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Monday, September 28, 2009

Portland ready with new tax handouts for private pals

When people complain about local government wasting money on frills while letting basic services decay, one of the stock responses is the "pots of money" song. It goes something like this: "You see, the money we're wasting is in a special pot that can be spent only on frills. It can't be spent on essentials. So don't complain about the essentials being neglected -- this money can't be spent on them." It's especially galling when the people giving you this line are the same people who drew up the separate pots, or who have the power to pour their contents all into one big pot at any time, if they wanted to.

Former Mayor Vera Katz, the person more responsible than anyone else for inflicting the current creepy mayor on the city, used to have a variation of this little ditty that she called "colors of money." "We can't spend yellow money on street paving. Only blue money is for that. Yellow money is for Homer Williams and Dike Dame." She was big on the colors. She had a whole "brownfields to greenfields" speech she used to croak out when she was selling the SoWhat District -- now becoming the biggest financial fiasco in the city's history. The ink there turned out to be all red, as the competent among us knew from the start.

Anyway, the politicians are extremely big on the segregation of funds when it suits them.

Another great excuse line is "That's not in our jurisdiction -- that's somebody else's jurisdiction." Just complain to Portland City Hall about the schools, the bridges, the lack of a decent mental health system, aircraft noise, or thinning bus service, and it won't be long before you hear, "We're not in charge of that. That's done by [the county, the school board, Tri-Met, etc.]."

It's with some amusement, then, that one sees right in front of one's nose how little the "pots of money" and lines of authority really mean when the politicians have their visions (or as they're referred to in medical circles, their spells). They'll take tax dollars from the Pearl District and use them to build a school out in the David Douglas School District if they darn well please. County need some cash to slosh around? Fine, have the city borrow a bunch of money under "urban renewal" and park it in some obscure county account somewhere because some day, somewhere, there's going to be a shiny new county courthouse. Sure, right after we fish the Sellwood Bridge out of the river.

There was a new one in the news late last week: Now the city's apparently proposing to hand $300,000 of city tax dollars over to the airlines that fly their few puny international flights in and out of the Portland airport. Without it, the airlines might cancel the flights, we're told. Part of me says, too bad -- things are tough all over. But even if a subsidy is a smart thing for Portland to do, that's the Port of Portland's responsibility, not the city's. The airport is a cash cow, even in lean times, and if the Port needs dough to bail out some airlines, it ought to be able to find it in its own accounts somewhere. Look under the blueprints for the totally unnecessary new headquarters it's building for itself. Let's take that $300,000 and pave some streets in Cully with it.

Speaking of city handouts, that's not all. Suddenly they're saying that Tom Moyer's going to get some checks so that the ridiculous hole in the ground that he made after he knocked down the Virginia Cafe might actually get built into something some day. His major financial blunder there will now become the city taxpayers' problem. Hey, what's more "blighted" than a mothballed skyscraper construction pit? Sounds good to the Sam-Rand Twins. Break out the checkbook.

Comments (14)

Hmmm.... whatever happened to the free market? If there is not enough demand for international flights out of PDX the airlines don't run them. If there is demand the airlines do run them. What a radical concept. Corporate welfare is worse than socialism because it creates market inefficiencies.

Oh yeah, and it's about time that the Port of Portland got subjected to home rule. If we could actually vote on its governance we'd be better off. (I hope.) Right now its all pet appointments from the governor.

As for the relationship between city council and developers, sleazy doesn't even begin to cover it.

Yeah, I think Creepy's running scared, and so is the rest of the CoP. Generally, you only see this sort of mad expenditure when someone knows he's either going to be voted out or sent to prison, and the idea is to give out as much money to buddies as possible before the arrest warrant arrives.

A good case can be made to outlaw ALL public-private "partnerships".

In almost every case these "partnerships" end up funneling money from taxpayers to a few very wealthy individuals and never benefit the public.

"I think Creepy's running scared"

PLease, he's taking this failed recall as a mandate. Give him about 3 months to poke his head above the ground and then he'll have about 40 staff members ginning up PR opps for him.

The only thing I can say is that it kind of shows who calls the shots in this town and it ain't anybody who lives outside of downtown 'tween 405-Willamette.

This "pots of money" thing gets disgusting, we can throw away tons of money and raise rats like no tomorrow at the Water Bureau (just imagine PGE/NWGas just deciding on a 18% pop in rates), yet schools, bridges, police precincts have no money.

"rats" means rates

This is chump change compared to the 65 million more for SoWat and 42 million for the homeless “day and what ever” center. My god what a waste. I understand the different pockets argument, but it cost David Douglas School District to build a world class middle school only 16 million. Just think what good this money could do spread around the city instead. Incidentally according to an editiorial in the O today Portland didn’t make it in the ten top meanest cities for homeless. To bad that would be a good start.

Seeing how the City and other local governments all have their hands in the till for the federal stimulus, shouldn't they be more prudent with their own discretionary expenditures / payoffs?

So the city already was already spending $300,000 to subsidize rural flights to Coos Bay, North Bend and Klamath Falls, which is no longer needed? Whether that was justified or not - that's arguable, of course - it needs to go back into the general fund, not handed over to another airline.

A little history: The fact that Portland is the smallest of 12 hubs with international service started out as a fluke of geography and aircraft range: In the 1980's, Delta needed a stopover to refuel their ancient L1011's they ran from their hubs in Atlanta and Cincinatti, and chose Portland. Once they replaced these aircraft with longer range models that could fly directly to Tokyo, Portland was no longer necessary. However, we made deals such as the current one on the table in order to keep them here, and once airlines got a taste for the subsidies, they figured out pretty quickly how to play the game of threatening to leave unless they were bribed to stay here. This is just the latest chapter of a never-ending saga of public subsidy of Portland's air services.

I should get this refrain into a two-keystroke shortcut: If we had a decent high-speed train to Seattle, we wouldn't need an airport at all, and could go back to raising strawberries out by the river.

Portland gets the government it deserves as long as all you left-of-center folks keep on re-electing the same tired group of thieves and incompetants every election cycle.

Actually, it was Tom Moyer who frequently "[broke] out the checkbook," as this brief item that somehow sneaked into the local daily of record a week ago suggests:

With Moyer, one has never known for certain who his vehicles for political contributions were. Now, of course, we do have a few identified suspects.

It would appear that Mr Moyer's return on investment in this robber baron town with its outmoded, marginally democratic, commission form of government has been enviable.

Great posting!

Ever consider a cable access show of your own Jack, or even a YOUTUBE channel?

I bet you'd be GREAT!

If we had a decent high-speed train to Seattle, we wouldn't need an airport at all, and could go back to raising strawberries out by the river.

Great idea. Why don't you go ahead and attract the capital to build one. I would, but it's been a lean strawberry harvest this year.

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