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Friday, July 10, 2009

The way it's done in Portland

It's hard to believe that this sort of thing goes on, and nobody bats an eye: The Sam-Rand twins cut an oral backroom deal with Little Lord Paulson on his stadium project literally 10 minutes before the City Council meeting at which said project is supposed to be meaningfully discussed by the council as a whole and by the public. And this counts as transparency and public involvement.

A reader who was there writes:

Well, I just got back from the city council meeting, and it was a real soccer lovefest! No scarf waving. No vulgar chants. No smoke bombs. No vomiting in the aisles. Just love and praise for Paulson from the city council and the audience.

Right at 2 p.m., when the meeting was supposed to start with an unrelated, time-certain item on the agenda, there was a flurry of activity out in the hall, as council members, along with Paulson and his gang walked briskly toward the council chambers. Word quickly spread that the agenda had been changed, and that the meeting would start with an unscheduled announcement that a soccer deal had been reached.

And that's what happened. There was nothing in writing to pass out to the council or the public, and [city finance chief] Ken Rust did most of the talking as he explained all of the financials.

Then there were half a dozen people who got up to praise Paulson. One speaker heaped Oprah-like praise on Paulson for his efforts to somehow find the extra money that he's now putting into this deal.

There was no vote taken at this point in time. This was just an informational item, and Adams promised that at a later date there would be a panel of experts on stadium renovation to review the actual building plans.

I left as the time-certain item began, with the no-bid and sole-source items still scheduled to follow. But there was no point in staying, and no point in being a party-pooper.

"Just an informational item," indeed. "The deal's been cut -- take it or leave it, workers of the world." The People's Republic of Portland truly lives up to its nickname once again.

But the real punchline to this sick joke, from the O:

Paulson said he sees the PGE renovations as a two-phase project and may come back to the city in later years for more upgrades, when urban renewal might play a role.
No kidding. Until yesterday, the budget for the remodel of PGE Park was between $36.9 million and $41.5 million. Now it's down to $31 million. Of course there will be bleats for more money -- and by then, the place will be unsuitable for anything but soccer. Paulson and his cronies in the soccer league will threaten to leave if they don't get their way. And the city will tell us that we have no choice but to shell out more tens of millions. It's so obvious.

But hey, it's Sam-Rand World. We go by streetcar. The ride's slow, but the trip to municipal bankruptcy will reach its destination eventually.

Comments (37)

Take it or leave it? Where's the leave-it option?

This is why I am no longer a member of the Democratic Party. These guys bitch long and hard about corporations, but then they turn around and do things like this. Welfare for the well to do.

So long Portland. It's been a lesson in double speak.

In the words of Miss Daisy, "I may sick up". URRRP!

Oh yeah, and Ball Janick gets another $100 grand a year to boot!

I find when my blood pressure starts going up, that it helps to view these people as legendary comedians.
The obvious choice for Sam, Randy, and Merritt would be the 3 Stooges, but they're just not charming enough. I could envision these 3 as captains of industry who hire the 3 Stooges to redo PGE Park.
But the moment recently that came closest to comedy legend involves Merritt as Inspector Clouseau:

Imagine the average citizen of Portland as the twitching Chief Inspector Dreyfus. He's followed the national scene and watched his beloved country get taken to the brink by financial shenanigans. Not only does nobody go to jail, but hundreds of billions of dollars are then given to the very people who screwed everything up.

He reads that one of the main culprits - Henry Paulson - is now one of the owners of the local baseball and soccer teams. The twitching and weird giggling starts: "Here? Here in Portland? Not enough they ruin the country - they have to come right here?"

Then he watches as the son Merritt Clouseau spends months bouncing around Portland causing one bumbling foul-up after another. Rose Quarter, Lents.

Finally Dreyfus has a chance to interview this man - this representation of the economic collapse of the United States - who even now is using institutions we just bailed out to continue his ridiculous schemes.

The Chief Inspector fights to remain calm, asking reasonable questions about the deal. Then Merritt Clouseau utters these words:
"I need a facility that works, but I need to recognize the times that we're in."

The Chief Inspector starts twitching and rises up: "Recognize the times we're in? Your family CAUSED the times we're in, you idiot! You want to recognize the times we're in, look across the dinner table at Thanksgiving!"

The Chief Inspector is led away in a straitjacket. Fade to black.

How long is it going to take before the progressive voters in Portland wise up and vote these people out? Recalling Adams is a real good start.

Never, Mr. Benton, never.

