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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 9, 2006 2:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was OH-SUed. The next post in this blog is When condo-mania is a bust. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, February 9, 2006

Pungle up, Homer

For those of you keeping score at home, there are a couple of very interesting developments to report in the OHSU aerial tram debacle [rim shot]. Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, who's had his authority over the project seriously watered down over the past week or two, was quoted in the Trib the other day confirmng what I've been questioning on this blog for a while now:

Although the city has signed an agreement with OHSU and the property owners to build the tram, Adams says the city attorney's office has advised him that the city does not have to put any more money into the project.

"If the other parties in this project don't come up with the money to finish it, the city is not required to complete it at a loss," Adams said.

Hear, hear! And so if the city puts in a single penny of additional property tax dollars, it's not because it has to. It's because the current commissioners want to. (They'll call the money "urban renewal funds," but look on your property tax bill, folks -- there it is.)

Fascinating. Not another penny, gentlemen!

(Today the O jumps on the story and acts like it's new. It isn't, but the Trib sure underplayed it.)

Smells like one heck of a lawsuit is imminent. And without a steady flow of fat checks, the construction crews aren't going to keep building the thing. Meanwhile, delay will just keep adding to the cost. What a mess. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

Meanwhile, the PDC has designated one of its own to take the reins of the city's "negotiation" with OHSU and the SoWhat developers on who's going to pay the latest huge tram cost overrun. Given Adams's comments, I doubt that there's much to negotiate, but the new PDC "special projects" maestro is the agency's economic development director, Bob Alexander.

I hope he has a good helmet.

Comments (16)

Something to ponder.... Could the newfound backbone of the city commissioners on the tram issue be an early effect of the Voter Owned Elections law? After all, they no longer have to fear reprisals from developers -- who might withhold funds, or fund their opponents, etc.

The effect can't be too big - given the uncertainty on the repeal - but it might be an untold part of the story here...

(And no, I'm not working for the VOE campaign.)

Or some of our Oregon politicians could just follow the lead of this guy and start keeping it real. No new law necessary.

I think the fact that Jack & company has worked so hard to daylight the facts and figures on the tram is more the reason for the backbone than rather than voter owned elections. But I also agree with Jack's comment earlier in the year, where the h..l, is the US Attorney in all this.

When I read about the e-mails posted in Ryan Frank's from Vic Rhodes to the AIA telling them not to be forthcoming on the cost issue when something could have easily been done to re-evaluate the project, I did some checking.

My Father was an engineer, a very proud PE, and Vic Rhodes is also a licensed engineer. One of the quirks of being overseen by a state board is that through your PE license you are personally liable and the organization you work for cannot sheild you from personal liablity for any breach of code of ethics. This came about in my father's branch of mechanical engineering during the industrial revolution when every Tom, Dick, and Harry was putting together steam boilers and they were killing people by blowing up on a regular basis. This led to requiring a seal on any drawing by a real person who would be accountable, and could not hide behind a buisiness that could go bankrupt.

Mr. Rhodes had to have a PE (Professional Engineering) in his position as City Engineer. But when I looked up his license it was in the Exempt Status. You have to write a formal letter to the board and say you are no longer offering professional services to have your license put into the exempt catagory. So as head of PATI, Mr. Rhodes exempted himself from the rules of professional practice. Which includes among other things like being obligated to always act in the best PUBLIC interest, not misrepresenting facts to public bodies.

But seriously, do you really think the purpose of the licensing scheme is public protection? Engineering and law are both guilds based solely on knowledge that is kept from the general public. I would get into it with you, except that we'd spend the next 30 posts watching people breast-beat about ethics.

Just ask yourself how different our society would be if legal and math/science knowledge were only a little more diffused. It would be a lot harder to trade on bs, that's for sure, and the two industries would be a lot more concentrated than they are under current "ethics laws". There might even be more consensus and less false division, demagoguery, and oooga-booga in our society, a situation no doubt fed by our willingness to shut off and defer to "experts" and paid pundits. But you can ask the politicians who have to rely on our first commenter to know how to dress themselves on a given day, much less think, about that subject.

There are some really good engineers out there like my Dad, as there are Lawyers like Jack, and Doctors, who speak out for ethics, for the most part they pay dearly for it in the current political environement.

In my Dad's Day there used to be very strong Engineers Clubs, and the Professions didn't advertise in the Yellowpages. If the reforms and hard fought laws that diciplined the diciplines have watered down the peer review and dicipline, as well documented in the Medical, Legal, Accounting, and Engineering professions.

The other organization, funky as it was that Dad was involved in that has symbolicly been assimilated in this town by the West Hills money is the Masonic Order. This was a group in my home town that include the District Attorney, CEO's, all these little offbeat groups like Odd Fellows, Masons, Knights of Columbus, that supported the community, gave some balance to the Arlington Clubs.

The price Portland has paid, is the becoming evident, if you caught Anna Griffins article about the staff outnumbering the Public at the first public budget meeting. People don't believe they have input anymore or can have an effect, and that they are only being used for token input and to legitimize what the politicos want to do.

