Paulson stadium deal -- on the sneak?
The wheeling and dealing continues behind closed doors between the City of Portland and Little Lord Paulson for the ghastly expensive re-renovation of PGE Park (which he'll probably get the right to rename) for soccer. The City Council is scheduled to pass some zoning amendments relating to the stadium first thing next Wednesday. And in a recent letter to the Fish from Paulson himself, he points out that he and the city are currently hard at work to "finalize the final terms" of the financial deal, in which he'll get full control over the selection of the contractor and many other aspects of the project, and his father's buddies will get to lend the city the eight figures to pay the city's share of the construction costs.
Check out the letter. "Finalize the final terms" -- you've got to love language like that. "Finalize" is there to pressure the lambs on the city side into thinking that they now have to agree to something with the Paulson family -- if they don't, they'll be sued. And the "final terms" is there to signal that the Paulson pirates will be enforcing their contract rights in the future to their fullest extent.
There's something about the way this fellow talks and thinks that gives one the strong impression that large mistakes are about to be made, and that a major dispute with him -- probably in court -- is about two or three years away. Even if the "major" soccer league (by U.S. standards) survives that long, my intuition tells me that there is going to be some serious financial carnage on the Portland stadium deal. Normally one would think that if there's a screwup, the contract would leave the city holding the bag. Certainly that's the way Homer Williams and the Gerding Edlen boys always had things wired on deals like the Pearl and the SoWhat District. But they were smart guys who had been around the block on stuff like this more than a few times -- the same cannot be said for Henry III. Between him and the genius that is Sam & Randy, they'll probably leave ultimate financial responsibility in some sort of vague gray area -- which will eventually make some trial lawyers more than a little richer.
Paulson's letter says that the "development agreement" will be voted on by the City Council in January, and that construction will start in February. This seems quite dubious. The city couldn't possibly borrow the money fast enough to make that happen, and on this particular borrowing, there's a more than negligible threat that a petition drive could force the matter onto a citywide ballot. Maybe they'll start ripping up PGE Park before the city has its mortgage money -- nothing would surprise me on this deal -- but if they wait for the bonds, I would think we're talking spring break or thereabouts. Most likely, the February start is just another empty statement from a veritable font of empty statements over many months.
The strong warning signs flashed by the reality detach here makes the terms of the pending contract all the more important, of course. And it's disturbing that the talks are taking so long, with little or no public discussion of what's hanging them up.
What are the points of negotiation between the city and Paulson at this stage of the game? Has anybody in the media asked? Why can't the public know about them? Could it be that public scrutiny isn't really desired by the City Council? One would hope that a complicated deal like this fiasco-in-the-making would be thoroughly aired before a council vote, but more likely they'll show people the deal on Tuesday and vote for it on Wednesday. That's the Sam-Rand way.