Category Archives: Portland

Push the button fool!

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Mr. T encourages pedestrians to do the right thing at 20th and Burnside in Portland.

New street art in Portland

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Given the solar panels on the top, we can only presume this is some sort of torch. There is a green one down the street, good times to come.

A Passionate Appeal for a Sidewalk

With the election cycle in full swing, we turn our attention not to the national scene, where two people we will refer to only as BO and MR are bombarding the nation with empty promises in hopes that the dangling chads in November will fall their way, but to more pressing local matters.

Here at The Mint, we recognize that the natural operation of anarchy renders much of what happens at the highest levels of government, which in the US means those seated at the State and Federal levels increasingly irrelevant.  While they have the potential to do great harm, government on a large-scale generally suffers from a form of paralysis which makes their decisions increasingly meaningless to the average Joe.  They have grown to the point where they are nothing more than an amoeba, which at best should be ignored and at worst, actively avoided.

As such, we consider it a great waste of time to obsess over them.

Government at the local level, meaning the City and, more importantly, the County level, has a much greater direct impact on the lives of its constituents.  As such, we see government at the City and County level as absolutely necessary to the smooth functioning of society.  We also present, for your consideration, that participation in government at a local level is not only time well spent, it can be profitable.

A great opportunity to guide public policy at a local level is presented frequently at events that are generally referred to as requests for public comment.  While in some cases, these events are held to give an air of legitimacy to an already planned action, some of them present a grand opportunity to sway local policy and public resource investment decisions.  Given this grand opportunity, it may come as a surprise that these events are often overlooked, even by those who would be directly affected by the action being considered.

For your perusal and enjoyment, we present the following example of yours truly taking advantage of such an opportunity presented by our County’s Minor Betterment Project Committee.

Each year, the committee is presented with a list of potential minor public works projects which have been vetted by overpaid consultants and assigned a ranking based on a point system which is theoretically designed by the consultant to capture potential public benefit of a project in a tidy little number.

This is like the BCS for your tax dollars, and, as any NCAA coach knows, it never hurts to lobby your case, especially when the voting is tight.

We recently found out that a much-needed improvement project, one that could modestly increase our property value, had made the “Top 20” of the latest version of the public works BCS.

Pompeii Sidewalk by Paul Vlaar
The ancients had sidewalks, why can’t we? photo of sidewalks in Pompeii by Paul Vlaar

Like any good coach, we picked up our digital writing implement and began to lobby for our own, local, pet project.  The result of this activity is what we call “A Passionate Appeal for a Sidewalk,” a transcript of which follows:

As both a property owner and frequent pedestrian of this stretch of Madison Road, I can attest to the large-scale safety hazard that the lack of a pedestrian walkway on this stretch of road presents daily.  Not only to the school children who wait for the bus on the thoroughfare during the morning, but all manner of pedestrians, bicyclists, school bus drivers, and vehicle operators who daily traverse it.  Were it not for the vigilance of the drivers on this stretch of road, this perilous route would no doubt be the site of a lamentable tally of traffic fatalities.

For those who have not seen it, Madison road is narrow and increasingly relied upon by all manner of commuters (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists) during rush hours.  During these peak times, it is commonplace to see cars nearly miss a head on collision with each other as they make a noble attempt to give way for pedestrians (a majority of which are school children) who literally have no choice but to walk along the 12 inch border of the existing roadway alloted to them.  Alternative routes for this pedestrian trail are far enough away to that they are not viable options, and, as we mentioned before, pedestrian traffic on this stretch of road continues to increase.

While the sidewalk project proposed to remedy this dangerous situation is the most expensive on the list, and can hardly be considered minor, the money spent will likely spare a tragedy involving the dangerous mix of vehicles and school children which is present every day of the school year.  If the goal of these projects is to increase the safety of the community, this project has perhaps the greatest potential to do just that.  In a sense, it is long overdue.

We, your neighbors along this deceptively dangerous stretch of Madison road, appreciate the committee’s attention to this matter.

What do you think, will our impassioned plea sway the committee to divert funds into our pet project?  We should know by late October whether or not ours comes out on top.  Either way, civic involvement, on a local level, is necessary given the proximity of the governing body.  While the body and budget itself is small, its potential to wreak havoc on your everyday life is too big to ignore, just ask anyone who has found themselves on the wrong end of a dispute with an activist home owners association board.

As for the State and Federal versions of Government, in their late, degenerate, bankrupt form they can do little more than create the illusion of watching your every move and controlling the details of your life.  Despite their large-scale propaganda and their presence at the airport gate, they are mostly harmless.  Your impassioned pleas and time spent informing yourself on issues are best spent at the local level.

