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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Portland's parks are broke

Interesting story in the Trib today. The city's parks are crumbling, with no improvement in sight. No wonder Dan "Profiles in Courage" Saltzman is trying to sell them off. They're broke.

Just like the schools.

Just like the police bureau.

Just like the transportation department.

But hey! Streetcars!

Aerial tram, people! New York Times! Whee!

Shiny! Snazzy!

How about a convention center hotel? What, you don't want it? O.k., we'll do an end run with Metro!

Linchpins, baby! We're heading for bankruptcy, but boy, do we ever have linchpins!

Comments (26)

We disagree about fiscal bankruptcy, but agree on the City's moral bankruptcy.

See the latest General Fund financial outlook:


Note the "bottom line" section: a year-end balance of between $21 million and $43 million. This is a "free" one-time gift for the Council to spend however they'd like, and is in addition to the $20 million or so they found a couple of months ago. Council has the opportunity to make major progress on fixing the parks and the roads and other long-standing problems.

Or they can spend it on their wish lists.

I didn't like Francesconi's "focus on the City's core services" campaign, but as time goes by the wisdom of that sentiment becomes clearer.

How about the long-term debt figure? How's that look?

How about the billions unfunded for police and fire pension?

Bankruptcy, friend. Check it out.

I had to do a quick search but I thought I'd read recently that the parks constituted something like 10% of the city's general fund.

Yep, here it is: http://www.amandafritz.com/node/459

Does sarcasm work?

This is an honest question. I'm not being cute and would really like to know. My view of what's happening in Portland is so bad that I am anxious to move out. Washington county or Clackamas county are most likely. I want to be close so I can come back into the City for the good things, the people, without having to deal with a liberal--no radical--government.

So, is sarcasm a useful tool I should continue to use? Or is there a better way? I'm up to buying lunch if you'd like to talk in person about this.

Responding to Mile's post about the surplus money: I wouldn't be surprised if there's a surplus because the City has been cutting back on basic services for some time. Street repair and maintenance (see the City Auditor's reports on PDOT), parks, street cleaning, fixing sewer leaks, and more have all been reduced in favor of more fun and exciting work. So there probably is a "surplus" but look at the big picture. The City has cut in basic services and given to other and questionable works. How much are we behind on basic services?

So, is sarcasm a useful tool I should continue to use? Damn skippy it is! Has been for a LONG LONG time in western cultures.

On the note at hand though, didn't the state come up with 2 billion surplus and decide NOT to give it back to us like the law stated they're supposed to. I heard, read, sort of understand via political ramblings that it instaed has gone to fixing some potholes and things of that nature (re: Commisioner Sam's Blog)

But I digress, why is it Portland is broke, but it always seems to pull more and more money out of ????? some urban renewal loan/fund/slush/mobster allocated bank account or something?

I'd really like to know.

Why has no other media that I have seen express any concern about PDX heading down the bankuptcy toilet? One would think this would be a big issue--aren't there any Accountants or Economists out there would like to give a 'shout out' about this via local news outlets?


Good question. How about these?

How is it the citizenry of Portland has not demanded the return of the minimum $14.15 million Commissioner Leonard states our own influential and admired local citizens obtained using false and misleading statements?

How is it the Oregonian publishes the names of those responsible but the City Council does nothing to seek the return of the millions of dollars?

Why isn't City Council a better custodian of taxpayer monies?

Could it be we don't care, been beat down, and Council knows it?

If this is true, then why are we paying taxes?

One would think this would be a big issue

The police and fire pension aspect has been discussed in the media ad nauseam. Unfortunately, the Band-Aid that we just passed in November will not solve the problem, but once that got put on the ballot, our sleepy local media decided that was enough of that for a while.

So glad Potter is in charge! :) His vision is clearly working wonders for the city 2 years in...

If only he had SUPER MAYOR POWERS, he could fix everything.

From the Trib article: "Although Saltzman is committed to asking Portlanders to vote on a new parks levy in November 2008, he said it is too early to know whether it will include any funds for the maintenance facilities."

Interesting. At the budget meeting last week, Commissioner Saltzman said he had not yet decided on whether to put a new parks levy on the November 2008 ballot. Either the Trib reporting is incorrect, or those at the meeting last week were told something untrue. How unusual....

But don't forget, he's a model of courage.

