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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

PDC math: $384 million, 705 jobs

So, is the Portland Development Commission getting it done? The city auditor's recent study of the agency, though tightly limited in scope, provides some interesting data with which to make an assessment.

The auditor's study zeroed in on five urban renewal districts -- those which the auditor's staff "determined had economic development as a primary goal and which had enough history that one would expect results to have occurred." It then went to the state Employment Department and Metro to see what had happened in the realm of private sector employment in those districts between 1996 and 2004. Since "job creation and business development" are "what is generally thought of as economic development," the study group saw the employment trends as a key indicator of PDC success (or lack thereof).

Refining the analysis further, the auditor's staff looked at the same data in "three separate control areas in the City with land use patterns similar to" the urban renewal districts. The control areas were not in urban renewal districts; they did not receive significant PDC subsidies during the period in question, and the auditor's group did not see any other governmental investment in these areas, either.

The five urban renewal districts selected for study were Downtown/Waterfront, River District, Convention Center, Central Eastside, and Airport Way. The "control areas" were (1) just east of the Central Eastside district, straddling the Banfield Freeway out to around 39th, (2) a westerly section of North Portland, and (3) a large area of southeast Portland, between Division and Powell just east of I-205.

The findings? The "control areas" had better job growth than the urban renewal areas -- 3 percent vs. 1 percent! Both those groups did better than those areas of the city outside any urban renewal district, where employment declined 9 percent.

Here's the tale of the tape for the 1996-to-2004 job changes within the five urban renewal districts:

Airport Way: + 11% (+ 1,403 jobs)
Central Eastside: - 9% (- 1,337 jobs)
Downtown/Waterfront: - 8% (- 2,017 jobs)
Convention Center: + 2% (+ 383 jobs)
River District: + 21% (+ 2,273 jobs)
Five districts combined: + 1% (+ 705 jobs)

Although the auditor was too polite to do the math, the report does reveal that in these five districts, the PDC spent around $384 million over the period studied. Yielding 705 jobs, that works out to $544,681 of PDC "investment" per job added!

Of course, who knows what would have happened in the urban renewal areas without all those PDC subsidies? But the "control areas" did even better without them, thank you very much.

On the other side of the ledger, the average wage in the five districts increased substantially over the eight years in question -- by 25%, compared to a 14% decline in the control areas and an 8% increase in the rest of the city. The tale of the tape by district for the eight-year period was as follows (total jobs multiplied by average annual wage, difference not adjusted for inflation):

Airport Way: + $104,342,973 wages
Central Eastside: + $7,442,302 wages
Downtown/Waterfront: + $84,995,545 wages
Convention Center: + $255,631,262 wages
River District: + $228,541,767 wages
Five districts combined: + $680,953,849 wages

Taking 20.4% inflation into account, however -- inflation over that eight-year period was around 20.4% nationally -- the payroll results are not as flattering:

Airport Way: + $19,420,476
Central Eastside: - $89,517,190
Downtown/Waterfront: - $109,877,505
Convention Center: + $159,004,223
River District: + $151,493,485
Five districts combined: + $130,523,489

So in inflation-adjusted terms, a net annual wage increase of around $130.5 million was seen in the five districts. Assuming that inflation makes that $384 million PDC "investment" look more like $400 million in 2004 dollars, it works out to about $3.07 of PDC outlay for every $1 of annual payroll created. In other words, to create a $50,000-a-year job in the five districts, the PDC had to "invest" $153,000.

Of course, statistics often lie, and the auditor's report is full of caveats -- among them the reminders that the PDC is also trying to create "affordable or mixed-use housing," and that "there is a complex relationship between housing, jobs, and other livability issues." Nonetheless, when you look at the expenditures and the results, it doesn't seem that the PDC is succeeding as a job creation engine.

Which makes you wonder just what it is that it's supposed to be doing. (Don't we already have a city housing authority to create low-income housing?)

And if the PDC disagrees with this math, it apparently doesn't have the data to defend itself. As the report noted: "During fieldwork, we determined that we could not fully assess the efficiency of the [PDC Economic Development] Department's strategies, such as cost per job created, due to difficulty in obtaining financial information on a refined program basis and the lack of readily available actual jobs creeatd and retained data in most programs."

One last point on the jobs figures: It's interesting to compare jobs in Downtown/Waterfront and those in the River District over the study period:

Downtown/Waterfront: - 2,017 jobs
River District: + 2,273 jobs

Downtown/Waterfront: - $109,877,505 inflation-adjusted wages
River District: + $151,493,485 inflation-adjusted wages

Has the Pearl District sucked the life out of downtown? Apparently so. All those cranes and condo towers look like prosperity to the kids they send out from the New York Times travel section, but underneath it all it's just a migration of around 2,000 jobs out of downtown, with an overall increase of another 200 to 300.

That and a whole bunch of rich ex-Californians sitting up all night counting their money in their condos, and marvelling at their good fortune.

I get the sense that the PDC's new leadership is moving away from condo-mania and toward helping small businesses. Based on what the auditor found, they have their work cut out for them.

Comments (64)

"On the other side of the ledger, the average wage in the five districts increased substantially over the eight years in question -- by 25%, compared to a 14% decline in the control areas and an 8% increase in the rest of the city."

Ouch. Sounds like that 3% increase in the control areas might be chock full of low to minimum wage jobs.

Yep. Held by regular people.

And, of course, you wonder how the gradual employment situation might have been improved had that $384M been put back into the economy in the form of improved school infrastructure, etc. The other question besides "was it worth it?" is "could we have bought something better with that money?"

It seems to me that the developers and the construction firms are taking all our economic development money and eating it. Once the place is built out, it's a ghost town. Case in point: Convention Center expansion. Up next: Downtown transit mall.

