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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 4, 2005 7:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was Wreck of the Old 27. The next post in this blog is Sneak preview for Portlanders. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, April 4, 2005

Eventually?

Question of the week for the Portland City Council:

When we get through teaching the federal government a thing or two about civil liberties, running homophobe beauty pageants out of town, buying an electric utility, starting up an expensive new public financing system for local elections, handing out free infrastructure and tax abatements galore to the skyscraper housing developers, and building the aerial tram and miles of streetcar extensions, could we please get around to some of the less important, fringe issues? Like these?

Just a thought.

Comments (29)

I wish some of these city/county commmissioners could kind of pull their heads out and look at Washington County who seems to be having a pick up in business from Intel, Nike, Tek and Columbia (former Mult Cty resident), all under the same basic tax system.

Side point - If you are digging around, I read in the WWeek about a city employee who had won Employee of the Year about 5 years ago and now his job is being phased out after 15 years of employ for CoP? Coincidentally, he had given out info on some liens Mr Leonard had arbtirarily decided to forgive.

Since I am only repeating WWeek, I hope this is a shield from libel lawsuits.

Oh well, soundtrack suggestion for CoP - "The Beat Goes On"

I am not involved in forgiving, waving or reducing liens...not now...not in the past...not ever.

There is a committee made up of staff from the Auditors Office, Bureau of Development Services and my office (from when I oversaw BDS) that reviews requests for lien reductions using criteria developed by the group.

Many of the liens cited in this case were recommended originally by the City’s Ombudsman whom, coincidentally, works out of the Auditors Office.

To be fair, Mayor Potter's office didn't probably spend much time on the pageant. It was newsworthy, but I doubt they spent more than an hour or two deciding to say no. And it was in response to a request from a citizen, so blame the pageant for asking, not the mayor for reviewing it and saying no.

And the Wapato jail issue is a county issue, not a city issue.

I bet folks think that the tram and streetcar and things are items that will attract jobs -- and tax revenue, hence addressing both the unemployment and budget-related problems you mention.

And the Wapato jail issue is a county issue, not a city issue.

Well, yes and no. It may be under County authority, but the County handles the justice system in this area and lack of jailbeds obviously impacts the City.

Steve, Randy isn't going to sue you, he'll just kick your ass.

Steve...never worry...I appreciate the opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding.

However, Privileged, how might one get a meeting with you?

Thanks for the link to the Financial Condition report. 10% population growth and 46% increase in fund balances over the same period? If Portland was a corporation, it would be a takeover target: Fat on funds, a respectable revenue stream, and relatively low debt/lots of room left until the legal debt ceiling. Of course, that's compliments of you fine taxpayer denizens of Multnomah county.

Get some new management to (1)jettison some of the more wasteful social programs and pet projects and (2) constrain the city's ability to waste cash in the future, and Portland could be a truly great and well-run city - with lower taxes, to boot.

with lower taxes, to boot

I think you may be getting too much fluoride.

As for city vs. county on the jail, that's perfect bureaucratic "thinking." I don't care who comes up with the money as long as we can get and keep 100 more meth heads behind bars.

A few quibbles with the quibbles on this post:

- This particular press release seems to have a quite different spin on the tram:

http://www.portlandtram.com/031505.htm

In addition, I believe almost all the funds for the streetcar extension come from dedicated transportation funds, including federal and state funds, that aren't available for jails and 9-11 centers.

- It would be an interesting question to see if anything got built on Pearl District or South Waterfront brownfields without a property tax subsidy. Those properties sure wouldn't do anyone much good, either re: jobs or tax revenues, remaining as they are (or were).

- Aside from the snide sneering regarding "Pill Hill docs" that has been used on this blog, there is a good argument to be made that expansion of OHSU facilities will provide quite a few new jobs for this area. Medical services are one of the fastest growth sectors in our national economy.

- Can't disagree with the symbolic crap the Portland City Council engages in re: beauty pageants. Or the campaign finance nonsense. Or the quixotic PGE takeover attempts.

It would be interesting if a certain blogster were to run for office and then try to put his nostrums into effect...

Jack, with all due, you stretching things a bit. Take a look at that graph and you will see Portland's unemployment rate is roughly within national average. All other metro areas in Oregon have higher rates, only Corvallis is lower. The area is doing fine.

