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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Who controls the PDC?

Portland mayoral candidate James Posey's suggestion that the Portland Development Commssion be abolished, at least in its current form, got me thinking. It was high time I learned more about who runs the PDC. Like Posey, I don't like the vast majority of what they've been doing with my tax dollars in recent years. I needed to spend some time to figure out who "they" are.

It didn't take long at all. And the answer is, well, depressingly predictable.

The PDC is a creature of a 1958 public vote by which Portland voters established a commission to oversee urban renewal in the Rose City. The law passed by that vote has become Chapter 15 of the City Charter. The PDC is run by five commissioners, all appointed by the mayor; they serve staggered three-year terms.

The current commissioners' biographies, and the bio's of current top management, can be found here, on the PDC website. Chair Matt Hennessee's life story provides Clue No. 1 as to who really controls PDC:

Matt has 8.5 years of experience at nike, Inc., where he served in a variety of roles in customer service, distribution, and operations nationally and internationally.
Scroll down a bit and take a look at Commissioner Janice Wilson's life story, where you find this:
During her tenure at the bank she served for two years as an executive on loan to the City of Portland as the Executive Director of the Bureau of Human Services at the request and under the direction of then Mayor...
And there's Clue No. 2. But if you still don't have the answer, you'll get it when you read the sketch of the executive director and CEO of the PDC, Don Mazziotti, which reads in part:
Past positions include: Chief Planner for the City of Portland; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the U.S.; Secretary of Commerce for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Chief Executive Officer, Delta Development Group, Inc. and Chief Information Officer for the State of Oregon.
We could probably find some more dots to connect, but that ought to be enough. Surely you've figured it out by now, haven't you? Who else has Portland City Hall, Nike, Federal Department of Transportation, and the State of Oregon on his resume? (Last hint: It's somebody whose clients (and he) make a lot of money doing business with the PDC.)

I hope the next mayor is more independent of folks like that than the current one is.

Comments (9)

As far as beauracracies go, the PDC seems about average. (I would much rather see the OLCC disbanded). I like the concept of a Portland based organization that attempts to develop and economically stimulate certain parts of the region.

However, some new blood in the PDC is definately called for, as this organization seem to spend an inordinate amount of money building projects that benefit the wealthy.

NW, Dowtown and the South Waterfront get beautiful new buildings (subsidized with tax payor dollars) and N. Portland, St. Johns and SE Portland get basic road repairs... ...there appears to be a discrepancy.

The PDC should be set up so that each member represents a certain section of Portland. And, more importantly, each member should be required to live in that area of Portland which they represent. I think this might help more equally disperse PDC's tax dollars.

The City Club talked at one point a couple of years ago about doing a study of the PDC. Does anyone out there know if that study ever got done?

The PDC and the urban renewal money is probably the biggest scam going in this town...but since it benefits the political and financial elite of Portland, it's never questioned.

Look at the Tram Scam..."Oh by the way, it's gonna cost a bit more than the $15 million we told the public originally...but only $28 million!" Why no outrage from anyone in a position of authority?

According to the PDC, "under state law, the sum of all urban renewal areas in any one municipality cannot exceed 15 percent of its total assessed value or 15 percent of its total land area."

With 10 urban renewal districts...haven't they that 15 percent threshold? How can one find out?

Sorry, I should have previewed before posting!

That last sentence should read:

With 10 urban renewal districts...haven't they reached that 15 percent threshold? How can one find out?

On page 38 of this file:


It states that urban renewal plan areas cover 12,086 acres out of a total 92,614 acres in the city, for a coverage of 13.05% of the city's area.

As for value, you have to look a few different places in that document. As near as I can figure, the "Total Plan Area Value" for 2003-04 is the right number- it is $7,338345,416 (page 42). The city's assessed value in 2003-04 is $35,002,570,061 (page 34) (This amount may not include portions of the city in Washington and Clackamas counties). My calculations come out to about 20.96%. Who knows if these are the right numbers, though- the assessed value of these areas have grown since they were started.

That's it? The fact that people formerly worked at (gasp!) corporations, including some of Oregon's largest employers and tax contributors, is enough to disqualify them from serving on public commissions? Ad hominem, nothing more.

Let me disagree, Brett. As usual, I see within the mind of Jack B., and it is filled with populist ire. The point is not merely that folks associated with Nike, Fed DOT, or previous city or state gov't experience serve on the PDC (the outrage!), but instead that (1) PDC's image as a tool of westside developers and Pearl district fat cats; (2) the image of the mayor's office and city council as tools of those same developers and fatcats; (3) the fact that the mayor appoints PDC board members; and (4) the eye-pleasing uniformity of the resume contents of PDC board members; taken in toto, can leave the plausible impression that Homer runs Neil who runs Vera (and will likely run Jim starting next year) who runs the PDC. The rest of us are left wondering why the King Food Mart at the corner of MLK and Fremont has been a vacant graffiti target for the past four years. Just because it's ad hominem don't mean it ain't true.

Although note this, from PDC Commissioner Noelle Webb's bio:
Ms. Webb is a City of Portland Planning Commission member, Board Chair of the Northeast Community Development Corporation, serves on the Small Business Development Center Advisory Council and the Urban League of Portland.
I guess I'll call her about he King Food Mart. If she lives in NE, she probably cares.

"The Portland Development Commission provides assistance to people who want to repair their homes but don't have the means."


"The Portland Development Commission is exploring options for upgrading the area of East Burnside Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard."


"St. Stephens will finance the $21 million project through tax credits and bonds, with help from the Portland Development Commission, said Bill Ruff of LRS Architects, which is designing the building.

The new church will retain parts of the current St. Stephens, to which many parishioners are attached. The new church, with a round nave, will include the old building's stained-glass windows, pulpit, altar and some rafters. Passers-by will be able to see traditional arches and crosses."


"A lot of schools in the Portland area have let manufacturing technology slide, particularly in this most recent downturn," said Jim Hagar, metals and transportation project coordinator for the Portland Development Commission.


Those corporate bastards.

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