Testifying against a bill aimed at making the TriMet board of directors more accountable to taxpaying citizens, head honcho Neil McFarlane actually came out with this gem:
“I would sort of ask the question,” McFarlane said, “what is broken with TriMet?”
A better question would be: what isn't broken at TriMet? McFarlane claims that mounting employee health insurance costs are driving the agency toward a fiscal cliff, although he recently found nearly $1 million to dole out in pay raises to himself and 69 of his bestest, closest managers - most all of whom were already receiving six-figure paychecks.
The bill he was testifying against would turn the seven-member TriMet board from one exclusively consisting of gubernatorial appointees into a board appointed by folks at the local service level. As it stands, only one board member periodically rides transit; none of the others do. And McFarlane, now among the most highly-compensated of any transit agency head in the country, doesn't see a problem with the status quo.
What's broken? As one person commented, try this:
How about electric trains that have no power all day long and require buses for backup? How about Ticket Vending Machines that cancel your credit card when you're away from home and put you on a terrorist watch list? What's broken? How about millions of dollars in fare revenue that walk out the bus door every day because people won't pay, and drivers are fearful of assaults for asking them to? How about bridges to nowhere, and communities forced to pay for trains they don't want? How about bus drivers getting stabbed because of Neil McFarlane's "Rich bus driver" rhetoric, and divisive propaganda?
And how about an agency that keeps finding ways to fund multi-billion-dollar construction projects but complains incessantly about health insurance costs for drivers and mechanics?
Our friends at the IRS, who will soon be overseeing our health care, keep running into trouble. As if the whole targeting of conservative groups and Jews wasn't bad enough (back to that in a moment), they're now being sued because, well, they kind of violated HIPAA a little bit:
The Internal Revenue Service is now facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it improperly accessed and stole the health records of some 10 million Americans, including medical records of all California state judges.
In all, some 60 million medical records were stolen, the class-action suit alleges; included were records involving everything from psychological counseling through sex or drug treatments and more.
The remedy being sought is $25,000 - per violation. That amounts to a cool $250 billion overall. Can't wait for these boys and girls to enforce Obamacare.
However much pleasure one might derive from the scandal involving the agency's targeting of conservative groups, however, it remains that they were pushed to do so by many of the same Democratics now shouting for their heads - a measure supported by at least 57% of Americans, according to polling data regarding the question of whether or not the "offending" IRS staff should be jailed or fired. Give them credit; they excel at dodging the various turds that they themselves set in motion:
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, for example, vowed congressional hearings and called the IRS actions "an outrageous abuse of power and a breach of the public's trust."
He was joined by a chorus of other Democrats including Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire who called it "completely unacceptable," Kay Hagan of North Carolina who called it "disturbing and troubling," and Mark Pryor of Arkansas who tweeted that he's "working to get to bottom of this so we can fire those responsible & ensure this never happens again."
What paragons of virtue! There's just one tiny little problem with all of the huffing and posturing:
As the New York Times reported back in 2010 :
With growing scrutiny of the role of tax-exempt groups in political campaigns, Congressional Republicans are pushing back against Democrats by warning about the possible misuse of the Internal Revenue Service to audit conservative groups….And the Republicans are also upset about an I.R.S. review requested by Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the Finance Committee, into the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Such a review threatens to "chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights," wrote two Republican senators, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona, in a letter sent to the I.R.S. on Wednesday. ... Democrats dismissed the Republicans' complaints as groundless.
Oh, hey, what a coincidence! The same Montana Democratic who's now yowling is the guy who told the IRS to do exactly what they did. Imagine that!
Oh, and he was by no means alone: just last year, junior Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Portlandia) joined luminaries such as Al Franken, Chuckie Schumer, and Tom Udall in signing a letter to the IRS Commissioner, asking that the IRS make "immediate" changes to their policies in order to pursue deeper investigations into the organizations; policies which these Democratics are now decrying. It may seem a touch hypocritical, but then, they are Democratics.
Not only are they now racing to distance themselves from the very agency they leaned on, they're also dumping on their Messiah:
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he believes President Barack Obama owes the American public explanations for both the seizure of Associated Press phone records by the Department of Justice and the IRS targeting of conservative groups.
