Molalla’s Hilarious “Planning” Debacle Continues! It’s the Sound of One Hand Clapping!

 

You can always count on Molalla “government” to be the sound of one hand clapping!

The Molalla City Council, desperate for bodies to sit at hearings to rubber stamp “plans”, is considering new Planning Commission membership rules on May 8. Wow! Instead of beefing up citizen involvement within the City limits, the plan is to throw a 3 mile outside the City limit dragnet. No mention is made of giving business or people who own property inside the City limits but don’t live there the right to serve on the PC.

As usual, “plans” done in haste will result in more crappy, short-sighted ordinances and rules that encourage an ever small, ingrown group to make decisions.

The City Council has a long and ugly record of dismissing PC members – the following open letter is a challenge to the City Council to consider dismissing a PC member who has demonstrated blatant conflict of interest and extensive ex parte contact regarding a hearing proposal. Let’s see if the “insider” club escapes dismissal – if so it will further prove how BIASED AND INGROWN the City of Molalla really is!

May 7, 2019

Open letter to Molalla City Council re: Planning Commission Membership

Dear Molalla City Council,

As you work to modify your PC membership profile please consider the following:

PC Membership: Many cities allow business owners/ owners of city property who don’t live in the city limits to serve on a PC. Your proposed ordinance just outlines 3 mile residence limit. Why not allow property/business owners to be on your PC?

Citizen Involvement Committee: What will serve as the state mandated Citizen Involvement Committee since that is stricken from the proposed language? Every city must have a Citizen Involvement per Goal One. Molalla’s failure to have vigorous involvement in city issues is likely directly related to Molalla’s failure to have an active Citizen Involvement Committee per DLCD’s Goal One mandate:

“Opportunities for widespread public involvement  

Effective two-way communication with the public

The ability for the public to be involved in all phases of the planning process

Making technical information easy to understand

Feedback mechanisms for policy-makers to respond to public input, and adequate financial support for public involvement efforts

The goal also calls for local governments to have a committee for citizen involvement (CCI) to monitor and encourage public participation in planning.”

https://www.oregon.gov/lcd/OP/Pages/Goal-1.aspx

 PC Members unfit to serve because of ethical conflicts of interest/ ex parte contact in violation of hearing rules: A current member of your PC, Jennifer Walton-Satter, is also an elected member of the School Board. That always seemed like a potential direct conflict of interest/ethical problem because the School Board is often concerned about development stressing the ability of the School District to absorb more students. This conflict of interest has now been graphically illustrated on social media on Molalla Now Facebook.

Ms. Walton-Satter has violated the rules of ex parte contact for quasi-legislative hearings and expressed her bias as a Molalla School board with the opinion that proposed development will not burden schools with students but will provide needed revenue for the Molalla School District:

Clearly Walton-Satter is clueless about conflicts of interest or ex parte contact or bias – lobbying for money for the School District in a planning proposal is a big NO NO!

Further examples of Ms. Walton-Satter’s ex-parte contact and bias in favor of the proposed Cascade development include:

More ex-parte contact by Walton -Satter!

 

More clear bias in favor of a development that has not yet had a hearing. Someone must have forgotten to tell Walton-Satter she is not supposed to blab on social media – that’s EX PARTE CONTACT AND BIAS!

 

Apparently Molalla doesn’t need to hold official hearings since Walton-Satter holds them on Molalla Now Facebook posts! YUCK!

Ms. Walton-Satter’s extensive discussion on Molalla Now Facebook social media is clearly a violation of hearing rules on ex parte contact and demonstrates bias in favor of a plan that has not been through a Planning Commission hearing she is scheduled to participate in on May 15.  Ms. Walton-Satter should at least be required to recluse herself from participating at the May 15 hearing. Given the past dismissals of PC members for unexcused absences and for asking questions at PC meetings, it would seem the City Council and Mayor should consider whether Ms. Walton-Satter should be dismissed from the PC because the demonstrated bias in the above ex-parte contacts shows she is not fit to serve on the Molalla Planning Commission while serving on the Molalla School Board.

 It is long overdue for Molalla to have a stable, well trained and independent Planning Commission and to promote citizen involvement. Allowing people to serve on a PC who have hidden agendas because they serve on other boards and commissions defeats the any hope of having a fair and unbiased Planning Commission.

 

 

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Posted in inclusion, Molalla, Molalla City Council, molalla planning, Molalla River School District, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Molalla Planning Commission Puppet Show

The Molalla Planning Commission has been nothing but a collection of puppets on strings, doing the bidding of developers and Molalla City Managers – no wonder people don’t want to “serve”!

Open letter to the Molalla City Council:

Councilors,

You have opened discussion at Molalla City Council meetings about whether participation on the Molalla Planning Commission should be limited to people who are residents inside the City limits or if participation should be open to an area as large as the 97038 zip code.

Sadly, as usual, the “open to wider area” is a false reaction to the City’s failure to recruit, train, honor and retain an INDEPENDENT Planning Commission. Other local Cities have fully staffed  PC’s and Molalla seldom, if ever, has a full board.

The vital question should not be how large an area the PC members are drawn from but why the City of Molalla is a constant failure at Goal One, Citizen Involvement in Planning.

“Goal 1 calls for “the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process.” It requires each city and county to have a citizen involvement program that addresses:

  1. Opportunities for widespread public involvement

Effective two-way communication with the public

  1. The ability for the public to be involved in all phases of the planning process
  2. Making technical information easy to understand
  3. Feedback mechanisms for policy-makers to respond to public input, and

Adequate financial support for public involvement efforts

The goal also calls for local governments to have a committee for citizen involvement (CCI) to monitor and encourage public participation in planning.”

https://www.oregon.gov/lcd/OP/Pages/Goal-1.aspx

 The Molalla PC is legally tasked, via the Comprehensive Plan, as Molalla’s official Goal One Citizen Involvement committee. Yet in my more than a decade of participating in Molalla’s  so-called “planning” I have never seen any outreach by the PC members, either at meetings or in the paper, to ask citizens to participate. The PC members I have seen over the years – a fast changing group – have been ill prepared to make independent decisions and, in my opinion, have been often bullied by City Staff to make rushed decisions that benefit developers. The PC often fails to fully understand agency input or ignores that input entirely; leading to legal challenges and delays.

Further, in my more than a decade of attempting to “participate in planning” in Molalla, I’ve seen over and over how City Mangers and their hand-picked PC routinely  demean anyone who has views opposing the City Mangers and favored developers. A PC member recorded  the current Molalla City Manager spewing disparaging remarks about a person and group not present at a PC meeting – a blatant attempt to keep the PC from considering comments! What better example of how the City Managers pull the strings?

The elephant in the room that the City Council fails to address is WHY don’t people wish to serve on Molalla’s Planning Commission – and why, once they become PC members to they in most cases serve only briefly? The City Council has been eager to dismiss PC members but never explores why PC members fail to attend meetings or why a PC member was dismissed for asking questions and having a dissenting view.

The former Mayor told Rachel Cain before she was dismissed from the Planning Commission that the Mayor and City Manager carefully curated the PC so that it had a majority of members who would dependably vote as the City wished. That’s not what PCs are supposed to do – they are supposed to be an independent body capable of making independent decisions, not a puppet show  led by the nose by the City Manager or the Mayor!  

Here is comment from a 2016 PC member after she resigned that is valid today:

“Torsen said she resigned because she didn’t feel she was being effective.

