Oregon City Attorney explains charter amendment 3-407 language for voter approval of urban renewal money.
(Yates): Does the language you have drafted allow for a vote on more than an actual bond that is about to be issued? In other words, can there be a global kind of approval for the bonds that are to be issued under the plan — which effectively is to approve the plan, that is what I am sort of wondering — or would this require every time you floated a bond for sale, for a facade improvement program, would you need a vote for that bond, a one million dollar bond, or a half million dollar bond?
(Sullivan): I anticipate that you are going to authorize the projects in the plan, there will be a plan of financing in it, and that would be the basis for authorizing the bonds, and when you approve the plan you would give pre-approval to bonds as a means of doing the financing.
Who wrote in 2010 with regards to Oregon City Urban Renewal:
Whatever is done there another stupid city council should not be playing big shot developer with taxpayer money.
They suck at it and never face any consequences for their lousy decisions.
They just have their bureaucrats spin out BS to sustain themselves and whatever agenda they push.
That’s what Urban Renewal has become and it’s fraud through and through.
Telling the public their “plan” generates the money is among many blatant falsehoods used to perpetuate this scheme making. The money they play with ALWAYS comes from skimming from surrounding property taxes over decades. ALL of which then has to be replaced in order to fund the rising costs of basic services.
WHEN WILL REPORTERS HELP EVERYONE UNDERSTAND URBAN RENEWAL/TIF?
We live in a phony and corrupted region with rare demonstration of integrity in public office.
Posted by Ben | March 10, 2010 7:55 AM
by J. Kevin Hunt, Your Right to Vote PAC
No dirty trick is apparently beneath the property moguls campaigning against urban renewal voter rights measure #3-407.
The latest example is their yard sign which, in its astounding falsehood, reveals their real desperation.
The sign reads: “No new taxes. No lost jobs. No 3-407.”
“No new taxes?”
They might as well put on their sign: “Stop Killing Defenseless Orphans. No on #3-407.”
Measure #3-407, of course, does not create any tax; it would permit citizens to vote on the creation of new debt. Measure #3-407 is a voters’ rights measure that closes a loophole in Oregon City’s Charter. Under that loophole, as few as one elected and two unelected urban renewal commissioners can burden citizens with up to $130 million in urban renewal bond debt, whereas citizens have the right to vote on issuance of all other types of bonded debt. After Measure #3-407 passes, citizens will have that same right to vote on urban renewal bonded debt.
The corporate welfare addicts who stand to have their supply of debt-financed dope reduced when the people claim their right to vote, are betting that citizens will not research what 3-407 is, will not read the summary explanation on the ballot, and will not read the Voters’ Pamphlet. They are betting that the repeated phrase “No New Taxes,” oxy-moronically associated with the anti- measure #3-407 message, will cause voters to respond like automatons by voting “No” on the measure.
Another example: The October 2 candidates’ forum/debate sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Citizen Involvement Council, moderated by League of Women Voters (LOWV), was held at the Abernethy Center, which is owned by Abernethy Center, Inc., an alter ego of urban renewal beneficiary and local property speculator Dan Fowler. Abernethy Center, Inc. is (as of this writing) the largest single contributor to the City Commission campaign of Tim Powell, a staunch measure #3-407 opponent. Another Fowler corporate alter ego is the primary donor to the anti- measure #3-407 campaign. Tim Powell was on the dais to debate pro #3-407 candidate Mike Berman, and Fowler was in the audience seated in his building, but neither Fowler nor Powell disclosed to the assembled that the debate venue was owned by a donor to Powell’s campaign. The forum was fair owing to the participation of LWOV, CIC and the Chamber’s Executive Director, but Fowler and Powell’s lack of disclosure is more than troubling.
Meanwhile, Fowler’s candidate Powell confirmed distrust of the voters by, in addition to opposing Measure #3-407, indicating to the gathered that a majority of residents do not understand what they are doing when voting on annexations and that he would work to persuade them that we must promptly build to the urban growth boundary. The fat cats and their shills do not wish to be inconvenienced by democracy in their quest to make Oregon City into Little Los Angeles on the backs of the already burdened citizen, at the expense of strained public services and struggling schools.
