I don’t do this often. And by this I mean interject myself into the editorial realm of magazine publishing. I know some publishers do, but my style is to hire editors I trust and let them do their thing so I can do my thing, which is to run the business.
I read Oregon Business managing editor’s Ben Jacklet’s blog post last week about the “phantom exodus” of Oregon companies after the vote on tax Measures 66 and 67 as a business strategist, not as the magazine's publisher. And I responded as many of those who have commented did — with anger.
But after some deep breaths, re-reads of the column and a conversation with Ben, I realized the disconnect.
It started out amicably enough. Between making jokes about their passion for steak and the absence of fellow candidate Chris Dudley, three gubernatorial hopefuls – Allen Alley, Bill Bradbury and John Kitzhaber – participated this week in a peaceful debate about environmental issues. But when Bradbury brought up the implications of a major campaign contribution Kitzhaber had accepted from an “egregious polluter,” Kitzhaber’s angry response quickly changed the mood.
The debate was held in front of several hundred people at Portland State University and hosted by Environment Oregon, the Oregon Environmental Council, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club’s Oregon chapter. Alley, Bradbury and Kitzhaber – or as another attendee nicknamed them to me, “the engineer,” “the college professor” and “the cowboy” – were invited to share their views on the state’s environmental issues and take stances on some of the more controversial topics. And while the Democratic candidates tended to be more or less in agreement about the importance of increasing green energy use and sustainable timber harvesting, Alley made it clear from the beginning that he had a different approach to tackling environmental issues. “I look at it from an economic perspective,” Alley said. “We’ve made trade-offs over the last 25 years between the environment and the economy. I have to focus on getting the economy going.”
Questions on transportation came up several times, with a good amount of time devoted to the merits of mass transit and alternative-energy vehicles. Transportation was brought up again when a panelist asked whether or not the candidates support the divisive, 12-lane Columbia River Crossing plan. Bradbury was adamantly opposed, which incited approving applause from the crowd. While acknowledging the huge transportation issues Oregon faces, particularly for moving freight across the Columbia River, Bradbury said he would support instead a seismic upgrade on the current bridge, the creation of a new smaller bridge for bikes and foot traffic, and the implementation of tolls to control congestion. “I think that is a very sensible future and won’t cost so much and spend all the transportation dollars that we have in this state,” Bradbury said. Kitzhaber said the project should go forward without delay, but that he doesn’t support the current plan, while Alley said he though the bridge should be bigger – before telling the visibly shocked crowd that we was joking.
Clearly I hit a nerve. Responses to last week’s Jobs Watch column on the alleged-but-not-yet-proven exodus of Oregon businesses from Oregon set new standards for vitriol. Some readers went so far as to suggest that the job I should watch out for is my own. Sorry, guys. Even the most hard-nosed CEOs don’t get to fire other people’s employees.
Well if can dish it out I’d better be able to take it. So swing away and take your best shot. I am here to be pummeled. The point of a free press is to encourage an open and honest discussion of the important issues of the day, and clearly to our readers this is a very important issue. So let’s discuss it openly and honestly.
However, I have to point out that for all of the great and not-so-great responses last week’s column elicited, I still am lacking the name of a single job-creating investor or executive who is in fact leaving Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67.
I’ve never bought a single lottery ticket in my life. Not even a single scratch-off. But if women who live in Lake Oswego (I am, I do) keep winning the $1 million raffle, I might have to rethink my investment strategy.
The latest winner could have been me. Sandy Hendricks last week was the second woman from Lake Oswego in three years to win the million-dollar Oregon Lottery Raffle. Hendricks, who won the St. Patrick’s Day Raffle, told reporters she is in her early 50s (I am) and has Irish grandparents (I do). "You know, I've never played a raffle before," Hendricks told the Oregonian (ditto). "I bought a ticket because I like leprechauns, I guess."
Well, I don’t like leprechauns (frankly, they creep me out). I don’t believe in luck, or at least I don’t believe that I’m lucky, so I’ve never seen the purpose in buying games of chance.
