Randy gets religion
One of the things we've learned in our years in the blogosphere is not to ask why Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard takes the positions he does. If you dare to suggest that politics enters into his calculations, the good commish himself will often jump into the conversation to say, How dare you question his reasons! "You don't know my motivations," he'll tell you. "You're insulting me."
The more I've thought about this line from the good fireman, the odder it seems. Is that what he's going to tell his constituents the next time he runs for re-election -- "You have no way of knowing what motivates me"? Either you're trying to please the people who vote for you, Randy, or you're the dumbest politician walking around Portland -- and we all know for a fact that the latter isn't true.
And so it is with Leonard's recent salvos against the Portland Development Commission. Now he's got the religion we've been preaching on this blog for around four years now. The PDC's footsie deals with the private developers who are cashing in on the city government's bizarre condo fetish look a little hokey. Paying millions for property, then suddenly discovering it's worthless and literally giving it away. Fireman Randy now says (with Opie and Sam the Tram nodding frantically in agreement) that that smells at least a little fishy, and it needs to be independently audited. No kidding, dude!
And hey, maybe the PDC shouldn't continue in its current status as a "quasi-independent" body, i.e., not really accountable to anyone. With a budget north of $200 million a year, perhaps it ought to be subject to much closer scrutiny from the City Council on an ongoing basis. Like a regular city bureau? Right on!
But where've you been, commissioner? And why the sudden, intense burst of activism? Especially now, with the new Potter PDC commissioners on board, the Convention Hotel scam temporarily on hold, and a recent commitment by the PDC bigwigs to better performance measurement? It's still a tangled web over there, but the general direction seems to be one of mild improvement. So why the sudden attack bursts from Randy and his City Council colleagues?
Now that's the question the good fireman won't answer, or even sit still for you to ask. But you have to notice that the turning up of the heat comes along just as we ponder the PDC's recent court victory over the local construction workers' unions. The unions wanted PDC-sponsored public-private "partnership" deals declared sufficiently "public" that they had to comply with the laws that set minimum "prevailing wage" pay scales for public projects. A judge in Multnomah County court rejected that proposition, and so the developers who get PDC pork can still say they're "private" and not comply with those laws.
Funny thing, but that's right about the point that Fireman Randy, a former firefighters' union chief, boiled over on the subject of PDC roguishness generally. Coincidence?
Do not get me wrong, people. I'm all for the unions. My dad was a Teamster his whole working life, and if he hadn't been, I wouldn't be where I am today, that's for sure. As Steve Earle puts it, "If you ever had a dangerous job, you'd know you need a union."
And like Fireman Randy, I'm down on the loosey-goosey status of the PDC -- they deserve all the scrutiny that he's proposing, and a whole lot more. But let's get right down to it. I suspect that when the PDC rolls over on the "prevailing wage" issue (and it's just a matter of time), things between that agency and the city commissioners will get all nicey-nicey again.
Speaking of the "prevailing wage" controversy, I was intrigued to see this announcement from the PDC after its meeting last week:
Finally, the board introduced a resolution authorizing the Executive Director to enter into an indemnity agreement with the owner on the Assurety Northwest project, to cover construction cost increases attributable to the application of prevailing wage law up to five percent of the $2.735 million construction contract.Does this action (apparently not on the meeting's official agenda) mean that the contractor out in Lents is going to be bound by the "prevailing wage" law? And that it will continue to pay illegally low wages, but that the PDC -- namely we, the city taxpayers -- will pick up the difference?
"This resolution means the PDC Board is behind this project and committed to its success," said Commissioner Mark Rosenbaum. "This project is extremely important to the Lents community and represents renewal and jobs to this community."
Assurety Northwest has proposed to purchase a 77,000 sq. ft. site along SE Foster Blvd. in the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area (Lents URA) with the intent to build a new 30,000 sq. ft. commercial building. The site is currently empty and the project represents the first major new commercial investment in the Lents URA since the creation of the urban renewal area in 1998. The project would meet several economic development goals for the district beyond the construction investment including creating new construction and permanent jobs, and moving Assurety's 45 employees to Lents to help revitalize the Town Center area. The Assurety resolution was approved by a vote of 4-0.
Is that what Fireman Randy is driving at?
Just another crazy day in Portland city government, I guess.