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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 31, 2004 12:51 AM. The previous post in this blog was More on the Coliseum. The next post in this blog is Darren for President. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Scam spotlight

Isaac Laquedem has some thoughts on the Portland Old Town Fire Station relocation project. He doesn't like it.

To me, between Laquedem's views and the presumption of waste that accompanies all development projects coming from this City Council, it looks like another stinker.

Comments (13)

Is anyone in PDX going to run for Mayor with the platform:
"No Goofy Developments. Period." - ?
I'd vote for that platform in a heartbeat.

There is no hope for the PDX in the near future because, simply put, none of the candidates is willing to act in a way signified by the above slogan. Kitsch projects will be allowed to grow (both train lines), sports franchises will have their way with the city (Rose Garden), and simply bad ideas will continue unabated (OHSU Tram, Armory remodeling).

Question to everyone - Does PDX have any past development projects that have actually *made* money for the city? Scratch that, have any development projects *not* run the city into a loss of over US$1,000,000 in a year? Can someone name one?

[ Note: Up-keep for bridges (new paint) doesn't count - but that's the most profitable useful-to-the-whole-city project I can think of. Seriously. ]

Why do Portland developments have to make money. Why can't the new developments just make our city more liveable. Frankly, I'm happy to pay taxes for a new MAX Train or Tram. I think it adds something to the city as a whole.

MAX doesn't profit PDX financially. It started at a loss (around a dollar per rider). If it does actually break-even (or even make a profit), show me the spreadsheet.

Until then, stop making everyone pay for the gimmick-that-is-MAX and let the minority of citizens that depend on Max go back to riding the buses on 26.

Is there too much traffic on 26? Answer: widen the freeway.

How much are you willing to pay in taxes to prop up a MAX system that gives you zero benefit? I mean you personally? $1? $10? $100? $1,000? $10,000? $100,000 It has to stop at some point.

And the point to stop is when it doesn't bring in more money for the city. The myth of 'Federal Funds' is silly beyond comprehension.

Who pays Federal taxes? Me, you, and folks outside PDX - and why should folks outside PDX be forced to prop up the silly excuse for a commuter train in PDX?

Answer: They shouldn't. No one shouldn't.

If you would like to contribute cash of your own volition,please do so.

I'd rather spend my money on myself and my family. But endeavors that don't help the city (let alone me) are unacceptable.

To answer your original question: "Why do Portland developments have to make money. (sic)"

The answer is 'no one should' because no one should pay for someone else to get to work. If I don't use the alternative of MAX, don't take my tax dollars.

I may (and do) use city streets and highways - and emergency services may use these same streets and highways to help me in an emergency - but there is no reason for me to pay for anyone in Gresham (or elsewhere) to get to work in downtown PDX.

Damn straight!

And those big buildings with all the books? Screw em! I don't wanna have to pay for some damn thing called a 'library' when I obviously never go there.

And those clinics for the poor people? Screw that too! 'Social Services' my ass.

We here live in a democracy! Every man, woman, and child for themselves.

I'm not sure how "no one should" is an answer to the question "Why do Portland developments have to make money?" but, whatever...

The crux of your argument seems to be that you shouldn't have to pay taxes for progams or developments that don't benefit you personally. I disagree...

What about the argument, (and granted this is refutable) that cars are destroying the ozone layer and killing the environment. Therefore, MAX is a necessity to maintain our healthy environment. You benefit by not being flooded out of your home.

I'm pretty sure you think this is a ridiculous claim, but a lot of people don't. And I think that is why your tax dollars are going to pay for a commuter train.

Tax dollars pay for a lot of things which don't benefit you (or me) personally. And I think this is fine.

If the city is low on money, such as now, it needs to stop spending money on pointless projects - such as the proposal to spend $23-million to move the fire station that's next to the Skidmore Fountain.

The comparison to libraries brings up a good point - there is some return in it for me, and for less money than what fiascos like MAX are cotsting me. Having said that - the head of the library got hired away from Washington DC with a salary that is much too large for a PDX librarian position.

My complaint with the PDX spending isn't with the ideas they support. I, too, think a train is a nice, wonderful thing. But the price tag attached is much too large. There are better ways to spend my tax money.