I worry about my kids and grandkids in this kind of "democracy"

One thing to note about the whole Tram debacle: OHSU has been against the project from the start, and was forced by the city to support it publicly. The public positions expressed by the City of Portland should be taken with a grain of salt. If the city really means what it is proclaiming publicly, OHSU would cancel the project in a heartbeat.

The depiction of this whole mess in the press is reminiscent of something from 1984, everything being printed is exactly the opposite of what is really going on.

"everything being printed is exactly the opposite of what is really going on."

Is that statement (along with the answer to this question) self-inclusive?

People don't believe they have input anymore or can have an effect

But isn't that directly proportional to the idea that they have to rely on a class of "experts" to think and make decisions for them? You can't get something for nothing. Either you're running a protection racket and you take the consquences of a dumbed down society, or you get off the idea that you have to join a club in order to apply law, math, and science credibly as an ordinary citizen. Which do you want?

Could the newfound backbone of the city commissioners on the tram issue be an early effect of the Voter Owned Elections law?

It certainly has something to do with the fact that Opie and Big Pipe are running for re-election and have to do the right thing for a change. If they get re-elected, look for the jellyfish spines to return come November.

One thing to note about the whole Tram debacle: OHSU has been against the project from the start, and was forced by the city to support it publicly.

Can you link to some background on that, please?

I am sure this posturing by Adams. He will find a back-door way to make it happen with city money.

BTW, I read the latest PDC investment of $24M in New Market tax credits to Gerding/Edlen to build a tower for the west end part of town. In return, they get a $4.8M equity share. Am I missing some math somewhere?

OHSU would cancel the project in a heartbeat.

What?! If this is the case, we need evidence of that right away. The press is finally paying attention, the Lair Hill neighbors are pissed that the little concessions they got are going to be cut in the "value engineering" process, voters are wondering why we need it in the first place, and candidates like Dave Lister and me are licking our chops to beat the Council about the head and shoulders about this.

Please give us a paper trail on that statement. Please. I'm begging you! :)

"One thing to note about the whole Tram debacle: OHSU has been against the project from the start, and was forced by the city to support it publicly."


That's why OHSU President Kohler invited State Representative Fireman Randy to campus and gave him the "vision of the future" of OHSU, complete with the tram, back in, what, 1998?

Sorry, but OHSU has been pushing this project for years. They've tried to get away with ignoring everybody who has a criticism of their "vision" or their process.

This is one of the problems with the whole "visioning" thing. If it's not grounded in present realities, it tends to become hallucinations, rather than visions. In the case of the tram *rimshot*, it's a full-bore bad trip.

""""That's why OHSU President Kohler invited State Representative Fireman Randy to campus and gave him the "vision of the future" of OHSU, complete with the tram, back in, what, 1998?""""

Winter 1998.
AFTER the August 1998 pitch Goldschmidt made to Katz. Goldschmidt was also on the OHSU board at the time and never has Kohler ever stated the Tram was his idea. Furthermore when the Tram was first pitched NO biotech research element was included and NO $1/2 Billion figure in Urban Renewal.
Only after the pitch was fined tuned to swindle the public and city officials did these false notions appear:
10,000 biotech jobs,
keep OHSU from moving,
the Tram is the linchpin to the development,
nothing can happen without 100s of millions in UR,
the whole area is a brownfield,
building must be 325ft tall, wide and crowded together

All of which were invented or exaggerations resulting in the highest public cost, the least relative public benefit and the highest windfall for developers and tax exempt OHSU.

Here is some insite on the claim that the brownfield would never have been cleaned up without city money:


Ken Novack, CEO of the Schnitzer Group, has been trying since 1993 to get the city’s planning approval to develop 20 acres on North Macadam. He’s also been working with a group of property owners to develop the 100 acres of property that runs from the river to the freeway, and from the Spaghetti Factory to Zidell. “In ’98,” says Novack, “the city came up with the North Macadam Planning Framework. We supported it.” The plan called for mixed use, or what would be the equivalent of a low-density residential use. “The plan reflected a lot of compromise as a process of involving everybody. Some of the compromises were the result of a lot of thought,” says Novack.

Today, Novack and the Schnitzer Group have been informed that the city is starting over. “It’s frustrating to a lot of people,” Novack laments, “and now the property owners are saying, ‘Let’s at least get the OHSU development started.’” Novack says that when you deal with the city, “you end up in a lot of meetings. There is a tremendous amount of process in the city; an inability to get to closure.”

The city could have been collecting property taxes for the last 10 years instead of wasting $1/2 billion!!!!!!!


I've been reading a book entitled "Adventures in Porkland" by Brian Kelly, and he describes something that reminds me of the defense of this TramScam. Start paying for something that has a low projected cost, and by the time a lot of people catch on that it's a costly boondoggle the backers of the prject claim that it would be a total waste of money to stop and leave the project unfinished. This is what some hope will get the Tram project concluded.

What we need is rare guts and common sense by some city council members so they can cut off the project right now, bite the bullet, apologize, and move on to something else. But it's too bad that such a no-brainer decision has to be called gutsy. But it's more cowardly to continue with the project.

Bob Tiernan


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