The Sellwood Bridge is deteriorating as questions arise over whether Multnomah County or Clackamas County is responsible for its replacement. The approval of funding for the Newberg-Dundee bypass is being criticized as a political maneuver. And the fate of the Columbia River Crossing remains unknown while the debate over its size, impact and whether it should even be built keeps its progress in limbo. In other words, the Portland area’s regional transportation governance is a big, gridlocked mess.
The City Club of Portland recently released a report titled “Moving Forward: A Better Way to Govern Regional Transportation.” Several members of the research committee – Leigh Stephenson-Kuhn, Peter Livingston and Richard Ross – presented the report this week as part of the “Crossing the Columbia: What Does It Mean?” forum held by PDXplore and the Architecture Foundation of Oregon. In front of a small crowd at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, the three representatives discussed the conclusions and recommendations the City Club had come up with to solve the tricky problem of moving people at the lowest cost and in the most effective way possible.
What’s tangling up transportation progress so much? The report found several problems with the current regional governance, such as the Oregon Department of Transportation’s control of most of the region’s transportation money (which gives the power to choose and fund projects primarily to state officials). A large chunk of the problem, the report says, also lies in the fragmentation of governance, with federal, state and local government and agencies all having an influence on transportation projects in the area. With so many jurisdictions with a stake in transportation, the result is a lack of clarity on which entity should be responsible for which parts of the system. Many decisions are made on a micro level, Livingston says, when transportation is really a regional issue.
The Oregonian took the unusual step this morning of running a front-page business story about an unnamed executive, CEO of “a successful technology company southwest of Portland employing hundreds and boasting a bright future.”
Was he unnamed because he is participating in the witness protection program?
Hardly. He’s thinking of skipping town.
Mayors across the country have been throwing themselves in icy waters and shark tanks and renaming their cities, children and ice cream after Google, all in the hopes of getting a free super high-speed broadband network. Portland over the weekend staged a game of Telephone.
This really can’t compete with babies named Google Fiber, though it does have its charms in a PDX geeky kind of way (it was dubbed “Woo the Goog”). The city hoped it would be the world's longest game of Telephone, where a sentence is whispered from one player to the next until the end, when the beginning and ending phrases are compared. Alas, it was nowhere near the crowd needed to break the 2004 record of 614 people. (Official crowd estimates are still to be released, but one early attendee said maybe 50 were there at the start.) At the Saturday event, the first Telephone sentence uttered was: "PDX has the brains and nerve to welcome Google high speed.” The last one, received by an 8-year-old (and who better, I say): "The Internet place is really great."
Who can argue with that, Mr. Google?
It’s been 40 years since the Portland Trail Blazers made their official NBA debut after being purchased for $3.7 million. Decades later, the franchise has powered through several rough patches — from poor seasons to trouble with the law — with its reputation as a beloved Portland brand intact. Now facing the recession, not to mention a wave of injuries, the Trail Blazers are pushing forward and arguably stronger than ever.
Currently in his fifth season at the helm, coach Nate McMillan was among the speakers at a breakfast forum held by the Portland Business Alliance yesterday, along with chief marketing officer Sarah Mensah and senior VP of business affairs J.E. Isaac. In front of a packed room at Portland’s Governor Hotel, the three franchise representatives talked about what’s keeping the Blazers ahead of the sports-business game, and what to expect from a little project called JumpTown.
McMillan spent a good amount of time praising the work ethic of his team, and the Blazers have indeed been playing with a fighting spirit. With Brandon Roy and Greg Oden among the many star players who experienced injuries this year, it’s remarkable that the team has managed to hold up its standing throughout the season. But what’s keeping the brand thriving while other Portland business sectors are still waiting for that rumored recovery?
Like Oregon, New Zealand has about 4 million residents, gorgeous beaches and a large and (let’s face it) obnoxious neighbor intent on dominating the regional economy. If you think Oregonians have a bias against California, try talking to a Kiwi about Australia.
Unlike Oregon, New Zealand has a functioning health care system, a low unemployment rate and no sprawl. The Kiwis didn’t avoid recession, but they did avoid getting creamed by it. Unemployment has spiked to 7.3%, the highest rate there since 1999, but nowhere near the double-digit woes we’ve been wrestling with in Oregon.
I’m no expert on New Zealand, but I liked what I saw during my recent travels there. A lot. Here are a few lessons I’m bringing back to Oregon, for what it’s worth.