaf ear to our repeated requests for negotiation for 10 months before threatening us with eviction.

From the outset, our letters to US Bank included offers to use our personal and professional networks to publicly thank US Bank for their cooperation by directing business and good will their way.  We once again reiterated our community involvement in what we thought was a last-ditch effort plea for mercy. That was when you all, members of the CubeSpace community, both near and far, proved that social capital remains a force to be reckoned with.

Your unexpected, massive and much appreciated (there really are just not words to tell you how appreciated) response to what I had intended as a farewell post changed the game completely.  Not only did US Bank feel the pressure to respond to our letter, but they did so with somewhat reasonable offers.  We believe that you, our community, are the ones to thank because of this little paragraph they included in their response:

US Bank does not view your comments regarding issues of public opinion and the Portland business community as productive. Please focus any future correspondence and negotiations on items that will bring the parties to an agreeable resolution.

No matter what comes next or how this story unfolds, you should all pat each other on the backs and raise a toast to yourselves for being a David to their Goliath and using Twitter as your slingshot.

We have received a truly overwhelming number of offers of cash, advice, support, meals and even a bakesale organized by a much beloved community member who is ten years old.  We have also been asked some very appropriate questions that we are struggling to answer. Questions like:

  • How much money do we need to make a difference?
  • How will we revise our business model to make sure we don’t end up back in this same situation a year from now?
  • Would we consider moving to a small space?
  • I am short on cash, what can I offer that will be of help?

The short answer is that we are struggling to answer those questions ourselves. David and I are emotionally drained. Since Tuesday, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster where we were facing a Sophie’s Choice where either option led to certain corporate and personal bankruptcy, and then experiencing an emotionally overwhelming loving and supporting response from you, our community, and being able now to visualize a light at the end of the tunnel.

CubeSpace’s survivability is obviously incredibly important to the community, and we are convening a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) to discuss legal, business and community implications of the two US Bank offers on the table. We appreciate your collective desire to know what, when and how right now. We are there with you. But please, bear with us as we take the time to review our options and make the decision that is best for all of us.

For those of you who have been hesitating to make a donation without more clarity from us, I understand and agree with your concern.  We have not cashed any checks or deposited any cash pending our decision.  If we decide CubeSpace will not make it, we will return all cash and destroy all checks. This includes any donations made through the savecubespacepdx.com PayPal account.  We know many of the donations have come from unemployed folks who really cannot afford to give anything.  If we are able to sustain CubeSpace, in some shape or form, we will gratefully accept what we know were heartfelt gifts. If we cannot keep CubeSpace going, we will return all contributions but retain the incredible support and love in which the gifts were given.

Things are going very fast and we will do out best to keep the community updated throughout the weekend.

In community,

Eva and David

Wonk meets Geeks

This week, as part  of his “100 businesses in 100 days” effort, Mayor Sam Adams wandered into the Wonderful World of Geeks when he met with Portland’s open source tech community to discuss his economic development strategy.  A diverse group of folks, including:  Rick Turoczy, Raven Zachary, Audrey Eschright, Scott Kveton, J-P Voillique, David Kominsky, myself, the Mayor and Skip Newberry (from the mayor’s office) gathered to discuss ways to support the ongoing economic development of Portland’s open source community and what can the City to do help meet those needs.

We began with a discussion of the strengths of Portland’s open source tech community.  Portland is incredibly fortunate in having community leaders who have done very well in creating a vast array of peer teaching/mentoring opportunities.  User groups, code sprints and events such as BarCamp provide opportunities for people to meet, share and develop ideas.  The type of opportunities that one normally only finds in the context of a large university setting.  What we lack are mentorship opportunities or the matchmaking necessary to bring together great coders with great businesspeople.  The most effective solution to the mentorship issue must come from within the community itself.  Better communication and collaboration is all that is needed to address that issue.

