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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 5, 2010 9:51 AM. The previous post in this blog was Tualatin cans "urban renewal" -- report. The next post in this blog is Leave it to the developer weasels. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

City of Portland -- Our McMansion

Several readers have sent me a link to this cautionary tale -- huge sewer project, big rate increases, huge city debt, constant funneling of profits to Goldman Sachs and the like on Wall Street -- and bingo! Next thing you know, a whole county's future is destroyed. "Sound like Portland?" one reader asks. Maybe not in every detail, but in broad outline, well...

As one county commissioner put it, "We're like a guy making $50,000 a year with a million-dollar mortgage."
Absolutely yes. That sounds exactly like Portland.

Comments (22)

Matt is one of THE best writers out there.
Unfortunately I do not think anyone at city hall can comprehend words, and we know they do not understand any financial document.

And...the Jefferson county residents have only $4,800 per person, not the $9,900 we have in Portland.
I would suggest that all of us Bojack readers send the Matt Taibbi article to SamRan, but they can't, or don't read so there doesn't seem to be much point in doing that.

Leonard's visit to New York+Paulson+PWB Shaff's/engineer buddy lining pockets+PWB 40%debt service+February Bonds issued = Corporate takeover of Bull Run water system assests by default/bankruptcy? Wake up Portland!!!!

Matt Taibbi likes calling these firms "vampire squid" but this article describes a constrictor snake. Once it gets wrapped around you, it waits 'til you exhale and with every breath it tightens its grip.
The key question is whether any of our financial deals have these synthetic rate swaps.
I'm sure someone in the city government will step forward to tell us.
This is why some of us were so concerned watching Sam and Randy bragging about what tough negotiators they were with the Paulsons. It sounded so foolish to think these guys could get in a shark tank with Goldman Sachs-types, and get something good for Portland.
Meanwhile we get nasty sounding terms like "zero coupon bonds."
I sense problems, folks. And at the top of the list is that the financial gangsters running America, rarely face criminal prosecution.
Martha Stewart paid more than most of these financial snakes combined.

The devil is in the details. But yeah, articles like this make me very nervous.

Broken Record Parrot speaks yet again:

Think of local government, and the taxpayers attached thereto, as you would a foreign country in relation to the masters of Big Finance such as Goldman Sachs.

The likes of Goldman Sachs don't even need to use the club of gunboat diplomacy to get their way. All they need are a few strategic assets -- local corrupticrats -- to sway the public decision-making apparatus.

Stroke the local pols with platitudes about how smart they are compared to the general population, in the face of complete nonsense, and they are naturally inclined to agree. We are all malleable idiots, believing only what we want to hear. We might as well believe that a distant Manatee is really a beautiful female (or male I guess in some cases) Mermaid, because to learn the truth would be too upsetting.

We await the next tall tale with rapt attention.

Thanks Bill.
Seeing Leonard in the shark tank doing his impression of Chicago's Richard J. Daley is amusing. Getting schmused by the Paulsons and their posse in NY knowing Leonard is really Jerry Lewis as the "Patsy" is even better. Until we realize it is all with other people's money and the unknown collateral negative impacts therein. It's not so funny anymore.

Randy and Sam were probably suckered by the thrill of doing business with some big-time, East Coast, Wall Street types like the Paulsons. For a second, they were with the rich folks inside the club. Meanwhile they should have seen themselves as well-paid bellhops, butlers, or chauffeurs - servants working feverishly to get the Paulsons more wealth. Randy and Sam were welcomed as guests of the club while the deal was struck, then shown back out the servants entrance when the deal was done.

"The key question is whether any of our financial deals have these synthetic rate swaps."

Yes, can someone answer this? Can questions like these be asked by citizens during City Council meetings if they sign up?

I would love to see that crew jacked up against the wall, forced to reveal the facts before it's too late for the rest of us.

About 6 or so paragraphs from the bottom of the article Taibi lists a bunch of other governmental entities which were similarly sheared like sheep.

One is the Pennsylvania state school system -- the one Miss Vickie bailed out of to be PDX Superintendent just before the Pennsylvania house of cards collapsed. Remember after Ms. Vickie got here her "It didn't blow up while I was there lines"h?

It so comforting that she is now Bill and Melinda Gates' problem.

A lot of this seems to come down to the fact that Americans just put too much trust in the financial system.

