My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

« Michelle Rhee and D.C. school politics | Main | Leonard Pitts leaps to Rhee's defense »

November 17, 2008


Dang right it should be spelled out in board policy. Carole Smith won't be here forever. And the very idea of putting things in board policy creates a certain degree of transparency.

Thanks for reporting on this Terry. Here's a link to the Board book on the Surplus Property Policy. Public comments are due by 5pm on 11/18/08. Please see pages 8-15 of the 10/27/08 PPS Board Book to get the full story:

Below is some correspondence with Board member Ruth Adkins on the Surplus today, from Mark Bartlett of Mt. Tabor. Below that, I have included some of my comments to Ruth regarding the Surplus Property Policy and City Ordinance. I've include a Summary of the City School Policy, including the MINIMUM 9 MONTH school closure process that is mandated by Ordinance.

Thanks again for reporting on this important issue Terry!

From: Mark Bartlett
Date: November 17, 2008 11:10:24 AM PST
To: Ruth Adkins
Cc: NeighborhoodSchoolsAlliance , NSA-Steering , [email protected], [email protected],
Subject: Re: [NSA] Public notice and public process removed in new PPS Surplus Property Policy

I wanted to express my concerns about a few issues with the proposed policy and implications as written. I appreciate your time and efforts to respond to the public concerns.

I will paste these concerns along with some additional questions below. Please add them to the body of comments for consideration by the board within the formal comment period.

Here are some of my concerns with the proposed Surplus Property policy.

1) That there is a City disposition policy for school property already that is an Ordinance. PPS cannot supersede that at will. If so by which legal process? This policy will impact properties within the City boundaries that are subject to that existing Ordinance and Title 33 land use laws.

How can PPS legally put their new proposed policy in place without a new Ordinance? And what sense does this make at this time with BDS already in agreement to work with the public to resolve certain land use issues resulting from PPS not following City rules and laws?

Our ongoing conversation with the Bureaus (Development Services and Planning) should take place in a an open, broad, inclusive, and transparent process that involves the entire public body, not just a few select members making policy for all. That is what the Periodic Review is supposed to allow for, however flawed that process might be.
What is the compelling need to do this at this particular point in time?

Please note that PPR is proposing a similar policy with the same use of numerical evaluations as a major criteria for decision making. They share use of 19 facilities with PPS and through their joint use agreement, many more such as ball fields and community centers, etc...
PPR sand PPS are together required by Metro to create a shared facilities plan, if I remember the Regional Framework Plan correctly. This must provide for a ten year facilities plan including property identification. Is this plan available for the public yet even in draft form?

2) Even with the changes deleting the RET in PPS policy on paper, they will still be influential as any particular Superintendent may not be be real estate savvy. That means that the internal PPS employees will be having the conversations that influence the presentation made to the Board by the Super, resulting in a vote. This should not be an exclusively internal process, but again one involving the public as written in the Ordinance, with appropriate checks and balances.
By altering the notification process embodied within the existing Ordinance, PPS fairly removes the intended scrutiny and oversight of the process by the public in any disposition decisions.

Specifically of concern are deletions Lynn mentions, of;

*/Portland recognized neighborhood associations, local government, and the public at large prior to any recommendation to the board."/

*Why these deletions and to what end?*

/Also DELETED are:

"1. Current short term and long term PPS enrollment projections and PPS program considerations
2. PPS and community use of the property
3. Alternative uses or surplus proposals considered
4. Cost and benefit information
5. Description of public input process."/ *

The influence of the RET and Foundations development interest still present the perception of possible conflicts of interests. I applaud the good intentions of volunteers to assist PPS in real estate matters, but please address the potential for conflict in this relationship, and how PPS proposes to resolve that.

3) In their current proposals for facilities planning they are attempting to institute a numerical evaluation criteria that can be manipulated to support various particular interests. PPS has listed physical condition as a criteria for evaluation of which properties are considered for disposition.

