Nick Christensen is a staff writer for Metro, which means you pay him.
Following are excerpts from his most recent work; decide for yourself whether or not he deserves that paycheck and benefits.
For that matter, ask yourself whether any of the participants in the junkets described are as valuable as they seem to believe they are.
The last few years, Metro councilors and employees have gone to some well-respected places as part of regional delegations to learn about best practices for governments and businesses.
Recent destinations have included Copenhagen and Minneapolis. The regional public and private sector delegation will go to Barcelona in 2011.
This year’s Best Practices trip? Detroit.
Yes, that Detroit.
No, it wasn’t a Worst Practices trip. But Metro policy advisor Andy Shaw, part of the delegation, said that as an unavoidable part of the journey.
...Flight to the suburbs, a shrinking taxbase and an inability to provide basic urban services – even services as simple like firefighting – have left blocks of the city proper with just a few occupied homes. The delegation pointed out that Detroit, population 800,000, lacks a full-service grocery store.
...“In an area where there are four houses left, those four houses are the people that have held that neighborhood together,” Desmond said. “It’s hard to tell them, ‘We’re going to tear your house down and move you somewhere else.’”
...Critical to the urban renaissance have been contributions from individuals. Corporate and individual donors, including Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and motorsports legend Roger Penske, are matching the public contribution on a light rail line connecting that creative district to downtown. A story on MLive.com said the project’s backers cited Portland’s streetcar as a reason to support the project, because of the amount of private investment it spurred.
Nothing in the above quotes have been altered, other than the addition of leading ellipses in the last three paragraphs.
It's interesting that they pay somebody to lead off an article with "The last few years," and later to note that "But Metro policy advisor Andy Shaw, part of the delegation, said that as an unavoidable part of the journey".
Perhaps people are paid there to write, but not to read.
The article provides some interesting insights, nonetheless:
Detroit has no full-service grocery store. The meaning of this revelation is unclear, however: friends who've visited from New York City have marveled at our Fred Meyer stores; does this mean that there are no "full service grocers" in NYC?
One would expect Metro bigwigs to latch onto the idea of "no-full-service" grocers as a means of forcing people to walk or ride trains to get from the butcher to the baker; these are, after all, concepts that they promote tirelessly.
Perhaps even more revealing:
Corporate and individual donors, including Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and motorsports legend Roger Penske, are matching the public contribution on a light rail line connecting that creative district to downtown. A story on MLive.com said the project’s backers cited Portland’s streetcar as a reason to support the project, because of the amount of private investment it spurred.
Now we get to the meat of the matter. This is really what they're looking for. Wealthy donors are matching "the public contribution" - by which Metro means, of course, local bonds and taxes and fees, because federal money isn't really a "public contribution", in their minds - and so our bureaucrats hoped to find out how to put the squeeze on with greater success than they've achieved thus far.
The Portland Lie has spread far and wide, it seems, as the streetcar is cited as having "spurred" private development. How such a legend came to pass is a mystery, as the Urban Renewal District now know as "the Pearl" was, due to the myriad tax-breaks and other deals cut to the principal developers, well underway before the streetcar was ever built. Moreover, one has only to glance at the empty storefronts along the streetcar's route through downtown Portland to infer the approximate amount of private development that the line has "spurred".