"It seems to me that the developers and the construction firms are taking all our economic development money and eating it. Once the place is built out, it's a ghost town.... ".

I agree. So I am like a broken record urging the press to look into the workings of the good ole boy system and get to the issue of what is suppressing competition to the point that we have only 1 Fortune 500 company.

The nearly $400 Million investment is the sum that was borrowed, to be repaid with interest over 20 years. The real value of the basic services forgone in order to invest in the URA's is considerably higher than $400 Million.

On the plus side, I'm never more than a couple of blocks from a Subway chicken teriyaki sandwich. Say what you will, but that's a tasty sub. Thanks PDC!

"Yep. Held by regular people."

Wait, I remember that sentiment...it's what Scott McClellan used to say when the labor dept. reported a boatload of new jobs that are all minimum-wage retail.

I loathe the 'regular folks' argument when discussing wages. Is $15/hr, ~$29K a year somehow irregular?

I don't think we want to see wages plummeting in NoPo, NE, or outer SE no matter how many Subway jobs we create out there. I wonder if they pinpoint an average wage for the jobs created in the URAs. Treating all jobs created as the same is disingenious.

$500,000 per job? Wow. That's Halliburton/Deadeye Dick money, right here in Puddletown.

And I hear you get at the cash WITHOUT shooting your best friend in the face with a shotgun after a long, liquid lunch!

Blackmer is barely competent and hardly a legit auditor at this point. Anything from his office underestimates the real damage and softpedals it to protect his friends on council. He never even glanced at Emily Boyles signatures; the Oregonian did. He ducked responsibily to protect himself and Sten. Likely the same level of hard nosed scrutiny here.
If Blackmer looks at it, get a second opinion. One that is honest and without an agenda.

Butterbean is right about the chicken teriyaki sandwich, but now I wonder how much property tax I paid for that all that tangy freshness.

I wonder if they pinpoint an average wage for the jobs created in the URAs.

The average wage per job increased by the following amounts, before inflation:

Airport Way: + 12%
Central Eastside: + 12%
Downtown/Waterfront: + 18%
Convention Center: + 50%
River District: + 33%

Inflation was about 20% nationwide over the same period. Thus, adjusted for inflation, the average wage fell in three of the five districts.

In the control areas, there was a 14% decrease in wages per job, and that's before inflation. Citywide (outside urban renewal areas), wages per job increased 8% before inflation, also far below national inflation numbers.

It appears that the River District and the Convention Center district are the only places where wages actually increased faster than inflation.

now I wonder how much property tax I paid for that all that tangy freshness.

It's that or starve.

Of course there's also a thriving restaurant industry (except for the ones that aren't) in Portland which is employing hundreds of recent college grads. As Jack pointed out recently, they really know their way around the wine list

Is there some way to blame the low wage jobs on the Bushies?

Er, only in the sense that everything he's done since taking office has been designed to concentrate wealth in the hands of the elite and weaken the middle class. But only in that sense.

Jack. Thank you for your very insightful analysis. I hope this gets out to the general public. It seems that indepth critiques occur in the blogs and seldom in the printed media and not at all on TV.

In regards to North Macadam, since its inception in 1999 there has not been one job created in the URA, except those of construction that are of shorter duration. In fact there has been a loss of jobs due to several business relocations or closures.

Your post shows the importance that the PDC should be strongly required (legal action?) to comply with the states requirement for all URA to have annual auditing of their performances.

The city auditor's acknowledgement that information is sorely lacking in its latest five district analysis points out the present situation with NM's present, proposed 5 year and beyond budget that also is missing many important parts. But it's URAC and the PDC Commission is soon to be asked for it's "missing parts" approval. We need leadership from PDC and City Council. We do not need a continuance of this "charade".

PDC totals - government = private sector.

Wonder how warped the report is because of public payrolls. With guaranteed steady % salary increases and all.

Business owners reading this who make payroll every month - "you know what I'm talking about".

Oh look, another city is trying a convention center hotel. Is there a major city in this country that hasn't drunk the Kool-aid on this yet?

A better view here.

PDC totals - government = private sector.

I'm pretty sure the auditor's report looked only at private sector employment.

The problem is the PDC makes things up, misleads the public and withholds critical information. It's not by accident.

It should be abundantly obvious to those paying attention that the agencies and city management do not want the public knowing too much.


"the audit found that the commission relies on murky data to measure its economic development and publishes some information that might be misleading to the public."

"audit last year found that the agency hadn't followed its own rules in awarding contracts to private companies"

"the agency lacks complete data and clear goals to link investments to community desires"

"the audit found that the figures are not based on actual numbers but on the staff's best judgment"

"the data lacked any source documents to support the estimates" the audit said.
"The audit also found that the agency publishes some information based on initial estimates not actual results. The differences were "not clearly disclosed . . . and would likely mislead readers," the audit said.

"The commission lists more than 200 performance indicators. But many don't meet criteria for good measure, and only a few are consistently reported with data."

Although I question whether the PDC has made the best use of its budget or influence, I truly believe its mission is the correct one. Beyond measurable results of economic development, there is much to be said for the intangibles. Perhaps the PDC needs some new blood to strike a better balance...

"Beyond measurable results of economic development"

OK, let's see Google goes to the Dalles to set up a data center and Phil Knight wants to open a film studio in Tualatin (god forbid close to Bridgeport.) So much for the creative/hightech jobs.

I think the issue goes way beyond PDC, when you have someone like Sam Adams chasing out WalMart becuase his buddies think it is cool (I cant find a good logic in their arguments.) He doesn't realize this hits the papers and Portland is all of suddne the town that hates business. Meanwhile we subsisdize housing for OHSU employess and now I guess live-work spaces for artists.

I really wish someone political in this town had a job outside of government at least once.

