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Sunday, October 1, 2006

"Dirty money" is still talking

Now that we have taxpayer financing of Portland City Council races, the corrupting influence of big money is supposedly a thing of the past. (No, wait -- no one on the council admits that there was actual corruption in the past, but... er... well, having voters "own" the election process is the "progressive" thing to do.)

Anyway, there's no "clean money" system for local ballot measures -- no siree bob. And just take a look at who's bankrolling the campaign to place a Band-Aid on the massive hemorrhage called the city's police and fire retirement fund:

Williams & Dame Development (South Waterfront developer Homer Williams): $10,000
Russell Development Co. (Former PDC Chair John Russell): $10,000
City Center Parking (Parking magnate Greg Goodman): $5,000
Richard Alexander: $5,000
Oregon Steel Mills: $3,500
Peter Stott (ex-timber executive): $2,500
Friends of Randy Leonard: $2,000*
Wayne Kingsley (Portland Spirit fame): $1,000
R.B. Pamplin Corp. (Ross Island): $1,000
Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt: $1,000

* ... The union passed on donating to the FPDR campaign and instead sent Leonard $2,000 for his 2008 re-election. Leonard re-directed it to FPDR since that's what he hit them up for.

Nobody there who wants to curry favor with the the city commissioners, eh? Nobody who would want to help the incumbents posture around like they're doing something serious about the looming pension fund crunch. Just a bunch of selfless, civic-minded individuals.

Oh, well. We'll pass the Pension Band-Aid, and then everyone can go back to sleep while the city racks up more billions in unfunded debt to make sure our bluecoats are set for life -- starting with "old age," defined as around age 50. And I'm sure we won't forget these generous sponsors when the time comes for the council to wink at some more urban renewal budget lies.

Just look at that contributor list. If you don't think the Usual Suspects still have undue leverage over Portland City Hall, maybe you should run for state attorney general. (Via Ryan Frank at The O.)

Comments (19)

If your point is that the public financing of city council races isn't working, then I don't think this makes your point very effectively, Jack, for the obvious reason that the public funding provisions of the voter owned elections program don't apply to this sort of measure. And if that isn't the point you are trying to make, then what is the point?

The point is that Homer Williams owns your friends Sam Adams and Erik Sten.

I think it makes his point eloquently. The whole impetus for VoE was the removal of money from influencing politicians. As I and many others have noted, it then becomes a game of how contributors can get around VoE, still contribute to politicians and gain face time.

I mean of we have to give out a $1M to politicians who would run for the office anyways and Homer can still give $10K to Randy's favorite cause, then why VoE?

As far as the measure "fixing" FPDR, if passed it will still increase everyone's taxes for the next 30+ years. However, it does have the salutory effect of giving Randy an excuse to say he did something about it.


The game is this reform, and I use the word loosely is for two purposes,

1. Take a billion dollar unfunded liabiltiy off the books, by turning it into a tax obligation conveniently exempted from the measure 5 limits by the same legislation that exempted Urban Renewal. ie State Legislature run by Goldschmidt and with Fireman Randy.

2. Guess what that does, by identifying a NEW revenue stream it allows more PDC bonds for UR.

Why now you ask.

There was this little law that took effect a couple of years ago saying goverment had to follow new accounting standards and show these unfunded liablities on the balance sheet, after several municipalities teetered on or went bankrupt. If you read the City Financial statements, they now also have to list the all the depreciated or worn out infrastructure, which in any "sustainable" organization would have been repaired prior to building a $57 million TRAM.

Tim Grewe took abandoned ship the first day he was able to collect PERS, get a clue.

VOE also does nothing to limit "voluntary" contributions to a politicos pet project, favorite charity, or PAC.

Money is like water: it always seeks the path of least resistance.

VOEs sole effect is to protect all incumbents from any challenge.

No challenger can match an incumbent's name recognition city wide.

Limit the challenger and the incumbent to the same $ 150K in spending and the incubent wins ever time unless the incumbent has recently been caught in pedophilia. No way a challenger can grab the public attention or match the incumbent's name recognition city wide for a measely $ 150 K.

And in all instances, the challenger won't even be able to gain a pluralty in, much less carry, her home precinct.

Right Amanda?

Wayne Kingsley (donor) and his law firm Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt (donor) just won a decision from the Code Hearings Officer (dated Sep 29) that calls the city rules requiring an easement for trails --when development happens on the designated areas of the river: "unconsitutional on its face." This would be a disaster for the Parks Bureau --and us citizens-- still seeking trail connectivity for the 40-mile-loop et al.

