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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shock and awe

A misguided adventure, launched on lies, misjudging the strength of the enemy, the voices of reason being drowned out by those of greed, alienating long-time allies along the way, so horribly expensive that it's too frightening to think about, all financed with borrowed money that future generations may or may not be able to pay, permanently damaging vital government programs with its breathtaking waste, the government hiding the casualties and pressing ever onward against the wishes of the majority of the voters and despite clear indications that it's a hopeless quagmire.

Yes, it's becoming clear that the South Waterfront development -- SoWhat for short -- is Portland's equivalent of the war in Iraq.

Today we see that the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] is just the tip of the iceberg. The city's throwing another $43 million at SoWhat as a whole, buying property from Homer Williams and paying for all sorts of other junk to make the hideous condo tower jungle prettier for the California dupes who are going to pay upwards of a million dollars for an apartment in Portland.

And that's just the number they're admitting to. If the Portland City Council tells you it's spending another $43 million, that usually means more like $60 million. Of course, there will be many, many more votes like this -- $43 million this year, another $43 million next year, on and on. Wait 'til somebody actually starts talking seriously about where the sewage from those properties is going. And oh, the uproar we'll hear about the traffic! In the end, a half-billion dollars in local property taxes could be blown down there.

And we're borrowing all of it for now, with the bonds to be paid off later, when supposedly the properties in the district will start paying big-time property taxes. Of course, that will divert all the property taxes paid in SoWhat away from any other city government purpose for decades. The district may pay for its own streets, parks, landscaping, etc. eventually, but everyone down there will get a free ride on police, fire, schools, etc. for a long, long time.

Nothing's free, people. Those are tax dollars we're spending down there. And Tom Potter's Portland Development Commission is every bit as eager as Vera Katz's was to burn them for Homer Williams and his ilk. How disappointing.

Comments (57)

So vote them out. Let's check back here May 17 to see what happens.

Also - I take it you're no longer happy Potter is mayor? You're officially off his bandwagon?

Only one is standing election. The other two are recent additions, and now nearly complete disappointments.

I believe the term here in Oregon is "recall".

Uh, I think Saltzman and Sten both qualify as people complicit in SoWa (from this crowd's perspective). So voting both of them out + Randy would give 3 votes against more of these things.

It's possible. So put up, people!

Jack, the mayor just gave away $25 million to a CALIFORNIA firm for the wireless contract. I guess OLD TOM has a retirement home picked out in San Jose.

It never ends, I am now voting them all out.

There was a legitimate local vendor on this and they just threw our tax bucks into the Silicon Valley. NO LOCAL JOBS> oh well it is just our money.........


Remember, it was Potter vs. the Scone. And with the Scone, things would have been much, much worse, particularly at the PDC.


Yeah, I know, Jack. But this "grassroots" election is turning out to be just as disappointing as the last one...Margaret Strachen.

What is it about these yahoos that once they are ensconsed in office, they forget their roots?

So that's where the additional $5.8 million so-called "contribution" from the SOWA property owners came from for the tram [rim shot]. Just have the city pay $43 million for $35 million worth of real estate and the property owners come out way ahead. Homer William's got to be laughing all the way to the bank.

But, geez, is Potter going to last? He doesn't really do anything super /offensive/ (this Tram thing aside, perhaps), but that seems to largely be because he doesn't do, uhm, anything. Is that a strategy that will keep him in office? I'm kinda worried it might be.

Portland's equivalent of the war in Iraq.

That's gonna leave a mark. Maybe we should replace rimshot with kaboom!. Can't wait to see Adams, Sten, and Potter standing under the Mission Accomplished sign come September.

The really sad thing is it's gonna take 20 years for people to wake up and see what a mess our politicians really created here. But as far as they're concerned, the Tram boat has sailed. It's time to move on to redoing the Transit Mall and the Burnside Couplet. And running light rail across the Columbia to a population that doesn't want it.

I guess it's all just part of the cost of freedom.

Talk about meltdown in P-town, we need a round up at City Hall! Are these people insane, stupid, misguided, gullible or what? Where do they think the money is going to come from...the magic money tree? Talk about scaring away businesses from bringing jobs to Portland. It's the business community who knows they're going to get it stuck to them in even more taxes, and those who can do it will continue to move away. Soon, every job in Portland will be low paying service jobs, except of course, for those who work for the City and County. All the while the infastructure crumbles like the potholes in SW Portland.

How can anyone swallow the kool aid that the city has been serving us for so long? Even the left leaning those among us MUST be starting to see that the leaders of Portland are steering a sinking ship. "Visioning?" Whatever!

And that is why some call the rotten stinking mess . . . Porkland, OR.

But then, you could try the burbs where many teens discovered last Monday how they can walk out of school in large and small groups and wander the neighborhoods at will as the Police are powerless to stop them.

