Oregon’s Richard Burke Questioned About Flier Put Out By PAC

Richard Burke

From Politifact/Oregon
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Could Clackamas County residents have received nearly $48 million for police, fire and schools?

Local governments have long relied on urban renewal districts to redevelop blighted areas.

The districts temporarily freeze the amount of property taxes collected for public services such as police, fire protection and schools, then redirect the money to improvement projects inside the district. The tax base is unfrozen when the district ends, allowing public service providers to begin collecting taxes on the new, higher property values.

Urban renewal has become a hot-button issue. Critics, including some in Clackamas County, say it gives government unchecked power to spend money without sufficient oversight and that it amounts to a giveaway to developers.

Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas, who is running for re-election, was targeted in a recent flier from the Tigard-based Freedom and Responsibility PAC. The flier, among other things, said Savas helped table a motion under which “Residents could have received nearly $48M for Local Schools, Fire District, Sheriff’s Dept. and Social Services.”

The flier noted that the money would have come from the Clackamas Town Center Urban Renewal District, which formed in 1980 and ended in June with money left over. With local service providers seemingly straining for every cent these days, we decided to check whether Savas actually voted to deny them $48 million in unspent urban renewal money.

According to the flier, here’s where most of that money would have gone if not for Savas’ vote: $20 million to the North Clackamas School District; $8 million to Clackamas Fire District #1; $8 million to the Sheriff’s Office; and $8 million to Clackamas County’s general fund.

The remaining $4 million, according to county documents, would go to the other 13 overlapping taxing entities that operated within the urban renewal district.

The people at Politifact called Savas, who took issue with “two of the flier’s key points: that the money could have been returned to “residents” and that $48 million was eligible for return.” Among other things, he also questioned some of the dollar amounts used in the fliers.

Politifact then called Richard Burke, treasurer for the Freedom and Responsibility PAC:

“I recognize that only a portion of this money would go to local schools,” said Burke, a self-professed Libertarian who lives in Beaverton. “But I stand behind my point that there’s a pot of money that could have gone back to taxing districts if not for Paul’s vote.”

In a followup email, Burke defended his $8 million figure for the sheriff, citing Sheriff Craig Roberts’ comments during budget hearings this year that his office was likely to get a good chunk of the $7.8 million headed to the general fund — if commissioners had voted to return the money. But even if the money had gone to the fund, a sheriff’s office spokesman said, it would have been a “commissioners’ decision on how to spend it.”

The flier lists four figures. One — the amount that would have gone to the general fund — was accurate, and another — the amount for fire services — wasn’t far off. The figure given for the sheriff’s office was inaccurate and oversimplified, though, and the figure for schools was wrong in amount and recipient.

On the other point, residents would have seen a benefit from the return of the money, but it wouldn’t have been given directly to them.

Politifact’s verdict:

We rate the claim Mostly False because it contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts.

14 thoughts on “Oregon’s Richard Burke Questioned About Flier Put Out By PAC

  1. Richard P. Burke

    The Freedom and Responsibility PAC sent out 8,000 cards attacking Clackamas county commissioner Paul Savas. He is a Republican (so much for me being a GOP plant). The content of this card was the subject of a “PolitiFact” report done by the Oregonian staff (the Oregonian is Portland’s leading paper). A copy of the mailing can be downloaded and viewed for yourself by pointing your browser to: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/7626627/Savas_Mailer_111313.pdf

    The Oregonian, said that my card was “Mostly False”. Because The Oregonian supports Paul Savas, the target of my mailing, I was not surprised (or bothered). The paper endorsed Savas for Clackamas County Chair last year (Savas lost but retained his seat on the board), supported Savas’ urban renewal initiatives and praised Savas as a “moderate Republican.” This being the case, I did not expect a favorable ruling from PolitiFact. Here was my response posted on the PolitiFact blog:

    “First, the mea culpas… I will concede that my mailer was not as clear as it might have been about the form in which residents would have “received” money had the dollars not been spent, but I never claimed they would get a “kicker-style check” (those were PolitiFact words, not mine). Instead, I meant that the money would be returned to taxing agencies residents already support with their dollars, and that these dollars would not have to be obtained through higher taxes. Fortunately, Politifact recognized this when they wrote, “On the other hand, taxpayers are residents, and they would have seen a benefit had agencies they support received millions of dollars.”

    Second, the PolitiFact was critical about some, but not all, of my numbers. They said that some were right, and some were not. Fair enough. I provided documentation for my numbers, as PolitiFact points fairly points out. Reasonable people can argue about numbers.

