I haven't broken out the old City of Portland B.S. Meter in a while, but the latest developments in the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram scam [rim shot] have got this handy device screaming so shrilly that I can't leave it in the cupboard today. It's got to come out.
Now this week's "town hall" meeting with Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams -- you know, the one where all your questions are going to be answered -- has suddenly been postponed to next week. Another mysterious setback for public disclosure and public input on this out-of-control boondoggle. This after two City Council work sessions on the subject were also mysteriously cancelled.
The blizzard of lies surrounding the tram project is so intense that it's hard to see much of anything at this point, but the main mantra that continues to emanate from its proponents is "Time is of the essence -- every day of delay would cost millions." The apparent game plan is to stall the day of reckoning until it's so expensive to cancel the tram that there really is no choice but to go forward.
The political problem for the City Council -- particularly the two members who are running for re-election -- is that every voter with half a brain is onto the game plan. Hello -- fellows? The latest gigantic cost overruns on this project have now been in the papers since February 1. That's five weeks. Since then, you're supposedly negotiating hot and heavy with the Pill Hill crew to see who's going to pay the $15 million shortfall (which will surely be $30 million before the thing is finished). Meanwhile, has construction been stopped? No. Has it even been slowed down? No. Orders for the ridiculous gondolas suspended? No.
In fact, this project is still full-tilt on, even without a clue as to who's going to pay the final tab.
Meanwhile, outraged taxpayers have also gotten wise to the real cost to the city -- and it ain't the $3.5 million figure that keeps being passed around by the professional obfuscators. One commentator on this blog yesterday put the city's cost at more like $18 million:
Even in Commissioner Adams's opinion piece in the O a few weeks back he admits that the Tram in his cost accounting is costing the public $11M: $3.5M in TIF money, $5M given to OHSU in undescribed money from NM [North Macadam] Urban Renewal funds, and $2.5M in reduced permitting/review fees= $11M.You are so wise, Grasshopper.
Adams doesn't take into account the land cost of $4M for just the east terminal the taxpayers are giving to the Tram, nor Design Competition cost for the Tram, $1M, or the staff time of PDC, PDOT, for the execution of the cost to build the tram, nor even the PATI Board costs which came from city taxpayers. Larry Brown of PDC doesn't even include the financing costs on the $55M (and rising) Tram cost....
Even at Adam's $11M the public is paying for almost 20% of the tram, while estimated ridership by the general public is estimated to be around 10%, and that is high. If you take into account the other costs mentioned above the taxpayers portion reaches approximately $18M or 33% of tram costs, and that is without the financing costs.
Please, City Council and Oregonian, come clean. The public gets it.
The tram is poisoning Portland. A school tax is now an impossibility, in no small part because people are sick of the kind of greasy arrogance that the tram represents. We could have spent that $18 million in so many better ways. In other news, they're going to hold a bake sale to get the police precincts reopened on nights and weekends.
Gentlemen of City Hall, whenever you decide we're worthy to hear the latest spiel you're cooking up on this, it had better be good. You've let this project fester for way longer than you should have. If how to finance it really was and is an open issue, you should have blown the whistle a long time ago -- five weeks ago at the very least -- and stopped work until the money was lined up. You didn't, and we're all waiting to hear why. First you said you were contractually bound to build the tram no matter what -- that turned out to be untrue. Now you stall for weeks and weeks, and it looks like you're going to fall back on "It's too late to turn back now."
But it wasn't too late five weeks ago. And in truth, it still isn't now.
Perhaps the ultimate insult is that while these guys sneak around behind closed doors to get the deal done, public be damned, they smile in your face and talk about "transparency." From Sam the Tram's announcement of the meeting that's now been postponed:
Sam values transparency and open government greatly. In the spirit of open government, he is sponsoring a Public Townhall to discuss the tram project currently under construction at South Waterfont. It is open to all interested members of the community, and everyone is invited to attend.I think that's what's got my b.s. meter overheating. Mr. Adams, as another wise person posted here recently, please don't urinate on my shoes and tell me it's raining.