they still don’t get it

7/7/2011: The RG has a good editorial on the ORI building:

ORI could have been in its new building already, and the UO could have netted one-third more income from the lease, if the UO hadn’t insisted there was no suitable alternative to the riverfront site.

Simple enough. But do you think Johnson Hall learned anything from this? No. They are currently trying to hide public records on the Gabon agreement, athletic spending, sweetheart retirement contracts for admins, the new Diversity VP position, and the current status of UO’s Affirmative Action Plan.

Riverfront Research ORI

7/2/2011: UO’s efforts to stonewall and prevent public input into the riverfront research park planning process have failed, in a major victory for the http://www.connectingeugene.org/ folks. Greg Bolt reports in the RG:

But the move will cost the university. Under the new deal, Trammell Crow will pay the university $1.47 million for a 55-year ground lease. But the company will be able to take a credit of up to $550,000 against that amount to cover the cost of the building redesign, site evaluation and parking improvements.

This $550,000 is the least of it. These costs and the inordinate delays could have been avoided if the UO had sought public input from the beginning. ORI would be in their new building right now. Somehow I don’t think the central administration has learned much from this though.

congratulations President Lariviere, nice compromise

5/7/2011: Lauren Fox in the RG, on the ORI building:

Details about numbers of parking spaces and the size of setbacks needed for an office building may determine whether a years-long dispute over the proposed Oregon Research Institute building ends amicably.
The question building experts are evaluating is whether the proposed 80,000-square-foot ORI building, parking spaces and landscaping can be accommodated on two parcels totaling 3.6 acres that are set far back from the Willamette River, as opposed to the long-proposed site of 4.3 acres right alongside the river.
University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere announced Monday that the UO is asking ORI and its developer, Trammell Crow Co., to evaluate the smaller site….

A broad coalition of critics have spent many months attacking the UO administration over the Riverfront Parkway site, saying it’s inappropriate to put such a large development so close to the river.

This week they said they’re tentatively hopeful about the proposed Millrace Drive site.

But if they’re happy, Lariviere hasn’t heard from many of them.

“I’ve gotten exactly one e-mail on the topic,” Lariviere said this week. “That e-mail said congratulations, nice compromise.”

Great news on ORI building

5/2/2011: Two press releases announce what seems to be an excellent resolution of the ORI / Riverfront Research situation. ORI will get a building south of the millrace Millrace Drive, in the area already under development. No further development in the RRP will happen without a plan and a public process.

Lots of people in Eugene stop things from getting built. Think Whole Foods, PeaceHealth, etc. Paul Cziko and his gang got something better built. I’m impressed.

If UO had been open and transparent about this from the start, ORI’s building would be under construction now. Instead they opted for secrecy, and that decision came back and bit them and ORI and the developer in the butt. We will probably never know who made that decision. It certainly cost UO thousands of times the $202.34 UO’s public records officer Liz Denecke tried to charge Connecting Eugene for public records on the matter!

Congratulations to the Connecting Eugene people for their work on this and for what looks like a very productive ending. I confess I thought they had their facts wrong on the planning process, and that if they fought this ORI would move to Springfield like every other Eugene employer. I was wrong on both counts.

From UO:

“The decision to postpone development of another new building within the research park allows us to re-examine the best location for the ORI/EPIC building,” Lariviere said. “By exploring the feasibility of the 1700 Millrace Drive site, I am confident that we will arrive at the best possible outcome for everyone involved,” he said. …

“Beyond this project, the university will launch a master planning process to help address future facilities needs for UO’s expanding role in catalyzing innovation and its ties to economic development,” Linton added.

And from the Connecting Eugene people:

Connecting Eugene commends University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere on his decision to explore an alternative location for a proposed private office building and parking lot slated to be built along the Willamette River in Eugene. 

The University of Oregon announced today (attached below) that the President has recommended an examination of an alternative location for the proposed Oregon Research Institute (ORI) building. The building is currently slated to be constructed under a 1989 Master Plan at the western end of the University’s riverfront open space, just upstream from the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) property. The plan, if completed, would transform the University’s 67-acre riverfront open space into a private office complex.

Members of Connecting Eugene, a community group concerned about public involvement and the appropriate use of the riverfront, believe that the President’s recommendation may be the first step towards a win-win solution to the problems with the proposed project. 

UO Graduate student and Connecting Eugene member Paul Cziko is encouraged by the news: “I’m cautiously optimistic, yet delighted that President Lariviere is responding to the concerns of students, faculty, and community members who want to see the ORI project built while protecting the riverfront from inappropriate development”.

Scenic riverfront parcel available for development – low rates!

3/27/2011 Update: UO has now removed these offers to lease undeveloped land from one part of the RRP website but not another.

Randy Geller fuckup? Let’s hope this is the beginning of a serious effort to reform the public input process and get some needed development in the parts of the park that should be developed. I have no idea what this means for Connecting Eugene’s efforts to stop the ORI project. Anyone?

3/24/2011: I’m betting this offer on UO’s Riverfront Research Park website is a mistake and will soon be taken down. But after all the secrecy and disinformation we’ve heard on the RRP, don’t ask me for odds.

