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Do as China does: Inject life into downtown nights

A recent tour of China revealed an aspect of Portland that the Portland Business Alliance and downtown business leaders should consider: Downtown in the evening is a bore.

Every Chinese city I visited with populations from 700,000 to 17 million had what they call 'the night market.' The night market is a downtown city area where every kind of entertainment and commerce is centralized. It ranges from Saturday Market-like sidewalk vendors of gifts and food, to all-age clubs, to shopping malls, to street karaoke and rock music.

It is specially arranged to get people out of their cars to walk and shop and enjoy the busy bustle.

The night market draws many people of all ages, particularly teens and young adults, to socialize, dance, play music, walk, play games, eat and shop. It is all very exciting, and it happens every night of the week until about 10 o'clock or midnight.

The contrast with Portland's downtown is striking. Our downtown seems to do everything it can to keep people away in the evenings, particularly young people. The way we treat young people in downtown Portland is quite ironic. We want business, yet we shut down the stores and chase them away at their most active time of the day.

There would be so many benefits to attracting young people to congregate downtown:

• Young people are great shoppers. Consider how many shops in the malls are catering to them.

• Young people have money to spend. The ones who 'cruise' downtown are mostly driving their own cars outfitted with all kinds of accessories. Young people are the most important spending demographic.

• Young people need a community. Attracting them downtown puts many of them in a smaller area that can be supervised. It is counterproductive to scatter them all over the city where they have little to do but cruise aimlessly, often getting into trouble.

• The night market is a tremendous tourist draw. Now we house tourists in nice, quiet and boring hotels. They have nothing to do but eat and drink. Consider how fun downtown is this time of year as the Rose Festival creates more downtown activities. There is no reason this excitement must end as the ships sail away.

Portland is a great small city. It has a great downtown during the day. It has a boring downtown at night.

If the downtown business community would just use a little imagination, we, too, could bring the kind of excitement to downtown Portland that is common to the cities of China.

Michael Kuhn

Southeast Portland

Almost half of voters

didn't want new tax

The article 'Schools aren't only winners with 26-48' (May 23) failed to mention the 45 percent of the people who voted against the three-year Multnomah County income-tax boost.

They will take our money once again and waste it and throw it away and be back again for more by year's end.

This was a stupid and incorrect article written by a socialist who sides with Vera Katz and Diane Linn.

Steve Ball

Fairview

It doesn't make sense

to tax credit unions

I would like to respond to the recent article about the credit union boom and how it rankles banks (Credit union boom rankles banks, May 30). I have been in credit unions for 20 years and have witnessed many unjustifiable rants and ravings about credit unions. I would like to clarify again what credit unions are.

As cooperative organizations, credit unions exist solely to meet their members' financial needs, not to make a profit off them. In fact, after expenses are paid and reserves are set aside, credit unions return their 'profits' to members in the forms of lower loan rates, higher savings rates and free or low-cost services. Credit unions were created to enable people to combine their financial resources to help themselves and each other.

Credit unions also are known for their strong financial condition. In fact, credit unions are in the midst of one of their most successful periods ever. Membership continues to increase. Capital ratios are excellent. In simple terms, capital represents a credit union's net worth. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, the federal fund that insures credit union deposits, continues to be the strongest deposit insurance fund in the nation.

Credit unions have always been exempt from federal income tax because legislators recognized that credit unions are mutually owned organizations operated entirely by and for their members.

Banks and their trade associations have attacked credit unions' tax-exempt status. They argue that all financial institutions should operate on the same level, which they define as all institutions paying federal income tax and now corporate tax. However, the structure of credit unions and banks is fundamentally different, so taxing credit unions would not make credit unions and banks 'level.'

Tax exemption has nothing to do with a credit union's size, the services it offers or the members it serves. Credit unions deserve their tax-exempt status because of their not-for-profit, democratically controlled cooperative structure.

Regarding the Public Funds Bill (Senate Bill 331, which would permit credit unions to accept deposits from public accounts for the first time), it is simply another choice for consumers. The public is asking credit unions for this choice, and if this is what the public wants, credit unions want to help.

Lastly, if banks want credit unions to be just like they used to be so long ago, the consumer, no matter how knowledgeable he or she is, would not have a choice. The consumer should have a choice, and if the consumer has a voice with this choice, right now it is credit unions giving the consumer that voice.

Shirley Cate

Cutting Edge Federal

Credit Union

Milwaukie