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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, November 6, 2006

Damage control

Last week's flap over the secret talks about the proposed sale of parts of Portland's Mount Tabor Park to private interests has apparently shaken some of the rank and file employees at the Parks Bureau. The bureau chief, Zari Santner (paid $126,789 in 2005), reportedly sent this e-mail around on Wednesday evening:

Dear Colleagues,

I know many of you have concerns about the news coverage concerning Mt. Tabor Yard and the issues raised at the City Council meeting today. To keep us all on the same page, I want to provide some background, clarify some issues, and let you know what's next.

This afternoon, we presented to Council our Feasibility Study for Development of Service Zones Facilities (including City Nature.) The report includes a range of options - from simply addressing basic building, energy, health and safety code requirements to making system-wide improvements that will increase operational efficiency and expand our capacity to meet current and future demands.

Two of the options address all of our facilities, including the Central Maintenance Facility. One option looks at developing a new central maintenance facility at Mt. Tabor Yard. The other option looks at developing a new central facility elsewhere. Both options represent similar levels of investment.

I've outlined below today's request to Council and their Response.


Council approval of $650,000 to address our most critical health and safety code issues at three maintenance facilities: Gabriel Park, the Urban Forestry Barn, and the 136th Ave. facility.


Council was supportive of making this investment, but asked that we return next week with a resolution clarifying this request.


PP&R work with the Office of Management and Finance to develop a detailed funding and phasing strategy for the two options that include all of our facilities, including the Central Maintenance Facility, and bring back a final recommendation for Council's approval. PP&R and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement develop a public process to discuss the future of Mt. Tabor Yard and ask Council to approve that process before it is implemented in the early spring.


Council did not respond directly to these recommendations except to clearly state their belief that a public process is critical. At this time, no specific timeline has been established.

What about Warner Pacific College?

If PP&R eventually decides to relocate the central maintenance facility, Warner Pacific College has expressed interest in assessing the feasibility of purchasing Mt. Tabor Yard for development of sports fields if an agreement can be developed that would be beneficial to the college, PP&R, and the community. In a memorandum of understanding with the college, PP&R agreed to work with Warner Pacific to investigate whether such a proposal would be feasible for either party. At the same time, Warner Pacific agreed to work with the community to develop any proposal they would make to the City. PLEASE UNDERSTAND, PP&R HAS NO AGREEMENT WITH WARNER PACIFIC FOR SALE OR LEASE OF MT. TABOR YARD.

The process for public discussion regarding the future of Mt. Tabor Yard will take into consideration any proposal from Warner Pacific College if the college remains interested in the site.

This is a complex issue and at times you may hear conflicting information. If you have questions, or need to respond to citizen questions, please call Gay Greger at x35113.

Please know that providing safe and pleasant facilities for our staff remains one of my highest priorities. Many of you have been waiting a long time for improvements in your working conditions. Commissioner Saltzman and I remain committed to this goal. I'll keep you informed and involved as we move forward.


No mention of that "memo of understanding," signed last August, that called for the yard to be sold to Warner Pacific by Nov. 15. Also, no mention of the emerging Saltzman-Santner-Grimwade plan to privatize the parks and kick many of the recipients of the e-mail off the city payroll. I don't think they're "all on the same page" on that one at all.

Comments (22)

"This is a complex issue and at times you may hear conflicting information. "

What more does one need to know?

as long as staff is ensconced in their "safe and pleasant facilities

They don't do that over at the sewer bureau.

Regardless of anyone's individual opinion about Parks' management or concern over the specific issue of potential land sale at Mt. Tabor, I am concerned about some comments made that have a direct impact on the staff at Portland Parks & Recreation (i.e "as long as staff is ensconced in their 'safe and pleasant' facilities).

I worked for Parks & Rec for about two and a half years. While there I was continually impressed with the staff. I'm talking about the rank and file employees who get up every morning and do a great job at their work of lining ball fields, mowing lawns, teaching youth sports, and working in commmunity centers.

While it's fun to take pot shots at everyone a la the Oregonian link to city employees salaries, I take exception to the suggestion that these employees don't deserve to work in a safe (and yes, pleasant) facility. Employees at the Tabor facility have been working in unheated and leaky workspace for years. Do they "deserve" to work in those conditions simply because they work for the City? I don't think so.

Please be mindful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you have a beef with a project or process, we happen to have a wonderful parks system in Portland. Yes, we City employees do have a great benefits system, and some of the Parks staff staff earn their living picking up the dog poop that dog owners "forget" to pick up, they mentor children who come from homes where often there's not enough to eat, and they work hard to provide you with a beautiful experience at our many lovely gardens.

It ain't all bad at Parks & Rec.

Just the management.

I worked as an itern on a palm device project for parks a few years back. I worked out of their offices and believe me, it wasn't a high rise or "pleasant".

It was what you would expect from a parks dept. Lots of folks who work outdoors for a living most of the time and very blue-collar. Overpaid? I doubt it....


That's the sound that goes off here when people argue with comments that were never made.

No one said that anyone at the Parks Bureau was overpaid. Scroll up and look. No one said that!

One commenter sassed about the goal of providing a "pleasant" workplace, and I gave the bureau director's salary, as to which people can judge for themselves.

The point of this post is the management of the bureau and its facilities -- not the rank and file.

Plausible deniability?
You wouldn't have noted the salary if you didn't think it was noteworthy. Given that it's over $125,000, I doubt you think it's noteworthy because you think it's too low.


Actually, since we now have the 2005 salaries of all city workers easily accessible, I'm thinking about routinely posting the pay of all the city employees discussed here. Especially the managers who are wrecking things on behalf of the developer mafia...


