This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 18, 2008 5:22 PM. The previous post in this blog was Lean Cuisine -- now with bits of blue plastic. The next post in this blog is Tweeter looking for a woofer. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

False alarm

This afternoon we got this breathless e-mail message:

Portland Public Schools is planning to change their policy concerning the disposition of real property. They are planning to discontinue the notification of the City of Portland, Multnomah County, Portland neighborhoods, and the public when they are planning to declare a property surplus /(see pages 8 - 15 of PPS Final Board Book).

The 1979 Portland City School Policy was developed during the comprehensive plan process and is still ORDINANCE (Ordinance 150580). It states very clearly the intent and importance of a public partnership among School District #1, local government, neighborhoods, and the public. The above policy changes by PPS #1 seem to be in conflict with the City School Policy, Comp Plan and State Law.

If you are able, please check into this policy change and let Portland Public Schools know of your opinion about the need for the public to remain part of this process and tell others about it.

As today was apparently the comment deadline on this issue, we took quick action and e-mailed Cameron Vaughan-Tyler at the school board to protest the deletion of the notice requirement.

She promptly responded, and it turns out that our e-mail correspondents were mistaken:

There is nothing in the proposed policy that would discontinue notification to the City of Portland, Multnomah County, or the Portland neighborhoods.

The notification is clearly stated in the policy. I can send you the whole policy if you like, but here is the piece you are referring to:

The policy directs the following:

(1) Superintendent’s Surplus Real Property Recommendation: The Superintendent shall develop and adopt administrative directives establishing a process for developing recommendations to the Board on surplus properties. The process shall include at a minimum the following components:

(a) Notification of the Portland Public School Board,
(b) Notification to the City and County, and other public agencies as appropriate, providing an opportunity to purchase the property, and notification to the local neighborhood association, and the public at large.
(c) A reasonable time for public response or comment.
(d) A summary of the factors considered in the development of the recommendation.

In other words, there's nothing in the current proposal that would change the existing notice rules. School board watchers are wise to keep an eye on this whole topic -- there are condo tower developers salivating over Lincoln High School, school board headquarters, and other school properties -- but in this case, the watchdogs appear to have sounded a false alarm.

UPDATE, 5:52 p.m.: Or maybe not. One commenter to this post suggests that further changes are quietly being discussed.

Comments (5)

I wonder if that has anything to do with the Lincoln HS property? A while back there was some sort of crazy plan to build a "school/condo tower/mini mall" or some crazy thing.

Sounds like the fixers are at it again.

I'm told future comment will be restricted to those who have submitted written comments by close of business today.

I'm also told that the key issues are:

1. Dodging state law, which provides that real property owned by school districts reverts to the State when declared surplus.

2. Making previously mandatory public involvement optional.

Says everything you need to know that rumor mills are more reliable sources of information than the elected officials.

I am with the school of thought which says that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay multiple times for the same property, which is what happens when the first unit of government subsidiary to the state sells it to a second unit subsidiary to the state. That is what the state law is intended to avoid. Reversion to the state keeps in in public ownership without the public paying twice, while the unit that surpluses it sheds maintenance and operating costs.

The amendments they aren't discussing suggest that we might see PPS sell one parcel to another unit of government (public pays a second time) and then come back to the public for a bond measure to buy another piece that it likes better (public pays a third time).

The notification requirements were moved from board policy to administrative policy, which can be changed at the whim of the superintendent.

So a superintendent may change this policy at his or her whim, without board approval or public notice.

Hi all,

While I understand the distrust around the notion of selling public assets, particularly given past District actions, the reality is the policy as revised still requires public process and notification for any sale of property, and contrary to the past, the district is focused on retaining and improving our assets, since enrollment is growing and there is projected growth in the Portland area.

In short: This is *not* an attempt to remove public oversight or sell off a bunch of school property.

The revised policy retains the public notification/process requirements and it removes all the 2002 language that gave the Real Estate Trust a direct role (including the option to serve as owner and developer).

"future comment will be restricted to those who have submitted written comments by close of business today" - Per the process for policy changes, there was a Nov. 18 deadline for comments following the Oct. 27 first reading of the proposed policy revisions. The comment period has now been extended, see below. The reason for setting a deadline for public input is to give staff enough time to take any written comments/suggestions from the public into consideration in preparing the final version of proposed policy. But there's no restriction on people continuing to comment to express their opinions about the policy, whether in writing or by coming to board meetings, etc.

Steve R., the public notification requirements are still in the policy (see text of policy in the main post). Yes, additional detail is now in the supporting administrative directive. However, a superintendent cannot get around the process/notification requirements that are clearly stipulated in the policy.

Both the policy and the AD are posted on the PPS website: http://www.board.pps.k12.or.us/.docs/pg/10818
Staff are going to be posting more information as well as the before/after of the 2002 and proposed revisions to the policy.

Since there has been considerable concern & confusion over this proposed revision, the review & comment period has been extended & the board will be revisiting this in January rather than at this Monday's meeting. Thanks to everyone for your diligent oversight of public assets. It is smart to question when a policy changes and I appreciate all of your comments, whether supportive or not. Allowing this extra time will ensure that everyone has ample opportunity to ask questions, compare the documents and understand our intention in updating this policy.

-Ruth Adkins
PPS board member

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