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Monday, August 7, 2006

More SoWhat stinky cheese

The odor rising from the South Waterfront got a little stronger this morning -- more of the aroma left behind by Don "the Don" Mazziotti, recently departed godfather at the Portland Development Commission. He and an OHSU VP named Lois Davis reportedly hired Molly Bordonaro, Gordon Smith crony Dan Lavey, and their firm on a six-figure (eventually, seven-figure) no-bid contract to lobby Congress for pork for SoWhat -- even though the fix was already in for the federal money.

For a while, the PDC was forking over $10,000 of city taxpayer dollars to the lobbying firm, the Gallatin Group, every month, while the SoWhat developers and OHSU were paying three times that much. Over time, the story indicates, the PDC paid $170,000 of lobbying costs out of pocket (with another $60,000 apparently authorized but unspent), before shifting to an even more outrageous deal, whereby the city is paying a 50 percent "commission" to OHSU for supposed lobbying results. All the while, the congressional delegation is unanimous in the view that the project didn't really need to be lobbied -- and definitely not to the tune of $1.2 million.

Of course, the O story buries some of the most important stuff way down there. It turns out that the city may be using federal funds to pay for the aerial tram [rim shot] -- at least indirectly -- and that's not sitting well with Senator Wyden:

When [the city] backed out, the development commission agreed to repay OHSU if the lobbyists succeeded in landing federal cash. For every dollar the Gallatin Group attracted above $4.2 million in last year's transportation bill, the city will repay OHSU 50 cents, according to the deal the City Council approved in June 2004....

The transportation bill ended up with $11 million. Under the formula, the city reimbursed OHSU for half the money it attracted over $4.2 million, which means Portland owes the university $3.4 million. That's more than twice what the lobbying efforts cost the university through this spring. The university plans to spend the reimbursement on the rising cost of the aerial tram.

But news of that deal apparently was not shared with some Oregon lawmakers.

Wyden, for example, repeatedly denied requests to use federal money for the tram.

Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff, said: "If federal funds he helped obtain became part of a shell game to pay for the tram, Gallatin and OHSU should have disclosed the arrangement. We are going to get to the bottom of that question."

Good golly Miss Molly -- you mean OHSU, Homer Williams, and the Don snookered somebody for money for SoWhat and the tram? Jeepers, I can't believe it. Opie and Big Pipe would never have let that happen.

Speaking of sleaze, in a sidebar, we learn that part of what the lobbying firm was reportedly doing on the city's and OHSU's dime was political fundraising for local politicians!

The Gallatin Group reported five times in work summaries provided to the city of Portland that it had raised campaign money, hosted fundraisers or organized River Campus Investors' attendance at fundraisers....

[T]he Gallatin Group reported hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Smith where South Waterfront was discussed, according to Lavey's February 2004 report.

The Gallatin Group's fundraising extended to the city of Portland, too.

Also in February 2004, the firm reported raising money to support, among other politicians, mayoral candidate Jim Francesconi. Lavey wrote: "raised money in support of Sen. Smith, Sen. (Ron) Wyden, Congresswoman (Darlene) Hooley and Jim Francesconi on behalf of the RCI (River Campus Investors) team."

Wow. I guess we had public campaign financing even before Opie's little "clean money" clubhouse opened for business!

Nice investigative job by the O. Several years too late, of course, but quite interesting nonetheless.

Just remember, everybody: Everything's fine. City That Works. Brownfields to greenfields. Biotech. Nanotech. Smart growth. Eco-roofs. $635 a square foot. Affordable housing, maybe someday maybe. Kohler Coaster. Wine and cheese with Sharon Kitzhaber. The FBI has no business sniffing around our City Hall. Emilie Boyles -- bad! Canola oil -- good! Go by streetcar! (Illustration courtesy Portland Freelancer.)

Comments (1)

Thanks for using my tram illustration, Jack. Notice how they're in a giant money-burning lemon heading for a pie in the sky with an OHSU fountain on it. My confidence level is quite solid that the aerial tram story will continue to get sleazier. Before this is over the South Waterfront district could turn into the definitive Portland fiasco. I looked at the buildings the other day and was impressed at how their height gives residents such a nice view of a double-decker freeway bridge. Oh well, as usual, I hope for the best. My pick for the horror movie title? "The Tram that Ate Portland".

Posted by: Bill McDonald at August 7, 2006 07:18 AM

"Invasion of the Money Snatchers" could also work.

Posted by: Tom at August 7, 2006 07:51 AM

Remember, it's all good according to PDC head Bruce Warner.


