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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Does Adams deal put GE's hand into taxpayers' pockets?

I'm reading the glowing announcement by Portland Mayor Sam Adams [rim shot] about the wonderful new deal he's suddenly cooked up with General Electric to make Portland even greener and more sustainable than it already is. Oh yeah -- nothing says Care for the Earth like GE.

I'm really concerned about the third and final bullet point in this description of the deal:

According to the intent of the MoU, GE will partner with Portland to:

* Engage with local companies to help them develop and expand into new markets via global product licensing;

* Implement residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofits, develop EcoDistricts throughout the city, and work toward the completion of the world-leading Oregon Sustainability Center;

* Explore city finance needs via municipal, state and GE resources.

Looking at the agreement itself, I can find there nothing in it about that last part.

And so what kind of backroom deal has been made about city finances that nobody's been told about? Given the shadowy nature of the world of municipal borrowing, and the fact that the city's already way over its head in debt, this should be a question of deep concern to every Portlander.

Comments (17)

Juxtapose this with the flyer that came with today's PGE bill.

"PGE's renewable program ranks first in the nation

Thanks to your participation, for the first time PGE's renewable power program has more renewable power customers than any other utility in the United States!"

We don't need no stinkin' help from Sam or GE.

Its the second bullet that gives me the willies. "Implement residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofits" and developing "Eco Districts" has an LID smell to it, along with a whiff of compulsory energy "upgrades" whether you want them or can afford the.

More Stalinist planning and BDS compulsory Silver / Gold LEED boondogles.

Bah humbug.

Hey, when the savvy customers at City Hall make deals with private business, the City always comes out on top! Right?

I think you'll find some of it in section 3:

"a....i. The parties will explore a residential deployment of a GE energy efficient appliances package, supported by a preferred financing solution...
vi. The parties will explore residential and commercial financing options alongside public investment funds to facilitate the implementation of the retrofits.

d....GE’s role in this
effort may include...sources of capital"

Nice of the Mayor to offer to do marketing for GE Appliance and GE Consumer Finance.

No, "Explore city finance needs" does not sound as though it's just about lending Grandma money to buy a new dishwasher.

Explore city finance needs means help the boondoogles for condo weasels, stadium weasels, street car weasels, and tram whores.

I wouldn't trust an admitted fabulist like Sam Adams as far as I can punt an anvil but I'm not sure we can say yet whether the capital funding mentioned is "to buy grandma a new dishwasher or not." It's possible to imagine that it's not about A new dishwasher but about a concerted effort to flood energy efficiency financing in. We know from the public purpose surcharge (funds Energy Trust) that many people don't make even the most obvious, fast-payback investments, particularly for rental housing (where the decision maker isn't paying the utility bills). We can cross our finger that it's an attempt to develop an offer that landlords and homeowners would find irresistible to upgrade appliances and weatherization and get rid of energy hogs, etc.

I'm not saying that will be the case -- lord knows, COP usually looks at the smart move and plays something else entirely every time. But we can hope until we know for sure that they've funded another aerial tram.

Whatever energy-blah-blah financing is done should be done in a competitive process. This is a sweetheart deal, probably because Sam Adams met some GE guy in a bar. Or maybe the men's room.

And given the wording of the announcement, I strongly suspect that GE is talking about some sort of shinola regarding city bonds generally.

OK, here's my guess - GE Capital is big into sale-leaseback deals. Remember when Sam had that idea about selling the parking meters to get cash now and then using the parking meter cash to pay back the lease?

Works great, except Sam will way underestimate how much income the asset will generate and 5 years from now we'll have to hit up the gen fund or raise water rates even more.

Of course, it gets him where he wants (just like U of O selling bonds) Sam gets to spend cash today and CoP pays for it for the next 20-30 years.

If it is a contract there must be some sort of way to enforce some sort of something in court or to measure damages for a breach of something? This is pure puffery. Can anyone identify anything of substance in the agreement that could even remotely form the basis of any law suit as to the legality of that substance?

A light bulb moment?

GE effectively gets a blanket exemption from otherwise generally applicable, and uniformly applied, state public records law: 1) from the typical procedural hassle faced by local pests, and 2) from the billing for assembling data for delivery to the requestor. The city would not likely even recognize and log requests from GE as formal public records requests, nor document or apply any laws at all relative to exemptions from disclosure. Knowledge, particularly advance knowledge (just like insider information), has value.

A Proposed Remedy: Demand contemporaneous and complete release or publication by the city of any material released to GE. And certainly, at a minimum, provide an email alert scheme that includes some nebulous description that something was packaged and delivered to GE. I could seek injunctive relief in court on this one.

"Demand contemporaneous and complete release or publication by the city of any material released to GE."

Go ahead, CoP can deep-six so much information you'd never find it. Try to find out how they justified the 30% increase in water bills over the past two year, besides Randy's fiat declaration.

The only solution is to find people to take this clown show off the road.

Forget throwing tea in the harbor, through scamsters in the the river....

"except Sam will way underestimate"

Meant to say"

except Sam will way over-estimate

Point is still the same, Sam gets money today and we get indentured for the next 30 years. Just think of it as a 125% home equity loan.

I hope the relationship Sam has with GE has a better outcome than Barney Frank's Fannie Mae hook up.

Don't worry. It'll all get paid by sewer savings.

G.E.'s record of environmental devastation and other corporate malfeasance includes running experiments out of Hanford in the 40's that exposed many Oregonians to radiation, denying that PCB's are a problem in the Hudson River, and causing some of the biggest Superfund sites in the country.

Portland is partnering with GE to build the "Oregon Sustainability Center". What's next? Partnering with Enron and Goldman Sachs for a new "Oregon Center for Corporate Financial Management"?

Portland is helping General Electric in their greenwashing campaign in exchange for what?

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