Nearly a year ago, the Portland Parks and Recreation Department sent Southeast neighbors into a seething frenzy when it entered into an agreement to potentially sell off part of Mt. Tabor Park to Warner Pacific College (a Christian school!).
When the poop hit the fan, Parks director Zari Santner backpedaled, and Parks Commissioner Dan Saltzman denied ever having approved it. The talks with the school quickly ended, but there remained lingering questions—like what to do with the land. The maintenance facility on the space, which services every park in the city, was and is crumbling, and something needs to be done to improve the area and appease the Mt. Tabor neighbors.
So Portland did what it does best—created a process that involves neighbors and parks employees, along with a professional facilitator, to kick around ideas for the future of the 20 acres in question. On Wednesday, September 26, they'll present what they've come up with: They need $465,000 for a public involvement process to come up with a plan.
I'll give you a second to pick your jaw back up off the ground. Sweet blessed Jesus, that's a huge chunk of cheddar (that's "street" slang for money). But there are a number of reasons for the price tag—the plan has to abide by the requirements of Mayor Tom Potter's standards for public involvement (through the Bureau Innovation Project), and the money will also have to pay for consultants and architects who will look at the buildings on the land and determine what can be done with them.
Another chunk of the price tag reflects some serious irony. After Saltzman pissed off neighbors years ago by capping the Mt. Tabor reservoirs, the neighborhood association managed to get the whole area placed on the National Register of Historic Places to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. But that also means that any improvements to the maintenance facility and surrounding buildings will have to be checked and approved by costly historical experts.
Let me boil that down for you—because of Saltzman and the Parks Department's lack of meaningful public involvement in the past, public involvement in the present and future will cost an enormous amount of money.
In other news, Commissioner Randy Leonard has officially filed to run for reelection, which was the least guarded secret in city hall history. In a campaign announcement, he touted successes like this year's biodiesel mandate, his anti-graffiti ordinance, and Project 57, which opens up jail beds for drug offenders.