Paulson goes into cornered-rat mode
The continuing saga of the Paulson family and their two spendy sports stadium projects took a wild turn the other night when His Lordship Henry III got up in front of the Beaverton City Council and said that unless and until he gets a firm deal on a new minor league baseball stadium somewhere, he won't bring "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer to Portland.
This bombshell, which was clearly news to the rubes at Portland City Hall who have already promised the Paulson boys yet another hopeless renovation of PGE Park for soccer, came on the heels of some other fascinating news: Even if the Beaverton council cuts a deal with the Paulsons for a new $60 million baseball stadium, the voters of that 'burb are going to put it on the ballot. And the prospect of the project winning a majority vote of the city's electorate is far from a sure thing.
Let's take a closer look at these stories in reverse chronological order. First, His Lordship's announcement:
At Tuesday night's meeting, Beaverton City Councilor Cathy Stanton questioned whether Paulson has secured an agreement to buy and operate the pro soccer franchise beginning in 2011, requiring a $31 million renovation to Portland's PGE Park.This is the same ploy the Paulson folks tried when they were attempting to railroad a new pro baseball stadium into Lents Park in Portland. "If I don't get my way with you, I won't do the soccer deal. And then all my soccer fans will blame you." The residents of Lents had the intestinal fortitude to show them the door anyway; it's not clear that the Beaverton folks will react the same way.
"Yes," Paulson responded. "But it's conditional on finalizing the deal with Portland. And if I don't get a baseball deal done, I'm not going to finalize the deal with Portland. So MLS will not come to Portland unless I do a deal for a new baseball park."
Meanwhile, outside the city government, the citizenry of Beaverton has discovered that it should be easy to force any stadium deal onto the ballot. Given the relatively small population out there, they don't need a huge number of signatures to require a public vote on any bond measure that would pay for the new minor league stadium. From the Beaverton Valley Times on Tuesday afternoon:
Opponents of the plan to build a stadium, who showed up in loud numbers at the council meeting on Oct. 5 and demanded that the issue be put to public vote, can make that request a reality if they choose. A bond decision can be forced to public vote if 5 percent of the electorate signs a petition within 60 days. That would be about 2,200 people, city officials say.And from the opponents:
Wilson said her group has no money and is only loosely organized. But she said there would be "no problem" getting enough signatures for a vote.Cities hate bond elections. They make the Wall Street types nervous, and they slow things down considerably. One of Paulson's primary tactics is the short deadline -- the guy's a veritable font of deadlines, most of which aren't real -- and a bond election takes a while. And if the outcome of the election is negative, His Lordship finds himself back to Square 1 on baseball.
"If the citizens of Beaverton want this, we will accept that," she said. "But we don't know that."
Now he says he'll be back to Square 1 on the soccer stadium, too.
The drama on the Paulson deals never stops. If ever there was adequate warning about the stability and business acumen of a private enterprise that the politicians are going to bank eight or nine figures of public money on, this is it.