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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The right call

The City of Portland has decided not to move the Central Fire Station. Why not? Lots of good reasons, but the best one is because -- I am not making this up -- it is not a linchpin any more! According to this morning's O story:

"Public process is important, but one of the mayor's primary obligations is to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars," said John Doussard, the mayor's spokesman. Sten, who oversees the Fire Bureau, said the economic outlook for Old Town has improved since PDC planners first proposed the move. The fire station isn't the linchpin in development plans that it once was.
Does this mean no condo tower, no chi-chi public market, no tossing Saturday Market to the wolves?

No wonder the two Katz appointees left the building so quickly last week. They didn't want be around for the flak on this one from the West Hills. I suspect that somewhere out there right now are some fat cats whose next trip to the Tax Trough Saloon has been cancelled. And I'm sure they are mightily steamed. "We had a deal with Mazziotti and Hennessee!" Sorry.

But as a taxpayer who's been taken off the hook for the next boondoggle, let me be the first to say thank you, Mayor Potter, PDC chair Rosenbaum, even Commissioner Sten.

Now if someone would please tell the PDC people to go away and leave Saturday Market alone...

Comments (1)

Now if someone would please tell the PDC people to go away and leave Saturday Market alone...

I think you just did.

The thing about credit card spending is, eventually, there is the inevitable day of reckoning when you have to put that card back in your wallet. "Declined," says the cashier. Even if you really, really want something, you just can't have it.

I love Pike's Place Market, but we've got wonderful farmers markets all over town that seem to be working just fine. Let's ditch the Public Market idea as well. Maybe we can start concentrating our limited resouces where we're seriously deficient...streets, and sidewalks, and all those old boring things that government's suppossed to concentrate on.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 19, 2006 04:42 AM

Well-trained police? Middle-class jobs? Mental health treatment other than sidewalk begging?

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 19, 2006 04:49 AM

The discussion that none of the COP movers and shakers or any of the new Urbanites want to have is the real cost of development and whether the intense urbanization make sense at all. Not that Oregon Should not grow, but how it should grow.

The definition of the METRO crowd of Regionalization is that it gives them a bigger tax base to skim and fund lynchpin projects.

If bigger and more dense were better, why doesn't Wal Mart want to relocate to one high rise in Downtown Portland. (you could put low income condos on the top of it so the patrons didn't have to drive to the store)

Oregon needs an urban center of significant size to foster a healthy Arts & Entertainment community and professional core of Lawyers, Drs, and CPA;s, but there also needs to be investment in secondary Cities and high speed mass transit between them and the urban center like happened when NYC became too expensive for middle class folks so NJ, Conn, were connected by Train, so people could commute.

One of the ideas I have heard floated to take pressure off of I-5 is a connection between I-5 where it veers west down East to Bend to intesect I-84 and up to I-90 in Washington. This would open up the middle of both Washington and Oregon open land to more development if there were a transportation corridor, and allow through traffic to bypass.

High density has its problems like no place for stormwater to run off naturally so we have poopies in the river, not to metion quality of life, when you can bike 20 minutes and be in a rural setting, or better yet in small town, your kids can bike to the local pool or recreation beach on a dammed up creek to swim.

Posted by: John Capardoe at July 19, 2006 07:31 AM

What I found disturbing in that story is this ongoing misrepresentation to the public that in SoWa only the Tram's budget has been problematic and misrepresented.

When in reality the collective budget shenanigans in SoWa will pale in comparison to the Tram $15.5 to $57 million run up.

Since there is no updated SoWa budget avaible for public view,
here's SoWa, approximate minimum public improvement project over runs,
from various sources.

Street/portals/flyover ramp $100 million over

Park $7 million over

I-5 ped/bike bridge $6 million over

Greenway $20 million over

TIF debt service $100 million over

While TIF revenue is coming in well below projections and PDOT and City parks have had to chip in millions from their general fund budgets,

resulting in many projects to be unfunded or underfunded and far behind schedule with later phase revenue already devoured.

The city is deliberately withholding from public consideration that the greater 1999 SoWa Urban Renewal plan is in certain failure and incapable of anything near build out, as planned.

This is a classic concealment of budget fiascoes and mismanagement with city leadership falling down on the job while pretending, on occasion, to fiscally prudent.