The communication and collaboration question naturally led to the mayor asking how to find the tech community.  The group responded with a resounding “Twitter,” all in unison. Sam acknowledged that Twitter was a great conversation medium, but too transitory. What he really needed in order to adequately understand, and therefore advocate for, Portland’s open source tech community is a census. The group readily offered their respective networks to start building a census of Portland’s tech community.

The mayor also asked what distinguished Portland’s community from other cities.  We came up with the following responses:

Telecommuting – We have all read about Portland’s “Brain Gain.” People move here from all over the world because of our high quality of life. What we rarely read about are the many new transplants who arrive with jobs. Portland is filled with people who work for companies based all over the world.  Anecdotally, we all knew several people who fit into this category. How many are there and where are their companies located? That’s what we need the census to find out.

Affordable domestic coders – It remains true that the hourly rate of overseas coders is significantly lower than even entry-level coders in the US. However, time zone, inter-cultural communication and code maintenance issues can make overseas coders more expensive in the long run.  Portland’s relatively low cost of living and highly skilled coders have made us an increasingly cost-effective alternative.

Geo-mapping/geo-location – Portland has more than its fair share of geo-location enthusiasts, as was evidenced by the success of the first WhereCamp event last year. This is a field with a huge amount of growth potential and Portland has an opportunity to make a name for itself here.

Mobile applications development – The hugely popular Obama Iphone application came out of Portland and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Portland has set the bar high for innovation in mobile application development, a field that remains in its infancy.  With its low barrier to entry, mobile application development is looking like another niche that Portland is looking to dominate.

So what can the mayor of Portland do to help support the open source community?

1. Advocate for open source solutions for government software – Governments have huge software needs, and proprietary software solutions require a significant up-front investment and updates are often delayed by other priorities.  Open source software has a much lower barrier to entry, and much of the cost can be split with other jurisdictions.  But, government bureaucracies, by their nature, are cautious and slow to accept change.  A champion, especially one in a highly influential position, can expedite the rate of change. Having the mayor champion open source software, especially in these challenging economic times, can make Portland a leader in the field.

2. Advocate for a variety of funding options – Many of us have grown tired of hearing about how Portland does not produce companies that interest VC funders.  If you want an earful on this subject, just go ask Rick Turoczy. However, what we also lack is access to the kind of startup capital that small businesses that want to remain small businesses need. Those companies where the founder(s) would like to make a living for themselves and their employees, but not make 30% on the original investment. This is another place where some targeted advocacy by our mayor could make a big difference.

In the end, everyone was pleased with the meeting.  The open source community representatives felt that both Sam and Skip understood the value that they bring to Portland and were eager to help where they could.  Skip commented that this had been one of the most productive of Sam’s business visits.  I attribute the meeting’s success to the attendees’ ability to articulate both their needs and what they had to offer.  There had been no pre-meeting prep or preliminary discussions.  Portland has a very self-aware and reflective open source community and that serves us very well.

Simplicity isn’t that Simple

This evening I went to the first of several public information meetings for small business trying to participate in the Go Oregon! program. Don’t know what I am talking about?  Well, you are not alone.

I consider myself to be more web-savvy than the average bear, and I know I am much more comfortable wading through legislation and government websites than most people (a useful skill, but one that is guaranteed to never make you rich or famous).  This afternoon, I wanted to confirm the meeting time and see in what building the event was to be held.  I then spent approximately 30 minutes searching my email, running several google searches and poring through the Small Business Administration site with a fine tooth comb. I eventually found it (although the announcement did not specify a building after all) and headed west to the Rock Creek campus of PCC.

I have to admit, given the difficulty I had in confirming the event, I was surprised at the number of people there and even more shocked to learn that there had been 400 people at the morning session.  I asked some of the folks around me how they had heard about the event.  Almost all of them had accessed some services associated with the SBA in the past and received announcements in the mail.  The other folks I spoke to said they had heard about it from fellow business-people. No one mentioned a web site.

