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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lents Park on a late spring evening: beautiful

We've written quite a bit lately about what a stinker the Paulson stadiums deal is from a Portland taxpayer's financial point of view. What we haven't said too much about is how the proposal shapes up from a non-monetary perspective. And so on the way home from the mechanic today, we took a little detour by Lents Park, site of the proposed new minor league baseball stadium, to see what was going on there. It turns out, there was quite a bit.

Although it was dinner hour when we arrived, there were hundreds of everyday people of all ages, and a few dogs, taking advantage of the park. Pickup basketball was in full effect. The playing fields looked great. We saw one Little League game, and another Little League practice, in progress. Over in Walker Stadium, on the east side of the park, Gresham and Reynolds were going at it in what was not shaping up as a pitchers' duel. The concession stand was open for business. The parents and coaches of the players were urging them on, the way elders do. The electric scoreboard was functioning fine.

Contrary to what Dwight Jaynes will tell you, Lents Park is not a rundown place full of crime and discarded hypodermic needles. And contrary to what Cora Potter will tell you, Walker Stadium is not a condemned wreck. There are some wooden bleachers that need replacement behind home plate, and I'm sure there are some other deferred maintenance items courtesy of the Portland parks bureau. But on the first and third base sides are nice, fairly new aluminum stands that are holding up extremely well. Overall, the stadium is quite good for what it is. And for just a fraction of the tens of millions that are being earmarked for minor league sports, it could be polished into a real gem.

One nice feature of the stadium is a row of mature trees that curves around just outside the length of the outfield fence. Now, there's a signature feature of a Portland park -- an aesthetically pleasing, green touch, far beyond the ordinary. It was planned, built, and maintained with care, for everyone to enjoy. Those were the days.

To rip out those trees, Walker Stadium, and a goodly portion of this park; to replace them with a glaring, loud professional minor league baseball stadium, with a large parking lot; to do so at breathtaking public expense and at the behest of some rich guy Republican who just moved in from New York (to Lake Oswego) -- well, that's a real sacrilege. It goes against all the progressivity and livability that Portland supposedly stands for. To bring in thousands of outsiders and their cars to Lents Park for the bright lights and unavoidable noise of Thursday drunken beer nights with the Beavers is an insult not only to the regular Janes and Joes who use the park, but to every Portlander.

That we're even talking about this is a sorry reflection on our city.

Somebody commented on this blog today that when the county deeded over the Lents Park land to the city nearly a century ago, it was on the condition that the property be used only as a public park. We can't imagine that a high-impact, patently commercial facility such as the new Beavers stadium -- with for-profit alcohol sales on top of everything else -- could be shoe-horned into what the drafters of that condition meant by a public park. The people behind that land donation are probably rolling over in their graves right now. Let's hope the safeguards they put in place are strong enough to fight off the Bush people and their money.

Comments (30)


Xlent. Nothing like being there.

It's a nice place -- what you'd expect from a Portland park. Not what you'd get from the outside of a walled-off pro sports arena -- usually one of the coldest places in any town.

I don't read much of our local print media anymore, so maybe I missed this. Has anyone sat down with Merritt and asked him some hard questions about how his funds for these sports plans connect to our fiscal nightmare on Wall Street?

Is this part of the famous money we were supposed to put back into the system to end the freeze in lending? Is this our money disguised as his money?

Is this a show of gratitude by Wall Street cronies to Merritt's Dad for greasing them with the TARP billions?

What does he think of the new America anyway? What does he think of car companies begging for their existence while he whines that he's not getting his Portland money? Does he feel any guilt or responsibility for what's happened to this country?

You know, it's easy to overlook this situation in the grand scheme of schemes that is America today.
But maybe this is where the People of the United States finally say, "Hell no."

Maybe Portland has been called upon to play a prominent role in the big turnaround of America. I mean if you were a novelist you couldn't come up with a better metaphor than a rich kid trying to build over a park where ordinary people are playing baseball.

This has the potential to be EPIC. We could be the tipping point.

