This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 29, 2010 9:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was 3,452 ballots that didn't count. The next post in this blog is The big picture. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Rebellion is on against Tri-Met

Emboldened by the defeat of the Tri-Met bond measure earlier this month, suburban forces are talking about using the ballot box to put a stop to the Portland transit agency's insane plan to build a light rail line to Milwaukie. Not only are they planning to challenge the "urban renewal" IOUs that Clackamas County is all hot to sign for train construction, but Milwaukie MAX opponents are also preparing to challenge Tri-Met's own borrowing ordinance when it gets passed by the psychedelic Tri-Met board of directors over the next few weeks.

To force this scam onto the ballot will take a lot of signature-gathering in the rain over the holidays, but in this case, given the fact that the folks in the suburbs are sick and tired of suffering for Tri-Met boondoggles, there's a promise of quite a robust bond election or two if the challengers can get enough people to sign their petitions. At the very least, it's going to be way fun to watch, and certainly we'll sign if they go after the Tri-Met bonds. We love the bus system, and light rail is slowly but surely killing it. Light rail needs a long timeout.

Meanwhile, the folks down in Boring want to secede from Tri-Met altogether. They've noticed that nobody rides the bus that Tri-Met sends down their way, and that the primary function of that bus line is to subject every business for 2½ miles on either side of it to the transit agency's ever-increasing payroll and self-employment taxes.

We're not sure that canceling the bus line will get Tri-Met off Boring's back, however. As we understand it, Tri-Met can tax any business in the Metro district, and when last we checked, a lot, if not all, of Boring was in there. Maybe Boring needs to secede from Metro, too. Is there a way it can do that? We'd be surprised.

Comments (28)

There is some precedent for TriMet to cancel a bus route AND give up service territory (and taxes) - when TriMet cancelled the South End Road route (I believe it was route 153), the remnant of the old Canby bus route, it had to re-draw the service boundary to eliminate that.

I don't know why TriMet held onto Boring for so long - there are rumors that TriMet has calculated that it earns enough in property tax/payroll taxes to keep it around, so I'm not surprised Boring is fed up and wants it to stop. (I don't know what's taken them so long, other than a lack of an organized group to get it done.)

What needs to happen is that other communities start following. Forest Grove/Cornelius, Hillsboro, Gresham, Oregon City, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin, Sherwood, Estacada - all are prime to opt out of TriMet and form their own transit departments. I doubt Beaverton will (Beaverton doesn't even have a fire department, parks department, water department or sewer department). Tigard is wishy-washy. Washington County, as a whole, could also form a county-wide transit district (a la most transit agencies in Washington - King County Metro in Seattle is part of the county's Department of Transportation; Snohomish and Pierce Counties also operate bus service as part of the county government). That arrangement would not work in Multnomah County (Portland and Gresham barely get along as it is), and Clackamas County would have to figure out the four cities within its jurisdiction that have already opted out of TriMet (Canby, Wilsonville, Molalla, Sandy). Washington County has the finances, the government, the ambition, and the lack of resistance to make it happen first.

Of course, Washington County would be burdened with running a good chunk of the MAX line (or remain with TriMet just for light rail operations) and WES (which Washington County's government is guilty of supporting).

Actually, Tri-Met has it's own jurisdictional boundary which is not coterminous with the Metro bounday. I believe Tri-Met's district is the larger of the two.

Does the TVFPD fight Beaverton fires?

Even if these efforts don't succeed in and of themselves, they could introduce a lot of uncertainty that could scare off bond buyers, or cause them to charge higher interest rates, which could effectively kill the project. The muni market is already pretty jittery.

I believe Tri-Met can tax anyone within Metro, or within 2½ miles of a bus or train line.

Question: the new library taxing districts that were approved, will these be ultimately used to raise property or payroll taxes?

The .7% payroll tax from Trimet is just nuts.

Just an FYI, the current Trimet employer tax is 00.62% of each employees payroll or $620 for every $100,000 in payroll. Are we getting our monies worth?

Areas that have opted out of Trimet taxes:


00.62% of each employees payroll or $620 for every $100,000 in payrol

No. Effective January 1, 2010, the rate increased to 0.6818 percent ($6.818 per $1,000) of the wages paid by an employer and the net earnings from self-employment for services performed within the Tri-Met District boundary.

Just an FYI, the current Trimet employer tax is 00.62% of each employees payroll or $620 for every $100,000 in payroll. Are we getting our monies worth?

Actually, Trimet payroll taxes are 0.6818% and will rise to 0.6918% in January.

Trimet taxing districts are larger than Metro. Basically Trimet appears to take the Metro boundaries and often puffs them a couple of miles.

