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Monday, March 12, 2012

More on the Bull Run resort

On Saturday, we posted a couple of photos of a nice-looking old house right on the reservoir at Bull Run. We quoted a reader who said it was the "cabin" over whose renovation the city water bureau is currently being sued. As it turns out, that was a mis-identification. The building pictured is called the Dam House, or Bear Creek House. But it is owned, and was restored, by the Portland water bureau, and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have indeed listed renovations to the house as an alleged abuse of ratepayer funds.

According to city water commissioner Randy Leonard, who left a characteristically nasty comment on our post, no one is allowed to stay overnight in this house, or anywhere else in the watershed.

Leonard did not deny that the home is used by water bureau personnel or their VIP guests for day use. Nor, of course, did he address the policy point we made with the post, which is that the water bureau has spent far too much money, including restoration of that house and the purchase of a six-figure luxury tour bus, turning the reservoir into a tourist attraction. But it gave him a chance to rant about our lies, half-truths, yada yada.

Getting back to the "cabin." There are, in fact, three cabins on the reservoir site -- at least one of which is about 100 years old -- and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also list cabin renovation as an alleged misspending of water bureau funds. Yesterday, the reader who sent us the photos of the dam house sent us these additional shots, of the cabins:

There are additional photos of all of the buildings, taken by a tourist on Admiral Randy's magical tour bus, here. This site also has photos, and mentions that one of the three cabins had already been restored by the summer of 2010.

In any event, our apologies for any confusion as to precisely which abuse of the ratepayers we were talking about.

Comments (41)

$200,000 "restore" any of those cabins is a rip off! That much money can still build a fairly nice 3 bedroom house!
Randy, you lie!

PS: let the water rate payers see the invoices for the so called restoration! It is the taxpayers' money!; even if Randy considers the water bureau's funds his personal ATM.

I don't know, based on my appraisal skills, I'd say rehab on that POS would be worth a 3% increase in water rates.

I feel foolish, having spent years trying to get a park bench and picnic table repaired in Willamette Park and never succeeding, but then Randy can just clap his hands and have cabins restored at $200,000 a whack. Gee, Willamette Park is on the water, has the new Big Pipe going through it, and the water bureau is taking over 15,000 sq/ft for a new pumping station. You'd think Randy could stomp his feet for a few park repairs and fix the docks too.

The docks will be repaired only if the Admiral's private yachts (aka fire and rescue boats) dock there.

I enjoy good political argument as well as anyone. If you recall, at one time I actually tried to engage in civil discourse on this site but that was beat out of me by you and your surrogates.

Having a reasoned discussion with you is like...well, actually Barney Frank said it best recently;

"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" He then calls her approach "vile, contemptible nonsense." He closes by saying: "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table."

So why do you keep swooping in like a Seagull, Commish?

Lots of ratepayers believe Portland's water/sewer rates are too high, and that the diversion of ratepayer revenues to unrelated entities is part of the problem.

Jack isn't a lone wolf on this issue. If you don't wish to defend yourself here, you'll find that "righteous indignation" is viewed as unresponsive in court.

Randy - I hope you can understand that comments on this site become rather bombastic because the process of citizen input is broken.

Too many backroom deals and too much influence from bankers, developers, and engineers- for a start.

Then you add in the agenda-driven memes that intentionally bend the discussion into a framework that seems reasonable on the surface, but are in fact new ways to implement crony capitalism (green jobs, urban plight, smart planning).

If you can't see why people are pissed and fed up with the political classes' methods, then maybe start listening a whole lot better.

A nice and friendly discussion is one thing, but the truth is far more important. And actions are far more revealing than words.

Actually, Randy, that comment by Frank applies to you, not Jack.

You must be starring into a quiet pool contemplating your reflection when you come up with that critique of Jack and his "surrogates?" I am not a substitute for Jack, nor will I or can I be. So it must apply to yourself. And some of the council members as well.

Randy, YOU are the dining room table!

"Having a reasoned discussion with you is like..."

Is like Randy Leonard actually listening to the PURB when they tell him not to raise rates or he's wasting money.

If I may be so bold as to offer a fitting analog.

