What's that smell?
A while back I wrote about how the proposal for an "industrial urban renewal area" in North and Northwest Portland looked like a scam to me. I had just gotten a very odd brochure in the mail about it from the Portland Development Commission (motto: "We put the gold in Goldschmidt"), and I got the sense that a major backroom deal had already been made.
My concerns were increased when I read a story about the plan the other day in the Tribune. The lead of the story was how Zidell Marine, which is being moved out of its North Macadam location to make way for the Condo Tower Jungle and OHSU Tram Park, suddenly wants to move to land it owns in North Portland near the University of Portland. As part of the transfer, it wants a piece of the urban renewal pork pie.
That is strange. With all the planning that supposedly went into the North Macadam deal, nobody figured out where Zidell Marine was going to take its business, and jobs? The condo towers are already being built down there, and the city's still talking incentives with Zidell? That, folks, is the opposite of planning.
Buried lower in the Trib story is another eye opener. The PDC has put the urban renewal plan on a "fast track" -- a classically Goldschmidtean move -- because it's in a hurry to convince Siltronic Corp. to build a chip plant in industrial Northwest Portland instead of in Singapore.
So that explains the weird-looking map for the "industrial urban renewal" zone. Most of it's in North Portland, but there's a curious piece on the other side of the river, in Northwest. That must be Siltronic.
Siltronic is already in Northwest Portland, and its environmental record there seems less than good:
Siltronic's existing wafer plant has caused contamination at the site, the result of trichloroethylene leaking out of underground storage tanks and seeping under the river.Don't worry, PDC to the rescue. We'll spend a bunch of public money (including some that comes out of citywide property taxes) to clean up the site next door to Siltronic so that it can expand -- even before it takes care of the mess it's already made under its existing plant.
"We're still trying to get our arms around it," said Matt McClincy, a DEQ project manager.
I wonder who's doing the "consulting" for Siltronic on this deal. It smells awfully familiar.
In any event, I'm with the League of Women Voters, who thinks the "fast track" for this area is very misguided. The train ought to be put back on the regular track, where the public gets a legitimate chance to see and digest what is really going on (not just ogling some goofball brochure). Two months is not enough time for an honest and open examination of this proposal. Two years would be more like it.
We might lose the Siltronic expansion in the process. They might have to take their pollution to Singapore. So be it.
Mayor Tom, where are you on this one?