Breaking News: Jeff the Great Runs for Elected Office

Here is the deal: I'm starting the country's shortest successful campaign for elected public office.

If you are an Oregonian, please write in "Jeff Martens" (and fill in the bubble) for Soil & Water Director Zone 3. There is no candidate on file so it is a 100% write in campaign. Think we can make history? I do...with your help!

I know I am not the only or first to think of this but who the hell cares! Vote for Jeff Martens and I'll promise to always wear booties on my shoes so that I never track soil or water into your house!

Change you can believe in!

Yes we can!

Jeff Martens for Soil & Water Director, Zone 3. Thanks for your vote!


Jeff the Great Makes Blood Secrets Required Reading

Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene ReconstructionistI recently reviewed a great book by a high school mentor of mine over on my web site ThePortlander.com Below is a reprint of my review of Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist:

A few weeks ago ThePortlander introduced you to a new book by West Linn resident Rod Englert. Since then, I had the pleasure of reading the non-fiction work and can report that Mr. Englert has made Portland proud. This is one great read, and I hope for more.

Chief Deputy (Ret.) Rod Englert is a 44 year veteran of law enforcement, most recently of the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office. After graduating from the Los Angeles Police Academy and spending a number of years with the Downey, CA police department, Englert moved his family and career to Portland, OR where he joined Multnomah County as a deputy. Over the next few decades, his life and career would take the path of a master detective, crime scene expert and the father of modern blood spatter analysis.

His book, Blood Secrets, is not only about blood spatter analysis and crime scenes, it is about the extraordinary life of Mr. Englert. It is this style of storytelling that keeps the reader engaged and interested in every turn of the 268 page hardcover. Along with his co-author Kathy Passero, Englert walks readers through what drew him to law enforcement as a kid, the mistake he made as a rookie cop that led him to blood spatter analysis and the celebrity cases that he has been involved in.

As someone that has known Rod for more than 15 years, I was aware that he was involved in modern America’s best known crime case, the O.J. Simpson trial, but I had no idea that he was also involved in the celebrity cases of Robert Blake, Bob Crane, Ennis Cosby and Selena Quintanilla-Perez. This portion of the book presents details that you have never heard from the media.

It isn’t just the celebrity cases that really make this book. It wasn’t even the details of the other fascinating cases that Englert has worked on. It was the little things like the tale of being arrested as a kid that ultimately lead to his career in law enforcement, and the story of a Portland area high school student that helped solved a key puzzle in a celebrity trial and cementing her interest in detective work. Those personal details take Blood Secrets from being a technical true crime text book and elevate it up to a popular memoir about an interesting life and career.

There is one slow section of the book while the author describes the details and intricacies of blood spatter evidence. Unless you are in law enforcement or have a deep interest in crime scene analysis, you may struggle in these pages. This detail, however, is necessary and I applaud Englert for including it. Not only does this knowledge help the reader understand the details of crimes Englert describes in later chapters, it shows would-be CSI’s that detective work isn’t always high tech and can sometimes be as simple as it is complex.

I strongly recommend this book to many different types of readers. It is an obvious pick for anyone in law enforcement or those that enjoy true crime. It is also a great selection for those of us that love to read about the interesting lives of others, learning more about how they got to where they are today. Finally, if you live in the Portland area, pick up this book and support a local author!

Rod Englert will be reading from and signing his book Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist on Thursday, May 27th, 7pm at the Beaverton Powell’s.


City of Bend: You are Doing it Wrong

Being a Portlander, one of my favorite places to get out of town to for a few days is Bend, Oregon. It is part ski town, part hippster scence and part retirement area. The weather is great, the scenery is beautiful and Mt. Bachelor is just down the road.

Despite all of these great attributes, Bend has struggled in the past few years. Businesses have shut down, unemployment has skyrocketed, foreclosures are on the rise and their general economy often ranks in the top 10 worst in America.

I am over in Bend right now while my wife is here for work. I decided to find a nice coffee shop to work at this morning and ended up in a trendy looking section of downtown Bend. Unfortunately for business owners, downtown is dead. Empty commercial space lines most streets, restaurants sit virtually empty and the roads are all but a ghost town. If you are a small business owner, downtown Bend is probably one of the worst places for your storefront in all of Oregon right now.

I parked and walked into a wonderful coffee shop called Thump on Minnesota Street. They serve Stumptown and offer free wifi. The place was packed, unlike so many of their neighbors. Afterward, I asked the owner for a lunch restaurant suggestion and he pointed me to one of his favorites, and now one of mine after the amazing sandwich I just had. All told, I spent 3 hours in downtown Bend, found 2 great businesses to frequent and spent money.

