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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 28, 2007 9:16 PM. The previous post in this blog was The high court. The next post in this blog is PC hot dogs. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dumb and dumber

Here's a story that kills two birds with one sto -- er, accomplishes two tasks at once. It illustrates both the depth of the fiscal mismanagement in Portland city government and the shallowness of the city's old-boy daily newspaper.

It seems the Portland City Council is strutting around acting as if it's got money to burn, and it's busily debating how the extra funds should be spent. Send the ballet to Washington? Subsidize doula training?

Give me a break. What about the awful "deferred maintenance" that's ruining the city's streets, bridges, and parks? What about the gigantic unfunded police and fire pension liability that will surely bankrupt us? What about the hundreds of millions that we've borrowed, foolishly betting that the condo market will soar and new taxes will pay off the bonds? What about the sorry state of the police bureau? What about the crushing debt to fix the crumbling sewer system? Should we put some money aside for any or all of that?

Not on the screen anywhere. And the O just regurgitates the pandering, without even a hint of critical thinking. Just another fine day in the Rose City. A good day to take the kids somewhere else to show them where they might live when they grow up.

Comments (34)

There are streets in my neighborhood that are unpaved - have NEVER been paved! (and I live pretty close in) Why don't they spend some of it on that?? These guys are truly *#^@ing clueless.

I feel they should hand over the whole wad to the PDC to "invest".
With the lenghty and proven track record of providing economic development mastery no other investment vehicle can possibly return more.
Naturally there are a myriad of challenges the city faces, as most cities do, which makes it all the more prudent to allow the PDC to produce the most bang for the buck with this budget surplus.
Leadership, acountability and results qualifies the PDC as Portland's best hope for fiscal stability, livability and sustainability.
Please folks, join me in my urging the City Council to appropriate the budget surplus to the Portland Development Commission.
It's for the best and you'll feel good about it.

Yes. This parks need public not private money. The parks needs gardens. Half of Portland's food supply could be grown locally right here and some of it in our parks. It's called relocalization.

how about a third tram, we tried to take my dad on a ride for his 75th birthday two sundays ago and the two existing ones are shut down on sundays, apparently that story about tourists helping to pay for it was just another lie, apparently there are no tourists on sundays.... joco

I think all future surpluses should be devoted to enhancing the salary and benefits paid to public employees and retirees.

It's for the good of the City's Employees. And Portland just wouldn't be Portland without a bunch of bureaucrats driving around in biodiesel burning RVs and dump trucks and the Mayor's Prius. Cause they care about the environment. just like Al Gore.

And we don't need no stinkin' carbon offsets, cause we have wind power AND green roofs too.

"It sounds funny, but honestly sometimes it's harder when you have money to spend," city Commissioner Randy Leonard said.

no, it's not funny. at all.

"When you're cutting, you pretty much know what the priorities are. When you have money, you have to ask completely different questions.""


here's a "different" question: who's the chump budgeting so poorly that we have $35 *million* dollars sitting unused, while critical programs are underfunded?

how nonsensical is it that there are areas critically short of funding, yet we have a "surplus"?


man, i'm tired of this.

There are streets in my neighborhood that are unpaved - have NEVER been paved!

That's not just an issue of money, it's an issue of who pays to have it done, Frank. That's the homeowner's --or developer's-- responsibility. (And, y'know, it woiuld be nice if you used a last name...you're not the only "Frank" around.)

Now...there was, a few years ago, a "reform" of the Local Improvement District process --historically used for local infrastructure improvements-- that would have provided subsidies but was dropped for lack of funding. I would have been nice to see that brought back to the table...

In terms of transportation infrstructure priorities, I think it's far worse we lack sidewalks in substantial parts of our city.

here's a "different" question: who's the chump budgeting so poorly that we have $35 *million* dollars sitting unused, while critical programs are underfunded?

Here I go putting on my "city apologist" hat again --even though I don't speak for the city-- but, actually, the move by Parks to restore its funding from the General Fund --instead of using levys to fill the gap-- is precisely the right use of that "surplus". "Surplus" is kind of a funny word, anyway...we're talking projected budgets, projected revenues, all of which --especially on the revenue side-- is a pretty inexact science.

I think it's time for a regime change. There are so many other things to put this money into that would help the "cave-dwellers" who don't live downtown like sewers and streets and schools and police stations. I mean we can siphon off money for downtown projects, but useful things we can't?

It drives me nutz when Mr Adams gripes the only reason they are fixing sewers is because the evil chimp Bush sued them to stop dumping raw sewage and overflow in the river.

Maybe if that sewage ruined the tram ride or the Armory theater experience he'd figure how to fix it.

Sounds like the same kind of crap they pulled a few years back, when they hired two new landscape architects for the parks system, and then took out all the trash cans from the parks, because there "wasn't enough money" to pay for trash hauling.

