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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Milwaukie Mystery Train pushers never give up

It's insane the lengths to which the county commissioners in Clackamas County will go to bring the soul-killing, bankrupting, billion-dollar-plus Tri-Met MAX train to Milwaukie (pop. 21,000). Now that they can't create or expand any "urban renewal" district to pay their $25 million share toward the thing without a countywide public vote (which they'd probably lose), the commissioners are apparently just going to promise to pay out of property taxes, straight up, without the "urban renewal" ploy. They say they want to issue "full faith and credit" bonds, which means the county would have to pay from any available source. Translation: property taxes.

They're dressing up the p.r. on this by pointing out that the Clackamas Town Center "urban renewal" district is supposed to expire in 2013, and that will free up some property taxes that can be used to pay for the train bonds. Sounds nice, but it doesn't change the fact that those are taxes that can and should be spent on public safety and other essential county services.

Whatever the commissioners do to try to raise the money for MAX, they can bet there'll be a group trying to force a public referendum on it. It's pretty obvious that voters down that way have had enough Blumenauering, and they seem to be wising up so much that none of the commissioners' many maneuvers are working.

What they really need, of course, is a new set of commissioners.

Comments (25)

The biggest issue here is that voters stood fast against the McLoughlin Blvd urban renewal effort because they wanted no part of Milwaukie Light Rail. The Board knows this, everyone knows it.

But they seem to be purposely scrambling to fund LR by any other means in spite of what voters keep telling them. This move that may well be interpreted as a slap in the face to voters. I predict any backdoor attempt will fail. There are to many catching on their game. A game where the rules can often change by the hour.

And if those of us who understand the urban renewal shell game get too mouthy we can always be declared "terrorists" and sent to some for profit jail someplace for life without any due process.
Don't think it can't happen.

Ultimate irony: your concentration camp will itself be an urban renewal project.

Funny thing is, geographically Milwaukie is hemmed in on all sides, and population-wise hasn't grown much at all in decades. It's grown a little, but nothing like what Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, and Oregon City have grown over the last 40 years. And, because it's hemmed in, it's not likely to grow much in the next 40 years either. So why the MAX to Milwaukie fixation? They should be thinking bigger, as in MAX to Canby, with pit stops in Milwaukie, Gladstone, and Oregon City along the way. You know that's what they really want anyway. So why not be honest?

Although the county is bound by its contract, if the voters were to adopt an initiative that forbade the county to fund, participate in, or build the Milwaukie light rail, the county could plead force majeure as a defense against any suit that TriMet might bring to collect damages.

That is exactly what is going to happen.

I know for a fact that it is inevitable, will be immediate and that the growing uprising is now insurmountable.

Last night at the McLoughlin Area Plan open house the folks gave a hilarious thumbs down to the whole plan.

The first inter-active question was what to do with McLoughlin itself. The respondents chose, by a large margin, to leave it alone, over all the other options with island obstructions etc clogging the turn lanes. They like their boulevarde just fine the way it is.

The facilitator, reacted with a surprised "Oh!", and quickly moved on to the next question.

The rest of the Metro nonsense got the same treatment. It was a resounding NO with every County Commissioner there to witness it.

All the local people really want are the streetlights, sidewalks and other minor improvements they've been promised for many years.

Get a clue planners and commissioners. Your plans suck and Clackamas isn't taking any more of your Portland plans.

My sources tell me a new initiative with the most support and fierce aggression yet is about to roll out. It's obvious to everyone but the clueless commissioners, et al, that the folks are more infuriated than ever and are coming after them with torches and pitchforks.

This is going to be very fun to watch. I suspect there is going to be huge piling on that will produce the "linphin" to regional condemnation and rejection of the status quo. And the ruling establishment will be helpless to do anything about it. Finally.

Couple of questions:

"Now that they can't create or expand any "urban renewal" district to pay their $25 million share toward the thing without a countywide public vote" Maybe, but when's the last time CoP killed a URD. I don't think these have sunsets on them.