I say we shut this loser's plans down and let him run back to Daddy's lap. I say we begin saving this country right here at Lents Park.

Maybe someday people will come to Portland - not to see the tram or the convention hotel or any of that other weasel crap - but to see Lents Park. The place where we finally stood up to all these Federal Reserve-Wall Street suit-gangsters. The place where a new start for this country had its beginning.

Lents Park could go on to have great historical significance in the next chapter of this country. I could see it now: The Lents Park Rebellion.

This could be the time and place where we first said, "No more!" and began to take America back.

I hear Lents natives are turning NIMBY. It's so rich cityhall is likely to get a dose of its own medicene once again.

Well said. The stadium proposal is all kinds of East Coast ugly, and people who care about Portland as more than a staging area for their own ambitions won't let it happen.

Excellent word choice: "a real sacrilege"

City parks are also oases where people congregate to cool off when the temperatures climb to the upper 90's or above, at least people who don't have air conditioning or can't afford a trip to the coast. Where will the Lents Park community go to escape the heat?

As a reminder, Saltzman is the swing vote. Writing a letter can't hurt as long as it is terse and to the point.

God knows what Randy will promise him to keep the Great Garber happy.

Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine," would recognize this easily -- close down the public sphere, put a gate around the commons and let the rich lord charge the peasants for having any chance for enjoying what they use to own outright.

Well said, Jack, in general, but blaming this particular greed and stupidity on the Joe Palooka Bush misses the point that the whole show is brought to you by card-carrying members of the Oregon Democratic Party, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the public-sector unions for the last 25 years. Sure, some of the Paulson loot may come from slippery public dealings on an unprecedented scale, but Merritt prefers not to use much of it for his sports empire, and Goldman Sachs & their ilk are nonpartisan opportunists - Paulson's GS predecessor & purchaser of the Jersey Governorship Jon Corzine has a 'D' after his name, and especially in public finance deals, I'm sure you know the fat Wall Street "Pay-to-Play" contributions have to go to both sides. From Kulongoski, who I believe has labor boss Tom Chamberlin on his payroll (the one behind the Wyden stuff), to the legislators who are crafting a giveaway to Paulson of the state income taxes of anyone who has ever heard the word "soccer," to all of the City "leaders" who are being led around by the nose by Paulson in his quest for taxpayer-furnished baubles, it's nothing but good progressive green gay-friendly sustainable liberal Democrats. I have not searched the public databases, and I don't know how Paulson is registered, but I would bet he's not a Republican & his contributions are the opposite of Pater's. Bush & the R's have a lot to answer for, but this ain't part of it. And remember, in Oregon, at least, no matter what Limbaugh says, you can't spell "Democratic" without "ic." They are the ones who have given us a government payroll with a 25% burden for pensions, which is still at the heart of the permanent fiscal crisis. Not sustainable. Not even democratic.

Did Merritt borrow the money from John Corzine or his Dad?
Wasn't that Henry Paulson in the Rose Garden with W announcing the urgent need to flood his cronies with billions? Do we have any idea where the money went? No, despite assurances of accountability, it's all a big secret. Who do we think we are, wondering where the initial 350 billion Paulson distributed went? He's entitled to that money, isn't he?

It's true that some Dem politicians have sold out their working class roots so they can suck up to this family, and they're going to have to live with that.

But this smells like a Wall Street-screws-Main Street deal - the kind our politicians are paid to protect Portland from. Unfortunately they've collected their city paychecks, and then taken summer jobs as Merritt's pool boys.

Just for record, Cora chairs the Lents URAC.


