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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 7, 2008 2:06 AM. The previous post in this blog was Major Portland blog news. The next post in this blog is Part of the slow fade. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Cogen on urban renewal: It blows

And I couldn't agree with him more. We have crazy people roaming the streets without any option for treatment, the schools are past falling apart, bridges are falling down, and yet we're spending hundreds of millions building shiny plastic streetcars and condos for Homer Williams, Gerding-Edlen, Hank Ashforth, and the rest of the real estate set. It is indeed time to get the runaway train known as Portland urban renewal under control. I'm pleasantly surprised that Little Big Pipe has seen the light so quickly.

The Pearl District is no longer blighted, if it ever once was. Shut down that urban renewal district now, start paying off the darn debt, and give the county back the money that's being robbed from it for more of the same ugly highrise nonsense.

The idea of keeping the Pearl urban renewal juggernaut going to create a slush fund for the City Council to spend on new pet projects all over the city is particularly insidious (not to mention illegal). If somebody doesn't drive a stake through the heart of that colossally bad idea the day after Opie Sten leaves office, the county ought to sue the city's butt off over it. I'd pay for a seat to watch that lawsuit... er, um, actually, I guess I'd already be paying for both sides of it with my property taxes, now, wouldn't I?

Comments (22)

Rome Burns while Sam plays a violin.

He's seen the light and wants in on the action.

If he truly cared, he would advocate shutting the whole scam down.

Thanks
JK

Again, I ask, can we draft Jeff Cogen for mayor?

It's not enough to finally retire much of the Urban Renewal and actually return the long diverted revenue to where it belongs.

Full out side audits must be completed to reveal how UR has been mismanaged, abused and corrupted.

Cogen, Sam and everyone else should stop pretending the PDC commission or anyone else has has been watching where the hundreds of millions have been going.

They haven't the slightest idea. That's how things get out of hand. It's no different than the stories we hear of bookkeepers stealing thousands from small organizations. Only with the PDC millions have been distributed without any oversight while unknown amounts go missing.

Mult. Co should sell Wapato to a Jail operating company that would open it immediately. Use the money to finish their new justice center.

They could rent jail beds from the new company at an enormouos savings.

Jeff Cogen is a sharp and capable guy. There's no way this culture of taxpayer ripoffs is going to change overnight, but Jeff gets it and he's working to do something about it.

This article doesn't show Cogen seeing the light. In fact, his proposal is to extend the URA an additional year BEYOND 2026. He sees the impact the URA is having on the County, but instead of ending it he's simply begging for a few extra dollars.

URAs are great tools when used appropriately, and I think the Pearl was a good use as property values were greatly increased. Now it's time to end it and use the higher taxes to fund basic services.

It's OK to "think" the Pearl was a good use of Urban Renewal. But that "thinking" is not based on any analysis of the investment, what it truly paid for or who got what.
It's just a shiny new part of downtown with the presumption that "it" must have been worth the investment.
Exactly what the PDC wants people to "think".
With all of the bureaucracy, 100s of employees and all of our elected officials none of them take on the task of authentic oversight or any genuine assessing of merit.

Most of the public assumes someone is providing some level of watch dogging.

I've watched many processes whereby not a single commissioner, PDC or Council, asked for a thorough accounting of money spent. Not one, on any project or plan.

Yet the PDC has successfully manipulated the process to give the various levels of governance the impression the previous level had already scrutinized the work before them.

In URAC (Urban Renewal Advisory Committee)meetings the PDC gives the false impression staff has addressed the concerns raised when they haven't.
Then at the PDC commissioner level they tell commissioners that the citizen groups fully scrutinized and approved the work before them. Giving a totally false impression that oversight has been provided. With well worded reports and hyped up power point presentations commissioners are assured their rubber stamp of approval is all that is needed.
Then it's off to the city council who then assumes all the background work has been done. Potter-Sten et al find comfort in not having to provide any genuine responsibility to take a close look at anything. Relying instead on the presumed fine work of bureau staff, URAC and PDC commissioners.
This process is ripe for abuses, theft, corruption and mismanagement.
To such an extent that it is unfathomable and impossible that many violations are not happening on a regular basis.
It's the nature of lax management when 100s of millions are involved.
Minor mismanagement issues become whoppers in waste and temptations to use the system are overwhelming and unavoidable.

Investigations, audits and restructuring are a must.

Once started the resistance early on will immediately indicate widespread improprieties.

Of course it will take at least one elected offical who's actually a leader.

Seen any?

You would think the PDX school district would be fighting extension of urban renewal seeing how it removes highly valuable real estate from the property tax rolls for years on end, leaving the district to hit other areas of the city for additional bond measures. I guess the electorate in PDX is easily fooled by the "do-it-for-the-children" scam run by the school district and cityhall.

What good are the promises and bragging about someday a Urban Renewal windfall coming back to the various taxing jurisdictions if it never happens?