/*The condition of the physical plant has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of public property upon which it sits. This is the main issue we are addressing here.*/

/*The state of the building could easily be compromised by intentional neglect, or bad decision making, or even political priorities, among other means as a way to produce a low value, allowing consideration for disposition. A dangerous path that will lead to at least the appearance of potential conflicts of interest!
This "objective" evaluation method then washes the hands of any particular party or interest of responsibility or influence in the disposition process on the surface. I think we all will recognize that influence can be directed toward outcomes in many ways to achieve the desired goals. I think that is why the existing Ordinance addressed this by including numerous checks and a longer time frame for decision making.

Please remember that because property maintenance has been neglected to the point that a large capital infusion is needed to bring it to an acceptable condition for operations, has nothing to do with the value of or location of the land upon which this improvement sits. And that is the underlying reason that PPS offers this numerical system which will (supposedly objectively) allow decisions to be made without a human influence.
I hope I am articulating the dangers of justifying property disposition through this process.

4) One of the recommendations of the Flynn /Blackmer audit was for PPS to report every six months how they were moving into compliance with the issues raised within that audit. Let us ask how these PPS policies that were so heavily criticized in that audit are producing the stated goals of PPS for access, safety, equality, neighborhood livability, etc...

As another criteria used for the property disposition decision making process, the lack of success in reaching these goals, or even a means to better achieve these goals, needs to be demonstrated to the larger public.
Please consider and then elaborate how these might be used in relation to any property disposition...

While I see and applaud that the RET will no longer take title prior to disposition, please elaborate on their role as well as that of the Foundation, in property disposition?
City Attorney Meng in 2002 issued an opinion on your proposed disposition policy that year which included the RET in the disposition process as title holders. PPS was not responsive to that recommendation and put their proposed policy in effect anyway.
Does this proposed policy pass scrutiny with the City Attorney's office as written considering the Ordinance in place?
Has City Council participated in this discussion?

Would it not be appropriate for the proposed version inclusive of changes be made widely and publicly available during the comment period? And since it closes tomorrow, how do you propose to do so?
Is there not a 30 day period requirement once all materials are posted publicly and widely, and accordingly would that be period extended to allow all to view and comment that which is not widely available?

I also applaud that PPS represents that they have moved past the mindset of disposition given the anticipated increase in population within our city which will inevitably lead to increased demand on land and facilities.
Why then at this specific time do you feel a need to codify a process that allows for just that? And just what are unique circumstances for disposition you mention. That is a terribly broad and flexible term?

Since you are under way with your joint facilities planning with PPR, why does that work not include an open discussion with the public at large. I recognize that is problematic for numerous reasons, but don't you think a collaborative effort will produce a better and more widely accepted result, rather than internally making those decisions and then attempting to force them upon the public?

How will the public buy in to this policy as proposed?
Isn't that what is required for a successful public system?

Thank you,
Mark Bartlett


Ruth Adkins wrote:
Lynn & Steve, all of these provisions (govt option to purchase, public review process, etc.) are now in the Administrative Directive that will be attached to the policy (the rationale for this change being that policies should be more general/high level while the AD contains the specifics for how the policy will be carried out). The FAO committee reviewed both the AD and the policy at our 10/14 meeting.

Note that the new policy (also the AD) no longer provide for any role or rights for the Real Estate Trust - the old policy had them embedded throughout and included an option for them to own and develop the property. Given the scarcity of land, the value and irreplaceable nature of our assets, and the expected increases in Portland's population & PPS enrollment, there is no plan or intent to sell off property, or as the AD states: "property sales in the future will be the result of unique circumstances and will occur infrequently." In short- all these changes are updates to reflect the fact that the district has moved past the 2002 mindset of selling off property via the Real Estate Trust.



Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2008 21:31:40 -0800
Subject: [NSA] Public notice and public process removed in new PPS Surplus Property Policy

Ruth --

That is simply not true, though that is how Director Wynde and Director Williams tried to spin the changes at the recent PPS Board meeting. This is nothing but an attempt by PPS to skate through the Periodic Review Process and ignore the City School Policy (Ordinance 150580).

