Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top comments on the 'audit'

From the JOE ROSE article

Has ANYBODY even noticed that WHATEVER the cause of all the mess be it for ANY or ALL of the reasons mentioned NOBODY is saying PUT THE BREAKS ON THIS MONSTER,
STOP THE GRANDIOSE EXPANSION PLANS. Nope. They gonna re-do this and that corridor Mcfarlane continues hiring all sorts of people that never leave the office, the promotions within the union ranks go on unabated and the expansion continues.

You'd think with this many problems somebody in charge would say. HOLD ON NOW, NO MORE GROWTH HERE UNTIL THIS IS ALL FIGURED OUT, but no, expansion full speed ahead.

An AT&T style break-up is going to be the only long term solution.

Break the system into smaller, more manageable pieces. Separate county-ran systems would be logical as they are the norm in most cities in the US. Give the counties the option of contracting out to private companies.

Stick Portland/Multnomah County with the light rail system since it only serves (downtown) Portland and no-one outside of Portland seems to want it anyway. If Portland doesn't want to pay to operate in Clackamas or Washington County, time to shut those lines down and convert the land into a busway or expanded highway.

De-couple transit planning from Metro. They already have too much power.

Force transit to go back to the mission of providing transit to low-income and disabled users. Commuter service becomes secondary to that mission. Scrap the land-use and development interests. Routes should reflect current demand, not desired demand.

When all is said and done, much will be said, but little done.

Brown said there wasn't enough time for a thorough audit of TriMet.
Washington bureaucrats said there wasn't enough funding for a thorough audit of the CRC.
Kitzhaber said he was in the dark on Cover Oregon.

Why would anyone be anti-government?

Is this a Brown joke?
It appears all that Brown did was read the yearly financial statement by Moss-Adams,
falsely claim her audit found the content and feigned concern while writing it up.

It is another chapter of Cover Oregon and CRC snow job government.

Legislators should be hopping mad.

MAX has become much less enjoyable at some point during the past 5 years. In particular, MAX trains have been very cold this winter. Drivers seem to be leaving the doors open too long, and the new trains actually blow cold air on passengers.

This is a very minor thing that TriMet could address right away to make people happier on MAX.
Calling this an audit is offensive.

"Over the past decade, the cost of medical benefits have skyrocketed 65 percent. What's more, the agency has $852 million in unfunded liability to pay health benefits for current and future retirees, the audit found. TriMet also needs to find a way to pay a $274 million pension liabilities"

Brown's audit did not "find" that.

They just read it in the TriMet's yearly financial statement audit by Moss-Adams.

Every word of that is in the audit every year and has been raised at TriMet board meetings only to get blank silent faces in reposnef.

It appears all Brown did was review the TriMet financial statement audits and wrote up a few things while feigning concern.
If I were a legislator I would be livid and sponsor a bill to require an independent audit.

After reading many of the comments I see that many close the situation are caught up in the minutia of events like the secret pay raises for non-union employees, or even the poor relationship between management and the union. These things are not the problem...they are what goes on in a broken system. Here's what's wrong:

1. The Feds helped to subsidize a transit system that was more than our region can afford to operate on an on-going basis; Just like a US aid agency going over to Somalia and installing a new water system and expecting it to still be working in three years, not likely.
2. The Union got cut the same kind of sweet deal that all Oregon public or semi-public unions seem to have gotten and it never was affordable. The management, being unable to defend themselves from the union pressure and unable to come up with more money (another common Oregon theme) hid the problem as best they could since they had very nice paying jobs and wanted to keep them. The relationship with the union soured as the reality of the healthcare benefits became public and the pendulum finally swung and pressure has been put on the union, providing something to fight over.
3. The cost of Tri-Met (probably because of MAX) is much more than politicians will admit and more than most realize. I have a business with 4 employees, one of whom rides the bus. I write a check to Tri-Met each quarter for about $750. My employee pays about $60/mo in bus fare. He has no idea how much is really going to Tri-Met. I send more to them than I pay for commuting gas for myself.
Guess who appoints the TriMet Board of Directors? John Kitzhaber. One more entry in his 20-year record of perpetual public sector incompetence. The question isn't just what will John Kitzhaber screw up next. The question should be, what hasn't Kitzhaber screwed up already? CRC. Cover Oregon. OHP. The list of John Kitzhaber's career foul-ups reads like a script from "Saturday Night Live. "
One doesn't know about Kitzhaber's "malfeasances" in this role - but there are some serious questions about whether this "board" is providing any degree of effective direction and control to right TriMet - or whether this is ending up being a lot of eyewash.
It seems that TriMet pulled an PPS trick on it's people. Eventually the chickens will come home to roost and everything will fall apart.
If you continue to expand (chooooo! chooooo!) without support of your current system and build a top heavy organization, you will alienate your front line workers. Dissention is inevitable under those circumstances.
TriMet will file bankruptcy and a house of cards will be open for all to see. All of these Government agencies are and should be reset to avoid a complete meltdown of society
Ominous signs here. Deferred maintenance, ragged reliability, a long-running dispute with the ATU, high operating costs, and growing legacy costs (pensions/healthcare, etc.). And all while TriMet continues to expand a system with fixed embedded maintenance costs (rail). It's unclear whether the lower operational costs per pax/mile will come anywhere close to the true costs of the spool-up and investments vs. actual paying ridership.

What is projected here? This has all the earmarks of a looming collapse which can only be avoided by ratcheting public subsidization in terms of regional and perhaps escalated to a state level. Maybe some thoughts and insight on this would be appropriate. The current course appears to be a 'runaway' down a 3% grade with the airlines cut.

