One council member who now seems pretty certain to say "no" to the idea of Major League soccer in Portland is Amanda Fritz.
The city's task force on major league soccer recommended council say "yes" to the idea on Tuesday, albeit with strings attached. But Fritz emailed the reporters from the Mercury, Willamette Week and Oregonian this morning with a list of concerns she will need to see addressed "for me to even consider supporting this proposal," which I've posted after the jump.
Fritz's primary concern is that the proposal will do little to provide basic services in Portland's neighborhoods—one of her election pledges. Fritz also has concerns about using urban renewal dollars for the stadium, and about the creation of a new urban renewal district to do so, without an independent process. She believes "that the viability of Major League Soccer in the United States is in doubt given the current economic challenges," and is even concerned about "the gender equity of construction jobs and of MLS executives, coaches, and administrative staff."
In short, a definite "yes vote." Right? Er...
Timbers fans aren't terribly surprised. Indeed, MLStopdx spokesman Jeremy Wright was already assuming Fritz would be a "no" vote when I spoke to him at the MLS rally outside city hall on Saturday. But Wright has two questions for Fritz, in response to her concerns:
1.) Why she is against public financing yet had no problem taking over $600,000 in taxpayer dollars for her two campaigns.
2.) Why she refused to meet with Paulson or representatives of his business for 6 months on this issue? Why she also refused to meet with me and I represent a couple thousand interested soccer fans as well as mlstopdx.com a grassroots, all volunteer organization dedicated to bringing MLS to Portland? All of these "concerns" could have been addressed and dealt with if she chose to be a part of the process.
The Mercury has passed on Wright's questions to the commissioner in email form and will post any response. Meanwhile, here's a Forbes chart of operating income generated by MLS teams in 2007, from a presentation delivered to the task force three weeks ago:
MLS INCOME: OR LACK OF IT...
Dear Mark, Beth, and Matt,
I will wait to hear the recommendation of the Task Force, the final proposal from the proponents of this deal, and the testimony at the public hearing next week, before making my decision on whether bringing Major League Soccer to Portland is good for Portland's citizens and taxpayers.
For me to even consider supporting this proposal, which does not seem to help provide basic services in Portland's neighborhoods, the following concerns will need to be addressed.
I am concerned that the deals proposed so far count on urban renewal dollars, taking scarce resources from the Oregon Convention Center district.
I am concerned that a new urban renewal area around PGE Park is being proposed as part of the deal, rather than being considered in an orderly, independent process.
I am concerned about impacts of a new urban renewal district on County and School District budgets.
I am concerned that there has been no hearing before the Planning Commission, repeating the mistake made in planning previous changes when Civic Stadium converted to PGE Park.
I am concerned that the City must receive no financial risk, and that the City must receive clear, objective, measurable financial benefit.
I am concerned about dedication of prime land near the river and adjacent to expensive transportation infrastructure, to be used for a stadium which will be empty the majority of the week and the majority of the year.
I am concerned about the impact on the proposed Entertainment District in the Rose Quarter, and on the other needs in the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area.
I am concerned about the viability of Major League Soccer as a spectator sport in Portland. I believe Portland is a city of participants, not spectators, and also that the viability of Major League Soccer in the United States is in doubt given the current economic challenges
I am concerned about the number of long-term living wage jobs that would be provided by this use of the space, compared with other potential development of the area.
I am concerned about the gender equity of construction jobs and of MLS executives, coaches, and administrative staff.
Commissioner, City of Portland