Paulson stadium deal funnels Portland tax money to New York
The Portland City Council is scheduled to hear tomorrow afternoon two ordinances creating a no-bid contract that turns over the remodeling of city-owned PGE Park to the Paulson family. From the documents that our correspondent obtained from the city the other day, the Paulsons apparently intend to let a construction contract worth at least $22 million to contractor giant Turner Construction, based in New York. The City of Portland, which when asked for documents says it has seen only the sketchiest of drawings and an equally cursory description of the work, will not get a chance to select any contractor other than the one chosen by the Paulsons, which in this case is apparently Turner.
It's an interesting end-run around -- or perhaps mockery of -- the public bidding laws. Here the city is about to blow big bucks on remodeling public property for the exclusive benefit of a private company -- a questionable decision in itself. But then what does it do? It has that private company put up a few million bucks up front; notes that no one else would put up that money; and for that reason awards to the company the right to designate any builder it wants.
Beyond the selection of the contractor and the price tag, there's also the question of the scope of the project. Will Portland taxpayers or their elected officials get a chance to review what's going to go into the project, to weigh in on what might be useful to have in their municipal stadium, and what might not be? Apparently not.
You have to wonder how much profit Turner will make on the deal, and whether this large public works project could have been undertaken more cheaply and with less frills. But that's all you'll get to do -- wonder. The Paulsons, recently transplanted to Lake Oswego from New York, will call all the shots.
And where will the money come from to pay for the $37 million (or greater) undertaking? Except for $4 million that the Paulsons are supposedly putting up, it will all be borrowed by the city, from the gods of Wall Street. Led by the cronies of the Paulson family at Goldman Sachs. Indeed, the contract between the city and the Paulsons states that the Paulsons will "assist" the city in privately selling the bonds. No doubt. And so all the interest on that $37 million mortgage -- and you can bet that the interest will be at a hefty rate -- will be heading for New York as well.
O.k., so no one in Portland will profit from the deal. Is there any guarantee that Portland residents will at least be hired to take the construction jobs? Nothing legally binding so far, but Turner has an office in town, and it's handled big projects in Oregon before, apparently including the last wasteful remodel of the stadium earlier this decade.
It's a bit ironic that The Paulson badmouths the existing amenities of the stadium while he goes out and hires the same contractor who got it that way to take another crack at it.
Anyway, it's to be expected that corporate and bankster America will roll into a place like Portland and try to raid the public coffers. But it's sad that they're able to do it so easily.