Friday, December 24, 2004

Useful consumer information on communications

Consumers Union has released a new telecommunications and media online resource: HearUsNow.org, as per a tip from Kenneth DeGraff, a Consumers Union Policy Advocate, posted at the highly useful Politech website.
The site offers in-depth reading on over 60 consumer related telecom issues. Consumer tips on what to do before you buy, understanding your bills after and making companies listen when you are unhappy (from phone services to copyright rules on digital content). There are also 7 different ways to make a difference in less then 2 minutes (see "Get Heard" on the left bar and click the red link). Hearusnow.org gives consumers the ability to work for change on an individual level and provides hundreds of resources to join efforts already going on across the country.

And there is a fun movie to watch, a spoof on a current TV show, but more importantly puts media consolidation (a somewhat dry topic) in to a nice, easily digestible, package.
BTW, another good consumer telecom site is ABTolls.com which reports on long distance service costs.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Crime in Our Fair Clackamas

Here, the Oregonian reports the most basic of events, crimes against property. It also hosts an Op-Ed on the subject of speed addiction, alleged to be the cause of much of this crime.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Another meta-site for demographics

A while back, I was researching Clackamas and found the name of every city, village, hamlet, post office and wide spot in the road. Now, finding that's easier, thanks to Home Town Locator.

Places from Barlow to ZigZag are listed, with zip code and zip code type, census data links and even longitude and latitude. You can get that kind of index for other places, too, from Home Town Locator's home page.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Update: Jesse Freeby

A while back, Clackablog reported on volunteer hero Jesse Freeby and a community effort to completely remodel his home to accomdate his power chair.

That remodel's just about ready for him, and will be unveiled Monday.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Updated: Freeway speed map

The ODOT Freeway Speed Map is now available (or, you can just use a shorter link, http://tinyurl.com/dud3q. A full-scale version's also available.

I had been hoping for something like this, and have a version for my PalmPhone which works for the Seattle area. Fortunately, the ODOT version does, too, although the Washington equivalent is clearer on my PalmPhone, with wider color stripes. You can also see when comparing desktop versions the version for Pugetopolis offers more detailed speed information.

Also, here's another traffic link, for the PDXinfoNet Traffic Report web page, a plaintext page easily read by cellphone browsers.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

State sends stale meat fraud reply

Late last month, I reported on the Fred Meyer Meat Fraud story. Here, we have a response from a ODA manager which explains why they were clueless:
Mr. Bartley,

Thank you for your questions regarding Fred Meyer Stores and alleged short weight packages of meat.

Question #1: "Why isn't defrauding the public on such a basic commodity as meat worthy of Oregon's resources?"

Any fraud in the State of Oregon is of great concern to everyone - consumers, businesses, and regulatory officials alike. However, in recent years, Oregon's General Fund budget has faced severe shortages and very, very, difficult decisions had to be made by the Agency, the Governor, and the Legislature with the very limited resources that were available. As a result, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Measurement Standards Division's Packaging and Labeling Program was de-funded and is now capable of only very limited responses to complaints and very cursory transaction verifications. Prior to the budget reductions and considering the dollar volume of packaged products sold in the State of Oregon annually, the program operated at a minimum level and was considered an active deterrent to fraud.

Question #2: "I'd sure like to know what Oregon will do to assure that my family isn't defrauded on meat purchases in the future. I'd like not to have to start taking my own scale to the market with me."

Consumer protection is a very important part of Oregon's mission and that of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Furthermore, packaged products, labeling, and method of sale programs are an integral part of any weights and measures agency, including ODA's Measurement Standards Division. There currently is not a fee established for funding of this program. If there is support (i.e., General Fund moneys or fees) from consumers and businesses in the State of Oregon to provide sustained full funding of an effective packaged products, labeling, and method of sale program, then the necessary human resources and equipment can be placed into the field again to help assure correct net contents on packaged items for consumers and fair competition for businesses.

I hope that this is helpful. We appreciate your questions and comments. If you have any further questions that I may be able to assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you, Mr.Bartley.

