Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is the latest to join boycott-Oregon movement

Indianapolis, Indiana Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday that he would ban city-funded travel to Oregon because Oregon is implementing controversial liberal laws that are offensive and just plain wrong.

Indianapolis, Indiana Mayor Greg Ballard says he's fed up with Oregon's liberal laws

Indianapolis, Indiana Mayor Greg Ballard says he’s fed up with Oregon’s liberal laws

Oregon has implemented various disagreeable laws, sparking criticism from the Indianapolis community and allies around the country.

The measures considered particularly repellant by Indianapolis leaders and residents are:

  • Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications
  • The Oregon Legalized Marijuana Initiative, Measure 91, approved on Nov. 4, 2014
  • A just passed law that will automatically register to vote any legal citizen with a driver’s license or state ID.

It’s unclear whether Indianapolis city employees have any trips planned for city-related business in Oregon. Ballard said the city is still trying to account for travel that could be jeopardized.

Ballard’s statement follows similar declarations from the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said he would also outlaw publicly funded travel to Oregon.

In a statement Monday, Ballard called Oregon’s actions “blatant idiocy and cretinism.”

“Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Legislature have to understand that such blatant asininity cannot stand,” Ballard said, adding that respectful states have moved beyond “those shameful practices.”

“It is regrettable that the great State of Oregon, including the great liberal bastion of Portland, led by its very effective mayor, Charlie Hales, is being dragged down by the reactionary efforts of the State Legislature and the governor,” Ballard said.

Ballard plans to introduce a formal resolution Wednesday for the City Council to consider. The resolution also calls on “civic and business leaders” to follow suit.

Dana Haystack, Ballard’s spokesman, said the mayor is “a big fan of Oregon and Portland”, whom Haystack described as “a very progressive mayor.” Haystack said Ballard, Brown and Hales are friends, and the Portland leader and his wife were in Indianapolis in August and spent time with Ballard.

Haystack said Ballard is confident Oregon will recognize “its folly” and react to the growing controversy over its mindless laws. The temporary travel ban would be reversed if Oregon lawmakers repealed the laws.

In related news, on Monday California Gov. Jerry Brown said he would ban state-funded travel to other states with Republican governors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would ban state-funded travel to other states with Democratic governors, and Barack Obama said he would ban government-funded travel, period, so people can learn to appreciate what they have at home.

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Hypocrisy, thy name is Democrats

You can almost smell the Democrat’s hypocrisy.

hypocrisy-meter

On Feb. 20, the Oregon House passed a bill, H.B. 2177, that would automatically register to vote anybody with a driver’s license. Every single one of the 35 yes votes came from Democrats.

On March 5, the Oregon Senate passed the bill. Every single one of the 17 yes votes came from Democrats.

On March 16, an ebullient Gov. Kate Brown, another Democrat, signed the bill with a flourish.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be signing this into law as the new governor,” Gov. Kate Brown said at the signing ceremony. “Virtually every Oregonian will be able to have their voice be heard.”

Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, echoed that sentiment. “Today our pioneering spirit brings us to a crucial reform that will empower our citizens,” she said. “While other states take steps to limit voter participation and to disenfranchise voters, the Oregon Legislature is bucking that trend. We are leading the nation.”

Yes, indeed, the Democrats patted themselves on the back for their grand support of voter’s rights.

But I guess they’re support of voting rights has its limits.

On March 25, the Senate voted 20 to 10 to approve S.B. 927, a bill that makes it clear Metro can move ahead with construction of an Oregon Convention Center hotel with $78 million of subsidies without having to be bothered by pesky voters. Every yes vote came from a Democrat. Now it’s up to the House.

How ironic that so many of the very people Oregonians have voted for are so quick to approve legislation that would deny others the right to vote.

Smell the aroma of hypocrisy? It stinks.

A public vote on a convention center hotel: is Metro trying to pull a fast one?

A May 2013 rendering of a proposed Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center.

A May 2013 rendering of a proposed Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center.

