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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Same as it ever was

When the news flashed that Don "the Don" Mazziotti was on his way out as CEO of the Portland Development Commission, it looked like a golden opportunity for much-needed change in the way that agency does business, and even more importantly, in the way the City of Portland approaches "urban renewal." "Maybe Nick Fish will take it over!" some people gushed. But those who got their hopes up, momentarily, can't be too pleased with the list of four finalists who have emerged to replace Mazziotti.

I'm sure they're all nice, bright people, but let's face it, it's two of the usual suspects, a third fairly familiar face, and a fourth guy who might as well be from the moon. For all the thousands that the PDC is paying to the local headhunter outfit Murphy, Symonds and Stowell, they didn't exactly come up with a dynamic roster of change agents.

Here are the finalists, in the order of likelihood of getting the job (Note: These odds were revised after an alert reader pointed out a statistical error in my original analysis):

David Knowles 1-1 Bruce Warner 3-1 Karen Williams 6-1 Gilbert Jimenez 24-1 [None of the above 15-1]

The PDC hasn't graced us with these folks' resumes. Though they say they want our input at some upcoming public meetings on the search, as usual they don't want us to have any facts beforehand. But of course, in these days of the internet, that doesn't stop anyone from trying to piece the information together on their own. Here's what I've come up with so far, and I invite readers to fill in, in the comments below, the many gaps I'm leaving:

Knowles, who amazingly hasn't got an organized bio or photo posted anywhere that I can find on the internet, is the most likely winner of Mazziotti's position. He was Commissioner Charlie Hales and Mayor Vera Katz's director of planning for more than five years ending in 1999, and he was a Metro councillor from 1986 to 1991. As I recall, he shares the Katz vision of Portland, which in turn matches the Erik Sten vision of Portland, which in turn makes Knowles the natural frontrunner.

Since leaving City Hall, Knowles has worked for Shiels Obletz Johnsen and David Evans and Associates, two prominent construction management firms that doubtlessly have made tons off PDC projects over the years. He's sat on Diane Linn and Katz's school "quality advisory council," or whatever the thing is that's supposedly monitoring the education expenditures being made out of the county income tax. He headed a public advisory board whose recommendations preceded the Portland schools' failed search for a superintendent in 2002. Knowles more recently coordinated the city's Rose Quarter study -- a pet project of Sten's, as I recall. He's all for a publicly subsidized convention center hotel. He endorsed his old City Hall colleague Sam Adams for city commissioner (Metro Councillor Brian Newman too), and he fits right in with the propaganda that the oversized PDC (180 employees, I hear) and the city's bloated planning bureau (I hear something like 200 employees) really need to work together more efficiently, blah blah blah. I'm sure Team Goldschmidt would be delighted with his appointment, and given recent practices, I suspect that Hennessee is already drafting the public announcement of Knowles's anointing.

I had contact with Knowles's planning bureau back when I was a resident of the Buckman neighborhood, and it was then that I witnessed firsthand the insensitive mistreatment that neighborhoods like Buckman receive from bureaucrats like Knowles. The issue du jour was the siting of a commercially operated gangster halfway house across the street from the Buckman Elementary School. The city washed its hands of the matter and let the facility go in, after one of the leading lights in the planning bureau decided (I am not making this up) that the recently sprung gang bangers were in fact "disabled" because they took drugs, and moreover were actually a single "family" because they were all technically in the custody of the state corrections department.

Not only that, but Knowles made a big public to-do about the fact that he was "recusing" himself from the matter because (I am not making this up, either) his wife had strong feelings about the case. If you think a guy like that is going to shake anything up, then you probably voted for Adams.

Moving slightly out from the entrenched inner circle -- but only slightly -- we find a guy named Bruce Warner, who's been running the state transportation department (ODOT) since 2001, when John Kitzhaber appointed him to that post. Warner is apparently from Brightwood, on Mount Hood in Clackamas County, and he's been working down in Salem rather than here in the Rose City for quite some time. (Meaningless aside: My friend's Volkswagen Rabbit, the worst car ever built, died in Brightwood once.) But Warner's resume includes a stint as chief operating officer at Metro, where I'm sure he became well acquainted with the Portland powers that be. Before that he was a regional manager for ODOT.