Bill - Punch away at the folks in your paragraph one - I don't disagree with any of it, & tried to make that clear. My main point was that it's far more than "some Dems" who have forsaken the True Path - It's the majority, or this foolishness would have died aborning. A prime example is our new Senator, Merkin Muffley. About five years ago a bunch of us went to the Official Neighborhood Meeting to try to put the brakes on an atrocious development in our backyards. Then-State Rep Merkley showed up, but not to discuss our issues, which were on the agenda. He condescended to give us a report on all his accomplishments, which were a joke. When a couple of us asked him why he had provided a crucial vote in favor of the original State-Income-Taxes-to-Major-League-Baseball Giveaway Bill, he said he had not come to discuss that.
After a few comments from the rabble about how many jobs we could create if we got to keep all of our taxes to start or expand our businesses, he saw he wouldn't get away with avoiding the question, but the best he could do was to say "I opposed it, but I did not want to be the one to kill it" - no reason given. And now, true to the Peter Principle, he has risen within the hierarchy to his level of incompetence (or, more likely, several levels beyond - the absence of a reasonable second party allows a lot of inertial advancement.) There are a few happy exceptions (Vicki Walker and Peter DeFazio come to mind), but they are rare. A one party state is unhealthy, but the R's are as pathetic as the D's.

Mr. Bogdanski, I know I'm not alone in suggesting you deserve this!


I'm really starting to sense a disconnect here in Oregon over our economic situation as a nation.
When I read that California is 2 weeks from being broke it just really concerns me. What's that going to look like?

All our efforts should be on preparing for a possible grim future of our own. Then if we get lucky and avoid it somehow, fine. Proceed. But what makes you think we will?

The idea that Randy and Sam have spent the time and energy they've spent on this Paulson character when we could be looking at some major collateral damage from California or any other number of bad economic scenarios - just boggles my mind.

The idea that they'd choose now to fleece an urban renewal fund for one of the poor parts of the city, and use it to advance the cause of one of the nation's ruling elite, is shocking. I know it shouldn't be but I'm pleased to report that I still have enough humanity left to be shocked by that. And yet that's the plan as it stands now.

What about helping the people who need help?

What's it going to take to get these politicians to wean themselves off these projects and devote their time to the unsexy business of being wise? What do they think when they hear California's politicians talk about a "day of reckoning"? That we can't have one too?

I had people in my high school classes who showed more brains than this.

You know, there was a time after the Titanic hit the iceberg when everything was pretty normal.
We could be in that time right now.

California used to be, but that ship is starting to tilt and point to the ocean floor.

Last time I looked they were right next to us.

When I read that California is 2 weeks from being broke it just really concerns me. What's that going to look like?

I suspect we'll get a chance to see that up close and personal soon enough.

I have not searched the public databases, and I don't know how Paulson is registered, but I would bet he's not a Republican & his contributions are the opposite of Pater's.

That's just total speculation, then. You're basing your argument on vapor. You may want to disassociate the Paulsons from the GOP -- I've heard people like Bill O'Reilly claiming now that they thought Hank Paulson was the worst Treasury Secretary ever -- but the fact remains that he was Bush's guy. And until you've got something stronger than a gut feeling that his son -- despite his operating like a typical corporate sports team owner -- is something other than a Republican, I think you're just going to have to suck that one up, too.

How much money has the city already spent on this 'effort"?
Let's audit the book on the process
first Lents, then Memorial, now Lents:
-staff time and city resources
-media time (not that the O has much else to do)
-citizens' time and resources
Where is this money coming from?
Us, of course.

Great post! Lents IS a lively, vibrant place, and I encourage more people to check it out. Tonight is a great chance, as the Friends of Lents Park are having an organizational meeting (which seems to be turning into a rally) at the gazebo on the 92nd Avenue side of Lents Park, at 6:oopm. Come out and see for yourself what would be lost.

One extra piece of information: in yesterday's Oregonian article, there was one new fact, near the end. Randy Leonard has been asking for 200 parking places in the park, expecting the other thousands to park at MAX stations and ride the train the rest of the way. But the article yesterday stated for the first time that Triple-A standards REQUIRE 1,500 parking places at or "adjacent" to the park. That means that many more than 40 gorgeous trees would be lost, as the plans now state. The only other way to provide that much parking is to condemn private homes across the street from the park, and put parking there. But there are no funds in the proposal to cover that cost, leading to a higher price tag in the end.