The lawyers are saying since Clack COunty entered an agreement with TriMet on this thing, they have to do it or TriMet will sue. Is that valid? I can't believe (well, maybe not) they didn't design these things without an out clause.

If I'm a commissioner now, my gut would be to cry poverty and if they want to build it, someone else has to pay. Heck, CoP found $65M to raise SW Moody 15 feet, I'm sure $25M is sofa change for Sam.

It's deja-vu all over again...

I live on the NoPo Yellow line, and frankly, I like having a convenient train nearby and have always been a supporter. However, I remember the public meetings during the planning phases and even as a supporter, I was very uncomfortable at how local opposition was drowned out and ignored, and the constant drumbeat of "for the greater good" and "they'll love it!".

I remember one particular neighborhood association meeting where Charlie Hales predicted that if the train goes to the Expo Center and to the airport, the folks in Clark County would wake up one day and insist on a connector between the two on their side of the river. He used that as a justification for overruling local opponents. (has anyone heard any news of that groundswell from up north?).

The attitude at the time was clearly "we know best". The meetings I went to felt like a formality to distract attention while the planning and funding work was being done behind closed doors.

Wait until they play the "Kelo vs. New London" card.

The attitude at the time was clearly "we know best".

And it still is.

...They like their boulevarde just fine the way it is...

So do I. It is a visual relief to drive that boulevard and get away from the cookie cutter pdx vision. Guess it just doesn't look "urban" enough for some. These who "plan" for us cannot leave a trace of what made this place livable in the first place alone, can they?

Thank you for the report Ben.

I am concerned that vested interests will see to it that $25 million will surface.

Steve:...I'm sure $25M is sofa change for Sam.

Could it have anything to do with that latest state variance news of possibly not needing to build a treatment plant so some money there now??

Sam is a manipulator and in my opinion has been allowed by the web of power to stay in his position for reasons just like this one to see to it that certain projects go no matter what.

This is one of the reasons the Clack. county commissioners would have liked to have only the voters in an defined URA (who lives in Clackamas Town Center anyway?) vote on the thing.

IT Guy,
It would be nice to have a train conveniently placed near my home, but we cannot afford it. The feds cannot afford it, and pretty soon, the Chinese won't be able to afford it. Each day the world economy looks like it is on the brink of collapse. Does anyone read the newspapers anymore?

The commissioners, and TriMet, both need big projects in order to be able to funnel money to their friends and family. The big projects are the ones that really pay off for everyone involved. Small projects like sidewalks just don't generate enough cash to pay for the beach house.

The commissioners will keep trying to spend the money until they are voted out of office. Spending money is the only thing they care about since that is how they make money. They really don't care about taxes, quality of life, making the city safe, etc. All they care about anymore is skimming a little off the top for themselves and their friends.

...He used that as a justification for overruling local opponents...

Hales does what HE wants.

What do they do, send these decision makers to workshops for training how to push plans and pay no heed to what the public wants?

...or are some elected officials addicted to not only these projects but to "power" or charge they get out of lording their plans, and absolutely no empathy or concern for the people they are supposed to represent?

All talk, no action.

Next election, Clackamas County voters need to kick out any of the commissioners who voted in favor of the MAX.

Hasn't enough money been funneled? I know, never enough for some and those families are growing, but the rest of the people can no longer afford this.

How about those bioswales, how much money do they generate?
Most likely more than sidewalks. I am seeing more and more of them jutting out onto streets. Somebody needs to do some investigation on the cost and why so many right now and how well these are actually functioning.

Your points well put. It is looking like those who can want to extract while they can.

In my opinion same as on the national level, no allegiance by some to our country, and here no allegiance to our city or what is in the best interest for our city.

IT Guy & Max: It was the same way years ago when I was then a Tualatin homeowner and testified against the idiotic WES train. Even though I had a list of 30 taxpaying homeowners that said they didn't want the stupid train and would never use it, it didn't matter a bit to the glassy-eyed TriMet and Metro bureaucrats at the hearing.
It was clear to me at that hearing that they didn't give a damn what the public said; and had already made up their minds long before anyone testified.

