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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The O cheerleads Old Town Beam deal

The City of Portland's scary $6 million loan to a Chinese medicine college for a new headquarters in Old Town -- a project that will make developer Brad Malsin at the Beam firm some nice dough -- is a wonderful thing despite the extraordinary risk. So says this editorial by the city's moribund daily newspaper. Why? Apparently, because the nearby Chinese Garden is so nice:

The now 10-year-old Lan Su, formerly known as the Portland Classical Chinese Garden, is an enclave of serenity, where the college already offers classes and lectures (recently on the health benefits of drinking tea)....

And you can't walk into the Lan Su without marveling at the otherworldly sense of relaxation it projects. This place has "alternative therapy" and "wholistic wellness" written all over it. It's the embodiment of the "de-stress" message central to the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine's core mission.

And that's why it's a good idea to ignore the fundamentals of finance and make a mid-seven-figure loan that no bank would get anywhere near, at an insanely low interest rate?

They need their "wholistic" heads examined. The O's editorials haven't been this goofy since Jonathan Nicholas took the severance package.

Bad deals chase out good deals. And this one screams hysterically bad. The PDC and its developer pals appear to be in the financial intensive care unit, and getting desperate for any transaction, at any price. Go by streetcar!

Comments (23)

The majority of the Oregonian's front page yesterday was devoted to "a secret bar in Old Town" which "might be the hippest place you never heard of." Still trying to figure out why that wasn't just a squib in the entertainment section.

And now an approving editorial about a taxpayer-funded loan that, midway, admits "this is as risky a venture as Portland's urban renewal agency has entered into in some time"?

The Oregonian gets a lot of flak from all sides, but the truth is it's not a very good paper and its news judgment is exceptionally poor for a newspaper of its size. I'm not sure why anyone would put down a dollar to pick it up any more.

Only in Portland can taxpayer dollars be used to subsidize the sale of snake oil.

I had some hope for the Oregonian when they hired N. Christian Anderson III as their new publisher. He came from Orange County, CA and I stupidly imagined that he would add some conservatism to the left wing Kool Aid drinking slant of the editorial and news staff. Little did I know he was a closet progressive just waiting to come out. It must have been tough for him down there in Orange County. I have to subscribe to a paper as what else can I do while sitting on the john in the morning. At least I get my money’s worth with the Sunday paper as it is full of coupons and I get my free three dollar flashlight from Harbor Freight.

Maybe they see it as another social service. They do mention the abundance of patients in the area...

Good grief...

I've long found it interesting that folks bag on Gerding-Edlen so much, when the "local" developer Brad Malsin has his sloppy mouth at the public trough as much or moreso than anybody.

"They need their "wholistic" heads examined."

Mr Bog - I think we are close, the first step to recovery is hitting rock bottom like a junkie whose skin is crawling. You just sense that air of desperation about this PDC crew that thinks if they throw enough money at enough chimps sitting at typewriters they'll get Shakespeare.

This whole crew needs a creativity transplant instead of doing the same tired actions. Viz, throwing more and more money at failed ideas.

The Oregonian amazes me with its lack of attention to detail and the fact that it paints a picture far removed from reality; often failing to cite where it comes up with the reason for its opininated comments within an article.

My favorite for today is the Metro section article about the Gert Boyle trying to frame the readers opinion about the suspect Gutierrez..."After several years as a successful entrepreneur..appeared to run into financial trouble last year"... What makes him successful? The fact that he owned a house and several businesses that showed no income coming in to support his possessions. If he failed to claim income it's not too far of a stretch to see turning to other crimes.

The O talking about the college receiving this money is just another attempt to frame this development as viable rather than the crime against taxpayers that it is.

The PDC just needs to open its eyes. They seem to think that the absence of private sector development means they need to push harder and spend more on these "public/private" deals.

Just maybe the absence of private activity is trying to send you a signal PDC that this isn't a good time for development.

PD, Malsin is definitely trying to join the ranks, but Gerding has been at it longer on much bigger deals at this point.

The whole idea of the public being involved in developing buildings just seems more and more ridiculous the more you think about it. Other than government buildings, and perhaps some affordable housing, why are we in this business at all?

Let's keep in mind the editorial board and columnists of a paper are free to opine and cheerlead and subscribe to all sorts of causes and conspiracies we may agree or disagree with. They're supposed to generate discussion and controversy, as they clearly have here.

It is, problematic, though, if publishers' and editors' pet causes filter down to and are taken up by the beat reporters. Some papers can keep the two partitioned off, like how the Wall Street Journal can provide quality, (mostly) objective business news coverage while it's paleoconservative editorial board goes off the deep end ranting and raving. I'm less sure The O is capable of maintaining that "Chinese wall". We've beaten up a lot on Ryan Frank and some of their other reporters here, but not without some cause, given a tendency to take corporate and public-sector shills, mouthpieces, and press releases at their word and not connecting important dots readers need to know to be fully informed.

Nothing exudes 'de-stress' like a drunken bum leaning on a shopping cart.

I've seen people get accupuncture for "stress" - actually stuck the needles in the ears and foreheads. Can't wait to go to oldwntown to see a bunch of guys with knitting needles or toothpicks sticking out of their ears...