What can you say more about Portland government. Flush the toilet and start over.
Dave Lister is the start, get the word out. Each one of you who reads this blog and wants a new direction can help. You have an e-mail network of friends and associates, please e-mail and encourage them to vote for Dave Lister and ask them to relay the word out to their friends and associates. We need a new commissioner who can apply scrutiny to the city process.

PORK-land, Abe? Where do YOU live? Biloxi? Baton Rouge?

The people who live in Oregon (like me) know that we have the 44th lowest tax burden in America. Look it up at www.census.gov or ask someone to read it to you.


44th lowest tax burden in America.

Based on dollars per capita? We're also way down there in income per capita, so that kinda washes out.

I think what Abe and the other usual complainers are trying to do is convince themselves that all public revenue is spent in wasteful ways. Once they've done that, they don't even have to consider the possibility that the amount they pay in state and local taxes isn't sufficient to support a decent, humane and fair society. They're giving themselves excuses to be selfish and uncaring, and disguising it all as righteous outrage.

..."44th lowest tax burden in America."

Daphne, you do know U.S. census data only includes federal and state-level taxes, not property or city/county taxes, don't you?

I though not.

We actually rank around 27th in -total- tax burden. And since our per capita income is way below 27th, we have high taxes.

"Based on dollars per capita? We're also way down there in income per capita, so that kinda washes out."

Actually, we're not way down there in income per capita, we're around the middle. And whether you're talking about tax dollars paid per capita or tax burden as a percentage of income, we're down around 44th, as Daphne said. Many unbiased sources will bear this out.

I wish you'd keep these tax facts in mind, Jack, when you play to the self-described "overburdened tax-payers" in your audience. Even if government waste were eliminated, revenues in Oregon would be inadequate to fund the sorts of things (safety, good education, health care, clean environment) that most people feel we should have in this state.

Even if government waste were eliminated,

That won't be an issue in Portland any time soon, Richard, so I guess there's no sense arguing about it.

Unlike many of the commenters here, I don't object to the level of taxes I pay. I do object to giving the money to Homer Williams and the shady characters he runs around with.

And BTW, Portland has the highest taxes of any city west of the Mississippi. That is also a proven fact, my argumentative friend.

"The people who live in Oregon (like me) know that we have the 44th lowest tax burden in America."
Did you know that before the story came out a couple of days ago, or did you read it then like the rest of us? Sorry, but that had a ring of phoniness to it. And I apologize if I seem grumpy but I just watched the City Council Tram Vote on TV.

Daphne says:

[W]e have the 44th lowest tax burden in America. Look it up at www.census.gov or ask someone to read it to you.

Actually, it's 41st (but who's counting). Wait until the Census reports on government spending. I'll wager that Oregon is somewhere in the top 20.

How can that be? Liquor, lottery, charges, and fees. Don't forget and all those fed dollar for food stamps, Medicaid, and light rail matching.

Livability ain't cheap!

If we are down there amongst the lowest tax burdens, and amongst the mid- to lower income per capitas, wouldn't that mean that shenanigans like giving it away to developers would be all that much more of an adverse impact?

Basically, how is it we can afford to whore after SoWhat and the likes when our public assets are disintegrating due to "deferred maintenance" brought on by contrained budgets? And that's not even mentioning the strangulation of other public services due to the diversion of tax revenues into the pockets of favorites like Homer and Dike?

Portland needs to get it's house and budget in order before it goes shopping for new, rich citizens. Our public priorities have been perverted for nearly two decades now, and this will continue that for at least another twenty years, if not more.

And BTW, Portland has the highest taxes of any city west of the Mississippi. That is also a proven fact, my argumentative friend.

Higher than San Francisco? San Diego?

If you're citing the survey I think you're citing, those cities weren't compared. Neither were any number of other cities that might have higher tax burdens.

Portland's tax burden was the highest out of the cities measured (one for each state), assuming that you have an income of $75,000 and live a specific lifestyle.

Most Portlanders don't make that much money.

So no, it ain't a "proven fact." It's a barely-supported hypothesis. It doesn't even show that Portland's tax burden is higher than Eugene or Bend. (I assume it is, but the survey doesn't prove it because it doesn't look at those cities.)

There we have it Daphne, Porkland stands.

Can we your friends just call ya Daffy?

Our elected officials would be more humble if they saw an incumbent defeated every decade or so. For most of the past thirty years, it seems most of them had little reason to fear retribution at the ballot box.

I believe Dianne Linn will be defeated in the primary, and Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman will both face a real threat in the general election.


I remember going to an early Potter fundraiser --limited to $25, of course-- when my fellow bureaucrats were all positioning themselves for Francesconi's ascension.