Something we learned in planning school is that in order to solve a problem, you must first define it-or assess present conditions. Portland has a long history of cliques passing out favors among friends, and this seems to cloud the economic development picture to the extent that it runs competitors out. This never really has been healthy, but the conventional wisdom has been to work within what everyone knows is a good ole system. The prevailing belief seems to be that this cannot be challenged, but I think it can and must be challenged.

I really wish someone political in this town had a job outside of government at least once.

Hey, now, that's not fair. Tom Potter was the police chief...oh, wait, that's government.

Yeah, but Erik Sten was, um, Blumenauer's guy, but that's government, too, I guess.

But what about Randy? Oh, fire department, you say?

But Sam was, oh, yeah, Vera's CoS.

Ah, Dan. Dan, um, comes from big money. Never mind.

Good point! I wish they did, too! LOL

I don't think chasing Wal-Mart out of Portland qualifies as anti-business. Wal-Mart doesn't qualify as economic development either.

Also, if Phil Knight wants to build a Pixar-like campus in the Portland area, I think it would be pretty hard to do in Portland proper. Where would you shoehorn a 'campus'? Isn't this the same guy who doesn't want his Beaverton business address annexed into (*ahem*) Beaverton? It shouldn't come as a surprise they chose Tualatin.


You're acting like that $384 million (which the PDC spent) was real money. It's actually "tooth fairy" money that materializes on their pillows in exchange for little rocks they carried home from the URDs. It's like 2% FeraRt money: if we didn't set it aside FeraRt, it would just get spent on things like jails, cops, and sewer maintenance. BORING! The PDC is doing a fine job, it says so on their website.

To summarize: not real money.
Jails, cops, and sewers: boring!
PDC: doing a fine job!

Now quiet down and go back to sleep: you're scaring the sheep.

It is excellent that Jack Bog has taken his time and used his talent to nail this down. If the journalists in this town did not tend to be so full of themselves and their own pursuits, perhaps they could have done the anaysis before the fact. They ought to be shaking up the sheep, but instead they are (with some exceptions) charming them. And verbally attacking anyone who suggests they should do otherwise.

"Wal-Mart doesn't qualify as economic development either.."

Riiiight.... Razing the existing Thunderbird hotel and building a 250,000 sq foot WalMart wouldn't require contractors, roofers, architects, engineers, rental equipment, laborers, lumber, cement, etc, etc. ?? AND, all done without subsidy!!

No economic development huh? I guess you've been hanging around "Sam the Tram" too long.

And before you haul out the "WalMart drives out smaller businesses" canard... IKEA, the world's largest furniture store is moving into airport way. Home Depots and Lowe's are springing up everywhere. Long's and Walgreen's as well. They don't seem to be driving out local businesses. Why does WalMart get singled out?

(regarding Phil knight) "Where would you shoehorn a 'campus'?"

Well, there -was- a crapload of land available in the North Macadam area that would have been perfect for a campus. Alas, in Vera Katz's wisdom, we had to waste tax dollars on a condo farm.

And why couldn't they get Knight over by OMSI, or out at the airport? Because the City of Portland has become a gigantic pain in the neck for any real business to deal with.

They ought to take that dopey city planning building down by PDC (a veritable skyscraper of red tape) and implode it.

Has anyone looked at the growth of second hand shops, pawn shops and check cashing businesses in Portland? It seems every time I turn a corner Goodwill is opening a new or expanded store.
And I happen to be serious about this. It seems to me this would be an indicator of a community that is on hard times. Maybe not everybody, but a whole bunch are.

Phil Knight wouldn't squeeze a campus down by OMSI because the property down there is undoubtedly more expensive than what they've got lined up in Tualatin. Don't tell me that's because of liberals or kooky Portland planning. The Bush administration could be running Portland and we'd have the same outcome. Look at any major city and you'll find nearly every corporation (with big facility needs) sets up shop in the outskirts. It's just the way it's done.