Best regards,

Clark Cooney.
Field Operations Manager
ODA Measurement Standards Division
503-986-4677 Fax: 503-986-4784 TTY: 503-986-4762

Well, if you want to be protected from fraud by major out-of-state corporations like Kroger, maybe you should ask the governor and these other ODA folks yourself what they will do now. And, if you don't like the answer they give you, let our legislative delegation know you'd rather be protected against meat fraud than pay for Bev Stein's Windmill, ODOT kickbacks, the 32 megabuck Convention Center in Salem (Salem? Oh yeah, great party town for conventions), ODOT SUVs with premium CD players (top of Page 5), not to mention the other bon mots contained therein.

Updated: Oregonian blocks adverts, gets criticized

Here, a media critic notes the Oregonian refuses to permit an on-line selling service to advertise in the Oregonian.

The web presence of the Oregonian itself is very interesting. The site, like those of other Newhouse newspapers and most of their magazines (but not, interestingly enough, WIRED, is so frightfully complex that viewing it with a PDA is well nigh impossible. What content is allowed on line is only indexed for seven days, so if a story isn't linked by then, it's very tedious/spendy to find it.

But, then, freedom of the press is limited to those who own one. (A. J. Liebling)

Update
Conincidentally, Fred On Everything explains why the Oregonian is fighting so hard to hang on to their classifieds. BTW, Fred would qualify as the continental Curmudgeon Laureate if we had one, with views several Astronomical Units beyond what is politically fashionable... but he's often right.

Monday, December 13, 2004

'NoNameCity' legislative delegation opposed to annexation without representation

As we reported earlier, Democrat powerhouse Senator Ginny Burdick opposes democracy, and wants to remove the ability of an unicorporated area to veto its annexation by a more populous city.

Well, letters written to the state legislative delegation serving 'No Name City' (North Clackamas-Jennings Lodge-Oak Lodge/Oak Grove) have borne fruit.

State senator Kurt Schrader opposed the Burdick power grab:
"We agree (with Clackablog: Ed. note). Our office will be introducing a bill to change state law to reflect your concerns and will oppose bills that take away communities' ability to self determination."

State representative Dave Hunt also sided with Schrader:
"Thanks for your note about the proposed annexation bill. I am already working to seriously amend this proposal so it will not adversely affect our community (I live in Jennings Lodge). If we are not successful in amending the bill, I plan to actively fight the bill."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Grant covers all registry cost

The grant to cover the costs of Bone Marrow Registry signup I mentioned Wed. for the Hillsboro FD doc has extended to cover all the costs. This is slated for next Wed. evening; let's all do our part!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bone Marrow Donor Drive

You may wish to consider this, which first appeared on the Washington County ARES list yesterday. The $40 grant for folks screened next Wednesday could be very helpful for folks who were turned off by the $65 normal fee. See you there!

Dear CERT and ARES Members:

The Hillsboro Fire Department's physician advisor, Dr. Mike Shertz, has cancer; and he is in need of a bone marrow transplant. To assist in that effort, there will be a bone marrow drive at St. Vincent Hospital's Emergency Department on Wednesday, December 15th, 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.

There is a fee to the donor. For this drive, it is $65, which pays for the necessary lab work. However, there is a grant to pay the first $40 per person, so the cost to each donor will be $25.

Although the chances of anyone local being a perfect match for Dr. Shertz are small, participation by other people just like you in similar drives around the county will help to find him a match somewhere.

Please consider joining the bone marrow registry. You can read all about it at the National Marrow Donor Program website. The website contains information about the bone marrow donation program, as well as stories of lives that have been saved.

The website also tells you exactly what you're in for when you show up to the bone marrow drive and if you are later found to be a potential match for someone who needs a transplant. Check it out to see what is involved.

Monday, December 06, 2004

"Complete Communities" Completes Process, Says Nay for Now

The "Complete Communities" process, started after a petition was submitted to the County Commission from some residents of NoNameCity, will soon come to a close. Participants at tonight's Rose Villa meeting looked at the polls and questionnaire and bowed to the will of the people.

The County Commissioners will be told tomorrow that we like things the way they are, and no recommendation for either assimilation or incorporation will be made.

The complete story will follow tomorrow. But, for reference, here's the list of Clackamas County Community Planning Oreganizations, their contact information and their meeting dates. It's cited here as the CPOs for Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge were major participants, as was the North Clackamas CPO.

