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Thursday, September 7, 2006

And the beat goes on

They don't even bother to lie about it any more. The City of Portland admits that it's paying Homer Williams $3 million for development rights that its own appraisers say are worth only $1.5 million.

"We were in a hurry. We took Homer's appraisers' word on the value."


You bought real estate with taxpayer dollars, and took the seller's word for its value?

In any sane organization, that kind of thing would cost somebody their job. But not when you're talking about Portland city government.

Comments (33)

Bog: In any sane organization, that kind of thing would cost somebody their job. But not when you're talking about Portland city government.
JK: In a sane world, this whole area would have been developed without any city money. That is what the original owners wanted to do years ago but they were stopped by that IDIOT from New York (our ex- mayor.) So we get traffic congestion, air pollution, visual pollution and almost a BILLION DOLLAR bill.

And the really sick part is that if that mayor’s election were re-run today, I’d still vote for Vera over her opponent, the Bloomin idiot who would have done even worse things to us.

Where’s the FBI when you need them.


The problem isn't Homer Williams. Or the Portland City Council. Or a dysfunctional city government.

The problem is more systemic than that.

We've set up the rules of the game so that every standing commissioner has taken money (a.k.a. "campaign contributions") from the same guy they can give away bennies to. This is how the system works. (And, let's face it, not just in Portland...but where doesn't the taint of money infect our political world?)

"Voter-owned elections" was gonna change this...right? Didn't work out, though, like some folks thought. (Or as the cynics among us --including me-- knew it couldn't.)

We need a different paradigm.

When we go under the knife for an operation, we don't expect that the surgeon is operating under any rules but getting the job done with the highest level of professional expertise. No "politics" here.

We need a professional civil service, running the city, that can do the same.

Thus the name change to . . . Porkland.

Let's see, $126M = 630 $200K houses for free. Or is it 500 (I think) jobs cost $252K apiece?

Homer, Gerding/Edlen et alia are further up the City Council's posterior than any proctologist has ever gone.

It's only money when it's not your own.

Here is the appraiser's catch-22: If it was a valid arm's length transaction then they merely need to update their appraisal to reflect the value as measured by the so-called free-market. The alternative proposition is that our former chief law officer has joined the crowd that ought to be making very short steps in jump suits.

A hybrid beast -- Michael Aguirre and Arthur Levitt -- might have this to say.

As to the local-only politics, does Sten have a chip on his shoulder or what? Is that a crack in the seam that can be exploited?

Frank, I want a reappraisal of property county-wide -- with a corresponding downward movement of bonding limits.

Adams suggested the city look for more independent reviews to make sure they don't overpay when it's unnecessary.

Hmmmn..when is it necessary to overpay??

I agree with Frank that the problems are systemic and political. Planners aren't engaged in professional planning, they are playing politics instead. In yesterday's O, there is a citizen opinion piece on youth gatherings that mourn the loss of African American community is NE Portland resulting from gentrification. I doubt any of the PSU crowd finds this heartening. And displacement of established residents is happening all over the region: development pressure is forcing manufactured home parks in Beaverton, Wilsonville, Tualatin, West Linn,to name a few places, to close. Elderly and disabled people are being forced out of their homes. Real planning would have anticipated these problems. Politiking with developers doesn't. I doubt anyone at PSU is really proud of this.

National model? The citizen piece in yesterday's O cites an interesting statistic from the Washington Post, that Portland, already the whitest major city in America, is becoming even whiter. With all our hype about diversity. I think a cogent argument can be made that we are a national disgrace.

Funny how this happened AFTER the city admittied they were asleep at the switch on the tram and promised to keep a better eye on Homer.

Maybe they thought Matt Brown would be their eyes and ears when he went to work for our favorite developer.

We went from Matt Brown to Larry Brown. It's all brown...

When we go under the knife for an operation, we don't expect that the surgeon is operating under any rules but getting the job done with the highest level of professional expertise.

Well, unless you are at OHSU...

We went from Matt Brown to Larry Brown. It's all brown...

smells "brown" at any rate...

I believe some of the problems are with city staff, particularily with PDC on these recent appraisal examples just within the North Macadam URA. Block 39 where Homer will sell to the city (taxpayers) for $5.5M after he bought the block for $1.5M a year ago was executed without an appraisel in the earlier negotiations. Then we have Block 33 where OHSU gets $3M from the city (taxpayers) for future air rights for housing above a super parking garage with a screwy appraisal, and after the intial price negotiations. Who is negotiating for the city, these are give-aways?

But the "fuduciary irrsponsibility" is being continued by yesterdays city council vote where Potter, Saltzman and Adams voted for Amendment 8 after discussions of these so-called appraisals, and critical, exploratory questions/remarks by Leonard and Sten and their no votes.