"As the head of the Portland Development Commission, the agency implementing the Portland City Council's plan for the South Waterfront, let me set the record straight. Despite problems with one highly publicized feature of the district -- the tram -- the city's plan is moving precisely the way urban renewal is supposed to"

Posted by: Steve Schopp at August 7, 2006 08:47 AM

Bill, the game will not be fixed, or unfixed, until officers of the court get taken to the mat for feigning public liability far beyond what is reasonable or even rationally explainable. The tram games should be viewed as merely illustrative of a routine pattern. It is the use of the THREAT of liability to accomplished indirectly that which cannot be accomplished directly as against the Equal Privileges and Immunities clause; and other limitations designed to protect the public.

The years of litigation resulting from termination of the tram [rim shot] in February would have yielded court opinions that would have helped protect the public for years to come. It is not too late even today.

Think too of the multi-tier future for CoP safety workers for future work. Is there a THREAT of liability that compels the CoP voters to create a closed class (first tier) going forward?

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 7, 2006 09:08 AM

Are they riding in a lemon? Ha

Watch out Jack, the CoP Mafia thinks you're talking too much. They wants to make an example outta yous.

Posted by: Anthony at August 7, 2006 12:18 PM

The O will not do a timely job on any investigation where Team Goldschmidt is involved. It's kind of funny how they all pooh, pooh Fox News when it seems to me the O operates similarly: the word comes down from "on high"(In the case of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, in the case of the O, members of the "hip" Goldschmidt clique)-and everyone starts tap dancing. Well, maybe at the O with all its "diversity", some are tap dancing, some break dancing, some doing backflips. And there is a guy in the corner of the newsroom doing Dana Carvey style happy dancing singing: "I don't care what they may say, the Mafia is here to stay".

What I would like to know, is when the paper shines us on editorially, to what extent do the writers realize it? Todays editorial "In search of a fair trade on Mount Hood" is written by Rick Attig, one of the Pulitzer boys. It makes the "no brainer" point that the Cooper Spur exchange should not be viewed in isolation and the 1.7 million differential in land value may be made up by the non-monetary value of the land to be preserved. Well, DUH, Rick. Duhzerelli. The "land grab" part of the exchange is not about that at all. It is about the fact that the land appraised at 5.5 million (the higher of the two assembled parcels) may, in fact be worth nearly three times that much, giving the developers a HUGE windfall. Wake up, Rick. All of the "stakeholders" might be involved in a deal and the public at large can still be ripped off big time. The editorial really misses the point of Sunday's article.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 8, 2006 10:06 AM

Oh, I forgot: Boyles makes a valid point when she says that after the brouhaha Willamette Week started, she is virtually unemployable in Portland and cannot stay here if she hopes to pay the Cop back.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 8, 2006 10:09 AM

Oh, I forgot: Boyles makes a valid point when she says that after the brouhaha Willamette Week started, she is virtually unemployable in Portland and cannot stay here if she hopes to pay the Cop back.

I wouldnt be surprised if being "unemployable in Portland" is why she decided to steal from the taxpayers in the first place.

I think the whole thing was a planned theft from the beginning. She didnt have a chance of winning, and everyone knew it. Including her.

Posted by: Jon at August 8, 2006 01:23 PM

Thanks for using my tram illustration, Jack. Notice how they're in a giant money-burning lemon heading for a pie in the sky with an OHSU fountain on it.

Hey Bill...how about some T-shirts with that picture on them? Classic stuff!

Posted by: Jon at August 8, 2006 01:25 PM

"I think the whole thing was a planned theft from the beginning. She didnt have a chance of winning, and everyone knew it. Including her."

The thing about this, Jon, is that it is really impossible for us to judge her motive. I did encounter her years ago and believe what she says about herself is true: she is an advocate for the very poor, disabled to some extent, and naive.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 8, 2006 01:47 PM

Democratic tricle down economics, got the Republican blessing from cronies of Gordon Smith.
Westhills cover for taxpayer tricle down.

Democrats, in Portland anyway, don't lecture about Republican tricle down economics, at least R's use private money not taxpayer money.

Posted by: jim at August 8, 2006 06:28 PM

Correction: regarding the Mt Hood land swap, it is the 120 acres on the southern flank that may be worth 15 million, the Government Camp land. An even greater windfall for developers.

The phony appraisals make it appear that developers are getting the short end of the stick to "further the public interest". Blumenauer is famous for his involvement in these kinds of shenanigans. Anyone remember the proposed garbage dump in the NW hills? Wildwood, was it?

Posted by: Cynthia at August 9, 2006 10:19 AM

One more thing:

Why is everybody pushing for the Mt. Hood land swap to go through NOW, FAST? What ever happened to the good old legal stay. Enjoin the swap until the facts can be objectively ascertained. Just like with the tram (rim shot), you can get away with highway robbery in these parts if you just pick up the pace.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 9, 2006 10:38 AM


Posted by: Me-Hi at August 16, 2006 07:24 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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