“I don’t think anyone truly believes that the president has given us a sufficient answer for America, much less the press,” Rangel said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think this is just the beginning and the whole idea of comparing this with Nixon, I really think is just, it doesn’t make much sense. But the president has to come forward and share why he did not alert the press they were going to do this. He has to tell the Americans, including me: What was this national security question? You just can’t raise the flag and expect to salute it every time without any reason and the same thing applies to the IRS.”
Well, when Charlie "Ethics 'R' Me" Rangel gets his dander up, Barky'd better start delivering. Everybody knows how cranky Charlie can get.
Time to head to the store for some more popcorn - few things are more entertaining than a big implosion.
Over in Hillsboro, one Imelda Gomez has been "speaking out" in favor of drivers' licenses for illegal aliens, and the Portland Tribune is among those showering her with accolades for her bravery in doing so. And she's got her wish granted by Oregon Democratics. So why did she want drivers' licenses for illegals? Well, that would be because she happens to be one.
Okay, she was brought here by her parents, 20 years ago. It wasn't her fault. So send her Parent 1 and Parent 2 back home to Meh-hee-ko, along with Imelda and her family. Let them apply to immigrate here legally. Rewarding them is an insult to legal immigrants.
You have to hand it to Oregon gov. Retread and his fellow Democratics: their passage of the new law giving illegal aliens in-state tuition and the latest addition - giving them drivers' licenses - have accomplished the seemingly impossible. Who would have believed that Republicans, Independents, and even Democratics would come together on any issue?
Yet it's happening now. When the petitions to overturn the drivers' license law starts circulating, it looks as though they'll get more than enough signatures, and likely in record time. Folks from all parties, including many Democratics, are saying that they'll sign - and vote to overturn. There are the occasional far-Left droolers threatening violence, of course, but they can be ignored because like their fearful leader, they're all hat and no cattle.
Thinking of retiring? Don't do it in Oregon. A new study of all 50 states and the Washington, D.C. non-state is out, and of all the places to consider for retirement, Oregon came in dead last.
The research was compiled by banking website Bankrate.com. Rather than including the number of beaches, lakes or golf courses, this list considered cost of living, crime rates, taxes, medical care and average annual temperatures.
With the 15th-highest cost of living and an average annual temperature of 48.77 degrees, Oregon came in last.
As for "business-friendly" Porkland, where they're all about "green and sustainable and density", jobs evaporated within three miles of the downtown area, by nearly 19,500 in the decade of 2000-2010. And it didn't end there: over 5,000 more jobs disappeared from the area between 3 and 10 miles from downtown.
Over in the suburbs, however, things are looking good: Integra Telecom is in the process of packing up its 500 jobs in its soon-to-be former downtown Porkland headquarters; moving the whole shebang across the Columbia River into Vancouver. And Nike, planning a massive expansion, rebuffed the goodie-bags dangled by Porkland city "leaders", opting instead to expand near their current campus in the Beaverton area.
In fact, while downtown Porkland's been bleeding jobs despite its cool streetcars and condos and bioswales and stuff, places like Beaveton and Hillsboro - both further than ten miles away from the Porkland city center - have added over 3000.
In Hillsboro, Salesforce.com is opening a large office, Oracle is relocating 130 jobs from Mexico, and Hitachi is adding 30 engineers. That's in addition to the new Intel fab facility under construction, the new baseball stadium, and the acquisition of a team to play there.
To those who follow urban planning trends, the fact that downtowns have been losing jobs to the suburbs for the past 20 years may seem surprising. The national news has been full of stories about the revitalization of America's urban centers over the past two decades. Planning concepts such as New Urbanism and Smart Growth were reported to be rescuing city centers from years of decline.
But in fact, although some people — especially young creatives — were attracted to high-density urban redevelopment projects, they did not bring an overwhelming number of jobs with them.
Porkland has long suffered from Smart Growth Syndrome and its "leaders" have taken great pride in wooing the "creative class" - in other words, young hipsters. To that extent, they've succeeded. But even the hipsters aren't going to spend their whole lives sharing a studio apartment with five room-mates and working part-time as a barista.
