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Friday, March 24, 2006

Stronger than ipecac

It's become old home week. First b!X appears and sees his shadow, and now guess who's back to remind us all that we're all fools and rubes, and that he told us so all along. Yes, today the Poet Laureate of Pretention graces us with his genius, on spring break from Harvard:

In Portland's internationally lauded history of public/private partnerships, this one is the biggest ever with the least amount of public money -- all on the promise of that aerial tram. Stopping it -- or even arbitrarily capping the city's two-bit contribution at $3.5 million -- might allow a few politicians to proudly bow before the peanut gallery. But don't expect the national investment community to clap for the performance -- much less trust Portland ever again in a public/private partnership.
No more "public-private partnerships" -- wouldn't it be nice? And the city hasn't put in enough into SoWhat -- a half billion when it's all over is really podunk next to mighty world-class wisdom of the Graggmeister.

I was kind of hoping someone on the East Coast would give this guy a job. But come on. Would you?

Comments (22)

Trust. I have more trust in my elected officials than I do in the developers who have a vested interest in bamboozling them and defrauding the public.

It sounds to me that national investment community has the "clap" and I'd just as soon they not infect us with it.

Has the national investment community suddenly given up on prudent and rational decision-making by government entities? I certainly wouldn't underwrite bonds for a municipality that was painfully and publicly incapable of practicing prudence with its tax revenues. I want to know I will get my investment back, preferably with a return. But I'd sooner get back my principal, than watch a municipality flush it down the developer rathole.

Stronger then ipecac. You are one funny person Mr. Bog, you should be writing jokes for Jay Leno. So I guess instead of Randy Gragg he is Randy Gag.

Um, Randy, you spend a lot of that article seemingly arguing that OHSU is to blame for the engineering challenges which are part of the price spike, yet in the end, you insinuate that the City should be ponying up more money. How, precisely, do those two jibe?

That's good, the Poet Laureate of Pretension. It seems to me that it is not the public's performance that investors should be panning. Investors only need to look at how condo-mania has failed to raise property values in parts of Florida to be concerned.

Gragg and his ilk likely have led the O along the Primrose Path of public-private partnerships, but such deals are far from a known and absolute good. And without candor and full public disclosure, they can be downright corrupt. (Of course, Randy doesn't like the "C words" and will begin thinking I must consort with Martians and am alleging conspiracies). Actually, Randy, I prefer the Saturnites, they're better dancers. Partnerships where legal standards are relaxed in Memoranda (ums?) of Understanding, where there are no-bid contracts, may legitimately raise questions of conspiracy. The word is in both the dictionary and law books.

And BTW, don't forget to mark your calendars for May 2, the day Homer and Dike will receive PSU's Urban Pioneer Award at the Hilton. Someone ought to offer them a carpetbagger/robber baron award-just to balance the discussion.

The thing is that Private/Public Partnerships can be a very good thing if properly structured. To do that one has to do math, and I am convinced most of City Hall is math impared. Public/Private partnerships can take into account economies of scale, and also interagency or intergovernental partnerships. The problem is the win/lose mentality instead of the win/win, the developers are an interesting lot, and they are wired to take what they can get, while most government employes are not playing with thier money and the taxpayers have been the path of least resistance in negotiating these deals. They don't have a clue as to how to calculate economic benefit, and cost effectiveness, because they are looking at a 2 and at best 5 year time frame, when the damn bonds don't get paid off for 20 which can stretch out the TIF diverted taxes for upwards to 30-40 years.

It is a separate reality and they look at people who do do math as some kind of alein from another planet that doesn't do political speak.

The sad thing is we could accomplish so much if we did work together all four interest groups: \

The normal hardworking tax paying folk

The Traded sector Economy that brings cash into the region.

The local Economy that dominates the Arlington Club.

The Goverment which struggles to please the other three including education so hard they are just ineffective on all counts.

The local economy folks need to understand that they depend on the success of the other three, and if they don't stop influencing council to do their bidding for a benefit of the privileged Arlington clubbers, they are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Y'know... I have few problems with public/private partnerships. One is the tendency of those in public position to determine who benefits tend to drift to the "friends and family plan", where the friends and family of the contract judges are the winners of the contracts and lucrative "partnerships". The same applies to plain ol' government contracts.