If that’s not enough, incumbent Commissioner Carol Pauli firmly told a City Commission audience a few weeks ago that she was not a Measure #3-407 opponent. Yet she is currently walking neighborhoods with Fowler, handing out her literature along with anti- #3-407 propaganda.
And what does that propaganda claim? It contains the same completely fabricated graphic depiction of development at The Rivers that Fowler’s crowd mailed to voters last year, a contrived and phantasmagoric illustration bearing no resemblance whatsoever to how the big chain strip-mall would have looked. Of course, if Measure #3-407 had been in effect back then, The Rivers project would have been APPROVED by voters if the assertions of the measure’s opponents are to be believed, so their “job-killing” claim is untrue. Nor is there any connection between Measure #3-407 and The Cove; developers have had, and still have, plenty of time to secure a development agreement with the city and approval of urban renewal debt for it, prior to Measure #3-407’s effective date. Fowler’s crowd does not explain how Measure #3-407 would stop the project even if it becomes effective prior to completion of a development agreement; if the people support creation of public debt for the private project, it will pass when submitted to voters.
Adding to the list of falsehoods, Urban Renewal Commission Chair Brian Shaw earns a Pinocchio Award for his twin false claims that (1) voters approved allowing the UR Commission to issue up to $130 million in debt; (2) the new Safeway mall was a result of the Hilltop UR district. As Shaw has now acknowledged, the first claim is false and as pointed out by former Mayor Williams, the Safeway mall was entirely privately financed without a dime of public urban renewal debt. Perhaps some UR Commissioners have been too busy doling out grants to each other, to pay attention to facts.
Then there is the utter lack of respect for the sign ordinance shown by the anti-Measure #3-407 cabal. Citizens have complained to the city that campaign signs for the cabal’s Commission candidates (Powell; Pauli) and opposing Measure #3-407, are placed illegally in various locations which just happen to be owned by: guess who? The city says it won’t enforce the law (although in the last election, the city whisked away signs of Kathy Roth claimed to violate the ordinance). When the cat is away, the mouse plays.
Moreover, the speculators arrogantly claim it’s unfair that if Measure #3-407 passes, Oregon City residents would vote on whether they should be on the hook for millions in public debt, but that mere building owners not living in the city, could not vote. No other public voting on debt puts your right to vote up for sale.
Clearly, a collection of corporations, many of them the alter egos of one man, have a grip on the local body politic. The veil has been lifted and citizens can see the light of truth. The desperate lies of the greedy cannot thwart the will of the people. Measure #3-407 closes the loophole and secures the right to vote. Liberate Oregon City from the corporations posing as an individual, by rejecting their campaign of untruths. Show them that in Oregon City, government is by the consent of those governed. Show then that your sacred right to vote is NOT FOR SALE.
Vote YES on Measure #3-407.
by Barbara Renken, Your Right to Vote PAC
- Citizens are able to vote on all other bonds in the city; school, fire and police bonds.
- Citizens want to close the loophole that allows UR Bonds to be issued without their vote.
- Citizens question the way precious tax payer dollars are spent on urban renewal.
Why do the citizens question?
- We have discovered that over $7 Million urban renewal dollars were spent on new City Hall; none of it will bring any return into the city coffers.
- People also discovered that the City Commissioners voted to allow up to $130 million dollars of urban renewal debt without voter approval.
- Urban Renewal has become a slush fund for City staff and favored downtown speculators who use public money to fund their deferred maintenance.
- People live in homes that are also in need of a facelift. Why should residents pay 75% of property taxes to maintain private business properties, be used, many owned by non residents.
Why are speculators and City Staff so adamantly opposed to the citizens’ right to vote? Why can’t the city ‘come to the table’ disclose their agenda, and explain it in language citizens can understand?