If the Wall Street debacle has taught me anything, it's that Wall Street can't be trusted. They aren't that smart. They aren't that ethical. And they put short term profits ahead of long term stability.

It's kind of like the Enron test. If something doesn't make sense, it's not that you're too dumb to understand. It's that someone is trying to scam you.

Did Wall Street put us in this position and sign for the City of Portland? No it was Leonard trying to be a big shot thinking he was smarter than everyone else. Take a lesson from Tualitan and listen to the constituants for a change.

A lot of this seems to come down to the fact that Americans just put too much trust in the financial system....If the Wall Street debacle has taught me anything, it's that Wall Street can't be trusted.

Fair enough, but if Jack's numbers off to the left have taught me anything, it's that Americans have put too much trust in their elected officials. Seriously, these guys are allowed to recklessly borrow billions with no personal recourse, create and generously pad their own retirement plans, and when they leave office they eat from the public trough for the rest of their lives...even if they performed poorly. The problem is, time and time again, we elect very poor leaders like Adams who has a mediocre education (at best), has never worked in the private sector, and can't even pay his own mortgage...then we expect that same politician to successfully run things? Seriously, do we really expect Adams to understand synthetic rate swaps and all of the fincial engineering (trickery) that Wall Street imposes?

Argue all you want, but I think these Wall Street guys are brilliant (not ethical mind you)...and its the elected official that we put in front of them that gets snookered every time.

I've been uncomfortable with all the Mc Mansions around Stafford road. They seem to pop up contrary to expectations of an Urban Growth Boundary.

"Unfortunately I do not think anyone at city hall can comprehend words"

To paraphrase City Hall: "This time it's different."

Sam doesn't have a clue - worse yet Randy does.

Argue all you want, but I think these Wall Street guys are brilliant (not ethical mind you)...and its the elected official that we put in front of them that gets snookered every time.

In the sense that Bernie Madoff is brilliant, then yeah, so is Wall Street.

But you're correct. Our politicians are being played for patsies.

This community has to stand up and say No to this EPA LT2 rule based on politics not on science. We must not lose our Bull Run Water System assets by default/bankruptcy. Over a billion dollars with debt for a public health problem that does not exist? Worse yet, health problems are likely with their plan - toxic chemicals, cancer causing and radon backed into homes, schools. How sane is this?

Our community should say No to plans that benefit corporations and to plans that are detrimental to our community health.

Something is not adding up here. Leonard, PWB say we must comply or get fined,etc.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/business/energy-environment/08water.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3
. . . “There is significant reluctance within the E.P.A. and Justice Department to bring actions against municipalities, because there’s a view that they are often cash-strapped, and fines would ultimately be paid by local taxpayers,” said David Uhlmann, who headed the environmental crimes division at the Justice Department until 2007. . .

Below are more links some may not have seen:

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/04/survey_half_of_epa_scientists.php
. . Update: You can see the report here. In response to the UCS survey, one scientist at an EPA regional office wrote: "Do not trust the Environmental Protection Agency to protect your environment.". .

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/us/13water.html
. . . In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene. . .

My question and we should all be asking:
What is the story here? EPA declines to
intervene in violations of polluted water,
why is our clean Bull Run water being targeted?
Political interference with EPA scientists?

An interesting read:
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/report/money-down-the-drain/

"Our politicians are being played for patsies."

Happens when you get to spend OPM (Other People's Money) pretty much without control like most elected officials do.

I am not exonerating JPM and their ilk, but the politicians we have are helping the situation at all.

BoJack for Mayor {-:

Just wait and see what happens to water and sewer rates after every single water-consuming business folds their tent and leaves town. Your water bill is going to exceed your property tax bill.

I read this thru and I have to give Mr Tabibi credit, he has the thing nailed. The scary thing is that this is CoP to a T (maybe without the fixers or at least not obvious fixers.)

You can see it coming with no other profit center besides PWB and the EPA mandate being the driving foce to leverage every bit of income stream to finance stuff like bike paths and green houses.

The simps like the city council will go along with these wolves.

This is why I want Metsger for State Treasurer over Wheeler. Wheeler is great, but Metsger has been a credit union executive. None of this BS will get past him, and he will know how to disinfect any puss pockets of this stuff he finds in on the State's books.


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