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anti-racism | neighborhood news


Among the major issues that Portland should contemplate is the growing racial and class divide it is experiencing, particularly among the city's large Black and Brown communities.
Among the major issues that Portland should contemplate is the growing racial and class divide it is experiencing, particularly among the city's large Black and Brown communities.

Why is race important to rethinking Portland? Because Portland's non-White population is growing quickly. Like other American cities, Portland's long-term future will depend upon the level of success these new citizens achieve. To date, the conditions don't bode well for our city.

Portland has a major class and racial gulf in economic resources available to Whites and the advantages it provides in buying homes and investing in neighborhoods. Recently the Chicago Sun-Times ran a major series on class and race in Chicago that illustrates my perspective.

The story suggests that the class and race gap is a primary factor in the health of Chicago. Remember, capitalism rewards and reinforces advantage this is the new color line that exists in Portland. Black Portlanders to this day are disadvantaged by decades of economic redlining, preventing households from buying homes and investing in their neighborhoods. A recent homeownership study by the city reported that Black families in Portland are twice as likely to be denied a mortgage compared to Whites, and high-price sub-prime loans represent 70 percent of all loans to minority borrowers. Blacks have a 21-point racial gap in the rate of homeownership compared to Whites.

The African American Alliance for Homeownership has decried the lack of commitment by our government to ensure that citizens of color are treated fairly and that adequate resources are provided to close the racial gap in homeownership. To close the racial gap would require over 12,000 Black and Brown first-time homebuyers over the next decade, and 25,000 to 30,000 households would require education and training. Yet the effort to date has been to focus on serving a very small number of consumers and to ignore the racial bar that continues to deny financing to Black and Brown homebuyers at extraordinarily high rates.

As we think about Portland's future, we should avoid the errors that other cities have made in ignoring the race and class gulf. How does this relate to the Portland Development Commission?

The commission by its mandate helps land and property owners. Landless citizens, particularly Black and Brown citizens, have no direct way to access PDC resources. In addition, PDC will see by the beginning of the next decade a radical drop in revenue. The days of $200 million annual budgets will soon end. As its revenue disappears with the end of several urban renewal districts, can PDC remake itself as a redeveloper of residential communities? As a PDC charter review begins, its future is in neighborhoods populated by minorities.

Portland is oblivious to its particular institutional relationship with minorities who are overrepresented among low- and moderate-income families in the city. Portland doesn't appear to value independent and successful minorities. The city has built a lot of affordable housing using urban renewal funds downtown and in a few lucky neighborhoods, but it doesn't have the quarter-billion dollars it needs per year to solve its affordable housing problems.

But housing subsidies can't solve this alone. What is overlooked is a wage and job strategy. If low- and moderate-income families could garner higher wages, fewer families would need monies that the city and the PDC won't have in the years to come.

The unintended consequence to this anti-business environment is not creating enough family-supporting jobs. Portland has a blue-collar wage economy and West Coast consumer prices tied to the creative class interest. By not focusing upon retaining and growing businesses that generate family-supporting jobs, Portland may be leaving its minority and low-wage earners behind.

Wyman Winston is a redevelopment consultant based in Portland. To view the Chicago Sun-Times article, visit  link to www.suntimes.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.suntimes.com/special_sections/black_middle_class/index.html

Um, Yeah 26.Nov.2005 20:19

Chloe go_feral@excite.com

Pretty much!

Wake up pdx, this is one of the most important things the community can do for itself right now. All you 'hemp' activists, set it aside for a minute; you got work to do!

uh 27.Nov.2005 00:56

this is sarcasm

That's right, activists!

Racialized poverty is YOUR FAULT because Portland isn't PRO-BUSINESS enough!

erm... 27.Nov.2005 07:19


I think you should read the article, 'sarcasm'.

Or maybe let 'helpful' use the computer.

question... 27.Nov.2005 07:24

PeeMai angolera_lua@lycos.com

I fully agree! But, does anyone have any suggestions for positive plans of action, like organizations? volunteering opportunities? campaigns? contacts? anything helps, really.

Potter pushes PDC to take on a new project: itself 27.Nov.2005 11:36


this actually made it to the front page of the warEgonian...
 link to www.oregonlive.com

Potter pushes PDC to take on a new project: itself
Development - The mayor envisions the powerful agency being more of an ally of home buyers and small business

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Voters birthed the Portland Development Commission 47 years ago to lance the boil of blight from neighborhoods near downtown.

Ira Keller, its first chairman, ran the citizen commission as a kind of closed society as it bulldozed into its first project that displaced 1,500 people, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants. "There will be no dissent in this commission," Keller once said.

In recent decades, the city's semi-independent development arm has tried to repair its harsh image as it helped reshape the city, attract jobs and house the poor.

Now, Mayor Tom Potter is pushing the commission further. Potter won the city's highest political seat last year with a for-the-people, by-the-people campaign. Potter, like mayors before him, wants to put his own stamp on one of Oregon's most powerful public agencies.