Let's get real.

Right now it's going to require using all of the property taxes from $991 million in River District real estate from now till 2018 to retire the debt and return those taxes to basic services.

What the PDC is proposing is to extend their naked addiction to Urban Renewal into perpetuity. Forever.

With their approach it will never cease or ever return the tax dollars to where they belong.

NEVER.
It's bad enough waiting for the 2018 scheduled end to the R district. Officials will be dreaming up many other reasons to increase and extend the debt.

This new proposal will add $311 million and delay the tax money returning to services until the 2026-27 tax year. Cogen’s proposal would extend that further.

Can't people imagine all of the "forever" extensions
that will surface ove all those years?

This is the worst municipal credit card abuse in state history. And all the while no one really watches where the countless millions end up.

How much development in the Pearl could have happened anyway, without a dollar from the PDC? Sure, it would not have big condo buildings and a streetcar. It could have been a lower density mixed use area. Same thing with SoWa. There was a lot of interest in lower density development in both the Pearl and SoWa.

Density brings high tax revenues, but it also creates congestion, and makes property more expensive. It changes the soul of a city. Wasn't Portland a decent place to live in 1990? Even though we have added billions in property value, and pay high property taxes, somehow our schools, roads, and public services are a wreck. Then, since a dense Portland is more expensive, sprawl is happening right outside the city.

There are several aspects in Cogan's thinking that's questionable. Yes, it is good that he has recognized the $18.5M per year tax deficit for Mult. Co. caused by Portland's UR, which many have postulated for years. But his solution for recovering some of it is wrong.

First, it is illegal for one taxing body, PDC, to take UR dollars and deposit it into another body-Mult. Co. Tax dollars are only to be used in the URA district that generates the dollars.

Secondly, if Cogan wants to help the County, then advocate for the end of urban renewal districts that are successful and have met their mission. Very simple, then the excess tax dollars generated by the taxpayer UR investment returns to the county.

Also, the media and probably not even the Multnomah Co. commissioners have added up all the other urban renewal tax dollars losses from other urban renewal districts by other governments within Multnomah Co.s' boundary. I do know that fire districts, police agencies and a few school districts are beginning to add it up.

Like the Sten proposal, to use The Pearl urban renewal dollars to pay for a school for David Douglas, Cogan's concept will likely be legally challenged. But I'm sure it won't be AG Hardy.

More like, "Rome Burns while Sam attends the National Bike Summit in D.C."

Wapato Jail: still closed (4 years after the ribbon cutting).

Sellwood Bridge: still falling into the water.

Jantzen Beach: new business creation stalled due to inadequate infrastructure.

SoWhat: CONDO! CONDO! CONDO! get your RED HOT CONDOs Here! (ignoring the inadequate infrastructure for now). Have you seen my biotech lynchpin in here?

LightRail: wherever you want it, Sam and Earl will find a way to fund it.

Neighborhood roads and sidewalks: so sorry, not in the budget. Form an LID with your neighbors and pay for it yourselves.

Did you know?

The latest condo tower in SoWa is nearly complete and sales have not yet started.

That's right. A brand new condo tower that has yet to begin selling the units.

Seems there previous building has too many unsold units.

Ouch.

Sounds to me like a big subprime construction loan. The fact that they are not in default indicates to me that somehow the taxpayers are picking up the check.

"The fact that they are not in default indicates to me that somehow the taxpayers are picking up the check."

They may get a few million here and there for "Economic devlopment" and "jobs creation", but that's different pot of money for other reasons.

So there'e no connection to being bailed out or subsidized.

Besides it's none of your business and you're never going to know enough to do squat about it anyway.

HOWARD,

You sound like somebody who's trying to get their earnest money back. Or maybe you're a developer?

It doesn't matter what Jack knows (or doesn't), but I'll bet the lender is paying close attention to the lending covenants if the pre-sales aren't on target.

It smells like there's some high rise apartment rentals that will soon be coming on the SoWhat market. Maybe Opie will be getting some affordable housing after all.

Now...If they don't sell, they should lower the prices. Demand and supply and all that rot. Right?

Maybe this is the way to "affordable housing" in SoWhat?

T,
I was pretending to be Sam.
See how easy it is to be an inept manipulator?

imagine for a moment the chaos and alarm that ensues when proprty taxes in the Pearl go up to the same rates as the rest of us pay.

felt good, didn't it?

Howard,

I just reread your comment and can't believe I missed the (now obvious) sarcasm. The standard drivel from the Kook-Aid krowd is difficult to discern from overt sarcasm sometimes.

Steel wheels gooooood, rubber tires baaaaaaaaaad!

T said,
"Howard,I just reread your comment and can't believe I missed the (now obvious) sarcasm."

Yeah but look how many people miss Sam's
conniving/inept ways when he says it.


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