I have always thought of myself as just a guy who grew up in a “challenged” Portland neighborhood, fortunate enough to avoid the destiny of many of my childhood friends. At least once on any given day I think to myself, “there but for the grace of God…”
The older I get, the more I realize that my experience growing up in the 60’s in inner NE Portland really cast my view of the world. Here are just a few of the lessons underpinning the decisions I make on the city council: Racism and classism do exist, even if on a sub-conscious level; people in power often use their power to further their own interest—and certainly not the interests of those who are on the lowest rung of the social ladder; and most importantly in my own life, education is the key to breaking the bonds of poverty, ignorance and helplessness.
Thus, when former Commissioner Erik Sten rolled out his idea to create a “satellite district” in the David Douglas School District to build a badly needed school to serve our city’s poorest families, I expressed only one regret.
I had not thought of it first.
The source of the funds to pay for the school would come from the wildly successful River District urban renewal area, the location of one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Portland, the Pearl District. We would pay for the school in outer SE Portland with a new concept in urban renewal, a satellite urban renewal district. The satellite district would be allowed to spend money just like any other urban renewal district except that, in this case, the source of revenue would derive from the Pearl District.
In a legal opinion issued earlier this year, Portland City Attorney Linda Meng opined that the satellite district concept did not violate any local or state laws.
The reaction by the various "instests" was, I suppose, inevitable.
Some of the Pearl District developers have screamed “outrageous.” One popular local, upper middle class blogger hyperventilated and the Oregonian editorial board, predictably, screamed “fiasco” all the while embracing the rationale of a group called “Friends of Urban Renewal,” a self appointed group of investors and developers in the Pearl. That groups primary argument is, unbelievably, that building schools "does nothing to improve the local economy."
With that kind of attitude, can we ever hope to approach more enlightened attitudes about the value of education in building a country’s competiveness and prosperity?
If there is any doubt about the idea of building a school for the overburdened schools in outer east Portland, my vote goes for those kids…not the wounded egos of the defenders of the status quo that have held sway for too long in Portland.
Finally, this is my first post in over a year. I felt that during my campaign for re-election I should avoid taking advantage of the wonderful platform BlueOregon offers.
It’s great to be back.