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Thursday, May 5, 2005

PDC meltdown!

It's an amazing day. The Portland area's most roguish government agency and pork pot, the Portland Development Commission, is now officially in a state of complete and utter meltdown.

Even the lethargic watchdogs at The Oregonian are smelling blood. Today they ran a front-page story in which they call into question the no-bid contracts by which a guy named Nathaniel "Than" Clevenger did p.r. work for the PDC over the last couple of years. Clevenger is a friend and political advisor to PDC chair Matt Hennessee (whose career in public life was pronounced dead by Willamette Week yesterday). Coincidentally, Clevenger also just happened to serve as p.r. flak for Opus Northwest, the company to whom the PDC commissioners voted last week to award the potentially highly lucrative contract to turn the east side of the Burnside Bridge into another condo canyon.

In the article, Mayor Tom Potter (bless his soul) is not only wondering aloud about Clevenger's contracts, but also calling for the final word on the Burnside deal to be delayed until after Hennessee and PDC CEO Don "the Don" Mazziotti are out of office come June 30. The losing bidder, Beam, has filed an appeal of last week's highly odiferous decision by the PDC board, and Potter wants the new CEO, not Mazziotti, to rule on that appeal. Good for the mayor; I hope he's successful.

Meanwhile, Clevenger himself seems to have gone off the deep end. B!X, who deserves an award for his reporting on the Burnside fiasco and on Clevenger's role in particular, reported last night that he had received an e-mail message from Clevenger that included the following passage:

How many people did you employ? Or, did paying an intern to help your rumor-mongering business not factor in your parents monthly support of your hobby? But enough of this childishness, how about you and me in a public debate. You bring your slander and innuendos. I'll bring a group of friends and some chips 'cause I know you can't really afford to buy snacks on your parent's allowance. Oh, but you'll have to crawl out from under that rock you live under to do it. Name the place, I'll bring my friends, you bring yours (if you have any). I'd like to see you address me in public the way you do in your site - you sissy. I'd say more, but am sure you'll print every word I write and I recognize children may be reading this. I know infants are. If you don't set a date, I'll find you at Stumptown and we can make a big show of it. Game?

Real nice. And late into the evening he was still at it over on Communique, ranting and raving through comment after comment. He even got into it with City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who, as "Than" is about to learn, doesn't suffer fools gladly.

You know what's needed right now? For Messrs. Mazziotti and Hennessee to leave their PDC positions two months early. By resigning today. As for Clevenger, if he actually wrote that e-mail and those blog comments, it's time for a major chill pill.

Mr. Clevenger, just as you offered free advice to Mr. Hennessee, let me offer some free advice to you: Take out a map and see how far it is from Virginia to Portland. If your claims to fame in Portland are being the one-time PDC public involvement expert, and the political brains behind Matt Hennessee, then you are lucky not to be on welfare at this point. The last thing you need to do is to start bullying people who are telling it like it is.

Perhaps you should give Kim Kimbrough a call, and schedule some golf dates. Because just like Kim, you are pretty much packing your own suitcase.

UPDATE, 5:47 p.m.: A document that purports to be the Beam protest letter is making the rounds. For what it's worth, I post it here (pdf).

Comments (26)

Holy Smokes. Not even Christmas and I smell cooked goose.

Why am I not surprised?

Hey, Than lost money on that PR contract with PDC. Which can only mean.... Best.Binder.Ever.

I can think of few better expressions for all that than "OMFG."


What is with all that "bring your friends, and I'll bring mine" stuff? Did anyone else think of the gang "fight"/dance in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video?


.... or if you are a little older, "West Side Story"..

I'm not a little older, but it was music from West Side Story that went thrhough my head, personally.

That the PDC would actually pay $175 an hour to get public relations advice from someone like this is the strongest argument I've heard yet for the PDC's abolition.

As for the conflict of interest charges: Where is the U.S. attorney? Does she care at all?

Forget clean money, Jack. How about a referendum to get rid of the PDC? Just dump the whole bloody thing. Sell off all their holdings and put the money in the general fund. Hire cops, open jail beds and fix the streets, parks and pools. No more tax abated yuppie playgrounds, no more insiders lining their pockets off the backs of the honest, hard working folks. Prime real estate that's going to be developed anyway can be developed by private money without the help of our property taxes. Disband the PDC, sell off the holdings... city budget problem solved.

