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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rose City special

I'm working on some additional perspectives on aspects of the Portland city auditor's recent report on the performance of the Portland Development Commission, but I keep stopping on a passage that strikes me as the most telling comment in the entire document. In discussing the PDC's Economic Development Department, the auditor's staff notes:

The Department uses several strategies to accomplish their goals: business loans, technical assistance in working through City bureaucracy, networking opportunities, workforce assistance, and recruitment of new businesses.
"[T]echnical assistance in working through City bureaucracy" -- ain't that a beaut? That's Portland for you: We set up an impenetrable, command-and-control bureaucracy, so thick that there are seemingly 200 "planning" regulators in their own separate high-rise down by their spawning ground, Portland State. Then we hire a bunch of "economic development" bureaucrats at the PDC in their own building up in Old Town to help businesses get through the "planning" bureaucrats down on Fourth. (And hey, we run a streetcar to bounce the hapless merchants between the two.)

No wonder 19 percent of the city's property tax receipts is getting burned up by "urban renewal." Next we'll have a new agency that will provide "technical assistance in working through the PDC bureaucracy." You want a vision, Mayor? Cut out half of the Planning Bureau and half of the PDC, and spend the money on frivolous stuff like police officers, jail space, and street paving. Let's stop hiring more bureaucrats to help businesses cope with our other bureaucrats.

Comments (8)

Stop hiring bureaucrats? That's just crazy talk! You can't build personal empires without bureaucrats, and how can you possibly hold your head up among your city-planning peers if you don't have expensive gilded toys (the tram/rimshot) to point to with pride?

Jack: We set up an impenetrable, command-and-control bureaucracy, so thick that there are seemingly 200 "planning" regulators in their own separate high-rise down by their spawning ground, Portland State.
JK: But Jack, we have to have someone tell those awful citizens how many trees to plant and what size and how close together. We have to be sure that some uncaring merchant doesn't put in too many parking spaces. Don't forget that sides of buildings would become just a wasteland if we didn't specify what size to paint the business name. You wouldn't want stores to have big ugly signs would you?

And you have to carefully select paint color and building details to maintain a sense of place when you build the giant ugly crap that the planners mandate.

Of course every neighborhood must have its own planner. How else would you make all those skinny houses that are replacing every rose garden in town look nice? Not to mention building neighborhood support for 25mph speed limits on ALL Portland streets including main thoroughfares. We must have bus stops placed so that buses don't have to pull out of traffic. The fact that it incenses congestion serves people right if they are dumb enough to drive instead of using transit. (Some people just don't understand the master plan and actually use their horns when a bus stops in the middle of traffic.)

You have to carefully plan the removal of street parking to put in extra wide sidewalks everywhere and benches for the bums to snooze on. And it takes a lot of planning to squeeze in little public squares for dope deals. All part of making Portland more vibrant And you need to make the city vibrant for all the new creative class coming to town these days. They are going to create an urban paradise for all of use right here in Portland. We won't even need our cars any morea as we will walk or bike to the nearest Home Depot or to the secretly located Wal Marts (they are goint to put them undergrouond and you will enter through a secret door in the local Starbucks).

Jack, you just don't get it. How else would they force Portland to become more like Los Angeles?


God, Jim, that is so right on, I can't stand it... I've got milk coming out of my nose. I live essentially on Killingsworth, and God help me if I get behind the 72 coming or going. It stops every two blocks and the bulb-outs keep it from pulling in at most stops.

Don Smith: It stops every two blocks and the bulb-outs keep it from pulling in at most stops.
JK: That's why God gave us horns.


Jeesh this blog is ... priceless ! What a depression lifter . Sorry, Im thankful I only work here .

"Let's stop hiring more bureaucrats to help businesses to cope with our other bureaucrats".

And let's DEFINITELY stop hiring "coaches" to train people for jobs that they should already know how to do!!

"""And let's DEFINITELY stop hiring "coaches" to train people for jobs that they should already know how to do!!""

It is implausible that much more of that kind of cavalier activity is not widespread at the PDC and other agencies.

I'll wager the PDC cannot account for millions of dollars. That's why they have refused to provide basic documents that would detail how and where they spend the taxpayers money.

Too bad the city doesn't have an independently elected auditor.
No, really.

I would like to see just a fraction of the planners put to work really assessing present conditions in PDX rather than just trying to hawk their product in the neighborhoods. Something that has long worried me is land assembly methodology. Regionwide, I've seen enough of developers trying to pressure people off their land: premature tax foreclosure, phony meth labs, animal poisonings. Not pretty stuff. So that last summer, when in the hot real estate market of Lake Grove, an older rental triplex burned out, supposedly due to a match tossed in bark dust by a passer by, I had to wonder. Especially when the building was razed rather than rebuilt.

Back to Portland: I live in an area of SW that would make a very nice site for a big "affordable housing redevelopment complex", close to everything including a major arterial. Most houses are smaller and older. There are planning and drainage issues. There were serious road issues, until my neighbor hired a bootleg paver in 2001, only AFTER we went through the LID process in the late 90s and that Vera derailed using a phony single mother "poster child" who didn't want to pay her share of the costs. For years, redevelopment companies have been wanting to buy out homeowners. In the late 1980s a triplex burned to the ground. The land has stood vacant since then. That doesn't make sense, since there is a brisk rental market in the area. Now the smaller houses that go up for sale sell almost overnight, but a larger one has been on the market for a really long time, although the price is going down daily. And interestingly, the city has completed an LID, building street improvements and a side walk leading up to public stairs. I just wish the city would be HONEST with homeowners about its' plans and allow them truly fair market value for their properties. It isn't right that a middle man should be making the profit. People like my neighbor, a salt of the earth old timer, are the one's that really get hurt, even if it what the city is doing looks passable on paper. As for affordable housing, that can be a construction racket, too. Nick Fish is involved in that; he goes on about his Latino wife and his babies, but check out his personal background. He is from a wealthy, connected real estate and political family.

I was pleased to see that attendees at the recent planning summit agreed that fairness to all property owners was important to avoid backlashes to planning effots. Pay attention you planners; stop being so naive and blinded by dogma.

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