Analog or water soaked log?

vile, contemptible nonsense

Sounds like Randy's political career.

When I lived in Arizona back in the late 90's, our combined water and sewer bill was $24/ month. That was in a city (Phoenix Metro) that gets about a week of rain every year and the local river and waterways are bone dry 11 months of the year.

Sure, Phoenix water wasn't the tastiest I have ever had, but if a metro area of 5 million plus can manage to pipe all that in AND somehow get rid of all the waste without dumping it into the river... all for less then $25 a month... then something really fishy is going on in the rain capital of the US.

lw:...but then Randy can just clap his hands and have cabins restored at $200,000 a whack....

Yes, that Admiral has the Council standing at attention for whatever he wants.

I will continue to remind people about Fish when last May he gave that third vote so needed by Leonard and Adams to pour another $80 million into the Powell Butte project.

Now, Fish just doesn't have money as you mentioned for a park bench and picnic table repair in Willamette Park! He has proposed closing restrooms in parks and no garbage pick up. By the way, Saltzman was there earlier that day at the critical hearing in May, but disappeared for that vote. Amanda Fritz objected to the enormous amount of money in that proposal going to a caretakers house at Powell Butte.

....Total project costs for the reservoir, which will be Powell Butte's second, are budgeted at about $138 million. The $80.2 million construction contract approved Wednesday is with California-based SSC Construction Inc.

Tom Fahey, an executive at Siltronic AG, the city's largest water user, said he was not impressed that the contract came in cheaper than expected. "Just because you're buying something on sale, if it's not something you really need, it's still a waste of money," he said.

Fritz dug in hardest. She questioned why the contract authorizes construction of a $590,000 interpretive center and a $456,000 house for a caretaker. Leonard said those improvements are locally mandated. Fritz asked David Shaff, Water Bureau administrator, what the money for the caretaker house would actually buy.

"Just that," he said, "a house."

"A really nice house," Fritz said.

... then something really fishy is going on in the rain capital of the US.

As I mentioned above, part of fishy here is with a capitol F - Fish.

Mr Leonard,
Having sat in a neighborhood meeting where you said, "it doesn't matter what your community wants its going to be our way"
or something to that effect you might understand why as a resident of Portland I have taken to commenting here instead of trying to get those elected to serve us to listen.
You don't intend to.

Now to the issue at hand.
Since your department remodeled these cabins I'm sure you pulled permits for all the work...

Oh Raaandy???? You still here?
.....sounds of crickets.....

The way Leonard enjoys a political argument is when he can sit on his throne and throw the hammer down as he pleases. In my opinion he is one who enjoys power over others, despite any harm his decisions may cause.

Once a bully, always a bully. And once a bully gets his way - look out.

I'll be so glad when I don't have to read about/look at Randy Leonard ever again.

I just watched a snippet of a council meeting where Randy was telling everyone that it would be inappropriate to take city general fund money to give breaks to folks applying for expensive system access charge and building permits. Yet he has no problem using water bureau money for all his pet projects. What a hypocrite. The arrogance of this guy is unbelievable. He should have a cat scan of his brain done. There is something wrong with it.

We may not have to read about Randy again after he leaves,
but the results of his actions could leave a scar on our city forever.
We may end up tasting seriously degraded drinking water
if he doesn't stop the path he is on.
Making preparations for what Randy?
What are the long range plans here?
A little Willamette River blend?
That should do well in those microbrews. That industry would also be harmed
if toxic chemicals are added, putting water in closed storage tanks may require more chemicals, and then there is the possible mercury bulb breakage with UV plants.
Some may want to take a chance, trust and believe the PWB and Randy. . .
question is how could they?
That industry and distilleries and others should support Scott Fernandez
if they want to continue with good Bull Run Water.

Does anyone else here find it peculiar that Randy Leonard comes here, basically criticizes Jack for bringing up the matter - rather than doing his job as a representative and a servant of the citizens and justify the actions of increasing water/sewer rates while simultaneously spending money on very questionable and unnecessary matters such as this?

