Working on the railroad(ing)
Now that the suckers -- er, I mean voters -- of Portland have voted in the local income tax, it's time for Vera Katz (the ceremonial mayor of Portland) and developer Homer Williams (the real mayor of Portland) to try to ramrod home Williams's North Macadam development plan, which will load up the south end of downtown with riverfront skyscrapers and run a hideous aerial tram from the waterfront to the med school on the hill.
The Oregonian reports today that the project is now suddenly on the "fast track" for City Council action, including a binding commitment to spend $71.9 million of public money to build the infrastructure so that the developer and his cronies (well spoken for by their lobbyist, ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt) can cash in on another Pearl District south of downtown.
What's the rush? All of a sudden the folks at the med school are rumbling about their "tight schedule" for building their research building down there, and of course real estate developers like Williams are always in a hurry to see how fast they can add another digit to their bank accounts. "Time is of the essence," it seems, to make them richer.
So hurry, Vera, hurry! Don't worry that you're committing $48.3 million of local public money for this little frill at a time when your city is supposedly broke. And that's just the estimate for the first four years. Don't worry that the budget calls for $23.6 million in federal and state monies that haven't been appropriated or approved. Just hurry, hurry, hurry, to break ground with Homer. Once he gets his first tower up in that vast industrial wasteland down there, all the other dominoes will fall his way.
Will the rest of the City Council go along with the sudden urgency? If Her Honor is voting yes, you can count on Commissioner Erik Sten (Tweedle-dee) to go along with her, so that's two votes in Homer's pocket. Perhaps Randy Leonard and Jim Francesconi have the guts to say no, but I fear old Dan "Low Profile" Saltzman has already been fed enough power lunches by Goldschmidt and Williams that he's probably a yes vote.
What a shame. Take a look at the chart, folks. I can't find it on The O's lame web site, but if you have the fish wrap handy, it's on Page A14. Especially you soccer moms out there who marched in the streets to save the schools. The city that just held you up for a big income tax increase now has $48.3 million lying around to build Son of Pearl down on Macadam. And when it's all over, the local taxpayer tab will be twice that.
These are the same politicians who are strutting up and down like peacocks croaking, "Not a penny! Not a penny of public money for the baseball stadium!" Oh, yeah, they're such stalwart guardians of public funds. They would never -- never! -- give it away to private parties in the disguise of economic development.
Am I the only one in the blogosphere who thinks this is arrogance of the highest order?
UPDATE, 6/20: My friend and research maven Rob Truman has dug out the details of the proposed public-private agreement, which are here.
The public and private budgets for the deal are on page 13.