Archived here. Visit Connecting Eugene for more info on the RRP and the ORI building.

ASUO, OSPIRG, and Riverfront Research

3/7/2011: Two significant things have been happening in student government. First despite a lot of pressure, and support from ASUO Pres Amelie Rousseau, they have refused to resume funding for OSPIRG. This has been a student government fight for years. The basic argument is that it sent too much money off campus and did not benefit students. Lyzi Diamond story in the Commentator, here:

These programs pull from a pool of mandatory student fees to send money off campus to lobby/advocate/whatever for political causes. Whether or not I agree with the particular cause is not important. It’s about the management of my student fee and the student fee of many other students.

Second, ASUO voted to spend $56,238 to hire an outside lawyer to advise them on how to stop the current ORI proposal for the Riverfront Research Park. Correction from a commentor: These are two separate issues. The $56k in over-reazlied funds are for educational events and a student led master plan visioning process for the riverfront property. Those funds cannot be used, according to ASUO policy, for consultants such as lawyers. The request to seek outside legal council is a separate issue.

Franklin Bains story here. They don’t trust UO General Counsel Randy Geller’s advice on this – who would? As the story notes:

“Had the university listened to community concerns, other viable building sites in the Riverfront Research Park could have been vetted early on, controversy could have been avoided,” the editorial read, “and construction would now be well under way.”

But that would involve consulting people and admitting mistakes. Non-starter.

Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail.

3/3/2011: ORI needs a new building. Fail. UO’s Riverfront Research Park needs to fill one of its many empty sites. Fail. Eugene’s environmentalists need to lose their reputation for ensuring nothing ever gets built here. Fail. UO needs to lose its reputation for sleazy real estate deals. Fail. President Lariviere needs to build trust with the students and faculty and the press too. Fail, fail. Even the RG thinks UO botched this. Who’s portfolio was it? Randy Geller?

March 3, 2011

Students Ask Attorney General to Protect their Voice Regarding Riverfront Property

The Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) have petitioned Attorney General John Kroger to allow the student organization to seek independent legal counsel to ensure that students have a voice in the use of university property.

At issue is a controversial proposal to construct a private office building and large parking lot for the Oregon Research Institute on publicly owned land along the Willamette River — just upstream from the Eugene Water & Electric Board property. 

For more than twenty years, students have opposed development next to the Willamette River in the University of Oregon’s Riverfront Research Park.

“The university wants to build a private office building that will destroy open space along the riverfront and cost taxpayers more money than they get from leasing the property.  How does that benefit students?” asks Nathan Howard, ASUO’s environmental advocate.

Concerned that the university has violated local laws and contractual obligations, students and faculty unanimously passed a resolution in November asking University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere to comply with Eugene city code, an intergovernmental agreement,  and the land transfer conditions established by the State Board of Higher Education.  Each of these require public review or public involvement prior to developments along the river.

The President failed to respond to the substance of the concerns raised in these resolutions.  The ASUO finds the administration’s response insufficient in addressing these issues and remains unconvinced that the university has complied with local laws and the terms of these agreements.

Under state law the ASUO must use the Attorney General’s legal services unless doing so would create a conflict of interest.  The ASUO maintains that since the Attorney General has and will continue to provide legal counsel for the university administration in matters regarding the Riverfront Research Park, it cannot also serve the interest of students.  ASUO President Amelie Rousseau asserts, “This is an issue of students’ rights.  We want to make sure that university land is used in ways that will benefit students. The university has had many opportunities to respond to the community’s concerns, but has not done so adequately.”

The City of Eugene recently issued building permits for the first phase of construction and the university hopes to begin construction as soon as possible.

Connecting Eugene, a broad-based group of concerned community members–including students, faculty, and alumni–filed a notice of intent to take legal action on February 22 to reverse the issuance of the building permit on grounds that the project is inconsistent with the Research Park’s Conditional Use Permit and master plan.

The ASUO has not yet taken any legal action on this matter but seeks legal counsel to assess whether or not to participate in the lawsuit.

###

For further information contact: Amelie Rousseau, ASUO President: 503-720-5201, asuopres@uoregon.edu
Allen Hancock, Connecting Eugene: boodlebanski@gmail.com

More evasive than a ninja.

1/12/2011: That is Oregon Commentator Stephen Murphy’s summary of President Lariviere at today’s UO Senate meeting on the Riverfront Research park ORI building:

“I’m a big fan of openness and transparency,” Lariviere explained, and promptly proved the fact by saying that he had an appointment shortly and did not have the time to answer all twelve questions, but even if he did, he would not answer them.

The whole thing is very well written. Stefan Verbano of the ODE has a similar take:

“The land … is clearly a significant public resource,” University economics professor George Evans said. “Can the University produce a signed document that all parties have agreed to? How can the University justify short-circuiting this process?”

…”I really feel that these questions have been answered,” Lariviere responded to a spattering of scoffs and guffaws from Senate members.

… “We are the ones moving forward, and it is the president who is stuck in the old ways,” Cziko said. “We don’t know who the president is representing, because it’s not the students and faculty of this university.”