Maybe Al M the bus driver can explain this?


Their union gave Dave Hunt $500.00 for his Clackamas County Chair campaign.
Hunt told a crowd last week he is a big supporter of Milwaukie Light Rail.

If the union expects to have any credibilty or public sympathy with their labor dispute they better pull out of the Light Rail suicide pact.


Yes to both questions. Politicians, boards of directors, committees and bureaucrats at all levels of government get training (workshops, retreats, work sessions, group orientations, conferences, committees, etc.) on how to handle the process through Change Management or Organizational Change Management and perhaps Organizational Transformation. At least that's what it is being called these days. Orwellian names all.

The most common technique used public is called the Delphi Method. The Wikipedia description is a good read and you can see evidence of it in every meeting you go to and every nteraction you have with government.

I found this excerpt on Change Management especially fun to read:

"How can they do so? Several researchers have observed that a crisis, shock, or strong external challenge to the organization can help reduce resistance to change. Van de Ven (1993) explains that because individuals are highly adaptable to gradually emerging conditions, a shock or stimulus of significant magnitude is typically required for them to accept change as inevitable. In a similar vein, Kotter warns managers against the risk of “playing it too safe” and noted that “when the urgency rate is not pumped up enough, the transformation process cannot succeed” (1995, 60). He even observed that in a few of the most successful cases of organizational change, the leadership manufactured crises (see also Laurent 2003; Thompson and Fulla 2001)."

What is needed is a state constitutional amendment: Any public expenditure (singly or in part) or $5 million or more (with no provision for adjustment due to inflation, without a new amendment), must be voted on by the public who would or could be responsible for its payment.

If Clackamas County is going to pay out of its general fund, then the folks in Molalla and Government Camp have a right to a say in the matter. Else, the County can admit failure and if the City of Milwaukie wants it they can pay for it. Or better yet, just force Portland to pay for it since Portland is the one that wants all these stupid projects.

Not to cheerlead for this dumb proposal, but how do you get 'soul killing' out of a public works proposal?

Emailed to Clackamas County Commissioner Savas 10:01 this am:

Commissioner Savas,
I was astounded to read your statements regarding the possible issuance of $25 million in bonds for Milwaukie Light Rail. The citizens of Clackamas County *DO NOT* want Light Rail. Didn't the vote on 3-386/3-388 and the Sellwood Bridge show you anything? Forgive me for being blunt, but if you are so politically tone-deaf as to be unable to comprehend this notion I suggest you keep the employment ads handy. If you continue on this course you will be out of a job next election.
(Name withheld)
Brightwood, OR

@Ben - Please post whenever the information breaks about any group forming to oppose this. I'm retired and a boy needs a hobby. Thanks.

"how do you get 'soul killing' out of a public works proposal"

Simple - The URDs used for light rail are taken from our schools via TIFs. Schools get crappier, meanwhile we have plenty of money for eco-frippery and trains.

Less schooling means fewer graduates with less intellectual depth. Less intellectual depth can be equated with less soul.

Clinamen - I have been trying to find out for several years just how effective bioswales are, but they had not had enough time in the field to do long-term studies. Some of that information is coming out now and the thinking seems to be that bioswales have a lifespan of about 25 years before the soil becomes clogged with sediments and pollutants that it is not as permeable as it should be. It operates much like a cess pool or dry well and eventually the soil gets clogged and doesn't allow for absorption and a new one has to be built or the existing one completely excavated and rebuilt. Regular maintenance needs to be done on the plant material and drainage systems, however most studies give them high marks for low cost of installation and aesthetic appeal. They lose points on loss of developable land and cost to maintain. This isn't about landfills, but you asked about something that I have been wondering myself for awhile.

HMLA-267 What did Paul say?!?

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