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March 31st, 2004 The Nose | The Nose
 

Parking up the wrong tree.

     
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GREG GOODMAN
IMAGE: BASIL CHILDERS/ WW MANIPULATION
There's, like, a crisis going on around here.

With cherry blossoms dotting city sidewalks and tulips bursting open all around us, readers might be tempted to wonder why the Nose is so alarmed. Simple.

Open this month's edition of Oregon Business magazine. There, in a story about mayoral candidate Jim Francesconi, parking magnate Greg Goodman weighs in on the local business climate.

It's no secret that Goodman, president of City Center Parking, and his colleagues at the Portland Business Alliance are unhappy with Mayor Vera Katz. They don't like her coddling of panhandlers. They don't like her aversion to automobiles, and they hate the tax that the city and county levy on business profits.

"The business climate is a disaster," Goodman tells Oregon Business. "There's like a prohibition on wealth creation around here."

Now, the Nose ain't exactly Alan Greenspan, but he finds Goodman an odd champion of laissez-faire economics. That's because for years the Nose has been forking over big dinero to park his rig in Goodman's lots all over this city. And there may be nobody in this town who has benefited more from government intervention than the Goodman family.

You see, about 30 years ago, City Hall capped the number of parking spaces downtown. At that time, City Center Parking controlled most of the lots, meaning the government action gave the Goodman clan a virtual monopoly on parking. As the region's population soared, the Goodmans rolled their profits into acquiring more lots from other operators. (By some estimates, at one time they owned or leased as many as 90 percent of the spaces downtown.)

In addition to the private lots they owned or managed, they also enjoyed a crucial contract to operate the six city-owned Smart Park garages.

Talk about wealth creation.

In fact, the Nose will bet that Goodman's real beef with City Hall is not about excessive government meddling. Instead, it's about the city's move last year to make the parking market more competitive. The Goodmans' asphalt-and-concrete empire began to show some cracks in May when the City Council took the first step toward opening up the market by awarding Smart Park's management contract to Goodman's competitor, Star Park, which had teamed up with a coalition of minority business associations (see "Space Wars," WW, June 4, 2003).

Earlier this month, Katz and her brethren took another step toward ending City Center's 19-year grip on the Smart Park facilities, declining to extend the company's deal to handle the cash at city garages.

Goodman reacted angrily, which may have informed his comments to Oregon Business magazine about the city's hostility toward business.

Look, Goodman's complaint--that locally imposed business taxes are too high--has some merit. Those taxes, which total nearly 4 percent of net income for Portland employers, provide a big incentive to move to the 'Couv or Lake O.

But if the business community wants its message about taxes to be taken seriously, it might want to find a different messenger.

 
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