I'm all for urban renewal, in depressed areas where people need help. But that's hardly ever what the PDC is about. So let's disband it, and replace it with a city bureau with a much less megalo- agenda. Yes, sell off most of the holdings.

And no more Goldschmidtters running it, please.

b!x writes I'm not a little older, but it was music from West Side Story that went through my head, personally.

Me too...but are we the Jets or the Sharks?

whow. The smell of blood...

anyway, fun is fun and I'm all for it, but I'd take a deep breath before I'd consign the whole PDC shee-bang to the pyre.

In any city of our size, and with the pressures of in-migration we have, there is a need for a focused, structured, planned, development agency. AND, precisely because of the inherent "possibilities" (or, not so nicely stated, potential graft) we do not want to structure it such that it becomes any single polician's personal playground.

The solution for PDC is not to take it from its current structure as a semi-autonomous entity (outside political pressures, in theory) but to redesign the structures, policies and procedures it functions under, to make it more transparent, more responsive, and more accountable.

Take its crown, in other words. Make it a work horse, working for us all. Its budget should be just as open and subject to audit and citizen oversight as the entire city budget should be... (hee hee, yeah, well, as long as we're dreaming :))

we do not want to structure it such that it becomes any single polician's personal playground.

That's what happened under the current PDC structure. The politician was a fellow by the name of Neil Goldschmidt.

I don;t agree, Anne. There's been too many rotten apples in the PDC barrel and I think the best solution is to throw everything out and start afresh. An agency that isn't "semi-private" and mostly autonamous. The PDC has made a complete mockery of public process and has become nothing but a funneler of pork to the same old developers. Like Jack, I am ALL for an urban renewal policy that helps out struggling neighbourhoods and revitalizes communities, but ENOUGH of this developer welfare.

Jack writes>>That's what happened under the current PDC structure. The politician was a fellow by the name of Neil Goldschmidt.

Yes. Money = power and money + power = ultimate power = ?

The solution isn't to make it easier for someone to put this cherry in their own personal pocket. The solution is to make it harder.

Lily, I understand, and agree with most of what you said.

Most certainly, I agree with your frustration.

But, think about it. We have allowed the PDC to be totally outside even the most fragile and simplistic oversight structures we have. Who did an audit of the PDC? Our City Auditor? Uh. I guess you know the answer to that one...

I think, before we just burn PDC and make "another baby" -- we need to look really seriously at WHY WE have allowed, abetted, encouraged this appalling lack of oversight.

Otherwise, on what basis do we suppose that the structure we put up on the PDC's ruins will be any better, any different, at all?

There are two options: Have it be run by someone who has to run for re-election, or not. All this semi-autonomous cr*p is just a recipe for corruption. Saif, Tri-Met, OHSU, the Lottery, they all stink to high heaven. Disband them all and make them bureaus and agencies like everything else.

Anne ... . that better plan is the Economic Development switcheroo.

Randy must like the taste PDC: Itís Time for a Change of the scent in the shifting winds, with tongue flapping furiously. (There must be food this direction . . . )

The jobs, jobs, jobs moniker is more infinitely malleable than even remedying blight. The courts have said this to be true, in deference to the political branch, as if official misconduct were a political question beyond the reach of a court on behalf of some poor lonely whiner with what must be a minority (and thus definitionally invalid) view.

I can think of Italy where in spite of elected heads with very short term stays in office that the government was/is stable because the heads don't seem to matter anyway. The minions stay the same.

If the rats are chased out of the PDC headquarters they swill scurry to the nearest alternative shelter. Is it any wonder that someone could propose ending the PDC, but doing so only by also proposing a new and expanded catchall business of graft?

The beneficiaries of PDC stuff, the bond issuers and the like too, get to keep their past graft if the PDC alone is carved up in total. It is the entire city government that needs shaken up . . but in a way that wipes the slate clean.

We need to reexamine the whole notion of having any contracts and/or bonds for anything that extends beyond two years. This includes all labor too, who, in their own self interest aid in the perpetuation of graft to outside folks. It is a structural recipe for systemic graft. There is a symbiotic relationship between to individual classes of folks to collectively consume their host.

A cancer is the failure of an internal self-destruct mechanism of individual cells if a flaw is detected in the duplication process; if the flaw is self interest over public interest in the minds of the minions then radical surgery followed by intense radiation from the DA might be the only possible diagnosis to alter the ethical mindset of all that remain.