I think we all just want an explanation. Jack is not a public servant; he owes neither you, nor I, nor the public any explanation or justification for his statements. You, Randy, on the other hand, absolutely do owe the public an explanation. How can water/sewer rates go up, while spending money on a luxury limousine bus? Or buying a building in Waterfront Park for the Rose Festival - a private, non-profit organization? Or college scholarships? Or a cabin? Or a "water house"? The list just goes on and on...

Stop with the personal insults. Justify the actions - or use your power as the voice of the citizens to stop the madness. I don't need my elected officials to criticize public citizens because they disagree with you. I need my elected officials to tend to the business we have tasked you with - and part of that is spending our money in a wise and effective manner, for the services that we need and use. This cabin is not a service I need or can use. Nor is that luxury limousine bus. Nor is the Rose Festival headquarters building. Nor are those college scholarships. I need water. That's all I ask from the water bureau - to provide me with clean, safe water. That's it. It's not a hard job.

Randy Leonard: I just want you to know that Anthony's comments above are NOT THE LEAST BIT OUT OF LINE REGARDING WATER USER RATES. My wife and I now live in the Reno area - which has some of the lowest precipitation amounts in the USA. Our water supply is largely dependent on snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and some runoff from Lake Tahoe.
We live in a home almost twice the size of the one we sold in outer eastside Portland and have a swimming pool in use 5-6 months of the year. Yet our combined water and sewer bills run about 40 to 45% of what we paid in Portland. (And those rates include recent increases for both water and sewer charges!)

Am I missing something here. Those cabins don't look too renovated to me. And a fair question would be what obligation the City Water bureau has to maintain structures already on its Bull Run property. Should the roofs be repaired? Should the buildings be allowed to fall down or become a hazard to the public visiting Bull Run? Do they have some historic value and/or significance? All capital assets need periodic maintenance. Wouldn't some consider allowing waste of a public asset to be negligent governance.
Many matters alleged in a lawsuit never prove true. This particular issue seems to be one the City would choose to defend based upon its obligation to prevent waste to a public asset. What more important asset for the City and the public than Bull Run, does the Water Bureau manage. And why is no one discussing the back story here. Who is funding Di Lorenzo's lawsuit and why? Where is the money, and who stands to profit from the plaintiffs' claims. Last time I checked attorney DiLorenzo didn't work for free.

So Randy, speaking of dining-room tables, that table in the party house is really nice. Who is the decorator who worked on the party house. I have to say it oozes elegance.

Go Scott Fernandez! Pandora's box needs to get aired out.

All capital assets need periodic maintenance.....What more important asset for the City and the public than Bull Run, does the Water Bureau manage

That said, why then the deferred maintenance on our most important asset, our Bull Run Water System? Seems to me that the delivery system of our water, that would be the first obligation, making sure that the delivery of our water and those underground pipes are in good shape. The health of our community depends on it. PWB, Leonard and our city council should attend to that very basic system and that they have not done so, and instead shelled out millions on other projects, that is what I would consider to be negligent governance!

The irony here is the city of Portland could get the repairs to the cabins done for just the cost of materials. The Oregon Guard has a training program for the engineer units called the IRT, Innovative Readiness Training. They have tackled projects like ball fields for Oregon towns, a project at Detroit Lake this winter and a restoration of an old Fremont power house near Granite Oregon.
The manpower and equipment is provided by the Guard and the materials by the local jurisdiction.
The Guard member gets good training in their specialty and the community gets something done for less $$..

Who do you shill for Drewbob?

One quick point: Randy Leonard is not a Commissioner. He is a member (for now) of Portland City Council. I'm sure he loves the term, "commissioner", but he's just a councilor.

I bet the fishin's mighty fine up there.

Portland Native: Sorry to disappoint you, no one's behind the curtain but me.

And another: In July 2011, Randy was arrogantly adamant that his pet projects were really great. The Oregonian article at the time noted that Siltronic AG, the city's largest water user wasn't at all pleased.

Randy didn't care, stating that he'd do it again, happily.

Under Randy's stewardship, rates are projected to increase 85% in the next five years - and already we are the proud hosts of the third-highest rates in the nation.

Last Friday, Siltronic announced that they'll lay off nearly half of their 750 workers.