PDX is in the trouble it's in because nice ideas get carte-blanche from the tax payers. That's my problem with city hall. Nifty projects need realistic limits - until that happens, shut the projects down.

The library was not an apt enough example because Scott thinks he still benefits from it. First off, the attitude comes across as pretty damn selfish.

Next, regarding Max and mass transit, we as a community have decided to attack the problems of transportation by not adding more lanes and becoming yet another California/Texas/etc sprawl. Max is part of the whole land use policy that we as a community has pursued.


If you want more lanes and more sprawl move to California or Houston.

Wish I had more time but I might respond more later.

Not sure how light rail to Hillsboro curbs sprawl. Seems to me it enables it.

Just one more example of Vera's *very pecial math*, ie: why spend 1 million to renovate the fire station when the taxpayers can pick up the tab for $26 million and meanwhile-guess whose favourite developers get a new site to stick their crappy condos on!!! Sound faniliar?? Welcome to Portland a la Vera!!

Scott- Actually the taxpayers aren't giving city council carte blanche to spend our dollars- it's rather the reverse- Vera gets carte blanche to blow the taxpayers monies on her buddies projects. Corruption?? You bet!! With bells on!!

Hilsy - Me selfish? Darn right. I earned the money, and subsidizing money-wasting projects is not a just use of it.

If people want to support causes that don't benefit me they can start a charity. The charity can find folks to volunteer their monies. If something is truly a good idea, then people will voluntarily support it. Having my taxes sent to things that don't benefit me either directly (paved roads) or indirectly (public education) is theft.

We as a community are growing. It's a nice thought that PDX wants to keep the highways at levels adequate for a smaller population. But that nice thought is not a useful thought.

Additional traffic didn't come out of nowhere - additional traffic appeared because of additional people. If you don't want sprawl or more lanes move to a city that isn't growing. Projects that are nice-to-have, but cost too much aren't helpful.

Hi there--
let me first offer a disclaimer. Although I am an employee of the Fire Bureau, and work at Station 1, I am not speaking in any official capacity here. But I do think I have some needed insight on what's going on with this project.

First of all, I think Isaac understates the requirements of seismic upgrades. The current estimate for stabilizing the soil under the building is around 250K. However, once the soil is ready, then the building itself will require upgrading to new codes. The price tag on that is estimated at 11.6 million. In addition, that 11.6 million is already funded; it comes from the GO Bond authorization of (IIRC) 1997. So to say that simply abandoning a move will cost the city a million bucks is incorrect. Even if Station 1 stays where it is, over 11mil will need to be pumped into upgrades for this 50 year old structure.

What PDC is willing to do is to put another 10.5 million into the kitty to enable an entirely new and up-to-code building at 1st and Davis. Not only will the Bureau receive a new flagship for what is by far its busiest station (almost 8000 runs by rig in FY03), the building will be configured in such a way as to allow better ingress and egress of rigs, provide underground parking, and consolidate Fire Bureau staff that are currently dispersed about the city on both sides of the river.

Just as important to PDC, moving the station will free up what it views as the cornerstone property of the Old Town/Skidmore development plan. I'm sure Jack and Isaac are aware of the City's interest in refurbishing the district, to put a much better face on an area that sees a fair amount of tourist traffic, both intentional (Saturday Market) and casual (ride throughs on the Max, use of Waterfront Park, Chinatown, etc). Also, the project would address the dearth of residential property in the district, a key to any plans of refurbishment and incentive to commercial development (read: shops and restaurants). It's also one of the most historically important parts of the city, blessed as it is with 19th century buildings of wonderful architecture, with steelwork found in very few other areas of the country.

The DDA (Development and Disposition Agreement) for this project is due to be finalized within the next month or so, so estimates are by no means finalized. But the reality of what's going on is not quite equivalent to a $23 million boondoggle just to prevent earthquake damage. The total as it stands is actually $22.1mil, and over half of that was bonded 7 years ago and should be considered a sunk cost.

When you say "brand new, state of the art Fire HQ and busiest fire station, plus a kick-start to Skidmore refurbishment, for 10 million dollars," it doesn't sound so crazy, IMO.


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