Pork Barrel Projects

Ashland schools showcase extra tax proceeds: Ashland School District has benefited from local city property taxes as a way to draw in extra funds beyond the statewide equalization formula. It uses the funds for after school and sport activities. Since 1993 the district has raised over $1.5 million to help fund specialized programs like water polo, Nordic skiing, horseback ridding and snowboarding. The Oregonian 3-2-03. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 4/1/03

Politicians travel globe during recession: The Gresham Mayor and City Manager flew at taxpayers’ expense to Japan and South Korea for conferences. The Oregonian 9-5-02. Spring 2003.

Criminals selling coffee: Marion County Commissioners voted to create a new open-air market for juvenile offenders to learn new skills. The young offenders would sell groceries, flowers and espresso coffee. An emphasis would be made on teaching these youths about environmentally appropriate buildings, and the shoppers would receive special instructions on environmentally friendly practices. The commissioners expect the sale of coffee and goods to help pay for the new center. Other funds would come from two $50,000 solid waste grants and a $200,000 loan from reserves in the solid waste department. Statesman Journal 8-29-02, (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 11/02.

Urban Renewal Gets Second Look: When Newberg considered adopting Urban Renewal two years ago, proponents claimed it would not take any money from education. Latest figures from the assessor’s office show that $22,500 is being diverted from local schools because of the new Urban Renewal District. Urban Renewal supporters say that $22,500 would have gone to the state, been redistributed and lost. The URD raised a total of $54,000 in the first year and is spread out among various county and local governments.New property tax bills now show a breakdown of where taxes are being spent, including Urban Renewal funds for the very first time. The Douglas County Tax assessor noted, “The urban renewal tax revenue goes to the city, but it was always done behind the scenes. So people never saw it on their tax bill.” In Keizer, Urban Renewal gets more money from property owners than the city. Some of Keizer’s urban renewal funds go to street and building improvements while others go to legal activities, janitorial work, office equipment and furniture.Newberg Graphic 10-30-02, Keizer Times 10-25-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 1-15-03

$1.4 Million for Street Beautification: Two Bend city councilors are revisiting what the city spends on Urban Renewal programs after it was noted that Bend taxpayers have paid $1.45 million in such funds to help beautify Minnesota Avenue. Some of the expenses included a $78,500 fountain, $65,000 for a concrete stream, $189,000 in plaza remodeling, new trees, artwork and taking out a street to make the area more open to pedestrian traffic. Former mayor Allan Bruckner wanted the funds to go towards a parking garage and purchase of riverside land. Several critics point out that Minnesota Avenue was already a wonderful part of downtown and such urban renewal funds were designed to go towards “blighted” areas. The total list of urban renewal funds for all projects has reached $21 million. Bend Bulletin 12-1-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 1-1-03.

Budget Items Questioned: The local John Day Newspaper has critiqued how the state is spending money and the claim that prisoners must be released to balance the budget. The editor cites many examples of government waste that should instead be targeted as opposed to releasing criminals. The editor notes that the Department of Environmental Quality will still keep its many helicopters with infrared cameras used to monitor the temperature of rivers and that the natural resource budget will still grow 13%. There is also $2.3 million being spent on a pesticide reporting system that “nobody needs”. Blue Mountain Eagle 9-18-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 11-1-02.

State “Lootery”?: A state audit showed close to a million dollars in questionable expenses by the State Lottery. In one year they had spent $92,500 on meeting expenses, despite the fact that the Lottery building has 13 large and small meeting rooms which went unused for many of those meetings. The lottery spared no expense for their annual staff meeting by paying $6,600 for one speaker and $23,000 for another, who spoke on “Beep Beep: Competing in the Age of the Roadrunner”. One event required $1,000 worth of decorations for a 1950s/Elvis theme party. While the average state agency spends $602 per employee to train at a local college, the state Lottery spent an average of $1,550. The Lottery spent $3,600 to send one employee to an interior design school. The state Lottery failed to save taxpayer money by using the State Motor Pool located next door. The Lottery gave $10,372 in rewards to its employees, which included a $210 Waterford vase, a $131 clock, and a $236 bracelet. 11/2002 State Audit.  Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2003

Amenities Carry Big Price Tags: Springfield has almost completed its new $436,000 skatepark. The local park district contributed $130,000. Silverton has approved a $1.2 million “pool remodeling” bond to be repaid over 11 years. Silverton Appeal-Tribune 8-14-02..Eugene Register Guard 9-7-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 10-1-02.

