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Monday, August 29, 2011

Clackistan war: County hires big bucks Portland lawyers

The ugly combat over "urban renewal" in Clackamas County took a wicked turn late last week. The county commissioners, terrified that "urban renewal" scams might become subject to voter approval, revealed that they have hired high-priced Portland lawyers to write a legal opinion and a memo attacking the ballot measure that recently qualified, through a petition drive, for the November ballot. The measure would require a countywide public vote when "urban renewal" districts are created or expanded.

The letters are here and here. Somewhat amusingly, they're both from lawyers who make a lot of money on "urban renewal." One is from Ball Janik, the ultimate Portland City Hall real estate fixer firm; it's signed by the firm, but on senior partner Steve Janik's letterhead. The other letter is from Harvey Rogers, the lawyer at K&L Gates who as bond counsel seems to collect a fee every time the City of Portland borrows big money, including on "urban renewal." Which is often.

The Ball Janik letter -- a formal opinion running 10 pages -- basically says that the ballot measure is "more likely than not" unconstitutional, at least in part. The Rogers letter -- a mere three pages -- dances around a lot more, but it seems to be saying that the measure is misleading, vague, and likely to be expensive for the county.

We can't imagine what the lawyers are going to charge for that many words. The county commissioners must have a pretty big budget for this sort of thing. We shudder to think of how many hungry people in Clackamas could be fed with the money that's going to Messrs. Janik and Rogers, all to make sure that the insane Mystery Train to Milwaukie gets built.

Comments (22)

The Law is what we say it is. So shut up and adjust.

Disgusting waste of taxpayer money for these so called legal opinions. Just goes to show how much money is involved in these urban renewal scams. It is the new mafia.

Remember people, the new battle lines are not Conservative/Liberal or Dem/Rep - They are whether you get or give money to the government.

Kind of makes you wonder who they represent.

As an Italian-American, I have to say it sucks to see the use of the word mafia for the UR and public works scammers. The mafia of yore had a code of conduct and a set of ethics that surpasses these bozos. The mafia of yore did not involve people who did not sign up for the deal. These weasels want to soak everyone not just those who get involved in their business. Just sayin'

$1000.00/ Page?

Great post Jack.

Yes the story here is that the county has solicited two legal opinions from very high priced firms who also have a dog in the fight already.

Did Clack Co. pay for these opinions?

If yes, why did Dan Chandler choose law firms that had an obvious interest in the outcome of the election?

If they were provided for free (or highly reduced price) then why should they be considered anything but lobbying efforts masquerading as legal advice?

The letters are nitpicking. EVERY legislature enacted law could be nitpicked in same way ~ and THEY all have "experts" writing them and are vetted by Legislative Counsel.

I imagine they'll be pulling off the gloves on this one. Clackamas County is not the same as Multnomah County and my guess is has far fewer grazing sheeple. Add to that they don't have a central main stage like CoP City Hall for the sock puppet distraction.

I would suggest a Freedom of Information Act request to Clackamas County to determine their financial relationship with these two firms might be in order, assuming they don't try and hide their $350/hour billings behind "attorney/client privilege."

The Law is what we say it is. So shut up and adjust ? Nah- it's shut up and hand over all your money.

Wow. Sounds like it is time for a recall vote. It is obvious these commissioners don't care what the electorate thinks if they jump to lawyers to shut them up.

Steve Janik is wonderful at parsing words, and his 10 pages proves it.

First, he says Clackamas Co. doesn't have a "charter" so authority is "limited to authority of the Legislature", making any changes by citizens in the county bogus. There are other cities and counties in the state that requires citizen voting on UR creations-this fact is contrary to Janik's premise.

And wouldn't the proposed 2nd Clackamas Co. Commissioners Measure to thwart 3-371, whereby only citizens/businesses in a proposed URA would get to vote, be contrary to Janik's argument? Only the Legislature giving the rights to the "governing body"-the Co. Commission-can determine the URA according to Janik. How can limiting the decision to citizens in a proposed URA be any better legally than citizens of a whole county that is tax-wise affected by an URA?

And since any local URA affects Oregon general school fund, wouldn't Janik's interpretation have some state-wide consequences?

Then Janik argues that "citizens" are not a "governing body". That's a good one. What happens to "taxation without representation" or the many other nomenclatures we can apply to this slippery slope of Janik's? Who governs us-not ourselves? Let's just not vote on anything anymore because we have attorneys like Janik that can find word tricks. He summaries with "Board of Commissioners is, therefore, the 'governing body' for purposes of activating the urban renewal agency."

But maybe we can play a trick too. Note he wrote "activating the urban renewal agency". That is just an "agency". Voters want to be able to vote on whether to enact an "urban renewal area", not an "agency".