As a very disillusioned PDC employee (or former PDC employee, I'm not going to say which), I just have to weigh in and respond to the following:
1.You nailed it Jack - best explanation of the whole flim-flam PDC accounting system I've seen in print, but it assumes PDC makes decisions based on rationality which it does not. Most decisions are political ones either pressured by the private sector (i.e land owners, developers, powerful employers in town) or other public sectors (such as OHSU and Dept of Transportation), or City Council.
2.Comment from Tkrueg, "Perhaps the PDC needs some new blood to strike a better balance..." I wish that would solve it! No, its more like instability and lack of institutional knowledge and that all the good people have either left or don't stick around long enough. In the past 5 years alone PDC has had (including interim staff) 5 executive directors (including City Hall favorite Judy Tuttle who was pulled in as an emergency babysitter after Don Mazziotti was fired, er I mean resigned), 3 deputy or secondary directors (or whatever they call it this season), 4 Finance Directors, 3 Housing Directors, 4 Economic Development Directors, 2 Development Directors, 5 Information Systems Managers), 3 Human Resource Managers, and 3 Commission Chairs. In addition there has been a 37% percent turnover of staff in the past year alone (way to go Warner you are really making things work better!). There is plenty of new blood, but most of them have no clue and leave before anything can really be implemented or solved (such as PDC's problem with financial reporting systems). At the staff level it is sometimes impossible to get things done well because of the learning curve of the decision makers or other high level staff.
3.PDC can't even find half of their documents and data let alone figure out and clearly explain impacts to the public. It is a nightmare trying to get data and information there so its no surprise the numbers look funny -- million dollar financial databases (MITAS system) that is held together with chewing gum and tape that contain incorrect information or are impossible to correctly analyze doto their convoluted data structure, databases spread out all over the place with no central control, lack of records management and document management. Man, it sucks (sucked) as a staff person. Trust me, most of the time PDC is guessing when they provide financial data to consultants the auditor's office.
4.The Commission is made up of many people that have little to NO background in real estate development, government, or economic development. I have personally seen Commissioners miss and gloss over stated risks, financials and recommendations BECAUSE THEY DON'T Understand them
5.PDC was set up in 1958 to do the dirty work of the Mayor and City Council through the ability to condemn property, move quickly on projects outside of public process, and issue bonds to pay for (often pet) projects outside of the City's general fund. Sometimes even if PDC staff recommends NOT doing a deal (such as the Creative Services Center or PGE Park) the mayor or council might dictate otherwise. Also, the mayor is in charge of PDC and really needs to get on it in overseeing the PDC. Really.
6.PDC has an built in conflict of interest built in. PDC is paid for through urban renewal funds, so of course they want to issue as many bonds as possible. It pays for all those fancy new ($85,000 plus) salaries
7. PDC is really top heavy with management, many of whom make over $85,000 dollars a year and many of whom were recently added as new positions. Many of these new positions are really vague and in my experience completely unnecessary. Rochelle Lessner? What the hell does she do? Why does PDC have 4 full time staff to manage 70 PDC owned properties (most of which are vacant)? Why does PDC have a whole bunch of people making over $70,000 a year with management titles that do not manage any staff? We did an informal assessment one day at work and over the past 5 years PDC has increased management to the point where there is one manager for every 5-6 staff.
8. PDC were charted to be implementers NOT planners. Yes, absolutely, problems will arise when PDC is planning for URAs so maybe they shouldn't. Also, Bureau of Planning through comprehensive planning and zoning decisions is just as responsible as PDC ends up having to implement their half crocked plans in the first place. Cascade Station sat empty for 10 years due to bad zoning and a bad PDC deal
9. Idiotic and Corrupt employees. Sorry co-workers. Many PDC staff are really good, competent, and ethical people. But others are either total idiots or just evil. I have seen certain staff flat out lie to the public and others working on projects. There is a reason the Burnside Bridgehead project blew up in PDC's face and that the community hates us (I mean them). Lew Bowers, the manger of the project is a loose cannon (and he still works there!) Ethics training should be mandatory for all staff
10. Untrained staff. PDC has such a pathetic training program for staff. Last year many staff that work on development projects were denied financial training by the upper-chiefs as they felt it was unnecessary. Either hire people with the skills and education or train them before you let them loose on 12 million dollar development projects and the like.
11. Ec-dev department should just go away. They are useless except for some of their lending and grant programs that could be administered by another bureau. Or at least hire a director with some Economic Development education. Bob Alexander? He used to work for a department store before PDC and is now responsible for the Tram project. WTF?
12. Contracting practices are whacked, no doubt about it. That Linda Andrews woman in charge of them is also the same person that thought it would be ok to stay at very expesivethe Benson Hotel on PDC's dime during the office move becuase she didn't want to have to drive home late. Why is she still in charge.
13. The ethicspoint software website that B. Warner implemented (www.ethicspoint.com) for whistleblowing is a joke. Every complaint from staff has been ignored.
Ok, I'm ranting. But pretty upset and sad. PDC has such great potential and has the resources and talent to make the city better. Unfortunately the whole house of cards is now falling down. Maybe next time I'll really start exposing them. Next time I'm naming names and documents.

"Wal-Mart doesn't qualify as economic development either." You're right, economic development is not measurable and usually a term used by politicians when they want to look like they are doing something. Wal-Mart would qualify as jobs which are measurable, unless we have too many of those around here.

"Where would you shoehorn a 'campus'?" Believe me, I know plenty of comm RE peolpe who would love to find them a 600-person office in town, maybe close to the light rail in NoPo, in the warehouse district in NW PDX, maybe even that space where IKEA is moving in. A lot of those Airport Way buildings are empty.

PDC Mole: thanks for your imput. Please name names and documents. Just within North Macadam URD and its tram issue, there are numerous examples of points you express. It is a "falling card" scenario that includes legal mischieviousness. It needs to be exposed for the future of our city. We need accountability and fast. Just Do It, and many will support you and have backup info to coincide with your claims.

Dear PDC mole,
Go for it !!! We need you!!!
You will be supported and thanked.
These are public funds and the public has a right to know.
The PDC stonewalled the City Club on finances too. You are right on about Lew Bowers, by the way.
Let's lance this wound and and do some real healing.

Yeah I would sure like to know what backroom sh... uh stuff is going down at PDC about the Saturday Market since they sprung this "spine" idea of stringing it along Ankeny between 3rd and Naito ... they are trying to boot it out from under the Burnside Bridge since there is a UO Campus going in to the north .


The Oregonian reported that OHSU, certain public officials, and associated developers knew of the escalating cost of the Tram and never reported it to City council. Instead, they continued to insist the cost was $15.5 million when they knew it was not possible to build for that price.

Commissioner Leonard, on April 12th, 2006, reported the same findings, in addition to naming some of those responsible for the false and material misrepresentation to City Council in order to obtain taxpayer funding for a pet project.

Yet, City Council has taken no action to seek return of those funds obtained for the Tram based on those false statements. They haven't even opened an investigation to recoup the more than $8.5 million Commissioner Leonard states taxpayers are contributing to the tram.

Not doing so leads me to believe City Council now condones the formulation of public policy based on false and material misrepresentation and will use our taxpayer funds to implement such policy.

The tram tower, now in view, will always remind me that our City Council will accept lies to disburse our monies. And that, more than anything, else disappoints and saddens me. It does not bode well for future public/private endeavors.

Economic development?

