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Two different subjects from our editor., in his comments this month -- one political, one consumer oriented

On Sunday, October 8, the Portland Oregonian editorially called for voters to defeat the Charter Measure on the November ballot. This was a surprisingly regressive position from a newspaper that likes to think of itself as "progressive".

And yet, we suppose, it should not really have come as a surprise. The intense campaign of the past month or so, calling for the measure's defeat, has mostly come from downtown business interests, and the city government itself — all of whom seem alarmed that the downtown-centric nature of the current antiquated Commission form of government could be lost. After all, the paper, too, is based downtown, as are many of its major advertisers.

They seem to fear that it might give way to a form of city government that offers all parts of the city, including the large section east of the Willamette River — to which the current city government has given little more than lip service — equal representation!

In opposing the measure, the "Big O" parroted all the same tired arguments we have heard from the other opponents lately — including some arguments that are actually untrue. We would have expected better research from a newspaper that prides itself on enterprise journalism. But, perhaps it is simply reflecting the panic that some folks in downtown feel, fearing that's some of their current power could slip away?

In any event, we ourselves have spent the past month looking more closely into just how the parts of the new Charter plan will work — the parts the opponents are concentrating on, since they find they can confuse voters by how they characterize them — including arguing that they are "unproven anywhere else", when in fact that is untrue.

As a result of our own research, any misgivings we might have had about how some of these details of the Charter plan would work, are now fully resolved. We are now convinced they WILL work just as they are intended to. We fully and completely support the Charter measure in its current form, and we believe that the "better" approach proposed by a City Commissioner, for a ballot "sometime next year," would in fact not be as good in practice.

But, to get back to the point: This November's election is our best chance in over a century to enact badly needed CHANGE in our quaint and increasingly ineffective form of city government. We suggest we all keep our eyes on the ball, here! We DO need change. And this ballot measure, Measure 26-228, IS change, and it's on the ballot right now. And make no mistake, if some part of the plan does not work as expected, the City Council has always had, and will always have, the power to put a measure on the ballot without delay to correct it.

However, if these naysayers do manage to defeat the Charter measure in November, please do not count on any change to come. Commissioner Mapps may be sincere in proposing what he thinks is a "better charter plan" for a future ballot measure of his own devising — but if he does succeed in getting it on a ballot, he will still be facing the same vested-interest opposition the current measure has had — intense resistance from those in downtown who are determined to keep things just as they are right now, thank you!

Those nay-sayers, faced with another charter change on a ballot next year or later, would no doubt then argue, "The Charter Commission will meet again in a decade, as provided by law — so why rush through this hastily-devised alternative, when in just a few years we can have a fully-researched and citizen-vetted alternative?

Don't let these folks get away with just kicking reform down the road time after time. We have a fully-researched and citizen-vetted alternative from that commission right NOW!

If these opponents can defeat a plan put together by an official City Charter Commission formed of volunteers of all races, creeds, and viewpoints from the population of this city, across two years of public vetting, simply by nitpicking things that are incidental to actually getting change to occur, and which passed by that commission by a super-majority — why would anyone believe that any subsequent alternate plan devised without all that research, public input, and popular support would do any better? Or even as well? (Voter turnout is always lower in "off-year elections", you know.)

We'll say it again, one last time: VOTE TO FIX THIS CITY NOW. Don't wait for pie in the sky. Vote YES on Measure 26-228 and let's begin real and badly-needed change!


And now, about those local TV broadcasts you currently can't see

COURTESY OF ZAPPERBOX - This is what the Zapperbox looks like. Its only about four and a half inches square, and an inch thick, and it has a lot of capabilities for Videophiles. At the end of last month's editorial, we promised we'd tell you this month more about the local TV broadcasts you have not been able to receive that are being broadcast on Channels 30 and 33 — and about a gizmo, now available, that will let you see them.

First, why on earth are there any local TV broadcasts you can't get? Well, local TV broadcasters, with the support of the F.C.C. but without its mandate of a decade ago to provide a means for the public to receive the new digital broadcasts, have come up with a more advanced form of the digital TV transmissions you already receive — but without any "backward compatibility". The Federal Communications Commission has authorized stations to use it — but currently only requires that their programming on the new broadcast standard is still available to those with TVs able to receive only the current digital television standard.

That means you don't have to worry about having to buy a new TV or converter box in the near future. But it very well could be that this new form will eventually become the new standard, so you should be aware of it — and, if you are interested in an even higher resolution picture, even better sound, and more features, you might want to get a converter box to receive it right now — and the first one immediately available for a decent price is called the "Zapperbox".

We bought one and have been testing it. Some people — gizmo freaks, and those with huge TV screens — might not want to wait.

In addition to the receiving the new advanced ATSC-3 TV transmission format, it also does a fine job on the current ATSC-1 channels; so if you use it, you don't have to switch back to the TV tuner all the time to get all the current TV signals. It's very small in size — about four and a half inches square, and an inch thick — and comes with a remote control.

It can be connected to the Internet either through an Ethernet cable or WiFi. And its builders strongly advise not buying it without connecting it to the Internet, since it is still being developed, and features are being added to it periodically through an Internet connection. Without one, the box cannot get these useful updates. Also, ATSC-3 has features that can blend over-the-air TV signals with the Internet, which is considered one of the new format's big advances — and you won't be able to use that feature without the Internet connection.

Okay, so what do you get if you install one of these now?

Well, if you have a really big TV screen and are receiving local TV signals directly from an antenna — rather than from cable, or satellite, or online — you might be interested in the higher resolution it already offers! Although the new ATSC-3 standard allows 4K resolution and even 8K resolution, no TV station has that kind of video to broadcast yet. But the current TV system's high resolution is either 720p or 1080i, and this box already can offer you more.

All the local TV stations broadcasting in 1080i high resolution are offering 1080p, instead, on their ATSC-3 channels, and the Zapperbox provides it. Some Videophiles will notice and value that difference. With one exception, the local TV stations broadcasting in 720p are doing the same on their ATSC-3 channel; but they don't have to, and one of them isn't.

Under its new ownership of KPTV Channel 12, Grey Television has upgraded the high definition picture of that station from the 780p your current TV receives to 1080p on their ATSC-3 channel, and that really does make a noticeable difference on any size TV!

If you are thinking of buying a Zapperbox for yourself or as a gift, we suggest paying a little extra money and getting the one with two tuners. With that one, it constantly updates its built-in program guide from all the stations it can receive. And, later on, the two-tuner model is expected to support a DVR-type recording capability as well.

The Zapperbox is only sold online from the company at present —

For the right videophile, which of course might include yourself, this might make a rather special Christmas present.

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