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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Another hard drive cleaned off

The Portland Development Commission's chief financial officer has quit. No reason was given. Perhaps the pending investigations of the PDC's scandalous contracting practices have something to do with it. At least she didn't go with "spend more time with the family."

So let's see. The PDC has turned over its chair, a second commissioner, its CEO, its CFO, and its chief counsel. Its $94,000-a-year "organizational development manager" is on paid administrative leave while her conduct is being investigated. And there are more revelations to come.

No need to change the structure of the PDC, though. No need for any law enforcement to get involved, either. No need to rock the boat.

Comments (20)

"No need to change the structure of the PDC, though."

Reality is that the PDC, Portland planning, PDOT and other local public agencies have demonstrated over and over again their interests are not the same as the public's. They muster up a puppet show when they have a public hearing such as the PDC event the other night and low and behold not much interest in dumping the PDC was voiced.
It was more what-else-can-you-do for special interests like prevailing wages for all PDC projects. Who cares if the projects are legitimate public investments. The more boondoggles the better if it means some campaign contributors get theirs.

Look at South Waterfront. There were a number of serious red flags raised by the public at large. Nearly all of which was grass roots and neighborhood associations.
From day one every government agency involved had their people working to neutralize every fatal flaw raised by the community. Not through remedy but though staff compiling manipulative and contradictory information while ignoring the genesis of the flaw raised.
There was not a single dollar spent or any staff assigned to work in alignment with the public's
issues. Hell the city would not even put together
a real computer simulation or conceptual drawing of South Waterfront depicting the high rises and other features of the unfolding plan.
The whole thing was a one sided use of public money/staff/agencies for the predetermined outcome.

Here we are on another issue, the PDC, and the same thing is happening. All of the staff, while wrangling with various scandals, is charged with sustaining itself and the mission.

The same thing goes for another supreme example the Convention Center Hotel plan. Not one damn thing is being compiled by PDC which would show the concept to be the folly it is. Not a single politician will say one word in challenging the notion of spending millions of public dollars on something so certain to fail.

The entire public agency and tax dollar effort is directed at making this Hotel (just like the Tram) happen no matter the evidence raised by people in their spare time on their own dime.

Search the business names for Talbot, the PDC auditor, and up pops Larry Brant from the law firm that is tied to the Miami law firm on CoP's legal contract for their quest to obtain extraterritorial PGE control. ( filinginoregon.com )

Is this mere coincidence, one anecdotal piece of nonsense, or a clue to bigger and better things to fry in the fire pit?

Ron: That's a really, really long stretch.

The entire public agency and tax dollar effort is directed at making this Hotel (just like the Tram) happen no matter the evidence raised by people in their spare time on their own dime.
Someone's going to have to explain to me, with dispassionate logic, why all this ongoing antipathy towards the proposed OHSU tram. I can understand the property owners over which it will pass being upset. But that's about 1/10000 of 1% of the population. I see the tram as a masterful stroke, maybe the best idea to be proposed around here in years. And this is coming from someone who is as critical of city boondoggles as anyone, and, by the way, I put MAX and the NW trolly into the boondoggle category bigtime. So normally I'd be against the tram. But I see the brilliance behind it. The OHSU tram is different, way different, exponentially different than all the other boondoggles. I'll explain why I say that, but first I want to hear the best case that can be made against the tram as proposed, and why it's seen as such a bad idea.

Why is Larry Brant's mail address, for Garvey Schubert Barer, listed in the filing for the auditing firm of Talbot, Korvola & Warwick?

There is at least an association between them.

The CoP recently argeed to pay millions to Greenberg Traurig which "added Portland firm Garvey Schubert Barer to its team."

The audit of PDC must surely involve matters subject to some legal interpretation.

Gary Blackmer, Portland's Elected Auditor, in a mere sentence referred in a recent audit to pensions bonds as a mere economically wise choice in the eyes of a different department, and thus skirted a potential legal issue by sweeping it under the rug as if it did not exist.

Likewise, Talbot, in cooperation with Garvey, could choose to offer an audit that is more suitable to political will than to the public interest as an independent oversight of expenditures.

