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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Multnomah County's real estate delusions

Believe it or not, we really try to make sense out of what our local politicians and bureaucrats do. But every time we give them the benefit of the doubt, they confirm that they're crooked, nuts, or both.

For example, what are the Multnomah County commissioners smoking these days? They're actually still talking about getting into one of Portland's famous "public-private partnership" swindles on the west side of the Morrison Bridge to build -- take a guess -- a condo tower with retail!

Just what Portland needs -- more condos! Just what downtown needs -- more vacant retail space!

It's really, really hard to explain these folks' behavior. Some days we feel a little like giving up.

And speaking of the west side of bridges, we're still puzzled by the infamous "new courthouse" project. The Portland Development Commission went out and borrowed $9 million of "urban renewal" moolah and promptly handed it over to the county, supposedly to start work on a new county courthouse on the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge. That was March 2008. It's going on three years later, and as best we can tell the money's still sitting in a bank account somewhere, at last report earning around 3% interest. Meanwhile, the city's paying 6% interest on the loan.

We still can't believe that one is legal. It sure isn't smart.

Comments (7)

"It's really, really hard to explain these folks' behavior."

Not really - You should (re-)read "The Gambler" by Dostoevsky.

If you think you've got a system (whatever the heck PDC/Mult County think it is), just keep doubling down - After all its only other people's money they're spending.

I think the trick would be to get them this excited about school buildings or the Sellwood bridge.

I think you're assuming politicians are looking at Portland from Portland's point of view. Remember, the ambition they feel is for their own careers - Portland is the backdrop and any long-term thinking involves what they'll do next. Not what Portland will become.
There's also the natural human desire not to be under the control of something. It must be darn irritating to have to let voters decide whether you keep your job. I think this turns into a subconscious irritant, where politicians are actually trying to screw us over out of a sense of revenge.
Once you see that, their behavior makes more sense.

"Once you see that, their behavior makes more sense."

I was wondering why Randy acts like he does and Sam has such, erm, impulse control issues.

The only problem with that is once these guys get in office, they have death-grip on that job. Can you imagine a no-talent like Randy actually surviving in private sector job (I'm discounting the janitor business he started and flopped at.)

No private company is going to build condos or retail downtown right now. No one is going to build a significant number of condos in a long long time.

How quickly they forget what Tom Moyer almost built.

Its simple, Portland is being prepared to receive the thousands of wealthy refugees who will be coming here from NYC.

Light rail, the Trolleys, the Tram, the Pearl, SoWhat, pdx, the Big Pipe, Solar, Pill Hill, condos galore, soccer, its all here.

It takes the Feds to interrupt business-as-usual:

"A married pair of top officials in a Maryland county is accused of tampering with evidence after FBI agents said they recorded the husband telling his wife to flush a $100,000 check from a real estate developer down the toilet and to stuff almost $80,000 in cash in her underwear.

Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, whose second term expires next month, and his wife, Leslie, who was recently elected to the County Council, were charged with witness and evidence tampering and destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation.

The charges grew out of a 5-year-old investigation into allegations of real estate developers in the county offering rewards to county officials in exchange for personal and business favors."

But perhaps Multnomah County is too far from the locus of federal investigations. North of Prince George, Baltimore County gave the country Spiro Agnew, who was the reform Republican County Executive prior to his ascent to national notoriety.

If county government does nothing else, it certainly provides a training ground for those with higher political aspirations. Why, even Portland City Council includes a former county commissioner.

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