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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 24, 2006 12:52 AM. The previous post in this blog was Down I-5 a ways.... The next post in this blog is We can relate. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Tram of mystery

Who's been hired to run the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]? And how much are they going to charge? The bids came in to OHSU long ago (although the city owns the tram, the Pill Hill boys call this shot, apparently), and I suspect that a contractor has been chosen behind closed doors. Where's the dislosure and the chance for public comment on that deal? (Only kidding.)

Comments (21)


But Jack, where would the logic in that be. Let's say that the cost is $4million/year like the NYC Tram it would follow the pattern if it were roughly double what was predicted, do you really think they are going to release that number before the O's "Man of Steel" who rescued the TRAM, Commissioner Saltzman clears his primary election. Say it was $2million/year over budget, over the 30 years that would translate to $60 million without any inflation, it might make canceling the thing for $30 million look like a good decision. In an era where we are closing neighborhood elementary schools to save in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What is the value to community of these neighborhood resources vs the glitzy showcase projects running in the red for a constant drain on public dollars. As the legislature demonstrated in the special session, the money can be reallocated for schools if the political will is there, or as in the past the Urban Renewal Tax and Fire and Police disability fund can be exempted from the $20 cap on property taxes and people will pay more than that.

The PDC and others are simply covering up the true costs of the Tram and SoWa.
Just as they did when the Tram was said to cost $15.5 million. Among the operating cost and other cover ups, they continue to refuse to provide a Tram life cycle cost estimate.

The deception has worsened with many more millions being concealed and withheld from public consideration with SoWa.

The greatest hidden cost overrun is debt service.
Once projected to be $160 million, for the first 20 years in the 1999 approved SoWa plan, debt service has soared and possibly doubled to over $300 million.
All of which, in addition to all of the infrastructure and public improvement projects, will be paid with property taxes from the greater 409 acre UR district.
Additionally, the original $288 million in projects will likely be well over $400 million.

The total $700 million cost, which will certainly grow, is the biggest "linchpin" investment in city history.
Talley up this growing investment with the lost revenue from the city stopping the private development years ago and OHSU (who pays no property taxes) now owning 30 SoWa acres and the break even point of the Tram and SoWa is at least 40 years away.
Comically though, the drum beat about some "small investment triggering a $1.9 billion development"
continues as if not a thing has been learned along the way.

Apparently the city council has indeed NOT learned a thing.

Most bothersome is the fast and loose handling of the numbers and budgets by the PDC. The ongoing mishandling of countless millions is a recipe for not only fiscal instability but for the crime and maleficence so often reported in other cities caught up in these municipal scandals.

The operating costs are just one of many components to figuring the "life cycle cost" for the tram. The public should be a party to this operating number as well as financing costs, maintenance costs, depreciation, etc.

And this is what the NM URAC requested from the PDC and City Council in Nov of 05, and has not had any kind of response.

As stated elsewhere the delay of these important costs are due to the elections and all the political fallout of the tram, which will be more embarrassment.

And don't forget the revelation at one of last week's council sessions, in which it was revealed that the city had provided millions of dollars (I forget the actual number -- perhaps it was five million?) to OHSU (in amendment 7 to the original SoWa development agreement, in 2003) to pay for Federal-level lobbying costs, without asking for an accounting afterwards of how much the lobbying actually cost, and despite the city already having hired its own K street staff.

It appears “prominent,” “reputable,” “responsible,” “heavyweight,” citizens, or citizens otherwise described, have become so morally seduced as to feel comfortable enough to bribe city officials, lie, or hide facts from City Council in order to obtain taxpayer monies for their current project.

It is time for our citizens, if not the Portland City Council, to demand an immediate, complete and independent investigation with the objective of recovering those taxpayer funds given to the City by its taxpayers.

It should include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following objectives:

• Recover the additional tram costs from those responsible individuals and organizations found culpable for the increased costs;


• Consider the potential of charging responsible parties with bribing a city official;


• Because federal funds are involved, request the Federal District Attorney to investigate whether the $11 million Commissioner Leonard states was granted OHSU (requiring a $3.5 million payment from the City of Portland) was based on fraudulent actions.


To allow “Portland heavyweights” to play fast and loose with taxpayer monies for any reason, based on lies and purposeful misrepresentation should not be condoned by Portland City Council or any city council in Oregon.

