This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 16, 2006 10:53 PM. The previous post in this blog was Oregon at age 147: sick. The next post in this blog is Skot reflects on Torino. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Tram That Would Not Die

Just as I thought, speculation that the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] is on its last legs was greatly exaggerated. Our correspondent, Butterbean*, closely followed the press event in the SoWhat district this morning, and he reports that it was just a p.r. spiel from the promoters of the emerging Condo Towers Amidst the Contamination.

Oh, and I swear, I am not making this up, Sharon Kitzhaber, the ex-guv's ex-wife, is the new SoWhat ambassador to the condo-buying public. Sing with me, people: "It's a small world, after all...." Not to disrespect "Louie, Louie," but that annoying Disney classic ought to be the theme song of Portland. They definitely need to have it going 24/7 on the Muzak system at the SoWhat "discovery center." ("Honey? I just discovered that my wallet is missing!")

Meanwhile, the City Council tram "work session" originally scheduled for tomorrow got pushed back a week, but apparently it's full steam ahead now that the mayor is back from his CIA mission to Taiwan. It sounds like Sam "the Tram" Adams and some others on the council (they're there for now, at least) are going to come up with more "urban renewal" (a.k.a. Average Joe property tax) revenues to throw at the tram, currently budgeted at $55 million, up from the original liars' budget of about one-fourth that. Suit yourself, guys, we'll see two of you at the ballot box very soon.

And did you catch how the negative polls that killed the school tax had disgruntled voters complaining about the tram? Note to Mayor Potter: If you want to save the schools, first you'll have to kill the tram. More study committees and a couple of road trips to Salem (BTW, stay out of the Chinese restaurants down there) won't be enough with the Most Irresponsible Public Works Project Ever staring voters in the face.

Meanwhile, OHSU is actively advertising for a new tram operator, now that Mike Lindberg's nonprofit corporation, which was supposed to get the gig, is being folded up in irrelevance (or was that disgrace?). The request for proposals is here, according to a reliable source. There's all kinds of interesting tram stuff in there (and in the form contract), including the proposal that the tram operator will take out $15 million of liabililty insurance, which will also cover OHSU and the city.

And the Pill Hill types are still eagerly talking with the city about which of them will actually do what, once this monstrosity is supposedly up and "running." Says OHSU:

Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between OHSU and PDOT [Portland Department of Transportation], OHSU and PDOT have agreed that they will work together collaboratively on tram operations. OHSU will serve as the lead agency in issuing a Request for Proposals for a Tram Operator, selecting a Tram Operator, negotiating a contract with the Tram Operator, and supervising the Tram Operator's performance, all with the input and concurrence of PDOT. OHSU and the Portland City Council will formalize this relationship in an Intergovernmental Agreement that is currently being negotiated and is subject to approval. References to OHSU herein refer to OHSU acting as the lead agency. OHSU's authority to negotiate and/or contract for Tram Operations is subject to the Intergovernmental Agreement referred to above.
They say they want someone with "demonstrated experience in aerial passenger ropeway operations." Hmmm, that's either a ski resort owner or the Klan, no?

Prospective bidders, if you really want this one, let me give you some advice: Hire one of the good old boys' wives.

* - Not his real name. He uses "Butterbean" only to escape assault while incarcerated.

Comments (34)

Wow.... the place will be so devoid of community that they've got a social activities director? What next? RAs in the dorms, er, condos?

"These people will come out of their beautiful homes and what is there to do? So I will be in place helping them to come together to create activities and opportunities where they can get to know each other."

"Shuffleboard on the greenway at 4!"

If this is true, then I see what Sam Adams meant by the tram not having a blank check. Instead, the tram will have a filled-in check with lots more money.

The tram is going ahead, folks. The only trick is how to get three votes on the City Council for a much bigger city contribution, and still give four of them a way to say they're against it.

You can bet they've been working on it. The scapegoats are gone. Now it's time to hand out some more city taxpayer pork.

Nothing like a delightfully delicious and devilish detail to start to the day.

Thanks for the “Ropeway Operator’s” RFP.

Skip on down to Item 15 (Hours of Operation): “No Sunday or Holiday Service.”

Isn’t the “compelling purpose” for all this supposed to be an internationally-acclaimed tourist attraction? How does that work if it’s closed on Sundays and Holidays?

Is this how we’ll monitor the Republicans when they come to town for their national convention?

