Portland’s Version of ‘Crash’? Will There be a Investigation into the Misuse of Gov’t Funds in Portland?

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Portland’s version of Crash?

It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

The O fails to connect any dots but does bring up a point it has most assiduously ignored for years, how come the same developers get the city gigs? How come programs go wanting but spending on new bells and whistles for Portland continue unabated? Aren’t these the same folks who are also in favor of investigating the Bush administration’s ties to Halliburton because it gets great government gigs?

“Since 2004, Portland’s city center has been abuzz with new landmarks: a Pearl District theater, a renovated 1920s-era building topped by a day spa and the hip Jupiter Hotel. Up next, The Nines luxury hotel in 2008.

One feature connects them: All were made possible by tax breaks Uncle Sam intended to revive America’s poor neighborhoods.

“In some instances, this program — though well-intentioned — has actually ended up lining developers’ pockets for development they were already planning . . . rather than encouraging them to develop in low-income areas,” said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group in Washington, D.C.”

Here’s a piece by Randal O’Toole of the Thoreau Institute , a transportation and planning think-tank in Oregon, on the political and other kinds of bargains the city–and region–makes when doing these kinds of deals. Here are a few of the details (and all of it here).

” On September 17, 2006, developer Homer Williams sat down to dinner at the Bluehour, “the premier modern restaurant in the Pearl District” (see http://tinyurl.com/yzvaxc). From his perch on the Bluehour’s patio, Williams could look with satisfaction at the condos, lofts, restaurants, and shops in the Pearl District, Portland’s trendy
near-downtown neighborhood. After all, Williams had built most of
them.
Of course, Williams did not develop the Pearl District by himself. He
had a lot of help from his friend Neil Goldschmidt, now disgraced as
a child molester but once the most powerful man in Oregon (see
http://ti.org/vaupdate60.html). Soon after Goldschmidt retired as
Oregon’s governor in 1991, he started working as a political
consultant and Williams hired him to help with various developments.
Goldschmidt used his contacts as former Portland mayor, Oregon
governor, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation to funnel millions of
dollars of public subsidies to Williams’ developments.
Prodded by Goldschmidt, the city of Portland has given ten years of
property tax waivers to some $100 million of developments in the
downtown area, including many of the developments in the Pearl
District. Other developments receive subsidies through tax-increment
financing, which means that the property taxes they pay go to
directly subsidize the development.
These developments all impose costs on Portland police, fire, and
other services, but since they pay so little taxes someone else has
to pay those costs. As Portland cannot raise taxes without voter
approval, these costs are often covered by cutting the budgets of
other agencies.
As Williams ate his dinner, one thing in his view was not so pleasant. On the sidewalk outside the restaurant, police had a man in custody (see http://tinyurl.com/y988ex). The man was on the ground with his hands and feet restrained, surrounded by police. It struck Williams as strange only because everything was so “casual” (see http://tinyurl.com/y2vbtu).
But it wasn’t casual for the 42-year-old man on the ground, Jim
Chasse. Known to his friends as Jim Jim, Chasse was a talented
musician and had been lead singer in a punk-rock band. But then he
mysteriously came down with schizophrenia. As long as he took his
medicines, he was fine, but sometimes he forgot.
On September 15, two days before Williams saw Chasse in custody, an overworked mental health worker named Ela Howard received a report that Chasse was not eating and probably not taking his medicines. Howard works for Project Respond, a Portland non-profit that works with homeless people and relies heavily on private contributions. Accompanied by a police officer, Howard went to Chasse’s low-rent apartment a few blocks outside of the Pearl District (see http://tinyurl.com/y5oeu6)…
In 2004, Portland dedicated a new $59-million jail, including
$600,000 for art works in the jail. But the region doesn’t have the
funds to open it, so the jail remains empty. Crime rates are
increasing and the county sheriff has had to release inmates early,
at least one of whom murdered someone a few days after being let out (see http://tinyurl.com/ykehso).
Although budgets for police, jails, mental health, and other programs
have all been cut, Portland continues to approve heavy subsidies for
high-density developments like the Pearl District. When he wasn’t
distracted by law enforcement or Bluehour’s menu, Homer Williams
probably gave some thought to the South Waterfront development, which Williams is currently building with hundreds of millions of dollars of public subsidies (see http://bojack.org/images/sowhatdebtsvc.pdf)…
Mayor Potter says the problem is lack of funding for mental health,
and he wants to spend $500,000 to train police to better deal with
the mentally ill. But Portland law professor Jack Bogdanski (see
http://bojack.org) suggests that the real question is: why does
Portland continue to subsidize Homer Williams’ high-density
developments when funding is so short for police, mental health,
fire, and other critical programs?

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

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11 thoughts on “Portland’s Version of ‘Crash’? Will There be a Investigation into the Misuse of Gov’t Funds in Portland?

  1. I have questions.
    1) Who are these people, who are the same people approving the tax subsidies to these Portland developers and also wanting Bush’s ties with Haliburton investigated. Are these even the same people?
    Isn’t one group city and the other federal? Are you tying them together only because they are in the same Political party? I think both major political parties are highly corrupt and huge amounts of our tax dollars go to help line the pockets of those who already have money and power.

    2) Who has the power to stop the tax subsidies going to these developments? What I am asking, is what can be done about it now (as opposed to what poor decisions were made already and can not be undone).

    3) What are you going to do about it (besides complain), because someone needs to do something. What are you asking us to do besides agree with you?

    Maybe we can turn the unused jail into some sort of art museum. We can charge admission. We can add more art, maybe even art done by inmates across the country. I see an idea for a themed tourist attraction. Maybe even a themed restaurant with mostly inmate labor.

  2. The same people calling on the Bush administration to get out of Iraq, who give wide latitude to anti fur (and other members of the professional protester class), you know those people. The city.

  3. Most of the directorships of the developer who’s on the gravy train for the west side of downtown are filled by former City of Portland Planning Dept. employees.

  4. Why do you throw the question back at me and make me think about the answer?

    I do sometimes ask questions because I don’t know (and I do want to know) the answers.
    I admit to other times asking only to get someone else to think about the answer. Other times I am just being a smart-aleck and adding no value at all (but I am working on minimizing this).
    This time I am really curious as to the answer, and do not already know it.

    I guess I could boycott the Bluehour and other establishments this guy developed. In fact I could protest, with signs, informing the patrons about this guys activities. I don’t think either of these actions would be very effective, although they might make me feel better.
    (My personal boycott list is getting longer all the time, and I am certain it has no real effect on anything except for limiting where I can buy the things I need and/or want).

    I am sure there are better, more effective courses of action one can take.

  5. Victoria, Maybe someone should direct questions to Homer as to why the ity of Portland, namely, Mayor?Taliban Tommy and his gang of toadies on the City Council, did not do some thing to put a stop to the gang of hoodlum anarchists terrorizing Schumacher Furs to the point where they are leaving the city for points unknown.

    The Mayor? and the Toadies are the government-in-name only of the City of Portland. But, now we know who really runs the place, it is the anarchist hoodlums along with their appeasing deputies, Critical Mass. This bunch can do just about anything they want and get away with it, but let a legitimate business try to stay in business, like the Schumachers, and the Mayor? and the Toadies look the other way.

    Maybe some of the other high-end business should follow Schumacher’s lead and move out, too.

  6. If there is to be an investigation into the misuse of government monies in Portland, perhaps the investigators should look first into the salaries of Taliban Tommy and the Toadies. No there is a misuse of government money if there ever was one.

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