For comparison, the KPMG auditing firm in dealing with San Diego refused to issue a report pending resolution of legal questions pertaining to pensions. Are there legal questions here that need to be resolved regarding both PDC and Portland? At least as to the CoP plan to buy PGE I believe that the legal objections to extraterritorial jurisdiction are clear. The Garvey firm is contractually entitled to obtain extra money (call it openly a commission regardless of the creative framing of a waiver of fees if not obtained) to push the envelope of authority for the CoP, thus they are by definition NOT asserting a public interest as per their legal professionalism but repreenting the will of officials of the CoP.

Would it be a stretch to simply ask that the firm of Garvey Schubert Barer, and Larry Brant in particular, not offer any legal services on behalf of the auditing firm of Talbot, Korvola & Warwick as it pertains to PDC or Portland? This I do not believe to be a stretch at all, but would be a straight forward matter that the bar should agree with me without much objection at all. Larry would have an actual conflict of interest, if one is to believe that an outside audit is supposed to be independent and unbiased.

An auditor of the contract for legal services the CoP signed, due to the express contingency of obtaining extraterritorial jurisdiction of PGE, could declare that expense an unlawful expenditure, with a supporting legal opinion. Clearly this would be a possibility.

What level of self-oversight do we allow attorneys and accountants? Is it different in kind than that of Coaches and Consultants, and if so do the rules of professional conduct stand as the last line of defense against self dealing?

Ron, really. The law firm that did the corporate work for setting up the accounting firm is also working for the city on the PGE deal. Big deal. Do you really think the law firm is going to have an influence on the work of its client, the accounting firm?

A partner in that same law firm also drafted my and my wife's wills. Does that mean I'm in on the scam? At some point you may need to adjust the tinfoil helmet. 8c)

Jaybird, first realize that you are outnumbered by popular opinion on the tram. By two to one at least. So if it's a stroke of genius, it's one that hardly anyone appreciates.

The main problem with it is the cost. Not only the construction cost, which was fradulently understated right from the start and will no doubt top off even above current estimates. But more importantly, the operational costs. That's just a "minor little detail" that hasn't been worked out yet. Yeah, right. The City of Portland will wind up pumping hundreds of thousands of property tax dollars into that stupidity every year, much as it already pumps around $1 million or so of general fund dollars every year into the "award-winning" streetcar. Wait 'til you see the insurance bill for the tram -- as a taxpayer, I'm not interested in paying that, but I will.

Even if you ignore the city's giving the finger to the neighborhood that's being badly violated, the average Joe is paying for the rich doctors' toy. If Homer Williams and OHSU want a tram so badly, then they should have to pay to operate it themselves.

Then there's the matter of this being rammed home by Neil the Fixer via Vera the Clueless. In that sense, it's a symbol of corruption that deserves the curses that have been placed upon it.

I know I'm outnumbered. That's what's so baffling. The naysayers are either ignorant of the facts, or they don't have their thinking caps on. In actuality it's a no-brainer. Here's the deal: Anyone who has lived on pill hill, worked there, gone to school there, been a patient there, or had a loved one who did any of the foregoing, gets it, and will tell you that traffic is a nightmare up there, that there are no parking spots to be had, and that the situation has reached general gridlock. I've personally never been a patient up there, but at one time or another I have done all those other things up there. The situation now is that sick people, cancer patients and the like, have appointments for treatment, and drive around for 45 minutes or and hour, just looking for a parking spot, and many simply don't make it, giving up in frustration. Likewise employees and students. More buses aren't the answer, because of physical impossibity. The number of buses already up there are a part of the problem, snarling traffic and belching copious quantities of carcinogenic diesel fumes amongst a population that consists of a disproportionate share of persons already sick. So, what the tram brings to the table is a means of cleanly and quietly depositing people on the hill without bringing any additional motor vehicles up there. And that's why it's a great idea. People who pooh-pooh it, or dismissively make light of the situation just don't have an understanding of how bad it is.

The only problem I have with the tram, as now conceived, is scope. They are thinking too small. They should be envisioning multiple trams from multiple approaches and angles, not just from Macadam. Wherever they can have a park and ride, and string a tram up to the hill. I'd be open to a monorail, ala Seattle Center, too. That's a light rail that would be worthwhile. Far more utility in a tram or monorail to OHSU than there is in that stupid trolley from the Pearl to PSU.

