Updates

  • Bend Business Roundup 7-26-19

    By on July 26, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Disclaimer: people who want to understand the economy get an economics degree; people who double major in Politics and History realize they don’t want to be a congressional staffer forever – have you been in DC in the summer? – get a law degree. I got a law degree. With that in mind, the evidence for at least a slowing of the breakneck rate of growth in the Central Oregon economy is mounting. Deschutes County job growth in June was the slowest since June 2012. As previously reported, the Bulletin’s Central Oregon Business Index for the first quarter of 2019 turned significantly negative for the first time since 2011. In the first linked article, Damon Runberg, who got an economics and not a law degree, points out that the county’s job growth couldn’t continue at its previous pace and is likely to track more or less with population growth in the next year or so.

    Law: Have you tried goat yoga yet? Well, you might not get a chance in Oregon because the state’s land use law’s seemingly infinite tentacles of unintended consequences reach even into this, uh, practice. That law generally requires that a majority of income derived from farmland come from traditional agricultural activities. Those activities do not include goat yoga, but they do include slaughtering the goats. Why oh why does the State of Oregon hate cute baby goats so much?

    Politics: If you know anything about government infrastructure projects, you know that they are unbelievably expensive (even when abandoned midway and torn down). One of the biggest price tags locally is the $324 million reroute and interchange improvements on Highway 97 at the north end of Bend. The project, which has been in planning for a very long time, would address one of the biggest traffic snares in town, speed the arrival of southbound Sprinter vans to Bend’s man-made surf park, and ease development of industrial land in the Juniper Ridge area. That project got a big boost this week with the announcement of a $60 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Bend City Councilor Justin Livingston, Congressman Greg Walden and a host of other local and state officials lobbied hard for the grant, which is the largest federal grant coming to Central Oregon that I can remember.

    Et cetera:  May I tell you the story of the Tree? When I moved from Washington, D.C. to Eugene in August 2001 to attend law school, I did so in a forest green 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck with a red canopy, which I had purchased from a coworker, who rarely used it, for $1. The stylish red and green color scheme had earned the pickup – it was too small and wimpy to be called a truck – the nickname “The Tree,” i.e. Christmas Tree,  while still in the ownership of my coworker. The Tree had a vinyl bench seat and no air conditioning and, my friends, August in the Midwest is not without heat and humidity. I drove all the way across the country with both windows down and all of my possessions in the back. I blew a tire in Kearney, Nebraska (which I learned from the guys at the tire shop is pronounced “Carney” for some reason), but otherwise the Tree performed admirably, if a bit sluggishly climbing the Rockies in Wyoming. I drove the Tree as my primary vehicle throughout law school and as a practicing attorney who obviously wasn’t impressing chicks with his car until around 2006. I kept it as a secondary vehicle/decoration until around 2010, when I sold it for $200, realizing what I think is a 19,900% gain that I’m not sure I ever told the IRS about.

    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 7-19-19

    By on July 19, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Two Bend shopping centers anchored by Albertsons grocery stores have sold for a combined $20 million. The Wagner Mall at the north end of town and the Pinebrook Plaza at the south end of town originally housed Wagner’s grocery stores (sold to Albertsons in 1994), and the fact that I didn’t need the linked news story to tell me that, means I’m getting old.

    Law: You’ve heard of FaceApp, the application that allows you to see what you would look like when you’re old because waiting until you’re old to lament looking old isn’t good enough anymore? It’s developed by a Russian company and, well, people are understandably a little nervous about giving Russians access to their photos, lest they appear in really bad social media posts by Russians clumsily trying to influence an American election. The terms of use of the app do say that the company can use your photo and other information as it wishes, which is troubling.

    Politics:  Friends, allow me to relate a story that demonstrates the defining characteristic of Oregon politics:

    1. The main Oregon chapter of the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU“) represents over 22,000 employees of the State of Oregon.
    2. SEIU members pay it 1.7% of their salary in the form of dues.
    3. SEIU’s primary political action committee spent $2 million in 2018 (Click, search for CAPE and go to the account summary for 2018) to help elect Democrats to the legislature and the governor’s office.
    4. Democrats won the governorship and supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.
    5. The Democrat-controlled legislature enacted a bevy of tax and fee increases, including a multi-billion dollar gross receipts tax.
    6. It also increased the pot of money set aside for state employee pay raises from $100 million to $200 million.
    7. State negotiators, who work for the Democrats the SEIU helped to elect, this week agreed to give state employees up to a 15% raise over the next two years, while preventing employees from paying anything more for health insurance.Fifteen percent.
    8. This raise will generate more dues and bigger political contributions for SEIU, which it will use to continue to elect legislators and governors who are favorable to more raises and benefits for SEIU members.

