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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 14, 2010 1:25 PM. The previous post in this blog was Portland cop blows a .19 in traffic stop on I-5. The next post in this blog is Blazer game reduced to a scrimmage. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Portland sewer chief calls Mayor Creepy out on bike budget baloney

When Portland's mayor decided that he would divert $20 million from the city's sewer budget to pay for bike boulevards, the several sane people left in the city howled. So he rounded up some bean-counters from the city's finance department (the people leading the local government over the cliff of bankruptcy, but with spectacular style), and they suddenly determined that there had been all sorts of recent "savings on contracts" that would pay for the toys for the kids on their two-wheelers.

All through this, the head of the bureau in charge of sewers, Dean Marriott, has been biting his tongue. Marriott's a tough cookie who's been in the bureaucracy a long time -- legend has it that Tom Potter tried to fire him and he refused to leave. Yesterday, prodded by questioning from Willy Week, Marriott hinted at what he thinks of the mayor's latest bike-pandering maneuvers. And it isn't much:

Dean Marriott, BES’s director, says no one ever knows what the savings will be on a project until it is finished, and he says that BES cautioned against calling the difference between an engineer’s estimates and a bid “savings” when Adams first introduced the idea in February. The Portsmouth project is “a reflection of what I was talking about,” he says now.

I asked Marriott if he was upset that the mayor’s plan was complicating his work. “It’s just a little frustrating it’s become something of a distraction,” he said.

On the happy day when Sam Adams leaves office and moves to the East Coast, maybe we can all vote for Dean Marriott for mayor. At the moment, he seems like the only reasonable person left in City Hall.

Comments (18)

Wow. You would have thought the Sam would have learned the (painful) difference between "engineer's estimates" and a final construction bid with the whole Tram fiasco. I guess not.

When I ran for council in 2006 I said that I would automatically quadruple any preliminary estimate on anything put before the council. And I'd probably still be low.

Let's consider the source. My memory serves, Mayor Potter tried to fire Marriott because Marriott was making spending decisions to divert money to pet projects. Yes, we know this is what elected officials do, but when they do it we can vote them out. Marriott is a hired public servant making $170k/yr and is way out of bounds.

Still, though, looking less and less like there is any justification for redirecting this money.

Dean Marriott is grandfathered in as a bureau director (thank goodness!) and is one of the best managers I have ever worked with. He's actually got the technical expertise to lead environmental services. And don't believe that the current commissioner in charge had anything to do with the efficient under-budget delivery of the CSO project - it's Dean and his competent and dedicated staff.

$170k per year seems too high a rate of compensation for the sewer bureau chief. This is significantly more than some higher profile government leadership positions receive, like state public utility commissioner or administrator of the BPA. This $170k probably doesn't include the gold plated retirement and healthcare packages government typically workers get, either. We need to get government wages and benefits back down to comparable levels to comparable private sector jobs. Government work would still be more attractive for its long term job stability attributes.

"It’s just a little frustrating it’s become something of a distraction"

Wow, that's pretty bold for someone risking his PERS account.

Oh-oh, I just read Sam's explanation of the math in the article. My advice is to not let him help your kid with his homework.

Wow, that's pretty bold for someone risking his PERS account.

Indeed. He's a manager, right? So he's employed at-will and doesn't have the union to protect him from retaliation. Anybody know the details of why Potter couldn't get him fired? Given that he works in underground infrastructure, maybe he knows where some bodies are buried . . .

Or maybe he's old, fully vested, and doesn't give a sh*t anymore. Or maybe he needs to borrow one of the PR staffers from the legions of them at PWB and the Mayor's office to follow him around and make sure he stays on-message.

Thanks, Mary Volm, for your support of Dean Marriott (though with the current vindictive mayor, that's enough to get anyone fired!)

Marriott was the last bureau director hired before the rules changed, and all other current bureau directors are truly at will.

And, jackbrown, would love to see the numbers where the CSO project is overbudget. In fact, the eastside tunnel may be a bit underbudget, and is on time. BES must have this work completed by December, 2011, or faces major daily fines.

And for those of you keeping score at home, it was community activists prodding DEQ that forced the City to stop dumping sewage directly into the Willamette anytime there was more than five minutes of rain. May have even been the parents of some of the current bike activists.

I personally believe that when Calgon Carbon, the UV treatment corporation lost the appeal for their patent and the commissioners were informed... within the week we had a $20 million dollar coupon. Who is it we redeem our coupon with?

and for you Jack... from a reporter with the rolling stones

Sewer Bond in Alabama
"What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human shit into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street."

Dean Marriott is a smart and capable manager. He's worth every penny they pay him, and his pay isn't out of line with what others earn for running similar operations in the public and private sectors.

The big pipe project is a good example of the folly of spending the projected "savings" on other projects. As originally configured, the two big pipes were projected to cost something a little south of $1 Billion. However a faulty assumption had been made about how much runoff the east-side pipe would need to swallow, and that pipe had to be up-sized for the increased runoff projection (BES folks, correct me on this if I am mistaken).

The big pipe is "on-budget" only because the project budget was revised for the bigger pipe. It is not on-budget in the conventional sense that most lay people would use - where the final cost equals the original cost projection.

Now Sam is a sorcerer, "I'm quite confident" that Portland will have millions of dollars in savings on BES contracts in the next four years. He's scary.

I applaud Marriott for saying the mayor's plan has "become somewhat of a distraction". But I would applaud much more if the left out "somewhat". It is sad that not one council member has questioned and followed up with in depth research of Sam's poor math and thinking. Where is bean counter Amanda, measured Saltsman, and legal-beagle Fish?

It takes guts for Marriott to speak up-but speak louder and even more direct.

For Adams to base his savings logic on in-house estimates is a travesty that is not general business or even governmental practice.

Most businesses would base a "savings" on an accepted bid, then to have the project completed in its entirety and have the cost be less than what was bid-that would be the savings. To have staff or city consultants make a projection that a project will cost "oh, about $234 dollars per sq/ft, or $69 dollars a lineal ft., so we guess $21.2 Million", then to have a bid come in less is not a savings; it's a poor calculation (if it exceeds by more than 10% of "estimate").

And who is to say that the City purposefully hasn't inflated a projected bid cost to do exactly what Sam is doing. He's never lied before.

and for you Jack... from a reporter with the rolling stones

Got it:

So, now that it looks like he's finally near to tapped out on never-ending, ever-expanding UR districts as a source of funding for pet boondoggles, the plan will be to make sure project budgets are inflated enough so that he can have lots of "savings" to convert to boondoggles.

Sign the recall!!

Dean Marriott has environmental service technical expertise? Isn't he a lawyer?

Sounds like the guy at PWB. David Shaff, another lawyer with no technical expertise.

For those keeping score about payouts: the head guy at Tualatin Valley Water District got a pay increase last summer to near 200k + perks + PERS. Insiders say the PWB guy is close, + PERS, if not above that level, because PWB is a bigger water unit.

Why doesn't Marriott or anyone else at BES speak out - because Sam is a vindictive sob, and folks would like to keep their jobs.


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