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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 25, 2006 10:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was That ain't Ovaltine. The next post in this blog is Guess whose fault it is today. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Quotation of the Month

"Nobody ever saw what was going on. Nobody's been minding the store."

-- Erik Sten, who's been a Portland city commissioner for nearly 10 years.

Comments (23)

For all the smokescreen who could tell there was a store?

Amazing! He just wasn't listening or did not read the written testimony submitted to council by members of the community.

I am beginning to highly resent the many hours of volunteer time I spent on the NMD Framework Steering Committee, hours of preparing the written testimony that was not read, and the many hours appearing before the various boards, commissions, and council on this and the tram matter.

If council is not attentive to the facts before them and feels they must now live in a state of revisionist history I think it appropriate that volunteers be compensated for council's lack of interest.

On Jan 26, 2005, at a City Council Hearing on South Waterfront Plan Height Bonus Analysis Prohect, Commissioner Sten stated the inclusion of 325'building in the NMD was "...a compromise."
This came as a surprise to many who were involved in that issue. Apparently, though, not to Commissioner E. Sten.

He was asked by e-mail that same day for the following:
* With whom was it a compromise?
* What were the issues of the compromise?
* When did the meetings take place?
* Who was in attendance?
In addition, copies of the minutes of any meetings that dealt with this height bonus compromise were asked for.

To this day, nothing has been provided.

So what's Commissioner E. Sten's quote again?
" Nobody ever saw what was going on. Nobody's been minding the store."

Bah! Humbug! A pox upon council.

Now, now. What's there to resent about Opie? He's the bright fresh face of Generation X.

That is limp.

He seeks to excuse the fact that while evidence was there to question the whole project, he listened and heard what he wanted to hear. The sizzle.

I've been through this process with City Council before. Go in with cogent criticism of any plan and make a public statement. I was told beforehand that my presentation was unnecessary because the vote was already "wired". Council hearings are, all too often, a sham.

"In the overall scheme of all of this, the city's investment is not significant," says South Waterfront developer Homer Williams, who also sparked the Pearl District's revitalization. "The tram is just one piece of it and that's where things get lost. So, we have to look at the whole package."

I think this is just as significant a quote and it's the true theme of Ms. Mitchells column, that despite the stupidity of the city council we need to keep our 'eyes on the prize' that the development is a big return for a small investment. What The Oregonian and Homer though don't want to bring up is that the citys investment involves so much more then just it's contribution to the Tram, it's the enrichment of one community by the detriment of another and that the biggest benefactors of this development will not be the average citizens of Portland or even the city itself. Her column is also so typical of the grade D+ reporting that has become the standard for The Oregonian making the paper little more then a vehicle for the powerful few with the most money, a PR brochure rather then an objective perspective. A private citizen will face more hurdles with no help from the city building a fence around his little 50x100 foot lot then large businesses like OHSU or developers like Homer Williams will face transforming acres of our city. Rene Mitchell points out a few 'truths' but at the same time puts forward a few falsehoods and assumptions like the huge benefits of Tax Revenue, High Tech Biomedical jobs, etc. etc. Blah, Blah, Blah.

That's the "sizzle", Tom.

It reminds me of an old joke about economists that can be equally applied to planners and developers.

Of an elderly couple leaving the courthouse after their marriage, the bride turns to the groom and asks, demurely, "You _will_ be gentle, won't you?"

The groom stopped in his tracks, looked at her in amazement and said, "But...sweetie...You've been married three times!"

"Yes," she responded, "but my first marriage was to an elderly and wealthy gentleman, and he died on our wedding night...before the marriage was consummated."

"Okay, but what about the other two?" asked the groom.

"Well, my second marriage was in San Francisco, after a whirlwind romance. It was only after we married that I found out he had no profane interests in me. But we had a happy marriage until he tragically died of AIDS."

"Alright," says the groom, "how about your last marriage?"

"That's a different story," admits the bride. "He was an economist (insert here: planner, developer). All he ever did was sit on the edge of the bed and tell me how great it was going to be."