Except this is not a 3 Stooges/Pink Panther flick and these not so funny clowns are playing with our hard earned tax dollars!
The whole deal makes me sick and I am really mad that these mealy mouthed hoodlums are in charge. It is really upsetting that they are now perceived as so all powerful that no one will stand up and say, "enough!".
I understand that for some ordinary citizen to stand up to these creeps, those who oppose 'Paulson Inc.' would probably loose any and every thing they had worked for a life time to accumulate.
It is difficult decision to decide to risk everything one has worked for to loose it to the criminals who are now running our city.

I am angry that a carpetbagger like Paulson can come into Portland and basically gain control of our stadium so easily. I love both the Timbers and Beavers and love PGE Park how it is. Why aren't our elected officials standing up for the good of the public? It's so very sad.

This is a great deal for the city of Portland. Paulson needs the deal to be set in stone so that he can go ahead and build up interest in the team. 5,000 season ticket deposits have already been collected in phase 1.

Please take a look at home well soccer is performing in Seattle... most people are saying its a better value and more exciting than their NFL season tickets. Not to mention they have sold more season tickets than the Mariners by a few thousand. If soccer can take the number spot in Seattle then imagine how successful it can be here in Portland only having competition from the Blazers for a few months each year. We need a top level summer sport!

The drop of funding from 38 down to 31 million will likely cut out the expensive restaurant plan he had for the existing seating above the North End.

"I am angry that a carpetbagger like Paulson can come into Portland " but just maybe that carpetbag contains enough shekels to take care of the Motley crew and the media that aids support.
Another example of Democracy, the experiment that has failed.

Michael Fogg,
Does it bother you that the man who walked out with George W and Bernanke into the Rose Garden, and asked for 700 billion dollars to bailout his friends, is now minority-owner of the Beavers and Timbers and asking for help from taxpayers here? I mean, when does it end with these people? Do they ever do anything without asking for help? They're RICH. Poor people don't ask for this much help.

Two things can happen: It will be a wild success and the Paulsons will get a tremendous return with the value of the team.

It will fail in which case we've lost a baseball stadium and God knows what else.

The more I think about this, the more I see it as the story of what went wrong with America. Right now this country is a place where ordinary people watch and pay as the bigshots act out their schemes.

There was a time when the titans of industry weren't the real story. They were there, but it wasn't about them. I don't think John Wayne ever played a Wall Street tycoon. America was about rugged individuals starting out with a dream.

When we lost that and started genuflecting to these Wall Street sleazeballs is when we started losing this country, maybe forever.

P.S. Did you see the AIG bonus story this morning? Not the old one - the new one. That's the same firm Henry Paulson gave the bailout money to with a huge chunk going back to Goldman Sachs to help pay for the screw-ups of....Henry Paulson.

And now he's a co-owner of the Portland Timbers and he wants YOU to help him grow his investment. Incredible.

If there two kinds of seafood I hate most, it's got to be red herring and flounder.

There seem to be 2 sharply divided camps on this whole MLS stadium issue.

The types who look at the numbers, the sketchy details, the funding sources and say "this is an insanely bad deal for the people of portland"

The types who arent "numbers people" who just want soccer and figure that it will all work out in the end.

I just dont think there is any way someone can look at the numbers and say this is a going to work out for anyone but Paulson, whether you like soccer or not. It just doesnt add up.

"Please take a look at home well soccer is performing in Seattle"

Please take a look at how well MLS is doing in 11 out fo 14 other places, viz, losing money and poor attendance.

"The drop of funding from 38 down to 31 million will likely cut out the expensive restaurant plan"

What will happen is we'll get about $2M into this thing and then the following conversation will happen:

Paulson: Can't finish the project, we need another $15M, Garber says so

Randy: Well, I'm going to take my pickup truck and tear down PGE Park.

Paulson: Well, we stop and MLS is dead (echoes of 200 Timbers fans waving poor taste scarfs a la something they saw on BBC)

Randy: Erm, OK what do want?

"Please take a look at how well MLS is doing in 11 out fo 14 other places, viz, losing money and poor attendance."

Please compare apples to apples and take a look at how well the last 2 expansion franchises are perfoming.

Our market when it comes to soccer is vastly superior to other MLS cities like Dallas and Columbus.

Don Garber and MLS changed their policy on expansion a while back and it has been extremely successful. They aren't simply awarding teams to any city that has the money. They are looking at the fan base and the potential for growth. Toronto and Seattle are the last two expansion cities and they are both phenomenal success stories. This is the future of MLS and the rise of Portland and Vancouver will only continue this trend.

This league will not fold and they are very intelligent when it comes to salary cap. Did you realize that that cap is around 2.6 million for an entire team??? MLS teams don't need to be selling 20,000 tickets a night to be successful, but Portland and Vancouver will join Seattle, Toronto, and the Galaxy in the 20k ticket club.

