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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 25, 2005 10:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was Outsourced. The next post in this blog is Meet me at the wrecking ball. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It's not just about process

There's a front-page article in The O today (at least up here in Portland editions) about how Portland Development Commission director Don Mazziotti is under fire and may be on his way out of his $167K-plus job. It was an unusually blunt article by that paper's standards -- the reporters were somehow able to rightly insert the "G" word into the lead paragraph -- but it still came up a bit short.

According to the article, Mazziotti's fine on the substance, but he's got problems with management style, demeanor, and public process. Developer John Russell is in there calling him a "godsend," but outgoing PDC chair Matt Hennessee concedes that Mazziotti lacks a certain "charm." One of the hundreds (if not thousands) of outraged neighbors who have dealt with the PDC over Mazziotti's three years is quoted; her complaint is about the closed-minded "gestalt" that the agency displays when dealing with neighborhoods.

But the article takes as a given that the PDC has produced great products under Mazziotti's apparently heavy hand:

In the past few months, Mazziotti's agency has brought forward a series of headline-grabbing projects, including the five-block Burnside Bridgehead development, a proposal to develop an 800-room hotel near the Oregon Convention Center and a project to kick-start development on a long-neglected section of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

By delivering projects, Mazziotti has pleased business, which hates to see projects stalled by bureaucratic process or neighborhood interference. In 2003, Mazziotti told the Business Journal that "there is just far too much focus on process and planning and insufficient appreciation for the role of the private economy."

"Delivering"? As far as the MLK deal, the Burnside Bridge project, and the hotel, all that's been delivered so far are promises.

And indeed, there are a few of us out here in Curmudgeonland who think all three of those projects have serious substantive flaws, which we've blogged about here before. The Convention Center expansion was an enormous mistake -- throwing good money after bad when the original center flopped. Having the taxpayers build the hotel would just complicate matters. No one in Mazziotti's PDC is willing to face the fact that Portland just isn't going to be a great convention city, ever.

The MLK deal is years late, and the original hopes and expectations have been dashed. Keeping a couple of dozen call center jobs was the most recent, lowered ambition, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that even that's falling apart.

And as for the Burnside Bridge, it's just another condo tower block, likely to be handed to the same old, same old developers who get all the PDC pork. And dammit, the PDC has decided, the inner east side is going to get a Home Depot somewhere soon, whether they like it or not. Why is that? How dare you ask, punk. It's all part of the dark, ominous talk that emerges from the PDC. Mind your own business. Don't cross us.

If you look at where most PDC dollars are spent, you'll see that it is not about helping all the many corners of Portland that need a shot in the arm. It's mostly about downtown, the Pearl, OHSU, the airport, and the Convention Center. Oh sure, the occasional bone is thrown on Alberta Street or somewhere out in Randy Leonard City. I guess they're doing stuff out in Gateway. They may plunk down some millions around light rail (built by You-Know-Who's clients, of course). But the real bucks are spent close in, where the West Hills folks have all their money invested.

And it's not just that the neighbors don't get process. Look at the OHSU aerial tram scam, for example. There's been lots of process. It's the substantive decision that has made so many long-time city residents so angry.

Then there's the matter of the Portland Family of Funds, the pesky little PDC "investment bank" adventure which the City Club has suggested may be illegal, or at least very bad government policy. Public money and public risk-taking are apparently enriching a hand-chosen few there. The Oregonian ackowledges that "continuing scrutiny" of PFF "could hurt Mazziotti." That's putting it mildly.

In sum, there's more not to like about this agency right now than just process and style.

According to the article, Mazziotti was originally hired on a 3-2 vote, and although the O story neglected to point it out, two of his main board allies will be gone come July. I wouldn't be surprised if we were looking at a new PDC director by year-end. As a former resident of the Lair Hill neighborhood, I wouldn't be sad about it, either.

Comments (15)

Oh, happy day! I, for one, will be dancing in the street when The Don is deposed.

Process, demeanor & style -- weren't those the same points on which The House Organ-onian finally had to criticize Diane Linn?

Last night, the BCA and neighbours met with Lou Bowers and Michael O'Connell of the PDC to hear what they had to say. I felt like I was watching a couple of snake-oil salesman at work. They denied asking for Home Depot in the RFP's, despite the fact that I pointed out (twice) that the owners of Wink's Hardware and Ankeny Hardware were contacted last March/April by PDC staff and told "We ARE putting in a Home Depot here". This happened BEFORE the call for RFP's. Both Bowers & O'Connell continued to insist that the RFP proposal went out before the neighbourhood businesses were contacted, and thus, the PDC was not in collusion with Home depot. Yeah, right.

Why do we owe such great allegiance to Home Depot? They're not paying anybody off, are they?

