Updates

  • Bend Business Roundup 10-18-19

    By on October 18, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: In the last seven years, Bend has experienced as much economic and socio-economic change as many cities see in 50 years. In October 2012, the unemployment rate was 10.1%, now it’s around 4%. (Check out the 17.1% in March 2009. That was fun.) The population was around 78,500 then; now there are around 20,000 more of us, all driving on Mt. Washington Drive at 8:30 a.m each weekday.

    If it’s felt like we’ve been riding an economic rocket over the last seven years, there is some data to support it. Something called Wallethub named Bend the third fastest growing small city over the past seven years. The summary of the report could do a better job of explaining what that means, and that has led to some confusing local coverage, but the measure is of economic growth, of which population growth is a part, but so is new business starts, employment growth, tech growth, and other economic measurements.

    So, using that methodology, Bend had the third-fastest growing economy over the past seven years among small cities. There are a lot of people who are doing a lot better in Bend now than seven years ago. It’s one of the primary reasons Bend is such a dynamic, optimistic place today.

    Law: I’m skipping it this week because this thing is long enough as-is. You can stop nodding in agreement now.

    Politics: Governor Kate Brown famously pushed during the 2019 legislative session a cap and trade bill the main purpose of which was to deter people from burning fossil fuels, and thus emitting carbon dioxide, by taxing and thus increasing the price of those fuels. It was projected that gasoline prices would increase by between 19 and 72 cents per gallon in the first year of the law, with even bigger price impacts in the future. Rural residents, who drive more on average, would have gotten the worst of it. Anyone who heated their homes with natural gas would have seen price hikes of 11% in year one, and 53% by 2040. The conceptual core of the bill was that in order to make consumers change their behavior to less carbon-intensive modes of transportation and heating, the state had to make their current behavior painfully expensive.

    The bill failed because Democrats in the Senate couldn’t quite muster enough votes and no Republicans would vote for it. In response, the Governor threatened to enact portions of the bill via executive action, saying, “[D]oing nothing to reduce emissions is not an option. Not for our economy, our communities, our environment and of course, particularly, our children. I am open to modifications, I am not open to inaction.” The legislature will apparently take up cap and trade again in February 2020.

    Given the urgency the Governor places on carbon reduction, it’s surprising she apparently chose to travel to Sunriver earlier this week via private jet, rather than a less carbon-intensive alternative. Medium-sized private jets burn at least 233 gallons of fuel per hour of use. It’s 147 miles from Salem to Sunriver, so a car that gets 20 miles per gallon would burn a little over seven gallons for the trip. Even if the jet was flying for only an hour en route to pick up the Governor, on route to Sunriver and presumably en route back to Salem, which seems unlikely, the volume of fuel burnt, and carbon emitted, from the private jet trip is much, much higher than it would be for a trip by car.

    Now, it takes a lot longer to drive from the Valley to Sunriver than it does to fly via private jet, and the Governor is very busy, so in one sense it’s understandable she’d want to take the jet.  However, time or convenience versus higher carbon emissions is exactly the type of trade-off cap and trade is supposed to tilt away from the more carbon-intensive activity. The Governor is insistent that our state government purposefully inflict economic pain on consumers to change their behavior lest our economy, our environment and our children suffer. The Governor apparently chose inaction and actually counterproductive action with regard to carbon reduction, despite her statement that inaction was not an option.

    The Governor’s apparent choice leads to two possible conclusions. Either (1) she does not actually believe that action to address carbon emissions is necessary to preserve the well-being of our environment, economy, communities and children; or (2), she does believe that reducing carbon emissions is essential, but also believes that her activities are of such importance and her time of such value that she is entitled to make decisions she would use the power of the state to prevent the rest of us from making. Personally, I think it’s (2), which highlights the biggest problem with cap and trade: it presumes state officials’ judgments about what is important or valuable to us is more important than our own. One can expect state officials to continue to judge that what they want for themselves is always important and valuable, and they’re the ones making the rules.

    Et cetera: Speaking of fossils, the boys and I burned some en route to seeing some at the John Day Fossil Beds last weekend. Aiden, five, takes after me in his love of nerdy pursuits, and one of his current obsessions is dinosaurs and thus fossils. The John Day Fossil Beds don’t have dinosaur fossils, but they do have fossils from a bunch of now-extinct mammals including a horrifying beast called a Terminator Pig. The Terminator Pig was the size of a buffalo with an enormous head and teeth which allowed it to eat, well, almost anything. Elijah, three, left the gift store with a small, stuffed and surprisingly not terrifying Terminator Pig with which he now happily sleeps.

    Which brings me to the following question: how is the mascot of Wheeler High School, located in Fossil, Oregon near the fossil beds, not the Terminator Pigs? It’s the Knights, which is fine, but come on.

    PS: For those who’ve slogged through to this point, here’s a picture of Ron Howard in front of the last Blockbuster store in the known universe.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email and entelodont content you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 10-11-19

    By on October 11, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Nationally, housing construction has slowed considerably, and that’s bad news for what remains of Central Oregon’s timber industry. It’s also bad news for forest fire prevention, as low lumber prices have led to fewer thinning projects on federal land. The upside is that the lower lumber prices ought to help keep construction costs in check.