Me...Francesconi had already sold me out, and sold out the neighborhoods.

The problem is there's a lot of bad "advice" for the political class out there, and the bureaucrats are all a'trembin'. They need to do their jobs and tell the truth.

Give us protection to do those jobs, without fear or favor, you'll see this City turn around in no time.

We've got some really, really fine city employees. It hurts me to see them doing their jobs while holding their noses.

So who's playing Donald Rumsfeld?

I want to be William Sloan Coffin in this weird drama, him dead just this week, but one of my inspirations. Even got to meet him once.

Strange days are upon us, folks. We're no longer talking the small corruptions of small-minded government. We're going for the big time.

Clearly trapped in a deliriously ironic frenzy, Sam Adams is bragging about their $57 million fixed price contract on the (ba-duh-bump RIMSHOT) tram. Whew. Talk about the nick of time.

I guess we don't have to worry about it quadrupling again.

I like Sam. Let me get that out front. He's smart, savvy, and gives a crap about this city.

"Acts of God" are outside this agreement. So what Homer Williams needs doesn't count.

After that council meeting today I kept getting a delayed signal from something Sam said about requesting design changes. We’re capped for all but 5% of this, and as Sam dramatically said, “That’s it.” But he went out of his way to talk about how complicated this is and how all these parts must work together, and how this has never been tried before with this design. I sense he was covering himself for the real possibility of additional costs above the cap as we “request” design changes to make this work. So the 95% cap thing might just be the spin of the week. We’ll see.

Link to CNN article ranking states by state AND local taxes as a % of per capita income.

Oregon ranks 36. 37 if you count DC.

Hi Hahn,

Thanks for the link, but you didn't click quite far enough on it. Click on Big Cities and it tells quite a different story.

For a Family of Four with both parents working average jobs to total $75,000/year. Portland ranks 6th highest tax burden of 51 cities.

Since I like numbers, I looked at the "other Portland" for comparison. Maine ranked number 1 in per capita tax burden, at 10.1% and Portland Maine had 10.4% per capita, and ranked 14th of the 51 cities.

Oregon's percapita burden was 9.6% but Portland, Oregon's tax burden was 12.4% I thought that was quite interesting as an indicator.

That is with tax limitation, I have done an analysis similar to what Jack has done on property taxes, the hinterlands of Clackamas are paying abou 80% of Real Market Value as opposed to Portland paying only a little over 50% of RMV, and as Frank and Jack have both pointed out sometimes the accessed value of the properties are quite creative, case in point the contaminated parkland in SoWhat that sold for considerably more than what it had been carried on the tax roles for and paid taxes based on over the years.

So if anything since property taxes are a good portion of our taxes if not for measure 5, 47,& 50 folks we would probably be #1 here in "Family Friendly" Portland where tax dollar fund visions of trams dancing in our leaders heads and not schools.

Hey Hahn:Do you receive any income from OHSU, the city, or any entity that benefits from building civic projects?

Do you work for Saltzman or his campaign? Why are you ignoring this question?


Yes, it's becoming clear that the South Waterfront development -- SoWhat for short -- is Portland's equivalent of the war in Iraq.

But without any real media coverage or any real opposition.

Is it just me or does it seem like there is a serious lack of outrage over this in the city?

Yes, but the figures are from 2005. I assume they included the ITAX in that calculation. Since the ITAX is now expired, Portland will be quite a few notches lower on that list.

I just did the math Hahn,

Sorry to disappoint you but if you figure the entire 1.25% for the I-tax and it should be less than that % Percaptia wise with deductions, it only takes Portland Oregon from 6th to 8th out of 51 cities for Families. Now the deal that Willy Week reported on when it named Adams Rogue of the week, upping the limits on the business tax, Families will absorb more of the taxes, in fact, I have heard the numbers kicked around and about how the tax burden has been shifted to families, while corporate taxes have taken a dive since the 80's.

There is also the "hidden tax" folks that own property, like regular folks who own homes raising families, that will have to pony up for the unfunded depreciation, ie wearing out of City Roads, Parks, and other infrastructure. The City's own CARF report on Portland Online, shows these City capital assets rotting away at the rate of about $180 million a year, when there is only a little over $300 million a year in General Fund to pay for the essential services.

Sorry Hahn but your numbers don't lie. The CARF or the percapita by CNN.

Don't have your heart broken like I did, thinking these folks were worried about families and kids.

Swimmer sez: I have heard the numbers kicked around and about how the tax burden has been shifted to families, while corporate taxes have taken a dive since the 80's.

Ah, yes... I remember those days.

Vera was at the helm of the Oregon House at the Legislature and the proportions of the burden of the total tax load was shifted from the corporations onto families and wage earners. All in the name of economic development...we didn't want to scare off the job creators.