I wrote recently about the absurdity of building a government-subsidized hotel to support the Oregon Convention Center.

Now it looks like Metro is trying to work an end-run through the Oregon Legislature to prevent voters from having a say on the project.

State law (ORS 268.310 says a district, such as Metro, can’t construct new facilities “unless the electors of the district first approve the financing of the facilities…” Senate Bill 64 would amend the law to allow the construction of new facilities to go forward if ,“The facility is acquired or constructed pursuant to an intergovernmental agreement under ORS 190.003 to 190.130.”

On Feb. 24, 2015, Metro President Tom Hughes told the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue that the bill is no big deal. It relates “strictly to clarifying existing statutory intent regarding Metro’s authority under its home-rule charter,” he said. The bill “merely cleans up awkward word placement in the current statute that has been the basis for serial lawsuits by opponents of the Oregon Convention Center hotel whose goal is to prevent the project from moving forward,” he added.

But John DiLorenzo , a partner at the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm, took a decidedly different position on the bill. DiLorenzo represents one of a group of hotel owners and managers who have opposed taxpayer subsidies for the proposed Hyatt hotel. He told the committee the bill “is an effort to subvert the judicial process” and “would deprive voters of any opportunity to vote on financing for any new construction projects built by Metro.”

Dilorenzo expressed the view that the courts would ultimately agree that residents had a right to vote on the hotel project . “Please do not deprive the voters of their last chance to avoid what could be another government subsidized albatross,” he said.

Ignoring DiLorenzo’s concerns, the Senate Committee On Finance and Revenue reported out the bill by a 3-2 vote, with Democrats Mark Hass, Chris Edwards and Chuck Riley voting in favor and Republicans Herman Baertschiger Jr. and Brian Boquist voting against. On March 4, 2015, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 20-10, with all the no votes coming from Republicans.

Now it’s up to the House.

If the bill is just minor housekeeping, what’s the hurry? Given the controversy over the Convention Center hotel, and the ongoing lawsuits to require a public vote, the House should stay out of the mess. If, as Hughes insists, S.B. 64 doesn’t really change the law, but just clarifies it, killing the bill should make no difference to Metro. If the bill would deprive voters of the chance to vote on the hotel, as DiLorenzo alleges, it’s an insult to the public and undeserving of passage.

We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy: the Oregon Convention Center hotel

The 990,000 sq. ft. Crystal Palace opened at Britain’s Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London’s Hyde Park in 1851.

The 990,000 sq. ft. Crystal Palace opened at Britain’s Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London’s Hyde Park in 1851.

For some reason, politicians are infatuated with building stuff. They’re objectophiles, aroused by, even obsessed with, things rather than people

In Portland, politicians have fallen head over heels in love with the idea of building a Convention Center hotel. The object of their desire is a subsidized $212 million 600-room Hyatt Hotel.

But the fact is, it was a bad idea right out of the gate and it’s an even worse idea now.

On the one hand, given Portland’s vigorous emergence from the Great Recession and a skyline brimming with construction cranes, the assumption that government-mandated subsidies are critical to building a convention center hotel is outdated if Metro believes the hotel’s success is a slam dunk. On the other hand, if the growing competition in the convention market will make adding a subsidized hotel a foolish gamble, then why do it at all?

“Faced with convention centers that are routinely failing to deliver on the promises of their proponents and the forecasts of their feasibility study consultants, many cities wind up, as they say, “throwing good money after bad,” said a Brookings report. “Indeed, weak performance—an underutilized center, falling attendance, an absence of promised private investment nearby—is often the justification for further public investment. A new center is thus often followed by a subsidized or fully publicly-owned hotel…”

A May 2013 rendering of a proposed Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center.

A May 2013 rendering of a proposed Hyatt hotel at the Oregon Convention Center.

So here we are.

The Portland project would be funded with $60 million in Metro-issued revenue bonds, backed by taxes the hotel would generate, plus $18 million in grants and loans from Metro, the Portland Development Commission and the state lottery.

