August 6, 2010
Vilfredo Pareto argued that, in an optimal (or “Pareto-efficient“) system, it is impossible to make anyone better off without making someone else worse off.  As a matter of public policy, then, a Pareto improvement makes at least one person better off without making anybody else worse off.  Without assigning a value judgement to the outcome, a desire of public policy is, at a minimum, to achieve a Pareto improvement with every decision.

It is in this light that I consider the tenure of Mayor Sam Adams to be a complete and utter failure.  In no particular order:

– His drive to ban plastic bags from being used by stores and charge customers extra to suffer using worthless 1950s-style paper bags – or bring their own bag.  News flash: it’s a common practice in this city to either re-use these plastic bags (as garbage bags, among other things) or recycle them.  Banning them only makes life in this city that much more expensive, a task Sam Adams and his merry band of likeminded yes-men and yes-women have excelled at.

– His renaming of 39th Avenue to César Chávez Boulevard, which I’ve posted out previously.

– The installation of speed bumps on NW Germantown Road.  This shortsighted move satisfies a few local residents, making them, in Pareto terms, better off.  However, the rest of the city who uses that road – one of the few arterial roads allowing access that direction – now has to suffer with more brake wear and suspension wear on their cars, a more jarring travel in any sort of vehicle, a less enjoyable road, and less responsive emergency access.  I would say that most of Portland was made worse off by this decision, just another in the long line.

– The drive by Mayor Sam Adams to boost water and sewer rates – already among the highest in the nation, as pointed out in the article – to pay for more bike lanes.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t legal use of tax fees; instead, perhaps we should use the extraordinarily high sewer rates to fix the problems with the Portland’s sewer system.

… and here’s another interesting fact.  I was at a Central Eastside Industrial Council meeting a few months ago and someone mentioned that commercial occupancy in downtown Portland had been in a notable decline for almost a decade.  While I’m sure bike lanes make it more accessible to those people who don’t have to otherwise travel during their workday, it’s a benefit to a decreasing number of people while everybody in the city has to pay for it.

The aforementioned reasons are what stick out in my mind.  I can’t find anything that Sam Adams has done that benefits more people than it harms.  He truly has embraced the selfish idea that “the wants of the few outweigh the good of the many”.  Instead of focusing efforts on trying to help Portland thrive in a challenging economic environment, he and the city council have focused efforts on pet projects and headline-grabbing agendas, guaranteeing that my city will have that much more work ahead of it when he’s finally out of office.


Enemies of the People

July 11, 2009

These are the current members of the Portland City Council:

  • Sam Adams, Mayor
  • Nick Fish, Commissioner of Public Works
  • Amanda Fritz, Commissioner of Public Utilities
  • Randy Leonard, Commissioner of Public Safety
  • Dan Saltzman, Commissioner of Public Affairs
  • LaVonne Griffin-Valade, Auditor of the City of Portland

This is their crime:

They have voted – unanimously – to rename 39th Ave in honor of César Chávez, the labor activist.

Now, it’s not that I have anything against the man; by all accounts he’s been very important to the history of our country. I’m just vigorously opposed to renaming 39th Ave. I believe in systems that work, and I believe that streets that are numbered numerically as you progress west or east of the Willamette River represent a good system. The members of the Portland City Council, regardless of any other qualities, have shown absolute disregard for that system. That, in my book, is unforgivable. There are plenty of new, important streets in the Metro area that could be named after him – renaming 39th is asinine!

So it is now my personal mission to ensure that none of these people – people who have demonstrated a blatant disregard for the citizens of the city and the systems that help make our city livable – are ever re-elected. I don’t care if they’re angles, saints, or can cure leprosy with the wave of a hand; they have unanimously chosen to ignore the greater common good. They must not be allowed near these positions again!

Stay tuned for more on this issue, folks. There will be elections sooner or later, and you’ll hear me out there!