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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 13, 2004 1:10 AM. The previous post in this blog was Chutzpah is her middle name. The next post in this blog is The name game. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Saturday, November 13, 2004

They're not listening

Dear Mayor-Elect Potter:

In your campaign, you didn't promise much specifically. But one thing you did say over and over was that you were going to make sure that the City of Portland started listening to its residents again. And you say you'll take over all city bureaus for a while as soon as you are sworn in, to be sure that the bureaucrats get that message.

I sure hope you're counting the Portland Development Commission in that group, because Houston, I believe we have a serious public process problem there.

The other day I wrote in this space about how the PDC is ramming through a new concept -- an "urban industrial renewal area" -- with only two months of public involvement. That's only about 10 percent of the year and a half of public comment that a new urban renewal area typically gets. Commentators like the League of Women Voters are up in arms. I share their concerns.

Then on the front page of the Metro section in yesterday's Oregonian, we find a story about another rush-rush PDC project -- a $7 million rehab of a building on MLK Boulevard. PDC originally bought the place for a grocery store, but now that that isn't going to happen (read: bad planning), it's hell-bent to try to turn it into a telephone "call center."

Some think the $7 million price tag is a ripoff, and that the public is being deprived of a full and fair look at the project before it is a done deal:

The project's estimated cost per square foot is twice that of comparable building rehabilitation projects, said Mike Warwick, co-chairman of the advisory committee, which signed off on the plan last week despite misgivings about missing details.

"There's a great deal of concern that the project is being used to serve other purposes than redevelopment on MLK," Warwick said. "We feel they're moving awfully fast and that there is a rush to make a decision."

Behind it all is Gerdling/Edlen Development, the outfit that's building the North Macadam Condo Tower Jungle and OHSU Tram Theme Park -- a favorite beneficiary of PDC pork. The structure of the MLK transaction is complicated enough to make one's head spin. And there seems to be an enormous amount of risk in the deal for PDC.

So why the rush?

Chief Potter, as I understand it, you will eventually appoint all the commissioners on the PDC. The group that Mayor Katz has installed there looks a lot like a group that would have been assembled by former Mayor Goldschmidt. The PDC's chair and CEO are both long-time Goldschmidt lieutenants. They've appeared to be in bed with Gerdling/Edlen, and other contractors who have been making bundles of money on the backs of Portland taxpayers, for many years. That's the same Gerdling/Edlen, by the way, who gives many thousands of dollars in campaign funds to candidates in city elections -- money that you had too much integrity to take.

I think you should clean house at the PDC. But if you don't, can't or won't, at least derail the "fast track" mentality. Please sit down with these folks and have them put the industrial urban renewal area and the MLK proposal back on a normal track, subject to public scrutiny, right away. And tell them to stop rushing deals through. They're supposed to be planning experts -- why is everything an emergency?

PDC shouldn't stand for "Please Don't Comment." And if the leadership over there won't change its ways, please find us some commission members and a CEO who will. I'm sure the disgraced former governor can find all the current PDC face cards something else to do.

Jack Bogdanski

Comments (8)

The reason the language "fast-track" exists is because in Portland it takes 2 years or more to get a business started.

Upgrading an existing building is a heck of a lot easier than building one.

If the call center doesn't fly the locations for those new jobs will be in Vancouver, Hillsboro, or Beaverton.

I heard a rumor that many people in the MLK area are looking for work, Jack.

Is there anybody in Portland who wasn't a Goldschmidt lieutentent?

Why not demand a fair determination that there is some sort of "blight" as a precondition to urban renewal projects? The test today has fully and completely been converted to a subjective scale that is measured by a leader’s self-restraint in acceptance of concepts originating from science fiction novels as the best face of our future reality.

In this brave new world, it seems that laws are mere obstacles to progress. The League of Women Voters should relitigate the issue of standing (Coos County case) and insist that the court has turned the judicial branch into a rubber stamper political branch rather than serving as a protector of the laws that give individuals a voice against government action. Look to the reasoning behind the demand for a “blight” determination in the first place.

Focusing on the means rather than the ends is good public policy that must be maintained. Swapping heads at the PDC does not address anything other than perpetuating the focus on the ends rather than the means, where discretionary acts are allowed to reach near-anarchy proportions and only a riot will suffice to temper the excesses of politicians.

The jobs-only focus would be enough justification the teardown Timberline Lodge and rebuild it, over and over again like the movie Groundhog Day.

This paranoia of business development is getting out of control. I love this city and its quirky self-protectionist instincts. The PDC is a well-intentioned group for the most part however. Call center jobs are the type Hillsboro has been siphoning away for years, and their loss is part of the reason we can no longer live within our means as a city. We will not continue to thrive as a great city if we tax our citizens more and offer less than neighboring regions, and I for one don't want Portland to be a city in which occupational choice is limited to professor, barista, or OSPIRG signature-gatherer.

I have no problems with trying to attract business. There's no Hillsboro Development Commission, and you wonder how they do so well without one, but I guess when a city gets as big as Portland, it has to start handing out pork.

What I do object to is (a) the total lack of timely notice and meaningful input that the public gets on PDC projects, (b) the arrogance and secrecy that surrounds the current management of PDC, (c) the constant favoring of a small handful of developers for project after project, and (d) the repeated mistakes, such as the whole misguided Vanport Square retail plan, which is now being scrapped.

I say out with the lot of them.

"There's no Hillsboro Development Commission, and you wonder how they do so well without one, but I guess when a city gets as big as Portland, it has to start handing out pork."

Perhaps the solution is to break up Portland, the way one would break up any monopoly. Where there now stands a city of 400K, perhaps there should be 5 cities of 80K, each focused on what it does best. Time for the return of the independent burgs of Albina, East Portland, Sellwood, St. John's, Lents, and Multnomah?

Please get rid of Metro while you're at it.

No, wait, we just did that already with Measure 37...

The reason Hillsboro doesn't have a Development Commission is because they have figured it out. There is no business tax like Portland, there are no 2 year waits to get your business permits and approvals. In Hillsboro, you call up the Assistant City Manager and he makes it happen.

What a colossal mistake to assign all the Bureaus to himself!! I can't even believe he would try it. For one thing, it takes probably at least a year to figure out the status quo of each, how are you going to change/fix something unless you know how it works? And there are how many Bureaus? And what will the Commisioners do while their Bureaus are 'under new management'? Get a grip Tommy and use your head.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference They're not listening:

» Jack Bog and his articles about the Portland Development Commission from
Jack Bog has a series of posts exposing the shenanigans of the Portland Development Commission. You can some of them here and [Read More]


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