Best Dealer with a Conscience
Good news for underprivileged drivers with overpolluting cars: The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Clean Air Partners, or CAP, program helps low-income drivers pay to bring their cars up to state emissions standards. CAP is a partnership of DEQ, United Way and the Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships (tonkin.com). DEQ collects donations, United Way administers the funds, and Ron Tonkin fixes the cars for cost. Tonkin, who could use some good PR as of late, recoups these costs from the donations and charges drivers only $50 for labor. CAP is also good news for air. Many drivers who can't afford to fix their cars simply drive them anyway, contributing to global warming and smog levels. So if you have asthma or you live on a polar ice cap, think of a donation to CAP as a long-term investment. Donations can be made at any DEQ Clean Air Station. Interested drivers should call the Vehicle Inspection Program Technical Center at (971) 673-1630.
Best Traffic Tantrums
With entries like "another perspective on crosswalks," you'd think the Portland Transport Blog (portlandtransport.com) would be a complete snoozer. And it is—until you're stuck in Portland traffic and realize that this site is where traffic change is born. The blog's founder, Chris Smith, seems to have his tentacles in the city's every transportation advisory board, and he dutifully reports back to the blog at least daily. If you want intelligent, well-researched bitching about Portland traffic, this is the place. And judging by the blog's comments, Portland's Office of Transportation is listening, too.
Best Fashion Fix
Stumptown chicks with umpteen AmExes want Portland Picks (portlandpicks.com). It's our own P-town version of the irritatingly irresistible buyer's blog Daily Candy. Every Friday, this cleverly written insider knowledge (out of Westover Media) spills the dirt on the newest shops to pillage with consumer gusto. The downside: Some of the content is just shilling for advertisers. The upside: It's a free newsletter—the perfect way to while away a headache the morning after hitting the Bettie Ford Lounge a little too hard.
Best Crap Critic
Portland has a few prominent public sculptures—the infamous Bud Clark flasher statue, the giant, twitching phallus across from Powell's, and Portlandia herself—but there's a whole world of public art in this town that most of us have never seen. Thank heavens for the Portland Public Art blog (pdxartwork.blogspot.com), a guide to all the good and bad public artwork the city has to offer. Anonymous critic "C" hunts down hidden galleries and murals and serves them up online with vitriolic criticism. From the hidden paintings of Oregon Health & Science University to eastside graffiti, it's all here.
Convenience be damned! The real reason I ride the bus is to listen in on your private conversations. Now, thanks to Overheard in PDX (overheardinpdx.blogspot.com), I can share my little treasures with the world. Fellow voyeur Rich Brueckner posts hilarious, offensive and bizarre fragments collected in bars, parks and barbershops. Brueckner started the blog after he and a co-worker shared a notebook of eavesdropped gleanings and decided the world must know. Overheard in PDX is hilarious and endearing, and opens a little window into the thoughts of the people of our weird little city.
Best Media Makeover
PDX Magazine (pdxmagazine.com) used to be a piece of crap, but under the guidance of (relatively) new editor Liz Hummer, this monthly glossy is quietly gaining ground on its upscale rival (time to watch your back, Portland Monthly publisher Nicole Vogel), what with its youthful, quirky tone, reader-friendly service features and utter lack of pretension. Add the redesign by art director Joel Masters—for what Hummer calls a "cleaner, more modern, timeless look"—and bam! PDX Mag is a force to be reckoned with. Which we're thankful for; we always knew Portland was more of a two-glossy-mag town.
Best Capitalist Scheme
Le Happy owner John Brodie calls the area "the bucket." Street maps refer to it as the "405 district." And WW's very own Finder magazine calls it by its old-school name, "Slabtown," recalling Northwest Portland's heyday as a timber town (not the sports bar that bears that moniker). But if the owners of Baddoll + Oddball2 shoes (1639 NW Marshall St., 827-7800), brothers Zach and Seth Longaker, get their way, their beloved neighborhood on the fringes of the Pearl District and Northwest Trendyhood will soon be known as "NoLo," as in "north of Lovejoy." The faux community website (nolopdx.com) is clearly ironic, riffing off Portland's craze for neighborhood branding, but the name may actually stick, if the proliferation of NoLo bumper stickers is any indication. Even if it's half ironic and half serious, it's 100 percent capitalist, as these shoe stores have positioned themselves as the hub of NoLo community life. Way to go, big boys! What's next? A run for mayor?
