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Friday, April 13, 2007

Just say no, but vote yes

This week's Portland City Hall kabuki over the Burnside-Couch condo scam (a.k.a. the "couplet") shows the latest technique for wasting public money in a boondoggle that benefits only a handful of greaseball real estate operators. Instead of acting as though they're buying the initial liars' budget, now the politicians come right out and admit that they know that the cost and revenue figures they're being presented (in this case, $80 million construction costs for the thing) are totally bogus.

But then they vote yes on the project anyway!

When the bull-slinging was over and the time came to go forward this week, what was the tally? 5-0. So even though they all made their little Francesconi frowny faces and acted all conflicted, when the chips were down, the boys on the Council all went for the couplet. They could have stopped it where it belongs -- dead in its tracks. But no. On with more millions.

The latest drill also features a new lie: "We can always stop this if it gets too expensive." What a load. Are people's memories so short as to forget the key moment in the construction of the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot], where the business wizards at the O and all the other scam promoters chanted, "It's too late to turn back now"? You know that's coming with Burnside. You just know.

The same thing is happening, on a similar scale, with the Convention Center hotel scam. Now the entire Portland Development Commission has made a face and said, "We know this thing stinks from a financial standpoint." But rather than kill it, they vote another several million in "study" money into it and send it over to the Goldschmidt gang at Metro. And sure enough, the Metro soldiers make the same face, and cast the same vote. "We know this is bad deal, but let's go forward. We can always pull the plug later."

Make no mistake: The couplet and the hotel are done deals. Everybody knows that both projects are little more than legalized stealing by a handful of slick developers, greedy construction companies, and rich property owners. Everybody knows that the public clearly does not want either project to go forward.

But they're going to go forward. Say no, vote yes, and sooner or later they'll be built, because we'll already be high eight figures into each of them, and it will be "too late to turn back." When that Garbage Time gets here, people like Fireman Randy and Opie the Genius can say, "Hey don't blame me. Remember, I made a face before I voted."

Comments (8)

Some comments have been lost (at least temporarily) due to a server failure on April 14, 2007.

Every time I see the tram it makes my stomach turn. To me it represents a city handout to a thriving, expensive and stupidly located business entity (OHSU) at my expense. And teh couplet is an obvious mistake, as is the hotel. But this city seems hell bent on making it a great place for rich business and real estate owners, and a hard place to live if you are trying to raise a family. I have four kids, make upper middle class or higher income and I think once or twice a week about living in this singles/double income no kids oriented city!

You should take a look at the bike portland org site and the controversy over bicyclists actually gettin citation sofr disobeying stop signs! Such heresy!

Posted by Simon | April 13, 2007 1:29 PM

The Portland cops meet the cycling activists -- a match made in heaven.

Posted by Jack Bog | April 13, 2007 1:41 PM

I look to the sky and expect to see a witch on a broomstick writing "Surrender Dorothy" in thick black smoke.

Katz, Francesconi, Potter... all the same... all the same.

Posted by Dave Lister | April 13, 2007 2:05 PM

That reminds me. Did you see the artist's rendering in the O the other day of the proposed new building (and parking ramp) out at the airport for the Port of Portland's new digs? It looks "like the hull of a ship."

Posted by Madam Hatter | April 13, 2007 2:28 PM

Uh huh. The SoWhat towers were supposed to be "like the teeth of a comb." Sure.

Posted by Jack Bog | April 13, 2007 2:32 PM

Topic creep? I'll push it. Cyclists are so virtuous in substituting their own, renewable energy for oil that they get a pass on stop signs and other inconvenient traffic rules.

Posted by Allan L. | April 13, 2007 2:41 PM

Yeah, but the cops here have no interest in enforcing the rules against drivers of cars. To give out tickets to people cruising around sleepy Ladd's on bikes is nasty.

Wonder what the recumbent, now the incumbent, would say if our energetic MSM bothered to pin him down on it.

Posted by Jack Bog | April 13, 2007 2:45 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

Why do you call it "condo-scam"? Last I heard the rich condo dwellers tried to kill the project...

What's an alternative for dealing with the traffic situation on Burnside? I understand how the tram can be seen as a boondoggle but I don't get why the couplet is such a bad idea.

Then again, if Jack agrees with something the city does, he probably gets his Curmudgeon card revoked.

Why do you call it "condo-scam"? Last I heard the rich condo dwellers tried to kill the project...

Nice try. This isn't about the existing condos. It's about all the new ones that they'll build along Burnside once the street is yuppified and the right of way is narrowed.

It's going to be one big Brewery Blocks from the river to 405, and you and I and our kids will pay many hundreds of millions to make it happen.

First of all, how much more tax revenue do you think 1000s of dinks in 450K condos, REI and French and Thai restaurants are going to generate in 10 years rather than blocks of warehouses and loading docks? (blah blah blah tax breaks, blah blah blah. Yeah, it's a long term thing, deal with it)

But more to the point of my post, the rich condo dwellers tried to kill the couplet because they don't want anymore traffic on Couch. If you want to dispute that go for it. (The "nice try" comment is just confusing, do you think I'm trying to trick you? You must have been a joy in the debate club...)

You are arguing that more condos will show up because of the couplet? The idea is to make Burnside less of a block to walkers, bikers and even (gasp!) drivers. So yes, I guess a more livable Burnside area might facilitate a few more condo buildings. But that ship has already sailed my friend.

And lastly, I will repeat the question: what is the alternative? Let Burnside continue to swell with traffic forced from Naito to the Pittock Mansion with nary a left turn in sight?

Or maybe another tram, large enough to ferry vehicles from Big Pink to Powells?

But that ship has already sailed my

I'm not your friend, and if you want to keep posting on this site, you had better change your tone.

Let Burnside continue to swell with traffic forced from Naito to the Pittock Mansion with nary a left turn in sight?

You can put in left turns and crosswalks on Burnside quite easily, and for about 1% of the cost of the "couplet."

The couplet is about real estate development.

BTW, if we're going to spend $250 million on this thing, and if it will take, say, five years to get the additional property taxes from the new development rolling, the couplet will have to bring in about $21 million in additional city taxes every year for 30 years to break even. (Calculations at 5% time value of money.) Don't count on it.

From the initial coverage of the couplet I heard businesses were for it but the current condo owners threw up a stink and tried to stop it, that's what I was originally referring to.

Crosswalks and left turns would not be as easy as you make it sound. And certainly would not come in under $250K (look at the price just to put in some crosswalks, streetlights and ramped curbs on Hawthorne)

And Burnside needs to be fundamentally repaired, from what I understand it's the equivalent of repairing the foundation in a house. A lot more than a little repaving and drawing new dotted lines on the street, so the argument would be since we are tearing it up anyway, why not design a traffic pattern that will support another 20 or 30 years of growth instead of 5?

Basically I think you are making it sound too simplistic. "The city sucks and wastes money, so this must be a bad idea" is basically the crux of the argument I've heard thus far.

And while I'll turn down the smarmy dial I think it's funny that my tone disturbs a person who levels so much derisive comments (not that I don't think some is justifiable) at so many folks around Portland.


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