“We would vote something down, and then it would go to the city council, and they would push it through,” she said. “I just felt very inadequate. I’d come home angry every week from the meetings. We were told to keep everything hush-hush, and I wanted things to be above-board. I felt we were just going along with what the city administration wanted. So I got disgusted. I am just so disgusted with our city government right now.”

https://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/301782-179690-molalla-planning-commission-members-resign

What person seeking to have an independent voice on a PC would ever want to serve in Molalla, given the very public witch hunt that ousted Rachel Cain? https://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/358505-238507-molalla-mayor-threatens-to-oust-planning-commissioner-

The City Council failed to ask the two PC members it recently ousted why they stopped showing up for meetings. Why didn’t the City Council take the time to interview those two PC members to learn about why PC members stop participating?

And, City Council,  how about questioning the ethics – or lack of ethics! – of allowing in the past the partner of a Molalla Mayor to serve on the PC or the current PC member who is also on the Molalla School Board. In the case of the Mayor’s partner (and business partner), she had to be challenged to recluse herself from making decisions about an apartment development she and the then Mayor stood to profit from via a carpet/flooring contract with the developer! As to the questionable ethics of the School Board member serving on the PC, the School District is often at odds with the City of Molalla over population growth the School District claims it can’t keep up with; is Molalla so desperate for PC members that it must allow an elected Board Member from the District to also serve on the PC? How much more ingrown can the City get (especially since said  School Board/PC member was recently also on the City Council and had to resign when she moved out of the City limits –  imagine her potential for  insider trading/ influence peddling!).  The point of Goal One is diverse participation, not Molalla’s ever smaller circles of recycled participants.

Molalla’s ongoing rush to honor developers continues with the so-called Cascade project next to Stoneplace. Molalla’s Interim Planner sent out a notice about comments being due by April 26 when there has been not posting of the project on the City website, no feedback until today from ODOT, no notice about the wetlands to Division of State Lands, no notice to DEQ about the project and its relation to sewage capacity issues, no hearing date provided and no Staff Report. Molalla again clearly wants to jam through a project before the public – and the PC? – has been provided with the technical information demanded by Goal One! By talking to ODOT on the phone today, it is clear that ODOT has many unanswered questions about the project – competent planning would have made certain all agencies had fully approved of plans BEFORE citizens were asked to comment.

In conclusion, until the City of Molalla accepts that a Planning Commission needs to be stable, well-trained, allowed to debate and delay in decisions until all questions about proposals are answered, entitled to reach an independent decision guided by a competent planner (free of high pressure tactics from City Managers!),  it won’t matter what physical boundaries are allowed. Molalla has thrown away chances for good quality development because it sold out to the greed of developers and failed to assemble and train a PC capable of advocating for the highest standards of development.

Why would any person with an independent mind, an interest in quality of life and high standards want to serve as a PC member when the PC consistently acts as nothing but puppet for City management and developers and are subject to pubic dismissal at the whim of the Mayor?

 

 

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Senior Planner/City of Molalla Oregon seeking Planning Puppet

Looking for a DEAD END CAREER PATH? Molalla wants YOU!

The sign City of Molalla should put up on all City employee parking spots!

Molalla has advertised for months now for a new Community Planner. On March 1, it amended its help wanted ad from “Community” planner to “Senior” planner. That’s a big red flag because all Molalla can possibly afford is a “planner” – so if you are “senior” and expecting you will have a “junior” planner sidekick you are plum out of luck!

What’s wrong, why can’t the City of Molalla find a new puppet planning shill?

Could it be that no person who is a professional urban planner can meet the needs of good old boy, insider trading, corrupt and always on the edge of broke Molalla?

Here’s what Molalla is really looking for when it comes to qualifications for a “planner” aka puppet of the good old boys – and suggestions for what YOU should do if you are considering working for Molalla:

Work as Molalla Community “planner” = become a total puppet!

 

1. Be mute and blind to assure that developers, El Hefe City Manager Huff and Public Works Director Fisher get their way NO QUESTIONS ASKED. NO PROFESSIONAL INPUT IS NEEDED: just be an in name only “community planner” to dupe DLCD into thinking there is real planning in Molalla.

2. Fly in the face of all input from state agencies like ODOT, DEQ and DLCD.

3. Ignore codes and always create waivers/exceptions when development codes don’t suit insider trading developers. Molalla’s motto is always that the crappiest design and development always trump holding out for quality planning. Cheap is always the hallmark! Loopholes rule! Make sure the developers make huge profits, design standards be damned!

4. Strictly enforce all codes against lowly citizens – harass and gouge them to the hilt for fees when they have small projects.

5.Enjoy having an untrained, pathetic, volunteer Planning Commission that changes members as fast as the moon runs cycles. Accept that the ONLY PC members who will survive are the favorite few who cater to item #1 – that is who do the total bidding of developers, El Hefe City Manager Huff and Public Works Manager Fisher. Accept that the PC will look with blank stares if anyone suggests they learn to make competent, independent decisions to improve their community. Don’t bother to try to learn their names because by the time you figure out who they are, they will be gone – either out of frustration or because the Mayor will can their ass because they attempt to ask questions that don’t suit El Hefe, the developers or the Mayor (stay tuned, Mayor just resigned so expect huge turmoil on City Council as they fight over appointing a new Mayor!).

Telling backstory on the PC:

https://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/301782-179690-molalla-planning-commission-members-resign

And even after PC positions are filled, woe is the Planning Commissioner who actually takes an interest in following correct procedures – the questioners get canned promptly, as with the nasty kangaroo court at City Council when Rachel Cain was removed:

https://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/361526-241628-molalla-city-council-removes-cain-from-office-in-a-3-1-vote

6. Be wary of any PC members who last more than a couple of meetings – they will ALWAYS be nothing but rubber stamp puppets of El Hefe Huff.

7. FEAR THE WRATH of El Hefe Huff, the most disliked City Manager you can imagine!

8.Accept that Decayville Molalla’s master “plans” are a total joke because Molalla is too broke to provide adequate parks, roads or infrastructure. Again, you are only there as a figurehead and must never expect to plan a new park or anything that enhances quality of life.

9. Keep your mouth shut when the never ending land speculators run their never ending baloney campaign about “we need to expand to the north”. Before you jump off the cliff to become an “employee” of Molalla, carefully research the history of Molalla’s past insane planning fiasco that involved the attempt to create a 2,400 acre 50 year urban reserve to help land speculators get into potential urban boundaries of Dogpatch Molalla. Understand that even though Molalla went a half million dollars into deficit spending, trying for that impossible dream, the City still has not learned its lesson about state land use rules. So hide your smirks as the land speculators whine and moan about the need to grow north – since any educated, competent planner would know from DLCD that Molalla won’t have any UGB expansion approved until the sewage capacity is solved and, that if it ever gets a UGB expansion, the Exception Lands to the south must be first used in a 20 year LEGAL growth plan.

Here is the story of the DEFEAT of the urban reserve quest (it went on for years in spite of endless “this won’t fly” feedback from DLCD and Clackamas County – note in the article how city officials acted wounded, like it was a big surprise – what idiots! They squandered vital public money on “plans” that were sure to be DENIED):

https://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/2011/04/clackamas_county_commissioners_6.html

‘s This is what the powers that be in Molalla require of their “community planner”. Never forget, the “planner” is a figurehead and is never expected to be professional! Run like the wind if you really want to be a professional urban planner!

