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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jelly's got a secret

Local government in Oregon is thick on the sleaze. Many governmental agencies have "foundations" attached, which are convenient places to park money and information when you don't want the public to know what's going on. The state universities run their dirty little athletic departments that way. The Portland zoo is running its budding elephant baby mill through a foundation. And now we see that the Portland parks bureau is also playing the game:

[City parks director Mike] Abbate cited a poll funded by the nonprofit Portland Parks Foundation as a deciding factor, noting that "Portlanders are not ready to invest in a Portland Parks bond effort this year."

The city subsequently created a webpage, called "The Future of Our Parks System," and relied on the same polling to show that Portlanders are very pleased with amenities....

City Hall Watch asked Portland Parks & Recreation for the rest of the poll results.

Spokesman Mark Ross says the city doesn't have the results they've touted and referred questions to the foundation.

"The Foundation commissioned the poll and went over results with us in a meeting," Ross wrote in an email responding to a public records request. "The City doesn't have a document."

How convenient. Fish can be slippery, all right.

Comments (13)

Plus Fish Stink after being out of water 3 days.

Why wouldn't the survey be a public document? If I send a letter to the city, it is a public document. If the city or any government official in speech or in writing or in action uses the results of any poll no matter what the source, that source should be a public document too. If emails and notes from "private" conversations that are about public business, they are subject to public scrutiny ( you just need to know what to ask for).

This excuse by Fish should be tested with a public records request seeking the poll and records of any conversations (written or spoken) about it both prior to and subsequent to the poll being taken. This would be a great job for one of our fine I investigative journalists who might like to take a crack at how our underground government crony system works. But will they? The job is there for any individual also.

Private organizations regularly do polls: business groups, the pro-fluoride folks, enviros, children's advocates, you name it. They will then tell the public officials about the results in the course of their advocacy. But usually they take care not to hand over a copy of all the polling information. They may hand over the toplines of the main questions.

If they hand over any documentation about the poll, it becomes a public record, just like the letter or email you send to the city. Often these groups will test messages against their agenda as well, and they don't want to turn those over to the opposition. Why should the other side benefit from their (expensive) polling?

I would assume that local reporters have and will make a public record request for any minutes or notes about meetings, any emails back and forth, etc. Those are all public records.

Note the word "used" below. An appeal is in order!

"What is a public record?

With a few exceptions, all government records of any kind are considered public records. Specifically, a "public record" is any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of public business that is prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body."

The shadow government only comes out when it wants to be seen.

Yes, there is a case on point in Washington State, where the Clark County PUD tried to hide the specs for the River Road gas turbine plant from the public by claiming that they'd never had them; their technical folks just went to the vendor's office and looked at them there (NC if I recall correctly, but maybe one where else), so they tried claiming that since they never possessed the documents, they didn't have to disclose them.

The trial court bought that shinola but the court of appeals slapped that down hard, holding that where the paper sits is irrelevant: if public folks use a document then it is subject to the public records act and if no valid exception applies, then it's a public document that must be disclosed.

Even moreso where the "other" agency is an in-state doppelgänger for the nominally public one. Anyone can request the slides (you KNOW they used PowerPoint ... Power corrupts, and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely) and challenging a denial seems likely to be fun and successful.

Nick has been less than candid about his plans for a parks property tax increase since he's been in office. In 2011 I read that he was planning a parks bond and asked him about it. He denied it and made some comment to the effect that just because something is in print doesn't make it true. I had my doubts that he was being honest. It seems he's been planning a parks bond for years, waiting for the time he has the best chances of getting it passed. Now he needs to wait until 2014 when more young people who don't own property vote.

The Water Bureau plays this game too, just one of their many tactics and strategies for keeping public information hidden from the public.
PWB's cozy consultants/ global corporations run the polls then brief the Water Bureau and/or Regional Water Providers Consortium (includes PWB) keeping the poll out of the public's hands.

He won't do a levy because PPR diverted those funds toward many projects away from the specific expenditures and proposed language voters approved on the ballot. Thes expenses included rents / leases, PERS payments and capital projects rather than primarily maintenance items listed in the voter pamphlet. Our auditor also concluded much the same.

He has to find a bond which could allow capital improvements which PPR has a history of doing without any ongoing maintenance set aside that compels them to later come back for more...

The budget office for years chastised them for this and poor budgeting for maintenance. When specific complaints were brought to OMF about items that seemed a problem, PPR simply hired that OMF person on to the PPR staff.. problem solved.

Nick has acknowledged telling then Director Zari Santner to stonewall the public when they asked for information. She has gone but he remains.

Beware that the PPR board wants to form a district so that they can tax residents outside of and beyond the constitutional limits. The library measure led the way down this very slippery slope to circumvent those limits.

Also as for transparency according to Nick:
See Hillsdale Terrace in which $47.5 Million was approved to build 122 units on a site that should have been sold for the land since it was difficult to redevelop and was worth approximately $3-4 Million.


Now he has orchestrated the spending of public funds in the amount of nearly $400,000 each to "replace" those low income subsidized housing units, rather than going out on the open market to secure those same units for approximately $100,000 per unit. At the time of approval costs were significantly below this price. But hey Federal funds grow on trees.
Sell for $3 million and replace for $12-13 million is a worst case cost of $10 million. $47 million approved... Who gets the difference of $35+ million. Seems a question we repeatedly ask.

This was never about low income housing or those residents. It was from the start about securing Federal funds and then perpetuating the cycle of dependency to allow the continued receipt and administration those funds. Worth a look at just who administers those funds.

This is how Nick does math with our public funds.

As an officer of the court just what is his legal and ethical responsibility toward the public and expenditures of those funds?

How much more does it take to illustrate how "dirty" this town is run. No wonder the general public is constantly being bombarded with messages of municipal self-appreciation as a distraction.

Thanks, mark! John Gear, too.

"The democratic franchise, while greatly broadened from a time when only propertied white males could vote, has lost its depth. We have, in effect, more people sharing less power. Take, for example, the New England town meeting, often cited as a model of direct democracy, in which each enfranchised resident had a voice and a vote in the proceedings of the community. By the 1990s the term's meaning had been completely turned on its head: now it is a meeting, perhaps nationally televised, in which citizens of a remote, impermeable government listen to, and are cynically manipulated by, an official or candidate. All three key elements of the original town meeting -- community, decentralized power and direct democracy -- have decayed and disappeared." - Sam Smith

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