Also Portland metro means for statistical purposes Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, and Tigard, as well as Vancouver (in Washington) - that is far more than Potter & Co can legitimately claim control over.

Also personally I like very much Randy teaching feds a thing or two about civil liberties. Never enough, these days especially.

Considering the fact that we have an innocent citizen, Brandon Mayfield, who was spied on by the FBI (the ACLU does not know yet to what extent the JTTF was involved) and that the Patriot Act places federal laws even further away from Oregon state laws in regard to civil liberties, I don't have a problem with Portland's politicians concerning themselves with our civil liberties.

Bureaucratic thinking means you understand the existing systems and duties. You can't just say that every level of government should deal with every problem.

It's like a customer asking Columbia Sportswear why they haven't come out with a new DVD drive. Could they? Sure. Should they? Probably not.

Are you arguing we should join the City and County? Perhaps that'd be a good idea -- maybe you could call for that. Or call for the City to contribute money to the County for more employees to staff the jail. I'm open to creative solutions, but we should understand the existing systems instead of just pointing to general problems and asking the City Council to address them.

Mr Leonard - OK - Just that the WWeek article (sorry, threw it out, so can't reread) sounded different.

Hate to disappoint, but I do not kick asses. I am trying to stay focused on issues instead of personal attacks. Besides few things are worth lifting my foot that high for.

The city spends $800,000 to $900,000 a year of general fund money on the streetcar. The operation of the aerial tram will doubtlessly be added to this bill, as no one else has committed to pay for it and it is being misleadingly labeled "public transportation."

If the city wanted to raise money for the jails, it clearly could. And should.

Portland's unemployment is obscene by any measure, and far more important than any of the junk we waste time on.

"- It would be an interesting question to see if anything got built on Pearl District or South Waterfront brownfields without a property tax subsidy. Those properties sure wouldn't do anyone much good, either re: jobs or tax revenues, remaining as they are (or were)."

In response to Gordo, how does any neighborhood in Beaverton, Hillsboro, WestLinn get built? Or for that matter, NE Alberta, NW 23rd, SE Hawthorne, SE 28th? I don't think with tax subsidies.

They get built because people want to live there. I am not denying tax breaks help, but we have gone overboard when you get 15 yr abatements at about $12K/year to build a townhouse?

I assure you if these look like enough demand is there builders will build where it makes economic sense. Builders usually know demand better than most City Councils.

While we are discussing jails, let us note that a society's primary purpose is to protect its citizens. Releasing felons onto the law-abiding citizens is a tax. Not a pleasant tax, but a tax. Crooks extract money and emotion just a surely as the meanest tax collector. Underfunding 911 is also a tax on the citizens. Not pleasant, it is a life threatening tax. Come to think of it, maybe if there were fewer crooks taxing the citizens, they wouldn't need to make as many 911 calls.

Jack actually understates the effects of the Portland government's effect on business. I run a consulting business that deals with business owners, mainly in the NW. Daily, for the last 25 years, I gotten to talk with business owners about how their business is going, what causes them problems. The main reason that the NW has had the highest unemployment in the nation, and is just now recovering from the recession of 2000, is that Portland, and Oregon, does everything possible to drive business out. It does this not in the name of being negative, but in the name of being protective, which is a bit ironic in light of turning felons out. The editorial in today's Oregonian that bemoans the deterioration in downtown missed the key point - as usual. If you make life hard on businesses the owner(s) will eventually pick up and move - to the suburbs, the country, or another state, or another country. It does not matter whether it is harrasment of customers or workers. Whether it is inadequate parking, or fees, or permits, or bureaucrats that impede a business from making positive changes. How about letting fringe groups tie up traffic at rush hour as a means of getting business to want to come to town? How about asking the city council to routinely go against the wishes of the electorate? The globalization of business makes the transition easy, almost painless.

Bureaucratic thinking means you understand the existing systems and duties.

Here are some lines of responsibility that I do understand:

Policing the FBI: Congress and federal courts.
Protecting electric ratepayers: Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Mass transit: Tri-Met.
Building condo towers: free market.

"If the city wanted to raise money for the jails, it clearly could. And should."

As part of our new responsibilities in the budget development this year, Commissioner Saltzman and I have recommended to the Mayor that we spend $1.8 million dollars on leasing one currently closed jail unit from Multnomah County at the Justice Center.