As for the investment part, it can't be stressed enough that OHSU, is, inter alia, the crown jewel of the state's university system. As the state's only world-class university, research institution, and medical center, it's a valuable asset and resource to be protected, preserved, and nurtured. Many important things happen there --a lot of them literally life and death-- and a lot of them with national and international implications. It is a benefit to the city, the state, and the region. It is inane to allow the efficiency and effectiveness of OHSU or any part of it to be diminished or go to waste because we were too niggardly and short-sighted to make a few sacrifices keep transportation flowing to and from it. Spending on the tram therefore goes down in the ledger as a required investment in the crumbling infrastructure. The fact is, if we don't spend on the tram, there will be serious consequences and regret a few years down the road. That's because the institution needs to grow. Either Oregonians want a truly world-class medical-research university and teaching hospital, or we don't. Mickey-mousing OHSU in their efforts to innovatively solve a serious transportation impediment augers on behalf of those that don't. With 20-20 hindsight, and if they had it all to do over gain, maybe it never should have been built up there. But it was, and that's where it is. Moving it elsewhere isn't a realistic option.

I don't really care too much which pocket payment for it comes out of, although it ougtn't be the city or the county. Seems more logical to be state or federal funds. If Hatfield were still in office and on top of his game he would've gotten some federal money. I don't know if and of Oregon's present delegation have the juice to pull that off.

The tram isn't being sold as solving the existing parking problem on the hill. To my knowledge, South Waterfront isn't going to have a park-and-ride for the cancer patients. Parking down there will likely be quite scarce once the development is complete. During the early years, there will probably be some surface lots that might help.

But really, couldn't the whole connection be serviced much more efficiently by shuttle buses? Especially if the city's going to get stuck with the operational tab?

Jaybird Jaybird Jaybird,

The Tram is the least effective, least efficient and has zero potential to "keep transportation flowing to and from OHSU". OHSU itself says 20 years out they will only utilize 30% of it's relatively insignificant capacity.

That's the central fatal flaw. As a transportation mode it is hopelessly doomed to an irrelevant $50 million money pit. Yes, $50 and climbing.

The notion of all these researching doctors etc. wisking up and down the Tram was and is pure nonsense.

I have been to OHSU a half a doxen times during the last year to visit patients and never once had a problem parking. Contrary to the BS abundant space exits for additional parking structures and spaces on pill hill.
The notion of people having to park on North Macadam and only the Tramn can get them up the hill is ludicrous. The notion of OHSU staff working in both locations is equally nonsensical and overblown beyond beleif.
Shuttles of varying function would serve a far greater number of people to and from many more specific destinations in every regard.

------"Required investment in the crumbling frastructure"------

The Tram is pure fantasy and will serve only to devour millions of the very dollars our infrastucture genuinly needs.

The neighbors below the Tram is probably the least of the flaws with all other aspects making this the worst of the worst expenditures.

Even the first OHSU building in South Waterfront, at the base of the proposed Tram, is contrary to what one would expect if the pursuit was biotech jobs. 16 stories, four floors of new administration offices, another four or so for a womens clinic, a couple floors for a health club and somewhere some research labs yet to be defined.
---"fact is, if we don't spend on the tram, there will be serious consequences and regret a few years down the road"----

Sorry Jaybird, you need some anti-coolaid.

The Tram will provide nothing but an a few inconvenient fixed location rides for a purpose easily accomodated by other more effective means.

The tram isn't being sold as solving the existing parking problem on the hill.
Sure it is. It's the unstated but fundamental underlying premise. Maybe the problem is that those doing the selling are assuming that people are knowledgable about the basic facts, when quite obviously they are not. You are Exhibit "A" for this principle. Why have highly paid researchers, doctors and the like --or any other employee for that matter-- who need to go from Macadam up to the hill, climb into their car, bring it into an already congested traffic mess, add to that mess, and then spend untold amounts of time searching and competing for a parking spot against 1,000 other people doing the same thing, people who have every bit as important a reason for needing that parking spot (like a cancer patient)? If they can find one .

The tram takes all that out of the equation.