There has to be a motive that no one wants to talk about. I’ve attended meetings, I’ve listened, I’ve discussed and I come up with only one conclusion, based on a review of the financial details, there is reason to allow monies to be allocated without public disclosure or reason. If there is nothing, then why don’t they want a vote?
Our City Staff and commissioners need to be ‘upfront’ with information that they make decisions on. We continue to be caught up in misinformation and a sense of a lack of transparency. The financial records do not make any sense. That’s not good, not good for the image of the city, and does nothing but create questions. One commissioner even voted ‘no’ against forwarding a legally presented measure. This is not the kind of government that is: For the people, by the people and of the people.
Therefore: The Citizens of Oregon City have declared their will. They want to have their RIGHT TO VOTE ON URBAN RENEWAL BONDS for GOOD REASON. They are motivated by past urban renewal decisions that defy public interests. Publicly paid City Staff work against public interest and City Commissioners fail to uphold responsibility to represent the public. As one of three Chief Petitioners who successfully achieved making this a measure according to the democratic process, I stand by the citizens of Oregon City to HAVE A RIGHT TO VOTE.
YES ON 3-407
Former urban renewal commissioner Rob Crocker and current urban renewal Chair Brian Shaw have unwittingly become the best cheerleaders for passage of Measure 3-407 to give citizens the right to vote on all new urban renewal debt. These “bullies playing victims” wrongly accuse others of misrepresentation while spinning their own fabrications.
Crocker claims urban renewal is an investment tool that has caused tax revenues on his properties to more than double. Furthermore he states this is “exactly how urban renewal is supposed to work by increasing Oregon City’s tax base.”
According to public records, Crocker’s business T-5 Equities was awarded more than $143,000 with another $55,000 pending in urban renewal grants. Tax records for 706 Main indicate a LOSS of 41 percent in Real Market Value since the grant was awarded in 2007. Tax records on 721 Main show a LOSS of 10 percent in Real Market Value and an actual decline of $20.44 in property taxes paid AFTER receiving urban renewal funds.
Contrary to Crocker’s claims that urban renewal “is a great investment tool for our city” that “in the long run, will provide greater funding for our fire, police, and other city services,” it would take more than 40 years to repay the first group of public subsidies, without even factoring in possible future loss of property value, time value of money, inflation, and continual loss of property tax revenues until all debts are paid off, potentially adding several decades or more to the equation.
So, after 40-100 years there might be enough “greater funding” for the fire department, police, and city to buy a few feet of fire hose, several handcuffs, and lots of red ink. This is Crocker’s definition of “a great investment for our city.” We wonder if Crocker would support the same in the city where he lives?
Urban Renewal Chair Brian Shaw spins even more fantasy. Shaw stated (Sept 19 OC News) that voters approved an urban renewal debt increase of $130 Million in 2005. In fact there was no public vote on the debt increase; it was approved by the five-member city commission in 2007. Shaw then stated that The Rivers project would bring $1 Million every year to the City, despite the developer’s own estimates indicating millions of LOSS to the public.
In his attempt to “correct the record” (Sept 25 OC News) Shaw contradicts reality again, stating, “…the Urban Renewal Commission has had access to $130 million, but has not touched it.” In fact the URC has taken on millions in debt to buy the City Hall and subsidize the Cove project, and would have assumed nearly $20 million more debt for The Rivers project. It was actually Shaw’s and Crocker’s opponents who knew these projects would never repay the debt who kept the URC from touching more of the $130 million. Why do you think they fought so hard to recall a commissioner and eliminate URC neighborhood representative positions?
Perhaps the most convincing argument for Measure 3-407 from Chair Shaw is contained in his September 12, 2012 memo to the Urban Renewal Commission: “What Oregon City Urban Renewal Doesn’t need right now is to expose its past, where it becomes ‘public’….Our current staff and commission are trying to show the taxpayer to trust our decisions. By bringing up the past will only distract us from our endeavors and minimize that trust.”
Shaw asks, “Do you feel comfortable voting for funding for these complicated projects?”
We ask, “Do you want these guys voting how to spend our money?”