Our neighborhood, where the proposed SK Northwest project is planned, is where the Springwater Trail fails to connect with the Esplanade without going through heavy truck and street traffic. Kingsley has fought the trail extension on his properties tooth and nail. We've strongly supported the Bureau of Development Services and Parks on this issue.

The irony is that the appeal of Kingsley et al was still denied, on small technical grounds unrelated to the big constitional issue. So it will be heading to LUBA, the state land use board that hears futher appeals...and we're counting on Saltzman --and the City-- to fight Schwabe Williamson (and Ball Janik...they were double-teaming) and Wayne Kingsley to defend the constitutionality of the City's rules that have given us our trail system.

I have to wonder when Ball Janik is going to make its contribution. Not that any of this has any impact whatsoever on anything the City will decide on this completely unrelated matter. Of course.

If I had the money to spare I'd give 101 bucks just to get my name on the list of supporters.

I have my reasons . . . one common pension scheme going forward for all future work. I trust that a court will honor the body of law more than a tactical political maneuver to split the baby, culling out new hires for special distinction as the sacrificial lamb.

The remedy upon complete termination will be reduction of benefits (earned prior to the effective date of reform) to a stream of annuity payments, to be paid in the future, for which there is no need to issue bonds and that cap the current present value calculation of the stream of future payments, recently set at about 1.6 billion.

An employee directed account does not inherently need to be placed with the OIC.

Run with it; but insist that the job be finished.

Ron, can you please put this into simple terms and summarize your point at the end? No understand.

Dirty money is one of the loudest voices in Oregon politics, imo. What are most intriguing are the sub rosa deals in high places. Steve Duin noted, yesterday, I think, that our AG prefers the role of advisor to that of adversary. Yeah, but it goes beyond that: the go-to guy for real estate fraud in that office was involved in perpetrating a land scam in SW Portland. And call me insane, stupid, a wild-a*ssed (glad to amuse you, Bill) conspiracy theorist or anything else, but this can be demonstrated. So I think what we are really looking at is top-down organized crime.

Another thing: Regarding the "usual suspects' and their government cheerleaders: WHY do people CONTINUE to believe those who are caught in lies time and time again? I think of the jury instruction that allows you to discount the testimony of someone who lies once.

We just don't seem to get it. My latest debacle with Multnomah County Animal Services illustrates this point. I was at the Troutdale shelter yesterday to report a rescue cat that escaped from a foster home, one that hates other cats, so would fare quite poorly in a place like that. In the intake area, I saw a white cat that reached out through the bars of the cage to me; it had been labelled "hissing", a death sentence, we know from passed experience. Today communicating with shelter personnel we are told the cat was "playfully hissing" and is very adoptable. We are also told it was owner released. A lie to attempt to prevent someone we know who lost a white cat from going out there? Probably, if the non-pet use crowd needs white cats.

We could change this-and other government agencies-if we would just STOP believing the lies and put on our critical thinking caps, ESPECIALLY the press.

past experience-or passed, I guess.

Lee, Think water-billing. Accident? Anomaly?

One cannot always conclude that those who are corrupt are also smart.

All current safety workers risk being treated for all their future work in identical fashion to the new hires, notwithstanding the charter amendment giving only the new hires the cruel shaft (comparatively).

Ron what do you think of this?
A local county jail was, and may still be, needlessly paying face value of inmate health care bills while all insurance companies, (county is self insuring) pay a discounted amount.


Translation: MultCo treats kittys worse than taxpayers.


I'm no stranger to cynicism: every time I hear George Bush speak I assume he's lying. But your title of "Dirty Money" for this blog assumes that the folks who donated to the FPDR campaign had something to gain.

I can't speak for the other donors, but in my case, believe it or not, my donation came from a conviction that this reform, on which I've worked, deserves to pass. I've never had any business dealings with the City; I've basically retired from the development business; I use my contributions to advance causes and individuals that I believe in.

So I'd ask you to think about suspending your cynicism, at least in this circumstance.

Mr. Tee,

They're skinning us all.

Suppose the underfunded amount is anticipated to grow from 1.6 billion to 8 billion. That represents 6.4 billion (discounted present value calculation of future annuity payments).

Would you, or the rest of the contributors, pony up a like amount so that the "new hires" can organize and obtain recognition as a distinct bargaining unit and then lay equal claim to that increase in "liability" of 6.4 billion that will be claimed by the old guard -- for there is not yet a single "new hire" to even raise a hand let alone bat an eye.

