Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Local Economy Continues To Crater--UE Up To 17%

Quick post of the harsh numbers that just came out:

Bend MSA
Unemployment, unadjusted, March, 2009: 17%
Unemployment, unadjusted, March, 2008: 7.8%

Deschutes County:
Notices of Default, year to date through April 17th, 2009: 1037

Notices of Default, year to date through April 17th, 2008: 395

Notices of Default, all of 2007: 590

Friday, February 20, 2009

Developer, Bulletin Funding Of Bend City Council Members Campaigns

Orestar, the database that tracks political campaign financing in Oregon, has campaign finance numbers from through and after the election now. I have queried the numbers to track the investment local development interests, specifically the Central Oregon Association of Realtors (COAR) and the Central Oregon Builders Association (through their PAC Central Oregonians for Affordable Housing aka COAH) have made in the election of new Bend City Council members Mayor Kathie Eckman, Tom Greene (who is also the President of COAR), and Jeff Eager. These numbers are now sorted, summed, and available in several published Google spreadsheets linked below.

As Ms. Eckman made a very public and determined successful effort to become Mayor and so have some control of the proceedings, along with the fact that the three new members plus Councilor Mark Capell made a surprise choice for a new Councilor to replace new State Senator Chris Telfer by picking Oran Teater in a last minute "emergency meeting" that had no public notice and little media notice on a Friday evening, the weight of any special interests in their campaigns is worthy of public notice.

These three new councilors held a invitation-only meeting with local business interests before they were sworn in. And as recently as Tuesday, Feb. 17, the City Council held an all day meeting discussing goals with absolutely no public notice, and what appears to be no minutes, with a single media person in attendance, Erin Golden of the Bend Bulletin. This all-day Council meeting is not listed even now on the City web site, including the list of MP3 recordings, although this list does have the recordings of the scheduled work and regular Council sessions held the next day, Wednesday, Feb. 18th.

We may never see any minutes or hear any recordings of this, the first meeting of the Council after the very contentious emergency meeting to install Mr. Teater on the Council, a meeting which was called "crap" by Councilor Jim Clinton. The only public record of the Feb. 17th meeting is "Councilors set goals, economic strategies" behind the pay firewall on the Bend Bulletin web site. An excerpt from this Bulletin article:
"In an all-day meeting Tuesday, the council outlined its goals for the next several months, noting both the projects it would like to see completed by 2010 and those that might have to wait because of the ongoing economic slowdown. Among the ideas put on the city’s list: maintaining or building up Bend’s reserve funds, assembling an advisory board for Mirror Pond, developing a long-term funding solution for Bend Area Transit and annexing the airport into the city limits to help boost economic development. Set aside, at least for the near future, were other projects, including work on the Central Area Plan, which would provide a framework for downtown Bend and other areas in the central part of the city....

The meeting was the council’s first since it appointed former councilor and mayor Oran Teater to fill an open seat on Feb. 6. Teater’s last-minute appointment came after a month of tension between the other six council members, who were split over the appointment of Kathie Eckman as the city’s mayor and over the process of filling the seat left open when Chris Telfer stepped down in January to join the state Senate.

...Before moving on to the goal-setting discussion, the council took more than an hour to address the divisions that emerged over the past several weeks. During the conversation, some councilors said they were disappointed with how Teater’s appointment had played out, but were ready to move forward.

“I agreed to run again for the City Council because I believe I can do a good job and I believe people supported me for that,” Eckman said. “But I feel like my character has been called into question, and I am extremely disappointed because it’s been on such a public level.”

Others, however, said it will take more time for council members to begin to trust each other...."

There is an obvious public interest in the relationships between those that decide how to spend our tax dollars, whom to hire, and what to zone. Holding such an unnoticed and unrecorded meeting is against the public meeting laws of Oregon. This growing tendency to leave the public out of the process is not in the best interests of the City of Bend. Unfortunately, the only recourse available to citizens of Bend is at the ballot box every other year, or by filing a costly lawsuit in Circuit Court.