While I don't care for the PDC, it did take one of their board members getting screwed over for the city to finally remove Dick Anderson from residential inspections (according to the rumor I heard).

The aptly named Mr. Anderson screwed over many-a-NE-Portlander with his opionion du jour on home renovation standards. Personally cost me thousands of unnecessary $$ because he made up construction standards to inflate his own self worth.

Hey, just pointing out that even the most evil entities have a silver lining sometimes.

Interesting!

Last night, the BCA and neighbours met with Lou Bowers and Michael O'Connell of the PDC to hear what they had to say. I felt like I was watching a couple of snake-oil salesman at work. They denied asking for Home Depot in the RFP's, despite the fact that I pointed out (twice) that the owners of Wink's Hardware and Ankeny Hardware were contacted last March/April by PDC staff and told "We ARE putting in a Home Depot here". This happened BEFORE the call for RFP's. Both Bowers & O'Connell continued to insist that the RFP proposal went out before the neighbourhood businesses were contacted, and thus, the PDC was not in collusion with Home depot. Yeah, right.

This doesn't match my own understanding of that part of last night's meeting. It seemed clear to me that Bowers are confused about which parts of the overall timeline were being discussed, hence the sudden and rather bizarre exchange regarding when neighborhood businesses had been talked to.

And they denied asking for a HD in the RFP because that's true -- the RFP doesn't ask for HD or any other big box retailer, it simply said that was one of the options for the site.

The point was that originally, since they had been approached by HD, they started going around to area businesses on that subject -- although there's a dispute as to whether they came around to ask what those businesses thought, or to tell them there was a HD coming.

That's the point at which the project began to draw attention, and then therefore the early public outcry re: HD. That new public dynamic then led to the Central Eastside Urban Renewal Advisory Committee pushing PDC not only to issue an RFP but to make that RFP as open as possible.

So, to recap: HD contacted PDC, interested in the site. PDC went to area businesses, either to ask about HD or to tell them HD was coming. That drew public interest and public annoyance. Which led to the URAC forcing PDC to move to an open RFP process. And that led to where we are now.

This doesn't match my own understanding of that part of last night's meeting. It seemed clear to me that Bowers are confused about which parts of the overall timeline were being discussed, hence the sudden and rather bizarre exchange regarding when neighborhood businesses had been talked to

Bizzare- Yes!! The PDC insisted they had no prior knowledge that a Home Depot was in the works, DESPITE contacting 45 merchants in the Inner SE Industrial Area and telling them outriht " A Home Depot is coming". What's so hard to understand about that?? Both Norm (Ankeny Hardware) and Anne (Wink's Hardware) corraborated that they were contacted in March/April of 2004 and told outright what was happening. And then , Susan Lindsay (BCA Chair, URAC committe member and selection/evaluation committee member) reiterated that the RFP's went out AFTER the PDC staff went around and told merchants in the Inner SE Industrial Area that "A Home Depot is coming". what we al found "bizare" was that a PDC staff member was so "comfused" as to timeline.

whoops pardon the typos- my reading glasses are broken.

Bizzare- Yes!! The PDC insisted they had no prior knowledge that a Home Depot was in the works

They certainly did not deny that last night. The entire pre-RFP sequence of time when PDC had been contacted by Home Depot was discussed several times last night.

DESPITE contacting 45 merchants in the Inner SE Industrial Area and telling them outriht " A Home Depot is coming". What's so hard to understand about that?? Both Norm (Ankeny Hardware) and Anne (Wink's Hardware) corraborated that they were contacted in March/April of 2004 and told outright what was happening. And then , Susan Lindsay (BCA Chair, URAC committe member and selection/evaluation committee member) reiterated that the RFP's went out AFTER the PDC staff went around and told merchants in the Inner SE Industrial Area that "A Home Depot is coming".

Let me try again.

My impression was that the question Bowers was asked which led to this exchange-of-confusion was one that he thought was asking about the public and neighborhood interaction -after- the RFP, not the original, way-back-last-year situation of PDC telling businesses about Home Depot. Which is why when the follow-up happened, he realized which part of the timeline was being referred to.

At no point last night did either Bowers or O'Connell deny the early visits to businesses (way back before the URAC and the RFP) -- although O'Connell did claim that it wasn't a process of saying, "Home Depot is coming." (I'm not saying his version is correct, I'm just saying that's what he argued last night.) But at any rate the point is that they did not deny the timeline I summed up at the end of my Jack Bog comment, in fact they discussed it more than once.

Having watched both sides in this, meaning PDC and neighborhood people, go off half-cocked now and then, I stand by my observation that what happened last night was that Bowers thought the question he had been asked was about the post-RFP process of talking to the neighborhoods, not the pre-RPF process of going into local businesses. It was a miscommunicated question-and-answer, not some sort of strange run-around.

what we al found "bizare" was that a PDC staff member was so "comfused" as to timeline.