The entire event was structured around showing us the landing pages of the Oregon University System, Portland Community College, City of Portland’s and ORPIN (the state’s system) procurement pages.  Each presenter reminded everyone that with the timeline is so short and the actual pool of money available so uncertain, they should be sure to check all of these sites on a daily basis.  As they were only focusing in the stimulus money released through SB 338, there was no discussion of how to keep an eye on opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Let me reiterate a key point I would like to make: small business owners were instructed to check multiple web sites  daily in order to keep tabs on opportunities as they arise (all of the sites lack RSS feeds, although you can subscribe to email updates on some of the sites).  That is a lot to ask of people who are already working really hard just to stay in business.  But, I also need to say in defense of these jurisdictions that they have been facing decreasing budgets and increasing needs for over a decade, and setting up RSS feeds (though simple) just doesn’t rise to the forefront in their list of priorities right now.

Small businesses are the lifesblood of our city. According to the Portland Development Commission’s draft Economic Development Strategy, 90% of businesses in Portland are small businesses and 3/4 of employees in this city work for small businesses

I would like to to make an offer to you, my readers.  I will continue to post links and information about both state and federal stimulus opportunities as I learn about them so that there will be at least one one-stop resource page for the information Portland’s small businesses need.  In exchange, I ask that when you learn about an opportunity or resource that you do not yet see on this blog, please add it to the comments.

I love Portland because Portland is a city that values community.  Please share the link to this blog with your fellow-business-owners, neighbors, family and friends.  I want to help local businesses prosper in this challenging time.  Local business owners and employees are part of our community, and I strongly believe that if we work together, we can weather this storm.

Cutting off Portlandia’s Nose to Spite our Face

We interrupt our regularly scheduled stimulus bill translation for an update on an issue that refuses to die.

I was at City Hall this morning for an early morning meeting.  As I was leaving at about 9am, I saw abut 10 people gathered outside with signs advocating for removing Sam Adams from office.  I am an advocate of free speech, and absolutely support their right to be there, but I do wonder about the possible consequences of their actions.

Although the advocates for Sam’s recall cannot even begin to collect signatures for a recall until July 1, 2009, they are visibility beginning their advocacy efforts.

The first wave of stimulus money is set to flow into local governments within the next 30 days, with a second pool of funds being released in 90 days from yesterday.  All of the stimulus funds are “use it or lose it” and if the funds aren’t allocated within their designated timeframe, they return back to the pool for redistribution.

Historically, Portland economy falls deeper and stays down longer than other comparably-sized cities.  The combination of our economic track record and the stimulus’ short response times,  suggests to me that we all need to keep our focus on keeping Portland’s economy afloat.

I have begun to see concerning signals that the ongoing focus on Sam’s previous errors are negatively impacting his actions. On February 16th, there was a press conference at which Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, County Chair Ted Wheeler, Metro Council President David Bragdon, and Commissioners Nick Fish and Randy Leonard spoke about what the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for Portland and Oregon.  Several people who were at the press conference noted that our mayor was absent from such a visible event.

One of the benefits of having a weak mayor system is that the day-to-day work of City Council can go on even if the mayor is distracted by other issues.  But, given the unprecedented economic situation we are facing, I am not sure what those who are advocating for Sam’s recall gain by initiating their campaign 4 months before they can legally begin to take any concerete action.  It seems to me that their disraction tactics will only end up hurting the very city that they are trying to protect.

Justifying Mis-steps (and I don’t mean by Sam Adams)

This weekend,Winston Ross, a Newsweek Reporter, interviewed me about media sensationalism and the Sam Adams story.  He had read my previous blog post and thought I might have some insights to share.  Later in the day, after Sam Adams committed to return to work, I, naively, hoped that we would be able to put the issue to rest and all get back to work ourselves. But apparently I was wrong.

