Iron Bartender!

Posted in events with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Tomorrow night, come down to the Crown Room in downtown Portland for the Iron Bartender!

This event, similar to the Iron Chef TV show, will benefit The Giving Tree, one of my favorite Portland non-profits. Founder Wendi Anderson and a cadre of dedicated volunteers bring art and recreational services to people in transitional housing, who are often at a loss as to how to reintegrate with society after prolonged homelessness. It’s an important niche that doesn’t get met by other non-profits, and is one of those things that makes Portland special.

Anyway, back to the event — a panel of celebrity judges, including Mayor-elect Sam Adams, Mixologist Lucy Brennan, and Bike Geek Around Town Reverend Phil, will evaluate the mixings of three Portland bartenders.

Just $10 gets you in the door, and there will be all kinds of chances to get more goodies if you have more cash to give. The competition is 9:00 to 9:30, followed by some fine DJs and dancing.

So come on down! 205 NW 4th Ave. Doors at 7pm.


Iron Bartender handbill

Iron Bartender handbill


It’s our turn: tech tools for government

Posted in customer service, open government, politics, WikiWay with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I’m working on a piece of legislation, and we need your help. It’s something that will help us all make Oregon, and the rest of the world, a better and more prosperous place to live. Please add your name to the page linked above, and please also consider pitching in to develop the bill!

In recent years, I’ve been amazed by all the exciting new ways of developing idea that are emerging new technology. I spend way too much of my time writing and editing articles on Wikipedia; I read blogs, and ask questions in the comments; and obviously, I’ve taken a crack at keeping my own blog. I check in on what my friends are saying on a couple times a day; I listen to talk radio shows, and call in or email when it seems like they’re missing something. And pretty often, I meet and get to physically shake hands with someone that I’ve known for months or years, and worked with extensively.

But at the same time, I’ve been pretty disappointed by how little government seems to take advantage of these kinds of tools for innovation, policy development, disseminating information, and generally keeping people up to date with what’s going on in their world and how they can change it. There are some rays of hope, but by and large, government approach to the Internet is still struggling to catch up to 1995.

This January, with a fresh crop of legislators heading to Salem, we have a chance to work for a kind of change that will help us all stay better-informed about what our government is doing, and about how to influence it in our areas of passion and expertise. The Obama supporters among us may be shouting “Yes We Did,” but I believe that “Yes We Can” remains the better phrase. We may have succeeded in electing a president who will be more open to innovative ideas, but our job of supplying those ideas — and developing the same kinds of conditions on a local level — is just beginning.

The bill I’m working on — and hope you will help us work on — will address at least four areas: Continue reading

Can you dig it, CC?

Posted in open government with tags , on November 5, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Ballot measure picks

Posted in open government, politics with tags , , , , on October 19, 2008 by Pete Forsyth
quick picks:

YES on 65

NO on 64
NO on 63
NO on 62
NO on 61

??? on 60
NO on 59
NO on 58

YES on 57
YES on 56
YES on 55
YES on 54

As you may know, I’ve devoted a lot of attention to the history of ballot measures in Oregon. In this election cycle, ballot measures aren’t getting nearly the attention of the presidential and senate races; but there are some very important measures before us, from an excellent opportunity to reshape the way we handle elections in a more inclusive way (Measure 65) to dangerous-but-popular measures that must be stopped if we hope to build a better Oregon (like Measure 61).

Many of you ask for my thoughts on these, so I thought I’d put together my positions for all to see, and open it up for discussion. I should disclose, I’ve taken a paid gig in favor of Measure 65, but only because I truly think it’s one of the greatest opportunities for positive change in this election cycle. For that reason, and also because Measure 57 only makes sense in the context of Measure 61, I’ve listed the measures in reverse order.

Please feel free to copy this and send it to your friends and family. Modify, of course, as you see fit. I sure did — this draws heavily on the positions advanced by Defend Oregon and Onward Oregon. For a general overview, be sure to check the Wikipedia article on the current election.

So, on to the measures:

YES on Measure 65

The current system in Oregon excludes one in four registered voters from participating in any partisan primary election. Only voters who have registered with a major party (Democratic or Republican) may participate in partisan elections. Everyone else is excluded from voting in important races like those for state and national legislators; statewide offices like Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Treasurer; and some local positions.

In practice, independent and minor party voters almost never have an influence on who serves in the legislature. Same for Democrats in eastern Oregon, where Republicans win consistently, and for Republicans in urban centers. These are all voices we need at the table to move our state forward.

Measure 65 would change the primary system, and give all those people a role equal to other voters. All voters would choose from a list of all candidates in the primary election; the top two finishers would advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Each voter would get to choose the best candidate regardless of party.

In addition, voters would be provided more factual information on the ballot: any party could endorse any candidate. If a candidate chooses to accept the nominations, he or she might have several party endorsements (e.g., Democratic and Pacific Green, or Republican and Libertarian) listed on the ballot. So minor parties, which have been relegated to running “spoiler” candidates in the past, would have a much more meaningful role; smaller parties could negotiate with major party candidates to earn their endorsement.

