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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lake Oswego -- what a slum

"Urban renewal" -- which takes property taxes away from basic public services and hands it over to politicians' pet real estate developers and construction companies -- is supposed to be used only to fix up "blighted " areas. The problem, at least in Oregon, is that there's no clear definition of what "blight" is, and so the politicians take it to mean whatever they want it to mean.

In that free-for-all atmosphere, you wind up with "urban renewal" in places like Lake Oswego, which has got to be the toniest place in the whole state. Lake Oswego is "blighted"? It's "blight" that most of us can't afford to enjoy.

Not only are they going to "renew" the east side of that burg, but now the Oswegans are talking about declaring the Lake Grove part of town "blighted," too. Are they kidding? It would be funny if it weren't so depressing.

One of these days, we'd like to see somebody in Salem -- or even a citizens' petition drive -- propose a tightening of the definition of "blight." The term is now being distorted beyond all recognition. There need to be some objective measures by which "blight" is determined -- based on property values, income levels, environmental contamination, or other clearly demonstrable and verifiable criteria. Things that you can put numbers on. The business of local politicians greasing their friends' palms in ritzy joints like Lake Oswego by declaring "blight" over Dom Perignon and caviar needs to stop, like yesterday.

Comments (24)

They're doing this down in the small burg of Silverton too. They've declared the main commercial street "blight" and are planning to steal tax dollars to revamp... which will probably put many of the shops out of business by the time they're done.

I wonder... would it take the lege/initiative to change the definition? Or could Kitz's administration alter the rules?

Gerry Brown figured it out and this foolishness is now over in CA.
But without political leadership to abolish this scam it will continue.
Follow the money...go by trolley.

I understand the problem of fake blighted areas, but let's not get impatient. Politicians are doing all they can to create genuine blighted areas all across America. Give them time.

I agree that Lake Oswego is blighted, and that a suitable solution is in order. I might make a classic recommendation: "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

if we're "renewed" - will my sewer rates go down?

I think it might be better to change the term from blight to "graftable"...

Please do not bother "word smithing" all
Laws, Administrative Rules, Policies and
Agreements (LARPA) with respect to
urban renewal "blight".

Assert a new right that is evolving:
"Right to vote on debt!"
In all venues - local, municipal,
county, regional, state, and federal

Charles Ormsby (Skip)
Birdshill Sentinel

Possible measurable indicators of "blight" for use within LO neighborhoods, ZIP Codes, or Census blocks:
*Percentage of households with Mercedes registered to them (less than 50% = blight)
*Employment of domestic staff, personal trainers, or dog walkers/groomers per household (average of 1 or fewer = blight)
*Percentage of households completing the majority of their weekly food shopping at the LO Safeway (greater than 30% = blight)

We used to have a requirement that all these be approved by vote of people. That stayed in place until one got turned down. IIRC, the sharpies had Vera fix it in Salem. Somebody who remembers better than me should tell the story better. Was it the convention center?

The whole scam needs to be outlawed like it is in California. It is nothing but a massive conversion of public wealth to private ownership.

In attemping to get out in front of the wave of opposition the League of Oregon Cities is in full steam ahead mode assisting cities to pass UR plans for municipal projects. Get it while you can before your voters stop you.

Entire downtown areas are being swept up in these schemes to fund city halls, police stations, libraries, parks, eco-streets and everything else Portland injected into the League's agenda years ago.

Canby, Hillsboro, Beaverton and others have or are about to adopt large 1000 acre city center UR schemes. All under false pretenses and camapigns of misinformation.

That's why the Clackistani rebellion is so important.
Clackamas County can become the genesis to fixing it all.

Portland's grip on the region and state will be lost with an entire local county (from Lake Oswego to Mt Hood) aggressively opposing and rejecting their Sam Adams-Rex Burkholder-Earl Blumenauer madness. They can't allow that to happen and keep control.

The public-private cronyism establishment knows this to be the case and is already in panic mode.

Help the Clackistani allied forces.

New definitions of blight, at least one of the following must be true (but the more the merrier):

1. Main vehicle street has more than two travel lanes.
2. Main vehicle street has a speed limit greater than 20 MPH.
3. The lack of a rail-based mass transit conveyance.
4. The average structure size is less than fifteen feet tall (two stories).
5. Residential and commercial uses are not intertwined with each other.
6. There is at least one fast food restaurant in the area.
7. There is at least one gas station in the area.
8. A lack of government facilities, including but not limited to city offices, libraries, recreational centers, fire stations, police stations, courthouses, post offices.
9. A lack of bike paths and/or bike lanes.
10. There is a lack of political involvement from current residents within the area that is sufficient enough to stop any proposed URA.

It's got that Homer Williams smell to it. Down to PDC cast-offs who make mega bucks peddling urban renewal as private sector "consultants."

ECONorthwest has ex-PDCer Abe Farkas who gave us SoWhat.