    You see, the primary function of state government in Oregon is to wrench the most possible tax revenue from the general population and to distribute as much as possible to the unionized public employees whose dues elect the politicians who run the government. It is corrupt and disgusting.

    Et cetera:  When Notre Dame cathedral burned, I thought immediately of 9/11. Both involved burning, symbolic and instantly recognizable buildings, with the destruction helplessly viewed in real-time. The New York Times has run an informative story on the effort to save Notre Dame that day, and just how close the entire building came to collapsing, saved only by the heroic efforts of firefighters.

    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 7-12-19

    By on July 12, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: There is no time of year when Bend is bursting at the seams more than around the 4th of July, and this year was no exception despite cooler weather. As anecdotal evidence that the tourists are here, I had a guy with California plates come to a full stop in the Shevlin Park Roard/Mt. Washington roundabout and wave me in, causing all the cars behind him to slam on their brakes. It was like he heard that people in Bend are “nice” and resent “rude” California drivers and was trying to make up for all of it himself.

    Law: We’ve covered the bankruptcy and now potential sale of The Bulletin, Central Oregon’s only daily newspaper. Oregon Public Broadcasting reportedthis week that, per the terms of the potential sale, Western Communications, the parent company of The Bulletin, would be required to terminate all Bulletin employees upon closing of the sale, and the buyer may hire or not hire them at its discretion. Now, this is surely concerning for those employees, but it is also entirely standard for a business asset sale, whether in bankruptcy or not. The reason is that if the sale closes, Western Communications will no longer own The Bulletin, and assuming the buyer wants to operate a newspaper in some form (this is unfortunately not guaranteed), it will need to hire some or all of those folks. It can’t if they’re still employed by Western Communications, who in any event doesn’t want to keep paying (nor does the bankruptcy trustee want it to keep paying) people who work for newspaper it no longer owns. For better or worse, this is all standard operating procedure, at least for now. This bit about the ownership structure of the potential buyer is, however, not particularly encouraging (scroll down).

    Politics: If you (1) live in Central Oregon, (2) hold political views that are generally supportive of private property rights and a light touch when it comes to regulations and taxes and (3) think you might be interested in running for local office someday, you should apply for this year’s edition of Step Up Bend. Step Up is a program we started a couple years ago to give potential candidates information they need to decide whether they’d like to run for office. It’s only a monthly lunchtime commitment and it’s free (thanks to our generous sponsors including the Central Oregon Association of Realtors) and non-partisan. The first session is July 25 and it runs through the end of the year. There is (of course) no obligation to run for anything; this is informational only. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or just apply! The deadline for applications is Monday, July 15.

    Et cetera:  Our three-year-old son, Elijah, told me the other day, “Never say anything ever again.” Thanks for reading and hopefully finding what I have to say of more value than does my son. This email series has become less (ish) and more weekly because I really do enjoy writing it. I appreciate your taking a few minutes each Friday to read about what I think is interesting.

    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 7-5-19

    By on July 9, 2019

    Happy Friday. Did you have a good Fourth?

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The people of Roanoke, Virginia might be wondering what Bend has against them. This week, Bend-based Humm Kombucha announced that it waspulling out of a deal with the City of Roanoke to buy land upon which to build an east coast brewery. This follows Deschutes Brewery’s announcement this Spring that it was indefinitely suspending plans to open a brewery in Roanoke. Sorry, guys. It’s not personal.

    Law: A significant but often-overlooked bill passed by the 2019 Oregon legislature is a bill to create a state-run, mandatory paid family and medical leave system.  Beginning in 2022, employers with more than 25 employees are required to participate, and pay 60% of premiums (the employee pays 40%). Employees who encounter a qualifying event such as pregnancy, illness, etc. will get up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with full pay for those who don’t make a lot of money, and something less than full pay for those who make more. As with the recently enacted sick leave law, many Oregon employers are going to have to get up to speed on how to implement this new mandate.

    Politics: In the wreckage of the cap and trade bill, Governor Kate Brown threatened to enact portions of the bill without the legislature’s approval. President Trump did the same thing after he was unable to get the funding he wanted for the border wall. I wrote a piece for The Bulletin about the troubling trend of chief executives trying to do administratively what the legislature has declined to do. I don’t think it’s as boring as it sounds, but that might just be me.

    Et cetera:  A Rhode Island subsidiary of a Canadian media company has bid $2.25 million to buy The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman newspapers in their parent company’s bankruptcy. Competing bids, at least $100,000 more than the current bid, may be submitted by July 15. I have no idea of the value of those newspapers, or really anything about the newspaper business generally, so cannot vouch for the investment wisdom of buying the newspapers. I am also unaware of anyone who is looking at bidding. However, if you are, or know someone who might be, let me know. I and others are interested in finding out whether there’s a critical mass of local-affiliated folks to bid.

