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Friday, August 10, 2012

Crumbling parks show Portland's decline

The Portland City Council has wasted money on so much junk that nowadays it's a given that the city can't maintain its public fountains. And so private real estate developers have taken up a collection to do it. Of course, the hapless editorial board at the O paints this as a godsend, but really the overall situation is a disgrace.

The reason the city is broke is because it's funneled so many tax dollars to the developers in subsidies of one kind or another. For the real estate sharpies to throw back some little fish, and take some big bows for it, is a sick joke.

Comments (22)

I really think that it is time for a Parks district to be formed in Portland. The city (and boobs like Nick Fish) will never take care of parks and recreation like it should be. Time to take it out of their hands. I think forming a parks district is more important than forming a library district at this time.

The Oregonian shares much of the blame for the wholesale failures they still refuse to acknowledge.
All of the status quo power groups are recognizing the failure and the newspaper refuses to inform the public. What, are they afraid of embarrassing the whole lying ruling elite?

Look who these are and what they said last October.
When was the public going to be told? Never?

,,"the Portland metropolitan region is a significant under-performer when compared to other similar-sized cities –
Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin – based on such measures as average family income, proportion of college graduates, food insecurity and diversity of the
employment base.
The region is further hobbled by statewide policies including a mercurial state revenue system, historic disinvestment in higher education and transportation, and higher-than-average development costs associated with our land use system"

"Finally, the analysis assumes that population and industrial development are fixed and will not fluctuate regardless of the availability or cost of land. In fact, we know that these factors are variable and as we reduce the options for the location of new businesses, the odds of our attracting those firms to the region decline."

"Even a small reduction in the number of new firms attracted to the region, compounded over the decades of the plan, results in a tremendous loss of potential wages and tax receipts. As we have seen, this is an area where the Portland region already lags the national average and is significantly below similar-sized metropolitan regions."

and more

Where have the Metro "reporters" been?
Told not to report it. That's where.

Cue a massive parks levy in 5,4,3....

Portland's parks and library are amazing assets, that all too often get taken for granted. If we don't commit to maintaining these valuable gems, they'll go the way of that nice transit system we used to have.

I know Nick Fish reads this blog, and I would be HAPPY to personally meet with him at Laurelhurst Park - just him and me - and discuss the decline of the Park's health over the 40 years I've lived in the neighborhood.

Commish Fish loves to plaster his picture all over the glossy park propaganda.

But if he REALLY was serious about keeping the parks in top notch, he would might want to take a math course to solve this simple equation:

Taxes available - debt - salaries - pensions - pork - more pork - misguided projects - lost UR taxbase - more glossy propaganda = piss poor amount left over for park budget

Mark -- I'd be interested to see how that conversation goes. I've been watching the decline of Portland's parks for nearly as long as you, and am quite dismayed at their current state.

The last time I contacted Commissioner Fish's office about a park issue, instead of a discussion on the issue I wrote about, I got this odd note telling me what a great job the Parks bureau is doing. I'm curious if the commissioner listens better than his staff.

Just wait until Portland is issuing bonds to pay the interest on the debt they can't afford. In Cali, they call them "Revenue Anticipation Notes"...

Once the ability to increase taxes and fees is completely exhausted, and nobody will buy your bonds, they'll have to sell the assets that were previously unencumbered (Bull Run, parking meters, city owned parking lots, Jeld-Wen Field, and (once the County rolls over) bridges. Just like the Greek Government is doing today.

We won't be selling "naming rights", we'll be selling physical assets.

This is not about parks like Laurelhurst this is about one of the great monuments to Urban Renewal the Lawrence Halprin designed fountains, condos and strip malls of the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Project. This is Portlands version of the great Plazas of Italy and Randy Gragg just can't stand it that this city of peons don't treat it with the reverence it deserves.

I enjoyed seeing the photo and reading about Halpern's legacy in a recent local article. I still call it the Forecourt Fountain; can't get used to referring to it as the Keller Fountain. Why do these things have to be renamed? It's the same with what I will always consider the Civic Auditorium, not the Keller Auditorium. But of course it's all about money and recognition although, ironically, charity is supposed to be given without an expectation of recognition, at least in the original religiously traditional sense of tzedakah.

Sorry Tom, its representative of the decline of Portland, in general - Pick ANY Portland Park - Look at our streets, School Buildings & grounds, Park Blocks, Forest Park, our public buildings, water/sewer systems, bridges, etc. the entire city is in decline - the Park system is representative of this decline. The Trees are sick and dying in our Parks, the grass in them has changed from a carpet of lawn into fields of clover over my lifetime here. The Park Blocks along NE 72nd actually have dead trees standing in them and brown grass and we are told the Park Blocks Downtown have trees that are structurally compromised and need to be cut down. "Pride in appearance" is no longer something we have in Portland, it's just wishful thinking.