Suppose I were to insist that the discount rate used should be pegged much closer to US T-Bills rather than an actuarial experts chartist view of 8 percent returns in stocks and such. The underfunded amount could/should more than double. Note the bankruptcy petitions by air lines so as to purge themselves of pension obligations to the PBGC, and the significance of little matter of the assumed rates of returns; returns on the funds that would be handed from the air lines to the PBGC. The question being what size of fund to transfer.

Given a proper legislative and judicial environment, the one and only justification for the announcement of any underfunded amount (in a pay-as-you-go scheme) is in the event of city bankruptcy and the prioritization of PRIVATE claims against the city to a limited set of funds and the limits on the taxing authority. If I represented the reform's tier-one and tier-two folks in a federal bankruptcy proceeding I would be insisting just like the PBGC that the discount rate for future annuities should be based on conservative investments -- and thus that the 1.6 billion dollar amount is far too low as a final payout even for a totally terminated plan today (paralleling the definition for termination of private pension plans as spelled out in the USC and published regulations, like at the very instant that the insurer covers a single dime for any plan beneficiary).

The present value of the immediate burden/obligation is significantly understated; under the assumption that the city WILL GO BANKRUPT and then issue bonds (or pro-actively issue bonds under the threat of credit rating, bond coupon, games) for investment in things like Oregon Steel Mills, via the OIC. (Seeing that one contributor made me jump out of my seat like a rocket, given the stock transactions immediately preceding the change of the guard at the OIC.) Oops!

The thing about unsound pension plans, just like unsound banking practices, is they never last all that long. The "new hires" would get the shaft any which way the ball bounced; and their interests are contemporaneously aligned (post reform amendment) with the citizens who demand the services of safety workers prospectively.

Jack is too kind, if anything.

To verify my point you need only ask what the amount is the city would have to borrow to transfer to a private insurer to cover already earned annuity payments if 1) the city terminated any and all current and prospective role as a pension plan sponsor AND insurer 2) and did not participate in PERS or subject themselves to PERB/OIC in any way but let the workers individually voluntarily select their own private plan sponsor AND insurer; to accommodate the individual worker's desire to avail themselves of federal tax incentives to those individuals to save for their own retirement.

1.6 billion is the wrong number, by a country mile. So too any 8 billion dollar number that is floated.

Mr. Russell, I encourage you to quadruple your donation. It would be of great public service. Your motivation is wholly irrelevant to me. I wouldn't even object if you did it ceremonially (so the tax man doesn't call it income by me) with my name as the nominal contributor. I could even create a PAC and get the donation for re-transfer to the Dan's PAC. (Pac/West does stuff like this all the time.) I would even sign a contract, rather than offer a personal promise and a wink and a nod, requiring such specific retransfer from my PAC.

Mr. Russell,

Both you and Mr. Bush are Ivy League, and I am sure you both believe and were culturally imprinted with what was taught at Harvard and Yale when the privledged went thought the hallowed halls.

Networking and Connections, Leveraging debt or someone elses money, all the Business terms that are fancy ways of profitting of the system and growing wealth.

When you were heading PDC it spent as much promoting development as the General Fund did on basic services. There is something wrong with the picture, and that debt just like the liability of FPF&D will saddle the common folks residents of Portland for years to come.

When the Pearl and SoWA developers make the City spend General Fund dollars developing the infrastructure and then in the Pearl Tax Abate many of the buildings so that the maintenance of them has to be taken away from the taxpayers who are supporting public. In today's paper people have to pay a higher % of thier income for housing, and yet in the metro area wages have gone flat or declined. Has all PDC's investment helped the average Joe.

Will you answer Steve's question.

How much money is diverted from schools, public health, and public services from TIF every year and do it in a cash flow statement. How much money would have gone to stemming the road deperciation and schools if it hadn't been diverted.

Do you think the people of Portland would vote to have a TRAM or a Park in thier neighborhood.

The thing that was striking about the article in the Tribune a few weeks ago was that the CONDO Developers in BC as opposed to here paid for the infrastructure and parks in thier new Condo developements. "Every blade of grass". Things have just been done too greedily in this town. I don't think anyone would fault folks making a profit or a good ROI. But that isn't the way things have worked out here, and with the 3rd and Oak and SoWa land givaways lately it has just gotten ludicous.

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