You can view both of them here:



Here is an overlay of the Metro boundary with the TriMet taxing boundary:


Love the Maxx but hate the dirty stations, lax security, ticket machines that do not work and general feeling that it is run poorly, infrequently and not on time. Lets quit trying to expand it to areas that do not want it and instead make what we have work better. Start by training the operators to give a d**n once in a while. Customer service stinks in Tri-Met.

The TM payroll tax rate is not fixed. Pursuant to a rate increase approved by the state legislature in 2003 (with the full support of all Portland-area "business associations"), the rate will go up every January by .0001 through 2014.

The legislature also approved a rate increase in 2009, to be implemented after TM holds a perfunctory hearing sometime in 2012 or 2013 to declare that the local economy has "recovered" sufficiently. Once the TM board makes that declaration, another series of 10-year increases will kick in beginning 2015 and running through 2024.That is already part of TM's official long-term finance plan.

There is also more to come on this front. I was at a JPACT meeeting last spring when Andy Cotugno, long-time head of transportation planning at Metro, said publicly that the local light rail mafia (he might not have used that exact phrase) planned to go back to the legislature for another rate increase within the next 5 years.

Opting out would be a good idea for any local jurisdiction valuing good bus service, but TM has to approve the escape. Given the leveling off of payroll tax receipts in recent years, I suspect the TM board would be disinclined to do that, and would never do it for a larger jurisdiction like Beaverton, Gresham or Oregon City.

The Milwaukie light rail project was voted down by State voters in 1996 and Meto area voters in 1998.

Tri Met cannot stay financially afloat without federal and state aid. The rail cars, paid for by the feds have been sold and leased back. The overly generous benefits for Tri Met employees are an increasing liability.

Only about 20% of the cost of each ride is paid for by fares. The taxpayers pick-up the rest.

When you can't pay for what you already have, why expose yourself to more loses?

Rule 1: When you are in a hole, STOP DIGGING.

"Lets quit trying to expand it to areas that do not want it and instead make what we have work better."

TriMet and Metro don't know how to do that.

Instead they are pooring millions more into Rockwood and The Round trying to gin up that high livibility they always claim MAX brings.
They are liars hell bent on doing more of all the worst things regardless of cost or even TriMet's own preservation.

That's why they must be and IMO will be finally stopped.

A housekeeping question. TriMet buses serve Sauvie Island, but all the maps posted don't show the boundaries extended across the Sauvie Island bridge or even north on Hwy 30. Why is that? Then I wonder if there are other exceptions.

Is anyone going to these?

The following is a list of meetings on the Board of County Commissioners’ (BCC)
calendar for the week of November 29, 2010.
Monday, November 29
3:00 PM PLANNING MEETING – Transportation System Plan

Development Services Building, Room 301
150 Beavercreek Rd., Oregon City

5:00 PM Metro Council Meeting
BCC Hearing Room

"The muni market is already pretty jittery."

That sounds to me like a knowledgeable voice. In order to get seriously wonky here perhaps it helps to stipulate the same set of facts for everyone to argue from.

Footnote numbers in the following are referenced to the original.

Well, whoa. I started to quote some meaty contents of the freely available Overview of municipal Chapter 9 bankruptcy considerations, but ... this is at JonesDay.COM -- "The contents are intended for general information purposes only and may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the Firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion" -- which I read as saying the 'contents' cannot be 'referred to.' So I'm not going to quote or refer to what it says verbatim, but its tone and timing might be relevant to 'TriMet (and associated) rebellions'. Or not. Just saying, there is a website link that exists which anyone can browse to and read about the general topic of Chapter 9 bankruptcy for municipalities. Especially tax code law professors and professionals and, really, all voting taxpaying public citizens may be interested, I imagine.

Furthermore, several comments here include lines -- such as, "Lets quit trying to expand it to areas that do not want it and instead make what we have work better." -- which concern regional governance spanning different municipal and county governments and ordinances, so-called 'it' and/or 'it governance,' 'it authority,' and 'secession from it.' These concerns are the same as in other material I read about governance in a larger scale -- ordination in a region of 50 States rather than 3 Counties of a metropolitcan trio.

Substituting 'USA' for either 'TriMet' or 'it' in comments above, makes a lot of the same sense just in a larger scale.

