This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 17, 2010 10:48 AM. The previous post in this blog was Don't mind the gang shootings. The next post in this blog is Portland City Hall gravy train -- literally. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Tri-Met plays the "colors of money" shell game

There's an interesting exchange going on over on the Portland Afoot blog about that publication's assertion that 40% of the property tax money being sought by Tri-Met in the transit agency's upcoming ballot measure won't really be spent on buses and related equipment. One of the numerous Tri-Met flacks asserts that absolutely, 100% of the tax proceeds will go to buses and related gear.

But even she admits that there's always been money in Tri-Met's basic budget for bus replacement over the years -- to be paid for out of farebox revenue and payroll taxes. If the ballot measure passes, the property taxes may all go to buses, but that will free up quite a bit of money elsewhere in the budget that can be used on anything Tri-Met management wants.

And boy, do they want that Milwaukie MAX line. So badly they can taste it.

There's one real howler in the Tri-Met spokesperson's statements: "100% of the money must, by law, be used for the stated purpose." Yeah, right. Tell that to Portlanders who voted in a tax for parks maintenance in 2002 and watched the money go to capital projects instead. "By law," my eye.

The whole sales pitch for the Tri-Met property tax -- "It's for the elderly" -- stinks to high heaven. The elderly are already in the transit agency's budget, as they should be. We shouldn't have to pay extra for buses. Buses are what Tri-Met was created to provide, first and foremost. As long as they're still talking about building stupdity on rails like the eastside streetcar, Wilsonville WES, and Milwaukie light rail, there's only one thing to say when Tri-Met asks for money, of any color. And that is no.

Comments (7)

The recent rhetoric about the Columbia River Crossing from Robert Liberty and others that oppose the bridge cites the many unfunded portions of the many contributors to the project. They assert "there is no money".

The same can be said about Milwaukie Light Rail. Clackamas Co. doesn't have their $25 Million obligation. Portland doesn't have all of their $30M, nor does Milwaukie have their $5M.

All three of these local obligations are based on urban renewal. Milwaukie and Clackamas don't even have the urban renewal districts to fund their portions.

So why are we getting press releases that the new ped/bike/light rail bridge south of the Marquam Bridge will begin construction next spring? Why do we have TriMet, Metro, and CoP officials telling us MLR is a foregone conclusion? Wishful thinking is going to backfire on them.

The same thing could be said for the Fire Bureau and the bond measure to buy fire trucks.

It's a perfect plan. If the measure doesn't pass, they're off the hook on buying buses and that frees up the bus money for the light rail.

You know, I agree with you generally about the "colors of money" scam -- but it occurred to me today that the state and federal gas taxes are the granddaddies of color of money scams. If we want to have gas tax money used for roads and nothing but roads, then let's make sure that no other money, especially from property tax or levies, is used for roads.

Your dogged persistance must be a thorn in many an establishment spine.

Thank you, Jack! And check your brakes.

When TriMet has to replace a bus, that is an "operating" cost according to TriMet.

The last time I checked, that was ALWAYS considered a "capital" cost, unless TriMet was leasing the buses. Which...TriMet wasn't. But TriMet engaged in the ever popular sale/leaseback scheme with a large portion of its light-rail fleet (and in some cases, sale/lease/leaseback!)

Further, if a bus's lifespan is 12 years (per federal law), after 12 years why is TriMet still booking depreciation costs on those buses as an expense?

Seems to me that TriMet is coming up with lots of ways to make the bus system cost more than it really does, while making the light rail system not cost as much as it does - thus they can make their "light rail is less expensive than bus" argument. When...it's all just a shell game brought to you by TriMet.

But TriMet engaged in the ever popular sale/leaseback scheme with a large portion of its light-rail fleet

This is a very clever scam, since federal taxpayers are the ones who take the hit on the leaseback transaction. Of course, it is a real cost, but try telling that to Sam and Randy and the Streetcar Gang.

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