By Midge Pierce
Good riddance 2016. I admit it. My personal views ran off the rails somewhere between not-news, #not-my-president and four-year-olds asking why a bully was moving into the White House.
Yet, as political correctness became auld lang syne, glad tidings came from courageous corners. LGBTQIA and immigrant friends held us steadfast against a tide of normalization. Merriam-Webster added they to its list of gender-neutral, singular person pronouns. And Portland, still feeling the Bern, dug in its progressive, sanctuary-citified heels. Irony followed suit.
Outgoing Commissioner Steve Novick invited the citizens of Houston to move to Portland so they don’t run air conditioners all the time. His tax on CEO wealth had pundits coast to coast debating whether he is brilliant – or what.
Mayor Hales left office to hit the highseas in a sailboat, escaping a boatload of problems. Homelessness spilled off the Springwater Corridor onto local sidewalks. Residents double-bolted doors. Renters feared that spiraling housing costs would force them to join the houseless on the street. Monthly rents, since the recession, climbed 30%; salaries did not.
Some $47 million was spent on Measure 97, money that instead, could have been spent on teachers and a struggling school system. Safety, walkability and Portland nice became casualties of traffic congestion, up 40% in recent years. Teenagers died in crosswalks. Bikes with no lights sped around Biketown in the dark. 911 became a non-working number.
The Powell-Division Rapid Transit Bus line proposal was moved from Powell, where it’s needed, to Division, where it’s not. The Buckman Pool closed permanently because of peeling paint.
Emergency parking measures succumbed to lobbying by Portlanders for Parking Reform, suspected of holding monied hands with developers circling hungrily like those accursed blackbirds overtaking the city. Longtime citizens who lost gardens and sunshine last year, have now lost parking within walking distance of their modest bungalows.
Ugly moved in where trees once had been. From Montavilla’s Alder Street to SE 41st, demolition raged in the year after Lorax Dave climbed a giant sequoia on Martin Street. Leafy Laurelhurst sought status as a National Historic District while mensa-rich Eastmoreland got into a shouting match over the first amendment rights of its homes.
The great land grab ravaged inner Southeast as the City abandoned redevelopment beyond 82nd Avenue where sidewalks and services are sorely needed. Developers in affordability guise seduced activists and city planners. Families became afterthoughts as big, batten-board boxes built over parks and micro-units stole family-friendly bungalows. Preservation became an epithet and those fighting to save the City’s charm and individual’s property rights became minorities.
Infill debate obsessed me: Neighbors looked at demolition and saw Remmer’s rubble. Idealogues saw a level playing field. Commissioners drank the truthiness of middle housing as a panacea for the housing crisis. Skeptics like the SAC seven cried foul as old Portland was demolished. Paid hipsters pitched the hard-lines of social-engineering at free, brew-pub happy hours. Groups like United Neighborhoods for Reform considered 1000 Friends of Oregon decidedly unfriendly for backing groups like Portland for Everyone, nicknamed Portland for Every Developer because of its support of Infill Everywhere. Then, P4E recanted, calling the greenest, most cost-effective house an existing one – so long as it is repurposed into multi-family housing. Homeowners, with visions of house seizures dancing in their heads, told their Google Gos to turn on the theme from Doctor Zhivago. Next year, whether it’s a wolf or little red riding hood seeking possession of their house, the City has proposed homeowners pay for an energy audit.
Yes, things are different here. Full of post-holiday wonder, we ask:
Whether the lights of Peacock Lane will shine as bright next year after lot-splitting on the iconic Christmas Street?
Where will the homeless will lay their tossed-around heads?
Will the heavy hand of development turn our treetown back into stumptown?
How can a progressive city be so reactionary when it comes to protecting the ambience so many claim to love?
Can we reconcile the divide between those who came before and those who might come after?
Where will the elderly couple on the corner go after accepting a low-ball offer from a high-roll developer who sent the we-are-a-family-of-four-who-loves-your home letter?
How can articulated buses run down narrow, boxed-up Division efficiently?
Which is more harmful – the lead in our water or the leaded bullets that shatter schools, malls, families?
What kind of retaliation our left Coast ideals will cost us with a rightward, Breitbart president?
Will the fourth estate be silenced into submission? Will democracy survive?
As we face an unnerving New Year, we scramble for good news. Yes, thanks to neighborhood efforts, the decommissioned Mt. Tabor reservoirs are getting maintenance to look better than ever. More people are finding work and housing. Grimm has another season. Even humor lurks in a Next Door post about those unsolicited purchase offers. “I bet no-one in Flint, Michigan is getting these.”
Happy New Year Southeast. Be vigilant. Be committed. Be fair, even to those of us who’ve been around a while.