This morning’s editorial in the Oregonian is an inflammatory as anything I have seen in the past week.  This is what the Oregonian has to say: “Adams doesn’t get the final say, however. The community will decide his political fate…”  a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with.  He is an elected official and we, the voting citizens, are the deciding body.  But then they add this to the end of the sentence: “…preferably through a recall election.”  A recall election is not a possibility until he has been in office for 6 months, which is 5 months from now.  Why don’t we all take a deep breath and leave it to those of us who vote.

The editorial then states:

Yet many Portlanders have rallied to Adams’ side, urging him to remain in power. Some are from organizations that have benefited financially and politically from Adams’ presence in City Hall. Some don’t want to land on Adams’ bad side by failing to back him. Others consider Adams’ leadership indispensable and are willing to overlook unprofessional behavior, unethical campaign tactics and perhaps even criminal misconduct if necessary.

Really, this is as inflammatory as it gets.  If any of us rally to Sam’s side, our motives are now suspect.  Excuse me, but I am a business owner, employer, taxpayer, voter and volunteer who contributes both to Portland’s economy and our city’s economic stability.  I chaired the City Club Committee that advocated for reform of a system well on its way to bankrupt the City and damage our bond rating.  In addition, our work was credited BY THE OREGONIAN, as having been the reason that the City caught the overpayments to retirees.

My question to The Oregonian’s editorial board is which category do I fall into?  I have neither benefited financially nor politically from him being in office.  Rather, I have challenged him and the other City Commissioners to do the right thing. I have taken on Adams and his staff enough times on significant issues, that if I had been worried about landing on his bad side, I would have kept my mouth shut a long time ago. Nor do I consider his leadership indispensable.  If I thought his behavior was enough of an issue that he should resign as mayor, wouldn’t you think someone with my history would be leading the charge?

According to the Oregonian: “This was a moment when Portland’s civic community needed to see clearly the difference between right and wrong but failed to do so.”

I disagree.  I see this as a moment when the media chose to over-sensationalize an issue.  An issue that, once given a day or so to process, a majority of voting citizens decided were not worth putting our City, our economy, or ourselves at risk for.

At this point it feels like The Oregonian is trying to justify its original over-reaction.  By continuing to use inflammatory language, exaggerated and unsubstantiated statements, they are trying to win over the remaining few who have apparently not recognized that we, as a city, are ready to move on.  I am very disapointed at the irresponsible behavior of the Oregonian’s editorial board.  Do they really think that insulting their readership while beating a dead horse will increase readership?  That is the only rationale I can think of for their behavior.

Today Sam Adams ges back to work as our mayor.  He does have a lot of work ahead of him as he tries to rebuild the public trust.  I say we should give him an opportunity to do so.  My first step will be cancelling my subscription to The Oregonian and removing OregonLive.com from my bookmarks.

Why Sam Adams should not resign as mayor of Portland

Below is a copy of an email I sent to Sam Adams this afternoon:

I am the go-to person on local politics for Portland’s open source tech community.  I have lost track of how many times I have been asked today my thoughts on your current situation.  Given all of the pressure that is being placed on you to resign, I want to offer my counter-argument that I have shared with everyone who has asked for my opinion.

It is clear that you expressed poor judgment in lying about about your relationship with Beau.  And any time there is a sexual relationship between a mentor and a mentee, it raises appropriate concerns about the possible abuse of power.  However, what happened between you and Beau was between two consenting adults it is really none of my business.

Instead, I hold the media responsible for creating unecessary sensationalism over an act of poor judgment.  I normally appreciate Nigel Jaquiss’ in-depth reporting and without question, he demonstrated his skills as a reporter when he was the member of the press who asked the best questions about FPD&R reform.  That being said, I think both he and Willamette Week made the decision to sensationalize a relatively minor issue during a time of unprecendented change, both good (Obama’s inaguration) and bad (the ecoomy).  Nigel failed to make a case for his story to be broken with such great urgency. You have already been elected and sworn in and the only reason I can see for not waiting until after the inaguration is to maximize sensationalism.  That doesn’t even take into consideration the question of the numerous instances of unfounded speculation in his article.

