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Friday, July 7, 2006

What's so special?

Here's a weird one -- the Portland Development Commission has suddenly called a special board meeting for Monday. To do what? Elect its officers for the coming year!

Is that something so unforeseen that it couldn't be done at a regularly scheduled meeting? And what's the rush? Couldn't it wait until the next board meeting -- on Wednesday (scroll down)?

Is it just me, or is something odd going on?

Comments (1)

Due to my affiliation with the PDC I'm going to chose my words very carefully. The public, as well as City Council should be very concerned with the current state of affairs at the PDC.

The amount of recent uncoverings of questionable business practices as well as a continuing and weekly resignation of staff (some of whome are not even bothering with a two weeks notice at this point) highlights that the agency is in an absolute and utter crisis.

Shame on the PDC for issuing a press release one business day before a meeting. This demonstrates that the PDC is not serious about public outreach and involvement and is a very old trick to limiting public input. Schedule an important meeting and do not give the public enough time to find out about the meeting or make arrangements to attend. Very bad government practice. Classically bad government textbook actually.

I am very disappointed with PDC's public outreach direction. What started out as a serious attempt to change business culture for the better has turned into a focus for PDC to carefully cover up problems and suck up to city council.

Commissioner Leonard, I applaud you and other council members for questioning the current practices of the PDC. Please continue to do so. PDC is a corrupt and incompetant agency that needs to be watched very, very closely. If the mayor is not willing or able to do this, then Council by all means should.

I ask those in the public to get the word out about this meeting and attend. If you can not do this then I ask you to air your concerns to the mayor, to PDC, and to City Council about the way the meeting has been conveyed to the public. It is simply unacceptable.

Posted by: Very Concerned at July 7, 2006 06:19 PM

Very Concerned is very correct. This is also a popular way for staff to wear down appointed commissioners. Have lots of sudden meetings, provide little advance notice or information, 'forget' to prepare a board packet for the most obstreperous board member, don't have enough copies of important handouts for the board or the public, act put out or martyred when a board member makes a reasonable request for information...

The tricks are endless, but well-known to all staff people in any government agency: legislature, legislative committee, school board, city council, county commission, etc., etc., etc.

I say let's go back to the old corrupt patronage system. When the new reformers come in on election day, they get to throw out the entire civil service, if they want to, and start over. Everybody is (correctly) concerned about elected officials, but it's the staff that really holds the reins.

Good luck, PDCommissioners!

Posted by: mac at July 7, 2006 07:00 PM

The resolution on the prevailing wage indemnity for the Lents project -- which wasn't on the agenda for the last meeting, but it passed anyway -- is disconcerting.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 7, 2006 10:35 PM

Also, because of my affiliation with PDC, I will be careful and honest with the words I choose. PDC has a problem with providing required public notice of its various meetings as recently demonstrated by PDC.

In the process of tram negotiations and the Amendment 8 to the North Macadam URD, PDC did not provide adequate public notice to those meetings. In fact, for an Amendment 8 meeting with the NM URAC notice was given only one day before the meeting and not even given to several organizations (example-League of Women Voters) that have requested notification.

Recently, PDC staff has developed procedural papers on better communication after complaints about such improper notification. Apparently PDC is not adhering to these recent papers.

In regard to PDC staff turnover, in the last two year period of the NM URAC there has been a total staff turnover that has been assigned to the North Macadam URD. You now have staff that when reviewing the budget, has no knowledge of what was written or discussed concerning the past NM budget which is now sorely lacking in funding.

There has also been improper minutes taken of URAC meetings. Important comments made by members have not been recorded; or if noted, commentator has not been recorded. There has been considerable "editorizing" of the meeting, and in many cases the viewpoint of PDC on an issue prevails and contrary comments, opinions, suggestions, etc. are left out.

There is also the problem in the format of Urban Renewal Advisory Committees. Yes, you must include a significant number of "stakeholders" in the URA, but since taxpayers are paying a very large portion of UR expenses, there needs to be more and better representation of the general public both on the PDC Commission and in the eleven URACs. In the NM URAC there are only really two "at-large" positions on a thirteen member committee; and only one of the two positions are filled. Currently, PDC is trying to address this concern, but there still needs to be even better taxpayer representation.

