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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Portland parks for sale, continued

The Portland parks people sure have been busy lately. First they try to sell off a piece of Mount Tabor Park on the sly, lying about it when busted. Next it looks as though they're going to turn over park operations to private companies, whom they'll pay a fee. They're starting with the tennis courts.

The new push to get Portland out of the actual business of running parks coincides with the advancement of a fellow named Robin Grimwade as the Parks Bureau's "finance and development" director. Grimwade left behind an interesting legacy of privatization in Sydney, Australia, where his business acumen led to plans to cede pieces of the park system to McDonald's and Fox Studios. You can't help but think he's pulling the same strings here in the Rose City.

The guy reminds me of Kim Kimbrough already.

Comments (19)

The guy reminds me of Kim Kimbrough already.

Funny, I found myself thinking that and then suddenly there you were saying it.

I wonder which "individuals, firms, teams or consultants with demonstrated experience in the management of recreational facilities" made contributions to the Saltzman campaign, and what sort of return on investment they will get?

I hope Opie makes sure that 30% of the court time is set aside for affordable recreation.

I am sure after Saltzman sells off some parks and privatizes others that our property taxes will proportionally decrease. Notice how your tax bills have decreased with other sell-offs and privatizing. Notice how with 30% less students in Portland Public Schools than a few years ago your tax bill has gone down.

Lee's example to the contrary, privatization is not the end of the world if done correctly.

Of course if the COP or the PPS are doing it, you know they'll intentionally (actually they won't have to try too hard) screw it up. Any hint that a private entity can do a better job than another few dozen public employees is verboten.

But money trumps all.

That leaves me with the notion that there's the faintest whiff of something in the air around Saltzman's office door.

Unless pigs are flying.

Y'know... I've seen private contractors do a better job, and at a lower rate, than public workers. Then, too, I've seen private contractors who were merely friends or shirttail relatives of someone in authority and the job was done poorly and the cost prohibitive, as the purpose was not to serve, but bilk, the public. I don't know where you are rickyragg, but in my working world, any hint that public employees can do a better job than a private contract employees, for the same money, is now considered a sign of naivete'. Of course, we now have six years of contracting out under the Bushes and we know what stellar accomplishments that the likes of Halliburton make in saving taxpayers money.

The State can't run anything right, hence, privatization...

Our city better start doing something right or we will end up like "old Detroit" in the RoboCop series.

The Portland Tennis Center won the US Tennis Association's Outstanding Facility award for excellence in 2001. It not only serves recreational players but also as home court to adjacent Benson High School, and hosts regional and state high school tennis championships. Shifting it to private management was approved in the 2005-6 budget, if I'm remembering correctly. Certainly more than a year ago. A few of us protested and asked for assurances the students would still be able to play there, to no avail. I don't recall the St Johns Raquet Center being approved for transfer at the same time - at that point, parks advocates were still saying, "Look out, St Johns will be next".

So look out, your local park/community center may be next. PP&R has already begun "transitioning" six community centers to private management, and almost completely cut Woodstock CC a few years ago. Pittock Mansion has been turned over to volunteers. The National Parks Agenda supported by City Council last week includes encouragement for private interests in urban parks -- if that means soliciting donations from corporations not paying their fair share of property taxes in the wake of Measure 5, fine. If it means asking volunteers to do more and more, putting commercial businesses in parks, and selling off parks piece by piece, not so good.

Halliburton, how novel.

In my world, here in Portland, in the private sector where I've run my business since 1989, we have a little concept called accountability. It's built-in in the small (and I mean small) business community. Companies and individuals who can't, won't or don't get the job done go away. They don't get bailed out or subsidized (or re-elected - but that's a different story) because everyone has to be vigilant about survival.

Private businesses like those you describe (the "bilkers") gravitate toward public contracts because, as the aerial tram so eloquently points out, the contractor really doesn't give a sh*t. So pick your poison - either way government simply has less motivation to get the job done "on time and on budget".

...and please don't bring Bush into it, he's not trying to sell Mt. Tabor to Warner-Pacific.

Cheney, maybe...

There are no citizens, only customers.