I'm not sure how they concluded the firehouse move would be irresponsible when they apparently
don't have any limit of much higher costs on far more risky projects.

***On a side note, I see in today's O, that Dopplemeyer says they think the Tram ropes will last 40 years. This doesn't mesh with PDOT's 50 year life in their reinvented "life cycle cost" estimate which they claim they determined with help from Dopplemeyer.
Only a small 20% fudge.
No big deal. Especially since the LCC estimate didn't even include debt service costs.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 19, 2006 07:50 AM

From the Willamette Week's story this morning on parking garage shenanigans: "We think 10th and Yamhill is a real linchpin to developing the West End," Edlen says.
It's the natural order of things. It's our quantum mechanics.
When one linchpin fades, somewhere in our world, another one must appear.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 19, 2006 08:43 AM

Quantum mechanics is more about the natural disorder of things on the sub-atomic level. Linchpins within linchpins within linchpins.

Posted by: tom at July 19, 2006 08:53 AM

Yes, and the latest experiments show a sub-atomic particle can be in two places at once. So that means the tram could also be under construction at another point in the universe.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 19, 2006 09:29 AM

One of the other principles of quantum mechanics, as elucidated by Werner Heisenberg, is that if a particle can be represented by several attributes (such as position and velocity), the more accurately you measure one, the more imprecise the other becomes, and you can never measure both exactly.

For the tram, the two important attributes are cost and completion date. The more accurately we know the completion date, the less accurately we can determine the cost. And as the morning newspaper had an exact completion date for the tram . . .

Posted by: Isaac Laquedem at July 19, 2006 09:47 AM

Beautiful elucidation of the uncertainty principal! Physics rocks man!

Posted by: tom at July 19, 2006 09:51 AM

parking garage shenanigans

Who needs parking garages though when we have Flex Car!

Say it with me....

Posted by: Chris Snethen at July 19, 2006 11:16 AM

Great news about the fire station- I've been writing letters in protest on that one for years. Funny how those developers change their vernacular, isn't it? Something is imperative to growth, and then.....it isn't. Doublespeak. They must think we are too stupid to remember their former statements. When will the dishonesty ever end?

When someone in power has the guts to pull the plug on the PDC once and for all. This city is hemorraging money faster than we can imagine. We're surely headed for bankruptcy. And the SoWhat towers will be the instrument of our collapse.

Posted by: Lily at July 19, 2006 11:26 AM

I am amazed at the lack of foresight here. With this kind of thinking, Portland looks to be immitating Orange County, California. Does everyone think that projects like Pioneer Courthouse Square, Pioneer Place, Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade, The Brewery Block, & The Pearl District would have just "happened" if left to the open market. The City of Portland and PDC has had a hand in shaping all of the above projects. Take a look at the public investment and see how it leverages private money (which translates to jobs, revitalization and liveabilty).
I am very disappointed to see the Firestation project go away, and with it the Portland Public Market.

Posted by: N. at July 19, 2006 12:56 PM

Leveraging privage investment is fine, but once it is leveraged, ideally, the private sector should-and does-kick in. Continuing on an urban renewal leveraging "fix" actually shows both a lack of real vision AND of real planning, especially when city services deteriorate just to cater to pet projects. That ain't enlightened and it ain't planning.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 19, 2006 01:35 PM

""""Does everyone think that projects like Pioneer Courthouse Square, Pioneer Place, Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade, The Brewery Block, & The Pearl District would have just "happened" if left to the open market."""

Unfortunately you are unaware that because of the PDC operation being what it is all of these things have been paid for many times over with many millions every year being devoured by unworthy, mismanaged, high risk reckless boondoggles.

With it's $50 million dollar cost I would put the Eastbank Esplanade in the boondoggle category.
Any poll of the Eastsiders would have shown their overwhelming preference for the millions to be spent on their parks and playgrounds versus the downtown floating sidewalk.

With the PDC, it one thing to have some worthy civic projects.
It's quite another to have a $200 million a year agency run amok without regard for cost, debt or basic services.
It's pure foolishness to cast off criticism of this MO as simply lacking foresight.

The exceedingly disproportionate development subsidies justified by minor or imaginary public benefit is second only to the nonsense that nothing in this city can happen without the PDC and Urban Renewal debt spending.

