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Thursday, March 9, 2006

That lovable Opie

Another wonderful "big idea" from the ever-fertile mind of Portland Commissioner Erik Sten:

Sten, who is up for re-election in May, also wants the schools to look at selling its administrative headquarters, the Blanchard Building, and allowing the Portland Development Commission to manage its real estate portfolio to look for potential profit sources.
You got that, everybody? The way to solve the problems of our bankrupt school district is to turn its real estate over to the urban renewal gurus who are bankrupting the city.

Close some schools, demolish all the buildings, let the lots sit vacant for five years, then let one of the developer boys have them for $1. Why didn't we think of that ourselves?

Comments (18)

You're right on target with this. And what I'm wondering is, where are all the school administrators supposed to report to work after their building has been given to the PDC? In tents at Dignity Village? Beneath the Burnside Bridge?

Why don’t we get Dubai to run Portland schools? I understand their schedule just freed up.

With public opinion of the PDC at an all time low, Sten's comment has set his reelection campaign back even further.

Doug --

You dont get it.

Sarcasm mode on:

Sell Blanchard and the central office admins don't report to work. Dump them all and save the salaries.

Sarcasm mode off.

Eric Sten can't be serious can he? Sten just doesn't get it. Sten has the faith of a dogmatic ideologue(socialist). He has never seen a government boondogle he didn't like.
Thats why we need DAVE LISTER on the commission, so we can have somebody with common sense who can privately take the others aside and say "ARE YOU NUTS" then calmly discuss why it is NOT A GOOD IDEA in public so voters can know somebody is looking out for their MONEY.

because its YOUR MONEY

At the risk of sounding like a authoritarian drone, the City Charter makes no reference to emergency school funding, or city maintenance of public school buildings.

Shouldn't the Charter be revised before they actually change the policy?

The City Charter made no reference to public financing of political campaigns, but at least they invited public comment and passed an ordinance before mailing the check to Opie's campaign.

I guess I do believe the City should pitch in to help fund Teacher's retirement accounts (strike that: I meant to say "help the kids"). But if they're going to offer ongoing funding and maintenance to public schools, shouldn't the private schools get a little city largesse too? It's all about helping the children, right?

The City of Portland should not discriminate against all those nice Catholic kids, or Montessori kids, or home schooled kids, right? Because our focus is on educating all the kids, not just the ones whose teachers get the best pensions?

""""Portland Development Commission to look for potential profit sources"""

Profit for whom?

If all anyone did was read this blog over the last 6 months they should know how ludicrous that statement is.

Of course Lister.

He would have an immediate positive impact.

The District is not bankrupt. We do have the money to hire new teachers. There is just a certain account that is left off the local budget. If the legislature had not authorized the off budget mechanism then it would be criminal to engage in such off budget games.

But hey, there is nothing I like better than to make that which is unlawful lawful because someone says it needs to be done otherwise someone could go to jail. That is the public purpose behind the legislative authorization, escaping the risk of prosecution.

The issue of selling the headquarters would not even be on the table but for such accounting games. It is yet another act which I call a pattern or practice of intentional deception, and misuse of public office.

Let the PPS direct that PERS/OIC invest PPS's lump sum account in the Blanchard Building. The cycle of money will then be as a clear as the cycle of water in a biology class. It is a fully functional ecosystem, where all the intermediate steps (contaminants) can be washed away to reveal that the money is just money. It can be consumed (invested, whatever) just as can the output from a properly designed and functioning sewage treatment plant.

Jack, I'm glad you said "let the lots site vacant for five years". You've got to let the weeds grow and mix in some graffito before you can call it a "blighted" area to meet PDC's Urban Renewal standards. Then you can move in the PDC Urban Renewal boys and their friends.

But then you have the anomaly like the Red Lion Hotel on SW Lincoln by PSU, generating over $1M
in taxes for the city, and PDC/PSU decides to declare it a "blighted area", then condemn it so they could add it to the North Macadam Urban Renewal area. "Blight" can mean any thing to the PDC boys. Watch your back.

