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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Equal time

Yesterday, we posted a hot e-mail message from the head of Portland parks to... well, just about everybody in city government. It was about the misinformation she accused Commissioner Randy Leonard of spreading about the proposed Water Bureau-Parks Bureau cooperative agreement about Powell Butte.

The response by Fireman Randy to the Parks chief is also interesting. Here is what he wrote back to her:

From: Leonard, Randy To: Santner, Zari; Shaff, David Cc: Potter, Mayor; Commissioner Adams; Commissioner Leonard; Commissioner Saltzman; Commissioner Sten; Short, Casey; McAllister, David; 'Scott Montgomery'; 'Barbara Walker (Walker, Barbara)'; 'Bethel Rev. T. Allen (Bethel, Rev. T. Allen)'; 'Bill Hawkins'; 'Chet Orloff (Orloff, Chet)'; 'Josephine Pope (Pope, Joey)'; 'Keith Thomajan'; 'Mary Ruble (Ruble, Mary)'; 'Mike Houck (Houck, Mike)'; 'Nichole Maher'; 'Rich Brown'; 'thomas Bruner'; 'jeffrey tryens'; Klutz, Tom; Kovatch, Ty; 'cag@***.com'; Jones, Floy

Sent: 3/9/2007 5:55 PM
Subject: RE: Powell Butte Nature Park


Thank you for your email regarding comments I made regarding the lack of cooperation from the parks bureau in transferring the costs of maintaining Powell Butte to the water bureau.

After reading your memo, I am left with having to question whether the
water bureau staff or you are giving me an accurate reflection of the
issues relative to the Water Bureau assuming expenses for the
maintenance of Powell Butte that heretofore the Parks Bureau has been
responsible for.

I am reminded, however, of your repeated denials last year that no deal
was in the works to sell a significant portion of Mt Tabor Park to the
private sector. Subsequent to those denials, a Freedom Of Information
Act request was made of the Parks Bureau and a Memo of Understanding was
discovered. That memo, signed by you, agreed that the Parks Bureau would
complete the sale of the Mt. Tabor property to Warner Pacific College by
November 16, 2006. In addition to your signature, that memorandum was
also signed by the President of Warner Pacific.

When asked to explain the apparent contradiction between your statements
that no decisions had been made and the signed document, you replied
"that provision to sell the property to Warner Pacific was taken out of

Given that explanation by you, I am inclined to rely on the Water
Bureau's staff description of the Powell Butte issues.

Thank you for writing.

Commissioner Randy Leonard

Well, harumph indeed!

They say blogs are going to knock out the mainstream media. After that, look out, soap operas!

Comments (23)

The way the city budget process works, there's an interagency agreement (IGA) between bureaus that's signed by both parties (eventually) but even unsigned is loaded into the proposed budget, which should have happened already for next year's budget. Is there an IGA or not...and if not, who's stack of papers is it sitting on?

IGA's are not simple matters, and it is not at all uncommon that there are disputes over costs and product and what bureaus are getting for their money.

an interagency agreement (IGA) between bureaus that's signed by both parties (eventually)

What an enormous waste of time and effort. Maybe we do need to change our form of government.

Does anyone else care that Warner Pacific - a Christian college - is mixed up in this deceit? If that's how they operate, why would young Christians want to go to school there?

more simply, how is it that a Bureau can sell off public property so simply, rapidly and secretly?

obviously, it was done in secret for a reason. i wonder what that reason is and why nobody's being held accountable for it.

The Citywide Parks Team, a citizen-led group, is discussing the process for sale of parks properties at our meeting tomorrow night, Thursday March 15. Seven p.m. in the Rose Room on the 3rd floor of City Hall.

Leonard has caught Zari in the very routine behavior of Portland public officials. Lying.
Game-set-match to Leonard.

Forget "context", get out of town.

Randy Leonard's letter illustrates the importance of a great tag line. Sure, the body of the letter is good but it doesn't become brilliant until he throws in the "Thank you for writing" at the end.

The parks guy really led with his chin on this one, considering the WP deal. He shoulda known he'd get sucker punched. Not very bright.

That response was useless. It made no effort to respond on the merits, and instead references a past dispute to impugn Santner's credibility. Her letter included a list of correspondence, and his retorted with, "well, I just can't trust anything you say." The fact that people are entertained by his closing salutation gets to the root of his appeal: showmanship.

Also, Jack, do you really have a problem with there being a process and a method for accounting how agencies share costs & responsibilities? If they were free to just toss funds back & forth, why have a distinction between agencies at all? Why not just one big bureaucracy under one mayor? I suppose that would leave Commissioner Leonard and the rest more time for zipping these meaningless emails at one another. Solve the problem already... what an embarassment.