Yes, Crocker and Shaw make the best arguments yet that the VOTERS should be allowed to vote on $130 Million public debt that relies on OUR RESIDENTS’ (who pay 75 percent of Clackamas County property taxes) full faith and credit. Keep it up guys, you’re doing a heck of a job supporting Measure 3-407!
Opinion by J. Kevin Hunt, Your Right to Vote PAC
The fat cats and speculators have their strategy, which is, as always, to deflect attention from their cronyism, to vilify someone, to make someone the scapegoat for our economic ills, rather than to focus on the merits of Measure 3-407 and on their use of urban renewal as a piggybank.
Rob Crocker attempts to exploit the general societal disdain for lawyers by calling me “attorney Hunt” multiple times. I am serving with zero compensation as a PAC Director for YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE PAC, for the good of Oregon City, not for any personal enrichment. I have done so at my own significant personal expense, and have profited NOT ONE DIME.
Mr. Crocker, on the other hand, by his own admission has millions at stake and to throw around. In the process of attacking me for being a lawyer, Crocker accuses me of being one who does anything, including lying, in order to “win.” A lawyer’s word is his stock in trade. Had I not voluntarily thrust myself into the public forefront of the Measure 3-407 campaign, I might have recourse against Mr. Crocker for defamation. But, I wouldn’t resort to that. Suffice it to say that I’m quite humbled that Martindale-Hubbell/Lawyers.com consistently rates me (based on surveys of my peers and of judges) as being “very ethical.” I seek your vote for the measure because it is in the best interests of Oregon City’s future.
Crocker also seeks to blacken my image by “reminding” readers that I supposedly supported recalled City Commissioner Jim Nicita’s purported efforts to “kill” The Rivers project. In fact, I had no involvement whatsoever in those efforts. I did later actively oppose Nicita’s recall because he was wrongfully scapegoated as the singular cause of the project’s demise and because he had promised as a candidate to pursue better alternatives. But the voters have spoken — AS IS THEIR RIGHT — and that is now water under the bridge.
Contrary to Crocker’s claims, I DO NOT OPPOSE ALL URBAN RENEWAL and have often said so! I commend projects that clean up blight, pencil out and work correctly, however rare they are becoming. I condemn abuse of urban renewal debt for building city halls and am appalled by urban renewal board members doling out money to each other. I am outraged by crony capitalism and corporate welfare that rips off the shrinking middle class.
With a third of Oregon City residents qualifying for public assistance, it’s surreal to create urban renewal debt to turn Main Street office buildings into condos, lining the pockets of the downtown landlord oligarchy. Only public votes can stop corruption and abuse in the creation of public debt (which is a main reason you already have YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE on all other kinds of bonded debt).
Crocker says the Constitution guarantees your right to vote. Yes, but not on creation of urban renewal debt. You will only have that right if you vote YES on Measure #3-407. Interestingly, however, Crocker touts the position of the Chamber of Commerce, which recently claimed the measure is unfair because, in the Chamber’s view, people who don’t live in Oregon City but who spend millions to buy up its buildings, should have a right to vote on whether Oregon City residents are on the hook for massive debt! Don’t let the right to vote be put up for sale!
The attacks on me by private investigator-cum-haberdasher Sandra Gilman are more puzzling. She admits she never read my last Op-Ed, but says she can attack me for it anyway because I am supposedly a “master” at “taking a fact and twisting it beyond recognition” in the course of “spewing anger.”
Whoever heard of a professional investigator forming conclusions without even actually investigating the facts? Before trying to sell hats, Ms. Gilman tried to be an investigator, but not just any old investigator; Sandra Gilman worked as a mitigation investigator on behalf of criminal defendants facing the death penalty. We were friends. I’ve had no occasion to interact with Ms. Gilman for almost ten years, but at no time during the nearly 30 years I’ve been a capital defender, has Ms. Gilman (or anyone else in the capital defense bar) ever accused me of dishonesty. If Ms. Gilman can cite to even one example of me “twisting facts beyond recognition” when arguing to a court of law, or in my representation of an accused, she needs to cite to it now. Otherwise, honor ought to compel her to promptly and emphatically apologize, for I know her to be an honest person as well.
