December 29th, 2004 NIGEL JAQUISS | Special Section Stories
 

Politics

     
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Tax and union buster Bill Sizemore might be circling the toilet bowl for the last time and his mentor Don McIntire got spanked in an effort to repeal the MultCo I-tax, but it was a big year for right-of-center activists. In November, Oregonians In Action, led by Dave Hunnicutt (right), won a huge victory in the property-rights wars with the passage of Measure 37, and gay-bashers, led by Tim Nashif, amended the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

More competition for the Northwest's largest daily: Local bloggers came on like a biting sow in 2004, providing wit, sass, fresh voices and sometimes even news to the chattering classes. Christopher Frankonis (a.k.a. the One True b!X), Jack Bogdanski (bojack.org) and BlueOregon (a host of earnest lefties corralled by Kari Chisholm) all broke--and made--news during the fall election season.

Some solace for Multnomah County voters: In percentage terms, voter registration increased far more here than in the rest of the state and Kevin Mannix remains firmly in control of the Oregon Republican Party, both of which augur well for continued Democratic dominance of statewide races.

Oregon political consultants and television stations enjoyed a record-shattering expenditure on ballot measures in November. The total spent--nearly $30 million--nearly tripled 2002's number. The two biggest spenders, however--lawyer-hating docs and SAIF abolitionists--got smoked at the polls.

Light-rail fans and North Portlanders sick of the No. 5 Interstate bus cheered the May 1 opening of MAX's Yellow Line on Interstate Avenue. Though la Amarilla won't truly realize her potential until the 'Couv gets on board, TriMet finished the line ahead of schedule and under budget.

The Portland School Board continued its remarkable transformation from laughingstock to one of the best-functioning local governing bodies--although recent revelations about new super Vicki Phillips' tenure in Pennsylvania and the leviathan contract of HR chief Steve Goldschmidt will sorely test the board's talents.

Land-use lawyers got an early year-end bonus on Nov. 2 when voters passed Measure 37 by a 60-40 margin (it even passed in Multnomah County). The oddball "takings" law, which rejiggers zoning based on when property was purchased, could render the urban growth boundary meaningless or end up being much ado about not much. Either way, billable hours will soar.

In city politics, 2004 was officially the year of the underdog. Who'da thunk that Tom Potter, a somnolent ex-police chief gone from the public stage for more than a decade, would beat Jim Francesconi, an incumbent Parks commissioner with a dozen times Potter's money in the race for mayor? Maybe only city commish Erik Sten, who helped mastermind Sam Adams' stunning reversal of the asswhuppin' he received in the May primary to defeat heavily favored opponent Nick Fish for an open City Council seat.

Little more than a year ago, former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt had returned to the public stage in two roles that cemented his position as the state's most influential citizen. In November 2003, Texas Pacific Group hired him to oversee its acquisition of PGE and Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed him to chair the state board of higher ed. Then in May, WW reported Goldschmidt's sexual abuse of a teenager 29 years earlier, when he was Portland's mayor.

The Rip Van Winkle of Oregon politics, Gov. Ted Kulongoski followed up a solid 2003 legislative session--PERS reform, the passage of a $2.5 billion transportation package--with a yearlong nap. After voters stomped an income-tax surcharge in February, the guv snoozed through the Goldschmidt scandal, the apparent misuse of funds by his political action committee and the November elections.

Tough year for local talkers: In June, KPAM spiked Victor Boc. Down the dial, KXL's Lars Larson went national--and in case you missed the news, moved to Washington--but he lost a big chunk of the locals who love to hate him in March, when the not-very-impressive and not-at-all-local KPOJ (a.k.a. the Voice of Al Franken) hit the Portland airwaves.

The previously obscure Oregon Investment Council, which oversees $56 billion in public funds, made headlines as a hotbed of cronyism throughout the year. Until a couple of hasty resignations, three of the board's five members were either close pals of Neil Goldschmidt or married to him, all of which came to matter a lot in August, when Treasurer Randall Edwards, the elected official who sits on the OIC, asked both an outside counsel and the AG to investigate the circumstances surrounding Neil and Diane Goldschmidt's roles in the October 2003 OIC vote to invest in Texas Pacific Group, the outfit buying PGE.

In Sept. '03, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer passed up what probably would have been an easy victory in the mayor's race--and a chance to avenge a bitter mayoral loss to Vera Katz 12 years ago--to put all his chips on John Kerry. Today, Kerry's snowboarding in Sun Valley and Mr Multi-modal Transportation is just another obscure member of a shrinking minority party.

Used to be the Oregon National Guard was a great way to escape the old ball and chain a few weekends a year and acquire some righteous cammies. But thanks to the chicken hawks back east, Oregon's weekend warriors are like deer on the first day of hunting season. In December, The Oregonian reported that our reserves are three times more likely to die than Guardsmen nationally.

Last spring, Goli Ameri, a Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by David Wu, established herself as the year's most intriguing political newcomer. A brainy, photogenic Iranian-American with a high-tech background and hefty financial support, Ameri looked like a serious threat to Wu, who hasn't exactly electrified his constituency. But an October exposé by The Oregonian alleging Wu attempted to sexually assault a college girlfriend 28 years ago paradoxically galvanized Wu's base, and he won by 20 percentage points.

Pity poor OHSU: Fundraising woes imperil its expansion; in July, President Peter Kohler joined up with the raiders trying to buy PGE; and in December Gov. Ted Kulongoski unveiled a budget that treats the city's largest employer like a panhandler. The only good news on Pill Hill: In June, City Council approved the tram from Marquam Hill to South Waterfront. Ground breaks this spring.

Aside from OHSU, everyone else who touched the controversial South Waterfront aerial tram this year came away mad about something. Many neighbors hate the idea, period; fiscal hawks think it's a goofy boondoggle in the making. Meanwhile, tram fans fret that L.A. architect Sarah Graham's suave design (revised significantly in March after winning a competition last year) will get dumbed way down to save cash.


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