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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 9, 2008 5:24 AM. The previous post in this blog was Rart at møde dig. The next post in this blog is League joins charge against Portland urban renewal. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wheeler goes along for the ride

Just when we were forming a mildly favorable impression of Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler, he wrecks it. Yesterday we learned that he is now willing to have the county "continue the conversation" about putting county tax money into the infernal Convention Center hotel project, which by order of Sam the Tram's developer bosses, simply will not die. Ever. No matter how hopeless. No matter how far.

Ted, you yourself have preached many times about the dire financial straits in which the county currently finds itself. What is there for you to "converse" with Hank Ashforth and the boys about?

Comments (18)

Here we go again - Sell some bonds and we'll have a sure-fired money-maker to pay them back with. How do people keep falling for this tired argument?

Maybe if they had one example of where it worked, I could buy it? ANyone?

Jack - I am honored to hear that you once had even a mildly favorable impression of me. Coming from you that almost sounds like praise....The County's role in this analysis is very specifically to the VDF (Visitors Development Fund). These are taxes collected mostly from hotels and motels, etc. Although Multnomah County is the taxing agency (there has to be one), the funds do not go to Multnomah County. They are used by other agencies to market the Convention Center and support local tourism. These agencies are considering whether some of these dollars should be re-directed to the HQ Hotel project rather than toward marketing the Convention Center. The County would have to approve any re-allocation of these funds since we are the collecting agency (even though the funds don't come to us).

With regard to the overall HQ Hotel project, I have not reached any conclusion - I have many questions: is the project viable given the current economy? Will there be sufficient convention business to support it? Can a bond be floated in this market at the rates assumed in the pro formas? Among others...

I have been more than clear that I am NOT willing to support a project which would put Multnomah County at significant financial risk. This simply is NOT a top County priority given our mission and our current financial resources.

I would welcome your reasoned analysis on the County's aspect of this project as it relates narrowly to the VDF. Thanks, Ted Wheeler.

I cannot believe the local developer weasels let a Texas developer weasel into their public subsidy sandbox.

Mr. Wheeler,
I understand that you are the County chair but is your concern for responsible local government limited to that role and jurisdiction?
I've noticed for years that few if any local politicians ever speak out on any of the boondoggles and wondered why not.
Is it your position that as long as Multnomah County doesn't get dinged that anything the City and Metro dumps millions into is cool?
With Metro involved it's clear Multnomah County residents will be footing the bill even if the County itself doesn't get involved. So how about looking out for taxpayers, voters, under any circumstance?

Ted Wheeler says:

The County's role in this analysis is very specifically to the VDF (Visitors Development Fund). These are taxes collected mostly from hotels and motels, etc. ... These agencies are considering whether some of these dollars should be re-directed to the HQ Hotel project rather than toward marketing the Convention Center.

Currently taxes are collected from hotels to support tourism. I can understand that: boost tourism and you boost hotel occupancy and revenues.

But, if the money is diverted to the Convention Center hotel: (1) there is less money to boost tourism, and (2) incumbent hotels are subsidizing a large competitor.

I don't see how this makes Multnomah County better off.

We need to keep in mind that Mr. Wheeler and the other local politicos are under tremendous pressure from construction companies, unions, and Ashforth to build the convention center hotel. These folks don't care how much the hotel would lose or how much business it would siphon off from the existing hotels that fund the VDF. They just want the hotel built so they can get a big piece of $80 million + construction budget pie.

"pressure from construction companies, unions, and Ashforth to build the convention center hotel."

Don't forget, Sam needs another stop for the streetcar.

It should be obvious the project was never viable in any economy. Talk about reinventing the Wheeler.

the causal link of "building hotel space will increase Convention Center business" has little basis in reality. yet, this is the fundamental reason for pursuing it.

like sports stadiums, it's been pointed out time and again that it's worse odds than a Vegas blackjack game.

the ending is nearly always the same--developers, looking to heap the risk on the public, promise rainbows like "10,000 biotech jobs", "green collar jobs", and a long list of other promises with no basis in reality.

Ted, why does the County need to consider and vote on the Convention Center Hotel if the county is only the "collection agency"? Where in any document is the county approval required?

Whatever your answer is to the questions, I agree with Ben's comment that the County should voice an opinion about this matter. It has been the norm for many of the various governmental bodies to opine about issues and many times be partners in some manner where it is logical and legal. But in many cases in the more recent past it seems government bodies have played outside the laws/statutes of their mission. Case in point: CoP involved in public education in their pursuit of Pearl District TIF dollars for an illegal satellite school funding. I agree with your past public comments that the County needs to stay on task to what the voters regard as "county business", especially on a financial basis, but an opinion is sometimes warranted.