Who knows?  You may even save a life or make the world a better place, all while increasing your property value at the government’s expense.

It is the closest thing to Nirvana that the governed can experience.

 

Buskers Flourish as Spring Approaches in Portland

Strolling down the street in Downtown Portland, one is as likely to encounter a busker as they are a plea to support a generically named non-profit group by an aspiring model.  At times these encounters seem to take place on nearly every corner.  Their presence is a reminder that the City is alive, and that there is more to life than hurriedly shuffling along from one appointment to the next.

Portland’s buskers come in every shape and size and those who perform music play a great variety of instruments and an even greater variety of musical styles and genres.  As spring approaches and weather becomes less of a barrier, the City is blessed by the increased presence of bucket tinged dance beats and sidewalk serenades.

According to the Willamette Week, a recent forum was held to explore possible changes in Portland’s Street Musicians and Performers Partnership Agreement.  While there was apparently a lively debate, it appears that there will be no changes to the current agreement.  While not perfect, the agreement appears to acknowledge the concerns of and offer remedies to all parties involved, whether willingly or otherwise, in a busker musical performance.

Buskers Negotiate for Prime Locations in Downtown Portland

Busking has its origins in antiquity and in many cultures is alternately enjoyed or tolerated, depending upon the quality of the performance, as a part of urban life.  While some cities have attempted to regulate busking via the use of permits and performance scheduling, Portland busking’s current self regulation is for the most part acknowledged in the Agreement.

Permits, scheduling, and agreements aside, a majority of busking takes place within the bounds of what can best be described as an unspoken busker code of conduct involving numerous tacit and express agreements amongst the buskers, local shop owners, and inhabitants.

How well will this unspoken code of conduct hold up in Portland this summer?  With an increasing amount of buskers performing and a majority of them unaware of the Portland Agreement, there are bound to be disagreements.  Asking a busker to keep his melodies with 100 feet of his person is like asking the wind to blow at a set speed.  A limited number of prime performance spots in the City makes competition for those spots increasingly intense.

To the credit of buskers everywhere, they have always found a way to resolve these inherent conflicts and at times even work in harmony to provide Portland with an abundance of music in the air.  So the next time you see a busker, show your appreciation by stopping and, if you are able, tip them something for their trouble.  By doing so you are supporting the arts in their purest form, whatever that form may be.

Tattoos: A sure sign of spring

Spring is just around the corner in Portland and residents of the Bridge City will soon arise from their collective hibernation to partake in the five months of sun that is our annual allotment at these latitudes.

Portlanders will step out the door to a number of sure signs of spring, flowers blooming, preparations for the Rose Festival, the Timbers opening kicks, and tattoos of every shape and design proudly displayed on bodies of all shapes and sizes.

It is no secret that Portland is somewhat of a nexus of tattoo culture.  Tattoos here are as common as bicycles and tattoo parlors as numerous as coffee shops (well, almost).  Shops such as the Sea Tramp Tattoo Company have honed their craft over many years and in the process have become the stuff of legend.

Here are a few interesting statistics about tattooing in America courtesy of a survey conducted in 2008 by Harris Interactive:

  • One in five (20%) of people living in the West have at least one tattoo
  • 32% of persons aged 25-29 have at least one tattoo
  • Only 16% of those surveyed regretted getting a tattoo
  • Over half of the population, both the tattooed and un-tattooed, perceive that someone who has a tattoo is more rebellious
  • 19% of those who have a tattoo say that it makes them feel attractive and strong

Being a resident of Portland gives you a front row seat to a city wide living and breathing art gallery that few metro areas (save Miami) can boast.  With some of the finest tattoo artists in the world calling Portland home, it is safe to say that this seasonal exhibit of body art will be on-going on the streets of our fair city.

The thought of it all may give you the “inkling” to put a masterpiece on your canvas.

Full Disclosure:  Your author does not have a tattoo.

Coffee Culture: Thoughts on Coffee Consumption in Portland Continue reading on Examiner.com Coffee Culture: Thoughts on Coffee Consumption in Portland

A familiar sight in Portland on a Saturday afternoon.  Students, friends, families, empty nesters, foreigners, the among the things that many of them have in common are the need for a good cup of coffee, companionship, ambiance, and maybe even a little peace and quiet.  As winter gives way to spring, they will grab their cups and populate the cafe patios and occupy the parks to soak in the short season of natural vitamin D, otherwise known as sunshine, here in our fine city.

Coffee drinking is called by some a cheap luxury.  Even with the increasing threat of higher coffee bean prices being passed on to coffee house patrons, it is still a relatively cheap way to pass the time.  If you are truly concerned about rising coffee prices, you can effectively hedge against the rising cost of your caffeine addiction by placing a portion of your portfolio in an Exchange Traded Fund like the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Coffee ETN, whose stick ticker symbol JO must have been cleverly devised by some brilliant marketing mind.