But there are problems with Portland’s hotel proposal, as well as with the arms race of convention center-related construction going on around the country. According to CityLab, there simply aren’t enough big conventions to justify all the convention center expansions. Since 1995, convention space in the United States has increased by 50 percent, but convention growth hasn’t kept pace. “So many were saying, ‘all you have to do is get one percent of the national market and you’ll do just fine,'” he says. “Three hundred cities bought the same logic.”

In fact, the number of conventions in the United States has fallen over the past decade, as has attendance at the largest conventions.

The optimistic predictions for the Oregon Convention Center and an associated hotel neglect to consider that lots of other cities are expanding, too.

Boston is considering a $1 billion expansion of its convention center with a massive 1,200 room $800 million hotel. A Marriott Marquis Hotel is expected to open in 2016 across from the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Hotel operators Omni, Hyatt, Starwood, Peabody and Marcus have shown interest in a request issued by Oklahoma City to develop a 500- to 800-room downtown convention hotel to go with a $287 million convention center scheduled to open in 2019.

Even Des Moines, Iowa is in the game. In Feb. 2015, city and county officials approved a $101 million 10-story 330-room convention hotel project attached to the Iowa Events Center. Officials said they expected the project would draw many more national events to Des Moines and add considerable revenue to the property tax base.

And the list goes on and on.

But not to worry. Portland has advantages because it’s a happening city – food, culture, livability, young professionals – enthused the Oregon Convention Center’s ebullient 2013-2014 Annual Report. That year, the Center hosted 343 events attended by 549,762 people, many of them first time visitors to Portland, the report proclaimed.

But dig deeper into the dry numbers at the end of the report and you’ll find a less glowing story.

The number of events at the Oregon Convention Center actually shrank from 469 in FY2011 to 392 in FY2012, 377 in FY2013 and 343 in FY2014. Meanwhile, net operating results showed losses growing from $10 million in FY2011 to $11.6 million in FY2014.

Despite these numbers, and continuing controversy over the planned subsidized hotel, Metro president Tom Hughes calls critics “short-sighted and selfish” for wanting a public vote on the hotel project.

The hotel plan “promises generous returns for many years to come,” Hughes has said.

So we slog along.

Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a

Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re

Waist deep in the Big Muddy!

 

Watch it!: The pronoun police are on the beat

“Hi, my name is Jason. I’m one of the Orientation advisors and I use he, him, his gender pronouns.”

That’s how Jason Meier, Director of Student Activities, greets new students during orientation at Emerson College in Boston.

Students at an increasing number of colleges are challenging traditional personal pronouns and pushing for new preferred gender pronouns.

A video used as part of student orientation at Emerson suggests that students open up conversations with new people by asking, “Hello. What are your preferred pronouns?”

At the University of Vermont, students can have themselves listed as she, he or ze, on class rosters. The university also offers “neutral” as a gender option for students and lets them use whatever first name they want, even if the one picked hasn’t been legally registered.

Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass permits students to choose their preferred pronoun and advises that the only pronoun that can be used by faculty while writing evaluations is the one displayed in course rosters. The school cautions, however, “Students should give serious consideration to the request to use a preferred name and/or pronoun, as this choice will be permanently reflected in the narrative portions of the academic transcript.”

In February 2015 students at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. were advised that henceforth they could choose which of numerous different pronouns they wanted professors to use in addressing them.

Pronoun choices offered at Scripps

Pronoun choices offered at Scripps

“The pronoun portal feature gives students an opportunity to inform faculty of a pronoun that most closely matches their gendered and lived experiences at Scripps,” an e-mail to all students said. “ It has been made available for students and faculty in an effort to build an inclusive environment.”

Rachel Neuberg, a sophomore at Scripps, told a student publication, The Student Life, she believed the change was a necessary step for the college to make in creating a safer environment for students.

But support for all this is far from universal.

YouTube, for example, has disabled comments on The Emerson College video cited earlier “due to hate speech.”

