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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 6, 2011 8:47 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland fire, water macho fest: this year, on Powell Butte. The next post in this blog is Lesser of two evils is still pretty bad. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Our Oregon" jumps into Clackistan "urban renewal" fray

The "public benefit" organization known as Our Oregon comes across as pretty much the alter-ego of state's public school teachers' union. Its president is Gail Rasmussen, who is also the president of the Oregon Education Association; it secretary is Arthur Towers, the chief lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, another public employees' union. "Public benefit" corporations like Our Oregon enjoy tax-exempt status and can get involved in politics without having to disclose where their money comes from. (That's quite a loophole.)

Now Our Oregon has decided to get involved in the ongoing ballot measure war in Clackamas County over whether new or expanded "urban renewal" districts should be put up for a countywide vote. Our Oregon has asked Secretary of State Kate Brown to take a break from busting the Portland school district's chops and instead investigate whether there was anything irregular in the process by which Clackamas County checked the petition signatures that were turned in in support of the upcoming ballot measure on "urban renewal." The union group's suggestion is that were it not for flaws in the signature verification process, the proposed measure would have failed to qualify for the ballot.

Why would the teachers' union be hot to contest this ballot measure? Well, on one level, it's a union solidarity thing. The subtext of the "urban renewal" vote is the massive construction project known as the Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail, which the ballot measure is trying to stop. There are a lot of union jobs at stake in building that thing (albeit temporary ones), and you can see that organized labor doesn't want any threats to the pork pot.

On another level, it seems like a simple knee-jerk reaction, in that the unions can smell that the money behind the Clackamas County initiative is coming, at least in part, from their usual tighty-righty nemeses. The public employee unions hate ballot measures that are bankrolled by the Loren Parks types, and to them the Clackamas proposition probably seems like just another in a long line that extends back to Bill Sizemore, Don McIntyre, and even Lon Mabon.

But you really have to wonder why public school teachers' unions, or other public employees' unions, would go to the mat for "urban renewal." "Urban renewal" is a reverse Robin Hood. It robs from basic public services, including public schools but also many other services including public safety and mental health care for the poor, by skimming off property taxes and handing them to condo developers. Light rail, like all "urban renewal," mostly goes to build crummy apartment buildings.

If we were a public school teacher, we'd be calling our union guys and asking why in the heck they're spending our money fighting for that. Today we read in the paper that the school employee ranks are being decimated -- well, "urban renewal" is a significant part of the reason why.

Comments (25)

Hey Union Hacks:

You're being screwed by Urban Renewal. The sooner you realize it, the more effective you will be for the people you are supposed to be representing.

The cheif petitioners are looking for Clackamas County teachers, administrators and/or school board members to provide or sign voter pamphlet statements in support of the measure.
The statements are $400 each but can be funded by the camapaign if needed.

As for Our Oregon?
Yeah they found the boogieman Parks and tried to make it his measure.

In checking orestar his $5000 donation came after the signature gathering was essentially over.

The chief petitioners are a Democrat former Mayor of Oregon city and retired Sheriff deputy.

The biggest contributor and supporter is the Clackamas County firefighter's union who has donated $7000.00 and the 10,0000 signatures included 1000s of Demcorats.

Our Oregon is trying to concoct a scandal where none exists.

Their suggestion that were it not for flaws in the signature verification process, the proposed measure would have failed to qualify for the ballot is lame.

It would have meant failure if the verification came up a bit short. There was a 2 year window and hundreds of additional signatures ready to turn in to simply make the March ballot.

Or, the petitioners could have turned in the additional signatures in January to push it to the May election.

So there was zero desperation or urgency to motivate any impropriety at the elections office.

Now the campaign will be the "right to vote" against the anti-voter Our Oregon?

The same thing is going on in Vancouver and Lake Oswego with obstruction to public votes on their boondoggles.

The current crop of sheeple are indeed the lambs led to the slaughter.
The surest way to control the poor is to make them aspire to being rich.

"Our Oregon comes across as pretty much the alter-ego of state's public school teachers' union."

I believe this is the definition of a stalking horse. I think it is just log-rolling for the public employees union on behalf of the powers that be.

Why they'd support it - Who the heck knows? Though I thought the state made up the diff in funds that URAs took from schools?

Then again, the unions are all for illegal immigration even if it takes jobs and forces wages down for union workers (take a look at who is doing roofing and framing on residential projects - it is not union labor I'd bet).

"Though I thought the state made up the diff in funds that URAs took from schools?"

Yes, but it has to come from the common school fund.
In doing so every UR district depletes the common school fund lessoning the distribution to every district.

So Eugene schools helped pay for Portland's Tram.

Anyone representing schools, police, fire, or even just general city or county workers, would be in Salem trying to permanently change the Urban Renewal law to greatly restrict it if they knew what was good for them.

Maybe the teacher's union would do well to educate its membership about the real consequences of URAs to schools and ultimately the teachers.

So it's the Teacher Union vs. the Firefighter's Union?

My money is on the team with the Red Trucks.