Best Mayoral Monument (That Isn't Flashy But Does Involve Flashing)
Until they build a permanent memory marker of beer-swilling former mayor Bud Clark next to the statue that he so infamously "flashed," it looks like we're going to have only one immortalized mayor to gaze upon. This June, the Regional Arts and Culture Council unveiled a bronze statue of former Mayor Vera Katz on the East Bank Esplanade that bears her name. Newberg sculptor Bill Bane managed to capture much of the ex-mayor's character: Her eyes are friendly and her hair as wild as ever. But Katz's signature grin is a little stiff, a little too aggressive. Leaning forward, she looks as if she might take a bite out of the next passerby. Which by the way, seems appropriate when you look back on her days behind the mayoral desk. Maybe monochromatic bronze just isn't the right medium for a woman as colorful as ol' Vera. Where's the red blazer? Our suggestion: Get this lady some accessories! The right hat or scarf could make that brown pantsuit really work.
Best Jayant Catcher
Portland's had its share of notorious characters. But for a few months last year, none drew as much attention as Dr. Jayant Patel. So when the former Kaiser surgeon, dubbed "Dr. Death" by the Australian press for a series of botched surgeries he performed in a Queensland hospital, returned to our fair city, the Aussie press wanted a photo to illustrate his whereabouts. They turned to John Klicker, who shot for WW in the 1980s. "It was a funny job for me as a freelancer, a basic paparazzi job," Klicker says. Yet, of all the news photographers trying to shoot Patel last year, Klicker was the only one to get his man: "I was using a 300 mm lens with a doubler when I got him, but it cropped up just fine." Klicker says he stationed his 1990 Ford Econoline van (tricked out with camping gear, tinted windows, and—most important—a portable toilet) in Patel's cul-de-sac off Northwest Cornell Road. "He had a gargantuan house," Klicker says. One day, he says, Patel "came out to get his mail. He was hiding behind cars, his head popping up and down. There were other guys in vans. I just happened to be the one who got him." For his efforts, Klicker collected about $450 a day. "It wasn't like working for WW," he says, "[when I got] shot at in my VW in North Portland on that gang story."
Best Politician for Life
Former governor Barbara Roberts is a fourth-generation Oregonian and the only woman governor in the state's 147-year history; Roberts could not get her tax reforms through the Legislature during her one term, 1991-95, but she continues to get kudos more than a decade later for reaching out to Oregon, one person at a time. How does she still endear herself to Oregonians? Former City Council candidate Nick Fish, who was endorsed by Roberts in 2004, says this of the woman who got her start in politics 37 years ago by running for the Parkrose School Board because her son had autism: "Even though she held the highest office in our state, she doesn't care about title. She may be remembered more for her impact on Oregon as citizen Barbara than as Gov. Roberts."
Best Word of God
Some publications poke fun at mass consumerism, morality and politics. Others pimp Christian values like they were selling Tupperware. But rarely do these two ideological paths cross. Except, that is, in the pages of Geez magazine (geezmagazine.org), the quasi-local bastard offspring of Adbusters and the New Testament. Canadian editors Aiden Enns (the former managing editor of Adbusters) and Will Braun fill the new quarterly with punchy, eclectic commentary, busting "big box" religion and how to become a "neo nun." But it's really the art direction of Darryl Brown, an honest-to-gawd Quaker and graphic designer who works at Staccato Design, who gives the magazine its devilishly snarky edge. From a fake sticky note scrawled with a "Gospel Dilution Index" (a graph of the percentage of page space magazines like Christianity Today and Sojourners devote to advertising) and pasted on top of an ad for pricey church chairs to a wrinkled Jesus-vs.-Jesus boxing playbill that pits the political God talk of Pat Robertson against a few big-J quotes from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Brown cut-and-pastes the nonsecular world in a way that makes the magazine as appealing to jaded heathens browsing their way through Reading Frenzy as those searching to find a glint of noncommercial spiritual meaning in the aisles of Powell's. Bless him.
