“Nice sign ya got there…

… be a real shame if something was ta happen to it.” That, in essence, is what City Commissioner Randy Leonard is saying to the University of Oregon, which wants to change the text on the White Stag sign it currently leases and pays to operate:

Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Nick Fish have co-sponsored an ordinance Leonard introduced late Thursday for City Council discussion next week that would, in essence, take the sign. The city would pay fair market value for the sign, estimated at $500,000. Other costs include maintenance and a lease on the rooftop space.

City ownership would ensure control over what has become a “national signature” for the city and state and part of the cultural fabric of Portland, Leonard said. It’s visible to Interstate 5 travelers and to millions who watch nationally televised Blazer games and other events.

It’s an admittedly aggressive move, but is a last resort, Leonard said. City Attorney Linda Meng said the use of eminent domain is warranted if the taking serves a public purpose.

“It’s not your ordinary condemnation, but the ordinance does a good job explaining what the public purpose is,” she said.

It’s amazing how such thuggish behavior becomes praiseworthy when it’s done by politicians, isn’t it?

My case for allowing the sign to change is here.

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Smoking in Portland

It ain’t easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow Broadway Cigar is hosting its grand opening celebration, featuring cigar rolling demos, free beer (of the root variety), barbecue, a beer and spirits tasting, and raffles. I got to preview the space a few months ago and it’s very nice: flat screen TVs, free wi-fi, and big, comfy leather chairs. Check their site for details.

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Markets in everything, Portland bar edition

With apologies to Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok for stealing the title:

In Hollywood, it’s extemely common, if not extemely necessary, for young talent to rely on their agent and his/her inside connections, to pair them with likeminded creative projects and gainful employment. In that spirit, I’m looking to hire my own agent to help me find an “in” within the Portland bar scene. Nobody else besides me and you need to know about the financial arrangement we would have in this venture, however, there is nothing inherantly shameful in this proposition. I have the talent and skill and drive and labor power to be a rockstar bartender like this city has never seen. You, hopefully, have the connections that I don’t have. In exchange, I’d be willing to offer up a whopping 20% commission for the first three months of my employment in exchange for your valuable connections (which, including both tips and wages could easily add up to $800-$1,000). Following, is a brief accounting of why I feel I would make such a rockstar bartender.

No, that Craigslist post isn’t from me, but I can relate. The Portland hospitality job market has been extremely tight the past six months. In my search I’ve come across coffee shops that received more than 400 responses to one job ad, many from out of work accountants and lawyers. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd like that, and to make matters worse, if you stand out too much employers will not hire you because they fear you will jump ship as soon as a better opportunity comes along; I’m fairly certain I was rejected from several jobs for precisely that reason. The poster above is correct: Success right now is all about networking.

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Smokers in exile

When I first arrived in Portland last fall, I blogged about the extreme anti-smoking policies in area apartments, which often extend even to the outdoor parts of properties. The Portland Tribune has picked up on the excess of residential smoking bans, noting that they’ve become so pervasive that they hamper efforts to get the homeless placed into public housing:

A year ago, Guardian Management, the largest manager of private apartments in Portland, made its nearly 70 buildings containing about 6,000 apartments smoke-free. Tenants cannot smoke in their apartments, and they cannot smoke in the hallways.

Last month, the Housing Authority of Portland began sending out notices to tenants announcing all its buildings, containing more than 6,200 apartments, will be going smoke-free. Tenants who need to smoke will have to make their way outside buildings to designated smoking areas, rain or shine. […]

Andy Miller, interim executive director of Portland’s Bureau of Housing and Community Development, is, like Weinstock, worried about what the new rules do to the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

For the last four years, the city’s plan has focused on what it calls a “housing first” philosophy. The policy has meant that rather than insist the homeless conform to good tenant behavior before they can stay in subsidized housing, housing is used to stabilize their lives so they can then address problems such as substance abuse.

Many of the homeless – having battled drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness – smoke. The city wants those people housed.

“The last thing we want to do is create barriers to people entering affordable housing,” Miller says.

Miller would like to see the housing authority consider continuing to allow smoking in some of its buildings, or in parts of some buildings.

While I vehemently oppose legislative bans on smoking in apartments, there are good reasons why some buildings might want to privately impose smokefree policies. Smokers’ apartments cost more to clean when a tenant moves out, other residents might complain about the smell, and smoking creates a fire hazard. The trend threatens to get out of hand, however. In my own building, for example, smoking is forbidden indoors, on balconies, and even in the large open air courtyard. My cigarette smoking guests have to walk down a long hallway, take an elevator down four flights, and stand outside next to a busy street just to light up. People who’d like to take a longer smoke with a pipe or cigar are completely out of luck.

Many of these bans have gone beyond all rational justification to become simple discrimination against unpopular smokers and it’s likely that more cities will follow suit. Smokers and tolerant allies will need to be prepared to speak out against their spread.

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Calorie counts come to Oregon

“To better understand this movement against fast foods, one has to appreciate first of all that many individuals do not like fat persons.”Gary Becker

A calorie count mandate may be coming to Oregon. Newly introduced legislation would require all restaurants operating in Oregon that have more than 10 locations nationwide to publish calorie information on their menus. Multnomah County, which contains Portland, already has similar rules going into effect on March 15, so the impact will be somewhat mitigated by the fact that many of these restaurants will already be forced to comply. Nonetheless, there are many reasons to oppose this bill.

The proposal is essentially a classist reaction against the overweight, an attempt to shame them into changing their eating habits; you won’t see anyone suggesting that Le Pigeon disclose how many calories are in their delicious pork belly anytime soon. Nor is there much evidence that the measure will be worth the cost to smaller chains, given that consumers partially offset calorie-rich restaurant meals by eating more healthily at other times of day and that the numbers may be inaccurate or highly variable. And most importantly, the information is often available already, even if not prominently posted on the menu. As I wrote for The Agitator in August:

The alternative is not zero information. Chain restaurants are already responding to consumer demand for nutritional information without mandated displays. Many have been making it available on their websites or in literature within the restaurant, readily accessible for interested consumers. Some, like Subway, tout the healthiness of their menu and prominently advertise it. Others, like Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., flaunt their excess. In between are hundreds of other restaurants that highlight their healthier offerings or entrées that comply with popular diets. There’s no compelling reason to think that the trend toward greater transparency won’t continue or that this multiplicity of approaches is somehow inferior to the single right way dictated by local government.

For more cases against calorie count mandates, see Christopher Flavelle, Radley Balko, Jacob Sullum, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Carol Hart.

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