The Oregonian further sensationalized the situation by placing your admission as the very first headline above the fold on inauguration day.  I can see no justification for placing the admission of a lie that was not made under oath above the news of an absolutely historic moment in our country’s racially checkered history.  That is nothing but irresponsible journalism.

I suspected, and you have since confirmed, that your rationale for your deceit being concern that as an openly gay man, being honest about your relationship with Beau would bring an innapropriate amount of focus to your sexual orientation.  I am saddened to have seen your concern come to pass.  When listening to OPB yesterday afternoon, the story made several references to how little attention was given during the mayoral race to the fact that you are an out gay man and how proud we were that it was a non-issue to the voters.  If that is the case, why did it need to be raised in this context at all?  Frankly, your sexual orientation and the attention paid to it during your mayoral campaign is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. I am confident that there would have been no mention of how the people in question were straight if the situation had involved a man and a woman.

Furthermore, the question being raised is not whether you expressed poor judgment and exacerbated the situation by lying about it.  The question is whether or not you should remain mayor of Portland.  In this particular situation we have a clear answer.  You have been in City Hall as Vera’s Chief of Staff, as a City Commissioner, and were elected as mayor by an majority of voters, securing your electionin the May primary. My response to cries of “how do we know we can trust him?” is simply that we know because of your long record of public service.  Regardless of whether or not people agree with the political decisions you have made over the course of your career, the voters have repeatedly made it clear that your decisions are based on what is best for Portland.

Case in point is the work you and your staff have put into finding ways to help Portland through the current economic downturn.  You didn’t wait for the massive bank failures, the ongoing layoffs or the wringing of hands.  You presented a draft proposal of 10 things that the City government could do to buoy small businesses in Portland in April, 2008, even before you were elected mayor.  As a member of the SBAC, I have been witness to your ongoing and evolving efforts in this area, and that is what leads me to my final point.

We, as a city, cannot afford the time, effort and energy a new mayoral campaign would require.  I suspect much of the work you have put in towards economic recovery will be put aside because of its association with you, and City Council will end up reinventing the wheel.  We are in a time of crisis and we need to keep our focus if we are going to survive as the vibrant city that we know and love.  Given the choice between forgiving you for two acts of poor judgment for which you have repeatedly publicly apologized versus creating a major disruption in City goverment in the midst of yet another challenging budget process during an unprecedented economic crisis, the answer is a no brainer.

That is why I am asking you not to step down from your position as mayor.

I have also posted this email publicly on my blog 

Knowing Me, Knowing You

A month ago yesterday, Chris O’Rourke launched The Great Portland Interview Experiment, and I wrote about it the very next day. Since then @Verso spent two weeks in the land of Disney, and has returned to an unimaginable backlog of stuff, and @melissalion prepared for and hosted BackFencePDX and taught a writing workshop, both of which she writes about here. Given that we are now dealing with the 2008 Snowpocalypse and we are in the midst of holiday chaos, I think it is fair to excuse both @verso for not having finished responding to my questions and @melissalion for not having posted my answers.

But, as I have made a commitment to blog more often and I have nothing new to say, I am going to give you a bit of a preview.  First I will share the questions I have given @verso to answer, followed by my answers to @melissalion’s questions.  How ’bout them apples?

First, here are the questions I asked @Verso:

1. What is the origin of your two monikers; Banana Lee Fishbones and Verso?
2. What is one of your happiest memories from your childhood?
3. What defines comfort for you?
4. What is your favorite season, and what makes it your favorite?
5. Can you tell me something that got under your skin or grated on you when you were a child? Has it changed now that you are an adult?
6. What was your favorite game (and by that I mean a game of pretend, a board game, a computer game or anything else you called play) as a child? How about now?
7. You and I share an affinity (an understatement, I know) for Star Wars.  What is it about Star Wars that you find so compelling?
8. What is the story behind you and PDXScott?
9. If you could be anything you wanted to be when you grew up, regardless of talent, education, resources or any other barrier, what would you be?
10. People often identify which a specific category of natural feature, whether it be forest, ocean, deserts, mountain, plains, etc.  What type of natural feature do you find most attractive?
11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?

