Set It and Forget It! 

The 2012 Stories We're Probably Jerks for Reminding You About

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SORRY, LOSERS! The world didn't end in 2012 like a lot of you might have hoped—unless, that is, your name is Charlie Hales. And by "world" you mean a cushy life in the private sector where no one hollers at you over sewer rates and $25 million deficits and police shootings.

But that doesn't mean 2012 was any less crazy. We wept over tragic deaths at home but mostly ignored them in places like Syria and Palestine. We kept around Barack and Amanda, watched Jefferson Smith implode and Eileen Brady float away, and awkwardly waved goodbye to Sam. And Portland found itself branded with the letter "F": fluoride, the fight over Ron Frashour, and federal action against our police bureau.

We'd tell you more, but that's all you're going to be reading this week. So why bother? Instead, enjoy our patented version of a New Year's roundup, the one with all the stories you've already forgotten. Lucky you! Now you get to forget them all over again.

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Exposing the TSA: Portland business traveler John Brennan got fed up with airport security's increasing invasion of privacy and decided to show he had absolutely nothing to hide. When Portland's Transportation Security Administration agents pulled Brennan aside for "additional screening" in April, Brennan began stripping off his clothes until he stood bare-ass naked in the security line. A county judge upheld Brennan's act as a legitimate protest in July, clearing him of indecent exposure charges because he was engaged in "symbolic nudity."

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Police Burn Your Pot: In the good old days of 2011, if police confiscated your medical marijuana in connection to a crime (like, say, cops searched your house because your roommate robbed a Plaid Pantry) you could put in a request to have your Oregon-legal weed returned. But a little-noticed rules change from Attorney General John Kroger last January directed Oregon police to follow federal law and incinerate all confiscated pot. Now it all goes up in smoke.

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OLCC 2, Amanda Fritz 0: Portland doesn't have an Office of Temperance, but if it did? City Commissioner Amanda Fritz would be its Eliot Ness. In March, Fritz picked a fight with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), trying to stop it from handing a liquor license, for the first time, to a food cart pod. The OLCC did it anyway and Fritz got the city to sue. But in the meantime? That beer-slinging cart pod, Cartlandia on SE 82nd, has been the picture of decency—hardly the open sore of alcoholism Fritz worried about. Meanwhile, over the summer, Fritz got some more bad news from the OLCC: Her much-hyped plan to ban malt liquor, tallboy, and fortified wine sales downtown had fallen apart over a legal technicality. Turns out the OLCC also knows some lawyers.

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Of Bondage and Beef Hearts: Portland played some shitty, if newsworthy, pranks this Valentine's Day. First, there were the North Portland lovers who thought it would be hot (and maybe it kind of was) to drive around a New Seasons parking lot with the woman naked, bound, and duct-taped in the backseat—scaring the shit out of shoppers and drawing an army of cops. Then there was the poor couple in Northwest who walked out to check the mail the next day only to find a grisly ol' cow's heart all dead and glistening on their doorstep. It was another juicy mystery for the law—until a woman called up and said she'd meant to deliver the heart (a "joke gift") to a different address.

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Bob Caldwell, RIP: Oregon journalists, business leaders, and politicians all found themselves somberly genuflecting when the Oregonian reported, one weekend in March, that its longtime opinion editor, Bob Caldwell, had died of a heart attack in his car. And then they all ran for the hills, because a few days later, the Oregonian had to take back that story in a highly embarrassing reversal. Caldwell, the paper eventually reported, had checked out in the apartment of a 23-year-old prostitute. The first, sanitized story came from a Caldwell family friend who also worked as an editor at the paper. She was fired, adding another weird twist in a story that briefly became national news.

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Bike Boxes Aren't Always Safe: Portland's years-long experiment in cutting traffic crashes by painting green "bike boxes" at dangerous intersections has resulted in depressingly mixed results. While the bike boxes have cut the right-hook crashes they set out to reduce, crashes at intersections citywide with bike boxes have doubled in the past four years. Now the city faces a tricky situation: how to fix those bike box intersections to make them truly safe.

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City Hall's Kale-Lovin' Cat: Why Hungry the Cat wasn't a national sensation is anyone's guess. The adorable, fluffy cat took up residence at Portland City Hall this summer as homeless hunger strikers staged a weeks-long protest on the sidewalk outside. While hunger striker Cameron Whitten subsisted only on juice and vitamins, the cat dubbed Hungry was kept well fed with dry food. She spent much of her time playing in the kale garden that abuts city hall's front steps.

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Student Loans Are the New Credit Cards: One of the biggest scandals of the year should have been that Americans now have more student loan debt than credit card debt. But Hulk Hogan's sex tape snagged more headlines than this economic travesty. Portlanders protested the rising cost of college tuition and falling government support for affordable student loans last June in Pioneer Courthouse Square, beating pots and pans.

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The (Face-)Sit/Lie(-Naked) Zone: Summer was a boom time for people sleeping on the sidewalks outside city hall, drawn at first by a (still-going) prayer vigil and camping protest and then by activist Cameron Whitten's month-plus hunger strike. City hall was cool with it—for a little while. Until a warning went out: "No one should be having sex on the sidewalk; it is a violation of Oregon law." Asked bluntly if people really were doing it on the sidewalks, the mayor's spokeswoman deadpanned, "Everything is on there for a reason."

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Thief Steals Guns from Movie Madness: Oh man, remember when a dude pretended to rent a video from SE Belmont's Movie Madness but then actually busted into the store's beloved movie prop display cabinets and made off with a shotgun and a rifle once used by John Wayne? Yeah, we forgot, too. But that was ridiculous.