Dave Lister gets my vote!!

Now here's a thought I've had for the last couple of months, and it only now seems like the right time to throw it out.... Since the admin hq doesn't pay any property taxes, and since any NEW private owner would, wouldn't it be delicious if the city claimed iminent domain (since the Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, ordained that private developers that generate tax $$ qualify as benefiting the common good) and forced out the school hq?

Seems silly, I know, but why not? It's happened to a couple normal, law-abiding property owners.

Randy Leonard - instead of trying to condemn PGE, why not claim ID over the school HQ? At least in that scenario, you have a US Supreme Court ruling to back you up.

On another topic, please be easy, Dave Lister supporters.... I understand that you're Lister folks. And I'm very inclined to give him a serious look - but if I keep seeing you posting "LISTER FOR EMPEROR" constantly... and especially if you're screaming in ALL CAPS....

...then it automatically triggers my defensive bullsh*t mechanism. So be easy with it.

Wow... did I really write "iminent domain" and "ID"...?? Sometimes I mix up my vowels... (he says sheepisly)

Good note, Larry -

The Listerines need to get on board - while I'm sure most everybody here wants to see Opie go away, the whole campaign thing just derails us:

Does Opie have a good idea? Has he ever had one? Is this one any better than his previous efforts?

There's enough open-endedness to the conversation without bringing in the whoopie cushions to add to the noise.

The idea of selling this huge, faded orange building has been kicking around for years. Nobody would probably be happier about getting rid of the current Portland Public Schools headquarters than those of us who work in the building.

As the school district has cut back its administration by a third (yes, about 100 fewer central office staff over the years) and closed its scratch kitchen (saving half a million this year), we have more space than we can use here. We rent out as much of the extra warehouse and office space as we can, but this is still a white elephant of a building.

Should we raze it? Move the operations, sell the property and redevelop? That's what the school district asked outside consultants to study for us (the team included Shiels Obletz Johnsen, GBD Architects and The Kalberer Company). In February 2005, they reported back: Not yet. The district could not sell the property for enough money to cover moving the administration, warehouse and distribution services to another site or sites.

The report said that in two to four years, the redevelopment potential in this area might increase significantly (the building is, of course, across the Broadway Bridge from the Pearl, across the street from the struggling Rose Quarter and not far south of the home-grown and booming Mississippi district).

I will see if I can't get the two-page executive summary of the report on the PPS website later today (, click on the "budget" link).

We're working on plans to move out eventually, and the City of Portland is joining us in those discussions, but it's not going to solve any funding problem for our schools any time soon.

And if you'd like to offer your thoughts on the PPS budget, go to the website. We've got a fun and quick survey up that allows you to rank priorities for next year, and will soon be posting a budget worksheet that will let you around in the actual dollar figures and budget cuts, deciding how they might balance the budget and sharing that with school district leaders.

Sarah Carlin Ames
PPS Communications

Makes me wonder- maybe Opie is sweating his re-election, and is setting himself up for a position at the PDC.

All in all, yesterday's Oregonian article did a good job of capturing the discussion on school funding.

There were a couple of inaccuracies. Since you've devoted attention to one of them, let me clarify that Commissioner Sten is not proposing that PDC manage the Portland Public Schools real estate portfolio.

He is proposing that PDC make helping schools a priority in their budget. On Tuesday morning, Erik asked PDC to bring in recommendations on how they could help our schools with their budget gap.

It would be a new approach for PDC to make community services like schools a top priority in their budget development. We think it makes sense. A strong public school system contributes to the health of the local economy, and higher home values for people who own their own homes.

Here is a link to the school funding recommendations that Erik released on Monday:

Getting the PDC with the schools, in any way, shape or form, is a bad idea. And very typical.

Well, it's not like PPS doesn't have a surfeit of structures into which they could move the administrative services personnel. I mean, how many schools did they close last year? How many will they need to this year?

Hell, considering where the Blanchard Building is, maybe Paul Allen would like to add it to his collection?


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