Ironically, I otherwise empathize with the spirit of much of Ms. Gilman’s commentary in which she laments the way small, independent, downtown businesses have been harmed by the continuous Main Street construction (which City Manager Dave Frasher told me “helps shake out the dead wood”). It does also sometimes seem, as Ms. Gilman muses, that the fat cat developers practically pick some of the City Commissioners (though of course such is not the case). I now challenge Ms. Gilman to put on her old professional hat and to investigate further, discovering actual facts showing how the current state of Oregon City urban renewal jeopardizes the future of her small business.
Dear reader, please don’t let them make this election about me; claim YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE by voting YES ON 3-407. Reject the self-serving propaganda and half-truths of the wheeler-dealers who don’t want you to have any say. Close the Charter loophole. It’s your money and your right. VOTE YES ON #3-407.
Opinion by Nancy Walters, Oregon City Resident
I served on the Oregon City Urban Renewal Commission (URC) from June 2008 to January 2012. The City Commission had changed neighborhood boundaries to exclude neighborhood associations (NA) from the downtown Urban Renewal District. The URC consisted of the City Commission until they decided in 2008 to expand the URC to include community interests, including representatives from Park Place and McLoughlin neighborhoods, now adjacent to the UR District. During that time I had been active in Park Place NA (PPNA) and was one of the candidates forwarded by the PPNA Steering Committee. Not knowing anything about urban renewal at the time, I was very honored to be selected and wanted to do my best for the community.
Right away and with a sense of urgency we were presented with several project and debt proposals amounting to tens of millions of dollars. A significant investment of years, staff time, millions of dollars of consultants, and public involvement had already occurred well before my appointment. Knowing nothing at the time other than the information presented, I trusted the staff, attorneys, and consultants were presenting what was best for the community, and I voted ‘yes’ on the projects and public debt, which I now deeply regret.
I spent many hours over the next several years learning about urban renewal and trying to ask the right questions when decisions came before the URC. What I learned during this period was shocking and disappointing, consisting of lies of commission and omission by a publicly paid team of City staff, attorneys, consultants, and elected leaders, fueled by local reporters.
The real truth came from questions asked by neighbors, reading reports and audits from other jurisdictions, and assembling information myself. I learned that the corruption runs deep in Oregon City. We are told that urban renewal pays for itself and creates economic development and prosperity. This is proven to be false, not only for the development proposals championed locally but also the majority of municipalities that adopt urban renewal. This is why the California Legislature abolished all 425 of its redevelopment agencies earlier this year and on August 16, 2012 New York Governor Cuomo eliminated 28 local public authorities and 95 redevelopment agencies. He said, “Given that these authorities and agencies no longer serve the public interest, it only makes sense to do away with them for good.”
As a government employee I have seen and reported my fair share of waste, fraud and abuse. I also know of conditions where government is effective by adopting best practices. I researched and presented best practice proposals during my last year as URC Chair, including a Request for Proposals competitive requirement for projects. I referenced a number of reports including the Center on Wisconsin Strategy’s “Proposed Elements of TIF Reform”, based on improving living standards and to promoting sustainable economic development. They examine “high road,” strategies that are associated with high productivity, high pay, reduced environmental damage, and greater commitment to the health and stability of surrounding communities. In contrast,“low road” strategies are associated with low pay, economic insecurity, and degraded natural environments and communities.
I learned that Oregon City consistently chooses “low road” strategies, most recently eliminating community interest positions from the URC. Not that anybody would ever want to be treated the way I was after asking questions and doing the math, you can imagine how much a $130 million public credit card means to some. We should all be in the position to do the math and question if public debt is being used wisely, just as we do for other city debt bonds. Because we have been lied to, cheated, and abused. Voting Yes on Measure 3-407 will help stop the abuse by requiring voter approval on all new urban renewal debt bonds.