A couple of interesting stories emerge from Warner's time at Metro. It seems he was a strong supporter of the Opus Northwest development off I-5 in Durham. (I was down there for lunch last week -- pretty dismal. Welcome to the Worst of San Jose.) Warner apparently was also something of a thorn in the side of Sten's proposed regional real estate transfer tax that would have paid for low-income housing. The Opus connection could be a plus with the PDC commissioners, but crossing Opie hasn't helped anybody's career prospects in city government lately.

Next up on the list is Karen Williams, currently a partner at a big-bucks downtown law firm and formerly general counsel of the PDC. She has been in private practice since she left the PDC in 2001, and she's still big-time into the "public-private partnership" game:

Karen plays an integral role in assisting project managers and policy makers with both project and strategic advice in meeting economic development, housing, and redevelopment goals. She advises on contamination issues in real property acquisition, disposition, and for secured lenders. She is instrumental in finding common ground between public entities and private developers.

While she's working for private developers, she also finds time to do legal work for the PDC. A 2004 news release from the firm notes that the PDC hired her to work for it on something called the Rosemont project. Given the PDC's alarming contracting "practices" and the fact that it already had at least a couple of attorneys on staff, I don't even want to go there.

To me Ms. Williams has been through the revolving PDC door once or twice already, and for her to head back in as the CEO isn't going to do anything to help the agency with its conflict-of-interest problems. In any event, I don't see the current PDC crowd moving in her direction, if only for the fact that, though there's no way to know for sure, she looks as though she's only in her early 40s.

Gil Jimenez is currently the director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, before which he was a private banker for 30 years. He's got strong ties to Mexico, to say the least:

Mr. Jimenez came from the private sector bringing over 30 years experience in the banking world to this position. His most recent job with Bank One was as Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for Mexico/Latin America.

In his years with Bank One, Mr. Jimenez was responsible for: the bank’s international portfolio, including analysis and approval of credit and country risk; managed activities in Mexico that included Corporate, Border and Private banking offices in Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Arizona; reorganizing the marketing focus of the Mexico City subsidiary.

What a Latin America expert is doing on the short list for a Pacific Northwest urban renewal agency is anyone's guess. He may actually be qualified for the position, and naturally his Latino ethnicity would be attractive to any search committee. But realistically? Not a chance, unless there's a spectacular Portland connection that has dropped out of his public bio.

* * * * *

Aside from the fact that no one on this list moves me, I'm also dismayed that Mayor Potter is letting the lame duck cast of commissioners headed by Chair Matt Hennessee make the hiring decision. Although the mayor is interviewing the finalists and says he's going to state his preference, the facts are that under the current schedule the decision will be made by the end of the month, and four of the five commissioners voting will be the holdovers from the Katz-Goldschmidt administration: Hennessee; Goldschmidt pal Janice Wilson; attorney Doug Blomgren; and Eric Parsons, the head of Standard Insurance. These four have failed to ackowledge publicly the disaster that the PDC has become under their direction. Defiant in the imposition of their will over that of the majority of the population of Portland, they'll do as they darn well please, or perhaps as the Old Boy Network requests that they please.

If the decision were just postponed by only a month or two (perhaps with some suitable interim executive director acting as caretaker), Potter appointees would be casting three of the five votes, as Hennessee and Wilson are departing soon. I wish Potter would figure out a way to put the decision off until after Mazziotti, Hennessee, and Wilson are gone. Perhaps the Potterites are figuring that the new chief exec will have to play ball with the new Potter majority that will appear on the board this summer, but that remains to be seen.

Change at the PDC? It looks like it's going to be glacial, at best.

Comments (28)

Maybe Ben Canada can take over for nine months or so...

I don't want Hennessee anywhere near this choice.

I'm very disappointed that Charlie Hales didn't get a call back. He has just the right amount of independence, is able to work with the inside crew while keeping himself an outsider and he has the ability to get things built.

All these choices are uninspiring and I don't see them making the needed changes at the PDC

Can't we just put the PDC out of its misery?


OK cab,
That was a joke right? Or you got to be Homer Williams or ?

Charlie Hales would possibly be the worst possible choice. That's like recommending Dave Bragdon or Mike Burton, guaranteed to push the same machine in the same direction.

Independence??????? Good grief!

Oh I know how about Neil Goldschmidt himself?
Apparently he's available.
How about Vera?