It hasn't seemed to work, so now they seem to be intent on attracting a lot of folks who'll probably be dead by the time the city sees any tax revenue from the expensive (and probably ready for rehab by then) condo towers. Nothin' like rich river gawkers a'stimulatin' the economy.

Where is the outrage, indeed? I have some thoughts at troutdale.blogspot.com.

Portland ranks 6th highest tax burden of 51 cities.

And as I say, highest west of the Mississippi.

Portland also has higher housing cost
because of government regulations ( some of us refer to that as a kind of tax). That cost is mortgaged, of course, and paid by the owners to out of state mortgage bankers in most cases.
Thus the home owners pay more and instead of the money staying in the local economy it goes out of state which is one more reason things ain't lookin' so good here abouts. But the politicos would rather support out of state mortgage bankers than the local families.

Just to follow up on mike's comment. See The Planning Penalty at:


What is it about these yahoos that once they are ensconsed in office, they forget their roots?

Its typical of ALL politicians. (At least the ones from the two major parties)
None of them give a flying crap about their "constituency" after they are elected to office. All they care about it sucking from the public teat for as long as possible. And with PERS in Oregon...that milk is sweeeeeet.

THEN VOTE THEM OUT, JON - geez. And don't forget to come back here on May 17 to whine about how dumb the voters are if they didn't go your way. Or, come back here on May 17 to praise the voters' vision and common sense if they did.

I could write this script in my sleep.

Highest west of the Mississippi NOT including every city in California outside of LA, plus every other city in every state outside of the largest (that point was already made once, but seemingly ignored). Plus, I seem to remember seeing something about this study and how it assumed a really high standard of living in addition to the $75,000 a year -- like, didn't it assume one expensive house plus a vacation home somewhere in the state? That's going to significantly increase the "average" tax burden, at least if we're talking about the tax burden on actual middle-class folks.

Do these studies take into account the tax deduction for state and local taxes? That takes the 9% state income tax down to around 6% -- a discount you don't get if you pay sales tax instead.

Wrong again, Miles. Sales tax is deductible now.

Unless I'm mistaken, it's state income tax or state sales tax, whichever is larger, but not both. The unintended consequence is to provide an incentive for no sales tax like Oregon, or no income tax like Washington.

The South Waterfront development is the equivalent of the war in Iraq? How many people's lives have been lost or destroyed by the South Waterfront development? Save big words for big issues, 'cause if a big issue comes along, you'll have run out of words.

Hi, Laura. You are right. That was overkill (no pun intended).

Jack notes: Wrong again, Miles. Sales tax is deductible now.

Wow... That sounds like a lot of receipts to keep for the year.

And, despite what you think, many of us here in Oregon do pay sales taxes right now. Only here they are called "sin taxes": tobacco, alcohol and overnight accomodations. There is no general sales tax, though.

I have it on good authority that there is no general sales tax in Oregon.

But I like the juxtaposition of "tobacco, alcohol and overnight accomodations".

Sounds pretty taxing to me.

I like the juxtaposition, myself. I'm also amused that it places the state in the position of having a vested interest in drunkeness, lung cancer and maximizing accomodation usage. ;^l}

And that's not even mentioning the tax on optimism (aka "tax on stupidity"), which is not really a tax, but gimmick. But that one is dedicated to "economic development". Heh.

Oh, yeah... I forgot gasoline and telecommunications. They have sales taxes, too. You could even consider business licenses and permits to be sales taxes, but they usually get classified as user fees.

If they want to tax a commodity, why not tax salt? Most everybody uses it, it's cheap, so doubling the cost of table salt through a tax wouldn't affect it's level of usage. Heavy commercial users of salt can pass those costs on to the end consumer. Everybody uses about the same amount, which makes it sound equitable, when it's really regressive. Those with less income pay a greater proportion of their income towards taxes. But then, that's the problem with all sales taxes. They're regressive.

Oh, and I support the idea of a city cellphone tax. I think that's an excellent idea.

The next thing for Portland to tax is wireless roaming fees.

That way we can tax non-residents for just making calls when they drive through our fair city.

Ooooo...that's goood.

Non-resident means no voice. Yeah, that's the beauty of the lodgings tax, those taxed don't have much to say about it.

Otherwise, you gotta find addicts.

Regarding the OHSU Tram....

There was a proposal and kinda approval by
the City Council to buy properties from anyone
on Gibbs street, which is the route of the Tram.

I wonder if that is still an option for home owners along Gibbs.

It was a way for the City Council to quiet us
down, while it was all being approved behind

Best in the best

The option is still open, there is a time limit though. You should check with PDC on the time line. The paper work isn't easy plus you have to provide an appraisel, then the city does one. Call Rachel Blackmon, Larry Brown or Kia Shelly at PDC.

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