Here are those campaign financing numbers with short summaries and links to the entire funding lists:

Mayor Kathie Eckman Contributions
TOTAL $38,484.47
Self funding $8,538.76
COAH/COAR $17,671.34

Councilor Tom Greene Contributions
Total $27,729.34
COAH/COAR $16,292.34

Councilor Jeff Eager Contributions
TOTAL $40,359.34
COAH/COAR $20,671.34

Also, here are details of funding and spending by our local development PACs:

COAH Funding
TOTAL $115,263.40
Miscellaneous Cash Contributions $100 and under TOTAL $27,350.00
Central Oregon Builders Association TOTAL $79,106.92

COAH Spending

COAR Funding
TOTAL $37,102.80
All but $100 anonymous

COAR Spending
TOTAL $26,259.26

And a new one I noted, the Bend Business PAC:
BBPAC Funding
TOTAL $8,065.00
Bulletin in-kind $4000

BB PAC Spending
NOTE: $1625 to Eckman, Greene, and Eager is shown by the council members filings but not shown in the BB PAC filings. Filings by unelected candidate Don Leonard also show $1625 in contributions by the BB PAC

It is interesting to see our only local daily paper, the Bend Bulletin, has decided to fund some candidates in the City Council race as well as reporting on them. This would seem to be a major ethical violation by the elephant of local journalism. That's an interesting and somewhat troubling juxtaposition-our only daily newspaper funds a local political PAC that backs several candidates, editorializes for electing all but one of them before the election. It then editorialized for the last of the four, Don Leonard, to be appointed to fill the vacancy after the election--not once, not twice, but three times. In fact, if you read the pre-election editorial on the Bulletin's preferred candidates, you see that even before the election the Bulletin stated
"Clinton’s opponent, Don Leonard, is one of the better candidates in the race. He has the misfortune of running against Clinton. Not to worry, though. Should Telfer win her Senate race, her seat will soon become available. We hope Leonard applies."
And this was done without any acknowledgment of the Bulletin's financial interest in the election.

That's our Bulletin. And these are facts that need much wider knowledge in our currently financially challenged little city.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Planning To Spend Ten's of Millions at JR

The Juniper Ridge Management Board is hard at work planning the infrastructure required to build out the first 100 acres as quickly as ODOT will allow. The main needs are:

1) Power--Pacific Corp was sold a piece of land by the railroad along the western edge of JR for $1/sq. ft. This will be the future site of a new substation that will power JR and a lot of the rest of the northside. For the immediate future a temporary substation to power Suterra is being installed. This is going through the public process right now, although you may not be actually hearing about it.

2) Sewer, storm sewer and water under the roads. This also ties into power because the same ditch will likely be made wide enough to hold an underground power cable as well. This also brings into the issue the related question:

3) Exact grade and alignment of the arterial roads. The big ones that tie into that big double roundabout in front of Les Schwab, namely the 18th Street extension. Also the roads around Suterra will need to be precisely planned, as well as the second outlet which will probably tie into Hunter Lane, along the second parcel purchased by Pacificorp for a new service.

These details will all be incorporated into a Special Planned Area for presentation and public process in order to zone them such that Suterra and other companies can move in. CC&R's will be part of this planning as well.

ODOT wants a viable financial plan, which the City is planning to present at a OTC meeting in March. ODOT's Mark Devoney suggested that for the foreseeable future the City should plan on approaching ODOT about more traffic piecmeal, as the companies that want to move in sign up. That will make it easier for ODOT to approve an increase in traffic. Mark suggested that a company should be limited to a maximum of 50 PM trips during peak drive time, and that mitigation measures like shuttles, off-peak shift turnovers, etc. would really help ODOT in making a positive decision.

Suterra construction is moving along at a fast pace. They want to move in by June 30th, but July 31st is more realistic. Some pics I took recently of the construction site, looking from northeast through east to southeast:

The Purchase and Sale Agreements with Suterra and Pacificorp have been signed and executed. the JRMB is working as fast as possible to be able to start selling more land this fall, after the Special Planned Area is officially zoned. This area will place certain types of companies in different places, such as high end office and R&D on the south end, warehousing along the west side by the railroad tracks, etc. Ray and Jeff will be involved in selling the first 50 acres when it is ready.

