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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

1996: pornocopia | grand slam: poetry in an angry voice | the tax man: Bill Sizemore



EVENTS

Back in the innocent '70s, Stumptown boasted a mere handful of "gentlemen's establishments." By 1996, however, a quick glance through Exotic magazine, the glossy chronicle of Portland's ascendant sex industry, would reveal a truly eye-popping array of strip clubs with fetching names like the Double Dribble and Pop-a-Top, and a concomitant swarm of stark raving naked ladies gyrating gracefully, if insincerely, to Satan's beat. And that's not counting the peep shows, the lingerie-modeling emporia, the dirty bookstores, the video arcades and the escort services.

So why this profusion of sleaze? Actually, there were two reasons: a buttoned-down judge who cleared away the legal hurdles and a social revolution that muted the moral ones.

It all began with the Oregon Constitution's sweeping definition of free speech, which grants citizens certain fundamental rights, including the right to advocate unpopular viewpoints, the right to paint huge commercial murals and--most germane in this context--the right to flash a bare beaver to an appreciative, paying stranger.

This language had been in place since 1859, but no one took much notice until 1978, when Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans Linde propounded the revolutionary idea that states had the power to confer additional rights upon their citizens beyond those guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. (Until Linde, state constitutions were routinely ignored in civil-rights cases.)

The 1978 case was a relatively dry matter involving the constitutionality of an anti-coercion law. The pornographic opportunities presented by our most permissive of state charters were not realized until 1987, when the court held by the same reasoning that adult-bookstore owner Earl Henry's right to free expression had been violated by the police who seized his inventory and jailed him for obscenity.

Thus was the precedent set, and Linde's logic remains in force. In case after case, state and city governments have been powerless to regulate (that's regulate, let alone ban) any form of expression based solely on its content. Even Oregon's child-pornography laws ban that "form of expression" based upon the harm done to the minors in question, not the content itself. (In May 2000, however, Oregon voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment giving local governments the right to zone adult businesses.)

While the front door was being pried open by strict constructionists, changing social mores were slipping in through the back--not the least of which was the rise of "sex-positive" feminism. In the mid-'80s, when political correctness dominated college campuses and lipstick was considered a male plot, one would have been hard-pressed to find any self-described feminist shedding her garments for a sawbuck. But the PC movement's killjoy Calvinism unleashed a powerful cultural backlash, giving rise to a new generation of self-identified feminists who, by contrast, regarded high heels and halter tops not as instruments of subjugation but as tools for empowerment.

Since then, sex-industry workers have stepped forward to claim pride in their work, starting trade magazines such as Danzine. Though this has hardly won universal approval, it has improved the industry's profile--and given voyeurs an ethical fig leaf to hide behind as they succumb to their baser instincts.

Scientists at OHSU and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center develop an experimental vaccine for multiple sclerosis, a devastating illness in which the body's immune system attacks its own nerve insulation. The vaccine can slow, but not prevent, the disease.

Two college students stumble on a 9,000-year-old human skeleton on the banks of the Columbia River, touching off a lengthy struggle among the Army Corps of Engineers, paleoanthropologists, five Native American tribes and a bunch of guys who dress up like Vikings. Three years later, researchers say Kennewick Man is probably Asian.

Democrat Ron Wyden squeaks past conservative gee-oh-pea-farmer Gordon Smith to become Oregon's first Democratic senator in more than 33 years. Nine months later, Smith trounces high-tech lefty Tom Bruggere to join Wyden in the august chamber.

Torrential February storms swell the Willamette to within inches of breaching the city's harbor wall. At the urging of Mayor Vera Katz, hundreds of city workers and volunteers toil through the night to build a sandbag barricade along the riverfront. Statewide, the Great Flood damages 7,000 homes to the tune of roughly $400 million. Highways require $81 million worth of repair.

In the biggest bank merger in history, California-based Wells Fargo buys First Interstate for $12.6 billion.

Mittelman Jewish Center hosts the first annual Eastern European Cultural Festival in response to a surge of immigrants from behind the former Iron Curtain. By 1999, roughly 60,000 Russians live in the metro area.

Portland catches hold of the bagel craze as two Noah's Bagels compounds open to ebullient throngs who gladly wait in lengthening lines for a nibble of the dense, chewy national treasure.

Forty years after stitching together the first of its trademark plaid jackets, Pendleton Woolen Mills closes its Sellwood factory, idling 120 workers, and shifts operations to Mexico.

