* Save us from whom? This week, the Oregon Public Utility Commission, which is responsible for protecting ratepayers, is expected to make the toughest call in its recent history—whether to allow the leveraged-buyout kings from the Texas Pacific Group buy Portland General Electric. But while it has been popular to blame all evils on PGE's current owner, Enron, utility watchdog Dan Meek last week revealed two more amazing facts about the PUC's timorous attitude toward Oregon's largest utility. Thanks to the PUC's hands-off approach, Meek says, since 1997 PGE has paid more income taxes in Arizona, California and Montana than it has in Oregon, where it earns nearly all of its profits. And, because it pockets rather than pays taxes, Meek says the utility's real returns in recent years ran as high as 25 percent, more than double its allowed rate of return.
* The Organ, a local arts quarterly, has received a much-needed defibrillation in the form of a $1,666 grant from Literary Arts. The indie pub was taking its last breaths after a 13-issue run beginning in September 2002, according to founding edito-publisher Camela Raymond. "It's sort of like when a crack addict has just enough money for another fix," Raymond said on accepting the literary grant. "It's like, 'OK, so now if I hawk my stereo.…'"
* Former rock groupie (and inspiration for the movie Almost Famous) Portland's own Pennie Lane had a very famous time this weekend in Los Angeles as the guest of fellow Portlander Gus Van Sant. The couple made appearances at A-List pre-Oscar parties, where Lane encountered a few of her favorite stars, including style (and music) guru Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Latin lovelies Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. Word is, she even stole a kiss from Brad Pitt.
* Since December, patrons who order Jack Daniel's whiskey at Gino's, the Sellwood restaurant known for its pasta and mammoth Caesars, have been asked to try a brand with no affiliation to President Bush. (Brown-Forman, the company that distills JD, supported W in 2004; earlier, Bush named the company's former CEO ambassador to Austria.) "It wasn't an easy decision, because a lot of our customers drink Jack Daniel's—and my own drink was Jack and Coke," says Gino's owner Mark Accuardi. "But we sleep better at night."
* The "g-word" put Portland in the middle of another gay battle recently when the feds called for the name of a government-sponsored workshop to be straightened out from "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/ Transgender Individuals" to "Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Populations." Hundreds of angry emails later, the AP reported, organizers restored the original title for the workshop, held Tuesday as part of the Suicide Prevention Regional Planning Conference at the downtown Marriott.