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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Full plate

The newest commissioner of the Portland Development Commission is Charles A. Wilhoite, a partner in the Portland office of nationally known business valuation firm Willamette Management Associates.

On the up side, Wilhoite is a CPA and a business valuation expert. This means he should be very good at sizing up whether particular projects and affiliations make financial sense. Business appraisal has gone from being a motley trade to a skilled profession over the last several decades, in large part due to some of the founders and principals of the Willamette firm, which as its name suggests was started here in Portland but now has offices around the country. Wilhoite's a relatively recent addition to the Willamette staff; he's only in his early 40's, and has been in Portland since 1990.

Since Wilhoite can whip you up a current value for virtually any enterprise, he's not likely to be snowed by developers or staffers who are trying to sell the board a bill of goods. If he says yes to a particular prospect, it won't be for lack of understanding the economic benefits and burdens that come along with it. He won't be naive in the realm of financial smoke and mirrors, as he battles in that area every workday.

On the down side, he's got serious political connections and gets himself appointed to all sorts of boards. He was on city Commissioner Dan Saltzman's supporter list in the elections just concluded, and he also supported Saltzman henchperson Jeff Cogen for county commissioner. Ted "Cool Long" has him on the board of OHSU (home of the million-dollar CEO and aerial tram [rim shot]) and he's on the board of the Portland Business Alliance, traditionally another bastion of the city's old boy network. He's a leader of the local Urban League, and until yesterday he was the chair of the city's Charter Review Commission. (This is the august panel that recently had its recommendations for the city's form of government promptly stoned to death in the Council Chambers.) In any event, Wilhoite's now being pulled off what's left of the charter board for the PDC board. He's also listed as having board-type affiliations with Jesuit High School, Portland State University, and the Oregon Children's Foundation reading program SMART. The O's City Hall blog adds: "He is also a member of the Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau Advisory Committee; the Portland Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants and the Citizens' Crime Commission."

With three kids, all that other volunteer work, and hopping all over the country giving advice and testimony on how much various private businesses are worth, one wonders how much time Wilhoite will be able to give the PDC. Oh well, they say he's a former track athlete at Arizona State -- maybe he's an "iron man" type. In any event, we wish him luck.

Comments (1)

Good luck, indeed. Here in the inner SE, we've got a good half dozen or so "linchpin" projects (streetcar, MAX, Burnside-Bridgehead, Burnside-Couch couplet, community center, central eastside industrial district building renovations) all competing for the same "gap financing" from urban renewal funds.

For good or ill there's a new trough of TIF money out there and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. That Potter and Saltzman voted on the losing side of the vote to increase the east side urban renewal district's funding, but now have "their" guy in place...you gotta wonder who the winners and losers will be.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 13, 2006 06:43 AM

That the "chosen ones" are spread so thin, speaks volumes. Having served on various boards and commissions over the years, and find it very hard to do justice to more then one or two if I want to make a meaningful contribution.

I think this lack of talent to staff the volunteer boards speaks volumes for the state of the City. Basicly the way the power structure works is that "trusted" members of the Clique usually with well paying jobs and owners who value thier political control, put these folks forward. Kind of like the the Tom Cruise Movie and classic from novelist John Grisham "The Firm", only its the West Hills Mafia. Just like poor Tom Cruise character, once the lifestyle is in place it is hard to let the status, MAC, and University Club memberships go.

Ginny was another example, in her reluctant run against Sten.

Posted by: John Capardoe at July 13, 2006 07:00 AM

I hope you are right, but I think this guy may be PDC's version of Blackmer. Someone who rubber-stamps stuff and finds ways to financially justify it.

Posted by: Steve at July 13, 2006 07:33 AM

I'm sure we'll be seeing more of this quote from the court in the case you cited:

"We feel, however, that Wilhoite has included too many imponderables in his calculation."

How can a guy put in a 40+ hour week at work, serve on 7 (!) boards and 3 commissions, committees, and associations, then come home a play with 3 kids. It's simply imponderable.

Posted by: Wilhoite Q. Imponderable at July 13, 2006 08:12 AM

Is there a conflict of interest in being on both the OHSU board and the PDC commission?

Posted by: Kari Chisholm at July 13, 2006 09:39 AM

"Conflict of interest"? You're going to have to explain that concept to people. We're talking Portland city government here.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 13, 2006 12:57 PM

This guy delivers his passion admirably and opens doors to new motivation of the get go.

Posted by: wsamuels at July 13, 2006 07:06 PM

Conflict of interest"?

The new word is "synergy."

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 13, 2006 09:34 PM

Yes, it is a conflict of interest. Declaring it in a vote concerning North Macadam will not lessen the legal problems it presents.

Posted by: Lee at July 13, 2006 10:51 PM

We know Charlie Wilhoite, personally. He's first-rate, and he's everything the media says he is, and more. The comments about him and his background are cheap beyond belief, and those who made them should apologize.

Let's give this situation some time. Perhaps with a small bit of grace on all of our parts, we might convince the newest commissioner of the verity of our own beliefs.

Posted by: Worldwide Pablo at July 13, 2006 11:33 PM

WW Pablo, my comment was not to disparage Mr. Wilhoite. Conflict of Interest is a serious issue within our city. I am glad Mr. Wilhoite wears many hats, and represents many organizations. We have to be careful about conflicts though.

Posted by: Lee at July 14, 2006 12:32 AM

You dont have know him personally to see a conflict of interest.

Wow....maybe the circle would be complete if they just put him on the city council as well? Or the president of Metro??

Anyone else see a similarity to Halliburton/Cheney?

Posted by: Jon at July 14, 2006 12:43 PM

WW Pablo,

Like Lee, my comment was not meant to disparage, but as one who has tried to untangle where the money is going in a screwed up bureaucracy with non-transparent accounting, if Mr. Wilhoite, is serious about making a difference, daylighting, and changing things at PDC it would seem that he would need to be able to focus a bit. As pointed out he is spread pretty thin. I would see both the PDC and OHSU responsiblities as falling under screwed up bureaucracies with non-transparent accounting and being full time committments.

That is not to metion the PBA or City of Portland Charter Reform and Police Fire and Disablity Reform Committees which the link Jack points us to did not exactly achieve their goals of having council make needed reforms.

Having integrity and being earnest are one thing, having the focus and saavy to not be used by the system to rubber stamp or be ineffective in raising issues but going nowhere on bad policy as in the case of as Jack linked for PF&D and Charter Reform are quite another.

That is one of the problems is that we are all talk and no action in getting needed reforms.

The fact that Mr. Wilhoite holds so many positions is a problem. I do not know the man personally so I cannot judge the intent. But spreading oneself so thin, after proving to have had problems getting the goals of the PF&D and Charter Reform committees achieved does raise questions.

Posted by: John Capardoe at July 15, 2006 12:27 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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