It's blackmail by the public employees, folks. And as long as you all give in, they'll keep doing it. Just one of the many reasons why I no longer live in Oregon. We take the $30,000 that we would have spent in excessive taxation and spent it on vacations and the retirement fund instead.

Will Rogers once said "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for"

If Will Rogers were alive today he would have fun comenting on the bumbling elected twits in the Portland Metro area.

When you're cutting, you pretty much know what the priorities are. When you have money, you have to ask completely different questions.

That pretty much sums up Portland City & Oregon government right there. When they have to cut, they know what those "priorities" are. When they have money, they suddenly forget. Thanks for the elightenment, Randy.

It drives me nutz when Mr Adams gripes the only reason they are fixing sewers is because the evil chimp Bush sued them to stop dumping raw sewage and overflow in the river.

He actually said that?

"He actually said that?"

From Mr Adams WEBsite:

"Portland has some of the highest sewers rates in the nation thanks to state and federal mandates to stop sewage discharges into the Willamette River."

He sort of overlooks the 15+ years of neglected maintenance and yet having all kinds of money for light rail.

He didn't say chimp, that is Mr Bog's phraseology. Howver, CoP was sued to stop them dumping sewage in the river by the Feds.

hehe, I understood the Chimp part. I was mainly asking about the sewage thing. I thought they were sued by River Watch.
The whole idea that they only seem to care about the sewage because of the threat of a lawsuit is just amazing...

I think all future surpluses should be devoted to enhancing the salary and benefits paid to public employees and retirees.

It's blackmail by the public employees, folks.

I'm not sure how this thread turned into a chance to bash public employees. This article is about the decisions of elected officials, but I guess Mister Tee and Al will use any opportunity to attack the people who provide for their safety, keep their houses from burning down, and mow the soccer fields.

Public employees aren't the problem here, folks, it's the priorities of their leaders -- and you can only blame that on the voters.

Frank Dufay: Paving streets is "the homeowner's --or developer's-- responsibility.

I think the question most of us have, though, is why? From what I can tell, it's just an historical anomaly. The City didn't have the money to improve all of the streets in parts of the City that were annexed in the '50s, '60s, and '70s so they just said "homeowners have to do it." Now we have a situation where the City repaves some streets, even when they don't need it, but refuses to touch unimproved streets. It's patently unfair, and would be a good use of the surplus.

As for the overall priorities of the Mayor and Council, check out yesterday's Council hearing. Saltzman actually asked about the deferred maintenance on City infrastructure, and lobbied for it to be a higher priority. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The Mayor then said something about maybe looking at that later (like next year, after the current surplus has been spent) and the other three all nodded quickly in agreement.

The way to counter this is through publicity, but the Oregonian is unlikely to publish the entire list of new spending, so the blogs are going to have to fill in.

Here's a concept.

Considering that he "surplus" is "funny money -- its merely a projction of anticipated receipts and could disappear overnight --

Don't spend it.

When it is actually collected and realized, add it to the year end balance.

After a real number is deteremined, pay off city debt with it.

Hiring any more people is a ludicrous idea. Next fiscal year, if the City doesn't come up with an identical or greater "surplus", it will have to either fire all those new employees (yeah, right) or (just watch) raise taxes to retain all the now suddenly vital new workers.

Another typical government scam.

I think the question most of us have, though, is why? From what I can tell, it's just an historical anomaly. The City didn't have the money to improve all of the streets in parts of the City that were annexed in the '50s, '60s, and '70s so they just said "homeowners have to do it."

Miles, Local Improvement Districts to make homeowners may for streets go back to the beginning of last century. "Paying for Local Infrastructure" was my Master's thesis. What has changed over the years is the level of city subsidy, the amount of city overhead costs charged --used to be zero, now it's way higher-- and the recognition that we're no longer just building streets, but stormwater facilities to go with them...which costs a lot more than throwing down some asphalt.

Honestly it's fun to sit in the City Archives and see the $6.00 bill for a street someone may have been assessed back in 1912 or whatever...or see how 82nd street was going to be repaved through a Local Improvement District, and so many folks sent in penny postcards protesting, that the LID was dropped, and the state took it over, making it a state highway.

It will be interesting to see what Mayor Pothole & Co. come up with to spend these funds on. In the meantime, the stock market is hardly going great guns and according to Mr. Greenspan there is a possibility that we will have a recession sometime within the next year. Wonder what these people will do when the gravy train starts drying up.

Well, folks all this rings true, but everyone here should be very glad they do not live in El Paso, Texas. That place is the worst "city" I have every visited. There is NO downtown, all the old buildings are boarded up and the streets are not only potholed but dirty too; and NO crosswalks either! This so called city is nothing more than a quasi urban area ringed by 60 miles of freeway access strip malls. The only stores are Wal-Mart and Home Depot and other large chain stores, and freeway restaurants, surrounded by acres of parking lots where you can gaze across what used to be the Rio Grand and look down on the slums of Juarez.
So as "quirky" as Portland is, as goofy as the politicians seem to be, and as disfunctional as it all seems at times, at least it ain't El Paso. As long as all of us keep up an interest in what happens, hopefully we can keep Portland weird and on the whole a pretty decent place to live. It just takes vigilence and some hard work at times.

