MERCURY READER INSPIRES NEW COLUMN!

DEAR MERCURY: I agree with the recent letter about the inanity of your comics page [Letters to the Editor, Feb 1]. Why is it so often considered "hip" to make no sense whatever? Very rarely are they funny, and even more rarely can I understand what the hell they talk about. I much prefer something like Bobo Alexander (in the otherwise crappy Jam magazine). His comics are funny, cool, and miracle of miracles, make SENSE! Dadaism is boring, especially when you just want to have a couple chuckles.

Ziggy Aguilera

The Mercury responds: We completely agree! Our comics often make absolutely no sense, and so, in an effort to avoid any further confusion, we're presenting a new column by our own Sean Tejaratchi called "What's So Funny?" Sean will happily explain the joke in every one of our mentally impenetrable comics, so turn to page 39, read, and soon you'll be laughing along with the rest of us!


MAYOR ACCUSES MERCURY OF SMOKING SOMETHING

TO THE EDITOR: If I am asleep, you suffer from the early stages of journalistic dementia ["Who's the Boss?" Jan 25]. Just because somebody gives you a critical quote does not make it true. And, despite us providing you many facts, your January 25 story about my work as Mayor included almost none--at least few accurate ones.

It ignored our success at reducing youth gun murders from 20 to three in three years, improving educational achievement by using city resources for more teachers, summer school and reading programs. It focused negatively on housing efforts but failed to mention the fact that we have invested over $210 million to fight gentrification by building 9600 units. I guess mentioning that might have messed up the premise of your story, huh? Are we done? Never. We will not rest on our laurels as long as I am Mayor, but these are solid efforts.

You care about the poor? How come no support for our work to increase workforce training programs, or funding better higher ed options at Portland State University? Education is the best tool for fighting poverty. By the way, Freightliner never got a city tax break from the city and according to recent census information, the poverty rate appears to be falling, not increasing. Hello Portland Mercury fact checkers, anybody home?!

You seem to be obsessed with I-405, going so far to imply that it is being done at the cost of other projects. What are you smoking? It's a 25-year-vision, not two, and I've consistently said it will be market driven. It is one of many projects underway to use land in the central city to its highest use, as are the projects in the Pearl/River and Old Town Chinatown Districts, the Central Eastside and North Macadam. The more growth in the central city, the less we have to try to shoehorn into the neighborhoods. Do you want the equivalent of 22 city blocks of growth, four stories tall, shoved into your neighborhood? I doubt your neighbors do.

Finally, your silly attempt to play the eastside off against the westside is just deplorable. The city spends more money on the eastside than the westside--and we are going to do even more with new urban renewal districts in Lents, Interstate, Gateway and new neighborhood improvement efforts in Hollywood and St. Johns.

I like feisty, and the Portland Mercury seems to have that in spades, but spunkiness is no substitute for efforts to complete fair reporting.

Vera Katz

The Mercury responds: Thank you for your comments about our article criticizing your ability as mayor to address some of the concerns and needs of Portland. However, rather than dispute our premise, your letter seems to confirm our point that your policies are out of touch and your administration believes throwing money at problems is the best solution. Urban renewal districts are mixed blessings that, yes, bring improved conditions to some, but also run the danger of marginalizing and shoving out others. Your retort is based on abstract policies, not flesh-and-blood people. Have you stopped at Dignity Village to discuss the issue of homeless with the very people your policies are chasing around town? Have you visited Jefferson High recently, a school that has burned through two principals in as many years? Our goal with the article was not to be "feisty," but to point out instances where fairness and compassion could play a larger role in Portland.