How about we create a state level set of tax law schemes that mirror the federal tax law schemes to encourage "savings?" We could do two things: first, refuse to match state income tax reductions for any of the federal-taxable-income reduction schemes to reflect individual participation in federally qualified retirement plans; second, substitute in their place equally generous reductions in state-taxable-income, upon certain conditions --

Local Investment Condition -- The money must be invested in enterprises that have local owners, including local sole proprietors, including those who have not sought to limit personal liability through the privilege of incorporation. Incorporated entities the are "qualified" to receive the tax-favorable investment dollars from state residents must be owned predominantly by state residents.

Argument follows --

You have got to ask yourself if the state should offer reductions in state taxable income for an Oregonian's decision to invest in a Texas firm or Florida firm or New Jersey firm, or Indonesia? This should be a rhetorical question.

This is a decentralized approach. This does not come with as strong a bias by "professional" investment bankers to target investment recipients that have 25 million plus in market cap and can be traded on one of the major stock exchanges.

Now here is a kicker that might cause concern among the folks with ties to the Oregon Investment Council -- make the rules, or local investment conditions, uniform for both public employee and private employee alike, and for the self-employed too. This uniformity would aid in defeating a challenge based on federal law in a federal court, or by the PERB/OIC itself where they would rant on about the imprudence of investing locally.

We need to end the harm, the harm to economic development, caused by the Oregon Investment Council's (OIC) delivery of local investment capital to remote locations at the expense of investment in Oregon and its' citizens. Private savers can think globally all they like but should act locally (invest locally), at least if they want a state income tax break.

The PERS debate is really about where the OIC places its investments (selection of private investment bankers), and the ranting about public employees is a convenient rouse to distract folks. The Republicans like PERS just the way it is, even even Mr. Saxton and Mr. Atkinson, so long as they get a chance to sit at the head of the OIC. Where else can a bunch of Wall Street types (think Lay and Skilling and Milken and Allen (,Paul)) get to play with other people's money and have a fall back position of making the taxpayer cover for losses?

Force the OIC and any other professional-trustee-recipient of dollars that are related to an Oregon resident tax-break-inducement-to-save to invest locally. The professionals can offer other investments as they please, but without the favorable state-tax-law inducements to Oregon depositors.

If I were in Bolivia or Venezuela and wrote this from their perspective the reader would "get-it" in an instant and would not even need to read past the third paragraph above.

Mr. Blackmer was studying philosophy in his formative years. I was studying Economics from an international perspective in a heart-felt cry to understand why it is/was that simple economics sometimes translates to wars and the deaths of thousands. I am still fired-up. Blackmer/Warner is/are just blah. The current leadership of the PDC, together with their political loyalties, make them inherently incapable of advancing anything that resembles "diversified" and "individual" economic development.

Oregon is treated like a Banana Republic but our leaders are blind to this reality, and do not even possess the skill-set to analyze it properly. Dismantle the PDC and implement the suggested change in the state income taxes noted above. (The proposed state tax law change is "revenue neutral" to suit even Lew Frederick's primary concerns.)

So . . . where would the investment dollars come from to replace that from the national bond peddlers that fuel the PDC's games? Locally, of course.

-- The Wild Economist

(PDCmole -- carry an IPOD and wear a wire, daily, everyday, all day. Ask pertinent questions, like out of the blue, you know . . . for fun.)

PDC Mole spells out a pretty good explaination for the sloppy, and reckless chaos at the PDC.

And why it has been next to impossible to get simple accounting provided on any issue.

What he doesn't explain is why city leadership and the PDC Commissioners are so disconnected they fail to recognize any signs of the dysfunction and unstead szerve only to provide cover for and perpetuate the problems.

There is no doubt that much malfecience is occuring at the PDC, AND OTHER CITY AGENCIES.

It is impossible that such a free for all system that regularily gets away with public deception is not ripe with unethical and criminal behavior.

Great points everyone. Don’t worry I and about 20 other fed up employees I know are diligently noting, gathering, and documenting information for future exposure. Because we’ve had it. We care about this City and we want to make things better. We’ve gone to Bruce Warner and his gal Friday Lori Sunderson with our concerns and complaints and have been mostly ignored or labeled as “trouble makers”, and basically told, “you can vote with your feet.” Meaning, if you don’t like the way things are, leave.” We have gone to the Mayor and been completely ignored, and we have gone to City Council who seem to like to listen from an “insider gossip” perspective but don’t want to seem to stand up to Granddaddy Potter (Except Leonard).

So to answer some of the resulting questions and comments from my original diatribe (sorry about the sloppy typing by the way – cut and paste from word didn’t work very well):