It sends a terrible message to those many citizen volunteers who give freely of their time and efforts participating in public/private partnerships on behalf of their city. The public volunteers their time, the private portion bribes, lies and cheats – and council condones it by giving them more money.

Without an immediate Council endorsed independent investigation, the “lets-burn-the-taxpayers” smell mentioned in a recent Oregonian editorial becomes immune to any political, legal, or ethical disinfectant. The smell eventually sticks to Portland’s Council chambers and our city in general.

For those unfamiliar with the New York Tram (to 147 acre Roosevelt Island in the East River), go to http://www.ny.com/transportation/ri_tramway.html

As for NYC Tram fare history:
1990 Free service of the Red bus ends,
with a 10 cent fare imposed.
1994 The Red Bus fare increases to 25 cents.
1996 The Tram fare is raised from $1.40 to $1.50.
2003 The Tram fare is raised from $1.50 to $2.00.


What I thought was intersting was when the fare collection almost doubled when the NYC Tranist authroity took over fare collection from the contractor last year. (from $1.2 up to $2.1 million)

Do we even have an estimate on how much the fare is going to be? who is going to pay the fare, is there going to be an annual pass for the Doc's does your bus pass work on the TRAM, like it does on the streetcar. Let alone cost recovery from the fare. The NYC system is running over $2million in the red despite the $2+ million in fare collection.

Is there any place where this is publicly discussed.

“It is time for our citizens, if not the Portland City Council, to demand an immediate, complete and independent investigation”

We could ask KPMG. They have "experience."

A widely anticipated audit of San Diego's 2003 books cannot be completed until city officials fully investigate whether "likely illegal acts" related to the pension system and City Hall's financial-reporting practices have occurred, according to the city's independent auditor.

Oh wait . . . they just finished their work for Portland in January.

There's some mighty big Sewer (KiwiWit) Bonds slated for May 16 pricing. (No Official Statements?)

Shall I go over the head of our "elected" city "auditor" to the state board that oversees CPAs, with a board that is selected by the same guy that tapped Neil to join the Higher Ed Board while some other bonds were at issue?

From what has been expressed publically at NM URAC meetings, OHSU employees, doctors, patients will not be paying a fare, but any other users (us taxpayers included, who will be contributing over $37M in direct tram costs)will be paying an undetermined fare. Why not charge all users a flat, fixed amount? How is it going to be monitored on who is what and what purpose are they using the tram to determine if they should pay a fare?

The projected trip cost based on the $57.5M hard cost plus an estimated life-cycle cost of over $280M over 20 years will make the public subsidy including OHSU's portion costing well over $75 per trip. Try charging that as a fare.

Negotiations for who pays what for the operating, maintenance, depreciation, etc. is now being decided by the city (PDC) and OHSU. Taking into account other tram project operating costs around the world, Portland taxpayers better hang on.

My friend at work, who lives under the tram (rimshot), says she will lay out naked every warm day she can and wave to all those tram riders. I may have to join her...

Laurelann: Do you think the ridership will go up if you and your friend follow through? Will it be worth it for those of us that will have to pay the fare?

Didn't the NM URAC recently veto (5 AGAINST, 2 FOR) the proposed PDC South Waterfront budget that included additional funding for the tram?

If so, isn't this unusual for the NM URAC to go against a PDC staff recommendation?

If so, what happens next? And is the City Council aware of URAC's position?

Ron Ledbury,

I'm thinking of a federal criminal investigation requested by City Council. If not Council, how about a citizen request from a pile of citizens?

Please do not suggest that any law enforcement agency -- county, state or federal -- look into possible white collar crime in local government in Portland and Oregon. That sort of thing just isn't done here.

Shadow: Last thursday the NM URAC did vote 5 to 2 to not to support the five year budget as proposed. Besides the committee seldom voting on anything because most of the time we're hearing reports from PDC staff and others, this was a momentious vote. I might have missed it, but I believe this was never reported in the O or elsewhere.

The NM budget is following in the footsteps of the tram chronology magnified by 20 times. But unlike the tram, there is this vote. But remember that the tram had that important letter to City Council in 2003 from the PATI CAC (citizens advisory committee) that requested the tram planning be stopped because of budget overruns even before start of construction in 2005. PDC and City Council ignored it.

