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Monday, January 10, 2005

We love 'em

Here now are my Top 10 Favorite Public Figures of 2004.

Comments (22)

Excellent List... I won't spoil it for those who haven't looked, but your #1 choice is right on.

Of course my favorite list is the "least favorite of 2004," but I'll be patient.

Jack- We Buckmanites really appreciate your continued support of our community. Unfortunately, we are now fighting the "Big Box Development" which if it happens, will definitely destroy our small businesses in the Central Eastside Industrial District. Because we have such a low rate of owner occupied homes (16%) and an overabundance of low-income rental housing we have no real tax base which in turn means we have no power in the eyes of the City. Isn't it odd how the PDC can come up with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to put in a Home Depot (which in turn would devestate our commercial district) yet can't pony up the bucks for our community center or to help us tear down the county building at the corner of Lone Fir Cemetery and put up an interpretive center, memorial garden, etc. I think the bottom line is that we are regarded as good for nothing but a convenient place to dump ever more social services and halfway houses, methadone clinics and parole offices. THAT's the City's legacy to Buckman so far.

Lily: You should definitely say this to Tom Potter. I think he's with you on Big Box, and he needs to hear about the rest of it. I suspect he's aware of the BCA's legitimate gripes, but it couldn't hurt to have someone say it to him in person.

I appreciate this forum where I can provide another perspective to comments like Lily's.

The city council voted to buy the property for the Buckman community center very recently and within the past month has consummated the deal with the Portland School Dist. The council has urged PDC, and I believe they have agreed, to redraw the urban renewal boundary to include the Wash High School site in order to allow funds to be raised to build the community center.

Three of the current members of the council, Dan Saltzman, Erik Sten and myself, have sent a letter to the PDC advising them that they needed to include more options than the big box proposal for the community to consider or else we three (a majority) would vote no.

Leaders of the Buckman community and the Central Eastside business community have received copies of these letters.

We sent those letters before Sam Adams and Tom Potter joined us on the council. I think it is fair to say that there is at least a solid majority that has publicly either out right opposed or at least sent a strong signal that they would dimly view a big box proposal when it reached the council.

These positions have come from our contacts with the neighborhoods and businesses within Buckman and the Central East Side.

In short, contrary to what is posted here, the council has listened to and then positively responded to the concerns of the Buckman neighborhood relative to the community center and big box retail.


Believe me, I've said it ALL to so many people in the city government (Randy Leonard, Erik Sten, Jim Francisconi, Vera Katz, the city ombudsman and so on) and just the other day to a reporter from the "O". Yet nothing ever gets done (or published) about it because Buckman fills a need for the City: a repository for anything they don't want tthe tourists to see, yet must appear to be dealing with.

I know what I'm talking about because I live in a low-income housing unit owned by Reach Community Development. The city has allowed Reach to tie up much of the neighbourhood real estate, which they then fill with people on the HAP list, which seems ot include a high percentage of very problematic people. They do this because they can get a subsidy for every person who has a HAP voucher. They also get a HUGE property tax break from the City. For example, they pay nothing (yes, NOT ONE PENNY) in property tax on the 6 unit building I live in, which they've owned for about 17 years. They pay only $1,700 annually for the Ritzdorf Court at SE 12th & Belmont (a $6 million dollar project primarily funded with PDC funds). Figures are from Portland Maps on-line.

In my little building alone there have been several heroin addicts, a few methadone addicts, at least 2 drug dealers, a really scary pyscopathic man who called me names, tried to scare me down in the basement, spit at me, threatened me etc. on numerous occasions. When I complained again and again about these tihngs and asked Reach to be more active in managing their buildings and dealing with complaints, they gave me an eviction notice (with a bunch of made-up reasons, which an attorney quickly dealt with). When the neighbours complain about the tenants to Reach, they get blown off. It takes YEARS to get them to actually evict the wrong-doers.

Just today another homeowner told me she's putting her house up for sale. She said "she's giving up, she just can't take the problems in the neighbourhood" anymore. We've also lost a number of business owners who, after YEARS of trying to get the city to deal with the problems just give up, move their businesses out of the hood and put their properties up for sale. But the bottom line is- NO ONE in the city wants to hear or deal with any of this.

Too bad, because Buckman is a great little neighbourhood, with an interesting mix of people, incomes, etc. We are minutes from downtown and on 5 very accessible bus-lines. The entire nieighbourhood is a historic district with lots of great old houses and storefronts. It has a funky small town feel and charm. I know most of my neighbours in a 3 block range. Vive le Buckman!!

