Colwood neighbors, meet Goliath
The folks who want to keep the Colwood Golf Course a greenspace are about to find out what really talks at Portland City Hall. It's green, all right, but not as in "sustainable." It's green, as in money.
Today Nick Budnick of the Trib breaks some serious bad news for the park advocates: The owners of the property, who want it rezoned so that they can sell a bunch of it off to the Port of Portland for an airport expansion, and most of the rest to unnamed "industrial" interests, have hired Steve Janik to represent them. Janik, a one-time colleague of mine, is a highly skilled attorney, and the ultimate Portland City Hall fixer. He has been pulling strings and mowing down neighborhood opposition to development projects since the late 1970s. He is to advocacy for real estate types what I try to be to blogging: smart, hard-driving, and relentless.
The "Hollywood West" Fred Meyer store? Wouldn't have gone in without Janik. The huge parking garage across from the Schnitz? Ditto, Janik. There are many, many more. Janik manipulates local politicians like a master puppeteer with a collection of colorful marionettes. A few years back, he used to let Jim Francesconi use office space in his law firm to dial for campaign dollars. Lightweight Sarah Palin types like Sam Adams will see things Janik's way, have no doubt.
Janik joins a growing raft of lobbyists who have been enlisted to get that land over to the Port, and to the other paradise-pavers who think a blue heron is a drug to stay away from. As noted here last week, Mike Lindberg is on board, and we now see that "developer Roland Haertl and consultant Trina Whitman, a former aide to Congressman Earl Blumenauer," are also in on the action.
Who's paying for all that arm-twisting? It's got to be costing a fortune. Janik alone has got to run $500 an hour, or more. Are the golf course owners really willing to throw that much dough around? Something tells me that there are some other West Hills dudes with a stake in this -- a big construction company, maybe, and of course some developers -- and a master plan for the whole place has already been sketched out on the QT. The deal has doubtlessly already been quietly wired at the Port -- it usually is -- and so Portland City Hall is the last piece left on the board for the money boys to capture. The whole thing has serious Arlington Club musk wafting off it. And of course, the Port has a bottomless pit of money to play with. Are Port tax dollars going into the fight with the neighbors? One way or another, I'll bet they are.
In any event, already the big bucks are paying off. Now the City Council has suddenly decided that it won't be ruling on the zoning change until November. Will that be the day before Thanksgiving, so that the news can be conveniently lost by the local media? Or how about the day after Election Day, amidst either a massive Obama party hangover or alternatively, the talk of Oregon seceding from the United States?
And of course, delay greatly helps the developer and Port interests, whose minions get paid by the hour while the hapless unpaid neighborhood activists watch months, and then years, of their lives get burned up trying to hang in there. Eventually in such cases, the neighbors tend to give up. Some move away. The rest stick around and resent the city government for the rest of their lives. It happens all the time. Go ask the folks in Buckman, as just one example.
Meanwhile, it looks as though Fireman Randy's already been convinced to give the Port what it wants. Suddenly today a city bureau under his command is touting the rezoning as a jobs-creation vehicle. Budnick reports: "Meanwhile, proponents of the change argue that rezoning would help fill a regional shortage of industrial land. The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs."
Oh, boy. Say goodbye to the grass, people. Nobody at BDS says boo without Fireman Randy giving it the o.k. He's obviously ready to play ball with Janik and Lindberg.
Lindberg, who was a big seller of the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], is still talking "win-win" at Colwood. That's a special code in Portland. It means "my way."
UPDATE, 7:42 p.m.: The city says the Trib got it wrong. More here.