I also hope the essentially new PDC Commission addresses these issues, soon. There is turmoil at the PDC.

Posted by: Jerry at July 7, 2006 10:47 PM

You guys have to read this:

Cut and paste it into your browser. The "Attachment A" link to the board meeting is conveniently mislinked on the PDC website, but if you click "Attachment B" and replace the B with an A you get the above-linked report. This is the Eastside Transit Alternatives Analysis
Locally Preferred Alternative
Recommendation (say that 5 times fast)
that says the Streetcar is not only the most favored by the public but, get this, is the:

"Most cost-effective project by all three measures evaluated – annualized capital and operating cost and capital cost per new streetcar rider, federal capital cost per new streetcar rider and operating cost per new streetcar rider."

This is versus adding sufficient bus lines (dubbed the "no-build" alternative). You're telling me, PDC, that a $35MM (starting bid) streetcar is cheaper than buses? Crack you are smoking, yes.

And, the Streetcar essentially polled well with the public versus buses. (Which would you rather ride? A bus, or the (Da-da-da-DUM) Streetcar?)

And, the streetcar saw 30% higher ridership than the bus (because you actually have to pay the driver before getting on, you idiots!).

So, self-fulfilling prophecy self-fulfilled. Let people ride a shiny new toy train for FREE, then ask them what they'd like on the east side. ARHGURHGAURTHGHHHH! My head hurts.

Posted by: Don Smith at July 7, 2006 11:03 PM

Sorry to go on, but I'm seeing something else. How much will the streetcar cost?

From this coming Wednesday's report from Bruce warner to the Commissioners -

"A major portion of the project is the funding strategy. Portland Streetcar, Inc. (PSI) has identified and is anticipating funding from three urban renewal areas – Oregon Convention Center, River District and Central Eastside, in a total amount of between $20 million and $35 million, depending on the alternative chosen (see Attachment C)."

How much will the streetcar cost? The papers will likely report $20-35MM, right? That's the number given here. BUT! Check the Attachments. A, linked in my previous post, notes:

"The OMSI MOS would have a capital funding
gap between project costs and anticipated revenues of $37 million." That's just the GAP in funding.


"The Oregon Street MOS is recommended as the first construction segment for the project for the following reasons:
- The Oregon Street MOS would require $60 million in FTA Small Starts funding, less than the statutory maximum of $75 million for a single project. All other MOS options and the Full Loop Alternative would require the maximum level of
FTA participation."

There are THREE MOSes, Oregon Street, Grand, and Omsi. The cheapest is $60MM and therefore must be the first so that once we get started we can't stop (it would cost too much to pull the plug). The other two, or doing it all at once would each be more than $75 per segment, and presumably at least $210MM total.

So our choo-choo now costs.... at least $210MM. And that's the initial estimate. Quadruple that if their as good as OHSU at guessing.

All so people can ride toy trains free. And we haven't even TALKED about the line from OMSI over the Willamette.

No, Sellwood bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down, Sellwood Bridge is falling down, let's build one foooor a Choo-choo.

Posted by: Don Smith at July 7, 2006 11:17 PM

I'm going to this meeting Wednesday. The public comment is at 3:15. I'll see you all there. Commissioner Sam will be in at 4:30 for the Streetcar briefing.

I'm pissed.

Posted by: Don Smith at July 7, 2006 11:19 PM

Is it time for a ballot measure curtailing the city's (and PDC's) ability to issue bonds?


Posted by: jim karlock at July 8, 2006 01:01 AM

The Oregonian, Thursday, July 06, 2006, "Potter bristles at push to audit agency" (Starting about mid article):

In his most recent battle, Leonard says the Portland Development Commission may have subverted city
policies on affordable housing and living wages for construction workers on a condo tower at 209 S.W. Oak

The commission had the property appraised at $850,000, then paid $1.2 million for it. A second appraisal
by the same company showed the property's value at negative $2.7 million, Leonard says. The commission's requirements for affordable units, parking spots and trash services for the next-door building dropped the property's value below zero, the commission said.

Based on the final appraisal, the commission agreed to donate the land to developer Trammell Crow
Residential for a 26-story, 160-unit condo tower.


