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FEATURES: Intro | the Mt. Hood freeway | city hall of fame | architexture | rhymin' rogues | some of our favorite Portlanders | 25 years of statistics | what ever happened to...| Nike's marketing muscle | The Oregonian's big oh's

1986: Lock 'em up: the 80s crime wave | Penny Harrington: badge of honor | MAX: train in vain


He's always campaigned as a card-carrying member of the Christian right, so it's perhaps no surprise when Multnomah County Commissioner Gordon Shadburne mails out a letter--on county stationery--to 50 churches in his district calling homosexuality "the stronghold of Satan." But before the year is out, Shadburne will resign from his position amid allegations of homosexual encounters, cocaine use and "pile-on orgies."

The screen goes dark for 2,000 Tektronix employees when the Beaverton oscilloscope maker announces another round of layoffs.

Aldo's Restaurant closes two months after one of its backers, Martin Allen Johnson, is busted with more than 10 pounds of cocaine. Police think the restaurant was being used to both market the drug and launder the proceeds.

A promising young filmmaker named Gus Van Sant releases his first film, Mala Noche.

A conservative police lieutenant named Bob Koch upsets incumbent lefty Margaret Strachan for City Council. Strachan says Koch misled voters about her plans to impose street-maintenance fees. Campaign workers blame Strachan's out-of-style ponytail.

Longtime KGW radio personality Craig Walker jumps ship to K103 FM. His new contract is rumored to be worth more than $1 million over three years.

The Reagan administration's covert deal with Iran to trade weapons for hostages was supposed to be top secret. So how come an obscure Lake Oswego property manager named Richard Brenneke knows all about it? Brenneke becomes an instant celebrity when The New York Times reports on his role in the swap. The Times later reports that Brenneke was a CIA employee and intelligence consultant for 13 years.

A strapping 25-year-old dancer named James Canfield becomes the new artistic director of Pacific Ballet Theatre.

Billy Rancher, the blue-collar ruffian whose short life played out like a TV movie--signed to a major label, diagnosed with cancer twice, dropped by the label, fights back with deeper music, marries his sweetheart--loses his battle with cancer.

Clay animator Will Vinton wins raves with an advertising campaign featuring desiccated, lip-syncing grapes. The California Raisins' shrivel-chic proves so popular, CBS breathlessly adds on with the Saturday morning California Raisin Show and prime-time spectaculars Meet the Raisins and The Raisins: Sold Out. Marvin Gaye enjoys a beyond-the-grave revival as tots everywhere jiggle to "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

Former Portland mayor and Nike exec Neil Goldschmidt wins a bitter struggle for governor, squeezing out ex-Secretary of State Norma Paulus with 52 percent of the vote. Goldschmidt goes negative in his "buried-bones" ads attacking Paulus' claims of hidden government waste.

Portland brothers Arnold and Jacob Pander prove their famous painter dad, Henk, isn't the only one in the family who can wield a brush when they ink a deal with Comico, a Philadelphia publisher, to draw 12 issues of Grendel, a new comic book written by Matt Wagner.



  By the summer of 1986, Multnomah County Sheriff Fred Pearce knew something had to give.

With local crime rates at an all-time high, the county jail system Pearce managed was bursting at the seams, exceeding its 712-bed capacity by more than 200

inmates. Rows of jailbirds slept on mattresses in the 10th-floor gymnasium of the brand-new Justice Center. But because he was under federal orders to set a cap on jail population, every night Pearce had to release dozens of minor-league crooks in a pr actice called "matrixing."

Some suspects didn't even make it into the Justice Center. At one point, sheriff's deputies rigged up a makeshift "no vacancy" signal on the wall of the courthouse jail. "If an officer had a suspect in custody, he'd drive by and look for the light," recalls Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk. "If the red light was on, they couldn't admit any prisoners. If it was a green light, there was room."

But despite Pearce's badgering, county commissioners refused to build more jails.

Pearce had had enough. On the afternoon of July 9, 1986, he invited local reporters to show up at the Justice Center jail at 4 pm for a surprise photo op. He then let 66 inmates awaiting trial run out of the jail free. When the local TV news aired that night, the sight of gleeful no-goodniks racing out of jail triggered public outrage.

In other words, it worked perfectly. Soon county commissioners were ready to fund a new lock-up: the Inverness jail, which would open its doors in October 1988.

"Without what Fred did, there would not be the jail space we have today," current Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Noelle explains. "It was the beginning of a solution. I think the county would have done little or nothing if it hadn't been for that."

Pearce's publicity stunt represented a turning point in an era obsessed by crime and punishment.

In the first half of the decade, voters had rejected a half-dozen bond measures for more jail and prison space, two in Multnomah County and four at the state level. But by 1986, Multnomah County had seen a 42 percent jump in major crimes compared to the previous decade. Bombarded by headlines about crack, gangs and drive-by shootings, voters became convinced that crime was out of control.

"Crime was more of a hot button then, but you had drugs come into the mainstream," Schrunk says. "You had the cry to clean up areas of town, get tough on drug offenders, lock up everybody who used them."

In his 1986 campaign for governor, Neil Goldschmidt tried to paint himself as more staunchly conservative on crime than his Republican opponent Norma Paulus. "We did not want people to perceive Goldschmidt as namby-pamby on crime," explains pollster Tim Hibbitts, who helped run Goldschmidt's campaign. "It was an issue to voters. One of the things in the '80s we worried about was voter perception that [Democrats] are soft on crime."

That concern was validated in 1988 when George Bush tarred Michael Dukakis as a liberal softy with the infamous TV ads featuring convicted murderer Willie Horton.

"When voters responded to the nonsense Bush put Dukakis through, it sent a shock wave through politicians," Portland City Commissioner Eric Sten says of the ads. "They became scared. I think most politicians are really scared of [being labeled soft-on-crime]."