I think bogus appraisals and done deals are just do much a part of protocol in these parts that Potter,Big Pipe and Sam the Tram are just following local custom. We should be glad Sten and Leonard are asking questions and start demanding more from the others as well.
The majority is building on good ole boy tradition going back to territorial days.

It should be: ..are just so much a part of protocol in these parts...

Cynthia wrote: "National model? The citizen piece in yesterday's O cites an interesting statistic from the Washington Post, that Portland, already the whitest major city in America, is becoming even whiter. With all our hype about diversity. I think a cogent argument can be made that we are a national disgrace."

Dr. Martin Luther King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I prefer to ponder the wisdom of Dr. King's message than tally up my neighbors by skin color. How 'bout you?


My point is your point:

We don't drive out our neighbors who can't afford to stay in their neigborhood regardless of race, age or disability.

Cynthia wrote: With all our hype about diversity. I think a cogent argument can be made that we are a national disgrace.

I read that Op-Ed piece - I thought it was satire. I mean, the writer (lilly white)is from some hippy-dippy "Enterbeing spiritual cooperative" that is itself part of the colonialization of NE Alberta. Then I got it: she's putting the hair shirt on. Her penance is required, in a nutshell, because many black kids are out of control in NE Portland after being displaced through wholesale immigration of whites into their neighborhood. According to the writer, we owe them a "debt of gratitude" for their anti-social behavior; they evidently are trying to tell us something, but are communication-challenged, like autistic children. God, the last thing those kids need is to have their self-destructive life-styles validated by this kind of liberal, self-righteous freakery. Portland's black community is beset by the same crippling problem much of American black America: black culture is polluted and impoverished. Don't take my word for it: read Juan William's new book; look at Bobby Hebert's archive of Op-Ed pieces in the NYT.

Frank, I want a reappraisal of property county-wide

I totally agree, Ron. As important as property taxes are for funding important (OK, and some not so important) government's become a total crap shoot whether one is treated "fairly" or not. Assessed values no longer have any relationship to reality.

Maybe you are right, NWR. I'll check out those sources. Nonetheless, Portland Planning isn't addressing the impacts of gentrification, and that is part of its job.

I don't see what the problem is. Sometimes the city pays $3 million for property that is only worth $1.5 million. Other times the city sells property for $1.5 million that is worth $3 million. It all balances out in the end.


Jerry is correct about assigned staff not having the skill sets to negotiate themselves out of a paper bag, but I believe that is by intent. There are some sharp people at the city, many of them married to, partners of, or related to movers and shakers from the Arlington Club, some imported specificly because they have shakey professional backgrounds and they or thier cronies or patrons benfit from these decisions. If someone as Frank describes actually does get hired, they don't last very long if they have any professional ethics. They either decide to go with the flow to survive and prosper, or get forced out.

No kudos for Erik for calling out OHSU and Homer on this one, except from Cynthia? I was at the hearing a few months ago. Randy via phone from vacation and Erik in Council chambers were both awesome - gave objective and passionate reasons, with details, against the scheme. And the other three voted to support the scam regardless.

Amanda, I believe I gave credit to Leonard and Sten in my post above. We just need to add another "critical thinker" to the Council. To bad it wasn't you and Lister.

It's nice that Sten votes no in "garbage time," when there are already 3 obviously yes votes.

Maybe the SoWhat guys double-crossed him at some point -- that's a pretty big crowd, I suspect.

This whole mess started, and got well down the track, under Opie's watch. It will take many years of corrective votes before he gets kudos on urban renewal. It's a horrible hash, and he has been, until now, one of the executive chefs.

If someone as Frank describes actually does get hired, they don't last very long if they have any professional ethics. They either decide to go with the flow to survive and prosper, or get forced out.

Speaking as a citizen who also happens to be a city employee --and a lifer, 26 yrs plus, at that...I have to strongly disagree. (Understand, too, I'm speaking AS a citizen, NOT as city representative.)

Fact is, in my career, I've had my ups and downs, had my clashes with the politicos...but, y'know, the city's got GREAT employees. And, yeah, sometimes we "go with the flow" I guess...but what employee doesn't? We've this weird form of government where elected officials are the top MANAGERS...and their power is near absolute. This is why I argue for more independence for the professionals...who need more freedom from political posturing to just do their jobs without fear or favor.

I think the city pays a lot of attention to "ethics." We have an ombudsman (though, ironically, the electeds aren't subject to his pervue). We also, though, have silos...where electeds keep their noses out of each others business and so weird stuff happens below the radar screen.

I'd rather see a City Council making policy decisions and leaving the day-to-day business to the front-line folks who know how to do their jobs.

Jack, you are right, Sten has been behind the 8 ball on Urban Renewal, but maybe he is seeing the light. But it was an easy "no" vote for him because the fix was in on the Amendment 8 vote. Saltzman and Potter didn't even comment on their yes votes.