Local Improvement Districts to make homeowners pay for streets go back to the beginning of last century.

I must be missing something, then, because aren't most of the streets in the city maintained by PDOT without an LID charge? In SW Portland, my perfectly good street was repaved three or four years ago. No charge to us. Meanwhile, just two blocks away is an unpaved street that the homeowners finally formed an LID in order to pave, at the cost of a couple thousand each.

Same county, same city, different treatment. What's the reason?

Interesting that there's a surplus, but then why am I getting telephone polled about a new parks levy then? (Happened Monday evening.)

"at least it ain't El Paso."

Great motto for those CoP trucks. I was hoping we could to be something better, not just better than worst.

Interesting that there's a surplus, but then why am I getting telephone polled about a new parks levy then? (Happened Monday evening.)

And I heard there is a 25 acre park that they want to take public access from, and turn it into a "wetland".

"I must be missing something, then, because aren't most of the streets in the city maintained by PDOT without an LID charge?"

I think that once a street is improved to the City standard (proper pavement thickness, drainage control, etc.), whether done by LID or developer, the City takes it over for maintenance in perpetuity.

The streets in mid-county are a different story. I think the City agreed to maintain them at the same level that Multnomah County did prior to annexation.

I know that if I had just purchased a lot with the costs of street, sewer ,etc. folded into the price, I'd be steamin' mad if the City gave the same thing free to the folks on the next street over.

"at least it ain't El Paso."

Yeah, I believe that amounts to damning with faint praise.

IMO, the phrase "better than nothing" applies to much of what the CoP does. Unfortunately, it applies in the negative - "nothing" is often better than what we get. Cheaper too.

Randy, baby, I feel your pain. Just don't use the word "priorities" as if you know what it means to the average citizen - 'cause you obviously don't.

First...If you have an unimproved street near your house in inner Portland, I'm jealous. If that were improved, then you'd have more traffic, travelling at faster speeds, through your neighborhood...be thankful for what you don't have.

Then...Have I got this right? It is the homeowner's responsibility to pay for street improvements? Is that being done in SoWhat? (I don't think it is, I think the city is paying for those amenities. But I may be mistaken.) If it is, why don't they have to pay for the street improvements?

First...If you have an unimproved street near your house in inner Portland, I'm jealous. If that were improved, then you'd have more traffic, travelling at faster speeds, through your neighborhood...be thankful for what you don't have.

Yeah, you don't have a paved street.

godfry obviously doesn't live on an unimproved (gravel) street or he'd know better. Unless he's a fan of abrasive dust on everything in sight; inside and out.

Spraying biodiesel on the gravel keeps the dust down.

Taken from the big O article... "It sounds funny, but honestly sometimes it's harder when you have money to spend," City Commissioner Randy Leonard said. "When you're cutting, you pretty much know what the priorities are. When you have money, you have to ask completely different questions."

Randy, wake up, the questions remain the same, "What are our priorities." Rather than add new, politically gratifying, and often, pandering projects is not leadership. Taking care of under or unfunded essentials, deferred maintenance, and infrastructure improvements should be goal. The attitude; "we found some money, let's go spend it on FUN STUFF" is irresponsible.

This is the very same mind set that gets people into debt... and Portland is in debt, thanks to you and the other CoP leaders over the past decade of undisciplined leaders.

Spraying biodiesel on the gravel keeps the dust down.

Good idea, but first I'd imagine Randy and the Grease Police must certify it trans-fat free.

I must be missing something, then, because aren't most of the streets in the city maintained by PDOT without an LID charge?

PMG has it exactly right. Once the street is built to city standards --whoever pays-- the City assumes maintenance forever. Of course..."forever" assumes an endless supply of money for street maintenance, which there isn't, so the city is way behind on street maintenance.

Godfrey asks: It is the homeowner's responsibility to pay for street improvements? Is that being done in SoWhat? (I don't think it is, I think the city is paying for those amenities...

It's a crap shoot. In the Lent's neigborhood, PDC heavily subsidized local street improvements with urban renewal money. In SoWa, there's all kinds of subsidies including the use of System Development Funds which are limited to "increased capacity." This is how "It's a Beautiful Pizza" on SE Belmont helped pay for SoWa's infrastructure.

Another form of subsidy can come from Bureau of Environmental Services "contributions" toward Local Improvement Districts.

It's less about strict "rules" than about politics as to who pays, and who gets.

Jack:

I moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago because my wife and I could not believe how incompetitent the city officials are. People in Portland better wake up, because they will be footing the bill, as other decide to leave.


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