And (drum roll please), here are my answers to @melissalion’s questions:

@EvaCatHerder’s responses to The Great Portland Interview Experiment

You tweeted once that you used a 25 pound bag of flour per month (week?) what type of bread were you making and were you eating all of that yourself?
It was 25# per month.  I was miserable while living in Philadelphia (while David was in rabbinical school) and I was also wheat intolerant (but not gluten intolerant), so I made myself feel better by baking loaves and loaves (and loaves) of spelt bread. I made challah every week (to the great joy of @grigs), bagels (my bagels had a serious fan club), ciabatta, artisan loaves, pizza dough, baguettes, and anything else that caught my fancy.  I even started teaching bread-baking classes.

What’s the one thing you learned about baking that much bread that you carry with you in daily life? Can I give you two things? The first is that everything is better when allowed to sit and ferment for a day or so.  The second is that educated guestimation produces better results than strict precision.

You’re married to a rabbi — how’s the sex? I
am going to play presidential/vice presidential candidate here and not really answer your question.  I have known David since he was a pain-in-the-ass college freshman.  Watching David’s transformation into a rabbi was magical, and he really did go through some amazing fundamental changes.  But he is still my David who always reminds me of a muppet (I mean that in a non-sexual way, so get those Furry thoughts out of your mind).

All of the other rabbinical partners I know also got together with their partners in the pre-rabbinic stage, so they had similar experiences to mine (yes, we do talk about these things!)  I suspect that the experience might be different for someone who starts having sex with a member of the clergy after he/she has been ordained.  I base my suspicion on the fact that many of the single clergy members I know have an incredibly hard time getting a date with someone who is not also a member of the clergy.

You own CubeSpace, which is a shared workspace for rent. That space is gigantic! What is it like in there when you’re alone there, it’s quiet. What’s you favorite thing to do? (I’d like to add that I think it’s great that you have flavored syrup. I made myself a vanilla soda there and I enjoyed it.  When I did this one of the people who rents space there said, “Oh, I never thought of doing that!” And I said, “Well, Mr.-I-program-computers-that-solve-cancer-and-cure-pi, who’s the Nobel winner NOW?” And then he asked me out on a date. I’m kidding. I’ve never been picked up.)  Even though CubeSpace is large, I have spent surprisingly little time alone there, because we usually have at least one other person around before, during and after closing.   My favorite time to be at CubeSpace is before we open.  There was one night when I couldn’t sleep, so I went to CubeSpace at about 5am to get some work done (we didn’t have a computer at home at the time—a situation that we have since rectified).

I spent that morning sitting on the couch in our reception area working.  The community-oriented feeling was still there even though there were no other people around and I just felt focused and happy.  I have to open early on Wednesdays for a very perky group of people, and I always try to get in just a little extra early so I get some quiet time to ground myself before the hordes arrive.  Now that we have the massage chair, I tend to sit there and drink my coffee and just chill until it is time to start running around in a frenzy.

On your blog, Wonks R Us, you wrote a post about a changing CubeSpace into a public policy something something. Explain that to me like I’m simple. I find it infuriating that we (were, are, might be?) a world superpower with a huge amount of wealth, and yet we do not provide any kind of universal health coverage.  It makes no sense from a health management, financial or ethical perspective to deny people access to basic health services.  What ends up happening is that people fail to get medical care when a problem is easily and cheaply treatable, and instead are forced to wait until they need emergency medical services that are horribly expensive and that they cannot afford to pay for.  Hospitals and insurance companies increase their rates for those who do have health coverage to cover their losses from services given to those who cannot afford to pay.