    What PolitiFact did NOT argue with was the basic premise of my card which was that local taxing districts would have received substantial funds had Mr. Savas not opted to spend the available money instead. THAT was the core matter behind that portion of the FaRPAC mailing, and the quote I cited above is an acknowledgement that my premise was valid. I suppose this is what PolitiFact acknowledged to be “an element of truth,” but I believe this to be the core conention of the FaRPAC mailing.

    The mailing contained two other claims, that Mr. Savas left his ballot blank when the vote was taken on the Sellwood vehicle licensing tax and that he supports Renewal Districts. I contrasted that with the fact that 70% of Clackamas county residents voted to require countywide votes on future Urban Renewal Districts and that 63% of them voted against the Sellwood Bridge vehicle licensing tax. The PolitiFact article didn’t even address these or, apparently, factor them into it’s grade of the mailers truthfulness. Why? Are these not important issues?

    Sigh. The Oregonian likes Mr. Savas, and that’s okay. This is still a free country. The Oregonian endorsed Mr. Savas for county chair last year, they praise him from time to time as a “Republican Moderate,” and they have been supportive of Urban Renewal Districts. My mailing works against these policy directions, so I would not expect the Oregonian to turn against him here, particularly on these issues. Given all of this, I will accept the fact that the FaRPAC mailing did not receive a “FALSE” or “PANTS ON FIRE” rating as de-facto validation.”

  2. paulie

    “LPO State Committee” still maintains a facebook page pretending to be the official state party.

    Didn’t know that and can’t find it. Anyone got a link?

  3. Gene Berkman

    “Redevelopment” – once called “urban renewal” is funded by diverting tax money from other uses, including funding of schools, police & fire departments etc. While Libertarians would prefer to leave such money in the hands of the taxpayers who are robbed by government, the fact is that most people support local governments operating police and fire departments.

    In California Governor Jerry Brown abolished redevelopment agencies throughout the state in order to return the funds to government programs more widely believed to be legitimate. The substance of Mr Burke’s mailings is correct and on the mark, and a good reason to oppose an officeholder that supports the type of perverted government aid to business that is redevelopment.

  4. Wes Wagner

    Well there you go Paulie … another item to add to the list of ways the alleged copyright the LNC Inc holds is being violated without being defended ina long standing public manner.

    Good ouck with it.

  5. David

    But Urban Renewal is just another way for local governments to make money. Those governments can always find blight to enact the district. If I was in business would I want to subsidize my competitor, who is receiving funds from the district.

  6. paulie

    Well there you go Paulie … another item to add to the list of ways the alleged copyright the LNC Inc holds is being violated without being defended ina long standing public manner.

    Good luck with it.

    I’m not a big “copyright” person. However, if you know someone who is, you may want to make that argument to them.

  7. paulie

    The substance of Mr Burke’s mailings is correct and on the mark, and a good reason to oppose an officeholder that supports the type of perverted government aid to business that is redevelopment.

    I agree. Regardless of what you may think of Burke as a person or on internal LP issues, the newspaper’s beef here appears to be on behalf of the big interests he is goring. The items they take issue with appear to be footnotes o the flier; the ones taking up most of the space get ignored by them.

  8. Wes Wagner

    I don’t think the LNC has an enforceable claim except possibly for their logo and only if it is not being used in a first amendment protected way.

    You won’t see me screaming about it.

  9. Bob Tiernan

    “The substance of Mr Burke’s mailings is correct and on the mark” – Gene Berkman
    It should have been easy to avoid the mistakes in this one by sticking to basic facts so as to avoid claims of selective use of facts. But
    that’s not what Burke has been good at all these many years.

    “I appreciate the ‘self-described Libertarian’ editorial point.” — Wes Wagner

    Yup. He can call himself the Crown Prince of Slovenia as well. What matters is whether or not other people think he’s a libertarian. Almost all who know him well enough say that he is not. That’s more important. Sure, he can find some people who say that he is a libertarian, like his buddy Eric Winters. But Winters himself is also one of the dishonest veterans from Burke’s inner circle who conveniently avoided facts whenever it suited his agenda (which was quite often).

    B. Tiernan

  10. paulie

    Nitpicking the statistics in the footnotes because you like the crony interests he is attacking has an internal logic. Picking up on it if you are LP opponents of his…well, that’s at least a step removed and well within “enemy of my enemy” territory.

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