Here's a full quote of 'other material' I read. Quoted in full because, 1.) the material is behind a paywall -- http://www.WayneMadsenReport.com/ -- where few folks might venture, and 2.) the author ('WMR') freely gives all subscribers release rights for wide circulation, in order (I imagine) to inform public knowledge converging in a fair sense of 'national rebellion' that makes a reasoned peaceful re-Consti2tion among 50 orderly-seceded States cum Sovereign Countries, (rather than violent and bloody means of disassociation), in reformation (overthrow?) of all bygone institutions named 'US' or 'National' or 'Federal.' For instance, this article supposes the end of 'Federal Reserve' currency. But one may imagine something similar for 'US Congress,' or 'national security' ... or that the 'National Guard' could cease hostile invasion in foreign countries and walk home, (without 'US Air Force' or 'US Navy' as passenger carriers).

[Annotations] and emphases added.

November 24, 2010 -- The U.S. economy: stand by for even worse news

A top economic adviser to the Democratic Party, speaking on deep background, told WMR that the domino-like collapse of the economies of Iceland, Greece, Ireland, and, now, possibly Spain, is coming also to the United States.

One of the triggering mechanisms will be at the end of this month when two million idled workers, now collecting unemployment, will be dropped from the rolls. At the end of December, another two million workers will join the ranks of those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and a total of 4 million Americans will be without unemployment checks and face destitution.

Four million Americans will put financial pressure on municipalities and state governments already facing bankruptcy. Unlike Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and, to some extent, Spain, which have strong central government control, the United States is a federal republic and, as such, the collapse of the economy will be state-by-state and begin at the municipality level, according to our source who has contacts within the Obama White House and the Democratic leadership of the Congress.

Municipalities, which guarantee the pensions of their retired employees through the issuance of municipal bonds, will find themselves faced with bankruptcy and the "Muni" bonds will be rated at junk status. Municipalities unable to pay out pensions will discover their pension funds can be bailed out by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) in Washington, a federal corporation set up by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. When the first municipality declares bankruptcy and seeks a bailout from the PBGC, there will be a domino effect, with others seeing it as a quick way out. Soon, the PBGC will, itself, be forced into bankruptcy. WMR has been told by our source it is doubtful that a Republican Congress will be interested in bailing out the PBGC. [Actually, Congress's Republicans are talking about "shutting down" by defunding the federal government.]

The wildfire of municipality bankruptcies will then spread to the states, with California and Illinois likely to be the first two states to default on their debts and declare bankruptcy.

In order to raise quick cash for a financially-desperate state government, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to sell 24 state buildings, including the Earl Warren Building in San Francisco, headquarters for the California Supreme Court, and then rent them back from the new owners. However, such desperate moves by states, including the selling off of their turnpike systems and state buildings -- with parks maybe next on the auction block -- is not enough to forestall bankruptcy. Unlike the federal government, which can print as much cash as it likes and needs, states do not have that luxury. However, given the imminent collapse of the national economy, some states may decide to print their own currency, [n.b. see here, for example], an act that would lead to the dissolution of the present 50-state union.

As far as bank accounts are concerned, our source recommended avoiding large national and regional banks that have a high percentage of toxic assets, especially in the commercial real estate area. The next major bust, after the residential real estate plunge, will be commercial real estate, where values of buildings and shopping centers have been halved. Our source sees smaller, state-based banks, as safer for account holders. Also, as more and more large shopping malls begin to close across the country, the unemployment numbers will also skyrocket.

WMR was also informed that President Obama will not seize the bully pulpit and level with the American people about who and what caused the present economic crisis. "Obama is subservient to his teleprompter," the White House insider source said, "if he'd scrap the teleprompter and speak directly to the American people, he might help things, but right now, he's a disaster."

Let us quit trying to expand USA governance to areas that do not want USA governance and instead make what governance we have locally work better.

"Let us quit trying to expand USA governance to areas that do not want USA governance and instead make what governance we have locally work better."

At the risk of insulting you, your're sounding pretty fiscally conservative.

"California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger plans to sell 24 state buildings, including the Earl Warren Building in San Francisco, headquarters for the California Supreme Court, and then rent them back"

TriMet already sold their light rail cars and now leases them back. Just one of many red flags signaling their demise.

Challenging their bond sales is an outstanding development and if successful will force the agency to stop expanding.

I'll wager there will be many a bitter partisan enemy joining together to bring that about.

A large component of MLR funding is urban renewal. Only one of three urban renewal areas identified to pay for it is real, South Waterfront URA. Clackamas Co. and Milwaukie haven't even formed their URAs. And these petitions will likely prevent their formation.

What voters in Clackamas Co. and Milwaukie need to know is that South Waterfront URA recently sold $90 Million in bonds to pay for its debt on a few projects they have built. Even property tax dollars collected from increased valuation is not covering the projects costs. So, even urban renewal isn't paying it's way. SW URA is broke.

And that is what Clackamas Co. and Milwaukie can look forward to. Besides the initial URA millions of maximum indebtedness, we now have the bond debt cost on top of the base cost. Extraordinary.