Some critics argue that colleges, by capitulating to the demands of student pronoun police, are pandering to the perpetually offended. Other say the whole contretemps is just responding to self-obsessed people who think the world revolves around them and a politically correct, Orwellian effort to validate social progressive doctrines.

Critics also charge that academics have failed to do their duty by allowing, and sometimes fomenting, the spread of the pronoun police. . “…the ideology that there is “sexist language” in ordinary words and in the ordinary use of English gender rarely comes under sustained criticism, even in the intellectual arenas where all things are supposed to be open to free inquiry (an ideal asserted with increasingly laughable dishonesty at American universities),” said Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police.

A commenter on a preferred gender pronouns story in queerty, wrote, “I have a lot of thoughts about gender roles but, frankly, I see this as being almost completely needless…It’s petty and entirely unrelatable to people who aren’t of that overbearingly intellectualized echelon, it’s so self-possessed. Let’s face it, those of us in the LGBTQ are minorities, we don’t need to assimilate everyone else to our sexuality or our gender.”

Another commenter wrote on the website of Allied in Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy organization at George Washington, “People with opinions that differ from your group think have every right to have those opinions. YOU DEMAND TOLERANCE, BUT WANT OBEDIENCE AND DISPLAY THE QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE OF INTOLERANCE (emphasis in original). Pot meet kettle.”

Morton Schapiro, president and professor of economics at Northwestern University, writing about how to deal with free expression controversies on campuses, said, “It might be relevant to remind people that elected student representatives have every right to recommend what they want, just as the administration has every right not to abide by what they suggest…” Perhaps the same principle should apply to the pronouns debate.

What should you do? How do you navigate the rocky shoals of the pronoun wars without being chastised, harassed, berated and charged with insensitivity? ‘Tis a puzzlement.

Self-Segregated college dorms: the wrong step back

After Americans have struggled for decades to bring us all together, universities across the country are acquiescing in, even heartily endorsing, racial and ethnic separateness.

When the University of Oregon recruited Bobbie Robinson and Charles Williams as its first black athletes in 1926, they weren’t allowed to live in university dormitories. All students of color were required to rent housing off campus.

Charles Williams at the  University of Oregon

Charles Williams at the University of Oregon

It was a long struggle, but universities across the country eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures. How ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by establishing separate housing by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.

It’s all being done under the guise of building cultural bonds, uniting people with shared values and strengthening identities. Separate but equal, say proponents.

Schools call the segregate spaces theme houses, program dorms or some other innocuous sounding name, but what they really are is a contrivance that do damage to all students, their schools and American ideals.

Much of today’s self-segregation had its origins in the turmoil of the 1960s.

In 1969, for example, at a meeting called by the Beloit College Afro-American Union, thirty-five black students presented 12 demands, including that sections of dorms be reserved for black students. Within days, a spineless administration acquiesced.

That same year, armed members of Cornell University’s Afro-American Society (AAS) occupied Willard Straight Hall to protest the school’s perceived racism. Following negotiations with Cornell officials, the AAS students emerged from the building carrying rifles and wearing bandoleers with cartridges. A picture of the armed students leaving the building ran on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

May 5, 1969 Newsweek cover

May 5, 1969 Newsweek cover

That led to the opening of Cornell’s Ujamaa Residential College in 1972, which “…celebrates the rich and diverse heritage of Black people…” Not stopping there, Cornell now has eight Program Houses, or “themed” residence halls, including a Latino Living Center and Akwe:kon, an American Indian house.

The spread of these self-segregated residential housing facilities has been explosive. U.C. Berkeley has self-segregated housing “Theme Programs” available for African-Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans and Mexican Americans.

MIT has a community within a dorm called Chocolate City, “…a brotherhood of MIT students and alumni who identify with urban culture and share common backgrounds, interests, ethnicities, and/or experiences.”

At Brown University in Rhode Island there’s Hispanic House and Harambee House, which is “…focused on perpetuating a sense of community, academic excellence, and leadership for all people of African descent.”

