Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

It Appears Those “Ankle Biting Hounds From Whinerville” Were Right

Oh those “Ankle biting hounds from Whinerville” as the Columbian’s editorial page editor John Laird so eloquently described those who have spoken out in opposition of the Columbia River crossing project. They’ve been ridiculed, demeaned, shouted down, gaveled down, marginalized and mostly ignored. Speaking out against the CRC, especially the loot rail component of the project has been treated as blasphemy by supporters such as John Laird and others at the Columbian.

But they didn’t stop, they kept speaking out, writing letters, holding meetings, scheduling seminars inviting experts from all walks knowledgeable about such projects. Seeing that some $130 Million was spent with nothing to show for it, cronyism in people hired and paid quite handsomely for producing very little and questions continually ignored, Vancouver Businessman David Madore, at his expense, hired a forensic auditor to go through the mountains of documents finally given under a FOIA request.

It’s an old tactic to flood a ton of documents, many unrelated when trying to hide what is really there. The concept is the one seeking information will get bored with pouring over frivolous papers and either give up or miss what is right before their eyes.

It didn’t work.

Irregularities were discovered and made public by Mr. Madore, Josephine Wentzel, candidate for city council and the auditor, Tiffany Couch.

Lo and behold, after weeks of still ignoring the ABHFW (Ankle Biting Hounds from Whinerville), Oregon news outlets began looking a little closer. In fact, a lot closer than our friends at the Columbian, who claim they are “Serving Clark County”, have.

The Willamette Week treated us to exposes’ in June HERE and HERE by Pulitzer Prize Winner Nigel Jaquiss.

The Oregonian, finally opening their eyes followed suit with Columbia River Crossing has spent $130 million, without lifting a shovel, In the Columbia River Crossing bridge game, we’re the dummies and Traffic estimates on Columbia River Crossing further muddy the financial picture.

While the Willamette Week and the Oregonian were digging and discovering questionable procedures and accounting of the CRC, the Columbian lauds CRC Director Nancy Boyd with New Crossing chief orders internal audit, which, given what was pointed out both by Oregon media and Mr. Madore for so many months is totally unacceptable. An internal audit at this time would be little more than the fox guarding the hen house.

In late June, we read in the Columbian how a majority of the Vancouver City Council accepted the Columbia River Crossing’s draft Final Environmental Impact Statement, even as Oregon media was beginning to publish problems they were discovering with the CRC.

Even earlier in June the Columbian made an effort to discredit a Willamette Week claim as it began circulation around the county.

I was a bit surprised yesterday afternoon, about a half hour after Victoria Taft and I discussed some of the questionable findings on her AM 860 afternoon radio program, that the Columbian apparently rushed to publish an initial article, Bridge tolls may fall $598M short Report challenges CRC’s assumptions, suggests pre-tolling still trying to paint a positive picture of this boondoggle.

That was followed Thursday with, Oregon treasurer questions traffic, toll revenue for new I-5 bridge but still trying to paint a gilded edge on this monstrosity.

Ignored by the Columbian but reported by the Oregonian, in CRC Director Nancy Boyd’s claims of seeing “no red flags” in CRC accounting,

“Because the CRC could not find a qualified “traffic consultant” in the Portland metro area, the empire builders hired David Parisi of Mill Valley, Calif., and paid $19,200 to help cover rent on his Pearl District apartment. Parisi’s consulting company — which doesn’t have a working website — has billed CRC more than $1.4 million.”

“Shortly after EnviroIssues hired communications director Linda Mullen away from the Washington State Department of Transportation in 2006, EnviroIssues was graced with a PR contract for the bridge project. The firm’s billings for this public-relations disaster now top $5 million.”

“At the behest of the Oregon Department of Transportation, the CRC hired Tom Markgraf, a former aide for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and paid him more than $1 million to chaperone public hearings and schmooze the body politic over four years. Eventually, lo and behold, Markgraf’s son, Peter, was also drawing a CRC paycheck.”

Would you trust the above to be clarified by an internal audit?

Washington 49th legislative district representative Jim Moeller, representing the district that will be affected the most by the CRC chimed in with a comment,

“Pre-tolling is a common process considered in the rest of the state and it should be considered for this project,” and unbelievably also says, “I, along with the rest of my constituents would rather walk into this project with our financial eyes open. Transparency is the key to understanding this complicated project.”