    Law: The Internet make it easy for lawyers to send silly weekly newsletters to lots of people, but it also makes it easy for customers to publish reviews of the businesses they buy from. Business owners often feel the negative reviews are unfair, and are tempted to do something about it. Generally speaking, a customer’s truthful speech about her views on a service or product are protected by the First Amendment, and a court won’t assess damages or enjoin someone from such speech. Businesses also run the risk of further disseminating the negative review by taking legal action. That appears to be what’s happened when Adair Homes has sued a guy for writing negative things about the company on facebook. I wouldn’t have heard about the guy’s views but for the lawsuit, and I bet you wouldn’t have either.

    Politics: Andrew Yang is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s not going to win, but he says some interesting things from time to time. This week, he tweeted, “Ideally we would pay as much or more attention to our communities as we do to Washington, D.C.”

    He’s right, and it would be better if more federal politicians exercised the (haha) humility to suggest we might want to take our eyes off them every once in a while. Our focus on the federal government, and more specifically the, how shall I say it, sometimes-less-than-optimal folks whom we elect to pretend to run it, is making us mad, in both meanings of the word. In the meantime, many important community institutions are withering for want of attention.

    While Yang’s observation is correct, however, two of his favored policies, a federal universal basic income and Medicare for All, would shift considerably more power and wealth from our communities to Washington, D.C. It’s no coincidence that our growing obsession with federal politics has coincided with the proliferation of tasks we’ve asked the federal government to perform. Giving it more tasks will only make the problem worse.

    Et cetera:  When I was in law school in Eugene in the early 2000s, I thought it was hilarious that there were people playing didgeridoos all over the place – street corners, campus sit-ins, inside the law school itself during the annual environmental law/patchouli immersion conference. I saw the didgeridoo as a symbol of Eugene’s, uh, bohemian culture, contrasted with the didgeridoo-less culture of my hometown of Bend. Well, now dudes are coming to Bend to drop didgeridoo albums, so the joke’s on me.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the didgeridoo news you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 10-04-19

    By on October 4, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Businesses with sales in Oregon exceeding $1 million will, beginning in 2020, pay to the state a “corporate activity tax” which BBR veterans will know taxes not just corporations but human beings generally. Setting aside the blatant dishonesty of the name of the tax, the Oregon Department of Revenue is still trying to figure out how, exactly, to implement the tax. To that end, Department staff are travelling the state to solicit input from dismayed and confused business owners. It’s like when you go in for a colonoscopy and the doctor politely and in sanitized terms describes what he’s going to do to you, and then asks, “How does that sound?”

    Law: The fact that in 2019 some idiots still commit crimes against others based on race is a stain on America. The seriousness of those crimes, which play as much a role in tearing our country apart as anything, requires that any allegation be taken seriously. Which is why it’s inexcusable to say you’re a victim of such a crime when you’re not, as a Portland man apparently did recently when he said he was stabbed and his car was painted with swastikas outside Bend. This kind of thing only gives the idiots room to avoid the reality that these kinds of crimes really do happen.

    Politics: The biggest thing cooking in local Bend politics these days is the possibility of the city referring to voters a property tax increase to pay for transportation improvements. It’s doing this because 43% of Bend voters want the city to focus on transportation improvements (see page 10 of link) and 88% think traffic congestion is bad (page 11 of the same link). Where things will get interesting is how much of the funds from the tax the city plans to use for bike and pedestrian improvements, which only eight percent (8%) of voters think will help fix congestion (page 12 of the link), vs. 53% who want wider roads and improved intersections. Keep that in mind when the project list comes out – there’s likely to be a lot more bike and pedestrian funding than what you’d expect based on the survey because the relatively small number of folks who prefer those projects tend to be quite vocal and politically mobilized.

    Et cetera:  I spent last night at the Robert Plant concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, where he observed on more than one occasion that it was “[bleep]ing cold!” And it was, but that didn’t stop him and his band from partaking in some nice renditions of Zeppelin songs including Going to California and especially, in the encore, Ramble On.

    PS:  I’m reallyreally sorry for L.A. Rams fans wait are there any L.A. Rams fans?

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 9-27-19

    By on September 27, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: “State sets 9.9% rent hike cap” is one of the more depressing headlines I’ve read in a while. You’d be excused thinking it’s from Pravda circa 1973. Nah, it’s a story from Oregon in 2019. Hopefully the state is better at determining rent prices than it is at building overpasses, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Law: It’s worth reviewing the fact that the rent control law that led to the rent hike cap described above also severely restricts landlords’ ability to evict tenants. If your name is on title for residential rental property which the state is gradually turning into a public utility (we used to call this owning the property), this is a law you really do need to understand.