There's no lack of foresight.
There's a total absence of oversight.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 19, 2006 01:37 PM

New linchpin nominee: Conversion of Tanner Springs Park to Portland Public Market, to provide affordable shopping to Pearlies.

Posted by: Bark Munster at July 19, 2006 02:03 PM

I am very disappointed to see the Firestation project go away, and with it the Portland Public Market.

What is wrong with the firestation we have right now, and the Public Market called Saturday Market? When I first visited PDX in '94 the Saturday Market was one of the Portland icons that my friends who had already been here for a few years couldn't wait to show off. In some cases, if it aint broke.....

Posted by: jimbo at July 19, 2006 02:24 PM

Here's a whine about it from a typical tax trough drinker:


Posted by: Jack Bog at July 19, 2006 03:11 PM

John Capardoe said:

"If bigger and more dense were better, why doesn't Wal Mart want to relocate to one high rise in Downtown Portland. (you could put low income condos on the top of it so the patrons didn't have to drive to the store)."

It's a structural problem. Urban condos lack space, namely garages, in which to store crapola objects purchased at Walmart once they are deemed too crappy to keep in the living space but not crappy enough to toss into the landfill or donate to Goodwill.

Posted by: Dude at July 19, 2006 03:33 PM

Lynchpin futures.

And the creation, buying, trading, and selling thereof.

Maybe that's what they'll study tramside in those Dr. No labs.

Posted by: got logic? at July 19, 2006 08:01 PM

When someone in power has the guts to pull the plug on the PDC once and for all.

The people are the power. They can pull the plug.

It's already been done at least twice that I know of personally. Newberg voters shut down their two-year old urban renewal plan by a huge margin. Seventeen years later, the city fathers, thinking the voters had forgotten, revived the monster. [Envision swamp monster rising up out of slime.]

Voters killed it again before it even got up off of its knees. Signatures on petitions were obtained with all volunteer, not paid, petitioners, both times. It was against all odds, both times. The Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, the newspaper, leading citizens all supported urban renewal and opposed the effort to shut it down.

What development did the city fathers want in their first vision? A hotel. Deemed a linchpin for Newberg development. Only urban renewal funds could attract a hotel, they said.

About a year after the urban renewal monster was killed, guess what? Newberg got a lovely new hotel! It now has several others. That would never have 'just happened' without government funding, right? Oh, wait. It didn't get government funding.

You can do it, people. With the new I-tax being proposed for school district again, it would be easy to make the connection: urban renewal starves schools, police, fire, parks, etc. You've all made these points right here. What are you waiting for? Even progressive Portlanders understand a clearly-made pocketbook argument.

Urban renewal is a bloodsucking slimy beast, sucking the life out of this (formerly) wonderful city. Does anyone have what it takes to save it? It only takes two, that's right, two obsessed people about 3-6 months to put it all together.

The precedent is there. It can be done.

Posted by: mac at July 19, 2006 08:24 PM

To every scam there is a season, and a time for every linchpin under heaven.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 19, 2006 11:57 PM

I think you need to define what "exceedingly disproportionate development subsidies" means? The PDC is a gap lender and subsidies go into projects that would otherwise not get built. At times PDC is going to be on the "bleeding edge". I am sure today that everyone would look at Belmont Dairy project on SE Belmont and think that the developer cut up a "fat calf". When that project was funded that site was unoccupied shell and the neighborhood was very much on the fuzzy side (Dixie Mattress Co, et.al.).
Keep in mind that urban renew dollars get spent in the urban renew area they are generated. So, by not building the Eastbank Esplanade it doesn't mean that we get more school funding.
Note to you armchair developers: If you think it is easy to put these deals together, then put your money where your mouth is.

Posted by: N. at July 21, 2006 03:56 PM

Er, excuse me, but we don't want condo towers at all. So if those deals are so hard, please, PDC, do us all a favor and don't do them!

Nearly 20 percent of all property taxes that the City of Portland collects are burned on "urban renewal." It does take away funds from other government functions. There's no question about that.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 21, 2006 04:13 PM

I take it "N" is a PDC employee?

Posted by: Lily at July 21, 2006 07:05 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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