I've always been a little puzzled by Beam's "local hero" status. I worked with them once several years ago: got a strong and creepy "swim with the sharks at your own risk" vibe. Declined further work. I guess this kind of PR hoodwink is an integral part of the public-money-to-private-hands process. At least this is one part of "The City that Works" "Public/Private partnership" that's working well.

I still can't get over Multnomah County voters approving TriMet's bond request while the more sane people in the suburbs voted sufficiently against it to defeat it region wide. Maybe the best thing for us all is TriMet goes bankrupt so as take the wheels off stump towns runaway spending spree.

The next big hit to our property taxes is the Portland Public school District's request for an effective overnight 10% increase our total property tax bills. Who are these Multnomah County voters who approve almost every new large government expense that comes along? They must be either rich and want to effectively drive others out of the city and county, or they must be without taxable property and dependent on government subsistence. I am almost wishing the vote were restricted to actual property owners.

What happened to that lawsuit that stalled city's ability to issue debt?

Bernie Bottomly, vice president of government affairs and economic development for the Portland Business Alliance, points to another major force at work in determining which projects succeed and which fail: financing.
“In terms of big vs. small projects, those are always going to be cyclical,” he says. Now, the city is simply in the down part of the cycle.
In this environment, private-sector partners needed for financing big projects – like the aerial tram – are out of the picture, he says. And the city’s primary tool for public financing is urban renewal money.
Those pots of money aren’t accessible because some of the older renewal districts have spent all of their money, Bottomly says, and in the River District, there’s a lawsuit that has stalled the city’s ability to issue debt.

"Who are these Multnomah County voters . . .?

Who are these voters who are willing to spend their money on things like mass transit and schools? Well, Bob Clark, they're probably people who aren't motivated entirely by personal greed and who care about the general welfare of the community that they live in.

I'm not surprised that you'd find their motivations so puzzling.

"they're probably people who aren't motivated entirely by personal greed and who care about the general welfare of the community"

and believe they'll never have to pay the taxes they're voting to increase, and will never notice when the cost of groceries and lattes goes up.

Strange as it may seem to someone like you, John, some people are actually willing to pay taxes for services that they believe are important for the common good. Some people believe that's an obligation that comes with being a citizen.

I don't blame you and Bob for finding that unbelievable or silly. After all, there's an entire major American politcal party that now exists, as far as its popular base goes, simply because it opposes taxes--on anyone and for anything except the military.

I won't say that your political beliefs (if being uncaring and greedy can be called "beliefs"), put you in good company--but they do put you in a pretty big crowd.

"What happened to that lawsuit that stalled city's ability to issue debt?"

"Municipal Bond Market Shudders"

For once capitalism actually has something akin to a moral compass. The days of running up the credit card for Sammy may be nigh.

I live in Multnomah County, own a house, and consider myself progressive, and do care about the general good of the community.

I'm also an accountant, so think about these measures both long and short-term - so did vote no against Tri-Met, and will have to see a very well thought-out measure for a school bond election to consider voting for it.

I think enough Multnomah County voters voted no that MultCo couldn't carry the tri-county area. That may well be an emerging trend in this and future elections - enough people in the Portland/MultCo area that think in fiscally prudent terms, and will vote money measures down if they don't actually contribute to the general welfare of the community, and not just to some developers' pockets.

I won't say that your political beliefs (if being uncaring and greedy can be called "beliefs"), put you in good company--but they do put you in a pretty big crowd

As long as you are the one stuffing the straw men, your opinion doesn't mean dick, Dick.

"some people are actually willing to pay taxes for services that they believe are important for the common good."

You're right Malsin, G-E and Homer need all the help they can get from our govt. Meanwhile schools languish and potholes grow.

I'm willing to pay for services when society gest them. Instead we get more employee benes (like the $600M stimulus last year and the 20% bump in education spending in 2007) and almost nothing but benes.

That may well be an emerging trend in this and future elections - enough people in the Portland/MultCo area that think in fiscally prudent terms, and will vote money measures down

Yes, that will help us reign in TriMet and Metro and other entities that have regional constituencies. The Port is one such entity that is overdue for scrutiny by taxpayers in Washington and Clackamas Counties, since property owners there are taxed (along with MultCo owners) for facilities that mostly benefit Portlanders.

However, that will not help us Portland residents where we need it most -- reigning in our profligate Mayor and City Council members, who somehow find tens of millions of dollars to waste on computer snafus but have to ask voters to load up the credit card to buy fire trucks. Voters here have abdicated their oversight responsibilities, or somehow are insulated from or deluded about the actual costs of the policies, bond measures, and politicians they vote for. I'm afraid lawsuits may be the only recourse left to get the populace and their leaders to stop drinking the Kool Aid for a moment and think about the cliff they are driving us towards.

There may need to be a balance here.
In my view, I think people realize the necessity of some taxes for a healthy community and basic needs. Some may approve of money for extras when times are better.

The abuse of taking and taking, not for basics, but for pet projects is one reason why people finally have had it. There is no respect for citizens when services, etc, are less and their money goes for things like the tram, stadium, and light rail that the citizens have apparently repeatedly questioned the value and the cost of.

Officials do not seem to care about loading us all with enormous debt, it won't be theirs to pay back, and many will most likely be out of office when the debt they have run up will need to be paid. Cities are facing bankruptcy and yet these fools will not stop the debt train.


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