I’d like to tell a story about a dog and its tail. The tail wags the dog. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying. Here’s what it means. I’ll begin with the “tail” and then we’ll work backwards, to see what the “dog” is. It’s a little parable about civics.
A certain, prominent businessman is the “tail.” He’s a well-known financier and investor in Oregon City.
This prominent person has a sidekick whom I’ll call “TD” for short. That’s my reference to “touchdown.”
Where does this important entrepreneur get his power? He does have influence. Let’s not forget that. He gets his power partly from two public sources:
- The urban renewal “slush fund” – which is cash siphoned off from yearly property taxes, and
- Urban renewal borrowing limits – the bonding authority of the City.
Now, where does our urban renewal Commission get its authority? What is its power source?
The Commission gets its clout from our elected City Commissioners and from the City Charter.
Finally, where do our public officials get their power? Where does the Charter get its authority?
Here comes the “dog.”
The final say-so is the votes of CITIZENS and taxpayers in Oregon City. Without those good folks, not a penny could be spent. No public money is appropriated without representatives of the people giving their “yea” or “nay.” No taxation without representation. So WE are the dog. And that prominent businessman is a “tail” that wags us. And he has been wagging us for a long time. I’m tired of it.
The average people of Oregon City should be wagging our own tail, and not the other way around. Why? We are voters – the final authority. All power ultimately comes from consent of the governed.
The so-called straw that broke the camel’s back was October 3 – five years ago. That’s when the tail of the dog grew overnight to ridiculous proportions, maybe just a bit like Pinocchio’s nose.
An emergency meeting of the Oregon City commission was held on August 28: “In order that the City Attorney or City Manager are properly authorized to prepare the explanatory statements submitted to the Clackamas County Voter’s Pamphlet for upcoming referendum or initiative measures that may arise in the next thirty days, an emergency is hereby declared and this ordinance is and shall be effective from and after its passage by the Commission.”
There ARE NO “upcoming” referenda or initiative measures “that may arise in the next thirty days” for which the City could submit an explanatory statement within that time period. The reason stated for the emergency is therefore false. The act of declaring an emergency requiring special meetings and an explanatory statement on #3-407 conveys the visceral message to voters that the measure is – in the opinion of city government − extremely dangerous. At the same time, doing so by relying upon an obviously false pretense will likely produce substantial public disdain for the Commission. Legislators and lawyers know that there are few legal restrictions on the kinds of “emergencies” (however mundane) that may be declared by a city governing body in order to accelerate the effective date of an ordinance, but the meaning of that word in popular culture is far different.
There are various jokes in which the punch line is a variation of “Because he can.” While the City legally may be free to rely on just about anything to justify declaration of an “emergency” as that term is used in legislating, that does not mean that the City Commission may properly and ethically recite a justification that is simply false. It is legally impossible for any “upcoming” city ballot measure to “arise” for which the City could submit an explanatory statement “in the next thirty days.” The real reason for declaring an emergency is in order to meet a deadline for submission of an explanatory statement on Measure #3-407.
Why is that simple fact omitted, while a reason that cannot be true is recited?
The commission most likely has full legal power to disguise the real reason for declaring an emergency, but that does not convey the moral and ethical right to do so, simply “because you can.”
If Commissioners in good faith believe that an explanatory statement must be submitted for #3-407 and that therefore an “emergency” must be declared as to the ordinance authorizing such submissions, then the Commission should respond to the “emergency” by “putting out the fire” with water, not with gasoline.
Guarantee Your Right to Vote on Debt!
Oregon City Charter requires voter approval of bonds issued by the City for non-routine operating and building expenses. Urban Renewal bonds are the exception to this rule. Measure 3-407 closes this loophole. Without Measure 3-407 it only takes three urban renewal commissioners (up to two unelected) to approve up to $130 MILLION in debt without a vote of the people!
Our democratic system is based on the premise that voters will make the wisest choices and decisions. You can support urban renewal projects and support Measure 3-407. Some urban renewal projects may receive public subsidies, some may not. That’s democracy. It will drive better government and development at the lowest cost to taxpayers.