Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 9th, 2008 at 3:56 pm
“It’s nice spin… but it’s flat out wrong.”
–Portland Mercury News Editor Amy Ruiz, on Mayor Potter’s comments about the funding for the Sauvie Island Bridge re-use plan
The situation with the effort to re-use the Sauvie Island Bridge span in Northwest Portland is changing by the hour.
The two late developments of the day are an article by the Portland Mercury that delves into the funding picture and an update from Commissioner Saltzman’s office.
In her weekly “Hall Monitor” column due out tomorrow, Mercury News Editor Amy Ruiz dissects the funding picture and politics around the issue.
Ruiz’s column, “Dishonest Objections” focuses on Mayor Potter’s now infamous comments at last week’s City Council meeting — where his unexpected appearance and “no” vote was seen as a major setback to the project.
Potter’s comment that he’d, “rather invest that money in sidewalks, in safe ways to school, and in paving streets and reducing traffic congestion and improving traffic safety throughout the city,” earned him some media coverage and likely spurred critics Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams.
However, in her article, Ruiz contends that “It’s nice spin… but it’s flat out wrong.”
Ruiz then breaks down the $5.5 million that was slated for the project:
Two million of the Sauvie Island bridge funds come from River District Urban Renewal Funds—tax increment money collected in the neighborhood, for use in the neighborhood. River District money can’t be spent for sidewalks in SW Portland…
Another two million is from transportation “system development charges” [SDCs] — fees that developers pay to help offset the cost of new transportation facilities…The city has a list of 43 projects to spend the money on over the next 10 years—”capacity-increasing projects for future users,” according to the city ordinance—and the NW Flanders crossing is on that list. Potter should know that—he voted to approve the slate of projects last October.
Another million in the bridge project budget is from a pot called “transportation enhancements,” a program the state administers, giving federal cash to “innovative projects” that “strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, or environmental value of our transportation system.” Like… a salvaged steel bridge for cyclists and walkers.
Finally, half a million in Adams’ proposal would come from his Safe, Sound, and Green Streets package—or from community fundraising, if that street fee proposal doesn’t eventually pass.(Hey Potter! If you’re so concerned about “reducing traffic congestion and improving traffic safety”—two of the core tenets of the $464 million street fee plan—then why the hell did you oppose it?)
So there it is; the complete funding picture. Read Ruiz’s entire column here.
As Ruiz acknowledges at the end of her piece, all attention is now on Commissioner Saltzman. With Commissioner Sten no longer in his seat, it means any future resolution or ordinance that comes up in Council must have at least a 3-1 vote to pass. With Potter showing no signs of supporting this project, Adams must have the support of Saltzman.
on the I-5 bridge in July 2007.
(Photo: J. Maus)
I talked with Saltzman’s Chief of Staff Brendan Finn a few minutes ago to get a feel for how the negotiations were going. (You might remember Finn from an article I wrote about him back in January.)
Finn was guardedly optimistic that his boss could work out an agreement with Adams. Finn said the deal is alive and that Saltzman wants to see the project happen. “At this point, we’re still working on it,” he said.
Finn strongly denied allegations that Saltzman is playing politics with this project. “If anyone knows Dan, they’ll know he’s always been extremely critical of sole-source contracts…and his decision on this had nothing to do with the merits of the project. He feels that we simply cannot afford to lose taxpayer confidence in how we manage the city’s finances.”
Will Adams and Saltzman be able to reach a compromise and get a resolution back in front of City Council? We should (hopefully) know the answer to that question before the end of this week.