More info:

NO on Measure 64

Prevents public employees from using voluntary payroll deductions to donate to non-profits, charities, unions, and organizations of their choice. Reduces public employees’ opportunities for free speech. This is a dangerous measure could lead to a loss of funding for Oregon charities and unions. It’s a matter of principle (free speech), and will also have enormous negative effects in practice.

NO on Measure 63

Allows property owners to construct certain structures, costing less than $35,000, without a permit. Could allow unsafe construction projects; for example, poor electrical wiring could cause problems that extend beyond a single home and endanger firemen. The measure would also result in a loss of tax revenue to cities and counties that are already experiencing large deficits.

NO on Measure 62

Allocates 15% of lottery proceeds to a public safety fund for crime prevention, investigation, prosecution; takes the funds from education and economic development. Measure 62 takes over $100 million from our education and economic development projects and limits the state’s flexibility to use lottery funds as needed. It defines “public safety” irresponsibly, leaving out major elements like 911 dispatch and prisons. Public safety is a critical concern, but this is the wrong way to fund it.

NO on Measure 61

Proposed by Kevin Mannix, Measure 61 imposes mandatory minimum sentences (like Measure 11 from 1994) for non-violent property crimes, drug-related offenses, and identity theft. It fails to include drug or alcohol treatment programs to prevent repeat offenses, and it prevents our judges from exercising discretion and judgment based on the specifics of a case. Most significantly, it would cost Oregon up to $274 million per year once fully implemented, plus an estimated $1.1 to1.3 billion to build new prisons. Mannix has proposed no funding plan, so this measure would drastically cut funding for education and other public services.

UNDECIDED on Measure 60

Mandates that teacher pay raises depend exclusively on undefined “classroom performance” as opposed to “seniority.” This is a very short and simple ballot measure; please read the measure text and think this one over carefully. The “opposition” arguments I’ve seen are full of claims that seem highly dubious. However, people I trust have explained to me that existing Oregon laws mean that an expensive statewide system would need to be implemented; so it’s not as simple or benign as it appears. Plus, in my experience there’s always room for a bit of skepticism where chief petitioner Bill Sizemore is concerned.

Changing to a “yes” vote here, following a discussion with Amy Ruiz (who’s part of the editorial board for the Mercury — see all their endorsements). This is an important first step; it doesn’t guarantee good results, but rather creates a framework for evaluating teachers. Evaluation is important; there are lots of ways to do it wrong, but we shouldn’t be afraid to do it, and do it right. There will be more reform required, but it’s about time we started the process. If we’re not equipped to evaluate teacher performance, it’s high time we remedied that — and considering that school funding is over half the state budget, and the schools serve nearly all Oregonians, this is a pretty big ticket item.

I’m still not fully decided on this one; watch for a future blog post. I’m leaning toward “Yes.”

NO on Measure 59

Creates an unlimited deduction for federal income taxes on individual taxpayers’ Oregon income-tax returns and reduces revenue available for state expenditures by $2.4 billion. The reduction will affect funding of education, health care, and public safety. Richest 1% of Oregonians will save $15,000 while 75% of Oregonians will save less than $1.

NO on Measure 58: Imposes an arbitrary limit on bilingual programs in public schools so that students must enter mainstream classes, regardless of progress, after only two years of English learning classes. Measure 58 is a one-size-fits-all mandate that undermines local school control and will cost over $200 million to implement.

YES on Measure 57

This measure is an alternative to Measure 61, referred to the ballot by the Oregon legislature. It shares some of Measure 61’s problems, but vote “yes” anyway.

Like 61, Measure 57 creates longer sentences for certain property crimes and drug-related offenses. But it doesn’t rely as heavily on mandatory minimum sentences, which undermine judges’ ability to do what’s best in a given situation. Unlike Measure 61, Measure 57 includes mandatory drug treatment program for certain offenders.

If both 57 and 61 receive a majority of “yes” votes, only the one receiving more votes will become law. Polling indicates Measure 61 is certain to pass. Even if you think Measure 57 is bad policy, hold your nose and vote for it — Measure 61 is much, much worse.

Special thanks to my friend Jen Yocom for helping me get my thinking straight on this one.

YES on Measure 56

Allows May and November bond measures to be determined by the majority of voters who vote. Under the “double majority” rule established by Measure 47 in 1996, more than half of registered voters must vote, in order for local funding measures to pass. Measure 56 restores the ability of local communities to determine their funding priorities. This is one of the most important opportunities on the ballot, to undo a bit of the damage wrought by the over-the-top anti-tax movement of the 1990s. There are times when local communities need to raise money, and the double-majority rule is overly burdensome.

YES on Measure 55

Allows legislators to complete their terms in the districts in which they were elected. When districts are redrawn every ten years, this will prevent legislators from being reassigned to new districts that did not elect them. Seems like a good housekeeping measure, and in line with the views that lead me to support Measure 65.