Bog: The only trick is how to get three votes on the City Council for a much bigger city contribution,
JK: And with two of them up for re-election. Not up for election: Randy, Sam & Potter.

Didn't Randy swear not one cent more? Where do three votes come from? Broken promise or a broken re-election campaign?

The C&Es should be verrry intersting.


I assume that most of you are involved in your respective Neighborhood Associations and I'm sure that you respect the effort and time it takes to build community. With that said, if you want to direct your negative remarks at fiscal management of the southwaterfront...fine, but please don't make fun of a community that has yet to form. They need our support, not our sarcasm.


"... road trips to Salem (BTW, stay out of the Chinese restaurants down there)"

Hey now. Kwan's is excellent, as is the teensy hole-in-the-wall Tong King Garden on SE 12th.

Can't say as I'll ever darken the doorstep of Golden Palace again, though.

You have to admit, the tram will make it easier for Junior Kitzhaber to join his dad for lunch at the OHSU commissary.

Couple of other Tidbits from the “Aerial Ropeway Operator” RFP:

First, all bets are off if at least two of the operator’s “principals” don’t have “substantial experience in the operation of ‘aerial passenger ropeways.’” Can’t begin to guess how much or how long any of that has to be.

Last, the Judge and Jury is OHSU and nobody else. Others get to serve on the “Evaluation Committee,” but their votes don’t count. “OHSU may reject any Proposal … upon a finding of the OHSU that it is in its [OHSU] best interest to do so…”

Not sure what all that might mean. It’s not uncommon for RFPs to be non-events because no qualified submissions are received. Bid opening is scheduled for March 1 though.

Still processing why “Ropeway Rides” won’t be part of next year’s 4th of July celebration. I’m broken-hearted!

I'm with ya, Kari -

"These people will come out of their beautiful homes and what is there to do? So I will be in place helping them to come together to create activities and opportunities where they can get to know each other."

Whatever will they do??? You gotta be kidding me. Are these foreign exchange students or something? Maybe California really IS a foreign state. Are we going to spring for "Oregon as a Second Language?"

Lynette: with all due respect, you must be new in town. What tends to happen with the neighborhood associations is that a certain faction that defines itself as ULITMATELY PROGRESSIVE takes over the debate. Legitimate legal concerns cease to matter. Facts cease to matter. (See Jack's recent post on neigborhood concerns from a few days ago). Lots of people who read this blog have been there and done that. Laughing about it is good therapy.

please don't make fun of a community that has yet to form. They need our support, not our sarcasm.

Lady, we are going to have some fun with you.

They already have our "support" in the form of deferred property taxes and municipal subsidies. As if they needed it. The people who move into those condos are going to have a much greater capability of paying the legitimate property taxes than 90% of the Portland population, yet they get a deferral. That deserves our sarcasm.

As for short-term and long-term, I remain unconvinced. How many years will it be before the deferrals are covered? 20? 30? 50? Before they tear down the ugly old buildings and start anew with yet another URP?

"please don't make fun of a community that has yet to form."

Lynnette - My property tax dollars and my friends schoolchildren are losing school funding to help form this community, why can't I make fun of it?

Being jaded and cynical never solves anything, even if it is veiled in laughter. Misery does, however, love company... this blog proves it.

As someone who has lived in Portland five years (still new by your standards, I'm sure)and has participated in the NA system, I can tell you that the experience is what you make it. Things cease to matter when you stop caring. I'm not saying participating is easy... it's very difficult. Buck up and get back into the game and maybe you'll change things. Whining gets you nowhere.


Not all property taxes in the Pearl are diverted to repay the urban renewal bond (only the value assessed above the fixed base). The fixed base is allocated to other taxing jurisdictions. It ain't much (in relation to the diverted amount), but it's what you would get it if urban renewal didn't happen and the Pearl was a desolate warehouse district.

Fortunately for you, your kids, their kids and so on... the urban renewal period for the River District (which encompasses more than the Pearl) will end and then all of the tax revenues will be YOURS. Until then, support what will become a large source of revenue for Portland and specifically, your family.

That's why you shouldn't make fun of it.

PS You shouldn't shoot yourself in the foot either.

But Lynnette - what about the taxes that would have been paid on that property had the city merely allowed it to be developed (and remained ON the tax rolls) as several prior developers wanted to do? And don't deferrals sometimes get renewed?