Nobody was minding the water bureau billing computers either.

Thanks for the observation, Dave Lister. As a candidate against Sten who's been diligently prepping for the trail the last two weeks, I was astounded by the similarities between Sten's involvement in the aerial tram and the water bureau fiasco. In both cases, there were memos and dissenting points of view that raised numerous red flags about Sten's Water Bureau billing system. After Sten made the call to switch to the new system and the red ink began to flow from the Water Bureau, Sten denied ever seeing or hearing about the system problems, even though they were documented and circulated throughout the City. Barely a year later as the full scope of the fiasco became known, Sten called for the resignation of the Water Bureau's director. After Vera Katz took Sten's water toy away, engineer Dan Saltzman, presented a study showing that Sten's system was a hopeless case and would require a real system at a cost of $26 million--a far cry from Sten's on-the-cheap $6 million system with an unproven company. Sten's overzealous approach to big projects has repeated itself, and his denial and blame-shifting are evident in both examples--the Water Bureau and the Tram. One could probably make a similar case for his PGE buy-out, impromptu police and fireman pension reform, and his role representing the city against his biggest campaign sponsor over Ross Island.

One could probably make a similar case for his PGE buy-out, impromptu police and fireman pension reform, and his role representing the city against his biggest campaign sponsor over Ross Island.

Not to mention his call today to tinker with the BIT and city licensing fees, an issue he clearly knows little about. The Oregonian editorialized that the tax is a bad idea(you KNOW it's got to be bad when that happens) and that the money should come from current city revenues.

I'll give you one better. My partner and I have been writing billing systems for over twenty years. I analyzed the RFP that Saltzman's office used in procuring the replacement system and found major problems. I predicted at that time the replacement system could be as flawed as the Severn Trent system. I stand by that claim. The replacement system was to have come on line last month. They are now looking at April, if all goes well.

Eric is the same Commissioner that said after all the NM hearings where over 30 some neighborhood associations made objective points: " I appreciate what you have all presented through these hearings, but I feel many of your points are not cogent, and will not come to be true. (and he went on for another 8 minutes) I vote, yeh."

And Mayor Katz, at an earlier hearing on NM after CTLH presented numerous visuals and facts on the NM height, density issues said another memorable quote. This was after we presented an actual aerial photo of NM including downtown Portland in the background. The aerial had 12 computer generated 250 ft high buldings placed throughout the whole NM one mile length. (this was before the height was increased to 325ft and spacing reduced between buildings.) Mayor Katz chastized our presentation and said " the 12 building you have shown are an exaggeration, there is no way there will be 12 buildings of that size, am I right staff?" Fact, just in the Central District (1/3 of the whole NM area) which is the first phase of NM, there are over 5 buildings being built or in for permits. And, in following the zoning permissible in just the central district, there can be over 18 buildings 250ft.to 325 ft. Throughout the whole NM district there can be over 58 buildings of that size-more than downtown Portland. Who's exaggerating?

I'd love to see Eric go to work at a Wal-Mart. Let him see what "minding the store" really means. Let him see the ugly underbelly of union organizing drives, and shoplifting, and transportation delays.

Better yet, let him start his own consulting company, and learn about the challenge of meeting a payroll without tax increases.

Never happen. If he loses his race, he'll do something like run OSPIRG. A real job is not in the cards for him, even with Homer and Dike.

In advance of his vote to approve the last round of building height width and spacing concessions to developers, Eric said,

"I'm not sure if the buildings are too tall or not but I am voting for these changes"

I'm not sure?
Perfect

It's fascinating the number of hucksters and salesmen Sten and the entire council have allowed to steamroll them with neat-o Power Point presentations and closed-door meetings. This reminds me of Sten's comments to TheO after the council met, behind closed doors, with Marshall Glickman about the stadium. He said something to the effect that Glickman drove a hard bargain, but in the end it would prove a good investment. Only after it was pointed out to him that there was a lot more to Glickman's proposal than met the eye did Sten and the rest of the council stand up and demand a different deal. Of course the second deal didn't fare much better. But still.

