More hundred millions for Metro?

I see that Metro, Portland's "unique" (and needless) extra layer of government, will have its hand out for more property tax money from voters in May. This time, the geniuses who brought you the empty Convention Center expansion and the even emptier Convention Center hotel say they need more moolah for the zoo. Nobody wanted the zoo, which used to be a Portland City Hall function, and so Metro was forced to take it. It's one of the all-time money pits.

This time they want another $380 million, which buys a lot of carrots for the elephants, and the big sales pitch is that the money will appear from nowhere, like magic. Your property taxes won't increase. You know this song – it's side 1, cut 1 on their greatest hits album:

Year 1: Vote for this new tax! It's only temporary.

Year 10: Vote for this new tax! The old tax is expiring, and so your bill won't go up.

First it was "for the children." Then it was "for the homeless." Now it's "for the monkeys."

The decision is backed by a majority of public testimony during Thursday's meeting at the zoo, with many supporters providing the council with reasons to invest, including animal well-being, wildlife conservation, education and the zoo’s impact on the region’s economy and culture.

In 2008, a $128 million bond passed by voters transformed 40% of the zoo’s campus, including new habitats for polar bears, elephants, chimpanzees and condors. It also went towards a new veterinary medical center and expanded educational spaces.

“The things that are left to do are just as important,” Metro Councilor Christine Lewis said. “Particularly to being top-of-the-line when it comes to animal health and well-being."

I'll be voting no. Zoos are cruel. And even if you're willing to overlook that fact, those places ought to be paid for by the people who attend them, not by the little old ladies trying to live out their lives at home on fixed incomes. Kids, you want to know why the rents are so high? It's for the monkeys. 

If you enjoy watching dumb beasts, there's a City Council meeting every Wednesday.

Plus, on a bigger scale, we ought to disband Metro, which has outlived its usefulness, or at least have its functions whittled down to next to nothing. Nobody else has a Metro, and for good reason. It's for the birds.

Anyway, on a similar note, I see that two of the leading contenders for Portland mayor are now abandoning plans to float even more property tax increases this time around, for parks and the fire department. Those would have been another $800 million. Don't kid yourself, one of these suddenly frugal nebbishes will be back eventually to tell us how the sky will fall without a lot of new money, but in the meantime they've got their career to advance, and that takes priority.


  1. Back in2008, the sales pitch for the bond included moving the elephants out of the zoo and down to a huge new home in Clackistan, where they'd have room to roam. I voted for that bond, because relocating the elephants was clearly the right thing to do. But that never happened. So it's a big no this time around.


  3. A basic tenet of “three card monty” is to distract the mark while hiding the objective. Kinda reminds me of Portland politics.

  4. I actually like the zoo quite a bit, and spent a lot of happy times there with my kids in the past. However, I'm a "no" as well-- I am a "no" on anything Metro asks for, whether I agree with it or not. Metro, as you rightly say, should be abolished.

  5. every layer of government should focus on the elephant in the room, not the actual elephants up on the hill.

  6. I read the article on KGW........seems that they want the $ for the penguin & sea otter exhibits. Their excuse is that those habitats are in the “old section” of the zoo.

    So now instead of saying that it’s for the children, they can guilt you into voting for the bond measure if you really care about helping to “Save the Penguins.”

  7. Metro killed Packy.

  8. What tax has expired in the last 12 billion years? Art Tax, Children's Levy, Homeless Inc., parks, ....

  9. The zoo ticket entrance fee is over $20 most days/hours now.
    Really kind of a lot.

    Idk if any of the new Zoo construction helped them save water, but intel and the zoo used to use >1/4 or the city’s water supply (draining the polar bear tank mostly, supposedly).

    It’s not black & white as to Zoos being outright cruel compared to the 19th century.

    Water wise, cut off most of the zoo & Beaverton sprawl?
    I follow Chuck Marohn’s strong towns book (urban planning, but more from a fiscally conservative materialist perspective from someone from a state in a smaller town/MN) and one architect in Montreal who proposes enclosing the green belts of urban growth boundaries (his argument being prevent sprawl, have less opposition and let the developers & architects build some of their weird stuff there, but no more).

    Interesting argument, but I distrust architects and developers in general so much…we need more civil engineers, geologists & dirt work guys steering the ship to a degree than architects; finance & developers IMO.

  10. Idk how we squeeze metro & Portland development commission down a good bit?

    I like having parks & a green belt.

    You’re always on about merging city & county like SF, but they’re on a peninsula w/pretty easy borders/no room to grow & almost nowhere else has that.
    SFPD is also a very weird police department.

    I just don’t see that happening in a place where the county, small as it is, runs to Bonneville Dam, Sauvie island with farm exemptions and Dunthorpe old money.

    Say what you will about our suburban parasites not living with the consequences of their actions (govt desk jockeys being able to work from home in Vancouver & potentially not pay oregon income tax is particularly ridiculous), it’s almost as bad or worse in a place like Toronto or Philadelphia where the suburban boomer parasites all get even more seats on boards of the transit and other authorities.

    There are some constituencies like the conservative Ex Cubans mostly conveniently concentrated in FL you just gotta normalize relations with cuba & give up on entirely.

    I think that of both suburban boomer parasites & city no talent hack bureaucratic dead weight.

  11. I guess, in summary, i value green space & us having the metro waste transfer stations stay local-ish rather than us Sending all the garbage trucks more road miles to Columbia county or near Corvallis & Aumsville where they have large dumps, as, if we completely dissolved metro, I doubt any other entity would take on those.

    But yes to squeeze metro down to garbage and green belts no other authority wants, but that have value making the Clackistan & wa county/Beavertron suburbanites pay for & reduce the garbage trucks clogging up our roads even worse in miles traveled or more vulnerable to outside corporate control (like NYC having to take all the garbage out by private Norfolk-southern rail (think east Palestine disaster/worst of the railroads) now that NJ & Staten Island is full of both Philth-a-Delphia & NYC’s garbage as the affluenza epidemic of NJ suburbs crawled up every hill & green belt they could already) / keep some green belts maintained.

    Convention center, zoo, schnitzer concert hall, etc, any sports venues, figure out how to spin that stuff off, repurpose &/or better utilize it more of the time &/or make it more user-fee based like the airport should be too?
    Can’t really argue there?
    We shouldn’t really be on the hook for that stuff as the taxpayer anymore…

  12. As I was contemplating shelling out $60+ for a first or second informal date (queue the Simon & Garfunkel song) at the zoo & them wanting another $380mil really hits different.

    Makes the Japanese or Chinese garden or nearby Hoyt arboretum seem more reasonable.

    The zoo itself individually I think wants to do better/ they wanted to save on some water & costs & shed the 19th century origins as much as possible, but the reality of the price tag just to enter it and walk around for a few hours, metro bureaucracy + the location with traffic (unless you can get there easy on the max)…

  13. METRO’s original function was to pick a location for the new regional dump, and to manage solid waste disposal. The politicos who then ran the area (this is around 1976 or so) rightly believed that no one would vote for a new government and a new tax levy to fund a dump, so they hitched the zoo on to METRO to get voters to vote for the thing.


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