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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 3, 2011 10:35 AM. The previous post in this blog was Arrest no. 38 at Occupy Portland. The next post in this blog is Looks awfully familiar. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Portland transportation bureau going broke

All those bike and streetcar projects are apparently putting a mighty strain on the City of Portland's finances. Here's news of a new internal city report that questions the financial stewardship of the transportation bureau. What with the federal investigation of suspected corruption in the parking meter operation, it's a really ugly picture over there.

The commissioner in charge since 2005? Sam Adams. The current bureau director, Tom Miller, is Adams's former "chief of staff"; he took over earlier this year from Sue Keil, who ran the bureau under Adams for nearly six years. Apparently the three of them have run it straight into the ground.

UPDATE, 10:40 a.m.: Guess we now know why everybody's bailing out or getting shipped out of that office.

Comments (27)

No surprise to those of us who have been watching this downward spiral.
When the Mayor had difficulties with his own property finances, is when all around him needed to be especially prudent instead of continuing down his road.
After all, just hoping for the best isn't good enough when the ship is going astray.
Remember the movie "Caine Mutiny?"
A quote from the Captain Queeg:
Queeg quickly attempts to re-instill discipline into the crew, warning: "[T]here are four ways of doing things: the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. If they do things my way, we'll get along."
Sounds like it fits the Admiral’s position as well.
What a breath of fresh air it will be for the city workers once those two leave.
Meanwhile I hope some are cooperating with the feds to see that these two don’t get to skate away easily from the mess they have created in bureaus.

I have friends in Brooklyn who'd very much like to hear about this. Apparently the trend in New York is to point to stupid transit ideas such as the bike rental kiosks and, when the grownups ask about profitability or even financial independence of such schemes, cry "But PORTLAND does it!"

Now, let's all say it, all at once:

"WE (F***ING) TOLD YOU SO!!!!!"

I visited three businesses in inner SE Portland yesterday. Usually I can find on-street parking near their businesses. But with bike lanes, bike boxes, bio-swales and curb extensions, there were few spaces left.

I asked each business what they thought. Gosh, did I get a litany of complaints. The curb extensions on each block eliminated 4 to 6 spaces just on one side. But worse is that their trucks have to swing wide to avoid the extensions and then since they've installed raised concrete blobs, the trucks are tilted shifting their loads. Plus, they have to wait for all traffic to clear to be able to swing wide.

They figure that over $200 thousand is spent per each block for all these devices, plus making parking miserable. The businesses were told when they objected to the bioswales that "it doesn't matter what you think, we're doing it". Each business now believes it is time to speak up, things have gone too far.

Miller might consider running his bureau with some civility and common sense that could help make budgets.

Senate defeats another GOP attempt to kill transportation program that funds bike paths
By Associated Press, Published: November 1
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-defeats-3rd-gop-attempt-to-kill-transportation-program-that-funds-bike-paths/2011/11/01/gIQAADwccM_story.html

Notable excerpts:

WASHINGTON — Republican senators failed Tuesday in their third effort in less than two months to eliminate federal money for bike paths, walking trails and other transportation enhancement projects.

An amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was defeated by a vote of 60 to 38. It would have forbidden the government from spending any money on enhancement projects and re-directed funds to bridge repairs.

Paul and other critics say the program is bankrolling extravagant projects, such as a giant roadside coffee-pot shaped building, movie theaters and turtle tunnels.

But in many cases, these projects have been exaggerated or misrepresented. The coffee pot, for example, didn’t receive transportation aid; the movie theater is really a driver’s education classroom, and the turtle tunnels are a wildlife eco-passage that allows animals to cross a busy Florida highway. Proponents of the project say motorists were swerving to avoid killing turtles, alligators and other critters.

Paul continued the misrepresentation Tuesday, telling senators “this amendment simply takes funds from beautification and puts them into bridges.”

****

The money for transportation enhancements — $927 million for fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30 — is the largest source of federal funds for bicycling projects. It represents 2 percent of the nation’s highway funds.

While states can use the federal aid for any of the 12 categories, bike and walking projects tend to receive about half the funds, supporters of the program said.

A national network of bicycle groups urged their members over the past week to contact their senators and ask them to vote against Paul’s amendment.

A similar effort by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in September would have eliminated the requirement that states set aside a portion of their transportation funds for enhancements. He withdrew his amendment. Another effort in October by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, failed as well. His proposal would have retained funding for bike projects but would have eliminated funding for seven other enhancement project categories.

Like Paul, the senators said states should be able to spend all their highway aid on roads and bridges if they want, especially because many states have a backlog of road projects and structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired or replaced.