    Politics: I try to stay away from the national political stuff here because it’s so tiring and there’s nothing any of us, realistically, can do about it. I do have something to say about the impeachment inquiry, though. I’m not going to argue whether or not Congress should impeach and remove the President; I’m more interested in what I think the impeachment process will tell us about ourselves. This is going to be a lot longer than the usual BBR fare, so if you’re short on time, skip on down to et cetera.

    For those of you who obviously have too much time on your hands, we’ll start with a story.

    On October 8, 1998, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. On that date, I was a year-and-a-half out of college and working on Capitol Hill in a now-retired GOP House member’s office. Because I knew literally nothing except that longish sideburns were really cool, most of my duties related to cleaning the office microwave and responding to constituent mail (yes, snail mail back then).

    My junior staff colleagues and I were fixated by the lead-up to impeachment, culminating in the Starr Report. To me, the Starr Report clearly described a President who abused his power. I thought that the evidence was overwhelming and even Democrats who had mostly supported Clinton would swing to support impeachment. Most of them didn’t, and the House impeached Clinton on a mostly party-line vote and the Senate failed to muster the 2/3 vote necessary to remove him from office. Clinton left office two years later as one of the most popular presidents in history, and Al Gore was destined to ride into the sunset on a private jet en route to a climate change conference. The whole process resulted in little more than the confirmation that Democrats tend to like Democratic presidents and Republicans tend not to.

    That’s because, despite all the legal-sounding language like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and “blue dress,” impeachment is a purely political process. The founders viewed it as such and it has been that way in practice on the rare occasions it’s been used. Which is to say that Members of Congress and the American people view impeachment through the same partisan lens they view everything else.  Which is why all this talk of whether something is “impeachable” misses the point.  If enough Members of Congress think that a president who fails to ambulate solely by cartwheel while in the White House should be removed, then he’s removed. There is no legal check on the political decision to impeach and remove or not. The only check is that the voters may not be as enamored of the cartwheel as an exclusive mode of presidential ambulation as their elected representatives and vote them out of office in the next election. Which, incidentally, is what voters did in the 1998 midterm election, just a month after the beginning of the impeachment process.

    If impeachment is a political question, then we would expect Congress to behave in a manner similar to other hotly contested votes: that is, to mostly vote with their party. That’s what happened in 1998, and it’s what I think will happen this time. The House is likely to impeach President Trump because it is controlled by Democrats, and the Senate, absent some big new evidence, will refuse to remove him from office because Republicans control that chamber, and the Democrats will get nowhere near the necessary 2/3 super-majority to remove him from office.

    There will be a lot of back and forth and new revelations that seem to partisans on either side to cinch their case, but at the end of the day (again, barring a truly shocking revelation different in type than what we know now) there will be almost no movement in support or opposition to the President. The 2020 election will be almost entirely about impeachment and recriminations related thereto. Should be a hoot.

    Impeachment is likely to be the latest process that highlights our partisan divisions. The Clinton impeachment occurred in a country that was significantly less polarized than our current environment, and it was decided almost entirely by partisan politics. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Et cetera:  To restore your faith in humanity, here’s a picture of Weird Al in front of the last Blockbuster video store in Bend and also in the known universe.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more
  • Bend Entrepreneur Report: May-August 2019             

    By on September 26, 2019

    Bend Entrepreneur Report – May – August 2019   

    Business Registrations Down 9.5% vs. same period last year

    Bend, OR – The number of new Bend businesses registered with the Oregon Secretary of State May through August 2019 (1,099 businesses) is down 9.5 % versus the same time-frame from 2018 (1,203), and about on par with registrations from that timeframe in 2017. Bend continues to have more businesses registered per capita compared to any other large-ish Oregon city other than Keizer. Furthermore, the rate of registrations in 2018 was probably unsustainable, given labor and real property constraints.

    “Since we started the Bend Entrepreneur Report in January 2017, the last four months have shown the most notable, mostly sustained slowdown in business registrations. Some national, state and local indicators have signaled a slowing economy. Even so, Bend entrepreneurs continue to form businesses at a rate that far outpaces the state average,” Bend business attorney Jeff Eager said.

    Read more
  • Bend Business Roundup 9-20-19

    By on September 20, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Because I’m committed to giving Bend Business Roundup readers a well-rounded cultural experience (and, maybe, a(nother) good reason to unsubscribe), this week’s BBR is entirely in limerick. We’ll get back to prose next week.

    Business:

    Portland lacks affordable housing supply
    City leaders didn’t need to ask why
    It’s because you see
    They need a new fee
    Lest city coffers run dry

    Law:

    Some say limit the automobile
    They claim Les Schwab is hardly ideal
    For a place without mar
    From truck or car
    Feign the big street in front isn’t real

    Politics:

    There once was a state with one-party rule
    Whose view of open government was cool
    Trust us, they said
    There’s reform ahead
    If you believed that you might be a fool

    Et cetera:

    You’ve heard of footballers called Beavers?
    Cheered on by beleaguered believers
    They lost to Hawaii
    But beat Cal Poly
    Oregon loves its underachievers!

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam, occasional doggerel. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

    Read more