CITY COUNCIL VOTED last week to "decouple" its negotiations with Portland Timbers and Beavers owner Merritt Paulson so that it can move forward with a funding agreement for Major League Soccer (MLS) without having to find a new home for the Triple-A Baseball team.

The vote followed the failure two weeks ago of a deal with Paulson to relocate the Beavers to a new stadium in Lents, because of outspoken neighborhood opposition ["Cry Foul," News, June 25]. But it still leaves council struggling to fill a $15 million hole in its contribution to renovate PGE Park for the Timbers, Paulson's MLS team.

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman voted to support the MLS deal back in March, on the condition that an alternative to $15 million in urban renewal money—which could potentially come from a new central city urban renewal area (URA)—would be used to fund the renovation.

Mayor Sam Adams told council last week that he is "looking at all other funding sources for our $15 million gap," but that "urban renewal remains on the table as a last resort."

The city needs to reach a financial deal with Paulson by September 1, before the new URA is created, and Saltzman said he thought Paulson should be on the hook to find the extra money. City Commissioner Randy Leonard responded that the city should show more "integrity" in its negotiations with Paulson, implying that it should find the $15 million.

"The great thing about a democracy is that we can move forward with slightly different points of view on the details," said Mayor Adams, swiftly moving things along. Nevertheless, the gap is a likely source of concern for Adams and Leonard as they struggle to keep the MLS deal alive.

Meanwhile Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler told the Mercury on Monday, June 29, that he doesn't feel $15 million for MLS is an appropriate use of urban renewal money in any event. Wheeler made the remarks after a meeting with downtown big-hitters at the Portland Development Commission, where they talked about the possible formation of the new central city URA.

Wheeler repeated his perennial point that 26 cents for every tax increment financing dollar that goes toward the funding of new urban renewal districts is held back from Multnomah County in taxes that would otherwise fund education and social services, every year for the next 20 years. "We're going to make some very real trade-offs on some of the important community services we're investing in," he said.

"If people believe that renovating PGE Park again is more important than some of the critical services in our community then that is up to them," said Wheeler. "But from my perspective, the answer is no."