County Plans “Felons Farmers Market”: Marion County Commissioners voted to create a new open-air market for juvenile offenders to learn new skills. The young offenders would sell groceries, flowers and espresso coffee. An emphasis would be made on teaching these youths about environmentally appropriate buildings and the shoppers would receive special instructions on environmentally friendly practices. The commissioners expect the sale of coffee and goods to help pay for the new center. Other funds would come from two $50,000 solid waste grants and a $200,000 loan from reserves in the solid waste department. Statesman Journal 8-29-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 9-15-02.

Civic Center Takes in $11 million in Urban Renewal Funds: Wilsonville’s new $11 million civic center (including city hall) is moving towards complete funding through urban renewal funds, up from $4 million previously. Opponents have taken aim at the large office space being added to the civic center, which they say has nothing to do with economic development. Wilsonvile Spokesman 6-26-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 8-15-02.

Fees to Help Build $197,000 SkatePark: Woodburn is building an estimated $197,000 SkatePark. $93,000 of the amount will be a grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund which receives its revenue from offshore oil drilling fees. The remaining balance came primarily from general funds and system development charges. Woodburn Independent 6-12-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 7-15-02.

In Tough Times, Local Governments Weigh Spending ChoicesSalem is spending $15,000 to cover the expenses of investigations into human rights violations. The city has a new discrimination law on the books. The Gold Beach Budget committee decided to keep its $41,000 “Urban Renewal Consultant.” The Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District will spend $55,000 for technology improvements — an annual grant that keeps the district constantly updated rather than making large upgrades in a single year. Klamath County Commissioners agreed to cap their spending on the Partnership for a Drug-Free Klamath County to no more than $10,000.   Statesman Journal 5-21-02, Curry County Reporter 5-8-02, Lebanon Express 5-08-02, Klamath Falls 5-15-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 6-15-02

Salem Wants $5 Million Center for Weddings, Karate. Salem is trying raise $5 million for a community center, paid for in part by a property tax hike of roughly $40 per year on the average home. Proposed uses for the center include wedding ceremonies, dance lessons, Karate classes and aerobics training. The center will have a lab for computer classes. Critics of the plan question whether spending $5 million dollars on space for weddings and Karate classes is the best use of taxpayer funds. Salem Statesman Journal 5-13-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 6-1-02.

Official Questions Effectiveness of Salem Revitalization Programs: A local county official is criticizing Salem’s downtown revitalization program. Phillip Miles, Marion County Recorder, makes the point that the recent tax-subsidized skybridges, designer sidewalks and new sidewalk awnings look impressive but the downtown still remains vacant of business. The mall, which is connected by the new skybridges, still has high vacancy rates. Statesman Journal 3-13-02.  Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 4-15-02

$308,000 Urban Renewal Survey: The city of Portland is planning to spend more than a quarter million for a survey to find out how people are affected by urban renewal and rising housing prices. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2002.

Free Rent at Taxpayer Expense: The Portland Development Commission’s real estate manager is resigning after one of her employees moved into a house owned by the PDC. The manager and employee worked out a free rent for three months in the city owned house in exchange for some house repairs. The required public advertising of the rental space was curiously not done for this particular house. The PDC is committed to helping the employee find a new home and may even give financial aid in the process. The Oregonian 1-15-02. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2002.

Hermiston Wants $7.8 Million Pool: Aquatic centers remain popular among Oregon cites – and expensive also. The proposed Hermiston (pop. 11,500) pool center is expected to cost taxpayers $7.8 million.  East Oregonian 3-6-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 4-15-02.

Tax money to throw a party: The Commission on Asian Affairs was faulted for spending taxpayer funds for a party for the Superintendent of Public Schools. State Audit Report Asian Affairs 2001. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2002.

Have state money, will travel: The director of the Commission on Hispanic Affairs was faulted for mis-spending $3,480 in cell phone calls, airline tickets for wife, movie rentals, and multiple vacation related expenses. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2002

Taxpayer dollars used to hypnotize smokers: Wallowa County is using it’s tobacco tax proceeds to hire a hypnotherapist to help people quit smoking. Ana Nelthropp is being hired as the new project manager for the organization called Tobacco Free Wallowa County. Nelthropp would like to use her private practice of hypnotherapy in group settings to help Wallowa Co. residents kick the habit. She sees tobacco addiction being a physical, chemical, and mental problem that can easily be broken with the help of modern hypnotism. Nelthroppp background includes an advanced degree from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. East Oregonian 1-13-02. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2002

Community Centers: Is Bigger Better? The Woodburn City Council is considering building a $4.8 million community center with the help of private donations and funds from the city’s system development charges. Proponents feel that the low turnout at the existing community center is proof that a newer and bigger center is needed. Salem Statesman Journal 2-25-02. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 3-15-02.

