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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 12, 2010 12:33 AM. The previous post in this blog was More crumbling infrastructure. The next post in this blog is Drug testing needed for Portland police. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Monday, April 12, 2010

A city with no basic services

While Portland keeps using taxes and borrowed money to build sustainability centers, streetcars, soccer stadiums, bio-ditches, and other monuments to arrogance -- and all while its pension time bomb ticks loudly in the filing cabinet -- the city is badly damaging its ability to provide in the future those things that a municipal government is supposed to provide. Here's a cautionary tale from Colorado Springs: They're literally turning off streetlights, selling off police helicopters at auction, hocking buses, and taking the trash cans out of the city parks.

They still get a Double-A bond rating, though -- which shows you what a lousy indicator of financial health that is.

Oh, and they're probably going to be selling off the city utility systems, too: "City leaders are thinking about selling the local utilities and a hospital. That could raise an estimated $1.3 billion." Yep, they'll soon be buying their water from Pepsi.

As will Portland. It's just a matter of time.

Comments (23)

Debt? Why would a city need to pile on debt?

[sigh] Mayor Adams and his handlers/toadies almost make me nostalgic for Frank Ivancie.

Perhaps we should form a separate service district for each service and elect the heads.

Who would vote for a water bureau head who wants to shovel money to bike paths?

Who would vote for a PDOT head who wants to take parking meter money for streetcars?

Who would vote for a PDC head who wants to build condos for millionaires?


I was thinking the exact same thing Zeb was thinking about Ivancie, but then is a shifty eyed conservative weasel any improvement over a shifty eyed progressive weasel?

James Kunstler's got some similar thoughts this week:

The recession-depression-whatever-you-want-to-call-it that we're now in is going to be a long, gruesome slog, perhaps an abiding condition ushering in a new dark age. Without an ever-increasing supply of energy resources, the operations of compounding capital growth cease. This much is already self-evident, despite the dazzling accounting tricks of the big banks, the Federal Reserve, and the government agencies that abet them. Probably the biggest reason that the age of the skyscraper city is over is the likelihood that we will not be able to renovate these buildings -- especially the newest ones with the glitziest systems made of the highest-tech materials, even the ones that style themselves "green." We're not going to have the capital to renovate these buildings and we are certain to not have the modular fabricated materials to get the job done. These are buildings that have only one generation of life in them. They will not be adaptively re-used, and when they fail we will not know what to do about them. Of course, they may not all fail at the same time, but at least incrementally they will all eventually lose their utility and their value. They will no longer be assets, they'll be liabilities. The city looks great at this moment of history because of the tsunami of money that washed over it for a couple of decades. But this is the turning point. From here forward fewer things will get fixed every month. After a while it will show. We'll get back to conditions like the 1970s rather quickly, but the process won't stop there. A few centuries from now, the memory of today's normality will seem like the most exotic wonder that the human race ever produced. But most of it will be gone.

"This time it's different."


I'm sure Colaroad Springs had the same kind of perpetual defenders as the Creepy loyalists we see here.
Even after liquidation these people will be telling us how we need Mayor Creepy et al.

...and yet - the recall struggles to get enough signatures to go forward. What don't I get?

Comparing Oregon to Colorado is a misnomer. Colorado is no-mans land. I was tasked with paying a bribe to a city fire-inspector there for the first, and only, time in my adult life. Seriously. That is easily one of the most corrupt states in the union. Try getting a little minimum wage protection there. Try to build any business without paying-off to a cadre of civil employees. For Pete's sake one has to relinquish custody of a first-born child to put a license plate on a car.

A handful of Greeks, no offense, own the vast majority of private property in, and around, Denver; and the things they do! I'm here to tell you that is one lawless state. Wild frickin' west, I'm here to tell ya. I'll give them one thing in D-town, they've got xenophobia down pat. I only wish Portland were half as hostile to outsiders as they are in Denver, and Colorado, et al.

...and yet - the recall struggles to get enough signatures to go forward. What don't I get?
Posted by jussaskin

What we don't get is an informed citizenry, therefore, no involvement. Elected officials take advantage of this. For example: not until late Friday afternoon, do we get what will be on city council's agenda the following Wednesday. Who can keep up with all of this? Why is there not a posting of this and other decision making
meetings on the front page of our paper? Corporate controlled papers are a problem.
Unfortunately, council goes ahead despite any citizens pleas on a matter.
Make pretend democracy is a problem. Several years ago, one said that only stubborn ones keep coming back into the council chambers.

Another possible reason is that people do not want to be engaged and by the time all is done, they will be enraged and it will be too late. People depend on "someone elsewill take care of matters".

We are a society driven by entertainment.
We won't be so entertained when the house of cards falls down.

Check this article about the California public employee pension system and you will have a good idea of what's coming at Portland.

Kunstler is the same "new Urbanism" a**hole who is worshipped by our leaders throughout the State and Region, planners and devlopers. Kunstler is the one who has argued for more density, building up and tighter growth boundries, holding our State up as a model. This is where Portland is headed at taxpayer expense by Tram, Streetcar and Light Rail. Biking all the way

What is wrong with our council and our compromised Mayor?
How can they not know about Colorado, California, Arizona and what else is happening in our country?
Yet they drive on like there is no tomorrow.
Eastside Couplet, proposal to buy post office property, PDC projects, light rail to Milwaukee, and on and on??
Oh and let us not forget, our community will have to pay more yet - the $1.6 billion with debt for PWB projects for a public health problem that does not exist! (reservoir coverage and treatment plant) By the time they are done with us and that is if we do not stop them, we will be paying double water rates and drinking toxic chemicals in our water. For those who can afford it, I suppose can then buy "bottled water"? I thought this green community was against "bottled water"!
“My Tap Water Rocks!”

