My View: Mr. Mayor, PDC decision throws away years of citizen efforts

Mayor Charlie Hales: We’ve taken liberties with one of T.S. Eliot’s lines from “The Hollow Men” to convey our perspective on the termination of the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Advisory Committee: It ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

On June 17, at a regularly scheduled committee meeting, Portland Development Commission staff told us that the committee would be terminated because of a decision not to fund public participation through long-standing urban renewal advisory committees due to PDC’s reduced budget.

After 12 years of service, with thousands of hours collectively contributed by more than 100 ICURAC members and sub-committee members, ICURAC would prematurely cease to function.

We’re not willing to let all of their/our investment of time, energy and commitment fade away without making sure you know the following. It’s the least we can do to honor the committee’s significant contributions during the past 12 years.

In 2001, 50 people from neighborhoods within the boundaries of the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area came together to form ICURAC. None of those individuals received any monetary compensation for service. Instead, they were content with the satisfaction of knowing that tax increment dollars would be spent for the greater good of their community.

They/we worked hard to establish 12 general principles intended to guide the committee and the PDC for the life of the urban renewal area. We’d like to emphasize here the first principle, which focused on outreach and stated: To assure accountability, an advisory committee will remain in place for the duration of the urban renewal area, with broad and diverse representation from the community.

For more than 10 years, during full committee meetings and economic development, housing, transportation and parks subcommittee meetings, ICURAC continued to assess the needs of the community, make recommendations and review budgets (both annual and project-related) with PDC staff.

In 2011, then-Mayor Sam Adams directed PDC to eliminate future parks and transportation funding in the urban renewal areas in favor of an all-encompassing focus on economic development and jobs. Greatly disturbed by this decision, ICURAC members spoke at the May 30, 2012, PDC board meeting and requested reinstatement of parks funding. As a result, commissioners approved changing the proposed 2012-13 budget to include an additional $50,000 for small parks projects.

Now we have been told that there is no funding in PDC’s Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area to continue staffing the ICURAC — or any truly meaningful public participation — for the remaining eight years.

Steve Rupert, committee co-chairman, asked: “If not PDC, then who? What approach will you take to replace the urban renewal area committees?”

PDC staff suggested that we could join the citywide Neighborhood Economic Development Group or that the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement could become the convener of community meetings. Neither option is a fitting replacement for a citizen advisory group made up of community residents with institutional memory and understanding of the issues who work with the city bureau responsible for managing the urban renewal area dollars: PDC.

To simply terminate the ICURAC, several outcomes are assured: (1) it ignores the principles upon which the Interstate urban renewal district was founded; (2) it disregards and squanders the experience of each and every member, especially at the community level; (3) it erases the long and strong institutional memory carried within each of us; and, (4) it eliminates a specific way for the community to give PDC input on the budget.

Putting aside our feelings of shock, confusion, anger and a sense of betrayal at the decision to end ICURAC, we remain fully committed to the success of the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area. We value what ICURAC and PDC accomplished in the past 12 years and ask that you reconsider the proposed plan to terminate the citizens committee.

Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Advisory Committee members: Paul Anthony, Humboldt Neighborhood Association; Pam Arden,

Kenton resident; Pauline Bradford, Eliot resident; Chris Duffy, Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association; Cathy Galbraith, Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center; Larry Mills, Kenton resident; Kay Newell, Boise Neighborhood Association; Steve Rupert, Kenton Neighborhood Association; Karis Stoudamire, Boise Neighborhood Association; Cynthia Sulaski, parks subcommittee; Overlook Neighborhood Association; and, Walter Valenta, Bridgeton Neighborhood Association.

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