In the 2009-10 fiscal year, $62.7 million was diverted from Oregon K-12 to cover urban renewal debts across the state.

What is so wrong with voters acquiring a local check on UR debt decisions?

Why would OEA leaders sell out their members on this?

I think it is because it undermines two of their top political tenets:

1. Giving additional authority to voters undermines the unions' ability to control political outcomes, and

2. Loren Parks must be viewed as public (employee) enemy number one.

Why would OEA members permit their union leaders to get away with this?

Because they aren't paying attention.

Yes, but it has to come from the common school fund. In doing so every UR district depletes the common school fund lessoning the distribution to every district.

Am I right, though, that the depletion is proportionate across the state? So in a heavy URA district like Portland, PPS only takes a small percentage of the hit. I don't know the actual percentages, but you could imagine that for every $1 lost to Portland urban renewal, PPS only loses $.20, and schools throughout the state lose $.80. There probably isn't nearly as much support for urban renewal in areas outside of Portland -- but they don't get to vote on it.

If I'm right, that explains why the school districts and parents in Portland aren't more outraged. We have a system where local voters get to elect representatives who can, in effect, take money away from schools throughout the state to spend on local pet projects. How much of the $62.7 million lost that Pancho cites is from Portland URAs?

Miles I don't know the actual percentages,
JK: The Oregonian (February 28, 2010):
Experts say that about 35 percent of the taxes within an urban renewal district would normally go to schools.

Here are some actual numbers from the PDC for just one year: :
City of Portland services.........$20.6 million
Multnomah County services....$13.8 million
Portland School District.........$11.4 million
others...................................$5.4 million
Total of all TIF...................$51.2 million

And it has gone UP since this report



And don't forget the direct cost urban renewal agencies, like PDC, takes directly from property tax revenues, besides the TIF dollars. Property taxes are just one of five "funding types" PDC skims money from. Same goes for Clackamas Co.

Over 30% of property taxes in Portland goes to PDC for administrative costs and other-all taken from the General Fund. There is much more to cost of urban renewal than the TIF dollars stolen from police, fire, schools, parks and etc.

How many Portland residents who are part of the BoJack network would be willing to meet and talk about a ballot initiative whose purpose would be to dismantle the PDC? If 25 people from PDX say they will show up, I will get the meeting place.

Being a think globally, act locally type, I'd organize the meeting if there was enough interest and expertise to actually start driving a stake in the vampire that is sucking our city dry.

Since I only play Lucifer's Advocate on the internet, I'd like the initiative drafted by a real lawyer who knows the ins and outs of this kind of thing. And I'd like the commitment to get the signatures. As an ex-project manager, my offering is organizational skills.

And I have a bit of fund raising experience as well (though you religious right types would likely roll over at that project (not work related)). Though someone with local, political fund raising experience would be a better bet than me.

Hey, Lucs. I'd be interested in gaming out some possibilities for reigning in the PDC with you. Not sure if I'd support going so far as dismantling -- the voters actually approved the creation of the PDC, so it had political support at the time (albeit a generation ago). I think many of us can agree, however, and many liberal Portland voters can be convinced, that the PDC is eating up too much of the city's revenue, yielding far too little return for most of the city's residents, and doing so at the expense of other institutions and services Portlanders cherish (parks, schools, etc.), therefore requiring major reform.

Eric - I am open to discussion about how to reign in the PDC. But right now it's way more out of control than is good for this city or the average tax payer.

Hey Lucs! I'm not in Portland anymore; but would be happy to donate a few hundred to "the cause" if you get anything organized. As a businessman in Portland for 22 years, I'm tired of seeing the same developer slimeballs getting millions of public dollars year after year. They are sucking the life and vibrancy out of Portland.

Thanks for the offer, Dave A. If anything comes of this I am sure it will be posted on this site.

Lucs, I'm in. You many be surprised and you'll need to be accepting of many different strips, because those concerned about the impact of UR have many other wrappings. Some may offend you. But I appreciate the offer.

lw - If we keep to the issue at hand which is cutting off the PDC's ridiculous empire and stopping URs in PDX or MultCo that are not voter approved, stripes won't bother me. As I have said more than once, my politics are all over the map. I just don't have much use for bigots. OTOH, I am not exactly PC or neutral when it comes to being offensive.

I kid you not Kelly Ross, the executive director of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association - Portland, Oregon showed up at the Clackamas County board meeting and lectured the crowd on the benefits of Urban Renewal.

The heck ya say Kelly.

Bem, I am shocked simply shocked that developer weasels would show up and tout the Clackistan URA. Bwahahahahahahah.

Tom Hughes appeared to and was given a few extra minutes and allowed to go first.

He said he had no guibble with boters voting on the initiative petition. But a week ago he urged the crowd at the joint breakfast of the Westside economic alliance and Clackamad Business alliance to direct their resources to defeating the meaure.

Ben - Apparently Tommy H. doesn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing in Clackistan right now.

