Victoria Taft: Cash for Cronies – Part 3

by Victoria Taft

We’ll Leave the Blight on For Ya!

Is Portland State University a blighted area in need of urban renewal? Official Portland wants you to think so.

Portland State and Lincoln High are part of the latest urban renewal plan by the Portland planners. This novel— “radical” in the words of Multnomah County Commission Chair, Jeff Cogen–“education urban renewal” (URA) would create a pot of money to be used for the next 31 years to–do what exactly?

"Blighted" SW 12th & Market

Urban renewal areas are supposed to help mitigate urban blight. In the words of the brochure sent out to some Portland taxpayers, the Education Urban Renewal Area would,

“…provide $169 million for investment in educational facilities, business accelerators, affordable housing, and private development.”

"Blighted" SW 2nd & Columbia

But is this area in need of all those things? Is it blighted? Take a look at some of the areas of the proposed URA. Does this area look blighted?

"Blighted" SW Broaday & Columbia

This area has been the core of downtown Portland since Portland became Portland. This area is one of the most developed and nurtured in the state. Why put a swath of that land under an URA? I’ll get to that below.

As I’ve explained before, increases in property taxes (not all of the property taxes) on this property would be skimmed and collected in a pot of money to be used for the above improvements. This skimming is called tax increment financing or TIF. See the chart nearby for a primer on how this works.

(click here to make the image larger)

Instead of the increase in property taxes going to basic government functions: education, public safety and repairing street and roads, it would go into the pot of money to do what the planners want to do.

As you’ve read here, Lincoln High School is part of this E-URA.

Back in 2010 you read here that Portland Public Schools stood to lose $163 million in funding over the next five years to Portland’s ubiquitous URA’s (See the document from the PDC affirming this nearby). Why then would PPS sign off on SEVEN more (see these posts here and here about the others)?

(click here for a larger view of this chart)

Like everyone involved in these seven new URA’s, the cronies were bought off with your money. Lincoln was undoubtedly brought into the URA to get improvements voters turned down last year. A bloated $500 millon dollar bond measure went down in flames. As I noted in several blog posts at the time here, here, here, here, and and here (among others), the money would have gone to maintenance issues as well as rebuilding several schools. PPS overstated the maintenance issues in a bid for sympathy. Voters said yes to a levy for teachers salaries but no to the bond.

But the school superintendent and Portland’s “education mayor” Sam Adams aren’t taking no for an answer. Besides teeing up another bond measure and now they’re now participating in this end-run around voters.

But what’s Portland State University’s angle? What does Portland State University get out of being part of this E-URA?

It’s in my next installment.

For more Victoria Taft, visit Victoria’s blog and listen to Victoria on The Victoria Taft Show – weekdays 11am-3pm on AM860, KPAM