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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 20, 2006 11:07 AM. The previous post in this blog was Question No. 3. The next post in this blog is It's this weekend. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Potter serves up some Kool Aid

"Fully realizing the potential of the North Macadam area in no way precludes or diminishes the work we are also doing to improve neighborhoods in Cully or Lents or anywhere else in Portland," Potter responded.

He adds that the greenway, parks and other public investments will benefit all Portlanders.

"Redeveloping this area helps reclaim our riverfront for everyone," Potter says.

And our local Pulitzer winner rattles it all back, fairly uncritically. Oh, he quotes some of the critics, but the final score is 75 SoWhat Good to 25 SoWhat Bad.

Especially galling is the assertion that the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] -- the biggest waste of money in Oregon history -- is now "irrelevant." Yeah, like Osama Bin Laden.

Hey, these guys think Opie is a genius, and so I guess I'm not surprised.

Comments (22)

"Redeveloping this area helps reclaim our riverfront for everyone," Potter says.

He forgot the last part of the script "...for everyone of my friends who can profit from this BILLION DOLLAR mistake."

Now let me get this straight...
A. The Aerial Tram is for a few physicians and OHSU employes at at cost of over $52 million.

B. Homer Williams receives $5M for housing block (49) after paying only $1.2M for the same block over a year ago. (Where were our astute Mayor, Commissioners and planners when that deal was sealed?)

C. Homer Williams receives $3 million for the rights to build housing above the OHSU parking garage before the city determines the appraisal of that same block comes in it at $1.5 million. (Need we say... RECALL Potter, Opie and everyone else, then fire a bunch on City Planning?)

D. We find out that SoWhat is short another $170 million, which adds up to an additional $309 from every man, woman, and child in town.

I'm just glad that Mayor Potter doesn't want to "Reclaim any more of Portland" I can't afford it. I've got to keep food on my kid's plate... "Sorry, daughter. I can't afford food, but would you like to take a ride on the new tram? Invite a few friends and we can make it a girls day out."

Wait, the tram is irrelevant? What about the vital linchpin part? Maybe this has been a new bio-research project after all. We've been studying how much BS a group of city-business partners can shovel.

Sorry, once he quoted Mark Gardiner (who along with Glickman's boy, got Vera to bankroll PGE Park for $35M) as an expert, he just lost all credibility in my book.

We can always re-name Opie as Super Dupey!

this part is precious:

"To obtain what amounted to very valuable air rights, Williams agreed to make the footprints of his buildings smaller. Then last year, realizing he'd surrendered too much, he persuaded the council to let him increase the footprint."

ummm.. meaning he swindled everyone?

oh and, carol, its not $309 per person, its probably something like an allocation of $10 a year for 20 years per person.

George: since the amount of money is inconsequential, would you persuade our City Elders to devote that same amount to improving all the sand & gravel streets in our neighborhoods.

Why should the luxury condo owners get all the new transportation investment, while the rest of Portland is littered with lousy secondary streets?

If not, would you mind sending your families contributions my way, instead. Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

once he quoted Mark Gardiner (who along with Glickman's boy, got Vera to bankroll PGE Park for $35M) as an expert, he just lost all credibility in my book.

Mark's a bright guy, though an odd choice to be someone quoted on this.

What's funny about the Civic Stadium debacle is we got upset when the insiders were gonna make a windfall...then got upset when the whole thing fell apart and people lost their shirts. Deals, plans and schemes go south all the time in the private sector...why should we be surprised they sometimes blow up in the public sector as well? The Park's certainly a more valuable asset these days.

Why should the luxury condo owners get all the new transportation investment, while the rest of Portland is littered with lousy secondary streets?

That is fundamentally the question, as much as I generally disagree with the person who posed the question. There's an equity issue here --all the other stuff aside-- that's very troubling.

"What's funny about the Civic Stadium debacle is we got upset when the insiders were gonna make a windfall...then got upset when the whole thing fell apart and people lost their shirts."

Explain to me how Gardiner lost his shirt. He didn't lose credibility since PERS hired him on the board.

Gardiner/Glickman had not a clue about how to run a baseball team/stadium. They just kissed up to Vera, she shoved thru $35M to update CIvic Stadium (which, surprise, would not be good enough when she thought they could get a pro team.)

Then stuff went south (actually never went north)and unless I am mistaken, I (as a taxpayer) am paying for this and Mr Gardiner is at a new job. Don't confuse bright with ethical.

Explain to me how Gardiner lost his shirt.

I'm no expert on the wheeling and dealing on this, and can't explain or substantiate how any individual won or lost, or how much. My recollection is a number of investors lost a lot of money. But that's as concrete as I can get.