The issue is expected to come up again in the next several months as the House and Senate craft long-term transportation plans. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said the House bill will eliminate the requirement that states set aside a portion of their funding for enhancements.

Pointing to states that have suffered flooding, Mica told reporters last month that highway officials would like to be able to use the money for other priorities.

Jack Basso, chief operating officer of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state highway agencies, said the stipulation that states set aside enhancement dollars has survived for nearly two decades because it’s popular with local officials and metropolitan planning organizations.

“I wouldn’t be telling you the straight story if I said every state is gloriously in love with this program and thinks we ought to support it. But in this business, it takes 35 states to make policy and this has been voted on once or twice and it has been sustained as something to retain,” Basso said, referring to the association’s board meetings.

****

The pic of Tom Miller linked to the article makes him look older than he is. For an alternate look check out the "come hither" header at:

Tom Miller Tweets!!
http://twitter.com/#!/tommillertweets

and not, it seems, about transportation most of the time . . .

Name me a Portland city department besides water (that can capriciously raise pricing any d*** time they want) that isn't running into the ground.

There once was a recall X2, and no one came...next time,maybe you all better listen.

There are alot of smart people posting here...WHAT DO WE DO?

When the Mayor had difficulties with his own property finances, is when all around him needed to be especially prudent instead of continuing down his road.

I suspect that you meant "instead of continuing down his bike path".

All those bike projects? Really!? Averaging maybe $2-3M a year out of a $250M annual budget? Not a decrease in expected gas tax receipts as stated by PBOT? No correlation to decreased driving due to a slowed economy or people driving smaller cars or, dare I say it, people biking or walking or transiting instead of driving? No correlation to the lower-than-expected gas tax revenue discussed in Yamhill County a week or two ago?

http://www.newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=gas+tax+money+failing+to+materialize--1319295349--1873--

Yamhill County's vast bike lane expansion program must be crushing that transportation system too! Or maybe state economic projections a couple years ago missed a decrease in miles driven due to a slow economy and an increase in fuel efficiency in the face of high gas prices. What we need to solve the transportation budget problems is for all those Portland cyclists to get off their bikes on residential bike boulevards or 5' bike lanes and into SUVs on the arterials with the other motorists. Drive more cars. Burn more gas. That's the solution.

Sam is the Transportation Commissioner. His idiot ex-chief of Staff is now the PBOT Director replacing Sue Keil. She was a miserable Director because she was a BES employee all her career until the appointment. She knew zip about Tranportation. She hired no-nothings to head Maintenance. Suzanne Kahn came from Human Resources and Eric Peterson was a BES project manager. They know nothing about Maintenance. They drove out people with lots of experience and replaced them with idiot yes-men. One of them is a Senior Manager named Tom Beggs. He was an 18 month unemployed ex-engineer from CalTrans. He came in and against all the experienced opinions of veteran paving supervisors told them all paving repairs would be made with a cold-mix product called Easy Street. He was told that hot asphalt worked better in this non-California environment. He insisted on Easy Street which happened to be twice as expensive. The latest is that Sewers had to take two million out of their budget and give it to Streets because Beggs over-spent his budget by that much. We figure two or three winters and we will be replacing the failed Easy Street. ODOT uses hot asphalt for a reason. Beggs was allowed to perform badly because nobody above him knows anything.

A friend of mine sent this to me sometime ago, it shows and underlines the report Jack has posted, one successful recall might have saved us alot of money,but that didn't fly well,cause the bike community thought their stuff didn't smell,and Sam had the ink, an paper to the money press...HE DID NOT.

76falcon: WHAT DO WE DO?

I know....Let's put on a show!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1af80uu0IBY

Mojo: Didn't we already get a "dog and pony show" at city hall?

Sam resides on Randy's lap,and speaks when Randy tell's him to speak.You mean that one?

Jack: Reading the report,the term "personal services", comes up a bunch. Any idea what that entails?

Two things - no, make that three things:

1) For PBOT, it's all about the "color of money." They use that argument as it suits them.

2) Word in the city is that employees have heard that cuts of up to 25% of all staff could be made.

3) #2 might not be all bad - there was a sinkhole this morning on 6th by the new PSU housing building that's been under construction for a year or so. One guy driving some oversized-looking back hoe device, a couple of flaggers, and at least 20 other guys standing around, and several large COP maintenance trucks. I know that's a major intersection, but really - that much equipment and people?

All those bike projects? Really!? Averaging maybe $2-3M a year out of a $250M annual budget?

That number is delusional. It's way more than that.

Sam Adams can't manage his own creepy little checkbook. Neither he nor his minions can tell you how much is spent on anything. But I'll bet they blow more than $3 million a year on sharrows and other stupid signage alone.

We can still spend $580 million for bike paths, right?

