Hall Monitor 

FREE FALLING

Like hovering alien pods, the aerial tram cars hung perfectly still from their tracks over the Lair Hill neighborhood in Southwest Portland last Friday, December 8. But instead of searching for fresh probing victims, the tram cars were there to make a point—that the tram is perfectly safe.

To prove that point, City Commissioner Sam Adams volunteered to be lowered out of the suspended tram car—150 feet or so up—by a complicated system of ropes and pulleys. To prove the point even further, he volunteered two of his staffers to join him on the descent—but, ha ha, he didn't tell them until they arrived on the scene.

All in all, the "rescue" operation took less than an hour. It takes the fire department about a half an hour to set up, and then—at bare minimum—four minutes to carefully lower each person down. That may not seem like a long time, until you factor in that the cars have a capacity of 79—if a filled tram car got stuck, it would take upwards of six hours or more to rescue everyone. And that's a long time to be dangling in midair, in an alien tube with no heat, subject to the swaying whims of the wind.

The most important lesson for the public to take from this publicity stunt: Adams will pretty much do anything on a dare.

Is downtown Portland finally about to get some public restrooms? The long-discussed-but-never-seriously-considered idea looks to be moving forward with the mayor's plan to sweep away—erm, I mean, care for the needs of—central city's homeless population. As part of the bargain with the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) that will keep homeless people from sitting or lying in front of businesses, the city will provide a day-access center, more benches, and public restrooms.

It's all part of the Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) recommendations, which Mayor Tom Potter was scheduled to introduce to council on Wednesday, December 13. He's somehow managed to cobble together support from homeless advocates, the PBA, and people like the American Civil Liberties Union—they're all along for the ride as long as every one of their separate recommendations is passed. Bossy!

A few weeks ago, I lambasted Potter for not making better use of his blog to connect with citizens. On Monday, December 11, he met for a half an hour with local internet honcho Kari Chisholm to discuss the "blogosphere." Maybe the mayor learned a thing or two, but this could be really bad—remember how annoying it was when your grandma figured out how to send emails? Get used to a flood of mayoral kitten photos.

Can't talk. Busy blogging: smoore@portlandmercury.com

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