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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 18, 2013 8:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was The City That Jerks. The next post in this blog is 15 hours later. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

That clinking clanking sound

We've been at this blogging thing too long. Some nights we find ourself leaving through City of Portland budget documents. It's the lowest level of absurdity, when you think about it. We'd do more good reorganizing our sock drawer.

Anyway, here are a couple that caught our eye: one, the budget proposal from the rogue "transportation" bureau (Motto: "Only one indicted, and he's cooperating"); and the other one from the "office of healthy working rivers."

Let's start with the obvious question: What for crap's sake is an "office of healthy working rivers," and why does Portland need one at $650,000 a year? We already have an environmental services bureau ($940 million a year); can't the people there do these jobs?

• Improving inter-bureau coordination regarding the health and activities surrounding Portland's Rivers;
• Ensuring the City meets both its obligations and intention in the Superfund cleanup process;
• Protecting and restoring the ecological, transportation, and recreational roles of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers; and
• Rehabilitating contaminated, inactive properties with prosperous working harbor opportunities, and supporting river-dependent jobs.

When your number one job is "improving inter-bureau coordination," you know you are dealing with one deeply screwed-up bureaucracy. This stinker was a Sam Rand special, with Nurse Amanda leading the cheers; it belongs in the trashbin.

Then there's transportation, which gets to play with $238 million a year. Where's all that going? They show 77 people ($11.9 million) working on "pavement maintenance" -- heck, they aren't doing much on any streets that we travel. Plus another mystery 5.6 people on "pavement management" ($720,000), which must be something different, and not to be confused with the 23.53 people in "sidewalk maintenance" ($3.2 million).

Check out the 17.75 people in "streetcar operations," at a budget of $9 million. Their measuring stick of success? We kid you not: "Cost per vehicle operating hour competitive with TriMet's bus and rail costs." What are they competing for -- first one to bankruptcy?

But our favorite: 25 people in "active transportation." These are the minions in charge of hating cars and trying to get everyone to walk, bike, and ride transit. That gets allocated $4.7 million a year.

Thinking about this sort of stuff evokes anger, or laughter, or angry laughter. Maybe the best thing to do is to join the flock and ignore it. Things rarely change around here, and even more rarely do they change for the better.

Comments (24)

If government is a just reflection of us all and how we conduct our own lives, then nothing will change until change is forced upon us; until the day there is nothing left and we have to start over.

The only chance we have for the above statement to be incorrect is to be vocal about change now. That is why your time spent on examining such mundane detail is so much more important than your sock drawer.

There is so much that is wrong around here.

Have a look at this catastrophe.

http://news.oregonmetro.gov/1/post.cfm/jpact-sticks-with-funding-formula-for-additional-38-million

It's quite a read.

"75 percent of the total funds [will be spent] on active transportation and complete streets"

"The committee adopted environmental justice, equity and safety considerations as factors for selecting projects to be eligible for the $37.8 million".

Jack, your phrase "too long" reminded me of some lyrics by you-know-who.
Based on "Trapped" by Bruce Springsteen

Well, it seems like I've been caught up in this blog too long
And I'm always trying to right the same old wrongs
I thought if I exposed them, then the city would be free
from the tired scams they run on you and me.
Yes, the same old scams they run on you and me.

Well, it seems like I've been caught up in their game too long
And it seems the crimes they've done have made them strong
But when the game is over I won't walk out the loser
And I know that I'll walk out of here again
And I know someday I'll walk out of here again

But now, I'm trapped
Ooh yeah, trapped
Ooh yeah, trapped
Ooh yeah, trapped
Ooh yeah

Now it seems like I've been blogging about Portlandia too long
And it seems like it's beginning to do me harm
But I'll teach my eyes to see, beyond these walls in front of me
And someday I'll walk out of here again
And I know someday I'll walk out of here again

The fact that Environmental Services has a budget some four times that of Transportation really shows me is that Portland is not the "green city" that City Hall likes to promote. If we were so "green", we'd already be green and environmentally friendly, that we would need to spend a dime to mitigate the nasty actions we take.

And that doesn't even account for the costs of trucking (yes, TRUCKING) 60 semi-truck loads of our garbage to Arlington each day, or dealing with the coal and smoot that rains over Boardman each day so that the hip, young, urban kids can charge their iPod and MacBooks each day and surf the internet wirelessly.

When are self-driving cars going to start being a reality? Boosters say 3-5 years but more cautious people say 2020. Interesting how none of that seems to be acknowledged by the city, TriMet, etc. Why would you take the bus or light rail if you could be driven door-to-door?

I happened to watch the beginning of "Dr. Zhivago" yesterday and I was amused to see the role of streetcars. They hooked to overhead wires for electricity just like ours and you could run one down on foot just like ours.
So that's the level of our technology in 2013? We're still using a form of transportation that they had in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution? Classic.