And I think you're making an awful big assumption when you say things like, "Buck up and get back into the game and maybe you'll change things." Some of us here that post are very involved in our communities. Some of us volunteer our butts off, which only makes us MORE po'd when we see million dollar condo owners who pay $200 a year in property taxes.

If I remember right, you're the same gal who tried telling us that there are tons of children and middleclass folks living in the Pearl, and I find that hard to swallow as well.

I laud your desire to build "community". Unfortunately, the communities you speak of (the Pearl, the SoWhat) are FAR outside the reach of 80% (my guess) of Portland residents....


That arguement sounds fine until you look at something like the recent purchase of the Public Storage building in southwaterfront, and you find that the current tax assessment has nothing to do with the reality of what the property should be valued at or what the City paid for it with your tax dollars.

The problem is the theory is good the pesky reality of the situation is what breeds the cycnacism and how the system seems to be manipulated to benefit a few folks.

I may be wrong, of course you can't track the obvious at this point. The difference in the assessed value of the Public Storage Property, what it actually sold for, and what tax "increment" it would pay because it went into public ownership, but if the ratio holds up, it would make for some interesting math.

No, Lynette, I have never stopped caring. But have come to the conclusion that participating in the neighborhood associations is not the best way to solve problems in Portland. I used to believe as you do, that the experience was what you make it, so in the late 1990s, I convinced a couple of my neighbors that we could solve a particular problem through the neighborhood associations. Our problem at the time was that we had followed all the city's requirements for creating a local improvement district to fix our street. But some of our "neighborhood leaders" decided they did not like local improvement districts. I would argue that they had many valid points-especially when it comes to developer generated LIDs-and they raised some good issues when it came to citizen LIDs like ours as well. So I called them to talk about it. The one who did return my call hung up on me for disagreeing with her on a point. My theory is that these two were sicked on our project by Vera to divert attention away from the developer LID projects-the old divide and conquer tactic. They got an award from the mayor. And my neighbor paved the street by the bootleg. Lawlessness begets lawlessness. Now I see the neighbors who had given up as wiser than I. Bring on the sarcasm.


How long did the property of the pearl and southwater front lay in wait for a developer? And what happened with the particular developers you referenced?

The Pearl today is a long cry from its roots. It took vision, planning and patience to get us to where we are today. It didn't just happen because someone built a condo tower. It happened because someone had a master plan and has worked hard (and is still working hard) to make it a neighborhood rather than a project. I honestly don't think this could have been achieved by an individual developer...

And just because you think that only 20% of Portland are able to enjoy this community (see the thread under "When Condo Mania is a Bust), that doesn't make building community here any less valid than any other neighborhood.

Lynnette -

But the problem is that places like the Pearl are "building their community" on the backs of the rest of us. You know, the silent majority here in town that don't have the income to afford the condos whose owners are not required to pay property taxes.

Just answer this one question for me, Lynnette. Do you personally think it's fair that a $200k homeowner will pay a couple thousand dollars in property taxes with a $1m condo owner may pay a tenth of that?

The Pearl didn't come about because of a sudden influx of "vision, planning, and patience", it was because of a sudden financial giveaway. And what do you mean a developer couldn't handle that project? Who do you think built all the other communities in this city over the last 100 years?

Others here have more knowledge than I do (and I hope they chime in), but it's no secret that developers were stopped several times in their tracks in their quest to develop the SoWhat area. They had plenty of "vision, planning, and patience". But I guess the city felt like they had more.


I'm truly sorry about your experience. Obviously, it really impacted you. :-( Like you, I see the value in having different avenues to getting my goals met. I don't rely on my NA alone, but I do respect its efforts enough not to treat it with sarcasm. Sarcasm is destructive and I don't want to tear people down (even if I disagree with them).


Goodbye, Lynnette.

LF, I doubt you knew what impact your posts would have, but... well, you could hardly have struck more nerves if you'd been trying.

Go back and read some archives (in particular anything to do with the tram or the SoWa development) and you might see why your posts got such a hostile reception: You're (indirectly) standing up for property owners that have, in the eyes of this particular community, already received a great deal of undeserved charity at the community's expense. These folks won't willingly give them any more, even if all you're asking for is kind words.

Although I can't say for sure, I suspect Jack decided to give you a timeout to forestall a raging bonfire of a flamewar.

