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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bureaucratic Mystery of the Week

Helping students stay in school is a great cause, and helping them get into college with the financial aid they deserve is, too. But why is Portland City Hall involved in it, and in particularly, why is the city's parks department in the picture? The parks department does not even have the money to maintain its assets. Why is it also doing what the school board should be doing?

Comments (10)

Oh, no. We have several similar programs with agencies in Dallas, and the goal is laudable. The problem in Dallas is that the programs, and the subsequent jobs in the agency, go to children and friends of political patrons, with the idea of cementing power within the agency. (And if that wasn't bad enough, then you get different factions within the organization fighting each other over which kid or friend's kid gets the latest workfare position. Thirteen years ago, I worked for one such agency, and lasted three months before moving on. It wasn't just that most of these patronage positions were filled with characters charitably described as "free-range Soylent Green." It was that the only thing they cared about was keeping the other side from getting an advantage, to the detriment of the whole agency.)

I have no idea why this is a Parks project. But meanwhile, the Bureau is shopping around a list of proposed cuts, including possibly shutting all rest rooms at parks and ending regular trash pick-up. These seem like pretty essential services, compared with college enrollment assistance.

Hard to say what the thinking is behind this. Could be standard liberal thinking where every perceived problem must have a government directed, taxpayer funded solution.

Or it could be that Sam likes young men so he has a staffer out trolling for them on the public's dime.

I think I agree with the triffid rancher. It has the odor of some sort of a preferred patronage thing. Who qualifies for assistance? Who makes the decision?

Also, the Parks Bureau is another pot to raid for special purposes.

The Parks Dept. is a partner, the funding is from the Mayor's Office. Most of these trainings and workshops will be taking place in community centers - run by the Parks Dept. These centers, unlike schools, are open in the evening - if you want to open a school when it is usually closed there are a lot of costs/personnel involved. Also, they have some of the equipment (computers) already onsite and paid for.

It says in the article:

"Future Connect is funded by a grant the Mayor's Office secured from Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). Currently, VISTA members work as community strategy coordinators at Matt Dishman, East Portland and Mt. Scott Community Centers."

Those volunteers are already working out of Parks Dept. community centers...makes sense to me.

While I agree that schools should hve better college prep offices and counselors to staff them...well, they just don't. At least this gives kids and their families who need that help necessary resources.

I am a skeptic by nature, esp. regarding public funds and what is done with them (I've done nonprofit grants work for over 20 years, don't even get me started ;o)...but even I think this is fine and appropriate. IMO, nothing to see here, move on.

The VISTA volunteers at the community centers might have been free, or if not, certainly much cheaper than 3 city FTEs. They're "white-collar" volunteers part of the AmeriCorps program. Depending on need, Parks might have gotten them for free (subsidized by federal taxpayers), or they agreed to "cost-share" them, in which case they would have paid around $10-$15K per year per VISTA. I know, paying for "volunteers" seems oxymoronic (or just moronic), but the VISTAs can take on just about all of the responsibilities a low-level Parks employee would be given for a fraction of the salary, bennies, and PERS that would have to be paid for that Parks employee. And helping the kids is probably just one of their duties along with other, more parks-and-recreation oriented tasks.

I see the $500,000 for scholarships as being the sketchier element here. I could be misremembering, but I think Sam got that money out of the Water Bureau and/or the $20 million in construction "savings" he diverted from BES.

Good heavens, Jack. I'm surprised at you.

The Parks Department is involved so that the city can siphon off whatever cash can be made off with to do whatever it wants with it.

Think Water Bureau.

I fully expect a future increase in taxes "earmarked" to maintain the city's beautiful parks as havens for drunks, gangstas, intravenous drug users, Occupiers, and other assorted lowlifes.

500K of general fund money (no matter the label) should not be spent on scholarships period.

This is the same parks bureau that is currently proposing to close two community centers (Fulton and Hillside) so the will be able to water non-sports field grass over the summer.

Yes, let's close down numerous thriving preschool programs so the grass can get watered. Just plain stupid.

If the city can give away money to "non-profit" X for no reason at all then they can do the same for non-profit Y. It is just a wide open door to be arbitrary. The most appropriate way to close the door is to stop ALL gifting to non-profits from extracted tax money -- and likewise to stop ALL tweaks to make non-sense "pencil out" with a profit.

I am a non-profit.

Just think of tax dollars like you would the .22 in State v. Florea, 296 Or 500 (1984)

Defendant's main attack is on the phrase "official duties." The phrase is not further defined in the criminal code. Defendant argues that because the statute applies to a great variety of public servants whose duties are not fixed by any law, written job description, or other document, judges and juries will not be able to refer to any fixed standard, and potential defendants themselves cannot clearly determine just what their "official duties" are. We doubt that the reference to "official duties" poses a genuine problem. If there is a problem, it is in determining what is "unauthorized."

The statute requires these elements: (1) The defendant must be a "public servant."2 (2) He or she must knowingly perform an act. (3) The act must be performed "in" his or her official duties; that is to say, in the defendant's official capacity, exercising the powers or opportunities available by virtue of his or her official position. (4) The act must be an unauthorized exercise of this official capacity, power, or opportunity. (5) The act must be done "with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another." Neither a public servant nor a judge or jury should have a conceptual problem with the requirement that the act be performed in one's official capacity or in exercising the power of one's official position, although this of course may be a disputed factual issue in a given case.3 Certainly this element should pose no question of definiteness for a police chief who appropriates for his personal disposition firearms confiscated by the police in the course of law enforcement.

What is "unauthorized" will often be a conclusion of law on which a judge will instruct the jury. It may be an issue of fact when there is a dispute what directives were given an employee by his or her superior and the purported directives did not exceed permissible authorization as a matter of law. Again, no such issue of purported authorization is presented in this case. The statute does not leave a judge or, under proper instructions, a jury with unconstrained discretion to define a crime. Even though a question of a public servant's authority may be one of first impression in a court, it is governed by sources of law and delegated authorization outside the criminal code itself, sources to which a public official in any event must turn in order properly to understand his or her job. If there is vagueness, it does not lie in ORS 164.415(1) (b). The trial court did not err in overruling defendant's demurrer to the indictment.

Meanwhile I am trying to figure out how best to politely tell the General Counsel of the Oregon State Bar (and the AG) that this also applies for the contract between the OSB and FastCase. No public servant likes to have their hands tied. It is like a personal challenge to their moral integrity or something. They take it as a personal affront, as a gratuitous insult. The ordinary demands of democracy are deemed to be the real evil.

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