As the State Turns

By Johnny Beaver

f6hqbSomething Fishy This Way Comes

The mystery is over: it turns out that Salmonis not a county in Oregon. These license plates we’ve all been seeing for quite a few years are actually the result of a scheme to siphon money from willing Oregonians in order to directly benefit salmon. The fish, not the county. We’ve been over this already.

You pay a little extra, get a coolplate, and whizz, bang, zoom, the salmon get a new humidor. Or, you know, cash to stop interruptions to their streams, routing for creeks to take them under roads, etc. Helpful stuff. Only, not so fast. The Oregonian spotted something fishy: the salmon haven’t seen a single red cent of this money. Where’s it going? The salary and daily office expenses of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s (OWEB) small grants administrator. Also, $150,000 is about to go to website improvements because, what, fish are using the Internet now?

This means that about 32,000 sucke-er, I mean supporters of the salmon across Oregon have been duped out of about $30 every two years to buy rubber bands, paperclips, and to get the OWEB website some flaming skull graphics and a spinning 3D mailbox icon. Okay, so that’s what it would have been like in 1998, but still.

So far about $9.5 million has been raised by the project and split between OWEB and state parks. OWEB says the money is still doing good, but claims that the decision to redirect the money was made by the Legislative Fiscal Office. And the Legislative Fiscal Office? I went by their digs and found nothing but a bunch of empty drawers and ticket stubs for Croatia—who has no extradition treaty, I might add.

The real question here is: once the buck stops, who is going to get flogged, with what, and for how long?

Oregon Gets Protesty

Protests over a few dubious grand jury decisions began to rage last week as many concerned and fed up citizens joined forces with white people who don’t understand white privilege but insist on holding up signs about white privilege. In Portland some seriously badass-looking enforcers (i.e. bike cops) were tasked with keeping the peace, but aside from some interruption to holiday shopping at the Pioneer Square Mall, there weren’t any real incidents. Honestly, though, isn’t disrupting the normal flow of ham-fisted consumerism bad enough? These protestors are clearly anti-American.

Here in Corvallis this reporter caught wind of a linked demonstration, which is no surprise. If there were ever a town to exemplify both white privilege and attempts at social consciousness, Corvallis would be it. While smelling French soaps and playing with a stuffed penis book (adorable) in Many Hands Trading, I heard the chanting outside, but by the time small talk with the checkout clerk was over and I stepped out into the brisk evening, they were gone—leaving only the ghosts of a better tomorrow… which I think may have followed me to the Book Bin so they could make a stack of Anne Rice novels fly off the shelves. But actually…

It turned out that a mob of about 200 Corvallis protesters had just been passing through, eventually gathering on the Van Buren bridge and blocking traffic for about 15 minutes. Reports indicate that some members of the group didn’t agree with the whole “angering people” thing, but others felt the short inconvenience was a necessary means by which to communicate their frustration.

Local paper The Gazette Times actually gave this event a wonderful treatment, making sure to label which protesters were which race à la “white protester Gomer Pyle,” or “black protester Charlie Murphy.” Because that’s useful information.

The Wild West of Taxis

Sometimes things are best explained via fictional dialog. Thankfully I was subjected as a youth to my mother’s daily consumption of the soap opera Another World, so I possess the correct skillset to make this happen. In this scene, we see the ride-sharing app Uber enter into the Portland city limits, soon thereafter interacting with Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

Uber: Yay, Portland! Lots of weirdos that like rides from random strangers. Car rides.

Portland: *raises an eyebrow*

Novick: Hey bro, we regulate taxis. We’ve decided that you are taxi-like. Can we regulate you?
Uber: No, we’re an app, not a taxi service. And I think we’re going to go ahead and just keep doing what we’re doing, despite that it’s currently illegal. Because punk rock.
Novick: Eh, I’m too old for this sh!t. *yodels to the courts*

As of the 8th, a cease and desist letter was sent to Uber as a result of their having gone ahead with operations.  The director of strategic initiatives under PDX Mayor Hales, Josh Alpert, has said that although the city won’t currently be issuing fines to individual drivers, they have filed paperwork seeking an injunction. Apparently plans to overhaul the current taxi regulations are also in the works, but no word on what those overhauls are likely to look like.

When all is said and done, Uber presents a unique challenge. Because those that manage the app don’t actually employ the drivers, there are accountability issues that have created a nightmare for anyone trying to sort out how to regulate it in order to keep things fair and safe. Currently Uber is having trouble in quite a few cities across the country, certainly not just Portland.

Will it be forced to change its business model into something it obviously has wanted to avoid by design, or will it get banned? I actually can’t tell if I even care.

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