The “American Dream” is built around the myth that anyone can start a business and if they work hard, they will earn the wealth they “deserve.”  However, health insurance is something that is available only at the workplace (there is individual insurance, but it is difficult to get because it requires a physical history and the coverage is often substandard).  Self-employed people used to be able to get health insurance through professional associations, but that is something insurance companies put the kibosh on in the early 2000’s.  Given the choice between foregoing health insurance or starting a business, many people opt to stay in jobs they don’t want just to retain their health insurance.

Since it seems unlikely that either our state or federal government will take on the insurance industry any time soon, it is up to us (which I mean in the broadest, collective sense) to create solutions to serve the public good.  So, as a business whose clientele includes the self-employed and who has group health insurance for its employees, CubeSpace is stepping up to the plate.

In (hopefully) simple terms, this means that we will contract with businesses, governments and nonprofits for the services that they are seeking from local consultants.  We will then hire local consultants to do the work.  As they will be CubeSpace employees, we will be able to give them and their families access to our group health care policy.

Knitting
Favorite pattern? A picture here would be excellent. Favorite yarn? Yarn store of choice? My favorite pattern, without question, is Baby’s first DNA by Kimberly Chapman.  It has become my standard baby present, and you can tell a lot about a person by how they react when you hand them stuffed DNA.

I am not much of a yarn snob, and I generally just knit using David’s leftovers. I do have a great love of rough wools that still smell of lanolin and are hand dyed.  But, nobody wants to wear projects made of these wools, so they tend to gather dust in my house.  I have decided that they would make great felted bags, but I am intimidated by the fulling process.  My favorite yarn store is Yarnia.  I just love the ability to mix color and fiber, choose the number of strands in one’s yarn, and I totally groove on Lindsay’s yarn rolling machine.

Your husband knits, and so do you. Do you ever make the same pattern at once and who was knitting first? Technically I think I was knitting first.  My friend Lynn (who works at Northwest Wools in Multnomah Village) taught me how to knit while I was tutoring her daughters in the mid to late nineties.  I started a scarf for David, using the previously mentioned scratchy wool, that I still have not finished.

David only learned to knit a few years ago, but he took to it right away and has been knitting like a demon ever since.  So I blame him for actually turning knitting into a habit/fidget toy/addiction for me.

We have certainly knit socks at the same time (although the patterning and yarn were always different).  We have recently finished knitting up a series of strips that will ultimately be turned into a baby blanket for the son of some dear friends.  The strips are currently laid out on our living room floor, just waiting for David to crochet a border and for him to sew the strips together, but so it goes.

Portland

Dream day in Portland: Sleeping in (sleeping is a very big deal for me these days), then going out for a long breakfast at Gravy’s.  Then a nap would be in order (even if I had consumed enough coffee to make me high, that full a belly always makes me sleepy).  Ideally the day would involve some real Portland drizzle (the misty kind where you never really get wet) and a trip to the Chinese Garden.  I would round it out with a trip to the Wednesday farmers market downtown and an evening spent making an amazing dinner and eating it with David, and maybe even a friend or two.

Most underrated tourist attraction: Portland’s neighborhoods.  Tourists have no idea who we are based on a visit to downtown, OMSI, Washington Park, etc.  Seeing where and how we live is the essence of Portland and what I always do with friends coming to visit.

Finally, sum your life’s philosophy up using a single Britney Spears song title. I actually had no clue of any of Britney’s song titles, but once again, Wikipedia saved the day.  I would have the sum up my life’s philosophy with “The Beat Goes On.”  Full disclosure, it is a cover of one of my favorite Sonny and Cher songs.

*For those of you wondering why I keep putting an “@” before some names, I assure you it is not a typo.  These are people’s Twitter handles (for example, mine is @EvaCatHerder), and you too can learn more about these folks by signing up for a free Twitter account and following them.  If it still sounds like I and speaking gibberish, leave a comment and I will do my best to further clarify.