Taxpayers Fund Growth Gurus: The city of Gold Hill is the recipient of new grants aimed at helping cities plan better. The U.S. Forest Service Old Growth Diversification Fund is giving $15,000 to a communication specialist to conduct downtown planning workshops and teach grant writing. The Housing & Urban Development community block grant program is giving $8,500 to the communication specialists’ company to do a financial analysis. The analysis will look at possible new sources of revenue. Medford Mail Tribune 12-17-01. Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 1-15-02.

A million for trolley art
The cost of the new light rail art project is $1.2 million and will be spread throughout 10 stops. The art projects will cover such topics, as the healing power of light and nature, and the importance of water.The Oregonian 10-5-01. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2001

Holding your hand with government hand-outs: Oregon is the new testing ground for a new tax credit. The US Dept. of Ag. is giving 500 needy seniors vouchers, worth $100 each, to use specifically for farmer markets and roadside vendors. About $1.5 million dollars of taxpayer funds is being used to fund the project in Oregon. Eugene Register Guard 6-15-01. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2001

Youth start early on government freebies
Tri-met has cut in half the price for a bus pass for students, in response to a protest by a youth activist group called Sisters in Action for Power. The group was only half pleased, because they wanted free passes for all youth.The Oregonian 8-14-01. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2001.

Designer affordable housing?: The Housing Authority of Portland was approached with a low-income housing project featuring the design of world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry. Fortunately this idea, which would have cost $6 million more than the average low-income housing project, was rejected.The Oregonian 11-1-01. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2001.

Baseball “Pork”: PGE PARK: The city, along with key investors, poured $50 million into renovating the aging civic stadium. The flush of money helped pay the chief partner a quarter million salary, and the city stepped in to subsidize the wages of the food vendors so the Park could qualify for the city living-wage rule. Since its grand opening, the Park has been a colossal flop. Instead of rosy profits for the city in the first year, the city is now looking at $8 million in the red. Within a few weeks after the park opened, partners were already looking for a way to get out, and the baseball and soccer team were looking to leave. It must be noted that the original park plans were made behind closed doors. The Mayor even signed an secrecy agreement that prevented fellow councilors from seeing the park’s projections before opening. Such deals are made behind closed doors to avoid scrutiny by taxpayers and the public, who would not appreciate a good financial deal when they see one. This and other insights on the folly of the PGE park can be found in a special expose by the Willamette Week (WW 10-03-01). Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2001

Salem spends big on tree research
SALEM- the City of Salem is serious about its trees and is putting up significant funds to address the problem of tree availability. The city recently paid to join a study to examine tree coverage by using satellite imagery. The study by the American Forests organization in D.C. claims that tree-loss among NW cities costs billions of dollars because trees cool homes and slow rain-water runoff. Salem spent $13,500 on the study (about $10,000 more than most cities).
Statesman Journal 10-22-01.  Oregon Tax Research (www.oregontaxes.org) Local Tax News 11-15-01

Gresham’s Christmas Trolley Falls Flat: Gresham helped fund $8,000 for a free holiday shuttle to lure shoppers out of their automobiles this Christmas and onto mass transit. The shuttle has been an abysmal failure averaging only 9 riders a day. Many of the 28 round trips a day were empty of passengers, adding rather than subtracting pollution. (The Oregonian 12-21-00). Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Spring 2001.

Booking frequent flyer miles, rather than felons:While the State Police Department is making serious cutbacks, they are preserving two aircraft that are primarily used to fly police executives to public relations gatherings. For nine months one of the aircraft was used for only one defined “emergency”. As the State Police have paid $2.1 million to keep these aircraft flying every budget cycle, they are cutting funds to detective and crime labs and not staffing 20 state troopers positions. The Oregonian 10-22-00.  Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report Fall 2000.

Lifesaving liposuction billed to taxpayers: A state audit of the Oregon Health Sciences University found over-billings in one of every five bills charged to the federal government. Through creative re-labeling, a “Tummy Tuck” was categorized as an essential “Tissue Transfer”, therefore qualifying for federal grant money. Such deceptive maneuvers helped cost taxpayers $230,000. It might be said that OHSU’s violations were minor compared to the audits of five East Coast medical schools that had to repay five to thirty million dollars each to the federal government. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report 7/2000

Build it and they won’t come: The town of Canby opened Oregon’s first “telecommuting center” last April. Thanks to a $68,000 DEQ grant and $20,000 expected from the city, the center now has plenty of new cubicles and state-of-the-art equipment. The center hoped to lure workers away from long drives by renting commuters one of their personal stations closer to home. Well, one month after its opening, the center has attracted only one regular client who comes in twice a week. Planners failed to heed the warnings coming out of California that saw the closing of most of their 30 taxpayer-funded telecommuting centers due to abysmal participation. Taxpayer Association of Oregon (www.oregonwatchdog.com) Waste Watch Report 7/2000