10. Be ready to abandon anything you learned about the legal ways to conduct planning, meetings or decisions – if there is anything Molalla hates it is following legal rules and regulations; be prepared to face lawsuits over bad planning decisions pushed by the City as it advocates for developers. The Mayor (who recently resigned) told a woman he was preparing to kick off the PC that Molalla doesn’t have to follow Roberts Rules of Order. In other words, Molalla doesn’t go for any stinking legal anything – and it has the history of serious legal defeats to prove it. Recently, ODOT had to file a Notice of Intent to Appeal at Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA); the Planning Commission AND the City Council were so scoff law they flew in the face of ODOT’s demands regarding a zone change that triggered highway improve needs Molalla and the developer didn’t want to pay for. It was funny how fast Molalla had to back down on that one!

11. Read the pie in the sky Molalla “plans” – especially the Downtown Master Plan, the new “we need $91 million” Transportation Plan, the new “we need $46-$71 million” wastewater plan, the reams of DEQ penalties and warnings, and the LOL Parks Plan (NOTHING implemented for new parks since it was written in 2007!). Then drive around Decayville Molalla and try not to lose your lunch as you see the snout houses still being stuffed in (good luck finding the front door on some of them!), with never a park in sight, the horrible Big Meadow area, and the beyond hideous Stone Place Apt. barracks (be sure to note the sports cage/prison right on the edge of Main Street/211 where kids can “play” as they breathe highway fumes and have their hearing trashed by traffic noise  and go to the back side to see how the “planners” allowed another “play area” to be buried at the far end of a worthless triangle behind garages!). Know that the beyond TERRIBLE development you see is what you will be asked to “plan” – can you stomach that?

Here is an example of HORRIBLE DESIGN that was recently allowed by Molalla Planning. Is it a garage? Is it a house? Oh, for almost $300,000 you can live in this “house” that looks like a garage – how could any competent planning department/ planning commissioners allow this atrocity with the “entry” hidden on the side? Note that this “style” is jammed in between ugly two story crap houses in the same development – the builder’s ad made it look like it was surrounded by lots of space; dream on about that!

12. Meet the Pollyannas on the City Council with their hilarious “Visioning” – if you want the job, don’t ask them how they plan to PAY for all the over the rainbow “visions” and don’t look into all the years of past “visions” that never came true. Just accept that REALITY is not a strong suit of those who drive till they qualify and end up in a rat hole, low quality of life, cash strapped city like Molalla.  Check out the online City Council Meetings and scroll to the Dec. 2018 visioning meeting for a laugh (that “visioning” meeting features a handful of people, most of whom don’t live in the city and who get paid to work for the city – and that is typical of “participation”).

13. Check out El Hefe Huff (your potential boss, good luck on that!), Public Works Manager Fisher, the City Council, their new insider buddy pick for Mayor and whatever people are still left on the clueless PC (two PC members were thrown off in the last month so gawd only knows who’s left to pretend to be citizen planners – know that anyone left is a total puppet of City government/land speculators/developers). Attend what passes for a City Council meeting and explore the beyond awful City website. Try to figure out which version of codes is current. Check out the past laughable Molalla Planning minutes, especially the “hearings”.

14. READ THE CITY BUDGET. CRY IN YOUR BEER!

A bit of background about how corrupt the City of Molalla has been with public money  (and it never restored these missing funds!):

https://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/2012/03/post_65.html

https://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/2011/07/molalla_eliminates_planning_di.html

15. In conclusion, if you are still desperate enough to “work” as Molalla’s “planner”, throw out anything you have learned about competent urban planning, keep your mouth shut, defer to El Hefe, the developers, the Mayor and Public Works Director, collect your salary and move on to a better job as soon as possible. That’s what the last two Molalla Community Planners did – they got a tad of experience about how TERRIBLE planning can be, saw there were no solutions because Molalla is broke and run by incompetents and then quit when they  found better opportunities. Only those on a DEAD END CAREER PATH end up staying in Molalla City government positions – a losing, decayed city attracts losers and once hired those losers are stuck. Don’t make that mistake!

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Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson says “Off with their Heads!”

Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson has a “king” complex. He only wants to follow the rules of the City when they suit his needs to say “Off with their Heads!”.

As Molalla Blog just passed the 90,000 hit milestone, let’s be thankful that wanna be dictator Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson can’t exert his control the message and his let’s oust “unwanteds” campaigns beyond the Molalla city limits. There can be no doubt, given Thompson’s noxious attempts to silence those who disagree with him over the years, that he would be happy to squash the First Amendment in favor of advancing his “my way or hit the highway” stronghold on Molalla. There have been previous posts about Dictator Jimmy’s iron fist over Molalla committees and commissions: https://oregonfirst.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/inclusion-diversity-and-cultural-change-no-says-dictator-molalla-mayor-jimmy-thompson/

It’s easy to prove Dictator Jimmy’s penchant for  double standards by comparing recent actions at Molalla City Council meetings.

Molalla struggles to fill Planning Commission volunteer slots and has a horrific turnover, resulting in an untrained, inexperienced citizen “planners” making exceedingly stupid “decisions” which get overturned. The PC is led by the nose by the “needs” of developers, has ignored legal input from agencies like ODOT and has been readily manipulated by the City Manager El Hefe Huff and his sidekick Public Works Manager Fisher.  The so-called Chair of the PC, Ms. Botsford, is  the only PC member to have lasted more than a few months – one would have hoped she would have worked hard to retain PC members and to ensure that legal decisions were made. Instead, said “Chair” Botsford has rubber stamped two “decisions” that resulted in two legal challenges from ODOT; those botched plans  were never built!

Dictator Mayor Thompson axed the only PC member in recent years who had the guts to stand up to Botsford and the rubber stamp PC. Per the member axed, Thompson actually told her over coffee that the City Manager and Thompson specially picked PC members to do their bidding!

Now, here’s Thompson’s new “off with their heads” directed at PC members:

Molalla City Council Minutes 1/09/2019:

“8. Removal of Planning Members

 Omar Reynega and Hardeep Sing Brar – Mayor Thompson informed Council these two members have been absent from the Planning Commission meetings more than 3 times in a row and is therefore per code allowed to be removed. A few of the Councilors asked if the members had been contacted following a brief discussion Mayor Thompson removed the members from the Planning Commission and declared the positions open.”

Note there was no interest in interviewing the two PC members to find out why they stopped participating, no delay so the City Council could contact the PC members before Thompson lowered the boom. Could it be that those two PC members were sick of being rubber stamps and of seeing the PC’s “decisions” reversed after they had been led by the nose by the City staff and developers into making dumb decisions? Did they feel their voices were not heard? Obviously, Thompson and his pathetic City Council Cabal had ZERO interest in asking those questions before Thompson dropped the hammer!

Now compare the above “off with their heads” action with this coverage about the following City Council meeting:

Molalla Pioneer coverage of 1/23/2019 City Council Meeting:

“Mayor Jimmy Thompson brought up another item for discussion. The council several years ago instituted a rule that once a council member has left office, he or she must wait a year before joining a city board or commission. He wanted to find out if council members favored continuing the rule or if they would like to make an exception.

Recent former council member Glen Boreth has applied to join the Budget Committee. The 15-year resident of Molalla who previously has served on that committee and the Planning Commission said on his application, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”

The discussion on the rule will come back at the Feb. 13 meeting.”

Wow! What a sea change in Thompson’s view of rules and regulations when it comes to changing the rules to help get a favored friend onto a committee. Thompson was on the City Council when the “wait a year” rule was instituted. The City Council back then put the rule in place to block the so-called “City Planner” they had just fired from joining the PC! Imagine that! Putting a rule in place to block a specific City resident from participating on the PC and now trying to change the rule to get a favored friend onto a City committee!

