City Commissioners Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman took a moment during the Wednesday, November 14, city council meeting to stand up for a marginalized group—one that others have loudly complained about, a group that the council was poised to vote against, and push elsewhere.
No, it wasn't the César E. Chávez Boulevard Committee.
"My issue isn't to go after smokers," Leonard said, during a discussion of an expanded smoking ban the council will vote on November 21. The ban would bar smoking within 50 feet of city-owned or city employee-occupied buildings, including covered walkways like the one on the west side of the Portland Building (even the city's homeless know that's the go-to spot to find discarded, but dry, half-smoked cigs).
Leonard is one of four co-sponsors of the new ban, but he and Saltzman don't want to force nicotine fiends to puff away "out in the elements," as Saltzman put it. The pair asked the city's Senior Business Operations Manager Tom Feely to find a spot for a sheltered smokers' lounge.
Speaking of the Chávez proposal, another street rename is brewing: Citing his work on global conservation, technology access, and education, there's a group hoping to rename 42nd Avenue for Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Pick up a copy of the cult classic to find out why 42nd is so apropos.) Proponent Aaron Duran concedes that the idea began as a lark, but his group has serioused-up: He picked up a rename application from the city on Monday, November 19 and launched rename42nd.org.
"Is this a joke?" NE 42nd Avenue Business Association Chair Clarence Larkins asked when the Mercury informed him of the campaign. He isn't amused by the Adams effort. "[Chávez] was a real person," Larkins says. "Here we're talking about galaxies and whatever."
Back at city hall, Saltzman is talking about parks—specifically, the one-time fee developers pay on their new projects (called system development charges, or SDCs), to fund parks that serve the new developments. Saltzman would like to nearly triple the fees, currently $3,117 for a new single family home, so they fund 75 percent of the cost of building new parks (currently, park SDCs only foot 25 percent of the cost of new parks). Jim McCauley, vice president of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, says the increased SDCs are "not something that is helpful" for developers trying to build in a slower real estate market, adding that there's also concern the SDCs will negatively impact housing affordability.