Last year, I met with the County Sheriff, District Attorney and Judge Koch and we agreed that the city could in fact lease jail space and cause the jailing of some of those arrested for offences within Portland who would otherwise be released under the county's matrix system.

I am hopeful that our recommendation survives other competing requests that our certainly worthy in their own right. However, I do believe that our proposal to incarcerate and provide treatment to offenders with substance abuse problems will result in the message being sent out that Portland will not tolerate drug sellers, buyers or the various criminal activities engaged in to support those behaviors.

"our proposal to incarcerate and provide treatment to offenders with substance abuse problems" - RL

Where is the money for the "providing treatment" part of your proposal? And do you have any evidence that locking up substance abusers for short periods is an effective method of preventing relapse and repeat offending?

Policing the FBI: Congress and federal courts.

It's a good thing no one here is trying to do that, then.

The $1.8 million dollars is the number given to us by the Sheriff Giusto and includes the cost of incarceration, medical care and treatment, according to the Sheriff.

According to the experts I have worked with on this proposal, including Central City Concern, the most effective intervention in the addiction cycle is short term incarceration (our proposal is to hold the offender until the first arraignment...up to 3 days according to the District Attorney) combined with the availability of treatment. Either of those two components by themselves are not effective, according to the experts. Together, according to Central City Concern, the recovery rate can be as high as 70% IF there is complete follow through with treatment, housing and job placement.

All of those facets currently exist through a number of complimentary resources within Portland. The only part missing is the lack of jail space/treatment that could be the beginning of making a dent in the huge substance abuse problem and corollary crime rate confronting our community.

"...For example, he said, he PRIVATELY WAIVED the $9,731 in liens incurred by a 76-year-old man during the four years the man underwent chemotherapy for leukemia." (By JENNIFER ANDERSON Fri, Mar 19, 2004
The Portland Tribune)

Yet Commissioner Leonard writes:
"I am not involved in forgiving, waving or reducing liens...not now...not in the past...not ever." Posted by Randy Leonard at April 4, 2005 11:25 AM

Which is it Commissioner?

Or are you now saying the city money paid to Paul Raynor --who went on to star in your re-election campaign tv ad-- was approved by committee?

I've never said any different. The committee approved his lien reuductions.

Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers, Frank.

And to be clear, Paul Raynor is now a 77 year old disabled man with leukemia. He is indigent and unable to care for his possesions. Those facts nothwithstanding, he was nearly forced to lose his home because of the hard line city policy that says "pay your fines, or we will foreclose on your house".

I am sorry you disagree that my position is to protect elderly and disabled citizens from the hard line city policy of foreclosing on and selling citizens property who cant pay their fines.

Further, I would hope an employee from the Auditors office, as you are, would be more objective than what you have displayed in this case.

You have done all of us a disservice by allowing your politics to interfere with your judgement.

Randy Leonard says to Frank,
"You have done all of us a disservice by allowing your politics to interfere with your judgement."

Folks there has got to be some sort of an award for this one.
Here we have Randy Leonard, the head of the Portland "politics interfering with judgement"
pot factory, calling the kettle black.

Not that Frank is the kettle.

Jack sed:
Policing the FBI: Congress and federal courts.
Protecting electric ratepayers: Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Mass transit: Tri-Met.
Building condo towers: free market.

To which I say:
Policing Portland's police involved with the FBI: Council.
Protecting Portland ratepayers: Council
Mass transit which operates and benefits predominantly the City of Portland: Council
Stimulating planned development: Council

Thank you, Vera. I didn't realize you were the one using that pen name. 8c)

Commissioner Leonard writes "The committee approved (Paul Raynor’s) lien reductions...Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers, Frank."

I don’t believe everything I read in the papers, Commissioner. The Bureau’s records indicate the lien cancellation was “per Ty/Commissioner Leonard’s Office.” But whatever. The issue isn’t who did what...the issue is what’s the policy.

I don’t understand the policy. I don’t understand what we accomplish by refunding eight thousand dollars to an absentee landlord who couldn’t maintain his property, and who took six years bringing it up to code. You write: "And to be clear, Paul Raynor is now a 77 year old disabled man with leukemia. He is indigent and unable to care for his possesions."