If you read the suggested changes to the policy in the 10/27 PPS Board book, you will see numerous deletions to the prior "surplus property" policy. Those_ __*deletions*_ include:

*Notice to "the City of Portland recognized neighborhood associations, local government, and the public at large prior to any recommendation to the board."

Also DELETED are:

"1. Current short term and long term PPS enrollment projections and PPS program considerations
2. PPS and community use of the property
3. Alternative uses or surplus proposals considered
4. Cost and benefit information
5. Description of public input process."

Also DELETED: "Governmental Agency Option to Purchase."*

Capps / the Real Estate Trust also *removed the Declaration of Surplus Property for each school. *

Do you think those are sensible deletions? Were they made in the interest of the public at large?
The new policy also allows for our public lands and public schools to be deeded directly to the Trust or ANYONE, -- rather than City, local government and State having the option, as law requires -- so the policy has actually been made much WORSE:

*"Once the property is declared surplus by the Board, the Superintendent, or such person as may be designated by the Superintendent, shall establish and conduct a process for sale or other conveyance of property."

Please find attached former City Commissioner James Francesconi's 6/24/02 memorandum dated on the issue of this particular policy, and a memorandum from then Deputy City Attorney Linda Meng. Linda Meng is now the lead City of Portland attorney. I also attach the City School Policy, which the PPS Policy clearly violates.

PPS properties have gained $17 BILLION in value in a recent two year period according to the TSCC. Viewing any of these valuable properties as "surplus"/ is like viewing your cash reserves as surplus/, and something you need to rid yourself of.
They're land endowments to the public at large, a perpetual legacy, and our parents and grandparents paid dearly for them.
The citizens did not elect you to gut the public process from the PPS Surplus Property Policy, and liquify our real estate assets. We need strong leadership that will disband the Real Estate Trust, and recognize that *our neighborhood schools, parks and public lands are treasures and blessings to be stewarded*.

Lynn and Steve


Thanks for those important comments Nicole, Margaret and Mike.

For clarification to Ruth's recent post, comments are due TUESDAY, Nov. 18 by 5 pm, not Monday.

The small change you are discussing will not make the gutting of the entire policy legal. Nicole was giving ONE example of many of the gutting of the Policy.

Ruth, you and the Board need to answer these questions:
Have you read the City School Policy?
Are you aware that it covers property disposition?
Are you aware that the old and new Surplus Property Policy are in direct contradiction of City Ordinance 150580?
Where is the new Administrative Directive?

Of course, these changes in language by the Board move what few protections we had in the policy, which formerly could only be changed by Board resolution, to a weaker Administrative Directive (which we can't see), which can be changed at a by the Superintendent without public process.

PPS's own website states:

"Adopted Policies and Administrative Directives:

Policies are adopted by resolution by the Board. Administrative Directives implement policies and are approved and adopted by the Superintendent."

How can the public even comment on changes to the Surplus Property Policy without seeing the supposed new Administrative Directive where the public protections, demographic projections, and future planning are moved? The whole thing is a shell game, and we fear in the end the democratic protections provided by City Code won't be under any of the shells.

Not only does Adkins provide a link to an incomplete policy (3 pages versus 8 pages) -- where you can not see what she calls the red-lined changes (which are blue) but only the rewritten policy -- but the critical 10/27/08 Board Book with the red-lined changes has now been placed under Archived Board Books, making it difficult for people to find it and comment.


We already have a City property disposition Policy that is part of our Portland Comprehensive Plan, and the School Board is mandated to follow it. It is the City School Policy, by inclusion into City Ordinance #150580. Link to City School Policy:

With this change to the PPS "Disposition of Surplus Real Property Policy 8.70.040-P," PPS is attempting to circumvent the Portland Comprehensive Plan by establishing their own plan without the involvement of the City or the public.

The City School Policy, adopted by the City of Portland and School District #1, is the controlling land use ordinance for Portland Public Schools. The Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Code and City School Policy control land use in Portland, and they supersede PPS Policy or Administrative Directive.