If anything, he and other elected members of the ruling class have tightened their financial blinders and raced ahead with a full head of steam, ignoring, gaveling down and shouting down any request for transparency by citizens and Mr. Madore.

If we had had transparency all along, perhaps we wouldn’t have wasted over $130 Million and not have even a shovel full of dirt turned for it.

No, instead we see acerbic editorial page editor for the Columbian slurring us with childish names like Ankle Biters and Hounds from Whinerville.

I also have little doubt he will pen yet another editorial addressing the issues discovered.

I also have little doubt it will go something like, “will have little or no effect blah, blah, blah ankle biters, blah, blah, blah, hounds from whinerville, blah, blah, blah, stopping progress, blah, blah, blah Republicans, blah, blah, blah tea party, blah, blah, blah but Texas does, blah, blah, blah racism, blah, blah, blah, it’s all Bush’s fault.”

Personally, I’m very thankful that we do have “Ankle Biting Hounds from Whinerville.”

Someone has to have the best interests of taxpayers and citizens in mind.

It sure hasn’t been the Columbian, the Vancouver City Council, the Columbia River Crossing, the Governor’s Office or most of the State Legislature.

Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com

Developer Asks For Tax Break, But Doesn’t Mind You Paying More Tax

Millionaire developer Ellie Kassab is raising controversy in Vancouver again. Now he has approached the city council asking for a tax break for his planned 92 unit apartment complex he desires to build on the soon to be torn down site of the Mill Plan downtown Burgerville.

According to Kassab, his multi-million dollar project “won’t pencil out” unless city council agrees to “limit property tax assessments to the land beneath his proposed 92-unit apartment complex and its ground-floor commercial spaces, while allowing him to forego taxes on the upper three stories of the buildings for the next 12 years.”

How many homeowners in Vancouver or Clark County would like a deal like that to help with their homes in today’s economic downturn?

Kassab, it should be remembered, caused a stir in town back in April 2007 when he purchased the old Police Station for a measly $200,000, while the median price for single family homes in Vancouver was $260,000.

How was he able to buy “a half block of downtown, including a multistory building” for less than the median price of a home?

According to former Columbian writer, Jeffery Mize in his May 9, 2007 article “Closer look: City building sale – Prestige Plaza site price explained,” Kassab and the city “negotiated the value.”

According to Mize’s article, “PGP Valuation Inc. of Vancouver appraised the property at $170,000. If the city cleared the site and removed hazardous materials, such as asbestos tiles and lead-based paint, the property would be worth $600,000.”

Three years earlier, former Clark County Assessor Linda Franklin appraised it at $3.8 Million using what they call the “cost approach,” which is “how much it would cost to rebuild the current structure and not how much the property is worth for redevelopment purposes.”

That was the official explanation given, make of it or take it as you wish. Burgerville wasn’t too pleased then with the plan as it would have obscured the tiny walk-up restaurant.

A May 10, 2007 editorial “In Our View: Openness Please” quotes then city Councilman Tim Leavitt saying the sale is “perceived as a behind-the-scenes, behind-closed-doors, disposition of public property.”

The editorial goes on to state, “But it is understandable that some residents might think favoritism was at play and that the city should have advertised the property to the highest bidder rather than settled with Kassab for $200,000. City staff and the council ignore the perception of favoritism at their political peril.”

The Burgerville concern is no more, now that Kassab stepped up and bought the restaurant and property for $750,000 this past March.

In April 2011 Kassab made a $4 Million sale of property to the Port of Ridgefield with the term “to reinvest at least $1 million in another property purchased within the port’s 57-square-mile district.”

According to that Columbian article, “Kassab said he is considering one of two sites that are situated closer to the I-5 junction. There he expects to develop the 12-plex cinema and retail complex that he had originally planned for the 17-acre site.”

I am not averse to the idea of anyone making just as much money as possible, as long as it is honest and not on taxpayers’ backs. Especially given that we are still mired in the “Great Recession” with apparently no end in sight.

What does disturb me in this request for a tax break is, with the notion being floated of socking the struggling middle class with an “entertainment tax” to pay the lion’s share of a baseball stadium to house the Yakima Bears in their planned move to Vancouver, Kassab said of that tax on moviegoers, “If that is what it is going to take to bring economic development, then I am not going to oppose it,” adding it is their choice.

The previous year when Battle Ground was discussing such an entertainment tax, Kassab was dead against it.