JK: PDC pays 1.2 mil then gives it FREE to a well connected developer -- the PDC doesn't need auditing. It needs a summery execution. Clean out the desks, fire everybody. Our schools need the money worse than Homer et.al.


Posted by: jim karlock at July 8, 2006 03:53 AM

The public comment is at 3:15.

Doncha just love it when governmental bodies schedule meetings and public comment periods when the vast majority of average citizens are at work? That virtually guarantees the only people there will be the lawyers, lobbyists and policy wonks who are paid to be there.

They're hiding in plain sight.

Posted by: Hinckley at July 8, 2006 07:45 AM


Posted by: Mister T at July 8, 2006 09:48 AM

"Potter bristles at push to audit agency"

Guess what - PDC has the same leverage over Potter that the unions do now. This guy is severely compromised, probably by his past behaviors.

Posted by: Steve at July 8, 2006 09:58 AM


My experience is that the kinds of due process machinations you detail go on with public (quasi or not) bodies all over the region. Imho, its good ole action and it it the way this place has been run forever. What is really enough to gag the proverbial maggot is when someone, say from the City Club or the press dons a moralistic tone , saying that people are seeing problems because the issues are too complicated for them to understand or hinting that they are "not all there".

These are the kinds of tactics the German Nazis learned from the American Mob. Wake up Oregon!

Posted by: Cynthia at July 8, 2006 11:18 AM

Returning to Jack's original question, I agree that the Special Meeting to elect officers is very odd. According to the PDC bylaws (www.pdc.us/pdf/about/pdc-bylaws.pdf), officers are to be elected in January. If a vacancy occurs, the election is to be at the next regularly scheduled meeting (my emphasis). Since the bylaws are more restrictive than the ORS cited in the Special Meeting notice, it seems to me the bylaws should trump and the election should take place as previously announced at the regular meeting on Wednesday.

One explanation could be that PDC needs a duly elected chairman to sign something on Tuesday.

As an aside, it seems past time to revise the PDC bylaws, something that could presumably be done without a Charter amendment. For example, the bylaws currently state that official notice is not required for PDC meetings.

Posted by: Amanda Fritz at July 8, 2006 12:56 PM

I just want to bring it to the attention of everyone out there that there will also be another VERY IMPORTANT meeting of the Portland Saturday Market permanent home study at PDC on the 14th at PDC. Will this meeting seal our fate?
How will this shake up effect us? We are all WONDERING......

Posted by: Portland Saturday Market Vendor at July 8, 2006 07:51 PM

I'm not sure a "shake up" is in order, but something funny seems to be happening.

Last year the election of officers was originally scheduled for a regular meeting on July 13, 2005, but "deferred" until a regular meeting on August 10 because new board members and a new executive director were coming on board.

This year, there are two new board members coming on soon, and yet they're accelerating the process for some reason. The Monday agenda calls for executive director Bruce Warner to make a report, and then for the board to elect "Board Chair, Board Secretary and Board Acting Secretary." The current board secretary is Doug Blomgren, a carryover from the Katz days, but for some reason there is also an "acting secretary" in the form of Potter lieutenant Mark Rosenbaum. Blomgren and current chair Eric Parsons are on their way out, but it's not clear to me when they formally exit (if they have not already done so).

Again, why this can't wait 'til Wednesday is quite a mystery. What's happening Monday or Tuesday that causes such a rush?

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 8, 2006 08:10 PM

Just an odd thought which I will leave up to you legal minds to say if it has any relevance.

The recent liablity ruling, said the instituion was protected, ie PDC but the individuals could be sued, in the case of OHSU the Drs and Nurses, does that mean that PDC Board Members can now be sued as individuals with out the $200,000 cap.

Posted by: John Capardoe at July 8, 2006 10:51 PM


We need to ban the use of the phrase affordable housing and replace it with the correct phrase of landlord subsidy.

Not all bond issuances are the same. Some -- most -- of them are in the category of moral obligation bonds where we can simply choose to point the bondholders right back, exclusively, at the special beneficiaries. The bond buyers are not innocent. Nor do the special beneficiaries of special tax breaks have a contractual right to compel the continuation of any such goodies against the wishes of a future council. As proof, if a recipient of landlord subsidies bugs out via bankruptcy or who-knows-what the bondholder would themselves have to insist that a subsequent owner of affected property also continues to retain special tax treatment so as to continue to prop up the value of the collateral (as the real-thing interest, as a twist on the Real Party in Interest) prospectively.