The Les Schwab Headquarters is in place and functioning:

Up to this point all sales have been "net negative", as Jerry Mitchell put it, meaning it has cost more to build the infrastructure than the sale price. Bend taxpayers have been covering the extra cost, and will well into the future with the bonding necessary to build out the infrastructure.

The approved UGB includes land for a future university at Juniper Ridge. There seems to be a conflict of interest concerning this with the newest member of the City Council, Oran Teater, who currently sits on the Juniper Ridge Management Board. Mr. Teater also sits on the OSU-Cascades Campus Board of Advisors, which would seem to place him in a position directly competing for funds with any future JR University. I will try to interview Mr. Teater and determine where he stands on this issue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bend's Defaults Triple From Last Years Record

Only a month and a half into this new year, Deschutes County records show that Notice of Default & Election to Sell notices have tripled from 128 to 373 through Feb. 12th. That is an astounding number in a county of 150,000 or so.

With a new City Council firmly funded and behind a developer mindset, this is a particularly worrisome development. We have an incredible level of empty homes, 1/3 of those presently listed, and the only answer seems to be to delay any further fees and encourage even more building.

We need jobs. Without jobs we can build thousands of homes, and the only occupants will be the homeless brave enough to break in. Period.

What has our Good Old Boy Network created for jobs? Juniper Ridge is the big push, but virtually every job there is one moved from another part of our small regional area. Les Schwab from Prineville, Suterra from the Old Mill District, Pacific Power.

Can this possibly be called job creation?


And to see yet another Good Old Boy, namely Oran Teater, coronated as the savior of the City Council, as the savior of Bend, is disturbing, disgusting, and disappointing. Oran led us into the start of the bubble. He is a financial advisor dedicated to increasing his clients net worth. Many of which clients are invested in local development.

Folks, we can't build our way out of this mess. We've tried that. It's time to find another paradigm.

A paradigm that pushes jobs that bring in dollars.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oran's Coronation as Savior of Bend

This morning featured the swearing in of Oran Teater as the seventh, tie-breaking City Councilor. Mr. Teater did not apply for the position, and was begged to become part of the City Council by Mayor Kathie Eckman less than an hour before the "emergency" meeting that voted on his "candidacy". This meeting was only noticed to select media, and notably not to our local progressive media at KPOV radio. A lawsuit is reportedly in the works from KPOV, as their reporter Tristan Reisfar was reduced to beating on locked doors trying to gain access to this supposedly public meeting.

Interestingly, Bill Robie, Central Oregon Association of Realtors lobbyist, was the only "public" individual present other than Councilor Jim Clinton's wife. Exactly three media outlets were present as well. A very small and select group were present for this very important vote.

Mr. Teater is also a member of the Juniper Ridge Management Board. He has a long history in Bend, with several years on the Council prior to 2004. He was also Mayor for a couple of years.

I sense very little commitment to even acknowledging a taxpaying citizen of Bend such as myself by Mr. Teater. He limits his interaction to those who he deems "important", while pointedly passing over those of us without an insider tag. He seems to be above "the little people", as if those who actually pay for city services are unimportant unless they hold a public position.

You can listen to the travesty of public process by downloading the MP3 recording. In this you will hear the increasing divide between the Good Old Boys and Girls group and those like Councilor Clinton who much prefer a real public process. Like what was occurring before this last minute vote.

Although Councilor Clinton was refused his request to know the agenda of the "emergency" meeting, candidate Don Leonard stated he was told a half-hour before the meeting that Mr. Teater was to be installed in the last Council position.

To quote Councilor Jim Clinton:

"...It's a slap in the face to the people who applied for these positions...now somebody's being brought in who wasn't even involved in it...now the majority has gone, [and] cooked up this back room deal...are railroading through [this name] just a few hours before the deadline...it's just wrong, it's just against what we are trying to do here make the City government open and transparent...cooking up this back room deal is just wrong."

I couldn't agree more. The Good Old Boys are back in charge. That feeling was strongly reinforced by all the glad-handing among the important people after Oran's swearing in. Whom were about all that were present.

Public process took a beating in Bend the last few days.