My first filter would be anyone who thinks the Tram is a good idea, no way.
Second, anyone who thinks South Waterfront is a sound public investment, no way.
Third, anyone who worked for or contributed to any city commissioner, no way.
Forth, anyone who has been associated with any PDC commissioner, TriMet board member, OHSU board member, Metro Councilor or Port of Portland Commissioner, no way.
Fifth, anyone from out of state who knows nothing but will be "brought up to speed" by the above people, no way.

The issue du jour was the siting of a commercially operated gangster halfway house across the street from the Buckman Elementary School.

This is the internet equivalent of a "Summon Jack Peek" card, you know...

I nominate Dave Lister for the PDC.
There, how tough was that to find a truly impartial and independent human.
Of course the BS to soooooo deep around here a few people have to get their cut of the action just to posture up another lacky for the status quo and present the event as a turning point.


Sounds like the only person you'd be happy with is someone with no formal training in business, planning, banking or public service. A drop out who gets all his info from Lars Larson and some incredible dumbed down show on Sat. afternoon on public TV featuring two guys complaining because they haven't done anything worthwhile in the community other then bitch and moan about being neutered and not having the ability to think beyond their commute to their job at their local dive bar.

Here is some info on David Knowles that I found on Nexis.

This took much longer than I thought it would. I will attempt to provide info on the other candidates time permitting.

David Knowles

Business Journal - September 30, 1991

In a brilliant off-court move, the Blazers announced a plan seek $34.5 million in public assistance without seeking a dime of property taxes. To avoid a dispute over increased taxes, the team proposed public funding to come from parking fees and a surcharge on tickets to arena and Memorial Coliseum events.

It's unclear who would be the biggest winner in the Blazers' proposal to operate the Coliseum and share profits 50-50 with the public. The Blazers would assume all losses, if any.

The facility generated $1.5 million in profits on total revenue of $11 million in fiscal 1990-91.
But the profits from the Coliseum are deceptive because they don't take into account deferred maintenance and the projected loss of the main tenant, the Blazers.

"The Coliseum is going to go into a deficit position anyway and will no longer be a cash cow as it has been," said David Knowles, a Metro Councilor who was involved in arena negotiations.
Because the Blazers are willing to take all risks for the Coliseum's operating budget, the 50-50 deal is good for the public, Knowles said.

Wisconsin State Journal - November 7, 1995

The convention center has become a stimulus for development in the Lloyd District, where $100 million has been spent to modernize a shopping mall and hotels have spent about $16 million to upgrade their facilities. Also, the location of the convention center and easy access to the Metropolitan Area Express light-rail line were major reasons why the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team opened its 20,000-seat arena this fall directly across the street.

"It really has become the east part of downtown," said Portland City Planner David Knowles, "and because it's more than a box for conventions, it has become a new symbol for the city. Portland has a real sense of ownership."

Business Journal - April 5, 1996

Portland Planning Bureau, facing the June 17, 1996 expiration of a 10-year agreement with billboard companies, is trying to rush changes to the sign code that would ban new billboards and reduce the size of other signs. Planners say smaller signs will improve the appearance of 82nd Avenue and other commercial districts, making the districts more inviting for pedestrians.

Signs attached to buildings also would be sealed back. Those in neighborhood commercial districts such as Hawthorne Boulevard and Northeast Broadway would be limited to 100 square feet, down from the current 300 square feet.

The Planning Bureau views the proposal as one way to implement Metro's Region 2040 plan, which will require cities to boost density and foster walkable commercial districts. Big signs provide a "less-inviting environment" for pedestrians, Knowles said.

The new size restrictions should allow businesses to adequately advertise, Knowles said, though he acknowledged critics are making some valid points.

Business Journal - September 13, 1996

"We think that keeping the urban growth boundary in place is directly connected to the livability of the city of Portland," Knowles said. Portland is anxious to capture its share of future growth, he said, or risk losing its economic vitality. If Portlanders are forced to drive to jobs on the fringes of the urban area, city streets will resemble the most-clogged suburbs, he said. And Portland will look like other sprawling metroplexes.

Knowles ticked off changes Portland is making on several fronts to increase density. Mostly the increased density will improve neighborhood life, he said.