January 12, 2010
Arizona on Tuesday begins selling stakes in many of its public buildings — including prisons, the public safety headquarters and even state legislative buildings. The state will lease back the facilities in a plan to raise much-needed cash for the state. Officials hope to raise $735 million. . .
March 29, 2010

A budget crisis in Arizona has led the state to cut millions out of the state park and transportation budgets. Thirteen parks are scheduled to be shut down by the end of this month; and 13 rest stops already have been closed. . .

It's possible that their willingness to go on an austerity plan rather than go into more debt is WHY they have a good bond rating.

Think about if our city really gets up against the same wall. Would they cut all these services like Co.Springs, or just take on more debt and hike fees? My guess would be the latter.

Colorado Spring seems like a strange case of the citizens saying "no, we won't pay more taxes" and the city actually adjusting to the consequences.

There's a lesson in there somewhere....

The Greeks own Denver? Maybe that's where that big purple octopus went!

Tom hit the nail on the head. We need leadership of ANY ideological stripe. It would just be nice, for a change, to have a mayor willing to say what s/he means and do what s/he says.

Could be a Rajneesh, for all I care. I just want someone honest, with courage, who is willing to show leadership, not bow to it.

Purple octopus is down on Barbur Blvd. Saw it the other day.

Well I saw the thing comin' out of the sky
It had the one long horn, one big eye
I commenced to shakin' and I said "ooh-eee"
It looks like a purple eater to me . . .
. .

Cut-and Paste Journalism:

Personalize your own expose with just a few editing keystrokes.

Take the Washington County Commissioners and WES. (Or Tom Brian and Lincoln Center if you're old enough to recall state reps getting millions of dollars for doing zip.)

Or Portland and The Big Pipe. (No, not a code name for Mr. Breedlove.)

Anyone else getting Soylent Green shivers wondering what happens when Goldman and friends have gleaned all the money and we're all left bankrupt? Serfdom next? Bronze Age? Naaah, not Bronze Age, we've lost the basic industry to smelt metals.


In the midst of potential doom and gloom, sure would be nice if we could keep our good drinking water and system in tact. . at least would be something positive in our lives.

Do not want to be horribly in debt and drinking horrible water.

They're literally turning off streetlights, selling off police helicopters at auction, hocking buses, and taking the trash cans out of the city parks.

Actually I'm surprised Portland has done none of this, but for a different reason.

Streetlights use a LOT of electricity. Portland owns and maintains 53,614 street lights. If we cut 25% of them, think of the electricity - and coal emissions at Boardman - saved! (Not to mention, at about $15 a light per month, that's $200,000 saved a month, or $2.4 million a year.)

Helicopters - one of the most UN-GREEN methods of transportation known to man. In fact, Portland Police should replace all of their vehicles with motorcycles or small, fuel efficient compacts that get at least 35 MPG or more. Have a small fleet of Freightliner Sprinter paddywagons for jail transports. (This is what they do in Europe, after all.) And more cops should be on foot, bike and horse.

Buses - this one ought to be easy, since the City hates buses. Just eliminate all bus service. If you don't live by a light rail or streetcar line, it's your own damn fault (until the city gets around to building a streetcar line in your neighborhood).

Trash Cans - why should the city have to deal with YOUR garbage? Replace them with recycling and composting bins. If you have garbage make it a law that you must pack it out - or be subjected to a $200 fine for littering.

Kunstler is the same "new Urbanism" @sshole who is worshipped by our leaders throughout the State and Region, planners and devlopers. Kunstler is the one who has argued for more density, building up and tighter growth boundries

No, he isn't. If you actually read some of his work you'll see he has very little regard for most of what passes as New Urbanist development (although as a thoughtful critic, he doesn't reflexively dismiss the entire concept). I suspect you're confusing him with Richard Florida, who truly is a bit of an @ss.

Erik H, if you aren't being facetious, I'm sorry to inform you that Portland has done all you claim they haven't in the past. You may be new to town.

A few years ago they did turn off the streetlights to help make citizens pass a street light bond measure, and once to save electricity during the oil crisis. They did have a helicopter, but police budgets are always used to get the voters in line. TriMet certainly has been "hocking" buses lately, and in the past to show voters their hardship. And the "taking out the trash....cans" was used to help pass a Parks Bond.

That's the Portland Way-hit the citizens where they will notice it and get hurt by it; but never lay off public servants, cut pay, cut bennys, cut a new entitlement program, or put basic services in front of non-essential play toys.

Snards has it right here, I'm 'fraid. Turning off non-essential services is what most people do when times are tough. Colorado and Arizona might be on the opposite end of the extreme, but they're not much different than your neighbors with moss on the roof and ugly old Datsuns in the driveway. They figured out a way to get by...and they have no bills...and they're probably proud of it. Oregon could use a little of that in its elected officials.


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Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
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