But given the chance to declare his goals for the agency, Potter doesn't mention the skyline-altering projects that his predecessor, Mayor Vera Katz, shepherded into downtown in the Pearl and South Waterfront districts.

Instead, he talks about attracting family-friendly businesses and creating wealth through homeownership. He worries about big-box stores' effect on small shops. He questions long-held commission beliefs: that a taxpayer-subsidized hotel next to the Oregon Convention Center is necessary or that property tax waivers for housing developers help downtown.

"It's very clear that the City Council is asking PDC to be accountable to the community in ways that it was never in the past," said Ethan Seltzer, director of Portland State University's School of Urban Studies and Planning.

If Potter gets his way, the Portland Development Commission will look different when he leaves office.

So far, the mayor hasn't give the commission any detailed directions beyond his broad themes for a more open commission that makes time for small businesses. But at a joint meeting of the commission and City Council, everyone at the table seemed to agree with Potter's approach. No one brought up the meat-and-potatoes-type projects that have become the commission's signature works. Both sides talked more about homeownership and small-business help than they did about fixing up Meier & Frank's downtown store or enticing Siltronic Corp. to build its next computer chip plant here.

Most agree that the commission has needed to repair its image since it got tagged this year by some as an arrogant and unapproachable bureaucracy under former leader Don Mazziotti.

(there's more... Tracking the Portland Development Commission:

1956: Mayor Terry Schrunk is elected and campaigns for urban renewal in Portland. Like cities across the nation, downtown Portland has begun to stagnate. People are moving to outlying areas of the city, leaving downtown with run-down shops.

1957: The Oregon Legislature approves an urban renewal law.

1958: Portland voters narrowly approve the creation of the Portland Development Commission. Ira Keller becomes its first chairman.

1960: PDC creates its first urban-renewal area on the southern edge of downtown, which is now home to Keller Auditorium, Ira Keller Fountain Park and high-rise apartments.

1964: The PDC starts rehabilitation of the Albina neighborhood, where at least half of Portland's African American population lived in 1957. The commission spends $2 million to fix up existing homes.

1972: The city adopts a landmark downtown plan.

1974: The PDC creates the Downtown Waterfront urban renewal area, which still exists as the longest-running urban-renewal area.

1976: Harbor Drive closes to make way for Waterfront Park.

1977: Waterfront Park Phase 1 and the downtown transit mall are finished.

1978: The PDC starts an urban renewal area in Northwest Portland to help entice Wacker Siltronic, a German computer chip maker, to build a plant.

1984: A former parking lot is turned into Pioneer Courthouse Square.

1986: Eastside light rail opens.

1989: The PDC creates the Oregon Convention Center urban renewal area with the goal of building a hotel next door to the center.

1990: Voters approve Measure 5 to cap property taxes, temporarily halting urban renewal work.

1991: Phase one of the Pioneer Place shopping center opens.

1993: The Oregon Convention Center area expands to include Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

1998: The PDC pushes outside of the city center and creates an urban renewal area in the Lents neighborhood in outer Southeast Portland.

1999: Eastbank Esplanade phase one is finished.

2001: The PDC continues the push outside of downtown by creating an urban renewal area in Gateway.

2003: Museum Place, with lofts and a Safeway, opens on the west side of downtown and helps spur redevelopment in the area.


To learn more about the PDC and urban development:

-- Visit PDC's Web site. It has a wealth of information. If you're really into this stuff, you can download all kinds of reports or e-mail the commission. Visit www.pdc.us

-- Check out PDC's history in a report by a Portland State University professor. View it at www.pdc.us/pdf/about/urban_renewal_history.pdf

-- Read the City Club of Portland's comprehensive report of the PDC in January. Find it at pdxcityclub.org/pdf/PDC_2005.pdf.

-- Follow PDC and its projects on The Oregonian's City Hall blog at www.oregonlive.com/weblogs/cityhall/

-- Read "Portland: Planning, Politics and Growth in a Twentieth Century City" by Portland State University professor Carl Abbott

-- Pick up Jane Jacobs' seminal book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

Sources: Portland Development Commission, "A Brief History of Urban Renewal in Portland, Oregon"


(there's more...)

Here's a summary of the city's urban renewal districts:

1. Airport Way
Created: 1986
Size: 2,780 acres
Expires: May 2011
Focus: Industrial development.

In the news: Ikea plans to plant its first Portland store in the Cascade Station project, and the commission is working on the 38-acre Riverside Parkway Corporate Center industrial project.

2. Central Eastside
Created: 1986 Size: 681 acres
Expires: August 2006
Focus: Create jobs in industrial, manufacturing and warehouse sectors.

In the news: The construction of the Eastbank Esplanade, the start of a five-block project at the east end of the Burnside Bridge, and redevelopment of the Holman Building into a boating center

3. Downtown Waterfront
Created: 1974
Size: 309 acres
Expires: April 2008

Focus: Make sure downtown remains the region's heart for shopping, professional service jobs and culture.