1.Backroom Stuff: mostly really boring unproductive meetings that never start on time, half the staff don’t show up to, and can never seem to get to yes. Boring really. But sometimes, its like, “well, lets call Homer first or our other favorite white boy developer,” maybe they can save this project (i.e. North Macadam, Burnside Bridgehead, SW Oak property, etc, etc). Its easier to go outside process and is just a natural thing for most staff
2.Ron Ledbury: With our pathetic state and local tax structure, we as a City have become reliant on TIF to save us. It’s just about all we have right now to do targeted improvements and goals for non-short term economic generating projects(such as transportation and infrastructure improvements) in certain geographic areas, and as we have noticed is a flawed system.
3.Back to my point, The Mayor and Council need the dirty work of PDC to help keep their own shiny hands clean. A perfect example is Sten’s problematic “affordable replacement housing policy.” Sounds good in theory: For every loss of affordable units, PDC must replace those in publicly funded projects. The problem? PDC pays for them, not the developer or land owner that sold them in the first place thus creating a welfare system where the TIF will not be replaced on affordable housing projects and depressing the return on investment in these URAs, making it next to impossible to make affordable housing work as a blackline expense. That’s one of the reasons for all those shiny condos in the North Mac area and the SW Oak project that was structured to get around this policy as noted by Niles Jaquiss in yesterday’s Willy Week. While affordable housing goals are often the right thing to do from a policy perspective, PDC, and the City get screwed financially if they implement them using TIF. Sten and his band of do-good ivy league "big picture" brainstormers forgot this little important point.
4.Steve Schopp: “What he doesn't explain is why city leadership and the PDC Commissioners are so disconnected they fail to recognize any signs of the dysfunction and instead serve only to provide cover for and perpetuate the problems.” Oh you know, other crises such as the Police Bureau, Water Bureau big pipe financial explosion, attention elsewhere such as running for re-election, and pet projects such as visiting France for sustainable development conferences and going to Mexico for some dignitary sister city margaritas…that’s important stuff!
5.PDC Ec-Dev. As hinted by Ron Ledbury, PDC’s economic development goals are almost 19th century: focus on retention and recruitment, and focus on manufacturing and industrial employment. Central Eastside lost money due in part to restrictive zoning in the “industrial land sanctuary” as pressured by the Central Eastside Industrial Council, who just couldn’t get it through their heads that the CES industrial days are mostly over. In addition, with a state that can not fund much higher education and attract high tech firms, coupled with high land costs in the City, PDC has a hard time trying to recruit high income generating firms. Think I’m kidding: The Willamette Industrial URA was set up for one employer only: Wolker Siltronics. This is a hugely risky endeavor to create one URA for the focus of one employer. If things change with this employer, as they could do with OHSU in North Macadam, the city is screwed.
6.he Tram. Either everyone was on drugs or they got so excited about a shiny new toy (I think it’s the latter) that they failed to realize and take the risks seriously. But, hey, that would require a risk assessment which I think they didn’t do. And to be fair to PDC, PDOT is just as guilty on this project.
7.Side note: PDC’s HR manager was just let go (or in PDC parlance, “resigned.”). So that makes 4 HR managers in 5 years. She has a lot of the secrets, that is, when she wasn’t goofing off on the internet all day and ignoring staff complaints and you know, not showing up to meetings and returning work related e-mails and stuff. Good riddance.

Ok, gotta work and stuff. I’ll keep you posted. P.S. anyone can do a public records request at PDC. Its an interesting experience for a citizen to see how a government agency responds to the public. Try it.

Another thing: Saturday market is what is known at PDC as a clusterfug project. Not sure what is going on with that thing, but Amy Miller-Dowell, after recognizing how ineffective she has been in the whole area, especially with the Firestation, was reassigned to Lents.

Thank you PDC mole. Some of my postings in my Old Town Blog resonants with some of your views. A great number of people I have come to know at PDC over the last two years are great employees, but there are those very few that do raise an eyebrow.

PDC Mole; perhaps the reference to Saturday Mkt. is more a referance to the process it is having to go through in order to secure a permanent home. Think about it; 3 feasability studies,1 public market group, 1 stakeholders group, the Ankeny Burnside planning group, PDC, the Portland Planning Bureau, the Parks department, PDOT, Half a dozen land owners, Sat. Mkt Board of Directors, and 3 years of planning . All of this to make ONE decision. If that isn't a good description of a C****** F** I don't what is.

Market Ralph: Let's all sing together......"Plannnning,what is it allll about Raallllphy?" Thanks Alphie.

Great banquet for thought PDCmole. Ignorant boards and commissions serving as a front for the favorite "cool white guy" developer or lawyer engaged in legal wrangling describes the Oregon land use scene pretty well imho. I had to laugh when I read in the O today that Lisa Naito (someone in waay over her head) says she wants "independent" Mike Schrunk to investigate the county jail situation. Independent my big toe. This place is a mafia puppet show.

Direct from June 16, 2006 Tribune Article; page 8; Right side of page, Written by Nick Budnick.

AMAZING! TRULY AMAZING! You read it here, secondly.


"One promising option, Adams says, is a moratorium on development in North Macadam. Under state law, such a moratorium can be based on a shortage of public facilities, such as roads."

"Adams says that OHSU or any additional large institution moving into North Macadam would add traffic to already congested streets there, potentially leading to gridlock and making it difficult for police and fire vehicles to respond to an emergency."

"Currently, there are 5500 residents in this island-like, little access area, but the number could nearly double in the next few years when several planned condiminium projects join the already completed and in-progress condiminium projects, Rogers says."

"Such a moratorium would delay things for only six to nine months, but it could allow for studies that call for rezoning the enclave to deal with its congestion problems. That, in turn, could lead to lawsuits, including under the Measure 37 property rights law approved by voters. But if the basis for down-rezoning is emergency access, then it would fall under an exemption in the law."

Commissioner Adams is finally seeing the light, and is beginning to understand what has been purported for over a decade about North Macadam.

There is hope!

Truly amazing indeed that a city commissioner FINALLY noticed the problem and the state law regarding moritoriums (toria?).

If commissioner Sam is noticing the symptoms I suggest he encourage PDC Mole and others to expose the causes.
And he better do it before the city embarks on any new endeavors such as the Transit mall, Burnside couplet or the CC hotel.

The city's and OHSU's approach to the Tram and SoWa has been perpetrated with rampant misrepresentation and a crisis level of shoddy accounting.
Today as the criticism grows there is not so much as a genuine SoWa budget to look at.
No accounts payable ledger, no record of all monies paid to OHSU during Tram negotiations,
no current and updated projections of projects,
no accounting of climbing cost overruns
and a perpetual refusal by the PDC and other agencies to hand over the these basic financial documents and details of the Urban Renewal, TIF and LID components.

If PDC mole is indeed among others at the PDC who are fed up with the shenanigans they have been witnessing city leadership should publicly
welcome them to come forward, assist their whistle blowing and reward their efforts.