Talk about unethical nepotism! Thompson could hardly wait to say “off with their heads” when it came to firing the two PC members. Thompson and his rubber stamp City Council failed to bother to check in with those Planning Commissioners and no one mentioned the possibility of changing the rules to retain them. Then, two weeks later, Dictator Jimmy pandered to the City Council about changing the rules for Boreth – an insider who has often been appointed to City Council but didn’t bother to run in the last election to retain his seat. What kind of 180 degree bullshit is that?

Insider trading deluxe = the City of Molalla! If you ever wonder why Molalla is a decayed wasteland compared to local cities of about the same size, like Silverton and Sandy, you can chalk up Molalla’s inability to thrive to the noxious, ongoing failure of Dictator Jimmy and his (appointed or elected unopposed) City Council to welcome debate and diverse opinions. Other cities have citizens begging to serve on committees and commissions, but you can trust Jimmy to yell “off with their heads” if anyone on a decision making committee or commission deviates from HIS policy and the policy of El Hefe Huff, City Manager. No wonder Molalla never produces a well-trained, experienced Planning Commission capable of making sound, independent decisions – it’s a joke of a revolving door! By the time a PC member figures out that planning “decisions” are pretty much preordained, they must figure it is a time wasting joke to even show up to vote.

And by the way, Jimmy and El Hefe, how are you doing finding the $71 MILLION DOLLARS needed to for the new wastewater facilities – facilities DEQ says MUST be based on the current permit? But hey, that’s another ugly can of worms better addressed in the future. Beware of investing in train wreck, non-transparent Molalla because you’ll surely be blindsided by coming rates and fees that Thompson and El Hefe are trying to hide!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Molalla’s JOKE of a Transportation Plan: If wishes were horses beggars would ride!

And the sad part is money REALLY CONTROLS what cities can or can not provide in terms of quality of life features – Decayville Molalla doesn’t have enough to fund infrastructure: Molalla needs $46 million for wastewater and $91 million  for transportation = $137 MILLION! Good luck on that Molalla!

Do you remember this great song:

“Money makes the world go around

The world go around

The world go around

Money makes the world go around

It makes the world go ’round.

A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound

A buck or a pound

A buck or a pound

Is all that makes the world go around,

That clinking clanking sound

Can make the world go ’round …”  (Cabaret)

If you don’t have the time to read the below FACTS about the insane/hilarious new Molalla Transportation System Plan (TSP) know this: the City of Molalla HAS NO MONEY TO MAKE ANYTHING GO AROUND these days, let alone a “plan” that costs – hold your breath! – $91 MILLION DOLLARS TO IMPLEMENT!  It’s beyond crazy and incompetent for Molalla “leaders” to endorse a plan they have no ability to pay for.

But wait! Maybe this is the phony dream in the head of the  Molalla “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” planners who promote abject nonsense (like El Hefe so-called city “manager” Huff and his buddy, so-called public works “manager” Fisher – can they READ A BUDGET?):

You can bet the ONLY chance Molalla has to implement this ridiculous plan is if the skies really opened up and rained money! Good luck, Molalla, how many more insane “wishes” do we have to endure from Decayville before you admit your are functionally broke?

Do the so-called “managers” and “planners” of Molalla actually believe money is going to fall from the sky to save the Decayville mess they have created? Apparently so, given the ridiculous beyond belief 20 year Transportation System Plan (TSP) about to be rubber stamped by the untrained, naive, led by the nose Planning Commission (Apparently the  so-called “mayor” Thompson and his El Hefe “manager” Huff like to keep the Planning Commission untrained, all the better for pushing through private agendas!).  Here’s the real truth about this crazy $91 million plan for Molalla, a city that can barely afford to fix a pot hole and struggles every year to balance the budget!

Sept. 4, 2018

RE: TSP

Molalla Planning Commission,

In February, comments were submitted to the consultants tasked with guiding Molalla to a viable TSP (see below for the submitted comments). The comments focused on the need for the City of Molalla to produce a REALISTIC TSP that had a chance of being implemented. Instead, Molalla has again produced a ridiculously expensive, aspirational plan that has virtually no chance of being implemented. The tech memo from the consultants noted exactly how costly and unrealistic this overreaching plan is (quote):

Molalla Transportation System Plan (TSP) Update Project #: 21266.6.6

June 18, 2018 Page 3

Kittelson & Associates, Inc. Portland, Oregon

 TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

The TSP will include a planned transportation system, which identifies all of the projects and programs needed to address all of the transportation needs within the city and a financially constrained transportation system, which identifies the projects and programs the City anticipates being able to fund over the next 22 years. Per Tech Memo 3: TSP Financial Forecast, the amount of local funds that is expected to be available for capital projects in the TSP over the next 22 years is $0. Per Tech Memo 3, the City is expected to have a deficit of approximately $16.5 million, which is equivalent to a deficit of roughly $750,000 per year. *1

(*1 This number does not account for potential funding from state and federal grants such as the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and House Bill (HB) 2017 Transportation Investments. While it is likely that these funds will be used to fund some transportation improvements within the city over the next 22 years, because of the uncertainty in acquiring grant funds, these funding sources are not accounted for in the City’s revenue forecast.)

 PLANNED TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM COST SUMMARY

Table 1 summarizes the costs associated with the planned transportation system. As shown, the full cost of the planned transportation system is approximately $91 million over the 22-year period, including $11 million in high priority projects, $43 million in medium priority projects, and $37 million in low priority projects. Based on the anticipated funds available from System Development Charges, there will be > 1.0 million to fund the financially constrained plan. This suggests the city will need to identify other potential revenue sources to fund transportation, including implementation of the TSP projects over the 22-year period.” End quote

Final Tech Memo #8: Planned and Financially Constrained Transportation Systems

Molalla is facing the need to “find” $46 million dollars – actually that’s a LEGAL MANDATE PER DEQ! –  in the next few years for to remedy its glaring wastewater problems – huge utility rate increases will be necessary to prove that needed loans can be repaid. Add that sum to the $91 million the City needs to “find” for this unrealistic TSP: that’s $137 million Molalla faces “finding” when it can barely balance the budget each year. (Update Feb. 14, 2019 – the new projected figure for a DEQ compliant Molalla Wastewater Plant that meets current permit standards has risen to – hold your hats – $71 MILLION!)

 

This pretty much sums up the “plans” that come out of Molalla, the poster child for champagne taste on a beer budget. But guess who isn’t on a beer budget: the paid Molalla “managers” who hog down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with salaries paid by the public. When does Molalla get “managers” who can “manage” to tell the truth about what is realistic and what is a pipe dream? Wake up and smell the fraud!

My February comments noted that Molalla was likely to lose the ability to impose $11/month on rate payers to try to pay for transportation. In May, over 71% of Molalla voters rejected that fee. That rejection, per the City Manager and Public Works Manager, left Molalla with virtually no working funds to even upgrade Molalla’s existing roads, let alone build any new infrastructure. A 71%+ rejection of road fees does not bode well for imposing more road fees in the future to raise money for road infrastructure.

Molalla’s financial woes can, at least in part, be traced to past costly planning fiascos which flew in the face of reality – most glaring were the years and money wasted promoting the “need” for a 2,000+ acre Urban Reserve which was roundly defeated at the County level. Molalla has failed to charge adequate SDCs that could have helped with transportation needs. Molalla is glaringly deficient in providing adequate parks/greenspaces.

In the light of all the past, costly planning failures that have resulted in a low quality City,  it would be another disservice to the people of greater Molalla to pass a plan that has next to zero chance of being implemented. When will Molalla begin to learn from past mistakes so they are not repeated over and over again and instead produce a balanced, quality city that doesn’t just focus on stuffing in low quality development by constantly lowing standards?