The city is redrawing zoning maps for one chunk of the city at a time. That's already spurred more housing development in places like Goose Hollow, the Eliot neighborhood and along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

American City & County - September 1997

David Knowles, director of the Portland Planning Department, contends that the city's urban growth boundary is safe. "The urban growth boundary is coming under increased levels of scrutiny," he says. "But what you have to understand is there is fundamental support for growth limits. Folks interested in limiting expansion are talking about expanding the urban growth boundary by 4,000 acres. Homebuilders are in the 10,000-acre to 12,000-acre range.

"It's really not that big a difference when you consider in California a 10,000-acre subdivision is not all that unusual. There's a fundamental consensus here that land use planning works well."

Portland's experience, Knowles says, holds lessons for other cities, even those that do not enjoy its advantages. "We focused on preserving the vitality of downtown early on," he says. "Twenty years ago, we made decisions that are paying off today. Planning for the long term is extremely important. Second, we have listened. This government has been extremely responsive to what its citizens say. Third, we plan for community; we don't plan for shopping malls. It's a different approach."

Business Journal - February 6, 1998

"If the court says we can't make content-based distinctions, then our recommendation has been to limit all images to 200 square feet. Although the price there is that we can't approve a building-sized mural, which have been pretty attractive downtown, you are also not going to get a Toyota the size of a four-story building."

Oregonian - October 4, 2000

While the Rose Garden arena has proved to be a hit with sports fans and pop-music listeners, the housing, stores and restaurants that were expected to follow in its wake have not.

In fact, a few new businesses that tied their hopes to the Rose Garden arena when it opened five years ago were not able to get customers when the arena wasn't busy with a game or concert and have closed.

"The city hoped this would become a lively part of the central city," said David Knowles, a former Portland Planning Bureau director. "So far, it hasn't happened."

Knowles, who now works for the Portland development firm Shiels Obletz Johnsen, will help coordinate an intensive study instigated by the Portland Development Commission and Mayor Vera Katz.

Knowles said the $262 million arena has failed to stimulate growth of offices, stores and restaurants as originally hoped, despite its success as an arena. He said Paul Allen, as head of the Oregon Arena Corp., supports the city's new study.

Oregonian - April 26, 2001

A debate about the possible construction of a Major League Baseball stadium in the Rose Quarter area is creating tensions between Mayor Vera Katz and some members of a city-appointed committee studying urban design and development issues in the area.

The committee, which meets today, has not made any official recommendations about development and design of the Rose Quarter area. But members generally prefer what consultants call the "big vision" option: eventually removing the Memorial Coliseum and other buildings near the Rose Garden arena to create a mixed-use district on a traditional grid of new streets, said David Knowles, a consultant for the study.

Oregonian - July 22, 2003

To Katz and many others, the prospect of loosening the sign rules could open the door to the clutter and confusion of countless new outdoor signs.

"I think we'd see ads popping up of any size allowed," said David Knowles, a former planning director who spent several weeks testifying in sign litigation before he left the city in 1999. "It's just too lucrative an enterprise to turn down."

Although any number of means might be used to distinguish between a commercial sign and a mural, the wording of the state constitution makes that distinction meaningless.

"What it really boils down to is what makes common sense to the rest of the world isn't reflected in the Oregon Constitution," said Knowles, the former city planning director.

I graciously accept your nomination. And to dispel Cab's notion of your preferred candidate's credentials here is my resume in brief:


General Manager, Associated Wholesale Hardware, Portland Oregon 1980 - 1983

IT Manager, Corno's Food Markets, 1984 - 1985

Co-Owner, Integrated Data Concepts, 1985 to date

Public Service:

Vice Chair, Cost of Doing Business Subcommitte, City of Portland Small Business Advisory Council

Member, Governmental Affairs Committee, Portland Business Alliance


Columnist, Brainstorm NW Magazine

FAA licensed private pilot

And just so Jack won't pull this off as a solicitation, I AM NOT looking for a job.

I do not now, nor have I ever, worked at a local dive bar.

I do not now, nor have I ever, worked at a local dive bar.

Man, that might be the most important criteria for me. Sorry, Dave's out!

I didn't say that I did not frequent them!

A reader writes:

I haven't seen anyone pick up on the fact that one of the people who selected the PDC final 4 was Rochelle Lessner... as in, Rochelle Lessner who up until early January 2005 was with Lane Powell [Williams's law firm].