Please come out tonight and see the park, and show your support.

"But the article yesterday stated for the first time that Triple-A standards REQUIRE 1,500 parking places at or "adjacent" to the park."


FROM: Portland
TO: Sports Leagues
SUBJ: Your "requirements"

F--- off and die. The sooner the better.

The 1500-parking-space requirement has been known since last fall. We blogged about it here.

Fireman Randy thinks he can talk minor league baseball out of the parking spaces. But what he really should be hoping for is talking "major league" soccer out of its soccer-only-stadium requirement. Portable stands on the other side of the soccer field at a PGE Park that is shared with the Beavers -- that is the only feasible alternative. If Little Lord Paulson doesn't like it, he should try Boise.

Darrelplant & others with a problem reading english - I'm not sticking up for the GOP, and my guess that Merritt is at least an independent & contributes to dems is speculation & labeled as such. It was also an offer to wager - want to take up the bet? The way the simple mention of the Republicans sends cretins into a reflexive red-meat rage is enormously entertaining, but it also explains why we're saddled with such morons in office & schemes like Paulsons. Maybe we need intelligence tests for voters. That ought to attract some blind rage. Have a groovy day.

To bring in thousands of outsiders and their cars to Lents Park for the bright lights and unavoidable noise of Thursday drunken beer nights with the Beavers is an insult not only to the regular Janes and Joes who use the park, but to every Portlander.

I think it is highly unlikely the hipsters that attend "Thirsty Thursdays" would make it down to Lents. Would be willing to bet money that attendance declines if the Beavers are moved out of Civic Stadium. Location is much more important than amenities. Why do you think Paulson was pushing for the Rose Quarter site so hard?

On Thursday beer nights, they can draw 7,000 people. Even if it dropped to 5,000, that's a lot of cars and a lot of beer drinkers roaming around at 10 p.m.

Be careful, jfwells - that sounds like speculation to me - the spec cops will be on you & tell you "you're just going to have to suck that one up, too." Be afraid - be very afraid. Having said that, I'd speculate that cheap beer will draw drinkers from the Moon (or at least Parkrose).

Re: parking. If you look across the street to the north side of Holgate, there's an old Plaid Pantry and gas station that would certainly seem capable of being converted into parking. Not 1,500 spaces, but a dent therein.

Reading your description of Walker Stadium, Jack, took me immediately back to my youth. As a 12-year old, my summer job was the scoreboard operator at Walker. The first year or so it was totally old school where I sat out on the scoreboard, manually put up the score by innings and flipped little light switches for balls, strikes and outs. It was fun to hang out in the outfield and occasionally get to chat with the center fielders. That was also well before they put in the inner outfield fence. That made Walker a much, much bigger park than Sckavone Field down in West Moreland Park. In fact, over the 4 or so years I worked there (my memory is dimming at this point) I saw at most a handful of home runs that cleared the outer fence. I do distinctly remember a ball hitting the scoreboard once. That was quite a blast and but for the scoreboard being in the way, would have been out of the park.

Then they brought in the electronic scoreboard and my job as operator moved me into the press box. I eventually worked my way up to being the announcer. I remember that I got paid $9 a game as announcer and typically worked two games a night through at least July, which was good money for a young teenager back in the early '80s.

Thanks for helping stoke the memories Jack.

Jack's got it right....portable/rollaway bleachers are the answer....readily available off the shelf. They can be made to work. AAA and MLS at PGE Park. Let's quit the charade and cut to the chase.

bojack , you have solved it , cheap beer = 5k drunks = 5k
DUI tickets , budget solved ,

that should pay for limited
liability pauson's Stadiii

lalawethink; I agree with you-get off the demo vs repub angle on the Triple AAA and MLS deal. That has been our number one reason why we have local, city politicians that are generally useless with no credibility, common sense, business accume, and decency. We just get the same stable of candidates that switch from one local government body to another, giving us the same old answers (well, hardly answers).

Demo, if one cares.

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