When a consultant points out the (to put it mildly) “financial constrictions” faced by Molalla, it is unconscionable to pass a plan that is projected to cost $91 million.

Is the PC really ready to saddle Molalla with, per the consultants’ memo, a projected $750,000/ a year TRANSPORTATION DEFECIT?

The following comments are even more true today, substantiated by the consultants’ tech memo, noting Molalla’s “financial constrictions”:

February 19, 2018

Re: Comments about the Molalla TSP

Dear Molalla TSP Technical Committee,

It is of concern that time and public money are being devoted to creating new “plans” for the City of Molalla when anyone who reads the long list of projects in the 2001 TSP would quickly realize virtually no projects on that list were ever implemented. Further, Molalla has failed to collect adequate SDCs over the years and its citizens are in the process of likely rejecting an $11/month road utility fee. Any responsible transportation planner would note these extreme constrictions and failures and would have refused to grant funds for new “plans” that will likely also fail to be implemented. Since ODOT has unwisely allowed this TSP grant, please take close consideration of the long list of constrictions and only approve a TSP that has a chance for once of being implemented.

Molalla’s failure to implement past TSP (as well as the failure to  implement other “plans” created with public grants); the financial inability to implement future plans; the failure to accept the impossibility of the  Forest Road as an affordable, viable arterial; existing debt obligations; $32-38 million more debt looming for wastewater facilities upgrades; and the financial inability of local residents to manage large fee increases should all be factors the TSP committee carefully considers in planning the new TSP.

Failure to implement the 2001 TSP:

The Molalla 2017-2018 budget shows of list of road projects that were supposed to have been done, per the 2001 TSP, by 2006. The current budget lists these more than 10 years overdue projects as “Pending new Transportation Improvement Fee”, yet, before the new $11/month fee could be imposed, citizen petitioners recently gathered enough valid signatures to put the fee on the May ballot. Rate payers of Molalla are highly adverse to rate hikes, since, per Business Oregon’s distressed city, list Molalla  is one of the more poverty stricken cities in Clackamas County. Per this quote in the 2017-2018 Molalla budget by Public Works Manager Gerald Fisher, without a devoted road fee Molalla can’t even keep up with escalating road maintenance, let alone implement major projects: (bold added):

“Without increases to the Water, Sewer, and Stormwater Fund user fees, the City will not be able to perform needed operation and maintenance activities and deferred capital improvements. These operations and projects will reach a tipping point as the community rapidly approaches a population of 10,000 creating additional requirements related to permitting, testing, reporting, staff certification, and capital expenditures for upgrades in the water, sewer, and stormwater systems. The pavement condition index is in the low 60’s for city owned and operated streets. The threshold for accelerated degradation of pavement begins at a score of 70. Without a street user fee or other sustainable funding source, the street system will continue to degrade increasing the cost of repair and rehabilitation. Projects related to transportation enhancement are essentially unfunded and have been since the adoption of the Transportation Master Plan in 2001. An update to the plan is underway and without a sustainable funding source to match with transportation system development charges, the City will continue to be unable to design and construct any of the capacity increasing and safety related project that will serve the community as it grows.”

 As Molalla postpones the projects in its “plans” the costs of the projects escalate. Here is a list of the projects that were, per the 2001 TSP, supposed to have been completed by 2006 that are “pending” in the current Molalla budget; the 2018 cost is shown with the cost in 2001:

Reconstruct May Ave (5th-6th) $113K ($75,000 in 2001

Reconstruct Section St (Molalla-Hart) $150K ($100,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct Heintz St (Cole-Grange) $315K$ ($210,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct S. Cole $210K ($140,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct Shirley St (Molalla-Cole) $556K$ ($370,000 in 2001)

Failure to plan in scale with financial capability to implement plans:

 Please don’t add more unrealistic timelines and projects in a new TSP that Molalla, per its own budget admission, clearly can’t afford. If, as is likely, the voters reject the $11 road utility fee, Molalla will have virtually no chance of doing much in the way of maintenance; even with the $11/month fee it will take years to fix the degraded existing streets and to provide missing sidewalks or adequate bike lanes. The failure to implement the 2001 TSP should be a big red flag that any new TSP must be extremely conservative and should closely question how Molalla will come up with the financial resources to implement any plans. Molalla has already encumbered its Urban Renewal Funds via borrowing for the Molalla Ave paving project and it is indebted to pay back four loans. Of most concern should be the coming need to “find” a projected $32-38 million for wastewater facilities, which will surely put a huge burden on utility rate payers who have already proved adverse to the road utility fee, which is optional – upgrading the wastewater facilities, will not be optional.

Molalla has also failed to charge and collect adequate SDCs over the past decades, so SDCs can’t be depended upon for funding roads. Because of the proven lack of wastewater processing capacity, Molalla may even be facing a moratorium on building which would truncate SDC funds.

Failure to honestly assess future population:

 Please don’t overestimate Molalla’s capacity for population growth. The 2001 TSP said “SDC report forecast Molalla’s population in the year 2019 to be approximately 13,370”, yet the 2018 population has not reached 10,000. DLCD has confirmed that until the wastewater facility capacity issue is solved it would not allow any UGB expansion. Molalla is facing a Mutual Agreement and Order with DEQ and enforcement for failing to comply with the terms of a Consent Decree that resulted from a citizen Clean Water Act lawsuit; both legal actions could also impose restrictions on growth until wastewater capacity is solved. The commute from Molalla to viable job centers is the longest in the County and as Oregon’s roads continue to be choked, that commute can inhibit Molalla’s desirability. Overestimating growth causes out of scale “plans” that can’t be implemented.

Failure to accept that the Forest Road is not a viable bypass or arterial:

 Please remove the Molalla Forest Road from the TSP as any potential truck bypass/arterial.

In 2011, Business Oregon considered providing a $60,000 grant for a feasibility study to see if Molalla could build the Forest Road into a modern truck bypass. Much community outcry ensued that spending $60.000 was a waste of public money and research quickly proved that there was no way Molalla could afford to change an archaic abandoned logging “road” into a modern bypass that would cost tens of millions of dollars. Clackamas County confirmed that it is in question whether Molalla really “owns” the Forest Road – any plans made for it need to show legal transfer and that was a murky path in Clackamas County records; Molalla needs to show conclusive proof of clear ownership.

If Molalla wanted access to wished for industrial businesses (which to date never have materialized) Business Oregon’s Mike Solt said in 2011 he would “much prefer” to see short connector links off Highway 211 (Molalla’s Main Street) to the industrial brownfields.

When questioned about this “feasibility study”, ODOT’s Sonya Kazen noted on the phone that “Maybe Molalla needs to do this study to finally prove to itself it can’t afford the Forest Road. Then it could concentrate on the 211 Corridor”.  That comment didn’t inspire public trust in the process or expectation for a positive outcome from the grant and ultimately there was no study.

It should not take a “study” for this committee to know that the Forest Road as a bypass would be a long shot for a well-funded large city; for Molalla it is a totally out of reach “vision” that does not belong on the TSP as anything but a recreational corridor/ local residential access road as Clackamas County has suggested. Molalla has made “plans” over the years that claim it wants to protect wetlands and water resources, enhance wildlife corridors and provide recreational opportunities – the Forest Road, with its wetlands along Bear Creek, its peaceful rural setting and its existing narrow ROW is the perfect place for Molalla to begin to fulfill those long overdue promises.