"There are no citizens, only customers."

What a sad, sad statement about our the choices we have made/are making in our society.

Rickyragg, I hope you read my comment as tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't tell if you did from your comment. My main points are that with proper privatizing there should be benefits/cost savings to citizens. But with the small amounts of privatizing that the city and state has accomplished it isn't reflected in tax reductions. If taxation has increased by 5% per year and if privatizing has created a 2% reduction if government services/savings, then the annual taxation costs has increased by 7% for like services-dumbed down. We need correct auditing to access what benefits we gain by privatizing-which I support.

Smells like Cascade Policy Institute (echo: Cato, echo: Heritage Foundation) to me. Ah yes, here is a quote from Kurt Weber, VP of CPI:

"Fiscally responsible Democrats can support contracting out as a way to help resolve the government spending problem. They can trumpet the warehouse services contract between the Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation and the Genuine Parts Company, which promised $200,000 in savings over 18 months."

If recent years have taught us anything, it is that private companies have as their number one priority the well-being of society at large, and not the enrichment of their officers and shareholders.

What is the problem with Portland: Saltzman and everyone else in City Hall who thinks up these self-serving ideas?

A "Public Park" is just that, public. And secondly, why would any city want to rid itself of valuable open spaces. On one hand Metro raises millions to purchase open space, then Portland finds ways of reducing their availability or ways of getting rid of the land, forever

Hello there... is anybody listening? Afterall, Robin Grimwade will be gone before we know it, just like he left Sydney, Australia and us poor citizens will be left holding the bag, or worse yet, no bag to hold at all.

No kidding. But there are real estate developers and construction contractors (Hoffman, perhaps, on the Warner Pacific rec center?) salivating over those pieces of Mount Tabor Park, and little rich boy Saltzman wants to make them all happy.

I'm voting no on the Metro parks measure because of the Mount Tabor scam, and I urge others to do the same.

But there are real estate developers and construction contractors (Hoffman, perhaps, on the Warner Pacific rec center?) salivating over those pieces of Mount Tabor Park

Oddly enough, the "Real Market Value" of those 1.8 acres was reduced to $18,000 for 2006 by the County Assessor because --I was told-- they realized this was zoned Open Space and can't be built on.

So I guess that land's safe from any re-development plans?

This is slightly off-topic, but I'd really love to see an analysis of the overall Parks budget from year to year - when land is disposed of, for example, where does the money go? How has the budget risen (or been cut) over the years?

Does anything drafted for the proposed Mt. Tabor sale talk about where the revenue goes?

Here's why I'm curious: my daughter plays soccer at a field where there's a big mudhole right in front of one of the goals now. There's another huge divot in the middle of the field, and the field's in really bad shape overall - so much so that some parents are worried about injuries.

Of course, there's a ton of watercooler gossip on the sidelines. Some parents have made phone calls, while other parents have worked their networks for information - some know people who work for or with the city, etc. etc. etc. Some soccer fields have gotten an upgrade/facelift from the nearby parent community (via private grants), others have parents to help maintain them, and some have been shut down this season. The bottom line - we're hearing that there's no money for even basic repairs, or to address safety issues.

And one of the pervasive rumors I'm hearing is that some of the parks budget got cut this past year in order to help fund the visioning project.

Sure, it may be idle rumor, or speculation. And yes, it's only fair to mention that I'm not a big fan of the visioning project. But with all of this talk of underfunded maintenance and crumbling storage facilities and the rush to privatization, well - I'd be really curious to learn more about the overall financial picture over the years.

And I'd also love to know what got cut in order to free up the 1.5 million dollars we allocated to the visioning project, of course.

Frank Dufay: Oddly enough, the "Real Market Value" of those 1.8 acres was reduced to $18,000 for 2006 by the County Assessor because --I was told-- they realized this was zoned Open Space and can't be built on.

So I guess that land's safe from any re-development plans?
JK: You bet!! Until about 10 min after the sale when it gets re-zoned to “anything goes” and they start on the condo towers.


Until about 10 min after the sale when it gets re-zoned to “anything goes” and they start on the condo towers.

Jim, you sound a little...cynical.

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