Lariviere should have cleaned house when he arrived. Instead he kept Frohnmayer’s team, and he is now losing the trust of the faculty and students, for the same reasons Frohnmayer did. Very depressing.

Update: Clearly UO has botched this, badly. And the Commentator comments from the well informed Evan P. Thomas seem to indicate that they had at least some of the facts on their side. Making their bungling even more inexplicable – until you remember UO’s General Counsel is Randy Geller – former assistant to Melinda Grier.

RG Op-Ed on a transparent ORI process

1/10/2011: In the RG today:

University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere soon will have an opportunity to turn a corner and bring openness and accountability back into the planning process for the university’s riverfront.

By doing so, he also would be upholding a promise he made last April as he acknowledged mistakes made by the previous administration:

“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past. That will not be repeated under my administration.” …

 If UO and the Riverfront Research Park had followed the rules, ORI’s building would be under construction now. Instead they tried to hide information and bulldoze through this project. These are not acceptable business practices – or university practices. And they don’t work. So even people who favor this development should step back and ask why UO consistently errs on the side of secrecy and shady dealing – even after our President says the problems will be fixed.

Failure to Communicate

12/10/2010: The Connecting Eugene group recently made this appeal to the Senate Transparency Committee regarding UO’s delay responding to public records requests about the Trammmel Crow / ORI / Riverfront Research contracts, and UO’s refusal to grant a public interest fee waiver for the documents.

Yesterday the committee met to address this complaint. UO’s Public Records Officer Liz Denecke took the strange position that the Connecting Eugene people had forced her to charge them $202.34 and then stonewall for 3 weeks before she could provide them with the public contracts. As far as she’s concerned it was all *their* fault. She is quoted by Stefan Verbano in the ODE:

“This (conversation) should not even be necessary if you would have communicated with me earlier,” Denecke told Cziko. “You have to tell me what it is you’ve gotten, and what it is you are seeking … (it’s) a fundamental problem of you needing to tell me.

Wait – I’ve heard that logic before, from someone:

She is the Public Records Officer. Those troublemakers trying to get public records are the fundamental problem. What will it take to communicate with them? The lash? The box? 50 eggs?

Not enough, apparently. Connecting Eugene stuck to their arguments. Ms Denecke folded and agreed to refund the $202.34 that she had charged them for public records. I am pretty sure this is the first time that has ever happened in the history of Oregon’s public records law.

Meanwhile the City of Eugene had provided the documents requested from them in 2 days, with no fee.

I hope this resolution is a positive step forward for Transparency at UO, and that next time Ms Denecke will think long and hard – and explain her thinking in writing to the public – before using fees to delay and discourage people from exercising their rights to get public information on matters of public importance. But, realistically, I expect it will be a long fight.

Senate Agenda

12/1/2010: The Senate meets today, agenda here. A report from President Lariviere/Provost Bean on the Riverfront Research Park should be interesting, given recent revelations about UO’s apparent failure to follow the development procedures. I suspect the statement will be limited, given the potential for a lawsuit from the developer.

France Dyke will talk about parking. Don’t expect any answers about why fees have been raised $600,000 per year to pay for the underground arena parking garage, which cost about $50K per slot. She has been asked this many times, and she’s committed to not explaining the subsidy, ever. The only question is what combination of strategies she will use this time:
a) read from prepared statement, then feign ignorance
b) obsequiously thank the questioner and say her staff will look into it
c) act like the questioner is being unreasonable for not accepting a non-answer

Paul Weinhold of the UO Foundation will speak. This is part of a burst of transparency designed to build support for Lariviere’s restructuring plan. Don’t ask why the Foundation is spending donor money building extravagant offices for themselves and UO Development in the new Alumni Center, instead of on classrooms. Don’t ask how hard we had to work explaining to increasingly skeptical donors why this was the #1 priority for UO. None of your business, you ungrateful student professor punk. Really, this is best for you. Trust us. By the way, we are not going to agree to be subject to the Oregon public records law. Ever.

Riverfront Research and ORI

11/29/2010: The RG has an editorial with a clear and succinct summary of the issues around the proposed ORI building. At least it seems clear to a casual observer like me:

… But now another obstacle has arisen. When the research park was created in 1986, the UO, the city and the state Board of Higher Education entered into an intergovernmental agreement spelling out processes for its development. Included are provisions for public oversight and review that appear to have atrophied through disuse. … The agreement further requires joint approval by the city and the UO of developers chosen for research park projects. The city was not involved in the selection of Trammell Crow as developer of the ORI building, even though the company’s lease makes reference to the intergovernmental agreement.

So the UO lawyers who drafted the contract with Trammell Crow knew of the agreement and requirements for public input etc – but they forgot to tell the public. I wonder how much they told Trammell Crow? The last time the GC’s office hid public records from the public we ended up paying Bellotti $2.7 million. I wonder how much we’ll pay the developers and ORI on this one?

There is more background at the Connecting Eugene website, run by the people who are opposed to the project as is, and who dug up the agreement.

As I’ve said before I’m in favor of more development along the river.  But saying one thing to the developer and another to the community, and then hiding public records and stifling public input when there is an agreement in place requiring this input, is not the right way to get it done. Or the right way to run a public university.