Harambee is Swahili for ” pulling or working together.” But self-segregation isn’t pulling people together; it’s pushing them apart, capitulating to pressure and reinforcing separatism.

Some academics, perhaps eager for student approval, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students who call for programmed houses on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.

“…anyone concerned with the long-range goal of securing broad-based freedom and autonomy should be committed to the continued existence of racially defined communities on the grounds that different racial identities provide people with different experiences of the world,” Macdonald said. “The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of know/edges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience.”

Except for the fact this is very professorial, it sounds suspiciously like something Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language to affirm “segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”

Governor George Wallace giving his defiant inaugural address on Jan. 14, 1963

Governor George Wallace giving his defiant inaugural address on Jan. 14, 1963

That’s why many thoughtful people condemn the spread of self-segregation practices.

Even 20 years ago, Claire Fagin, then President of the University of Pennsylvania, expressed deep concern. “In general, what we are seeing is a much more divided population on our college campuses,” she said. “We are moving into a very, very hyphenated world: It’s Asian-American, African-American . . . it’s so contrary to everything I grew up with . . . when everyone fought to just be American. For many of us who stress pluralism, these are not easy times.”

Tamar Lewin, a New York Times reporter, has written about how a purposeful blending of interracial roommates can reduce prejudice. Studies at Ohio State and elsewhere have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance, he reported.

“Just having diversity in classrooms doesn’t do anything to increase interracial friendships,” said Claudia Buchmann, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State and an author of a study at Duke University. “But the intimacy of living together in residence halls, with no roommate, or a different-race roommate, does lead to more interracial friendships.”

Lawrence H. Summers when he was President of Harvard University, expressed identical sentiments.

“…the success of our alumni is critically dependent on the environment that we create for them while they are students,” Summers said. “Whether we are inclusive and welcoming – whether we create an environment that encourages students to learn not just from casebooks and in classrooms, but from other students who have had very different experiences than themselves – all of this plays a vital role in determining whether our students will have the skills and experiences needed to be effective leaders.”

Dividing everybody into categories and subcategories is not the way forward.

As John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement, said, “Now we have to create a sense that we are one community, one family. Really, we are the American family.”

 

 

Guilt tipping: service with a smirk

Remember when we used to tip for good service?

tip-jar-color-web

Gone into a shop lately and found yourself confronting a tablet screen turned toward you with various generous tip options? One option is “No tip”, but that requires a purposeful action the cashier and other customers in line behind you can see. So out of guilt, you hit one of the % options instead.

Point of sale system

Point of sale system

Face it, the merchant and the cashier are pressuring you to add a tip., using technology to taunt you.

At stores where you used to either not leave a tip or just dropped your change into a tip jar, now you’re being manipulated into tipping lavishly with point of sale systems. The practice is getting particularly egregious at businesses where you didn’t used to tip at all, but now feel pressured to do so.

It can get worse because of a business’ ability to customize the tip configuration on the screen. Most people tip between 15-20%. If you buy a $2.85 espresso and the screen offers 15%, 20% and 25% tip options, you are likely to hit 15%, generating a tip of 43 cents. If a business wants to jack that up, it can give you $1, $2, or $3 options on purchases below $10, instead of a percentage. If you pick $1, you have paid a 35% tip. Devious, but effective.

The dynamics also change when a waiter hands you a portable tablet to sign for your credit card purchase at your table. As a point-of-sale system company says on its website;

“Just think about it. If your wait staff hands over a portable device to a patron, that patron is more likely to add a larger tip since the transaction becomes more personal. It’s easy to leave a 10% or smaller tip on a table while you run out of a restaurant. It’s far more difficult for a patron to leave a tiny tip while the waiter is right next to you.”

It might make some sense at businesses like restaurants where the waiters and waitresses are getting state-approved hourly pay less than the minimum wage, with the expectation they will make up the difference in tips. But everywhere?

Give me a break!