Serial killer Douglas Wright becomes the first Oregon inmate to be put to death in 34 years. Wright, 56, had sought execution since 1991, when he was arrested for the murders of four homeless men in a remote part of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

Portland Police Cmdr. Mike Garvey is placed on administrative leave amid allegations that he's had sex with male prostitutes. Garvey later admits that he paid escorts to give him massages at home, and that he did have sex with at least one escort, but insists the payment was for massage. A grand jury clears him; Police Chief Charles Moose demotes him to captain; Garvey then files a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against because he is gay.

The Portland Art Museum draws more than 415,000 visitors to the Imperial Tombs of China. The exhibit includes giant, centuries-old terra cotta soldiers, bronze horses and a jade burial suit.

Clark County voters derail Tri-Met's dream of building a North-South MAX line across the Columbia River by overwhelmingly rejecting local taxes for the rail link. 'Couverites are now officially banned from whining about I-5 traffic jams.

The Vat and Tonsure, the closest thing Portland has to a cafe-salon, is demolished to make way for the Fox Tower.

Finally, Portland lands the professional sports team it always wanted. Yes, arena football rides into town on the scales of the Portland Forest Dragons, late the Memphis Pharaohs. Those out of the Renn Fayre loop are still wondering: What the hell is a Forest Dragon?

Vitamin king GNC pays $17.5 million for the six-store Nature's chain, which sprouted from a single grocery on Southwest Corbett Avenue. Purists fear the new owners will bury the organic arugula in a Tide of Doritos, but in fact GNC lets the chain freak freely until selling it in 1999 for a cool $57 million.

Due to Ballot Measure 5, Portland schools are forced to cut $23 million from their budget, reaching record lows in school funding. Parents collect signatures for a temporary increase in Multnomah County's business income tax, narrowly averting a teachers strike.

An Air Force cargo plane crashes 80 miles off the California coast, killing 10 Portland-area reservists. The widows of the King-56 disaster begin a long struggle to find out the cause of the crash. Air Force blames the crew, but evidence suggests mechanical defect. In 1999, a federal judge rules that the widows can sue the plane's manufacturers, despite a law granting defense contractors immunity from lawsuits.

Chef Greg Higgins opens Higgins restaurant and takes a culinary stand against the global economy. Following the French concept of terroir (the soil), he relies on local and seasonal bounty--from free-range chicken to line-caught Pacific salmon.

 

     
PORNOCOPIA

BY MARTY SMITH

  Back in the innocent '70s, Stumptown boasted a mere handful of "gentlemen's establishments." By 1996, however, a quick glance through Exotic magazine, the glossy chronicle of Portland's ascendant sex industry, would reveal a truly eye-popping array of strip clubs with fetching names like the Double Dribble and Pop-a-Top, and a concomitant swarm of stark raving naked ladies gyrating gracefully, if insincerely, to Satan's beat. And that's not counting the peep shows, the lingerie-modeling emporia, the dirty bookstores, the video arcades and the escort services.

So why this profusion of sleaze? Actually, there were two reasons: a buttoned-down judge who cleared away the legal hurdles and a social revolution that muted the moral ones.

It all began with the Oregon Constitution's sweeping definition of free speech, which grants citizens certain fundamental rights, including the right to advocate unpopular viewpoints, the right to paint huge commercial murals and--most germane in this context--the right to flash a bare beaver to an appreciative, paying stranger.

This language had been in place since 1859, but no one took much notice until 1978, when Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans Linde propounded the revolutionary idea that states had the power to confer additional rights upon their citizens beyond those guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. (Until Linde, state constitutions were routinely ignored in civil-rights cases.)

The 1978 case was a relatively dry matter involving the constitutionality of an anti-coercion law. The pornographic opportunities presented by our most permissive of state charters were not realized until 1987, when the court held by the same reasoning that adult-bookstore owner Earl Henry's right to free expression had been violated by the police who seized his inventory and jailed him for obscenity.

Thus was the precedent set, and Linde's logic remains in force. In case after case, state and city governments have been powerless to regulate (that's regulate, let alone ban) any form of expression based solely on its content. Even Oregon's child-pornography laws ban that "form of expression" based upon the harm done to the minors in question, not the content itself. (In May 2000, however, Oregon voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment giving local governments the right to zone adult businesses.)

While the front door was being pried open by strict constructionists, changing social mores were slipping in through the back--not the least of which was the rise of "sex-positive" feminism. In the mid-'80s, when political correctness dominated college campuses and lipstick was considered a male plot, one would have been hard-pressed to find any self-described feminist shedding her garments for a sawbuck. But the PC movement's killjoy Calvinism unleashed a powerful cultural backlash, giving rise to a new generation of self-identified feminists who, by contrast, regarded high heels and halter tops not as instruments of subjugation but as tools for empowerment.

