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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 24, 2008 3:55 PM. The previous post in this blog was To everything, turn turn turn. The next post in this blog is Well, now. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hawthorne Bridge ramp move: It might be for condos

We wondered aloud the other day why the City of Portland would sell $9 million of taxable bonds and give the proceeds to Multnomah County to pay for moving an off-ramp from the Hawthorne Bridge to make way for a new county courthouse. As usual, the city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, has answered our questions, but the answers he has given us are disturbing indeed.

The reason the interest on the bonds is taxable, instead of tax-exempt, is that the financing of the courthouse is so uncertain at this point that it might turn out that the block from which the ramp is being moved will wind up in private developers' hands!

Here's the latest Q & A with Johansen:

bojack: Why is a public bridge/courthouse project being financed with taxable bonds?

Johansen: PDC provided Multnomah County with $8.82 million for the purpose of making a parcel of property available for development by relocating the Hawthorne Bridge off-ramp at the west end of the bridge. The parcel is currently expected to be the site of a new County courthouse, but the property may be developed for other purposes. The County does not currently have funding for a new courthouse; nor does it have necessary land use entitlements to construct a courthouse on the site. While the County continues to pursue this site for a courthouse, it is possible that the courthouse may ultimately be sited elsewhere. If the proposed site is not ultimately developed as a courthouse, it may be sold for private redevelopment.

Under federal tax law, tax-exempt bond proceeds generally may only be spent on projects that are reasonably expected to be used for governmental purposes for the life of the bonds. Because the ultimate use of the Hawthorne property (public or private) remains uncertain, the City and PDC, in consultation with legal counsel, determined that in order to accommodate either public or private use, taxable financing was necessary.

bojack: When was the nearly $9 million drawn on the line of credit for this project? Why was the line used for this project? Has the work even begun?

Johansen: Pursuant to an agreement between PDC and Multnomah County, PDC provided $8.82 million to the County in March 2008. The source of funding was a draw on the Downtown Waterfront line of credit. (The remaining $182,000 will be provided to RACC to satisfy public art requirements.) Urban renewal projects are routinely financed through a line of credit until such time as the line is taken out with long-term bonds. The entire balance of the Downtown Waterfront line of credit has since been paid off with a portion of the proceeds of the recently issued urban renewal and redevelopment bonds for the area.

The ramp relocation project is being managed by Multnomah County. Questions on project timing are better addressed to them.

Why we're spending this $9 million at this point -- indeed, the city's already spent it by forking the money over to the county last month -- for a courthouse that may never be built, is still a mystery to us. The thought of the spendy ramp relocation making way for "private redevelopment" is particularly troublesome.

Maybe the city ought to do one of its goofy "satellite urban renewal district" deals and redirect this money down Sellwood way. We know some bridge work down there that's much, much more pressing.

Comments (14)

Why does the courthouse need to be in expensive downtown Portland?

Better yet, why do we have a Multnomah county? Turn the city of Portland into its own city/county combo and turn the rest of the land back over to Clackamas.

While it is disturbing to learn the truth about this matter, it is also somewhat refreshing to learn that one can learn the facts simply by asking. Does the same hold true for the average citizen or is this a right reserved for the blogger?

I'm a bit confused. If the county can't come up with money for the courthouse, do they then have the right to sell the property to the highest bidder for whatever project? Then, in turn, will the county be receiving 100% of the sale? Or, did the PDC, by forking over this money, earn the right to development or first purchase if the county decides to build, upgrade, the courthouse elsewhere?

Why does the courthouse need to be in expensive downtown Portland?

It might surprise you to know there's a satellite court out in Gresham.

Jack - Thanks for taking the time to do the research, and garner this valuable information from the City. You are providing a valuable public service that is not available elsewhere. I have a feeling that an inquiry from John Q. Public to the City debt manager would sit at the bottom of the inbox for a long time. It would possibly get a response like "please file a formal public information request, and maybe we'll get back to you in a few months." It is rather disturbing that the City just borrows money, with no firm plans in hand. Would these people do this with their own money?? I think not.

Once again as I have said before we have been taken over by people from outter space.

I agree with Anthony: why do we have a Multnomah County government? I've lived several different places, and none of them had such significant activities in their county government, and all of them got along just fine. MC government here seems to me to be a cumbersome add-on that accomplishes little but costs a lot, and just adds up to complicated, overly bureaucratic layers of government. Can't we just get rid of it?

"Because the ultimate use of the Hawthorne property (public or private) remains uncertain"

HA-HA-HA! They know what they want, they just haven't figured when to slip it nuder the radar.

"why do we have a Multnomah County government?"

So Lisa Naito can travel on teh govt's dime and Lonnie Roberts can get paid for afternoon naps.

You all would complain if the courthouse was built in the sticks too. "Wha wha wha I can't get to the courthouse, it isn't accessible to where I live wha wha wha."

"You all would complain if the courthouse was built in the sticks"

As long as it is on MAX, what's the problem?

Clark County has some cheap land, why not simply build it out there?

Or better yet, Battleground. I doubt there's any law requiring that the Courthouse actually be located in Multnomah County, so we may as well save some money. Besides, all the county employees get free parking in downtown anyway.

There is a big, giant freeway that runs from Portland to Battleground, in case anyone has complaints of "not being able to get there." And it would likely save the county millions.

Better yet, build the new courthouse and never fund the opening of it.

That way the state of the art facility wilkl be obsolete by the time it actually gets used.

The Multnomah County Commission is the most dysfunctional government model possible.

MC government here seems to me to be a cumbersome add-on that accomplishes little but costs a lot, and just adds up to complicated, overly bureaucratic layers of government. Can't we just get rid of it?

I imagine Ted and the gang say the same thing about the city.

"MC government here seems to me to be a cumbersome add-on that accomplishes little but costs a lot, and just adds up to complicated, overly bureaucratic layers of government. Can't we just get rid of it?"

Mostly because political conservatives and the people in East County oppose getting rid of it. In truth there is very little done by MCO that is duplicated by City Governments in any event. In truth ther are very few people who actually live in unicorporated areas of MCO. Now while I will agree that the presence of another body of elected officials is pretty annoying, in the overall scheme of things it's not all that more expensive. And besides it provides fodder for bloggers to b*tch about. :-)

Greg C


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