Millions go missing from the mysterious school district earmarks in Portland’s “Education” Urban Renewal Area

Posted on May 3, 2012 by


In an earlier post, we asked why Portland’s toniest high school was jumping to the head of the line to get rebuilt out of urban renewal dollars.

Now it seems that in less than two weeks, about one-third of that money has been taken away from the Portland Public Schools earmark. The money appears to have been transferred to Portland State University and added to the porkbarrel better known as the city’s (somewhat silly) “Cluster Development Strategy.”

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Where is the urban renewal at Lincoln High School?

This is one of the bigger mysteries of the “Education” Urban Renewal Area.  It’s no secret that PPS, Lincoln parents, and the construction industry are eager to rebuild Lincoln High School.

Even so, no one seems to know what the city plans to do with the $14.5 million $10 million earmarked for PPS.  In particular, no one wants to admit that the money would go toward rebuilding the city’s public ivy. Here’s a tweet I got from PPS government relations:

Edu URA doesn’t guarantee a rebuild of LHS, inclusion of site merely allows for leverage & flexibility, if needed.

Portland’s League of Women Voters believe the blank check aspect the PPS earmark runs afoul of state law:

According to the Plan, $10 million will be spent on Lincoln High School redevelopment. There is no explanation of what is envisioned for the redeveloped site. We understand there are proposals for reconfiguring the school facilities to allow for possible condominium and commercial development. As noted above, ORS 457 requires that the Plan include descriptions of the projects, timing, costs and source of moneys. Council should insist that Portland Public Schools provides that information for inclusion in the Plan before adoption.

What’s taken away with one hand is given with the other

Even more curious is that Portland’s mayor has announced that he is “looking under every rock” to come up with $5 million to hand over to Portland Public Schools to stave off massive teacher layoffs in the beleaguered school district at the same time he’s taken $4.5 million away from the districts urban renewal earmark.