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It's important progs hear smart folks observations from the "other side."
Avast, ye scabrous scoundrels of the ghost ship Enron

Mike Francis - Portland business writer and editor Mike Francis is chief analyst at Swan Island Networks Inc., a software company based in downtown Portland. This was published in the Oregonian 08/06/03

This op-ed piece was written under the influence of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland and two performances of "Pirates of Penzance" at Jesuit High School.

O ur beloved city of Portland is under siege. Beaverton has seduced our leading sportswear company, envious eastside lawmakers have demanded our local tax revenues, and Houston has had its way with our namesake electric company. And we, to our shame, have accepted this sorry state of affairs.

O fair city of white municipal trucks with optimistic slogans emblazoned on their doors! You are better than this! Rise up, you brewer of muscular beers and slatherer of cilantro! Slumber no more! Leave your independent bookstores for a while and let your dogs of war run off their leashes! Unfurl your rainbow banners and let your Vespas roar like furious hamsters!

Our municipal bureaucrats and lawyers, bless their leathery little hearts, are showing us the way, and we should follow their example. Armed with only their briefcases, their Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and their contrariness, they have carried a battle to Houston, sallying forth against the corrupt headquarters that controls the destiny of Portland General Electric.

"Condemnation!" they cry, to our uncertain ears.

Good on them, for they show some spirit, but their ambitions are too gentle. "Condemnation!" I respond, but let's not stop with PGE.

Let us sail, my comrades, to Montreal and San Juan, and not return until we bear the dispirited Expos in our wake! Let us fly to Beaverton and subdue our rebellious sportswear company, dragging it back by persimmon-colored drawstrings to its former anchor at the St. Johns Bridge. Let us lash the wandering Gus Van Sant to our mast, so he won 't leave us again for Cannes or Hollywood. Let us resurrect our Portland Fire, never to be extinguished again.

Glory awaits! Let this be the city that other cities fear. "Did you hear about the Pirates of Portland?" they'll ask one another. "Did you hear it had its roguish way with Vladimir Guerrero, Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro, Javier Vazquez, Tomo Ohka and the other French Canadian baseballers? Why, it is the very model of the modern major city-state!"

Aye, let them murmur and tremble. Let our city of tolerance be not a slough of weakness, but a citadel of strength. Let us gather our braided, our tattooed, our stoned and our pierced; our Rosarians, our antiwar park-sleepers, our City Center Parking attendants with their shiny shoulder patches; our panhandlers, our young creatives, our signature-gatherers; our militant bicyclists, our Pearl condo dwellers and the dedicated old fellow in his lawn chair at the Lovejoy Surgicenter.

Together, we are a fearsome lot. No bankrupt utility, misguided sports industry or unenlightened corporate headquarters staff can withstand our collective will, if we press it with sufficient vigor. Do you hear me, Portland?

When this is done, we can return to our peaceful pursuits: our recycling, our zine reading, our quiet grumbling about the hairstyles of the Starbucks baristas. But, I pray, when the mists descend again this fall, we do not look back with regret, but with pride. Let our reflections on summer be brightened by the memory of the sun glinting on our steel!
I can't tell 06.Aug.2003 14:07

if it's sarcasm

I can't tell if it's sarcasm or not, but consider the following:

Columbia Sportswear was run out of Portland through a conspiracy between Multnomah County and the Katz City Administration. (See Brainstorm Northwest Magazine, archive, March 2002) There was never any rebuttal from the City or the County to the Brainstorm article. They had their facts dead on.

I'm no fan of Enron, but considering the City, under Erik Sten and now Dan Saltzman, has blown thirty million bucks to try to get the water bills out and they still aren't right can you imagine the City running the electric utility?

"The City that Works" would be more aptly called "The City that Works you Over" or, based on the latest unemployment numbers, "The City Without Work".

Well, yes and no... 06.Aug.2003 18:23


I think there is plenty of interest from the general business-minded public in cashing in on Enron's stupidity and criminality by grabbing up loose PGE.

But to say in the same breath that it would be run - even by proxy or contract or some arrangement where people who actually know how to run a utility - by the City of Portland stops many in their tracks.

The trust for the city - disparaged by everyone, from "our braided, our tattooed, our stoned and our pierced" to Lars Larson and Brainstorm (our own little neocon cabal!) - is almost zero.

Aye! 07.Aug.2003 15:44


Aye, me matey!