When I returned to my car, it sat alone, the only vehicle parked on that side of the street for an entire block. I had a green envelope on my windshield; I was issued a parking ticket. Apparently that street, and most other downtown bend streets, have a 2 hour parking limit. I was a patron at locally owned businesses, spending money for 1 hour too long. Shame on me.

See, Bend, when you are in the type of economic situation that you’re in, parking tickets on empty streets are the last thing you should worry about. Sure, I know that I violated the time restriction, guilty as charged. However, I was one of very few people spending money in your community. I was supporting the businesses that have managed to stay alive during one of the worst economic downturns in modern history. One that names Bend as its poster child for what went wrong.

Instead of enforcing laws that keep people from spending more time and money in your once vibrant downtown, why not remove those restrictions and encourage people to hang around? I need a place for dinner tonight and will want to have a coffee while working again tomorrow. Should I go to downtown Bend for those trips or not? As I look at my $22 parking ticket from the City of Bend, I can tell you I’ll take my business elsewhere.

Bend, save the parking tickets for when you unemployment drops below 17%, for when your housing prices are no longer down 40%-60% from their highs and for when businesses start opening in your downtown, rather than closing.


Jeff the Great Starts Up Your Weekend

During the weekend of March 5th - 7th I am attending an event I am really excited about. It is called Startup Weekend and I hope you will join me! The idea is to get a bunch of entrepreneurial people into an office space for an entire weekend, pitch ideas for startup businesses, join the team that sounds most interesting to you and then build a business in 1 weekend!

The concept has been going on for a few years now and was even created by an Oregon native. His name is Andrew Hyde, he is a native of Sisters Oregon and Startup Weekend is just one of the companies/organizations he has started.

First and foremost, the event is all about the experience. In reality, no one really expects the companies that get started to take off and make the participants millionaires. That said, some Startup Weekend companies have gone on to do very well for themselves, earning revenues and gaining major media coverage for what they do.

I just registered for the 2010 Portland weekend and I hope you will join me! Best case scenario is that you become the co-founder of a company that goes on to make you a very rich person. Worst case scenario is that you meet some cool new people, make new professional connections, learn about starting a business and have a whole lot of fun.

It is a no lose situation. Wont you join me?

Learn more and sign up here: http://portland.startupweekend.org.


Jeff the Great Lowers E-Book Prices

At Christmas I became the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle. I am an avid reader so I was excited to finally own an e-reader. I've found myself reading more than ever before. I buy a new book the minute I finish the last.

I am in love with my Kindle.

Apple recently announced their tablet computer, the iPad. With the iPad, Apple will launch an e-book store that iPad users can use to wirelessly purchase books....similar to how I currently buy books on my Kindle.

Amazon charges $9.99 for most e-books. Publishers don't like it but Amazon is such a powerhouse in both print and digital sales, they have gone along with the pricing. Apple says that they will either allow for higher pricing or let the publishers decide pricing on their own (honestly, I am not sure which of the two). Either way, publishers have come out saying that $15 is their preferred price for most popular books. Fifty percent or $5 more than what Amazon charges. Publishers are using the Apple announcement as leverage against Amazon to raise prices.

I believe that publishers are wrong and consumers will not pay $15 for digital books. Increased competition typically leads to lower prices, but in this case publishers want to use more competition to deliver higher prices to consumers.

You'll notice is that the best seller list for the Amazon Kindle includes many free books. As I write, the #2 best selling Kindle book is the free, public domain version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The 4th best selling Kindle book is a 25 cent book on how to use a Kindle. Numbers 6 and 12, more freebies. In fact, the top 10 list includes only 1 book in the $9 range. The rest are free, $8, $5 or less.

When looking at the current best selling print books, we find more evidence showing that a $15 pricing plan wont work. As I write, the current #1 best selling print books is Food Rules: An Eater's Manual for $5. The Kindle version is also $5, where it is ranked 7th. The #2 best selling print book is $9.56 (Kindle version for $8.55). In fact, of the top 15 selling print books, not a single one sells for $15 or higher. Why would e-book buyers pay $15 for a less-tangible version of a book they could buy a print version for less and retain the ability to keep, lend or re-sell?

The Barnes and Noble e-book store for their reader, the Nook, is even more telling. The best selling e-book at Barnes and Noble is Dear John for only $4.39. Number 2, $4.99. Just like Amazon, most of their best selling e-books are well under $9.99, not to mention the $15 that major publishers say they want to charge.

So how is it that we get more competition in both hardware and online stores but the publishers expect us to pay less? Don't expect me to start spending more money than I would spend purchasing a physical book. If that's the case, my Kindle will become a newspaper reader, blog reader and free book reader. I'll go back to reading books in print.


