Portland Planning Poohbah Says, "We Are Broke"

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Portland’s top Professional Planning Poohbah says the era of big urban renewal plans financed by “Tax Increment Financing” is over and Portland is “broke.”

The Patrick Quinton declarations at a small advisory committee meeting this week were nothing short of shocking. And humorous. Because, of course, there’s a whole cadre of fiscally responsible adults who have been telling the Portland Professional Planning class for years that it can’t keep creating new and extending old urban renewal areas. URA’s are an excuse to overplan and, as a result, steal money from basic services such as police, fire and education. 

But what’s so galling about this statement is that Portland has just created seven new urban renewal areas. 

Uh, couldn’t you have made this statement to your bosses Mr.-Head-of-the-PDC BEFORE they’d created these waste-of-money initiatives? Where were you for the hand off? Oh, wait, you were probably on the cheer leading squad.

As I’ve reported in my series of posts called, “Cash for Cronies” here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. ) these new urban renewal areas are inappropriate, “radical” and unnecessary. Please read them and find out how much money the schools are losing because of EXISTING  URA’s. It should shock you. If it doesn’t you must work for the City.

Quinton declared during this meeting that the “era of TIF” is over. Gee, wonder why? “TIF” stands for “tax increment financing.” It’s a method of siphoning away an increase in property taxes and putting them back in the URA. They’re a favorite of the Professional Planning Class because these planners pretend the URA’s pay for themselves and don’t hurt the rest of the city but in fact help. I suppose that makes sense when you’re going from a blighted area and transforming it into an oasis. But that’s not what’s going on here (PLEASE read my posts for explanation on that). Perhaps the answer is found in his following remark. This is a paraphrase of what he said,

The new Education UR district partners are PSU, PDC, CoP, PPS, Mult Co. & OHSU. 60% of the 144 acre URD is PSU. With other public property it is at least 70% non-taxed. So 30% of the property will have to provide the TIF to repay the $ 169 million UR Debt over the 28 year life of the plan.

The largest of the new urban renewal areas is mostly government property. Told you. For you gullible ones out there: Government property is already OFF the tax rolls. GOVERNMENT. DOESN’T. PAY. PROPERTY TAXES (well not many anyway –see posts for explainer). The remaining private properties subsumed into this phony “education URA” (a “radical” use of the designation according to a local government official as you’ll see in my posts) will be bled to pay for the $169 million cost of the urban renewal area. 

Quinton also declared the South Waterfront a success but said there was no more money to put into it. 

SoWa a success? What happened to those thousands of bio tech jobs PROMISED so that there would be someone to live in Homer Williams’ Condomania? That’s where the new “education URA” comes in again. It turns out that the Zidell family will now build Portland State University’s student housing In SoWa. 

Portland State University was developed to be a commuter school. An old timer told me the promise was made never to build student housing. But what the heck. If you can give Zidell a gig to build student housing in the dead zone known as SoWa; if you can at the same time give Portland State University a freebie housing project; if you can give Sam Adams his legacy ‘Sustainability Center’; if Lincoln High School is given some spiffing up; if Multnomah County can get a health building on PSU’s campus, then everybody’s happy, right?

Well, everybody except the tax payers. Who thought the City’s main job was to provide for public safety, not disembowel the funding by giving it elsewhere, plead poverty and ‘jack more out our pockets in increased fees. 

Does Tony Rezko’s name come up somewhere along the line here? I wouldn’t be surprised. 

Welcome to Chicago, uh, Portland.

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