It should be remembered that recently as seniors and disabled living downtown were told their free parking days were over, Ellie Kassab, who developed the Lewis and Clark Plaza and the center of that controversy, was said to have “dropped the ball” over supplying adequate parking at that facility.

As I recall, there was a question raised then about waivers being given to developers to supply adequate parking, the help them trim their cost of constructing downtown residences, no doubt so those projects would “pencil out.”

Kassab is quoted in a June 11 Letter to the Editor “There’s no free lunch in this world; we all have to pay our share.”

It appears to me that while Kassab and others like him are not exactly receiving free lunches from city council, they are getting a discounted lunch you and I in the struggling middle class are not entitled to.

Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com

Portland’s Rainbow City Council Bans Plastic Bags; Threatens Future Bans

The Portland City Council adopted by a 5-nothing vote an ethylene bag ban at only large supermarkets. The ban allows granola stores, newspapers, dog poop and fresh veggie bags to stay. For now. The ban on the bags goes into effect October 15.
Pleased with himself for banning a product he personally doesn’t like, Mayor Sam Adams threatened more bans in the future,

“This is another step in a longer journey,” Mayor Sam Adams said before casting the final of five “yes” votes this afternoon.

Adams’ previous ban proposals have included a 5 cent tax on paper bags, so Portlanders will wonder if that’s coming next.

Adams based his product ban on his claims of:

  • Plastic bags being a large part of the “Swirling mass of garbage twice the size of Texas off the Oregon Coast.”
  • Ethylene bags being “plastic.”
  • Ethylene being a foreign based petroleum product.
  • Ethylene bags being found in the stomachs of fish when when he was a boy in Newport.
  • Ethylene bags being a huge littering problem.
  • Ethylene bags getting caught up in recycling machines.
  • Ethylene bags produced by a Texas firm that he didn’t like very much.
  • Getting a photo op with the “Bag Monster.”
With the exceptions of the last three items all of the mayor’s objections to the bags were debunked and outed as outright fraudulent data, but he didn’t care and neither, it appears, did the Rainbow City Council.
In the meantime, Portland has had three shootings in the last 24 hours, a gang war is apparently underway in Portland, 40,000 jobs have fled the inner city in the last decade, the city has $3,000,000,000.00 in unfunded liabilities, the unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation, Portland’s housing has seen the fourth worst drop in the country, and even at that rate affordability is tough.
Under Sam Adams’ leadership we have now conquered the plastic bag.
Enjoy a victory which is as thin as the film on the bag. 

Mayor Adams on Single-Use Plastic Bags from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/bagban/bagban-faqs.pdf
Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com

Please Stop the Karaoke

I got this missive from the unfortunately named house member Tina Kotek 

What am I willing to do for marriage equality?
Dear Victoria,
I’m sure you’ve seen the emails – Basic Rights Oregon is raising money to send organizers around the state this summer. I know that summer gets busy, and it can be hard to make time to support good causes when all we want to do is enjoy the sunshine that finally came out today.
But this is a critical moment in time. We must take advantage of the time we have this summer – and the momentum from the New York vote – to build the support we need to move forward to the ballot.
So I’ve decided to up the ante. I’m laying down a challenge – if you help raise $7,500 by next week, I will challenge Mayor Sam Adams to a Karaoke contest at a Basic Rights Oregon summer garden party!

Sincerely,
State Rep. Tina Kotek
House District 44/NE Portland

Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com

Here’s Where The Zero is Cribbing its CRC Stories

Remember when they laughed at and gaveled down on folks who were calling attention to tolling and light rail on the Columbia River Crossing bridge project? Remember that?
The Vancouver City Council REFUSED to listen to these people. The Columbian columnists scoffed at them and called them names.The Mayor asked Josephine Wentzel ‘who was paying her’ to say she was opposed to tolls and light rail.
Bullying tactics, lying and outrageous behavior by institutional Vancouver and Portland media and bureaucrats attempted to portray businessman David Madore and others as slack jawed rubes who ‘just don’t understand’ that light rail is ‘good’ for us.
But Madore pressed on. He recently put together a day long seminar on the Columbia River Crossing. He hired with his own money a forensic accountant to find out where the money is being spent.
It seems the daily newspaper of record may have found the trove of excellent information about CRC from that seminar. I don’t see Madore’s name in any of the stories, Jeff Manning. You owe him that.
We’ll start our recap on the facts of the CRC with a presentation by Joe Cortright:

Thank you for leading, David Madore.

Tell ’em where you saw it. Http://www.victoriataft.com