Since then, sex-industry workers have stepped forward to claim pride in their work, starting trade magazines such as Danzine. Though this has hardly won universal approval, it has improved the industry's profile--and given voyeurs an ethical fig leaf to hide behind as they succumb to their baser instincts.



GRAND SLAM

BY SUSAN WICKSTROM

"...I love you, I hate you, I want you dead! I love you, I hate you, I want you back!"

As four poets from Providence, R.I., finished a team piece at a raging poetry-reading contest, a thousand screaming fans at the Performing Arts Center roared their approval. For four days in August 1996, Portland became the cultural center of the nation's exploding spoken-word movement when 120 poets in 27 teams from across the country arrived to compete in the seventh National Poetry Slam. But it wasn't easy to get such a high-profile gig.

Back in January 1994, Kristi Edmunds invited the Nuyoricans, a group of New York City performance poets, to participate in Art on the Edge. She planned the first local slam in conjunction with the event, then encouraged Jeff Meyers to organize a continuing slam. Weary of Portland's poetry scene, where the only place to read your work was a weekly open mike at Cafe Lena, Meyers jumped at the chance.

At the 1995 National Poetry Slam in hot, humid Ann Arbor, Mich., Meyers used unconventional means to persuade the skeptical committee to hold the 1996 competition in Portland. He grabbed a color-coded USA Today weather map that showed most of the country engulfed in the reds and oranges of scorching weather, with the Pacific Northwest shaded in cool blues and greens. He boasted of the city's profusion of microbreweries.

A year later, Portland was in the grip of a heat wave when the national competition arrived. The team from Providence emerged victorious; Team Portland finished in a respectable 11th place. And the Rose City gained a reputation as a happening place in the world of the spoken word.



THE TAX MAN

BY PATTY WENTZ

  Pop Quiz: Who are we thinking of?

  • Anti-tax activist
  • Public-employee enemy No. 1
  • Signature-gathering tycoon
  • Failed toy baron
  • Flopped carpet salesman
  • Creamed gubernatorial candidate
  • Most influential politician in Oregon

And the answer is--Bill Sizemore.

His name echoes as an expletive in the halls of the state Capitol. He is disdained by liberals, feared by public school teachers and disrespected by politicos, and he's the unions' favorite whipping-boy.

Yet as author of Measure 47, a property tax "cut and cap" ballot initiative passed in 1996, he tapped into a deep-rooted resentment of government that shaped Oregon politics for years to come.

A conservative Christian carpet-hawker with a wall-to-wall smile, Sizemore got his political career off to an inauspicious start--an unsuccessful bid for state Senate in 1980 and two abortive runs for City Council. Then he teamed up with Gresham businessman Frank Eisenzimmer to start Oregon Taxpayers United and, in 1994, led his first attack on public employees: Measure 8, which forced public workers to turn more of their paychecks into their own retirement fund, riding roughshod over existing labor contracts.

Measure 8 hit a nerve. While the urban, information-based economy flourished, workers in Oregon's traditional industries --timber, farming, fishing--were left behind. They resented public employees' cushy retirements. Although Measure 8 was later overturned by the courts, it put Sizemore in the sights of public employees--a place he is delighted to be.

In 1996, he grabbed the big prize. Flush with cash from anti-tax ideologues, he proposed Measure 47, which continued the anti-tax revolution begun by his philosophical soul mate, Don McIntire. Still smarting from the high property taxes of the late 1980s, voters agreed--in spite of warnings from nearly every newspaper, politician and opinion-leader in the state. In the 1996 Voters' Pamphlet there were 45 commentaries on Measure 47. Only nine were in favor--all signed by Sizemore.

But 1996 was also the year things started to go sour. Voters rejected his other three measures, including a super-majority rule and two public-employee spanks. Even his success was a failure: Measure 47 was so poorly written that the state Legislature rewrote it.

In 1998, against all odds, Sizemore ran for governor. He started off with some of the lowest numbers pollsters had ever seen, then sank out of sight when The Oregonian revealed he had jilted investors in his toy company out of $795,000. That same year he failed to pass a bill that would prohibit payroll deductions for union dues for--you got it--public employees.

Despite these setbacks, Sizemore won't quit. He's now collecting signatures for yet more tax-cutting and anti-union measures. "When I drive down the street through any neighborhood in this entire state," he says, "I know the people living in each house have more money in their pockets because of the work I've done. And that's a good feeling."

 

 

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