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Friday, May 5, 2006


Everybody's seen those "national debt clocks," which show how much in debt the federal government is (mostly to China, I think). You can go to any number of places to read about the debt, or even get a clock of your own for your web site, like so:

The Gross National Debt

I was thinking it would be a good idea to show the same type of information for the City of Portland. Here's what the clock would have looked like last July 1:

Exciting, huh? Maybe it would be more compelling if I could have the figures move by the second, or by the hour, to reflect estimated growth in the city's bonded debt and population. I think I can come up with reasonable estimates of the rates of growth, but I'm no computer programmer. I don't know my cgi from my a-s-s.

Anybody out there have any leads on a programming wiz to help me come up with a script for a city debt clock?

Comments (21)

Perhaps a better number would be long-term liabilities outstanding, or $2,868,361,505 -- $5,176.33 per resident.

I thought for sure this was going to be about the fellow named Clock, who asked Gresham for Laura Bridges' calendar as retaliation for her whistleblowing on Linn...

That's investment not debt.

It is a sure thing, like the odds on video pok(k)er. The elected folks are just led to believe they are on the house side of the table rather than the player side.

Need an urban renewal clock.

Or maybe a tram clock.

Or a MAX clock.

Or a Streetcar clock.

And put it on billboards around town, much like the powerball jackpot ones.

I like anthony's idea. Put the billboard right next to the big Powerball billboard that is located in SoWhat.

Here's a few sentences that caught my eye recently:
"$8.3 trillion is the total amount of dollars owed to all the holders of US government debt instruments. Excluded from this total debt are all of the federal government's other liabilities, which total another $38 trillion. In “The 2005 Financial Report of the United States Government" US Comptroller General David Walker reported that “the federal government's fiscal exposures now total more than $46 trillion, up from $20 trillion in 2000."

I'm sure Erik Sten could recomend a good software vendor for this project.

"The elected folks are just led to believe they are on the house side of the table rather than the player side."

LOL. I guess you do have a sense of humor after all, Ron. :-)

Actually Jack, you should also count the depreciation of our assets because in a well run organization you replace the roofs and the furnace, seal the parking lot. In Portland this operating money has been diverted to fund new investment "lynchpins" instead of taking care of the investment we have. The City's own fianical GASB #34 financial statments the CAFR say that we are not replacing about $150 million a year, $130 million of that road maintenance, so your clock should tick around $300/year/person for that. If they maintained things properly they would have to issue that additional money in bonds, instead they are diverting operating money. The total deferred maintenace is reported at $2.2billion so your liabilities are about double that and if figured per family and homeowner, the number starts to really grow. That is unless you have a "historical" home and property tax deferrment.

I'm sure when Steve comes out of his "blog zen" he can also tell you how much the residents are also on the hook for PCC bonds, Port of Portland Bonds, State Of Oregon Bonds, etc. I would imagine they would add up as well. All of them are backed by the taxing authority of the homes in the City.

I'm not sure I want to start mixing income (expense) numbers, such as depreciation, with static financial condition numbers, like debt.

The more I think about it, though, I think "long-term liabilities" is a more telling number than "total bonded debt." And I'm not sure either number reflects the city's obligations under the police and fire disability system.

The "interest" you pay on neglecting maintenance is that when something is run to failure it usually takes more capital with it when it does go. If you look at some of the water main failures, it isn't just the pipe its the road and surronding sinkhole that have to be repaired. Its the old stitch in time saves nine, but Portland is playing pussy cat and wasting its nine lives. It is not going to be pretty.

The water bureau has proposed an interesting gambit to keep rates down and that is to reduce the debt service coverage ratio of 1.9 to 1.75. It will be interesting to see what this may eventually do to a very good Aa1 utility rating. It's a bit of a risk, so the Office of Management and Budget will need to stay on top of how other bureau's do their debt financing plus the amount of debt.

"Long-term liabilities."

What about two-term liabilities?

the Office of Management and Budget will need to stay on top of how other bureaus do their debt financing plus the amount of debt.

Hey, with Opie and Tram minding the store, and Grampy and the Fireman riding herd over the cop and fire pension system, we've got nothing to worry about. Maybe Blackmer can come in and help, too.

In regard to the Portland debt, all I can say is it's money well spent.

Considering all of the triggering, spurring and linchpinning we are witnessing we should all take pause and feel the appreciation for the abundant
investment savvy our public officials demonstrate
on a daily basis.

To be sure there is a debt associated with prudent investment, progress and growth.

But with each and every venture spawned by Portland's top tier management and leadership
we should share the pride and sense of place Portland has become.

Aliens have abducted Steve Schopp and implanted him with Vera Katz' operating system?

If you go to the city data website, which has some really interesting stats on Portland besides this one. http://www.city-data.com/housing/houses-Portland-Oregon.html

You will find that Portland has about 125,000 owner occupied homes. The rest are rental units, which any property tax increases would be passed onto renters.

If you divide that into Jack's number you get that every owner occupied home in Portland has an additional $17,000 in debt or psedo-mortgage pledged against its value.

Maybe Steve is going to run for office and is fishing for multiple Oregonian Endorsment Editorials like Saltzman just got his third in three weeks, from the Man of Steel, to today's Editorial endorcement again with Ginny stating thier election is essential to your having a job in Portland.

I want to be the first to predict that Steve will be the next PDC director replacing Warner. Warner isn't seeing the big picture like Steve is describing it. Recognizing "lynchpins" is a zen/art form that Steve has honed, far beyond Warner.

Nothing can top Oregonians recent EIGHT editorials on the tram. Must be something really significant with so much Oh attention. Must have something to do with Editor Caldwell's connections to OHSU.

At night he takes out the linchpin.

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