IT'S A SPECIAL feeling of relief when you're backed up, bound, constipated, bloated, whatever, and then—AT LAST! JOYOUSLY!—things finally start to flow.
For City Commissioner Randy Leonard, the man who gave our humble little town the magic box better known as the Portland Loo, that's kind of what last year was like.
He had managed to squeeze out one pleasant pebble, the prototype Loo over in Old Town, back in December 2008, but had to hold it in until August 2010 before he could fill up the bowl again.
And what a rush it was. First, the city's second Loo, over on SW Taylor, opened to great fanfare. Then, by the end of the year, two more had been plopped down, one on SW Ash and another, after a particularly contentious fight, over in the Pearl. (Where, incidentally, some neighbors who made a stink over the location, and the public process that led to the location, have made peace with the public toilet in their midst.)
Those sighs of relief you're hearing? They're from tourists, kids, and homeless people happy for a private place to go. They're also from business owners happy not to have to hose piss (and worse) off sidewalks.
But that, of course, was last year. This year, it's back to grunting and fighting. Leonard's office says all the cash set aside last year for new toilets (each one costs close to $60,000 to install, plus $12,000 a year to scrub regularly) has been all but tapped.
That means, absent an infusion of cash, Portland might not see a single new Loo in 2011—even as the city's homeless population continues to swell in a dire economy, and even as the city tries to entice anyone and everyone who still actually has a little bit of mad money to spend it downtown.
There's some hope. Leonard is aiming next for pissers in the Park Blocks. And to finance them, he's working to sell a pair of Loos (they're patented!) to San Diego. Pitching hard, he hosted a San Diego city councilor last month. If that doesn't work, he might ask Mayor Sam Adams to throw some bucks in from the city's brimming general fund.
Otherwise, work on the next Loo won't even start until after renovations are finished—months from now—on another of Leonard's pet projects, Fire Station 21 underneath the Hawthorne Bridge. Voters bought that one when they approved last fall's fire bond.
Which would be a long time to have to hold it. So much for keeping us regular.