    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 6-28-19

    By on June 28, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: In Bend and elsewhere, lots of people conduct businesses out of their homes. A guy in Selah, Washington apparently didn’t appreciate his neighbor giving piano lessons at her home, and “[f]rom November 2015 through March 2016, [the dude] parked his Ford F-250 diesel pickup next to [the piano teacher’s] home, and remotely raced the engine and set off the vehicle’s alarm when students came over.” She sued, and was awarded $40,000 in emotional distress damages.

    Law: As I write this Friday morning, Oregon Senate Republicans appear to be ending their walkout in opposition to a climate change bill that would, as we’ve previously reported, raise fuel and gasoline prices via $1.3 billion in tax hikes with negligible impact on, well, climate change. The nerds among us will recall that this is not the first time Senate Republicans have walked out this session. The first time they did so over a gross receipts tax. They eventually came back after hammering out a one-page Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Democrats. If you’ve worked with lawyers, I’m sorry, but also you know that there is no such thing as a one-page agreement about renting a station at a dog grooming salon every other Saturday, let alone re-engaging the legislature on a multi-billion dollar tax bill. One reason for that is borne out by the current debate about the MOU – what a “reset” of the cap and trade bill actually is, and whether Republicans were right to claim breach of the MOU by Democrats, or whether Republicans breached. The MOU just doesn’t have enough substance to it to help out a whole lot.

    Politics: As it turns out, Senate Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass cap and trade even if the Republicans had been around. That’s because three Senate Democrats won’t vote for it. Nonetheless, Governor Brown says Republicans “blocked” cap and trade. That could only be true if a sufficient number of those three Dems were going to vote for it originally, but changed their mind during the Republican walkout, while truckers and loggers were protesting the bill at the Capitol. Regardless of this timing issue, it appears that we may have, at last, found the boundary of the supermajority Democrats’ appetite for billion-dollar, cost-increasing tax and regulatory changes. In the process, lots of rural Oregonians who log and farm and drive truck have been engaged in the political process in a way that I’ve not seen previously. That awakening may prove to be the most important long-term impact of cap and trade.

    Et cetera:  If you’ve considered moving to Bend (or if you live here already, if you’ve considered upgrading just a bit), but have been waiting for a 10,000 square foot Italian-style villa to come on the market, it’s time to make your move.

    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 6-21-19

    By on June 21, 2019

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like:

    Business: If the 2019 Oregon legislative session has taught us anything, it’s that the folks in charge believe good intentions (and electoral success) trump everything we think we know about economics. You may remember a few legislative outrages ago, the legislature passed rent control, which in addition to controlling rents, crucially, made it a lot harder for landlords to evict tenants. Opponents argued that the measure would dry up investment in rental housing, and make quality rental housing more scarce and more expensive. Well, the first data point is in and it turns out since rent control passed, investment in multi family rental housing in Oregon plunged 38%.  Economics 1, legislature 0.

    Law: As I write this edition of BBR perilously close to the 11:15 Friday deadline, the Oregon Senate Republican delegation is reportedly out of state to deprive Democrats of a quorum to vote on a cap and trade bill that would reduce carbon emissions in Oregon while driving up gasoline, diesel and natural gas prices. The Republicans are asking for changes to the cap and trade bill in exchange for their return. One such change is to remove the emergency clause of the bill. The emergency clause means the bill goes into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, rather than 90 days later. The important difference here is that, absent an emergency clause, opponents could cause a referendum on the bill, which would halt implementation until after Oregonians get a chance to vote on it. With the emergency clause in place, opponents would be forced to employ the initiative process, which would allow implementation of the bill to proceed pending the vote of the people.

    Politics: Last week, we discussed a City of Bend poll that showed a big majority of voters preferred bigger roads and more of them to fix congestion, rather than more bike and pedestrian paths. Apparently this finding was not to the liking of at least one member of the City Transportation Advisory Committee (“CTAC”), who emailed other members of CTAC that the committee should publicly reject the poll and terminate the consultant responsible for conducting the poll. This response sure isn’t going to help the city pass a big transportation bond, as it fuels the perception that bond-funded projects are being influenced by folks who care more about their own preferences than those of most of the voters.

    Et cetera:  Like I think a lot of people, I’ve had a weird curiosity about what happened with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the Boeing 777 that just disappeared during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014. The initial searches were unsuccessful, and the whole thing has remained a bit of a mystery. Well, the Atlantic has just published a long but fascinating look at the state of things now, including a guy from California who decided to go look for debris on beaches around the Indian Ocean to help piece together what happened to the plane. It’s worth a read if you have time today or over the weekend.

    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