Clackistani rebels should fight on
Will the county commissioners in Clackistan get away with the outrageous stunt they have pulled -- running out and getting a bank loan to hand over $20 million to Tri-Met for the Mystery Train to Milwaukie, on the eve of the election that would prohibit them from doing so? Despite a valiant effort to stop them, lawyers for the rebels in that part of the region failed to convince the courts to put a halt to the backroom loan deal, which reportedly closed on Friday. Where will the opponents of light rail turn next?
Well, the obvious place is at the ballot box in November, when two of the scoundrel commissioners are facing strong challenges in their bids for re-election. County chair Charlotte Lehan and commissioner Jamie Damon now face positively livid opposition. Their buddies in the Portland construction, planning, and union mafias will be sending them gobs of money. We've already been invited to some shindig in Portland at which Lehan will be held up as a big "conservationist," and the sock puppets in the blogosphere are loudly denouncing the opposition as Tea Party zealots who want Clackistan to be a "third world country."
But it's not clear that Portland money or Portland rhetoric is going to help Lehan and Damon. They've riled people up royally, and their political careers are marked for extinction.
The other place for the rebels to battle is in the courts, and we fervently hope that they will keep up the fight on that front. To our untrained eye, the loan deal that went down last week was not properly authorized under state law. Until the loan documents are made public, which will take a public records request and no doubt a delay, it's not clear exactly what the county bureaucrats signed in exchange for the $20 million from the Bank of America. But we think there is a good chance that if it is examined by a court, the loan would eventually be declared invalid. What the remedy would be at that point is anyone's guess, but (a) there are grounds in state law for holding public officials personally liable for malfeasance, and (b) there is precedent, from the WPPSS case in Washington State, for leaving the bank in the lurch if the government IOU was not properly issued.
The Clackistani bond affair is just another illustration of our contention that Portland needs a good government league -- a standing organization that would watch out for overstepping by public officials, and bring court action to combat it. If a good lawyer could be put on the case for an extended period of time, incidents like this one -- and the Portland water and sewer bureaus' outrageous mission creep, and the many other instances of funneling public money to cronies -- could be reduced in number. In the meantime, the scams proceed apace.
We leave this topic, at least for a while, with a timeline submitted by one of the rebels. It's so typical of the way Portland and Oregon are run -- which is to say, lawlessly:
Milwaukie and Clackamas County have voted twice directly, and once indirectly, on light rail, since the last TriMet light rail measure passed in 1990 to fund part of the Westside MAX.
In Nov ’96 the next light rail measure failed.
In Dec ’97 there was a successful recall of the mayor and two councilors in Milwaukie. The reasons for recall (stated on the ballot) included light rail.
In '98 another light rail measure failed.
The regional partners, while fully acknowledging public opposition, then shifted away from including any authentic public approval process.
1. In November 2001 the regional light rail regime knew the public would not support more light rail: "the 1998 vote and subsequent public listening posts, that light rail was not going to be a project they would proceed with in this corridor."
2. So they stacked a south corridor committee, claimed the public wanted it anyway and began to conspire to avoid voters: "the Policy Group added Milwaukie and 1-205 light rail options to the study due to the public's request."
3. In Feb. 2003, a little over a year later, this Metro South Corridor Policy Group launched the forcing of unwanted light rail into Clackamas County. The committeee "unanimously recommended" light rail while declaring "strong public support."
4. There is no disputing that Metro, TriMet, Milwaukie, Portland and Clackamas County conspired to go from "light rail was not going to be a project" to unanimously recommending light rail with "strong public support."
5. The MAX Green Line from Gateway to Clackamas Town Center was approved in a project designed to make over and add light rail to Portland's downtown transit mall. Without any public vote, Clackamas County officials approved $39 million in borrowed urban renewal funds for the expansion. Soon after, county officials also approved an additional $24 million in borrowed UR funds for an expansion of the shopping mall itself.
6. In January 2010 an EcoNorthwest memorandum stated that Clackamas County had already taken the first steps toward creating a McLoughlin Area urban renewal district to pay its share of a Portland to Milwaukie light rail project.
7. In February 2010 Clackamas County commissioners signed an inter-govermental agreement with TriMet committing the county to paying $25 million by Sept. 2012.
8. In December of 2010 Clackamas County commissioners (with significant public opposition) passed a new vehicle registration fee intended to pay $22 million for part of Portland's Sellwood Bridge replacement. Portland mayor Sam Adams had publicly declared his intention to shift $20 million in bridge funding to Portland-Milwaukie light rail.
9. Clackamas County residents gathered 7000 referendum signatures and repealed the fee by 63% in the May 2011 election.
10. With county officials continuing to plan a McLoughlin urban renewal district to pay the $25 million for P-M light rail, citizens gathered 12,000 signatures and required county-wide votes for UR by passing measure 3-386 by 70% in November 2011.
11. With county commissioners announcing their intention to proceed with payment to TriMet (without urban renewal) citizens began another initiative signature drive to require county-wide voter approval for ANY county payment for Rail Transit. Initiative opponents' delays prevented a May 2012 election, resulting in a Sep. 18 special election.
12. On May 22, 2012, after citizens gathered 12,000 signatures to successfully place the rail vote measure 3-401 on the Sep.18 ballot, county commissioners signed the full funding grant agreement for Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail.
13. In a June 6, 2012 study session, commissioners instructed county counsel not to review the inter-governmental agreement for any basis to terminate and escape payment. The board of county commissioners also agreed to postpone payment to TriMet until sometime in 2013.
14. On August 20, 2012, as the Sep. 18 rail vote approached, a bond rating and bond sale date posting was discovered revealing the county's plan to pay TriMet before the September election.
15. After subsequent court action prevented the bond sale until Sep. 12, the board of county commissioners, in secret and through unknown actions, arranged a Bank of America loan and payment to TriMet.
16. On the morning of Friday, Sep. 14, TriMet received the payment in full and sent a thank you note to Clackamas County.