Wow, I've never felt so wanted in my life. I have to warn eveyone though, my postings may be few and far between. I need to be very careful as my career could be in jeopardy. its a small town really, and even though I think PDC's is royally messing up right now, until I find another place of employ, I have to watch it. And from a time perspective, I just don't have a lot of it. (PS I never use PDC computers or work time for this - that would be kind of Derrick Foxworthy and unethical).

That said, in short response to some of the above:
1. Market Ralph: Someone once said, "democracy is an all night meeting." So I know its been really painfully slow, but it sure beats a top-down mandated decision. However, if the process not the dialogue is the problem, then you have every right to be annoyed. I'm not super clued into the Sat Market project (have too many of my own fires on my own projects), but the whole city is in such chaos internally that as a staff person it is really difficult to run any public process well (We can't even get agreement internally at PDC on what to do, let alone Council, mayor's office, etc). And with such huge staff turnover its like a constant game of two steps forward, one step back. On behalf of the City, I apologize to you. Sat. Market participants deserve better.
2. Larry Norton. Read your blog. I think you have done a fine job at balancing the risks and trade-offs. Couldn't see anything you might be missing.
3. South Waterfront. Oh My. I'm afraid the city has birthed a monster and financially are screwed no matter what new direction is discussed or decided for the area. The City got really overly ambitious on this one. And if the condo market falls, which it is predicted to do anytime now, who knows what will happen. Building Moretorium. What!!!!! Imagine how much that will end up costing the City (and thus tax payers). Although, Adams is probably right about the transportation issues and once again, PDOT was responsible for planning and assessing the infastructure and streets needed to support the planned area, so PDC isn't the only one to blame here. What a nightmare.
4. Additional Comments. It would be really great if there was a grass-roots citizen "PDC Watchdog" organization formed. It's needed. It could affect change. Just a thought.

Ok, its been great joining the Bog Blog community. I'll weigh in once in a while and let you know if anything even more fishy starts going on at PDC, but until then, keep discussing, keep questioning, and keep up the good dialogue. The City may not thank you, but its citizen should.

PS PDC is terrified of blogs, you know that right? Bix showed PDC how scared they should be during the whole Burnside Bridgehead blow-up.


You are right to be concerned. You will receive what is a kin to an Amish Shunning if you are outed.

If Steve et, all want more people to whistleblow, they need to support them with more than cheerleading and rhertoric.

Yes, I think more whistles need to be blown, but like the character Russel Crowe portrayed in the movie on the Tobacco industry Tweetie, several years back he paid the price.

If you folks really want people to come forward you need to make sure all the unlimited resources of City Hall don't go to legal services to investigate ie whitewash the problem, or drain the resources of the person trying to do the right thing.

Just a legal defense fund for whistleblowers that they could borrow from to pay the $30-60,000 in legal bills and the three years or more they are trying to pay the mortgage and feed the wife and kids that it takes to bring it to trail, and they are in employement Limbo.

Concerning my post above titled "Building Moratorium Mulled", I hope I'm not being dumb in stating that it was from Nick Budnick's 6-16-06 article in the Portland Tribune titled "Wal-Mart thinks it might be island time". All I did was to change the words of "Jantzen Beach" to "North Macadam". Please read the article.

The arguments that Adams is using for Jantzen Beach's Wal-Mart proposal being a bad idea can be related directly to North Macadam. Adams "moratorium" argument should apply to North Macadam. But I am not saying NM is a bad idea in whole, but am considering its parts that have many flaws.

Additionally, our State Comprehensive Plan and our City Comprehensive Plan requires that "infrastructure" for development must be in place or simultaneous before the development commenses. That includes transportation solutions, sewer, water, etc.

John C is right; one does get shunned for blowing the whistle on abuses in the land use arena. When I stopped practicing law, one of my former clients asked, are you unemployed or unemployable. It almost comes to that; In jobs I have had since then, even jobs that are unrelated to law, people will suddenly start calling me a troublemaker, people I had worked beside for months. I still have family issues to resolve as a result of the shunning. I still have a shaky working life. A lawyer who helped me with one of my first cases told a friend of mine that I "didn't get it". I called him and said "I get it; I just don't like it". People not only have to be more supportive, but also less naive, imho. More questioning. This kind of thing only happen where there are very deep problems and a WHOLE LOT OF MONEY being made dishonestly.

That's "are you unemployed or unemployable?"

and "happens".

"""If Steve et, all want more people to whistleblow, they need to support them with more than cheerleading and rhertoric."""

The elected officials should be the ones supporting whistleblowers.

I have suggested several times that Commissioner Sam Adams and others encourage and supports them.
And make it clear the city leadership genuinely want to clean up any messes they can expose.

We can't have elected official enabling cover ups.

PDC Mole,

There are very easy ways to distribute anything you have to shine light on without your identity being exposed.

Want some help?

'We can't have elected official enabling cover ups.'

I agree completely. But ,in my opinion, based on my experience, we have elected officials, judges and the press enabling cover-ups. I think it is due to a combination of factors: shunning and smear campaigns aimed at whistleblowers, somewhat specialized subject matter, and too many of our watchdogs succumbing to intimidation and flattery.

Not to mention the groupies who show up on blogs defending every smelly agency and all they do.

Some of them from agency computers.

I had a time management instructor years ago that said "Rightous Indignaiton" was the biggest time waster in society, it took emotion and accomplished nothing.

Steve has all the facts and figures and continuously publishes them in this and other blogs, but to what end. The TIF boys were reelected, Cynthia is right, the network that can ruin a person's career in this town is fully entrenched.

Just look at your TRAM examples, You have a planner on both the City and Homer Williams payroll, AT THE SAME TIME. You have an ex-City Engineer who was making at best $50/hr go to being a Consultant billing $150/hr, lying to council about costs, in a consulting firm half owned by Homer Williams, ie on Homer Williams payroll. Blessing this fiasco. WHAT Legal remedies are happening here. Has anyone brought action to recover these funds.