Failure to provide adequate active transportation opportunities:

Molalla’s unimplemented 2007 Parks Plan noted the extreme lack of parks/greenspaces/recreational opportunities for the NW portion of Molalla. Since that plan was written, the SW area has also received a large influx of population via a massive apartment complex and soon to be build residential neighborhoods. As with roads, Molalla has totally failed to implement any of the bike and pedestrian improvements called for in the 2001 TSP.

The 2017-2018 budget has almost $500,000 listed as needed for bike and pedestrian improvements and bike lanes on Highway 213 – again, that funding is listed as pending the in question road utility fee. Those pedestrian/bike projects are also carry-overs from the failed 2001 TSP. There is little hope Molalla at this point will ever catch up with pedestrian/bicycle transportation needs, given the escalating costs.

Conclusion:

Without a TSP BASED ON A REALISTIC ANALYSIS OF MOLALLA’S GLARING FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS, in twenty years we can expect another failure to implement, just like the 2001 TSP. It is up to transportation experts to produce a TSP that has any hope of being implemented. Please stop producing “plans”, at the expense of Oregonians’ public funds, that are out of scale and dishonest in terms of Molalla’s capacity to implement in a timely manner. Molalla has lost years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money by putting unattainable aspirational planning over realistic goals. If Molalla is ever going to improve its overall quality of life and become a successful, financially sound city, it needs to start taking baby steps instead of being overwhelmed with plans like a Forest Road truck bypass it will never be able to afford.

As a greater Molalla community resident, I feel sorry for those inside the Molalla city limits who are not getting the quality of life they deserve. As an Oregonian, I resent seeing public money wasted on these planning grants if they are not going to be implemented in a timely manner with discernible results.

 

 

 

Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, Quality of life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla Real Estate: Sewage Tsunami Ahoy!

Update May 17, 2018: Molalla Sewage Tsunami will now cost $46 MILLION to fix, per this newest report (which shows all the out of compliance/ over capacity sewage disasters): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6lDnyMwVqg4TC0zaVE3UFFVMEp2ampoSjBEVG9RWGcyU3Rv/view

Update Feb. 14, 2019: Molalla Sewage Tsunami now is projected to cost the City $71 MILLION – the $46 MILLION was for a plant based on bogus, wished for changes to the current permit: DEQ says the City MUST design a plant that meets it current permit standards so the days of denial are swiftly coming to an end! And duh: before the City can borrow those tens of millions, it has to raise utility rates through the roof to prove it has the capacity to pay back tens of millions with interest!).

Here’s the newest Molalla Sewage Tsunami hold your head and cry report (it’s worse every time a new more detailed report is produced!): I & I Flow Mapping Report – Draft (Mar. 2018) (3 MB) found on this City webpage (read all the documents if you want to get really depressed about Molalla’s hideous “management”!) http://www.cityofmolalla.com/publicworks/page/wastewater-facility-collection-system-master-plan-update

And for the background on how Molalla’s wastewater FIASCO reached today’s crisis, read this post that outlines how many lies the Molalla “managers” and “leaders” told: https://oregonfirst.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/molalla-clean-water-act-lawsuit-losers/

Decayville Molalla’s newest need – but it is doubtful it can afford it!

Are you tempted by artificially low real estate prices in “drive till you qualify” Decayville Molalla?

It’s easy to get hooked by grasping real estate agent spin – after all, real estate agents depend on a commission and could give a hoot if you really understand the truth about the disaster that is the City of Molalla. The shit has literally hit the fan – the wastewater facility is over capacity, the lagoons are leaking and Decayville Molalla faces huge rate increases to meet wastewater compliance: where, oh where, will the needed $38-50 MILLION come from?  Molalla is spending money it doesn’t have, fighting DEQ on one front and an enforcement action of a Clean Water Act lawsuit settlement on the other front, using an expensive law firm that seemingly has more interest in billable hours than in producing swift mitigation.

Think hard about it: can you AFFORD to risk investing in low quality of life Decayville Molalla? 

Never mind that the city “leaders” and “staff”have failed, as they stuffed in development like drunken sailors, to add a single new park for all the crammed in, cookie cutter houses.

Never mind that the old downtown is a poster child for urban decay, featuring a myriad of archaic empty store fronts broken by  hard liquor bars, tattoo parlor, pawnshop-esque  Quick Cash, used clothing stores, video gambling parlors thinly disguised as “delis. Worst of all, old downtown and and adjoining neighborhoods now endure invasive noise pollution via a giant log grinding business which was allowed to locate (with tax perks from the City Council!!!) right in the heart of Decayville: nothing like NOISE POLLUTION slamming away from the early morning to late in the evening to ruin what was left of quality of life in Molalla. The bitter complaints about the NOISE POLLUTION of course fell on deaf ears to City “leaders” because a handful of jobs and filling up a nasty old mill site means more to them than protecting their residents from the invasive BOOMS AND CLUNKS AND GRINDS of nasty Longview Fiber (a business a DEQ rep noted was not an appropriate choice, given the NOISE POLLUTION in proximity to residential neighborhoods). So much for any “charm” about old downtown!

Never mind that the “leaders” and “managers”  failed to raise sewer and water rates or System Develop Charges to keep up with inflation and needed expansion/upgrades/maintenance.  In fact, the “leaders” and “mangers” played so fast and loose with public funds that a forensic audit in 2011 found a whooping 2.5 million dollars in SDCs was missing (and never replaced or accounted for!). The “leaders” ran the City into insolvency illegally shifting funds to push a sure to fail land use adventure that was as predicted denied (current Mayor Jimmy Thompson, then a City Councilor, voted to fund that land use train wreck to the bitter end, in spite of years of negative feedback from state and county).

Never mind that public participation  is so low that the City Council and Mayor were either appointed or elected unopposed.  If you want a wake up call about the quality of “leadership”,  take a look at the video tapes of recent City Council meetings, where the “councilors” show their lack of knowledge about issues – they are simply there to rubber stamp whatever El Hefe city “manager” Huff puts in front of them. A recent hilarious moment featured Council President Klein asking where a road was that they were about to vote to annex! Maybe a RESPONSIBLE leader would  check out the road issues BEFORE landing at a public meeting? In this case, they voted to take over Lowe Road from the County – a road that the County lists as so substandard the gravel was maintained by the few residents, not the County. Why would a Council add a woefully substandard “road” when it can’t afford to fix the roads it already is responsible for? But never fear, this is only one of the many pathetic moments when the so-called “leaders” reveal in public how ignorant they are about issues the City faces!

Never mind that El Hefe Huff and his side kick public works “manager” Fisher goaded the City Council into approving an $11/month road utility fee (see previous post) because the roads are a mess and the “managers” can’t “manage” to fix them. Before the fee could be imposed, enough signatures were gathered to put that up for a vote in May. Gee, why didn’t the City Council have the courage to ask the rate payers for a vote if they REALLY wanted to hear what “their” people wanted? And, again, why did El Hefe and Fisher push to add substandard gravel Lowe “Road” to the city inventory when they admit how they can’t manage to maintain the roads they already have?

What’s the next “great idea” the City Council will get roped into – fixing Decayville’s failed wastewater facilities with something like this? Don’t laugh, the “ideas” floated around town are about this ridiculous!

Never mind that the Molalla River School District consistently falls into the bottom 50% of Oregon school ratings. MRSD has a long, ugly history of racism and gay bashing. If you value your children, be sure to check out all the state school ratings  and pick a District that has a proven track record of excellent educational outcomes – and that’s NOT MRSD!

