This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 20, 2007 5:08 AM. The previous post in this blog was They don't give Pulitzers for just anything. The next post in this blog is Survivor Portland City Hall: The winner. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Facing the music -- through lead-plated glass

You know it's bad when a city government bureau has to hire mediators so that it can mediate with -- get this -- the public!

I kid you not. That's what's happening with the City of Portland Parks Bureau, according to one of my several Parks spies, who writes:

This Saturday, mediation will begin between Parks and the public regarding Mt. Tabor Park Central Maintenance Yard and Nursery. It is a public meeting and anyone is invited to attend.... In an unusual twist, it was Zari Santner [city parks chief] who approached the city ombudsman about mediation, something the ombudsman said he had never experienced (usually it is the public that files the complaint). This meeting will be co-mediated by two independent mediators, as the ombudsman was required to recuse himself. By law he cannot investigate the commissioners, which includes the auditor.
This is just the perfect picture of bureaucracy. Here we have Santner and her henchman, Robin Grimwade, two high-priced city honchos, who, since their rapport with the affected public is virtually nil, have to hire two more city types to mediate with the taxpayers. That's four people doing the job of one. No wonder they can't find the money to fix broken swings around here.

The spy continues:

In preparation for the meeting, the citizen research group that formed as a result of the intended sale at Mt. Tabor Park has compiled a notebook of documents. These we received primarily from the Parks Bureau under the freedom of information act over the last eight months. Interspersed throughout the documents are the periodic updates written by the team to update the community on the intended sale. The documents, arranged chronologically, begin in 2003 when Jim Francesconi was still commissioner in charge of Parks. Several months after leaving office, his letters as legal counsel for Warner Pacific College outline a real estate deal involving the Yard that is apparently already underway.

The documents tell the story of how the Yard was nearly sold. That's still the plan, according to [city Commissioner Dan] Saltzman [currently in charge of Parks].... In the process, we've discovered much more about what's going on behind closed doors at Parks. No wonder Parks doesn't want to run a levy. It would draw attention to the changes afoot at Parks and the steps currently underway to commercialize, privatize and develop our beloved Parks and open green spaces. At the same time, by avoiding a levy at this time, Parks is simply continuing on the business development path already underway to form a Parks District. Research shows this direction will put our parks at even greater risk of private development.

Alarming words there, but not much news. We've reached the same conclusions ourselves months ago -- but this is the first we've heard that the "mediation" meetings "start" tomorrow. (Will there be more than one session?) That's been a pretty well kept secret.

Let's try to find notice of that meeting on the city's website, shall we? Sure, we start at Portland Online, the home page. To get to the Parks Bureau, you have to go here first, and then scroll down in the alphabet past "Public Utilities" to "Parks." (Uh huh.) OK, now let's look for that meeting notice. Hmmm, looks like it takes another click to get to the bureau home page -- here.

At last! Now let's scroll down and find that Tabor Yard Mediation meeting...

Funny thing -- it isn't there! Powell Butte Open House on Saturday, but no Tabor.

It takes a bit of hunting around, but if you kill enough time, you can finally find it here. In case you can't stand all the clicking, here is what it says:

Community Mediation with Portland Parks & Recreation
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church - Dining Room
5441 SE Belmont

Mediators Jamie Damon and Mary Forst have been hired to facilitate discussion. Anyone with an interest in Mt. Tabor Yard is welcome to attend. Note: Park in the lot at 54th and Belmont and walk across the street and up the walkway to the back door. The dining room near that entrance.
So there you have it, a public service of this blog -- one whole day's advance notice of the latest on the Tabor giveaway. It should be interesting, sort of like a trip to the oral surgeon's office. I'm sure my spies will fill me in on what happens.

A couple of interesting footnotes: The spy also attached a 1990 memo from the city attorney about potential hanky-panky with Parks levy tax funds. It concluded that using them for a purpose other than the purposes for which they were sold to the public is strictly verboten. And so Santner's proposal to subvert park maintenance levy dollars to capital construction projects would appear to be a major no-no.

And apparently there's a video on the city website in which Saltzman clearly suggests that a sale of the Tabor Yard is still the operative plan. I tried to follow the link sent me by the spy, but the city's file required that I install Real Player to watch the video. Having had that stupid program invade my computer and jerk me around while I was trying to get work done in the past, I'll have to take his or her word for it.

Comments (5)

It'll be interesting to see how the "fish wrapper" covers this.

Not a word in Tribune today. Just which councilman do your really, really trust?
Are all councilmen crooked, or do only crooks become councilmen? Secret agendas are the mainstay of politics, and now we see bureaurs added, these days. Was Francesconi involvement a surprise? Not to me. Telltale signs of a crooked politician.." I'm doing this for the children".

What I find amazing is that Parks seems to have the money in thier budget to spend on something like this, selling off parkland, when that same money could be used to fix the Peir Park Wading pool, help figure out where the Lakeside Little league is going play, etc, etc. Same with thier re-org, reminds one of rearranging deck chairs on our favorite cruise ship.

sometimes i wonder if this is simply routine incompetence or calculated, unethical behavior.

whose interest is it in to minimize public attention about this issue? why the heck *must* someone try to sell off park land?

Telltale signs of a crooked politician.." I'm doing this for the children".

For as long as I have really been paying attention to politics (only about a decade, and I am approaching 40), I have always been told that Republicans were the evil ones. The liars. The shady back-door types. But I dont see things ideologically with Democrats. And I wasnt like the descriptions I was hearing about Republicans. At least I hope not. Alas, I felt a little dirty just by association. So I changed to independent.
But you know, after paying attention to the goings-on in the city of Portland for the last several years, (a city by and large, run by those of the "lefty persuasion") I can honestly say that the "ideologically right" dont have any kind of monopoly on being the "liars." The "evil ones". Or the ones doing the "shady back-door deals." When it comes to money and politics, they are all in it up to their eyeballs. Period.
Call me a cynic, but I truly feel that the ones that appear all "nice and fuzzy" (on either side) just have not been caught with their hand in the cookie jar yet. I hope I am wrong.

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