How Do We Fix Portland's Fiscal Incompetence?

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Portland's Fiscal Incompetence?

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How Do We Fix Portland's Fiscal Incompetence? by Jack Kerfoot

Portland city government has a long and troubling history of grievous fiscal incompetence. Examples of our city's fiscal malfeasance include:
  • The cost to build the Columbia Building tripled in cost from the initial design! [1]
  • The cost to build the Washington Park reservoir increased from $67 million to at least $205 million! [2]
  • The cost to build a new Portland water treatment plant increased from $500 million to $850 million, because the project estimate didn't include the cost for the pipes to carry the water to or from the water treatment plant [3]


    What is the Portland City Council doing to address fiscal incompetence? The Portland City Council has approved new rules that will reduce transparency in city contracting! [4] Citizens quickly lose confidence in any government that isn't transparent. Fiscal oversight and transparency are essential for any business or government.


    Fine, but what can a Portland City Commissioner do to fix fiscal malfeasance in city government? The Mayor assigns each City Commissioner a department(s) for which they are responsible and accountable.


    Having lead business turnarounds and start-ups, I know it is essential to define performance expectations. Any financial proposal, should include the following steps:

    1. Draft proposal to the manager and in city government, the Commissioner.

    2. Commissioner meets with the team making the financial recommendation.

    3. Project and cost estimates are "peer reviewed" by independent experts in a meeting with the Commissioner. This is the time to find and correct oversights and improve the probability of a successful project.

    4. The proposal is revised, reviewed and approved by the Commissioner.

    5. The proposal is then reviewed in depth by the City Council, which must then approve or reject the recommendation.

    6. The contract of work clearly defines deliverables for each step of the projects with precise amounts to be paid for each deliverable in the project.

    7. The project team and the Commissioner continue to meet on a regular basis, until the project is completed.

    8. Project updates should be made available to the tax payers of Portland, that are funding the project.


    These simple steps are fundamental in leading efficient businesses around the world. I will make transparent and fiscally responsible government my highest priority, if I am elected Portland City Commissioner in 2020.


    This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.


    [1] Rob Manning, OPB October 22, 2014, https://www.opb.org/contributor/rob-manning/


    [2] Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian/OregonLive, "Costs to build Portland drinking water reservoir soar past expectations," August 26, 2019.


    [3] Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian/OregonLive, "Costs for Portland water treatment plant rise 70% - because planners now including pipes," September 23, 2019.


    [4] Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian/OregonLive, "Portland City Council Oks Less Oversight of Spending," April 12, 2019.


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