If the connection between the law firm and the auditing firm is confined merely to setting up the LLP, and no more, then they would have no occasion to advise on the content of an audit for either PDC or Portland, or any other local government entity. Tin foil hat adjust would be appropriate if that setup was the end of the law firm's representation of the auditing firm, just as with your will. The issue I'm getting at is ongoing representation, beyond setting up the auditing firm. I don't know if they do, but if they do, then that continuing relationship is the matter to discuss. Your tin foil point was not dependent upon such ongoing relationship, perhaps because it was late at night when you wrote it, and perhaps because neither of us knows which law firm represents the auditing firm now on the PDC matter.

My reference to KPMG was not related to the law firm that set up that firms organization but to KPMG's effort to issue one report to a local government. Perhaps I am assuming that Garvey et al not only set up the auditing firm's organization, here, but also represents them, in their own self interest (that of the auditor client), in performing audits.

The issue I tried to highlight, more generally, was that even though a government contracts with an auditor (or law firm for that matter) their client is the public and not the government itself. The governmental entity's obligation to pay upon the contract is one matter while the content of an offer of legal or accounting advice is for the benefit of the public, against the governmental entity. An auditor, when encountering legal uncertainty either must rely upon their own counsel or some other counsel to whom the government may have directed them. This is not a tin foil concern but is straight forward. It is, also, a means of dispensing with potential wild speculation as to how an actual pecuniary conflict of interest could potentially be abused or - to borrow a political phrase -- log rolled with some other seemingly unrelated transaction (a potentially tin-foil-hat styled connection).

Who is the client for an auditor of a government entity? The CFO who quit might have had something to hide, but who knows unless the audit is clean, and free of the appearance of impropriety. Will the auditor prepare a vigorous argument that could be forwarded to the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission to consider whether or not to demand that the District Attorney seek to recover unlawfully expended funds? The TSCC has the authority to make such a demand upon the DA, and the TSCC needs a petition from only 10 valid taxpayers (property tax payers) to put consideration of the matter of an unlawful expenditure (as in salary excess) in their agenda. We could even bypass the special outside audit entirely and go straight to the TSCC, where the public has an opportunity to comment upon the facts that are reviewed and made a part of the public record. The TSCC's duty, upon receipt of a petition, is to investigate. But, if they find wrongdoing they must forward the matter to the DA, and the DA must act upon the TSCC's request. The discretion of the DA to non-prosecute is thus constrained by the TSCC's authority to demand a prosecution to recover unlawfully expended funds.

I have been to OHSU a half a doxen times during the last year to visit patients and never once had a problem parking.

I'm up there several times a week.

Try going there on a week day during working hours. Let's say, for a Wednesday appointment or meeting at, oh, 11:00 am. Good luck.

---"It's the unstated but fundamental underlying premise."---
---"The tram takes all that out of the equation."---

The Tram will not, under any wild fantasy do anything of the sort.
It's capacity and flexibility contraints make it the joke it is.
If it were turned on today there would not be a any noticable difference in anything you describe about parking on Pill Hill. None.

The Tram will have only one station on the entire Pill Hill complex. It will not go where people need to go. It will have only one station on South Waterfront resulting in the same problem.

Contrary to your view there is space available for new parking on the Hill and shuttle service like the airport would easily provide the needed relief at a fraction of the Tram cost.

The notion that parking should be down on the waterfront with the single point Tram used to shuttle people is inadequate in every way.

OHSU and planners have all but admitted it with subordinate plans for shuttles to suppliment the nonsensical Tram.

The Tram and the promise of 10,000 biotech jobs was and is a scam developed to propegate a scheme to initiate massive public tax dollar spending and a tsunami of zoning concessions for developers. OHSU panicked leadership is using the scheme to crap shoot it's growth for fiscal survial. The results will be a hobbled University, Nursing school, clinic system with little or no gain in their biotech research share. The road to a larger biotech share was never through expensive prime riverfront high rises and an airiel Tram. There is not a single thriving biotech cluster anywhere in the country which was spawned from such folly.

If OHSU was serioulsy in the hunt for biotech jobs they would be working to use the entire $40 for the Tram (and more) as venture capital to fund researchers, not fancy buildings and circus rides.

The notion that any biotech expansion needs to happen down at South Waterfront is proposterous as well. The OHSU Hillsboro site is far less expensive and adequate to accomodate responsible growth.