There is likely a similar petition coming to Lake Oswego. This would affect the proposed trolley to Lake Oswego from Portland.

Voters will get a chance to endorse or repeal urban renewal proposals. And this could easily spread to other jurisdictions.

The federal government should review these new developments closely because it makes MLR unlikely to meet their matching fund criteria.

Ben:Is anyone going to these?. . .

Good if someone can go to these various meetings to get information and what they are up to in trying to get this rail going no matter what.

Have often thought they have meetings upon meetings to keep us all busy on "their" agenda. One could have a full time job and more to keep track of all the meetings in our area. Many of us know how limited citizens input really is, or is valued or listened to anyway.

It might be a better use of our time to help those citizens in Clackamas and Milwaukie with getting information to them about experiences with URA's here,
do telephone work, make signs, or whatever we could do to help with their petitions.

Take care

"what governance we have locally work better"

How long have you lived in Portland? It's going the other direction, friend.

"Not only are they planning to challenge the "urban renewal" IOUs that Clackamas County is all hot to sign for train construction, . . ."

When are we going to get a chance to see and sign one of
those challenging petitions? Anyone?

The Clackamas Urban Renewal initiative petition was filed and a ballot title was received.
Although the DA is supposed to write and submit the ballot title the county got involved and the ballot title came back, (perhaps written by Lynn Peterson),
"Voter approval of Urban Renewal".

That obviously would not work.

It had to be challenged to put the "Requires" in it.

"Requires Voter Approval Of Urban Renewal"

The revision is expected soon.

The effort will need to get around 9000 valid signatures by February 17th to make the May 17th election date. As many have realized the preliminary support behind the scenes is immense throughout the county.

It is expected that once the effort rolls out publicly the support will swell to impressive levels.

lw: A housekeeping question. TriMet buses serve Sauvie Island, but all the maps posted don't show the boundaries extended across the Sauvie Island bridge or even north on Hwy 30. Why is that? Then I wonder if there are other exceptions.


Both WES and the #96 bus enter Wilsonville; but Wilsonville is outside of the TriMet service area. The City of Wilsonville does pay TriMet for WES service, but not the #96.

Wilsonville's buses do enter the TriMet service area and serve Tualatin and Barbur Transit Centers, but TriMet fares/passes are not accepted on those buses; you must pay a fare specific to that bus route (as most Wilsonville bus services are free). Yamhill County buses also run into Hillsboro and Tigard (with a stop in Sherwood) and do not accept TriMet fares/passes.

I have a sinking suspicion that the reason TM is building the Milwaukie max line is to permanently establish taxing jurisdiction over that whole area 2.5 miles on either side of the new line. Perhaps the TM board envisions a time in the near future when TM won't be able to afford meaningful bus service to those parts of Metro, which will trigger even stronger opt-out feelings among Clackamas County residents. Having the Max and its permanent tracks run right through the area creates a substantial barrier to opt-out. I hypothesize that if someone studied the location of the Max line, particularly what lies on the fringe of the 2.5 mile radius, it would quickly become apparent that the location of the line had nothing to do with transportation service and everything to do with including high-value properties in the TM tax jurisdiction web.

I believe what needs to happen is a voter initiative to re-write ORS 267, in part to change the taxing districts of a transit agency organized under ORS 267 (of which exists two - TriMet, and the LTD):

1. A resident, business or property is only subject to any tax by the transit agency if they are located:

A. Within 1,000 feet of an "unimproved" transit stop (designed as a transit stop which is marked only by a sign or other monument, and has no other transit district owned facilities)

B. Within 2,000 feet of an "improved bus stop" (designated as a bus stop that has at a minimum a bus stop sign, shelter, bench, and schedule information) AND the subject business or property is linked to the bus stop by an uninterrupted pedestrian path (i.e. sidewalk, can include marked crosswalks)

C. Within one mile (5,280 feet) of a transit center or rail stop (defined as streetcar, light rail, tram, trolley, subway, commuter rail, heavy rail, or any other fixed-guideway transit mode).

D. The above distances are measured by pedestrian walking distance as measured from the primary point of entrance to/from the subject project by a pedestrian, to the primary point of entrance to/from the transit access point or in the case of an bus stop, the physical location of the bus stop sign.

E. The tax rate must be proportional to the level of service offered to the transit stops that are accessible to a pedestrian within a one mile radius connected by contiguous pedestrian paths. (In other words, someone who has access to just one bus that operates rush hours only will pay a lower tax rate than someone who lives downtown and has access to light rail, streetcar, buses, etc. Someone who lives near a light rail or streetcar line will pay a higher tax than someone who is only served by buses.)

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