I was responding to a comment sticking up for the many blue-collar workers in the bureau. No one has said anything negative about them here, at all.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,

Who says you can't take a joke.

As or that unheated and leaky workspace, let me guess, do some of the employees work...wait for it...outdoors??

I'll bet Zari doesn't worry too much about water damage to her memoranda of understanding.

Okay...Let's unlink two separate issues which have become intertwined...1) Upgrade parks maintenance facilities & 2) sell Tabor land that is currently home parks maintenance facility.

I have no problem with upgrading maintenance facilities...that should be an ongoing measure of facilities maintenance. What I wonder is why the Parks Department feels it is necessary to do some kind of "feasibility study"; I mean, did they wait until the structures are degrading so fast that they are "falling down around our workers" and "posing a danger to city employees"? Aren't such structures supposed to be upgraded (i.e., maintained) so that they don't come to such a pass? That's my understanding of usual procedures in building and structural maintenance... Why has this situation been allowed to come to this pass, anyway? Has there been fiduciary irresponsibility on the part of Parks managers?

My guess is yes.

Then, as for sale of the Mt. Tabor property....I suspect this got linked with upgrading Parks maintenance facilities when some dimbulb in Parks management thought "hey...if we sell this puppy to Warner Pacific, like they want, we might be able to afford newer maintenance facilities without having to starve our pet revenue-sucking, ill-conceived, ill-planned, poorly designed and mega-cost overrun new monuments to our o'erweaning stupidity and hubris."

Folks...Santner and her ilk should have been cleaned out of the Parks Bureau years ago. If Big Pipe hasn't got the stones to do it, then he needs to have his ass on the line.

I'll be happy to petition for his recall. Get me a petition form.

Godfry, Zari is a lady.

Lee, "Big Pipe" is Saltzman. Godfry refers to "Santner and her ilk." He gets it.

BTW -- "lady"? How Lionel Richie.

Sorry, thanks guys.

Just out of interest, does anyone here have access to Ms. Zari Santner's C.V.?

Where did she get the experience to pull down that kind of dough? I mean, she's earning more than the commissioners, right? So she should have some pretty impressive creds to show for it, huh?

Same for Mr. Grimwade. Did anybody at the city check with his previous employer before hiring him? It seems as though his previous employer is not all that happy with the decisions made during his tenure in charge of their "development". Indeed, it sounds as though they've spent the time he's been here in Portland TRYING TO UNDO WHAT HE DID there then. Those certainly don't sound like the kind of credentials I'd go looking for when hiring managers.

So... Who hired her? Who hired him? Where does the "buck stop"?

Mr. Saltzman?

So... Who hired her? Who hired him? Where does the "buck stop"?

Let's keep in mind that Commissioner Saltzman was not the Commissioner-in-charge not that long ago. Ex-Commisioner Francesconi had Parks (and now his law firm --and he in particular-- is representing Pacific Warner).

Ultimately it is the mayor who assigns bureau responsibilities. Commissioner Leonard could be in charge of Parks tomorrow, as could Commissioner Sten.

One of the weaknesses of our form of government is that you have a bureaucracy that contually sees turnover at the top, where different Commissioners always try to stamp their own view of the world. So the bureaucracy isn't free to express its own professional judgement on a lot of things...too much decision making becomes driven by politics.


"One of the weaknesses of our form of government is that you have a bureaucracy that contually sees turnover at the top,..."

What you categorize as a "weakness" could also be construed as a "strength". Lovely though it would be for the bureaucrats to sail along unhindered by the public inputs that the commissioners represent, I'm not so sure that's a good idea.

Your faith in the "professional judgement" of bureaucrats is, no doubt, based on personal experience and I can't debate the anecdotal evidence - but at least the commissioners and mayor stand for re-election every so often.

The whole "planning" culture is an (unfortunately for Portland and Oregon) example of "bureaucracy gone wild". And, unless I'm mistaken, Zari Santner would fall under your definition of a bureaucrat with "professional judgement".

I don't think our system is any weaker for the "Commissioners always try(ing) to stamp their own view of the world.. In the absence of the commissioners, that's a vacuum bureaucrats would fill just as readily.

Finally, bemoaning that the bureaucracy "...isn't free to express its own professional judgement on a lot of things..." is a familiar and disingenuous complaint. They're as free as any private employee to say whatever they want. They're (you're) also FAR less likely to lose their job for saying it.

Oh, and Frank,

I reiterate...

get some sleep.

Don't know about Ms. Santner, but Grimwad was a finalist for Parks Manager in the Couve in 2003. By '04 he was here, so I assume he did not get the WA job.

Heh...Thanks MiR. "Grimwad". I like that.

Vancouver probably checked into his past.

Either that, or they didn't have any park land they wanted to sell off. Or...feel that they have enough McDonald's in the Vancouver area that they wouldn't need to be adding more to the city parks.

I don't think our system is any weaker for the "Commissioners always try(ing) to stamp their own view of the world.. In the absence of the commissioners, that's a vacuum bureaucrats would fill just as readily.

There's a dynamic tension between the bureaucracy and the elected officials. When the bureaucrats have no protection, when positions are handed out as political patronage, you get worse corruption then we have. That's why Civil Service reform came about...to build a wall between the electeds and the people who are s'possed to carry out their jobs without political interference. Let the electeds make the rules and set the policies...let the bureaucrats carry them out without fear or favor.

Oh, and Frank,
I reiterate...
get some sleep.

Jeez...you sound like my wife. "Will you go to sleep already?" I'm going to have to start thinking of you as RickyNag.

No mention of that "memo of understanding," signed last August, that called for the yard to be sold to Warner Pacific by Nov. 15.

If I remember correctly, the "memo of understanding" was certainly not a deed to the Mt. Tabor Yard - only an agreement to keep talking about it.

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