Sorry....I forgot to speak to the Lone Fir Cemetery issue.

When this issue was before the county commission, at the request of the leadership of the Buckman Neighborhood, I testified with the neighborhood leaders in support of keeping the county property that adjoins the cemetery adjacent to the cemetery within the public domain. At that same public hearing, I committed to working with the council to partner with the county to raise the funds necessary to build an interpretive center that would honor the Chinese thought still buried within the property in addition to helping raise funds to build a memorial on that place that would honor the Chinese who helped build America's railroads. It would be the only such memorial in the United States.

I'm glad to see the Council is throwing some weight in the right direction, and Randy, I have no doubt that you personally can show some real leadership here. Moreover, it's good for Buckman that Vera is gone -- she always smiled but hissed through her teeth at the BCA. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The fact of the matter right now is that the Goldschmidt lieutenants at the PDC are still officially calling the shots.

And my comments about Buckman go back to way before the community center and Big Box. This neighborhood has gotten the shaft from the City Council for decades. Gangster halfway houses, two methadone clinics, the list goes on and on.

Randy, you weren't around when the geniuses in Planning decided that a privately run halfway house for parolees was a "disabled" "family" that couldn't be zoned out across the street from a school. Believe me, you could throw bones to Buckman on a monthly basis for the next four years straight, and the score still wouldn't be even. Not even close.

We all appreciate your support, Randy, but somehow, we never really get anything good going on here. The plethora of social services, yes. But $$$, actual $$$ for anything?? Forget it. As I understand it, the City agreed to purchase part of the land for the community center, WITH THE CAVEAT THAT THE FUNDS ARE REPAID WITHIN 2 YEARS!! If not, the land reverts back to the school district and the entire parcel will be up for sale. Feels like a hollow victory to me.

Also, again as I understand it, and I could be wrong, City Council has no real power over the PDC and their decisions, you can only give your opinion, right??

So please don't be so quick to take offense, Randy. Nowhere in my post did I mention the City Council. It's the bigger picture and the bigger players that are the real problem.

"Believe me, you could throw bones to Buckman on a monthly basis for the next four years straight, and the score still wouldn't be even. Not even close".

YES JACK!!!!!!

Actually, the development that includes the big box development will have to be approved by the city council.

The money for the community center property was paid to the school district with no strings attached.

I only offered my recent experience with Buckman to make sure readers got your perspective, Lily, which is a very real one, with another.

It is helpful for me to read the history that Jack gave here. I will only say that I understand very much the wall that the community ran into here at city hall in the past.

However, the good news is that it is the past.

"The money for the community center property was paid to the school district with no strings attached".

That's interesting, because I'm on the board of the BCA and we are under the impression that the money must be repaid. I'll definately report back on that after I double check with our Chair.

The things that Jack said about Buckman, well, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Buckman has basically been held captive as an urban ghetto for low-income housing and all of the accoutrements that usually accompany many of the tenants; methadone clinics, halfway houses, soup kitchen etc. We have to fight tooth and nail on a monthly basis just to try and tread water as far as liveability issues are concerned.

Undercover police officers did a drug sting at St. Francis back in August- they were able to buy methamphetimine, crack, heroin and pot. What did the city do about this?? Not much. Because they have a vested interest in keeping the homeless on the East Side, which is simply- they don't want them on the West Side.

Not all homeless people are criminals, we have some very nice people that are "homeless" (or "the outdoor poor" as they were called in the late 19th century.) Some of these people are allowed to camp in front of businesses because they have demonstrated that they are responsible and they keep the area picked up as they leave for the day. But there is a LARGE percentage of people hanging out around St. Francis who are meth/heroin addicts. They make it hard on the other homeless people, who must bear the brunt of the public's justifiable anger at the crime and filth we encounter on a daily basis.

When you live here long enough,you leanr to tell very easily who the good ones are. Many of my neighbours save cans for these people, give socks, gloves, coats and whatever to the homeless people wandering our neighbourhood. Most of us have little money ourselves, but we do what we can. Come down and live in Buckman for just a few months, I guarantee you'll have a different perspective than you do now.

Actually, the development that includes the big box development will have to be approved by the city council.

Randy, this is news to me. Not that I'm contradicting you, because you would know, but this very clearly has not been reported in a single one of the stories about the Burnside Bridgehead project, which instead all lay out a timeline that ends with a PDC decision and that's that.

I don't know why it isn't being reported this way, but I guess now I'll have to go talk to some people at PDC and try to figure out why that part of the story is always left out.

