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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 14, 2012 9:43 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland water bureau wants to keep its secrets. The next post in this blog is Oregon looks relatively decent in unofficial money survey. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Scam odor surrounds new Multnomah County courthouse

The old Multnomah County Courthouse is going to fall down when the next big earthquake hits, and the county commissioners have talked themselves blue in the face for decades about replacing it. But they found money only for a new jail instead -- a new jail that they built, stocked with lovely art, and immediately abandoned before ever using it.

There have been some odd turns in the courthouse saga. A few years ago, the county took millions of dollars of "urban renewal" slush money from the Portland Development Commission, supposedly to redo the off ramps on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge, supposedly to make way for a supposed new courthouse. The PDC money had been borrowed at relatively high interest rates, and as far as we know, the county still has it safely invested in accounts that pay far less interest. This is their way of helping city taxpayers get their money over to Jamie Dimon.

But we digress. This week, all of a sudden, they're talking new courthouse again, and now they've paid for a study touting the central eastside industrial district as a good place to put it. That crazy idea sounds like a nonstarter to us; surely any new courthouse would be built on the west side of the river. There's also some talk in there about renovating the old courthouse, but that obvious alternative has never gained any traction in all the years that the issue has been discussed.

But most alarmingly, the new talk includes much discussion of a "public-private partnership." That usually means that a developer has probably already made a pitch or two in some backroom somewhere, and it's time for the charade of public discussion to begin. No doubt big bucks are to be made by putting a tower full of condos or apartments on top of the new courthouse. And the consultants are egging the county on to a rush timeline:

The main step for saving time in the project planning is the preplanning or programing process. With the early selection of a developer, the public agency can begin detailed project planning, programming, and scoping with the developer team much earlier in the project schedule, and in turn, shorten the duration to complete the total project.

This abbreviated process provides the selection of the private group based on experience, team members, developments fees, and/or lease back cost ratios for the delivery of a project. This process would provide a general description of the project goals and objectives. Rough budget numbers would be established with desired timelines for completion. All aspects of the project would be completed with the developer, including establishing all deliverables for the project.

Once a selection process is complete, the developer will manage all aspects of the project from funding, site selection, programming, functionality of design, quality, and management of the project budget. The developer would work with the county team to determine the building design solutions. They would then present a preliminary budget and features to the county so the county can determine if it is what they require for their project and can be afforded.

The Latest Kafoury is the county face card on this one. She, and it, bear careful watching.

Comments (18)

From a functional standpoint, this makes no sense. The county jail, all the law firms, and other support for the system are on the west side of the river. This would be followed by pressure to put all sorts of incompatible uses in the industrial area.

And how is this a prudent time to be undertaking a project like this? The county budget has been bleeding out for years and years.

Oh, I get it. Hoffman and Homer already had two or three backroom meetings with the County.

Let's do a Partnership. I feel like I'm in a Broadway play.

I want (but cannot afford) one of the luxury condos they will be building when the current courthouse is given to the developers. Some of those courtrooms have 20 foot ceilings.

If gov't operations aren't expanded to the other side of the river, who else is going to ride the new streetcar back and forth over the Willamette?

Gee, that broadway play wouldn't be based on a popular Mel Brooks film from the sixties starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, would it?

"The main step for saving time in the project planning is the preplanning or programing process."

Okay great. Does saving time mean saving money?

"All aspects of the project would be completed with the developer, including establishing all deliverables for the project."

And does "all deliverables" include campaign donations, under the table goodies, and wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean?

It would be relatively simple to put the courthouse on Chapman Square, and then to demolish the current courthouse and use that block as a replacement for Chapman Square. Prisoners and corrections officers could then use a short tunnel beneath Third Avenue to go between the courthouse and the jail/police station and would not have to transport inmates by bus to and from court. A tunnel from the Hawthorne Bridge site would be much longer and have to run under the street or through the subbasement of an office building.

Isaac's comment is spot on.

No site which cannot be connected by an underground tunnel to the jail should even be under consideration.

I can't imagine the security issues associated with having private residences built into the same structure as a courthouse. And it's not just the residential areas above the courtrooms - how would you like to have your car searched every time you park in your own deeded parking space? Sounds like a wonderful marketing feature for the condos.

Prisoners and corrections officers could then use a short tunnel

There is a tunnel provided for around the office tower that's been built east of the Justice Center. If they go with the Hawthorne Bridge site, the prisoners will march underground.

County just built a courthouse in Rockwood that it cannot afford to staff. Guess they might as well build another. Add to that the jail they built about 15 years ago, but still havent opened. Their track record is not so good.

As is usual in Portlandia these days, this probably isn't so much about getting the public to pay for a usable courthouse as is getting the public to pay for someone else's condos.

It smells too much like the Lincoln HS deal.

Expect more smash-and-grab from public officials as world economic news gets increasingly dire.

Mr. Grumpy nailed it: Streetcar fodder.

"Smash and Grab" is perfect.

What it reinforces for me is that the development mafia attention to the CEID will work to make it a colony of the inner West side, rather than an asset to the East side. Can we just tell the development mafia to go elsewhere and leave the East side alone? They are definitely from the government, and they claim they are here to help us.

REMEMBER THE $15 Million TRAM? That was a private/public partnership.

Why does anybody think that "establishing all deliverables for the project" would require them to deliver it on time or on budget?

Oregon Iron Works can't deliver the six streetcars there were contracted to build, and there is rediculously small delayed delivery penalty.

The six "deliverable" streetcars are magically reduced to five streetcars devleveriable to fulfill the contract, with a public hearing or even a symbolic vote. There is no accontability with the "private" contractors are also the public servant's financial backers.

typo-hell: shouldn't post from my Droid.

The penultimate sentence should read:


A Broadway show? No, more like those Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney barn things.
Maybe Dunthorpe wil get its methadone clinic yet.

Dunthorpe Methedone Clinic? Sounds like an awesome name for an edgy new Indie Band.


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