Zari's email contains all of the defensive, secretive malevolence of a person who has lived too long inside dysfunctional organizations. Like Brian Ferriso (http://blog.oregonlive.com/visualarts) but without the art.

That's an awfully polite letter considering the core message is: "I'm not sure if your staff is telling me the truth or not, but I think you are a damn liar."

(I'm glad I still have some popcorn left over from the Giusto thing. You PDX folks put on a heckofa show.)

Randy Leonard.

Best. City. Commissioner. Ever.

Warts and all.

And people have to ask why we need to change our bureau form of government?

Just what we need, FOIAs and IGAs from one city bureau to the next.

No, silo-ing is not a problem in PDX city government, not at all!

The Commission form of government begets IGA's - a monumental waste of public resources. One commissioner's minions squabble with another commissioner's minions about what dollars and services will flow from one City bureau to another, then write it all down in a quasi-legal document called an "IGA". It's a basically political document, with no real legal status. If a bureau violates it's IGA, what is the consequence? Do City bureaus sue one another?

Where's Frank Dufay when you need him? Frank - please come defend this commission form of government that you are so in love with.


I think your comments about the college are unwarranted. I recall no denial from them about signing the memorandum. In fact they announced the signing to about a thousand people two days after signing it at an event that anyone in the world was welcome to attend and most in the area were invited to.

Update: The Citywide Parks Team meeting I announced above, has been postponed because the primary speaker from Portland Parks is ill. The group will not meet tomorrow.

Where's Frank Dufay when you need him?

Uh...at work?

Anyway...the more we centralize --and that's been the City's mode for years-- the more we NEED interagency agreements. How does "Computer Services" (aka Bureau of Technology Services) know who to bill for what "support" without an IGA?

Sure...City Hall used to be rent free. And the Fire & Police Disability & Retirement Fund once worked out of a small office in a city parking garage. But now we're paying Melvin Mark god knows HOW much for space we're not even USING anymore...

Cost accounting is complicated. In the private as well as public sector. My only point in weighing in on IGAs is if Zari (Parks) and David (Water Bureau) have a difference of opinion (and I know and respect them both)...where's the paperwork? The "proof" is in the pudding.

Hmmmm - companies seem to do just fine without these "IGA's" - and they do a much better job of cost accounting than the City does. You don't need an IGA for cost accounting. You DO need one to sort out the City Hall turf wars. That need would be eliminated (or greatly reduced) by getting elected officials out of the business of running operations (bureaus) that they usually know next to nothing about.

Ecohuman; the Parks Bureau selling off land so easily and " so secretively" has been going on for a long time. Take for example the SW Slavin Rd. 5 acre property in the early 1990s. It was owned by the City with the Parks Bureau designating it for a future SW Portland park. It was essentially given away to a developer with a $250T tax donation credit to the developer for a land swap for part of the unbuildable cliff side of Rocky Butte. The city didn't even contact the neighborhood assn. about the deal. Only when the nearby property owners were notified when the city asked for the removal of the environmental zone on the 5 acres, was the public informed because it is required by law. Guess what happened to the deal? It went through even though several NA's objected.And even appealed to Council. Welcome to Portland's OPEN GOVERNMENT.

IGAs are routine business in all levels of government because of how appropriation of tax money is distributed. Often projects require cooepration from each agency and neither wants to committ any more of their pie of the budget appropriation.

As much of a resource suck IGAs are, the bottom line is they, at least in theory, put the kaibosh on turf wars.

companies seem to do just fine without these "IGA's" - and they do a much better job of cost accounting than the City does.

And you base that on...?

I can think back years ago --a lifetime ago-- when I worked at a high-tech firm and we janitors had to code our time in five minute increments. Cleaned a toilet here. Changed a light bulb there. Swept here. Dumped a garbage can there. Suddenly we spent a third of our time making up stuff just to fill out all the paperwork. It was amusing.

There's nothing innately wrong with IGAs or any mechanism for tracking costs and expenditures and agreements on what services I'll provide you next year, for how much money. It actually provides accountability and transparency...things we say we want from government.

That's got nothing to do, however, with our FORM of government...and, please don't presume I love the way we're organized now. I just think we need more of a public discussion on how we can be organized better.

Travis is correct IGAs are routine - between separate government entities, such as an IGA between the County and the City. IGAs within the same entity, such as the City of Portland drawing up IGAs with itself - which is what we are talking about here - is a rather bizarre offspring, birthed by our bizarre form of City government.

Like Ecohuman's comments. We need an open and honest government. We're the voters and it's possible to send our money to projects with merit rather then the same handful of skycraper developers.

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