No joke, the “leaders” of Molalla over many decades have spent more time “visioning” instead of addressing glaring problems and fixing them. Today’s current “visioning” reminds us of the past TEAM for Economic Development visioning from a decade ago that produced – you guessed it – EXACTLY NOTHING! At least when NOTHING comes of the current fortune telling “visioning” we won’t be surprised. The only way real visionary change can happen in Decayville is via MONEY, something Molalla never has enough of!

Never mind that the la la land City Council is more focused on (yet again!) “visioning” that never comes true than on the concrete and ugly problems Decayville faces. After all, since Molalla is often listed officially as a “distressed” city by the state, in part because of poorly educated residents, the Council apparently thinks pie in the sky  “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” visions are enough to mollify tax paying residents. The 2007 official “parks plan” vision was “revised” in 2014 and is listed for yet another “revision” – and, again, not a scrap of new land has been developed as a park: no problem stuffing in houses but the “leaders” care not at all about providing adequate recreational opportunities.

What you need to worry about is that the City of Molalla “leaders” and highly paid “managers” have been so totally incompetent and unethical about managing the growing sewage that the City now faces a $38-50 MILLION DOLLAR bill to upgrade its wastewater facilities to comply with the Clean Water Act! And that won’t be a voluntary, “we’ll get to it when we can afford it” effort – it will be legally mandated by DEQ in a binding Mutual Agreement and Order (MAO).  And if the City balks at that MAO it will face a court order. That’s how far off the track Molalla’s “management” has gone. Do you really want to buy into a place that goes that far off the track?

A great book called Better Not Bigger by Eben Fodor clearly outlines exactly what caused Molalla to turn into a Decayville city, facing funding crisis after funding crisis:

This EXACTLY outlines what happened to clueless Decayville Molalla – which has had the lowest greater Metro system development charges and failed miserably to keep up with quality of life features like needed parks as it stuffed in cheap houses. Now the money crunch is fully upon Decayville!

Better Not Bigger nails it – Molalla is a poster child for creating too much cheap growth without heeding the need to pay for upgrades.  Over the past years, Molalla had to stop running it Adult Community Center, it closed the city run pool (now taxpayers have to fund that White Elephant!), it’s roads are a mess, no new parks were added, the Molalla River School District whines about over crowding but can’t get a bond passed and now the sewage plant is PROVEN to be over capacity and will need to be upgraded: the literal shit has hit the fan as Molalla faces the need to borrow $38-50 MILLION dollars for wastewater upgrades – in a town that struggles every year to balance the books! And guess who will have to foot the bills to keep low quality of life Molalla afloat? You got it – the TAXPAYERS!

What you also need to worry about is that the “leaders” are in such blatant denial about the sewage tsunami that, just like in past fiascos, they are spending public money through the nose on legal representation that is only delaying the inevitable.  That’s a big problem with Molalla “leaders”: they get hooked up with lawyers who apparently need a paycheck so badly that they goad the naive and clueless “leaders” into spending public money like it was water, making demands of agencies that any half-literate lay person would know won’t fly, It would be funny to see the legal exchanges coming from Molalla, whining about its “special” needs and is lack of money, as if DEQ would give a rat’s ass consideration to those baloney excuses, if the City was using play money. But no, those “leaders” and “managers” are spending money Molalla can’t afford to waste!

How Decayville “managers” and “leaders” treat public money – it’s all for them to waste to try to cover up incompetence!

And can you risk investing in a place where the City Council was not smart enough to monitor whether or not its highly paid, so-called “managers” were complying with the Clean Water Act lawsuit Consent Decree that Decayville Molalla signed in 2015? After two and a half years, it is easy to prove Decayville’s blatant non-compliance with that legal agreement – so chalk up who knows how much more legal fees and penalties down the public money waste rat hole.

It’s long, long overdue for the Molalla ratepayers/ taxpayers to get a clue and replace the “plumbers” – the highly paid “managers” and clueless “elected leaders” who produced the financial / infrastructure disaster that is Decayville Molalla!

Don’t hesitate to invest in Decayville Molalla if you enjoy seeing your tax dollars and fees wasted on incompetent, unethical management and on the outside lawyers who are paid with PUBLIC MONEY to try to cover up Decayville’s massive deficiencies!  Maybe you are an “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” naive investor who enjoys watching the failures  who run Molalla flush public money down the drain.   But if you can’t afford the risk of investing in a low quality train wreck that is trying to hide  rude and costly coming rate hikes and has failed miserably to provide basic quality of life features for its citizens,  cross Decayville Molalla off your real estate consideration list.

Before you dive into Decayville, compare Molalla’s “official” website to those of similar sized local cities, like Silverton, Sandy and Canby. Look for the minutes of City Council meetings, planning meetings. Look for newsletters – or the lack of any newsletters. Look especially at the budgets and google the cities to see what kind of stories you can find about how they cope with financial, infrastructure and social challenges. Take the time to attend a city council meeting and a planning meeting in a city you might be considering to check out the type of  people – managers and elected citizens –  running the city in question. Check all the records you can find, look for the presence or lack of parks and civic buildings.Read local chat FB pages – red flag if such pages require membership and approval because they are likely run by people with a vested interest in hiding the truth about local problems. Look at whether or not there is a thriving city center. Attend a school board meeting and read the District meeting minutes, state ratings and budgets. Don’t go blindly based on flowery words from real estate agents and cheaper than average prices!

REMEMBER: what looks cheap isn’t always a bargain! In the past real estate bust, Molalla was a state leader in foreclosure rates. If you invest in a “drive till you qualify”, ill planned, low quality, stuff em without regard to quality of life in city like Molalla, which lacks the money for required infrastructure upgrades, your real estate investment can plummet in a heartbeat. Can YOU risk owing a White Elephant in Decayville?

Can YOU afford to risk investing in real estate in Decayville Molalla – a town that can’t pave a road, let alone fix its over capacity sewage plant? It was a leader in foreclosures in the past real estate bust! Cheapest isn’t always the wisest choice when it comes to investing in a city!

Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, molalla real estate, Molalla River School District, Quality of life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla’s Newest Rip-Off: Ill Considered Road Utility Fee

You gotta love the gall of El Hefe “city manager” Huff, his little sidekick “public works manager” Fisher, and their pawns, the Molalla City Council, for claiming they conducted “outreach” about Decayville’s failing road infrastructure (gee, what part of “Molalla infrastructure” isn’t failing?). Molalla held three pathetic, so-called “town halls” that attracted less than 30 people from a city of 9,600; El Hefe Huff used that feeble “feedback” from .3125% of the population to justify sticking all Molalla rate payers with a flat $11/ a month fee to try to build funds to fix the hideous roads. But wait, how do other places handle issues like this?

Allow a VOTE by all the stakeholders to decide if they can accept an $11/month tack on fee. Clackamas County has crumbling roads but it had the courage to put a road fee proposal on the ballot last year – and it was defeated! And before a vote by the City Council, Molalla SHOULD have at least sent a survey to all rate payers if it really wanted to know what its rate payers would accept. But no, getting the opinion of .3125% – less than half a percent of the people who would have to pay! –  was enough for El Hefe Huff, since interface with the lowly “public” seems to be the bane of his existence. Shame on the City Council for pretending the bogus Town Halls were adequate. Wait till the rate payers whose opinions were not heard open those bills and find $11/month tacked on. And, never forget that Decayville is actually currently pretending it wants to hear “visions” from far flung community members – how’s that going “leaders”, have you cracked a HALF A PERCENT YET?

