Expose Your Local Government Debt

How much debt does your local Oregon government — that’s you — owe? To determine your personal share, get a “preliminary official statement” (POS). A POS is a “plain English” document created before bonds are sold, as Jack Bogdanski covered in his Sept. 28, 2007 blog “Portland: A city deep in hock.”

After reviewing a recent city POS, Bogdanski calculated “the average man, woman or child living in Portland right now owes around $7,500 in long-term debt to individuals and corporations who own the city’s bonds.” Add in the debt of Multnomah County, Metro, Tri-Met, Portland Community College and Portland School District, and Bogdanski’s math calculates per capita city resident debt around $8,200. This figure, of course, does not include state and federal debt.

Bogdanski explains, “the “˜POS,’ as it’s known, has to be written in plain English. It’s essentially a sales pitch, but by law, it must disclose all the material facts that an investor would reasonably want to know in deciding whether to invest in the city’s IOU’s. Financial institutions that buy bonds (i.e., lend big bucks) don’t want hundreds of pages of hide-the-ball data”¦. No, they demand the straight skinny.”

The skyrocketing national debt gets much attention. However, more light should be thrown on local government debt throughout Oregon and the rest of the country. Expose the fiscal rot by getting a copy of a preliminary official statement and share it with your friends and local newspaper editors.