News of Portland in brief

PDC loses legal control

The City Council continued to tighten its control over the Portland Development Commission on Wednesday.

By a 3-2 vote, the council directed the city attorney to assume the duties of the PDC's existing head lawyer by July 1. Last May, Portland voters approved a City Charter amendment submitted by the City Council giving the council control over the PDC's budget.

Portland voters originally created the PDC in 1958 as the city's quasi-independent urban renewal agency. To maintain an arms-length relationship from the council, the PDC historically has controlled its budget and hired its own legal staff.

But commissioners Randy Leonard and Erik Sten repeatedly have clashed with the PDC in recent years. Now, joined by Commissioner Sam Adams, they succeeded in curtailing the agency's independent legal representation.

At the same meeting, the council unanimously approved Sten's proposal to transfer $19 million in urban renewal funds from the River District urban renewal area that includes the Pearl District to a so-called satellite district in the David Douglas School District in outer east Portland.

The council unanimously approved the plan despite opposition from the downtown-oriented Portland Business Alliance and questions about its legality raised by the city attorney's office.

The decision was supported by parents and administrators in the David Douglas district and the nearby Parkrose School District, however.

Complaint report online

According to the most recent annual report issued by the Portland ombudsman's office, the three biggest city complaint generators last year were the Bureau of Development Services, the Portland Office of Transportation and the listing of property owners' identities on the city-run Web site, .

The little-known ombudsman office tries to mediate conflicts between citizens and city agencies, while advocating for members of the public. According to the report released Tuesday, Ombudsman Michael Mills and his staff handled nearly 300 complaints from the public last year.

The property listings became an issue last year after Mayor Tom Potter's office authorized the posting of identities, which are a matter of public record, in response to a recommendation from the ombudsman's office.

That, however, sparked complaints. In response to some of them, the names of property owners in Washington and Clackamas counties were not displayed on the Web site.

In addition, the ombudsman's office also helped the City Council adopt a new policy to cut down on the number of Dumpsters on public sidewalks, and helped bring to light that the state's building code does not comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, leading to violations at Oregon Health and Science University's new Center for Health and Healing building.

The full seven-page report is available at

To file a complaint with the ombudsman, call 503-823-0144, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Audit notes labor issues

A Portland Public Schools audit of facilities maintenance released Wednesday sheds no new light on the facilities bond measure the school board may ask voters to approve in November.

One finding that stood out, however, was the auditor's note that district facilities workers were 'demoralized' and 'dissatisfied' and had a 'high level of anger' with district management due to program and staffing reductions over the last 20 years.

'Foremen believe that these reductions significantly compromised the quality of school maintenance and the condition of school buildings,' district auditor Richard Tracy wrote. 'Most foremen believe that they are unable to conduct preventative maintenance and cannot keep pace with the number of emergency and routine repair requests they receive each year.'

Superintendent Carole Smith acknowledged the problem and said that some steps have been made in the past eight months to attempt to restore trust, including weekly foreman-management meetings and a labor-management committee. Smith agreed with some recommendations and disagreed with others.

Go to to read the audit.

TriMet boosts security

A little more than four months after the gang-related beating of an elderly man at a Gresham MAX station shocked the region, TriMet's efforts to increase security along the light-rail line are picking up steam.

As part of a new Westside Precinct, additional law enforcement officials began patrolling the MAX line from Beaverton to Hillsboro this week. They include two Beaverton police officers, one Hillsboro police officer and a sergeant, and a Washington County sheriff's deputy.

TriMet also is scheduled to launch the new Eastside Precinct with patrols scheduled to begin April 10. A total of 10 officers are expected to be covering both MAX and buses between the Gateway Transit Center and the Cleveland Avenue stations by July 1.

- Tribune staff

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