Ben has it right. It's all about the land. It's never been about the children or anything else to do with education. The changes taking place, in the name of our children's education, are just white noise for real estate transactions between city council members and private developers. The most valuable and vulnerable lands left to develop in Portland are the publicly owned school properties, (sports fields, play grounds and adjacent park properties), and all of our beloved Portland parks. The privatization of our public properties is the biggest swindle of public assets this city will ever experience. The famous livability of our neighborhoods is going to change rapidly as the developers acquire the last remaining open spaces with development rights; thus ensuring their families and friends have ample land to develop within the urban growth boundary, and prosper from, over the next 50+ years.

The Real Estate Trust for Schools was formed under Mayor Vera Katz. Homer Williams was President, and Sam Adams was, of all things, Treasurer. It's difficult to find information regarding this organization on the web any longer, but the public private partnership that was created has taken on the public face for this group.

Want to know more about the Real Estate Trust for Schools? Check out:

Moving public school properties into public- private partnerships, and ultimately into private hands is the goal. Building out the school yards for mixed use, transit oriented developments is the plan. It started with closing the schools. The most desirable were closed first. Not all of the attempts were successful ...Think Lincoln High School. The Real Estate Trust for Schools floated the idea to move the Lincoln School campus under the 405 freeway at Thurman. In the moguls' own backyards, no less. Remember trying to close Franklin? The SE community stood up, so it will remain open for the time being. It's not over in SE, (or for Lincoln). The fix has been in for awhile. Check out the IR zoning for Franklin on

IR (Residential Institutional) zone
The IR zone is a multi-use zone that provides for the establishment and growth of large institutional campuses as well as higher density residential development. The IR zone recognizes the valuable role of institutional uses in the community. However, these institutions are generally in residential areas where the level of public services is scaled to a less intense level of development. Institutional uses are often of a significantly different scale and character than the areas in which they are located. Intensity and density are regulated by the maximum number of dwelling units per acre and the maximum size of buildings permitted. Some commercial and light industrial uses are allowed, along with major event entertainment facilities and other uses associated with institutions. Residential development allowed includes all structure types. Mixed use projects including both residential development and institutions are allowed as well as single use projects that are entirely residential or institutional. IR zones will be located near one or more streets that are designated as District Collector streets, Transit Access Streets, or streets of higher classification. IR zones will be used to implement the Comprehensive Plan’s Institutional Campus designation. The IR zone will be applied only when it is accompanied by the “d” Design Review overlay zone.

Although it didn't make sense to close Marshall at the time, the school board and private developers are thinking ahead. (It's all for the children, remember.) Conveniently, when the development begins at old, run down, 17+ acre Franklin, the children can be sent to mothballed, almost new, Marshall. Think how happy some will be too have a relatively new school!

City Hall has been doing it's part as demonstrated here:

"...the Portland City Council will discuss monumental changes to the Portland zoning code as it pertains to schools and recreational fields. If the ordinance is passed, Portland Public Schools will be allowed to establish schools with any grade range from Kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, by passing this ordinance the City will exonerate Portland Public Schools from previous violations of the existing zoning code at eleven schools when it closed and reconfigured schools in the past decade. This has led and will continue to lead to segregation within the school district. It will also enable the sale of public schools, parks, and the lands around them to private investors and real estate developers. These code changes are in response to the actions of a citywide group of Portland families who filed zoning code complaints against Portland Public Schools starting in April 2008."

shannon, you have several great points about Portland Planning being about the land and less so about neighborhoods.

Here's another example, Family Child Care homes. Alameda and South Portland are presently experiencing two examples (there are many more) of how simple child care can dilute the livability of neighborhoods-and another method besides urban renewal to have institutional/commercial uses creep into neighborhoods without a zone change. Then when the residential quality of our neighborhoods are diluted, the bureaucrats, developers and pols can say it's time to upzone, rezone, urban renewalize a neighborhood.

City and State regs are being interpreted by some public officials to allow homes to be converted into actual child care facilities of up to 16 children.

There are many ambiguity in the regs, besides "interpretations" that allow that the home not even be occupied by the owner or even "the provider" of the child care. An employee of the "provider" can be giving the care as some interpret the regs. The "intent" of the regs were to simply allow a parent to provide "family childcare" for their children and others, and initially at much less numbers without disturbing a neighborhood by creating lack of parking, noise, lessening of property values, allowing a business use in R zoning, etc. Some of these childcare homes are actual businesses and not someones home. Then licenses are given to the childcare personnel and home without any public notification of surrounding neighbors.

Even "home occupations" are permitted, restricted, and have different levels of permitted activity to help preserve the residential qualities of our neighborhoods-better than what "childcare regs" are doing. Many times the application of "conditional use" for institutions, businesses, schools can harm a neighborhood. "Childcare" regs also can have this impact.

In several cases around the state and Portland, "childcare" is really a "school", which has to be zoned for such, or have a "conditional use" designation. Conditional Use requires public notification and hearings and an appeal process. With Portland's childcare regs there is none.

It's not a matter of childcare being a solely negative element to a neighborhood, it is the intensity of 16 children and what it can bring, and each case is unique. It becomes a business that can harm a residential neighborhood.


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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
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Road Work

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