Jon Stewart famously "killed Crossfire" - that CNN bastion of what passes these days for political reporting and analysis - with a tour de force guest appearance in which he charged that the bickering, biased blowhards on TV and radio talk shows are "hurting America."
The Oregonian isn't Crossfire, and I'm no Jon Stewart, but I'm taking this opportunity to call the "O" out on a major lack of integrity and due diligence, if it's not outright hypocrisy. Now maybe I missed something, but it seems to me that the O is giving the tram a pass while it blisters Voter Owned Elections. How so? The answer lies in the tale of two projects involving big city money, both similarly situated but treated differently by the O.
The tram, Initially slated to cost around $15 million, saw its price tag balloon to $60 million due to ineptness, devious motives, and old fashioned, high stakes bargaining. Whether or not it is a good idea, and how much the city should pay, is up for debate, and the debate has been divisive. However, the O certainly saw lots of good things for Portland in the tram. When Commissioner Dan Saltzman, facing a tough re-election campaign, was trying to decide whether to switch his decisive vote and approve more city money for the tram, potentially costing himself the election, the O editoralized that he should "stop finger-pointing and finish the tram." When, shortly thereafter, Saltzman changed his vote, the O praised him, even though the switch increased the city's outlay from $3.5 million to $8.5 million.
Voter Owned Elections, another divisive issue, also costs the voters money. For every candidate approved by the program, that's $150,000 out the door, plus administrative and other costs. The few qualifying candidats this election cycle don't add up to much, less than $1 million. For a long time now, many people have been fighting VOE, including the Portland Business Alliance, City Commission candidate Ginny Burdick, and others who tried to force a city-wide vote on VOE through a failed initiative. Then, VOE ran into problems with corruption, ineptitude, and mismanagement. The O's take: put it to a vote. As the O said:
The issue is the loosey-goosey campaign system the City Council dubbed "voter-owned elections" and arrogantly passed into law without bothering to ask voters whether they wanted it.
Problem is, I just don't see the big difference between the tram and VOE when it comes to "loosey-goosey" planning, operation, and politicking. They're both messed up right now, but both have the potential to be great assets to the city - so why does the O treat them differently? Is it a pro-business slant? Media feeding frenzy like with the recent troubles at city hall? Hypocrisy?
I don't know, and the O hasn't said. But it'd be nice if the O didn't leave us to speculate, but instead laid it out, loud and clear, why the $8.5 million tram shouldn't be up for a public vote, but VOE, costing a tenth of that, should be. I don't get it, otherwise, unless there's some sketchy stuff going on in the form of bias, media powerball, or some other thing that isn't journalistic integrity and due diligence.
But what the heck do I know? I'm just a blogger.