Since last year, the city has been paying about $10,000 a month during the summer to close off NE Alberta Street and provide security for the massive, free-form arts fest. That security is meant to reduce tensions in the neighborhood, which gets hit with people urinating on lawns, leaving trash, and generally being whippersnappers after the block party officially shuts down at 10 PM.
That has been the biggest change in the monthly event that has come to define Alberta in some ways: It used to run late into the night, but since the city got involved, a wall of security and volunteers march down NE Alberta promptly at 10PM, pushing all the party-goers back onto the sidewalks and into the bars. The debate over the event is the same: Is it a good use of limited city funds?
On the pro side, it brings thousands of people (and their cash) into the neighborhood every month, contributes to the area's new identity as an "arts district", and, of course, it's a good time. On the con side, some argue that Alberta businesses, not citywide taxpayers, should bear the brunt of the cost.
"It's clearly an equity issue," says Commissioner Amanda Fritz, whose office handles the neighbor-relations aspects of the event. "When we had a meeting back in 2010, we had over 400 people come out, most of whom came to say it's wonderful. But we don't think citywide taxpayers should be paying for it."
Fritz wants to let people know that if they see illegal behavior on Last Thursday, call the police nonemergency line to report it: 503-823-3333. If you have problems the day after (like trash), neighborhood group Friends of Last Thursday want to take your call: 503-888-2934.