I had no intention of "flaming" Lynette; I was trying to carry on a conversation with her. And I think our interchange is instructive as to why this doesn't seem possible in Portland: our forums for problem solving and conversation-neighborhood associations and the press, among others are being manipulated to the advantage of insiders whether or not they are operating within the realms of the law (and good taste for that matter). (I gave an example from my neighborhood above. Those of us who try to play straight and to keep the conversation going get cast as those who can't tolerate disagreement, when actually,methinks, it is the other way around. My guess is that Jack sees through this. But let him speak for himself. My opinion is that sarcasm an understandable method of communicating in such a sick twisted place. And it might even be the duty of the literate.

lynnette fusilier 2/17, 2006 07:28 AM They need our support, not our sarcasm.
JK: They already got our support:
$200 million in the Pearl.
$500 million (projected by critics) in your SoWhat.

lynnette fusilier 2/17, 2006 12:57 PMFortunately for you, your kids, their kids and so on... the urban renewal period for the River District (which encompasses more than the Pearl) will end and then all of the tax revenues will be YOURS. Until then, support what will become a large source of revenue for Portland and specifically, your family.
JK: And we will start getting those tax payments? About 30 years AFTER they decide not to extend the life of the UR district any more. Just in time to educate your great-grand childern. Assuming that they don't qualify for a new UR by then. Or maybe an historical tax freeze. Or just tear down all those obsolete buildings and build a new community.

And what will all those payments be worth? —$0.10-0.25 on the dollar due to the time value of money? And in the meantime, they don’t just pay almost nothing, but ALL OF US PAY FOR THEIR BASIC SERVICES. Bunch of tax freeloaders.

BTW do you work for PDC, a developer, or in any field that financially benefits from urban renewal or urban planning, including building toy trains all over town?


Misery does, however, love company... this blog proves it.

When I read that, it was the end of Lynnette's brief appearance here.

Lynnette has so much wrong she must be dating Homer.

Thees districts take up a lot of area which was already developed. Every regular yearly property tax increase for every piece of property is diverted away from basic services for decades.

The idea that only tax increases from the new development go to pay back the UR borrowing and spending is a deliberate falsehood. To put it kindly.

Airport Way 1986 2780
Interstate 2000 3744
Central Eastside 1986 681
Convention Center 1989 601
Downtown Waterfront 1974 309
Gateway Regional Center 2001 653
Lents Town Center 1998 2472
North Macadam (SoWa) 1999 409
River District 1998 310
South Park Blocks 1985 161
Wilammette Industrial 2004 751

Lynnette is no doubt a sincere, earnest, recent transplant to Portland, with no monetary or family connections to anyone who's making money off the Portland "urban renewal" juggernaut. She's gone now -- I quickly tired of her critique of this blog, as opposed to the points it makes. Eventually, she'll understand how this place really works. It took me the better part of 20 years. In the meantime, let's all support the emotionally needy souls in their $800K condos.

Did any of you catch the Feb 1 work session of the CoP and PDC regarding the Central Eastside URA? Holy cow, Lynette would have been in heaven. Except for the citizen member who kept saying (parapphrases all) "There are 17,000 jobs here that we don't want you, the City, to f%&k up." Potter said, "Those jobs are going away anyway. We want a sound stage." Sten said, "What if we made it even bolder?" And Saltzman didn't say a word. The PDC guy, I think it was Bruce Warner, but I'm not sure, said, "We need to be able to control what goes in there." And Sam said, "Is $35MM or $51 MM better?" Guess what the PDC reps said?

Oh boy.

The Pearl didn't come about because of a sudden influx of "vision, planning, and patience", it was because of a sudden financial giveaway. And what do you mean a developer couldn't handle that project?

Better than 15 years ago, when I was looking for a home to buy, I approached several building owners in what's now "The Pearl" about buying their falling down, unoccupied warehouse buildings. "Not for sale" I was told, they were waiting (the "patience" part) for the City, for PDC, to step in and "incent" them.

How many times have we heard, in City Council chambers, that you "can't build residential housing downtown without a subsidy?"

The saddest part of PDC's policies (aka "the rest of us subsidizing") is the gross distortion of the market it creates, and the damper it puts on real entreprenurial spirit.

One aspect of the urban renewal grease game I have yet to hear much about is who does the investment banking?

Which firm underwrites the urban renewal bonds, and who buys them?

Whaddya wanna bet that the firm that gets all that business is just another insider?

Anybody know?

Well, there's the "Portland Family of Funds." There's a grease pit.

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