Since you guys want to destroy the PDC, who cares who the director is?

And anyway, you guys are wrong about the PDC mentality- it's been, on the whole a success for Portland. This city is a much better place to live in than it was in 1975, when Harbor Drive was a freeway and Pioneer Courthouse Square was a parking lot.

I say fix PDC, don't destroy it.

"I do not now, nor have I ever, worked at a local dive bar."

Sorry, Dave. I have to agree with B!X on this one.

After reading your credentials I was "there" until I read that final, insensitive, self serving "slap down" of one of my favorite venues within which to craft good public policy.

Okay, okay you guys. I promise to do weekends part time at the local tavern for a month. Will that make me well rounded enough? I thought the fact that I knock down three or four Pabst Blue Ribbons after work each night would get me there. Sheeesh.

Oh, God. Now the beer snobs will start fighting over you.

Great, if Dave Lister gets the job we'll end up with a Pabst Blue Ribbon sponsored Nascar track in South waterfront. The economic dream of Brainstorm Magazine, government corruption at the white trash level.

By the way, Jack, you are right about Opus' Bridgeport Village - it's a pile of hyped-up post-modern faux-new urban crap. Plus, no one lives within walking distance and it doesn't have any significant transit connections, so everyone will be driving there to "enjoy" the fake-o Disneylandish ambience.

The only way to half-way save it would be to put hundreds of residential units around it within walking distance. But on one side there'a a freeway, and the two cities on either side, Tualatin and Tigard, are bastions of one-dimensional suburban thinking.

Actually I was thinking of a golf course for the South Waterfront. We'd keep the Pabst on the beverage carts. The tram would be handy for the doctors to keep their tee times.

That is actually a good idea. Working with Brainstorm I assume the Course will be private?

See you don't have much diffence with all those rich cats buying up those Condo's. The issue is really about WHO is making the profits off these deals, not how they are. If the Brainstorm crowd had thier hands in the cookie jar you wouldn't see Steve Schopps of the world complaining. They would be to busy playing golf on the Willamette.

Actually, the editor of Brainstorm and I play golf every week at Glendoveer, a public course, owned and operated by Metro. I've never set foot on a private golf course; I don't think they allow people who drive Fords.

Thirty years ago, while the mayor was having sex with a 14-year-old girl, the planners and urban renewal folks in Portland actually did some great things. But today they're just funneling tax dollars into the same dozen pockets, and Californicating the city -- the exact opposite of what was done in the '70s. Let's revitalize the real Portland, and have it done by a city bureau with direct oversight by all five commissioners. Maybe it will help with the corruption.

And Jack will you decree what the real Portland is? Give me a break. Your getting old and everything looks rosier in the old glory days of Jacks youth.

Make crap up, drift off about a golf course, continue lying about PDC and Urban Renewal then cast this notion that nothing matters, only WHO is ripping off the public.

Cab, you are Homer Williams aren't you?

How pathetic that PDC proponents have to hide behind rhetoric about waterfront park .

The PDC is bureaucracy directing a huge snow job while diverting countless millions from basic services.
They obscure what they are doing and BS politicians like Randy Leonard into believing the Tram is needed, that all of South Waterfront is a toxic wasteland and huge Urban Renewal spending was the only option.

The PDC is doing far more than taking advantage of UR. They boil with dishonesty and must be shut down.

I am amazed by the gray matter commenting here!

That is why I am nominating the following most qualified Portlander to be the head cheese of the PDC.

Dick Bogle!

Yes, Portland could use Dick.

I believe Dick can go farther,longer than anyone
else has with Portlandia.

Portand could re-use a dude like Dick.

Not that it matters now, but I think Ed Sullivan would have been a good pick.

Wish Mildred Schwab was still around to run


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Same as it ever was:

» Sleuthing The PDC Executive Director Finalists from The One True b!X's PORTLAND COMMUNIQUE
In the grand tradition of blogging in the middle of the night, Jack Bogdanski has provided some background on the four finalists to take over as executive director of the Portland Development Commissio... [Read More]

» Bruce Warner Named Executive Director Of PDC from The One True b!X's PORTLAND COMMUNIQUE
This morning in a sepcial session, and after several weeks of selection process, the board of the Portland Development Commission unanimously chose Bruce Warner to replace Don Mazziotti as exe... [Read More]

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