It would be unfortunate if we actually had to spend that money on the 94% who don't bike.

And our fearless Parks Commissioner, Nick Fish, wants a huge bond issue for Parks deferred maintenance on a 2012 ballot.

Our city council just does not GET it.

Perhaps the divisive, alleged mayor of Portland and inexperienced PBOT director Miller could learn something from Detroit:

"Detroit is in 'extremely serious financial condition,' as it is projected to run out of cash next year and must take action to avoid a state takeover, Mayor Dave Bing said on Thursday.

Michigan's largest city is facing a projected cash shortage of about $150 million by the end of March, a statement from his office said.

To avoid having a state-appointed emergency financial manager, the city needs to address pension and healthcare costs and 'inefficient services' such as transportation and lighting, while labor union contracts need to be renegotiated before their expiration next June, the statement said."
http://news.yahoo.com/detroit-extremely-serious-fiscal-shape-mayor-181336627.html

Too many people apparently thought best for Adams to just finish his term rather than deal with a recall. So how much more damage has been done as a result and how much more can still be done?

This deserves revisiting, it says it all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAO0WFcIECo

pt.1 and:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0029AKotj0g&feature=related

pt.2

Love the "I'm on the Bus" sign

All those bike projects? Really!? Averaging maybe $2-3M a year out of a $250M annual budget?

Oh really, http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2011/11/portland_opens_new_cycle_track.html

$52M - 17 years: $3M/yr

http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2011/mar/19/sam-adams/portland-mayor-sam-adams-says-portlands-spent-its-/

The bike portion of the bazillion dollar Moody project is listed as $600k - about 1%

http://bikeportland.org/2011/11/02/portlands-first-central-city-cycle-track-to-open-tomorrow-61410

Delusional? Maybe, but they are actual published numbers. They show that spending of just over 1% of transportation budget per year now supports the 5%-6% transportation mode share of bikes. That's a very good return on transportation investment.

Those stupid sharrows make it much easier for most cyclists to ride on residential street routes rather than the main streets where cars are. That's better for cyclists and drivers. They're only stupid if someone wants those 5%-6% of cyclists riding on the main streets or back in their cars on the main streets. Unless there's a better way to decrease car congestion by 5%-6% at a cost of 1% of budget?

600K and it's only one project, I wonder how many "Just 600K projects" it takes to crash the transportation department's budget.

17 years? Why not average back over 100 years?

We're spending way too much money on bike baloney. To give just one example, sharrows are a waste of money.

Those stupid sharrows make it much easier

Come on. Really? How?

5%-6% of cyclists riding on the main streets or back in their cars on the main streets

I would think that many of these holy souls don't own cars. That's certainly the attitude they cop. Maybe they'd take the bus. They could tell the person next to them about their statuesque butt muscles.

Jack posted a couple weeks ago about SW Moody rebuild.

Posters noted that over 2/3rds of the project's cross section of 67 ft. is dedicated to bikes and pedestrians. Yeah, sure, only 6% of the $67 Million was used to create this disparity, raised 14 ft in the air.

Then, if a reputable audit was made on this project including all planning, PDC/CoP administrative, and debt costs, the $67 Million would be blown out of the water.

PDXMark flags an interview with Sam under Oregonian's PolitiFacts and bike advocacy group BikePortland as believable that bikes take it in the shorts on bike budgets. Unbelievable.

So on this Transportation issue. Tom Beggs not only was unemployed for 18 months, but now he appears to hire only people from the outside. Favoritism is high on his list. He hires someone ODOT, then after having a Temporary supervisor for One Year, and a dedicated employee to the city for over 20, he decides to hire from, California, to fill the position. Street Systems is going broke because of his poor practices. This isn't California and what worked there wont work here. He has the dept working on none maintained streets, no curbs, no sidewalks. Not in the budget. Maintenance works on arterial's and maintained streets. Cold mix, lets see why was the sale rep for LakeSide Industries who promotes cold mix all the sudden fired after 15- years there. Sounds pretty shady. What was really going on while cold was being shoved done the maintenance bureau throats.
The city isnt in the business to experiment. Why is the city paying for a personal assistant for him. Why does the Maintenance Bureau have two directors. That is well over $200,000.00 in the front office. Sounds like someone should be paying attention, possible investigation. Something stinks. At this rate there wont be any money for maintenance if you leave this guy in charge. Downtown should pay attention before its to late.... I hopefully the new Mayor will clean house. See ya Tom, Sam, Tom, Eric. The person that should run the Maintenance Bureau is Sam Irving, but thats right they fired him, oh right resigned because he had Morales and standards and did what was right. He was the leader not the YES-MAN.


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The Occasional Book

Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
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David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 119
At this date last year: 21
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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