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May 06, 2016


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I was explaining a bonding strategy that keeps property taxes for city infrastructure flat rather than spiking up and down. I can understand how either it was misunderstood or misstated neither changes the approach. As to the EID, there were serious failures to meet contract obligations by the contractor.

Chuck, thanks for the explanation. I'm not sure what you mean by "flat," but then, I'm not very familiar with City of Salem property taxes. I assume you mean that the yearly cost to the taxpayer doesn't fluctuate as much as it would if a different bonding strategy were used. Perhaps this relates to the practice with the Streets and Bridges bond of selling bonds in different packages over time, rather than in one big chunk.

However, it still remains true that an $80 million police facility bond will put taxpayers on the hook for that amount, plus the financing costs. And that will be on top of the other bonds that haven't been paid off, along with the anticipated future bonds I've heard Mayor Peterson talk about upcoming bonds other than the police facility bond.

Regarding the EID, I realize it was the position of City officials that the contract obligations weren't met. But after spending 90 minutes on the phone with someone who had an "up close and personal" experience of the Salem Downtown Partnership's contract termination, this person's detailed description of what went on -- combined with his credibility -- led me to take what was said seriously.

Here's an excerpt from the blog post I wrote soon after talking with this person that contains key points:
(1) Salem Downtown Partnership had some growing pains. However, it was making good progress for such a young organization. Good people were being recruited for the board of directors. SDP was on its way to being a much-needed voice that spoke up for the interests of downtown businesses.

(2) City staff, though, kept undercutting the efforts of Salem Downtown Partnership. The City's contract with SDP was written in an unprofessional manner, since the benchmarks Salem Downtown Partnership had to meet were made virtually impossible to attain and the City "set traps" for those involved with SDP.

(3) Once City Manager Linda Norris was told the contract didn't make sense. She replied, "I know." This shows that all along City staff wanted the contract with Salem Downtown Partnership to be terminated, the excuse being that SDP wasn't meeting the unreasonable goals the City demanded in its agreement with the organization.

(4) For example, after SDP was awarded the contract, the City changed an ordinance to allow parking district money to be removed from the funds being administered by Salem Downtown Partnership. This decision, I was told, came out of the City Manager's office.

(5) Then the City Council required large contingencies in the EID budget to deal with the uncertain parking district money. For this and other reasons, I was told: "The City did a predatory job of administering the contract with Salem Downtown Partnership."

(6) This isn't the way Economic Improvement Districts are handled in other cities. I was told there are generally three levels of community capacity under which a City responsibly administers an EID contract: A - With a large umbrella organization that has existed for a long time, like a business alliance. B - Through a city-facilitated effort lasting a year or two where the goal is to establish an autonomous downtown organization. C - Business owners organize independently to build the capacity and dialogue needed to take on an EID partnership.

(7) The person I talked with said that Salem didn't have either A, B, or C. Thus it was irresponsible for the City to administer the contract with Salem Downtown Partnership when it wasn't truly committed to B -- facilitating the growth of SDP into an autonomous organization capable of representing downtown businesses.

(8) Instead, I heard a litany of stories about how City staff undercut, back-stabbed, intimidated, and otherwise undermined the board and staff of Salem Downtown Partnership. I've heard similar anecdotes from other people associated with SDP, which gives this person's rendition of what went on more credibility.

(9) This doesn't mean, as noted before, that Salem Downtown Partnershp didn't have growing pains. It did. The initiators of SDP were businesspeople, not experts in the management of a non-profit organization. But it was the job of City staff to help, not hinder, the growth and development of Salem Downtown Partnership.

In attending Neighborhood Associations with Chuck Bennett and paying close attention to what he tells citizens, most of it is "Gee, I can do that for you. I am the one with experience and I know how to get things done". Nobody asks "Chuck, where have you been the past 9 years on council - and why are you acting so interested in doing things for citizens now?" Chuck does not check his facts and misinforms people all the time at debates, forums and meetings. But it is all to improve and embellish his non-record. He claims every good decision from the City as his personal achievement and he act totally surprised when someone brings up a bad outcome from a city decision. I wish he had to run on HIS personal accomplishments outside of this lobby job and council position.

In fact, I have witnessed Chuck continually telling people what they cannot do instead of listening to what they want. Chuck demanded at the NOLA Neighborhood Association that Salem will NEVER have commercial flights at our airport. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER." But, Chuck is a professional lobbyist and a practiced and polished public speaker. People like to hear how he will take care of everything and no one needs worry if he is in charge. Then he deposits $20,000 in his campaign account from the Salem Area Chamber, the Chamber PAC, the Homebuilders PAC, Chamber businesses, and the Realtors PAC. . . . Who do you think he will represent when he is elected?


Along the line Carole Smith speaks of, I've noticed that often Chuck Bennett brags about making a motion at a City Council meeting to do something positive for Salem. Well, that motion only came about because someone did the groundwork to make it happen.

Usually that wasn't Bennett. He just came on board at the end and made the visible procedural statement to get that something underway.

Anybody can make a motion at a meeting. That doesn't mean much, since the work behind the initiative is what matters.

>>Anybody can make a motion at a meeting. That doesn't mean much, since the work behind the initiative is what matters. <<

Now THERE is some Salem Political Snark!!

Actually, if you look closely at the table of General Obligation Debt, it appears to me that the last payment on the Streets and Bridges Bond measure will not be made until 2028. So the City Recorder might have been mistaken.

How did you figure that out, Jim? I tried to find a clear indication of when the bonds would be paid off, but was reduced to estimating based on the pace of principal payments, which is complicated to do.

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