Hall Monitor 

Downtown Agony and Ecstasy

YOU KNOW it's a big deal when the Oregonian decides to write about it—which they did, on Monday. With pictures, even!

If you haven't already heard—or didn't show up for our furniture giveaway or, broken a window at our yard sale, or read our nostalgic Blogtown posts about leaving—the Portland Mercury has finally made the move from the hinterlands of NE Sandy to downtown.

Now, you might be thinking something like: Big shit. I don't care where your offices are. Why are you writing about this in Hall Monitor? Well, I forgive you, and I've got a couple of reasons. They're even related.

First off, for the first time since the Mercury put me on staff—and after months of regularly running stories about issues that affect downtown (how homeless Portlanders are treated, housing programs, what private security patrols are up to, food cart battles, the merits of malt-liquor-and-tallboy bans), I'm no longer merely an irritating observer to this weird little ecosystem that lives between the river and Interstate 405.

As of this month, I'm now a newly minted downtown denizen. We're down by the Burnside Bridge. Which means I'll be staring at Portland's underbelly face to face, every day. (Or, rather, every weekday, and the occasional weekend when it's nice.)

First impressions? Even after spending way more time downtown—in Old Town, no less—I still haven't seen any of the bad shit I've been hearing people complain about at city council meetings.

I've glimpsed no one, at least to my knowledge, masturbating on a bench or in a doorway. (That disappoints me, a little.)

Downtown doesn't really smell like pee, not any more than Sandy Boulevard did. No one has offered me any hard drugs. (Yet.) The Portland Loo on SW Ash, down the road from our new digs, remains fresh and accessible. And I haven't been panhandled any more than I might be in St. Johns, where I live when I'm not at work.

Maybe my tune will change, but probably not. And here's how I'll sum up my first point: These days, when I call BS on people who like to hear themselves moaning, I've realized I'll actually be (instead of just insisting I am) an authority.

Now for my second point: I'm worried moving downtown might make it easier to take our eyes off the rest of the city. Places like Northeast. Or East Portland. Places that, some might say, are already too invisible to the people who run Portland.

I hope not. I hope you won't let us.

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