Well, I'll do an expanded version of the summation of the timeline from my previous comment and explain where the mis-step in conversation happened last night.

1) HD contacted PDC, interested in the site.

2) PDC went to area businesses, either to ask about HD or to tell them HD was coming.

3) That drew public interest and public annoyance.

4) Which led to the URAC forcing PDC to move to an open RFP process.

5) And that led to where we are now, with public and neighborhood involvement.

When someone asked about Step 2 (referring to conversations with the neighborhoods), it seemed rather clear to me that the phrasing of the question made Bowers think he was being asked about Step 5 -- which is why he said that talking to the 'hoods happened after the RFP.

But since he was in fact being asked about Step 2, him answering as if the question had been about Step 5 made people spaz out.

In fact, here's the bit from my notes from midway through the meeting -- well before the miscommunication exchange -- in which Bowers specifically relates the early part of the project in a way which exactly matches the timeframe we all understand to be the case. So in no way did they deny the so-called "prior knowledge" of Home Depot. Rather, Bowers detailed that early time directly:

LB - I appreciate your heart-felt comments. ... When we were doing the concept for this project, it was a site that was large enough for a LFR. Coming out of the downtown retail strategy ... the consultant said that they thought ... in order to increase housing in the whole central city, this kind of retail could be useful. ... When this site became available, we were approached by HD. ... HD own money on proposal. "We can't go public with this because we're in negotiations." Started a series of one-on-one discussions ... bounced the concept off. "In the process of doing that we heard loud and clear that there were a lot of concerns about that." When property tied up, went to a public process.

Enough of the past. Let's talk about the future of Burnside. PDC now says that, in its newfound spirit of public process, it is now going to slow things down. Why is that? To allow its favored developer to scramble around and come up with a plan that the PDC can o.k.? Why not just pick the one option, out of the three already on the table, that the public clearly wants, which is Beam?

Hold it folks. I understand the city is going to chip in $51 million in various subsisides, to help this private, for profit, development.

Why?

Has the PDC made the case that this public investment is warrented, wise or worthy?

I believe the PDC is so used to playing with tax dollars so they can be make-believed developers (with other people's money)that they feel no obligation to justify their activities at all.

The push for a Convention Center Hotel is proof positive the PDC should be immediately shut down. The house of cards the 200 PDC employess and their power broker partners have contibuted to nearing critical mass.

The give-aways at South Waterfront, the Tram and other indicators have made only too clear the need for a time out.

There are more than enough folks with concerns over red flags and fatal flaws to bring this about.

A collective "hold everything" should be enough. Especially with a new mayor and council.

I don't know how you understand the City is going to chip in $51 million in various public subsidies, Steve, because there's no financing package on the table. There are only three different proposals, with three different estimations of what their repective funding gaps would be. And right now we don't even know what those are because the developers have been tweaking their proposals in response to the public process, so the numbers likely have changed.

Not so incidentally, prior to those changes at least, the Gerding/Edlen proposal was estimated to require the largest public subsidy.

(As for Jack's comment, that's hard to nail down because even Beam thinks there should be an opportunity for the public -- well, and the evaluation committee, for that matter -- to weigh in on the revisions before PDC makes a decision. Otherwise, PDC would be making a decision using information to which the public didn't get to respond first.)

Something else that came up during Monday night's meeting- why was Wentworth Chevrolet incuded in the Burnside plan?? Why should a VERY wealthy car dealer get public subsidies and an entire city block leveled to make way for a car lot?? How does an ugly car lot fit in with the "Gateway" concept and making E. Burnside more attractive?? This stinks to high heaven!!

I agree with Jack - I get the distinct feeling (as did others at the meeting) that the PDC is just waiting to allow G/E to come up with a more palatable proposal (which they are doing mainly by ripping off the Beam proposal). Michael Whitmore of Kerns attended the meeting and likened it all to a game of 7 card ante- everyone's been dealt their 7 cards, Beam obviously has the winning hand, and now it seems like the PDC is trying to find a way to introduce another round and get another hand dealt. Typical PDC manuevering.

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

» City Club Forum Of Interest To Local Bloggers? from The One True b!X's PORTLAND COMMUNIQUE
There are two parts to this week's Friday Forum which may be of interest to any number of local bloggers -- one regarding local development, and one regarding local m... [Read More]

» Buckman Neighborhood Hears Burnside Bridgehead Presentation from The One True b!X's PORTLAND COMMUNIQUE
This past Monday, representatives of the Portland Development Commissioner gave what we believe was the third in a series of neighborhood presentations on the Burnside Bridgehead [Read More]


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