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School fix a bridge away

by: JIM CLARK, Parents who live in the Pearl District are hoping improvements can be made that will create a more child-friendly atmosphere. While several letter writers agree, another believes the Pearl was meant for grown-ups.

There is an obvious solution to the problem of educating the children of the Pearl District in Northwest Portland (Parents call for a Pearl with room for kids to grow, March 4). Boise-Eliot School is less than three miles away, just over the Fremont Bridge.

Can you toddle on over on your bikes? No. However, the district can provide transportation, the school is transitioning from K-5 to K-8, and it has plenty of room.

Nancy Leon

Southwest Portland

Families have options in Portland's core

The article 'Parents call for a Pearl with room for kids to grow' (March 4) asked whether families are willing to stay and raise their children in central Portland. On behalf of Portland's low-income families already working or living in the central city, I answer that question with a resounding yes!

Central City Concern, a nonprofit housing developer, recently held focus group discussions about downtown living with 30 low-income families.

Participants expressed an almost universal desire to live downtown, citing its close proximity to work, the ability to give up a car in exchange for good public transportation options, a high regard for the district's public schools and the proximity of existing family amenities (including grocery shopping and parks).

It is important to note that the River District urban renewal area, which includes the Pearl and Old Town-Chinatown neighborhoods, has almost 3,000 units of affordable housing.

For those thinking that investment in family infrastructure will benefit only the wealthy, think again, as the River District has unmet affordability obligations with a goal of building more than 1,500 affordable units by 2010.

Today, there already are two planned buildings that promise to bring a significant number of affordable two- and three-bedroom family units to the neighborhood.

Let's not ignore family needs in central Portland. We can prioritize investment in affordable family housing, schools, community centers and child care so that we can continue to meet the needs of all the parents and children who live, work, learn and play in our growing central city.

Ben Gates

Rose Architectural fellow, Central City Concern

Northwest Portland

Pearl parents aren't doing kids a favor

When my sisters and I were kids living in inner-city Chicago, we begged our parents for a house and a yard.

We lived with the dangers of breathing in city pollution and the threat of crime. In such a high-density neighborhood, kids were not accommodated, and places to play were the alley, streets and crowded sidewalks.

My parents would have liked to have done better by giving us a house to live in, a backyard to play in and better air to breathe in the Chicago neighborhoods that had such advantages, but they could not afford it.

In Portland, we have beautiful neighborhoods with houses, small apartment complexes and other environmental amenities in which kids can grow up happy and healthy. Yet we have selfish, self-indulgent parents who, if they can afford to live in the Pearl, can certainly afford housing in one of Portland's other great neighborhoods.

They want to move their kids into a crowded area never meant for children because they want to be able to walk to work, or because they don't want to give up the art galleries and events of a 'hip' neighborhood. These parents are not thinking of their kids' welfare and well-being at all.

I hope nothing is done to change the Pearl. The Pearl was never meant to include children - it was meant for empty-nesters, people starting out in the adult world and those who just want an eclectic, fun place in which to live.

Vicki Harrison

Southeast Portland

River District needs kid-friendly services

Zimmerman Community Center, a nonprofit working to build community in the River District, is a strong advocate for the development of a community center and child care in the River District.

Data from a recent study that ZCC commissioned supports the need for these services and also clarifies some of the points made in the article 'Parents call for a Pearl with room for kids to grow' (March 4).

First, I'd like to clarify that ZCC and Central Portland Families are interested in creating services and infrastructure to serve families in the entire River District, not just the Pearl, as was implied by your article.

The River District - which includes Old Town and the Pearl - is a very diverse neighborhood, with 89 percent of households with children in the neighborhood having incomes below the median.

ZCC has identified at least 30 buildings in the River District where children already are living, but the birthrate in the district is increasing at a higher rate than the increase in the number of children ages 4 and younger. This suggests many families leave the neighborhood before their children turn 4.

To retain these families, as well as serve the estimated 3,224 employees in the River District with children under the age of 6, we need basic services such as child care and indoor play spaces now.

George Meier

Executive director, Zimmerman Community Center

Northwest Portland

Making school a business backfires

Regarding 'Blueprint for growth relies on changes in classroom' (Rethinking Portland, March 4), why does the business model keep showing up in education?

While I agree that exposure to the professional world of business as a student can be informative, even life changing, its structure lends itself to productivity and not to development.

For business organizations to suggest a more capitalistic approach to education by framing goals and achievement guidelines parallel to objectives in a business environment is lazy.

Isn't what makes this country great the fact that we all learned things differently by using different - often new - approaches and new ideas? Should all teachers have to be the same, weighting our own acquaintance with averages, or is it OK if teachers across the country do things differently?

If you think they should be the same, then I guess teachers should be trained like soldiers by the government or state, all in the same way with the same objectives.

It is time to ask ourselves as a community: Are we educating a work force or the future decision-makers and innovators of the future?

Ian Lowland

Salem

Happy face on trip conceals Cuba's teeth

Regarding 'Students watch history unfold' (March 11), Mr. Villa's red sign of Latin American leaders omits Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's president, though it does lead with the dying Cuban dictator's favorite, Hugo Chávez.

Chávez, you may recall, recently was found to be funneling money and weapons to Colombian narco-terrorists. And no, one man's narco-terrorist is not another man's freedom fighter. The civil libertarian Raul Castro has imprisoned and tortured librarians and homosexuals alike for nearly 50 years but is really an agent of change, according to Mr. Villa.

The Catlin Gabel students? Well, I suppose they are traveling in the spirit of weatherman Bill Ayers - confident of the one candidate who will talk with the dictator. Bienvenidos, fellow travelers!

Larry LaBeck

North Portland