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Downtown Beach Livin': Portland tends to forget that it has a river in the middle of it, and that the river is actually a great place to swim. The organizers of summer swim-the-Willamette event the Big Float pitched an idea that hopefully the city will remember next year: Turning the river banks near the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge into an inviting, sandy beach.

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Not in My Parking Lot: The rollout of the Portland Housing Bureau's "overnight sleeping" program—essentially letting homeless Portlanders camp semi-legally in church or nonprofit parking lots—was supposed to happen quietly. No fuss. No headlines. No spotlight. That plan pretty much blew up, however, when blindsided neighbors of the program's first host, Moreland Presbyterian Church, FREAKED OUT and started sending supercharged emails to city hall laden with stories of rape, robbery, and other stereotypical ugliness. It almost killed the program, and it was a reminder of how little some people know about the real nature of homelessness in Portland.

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Free Rail Zone, RIP: Riding the MAX downtown used to be free. That was a very good thing for poor people, the elderly, commuters, and tourists. Then TriMet got into a pissing match with its operators' union and decided to spend a lot of money on projects like the streetcar and a new line to Milwaukie. And now that very good thing has gone away.

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All Hail!: It sucks, sometimes, having to take a cab in this town. They're hard to find in the wild, and when you call for one, you find yourself waiting in the cold like a shivering dummy. Thankfully, in November, Portland City Council actually decided to let more taxis into the game. A new co-op, Union Cab, won the right to 50 new permits—the first such expansion in the city in more than a decade. It's part of a larger plan to add even more permits, and maybe make prices more competitive. So naturally it's drawing a lot of nasty crossfire from longtime cabbies who just so happen to like things exactly they way they are, thank you very much.

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Shot on the Street: The morning after Mardi Gras, Portland woke to the terrible news that two men sleeping on SE Belmont beneath the Morrison Bridge, Carter "Joe" Hickman and Albert "Allen" Dean, had nearly been killed in a drive-by shooting. The men, who are partners, spent weeks in the hospital. Police eventually released security camera footage of the car used in the shooting, but no answers ever emerged in a story seen as a wakeup call about the fragile line between life and death for homeless people. Later in the spring, Street Roots and Multnomah County put out the first-ever snapshot of that harshness: In 2011, their report found, 47 people in Multnomah County died while homeless.

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Parking-Free Buildings Are Okay: Neighbors brewed up a massive hubbub over a spate of new buildings going up in central Portland with little or no parking attached, like the ecoFLATS on N Williams and NE MLK's Shaver Green Building. City code doesn't require parking for high-density projects built near transit, and NIMBYs ruled the headlines, complaining that the new condo and apartment residents still own cars and eat up all available on-street parking. A study of the building boom's impact should have put minds to rest: The report found that while most residents of new low-or-no parking buildings own cars, half of nearby on-street parking spots are unfilled during peak weekday hours.

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Portland: Terrible for Youth Retirement: The entire country knows the joke about Portland: It's where young people go to retire. Two Portland State University researchers dug into the economic data to find whether the "Portlandia hypothesis" has merit. Researchers Greg Schrock and Jason Jurjevich found that, on the contrary, Portland is the place where young people are underemployed and underpaid. The city has the highest underemployment rate of any major city in the country among young people. There's not really a punchline in the data. Just tears.

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Not Forgotten: In a year that's seen police bureau commanders tolerate a federal crackdown on our cops' treatment of the mentally ill, a mayor who made it his mission to keep from reinstating the cop who killed Aaron Campbell, and a pugnacious police union president dealing out low blows (and campaign checks), it's worth remembering something just as important: the names of the men involved in police shootings this year. In chronological order, through mid-December: Bradley Lee Morgan (killed), Adalberto Flores-Haro, Jonah Potter, an unidentified 17-year-old boy, Billy Wayne Simms (killed), Michael Tate, and Joshua Baker.

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Hardly a Shocker: Reining in some Portland cops' excessive Taser use looms large in the federal police reform package now working its way through the courts. But community members, well before the feds issued their findings, were already sending strong messages about the need for change. The city's Citizen Review Committee, which probes police policy and hears appeals in misconduct cases, wrote a report asking cops to use their Tasers less often. And twice this year juries awarded large settlements to men who were dog-piled and Tasered. Dan Halsted agreed to collect $258,000 from the city in the spring. And just this month, Gallagher Smith was given $306,000.

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We're Expanding a Freeway in the Heart of the City: All eyes are on the behemoth Columbia River Crossing project. Meanwhile, in November, the city quietly signed off on a $400 million plan to expand Interstate 5 by one lane through the Rose Quarter. The project also includes building a "lid" on the freeway and adding better bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure to the area.

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Occupy the Courts: The dozens of people arrested for trivial offenses during Occupy Portland protests in late 2011 and throughout 2012 have spent far longer on the Multnomah County Courthouse docket than they ever did in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. A devoted team of defense attorneys and constitutional lawyers have gone back and forth with prosecutors over something that's big and small all at once: whether protesters who wind up handcuffed and arrested deserve full, proper jury trials. Finally, after months of haggling, that issue is due to hit the Oregon Supreme Court. And that's not all! Two Occupy protesters, Liz Nichols and Justin James Bridges, have filed lawsuits of their own seeking damages for police brutality.

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The End of the World: Oh ... wait... sigh. Fucking Mayans.

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