YES on Measure 54

Makes 18-year-olds eligible to vote in school board elections, consistent with state and federal elections. Repeals six-month residency requirement, twenty-one minimum age, and English literacy tests to remove outdated and unenforceable language from the Oregon Constitution.

Other guides and endorsements:

Please pass this message along to friends and families — feel free to modify as you see fit!

Mt. Tabor: Architectural design concepts

Posted in customer service, open government, politics, WikiWay with tags , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2008 by Pete Forsyth
Dozens of citizens attended Opsis presentation of the concepts, 8/2/08.

Dozens of citizens attended Opsis' presentation of the concepts, 8/2/08.

The Mt. Tabor Central Yard & Nursery Planning Group’s architect, Opsis, recently presented six draft “concepts” for our proposed redesign of the Mt. Tabor Central Yard and Nursery. These concepts are intended as resources as we work toward a final proposal.

Here, I have rendered the concepts using mapping software. This allows you to click on things to view notes, zoom in, etc. Hope this is a useful tool for evaluating and refining the concepts.

These are not yet complete; please let me know about any additions, corrections, or clarifications needed.

The percentages refer to the amount of program needs that are met by each approach; 6% is equivalent to 1 acre.

Concept A1

Concepts A1 and A2 look at what fits into 7 acres within a fence, with greenhouse/head house & container garden on upper nursery. They also consider the addition of a community garden in the Long Block, and improvements to open spaces. 84% of program needs met in A1.


Continue reading

Personal Telco, your 15 minutes of fame await…

Posted in City Hall, customer service, open government, politics, WikiWay with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Personal Telco is one of Portland’s coolest non-profits. Back in 2001, they envisioned a community-owned alternative to telephone and Internet connectivity. But the tech world has evolved. In 2008, Personal Telco is a local — and maybe international — leader in advocating and building a “share-and-share alike” system for traditional Internet connectivity.

The theory is simple: lots of people have broadband Internet these days, and many of those same people like having Internet connections for their laptops when they’re out on the town.

So if all those folks would just open their home or business connections to the public, easy access fromjust about anywhere would become a reality, pretty quick. In fact, the project’s already well on its way; Personal Telco has a number of live hotspots, or “nodes,” all over town, with lots of Portlanders using them on a daily basis.

MetroFi, a for-profit company, tried to provide a similar, ad-supported service in partnership with the City of Portland over the last few years. But that project just went belly-up this summer. So with a rising number of Portlanders still seeking ubiquitous wi-fi, it’s Personal Telco’s turn to step into the limelight, and deliver the kind of service that may really only be feasible through voluntary collaboration, rather than an ad-driven business model.

Key to Personal Telco’s plan, in my view, is a shift in its emphasis. In the early years, Personal Telco sought to draw in a small number of really motivated and intelligent people, to take on the significant technical hurdles to deploying lots of free wireless. They were successful in their efforts; lots of geeks stepped up, and lots of free wireless has been delivered in the last few years. Their system works, and it’s ready for significant expansion.

But for that, what Personal Telco needs is a little different: with their elite squad of propellerheads in place, what is needed now is a rising tide of do-gooders willing to pitch in just a little, without the need to get all technical, attend monthly meetings, or the like. Lots of people doing a little bit of work is the order of the day. Get your node set up, and leave some time for an evening stroll; your node will serve friends and neighbors for years with little or no maintenance.

In order to achieve that, I think Personal Telco needs a new “elevator pitch.” Their web site, any printed materials, any contact with the press, etc. should reflect a very clear, very simple message: “our work brings you free wireless, and we’d love you to pitch in a little and help us deliver more free wireless.” 

To that end, I have written a draft of text for a new front page for their web site. Please read on, and if you’re so inclined, offer any feedback in the comments below. Many in the Personal Telco community have indicated general approval, but I’m sure there are lots of wrinkles to iron out.

Portland has a unique chance to build an invaluable free network, through community collaboration; let’s get it right this time! Continue reading

Customer service in 2008: opportunities and pitfalls, exhibit A

Posted in customer service, open messaging with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

In the vein of my recent blog post on “open messaging,” is an interesting little vignette involving Comcast customer service.

I posted a question yesterday on Twitter, to see if any of my friends (or anybody else who happened to be listening) knew how to resolve a weird networking problem I was having with my Comcast Internet service.

Moments later, I found that somebody was listening — an account called “ComcastCares” (CCC). A little creepy at first, but not surprising in this connected world I inhabit.

Anyway, score one for Comcast — in effect, tech support called me, instead of the other way around. That’s pretty cool.

But the game wasn’t over. Having a clearly interested audience, I mentioned my one major problem with Comcast, something which frequently influences my decisions when I advise clients and friends about their Internet service: Comcast forbids sharing an Internet connection, even for free, outside the premises. (Even if your wireless router happens to have a strong enough signal that it does that by default.) Continue reading