Our corrupt Secretary of State's not happy with the old "motor voter" law and its subsequent iterations that provide opportunities for would-be voters to register to vote while at the DMV or applying for food stamps or applying for welfare or.... Nope, Kate Brown's pushing to have every holder of an Oregon drivers' license automatically registered to vote. She'd be willing to send each new licensee a letter with instructions on how to cancel their voter registration, or to affiliate with a political party, but she thinks the right to vote should be automatic.
Evidently, there's not enough election fraud going on already in this state - or not enough to suit the fiercely partisan Democrat SOS.
“Voter registration should be the responsibility of citizens, not the responsibility of state agencies,” said Sandy Raddue of Beaverton, who leads the Oregon Republican Party’s election integrity efforts.
And there's the problem, in a nutshell: hyper-partisan Democratics like Kate aren't especially keen on that whole election integrity thing. Rachel Madcow and Kate and the other Airhead America refugees figure that if people are too lazy to register on their own, they're sure to vote Democrat.
As mentioned here yesterday, TriMet's ticket machines are incredibly unreliable, and it's been reported that as many as 2,000 people a month, attempting to pay with a credit card, have had the card rejected and an electronic cancellation message sent to the issuing banks - a claim refuted by a writer for The Oregonian. However, Portland television station KATU last night refuted the refutation:
PORTLAND, Ore. – TriMet admits its ticket machines have been causing banks to cancel or suspend thousands of debit and credit cards.
Spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said a bug in the ticket machine software caused some of the machines to flag cards as stolen.
“We believe it was affecting about 1,000 to 2,000 credit card transactions a month,” said Altstadt. “For at least five years.”
One of their many PR flacks, Alstadt suggests that people pick up some tickets while they're out buying groceries, adding, "It can be that easy." The arrogance on display at the former transit agency (TriMet having recast itself as a development agency) is simply breathtaking. Of course, there's little reason for accountability there; the board is composed of government appointees, and nobody at the agency is elected.
But the ticket machines, though needlessly inconveniencing some tens of thousands (Vancouver residents are doubtless salivating over the prospect of having a couple of shiny new ticket machines on their side of the Columbia River), are really little more than symptoms of a much larger problem.
CPI notes that the "Westside Express Service", a nearly 15-mile- long commuter rail line that TriMet opened amid considerable fanfare some four years ago, carries approximately 20 to 50 riders on each trip between Beaverton and Wilsonville; each rider subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $40 per round trip. And rather than taking passengers off the roads, thereby reducing congestion, WES actually increases congestion - and only around 800 people actually use the train each week. And while light rail's bad enough, their WES line's even worse:
The operating costs for WES are 12 times higher per hour than bus service, but the public benefits are not 12 times higher. In fact, WES is not even equal to bus service; it is far less flexible, and the equipment is unused most of the time.
TriMet recently predicted that within the next decade, more than half of all bus routes will be eliminated due to operating losses if something doesn’t change. The Board places the blame for this on a labor union contract that saddles the agency with the costliest employee benefits package in the nation. But the union did not force management to build an absurd commuter rail line; that was a choice made by the Board alone, without any consideration of the legacy costs it would impose on future riders.
As has been mentioned here before on a number of occasions, TriMet is busily cannibalizing bus service in favor of efforts to force passengers onto their trains. It hasn't been working as planned; ridership continues to drop. Now, they're making clear their intention to kill half of all remaining bus routes, while blaming the union. Unions are, for the most part, nothing more than Political Action Committees for Democratics, and are justly loathed by many. However, they're not the problem at TriMet; managment (or what passes for management) is.
"Green and sustainable" it ain't.
Posted by Max on May 05, 2013 at 02:09 PM in "Sustainable", "Green", Environmeddlism, Feral Government, Government Waste/Fraud, Idiocy, Light Rail/Transport, man-made climates, Manufactured issues, Oregon politics, Portland Politics and Schticks, Rackets, Taxation, Watermelons | Permalink | Comments (4)
Ah, the legacy! Burnishing Portland and Oregon's "green credentials"! The heady atmosphere of the photo-op, and the harrumphing and speechifying! Good times, good times.