City of Damascus off to slow start

A Sarah Hunsberger story in today's Oregonian describes how the Lege is keeping Oregon's newest city on a short leash:
State law prohibits the city from borrowing more than $5,000 until next fiscal year, which doesn't start until July. And the city won't collect its first property taxes until November.
The County Administrator also noted tonight that the county might, under some circumstances, be able to help with a loan.

Until solvency occurs, anybody want to chip in and volunteer to build Damascus a web site?

Tonight (Monday) conclusion of 'Complete Communities'

The final results of the forum weeks ago, answers to written questionnaires and the scientific poll asking North Clackamas, Oak Lodge and Jennings Lodge residents if they want to be part of a city, or their own city, will be discussed at the seventh and final Task Force meeting of the Conversation with the Citizens of Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge and North Clackamas County. That is scheduled for tonight, Monday, December 6, 2004, 6:30 – 9 pm, Rose Villa, 13505 SE River Road.

If you have any questions, call Elaine Cogan, Steve Faust or Kirstin Greene at 503-225-0192. For more information or to view meeting materials, visit the project Web site, or see my previous articles on the subject:

Complete Communities talk-talk
Administrator's promise to be overridden?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Administrator's promise to be overridden?

If you were considering that Oak Lodge, North Clackamas and Jennings Lodge had any protection from assimilation by Gladstone, Milwaukie or Happy Valley, think again.

Last week, I reported on the Complete Communities project. At a meeting Monday of last week, Jonathan Mantay, County Administrator, was asked if unincorporated areas don't want to be assimilated into another city through annexation, can they be forced? He replied no.

Well, it now appears, that isn't really true. The Oregonian reports (link below) that the basis for that statement is weak, and is only for the Portland Metro area. State law does permit a city to vote, and for the vote of a larger city to overrride the wishes of the assimilated area.
The proposed bill comes in the wake of voter rejection Nov. 2 of Tigard's attempt to annex the 1,376-acre Bull Mountain area. Although 69 percent of city voters approved the measure, 89 percent of the voters in the unincorporated area turned it down. Tigard officials had planned to count the votes of Tigard and Bull Mountain residents together. But annexation opponents bitterly protested, arguing that votes from Tigard's 44,000 residents would far outweigh those of Bull Mountain's 7,600.

Powerful Democrat state senator Ginny Burdick does not like that protection, and wants to remove the protection against the requirement that the assimilated consent to their annexation.
"It doesn't make sense to have this unincorporated land out there with separate service providers," she said.

So, what we moved here for, the unique distinctiveness and reasonable taxation rates of the UnCity will be assimilated into somebody's tax base, if Burdick has her way.
The legislative process will allow for plenty of public discussion about the changes and the intent of those who drafted the laws, Burdick said.

Riiight. Ever been to the Lege, folks? This will get tacked on to somebody else's bill, a 'hearing' in Salem will be held with folks lined up outside the door (in inverse proportion to their proximity to Salem, as per standing Lege practice, so we get to wait until the Baker City folks have their say), before we get to participate in a token 'discussion' period after the fix is in. Then, give your neighbor a copy of this blog.

Kindly consider the evils of a 'democratic' system of 'Democrats' opposed to democracy, and who will not allow us to make up our own minds about how we wish to live and be governed, or not be governed. BTW, the 73rd Legislative Assembly will convene on January 10, 2005, and the Write Your Legislator web page allows you to auto-generate e-mail without even having to look up who represents you in the Lege.

Library board meeting

The Clackamas County Library Board of Trustees will meet December 14th at 5pm at the Oak Lodge Library, 16201 SE McLoughlin Blvd.

No agenda published yet, but the failure of the library levy has got to be Topic Number One. Here's just one implication from the Clackamas Review story linked above:
Clackamas County Library Director Doris Grolbert also anticipated having to make similar cuts, as well as eliminating or curtailing several popular programs.

"I’m thinking we’ll go from 49 to 35 hours per week, and we’ll probably have to discontinue our homebound service," she said. "Children’s programs, such as story time and school visits, will also be cut. I don’t suspect that we will have staff dedicated to children’s services anymore."