Jack Pollock

Part of living in a city is noise: Car horns, neighbors talking on their front porch, the muted sounds of a hiphop crew at the club around the corner. At times, it may be annoying; other times, it is a comforting, urban symphony that reminds us that we don't live alone, but in a community with a distinct voice.

But, if City Hall has its way, Portland may soon be a lot quieter. In yet another step towards sterilizing our city, a task force has submitted a plan to City Council that will put the big "shh!" on everything from clanging trash cans to house parties. For the past eight months, the Noise Task Force has pondered the various noises that go bump in the night. Part of City Councilman Charlie Hales' office, the task force had the goal of improving "livability" in Portland. Towards this iffy end, the task force solicited input from various interests and neighborhoods throughout the city. But, in spite of their claimed diverse representation, the task force drew input from extremely select demographics. For example, the person representing musicians and music venues was a concert promoter for the summertime Zoo concert series, where the music is geared more towards soothing lullabies for gray-haired yuppies than hard-edged noises for a younger generation.

Last Wednesday, the task force submitted their recommendations for a vote by City Council. It includes everything from cracking down on garbage haulers to giving more power to Portland's police to shut down and write citations for noisy neighbors and house parties.

"It sounds loosey goosey," said Susan Kelly from Hales' office, explaining some of the plan's vague protocols. "But the big thing is police involvement."

Over the past year, City Hall has shown a woeful ineptitude for handling our city's distinct personality. For example, Mayor Vera Katz has been pushing an anti-postering ban. The noise task force's recommendations, is another piece in this troubling picture. Unfortunately, City Hall's idea of "livability" seems to honor a sterile environment where nothing is offensive, uncomfortable, or loud. (Why not just ask the birds to stop chirping in the morning?) Moreover, given the intensifying public concern over heavy-handed policing in this town, is it really wise to give police more power? Don't keep quiet, call Councilman Hales with your concerns, 823-4682.