Fortunate Patrons at a Portland Cafe

A familiar sight in Portland on a Saturday afternoon.  Students, friends, families, empty nesters, foreigners, the among the things that many of them have in common are the need for a good cup of coffee, companionship, ambiance, and maybe even a little peace and quiet.  As winter gives way to spring, they will grab their cups and populate the cafe patios and occupy the parks to soak in the short season of natural vitamin D, otherwise known as sunshine, here in our fine city.

Coffee drinking is called by some a cheap luxury.  Even with the increasing threat of higher coffee bean prices being passed on to coffee house patrons, it is still a relatively cheap way to pass the time.  If you are truly concerned about rising coffee prices, you can effectively hedge against the rising cost of your caffeine addiction by placing a portion of your portfolio in an Exchange Traded Fund like the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Coffee ETN, whose stick ticker symbol JO must have been cleverly devised by some brilliant marketing mind.

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For years, it had been accepted that Starbucks’ wild success had cemented Seattle’s place as the coffee capital of the world.  If the average coffee drinker were to partake of his or her 3.1 cups per day in Seattle, they were considered privileged.

As Starbucks, which now pours 1 out of every 100 cups of coffee served on the planet each day, struggles to find a place to expand in the northwest that is not within five blocks of one of their existing locations, coffee connoisseurs are quietly speaking of Portland as the new Mecca of coffee culture.  As Starbucks continues to go global, local Portland roasters like Stumptown continue to develop what just may be the best coffee in the world.

So wrap your hands around a cup of locally brewed coffee and know that not only will you make it through another seemingly endless winter, you are one of the privileged 500,000 to live in what will soon be recognized as the coffee capital of the world.  After athletic shoes and coffee, could the movie and tech industries be next to defect to Portlandia?

The 511 Federal Building: From Post Office to Prison to Art Parthenon Continue reading on Examiner.com The 511 Federal Building: From Post Office to Prison to Art Parthenon

The 511 Federal Building located at 511 NW Broadway is eerily one of the more impressive examples of turn of the Century Architecture that we have in Portland.  It is also an example of how far the Federal Government feels that it must go to protect itself after the attacks of September 11th.

The building is currently home to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Offices.  This one time Post Office is located at what may be considered the gateway between the upscale Pearl District and the less attractive Old Town Chinatown neighborhood.  It stands as a testament to the dichotomy of its surroundings, altogether grisly and glorious.

Built during World War I, as many of the older Federal Buildings in Portland were, its adornments of Eagles, buttressed columns, and men and women dressed to compete in the ancient Greek version of the Olympics are examples of an architectural style called Neo-Classical or Classical Revival.  The 511 Federal Building was deservedly placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

The 511 Federal Building located at 511 NW Broadway is eerily one of the more impressive examples of turn of the Century Architecture that we have in Portland.  It is also an example of how far the Federal Government feels that it must go to protect itself after the attacks of September 11th.

The building is currently home to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Offices.  This one time Post Office is located at what may be considered the gateway between the upscale Pearl District and the less attractive Old Town Chinatown neighborhood.  It stands as a testament to the dichotomy of its surroundings, altogether grisly and glorious.

Built during World War I, as many of the older Federal Buildings in Portland were, its adornments of Eagles, buttressed columns, and men and women dressed to compete in the ancient Greek version of the Olympics are examples of an architectural style called Neo-Classical or Classical Revival.  The 511 Federal Building was deservedly placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

The 511 Federal Building in Portland, Oregon

This scene outside of the 511 stands in stark contrast to the open arms of Bud Clark Commons which is currently being constructed across Broadway.  The building’s once proud architecture is obscured by additional adornments of security cameras, chain link fences, and mirrored windows.  These security enhancements apparently keep the Federal Employees safe from the outside world and to keep the world safe from any unfortunate immigrants who may be awaiting deportation inside one of the building’s three holding cells.

What was once a symbol of a rising Empire, the 511 Federal Building circa 2011 appears now as a symbol of an Empire in decline.  More precisely, it looks like a prison.  This image was further confirmed on Tuesday with the presence of two Geo Transport buses.  Geo Transport is in the business of prisoner transportation and these buses are often used to transport immigrants who do not have legal status to the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Fortunately, this once proud building will get a new lease on life.  While the City of Portland begins to squabble about where to move the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Offices, waiting in the wings to occupy the 511 is the Pacific Northwest College of Art.  The College of Art will enter the 511 like a warm breeze on a cool day, and the presence of hundreds of art students alone will go a long way towards restoring this treasure to its previous glory.