Elaine Howard was the PDC manager who handed out urban renewal money to build apartments in the South Park blocks. (Do I hear an echo?)

"The problem, at least in Oregon, is that there's no clear definition of what 'blight' is, and so the politicians take it to mean whatever they want it to mean."

= = = =

Most of the articles I've read over the years regarding abuses of eminent domain point out that the definition of "blight" has been expanded to mean whatever the abusers want it to mean.

In one example, a neighborhood in an Illinois city that included many small but well-kept bungalo-type homes owned mostly by retired people, the local abusers defined "blight" as a home having a single bathroom. They wanted to bulldoze the area to build high-end condos facing a golf course.

Sadly, the USSC and lower courts have been allowing this by saying that heck, who are we to second guess local lawmakers who are on the scene. But this is the result of decades or watering down property rights both in court rulings and in how new generations are fed this B.S. so that too many of them accept these controls, if only to supposedly prevent a nuclear waste dump from appearing in a neighbor's back yard. The result was Kelo, inevitably.
"Blight", and "public use" is whatever the abusers want it to be. That's like allowing local politiicans to decide what "the press" means.

Bob Tiernan
NE Portland

Sorry for the long post, but this article says it all. If even Gov. Moonbeam can figure it out......

Crony Capitalism Rebuked by CA Supreme Court
January 6, 2012 By Steven Greenhut

On December 29, the California Supreme Court handed down what the state’s urban redevelopment agencies (RDAs) and their supporters called a “worst of all worlds” ruling—first upholding a law that eliminates the agencies, then striking down a second law that would have allowed them to buy their way back into power. This was great news for critics who had spent years calling attention to the ways modern urban-renewal projects distorted city land-use decisions, abused eminent-domain policies, and diverted about 12 percent of the state budget from traditional public services to subsidies for developers, who would build tax-producing shopping centers and other projects sought by city bureaucrats. As of now, the agencies are history, though the redevelopment industry is working to craft new legislation that would resurrect them in some limited form.

California’s redevelopment agencies were first introduced in the 1940s to combat blighted urban areas by providing a tax-sequestering mechanism so that cities could concentrate investment in struggling areas. But after Proposition 13 placed limits on local property taxes and various ballot initiatives further constrained the way state and local governments could spend their revenues, redevelopment mutated into a tool for tax-hungry cities to capture dollars that would otherwise go to counties and the state. Restoring decrepit areas took a back seat to grabbing revenue. The RDAs loved to oversee the construction of shopping centers and auto malls, for example, because those projects generally filled city coffers with sales taxes.

As California faced a protracted structural budget deficit, however, there were fewer and fewer pots of money for officials to plunder. Though operated by cities, RDAs are actually state agencies. In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to “raid” redevelopment funds, but the powerful League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) struck back in 2010 with Proposition 22. This ballot initiative, sold to voters as a means to keep Sacramento politicians away from local transportation budgets, forbade the state from taking RDA funds. After its passage, the measure’s advocates viewed redevelopment funds as sacrosanct.

In fact, Proposition 22 planted the seeds of redevelopment’s demise. Since the agencies’ money was now off limits, new governor Jerry Brown decided simply to shut them down. Yet as a sop to the legislature’s many redevelopment supporters—especially in the Democratic Party—the governor also signed another bill that let the agencies stay in existence by paying what the League and the CRA called “ransom.” Redevelopment critics were happy when the governor signed the first bill, but dismayed when the second enabled many of the biggest and most abusive agencies to remain alive by spending tax dollars.

Redevelopment officials, for their part, weren’t happy with any funding loss and filed a lawsuit challenging both laws. This was a controversial strategy—and proved a devastating mistake. “We’re very gratified that the California Supreme Court has agreed to take our case, issued the stay we requested to preserve the status quo, and that it is moving forward on an expedited basis,” the League of California Cities’ executive director, Chris McKenzie, wrote in August. But McKenzie failed to see the strategy’s perils, which other redevelopment boosters, such as State Senator Bob Huff, had warned about.

The court ruled 7–0 on the first bill that ending the agencies was “a proper exercise of the legislative power vested in the Legislature by the state Constitution. That power includes the authority to create entities, such as redevelopment agencies, to carry out the state’s ends and the corollary power to dissolve those same entities when the Legislature deems it necessary and proper.” Then the court ruled 6–1 that the second measure was unconstitutional: “A different conclusion is required with respect to Assembly Bill 1X 27, the measure conditioning further redevelopment agency operations on additional payments by an agency’s community sponsors to state funds benefiting schools and special districts. Proposition 22 . . . expressly forbids the Legislature from requiring such payments.” For critics of the RDAs, using Prop. 22 to deliver redevelopment’s final blow was the sweetest part of the ruling.

The redevelopment agencies are fighting to return, but unlike last year, when most Republicans opposed the effort to dissolve the agencies, 2012 may see a minority party doing the right thing. A number of assembly Republicans who refused to support Brown’s anti-RDA legislation claimed that they did so because the package of bills would just resuscitate the RDAs. Well, the state supreme court has now killed that argument. Will Republicans side with property rights and limited government at the local level, or again stand up for these misguided and destructive bureaucratic bodies?