Best Seat in the House for Political Junkies
Where's the action this political season? Welcome to Gresham, race fans. This fall, the Portland suburb, which includes House District 49, will host the state's most anticipated political race outside of Salem as Republican House Speaker Karen Minnis takes on challenger Rob Brading and the Dems. Democrats, who have launched an unusually spirited anti-Minnis campaign, see the potential for an important tactical and symbolic victory in defeating Minnis, who excels at pushing her party's agenda (anyone catch how she screwed gays during the last session?). Meanwhile, Minnis is busy raising an unprecedented $750,000 to beat Brading in a district with more D's than R's. And the press? We're all atwitter.
Best Politico to Take You for a Ride
Like many Portlanders, Commissioner Randy Leonard hates paying for gas and downtown parking. "I am a Virgo, and Scottish blood runs through my veins," says Leonard. "Thus, I am, astrologically and genetically, a 'thrifty' person." So how does he get to work? Leonard rides his Trek 7500 FX bicycle downtown to City Hall most workdays. He says he passes the 45-minute commute from the east side by humming Melanie's "Brand New Key" (a.k.a. "The Rollerskate Song"): "I ride my bike/ I rollerskate/ don't drive no car/ don't go very fast but I go pretty far." Leonard figures he saves about $3,320 per year after an initial investment of $1,400. If only the city's budget problems could be solved so easily.
Political Staffer Best at Landing on His Feet
When a political candidate loses, it's easy to feel bad for the myriad underlings who find themselves unemployed because their boss screwed up. But don't worry about Mike Beard (a.k.a. "Beardo"), Diane Linn's director of communication, who seems to have a knack for leaping from a burning building just in time to land on a passing flatbed loaded with mattresses. Beardo was Ron Saxton's director of communications in the 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary. When Saxton lost to Kevin Mannix, Beard took the same position with Mannix in his race against Democrat Ted Kulongoski. When Mannix lost to Kulongoski, Beard got the same job at the governor's Department of Administrative Services—working for Kulongoski. Does Ted Wheeler needs a communications director with lots of experience? Never fear, Beardo is here.
Best (OK, dishiest) City Hall Commish to Dish the Dirt with
Seen City Commissioner Sam Adams around lately? Probably. That dude is everywhere. Park openings? Check. Community fairs? Check. Even sewer groundbreakings fit into Adams' always jam-packed schedule. Perhaps that's why you voted him "Best Member of City Council" (see Readers' Poll, page 55). "It's easy for me to get out of City Hall," Adams explains. "That's where all of the action is." One byproduct of Adams' many cross-town excursions is his new wealth of Portland trivia, like this fun fact: The small ledges that run along the Hollywood District's "beautiful" (Adams' word, not ours) brick sewer pipes provide excellent homes and easy transport for rats, which thrive there. Thanks for sharing, Sam. Eew!
Best (Bike) Man Who's a Maus
One year in, Jonathan Maus' bike blog experiment (bikeportland.org) has turned into a full-time job of disseminating the minutiae of urban cycling to a diverse and not-necessarily-unanimous readership of bike geeks, the spandex crowd, grease monkeys, commuters and couriers, to name a few. Maus says he's comfortable bridging the awkward gap between newsman and advocate (a former public relations rep as well as a onetime Oregonian blogger and WW contributor, he often weighs in on disputes between the powers that be and cyclists). Maus, a 31-year-old former California high-school b-ball star—who switched to cycling when his knees gave out—says that those people who associate him with the wonky side of bike politics don't realize he started as a racer. "I come from spandex," he says.
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