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Francesconi Puts Ten-Foot Pole Between Himself and New Downtown Parking Rules

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Portland mayoral candidate Jim Francesconi testily distanced himself Tuesday from a proposal to radically increase downtown parking fees during an election year. The dustup between Francesconi and outgoing mayor Vera Katz occurred during a public work session on a new budget for the Portland Department of Transportation. The issue was tabled for future discussion in a more private venue.

Under a budget proposal submitted by Katz, the city would have increased downtown's metered parking revenues by extending hours from 6pm to 8pm, charging on Sundays that are now free, and raising parking fines. The city says the increased revenue collected from the proposed fees is needed to pay for a planned major renovation of the downtown transit mall and to cover the costs of city street repairs. According to Katz's budget proposal, the parking plan would have generated an additional $2.4 to $4.5 million per year.

The Transportation Department has been under commissioner Francesconi's management since 2002. When the candidate realized Tuesday that his department managers had included the plan information in background materials provided to the mayor, he quickly put the brakes on it.

"... I have never recommended this," said Francesconi, according to the Oregonian, to which Katz responded, "It's in your own transportation budget."

"Either [he] wasn't paying attention to what was submitted or he authorized it," said commissioner Erik Sten, according to the Oregonian.

Francesconi's public embarrassments did not end with Tuesday's squabble. State elections officials have revealed that they are investigating at least two campaign finance complaints against the commissioner's campaign, including one that involves criminal penalties.

That complaint involves campaign contributions from downtown Portland developer Tom Moyer and his administrative assistant, Sonya Tune. Moyer gave Francesconi $500 and Tune gave $2000. According to the Oregonian, Tune claimed she could not afford to make the payment today, but could when she made it. It is a felony in Oregon to give campaign money under someone else's name and a felony to knowingly receive such money.

Francesconi's representatives quickly attempted to distance the candidate from the controversy, saying that his mayoral campaign does not know where it's money comes from.

The other complaint involves Francesconi's free use of the law offices of Portland corporate firm Ball Janik to make fundraising phone calls that would have been illegal if made from Francesconi's City Hall office. Since the scandal was revealed in an article by Willamette Week, the candidate has amended a campaign finance report to include "in-kind" contributions from Ball Janik.

Jim Francesconi has been a controversial candidate for mayor since announcing his intentions to run last year. In comments made at the time of his announcement, Francesconi said that Portland needed new vision in the mayor's seat, following years of Vera Katz at the helm. The candidate seemed to many to ignore the fact that he had literally been at Katz's right hand for 8 years of Katz's tenure.

The councilman has drawn criticism for his unabashed allegiance to Portland's biggest business interests, including the Portland Business Alliance. Comments Francesconi made before voting no on an anti-Iraq war resolution closely followed the words of a letter received from then-Alliance president Kim Kimbrough. Since the beginning of the war on Iraq 13 months ago, nearly 700 US soldiers and an unpublicized number of American and international 'civilian contractors' have been killed, in addition to thousands of Iraqi civilians.

It is unclear whether the issue of raising parking fees will return to public attention before May's election.
socking it to poor folks again 14.Apr.2004 23:20

toys

Some poor people have to use cars. After 6 and sundays gives them a little break. The streets become really crowded downtown south park blocks when the symphony or the schnitz has a todo on....why not hit those people up for extra cash if they can't produce proof of alternate transportation to an evening event. Same with snooty restaurants.

People pay for substandard city government 15.Apr.2004 08:36

Carless

Not an owner of a car but this is just a sign of what is ahead.
Katz & Co. have achieved one of the worst messes of city finances
that I have ever seen. One HUGE mistake after another..
Tons of lawsuits will be paid out to victims of police
brutality..Something she was too afraid to address and allowed.
The watewr department..etc..etc..
Someone will have to clean up the mess..expect
to be TAXED to death and every city fee to be raised..
Why the heck should business move here!
The city has a rep for sub-standard managing at city hall.

the old biddy (a cackling woman) 15.Apr.2004 12:27

Vera Katz

has got to find money somewhere to pay for her mismanagement of the PoPo and all the lawsuits!

this article is about francesconi 15.Apr.2004 16:46

...

the article is about francesconi and what a nightmare it will be to have him as mayor.

he is covering up his parking rate increase until AFTER the election. that is why his transportation bureau approved the increase. jim doesn't want this to go public until AFTER he is safely elected.

which gives rise to the next issues: his election isn't clean and safe. his campaign and his donors are accused of felonies, he uses a phone in a corporate law office filled with people he is beholden to. the whole thing stinks.

vote for somebody other than jim francesconi.....

a word on the car issue 15.Apr.2004 21:32

...

it is true that some people would be interested in this parking revenue thing only because it effects people who park cars downtown and they will have to dig deeper to pay for it.

i think this is an important story because it shows that francesconi is either protecting his corporate donors' interests OR he is trying to hide a huge fee increase from them (and the parking public) until AFTER the election.

if you own a big building downtown and all your friends just got through giving a couple grand EACH to jim, wouldn't you be the slightest bit pissed that he approved a plan to charge your evening customers and sunday customers to park when it used to be free?

what if the state of oregon was investigating your francesconi donations because you may have committed a FELONY to give MORE than the legal limit?

Vote for James Posey 20.Apr.2004 20:44

Brian Setzler IamB@riseup.net

I'm supporting James Posey for Mayor. He's endorsed by the Pacific Green Party and The African American Alliance. He's a small businessman from NE. Check out his website at www.poseyformayor.com

I'm all for jacking the parking fees 21.Apr.2004 20:38

Cars are killing our cities

Cars are killing our cities. Parking fees are one of the ways drivers should pay for their ecological footprint.