In fact, in the project timeline there are only two City Council actions listed, and they are not directly on the project itself, but on changes that would be required for the project to move forward:

August 2005: "City Council considers amending zoning on a portion of the site from IG1 to EX, to conform to the Comprehensive Plan designation."

August 2005: "Potential amendment to location of Burnside/Couch couplet, currently proposed for 3rd Avenue, as required by selected development proposal. Amendment could either modify couplet/ramp configuration or relocate it to MLK Blvd."

And that's it. They don't list a City Council consideration of the project in and of itself at all.

Actually, I notice that this is precisely what the Tribune reported last week:

"Because the city charter created the PDC as an independent agency, the five-member City Council cannot veto its decision. But a majority of the council could derail or delay the project by refusing to approve zoning and traffic management changes that must be made for the project to proceed."

So it's more a matter of a vote that could prevent the project, but not a vote directly on the project itself.

Ultimately the same impact, of course.

Exactly. I was told our role in the project would be to approve, or not, zoning changes required for the various proposals.

So your right, B!X, we would not vote on the specific proposal but rather the zoning required for each of the proposals.

Without saying too much, it is a point not lost on the PDC.

And the Burnside Couplet project- obviously set up in advance in hopes of the Big Box Development. Why should Burnside be made into a one way street between MLK and 12th, anyway.? It's a very easy street to travel on, traffic slows down for about 30 minutes at the endof the day, big deal.

This was first foisted off on us as responding to the city's percieved notion of making Burniside more "pedestrian friendly". Now, I wondered why they wouldn't just add a few lights and crosswalks, but I guess that doesn't spend enough money. And how could adding an average of 5,000 cars a day (which is what studies of Home depot stores show) possibly do anything to make the street more ped-friendly?? I mean, I'm no rocket scientist, but come on people!

And then they want to spend millions of dollars widening Couch Street so that it can function as the westward one way street, once they make Burnside one way going east. I continually see the city and the PDC just blowing money on uneccessary projects and then we get short shrift whenever anything we REALLY need comes up. Thik most of us Inner eastiders wanted the espalanade?? Not at the expense of a community center, which is exactly what happened. The city has "promised" Buckman a community center for 20 years now, but somehow....there's always just one more Pearl District to build (complete with unneeded tax subsidies for rich people buying the condos, a ridiculous unwanted tram to erect, not to mention all of the pork projects handed to key developers again and again. It's time to let the neighbourhoods have a decision in how money is spent. It works in Minneapolis, which has an excellent neighbourhood Revitalization Program. Power to the People!

Randy, I don't know, I can hear it now when the zoning changes come up: "We can't consider anything other than the narrow legal criteria for zoning. It would be illegal for us on the Council to vote no on the zoning just because we don't like the tenant. We don't want to get sued. Blah blah blah." Unless there's some sort of major culture change going on, that's just what we have come to expect from the Council whenever unwanted cr*p is going into a neighborhood at the behest of NG's clients.

I think the better solution is for the mayor to get a new crew on the PDC, and quick.

I agree with you, Jack. It's definately time for a regime change at the PDC. It would be nice if some neighbourhood representatives could be included on the committee.

Neighborhood reps -- you mean other than Council Crest and Dunthorpe?

Jeez Jack, Do you listen to our city council hearings on cable or something? Your concerns are right on. You said here exactly what I have heard at council countless times.

As far as the other issue you have raised, I want to be respectful of the new Mayor's right for having secure confidential discussions with those of us on the council......BUT.....I think he would be OK with me saying that he expects PDC to operate much differently (read more collaboratively with all....including the council but especially the neighborhoods).

I think you will see that this council in general, but the Mayor in particular, will not accept being boxed in by what the bureaucracy tells us we can or cannot do. That kind of manipulation of the process in the past has frustrated me and has created cynicism in the citizenry......for good reason.

This thread has helped me understand the sordid history of how the city has treated Buckman. As I said earlier, I am comfortable saying, especially with Tom and Sam on board, that has changed.

But judge for yourselves. If there is something we are not seeing or doing, by all means write me (you know where I am at) or write the Mayor and the rest of the council directly.

I want to be respectful of the new Mayor's right for having secure confidential discussions with those of us on the council......BUT.....I think he would be OK with me saying that he expects PDC to operate much differently (read more collaboratively with all....including the council but especially the neighborhoods).

I would hope he'd be ok with saying that because he's made no secret of it.

I don't know who I'd take off to get the list down to 10, but the Oregon Bus Project is an obvious omission.


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At the end of December, we offered a look at the rhetorical backpeddling of two of the three potential developers for the Burnside Bridgehead project as it per... [Read More]

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