He didn't lose credibility since PERS hired him on the board.

Like I said Mark's really bright. As is his wife, Mary Nolan, who's also in the legislature. I'd sooner see Mark on the PERS board then, oh, I don't know...George Bush?

But Mark's also a partner with Homer Williams, I've heard, on some high tech start-up...something Willamette Week didn't catch.

I guess I only wanted to suggest that we're pretty critical --as we should be-- but it seems like 9 out of 10 "big projects" --and, yeah, ballparks-- never seem to play out as proposed and envisioned. Cost over-runs and bad decision making plague even the likes of Paul what's-his-face.

George, you can pick any word you want-"swindled", "lobbied", "call in your chits", etc., but Homer and other developers "convinced" the City Council to throw out the four Standards that somewhat modified the so-called "pinpoint towers" so that there was a token of permeability in North Macadam. The floor plate of each floor for buildings was limited to 10,000 sq.ft.-it was increased to 12,500 sq.ft.-a 25% increase. The distance between buildings of 200 ft. was scrapped. You get the picture. And don't forget that FAR density was increased SIX times in rezoning the previous years.

So besides getting 325ft high buildings, the massing, density was increased by 25%. This is after 10 years of planning, City Councils NM Plan adoption in 2001, then a year later the Council changes the rules again. What do you call it?

Also, as posted elsewhere your $10 dollars per year for 20 years is totally false, for the taxpayers cost for NM. The taxpayers costs are approaching $1.5BILLION. You seem to be forgetting many things, besides the debt costs for the borrowing required for an Urban Renewal area.

I hope you don't assume when you buy a car on credit that the agreed sale price of the car at $25,000 is the price you actually pay for the car. If you extended your car payments out over 20 years (minimum UR length for NM, and probably will be extended because the TIF income is not matching that projected) your car cost is not $25,000, but maybe $125,000 depending on your interest rate.

One thing that Nigel did not make too clear in his article is that some of his cost numbers were only for the Central District of the whole North Macadam Urban Renewal area. There are three areas to the district. The central area is about one-third of the whole developable area in the District. The whole district budget for the identified projects is almost $300M. Please see past post of additional cost consideration (tax dollars) that makes $1.5 BILLION realistic, and why $2,275.00 dollars per each person, including our children, for our subsidy to NM is feasible and not your $200 dollars.

It'd be nice if Portlanders could afford to live in Portland. Who buys these riverfront "luxury" condos? Do they even live here year round?

I think the weakest sentence in the article is about Homer Williams and the size of the buildings: "Then last year, realizing he'd surrendered too much, he persuaded the council to let him increase the footprint." Now, that could be 100% true. This man whose credentials had just been described - the towers in Los Angeles, the nose for opportunity - somehow could have gotten snookered by the Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill Neighborhood Association. Forgive me for being cynical, but it was reminiscent of the tram budget which was later called a guesstimate. That could have been true too, but sometimes developers and others submit numbers to get a project started, then return later with the real, revised numbers. Nigel could have written that Homer "claimed" that he only realized this later. Sure, it was a gigantic project for him, but maybe he only made a guesstimate about it the first time when he "surrendered too much". Maybe he was in a hurry, like one of the council's later excuses. But if Nigel had added the word "claimed" and it was, in fact, a deliberate strategy by a slick developer who knew the city council was on a string, well, then, the sentence would still be accurate. Instead, it reads like the developer's words are not to be questioned, which is way too trusting for a Pulitzer Prize winner.

"Cost over-runs and bad decision making plague even the likes of Paul what's-his-face."

OK, but I am saying government should be focused on basic services like potholes, parks and police. If Paul wants to blow his own money fine.

However, when Gardiner convinces Vera to shove this thing (and Civic Stadium is not the only venture like this) thru without voter approval or even City Council approval, then I think we need to say no.

Almost every time there is any speculative venture and if city money is involved, the city gets its butt kicked.

Moreover, if they blow taxpayer money, what's the penalty for Vera and Gardiner? A fate like Lay and Skilling? No - retirement and a good paying job.

It just drives me nuts when the city does not want to do the boring jobs running the city, but thinks they can play developer or financier, when they have no experience or training in either. This usually means we get stuck with higher taxes or starving basic services to pay for these bad ideas.

"I'd sooner see Mark on the PERS board then, oh, I don't know...George Bush?"

So, our only choice is Gardiner or Bush out of 300M people? How about someone who speaks for the taxpayers and actually has some real world finance experience and hasn't spent his life in the public sector.

Mark Gardiner is on the Oregon Investment Council, not the PERS Board.

let me address some of the strawman arguments here:

1. i never said that the total or partial amount of money for NM was of no consequence. or that the spending is properly prioritized. is there another george posting invisible comments?

