April Fools: City, County and State government confused about stimulus – Merkley says time are hard

dollarnote_siegel_hqFrom the April 1 edition of Street Roots. (The April Fools edition was one of the most popular Street Roots ever published. We sold out of the newspaper in a week and ordered more. It’s on the streets for two more days – get your copy while it’s hot!)

Angry legislative aides lashed out at reporters Friday for asking questions about the economy during a roundtable on the stimulus package.

The roundtable, focused on how stimulus dollars will be used to help Oregon’s lagging economy, included representatives from the state of Oregon, Multnomah County and the city of Portland.

After a heated discussion turned into a free-for-all, reporters asked civic leaders when exactly communities would see the millions of dollars promised to the region from the federal government.

“We don’t know,” said a staffer at the governor’s office. “It’s not clear that we have figured out how to figure out how to allocate the money being allocated to us. It’s complicated.”

Asked by Street Roots if affordable housing money promised to local communities would be seen in the next six months, the aide said, “Look, even if we get the money, there are a lot of things we need to discuss before we just hand over millions of dollars to the dying private sector and drowning nonprofits working on these issues. We have a process in Salem.”

Asked what that process was, the aide responded, “I’ve already told you. We don’t know exactly.”

Street Roots has been told by insiders that the governor’s office wants the money allocated one way and the state Legislature another. The aide later denied these reports, saying, “Look, if we had it my way, we would completely do away with people living with mental illness and substance abusers, but we don’t live in a perfect world, now do we?”

One state representative from Southern Oregon told the roomful of reporters that they wanted control of slashing the state budget for Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens, and that the governor’s office was taking too much of the credit for the system being completely broken.

“Before any money is allocated, state legislators are going to require that every interest group working with affordable housing tell us just how miserable things are,” said the representative. “We just can’t allow for all that money to go to housing people like that. There’s a process for this stuff. We’ve already been burned once.”

Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler was the only politician willing to talk one-on-one with Street Roots after the roundtable. Wheeler said he’ll do whatever it takes to expedite the process of getting dollars on the ground for projects in the pipeline.

“Look, things are bad. Real bad. I mean I don’t know why on earth I ever ran for this position,” says Wheeler. “And one day, when the smoke clears and I am eventually governor, I’ll remember some of these folks. And I tell you what – they’re going to remember me too. They’re going to remember when Uncle Ted force-fed them — Wheeler Road Kill Café burgers. Why is that? Well, that’s how we’re going to be covering costs for the next two years for our animal road maintenance crew. I’ll wait for my shot and then, bam. It’ll be possum stew for some of these characters. They’ll regret crossing me if I don’t end up in the Oregon State Hospital before the economy turns around.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for City Hall pointed towards a new soccer stadium and a proposed Convention Center Hotel for signs that the economy is not that bad for everyone.

“We may be cutting crucial services and moving things around a bit,” said one chief of staff. “But the reality is Portland is resilient and we’ll perservere.”

Asked about the decline in home values, the record number of foreclosures in the city, the dozens of vacant storefronts downtown and throughout neighborhoods, the conversion of condos to rentals, the rising unemployment and homeless figures, and the cutting of important social services, the City Hall staffer said, “We’re the city that works. And we’ll let you know what’s going on as soon as someone in Salem tells us what’s going on with the money. Until then, we’re going to have to live with it.”

In a written response from Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office in Washington, D.C., on the matter of the failing economy, Merkley told Street Roots, “Tell me about it. I need some help paying down my debt for those commercials. Times are tough.”

Asked if anyone in Washington, D.C., was helping Merkley’s colleagues in Salem figure out what was going on so they could help their colleagues in Eugene, Medford, Bend and Portland figure out what was going on, he said, “To be honest, we’ve been asking our colleagues in New York what’s going on and they’ve been asking their colleagues in Paris, Berlin, London, Riyadh, and Beijing what’s going on and no one really knows. Money is on the way. That’s all we’re told.”

Meanwhile the world’s leading economists and insiders at the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department told more than 400 television reporters that they aren’t even clear about what’s happening.

“We live on an axis. The tide must turn,” said one state economist. “When will things turn around? How do we lead ourselves out of this dark recession depression? What is the meaning of life? And how do local economics play a role? These are all questions we ask ourselves. Time is all we have. The answers will reveal themselves.”

Asked if the economist, who has written two New York Times’ bestsellers, was sleep-deprived and possibly needed medical attention, he just said, “No, this is life’s journey. It’s possible I had a nervous breakdown back in November, and again in February, but now, I’ve just accepted things to be … When people ask me for advice. I just tell them things are going to be OK. Keep investing. Go green.”

As Street Roots was going to press, President Obama announced that a second round of stimulus package money totalling nearly a trillion dollars was being proposed to hire staffers around the country to report on how the first stimulus package was being handled. Dozens of high-level administrators with Fortune 500 companies on Wall Street have applied for the positions, promising to lead local governments around the country out of the black hole they created.

Local officials declined to comment on the subject, but did say they are hopeful.

By Spivey Jingles
Unemployed Writer

One response to “April Fools: City, County and State government confused about stimulus – Merkley says time are hard

  1. How do I become one of those companies that report on how stimulus dollars are being spent?

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