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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Citizen input charade in Portland spotlight

There are two different threads going at Portland City Hall about citizen advisory committees. And they seem to be moving in opposite directions.

First we have the ever-less-relevant Portland Development Commission -- with a governing body hand-picked by the mayor, for better or usually worse -- threatening to put its advisory boards on even shorter leashes than they are on now. Then you have "Legend" Saltzman proposing a new -- independent, woo-hoo -- board to play a role in setting water and sewer rates for us hopeless Portland residents who need to wash and flush. Big hoopla.

It's all kind of silly. Citizen advisory boards are purposely populated with nattering nabobs (yes, that's you, Streetcar Smith) who tell the politicians what they want to hear. And if they don't, they're ignored or disbanded. It's been that way forever, on every level of government, and neither of these proposals is going to change that.

Are you talking about a directly elected PDC board, or a directly elected water and sewer rate-setting board that can't be overruled by the City Council? Then call me. Otherwise, let me sleep -- I've seen this movie too many times.

Comments (9)

"Citizen advisory boards are purposely populated with nattering nabobs"

You forgot the really important things:
- Deceptive sense of self-importance (Like anyone in City Hall will listen to anything but rubber-stamp recommendations)
- Ego strokes ("gee, Sam said Hi to me!")
- Feeling that you're making a difference (Randy: "You can store their report right next to the latest PURB report on water rates. This time use the recycle instead of ordinary wate though.")
- Ability to learn how to make PowerPoints and spell charrette.
- Meeting David Evans and Gerding-Edlen so you know who they are when you see their names on the payee line of the check.

More appointed boards won't solve anything. And an elected board, in this town, is not likely to solve anything either. Saltzman and the rest of the Council should mind the public's wallet. That's the solution. What's so difficult about that, Dan?

My idea of an effective citizens board is a jury.

Michael Dolan wins the thread.

Frank:What's so difficult about that, Dan?

What is so difficult is that we know they aren't working for us, but they like to have people just think that somehow they are.

The charade of certain citizen's input is simply not believable anymore.

This is a lot like Portland Public Schools' so called "independent" study used to gin up the mega sized school construction bond and tax in this past election. Public employee unions, city officials, and crony capitalists make sure any citizen board and even school boards are populated with mostly pro big government spending forces. When a government official in this town says the word "independent," they might as well be saying "I have a bridge to sell you."

But... Bob Clark.... they do have a bridge (restoration) to sell or is that just Sellwood Bridge to sell?

Back when he was a city councilor, I served on a public committee that Mr Adams assembled. We were told we were independent, but as soon as we started saying things he didn't want to hear, all support from downtown instantly dried up & we were pretty much ignored. Then, oddly enough, the "official" results of our work bore little resemblance to our actual conclusions and recommendations. It was quite an education.

Here's a quick bullet list of a typical PDC/CoP Urban Renewal Advisory Committee malfeasance by the City:

1. Conflict of Interest voting by members, and when inquiries were made to PDC staff, they tried to coverup the abuse and asked for the media not to be contacted-"we'll review the matter internally and get back to you".

2. $10 Million in TIF dollars taken from URA for the MLR without any consultation, discussion with the URAC.

3. Handout by PDC requesting that URAC members not contact media, give testimony at hearings, etc. without approval from PDC. Violation of 1st Amendment.

4. PDC Board giving URAC only one day to review it's URA budget before going to City Council. When strongly objected to, no consideration.

5. URAC minutes not reflecting accurately the motions, voting results, comments made by members. And followup letters, reports not reflecting URAC positions-PDC editorializing.

6. PDC Director, in Report to City Council, mischaracterizing the opinions, vote on URA funding for MLR.

7. PDC twice changing the URAC membership requirments without any prior notification, discussions of changes.

These few examples help give credence to the charade of citizen input. Why serve with this kind of treatment, let alone the sometimes disrespect shown?

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