His “possessions” includes his rental property he couldn’t take care of. That’s sad, yes...but I still wouldn’t want to live next to that “abandoned” house with the faulty wiring, among a list of problems? Would anyone? Isn’t it the City’s responsibility to deal with dangerous buildings in our midst?

You write: "Those facts nothwithstanding, he was nearly forced to lose his home because of the hard line city policy that says "pay your fines, or we will foreclose on your house"."

The City’s hardline policy is you need to be responsible for your property, and in this case a rental property, not his "home". The fines are a tool to accomplish that. If that’s not always an effective tool –and you and I have BOTH found that– then you rethink the process and the underlying assumptions. I believe you are doing that, Commissioner, and I applaud you for doing so. But in the meantime attacking the City’s ability to put liens on property, as your campaign ad did, sends the wrong message. When my staff is criticized for doing what they’re told to do –by Council, and the Auditor– it is demoralizing as well as damaging to our credibility.

You write "I am sorry you disagree that my position is to protect elderly and disabled citizens from the hard line city policy of foreclosing on and selling citizens property who cant pay their fines."

In my sixteen years supervising and managing the lien function, no one has lost their home by city foreclosure. My goal was they never would. I believe we share that same value on that. But the lien cancellations and reductions go well beyond that. Just before Mayor Potter took over we were isntructed to cancel one lien, and waived the interest on another, for one of Andrew Sugar's problem night clubs in the process of being sold...so it could become a strip club!!? Ironically, even as we were making those reductions with one hand, the other hand was imposing yet another new lien for noise violations! Where's the logic to any of this?

I mean no disrespect, Commissioner, and, as you well know, I do not represent the Auditor in these comments that I take full personal responsibility for. My goal is equal treatment for ALL my “customers” which, most directly, is the people I collect money from. I owe them the promise of fairness, that's all.

Factually, you are mistaken.

Mr. Raynor did not use the house as a rental. He lived in it until his treatments debilitated him to the point that he moved in with his daughter and grandchildren, within the same neighborhood.

Had you called me before you jumped to dark conclusions about my motivations I would have happily explained any questions you had, including the notation you cited.

What I have done different with these kinds of cases is to ask the city employees involved to not think of fining property owners as their first option. Rather, the goal is to correct the problem they identify, not fine citizens and then lien their properties at a 12% annual interest rate.

The city has a multitude of resources and relationships to do minor repairs and junk removal for senior citizen home owners to cause housing violations to be remedied. Those resources were heretofore untapped by our housing inspectors. Their culture reflected your underlying position, i.e., fines and liens are a source of revenue for the city and we need to collect them in order to fund city services.

Sorry, Frank. I unapologetically disagree with that policy.

I will support a cell phone tax to fund city services, but I will not support a policy that uses fines and liens on homeowners -especially elderly and indigent homeowners- to fund those same services.

For an example, in addition to Mr. Raynor, the committee also eliminated a $10,000 lien against an elderly woman homeowner who had an "unattached gutter hanging from her house."

You read that right. $10,000 fine for a gutter violation.

My reaction was to ask the housing inspectors why they did not have the gutter reattached and then send the woman a bill for the cost of that work rather than fine her and then lien her house…all while the gutter was still not repaired.

Their response was they had “always done it this way”.

That is my least favorite answer.

I cannot believe such a task would cost more than $100. Problem fixed. No fines. No liens. The citizen is happy. We are happy.

But that is not how these cases were handled until I was elected. However, that is how this case was disposed of and, to give you additional fodder, the committee eliminated her lien as well.

Additionally, my office caused the problems at Mr. Raynor’s property to be corrected.

I do wish you would have talked to me before you took the course you did.

As I said, you did us both a disservice by not doing so. You continue that by making otherwise good inquiries here rather than walking up one floor and coming in to talk with me about it. I would have happily met with you about any questions you have.

I am answering you here because you chose this venue. Jack’s Bog would not have been the forum I would have chose to have this discussion.

Commissioner Leonard writes:

"Factually, you are mistaken. Mr. Raynor did not use the house as a rental. He lived in it until his treatments debilitated him to the point that he moved in with his daughter and grandchildren, within the same neighborhood."

What's the timeline on this? Did the City place a lien on his property while he was living in that house, or after he left that house, and presumably rented it out?


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J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 119
At this date last year: 21
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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