Clackamas Anon, after reading your reference to "Metro News" item on how to spend $38Million in extra fed dollars my head was swimming. Here's just a partial list of criteria that JPACT wants to use in picking what road projects to execute, based on their fine matrix, "Justice":

environmental justice
equity justice
safety justice
transportation justice
green justice
sustainable justice
climate justice
job justice

Gosh, just fix the dang potholes, that's Justice.

Jim... I've been asking the same thing for a few years now. Most of the big high tech companies are betting heavily on self driving tech, and a lot of what Google has been doing with its spy camera ops has been towards that end.
My guess is that the bright folks "running" things around here will tack on a pile of new cost prohibitive regulations under the guise of safety and environmental justice as soon as their monopoly becomes threatened. We may see self driving cars out of the prototype stage within the next few years, but I wouldn't expect them to be affordable for at least 20.

4.7 million allocated for car hating? I'm surprised it's that little.

We've got urban foraging and serf - like gardening just like in Zhivago, too.

Jimmy Cliff wrote "Trapped."

Thanks. I didn't know that. I've seen Jimmy Cliff in concert and I still didn't know that.

Bruce covered it during his muscle-bound Boss days of the '80s.

Dave Lister,
It is all about the water.
Millions and millions and too many millions spent there for what?
Doesn't leave much left.
It is insane when the city tells us they have no money for this or that. Nick Fish closes a Community Center (Fulton) yet eagerly went along with Sam/Rand on spending those millions.

Last played by Bruce on Dec. 6, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz.

Erik H. & Clinaman -

he "Environmental Services" budgetn is primarily for construction, operation and repair of the sewer system.

Yes, the raes are too high, and far oo much is spen on non core mission "feel good", "look prety" "bright shiny" hings.

Water is a totally separate bureau. Separate budget. Water bureau collects sewer bureau's (Environmental Services) bills, thus the two are frequently conflated.

Water fees, too, are far far too high due in no small part to Randy's thefts of ratepayer dollars for special pork.

"What for crap's sake is an "office of healthy working rivers," and why does Portland need one at $650,000 a year?"

Friend of a friend needed a job and were hot on rivers PLUS they couldn't get a job in the real world.

Heck 98% of the CoP employees with "policy" in their job title fit this description.

OK, slow day, but cost per person:

Pvmt Mmgt = $128.5K/person (5.6 @ 720K)
Sdwk Mgmt = $136K/person (23.53 @ 3.2M)
Pvmt Maint = $154.5K/person (77 @ 11.9M)
Actv Trans = $188K/person (25 @ 4.7M)
Strcr Ops = $507K/person (17.75 @ 9.0M)

See what happens when you give the kids an allowance.

Remember this the next you pay your water bill.

Office of Healthy Rivers?
What does Nurse Amanda think since she voted for fluoride about forging ahead so that fluoride ends up in our river? Surely, she must have someone in her $650,000 a year office that understands this is not healthy for fluoride to be flowing throughout our environments and into rivers? All for the teeth, right?

Fluoride is very bad for salmon, too.

Steve -

Your calculations presume ha all budgeed funds go solely o salary and benefits.

In some of hese budget categories, there is cos for capital equipment, supplies (macadam / concrete) fuel for machinery, etc.

Clearly there is much dead wood in PBOT, and many of is budge categories are bloated. However, when we pillory PBOT (deservedly) for mis management and foolish spending, we need to be accurate about what and where the reasonable costs are.

PBOT has to be be able to buy and operate equipment and patch /pave streets. It does no good to complain about lack of street maintenance and then complain when PBOT spends money on paving equipment operation and paving materials.

YMMV.

Jack wrote: ... Maybe the best thing to do is to join the flock and ignore it. Things rarely change around here ...

Ignoring this is certainly an option, but some of us went the other way -- I paid full attention, and made the healthy decision to abscond with myself once and for all.

That which can't go on, won't go on. The good news is that they're out of "innovative" funding sources to squeeze for more. The wheels are coming off.

The laff-riot re: charging to use images of the "Portland" sign shows a growing desperation. When the debt vehicles stop, maybe things will start to break loose.

Even so, nothing short of bankruptcy will finally force their lotus-stained hands. That is the only way out of town for this class that doesn't involve tar, feathers, and rails.

I'm staying away. Don't miss Portland near as much as I thought I would (and that wasn't much to begin with). Join us. There's more to life than some new restaurants.

"Your calculations presume ha all budgeed funds go solely o salary and benefits."

Betcha at least 80% of the cost goes to salary and benefits - even in the most capital-intensive parts of city government.

The city budget that's online (page 50, http://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/405638), in the section on the Environmental Services Bureau, says: "The FY 2012-13 Adopted Budget for operating and capital expenditures is $443.8 million." Am I missing something?


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