February 3rd, 2010 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

City Hall Notebook: Leonard Tangles With Fritz. Facts Win.

Fritz City Hall

Before casting her lone "no" vote on the PGE Park deal, Commissioner Amanda Fritz offered a lengthy dissenting opinion, which she has posted on her website.

Commissioner Randy Leonard responded with a shorter, but no less pointed, critique of Fritz's critique, which included a discussion of the need for politicians to ignore "popular criticism" when that popular criticism is based on "faulty" assumptions.

Trouble is the two "faulty" assumptions Leonard pointed out aren't false, even though Leonard says they are.

In her testimony, Fritz noted the following: "It has been said that this deal protects the taxpayers and that no citywide tax dollars or general funds will be used for this project. That is true at this time, but it is hard to imagine how it can remain so. They project will be tying up the bulk of the Spectator Fund until 2028 ... No contributions will be made to capital reserves during those years."

She also said: "It is the lost opportunity for other uses of those funds that is the real cost to taxpayers. We are currently in the midst of a Coliseum re-purposing project. The Coliseum needs to be rehabilitated, which will take significant resources. By going forward with the soccer redevelopment, spectator funds will not be available for the Coliseum."

Leonard's response? "I don't think it's appropriate to say taxpayer dollars are at risk," he said. Then, several minutes later, he acknowledged the project posed risks.

Fritz also noted one other obvious fact: Taxes on Trail Blazers' tickets and parking revenue from the Rose Quarter (two items that contribute greatly to the Spectator Fund) were subsidizing PGE Park's renovation for soccer fans whose own ticket taxes do not cover Portland's investment in the deal.

Leonard said the idea that Blazers' fans were paying for soccer was not true. Leonard would have had a point if he said something like "tax dollars belong to the public not the individuals who pay them." Then he would have been engaging in a philosophical debate about taxes. As it stood, however, he accused Fritz of A) lying or B) getting her facts wrong. "Neither of which are true," to borrow a phrase from Leonard.

Fritz ignored Leonard but later thanked Mayor Sam Adams for honoring "that reasonable people can disagree."

The final vote on the financial deal to retrofit PGE Park for soccer was 4-1. Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent but voted by phone today.

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