I can understand most of your feelings towards the Paulson Family. Would you still be completely opposed to MLS if it was a different man asking for help???

The city is getting a great deal. Where else have you seen a professional sports franchise cost less than 23 million to obtain?

Portland deserves a second major league team, and the chances of ever getting NFL or MLB are slim to none. Not to mention the cost of getting one of those teams and building them a stadium which would be hundreds of millions of dollars. MLS is the perfect league for our market and it will compliment the Trail Blazers nicely.

The city is not getting the franchise; Paulson is. If it's sold at a profit, the city gets nothing from that.

MLS is a disease. It is not a "major league" by any honest definition of that term. It's probably not in the top 10 soccer leagues in the world.

The city is going to put up money that it doesn't have to remodel a stadium on which it still owes $26 million for the last remodel. It will collect rent for only a few years, and then the private company will get to use the place for free for nearly two decades.

The city isn't "getting" much of anything here. And it's losing minor league baseball forever.

Some folks hate this deal because it enriches the Paulson family, whom they understandably consider the scum of the earth. I wouldn't care if the owner were the Pope, Al Gore, or Dave Letterman -- the deal itself stinks to high heaven.

Amen, Jack!

Of course a league that has been around for only about 12 years will not challenge the European powers. The English Premier, Spanish La Liga, and the German Bundesliga are still leagues beyond MLS but they are also spending upwards of 200 million on their rosters. Compared to 2.6 million its no surprise why they are able to lure talent. What you need to understand is that players want to come to America to play. They want to leave the football spotlight of Europe to come to a league that is both competitive and enjoyable. The main barrier at this point is being able to pay these players the money they can make elsewhere. The cap will continue to rise and this will start happening.

In another 12 years I think MLS will easily be in the top ten.

The LA Galaxy paid Beckham a zillion dollars to play in the US and it was an unmitigated disaster.

In another 12 years I think MLS will easily be in the top ten.

More likely, in Chapter 7.

Yeah, other Mike ...

So when all these Euro players come over here demanding big bucks and the teams raise caps to pay the star players, and then face budget shortages because now their annual expenses go up, don't you see that either

(1) ticket prices will go up, thus defeating the populist idea that "all citizens of Portland will have a chance to see some great new sport" or

(2) Paulson will go back to the City and demand forgiveness on the terms or an extension because, darn it, these payroll costs are just killing my profit margins!

"It is not a 'major league' by any honest definition of that term."

I agree. I say we hold out for an EPL expansion team.

And what was the part about Ball/Janik getting a couple hundred grand per year to advise the city? Doesn't the city already employ it's own attornies for heaven's sake? Why the outsourcing?

Q: "Why the outsourcing?"

A: "That's just the way things are done around here. Sit down, shut up and stop asking so many annoying questions."

What a deal. Taxpayers get a stadium that they are paying around $100 million for with finance charges, which will produce no revenue for the next 25 years.

Does Paulson even pay the bill for lights, water and upkeep, or was that thrown out with his offer to pay a part of the construction costs?

$7 mil. Apparantly that's Sam's price. Pays off loans credit cards $1m to friends ..the whole shebang. you net about $3 mil, put that in a CD and you can go below radar quite easily ... forever.

Some of the comments seem(ed) to be like 'paid shills' sort of 'on a mission' spiking the conversation with 'Paulsen justifications' maybe the word for a categorization of it could be a 'pro-troll.' (As opposed to ordinary trolls with comments to disparage and disrupt.)

Troll: "You're all being unreasonable."
Pro-troll: "Come, let us reason together."

- -
B.McD.'s comments spoke for me. For all the world it looks like there is some subsurface reason -- pick one: [ ] blackmail, [ ] extortion, [ ] coercion, [ ] quid pro quo, [ ] personal enrichment, [ ] all of the above, [ ] eat squid go hurl -- why the obvious foolishness of 'the deal,' and 3-card-monte machinations, is NOT the considerations the councillor(d)s vote by.

I reject out-of-hand the idea that key Council votes are motivated by either perverse powerlust or direct dollar greed. Yeah, someone could be enjoying the wield of decision and the self-importance feeling of it, and fawning to it, and yeah, someone could be making a million getting paid for their vote. Yet I just don't think either of those is the primary motive. Carrots can't attract as strongly as sticks can goad -- it is NOT what they are going to get if they vote for it, but rather, it is what is going to happen to them if they do NOT avoid voting against it.

No pie-in-the-sky upside future of Major League Soccer, (which looks stupid simply seeing the words), lifts the 'aye'-voting hand as much as such threats as 'knowing where you live' or 'holding your kid hostage.' (And I like soccer, playing it mainly but also watching it, much more than most folks I know.)