The Tram and South Waterfront plan is a reckless misadventure which will result in none of the fanatasy promised. Not even the so-called greeenway will be appreciated with it's glorified sidewalk overshadowed by skyscrapers feel.

It's amazing that anyone could think the Tram will releive traffic or parking when light rail doesn't. The most recent example is Interstate MAX where no positive effect on traffic exists.
Well, except for in the Press Releases from TriMet.

The Tram will not, under any wild fantasy do anything of the sort. It's capacity and flexibility contraints make it the joke it is.
Well, that's what I said, which was, quoting myself from above:
"The only problem I have with the tram, as now conceived, is scope. They are thinking too small. They should be envisioning multiple trams from multiple approaches and angles, not just from Macadam. Wherever they can have a park and ride, and string a tram up to the hill. I'd be open to a monorail, ala Seattle Center, too. That's a light rail that would be worthwhile. Far more utility in a tram or monorail to OHSU than there is in that stupid trolley from the Pearl to PSU."
So in a sense we seem to agree, they are being way too timid in their approach.

And, yes, shuttle buses could be employed, and I'm sure that has been looked at, but buses bring more traffic onto the hill, and they too get stuck and snarled up in traffic. In fact, buses are a prime contributor to the overall congestion up there, stopping to load and offload passengers, and blocking and snarling traffic while they do that. And you want to bring yet more buses up there?

The logic is irrefutable: because the traffic and parking situation up there is untenable, any solution that transports people to and from the hill without bringing more motor vehicles up there is a good thing. You are doing handsprings, backflips and all manner of pretzel-like contortions to think of ways to criticize the tram, but you can't escape that basic logic. And plus there's two things I notice about the naysayers:

(1) they just about always in some way invoke a class envy argument, derisively implying, if not explicitly saying, that the tram is a scam because it's going to only benefit a select few rich doctors, so "they ought to pay for it themselves", and

(2) that virtually none of the naysayers have ever spent any time on the hill, and especially not as a professional person, going in and out to attend meetings and such.

Here, in this city, we have spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, setting up and then propping up a lightrail system (including Vera's little NW trolly) that was a solution in search of a problem, justifying it all along the way with cooked books and fudged numbers. But then when a specific and much smaller transportation system is proposed that is designed to get around and even to some degree alleviate a real and existing problem, people object, basically on class-envy grounds, and out of ignorance of the severity of the problem. Getting people, including expensive doctors, especially expensive doctors, back and forth, to and from the hill and from South Waterfront without getting them bogged down in traffic and fighting parking wars is important, much more important than you folks petulantly refuse to admit.

Either we want a world class first rate medical school and research institution, or we don't. It's that simple. Put me down in the "for" column.

Yeah, a "world class" public hospital on the top of a massive hill, as far away from the public it is supposed to serve as possible...so far away...but maybe now they can join the doctors riding down on the streetcar and the PDC condo buyers and take a tram to get there.

If that isn't a good metaphor for this town, what is? Just let that sink in for a minute: A public hospital, alone on a hill.

Meanwhile the public probably in greatest need of the hospital's services are left to turn certain areas of the downtown into dysfunctional zones while city and county government and the judicial system pass the buck.

It's no accident that so many people hoovering cash out of "public-acting-private" entities like OHSU are also fronting on the Boards of crooked deals like TP/Oregon Electric. It fits the whole ethos of "public service" embodied by their workspace.

Multiple Trams would only mean multiple failures just like the light rail. More lines don't make it any better. Eastside MAX, Westside MAX, Interstate MAX, airport MAX it doesn't matter. They individually cost too and don't carry enough people and they collectively cost too much and don't carry enough people.

Multiple Tram approaches and angles would cost a fortune and never "fly" enough people to make any dent in the problems you have observed. The contraption simply does not apply to the existing and future circumstances.
You are promoting the exact same high cost and low effectiveness as the light rail & streetcars.

"Monorail, ala Seattle Center"
Please stop! Your killing me.
Here, e-mail Emory Bundy ebundy@nwlink.com
to get feedback on the monorail.
Buses come from all over the place without limits to fixed rail or cable.
Our Tram, light rail and streetcars can never be anything but the worst kind of buses. Buses that are too expensive and only run on one street.

