ATTENTION HIPPIES, anarchist lemonade vendors, felt hat aficionados, and people who make paintings on cardboard! Real America has an important lesson to teach us about Portland's most popular monthly art party, Last Thursday: Freedom isn't free, y'all.
Actually, it turns out that freedom—the kind embodied for 14 years by NE Alberta's riotous monthly festival—has a price tag of about $9,500 a month.
The come-one-come-all vendors who've been taking over NE Alberta since 1997 pay nothing to be on the street. and the 15,000 people who attended the event this July didn't have to buy tickets. And that freebox ethos is what the event is all about.
But all this freedom is costing us a lot of money. After complaints from neighbors over trash, noise, and gratuitous peeing on lawns, the city stepped in last year and picked up the tab for making Last Thursday a bit safer and cleaner.
This summer, several city bureaus have covered the cost of security, coordination, port-o-potties, and traffic control for the event, bringing its total cost to $28,517 for May, June, and July of this year. Port-o-potties alone accounted for $5,693 of that.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz noted last month that Last Thursday has plenty of fervent fans (myself included), but "we don't think citywide taxpayers should be paying for it."
Thanks to continuing complaints from neighbors about late-night drinking, screaming, and the aforementioned urination, the city boosted security for Last Thursday in July from 25 rent-a-cops controlling the crowd to 40.
Right now, the city and a neighborhood group called Friends of Last Thursday are trying to figure out how to switch the cost of the street party from being on city coffers to being on the people who primarily benefit from the event—Alberta businesses and people who actually go to Last Thursday.
Friends of Last Thursday is collecting private donations and business sponsorships to run the event, which they think they can organize for $3,500 a month. The group is doing things like building their own traffic barriers, but one of the primary things they're working on is educating festivalgoers that, hey, with great freedom comes great responsibility—so don't screw things up.
Look, we get it—it's fun to drink PBR from a brown bag in the street, scream and yell, and go hog wild. These are the treasures of which youth is composed! But remember this on the next Last Thursday, coming August 25: When you pee on one taxpayer, you pee on all taxpayers.