Selling "urban renewal," by the pound
The push by the developer-construction-contractor Mafia to bring Portland-style "urban renewal" schemes to the suburbs is showing the makings of an all-out war. Chastened by the recent rejection of "urban renewal" by the City of Tualatin, the proponents of "tax increment financing" and other budget-busting devices to build tacky apartments and pointless trains are girding up for real battle in places like Beaverton and Clackamas County.
Yesterday we had the chief operating officer of Metro make a curious announcement touting the advantages of "urban renewal" pork pots, and vaguely threatening disaster if localities didn't have them at the ready for the next developer wet dream. Today we discover that the commissioners in Clackamas County have hired a $50,000 political consultant to create a sales package for "urban renewal," to be taken to the county's residents.
The contract, between the county commissioners and a Portland public relations operative named Leslie Hildula, is here. In it, she agrees to create a "public information plan" entitled "Investing in Our Neighborhoods," which will "create an overall look and theme, i.e. a 'brand'... that inspires confidence, [p]ortraying efficiency, effectiveness and community understanding." "Investing" is the new word for "diverting tax dollars to developers" -- eerily, the same language was all over yesterday's greasy press materials issued by Metro.
The Clackamas contract with Hildula gets quite specific. It sets out a list of deliverables, and the price for each:
|Brochure for distribution at public meetings (price does not include translation into Spanish)||$2,850|
|Flyers about specific urban renewal areas||$1,500, or 2 for $2,500|
|Survey through Survey Monkey||$1,800|
|Update website (new photos and videos extra)||$500 per month|
|Create Facebook account for "Planning Clackamas," modeled after "Planning Cleveland"||$1,050, plus $125 a week for updates|
|Meeting planning and "facilitating"||$125 to $200 an hour|
|Open houses||$2,200 each|
The county also signs up to pay Hildula $500 a week for "community relations" work on the existing Sunnybrook Boulevard and Harmony Road projects.
Hildula is an experienced government p.r. flack. She recently left a gig at Tri-Met, where she sold the MAX green line, and before that worked public relations for Opus NW on the dopey Burnside Bridgehead deal in Portland, when she was employed by a national outfit called Zetlin Strategic. She also apparently has been involved in promoting the Lake Oswego streetcar line. Until recently, she additionally served as volunteer chair of the "citizens commission" that rides herd over Portland's quixotic "voter-owned elections" system -- including sterling leadership during the many months of the Emilie Boyles ordeal. At least at one time, Hildula was an officer of the Forest Park Neighborhood Association out toward Kyronland. Apparently she sat knee-to-knee with Amanda Fritz at west side neighborhood shindigs for a while.
What is it she will be selling for Clackamas County?
For those of us who haven't been following matters down there too closely, we learn that County Chair Lynn Peterson and crew have grand plans to replicate Portland's "urban renewal" scams on a large scale along McLoughlin Boulevard. Not only will this divert local property taxes to pay for the insane light rail train being proposed to run between Milwaukie and Portland, but it will also include "mixed-use" development (translation: ugly apartments and Subway sandwich joints) all the way down Route 99E to Jennings Lodge:
To get this done, the voters down that way are going to have to sign up for "tax increment financing," which diverts all property tax increases in the area for the foreseeable future out to building infrastructure for apartments and giving away real estate to developers. With property tax revenues for basic services frozen, those services are inevitably cut as the cost of delivering them rises. It's an awful tradeoff, and one that has not worked in places like the South Waterfront district in Portland. Given the recent defeat of such a plan in Tualatin -- a defeat that was sealed by local firefighters' objections to a frozen budget -- Clackamas County is going to have a hard time getting this past a flat-broke public.
But it's going to have Leslie Hildula out front giving it the old college try.