I think it is very difficult for anyone in a Multnomah County or City of Portland leadership position to show real independent leadership. I tend to see Wheeler as a cog in the political machine. He is a bit more astute than some in that he sees the value in engaging important bloggers like Jackbog.

But he will ignore reasoned analysis from people less visible. He ran for office with a platform plank to clean up Multnomah County Animal Services, but is suspending reason to go along with the demonstrably dishonest people who have been running the shelters for too long. He goes along with their statements that cat intake is increasing without asking why. If he were to do that he would see that the intake increase corresponds with the "duty to prevent animal trespass" provision, enacted in the early 2000s without public input, which permits people to take their neighbors cats to the pound without notice to them.

The whiz kid who says he cares so much about logic and analysis only is open to it when it is politically expedient.

Mr. Wheeler

You have held yourself out as a leader. Sadly, you are failing the test. This metro area cannot fund schools, social services, jails, health care etc and yet hundreds, yes hundreds, of thousand of dollars are being spent by various political entities to prop up this hotel. You just don't get it do you. Buck up Mr. Wheeler. We already have in Mr. Adams, a space cadet with no sense of the value of taxpayer dollars as he sails off to his next failed project.
Our children will bare the cost of these bonds and frankly not all of us have the personal wealth of your family to safeguard their future. We are the ones losing our jobs, our homes, our health care and our pensions. And if we are lucky enough to work, we bear the ever increasing tax load. If you really want to lead use your own personal wealth and that of your friends to take the risk on this project. Enough is enough.
You Sir, are a great disappointment. I had really hoped you would make a difference and bring sound judgement to the process.

LW - I have spoken out on this issue and have raised specific concerns about the economic viablity of this project (as recently as in today's O).

The Metro staff report will be presented on the 18th (assuming they hold the hearing which they should). That report will help inform my final decision.

It has always been my policy to speak out on issues that go beyond the County's narrow interests.

I also have an obligation to be fully informed when I do so.

I appreciate the dialog. Ted.

PS - I have not been approached by either any union or any contractor on this project. My schedule is available online. Ted.

In Mr Wheeler's defense, I think he is at least open to listen. He is probably the most astute of local govt on things like these (no, I am not a relative or employee.) In the end, I am hoping he realizes doing this kind of stuff while the Sellwood bridge falls down really has to have a real justification at zero cost.

I mean what the heck, Ashforth could say he'll pay for everything - Or how about going back to the tribes and letting them build a hotel/casino which I think would be a huge moneymaker?

I've studied addictive behavior all my life, often to help myself. It flares up in things like drugs but it can also be found in seemingly innocent activities like jogging.

I've followed local politicians and I'm convinced this desire to do something flashy and big - instead of mundane work such as sewer pipe repair - is an addiction. The problem is there's no end to it, because the high never lasts. It can't be quenched for long which is why we're currently going back to PGE Park to revisit another new project based on that. Unfortunately, we can't wait for these addicts to hit rock bottom. The economic situation we're in is too precarious.

My solution is to get these politicians help. If PPC can have lifestyle coaches or whatever that was, how come we can't get some addiction experts in and have them treat these politicians?
We need Sam Adams at a meeting saying, "I'm addicted to big spending projects and I need help." Maybe get Ted Wheeler some hypnosis therapy where he repeats, "Must replace Sellwood Bridge" over and over again.

It's so easy to criticize these politicians, and so cruel. These are victims of a powerful addiction and they need empathy - not scorn. With the proper treatment they could still lead very useful lives. Yes, treatment would be expensive but what price do you put on destroying a city?

Let's take one of those South Waterfront buildings and turn it into the Center for Advanced Treatment of Flashy Spending. It's not too late to get these people help. They don't need a hotel for the convention center - they need a rehab center.

Bill; funny but sadly right on.

Ted, thanks for a partial reply to my post. The two, top questions still remain. Is it a requirement that Mult. Co. vote on the Hotel if it only a "collection agency"?

Hey Ted -
I thought you were suppose to be a leader. So why is the common man (ie - me) can answer those perplexing questions, allow me.

is the project viable given the current economy? No, no a thousand times no.

Will there be sufficient convention business to support it? No, no, ten thousand times no.

Can a bond be floated in this market at the rates assumed in the pro formas? Sure, if you want to pay a huge interest rate.

Bottom line the government, be it county, city or Metro have NO business getting into the hotel business.

No charge for the advice, it's common sense.

Mr. Wheeler, we would truly appreciate if elected officials would in fact concentrate on the "narrow interests" for which they were elected to oversee. There might be some money left for us at the end of the month. Thanks.


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