2. i never claimed that my $10 per person allocation for 20 years represents the total cost of NM. (the $10 over 20 is probably a little under cause i didnt calculate interest into there, but i worked in some higher assumptions for other aspects. its hard to work in interest cause the $170 million will be spent over 20 years, if its all spent in the last minute of the last year for example, there will be no interest.)

i am just standing by that as a more accurate number for the specific $170 million transportation upgrades that bojack was talking about many posts ago. think of it as a stand in for the $309 cost per person number that was thrown around before. a number i have not seen defended by anyone.

the reason why i think this is important is that the discourse here seems a little clouded at times regarding govt spending. as in, some people refer to things they would buy if they could have their "$309" back. sorry, its not your money, it never was. and thats not even the right number!

to me the problem is a misallocation of funds, that the neighborhood could have been built slower. more simply. and they could have followed the rules. and probably worst of all, the deal was done in a way that concealed information from the public- which is harmful for democracy.

George, again you have your numbers wrong. The $170M plus that Adams admits is lacking for just the transportation improvements identified in NM's project list, is mostly outside of the $300M NM budget. You may want to review the PDC website and be more knowledgable about the real numbers for NM. And even then, since PDC has not been able to come up with a realistic spreadsheet for the proposed 5 year budget, that even its own NM URAC is demanding, it is difficult to get a grasp of the correct numbers.

Even many of the "stakeholders" on the URAC are upset about the lack of clarity of the 5 year budget, and not reflecting all the costs in the 20 year URA project list. If you examine the 5 year budget/project list from 2001 you'll discover that several transportation projects that were to be started/completed by 2006 are not even planned yet. And then on the proposed updated 2006 5 year budget, PDC didn't even list the costs or fund sources for the transportation projects. Plus, they even forgot the North Portal (RiverPlace) transportation project that could be $20M-oops.

I agree with you that a slower pace, and more simplicity would be desirable. Cities of 15,000 souls take time to digest, and time brings flavor to the built environment. Instant cities have generally never been very successful-look at all the other urban renewal examples throughout the US that proves this point, and even in Portland's first UR project-South Portland.

Having partially digested the long WW piece, I'm a little puzzled.

We all read that schools and hospitals are perennially in the red. Isn't OHSU fundamentally a school and a hospital?

The WW piece assigns nearly $50M of "investment" for SoWhat to OHSU. Where does that money come from? Is it money laundered from tuitions and medical fees?

Am I right in thinking, the OHSU board is the final authority on what OHSU involves itself in, including "investment" schemes, and that the board serves at the pleasure of the governor?

Potter is turning out to be worth every cent of that five dollar campaign donation. You get what you pay for.

Pretty f***ng disingenous to attempt to distill the entire SoWhat development into "greenway, parks, other public investment." Other public investment like $5 million dollar, 5,000 square-foot condos, health clubs for our medical overlords, zero biotech jobs, probably dozens of low-paying restaurant jobs, to which we will drive from our affordable housing units in Gresham.

And again, So What development "in no way precludes or diminishes the work we are also doing to improve neighborhoods in Cully or Lents or anywhere else in Portland." Yeah that is why there is so much going on up here north of Fremont and east of 33rd. We are getting so excited by all of the development, that the cops have to come up to calm us down with billy clubs and tasers. The other day, I saw some guys paving a patch of NE Skidmore, and couldn't believe it; but it turns out it was just the natural gas company covering up some of the work they had done.

So can the attempts to shroud your Tommany Hall antics in pseudo-socialist rhetoric. It is quite apparent whom is benefited by SoWa.

Even though the ball was rolling on this scam (or series thereof) many years ago, the 2004 council elections were a huge step forward for the Homer Williams welfare state.

Sam and Tom, you guys s*ck.

"George, again you have your numbers wrong. The $170M plus that Adams admits is lacking for just the transportation improvements identified in NM's project list, is mostly outside of the $300M NM budget. "

correct. and i am not sure how i communicated that i thought it was inside that budget. when i said " specific $170 million transportation upgrades" i was refering to the same thing that you are referring to.

anyway, glad that we agree elsewhere...

Did we read the same WW article? I hardly think it sounds "fairly uncritical." The developers don't exactly come off very well, and no one reading the article is going to think they're saints. Perhaps it wasn't critical enough for some of the fiercest critics here, but the article did seem to illuminate some of the biggist problems with the SW project - massive infusions of cash from the city based on dubious projections from developers - in pretty stark terms.

M., perhaps because you work for the State of Oregon, anything short of glowing praise of government waste seems like criticism to you.


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