Otherwise, it's an excellent way to utilize resources wisely. It doesn't mean "outsourcing" all governmental functions at all. Some things can be done better, faster, by private organizations that contract to regional government and private sector interests. Do you have city staffers whose full time job is resurfacing, or do you focus government workers on maintenance, and bid out the major projects? Or, vice versa? The question is where one draws the line as to what should be done by public staff and what should be done by private contractors...and why.

P.S. - In reading the design documents of PATI, the lower tower was originally envisioned as being made of shaped laminated wood, rather like a huge bow, sticking out of the ground. It was to be evocative of a ballet dancer. It's twue, it's twue, I tell ya!

I still would like to see what a professional geologist has to say about this whole project. According to the documents, the upper tower cannot have a twist movement of more than [insert some impossibly small, sub-inch measure here]. What happens when the next decent earthquake rattles the area? [snide]We know, of course, that that particular area is no real problem, of course.[/snide]

I hold my breath waiting for the Arlington Club set to play fair. And for the O to cover the issues so that the public can ascertain what functions are best performed by the public sector and which by the private. It is much easier for the editorial crowd just to say the public is cranky-like Doug Bates did the other day in the editorial, The Winter of our Discontent, than it is for them to figure out the math and to convey that understanding to the public. It is easier to cast critics as space aliens and people who consort with them. People don't want to work hard when they can ride the gravy train of spec development. It reminds me of the refrain from the old Dire Straits song about MTV :"Money for nothing and chicks for free". Be on the side of the "cool guys" who get the Urban Pioneer Award and you can skate. Then, if the public rebels with something like M37, you can act shocked, SHOCKED with editorial outrage, when you shoulda seen it coming.

There is a difference between being a partner and a sucker.

The public/private economic model - as understood by our bigwig officials - is broken. Deeply. It cannot be repaired at Fred Meyer Jewelers @ Lloyd Center (nor at Beaverton Town Center, where they do a fabulous job, too.)

The problem here is that our bigwigs do not recognize "private" as it applies to the rest of us. They think that roping everyone and everything into "public" amounts to getting the job done, since it puts them in position for re-election and elevation to higher office. That's the way it works around here, right? Public absorbs private = partnership? That's the PERS formula.

The bO editors are worldly enough to see how cities like Indianapolis have broadly opened public services to public bidding. Often the union wins the bid, but the citizenry also wins because we save about 40%. Same when there is no mini Davis-Bacon Law running up the tab. That's a win-win. That's a public/private partnership - as defined by reality - in action.

The bO runs a continual, stealth negative campaign against such a definition of partnership. Those obsessed with constructing a Moscow on the Willamette, in the manner of the Old Grey Lady & the Hudson River, must stick to the collectivist ideology, no matter the accumulation of facts that show it is a fundamentally flawed, deeply broken model for cultivating cultural and economic benefits.

It's sad when people are so blinded by their illness that they perceive reality purely through the lens of their disease. They rarely get better until they adopt a new perspective that includes a vision of health based on changes that must be made.

Must we continue to walk the boulevard of broken dreams? Let the collectivists walk alone. Progressives, throw off these chains that bind! The benefits of liberty are multifold and self-regenerating!!

I just got my Sunday Oregonian, they repeated Randy's Story on the front page of the Commentary section.

So folks can read it again.

I don't think it made it to the dead-tree version before Sunday, did it?

The other news in the Commentary section was that the Public Editor is stepping down and the position is "temporarily" not being filled. I guess the Boregonian is tired of all that criticism.

I noticed right after the public editor wrote a column stating the public wanted more watchdogging from the O, he seemed to disappear. I would love it if someone would furnish a candid inside scoop on what happened.

