My View • City's street failings can be a source of civic pride
Your article 'Foes of street tax reach for brakes' (Jan. 11) regarding a proposed new street tax reveals the ugly truth about Portland's elected leadership.
City Commissioner Sam Adams, Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler and their supporters seem to have forgotten about the millions they've spent on the dysfunctional and money-losing light rail, cute (and dangerous, to legitimate paying riders) trolley lines and congestion-causing bike paths.
Fiscal decisions that affect transportation have been exclusively dominated by pet projects that give Portland a vicarious European feel, but only harm the increasingly dire infrastructure through acts of benign political neglect.
If referred to voters, any tax increase will be defeated - leaders at the county and city level know this. They also would like to avoid the debate, for it would force the public to witness their financial ineptitude and require difficult answers to questions regarding their credibility and leadership.
Here's a solution: Take a page from the International Star Registry, the organization that gets people to name a star after someone. (You hear their ads several times a day on the radio.)
They sell you a star so many light-years away that it can never be seen, charge you money, provide an 'official' piece of paper and talk up the unique and romantic beauty of owning a piece of the galaxy.
Now, if people will spend money on that, certainly they'd be willing to name a pothole after a loved one! Think about it; your own pothole, one you actually could see and feel, one you could bring friends and relatives to visit, a tangible piece of Portland - environmentally sound and politically correct.
How could we lose? We could have personalized bricks laid on potholes (for an extra fee, of course) and where the street is in need of considerable repair, whole families could have their names permanently affixed to the pavement.
There could be corporate bricks - hundreds of them - celebrity bricks, and small business bricks. The possibilities are endless.
There is ample precedence for this type of behavior. At the Oregon Humane Society, the entire outside entrance is covered in bricks named for dearly departed pets.
Washington Park has the names of Rose Festival queens, and Pioneer Courthouse Square is adorned with names of donors.
Buildings and streets carry the names of different contributors to the area's history.
Doesn't the Portland commoner deserve the opportunity to help the city in times of fiscal madness, while feeling a sense of civic pride?
The project would be ongoing, since the need for upgrades and repair will continue until the time when progressive Portland leadership can find a way to ban all automotive traffic from city limits.
It could become a unique Portland tradition and, naturally, all the brick or asphalt purchases would be totally tax-deductible.
We should name this innovative watershed event the Portland Theatrical Street Design, PTSD for short. The envy other cities would feel for Portland would be unfathomable, and city leaders could fight publicly to determine who deserves the most credit for the PTSD project.
There is no downside to the PTSD concept. Everybody wins, it will be a masterful leap forward and once again will put Portland on the cutting edge of urban creativity.
If people actually will buy a star that may or may not even exist - it already could have become a supernova by now - why not buy some asphalt or a brick? It makes sense to me, and it's so 'Portland'!
Jim Speirs, a fifth-generation Portlander, writes the historical column for The St. Johns Review. He lives in North Portland.