The City School Policy lays out the NINE MONTH City process that MUST occur before school closures – a process that clearly was not followed by School District #1 or the City in this century. The Board should make no changes to their current PPS Surplus Property Policy until they understand City Code, and recommit themselves to the existing land use Ordinance in this matter: the City School Policy.

The first goal of the City School Policy is:
"EQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION; GOAL: Promote equal access to and benefits from quality education for all Portland residents regardless of their race, sex, age, religion, handicap, or their economic or cultural background."

Why would anyone want to change what that says, or fail to enforce the City School Policy ORDINANCE that promotes that goal? Yet that is exactly what is being attempted by the School Board with changes to the PPS Surplus Property Policy, and the supposed "move" of public protections to a lesser, weaker Administrative Directive that can change from executive to executive (Superintendent).

The School District is not above local, state and federal law. The School Board may not violate or create policies / directives which violate the Portland Comp Plan, City School Policy, Zoning Code, land use law, and state law. Suggested PPS Policy changes will violate local, state and federal law (OARs; ORS 332.155; ORS195; Title 33 Planning and Zoning; ORS 659.850(2) barring school discrimination; ORS 336.067 concerning ethics and morality in public school instruction; as well as many other PPS policies, directives and strategic plans.)

With this move to a future, new Administrative Directive which the public can not currently read or review, the Real Estate Trust and its attorney Doug Capps (also a PPS employee, creating a major conflict of interest) want to take advantage of every language nuance to turn over our public lands to vested interests like the Real Estate Trust, Innovation Partnership, and the optimistically named Center for Innovative School Facilities.

WHY would the Board move forward with changes to its land use policy in the midst 150+ valid zoning code violations at 11 low income PPS schools, and growing evidence of serious damages? The citizenry has filed zoning complaints with the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services against Portland Public Schools on grounds including lack of equal access. We are now in the midst of a "legislative process" which is not public, to grant PPS retroactive immunity from violations causing lack of equal access. Why is the Board not looking at the many local, state and federal laws PPS is currently violating? Why won't it examine past, current and future harm/damages to students and neighborhoods? And why won't PPS remediate those damages?

The new Surplus Property Policy would violate local and state land use law, the Comp Plan, and particularly the City School Policy.

Here is a SUMMARY of the City School Policy Land Use Goals for the City of Portland:


Promote equal access to and benefits from quality education for all Portland residents regardless of their race, sex, age, religion, handicap, or their economic or cultural background.


Supports programs to help keep public schools open.

Polices state that schools are focal points in neighborhoods; there should be efficient use of existing public facilities; and parental involvement should be encouraged. SCHOOL CLOSURES SHOULD OCCUR ONLY WHEN OTHER OPTIONS HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED. CRITERIA FOR CLOSURE INCLUDE: 9 MONTHS MINIMUM NOTIFICATION to neighborhood associations, BOP, and School Liaison. CITY COUNCIL ALSO TO INCLUDE CRITERIA ON BETTER PUBLIC USES, UNSOUND STRUCTURE, FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE, etc.


Encourage the cooperative programming of City and School District land and facilities to allow for the best use by citizens of all ages.


Encourage the maximum use of public facilities for recreation through reciprocal programming of School District and City Park and Recreation facilities. Policies encourage plan developments in park deficient areas at sites adjacent to schools.


Promote the efficient and accessible delivery of neighborhood-based social services through schools.


Promote opportunities for youth to gain training, work experience, and employment within Portland.


Help education Portland's citizens concerning the nature of government services and the political system for the delivery of those services so that Portlanders may become active participants in City life, and enjoy full access to City services. Policies encourage students and adults to learn about local civics and history.


Support programs to assure the safety of citizens of all ages, and particularly children on their way to and from school.


Endeavor to provide support for arts programs and individual artists, including programs designed especially for school children, both as participants and as audiences.


Cooperate with School District #1 (PPS) to provide or contract for services in order to minimize duplication and to reduce overall costs. (Policies encourage joint purchasing.)


Curriculum required by State Department of Education.

GOALS include: reading, writing, speaking, listening, computing; critical thinking; ethics; respect for oneself and others; cultural diversity; arts; history; civics; science; economics; mental and physical health; environmental stewardship; and responsibility to society.