Here in Portland the care and growth of our Parks is rarely synonymous with sustainability. Many cities, with San Francisco being at the forefront have discovered that provider for and nurturing Parks enhances livability. Contrary to the hype of South Waterfront, it's the natural not the built environment that helps keep our air clean. Clean air and water remain the biggest challenges for Portland. Portland needs it's Parks. Building more skycrapers next to major freeways is a recipe for more bad air and more green-house gases.

There is no surplus. IMO
With the understated costs and estimates of urban renewal projects and inflated TIF projections, many millions in long term debt are being obscured and will result in near term and long term shortages. Other funding including additional diverting of parks, PDOT and other basic services general fund dollars will be needed to cover the KNOWN and hidden funding deficits.
If city officials have learned anything from the Tram, PDC negative appraisels and other shennanigans they will bank the supposed surlus and watch the next year or two need every dime to cover the real shotages they refuse to talk about.

Maybe we need a tram connecting all the major parks.

Or an Esplanade that runs from LO to the Columbia?

Can you believe that Trammy Boy is still talking about capping I-405?

Whatever Homer tells him to say. It worked for Grandma.

I've been following the North Macadam/South Waterfront development since about 2002.

as it's progressed, both the city and OHSU continually fudge the numbers (jobs, cost, etc.), shift blame, and ignore concerted public efforts to do something other than a boutique, $4-a-three-minute-ride Tram that connects one business to one area.

won't tourists be surprised when they step off the Tram at the top of the hill and encounter--a hospital? of course, a six-minute (rount trip) Tram ride will be the thrill of a trip to Portland, I suppose.

have we really sunk so low that we're willing to ignore citizen pleas and spend $15+ million in taxpayer funds to pull in...tourists?

What do you all expect? The same people keep getting reelected no matter what their records are. You all know as well as I do that a conservative candidate doesn't have a chance in this city. This truly is a result of the voters getting what they want. Maybe it's time you stopped bitching and started casting responsible votes.

Richard, you can't seriously believe that the people who are here "bitching" voted for those they're complaining about, can you? This is not a liberal/conservative issue. This is a story of incompetence and corruption. Conservative candidates are just as adept at incompetence and corruption as are liberal or progressive candidates.

Can some one explain to me how the City is fooling the Bond Rating Companies? Portland's Bonds are all rated AAA (the highest) yet we are aparently on the verge of bankruptcy. I need help on this issue.

First of all, Portland's bonds are not all rated AAA.

More importantly, the Portland bonds that have the highest ratings do so because the city buys bond insurance for them, from outfits known as MBIA or AMBAC. These outfits basically guarantee the bonds against default. The city pays a hefty premium for the insurance -- the economic equivalent of extra interest. And so don't read too much into those bond ratings. With bond insurance, even a shaky municipal credit can get them.

BTW, the rating agencies are not exactly beacons of integrity. Recall that they recently let PGE "edit" their report on that company.

Examine the bond ratings for San Diego before their bankruptcy. Jack is right, first Portland's major bond ratings are not AAA, secondly, the rating industry is a sham and can be bought.

This is not a liberal/conservative issue. This is a story of incompetence and corruption.

Actually, I think it is a liberal/conservative issue. The majority of voters in this city apparently agree with this "incompetence and corruption", or are so blinded by ideology, that at the very least they condone it. Otherwise they wouldnt keep voting these "progressives" in.

The rating agencies pay little attention to how overtaxed lower/middle income Portland homeowners are...They only care about coverage ratios, the mix of taxpaying businesses, and demographic trends (is the housing stock growing or shrinking): the citizens are only important to the degree the city can tax them without driving them away.

That said, once we have floated the big FPDR bond issue, you can bet our credit rating will decline (as will our future bonding limits). Virtually any municipality can buy credit insurance (which gets them the AAA rating). But if you really need it, you probably can't afford it. It's similar to buying mortgage insurance (you are insuring the creditors, not the borrowers).

Actually, I think it is a liberal/conservative issue.

Jon, voting doesn't give you control of a representative's actions--it give you a representative.

But if you're right--what's the voting "minority" responsible for? Nothing? They get to simply smile and say "this is all your fault, Majority! I can't believe you did this!"

Never mind the fact that the representative is there to also represent you. That's where your energy should be directed.

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