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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Squeaky wheels

The Portland Development Commission announced a half dozen "livability" grants yesterday, for improvements to property on and near North Interstate Avenue. And guess who showed up on the list? Ethos Music Center, the kids' music nonprofit founded and run by City Council candidate Charles Lewis:

Ethos Music Center Exterior Storefront Renovation Phase II, 10 N. Killingsworth: An award of $33,563 will be used to complete storefront improvements on the Williams Avenue side of the building.
Lewis, who's made no secret of his displeasure with the PDC based on past experiences, is clearly the underdog in the November runoff election against Amanda Fritz. But you never know, he might win. I believe what the PDC is doing here is technically what's known as "insurance." Is it a coincidence that WW just reported that Lewis "has softened his attack-dog tone on the PDC"?

Also on the list, a group that was vocally opposed to the ill-fated proposal to rename Interstate after César Chávez:

Polish Library Building, 3832 N. Interstate: An award of $45,960 will be used to make exterior improvements on this historic building located on Interstate Avenue.
The other awardees of "livability" grants were the Kenton Firehouse Solar Power Project ($73,506), the Trillium Charter School Community Room ($33,267), the Disjecta Interdisciplinary Art Center ($34,980), and the Library Hall on North Ivy ($32,500). It all sounds good to me -- but mere drops in the bucket compared to the millions routinely doled out to misguided developers.

Comments (6)

Gee look what light rail spurs.
PDC handing out tax money.

Imagine how much money they could have handed out if they wouldn't have spent the 300 million on Interstate MAX.
Many millions in UR PDC money is going to pay off MAX.

Unfortunately the light rail doesn't spur anything but more government subsidized development. Despite the never ending claims that MAX spurs develeopment.

It is too bad that what should be a good story about community projects is spun to be negative. This is a really good program and PDC should be encouraged to do more like this in Interstate and all the other urban renewal areas. Oh, and it was $30M (plus interest) for light rail, not $300M. The rest were federal funds.

Like I say, from my POV, this is all good. Don't take everything "Hal" says to heart.

And anyway compared to the commenters at the Trib, every week is happy week on this blog!

Yes I know the $30 plus million was the Urban Renewal/PDC portion.

But my point stands. Interstate, the local property owners and the taxpayers would have been better off without the MAX there.

In fact an improved bus network in North Portland, serving many neighborhoods, could have been established for a fraction of the cost. Far more people could now be served close to their homes and then collect on Interstate to express to the city center.

I don't have any problem with the store front grants. That's far preferable to most other things the PDC does.


Thanks for your story. Ethos was very fortunate to have received this grant a few days ago. We're looking forward to using the funds to help renovate our storefront on Killingsworth and Williams. The facility was boarded and dilapidated before our nonprofit was able to purchase the building a few years ago.

I just wanted to note for your readers that Ethos has received PDC grants previously -- even before I was the juggernaut of a candidate that I am today. :o) Specifically, we received a $25,520 grant in 2007 for part of our storefront improvement and a $12,000 grant in 2004 through DOS (Development Opportunities Strategies).

As you noted, I was unabashed about taking PDC to task when appropriate in the primary (even after our previous grants). I will continue to challenge any decision or focus that any government entity takes that I believe benefits the wealthy few at the expense of Portland's working families and individuals.

That being said, I've noted some positive changes at PDC in recent months. As you may know, I have been pushing PDC to do two very important things since the beginning of my campaign. One, to involve Multnomah County in the creation, extension or expansion of any Urban Renewal Area. And two, to work with BHCD and community partners to spend the 30% set aside for affordable housing. I don’t know if my efforts had anything to do with it, but I'm pleased to say that PDC has starting moving forward on both accounts in recent months – something I’m very excited about.

I’ve definitely had my bad experiences with PDC in the past, but I understand that it was at a different time under different leadership. As I mentioned to them a few months ago, I’m looking forward to seeing how I can work together with PDC, not against them, when I’m in City Hall. Lastly, I’m pleased to note that PDC Commissioner Sal Kadri has endorsed my candidacy for this important race.

I hope all is well!

Charles Lewis
Candidate, Portland City Council

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