3. Facility Use and Planning

Encourage the cooperative programming of City and School District land and facilities to allow for the best use by citizens of all ages.

1. To support the Community Schools Program and others which maximize the use of school buildings to serve the needs of the community.

2. To provide and maintain City facilities for public use including the regular use by schools and school groups.

3. To establish with other public agencies reciprocal agree­ments for the maintenance and use of certain facilities.

4. To cooperate with School District #1 in the planning, acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of certain facilities and properties, with special regard for correlating such investments with City and School District policies in housing, neighborhood revitalization, energy conservation, and school integration.

5. To continue rental policies of City facilities such as the Civic Auditorium and Civic Stadium to assure their fair treat­ment of schools and youth groups.

6. To coordinate City capital improvement projects with School District projects to provide both cost effectiveness and best service to the neighborhoods involved.

7. To encourage the conversion of portions of existing schools for senior service centers or other City human service programs where space is identified by the District.

Agreements for shared uses of City and School District properties reflect the knowledge that the City and the District share the same constituency. The same public has bought and paid for the facilities operated by both the City and the Portland Public Schools. Public buildings and lands should serve the people, not the agencies under whose names the buildings or lands are managed.

The Portland Public Schools and other educational institutions make frequent use of the Civic Auditorium, Civic Stadium, and Memorial Coliseum for graduation exercises, cultural events, exhibitions, and other uses. Over half the annual rentals of the civic stadium are from colleges and high schools.

School use of City facilities which are also rented to professional sports teams, arts organizations, and the like, Sometimes seems to conflict with the most profitable use of the space. However, the introduction of students from Portland and the Metropolitan area to these facilities may lead to the student’s enjoyment of similar activities throughout their adult lives. The co­operation of City agencies in keeping down costs for these rentals and related services is essential in making the facilities available for students and school.


Support programs to help keep public schools open.


To encourage the development of programs which reinforce schools as focal points of neighborhood activity.

2. To give preference to options for the use of schools that maintain primary grades in neighborhood schools.

3. To cooperate in identifying potential complementary programs, public and private, which could share under-filled schools.

4. To limit capital investment in new public facilities by making the most efficient use of existing neighborhood facilities, including schools.

5. To encourage parental and other public involvement in school through neighborhood associations and citizen’ advisory com­mittees.

6. To support school closures only when options for keeping the school open have been exhausted and procedures below have been followed:

a. Notify the City Planning Bureau, the Office of Neigh­borhood Associations and the City’s School Liaison at least 9 months prior to a possible closure.

b. Establish to the satisfaction of City Council:

(l) That a school closure will not conflict significantly with other City or School District policies, including neighborhood revitalization, land Use plans and integration of the School District,

(2) and that PPS staff, City planners and neighborhood citizens have identified a public use for the school building other than use as school,

(3) and that economic analysis demonstrates the clear financial advantages of a proposed closure,

(4) or that maintenance of the educational program at the facility would not be educationally sound,

(5) or that a building is structurally unsound,.

(6) or that remodeling the building for school use would be impractical.

I have four words (and a few puncuation marks) regarding alleged surplus property:

Reopen Rose City Park!!!!

By now it seems clear that Ruth Adkins will not live up to the hopes of those who donated and worked hard to elect her. Her ultra-cautious campaign style has transitioned without a hitch into an ultra-cautious directorship in which she has allied with former foes of true public involvement like Wynde and Regan. Ruth will get neither my vote nor my money in the future. I also know from past experience that Ruth does not believe that Board policies are binding on the Board, but instead are technicalities that can be ignored. Ruth seems to have become another plain vanilla politician. Live and learn.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Most Recent Photos

  • War_prez_prima_1
  • Bushvaca2nh
  • Dscn1145_2
  • Dscn1144_1
  • Dscn1144_4
  • Dscn1137_3
  • Dscn1137_4
  • Dscn1051
  • Dscn1046
  • Dscn0883_1
  • Dscn0881_1
  • 422d683505eb4821_1