What will be interesting is to see what the PDC Commission will do with this "no vote" from it's own URAC this week. I believe the Commission will be hearing this tuesday. Please verify, and I hope the average citizen will make an attempt to attend.

Shadow: Last thursday the NM URAC did vote 5 to 2 to not to support the five year budget as proposed. Besides the committee seldom voting on anything because most of the time we're hearing reports from PDC staff and others, this was a momentious vote. I might have missed it, but I believe this was never reported in the O or elsewhere.

The NM budget is following in the footsteps of the tram chronology magnified by 20 times. But unlike the tram, there is this vote. But remember that the tram had that important letter to City Council in 2003 from the PATI CAC (citizens advisory committee) that requested the tram planning be stopped because of budget overruns even before start of construction in 2005. PDC and City Council ignored it.

What will be interesting is to see what the PDC Commission will do with this "no vote" from it's own URAC this week. I believe the Commission will be hearing this tuesday. Please verify, and I hope the average citizen will make an attempt to attend.

NOTICE: NORTH MACADAM PDC BUDGET HEARINGS

The PDC Commission will be having a budget work session hearing this monday evening @ 5:30 to 8:00.

The Commission will have a public hearing on the budget wed. evening from 5:30 to 8:00.

These hearings are in the Commission Rm @ 222 NW 5th-PDC Building.

NOTICE: NORTH MACADAM PDC BUDGET HEARINGS

The PDC Commission will be having a budget work session hearing this monday evening @ 5:30 to 8:00.

The Commission will have a public hearing on the budget wed. evening from 5:30 to 8:00.

These hearings are in the Commission Rm @ 222 NW 5th-PDC Building.

Lee:

Of course the ridership would increase! We figured the more riders, the more money the city would have to run the stupid thing, which in turn would help take the burden off the local taxpayers. It's service to the community!

I was at that URAC meeting last week and took the opportunity to lambaste the PDC and PDC point man Larry Brown.
Primarily on the PDC misrepresenting to the commission and council that the URAC had been reviewing and assisting in the budget and amendment 8 since January.
Creating the impression that this newest fiscal swagger had undergone some oversight by a citizens committee.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact there is not only no legitimate budget to scrutinize but the URAC is routinely handed sloppy reports as they enter the room, discussion is ushered along and inadequate and next to zero oversight occurs before the PDC wraps it up and hands off their cooked up version of what took place to the commission and council.

I also hammered Brown for the more stunning (or insulting) aspect with SoWa, the PDC and Brown himself with regard to cost of debt service.
Brown is telling people he doesn't know what the interest rates are, either for TIF or other commercial rates used in SoWa borrowing. earlier rates of current rates.
He and the PDC are unresponsive to inquiries about the cost of debt service which is the largest single expenditure in the SoWa plan.

Once $160 million in the original 1999 plan debt service is now much higher. Presumably since Muni bonds were less than 2% in 1999 and now stand at 4.25% the cost increase could be double.
Yet Brown and the PDC don't know?
Add to that the higher cost of most of the tax funded infrastructure and public improvement projects SoWa is headed for the fiscal scandal sheet sooner rather than later.

And as Jerry mentioned, in the same fashion, (only much worse) as the $15.5 Tram budget.

Cover up, misrepresentation, withholding of information, shifting of revenues and shifty deals with SoWa developers and OHSU.

None of which should be disregarded simply because of the continued chorus about "OHSU being the areas largest employer" or the cooked up notion of "$1.9 billion in development being triggered by a modest investment in a linchpin"

In reality the public investment may be as much as $700 million and the $1.9 billion includes much of the public assisted and property tax exempt OHSU development.

So where's the prudence and oversight process to make sure the public's interest is being served?
Or that the investment is properly managed?
Or that even OHSU is not being run into red ink and gambled into fiscal calamity?

Another worry should be crime and maleficence as most often these are BI-products when taxpayer millions are handled so recklessly by those entrusted with fiduciary responsibility.

Investigations? Certainly.

But also, public employee whistle blowers should be encouraged and feel confident they will be treated admirably for their forthcoming assistance in correcting the growing problems.

Jack,

"That sort of thing just isn't done here."

Are you beiong facetious?

If not, is there a particular reason why taxpayer monies obtained through fraud or purposeful misrepresentation to an Oregon governmental body should not be investigated?

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