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Monday, July 30, 2007

Just what we need

A reader writes:

Perhaps you noticed that downtown is a bit torn up -- streets closed, traffic snarled, chaos galore. So it's clearly a perfect time to close three blocks of Sixth Avenue just south of Pioneer Courthouse Square for a few weeks for a massive Red Bull promotion! The city's not getting anything out of this, of course, other than the honor of taking part in the promotion. My favorite lunch cart vendor, who gave me the skinny on this, is none too pleased. I understand this is the doing of your favorite Commissioner, Sam Adams.

I try to avoid driving downtown at all, and either bike or take the bus in, but lately even walking around has been an activity fraught with peril and aggravation.

Anyway, I just thought you could add that anecdote to your catalogue of downtown woes.

Duly noted.

Comments (19)

"your favorite Commissioner, Sam Adams"

With his large flock of the hopelessly and forever duped, opposition is futile.

Just what we needed from the city. Is there anyone who is not living in the la la land that all city bureacratic types seem to live in? Is there anyone in city government who understands that twentysomething hipsters on bikes and childless fifty-something condo dwellers and their enablers are not what makes this city go?

The answers to these and other rhetorical questions continue to go unanswered.

A person would think that in a city that had it's fecal matter together, they'd coordinate events and construction, and perhaps postpone or cancel events and activities that will make life even more unpleasant for those of us unfortunate enough to work downtown and haave a small business in this fantasyland playground for progressive head in the sand budding politicians.

you know, Sam Adams is the only city council member i've heard--publicly and more than once--warn about the disappearing middle class in Portland and its serious consequences.

the Red Bull event sounds downright silly, but i would ask a few more questions before i jumped to a large conclusion and assumed that Adams is all about "hipsters."

This city would be a shell of itself if all the "twentysomething hipsters on bikes and childless fifty-something condo dwellers" were gone.

And btw - I am neither.

Talking about the disappearance of the middle class is easy, and it might get him some votes, but it doesn't help the middle class, until he does something about it.

In regards to the Red Bull event. Aren't there rules? Red Bull must be paying the city something to close down the streets and use them for promotional purposes.

Sam Adams is not a prince who can grant anything he wants to whomever he wants... He can't have that kind of power. Has he broken some rules? Or should we call them laws?

"you know, Sam Adams is the only city council member i've heard--publicly and more than once--warn about the disappearing middle class in Portland and its serious consequences."

And what's he done to help? Sam Adams has done far more harm than good since he's been in office.

Sam Adams heard about and talked about the oncoming traffic woes of SoWhat over ten years ago acting as Mayor Katz's senior advisor.

Sam Adams heard and talked about the tram exceeding its $8.5M budget from the beginning.

Sam Adams with his car, his constituency, heard and talked about the failure of our roads for years.

Sam Adams has more staff than anyone supposedly listening and blogging endlessly on how they are listening.

Sam Adams heard and talks about retaining our Portland businesses while Chinatown, downtown and elsewhere businesses are leaving.

Sam Adams hears and talks about our school closures, our families and children leaving our city.

But some of you think he's doing something about it. If only he would connect the dots.

Watch what happens on the inner east side over the next ten years and then Let's talk again about what Same Adams does to protect living wage middle class family jobs at places like Custom Stamping, McGuire Bearing, American Metal Products, etc..., etc....

Watch what happens to Zidell Marine Corporation.

Remember what it was like when people actually produced things in "the pearl" and in NW Portland

I'll take the former shell of Portland over what it presently seems to be becoming any day of the week divebarwife. I prefer people who can make a living with their hands, and suppport their family doing so, to tatooed bad attitude fixed gear riding baristas who must live five to a three bedroom apartment just to get by on the wage they make serving stumptown to the self absorbed pug owning childless fiftysomething couple refugees from down south.

And for the record, I like Pugs.

"I'll take the former shell of Portland over what it presently seems to be becoming any day of the week divebarwife. I prefer people who can make a living with their hands, and suppport their family doing so, to tatooed bad attitude fixed gear riding baristas who must live five to a three bedroom apartment just to get by on the wage they make serving stumptown to the self absorbed pug owning childless fiftysomething couple refugees from down south."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Simon. Aren't you the rugged, salt of the earth, old-fashioned he-man that made America great.

Or as long as we're indulging in stupid, offensive and sweeping cultural stereotypes, maybe I'll assume you're one of those beer-swilling, wife-beating, fat-gutted, Lar-listening, middle-aged ignoramuses who's mad at the world and Portland in particular because he's got a bad back, a bum knee and three kids who all hate him and he knows his life is only going to get worse and he's wondering what happened to the town he once knew and the dreams he once had. And all he can think is, "It must be someone else's fault--I blame the tatooed bike riders and the retired Californians."

But you're not angry, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Simon. Aren't you the rugged, salt of the earth, old-fashioned he-man that made America great.

Wow, that post just encapsulates nearly everything wrong with the minds of people such as this. So ignorant, so full of blind hatred and prejudice, that they do not even realize how transparent their words are.

Simon made a great point.

Portland does not exist so trendy 20 somethings with goofy Spock haircuts can sell crappafrappacinos to each other and endanger people with their idiotic brake-less toy bikes.

This was once a major seaport and important industrial center, back when people with tattoos were usually sailors or other blue-collar types with calluses on their hands.

Sad, so sad, to look out upon the ruins of it's once mighty industrial economy.

Oh well, some one, at some point in the distant future, will make a bunch of money tearing down those flimsy townhouses along NW Front, as the town gears back back up for heavy maritime traffic.