It's certainly no secret that TriMet hungered after the Vancouver traffic as another source of revenue and perhaps indirect subsidization - a lucrative route, in theory - ditto a possible SW to Tigard installation (now also very much in dispute). Other pax pools appear tapped out - so...
"Light rail "is not worth the cost if you're just looking at transit" says top Metro growth planner John Fregonese. "It's a way to develop your community to higher densities." After building light rail through neighborhoods that don't really want it, Metro tells them that they have to accept higher density developments to generate ridership. (Fregonese quoted in Wisconsin State Journal, 23 July 1995.)"

Btw, John Fregonese now runs Fregonese & Associates, a planning firm that makes big bucks foisting the same failed Portland ideas on cities all over the US. Talk about the revolving door.
And in related news, Trimet announces that its preferred alternative for fixing its financial woes is building high capacity transit in the SW, SE, NW, NE, S, E, N, and W corridors.
Gee, I wonder why Clark County would not want MAX to be brought to their area. Tri-Met can not afford to maintain or operate the lines that they have, but the government pushes to continually expand the system to areas that reject it. Why would anyone want this dinosaur brought to them knowing it won't be maintained properly? The suggestion that they can make up some of the funding by raising fares is laughable. The way they set up the entire system, fares are optional for riding. Perhaps they should have included turnstiles at the MAX stations to force people to pay to ride.
TriMet cannot address the problem of how to move large numbers of people efficiently and quickly with the dependence on light rail as the cornerstone of their operation. So sorry, but most of us refuse to live crammed together in apartment complexes, and we continue to spread outward away from the rail lines. Maybe if they'd get back to using buses, which can have their routes changed or more added as needed, then more people would consider using public transit.
That's right, Sheeple...
The City that Works...
Chew gum and walk at the same time?...
Baa:) Baa:)

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 7:24 pm
McFarlane said he asked “our Interim Deputy General Manager to lead an effort to ensure the audit’s recommendations are implemented and to regularly report to the TriMet Board and the public on our progress.”

“The audit findings,” he wrote, “help shape the work ahead of us as we continue to meet our mission of delivering safe, reliable service.”
Given that TriMet is unable to adequately maintain the rail system it already has, where is the logic in giving them another rail line to Vancouver to manage? Especially when it will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars (for the light rail portion of the bridge)? This really makes no sense.

A prudent governor and legislature would demand that TriMet fix these problems before even thinking about giving them anything further to manage.
" •Last year, McFarlane came under fire for quietly dipping into a rainy day fund to hand out raises to managers and other non-union employees. He defended the move by saying they had gone too long without a pay increase" Dipping was he? Sounds innocuous. Once again Joe Rose leaves out a critical piece of information. McFarland publicly lied about it. He said there was a pay freeze on for non-union workers when at the same time he was giving them raises. He lied about. Why did you leave that out Joe?
The billion-dollar financial hole is the real story. But they have money for the fancy car-haters' bridge and the Mystery Train to Milwaukie. Portland deserves the train wrecks -- financial and physical -- that lie ahead. Earl the Pearl and Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) have lots of dough for construction pork, but nothing for operations and maintenance. Good luck with that.
Money quote: "To Brown's surprise, TriMet's financial strategy doesn't include a specific game plan to pay for those obligations."

They've known of these problems for at least the past 5 years. Where's the leadership? The governor appoints the board -- where's the accountability?

Iceberg ahead, folks. Suburban cities should get off the boat and form their own transit districts.
  "McFarlane is taking all the heat for calling the problems out for what they are."

Prior to being named as the agency's General Manager he was the Director of Capital Projects. He was in charge of a huge part of TriMet's budget at the time, and had plenty of time before being the GM to call out TriMet's ambitious expansion that was operationally unfunded, and neglected TriMet's backbone services.

He deserves the flack fair and square, alongside Australian Fred Hansen, who fled the country when his deceitful management of the agency was unravelling.
"""Last year, McFarlane came under fire for quietly dipping into a rainy day fund to hand out raises to managers and other non-union employees. He defended the move by saying they had gone too long without a pay increase. The audit shows the average earnings of an administrative employee has fallen 6 percent since 2006, while those of maintenance workers and operators has grown by 7 percent and 10 percent, respectively. """
~~~>In a very obvious omission, at least after skimming through this, is the process that Mcfarlane used to get himself a raise, aka, in total secrecy after he had been telling everybody how broke the agency was that year and doubling the contingency budget. I have not seen anything addressing that.
And to somehow say that six figure executives are not keeping up with hourly wage employees is just down right dishonest. If you're making six figure incomes, to complain about not getting your raise is the height of hypocrisy. It's sickening actually.
The audit is useless in its entirety. In a month nobody will care about any of this and it will be business as usual at Trimet.
Who was the lone legislature to vote no on this? He voted no because he knew it was an exercise in futility. He was right.
"""Although payroll and self-employment taxes dipped $12 million during the recession, TriMet's inflation-adjusted revenue has jumped 42 percent since 2004. Meanwhile, expenses have grown by 33 percent in the past 10 years. """
~~~>So they have been getting more in income than expenses by 12%, so what's the problem?
Just under $1 billion in unfunded liabilities with no plan to address.

Management culture that winks and nudges at safety and open transparency.

Horrible relationship with employees.

All of this occurred on McFarlane's watch. The quickest and most effective cure is a wholesale cleansing of the management team and a 5 year turn around plan that everyone understands either works or the agency is disbanded.
All current senior management should be FIRED. No golden parachutes now, but especially for future INCOMPETENT and DISHONEST management.      

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