Jeff the Great Illustrates Measures 66 & 67

Sorry to my followers outside of Oregon for all this political talk. I promise this will be my last post on the proposed Oregon tax hikes!

So I was thinking of how to illustrate the meaning of measures 66 & 67.....take a look at the below and tell me what you think.

Hi, my name is Jeff the Great and I'm unemployed. Life is not as easy now as it was when I had a job.

It's not fair.

Because it isn't fair, I am going to need everyone I know to send me a check for $150. After all, I'd like some more money and you appear to have money.

It's not fair.

What's that, you say I already get unemployment which is paid for partly out of your pocket?

Ya, I know I do, but it is just not enough. I'd like to make the same amount of money now as I did when I worked.

If I don't make that much, it's not fair.

What's that, you think I should have managed my money better when I was employed and not have gotten in over my head?

Ya, that sounds like a good idea until you think about it. I mean, I work hard ya know. I am entitled to lots of stuff. Besides, it's not like I made that much money in my last job anyway.

It's not fair.

What's that, you mean the economy is tough for you, too and you're barely making it?

That sucks, but it's not fair that you have a job and I don't so I'm going to need for you to write that check, pretty please.

After all, it's only fair.

What?!? You can't write me that check because now you don't have a job either? Who's going to write me that check now? And then who will write you your check?


See any parallels with the proposed tax increases?


Jeff the Great Votes No on 66 & 67

I recently asked my LinkedIn network a thought provoking question. I asked: “When you attempt to solve problems, are you reacting to symptoms or addressing the root cause?”

Let’s put this question into a real life scenario. Say you have a new teenage driver in your household, driving a car you own. They have fallen into a driving style where they accelerate as quickly as possible when a light turns green, only to slam on their brakes up ahead at a red light. This style of driving leads to you having to service the brakes on your car well before the average life of brake pads. When you discover the root of the problem (your teenagers driving habits), do you continue to service the brakes more frequently than you should (addressing the symptom) or do you teach your teenager how to drive more prudently and tell them they will pay for any unnecessary brake service (addressing the root of the problem)? I am guessing you would do the latter.

Oregon has a special election this January where we will vote on proposed tax increases for some individuals (measure 66) as well as changes to the state tax code for most businesses (measure 67). I am voting “No” on both of these because, in part, I believe they treat the symptoms and fail to address the problem.

I am against both measures but I really despise measure 67, the tax increase aimed at businesses. Let’s review the facts and you’ll see why I am so adamantly opposed.

First, don’t believe the television ads that want you to think big corporations only pay the $10 minimum tax. If an Oregon corporation is profitable, it is paying substantial income taxes in Oregon. Nike, Les Schwab Tire Centers, Precision Cast Parts, Columbia Sportswear….these companies ARE NOT paying just the minimum. Companies paying the minimum are those that do not turn a profit. Your locally owned sandwich shop or dry cleaners may not have turned a profit in 2009. Many small businesses don’t. These businesses don’t pay an income tax but they are still paying things like a payroll tax and property tax. These businesses are essentially paying for the opportunity to run a business that is not yet profitable. Measure 67 will make they pay even more for this right.

In addition to increasing the minimum tax on unprofitable companies, measure 67 does more damage. It changes the tax code and taxes some businesses based on sales, not profits. It increases the profit tax on Oregon’s largest employers by 1.3 percentage points. It is retroactive back 13 months. It increases many business paperwork filing fees…some will be doubled; some will be more than tripled.

Do any of these changes address the root cause of the problem or do they simply address the symptoms? I believe that the real problem is Oregon spending money irresponsibly, often spending more than it has. The symptoms are state agencies running out of money sooner than they should and the inability to run in the inefficient ways they are used to.

I read a story today that is a great analogy of what the Oregon legislature is asking us to do. It was about a women that upgraded to a more expensive apartment and leased a new car. Four months later she couldn’t afford the payments and asked her boss for a raise so she could meet the financial obligations she created. She was fired on the spot (from 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller).

Oregon voters are the boss and the legislature is the lady in over her head financially. Are we going to do what she asks or say no to her selfish demand?

I’ll close with one last anecdote. Recently I was debating these measures with another Oregon voter and he said something interesting. He stated something to the effect of “if the legislature would bring me (the voter) solutions to our problems without increasing taxes, I’d vote in favor of them.” I told him that he needs to tell his legislators to do just that. Something tells me that on January 26th he’ll mark “Yes” on his ballot for 66 & 67 but he won’t follow through with telling his legislators what he expects from them. Me, my “No” vote will be part of my message to Salem.