Earl Blumenauer should either take up smoking or give up light rail.
That's one possible moral to last Thursday night's urban tale, when a boozy teenage bully with nicotine cravings attacked the Portland congressman at the Pioneer Square MAX stop.
The kid, a 15-year-old out on probation for two counts of theft, was reportedly drunk and trying to bum a smoke from eastbound commuters shortly before 10 pm. When people said no, "he would slap at them," says Maggie Miller, public information officer for the county Department of Community Justice.
Little did the teen know that among those waiting was Blumenauer, a big-time mass-transit booster who has pushed Congress to improve security on buses and trains. Blumenauer says that when he saw the kid hitting another man, he pulled out his cell phone to call 911. The kid noticed this and demanded Blumenauer give him the cell phone. When the congressman declined, he says, the kid slugged him.
"It wasn't a stunning blow," says Blumenauer. "I think it was more open hand than fist."
Seeing that Blumenauer was unfazed by the assault and that other folks waiting there were concerned, the teenager bolted. Blumenauer, a longtime marathoner, joined the other man who'd just been hit in jogging after the boy to see where he went. The teenager, who evidently was a multimodal delinquent, hopped on the eastbound MAX--only to be nabbed by police soon thereafter.
For Blumenauer, the incident just proves that indeed, light rail is a safe way to go in Portland. "The police were great. They responded within minutes," he says. "People were cool. If something like that had happened in other cities, I am not sure how quickly it would have come together."
Given the prominence of one of the victims, the police report drew a lot of attention down at the Juvenile Justice center. "It was a dumb and dumber kind of thing," says Miller. "Who do you choose to pick on? Congressman Earl Blumenauer."
The youth is being held on charges of attempted robbery, harassment and disorderly conduct. He has a Jan. 25 court date.