A guest post from Dave Lister
[Dave Lister is an area businessman, former Portland City Council candidate, and erstwhile opinion columnist for The Oregonian. -- J.B.]
by Dave Lister
Eighteen months ago Metro announced that they would begin a competitive bidding process for the management of Glendoveer golf course. The contract that had been in place with Glisan Street Recreation for 25 years was due to expire at the end of 2012. Metro President Tom Hughes said that Glisan Street Recreation, who wanted to renew their contract, would be considered, but added that it was only appropriate that other firms be given a chance to bid. Glendoveer's golfers and employees expressed grave concerns, but in a series of public meetings they were assured by Metro that Glendoveer would continue to be managed as a high quality golf course and little would change. We were even given that assurance in person by Chairman Hughes when we had him out for a round of golf. But Hughes and Metro, as usual, lied.
I had occasion to see first hand what has happened to Glendoveer, my home course for over a decade, just two and half months since the "management" change. What has really happened is that Metro has engineered a shameless money-grab to the detriment of the course, its golfers, and its employees.
The deal between Glisan Street Recreation and Metro was that Glisan Street got 56 cents on the dollar of all the greens fees and golf range revenues and Metro got 44 cents. In exchange, Glisan Street maintained the course and its amenities and paid all the course employees. When Hughes and company started talking about putting it out to bid, they made a big issue about some perceived problems with the irrigation and drainage on the course, intimating that Glisan Street hadn't been getting the job done. That was a smokescreen.
Metro did not contract with a new management firm. Instead, they paid a one-time consulting fee to a company called CourseCo out of California to make recommendations on how to improve the course. Going forward, Metro will get 100% of the course revenues and will not be paying any third party to manage the course. All the course employees are now on Metro's payroll, but they’ve been cut from full time to part time. You can decide if it's coincidental that their new hours do not require them to be insured under the Affordable Care Act. The head greens keeper, who had taken care of the grounds for 18 years, is gone.
And what were the fruits of CourseCo's recommendations? Well, the clubhouse has new carpet, but the area that used to be filled with golf clubs, hand carts, and golf apparel for sale is now empty. They have a few gloves and a few balls to sell, nothing more. Along with their huge pay cut, the employees got spiffy new name tags and a new point of sales system, which they hate, because it takes multiple keystrokes to do a simple transaction.
And the course itself? I have never seen it in worse shape. All the benches at the tees have been removed, presumably for future replacement, but who knows when? The greens are unkempt, bumpy, and full of moss. The tees are mostly mud pits. The sand traps are packed earth with virtually no sand. The fairways have always been rough in the early spring, but worse this year than ever.
When it was first announced that Metro was studying the future of Glendoveer, they said they wanted it to more closely conform to Metro's values. Well, they have succeeded in that. Grab all the money, screw the employees, and cut out the private sector.
That really is a reflection of Metro’s values.