The point is, there's absolutely no curiosity on the part of the commission. NONE. Someone comes in with a presentation and gives them a number, they take it as gospel truth. Stadiums. Trams. Billing computers. Parking robots. You name it. Amazing.

The Credulous Council.

I was recently studying Sten's role in the go-nowhere negotiations with Ross Island Sand & Gravel, which have been in limbo for five years now. At some point, The Portland Tribune (which is owned by the same guy as RISG), seems to have turned on Sten, even though Bob Pamplin Jr. is probably the biggest reason Sten is where he is today. Does this have anything to do with "voter-owned elections?" Did Sten sense his dirty money evaporating ahead of a coveted fourth term?

I will say and stand by a campaign pledge to bring term limits in City Council to a vote. If you're willing to vote for "voter-owned elections," then it seems to me the same premise supports the concept of term limits, to ensure fresh perspectives in City Hall and much opportunity. Though it's been said before, Eric Sten has definitely distinguished himself as a career politician whose judgements have more to do with his own longetivity in office than the public interest. His "passion" for eliminating homelessness (according to his ten year plan to do something that has never been accomplished in the history of mankind) strikes me as more of a smokescreen to gain political advantage than a true conviction. That passion didn't carry too far when it came to panhandlers begging for food, since Sten has shown support for anti-begging laws.

And one more thing, thanking Bojack readers for their patience... Ginny Burdick has yet to file for office, but at a recent endorsement interview I was told I was one of three that included Sten and Burdick. Why is Ginny Burdick seeking endorsements before she's even offered up the paperwork to seek public office? Francesconi did the same thing two years ago. Doesn't seem right to me... I'm filling out all these forms and Ginny is obviously working on her campaign under the radar.

My favorite Sten multipurpose quote: "It's a no-brainer."

Until government is run by people who have run REAL businesses (or held an actual job outside of government) which are accountable to the bottom line, we will continue to muddle in the messes that we witness on a daily basis in Portland.

The leaders in Portland have no business sense, and never face the threat of not making payroll, not being able to pay the bills, not being able to pay quarterly taxes, not being able to meet the rent, etc, etc. They have no consequences and are like kids playing Monopoly. If we run out of money, we'll just go get some more! It's all play money anyway!

Portland is an extreme example of why government just doesn't "get it".

Why do city councils make such poor decisions?

For an explanation, go to the link below:


http://robkremer.blogspot.com/2006/01/kremers-theorem-on-committee-iq.html

Sleepy says: "Until government is run by people who have run REAL businesses (or held an actual job outside of government) which are accountable to the bottom line, we will continue to muddle in the messes that we witness on a daily basis in Portland."

I disagree. I don't think it's necessary that anyone to run for public office need have RUN a "real" business. I think it would be appropriate that our public representatives have skill sets that would help in their representing the public interest. All too often, people who have RUN "real" businesses who become public officials end up running government LIKE a business....which is distinctly NOT in the public interest. Witness our federal executive department. We do not need to "Halliburtonize" our City Hall.

I wish the choice were Halliburton or current leadership at City Hall.

Instead the choice is usually the lesser of evils: socialists, career government employees, and the occasional shill for the West Hills and/or organized labor mafia. Like choosing between cod liver or castor oil. It doesn't make much difference, does it?

They generally hire people that share their views, plus the occasional tree hugging, fish loving, Bush hating bike nazis.

Has anybody visited City Hall, lately? The other side of the counter has the same dress code we had in college. Ironically, it looks less eclectic and more scary when it's hanging on a 40 year old. Try the Nordstrom Rack, dude. Look for shoes that cover your toes and shirts that cover your belly button. At least Halliburton has a dress code.

before he could open his mouth the Professor grabbed his arm and online roulet He let his voice trail off staring out the dark window at the highway .


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