The 4:30 to 5 PM meeting is followed by a 6 to 8 PM meeting styled as "Central Gateway Redevelopment Strategy Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Meeting." Then there are 2 Tuesday meetings: "Burnside Bridgehead Citizen Advisory Committee" and "Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Advisory Committee" Calendar.

Someone from the PDC is sure to attend each of these little meetings to either present plans or answer questions. The newly elected PDC members can just have an official sounding title when (if) they are quietly introduced.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at July 9, 2006 05:33 AM

"""The Monday agenda calls for executive director Bruce Warner to make a report"""

That will be a special read.

No doubt it will be, in part, another PDC cover up and obscuring of their activities and accounts with suggestions that their has been public participation and review through the URACs etc.

The PDC continues to hide it's accounts and ledgers from public view. From officials, from citizen advisory groups, from journalists and from citizens who inquire.
They won't even reveal what debt service is costing let alone the many projects besides the Tram which have grown in cost. Basic and complete budgets are being withheld.
Leonard needs to broaden his audit demand to cover all of the books at the PDC.

Both sets.

When he discovers he has been lied to far worse than he was on $15.5 Tram and SoWa being a toxic wasteland incappable of development without massive UR subsidies, he may rise to the level of outrage needed to purge the agency of it's rampant dishonesty and mismanagement.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 9, 2006 07:27 AM

What I find shocking is PDC's silence regarding their critics. I mean, how many hits does this website get alone? You would think that PDC would be saavy enough to realize a response or two to at least inform everyone on what is going on and would do wonders fo public relations and go a long way in helping the agency appear more transparent. Justified, Arrogant, clueless or cowards? PDC, you tell us, but your silence tells it is one or all of the latter three.

By not responding to the public's questions, including blogs like this one, PDC is furthering the public's distrust and support.

In the current city climate, the PDC needs all the help they can get. They have few fans within the City, they have few fans in the non-profit or advocacy communities, few fans from the neighborhood association level, few willing to stand up for them in the business community, so why is the PDC making it even worse?

I wouldn't be surprised if Monday's Commission meeting has to do with a Commissoner or two deciding to step down as they have realised they do not want their names or future professional reputations associated with such a screwed up agency. (no doubt it will be the old "to spend more time with family") excuse.

A little advice to Bruce Warner (and I know you read this blog becuase otherwise why would you issue an agency mandate that will not tolerate staff posting comments here?):

I hate to be the one to tell you this but until you get rid of most of your management team and some key managers including both people you inherited and people you brought in (without an open hiring process I might add), things are only going to continue to spiral. How obvious does it need to be?

The PDC's HR including huge staff turnover is in crises

The PDC's public relations and public outreach and involvement is in crises

The PDC's financial reporting is in crises

PDC's Commission might very well be in crises (although we don't know that because your public relations decion makers appear clueless in how to manage public information and involvement)

How many lawsuits, how many resignations, how many negative news articles, how many "special sessions" is it going to take to get you to take PDC by the balls and make some real changes?

Or is this how you think a public agency should be run?

We are patiently waiting for a response.

Posted by: Very Concerned at July 9, 2006 12:25 PM

I hear the meeting was finally the time that PDC came clean on the fact that they have been bludgeoning baby harbor seals, and single handedly been responsible for the reduction of the polar bear population -- as well as announcing which employees are going to be nominated for best actor/actress in a dramatic short.

Posted by: Juan Valdez at July 11, 2006 06:15 AM

Operating in the dark is the PDC's forte. And their public notices? Buried in the classifieds, written in 2 pt type. Standard operating procedure.

The city needs to completely do away with the PDC. It's just about the only way to even possibly safe the City from bankruptcy. Go, Randy Leonard!

Posted by: Lily at July 11, 2006 11:55 PM

And, personally, I thnk Bruce Warner should be run out of town on a rail. Maybe tarred and feathered first.

Posted by: Lily at July 11, 2006 11:57 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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