Amanda and the tram
Amanda Fritz, candidate for the Portland City Council seat currently occupied by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, is a psychiatric nurse up at OHSU. As such, I assume, she deals all day long with people with psychological problems. Some of those problems no doubt entail extreme egomania and delusions of grandeur.
This should make her an excellent politician, in whose hands journalists and bloggers will be like putty. We've all got buttons, and she should know how to push them.
For example, about a month ago I mentioned in a comment on this blog that Fritz's stint on the Portland Planning Commission raised my suspicions that she was in on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram scam [rim shot] that has evoked such criticism. The key moments in the city's ludicrous decision to commit to build the tram -- come hell, high water, or a 200% (and counting) budget overrun -- were in 2002 and 2003, under the reign of Vera Katz. Fritz was on the commission back around that time.
Candidate Fritz not only responded to my comment promptly and off-blog, but in writing, with copies of several documents attached to illustrate her points. Now that made me feel mighty important, people.
That having been said, let's go through what she sent me. The gist of it is, whatever the Planning Commission said generally about the South Waterfront project (then also known as North Macadam), it never endorsed and in fact questioned the inclusion of the aerial tram.
Here is document no. 1, a May 22, 2002 letter from Rick Michaelson, president of the Planning Commision, to the City Council. At the time, the commission was working on something called the Marquam Hill Plan (the tram would run up that hill), or "MHP." Among the things Michaelson said in there was this:
Based on public testimony and discussions at our work sessions, Commission members concluded it is premature to include policy support and Zoning Code amendments related to a suspended cable transportation system as part of the MHP. Commission members felt that a comprehensive analysis of existing policies and regulations relating to these systems was necessary and that a work program to develop new policies and regulations that would apply citywide should be implemented. The Planning Commission also believes that PDOT should proceed with a project assessment phase for the proposed suspended cable transportation system linking Marquam Hill and North Macadam which will be in the form of policy and regulation development work. As part of this analysis the Planning Commission believes strongly that alternative alignment and technology decisions need to be studied as well as a "no-build" alternative. The "no-build" alternative might study a non-suspended cable system alternative, such as increased use of shuttle buses, to move traffic.Document No. 2 is draft City Council resolution that would have directed the City Engineer to consider, among other things, "a shuttle bus alternative" for the connection between OHSU and SoWhat. I don't know if the language as proposed was passed by the Council or not -- I assume that it was not, but the draft resolution shows that the Planning Commission wanted a no-tram option studied. The third document is an attachment to the second, again recommending that the city study a no-tram scenario.
The fourth and final document is a list of all the changes the City Council made to the Marquam Hill Plan that the Planning Commission produced. As this nine-pager appears to show, many of the amendments that were made to the plan at the behest of the PDC and other SoWhat project proponents were not passed on by the commission. The little asterisks attached to all the items in the transportation section (Topic C) show, according to Fritz, that the Planning Commission either disagreed with, or didn't get a chance to look at, the changes that were made to its plan. She writes: "Many of the requests made by OHSU/North Macadam interests were adopted by the Council, contrary to the Planning Commission recommendation."
The boys in City Hall are all running away from their obvious involvement with the aerial tram [rim shot] (except for Mayor Potter, who can legitimately say he wasn't around). Today in the paper it's all Matt Brown's fault -- I guess neither the city commissioners nor the then-mayor's economic development chief could be expected to question independently the laughable $15.5 million price tag on which the project was sold. Whether their scapegoating will succeed is anyone's guess, but don't expect Fritz to take a fall on the issue. She's saying quite clearly that she wasn't in on it.