Charge businesses MORE because they generate more trips and troll in larger vehicles which are destructive to roads. What a joke that the Pacific NOISE POLLUTING Fiber business, which needs endless in and out giant lumber and hopper trucks, ONLY has to pay $11/ month, just like Grannie on a pension in a trailer with no car! And how about the giant heavy concrete trucks pounding away as they come and go from Redi-Mix? And how about the stress to roads by lumber, feed store, grocery store, BiMart and hardware store delivery trucks? Business in general generates far more abuse to roads, since all business creates more trips per rate payer than any residential rate payer. Why are all those businesses rated the same as the lowly residential resident? El Hefe is apparently, in the opinion of this writer, TOO LAZY or TOO BEHOLDEN TO BUSINESS INTERESTS to do the right thing: produce a study to prove how much impact business trip generation has on the roads. Most cities do such a study and then impose higher monthly road fees on the businesses.

Molalla “officials” El Hefe  city “manager” Dan Huff and his little buddy (or maybe not “buddy” given the body language here?) public works “manager” Gerald Fisher (orange vest) having a “conference” in an alley behind City Hall.  Maybe their discussion (or  argument?) was so high level they couldn’t interact in City Hall? This is from the recent road paving that went WAY WAY over the time limit and produced crappy results. It’s rumored that a city official agreed the work was poor but that it was “good enough” for the people of Decayville.

Respect the financial limitations of rate paying residents. Molalla was listed as one of the few “distressed cities” in Clackamas County by Business Oregon in 2017 (and other recent years).

Being listed as “distressed” means Molalla has higher than expected unemployment, lower per capita income, more people in poverty and fewer people with BA’s than other cities in the State. Cities that care about the financial capabilities of their residents provide a sliding scale or exemption for their poverty stricken and/or senior residents – even $11/month can be a bust for those struggling to survive on highly limited funds.

Here’s an excellent example of how an ethical and competent city outlines its fees (note residential road fees in Silverton have been $6/month and are proposed to go to $9/month – a lot less than Molalla’s $11/month). Silverton even has a utility fee assistance fund for low income and seniors in case fees are a hardship (Oh! I forgot! Molalla is always too close to flirting with insolvency and has too many “distressed” residents to offer utility fee reductions – everyone would apply!). http://www.silverton.or.us/388/summary-of-2017-utility-rates

But greedy El Hefe Huff and little buddy sidekick Fisher apparently could care less about demographics and hardships in cheapo “drive till you qualify” Molalla. Perhaps they are rushing to cover up what could be called incompetence for failing to address the road problems in a timely manner, failing to charge (or in the past account for or even collect!) adequate System Development Charges?  Most cities start with a far more modest fee and raise it over the years as necessary. Dunning for $11 right out of the nowhere will be a shock to “distressed” residents! It’s always the case in Decayville with El Hefe Huff and Fisher “in charge” of going quickly from “all is well” to “the sky is falling”. Competent and ethical management plans ahead so heavy handed reactionary approaches are not necessary: Decayville runs on pathetic responses to “emergencies” that never should have been allowed to develop into the infrastructure catastrophes that litter Decayville.

I quizzed State Rep. Rick Lewis about Silverton, where he formerly served as mayor. He confirmed that Silverton, unlike Molalla, was smart enough NEVER to have risked using Urban Reserve bonding (borrowing) to fix road infrastructure. Molalla went out on a limb and borrowed to “fix” a stretch of Molalla Ave. The problem is that roads don’t generate property taxes, let alone the raised property taxes needed to pay back money borrowed against Urban Renewal funds. Gee, City Council, do you have a clue about how Urban Renewal works?

Speaking of “distressed”, check out the tacky set-up at a Molalla City Council meeting. They have no city owned public building to meet in – they had to give up running the Adult Center for lack of funds. So now the Adult Center (run by religious groups) dining room, complete with refrigerators, is where the Council meets. We certainly hope the Council has to PAY to use the room they don’t own! The tangle of cords and the cheap blue curtain add extra special decorating touches. In any case, the low quality set-up is a perfect reflection of the LOW QUALITY LEADERSHIP in Decayville!

Wait until rates are set to address the growing wastewater management fiasco! The current horrific wastewater management crisis is the most blatant example of Molalla’s yo-yo inept “management” that constantly swings from “all is wonderful” to “HELP! THE SKY IS FALLING” and repeatedly brings Decayville to its financial knees. Decayville is facing the need to “find” $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to fund a complete sewage facilities upgrade in what will be in a  DEQ legally mandated time frame (and, in case El Hefe Huff and the City Council “forgot” they have a Consent Decree to honor as well – how’s that going, Decayville “leaders”? Have you bothered to read that LEGAL DOCUMENT lately?).

The truth about the wastewater fiasco finally came out once El Hefe was forced to release the “Richwine Report” – a document El Hefe Huff tried to claim was attorney/client privilege; the Clackamas County DA had to get involved to force El Hefe Huff to release the report! That refusal was in no way atypical, since El Hefe Huff apparently believes he is King of PUBLIC records and he’ll use any nasty ploy – refusing to acknowledge requests, long delays, ridiculous charges, etc. –  to thwart release of public documents!.

A RESPONSIBLE government would have been put road fees on hold until the “leaders” faced the inevitable huge sewer rate increases that will have to accompany the cost of new wastewater facilities. In some cities in Oregon, rates for sewer alone have skyrocketed to over $100/month. Pretty soon “drive till you qualify” Decayville “cheaper than somewhere else” real estate won’t look so cheap as the road fees and utility rates add further stress on the budgets of struggling residents and renters who didn’t bargain for giant utility fees.

It’s  shameful the “leaders” and “managers” failed to get ahead of the infrastructure needs before they grew to epic and unaffordable proportions. Can you imagine the Comedy of the Absurd that will ensue as said “leaders” and “managers” attempt to solve the growing problems? Who could trust this kind of failed leadership with tens of millions of dollars in projects – it was literally a theater of the absurd when the “managers” tried to re-pave a few blocks of Molalla Ave. a year ago.

El Hefe Huff on the left, “mayor” Jimmy Thompson on the right. Ignore the name card that says Sadie Cramer – she was city recorder for almost two decades but mysteriously was gone overnight (hint: she had to work for El Hefe. Enough said?)

Good luck, Decayville residents, you will surely need it if you actually trust the current regime of so called “managers” and “elected leaders” to ethically and completely “manage” your public funds.

Council Childress “thinking”.

Councilor Dragowsky in action! Is she planning to raid the refrigerator as soon as the meeting ends? Does the Council have to draw straws to see who has to restore the cafeteria room after the meeting is over?

Councilor Palumbo. You have to treasure her ignorant statement on an email saying that she believed all was going well with Decayville’s wastewater management. Then, guess what – the report came out that Molalla is way over capacity with sewage and it needs $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to build new facilities. Decayville is tangled up legally on more than one front over wastewater management. Does ANYONE elected to City Council EVER demand FACTS from the so-called “managers” they are supposed to be monitoring in the name of the taxpayers?

Councilor Boreth: by now it is just about impossible to count how many times Boreth has FAILED to be elected to Council and then gets appointed when, as usual, someone drops off the Council. Boreth, Childress and Klein will all be vulnerable in 2018 when their seats come up for election. Will Decayville EVER have enough civic pride to have Council election where the seats are contested so there is public debate for a refreshing change? Or is Decayville really content to default to rubber stampers who just do the will of El Hefe Huff, who, per opinions around town, is about as unpopular as he can get? As the saying goes “YOU get the government YOU deserve”.  Do YOU deserve better?

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