Feels like home
I see that Don "the Don" Mazziotti, the Goldschmidt protege who ruled the Portland Development Commission through the Vera Katz years, is really ramping his local maneuverings back up. His reappearance comes several years after his unceremonious departure from his PDC gig when the agency went under new management at the hands of Grampy Potter. For a while there, the Don was working for the Harold Schnitzer real estate firm, but that must be over, because now he is sowing his oats in the public sector again. Big time.
Not only is the Don the lead huckster for the Merritt Paulson $85 million* stadium-parking lot scam, but he's also just been named to the board of the Portland Family of Funds (PFF). That's the shadowy private company that was "spun off" from the PDC with public money during the Don's PDC tenure, with ambitions to become a billion-dollar "community investment bank." Lately, it siphons off tax credits for projects like the toney Gerding theater in the Pearl District -- millions of dollars in federal "new markets" tax credits that were meant to rebuild low-income areas of town.
The PFF has always had a funny odor about it. Its first CEO was a guy named Norris Lozano, who, like the Don, was not a well-liked fellow. Lozano had a checkered past when it came to finances, and at one point the state taxing authorities were after him for some serious back taxes. He parted company with the PFF about a year ago, and was last reported running a real estate financing outfit in Santa Monica.
Lozano's replacement as the PFF CEO is Carl Talton, who also happens to be a founder and the current board chairman of the PFF. Talton worked for Portland utility companies for three decades and served as chair of the PDC from 1995 to 1998. He retired from the PDC board, and Katz replaced him with Matt Hennessee, who was chair when the Don was the CEO at PDC. Since then, Talton has been a regular appointee to various state boards; Governor Ted must love him (or fear him, or at least need him).
Joining Talton and the Don on the PFF board are none other than Hank "Convention Center Hotel" Ashforth; Marty Brantley, the Channel 12 exec who among many other board appointments sat on the PDC board with Talton; and Les Fahey, a former CPA and current business consultant.
That's it -- just those five guys, according to the PFF website. Controlling tens of millions in tax dollars, in a private company. And the CEO answering to a board of which he is also the chair. Wow.
Any time I prowl around the internet looking for the lowdown on the PFF, I find something interesting. The latest thing I've noticed is that it's a "mutual benefit corporation," which as I understand it is sort of like a business league. It's a nonprofit organization, in that it doesn't have shareholders, but unlike a public benefit corporation, it does have "members." I wonder who those members are.
The other thing that you never hear discussed is that a lot of the tax credits that the PFF throws around get spent in New York. It crows about its latest allocation of tax credits -- $65 million, awarded last year -- but according to this press release on a deal it closed this past summer, half of the tax credits "are reserved for projects in New York."
The last couple of years of the Don's tenure at the PDC were a laugh riot. That agency single-handedly kept the local blogosphere buzzing for months on end. Expense account abuses, executive coaching excesses, rigged public processes, scathing criticism from the City Club, sex scandals -- it was quite a scene. And the fun appears to be on the verge of resuming. With the Don now on board at the PFF, and Sam the Tram about to take over Vera's old desk and pump the PDC full of his and her real estate buds, it's going to be quite a wild ride.
* Preliminary liars' budget figure.