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Friday, July 14, 2006

It's official: Urban renewal has Portland strapped

This just in from the chair of the Portland Development Commission, as told by the Trib:

Rosenbaum believes there are two primary reasons why the council is taking such a close look at the PDC -- Portland's new mayor and the city's financial situation.

"Mayor Potter's approach to government is different than any of his predecessors. He is committed to making decisions in an open and transparent manner. Previous mayors have insulated the PDC from a lot of scrutiny. This is the first time the council has been able to ask questions about the PDC's policies and decisions, and they expect answers," he said.

At the same time, Rosenbaum believes the council has less discretionary money to spend on public projects, especially since the federal government has cut back on the housing and transportation funds available to cities.

"The city's access to resources is just really stretched. In these circumstances, access to the piggy bank at the PDC is very tempting. There's just not a lot of money to pay for streets, parks or housing anywhere else," he said.

You don't say. And here 19 cents of every dollar of property tax the city collects goes to the "urban renewal piggy bank." Maybe it's time to change that.

Comments (1)

Jack: And here 19 cents of every dollar of property tax the city collects goes to the "urban renewal piggy bank." Maybe it's time to change that.
JK: I'm up to working on an initiative to prevent property tax money being diverted from basic services and schools, but cannot do it alone, or as the leader (Dave?). I would even shut off UR if we could get past the opposition probably claiming the we need it to help Interstate and Lents. The other problem may be the charter revision nullifying any initiative we do.


Posted by: jim karlock at July 14, 2006 06:03 AM

Oh heck, the fix is easy - first, we find some more stuff to tax without asking the public. Let's see, boy, that cell phone tax sure looks pretty. Maybe we can put a tax on cars driving in Portland.

Another fix would be to require fuel sold inside Portland to be of a type that it messes with the engines of the cars, gets less mileage and costs more. That way fewer cars will buy fuel inside Portland, fewer cars will drive inside Portland, the roads get damaged less. Course there is the pesky problem of where would more money for GOOD transportation like trams and choo-choo come from ... back to those tax ideas.

Posted by: mmmarvel at July 14, 2006 06:21 AM

I know what is going on.

City Council is finding they too are unable to get simple records from the PDC.

They have been waiting months a simple updated SoWa budget with no sign of ever getting one.

The unavoidable nature of such a covert agency and all of it's expenditures makes it increasingly impossible to defend the status quo as dollars are stretched, projects become more controversial, and debt climbs.

Even with the city hall groupies dishing out the,
"but look how pretty this stuff is" Potter and company are struggling to justify more of the same when they can't even explain or report basic information such as costs of debt service.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 14, 2006 07:40 AM

Since they are looking for money, any chance the PFDR fund can be converted?

After all, if Randy's wonderful fix passes this fall we'll have prop tax increase for this for 31 years from today. It should have plenty of money, especially since Randy designed it.

Posted by: Steve at July 14, 2006 08:09 AM

Bringing the PDC directly under the control of City Council may have its benefits, but as has been posted many times, there are "smaller", numerous items that should be attended to whereever PDC lands:

Deficiencies in public notice;

Makeup of internal committees-not broadbased;

the "Babbit" syndrome of PDC;

ineptness of staff, and staff turnover;

lack of internal audit controls;

misuse of urban renewal per state statutes;

misuse of condemnation;

not an open ear to critiques

not responding at all or timely to requests for information, requested studies, etc.;

"defense mode" that hinders open discussions;

staff with "agendas" that doesn't consider other viewpoints of citywide citizens;

staff that doesn't realize that bulding "new" is not the only kind of "development", that maintaining, enhancing existing is also "development";

This list continues. The question becomes, even if under Council direct control, can the important small issues be attended to?

Posted by: Jerry at July 14, 2006 10:50 AM

One thing that struck me about the article is the Sten cell research going on. He is going to poll the public to ascertain its perceptions of the PDC. If the public perceives no problems, then there are none? Just a bunch of "nitpickers" making trouble in places like Jack Bog's Blog?

I'd say some of the "nits" are more like blood-sucking tarantulas. And if the public is easily hornswaggled, as we know it can be, that doesn't in any way lessen the need to rectify the situation.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 14, 2006 11:29 AM

"The city's access to resources is just really stretched..."

Excuse me? Then why this, reported today in The Portland Business Journal at 11:43 AM PDT:

City grants more time to develop Central Eastside

The Central Eastside urban renewal district has been extended a dozen years beyond its original end date of Aug. 26.

The 12-year extension, approved Thursday by the Portland City Council, will funnel an estimated $51 million in additional tax increment resources into projects that support economic development and diversity in the eastside industrial area.

Bonds, backed by taxes on rising property values, can be invested in transportation projects, to redevelop blighted properties and to create opportunities in Buckman, Kerns and Hosford Abernethy neighborhoods.

The decision to extend the life of the central eastside urban renewal efforts came after extensive meetings between citizens and renewal officials.

The city council voted for a longer, more costly extension than citizen groups and the Portland Development Commission had originally agreed upon. Mayor Tom Potter voted against the extension saying the city should not circumvent citizen efforts.

Can you say "Schizophrenic?"

Posted by: mac at July 14, 2006 05:02 PM

Cynthia: I hope you weren't calling all the City Club members, with their compelling critique of PDC, "nits" and "blood sucking tarantulas".

Posted by: Jerry at July 14, 2006 10:23 PM


No, I am referring to problems with the PDC.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 16, 2006 11:42 AM

And Jerry, my inspiration for the term "nitpickers" was a recent post on Sam Adams' blog dismissing the need to critique the PDC. Certain members of the City Club are very proud of their report, and so they should be. It is pretty thorough and far-reaching. I have noticed however, that in some public presentations of the report, presenters have made light of the assertions that public process/legal process is manipulated, when I KNOW that there is validity to those concerns from personal experience.

Posted by: Cynthis at July 16, 2006 11:49 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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