Heads or tails. Upfront has been entertained by the new Bend city council's standoff start to the new year. As of Monday councilors remained evenly divided over whom to tap for the seat recently vacated by Chris Telfer, who departed in early January for the state legislature. By law councilors have until Feb. 7 to select Telfer's replacement. That person will serve out the two years remaining on Telfer's term. But several councilors who spoke with Upfront about the stand-off said they didn't foresee any compromise before the deadline, which would force the city to settle the question with a special election (estimated cost $13,000) or with the flip of a coin - a relatively rare but well established political tie-breaker. One councilor who spoke with Upfront on Monday said he thought the council would go with the later method to avoid a costly and politically divisive special election.
At this point, the council's - for lack of a better word - progessive bloc is throwing its support behind planning commission chair Cliff Walkey while newcomers Kathie Eckman, Jeff Eager, and Tom Greene are pushing Tom Pickell as a compromise. (They initially backed loveable loser Don Leonard who has twice made the short list for an appointment to the council and ran unsuccessfully against Clinton in November.)
One councilor who has served with Pickell on the budget committee said Pickell, while knowledgeable on financial issues, doesn't have the breadth of experience that the council needs.
"He's a conservative guy who thinks what he knows about running private business can be translated into running government. And to a certain extent I agree. There are a lot of ways that government should run more like a business. But in other ways they shouldn't because government essentially is different from business," the councilor said.
"Businesses' almost exclusive goal is to maximize profit which gives you a very clear direction all the time for what you're doing. With government the goal is to provide services that people want."
So, in other words we can pretty much assume that fate of things like the Bend Area Transit and affordable housing initiatives will be determined with a heads or tails this week.
Upfront hasn't seen this kind of drama over a coin flip since Anton Chigurh walked into a roadside gas station in No Country for Old Men.
You've Been Daschled
Pay what?Ever wonder what Senators do when they lose re-election, despite being a party leader? In Tom Daschle's case, he was paid at least $5 million by health care firms trying to learn from his vast experience as South Dakota's Senator for three terms, receiving gratis car service and (OOPS!) forgetting to pay $140,000 in back taxes in 2007 alone. Known widely in Washington D.C. for his integrity - which is much like lauding Ron Jeremy for his ability to deliver pizzas in porn - Daschle endorsed Obama for president from the get-go, then received the nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. If this reeks of patronage jobs don't you worry one bit - Daschle was never registered as a lobbyist while working for the health care industry he hoped to one day regulate. As confounding as this may seem, a former Senator getting paid to lobby but not actually a lobbyist on paper, it was not this that brought his demise but a laundry list of other issues, including $15,000 in questionable charitable donations and another $80,000 in unreported income for consulting. "Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction." said Daschle as he withdrew his nomination for the Cabinet post.
Remember Iraq?Our Creditors Do...
Citing "poor planning, weak oversight and greed" (no, this isn't the current financial crisis but another, earlier) the new report titled "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" details billions and billions wasted by the Bush Administration during the Iraq adventure. 154 criminal investigations are ongoing (including bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging, and theft) and a prison was built that will never hold a single inmate. If memories aren't too marred after eight years of "poor planning, weak oversight and greed," the Bush Administration estimated only $2 billion American taxpayer dollars would be needed to rebuild Iraq - An estimate that has grown into a $51 billion reality. Stuart Bowen, author of the "Hard Lessons" report, remembered on NPR recently how, upon entering the Green Zone in Iraq, he saw bales of American currency stacked in an unguarded room, and one officer pointing to him and saying, "We can't do this any more, you're here..."
Doritos Won, So Did the Refs
Okay, okay, Big Ben is a stud and the Steelers are now the winning-est franchise in NFL Super Bowl history. But, really, did anyone else sense that the league of extraordinarily huge men owned and traded by incredibly rich owners didn't want the Arizona Cardinals to win? Given an over-the-hill 38 year-old quarterback (who almost retired after week three) versus the vaunted Rooney family (who is divided over selling the Steelers) the NFL did what it does best: It let the referees play a bigger part in the outcome of the game than the players themselves. Just a thought: When the Cardinals are driving with seconds left and about to hurl a Hail Mary, don't let the game get called by a guy dressed like a zebra. Fitzgerald would have caught that ball, you know it...
Another Sad Loss
Let's take a moment of silence for Millard Fuller, who died on Tuesday at age 74. Don't know Millard? Well, many do and more should, but his modesty may be his true legacy. Describing himself as "a poor millionaire" Millard built more than 300,000 houses through his nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, providing shelter to 1.5 million people worldwide. Last August, his group built 100 houses during a "blitz build" around the globe. In the age of Madoffs and bank bailouts, we must remember those who put their money where their mouth is; Jimmy Carter described the late Millard Fuller as "one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known."
And Then There's The Rest...
Britney Spears signed a $12 million book deal to "write" her memoir; Citigroup halted plans to buy a $42 million corporate jet after a public drubbing - Oh, and after receiving a $45 billion bailout; part of the "stimulus" bill being pushed by Obama and Congress includes the following: $246 million for Hollywood movie producers to buy films (Isn't that what producers do?); $248 million for new furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters; $125 million for an obviously overdue Washington sewer service; $88 million for the Coast Guard to design (but not necessarily build) a new polar icebreaker; $75 million for "smoking cessation activities"; $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction (with no word on gambling addiction).WTF?
Upfront realizes that we live in a society that loves to litigate. But honestly, have we gone so far that we can't accept even a glimmer of risk. Take Shevlin Park. If you haven't been out there lately, you might be surprised to learn that the park is closed following a winter storm that knocked down scores of trees in the park. But unlike businesses which are forced to get back on their feet after a natural disaster and start serving customers, the park district has chosen to just hang up a sign and intimate that they'll be back in business at a later date. At last report it was being used as a demonstration project for Oregon forestry students. That's all good and fine, but this isn't a learning lab, this is a taxpayer owned park that the district has an obligation to get up and running for its customers. Honestly, there are millions of forested acres around Central Oregon filled with leaning and downed trees. And when is the last time you heard of a tree falling on a hiker, biker, or skier? Let me see, oh yeah, never. WTF?