This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 24, 2002 11:55 PM. The previous post in this blog was Scary thought for the day. The next post in this blog is Ugly, ugly, ugly. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Happy birthday to the East Bank Esplanade

The new walkway along the formerly abandoned east bank of the Willamette River in the heart of Portland turns one year old this week. It has been a wonderful addition to the city. The spectacular views it provides of downtown Portland have instantly made the Esplanade one of the top attractions in the state. The pathway provides a much needed transportation link for walkers, runners, skaters, and bikers; the resulting loop with Tom McCall Waterfront Park across the river has been a boon to the city's athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. And it's free -- free!

Don't tell the spoilsports at The Oregonian any of this. Their story on the anniversary of the Esplanade was a truly begrudging acknowledgment of the value of this project. Continued references to the $30 million price tag, and prominent repetition of the initial criticisms of the Esplanade from a year ago, show that the folks at The "0" still don't quite "get" the idea of a new, truly public asset on the Idaho side of the river. Here is the fourth paragraph of the story:

It is a "gift" that cost federal and local taxpayers about $30.5 million, an amount that has earned the esplanade a ranking among some as a signature example of government waste. Last summer, labor leaders representing city employees included the esplanade on a "Porkland" tour of costly public projects.

Dear fish wrap editors: Please do continue to list the price tags and remind us about public opinion. Like the $116 million being spent to expand the Oregon White Elephant Convention Center, against the clearly expressed wishes of the voters. Or the $350 million going out for North Portland light rail -- another City Hall toy that the public voted down. How about $115 million to re-do the football stadium at the state university? Or $6.8 million for new "high tech" parking meters -- as if the old ones couldn't be fixed for less? Security problems at the reservoirs? Forget spending $1 million a year for a security force -- no, no, in Portland, it's $142 million for covers! I don't recall the cost of the Pearl District Trolley being mentioned much when it turned a year old last week. (Reminder: $54 million to build, plus it runs a sizeable operating deficit. And now it will be expanded to connect the toney Pearl with the tonier RiverPlace. Perhaps they'll drive a golden spike into the last piece of rail.) And have you ever seen an accounting of the public money spent each year on the Oregonian's pet event, the Rose Festival? The present value of a perpetual stream of Rose Festival expenses paid out of public coffers would make interesting reading indeed.

The Esplanade is worth every penny spent on it so far, but there's a certain amount of pound-foolishness in its near future. Security has been reduced to zero. There's nary a call box, security camera, or even pay phone to be found along its length, which makes for an edgy experience after dark. And apparently the bicycle security patrol has been discontinued, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. If nothing else, the presence of those guards made a dent in the recklessness of the few daredevil bicycle racers and skaters who tend to create hazards for pedestrians along the Esplanade.

Despite these blue notes, this is an inspired and inspiring place, even with (as Robin Williams good-naturedly pointed out when he was here) the occasional smell of the sewage outfall pipes and the relentless roar of the freeway. Once again, good for the people of Portland.

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