No you have the FBI trying to pick-up a city attorney at the gym, and handily reelect Saltzman whose old money benefits personally on the Lovejoy development from tax abatements like he has facilitated for the rest of his cronies Jack referes to as the West Hills Mafia, laughing all the way to the bank, with the Oregonian championing their "Man of Steel".

If Steve and others want to put the money up to go after these guys legally, you have a lot of work to do, before you ask men to risk thier and thier family's well being to whistleblow and go through the hell that ensues.

If you all get the ball rolling people will come forward, but until you can educate the sheep, have supportive press, revive institutional watchdogs, and law inforcement, you are only asking them to be sacrificial lambs.

I don't disagree with you.

However, Commissioner Sam and a few others continually present their efforts as genuinely working to bring bring about more open government through the answers and accountability which arer sorely missing.

People need to call Sam and others on the carpet and demand they walk the walk by demanding, getting and releasing the full agency disclosures he says he is after.

If it takes legal and/or law enforcement intervention it should be our elected officials doing so. Not the citizenry.
Especially when Sam and others appear to cast themselves as being committed to this very thing.

One of my last exchanges with Sam had him responding that he had requested some basic information [I asked about] from the PDC two months ago.

People need to demand the electeds put some force behind their efforts as well as for them to encouorage and assist any whistle blowers.

And of course for them to do so sooner rather than later.

The excuses from the agencies have become laughable and completely unacceptable.

If the electeds do nothing then they are equally laughable and unacceptable.

Another factor is that lots of local lawyers don't feel safe touching the West Hills Mafia stuff. One can hardly blame them, although Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith's book, "No Contest" on the corporate perversion of the justice system, refers to the dual duties of lawyers (and other professionals) to their clients and to their profession and communities. Instead of confronting this stuff, too many lawyers are seeking to climb/benefit from it.

Steve S: "There are very easy ways to distribute anything you have to shine light on without your identity being exposed. Want some help?"

I think we are ok on that one. Computers are wonderful things. You see, I'm not the only fed up employee at PDC, and without any kind of internal controls on information there it is pretty easy to find some interesting memos, etc. Plus stuff like contracts are open for any staff to look at. Remember last year when all that contracting stuff came out in the paper? Well, it was staff (wasn't me though) that were faxing and e-mailing documents like crazy to the O and Willy Week. I'm certain if things don't start improving at PDC than it will continue.

Also, Cynthia. Sotty about your career woes. Me, I've actually never had a problem at PDC. But caveat, I, along with many others at PDC, have complained through the normal channels, filled out the employee surveys, given feedback when asked, gone to HR, told higher ups our concerns, have gone to the Mayor and Council and we continued to be ignored. There are some very real and serious problems at PDC. Bruce Warner is not making them better. It would be awesome to raise a big open stink, but I've seen others at PDC do it and well, they aren't working there anymore either by their own choice or by getting muscled out. I'm not going that route.

It's difficult to know what to do about this stuff. Sam Smith, author of "The Great American Political Repair Manual" says citizens should focus on the corruptors rather than the corrupted. I am not sure; it seems like those with a fiduciary duty have an obligation to keep themselves clean. But given the tendency toward corruption, or at least stagnation, that seems to exist in most institutions, maybe focusing on corrupting influences (like some developers and their lawyers) can help the public and the press to see things more clearly , and therefore, perform its watchdog role more carefully. People in the press seem to have such strong institutional-and personal- loyalties that they are very hesitant to touch abuse of power issues. I think the blogoshere HAS helped with some of these.

It is interesting how the "normal channels" don't seem to work in Oregon. For a long time there has been no forum for discussing the issues here, so I believe that developing a rhethoric for reform on the blogs is part of the solution-at least a step toward the solution- to the problem of entrenched interests blocking the channels.

And if there really is a great big stink out there, it's better to let the public get a whiff and to remove the source than to just spray air freshener. The blogs are like fresh air. They may help more than we realize.

It's been awhile since I've opened this string.

It is refreshing to find comments as to HOW to go about making some changes.

Before you formalize any whistle-blowing comments I suggest you check out the law on this subject. It's very helpful.

I refer you to:

31 USC 3729-3733

May the source be with you.

Wow,this is quite a blog. I am sorry to see so many good people's names put through the ringer. I will not speak for others but only myself as a proud PDC employee. I don't believe we all need ethics or diversity training (which seem to be a big focus right now). My feeling about disgruntled employees is that there are people in management positions who simply do not have the people skills to managed people. They are great at what they do in terms of their specialty, be it real estate, economics, planning, or whatever, but really managing and motivating staff is something quite different. But management of staff comes with a higher salary so it is a goal for many staff and quite frankly some applicants talk a good game.

I know that many of us are looking outside of PDC for work because we are not feeling really good and are losing hope fast. I believe that Bruce Warner and other new executive managers will take action to correct things (unfortunately, change takes time) and the Mayor is paying attention. It is hard to believe in an organization when I am always hearing a few of our City Councilors bash PDC - but of course there is a lot of money at stake (so what's the big deal if employees suffer while they grapple for the control of gold). I just want to say that if we are going to work things out there needs to be a lot more respect and less bashing and focus on the job at hand and serve the community and its citizens. I think everyone is getting a little weary of the stone throwing (it all seems so primitive and the public deserves better), quite frankly, innocent people are being crushed under the weight of it all.

Bruce and his people are not everything that everybody had hoped for. His personal skills and that of his close managers have done more to destroy moral than anyone in the past, including Mazziotti. Projects and money are really important for the betterment of Portland citizens, however, pretty soon there will be no one left who can handle these projects while working under the current management.

It's very sad that excellant, qualified people (yes, they're there) are getting hurt and leaving because of internal problems.

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