That "is irrefutable".
No "handsprings about it".
The numbers don't lie.
The only conortions have been coming from the City and OHSU.
The class envy thing is absurd,irrelevant and a straw excuse.

It doesn't bother me if rich doctors use the Tram. The problem is too few of them will use it period. Why do yo think they are going to travel to the tram, with for one, if it fills wait for another, take the Tram, get off at the top, travel to their office. The every time they want to run somewhere do it all backwards? The Doctors will be driving their BMW's to their parking stalls as always. Very few others will have the applicable schedule, flexibility and circumstances to use the Tram on a regular basis.

It's a silly circus ride that I predict will never get built. It's just too stupid even for Portland.

----"None of the naysayers have ever spent any time on the hill---

Now that's just too fay out there.

The Tram is not "a smaller transportation system that is designed to get around or alleviate anything no matter how severe the problem. It will only devour many millons needed for real transportation.
The Tram won't move people around, only up and down. Big deal.
To few of these doctors who will need to go back and forth, to and from the hill and from South Waterfront. The shuttles will do. With all the millions being spent they could accomodate more shuttles, pullouts, stations to avoid them getting bogged down in traffic.

Either we want a world class first rate medical school and research institution, or we don't. It's that simple. Put me down in the "for" column.

Well if you do want a world class first rate university hospital you better work on dumping the people at the helm because they are running it into the ground with reckless crap shoots based on bad planning medicine.

Lets all agree that the Ross Island Bridge interchange/Macadam/Barber and that weird interchange from Broadway to the bridge is one of the most poorly planned traffic sections in Portland. Lets also agree that the existing roads would be a nightmare for OHSU to use. There are dozens of solutions to the problem.

What is truly upsetting is that rather than fixing the existing crumbling roads to run buses to OHSU, rather than running the street car up the hill with stops along the way for residents to use, the arrogant solution that OHSU deemed the best use of public monies is to fly their staff over the morass benefitting only OHSU and nobody else.

Public money for public transportation is great, public money for private transportation is outrageous.

(What must that planning meeting been like? What other alternatives where they considering? A fleet of helicopters? Jet-packs? Flying cars? Oh wait... that's what they decided to do.)

---"Lets all agree that the Ross Island Bridge interchange/Macadam/Barber and that weird interchange from Broadway to the bridge is one of the most poorly planned traffic sections in Portland."---
Planning? What's that? Oh it would have been "planning" to conduct a taffic impact study for South Waterfront. But none was done.
The biggest project in city's history and nothing.
The area of confluence at I-5, Barbur, Ross Island bridge and Macadam received NO study in planning to add 10000 jobs and now 800 housing units to South Waterfront.
Once again the public has been sold the impression of model planning while the opposite delivers highest possible profits for campaign contributing developers and the worst possible outcome for the public.
If a private company were utilizing the tactics and methods of the PDC and Portland planners charges of deceptive practices would be all over the place.

Hat-tip to Jaybird for valiance in the face of onslaught. I have spent months in the cancer wards at Pill Hill (family). The transportation to, and parking around, the complex is woefully inadequate to the task.

It is Portland's largest employer and the state's medical school. It was sited on Marquam Hill long before its growth could possibly be foreseen. Don't forget Doernbecher, the VA Hospital and the Dental School up there, too.

I stand opposed to the silly streetcar and the overly-expensive, underly-efficacious light rail. I have not studied the tram enough to have complete opinions, but I do perceive here an underappreciation of how huge this medical complex is, what the transportation needs are, and how sorely I believe they are not currently being met. It certainly isn't all or probably most about "rich doctors."

I could go on the rest of the year about the travesties of the medical industry. That's a separate discussion. OHSU isn't going away nor would you want it to.

I probably would have supported the tram insofar as neighborhood "destruction" -- if it were the best transportation solution, and if OHSU absorbed the cost.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Another hard drive cleaned off:

» PDC: All In The Family from nag.PDXNag.com
The CFO was a "consultant" too, like Tracy. The PDC auditor, Talbot, Korvola & Warwick, has listed as an apparent registered agent one Mr. Larry Brant from Garvey Schubert Barer. (filinginoregom.com) The same Garvey Schubert Barer as is set to... [Read More]

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