The media and bloggers need to start/keep asking the critical questions; and on many subjects because the corruption/scams exist elsewhere beside North Macadam.

the corruption/scams exist elsewhere beside North Macadam

Transit Oriented Development.

Is it about "transit"...or "development?"

Oh, I know, we've got twelve bazillion people moving to the region in the next five minutes so we HAVE to pass out tax abatements like Halloween candy...

But, like someone once said..."follow the money".

So Frank, what's this all about? If the city loves its competent employees.

"Fighting City Hall

BY JANINE ROBBEN | jrobben at
[March 30th, 2005] Longtime city employee Frank Dufay may be out of a job soon, but he's not leaving without a fight to reverse an earlier two-week suspension from his City Hall boss.

The suspension came after Dufay, one of Portland's City Employees of the Year in 1998, provided information on liens cases to one of City Commissioner Randy Leonard's opponents in the May 2004 primary.

Dufay insisted he was simply fulfilling a public-records request, but Leonard complained to Dufay's boss, City Auditor Gary Blackmer. Dufay was then suspended, without pay, for workplace political activity.

Dufay used a hearing Monday before the city Civil Service Board to argue also that Leonard was giving away the store on collections when money was tight (see "The Lien King," WW, Jan. 19, 2005).

"I received a two-week suspension without pay for doing what I believe to be my job," Dufay told the board, which is expected to rule April 7 on the validity of the suspension. "Despite the things I like about [Leonard], he's pretty rough on people, and I believe he's been pretty rough on me."

So Frank, what's this all about? If the city loves its competent employees.

Well, let's see. I won my civil service appeal, got my two weeks pay back...and, in the course of the whole thing, got a lot of support from fellow city workers. And I'm still working for the city, in a much healthier and supportive environment.

I didn't say the city "loves" its competent employees. I said the city's GOT great employees. Our system of government doesn't always make it easy, though, for them to do their jobs with professionalism and free from political pressures. Just as the need for campaign contributions puts pressure on politicians. It's a tough system to work in all around.

It's not as though the roadmap is clear-cut as to how best to serve the public, whose needs --and desires-- are all over the map. Or that we all agree on desired outcomes. We don't.

I think it's a lot about dialogue and respecting other opinions, even strong ones. But as for city employees, it's about doing the best job you can because, yeah, we do in the main recognize it is a privilige to serve the public, and we try to do our best.

Frank you were lucky that they came strait at you, so you could have Civil Service Protection, the far more common method to get rid of troublesome employees that ask too many questions or don't play along, is to find thier position has been eliminated in the next budget cycle. This has happened to several people I know at the City and County, and scared many of them into adopting the old Hogan's Hero's Sergant Schultz approach to surviving the bureacracy.

I do agree there are many good and honest people at the city. I would actually say one on one it is the majority in my interactions getting help navigating the bureaucacy to get permits and other permissions to carry on business, but I don't know how many times an employee has lowered thier voice or closed the door before cluing me in to what the was happening.

What I find particularly disheartening is these people that do want to help or "do thier job" as you did disclosing public records when asked, seem to be the first to disappear in reorganizations and budget cuts and are not there when I go back to ask for help again.

I think all council members-and advisors- got a little too stary-eyed over visions of Smart Growth, some more than others.

That's starry-eyed.

"I think it's a lot about dialogue and respecting other opinions, even strong ones. But as for city employees, it's about doing the best job you can because, yeah, we do in the main recognize it is a privilige to serve the public, and we try to do our best. "

I agree. And/But I don't really understand the attacks on "strong opinions". The other night a guy accused me of having a strong opinion because I dont see Bob Sallinger of local Audobon-or any human-as a god whose word views cannot be questioned. This kind of thing frustrates (and amuses)me because actually I can be quite ambivalent. Even on the issue of coyotes eating cats. I think what I actually was doing/sometimes do, is point on inconsistencies/hypocricies of people held up as heroes. I try to add other angles to the debate-like the fact that Sallinger blames cats for killing songbirds when we both know the deeper issue is over-development, same with coyotes. And that he is being used as a "hip and cool" front by an animal use group that enacted a cat-confinement law. I think the people who aren't tolerated very well among the "progresive" crowd are those like to get all the facts on the table before drawing battle lines. It seems to me that the "strong opinion" stuff is actually kind of an ad hominem attack on people who are bringing a message that some in power want to suppress.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference And the beat goes on:

» $3 million for Homer might be a good deal, after all from Isaac Laquedem
I was prepared to be offended at the City of Portland paying $3 million for development rights that its appraiser now says are worth only $1.5 million (see the Oregonian's story here, and Jack Bog's post and readers' comments on [Read More]


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