If the tough-on-crime strategy helped Goldschmidt get elected, it also dominated his tenure in office. As governor, Goldschmidt drew up a massive blueprint for prison construction that added five of the state's 13 lock-ups and expanded another. Six more new prisons are planned over the next decade.

By 1999, crime rates had fallen dramatically on both local and national levels. Although sociologists, politicians and police may squabble over its causes, all acknowledge certain factors: an improved economy, harsher sentences, more police on the streets and more emphasis on rehabilitation.

Ultimately, the '80s obsession with crime had deep political repercussions across the nation: It spurred a spate of tougher sentences, mandatory minimums, asset-forfeiture laws and the procrustean "Three Strikes, You're Out." It put thousands of Oregonians behind bars, killed off the last of the feel-good liberal pols, and spawned crime sharks like state Rep. Kevin Mannix. And it scared voters into spending millions on corrections while slashing funds for other programs.

But the ultimate legacy may be more psychological than political. People lock their doors at night. They see storefront graffiti and worry that gangs have invaded their neighborhood. More than 11,000 Portlanders are licensed to carry concealed weapons. And when was the last time you picked up a hitchhiker?


  New mayor Bud Clark figured he was doing the right thing when he appointed Penny Harrington police chief in early 1985. In her 21 years on Portland's police force, she and other women officers forced the justice system to take child abuse seriously, and Clark wanted to shake up a bureau that had been roiled by scandal and was historically antagonistic toward the city's minority communities.

Initially, the appointment was greeted with public acclaim. After all, she was the first female police chief in any major U.S. city and, as such, was profiled on national talk shows and named one of Ms. magazine's women of the year.

But Harrington was deeply resented inside the bureau. During her rise to chief, she'd angered union president Stan Peters and veteran officers by filing 42 sex-discrimination complaints--litigating her way to the top, as they saw it. The rank and file were not poised to march lockstep with her.

The grumbling grew louder when Harrington began making wholesale changes without consulting police commanders or beat officers. While crack cocaine began to find its way onto Portland streets, for example, she downsized the corrupt drug and vice division and put it under the supervision of the detectives department, a move that was poorly received by Portland cops. Nor were officers big fans of Harrington's push for community policing. Then, facing a 10 percent budget cut, Harrington was forced to lay off 40 officers, making her doubly unpopular.

In 1986, rumors began circulating that Gary Harrington, her police-officer husband, had tipped off Bobby Lee, owner of Rickshaw Charlie's, about a pending heroin investigation, and the bureau launched an internal probe into the allegations. Trying to show the public that everything was above board, Clark took the unusual step of forming a special review commission to oversee the inquiry. Headed by former U.S. Attorney Sid Lezak, the commission operated with a broad mandate and issued a scathing 38-page report on the chief's management style, recommending her ouster. On June 2, Clark announced Harrington's resignation.

"Any chief would have taken heat for making changes," Harrington now says. "But, because I was a woman, it was so much easier for them to get rid of me." She currently works as director of the National Center for Women and Policing in southern California.

While having a political neophyte as her presumed protector surely did not help Harrington's cause, former Clark administration figures say that Harrington should have managed her people better, that she was handed the opportunity of a lifetime and simply blew it.


When Neil Goldschmidt helped kill the Mount Hood Freeway in 1974, Portland was left with a big headache: how to unclog eastside roads. One solution was light rail, but it was a tough sell. "It's easy to forget how much resistance there was to light rail," says Alan Webber, then an aide to Goldschmidt. "It sounded like something from another planet, and it sounded too fancy for Portland."

But Portland had to come up with an alternative to the freeway or lose $500 million in federal money. So, in 1982, construction began on the 15-mile Portland-to-Gresham Metropolitan Area Express, or MAX, line. When MAX's electric doors whirred open in September 1986, anxiety still ran high. Bill Scott, who managed Goldschmidt's campaign for governor that year, now admits he was "chicken" about putting Goldschmidt on the inaugural run. "It was unclear if it was going to be popular," Scott says.

He needn't have worried. Portlanders loved their new civic status symbol, standing in line for 200,000 free rides that first weekend. Neighborhoods baptized their MAX stations with fairs and bands--the Gateway district even hosted a circus.

But in retrospect, it seems clear that the MAX tracks were laid in the wrong place. They weren't close enough to the Lloyd Center, didn't go to downtown Gresham and, worse yet, ran in a ditch along the Banfield Freeway, which kept MAX from spurring denser development.

The new orthodoxy holds that MAX is far more than a way to move commuters. When Tri-Met puts down rail lines, developers build housing that's geared to transit users. That means fewer parking spaces and garages, and more housing on less land. "People didn't understand the land-use connections at first," says Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton. "It was a learning experience."

The lesson may have come too late. After the line to Gresham was built, all new MAX tracks seemed to run up steep hills. By November 1998 (although the $1 billion westside line was up and running), the proposed north-south MAX line was rejected by Clark County, the Oregon Legislature, Oregon voters and tri-county voters in different elections. MAX advocates might as well be pushing for a sales tax or pump-your-own gas stations.

But they found other ways. In 1997, local leaders cut a deal to build airport MAX without a public vote, then came up with a similar plan for Interstate Avenue MAX.

MAX has never developed the momentum its fans envisioned. It's expensive; it asks people to make themselves less mobile; and it's been sold as an anti-car religion instead of a low-stress option for car owners. Even former boosters like Ron Buel now view MAX with some skepticism. Buel, WW's founding editor and author of an anti-car book called Dead End: The Automobile in Mass Transportation, says planners need to kick their MAX habit and focus on more flexible transit in the suburbs. "If I could have $1 billion to spend on non-light-rail transit, man, I could get an enormous amount done," he says.


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