I think the problem that makes legitimate public private partnerships unlikely in this town is the same one that makes it hard to be a real public editor: endemic good old boy (and girl) culture. After a task force recommended Multonmah County Animal Services reform, county reps approached Sharon Harmon of the Oregon Humane Society about a public private partnership- suggested in the recommendations- that would make it eligible for a grant from Maddie's Fund (Helps shelters go pro-animal "no-kill). Harmon refused. The task force chair (Robert Murtaugh DMV) who showed real leadership has left town. Lisa Naito now says her relationship current director (and cat-killing yes-man) Mike Oswald is more important than the public mandate expressed in the task force goals). Meanwhile the cheesy "public-private partnership with an animal use group (NAIA) continues. Reporters from our infamous daily have feigned interest in the story,especially when I dug up an Oregon statute sneaked through the legislature in 1999 (ORS 167.390(1) creating an exception to dealing in cat and dog fur if the animals are killed for another purpose- seemingly only to keep the story buried. A real public editor with a conscience would have to resign after seeing much of that kind of action. And I believe Arietta-Walden, a converted Catholic, does have one. I hope he Tells All on the blogs...

re:public/private partnerships,

"Otherwise, it's an excellent way to utilize resources wisely."

The only problem with this theoretically excellent setup is that it presupposes that greedy folks won't act greedily and that public employees (from the top down) actually work for the benefit of their employers.

I'm trying to think of any successes that have obtained from one of these partnerships.


In Portland's internationally lauded history of public/private partnerships, this one is the biggest ever with the least amount of public money, all on the promise of that aerial tram. Stopping it, or even arbitrarily capping the city's two-bit contribution at $3.5 million, might allow a few politicians to proudly bow before the peanut gallery. But don't expect the national investment community to clap for the performance, much less trust Portland ever again in a public/private partnership.

Question for Graggmeister, whose finger is on the pulse of the national investment community: Is that "ever again" a threat or a promise?

The partnership between the SFSPCA and San Francisco Animal Control worked well during the 1990s when Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino were running things. I am not sure it is working so well now. I agree with Ramon that these things are inherently corruptible and always need watchdogging. Seems to be the nature of the beast.

I noticed right after the public editor wrote a column stating the public wanted more watchdogging from the O, he seemed to disappear. I would love it if someone would furnish a candid inside scoop on what happened.

Michael Walden was named senior editor for online. A necessary position if there ever was one. No larger conspiracy than that.

Well, nice for him for his new job but why didn't they fill the Public Editor position? The O needs one more than ever.

This link to the Poet's Gag works for me.

Does he clap for the "the national investment community[?]" It sounds like a sexual disease that is passed among intimate partners.

If he has received word (implicit threat) of potential adjustments to bond ratings and such I would like him to share with us the primary material upon which he relies. Certainly such matters are far beyond his area of expertise . . . where his opinion here is evidence of nothing other than admission of blind self-interest.

Thanks John Smith. I heard from a former public editor that 3 years is about as long as anyone can handle the job.

Hope we will be seeing a new public editor soon,ideally someone who will pay more attention to facts and record than to whether the messenger can be spun as "politically incorrect".

"""Does he clap for the "the national investment community[?]" It sounds like a sexual disease that is passed among intimate partners."""

Very good Sir Ron.

Gragg, like so many others who provide cover for the goings on by scoundrels around, prefers to be like by them versus the citizenry.

That's why a long time ago he cast the opposition to the Tram as "anti-Tram extremism".

Even though that broad groups of citizens had gathered an impressive collection of red flags and fatal flaws regarding the Tram, (including flags on the early unreliable cost estimate) Gragg disregarded them as easy as the City Council did and still does.

Stay tuned for big news on the Tram and SoWhat.


"The tram is under construction and will be finished."

Tell me the Bond Cabal has not gotten to Randy and his pension issue, particularly the prospective bond issuance for the same, and that it is not being used to bat him over the head?

Stall is just "old fashioned bargaining[,]" just like the hurler in the vanishing lane where two lanes merge into one. Stall by getting a running start, ahead of the posse.

Fix it now or buy time to find a scheme to deflect the cost/risk to the public? Same old fashioned game.

Randy, has taken the "hook" line and sinker.

Don't forget that these bond rating folks would have zero leverage if we simply issued zero bonds. That is, Randy, they need you more than you need them. THIS is old fashioned bargaining.

Your weak spot, ironically, is your strength. If the DA can go back after you personally then that arms you with the tool you need to fight back. Every dime now being spent is your dime, with a look-back of at least five years. Claiming idiocy is not the kind of "paper trail" that I think you need to leave; post a memorandum from your own personal outside legal counsel.


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