Yes, the hicks in Wilsonville, over there in Clackamas County, rebuffed SoloPower because they were too stupid to offer tax incentives and millions in subsidies to the company that would revolutionize solar energy with their thin-film technology, creating hundreds of jobs and putting Wilsonville firmly on the map when it comes to Clean, Green, Cutting-Edge Technology. Former Portland mayor Sammy Adams and former Oregon governor Teddy Kulongoski were only too happy to step into the void; successfully wooing the company to Portland. What a feather in their caps! The photo above was taken two years ago, as the SoloPower CEO and the former mayor bathed in the glory.
Already the state of Oregon is out $20 million in state tax credits issued to SoloPower, which is scheduled to close its factory next month, barring arrival of a white knight bearing fresh capital.
Oh, that 450 jobs SoloPower promised? Silly rabbits! They hired 29, and then "laid them off". And as was so often the case during the bizarre reign of Sammy, he miraculously "found" $5 million to give the company. That came out of parking meter revenue, which for some unknown reason saw a sudden increase in the amounts of fines imposed for parking violations.
Another of Sammy and Teddy's green dreams goes bust. It wouldn't be so bad if the green they were "investing" actually belonged to them.
TriMet's ticket machines are notoriously unreliable, which may account for part of the reason why comparatively few bother to pay to ride their trains. Some machines have had reported downtimes of over 35%, and today, local media reports that as many as 2,000 people a month, attempting to pay with a credit card, have had the card rejected and an electronic cancellation message sent to the issuing banks - though Oregonian guy Joseph Rose claims that those were "fraud alert" messages, so apparently there's some confusion amongst our crack media professionals in this regard.
And while Clackamas County residents got started too late in the game to prevent an unwanted light rail line from being constructed into the suburban Milwaukie area, Clark County residents are set against running a line from Portland into their county, in Washington state, despite cajoling and threats from various politicians - so much so that Oregonian's Mapes referred to the county as "Clarkistan"; a takeoff on the popular term, the "Clackistani Uprising" resulting from that county's efforts to stop "Portland Creep".
Left unmentioned in Mapes' article is the fact that what's happened in Clackamas County has also motivated people in Washington County to take preemptive action against plans for yet another light rail line; this one planned for Hwy. 99W. Notably, citizens in suburban Tigard and King City voted to require their approval before the folks who've been tossing money around can bring their plans forward. Probably, "Washingtonstan" just doesn't have that "ring" to it.
In any case, Portland's ill-advised foray into the streetcar business has also been going through some rocky times: not only did the folks in Lake Oswego (Clackamas County) shoot down the city's carefully-crafted plan to run a streetcar line into that suburban town, but "United Streetcar" has been a complete bust. "United Streetcar" was formed as an offshoot of Oregon Iron Works to build streetcars right here in the good ol' USA, and has been an integral part of Portland's dream of being a global leader in "green technology".
United Streetcar, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, was supposed to manufacture five new Portland streetcars and have them in service in 2012. None was ready.
They were initially supposed to build six, but after it became clear that they're completely inept when it comes to building 19th-century transportation vehicles, Portland cut the order to five cars - but at the same price as they'd agreed to pay for six. Hey, it's just taxpayer money. "United Streetcar" also inked deals to build cars for Tucson, Arizona and Washington, D.C. And who knows? It's entirely possible that Tucson and D.C. will eventually get the cars. Perhaps in, say, 2050. They wer four years late in delivering the first car to Portland, and that one's had so many problems that it's due to be taken out of service for at least six months if "United Streetcar" ever manages to get another one operational.
Better yet, it's been proven on a couple of occasions that a middle-aged guy can actually get from point A to point B faster by walking, rather than taking the Portland Streetcar. But Portland Streetcar, run by long-time Friend of Neil Rick Gustafson, is in it for the long slog. Neil Goldschmidt may be gone, but the tentacles of his network run deep and strong in Portland and Salem to this day.