(Steven Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Journalism Center, editor in chief of, and a columnist for the Orange County Register. This article was first posted on City Journal.)

Now if only Mr. Greenhut would divert his attention to his suffering neighbor to the north for a bit...

Any definition that uses property values as a definition for blight is ripe for corruption. Oregon's UR law allows such a definition to be used, and this is the justification for the blighted condition of Lake Oswego. There isn't a neighborhood anywhere except where all the homes (or commercial real estate) are new, luxury class buildings, that can't be improved so that the resulting development will have a higher market value. Even very nice office buildings can be replaced with residential construction that is worth more per sf so that very little is safe from being declared blighted.

As a matter of practicality, this whole-sale destruction of private property won't happen, but it is happening by bits and pieces so that no one should feel safe. I am sad to say to people that if it can happen in Lake Oswego, it can happen anywhere. I don't mean this as any kind of praise for LO, but 30+ years ago we moved to this town because it was friendly and citizens could become involved in local affairs and make a difference. Up until Judie Hammerstad and now Jack Hoffman, the city was not perfect, but our local government was part of the fabric of the town. Today it is a foreign country with an encampment of bureaucrats and a police force that is a political puppet for an overbearing mayor. Can any town withstand this pressure?

I agree with Skip that defining the UR laws might be fruitless as there are many ways to interpret any law that is written. Better to just require a vote on taxing issues so that citizens can decide what they will put themselves into debt for and for how long. We really can't afford to do less.

I forgot to add that if anyone is interested, the LO City Council is discussing financing the Lake Grove Village Plan financing tonight at its regular meeting at city hall, and the issue of a UR district will be a prime topic. Come and meet the folks from ECONorthwest! They are a fun bunch. Even if they don't speak English, they smile and nod their heads a l OT so you get a warm, fuzzy feeling about them.

7:00 pm at City Hall, or watch it live on the Internet or cable TV. See LO City Council Agenda for channels and times.

It's at 6 pm tonight.

Thirty-two states have blight requirements associated with urban renewal. None of them are tight enough to really limit what urban renewal agencies do.

Some links and excerpts on the topic of eminent domain, blight use for redevelopments.
The Mother Jones link has a good interview with Scott Bullock.
Scott G. Bullock is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice a public interest law firm in Arlington, Virginia founded in 1991 by Chip Mellor and Clint Bolick. He was lead counsel for Susette Kelo in the landmark case, Kelo v. City of New London,[1] and made the oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.
The abuse of blight laws is a common thing that is happening throughout the country and I think that will continue to grow. Norwood is a classic example of that. Nobody thinks that that neighborhood is blighted and the use of blight laws in that neighborhood was clearly a means to an end....
New Jersey Supreme Court
Limits Bogus Blight Designations

By Scott Bullock
The New Jersey Supreme Court joins other state high courts, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Maryland and Missouri, in starting to cut back on the abuse of eminent domain and redevelopment powers by local municipalities. In the wake of the Kelo decision, many state supreme courts are revisiting these issues for the first time in decades and increasing judicial oversight of eminent domain. As far as the Institute for Justice is concerned, this is just the latest installment in our decade-long fight against eminent domain abuse. We will continue to defend property owners against eminent domain abuse and bogus blight designations until property rights in this country are once again secure as the Founders intended.

You people are not paying attention.
What is wrong with America is Big Government. Things will be better when everything moves to the local level.
Or at least it will be easier and cheaper to get "cooperation" at the grass roots.

Agree with comments shared regarding our neighbor to the south, California.

One hopes members of the Oregon legislature will take heed, and appropriately terminate the continued use of Urban Renewal Districts.

If Oregon/Oregonians are really interested in developing a first-class education system, and appropriately funding what are clearly the functions of government, now is the time to END the continued use of Urban Renewal Districts; END the use of public funds for private gain; RESTORE public dollars for their intended use.

Who recalls one City Councilor years ago-you'll find her today a rabid Streetcar proponent-commenting that she considered URD $ akin to "free money".

Any updates as to the decision regarding "funding" for Lake Grove?

Heard rumor significant public dollars were used to purchase the holiday light fixtures displayed this holiday season, at the request of the "Lake Grove Business Association", along Boones Ferry in Lake Grove.

How about as one New Years Resolution for our elected officials-such seemed a popular recent Oswego Review topic: END our current URD now; NO new URD; NO expansion of existing URD.

Save LO, let's also not forget the PDC staff calling urban renewal debt cost not a part of it's urban renewal cost. Absurd.
Especially when many state-wide UR Districts (over 100) have debt service costs on the bonds that doubles the URA's taxpayer's cost.

When will our legislature review the UR issue and do something? At least the democrats should do something since they are for schools, firemen, police and parks, aren't they?


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