Friday, April 28, 2006

Flushing your dollars down the drain ...

Portland's Voter Owned Elections Taxpayer Funded Elections are circling the drain and leaving skids.

Now it's revealed that Portland utility customers (presumably water and sewer customers) contributed $284,000 this year for public financing of City Council campaigns.

Even though the water and sewer departments are owned and operated by the City, they are enterprises. As enterprises, IIRC, the City cannot earn a "profit" on these departments to cross subsidize (e.g.) the general fund. However, the Oregonian story suggests that water and sewer fees are being used to fund City elections.

Voter owned? Nope. Taxpayer funded? Yes and more ...

Portland is the first city in the country with Poo Powered Elections!

Just keep flushing, we'll make more.

Urban renewal mischief

Urban renewal is a scam. It "works" where it isn't needed (Ex. A: Pearl District), and fails where it is (Ex. B: Gateway).

The Central Eastside Urban Renewal Area was formed in 1986. Twenty years later, all we have to show for it is the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. One wag remarked that naming it after Katz was the only way to get her to visit Portland's Eastside.

Now, PDC is quietly attempting to extend the life of the Central Eastside Urban Renewal Area. The Commission voted 4-0 to extend the life another 8 years and bump the debt limit by another 34 percent.

But, this time we'll going to get a STREETCAR! Eastsiders have been pining for a streetcar ever since the Belmont trolleys stopped running decades ago. A STREETCAR! Just imagine all the transit oriented development we'll get. A STREETCAR! The increases in property taxes will pay for improvements many times over. A STREETCAR!

After 28 years of urban renewal, the Central Eastside will have a needle-strewn esplanade, some sort of mixed-use dealy at the Burnside Bridgehead, and a STREETCAR.

Hurry up, PDC. The next City Council may not be so amenable to urban renewal.

How Dan Saltzman lost the vote

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman was a tough call. He supported the Aerial Tram from Day 1. He created the Office of Sustainable Development. He pimped the Children's Initiative which clearly stepped over the City-County division of labor. But the #1 thing he did that would have earned a vote was his vigorous push for reform of Portland's biggest money suck, the police and fire disability system.

Today, the Oregonian reports that he has flopped again and decided to "appease the unions" and support Policeman Potter's plan.

That's one less vote for Saltzman and one more write-in for my cat.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Tram with a linchpin?

Webster defines a linchpin as a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft). The OHSU and it newspaper, characterize it as a dazzling tram that zaps doctors and patients from Pill Hill to the South Waterfront.

With the Oregonian's lastest linchpin linking, the Wino started to wonder where did all this linchpin nonsense begin?

After some digging, I found the first reference the Tram-as-linchpin in this piece by [drumroll] Randy Gragg (Sunday Oregonian, June 23, 2002):

The tram, to proponents like Williams, is the linchpin in a network of streetcar lines and light-rail lines to downtown, the central eastside and Lake Oswego. With OHSU at its center, Williams thinks, North Macadam could become an educational magnet for collaborative and branch programs from Oregon's entire university system -- "the best of the best," he says -- resulting in the major research campus the city has long lacked.

According to Kohler, Phase 2 discussions are under way for a new dental school, a new facility for OHSU and Oregon State University's joint college of pharmacy, a joint Portland State University/OHSU bioengineering building and possibly a new facility for Beaverton-based Oregon Graduate Institute.

But in a classic developers' poker gambit, OHSU and Williams' group say all bets are off without the tram and streetcar.

"This isn't brain surgery," Williams says. "We've got problems on that hill. Trams are all over the world. They're proven. It's not a toy. It's about connections and people's time.

The price tag according to Gragg: $10.2 million to $15.85 million.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Followup: Stay away from OHSU

Front page of today's Oregonian reaffirms by advice to avoid surgery at OHSU at all costs. If one of their surgeons or "agents" botches the operation, their liability is capped at $200,000. The mother of the boy featured in the story sums it up perfectly:
If I had known about this, I never would have trusted OHSU with my son.

Peter Demand-a-Tram Kohler's response:
We provide services to lots of folks, and we have a of of missions that are important to the public. Where do we want to spend the dollars? For the greater good, or for a few individuals who would benefit substantially?

Ouch, Peter.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Erik Sten's stock photos

Erik Sten is using his "clean money" seed funds to purchase ads on BlueOregon. Hmm ... I thought seed money could only be used to collect $5 contributions ...

Anyway, curiosity caused be to click on over to his homepage. I love political homepages. I'd love to see the campaign experts ($$$) explain what pictures to put on there: old folks, minorities, and kids. Sten's got 'em all.

In four pictures, he was able to get one woman, one silver hair (but she doesn't look all that old), two children, and two African-Americans. Good show.

Bad choice of colors on the name plate. This is a Seahawks town, Erik.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cell phones for schools

The Oregonian weighs in on Portland's school funding problems by suggesting a 1-year 5% tax on wireless service cell phones.

These sorts of taxes are troubling. There is no linkage between the thing being taxed and the service being provided. Why tax cell phones? How about coffee or microbrews or hamburgers? Why not every good or service that is sold?

In the rest of the world such taxes are called sales taxes. We can't have sales taxes in Oregon because the electorate won't allow it.

A cell phone tax is a sales tax. Cell providers sell a service and the City would slap on 5% to the bill. If it quacks like a duck ...

This is not too surprising from the O. From time to time, the O shoots lustful glances at the sales tax. In 2003, the editorial board twice recommended a statewide sales tax.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

From the Out of Thin Air Department

Well over 80 articles and opinion pieces link or unlink the Portland Aerial Tram with $1.9 billion in investments in Portland's South Waterfront. No article--not a single one--questions the number. Where did the $1.9 billion number come from?

A footnote. A footnote citing a "developer forecast." I have no idea who that developer could be.

Whose Tram is it?

Reading the Tribune the other day, I noticed that they described the [rimshot] as the OHSU aerial tram.

So what?

From about 2003 until recently, the press recited the party line by describing it as the Portland aerial tram. (This was promulgated by the PR flaks at PATI to make the public think they "owned" the tram ... there's that ownership thing again.)

What was it called before 2003? The OHSU aerial tram.

"Instanbul was Constantinople
Now its Istanbul, not Constantinople ..."

Portland doublespeak

Willamette Week is reporting that the attempt to repeal what the City calls "Voter Owned Elections" likely has failed.

The program was originally called "Clean Money" but none of the commissioners could identify anyone--or admit to--taking "dirty" money. From this backseat fumbling was conceived "Voter Owned Elections."

But wait, are they really voter owned? Of course not. They are taxpayer financed and there is no ownership to speak of. Almost every voter pays taxes, but not every taxpayer is a voter. This is typical of Erik Sten's initiatives: a complicated programs that shift dollars from tax payers to tax consumers with ownership in quotes.