The official line is that demand for 150 mm wafers is low. Of course, they could retool to 300 mm. But why? When they chose to build their first plant outside of Germany in 1979, they chose Portland in part because of its abundance of inexpensive, clean water.

Thanks to Randy's management, it's now among the most expensive in the country - and on track to become the single most expensive system in the country. Yet it's also among the simplest in the USA: the system is gravity-fed; eliminating the need for costly pumps required for other municipalities. Aside from an injection of chloramine at the input, nothing else needs to be done. It really doesn't get any easier. Yet Randy and his pals have managed to turn it into something entirely different.

It's what bureaucrats do.

Max: What is your source for the rate comparison ("third highest") nationwide, and if you know, how much(or what %) of the projected rate increases are the result of the federally mandated Big Pipe project. Portland doesn't appear to be alone in experiencing water and sewer rate explosions, and I suspect Federal Clean Water Standards have had some impact on that. If you go online for rate studies it seems like every major metropolis has complaints about water and sewer (wastewater) rate increases.

I don't know Max's source but the Oregon Business Report as of Jan 31, 2012 stated that Portland has the 5th highest water and sewer bills after Atlanta, Seattle, Newport RI, and San Francisco.

Um, drewbob...who DO you shill for? Oregonian said third-highest, and as PN mentioned, another source says 5th. Those are the numbers I'm aware of - just depends on which set you want to go with. To me, it doesn't matter, as they are equally outrageous.

By contrast, you seem intent on defending the status quo, and despite your protestation to the contrary above, I don't buy your line.

As you well know, Randy doesn't run the sewer boys. And as quoted from the Oregonian, water rates are projected to climb by 85% in the next five years. Did you bother to read the July article (I know, it was like a whole eight months ago, so really hard to manage)?

One constant with trolls: they always expect you to provide source material to back up your statements - they're too lazy to look it up themselves, and they only show up to demonstrate their superior intellect.

Water and sewer are billed together, but they're separate services. Sewer is bound to go up because of the Big Pipe.

Water doesn't have to go up, because there's no need to bury the reservoirs or treat Bull Run water. The feds have clearly indicated that they are backing off on both of those unfunded mandates. But the water bureau keeps jacking rates up, illegally, to pay for (1) non-water-related projects, (2) unnecessary water-related projects like the Powell Butte tanks, and (3) who knows what slush funds such as the "discrete budget" (or is it "discreet"?).

Water rates have increased substantially over the last few years, with no apparent improvement in quality or service. The numbers for water alone are here:

Those cabins don't look too renovated to me.

As I wrote, one of the three cabins was renovated. Certainly not the first one pictured, but probably the third.

Should the buildings be allowed to fall down or become a hazard to the public visiting Bull Run?

The public doesn't need to visit Bull Run. If somebody wants to run a tour service, they can start a private charity to fund it. For many years, it wasn't done.

Who is funding Di Lorenzo's lawsuit and why?

Big corporate water users, who are tired of paying for services not rendered. What's in it for them is relief from doubling or tripling of water rates over the next decade. It's called money.

Who is funding Di Lorenzo's lawsuit and why?

Who cares? If the use of water and sewer revenue for unrelated projects is illegal, it needs to stop.

Where is the money, and who stands to profit from the plaintiffs' claims[?]

Some of the backers of the lawsuit are already public knowledge; no conspiracy there. As for who profits: every single individual, family, and business that pays the city astronomical amounts of money for water and sewer services trusting (mistakenly, apparently) that their money will be used as required in the City Charter.

As egregious as the list is becoming, it is likely the jury will award legal fees to John and his firm. That must be some reward, and probably rightful.

"Who DO you shill for...":

Max: A difference of opinion or perspective need not automatically give rise to a presumption of insincerity or ulterior ($$$) motive. (I was actually curious about your numbers and whether Portland's increases were unique, or part of a larger trend) Everything is not a conspiracy, and life gets rather insular if you are only willing to tolerate perspectives you agree with. In any case, I don't accept payment in shillings, only Euro's or Pounds, but sadly, none have been forthcoming of late.


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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
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
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: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
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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