Pardon me, jobs jobs jobs is the cure for the dieing host, so as to save the cancer cells too. The State folks like the jobs jobs jobs vision of economic development and will provide cover, to save the cancer. We are moving toward greater acceptance of public-private partnerships across the board . . . with the obvious result of . . .

Amen Davw Lister!

A friend of mine who follows this stuff closely tells me, last time he checked, the PDC's property holdings were about 130 million. Does anyone know if PDC owned property is on, or off, the tax rolls. 130 million would handle ten years or more of the city's current projected shortfall and, if that property is OFF the tax rolls now, then putting it back in private hands would generate the property tax on it as well. Anybody know?

Jack says, that the OPUS gang will "turn the east side of the Burnside Bridge into another condo canyon." But supposedly OPUS and the PDC ripped off local developer Brad Malsin's proposal. So was Malsin going to make it "another condo canyon" too? I thought everything would be wonderful if only he had been chosen for the job.

OK - let me get this straight - OPUS is evil, since the PDC had apparently "decided" to award the contract before the final meeting, despite public suppoort for Beam. OK, I understand that. I understand the apparent and alleged conflicts of interest, although I do not believe that the posters and commenters on this 'blog, or over at B!X's 'blog, truly are interested in any viewpoint counter to their own. However, I ask you this - why does the Mayor putting off the decision to consider Beam's appeal until after PDC leadership changes, why does this not constitute another example of the same chicanery and "fixing" of the decisions that you all are on about? Answer me this: If Beam had won, and the same sort of allegations had surfaced favoring OPUS, would your reaction be the same? I think not. Bring light to the process, and the apparent holes in the process - this is good - but you must allow for an outcome other than the one you desire, if you continue to cliam the moral high ground. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of loser whining, until the result is what you thought it should be.
But then, you guys are far more qualified to evaluate developments proposals than I am.

Gordo, the fact is that it's going to be another luxury condo tower-cum-bunker was decided long ago. I never said, or even really implied, that Beam was offering anything different.

And you know, "mm," whoever you are? If Matt Hennessee and Don Mazziotti and Janice Wilson had backed Beam, I don't care whether the neighbors were falling for it or not, I would have opposed it. Because those guys are lifelong Neil Goldschmidt lieutenants, and I'm sick of that crowd lining their pockets with the tax dollars that come out of mine. Their decisions come to me with a presumption of incorrectness.

but you must allow for an outcome other than the one you desire, if you continue to cliam the moral high ground.

Not if it's being presented to the public falsely. Which is what just about everything coming out of the PDC is.

Potter is the mayor, and he has every right to intervene against rash and allegedly improper conduct by the lame ducks. Cleaning house and taking charge over there are the best things he's done so far.

BTW, you'll notice that Potter is doing his "fixing" openly, in the media. Which is 180 degrees different from how a certain statutory rapist and his minions operate.

Well, then after the PDC leadership changes, and the Beam proposal is approved, and we toss a few million down the toilet in legal fees for the inevitable legal action on boths sides, everything will be better and all the inner east siders can begin to complain about how they have to move to Canby because real ANY development is going to drive up the market rates on one of the last cheap places to do business within walking distance of downtown.

Cool. I just wanted to see if you had equal disdain for everyone.

You know, I appreciate the way commentators such as yourself use your forums to connect the dots - seriously, no sarcasm, but the way this whole things has turned into a desparate screed against particualr people (all sides included) marginalizes your argument - that goes for you too, Than.

Don't make me mention the recent elections.....

Looks like a referendum won't be necessary. Over on b!x you can pick up Randy Leonards resolution to disband the PDC and move it into a city bureau. He wants the citizens to vote on a charter amendment to do it in the May '06 election. Good job Randy!

For what it's worth, mm, I don't give a rip who won... I live in Salem so the decision was rather academic for me. (I think Clevenger's meltdown is highly amusing, though.)

But when I read Beam's protest letter (in the linked PDF) I saw that there were a variey of process problems here. This state mandates open meetings for good and proper reasons, and it appears at this point that this decision was made behind closed doors in advance of public input by several people with potential conflicts-of-interest. That's not good, even if they made the best possible decision for the City.

Someone outside this process needs to step in and investigate. The PDC is apparently an arm of the City, so the Mayor is one of the few people who has authority and responsibility to review its dealings for propriety. Delaying the appeal until a new board chair comes on is very nearly the minimum intervention the Mayor can apply to make the decision review more independent of the people who made it.


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