Folks in Lents are not happy with city hall—specifically, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
On Friday, June 20, Saltzman issued a memo outlining his concerns with a council plot to create a "satellite" urban renewal district—an offshoot of the Pearl District's successful urban renewal area—for the purposes of funneling money toward a school in outer East Portland's David Douglas School District.
The problem is, the satellite idea might not be exactly legal (oh, those pesky details!). "After hearing the testimony and researching the subject in greater detail it has become apparent that the path we were currently heading down may not lead to a new school for the David Douglas School District on the intended timeline," Saltzman wrote. "Instead, we would be faced with a long, drawn-out legal process and potential legislative changes."
So Saltzman wants the Portland Development Commission to study a new idea over the next six weeks: Reconfiguring the nearby (and clunkily named) Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area to include the school district. As a bonus, the move will probably shut up the well-connected and wealthy folks in the Pearl District who'd been up in arms that their urban renewal money might be shipped across the river.
Cue outrage in Lents.
"Will certain members of the Portland City Council ever see Lents as it does other urban renewal districts? Not if you listen to what Commissioner Saltzman is saying," wrote Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Dewey Akers in a note to the neighborhood email list on Sunday night, June 22. He notes that the Lents neighborhood already vetted possible expansions of their urban renewal area, and chose to focus on projects that "improve the town center and focus on jobs in Lents." The school project, he contends, doesn't fit those criteria.
Akers continued his screed: "Mr. Saltzman believes if we slip it under the carpet on Lents the people out there just won't notice, and won't have the financial ability to fight the city."
He's partly right—Saltzman may not have anticipated anger from the likes of Akers (who, presumably, doesn't have pockets as deep as those in the Pearl District).
Then again, Saltzman's memo didn't ignore Lents' needs, or attempt to slip anything under the carpet. If Akers had read further, he would have noticed that Saltzman is clear that attaching the school project to the Lents Urban Renewal Area has a major condition: "All of the projects and work done by the Lents Urban Renewal Advisory Committee should be honored and held harmless."
The council will consider Saltzman's idea this Wednesday, June 25, and will either go for it, or continue with the satellite option as planned. Either way, someone's not going to be happy.