Phil Stanford's on a Hot Trail
The news that Phil Stanford has received a death threat in the mail, confirms that he's onto something big with his investigation of police corruption. The events he's been writing about might be a couple of decades old, but clearly some of the players are still around and they are none too pleased with where this is going. What really makes it relevant is that District Attorney Michael Schrunk is up to his neck in this explosive story, having investigated it the first time around as a young DA.
His office has turned the matter over to the FBI - a move designed to give the citizens of Portland a comforting feeling. Of course, if the FBI doesn't handle cases like this, then maybe the investigation was turned over to them just to make it go away. It's not going away.
Over at the Portland Tribune, the atmosphere sounds like one of those old newspaper stories from "The Front Page", where the citizens of Chicago can't wait to read what happens next. This is exactly how the paper should have been from the beginning: A way to stir things up, rather than a place to reenforce the community's fluffy image of itself.
Sure, every now and then a problem crops up where the DA is forced to clear the police in a suspicious death. It happened last year. The good citizens of Portland take note for a while and then we drift back into our polite, little world view. This is different. One of the city's newspapers appears committed to finding out what's really wrong here, and we should all pay attention.
Could it be that Stanford's book, "Portland Confidential", about corruption back in the day, never really stopped? Sure, the pages ended, but nothing else did. Portland loves to think of itself in innocent terms where the problems revolve around spending projects like the tram. Could the real truth have festered beneath the surface? At least in Chicago the problems get uncovered. It's not pretty but it's realistic. Could this town be sitting on some dark secrets that would rock our world view and change the political landscape for good?
If so, the city will never really be on the right path until this underlying truth is exposed for all to see. Maybe then, the irritating peripheral funding stuff will just evaporate. Besides, who cares about the tram if these secrets go unexplored? We've got some real political baggage here. If you put all of Portland's baggage on the tram, the cables would snap and it would drop like a rock.
One thing's for sure: Somebody out in this tame little city is worried - worried enough to sit down and write a death threat to the most courageous newspaper columnist in Portland. Phil knew what he was getting into here, and he went anyway. You have to admire that.
The question remains are the good citizens going to take notice and follow the story wherever it leads, or are we going to turn back to more genteel subjects like school funding? If we do, what are we really teaching the next generation? That crime is okay, if you're connected enough to get it covered up?