Some thing some where some how is too fishy about all this.

- -
One comment explains the social suicide of standing up and speaking up alone against the ogres of oligopoly. That's why mob action was invented. But convening as a group, standing up and speaking out, in this town these days gets you'all gunned down and murdered dead by Police Homeland Security SWAT robocops. There's a long list of assassinations blood in the dirt we're standing on, from before JFK to after Wellstone ... and besides, what's on TV tonite? change the channel, everyone's too busy, 'snot my job.

This politics-by-deathgrip-visegrip, by fear instead of hope, is the hate and heat that doesn't stop and boils the water in the pond we frogs are croaking in. At the City level, and the State level, and the Federal level -- see it up and down the line, whatever scope of things you choose to survey. But action taken has to chop the head off of the beast, which means, essentially, end the federal corruption. which happens to date from about 1945, on. which happens to coincide with the advent of the television's brainwashing influence. which effectively means abolish the CIA. I mean, in real simplistic terms and sequence; if you can get real about it.

The simplest evidence is Eisenhower's report: The military-industrial complex'll getcha. You could kind of figure if he was on the inside, he maybe knew a thing or two.

Little Lord Paulsen can come in this town, turn it upside down and shake it down and keep the money and walk away rich and un-arrested because he's got 'fed.cred.' and federal eavesdropping can nip in the bud any movement forming up to stop him.

Remember, the guy who 'invented' the CIA, (i.e., Allen Dulles, to be simplistic about it, again), started out as a P.R. man, obsessed (careerwise) with influence that can control what people think, studied at the knee of Edward Bernays -- Mister P.R. (look it up).

That's where the pro-troll tactic comes in. (I see it appearing more and more on topical politics blogs, where I've followed discussions and so on for many years. btw, Congrats Jack, on your Seven Year Hitch here.)


not scary 'Therey'

SHUT UP. Go away. You're stupid. You're toast. Raygun's dead and so's the GOP and fascist racist rightwing ridiculousness. See the casket: Get under it.

When the (disasterous) Portland Breakers moved into Civic Stadium in 1985, does anyone know how much the city was on the hook for stadium improvements? Considering the Breakers had an average draw of 19,000 and change per game (according to Wikipedia), I'm thinking that the cost per butt in seat for the Breakers was far less than what's being proposed for the Timbers.

Jack and I might be looking at this from 2 different angles but in a way it's the same. He writes, "I wouldn't care if the owner were the Pope, Al Gore, or Dave Letterman -- the deal itself stinks to high heaven."

See, I don't believe David Letterman or those others would be involved in a deal like this. The reason the deal stinks to high heaven is because we are dealing with people who routinely run these kinds of deals. They live for this stuff. It is who they are. They are the vampires, we have the blood.

Hints usually come as small subtle things, but there was nothing subtle about TARP or the economic crisis currently threatening to ruin America. We were given the Mother of All Hints that doing business with the Paulsons is a dangerous thing. And our people still didn't get it - or worse yet, they are so corrupt they don't want to get it.

By the way, the co-owner of the Timbers will be testifying in Congress July 16th about some shady aspect of the bailout involving Bank of America. It'll be a good chance to see for yourself what kind of person this is.

My point is that we had all the clues in the world here, and our city council proceeded to let these people screw us over anyway.

What they have done with PGE Park sounds more like a country ceding over the sovereignty of a piece of land to someone else. It is now the public's only in the sense that we are still responsible financially. As far as owning it? That's basically over.

Not unlike how Wall Street bought the government of America.

Did you hear the one about what corporate welfare looks like? Well, kiddies.. this is a good example.... on to the next boondoggle.


Re: your link to “A Timeline of CIA Atrocities”.

Kangas labels the U.S. intelligence community’s early(1945-8) partnership with the Gehlen Org “Operation Paperclip”. He has Operation Paperclip confused with Operation Rusty.

Read about Operation Rusty here:


Be sure to check out the footnotes and bibliography at the end of this article. Here you will find a link to George Washington University’s page of declassified CIA documents which detail the Army and CIA’s early involvement with Gehlen-Operation Rusty(including a statement-Document 7-by ace columnist Steve Duin’s late uncle.

*There's a brief CIA authored biography of him on page xxxvi in the “Volumne 1: Introduction” link on the same page.

The bottom line is, if Paulson truly thinks the soccer team's going to be a great financial success, there's no reason for him to rely on public funds for such a large portion of the startup costs. He's essentially shielding himself from risks, shoving them off onto the Portland and Oregon taxpayers. It's a win-win situation for him, not so much for the rest of us.

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