City Commissioner Nick Fish has been a "no" vote from the start on Lents baseball, and as a result, isn't being considered in the race to get three votes on the proposal. Dan Saltzman, at the moment, is the swing vote. But that doesn't stop Fish from weighing in on the issue in an email today, addressing concerns about Memorial Coliseum voiced by one constituent. Fish is yet to grant the Mercury an interview on the subject, and as you read his email, remember: He's got to get re-elected next year.

May 26, 2009

Thank you for your email regarding the Memorial Coliseum. I am writing to update you with more general concerns regarding the siting of a baseball stadium.

Earlier this year, the Portland City Council voted on a stadium deal that would renovate PGE Park for Major League Soccer and build a new baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers. As you may know, I voted against the proposal (which passed 3-2).

Although I am a big soccer fan, I concluded that the proposal was the wrong deal for Portland. It requires too much public subsidy for too little economic benefit — at a time when we face the worst recession in my lifetime.

My core priorities during these tough times include public safety, family-wage jobs, education, parks, and affordable housing. Stadium deals are “wants” not “needs.”

The process of identifying a site for a baseball stadium is now underway. With the Rose Quarter/Memorial Coliseum proposal off the table, the focus is on Lents.

While no formal proposal has been made public, options on the table include siting a stadium and related parking in Lents Park, and financing the stadium with urban renewal dollars dedicated for housing.

Here are the principles which will guide my deliberations going forward:

(1) I strongly support significant City investments in family-wage jobs, infrastructure and housing in Lents.

(2) I am skeptical of claims that a minor league stadium will jump-start economic development in the Lents community. The experience in many other cities is otherwise.

(3) I do not believe that any stadium deal should come at the expense of promised investments in housing, infrastructure and small business development.

(4) In particular, I am opposed to using dedicated affordable housing funds to pay for a stadium deal. This is the wrong time to reduce critical investments in foreclosure prevention, down payment assistance, home repair, housing renovation and other safety net housing programs.

(5) I am generally opposed to using public parks for private ventures, absent a compelling public benefit.

Lents Park, a thirty-eight acre community treasure, is a vital public space for community gatherings, youth sports, relaxation, and much more. The public benefit must be very compelling before we remove up to 16 acres for private use.

(6) I can’t think of any justification for locating hundreds of parking spaces in Lents Park. And I am concerned about the potential removal of dozens of mature trees from the park.

Even if the case could be made for siting a baseball stadium in Lents Park, any lost parkland must be replaced in the neighborhood. And the full cost of a replacement park must be part of any proposal.

Thanks again for contacting me with your thoughts on this issue.