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I usually start writing the Bend Business Roundup by Thursday afternoon, work on it Thursday night and finish it up Friday morning. Well, yesterday was my and Anna’s anniversary and even I know that working the evening of our anniversary is a bad idea, so I’m just getting cranking early Friday morning. Happy anniversary, sweetie!
That’s a long way of saying, this BBR is probably going to be more stream of conscious than usual. Hope it’s ok.
Last night, Anna and I grabbed a drink at San Simon (there’s an accent over the “o” but I can’t figure out how to do that), a new-to-us bar on Tin Pan Alley in downtown Bend. The alley is closed to traffic, so they have tables all across it. The drinks were very good, and we talked to the owner a bit. We told him we were having dinner at Zydeco.
When we left, Anna forgot her jacket and the owner walked the several blocks to the restaurant to track us down to return it. It was a “Bend nice” gesture of the type that makes this place great in spite of the unfortunate confluence of a multitude of materially sub-speed limit drivers, long, winding, single lane streets, and roundabouts. Dinner at Zydeco was, of course, amazing.
Increasingly, Americans hold a view of reality that comports with their political leanings. Polls consistently show that members of the president’s party think the economy and country are doing better than members of the other party. When a president of the other party is elected, the sides flip, even though the economy has not changed. Similarly, people’s views of the coronavirus, school reopening, and even the merits of free trade swing with, or against, the positions espoused by President Trump.
One result of this phenomenon is that political leaders with sufficient stature within their respective parties can get away with, uh, less than complete depictions of the truth when communicating to the base. Which brings me to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and specifically to a poster Cuomo personally designed, intended to celebrate New York’s having bent the Covid curve.
The poster defies description, and I urge you to click that link to check it out. Take a minute to really look at it – there’s a lot to take in. There are many layers of weirdness when it comes to this poster:
1. Aesthetically, it honestly looks like a teacher assigned a group of fifth grade art students, all of whom are related to Cuomo, to design a poster about New York’s Covid experience.
2. A sitting governor actually designed this poster, and he apparently is really into poster art and has designed other posters.
3. The thing is embarrassingly self-congratulatory. I mean, it would be cringe-worthy, even if congratulations were warranted.
4. Congratulations, self or otherwise, are objectively not warranted. New York has had more Covid deaths, over 32,000, than any other state in the country, and it’s not even close. The next highest is California, at about 7,500. Florida, at about the same population of New York, has had 4,676 deaths. New York trails only New Jersey in deaths per 100,000 population, at 167. New York’s death rate applied to a full Autzen Stadium would result in about 92 people dropping dead, or between two and three people per section. Cuomo’s state has suffered worse than any other during the pandemic.
Cuomo’s an astute politician, so why would he congratulate himself on his handling of a disease that killed 32,000 New Yorkers? Because he thinks he can,and he’s probably right. Despite the many deaths, extended lockdowns in places like New York City, and his order that nursing homes admit Covid-positive patients, Cuomo is more popular than ever. He has been successful in persuading people that he’s doing a good job, even while chiding Republican governors who preside over states with a fraction of the deaths of New York. It’s like a bizarro world in which facts don’t matter. It happens with Republicans too, but Cuomo’s case is the most extreme, in my opinion.
The worst year to be alive
No, it’s not 2020, but we still have over five months left so don’t give up yet. According to Science magazine, the worst year to be alive might have been 536, That’s the year a huge Icelandic volcano erupted and there was no sun for 18 months. It was near-freezing in Europe in the summer. There was massive starvation and then in the 540s, the same volcano erupted a couple more times, prolonging the starvation, and, oh yeah, there was also an outbreak of bubonic plague. All of this was presumably made worse by the absence of Netflix and Zoom.
Covid and Bend
Continuing the theme of bizarro worlds, it’s a really weird time to live in Bend. We are in the midst of a pandemic, but there are tourists all over the place. Deschutes County’s unemployment rate is about 16%, but locals are out and about and spending money. Between the federal government printing money at a feverish pace and Central Oregon having thus far been hit relatively lightly by Covid, we’ve thus far been spared the worst impacts of the pandemic.
The pessimistic side of me wonders when the next shoe will drop. Federal payments must eventually dry up. Our Covid numbers are on the rise and the City Council is asking tourists to stay away. So long as our Covid numbers and frequency of urban riots stay low relative to California, Portland and Seattle, Bend will presumably continue to attract people with the means to relocate to Bend and either work remotely or join the ranks of the wealthy and intentionally unemployed.
It’s the unintentionally unemployed that I’m worried about. With restaurants and many other businesses operating at a fraction of capacity, it’s difficult to see a lot of those folks getting jobs any time soon, especially as we head the wrong way with Covid cases, which will delay further reopening. The $600 federal unemployment bonus is being weened back, which will better incentivize work, but will also mean that people who are incentivized to work but cannot find a job may need to leave to find one, if there are places with more jobs to go to. For those who want Bend to remain something more than a resort town for the rich, this could end up poorly.
Some people frustrated with Oregon’s, ah, sometimes left-leaning governance want to expand the borders of Idaho into eastern and southern Oregon to form something called “Greater Idaho.” If you take a close look at the proposed new borders, you will notice that Redmond and La Pine are welcomed into the new mega-state, while Bend is rather conspicuously gerrymandered into what’s left of Oregon, along with Portland, the Willamette Valley, and the northern coast, presumably a reflection of Bend’s increasingly leftward drift.
As pointed out by friend of BBR Kim Gammond, Ashland, which makes Bend look right wing in comparison, is to be included in Greater Idaho. Coming under the distant rule of Boise would probably not be welcomed by the city in which a major bone of contention recently was whether to ban public nudity, including a city councilor going nude in protest. Something tells me that the laws governing nudity (and especially the civilization-threatening atrocity that is city councilor nudity) would be more lenient in Lesser Oregon than Greater Idaho, if any of this were to happen, which it won’t.
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What I do:
EagerLaw PC – A business and real property law firm in Bend, Oregon.
Insite LGA Corp. – A campaign consulting, strategic communications and local government monitoring firm.
Waste Alert – Local government monitoring for the solid waste and recycling industry.
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