One of Steve Janik's most famous "arguments" is when he represented a developer who wanted to build an 11 story office building right on the edge of the Willamette River in Johns Landing several years ago. It is in the Willamette Greenway Zone requiring buildings "to be similar in scale to nearby neighbors" and to have a stepped down of height to the river. Janik argued before Council, with a straight face, that the proposed building was similar in scale to the nearest taller building 4 miles away in downtown Portland. The stepdown argument, even though building in the near vicinity was shown to average between 1 and 2 stories, was that the building proposed had 8 foot projections of the building that were decreasing in height on the river side. Clever. The neighborhood association prevailed through LUBA on getting 5 stories.

Things look like they will be lawyering up for M3-371. And it should if citizens of Oregon are being denied voting rights.

It sounds like the classic case of big players with big money paying for big lawyers to squash the little player with little or no money and no lawyer.

Get ready for 19th century transportation infrastructure, 19th century sewer, waste, and public health, 19th century police and public safety, 19th century diseases, and 19th century robber barons.

"Shut up and give us all your money"

Based on the initials at the end, Ball Janik's letter was written by Mr. Janik's partner, Dana L. Krawczuk.

Isaac, from my proper letter writing understanding the initials at the end of the letter STJ:DLK stands for Steve Janik with DLK meanng the typist.

If Krawczuk wrote it, why does the stationary letterhead at top have Janik's name-why not writer's own stationary?

"so the county is limited to the scope of authority granted to it"

So the county has enough power to approve a URA, but not enough to have the voters to say NO to a URA?

This whole paper Ball-Janik wrote is so much dance around, my head spins and ears bleed.

To me it says, if you write enough weasel words into any law, you can exclude voter input.

Lee, the practice I've most often seen is that the author's initial's are capitalized and the transcriber's initials are in lower case. I'd agree with you if the tag was "STJ:dlk." If a letter is written by one attorney for another to sign, and then typed by an assistant, the initials at the end would look like "STJ:DLK:cf". My guess is that the letter was long and complex enough that, rather than try to dictate it, Ms. Krawczuk wrote it on her keyboard.

Let's just consider this experiment with American Democracy a failure and go back to plain old fashioned Oligarchy.

Or mob rule. Either one would be better.

Time for some voter-approved amendments to the State Constitution.

Surely most of Oregon can see the crap coming out of Portland and would be happy to vote "no!" even though much of it might not be of direct consequence.

One could ban urban renewal districts.

Another could ban subsidies to developers using transportation funding.

Another could ban transit projects without an explicit vote of the people who would pay for it.

Let's see...one could shut down the OLCC. Another could separate out the Port of Portland's maritime and aviation businesses, and PDX could be privatized and turned into a tax-paying entity.

Erik H.
Some good ideas.
It is time to put efforts into stopping the agenda around here. Simply going to meetings or council doesn't work. Voting for the insiders doesn't work.

Clackamas County is the battle front stopping the agenda and the rebellion has an impressive alliance.

On the black hat side Metro is ganging up with the County Commisssioners and staff to defeat the rebellion. Metro fears this could mean the end of UR and that they are next so the little farce of reaching out to conservatives to "opt-in" has to put put on hold.

I guess they figure they can pick up the pretense after that stamp out the uprising?

In reality their resitance is futile, the white hats will win and they are next.

From Lake Oswego to Wilsonville to Damascus/Boring, Clackamas County to Clark County the TriMet/Metro goose is cooked.

Their attempt to reassemble Humpty Dumpty is laughable and enjoyable.

So anyone wanting to help do what ever you can think of to pile on and do damage.

Including urging a no vote for Beaverton's Urban Renewal scam.

That would close the loop & noose on the Portland Agenda.

Clackamas citizen's win would show the Portland citizens it can be done, which is why the insiders want this to stop. Portland citizens have been bombarded so some feel it is futile, yet others are not willing to just lay down despite the abuse we have had here.

It is hypocrisy how Blue Oregon and media combs the contributor lists to the petition to place urban renewal for voter approval. But they fail to highlight the contributors to the recent pro vehicle tax for the Sellwood Bridge, and now the contributors to anti urban renewal vote.

The bureaucrat/pols contributor list is mostly resplendent with those financially benefiting from all the tenacles of urban renewal: attorneys, developers, lightrail/trolley builders, architects-engineers, consultants and property owners directly benefiting.

But those on the opposite side who mostly aren't directly or even indirectly benefited are smeared. And there are unions, other concerned governmental agencies losing operation funds who are even speaking up, and they are smeared.

I hope to be fair the anti-vote side is highlighted. Since much of present funding for the anti-vote position is coming from government itself (ourselves), that is an atrocity. And the Secretary of State needs to review the propriety of government (Clackamas Co. Commission, Planning Bureaus, Metro, TriMet, etc.) spending taxpayer money to try to stop a vote. The recent Secretary of State's application of law for PPS applies to governmental no-vote efforts, it is criminal.

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