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Friday, February 10, 2006

One shoe dropping

Mike Lindberg, the former Portland city commissioner who's badly soiled his place in municipal history with his involvement in the OHSU aerial tram scam [rim shot], dropped a mini-bombshell in the Trib this morning. That shadowy nonprofit tram corporation he's the president of -- you know, the one that distracted everyone with a "design competition" while the public was being sold an obviously fake budget that was off by around 300 percent? Now old Mike says the corporation ought to be disbanded. Its remaining supplies of memo pads may be available on eBay as soon as Tuesday.

Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc., whose board of directors includes the city Transportation Commissioner but was long populated by representatives of OHSU and the SoWhat condo kings, was calling a lot of the shots in the early days of the Snakebit Ski Lift. It was modeled after a similar scam team that has some weird role in the streetcar system. But the mayor's now told the the tram entity politely to take a hike, and they've got nothing to do but sit around and watch the political fiasco unfold. So Lindberg's going to recommend to the board of PATI on Monday that the corporation be dissolved.

Awwww. Just when it was getting good. Oh, well. We'll always have our memories, of the days when Lady Di Goldschmidt was picking out the fabric for the tram seats, and Randy Gragg was gushing in the paper every other morning about the zinc-clad exquisiteness of it all. There was that board meeting where Dike Dame skimmed a couple of krugerrands across the Willamette. And don't forget the groundbreaking, where St. Hatfield showed up to heal a few lepers. Peter Kohler would always take time off from the PGE scam to stop by with pinot and brie. How about the day Francesconi ran over Gerding's foot with his Vespa, and Vic Rhodes shot cappuccino out of his nose? Ah, the way we were.

After they liquidate the tram company, there's only one thing left to kill while there's still time. And that's the tram itself.

Comments (13)

Hmmm. I'm curious. Since PATI is "a public benefit nonprofit corporation", are its records publically available? What happens to its records if it disbands?

Silly me, I thought the point of this corporation would have been to limit the city's liability. Isn't that what corporations do?

Hey Jack-

Aside from the Tram issue, what was your opinion of Gragg? I always enjoyed his articles... it was nice seeing some weightier material in the creampuff Oregonian. Specialty beat writers seem to be going extinct...

He is a pretentious a*s.

Gragg actually referred to Tram opposition
"anti-Tram extremism" in one of his pieces.

You're too kind Jack.

Saw Vic Rhodes(Mr. Exempt), comments in the Tribune,

Kind of sounded like Brownie's before the Senate yesterday. Claims he initiated all the savings, and Sam did nothing.

"The original project budget was set by the PATI board at $15.5 million. This was a budget and not an estimate based on project plans, as none existed at the time." - Vic Rhodes, from the above Trib aritcle

Say what? Isn't a budget considered a constraint on project design anymore?

"When schematic design was completed at the end of 2003, the first true cost estimate was produced by the architect’s cost consultant and vetted by the PATI board with an independent estimating firm. The City Council approved both the design concept and revised budget estimate ($28.5 million) in June 2004."

I totally understand if the design estimate comes out somewhat different than the budget... increasing specificity of design leads to better estimates. But isn't it supposed to be designed to come out under the budgeted number? A 20% overrun... sure, that's not unexpected. But an 83% overrun? Increased last April to 40 million, a 258% overrun of the original budget?

That's either a serious shortcoming in the design, or proof that the original budget was vapor. Either way, it speaks ill of those responsible for overseeing the design-to-budget process. It's a poor dilemma to try to hide behind, Mr. Rhodes.

(Anyway, I think by now we're pretty clear that the budget was somewhere between a lie and a statistic. I get the impression the designers did not consider the budget a constraint on design. I wonder where they got that idea?)

"There is no way that the increases over the last nine months can be construed as mismanagement of the project..."

[rolls eyes] Looks to me like the last nine months are the least of the worries about project management.

Alan DeW sez:"(Anyway, I think by now we're pretty clear that the budget was somewhere between a lie and a statistic. I get the impression the designers did not consider the budget a constraint on design. I wonder where they got that idea?)"

Wouldn't that make it a "damn lie", according to Mark Twain (or Ben Disraeli)?

I find it amazing how patently dishonest so much of the means to bring about these project are.

Moreover, it's more than apparent that none of the staff of the various agencies are assigned to scrutinize anything from the public's interest perspective. It's all about moving it forward, period.

As the many neighborhoods groups and citizens scrutinized the Tram and raised many red flags and fatal flaws, city staff worked to neutralize all of them through any means possible, including the use of shady and unreliable numbers.

Moreover not one elected official stepped up to champion the citizen concerns.
Quite the contrary. The blitz by City government at all levels to bob and weave around any citizen concern was mission one. Regardless of the magnitude of the flaw.

What can be more demonstrative than the newest boondoggle the Transit Mall.

Along with TriMet's own staff criticizing it the width and girth of this project's fatal flaws has grown to be described as "insanity" by PSU professor of Urban Studies, Gerald Mildner.

Yet, like the Tram, there seemingly is no level of illegitimacy or cost which is capable of dislodging or even slowing this insane waste of public money.
And again, no elected official in sight is on the side of sanity or the taxpayers who'll pay for it.


SoWa 20 year budget spread sheet.(outdated of course)
On table 6 page 13
Every line item has a figure for each year and a total of that line item in the final column.
Every line item but one.
Just look at it.
The last one, debt service has no total in the final column. Why?
Are the PDC staff so dedicated to their mission to obscure that they make these petty moves to conceal big numbers?
You can add it up yourself of course and it's an additional $160 million for the first 20 years of SoWa. All of which will be paid with UR property taxes.
Same as the total expenditures in the row above. Now $288 million for the first 20 years. All paid for with property taxes.
How often have you seen these numbers in any paper?
Never. Why not? The Tram/Sowa is a $1/2 billion public project and the whole thing is being presented just like Rhodes et al. presented the Tram.

If it were only the cost which has been obscured or misrepresented that would be egregious enough.
But the reasons and justifications for the
public "investment" have been equally doctored, invented and exaggerated while presumably always staying just shy of being technically criminal.


I just think we all need to sign up for this.


and get educated on how UR works in Portland, then we won't be asking such dumb questions and thinking Randy is a ****

Good one!
"sponsored by PDC"
what a hoot
The opening line in the class will be "Urban Renewal doesn't use general fund revenue"

All of which is being paid for by more tax money.

Did someone say Monorail? (http://www.seattlemonorail.com/ or http://www.elevated.org/)

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