Just a little perspective on your crabby correspondent's complaint about the "taking of 6th Avenue without just compensation":

"[Red Bull Illume] is the most incredible collection I have ever seen assembled in one place and it is one of the most phenomenal experiences I have had in my 17 years of photo editing."

Seems the city, and its denizens, might actually get quite a bit out of this.

My point, Cabbie, is that it makes no more sense to romanticize the middle-aged blue collar worker, per se, than to demonize the young. We have to assume that there's the usual range of people with the usual range of personal qualities in both of those huge camps.

From cab drivers to office workers to coffee shop folks, there are a lot of people just trying to make a living in an economy that has become pretty harsh for most of us. And the young, who have never benefitted from a cheap housing market, face especially great challenges. You may look at those kids with the weird haircuts and skateboards and funny bicycles and think their lives are frivolous and care free, but I'd contend that that's a ridiculous assumption as it applies to the great majority of the young. Most people, young or old, have to support themselves, and that's no easy task.

Today's young people aren't responsible for the shift that you and Simon lament from an industrial to low-wage service economy and the consequent shrinking middle class in America. They just face greater economic difficulty and uncertainty because of it.

I get tired of the silly notion--which I often see in the comments on this blog--that Portland is a town that has been taken over by irresponsible kids (or retiress from California) who are somehow a burden to the few remaining old-time, hard-working Portlanders. That view isn't in accord with reality, so it just comes across as sour grapes.


I don't think the quality of the exhibit, or the use of city streets, is the issue. The issue is TIMING, placement, and judgment. Illume may be the greatest exhibit of all time, but if so it would still be a great exhibit in a few months or next year, when it would cause less disruption to close off several blocks in the heart of the city. Right now so many streets and sidewalks are closed downtown that it is quite difficult to get around as it is, and closing off streets purely for exhibit purposes just seems like poor judgment. For that matter, would Illume suffer from being placed in Waterfront Park, or the Park Blocks, or somewhere else where it is not cheek by jowl with light rail construction?

This just seems like a very poor decision, made by someone who didn't have the good sense to say "no" to an opportunity that, given different circumstances, might be perfectly fine. But in this place, at this time, in this context, it is NOT fine.

6th Avenue is a former bus mall; 6th was "closed" when the buses were moved, and that happened independent of the Red Bull appearance. Much of 6th is under construction and can't BE used for free-moving traffic. Where is the harm in using some of that otherwise trashed road for a temporary art installation?
Near as I can tell, this exhibit is not a cause of the downtown street closures, traffic snarls, and all around chaos, the street vendor's impression notwithstanding. Given the disappearance of bus lines from the stretch, one might think a street vendor would welcome anything that will bring more people to the 6th Avenue area during this time of construction.
My point being: the "reader's" anger is misplaced, and this is not a "woe" to be added to the catalog.


I don't want to get into a war with you over this silly and relatively petty issue. I actually am interested in the exhibit on its merits (which I will assume, based on your say-so, are substantial). My point is simply that right now there is no other reason for this stretch of Sixth to be closed, and blocking off streets unncessarily at this particular time is not a good idea. And, actually, that stretch of Sixth has not been "closed"--it has been open to vehicular traffic for most of the summer, despite the fact that the buses are off of it. I know because I have been using it on my bike. And the fact that "much of Sixth is under construction and can't BE used for free-flowing traffic" suggests to me that it is even more critical to keep open the part than CAN be used for traffic.

As for the street vendor, how do you think he gets his food and supplies to his cart every day--horseback? And I don't argue that the installation is the cause of downtown congestion (and I doubt the vendor does, either). But the fact of the existing congestion, and its magnitude, mean that any thing that aggravates it even a teensy bit is unwelcome. It's like someone who has a $20,000 credit card balance looking at a potential purchase and saying, "What's another $500 when I'm already this deep in the hole?"

OK, I'm down off my soapbox now. Nothing more for me to say.

the fact of the existing congestion, and its magnitude, mean that any thing that aggravates it even a teensy bit is unwelcome

While that sounds good in the abstract, the main thing missing downtown right now is people and just seeing the two dozen or so huge black boxes lined up on this otherwise torn up area, before the exhibit is even looks pretty cool and probably will be quite a draw. Having something pedestrian friendly downtown...not such a bad thing for people or business.


And I think their point is that the City has openly courted young creative types on the assumption that they will create wealth (a model which, for reasons that have been much debated, does not seem to be working in Portland) at the cost of good blue collar jobs located in light industrial facilities nearby the city center.

And there is little attention paid to--at least we hear nothing from City Hall about--finding ways to attract solid middle class / working class jobs to the city, and where these jobs will be (airport? industrial areas along the river? I84 corridor?)


I'm very skeptical of the proposition that recent city government policy has much to do with the influx of young people into Portland. I'm even more skeptical of the idea, as some commenters seem to imply here, that the arrival of the young has come at the expense of blue collar jobs. The decline in blue collar employment began in Portland (and all over the US) long before Portland became trendy or anyone started talking about the "creative class," whatever that term might mean to whoever happens to be using it. Yes, some people in Portland government talk about the value of the creative class, but I don't see them actively courting this nebulous group through significant policy so much as trying to put a positive spin on a demographic phenomenon that those in government did little if anything to create.

Let's not blame the rise in barristas for the decline in longshoreman.

By the way, to the extent that folks here are just pointing out that it's getting harder and harder for the average person to make a decent living, I agree. But I think little if any of the blame for that should be directed at those in local government. What's going on economically in Portland is going on all over the country, and the main ways of addressing the problem (e.g., universal health care, guaranteed living wage, consumer credit reform, shifting the tax burden) can only happen on the federal level.


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