Perhaps in the 50s and 60s we relied on and valued parks more because we weren't spoiled with so many recreational diversions. Parks depts. seem to be always chasing the latest new thing people want to do - ultra frisbee, skateboard parks, water sport parks, exercise and crafts classes, kids' camps and programs, biking trails and whatever I forgot to list. The library systems are in the same boat. They offer more than just books or electronic media - reading clubs, children's story times, lectures, author talks, concerts... We just can't get enough it seems. Or the parks and library directors can't say no. PDX's waste of public funds on boondoggle development and social engineering is the primary cause, but can we all accept a lesser level of service from the parks and the library? Is there someone we can tell?

....and discuss the decline of the Park's health

Same with Tabor Park. Walked it for years and enjoyed it, and now? Sure they have signs about their new plan, but it looks like hell with the brush and dead piles of debris laying around that everywhere you walk you have to look at instead of formerly being surrounded by greenery. These piles shouldn't be laying around, if chopped then remove them, put new native plantings in, or did they run out of money there too?

The really sad thing about Parks is that the people are paying for corporate landscaping. It costs a lot of money to maintain the downtown parks, so every time they add a specialty park like at SoWhat or Directors Square, they have to neglect another one. The rule of thumb is that for every $10 in capital you sink in project it takes $90 over the 30 year life to maintain and operate it. Look at the Tram and you can see this play out, $55 million and the operating costs of $1.2million for thirty years and throw in refurbishment of cars and mechanical guts of the thing every 15 years and you have committed the $50 million over the next 30 years. Couple that with the loss of revenue with TIF funding. I only wish people could do the simple math. And where does the money come from year after year it is cutting the operating costs of the City its street maintenance, park maintenance, schools etc. Cutting the operating funding with TIF and running "new" and glorious named facilities that are too valuable not to take care of, and deferring maintenance yet another year on the "old stuff". Usually in the neighborhoods where kids need a safe place to play.

Portlanders have shown that they're willing to pony up for the things that are important to them. So if the Powers that Be neglect to fully fund libraries, parks, or art in the schools, there's a pretty good chance that we'll tax ourselves to keep it.

It's a win-win for the CoP leaders, because they can budget the bucks for their favorite projects AND continue to boast about all the great things the City has to offer.

Library and park districts me sense to me. Let the compression happen.

Parks has determined that adult activities should be fully self-supported (youth activities supposedly are still subsidized), so now the number of adult softball teams is around 330, down from 600-700 not that many years ago. Thus many parks are no longer used for softball, so maintenance has declined. I wouldn't be surprised if general park use hasn't also declined, which can lead to more crime, vandalism, park drug use and dealing, etc.

How about the ivy encrusting every tree on public land? Pretty soon the trees will all be gone - either drowned in monster vines or toppled over by the weight of the stuff. Did we take all our Douglas Fir for granted?

Nolo, remember the ivy guy who used to bus in and set up shop at the western base of the approach road to the St. Johns Bridge? He'd harvest ivy, make baskets and sell them. That was the only effective use I've seen for the masses of invasive English Ivy in Forest Park. When he passed away a local paper published a brief article about him but I haven't been able to track it down.

There was also a very dedicated Ivy fighting woman, Sandy Dietrich who used to run a summer program for kids. The summer job was a turning point for many of them. This OPB clip. She had them doing research and some of the studies and tracking was published and used as the basis for fighting invasive species long before the invasive species was recognized by the average person. Sadly this lady has passed on and probably parks defunded this program for kids as well to pay for maintenance of the showcase parks for developers to sell condos and poodles to poop in.

remember the ivy guy who used to bus in and set up shop at the western base of the approach road to the St. Johns Bridge?

Kenneth Becker Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) - January 25, 1997
A private memorial service will be held for Kenneth O. Becker, a weaver, who died Jan. 18, 1997, of a heart attack at age 62. Mr. Becker was born June 10, 1934, in Rochester, N.Y. He served in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. He became a self-employed artist who turned ivy vines into baskets, hats and cornucopias. He lived in the Portland area for seven years. Survivors include his brother, Clyde of St. Petersburg, Fla., and his partner, Virginia Johnston, of Beaverton

The Boreagonian also ran a short article about him on October 27, 1996


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