In the news: A planned relocation for Saturday Market to make room for a redevelopment project, street improvements in Old Town/Chinatown and a new 26-story tower at Southwest Third Avenue and Oak Street

4. Gateway

Created: 2001

Size: 653 acres

Expires: June 2022

Focus: Build a dense urban-style core around the light-rail line near Northeast 99th Avenue, at the confluence of two freeways and the MAX light-rail line.

In the news: A three-story medical building is under construction, and plans for street improvements to Northeast 102nd Avenue are in the works.

5. Interstate Corridor
Created: 2000
Size: 3,771 acres
Expires: June 2021

Portland Development
Page 4 of 7

Focus: Interstate Avenue redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization to benefit existing residents within the city's largest urban-renewal area. Some people who live in the district remain leery of public projects. Hundreds of people, many of them African American, were moved earlier to make room for Memorial Coliseum, Interstate 5 and Emanuel Hospital.

In the news: The MAX light-rail line along North Interstate Avenue opened in 2004 and New Seasons Market opened a store this year. Plans call for a revitalized commercial core in Kenton and a new retail and apartment project at North Killingsworth Street and Interstate.

6. Lents Town Center
Created: 1998
Size: 2,472 acres
Expires: October 2015

Focus: Create a town center off Southeast Foster Road with shops, housing and business; pave streets that had been gravel; and help people buy homes.

In the news: A Gresham insurance company has proposed building 30,000 square feet of businesses and shops in central Lents.

7. North Macadam
Created: 1999
Size: 409 acres
Expires: June 2020

Focus: Attract jobs and housing to the formerly vacant prime land just minutes from downtown on the banks of the Willamette River.

In the news: The South Waterfront District within the area will soon become one of the hottest addresses in town. Developers can't build the high-rise, high-price condos fast enough to keep up with demand. The district will also be home to Oregon Health & Science University's campus expansion and a new tram.

8. Oregon Convention Center
Created: 1989
Size: 601 acres
Expires: June 2013

Focus: Tourism, Lloyd District improvements and redevelopment along Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street.

In the news: A long-planned hotel next to the convention center to help attract more visitors; Vanport Square, a stalled redevelopment project at Northeast Alberta and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

9. River District
Created: 1998
Size: 310 acres
Expires: June 2020

Focus: Create an active, round-the-clock neighborhood next door to the river.

In the news: One of Portland's biggest urban-renewal successes to date. The commission helped turn former rail yards into the hippest spot in town for condo owners and food lovers. Projects include the Brewery Blocks and the streetcar. In the next year, all eyes will be watching whether PDC can pull off rehab of the Meier & Frank downtown store.

10. South Park Blocks
Created: 1985
Size: 161 acres
Expires: July 2008

Focus: Portland State University, the up-and-coming West End and cultural landmarks, such as Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

In the news: Museum Place South brought a new Safeway store and lofts to the area known as the West End. Portland State University built a 131,000-square-foot Urban Center that rises above the streetcar line on Southwest Sixth Avenue.

11. Willamette Industrial
Created: 2004
Size: 758 acres
Expires: 2024

Focus: To recruit and retain businesses in an area that has vacant land and contaminated soils. Primarily, the city wants to encourage computer-chip maker Siltronic Corp. to expand production of 300 mm silicon wafers next to its existing site.

In the news: There isn't much news about the area. The city waits for Siltronic's decision.

Ryan Frank: 503-221-8564;  ryanfrank@news.oregonian.com

One of the reasons we hire politicians... 27.Nov.2005 11:59

Pravda or Consequences

Affordable home ownership with all the confirmed advantages forces the politicians to explain why more isn't done. Or does it?

State reps and senators need to be held accountable for how much new housing is created and for whom in the state and in their districts. They need to explain minus the blame for many things, but let's just start with this.

Erik Sten interview 28.Nov.2005 19:53


ast Issues :: 2005 November 1 :: Cover Story


Cover Story



Street News Service: Real Change

Column: Hungry in Portland

Column: Northwest RAGE

Guest Column: Therresa Kennedy

Book Review

Letters to the Editor


Israel Bayer is the former director of street roots and is currently the outreach director with Real Change, and a board member with the North American Street Newspaper Association. He is also a self-educated poet, journalist, and organizer from the industrial Midwest.

Recharged: Erik Sten got zapped publicly for his stance on the PGE takeover, but he still thinks people power can light a brighter future for Portland

by Israel Bayer, Contributing writer

City Commissioner Erik Sten has been questioned for his positions on the takeover of PGE, public financing, and the 10-year plan to end homelessness. Local media, political adversaries, and traditional business critics have kept Sten on the ropes for most of the last year, but in his nine years at City Hall, foes have never taken him out of the game.
Street Roots recently asked some hard questions to Erik Sten about some of the issues talked about in this strand.

Recharged (interview with Erik Sten)
by Israel Bayer from the Nov. 1, issue of Street Roots.
Street Roots recently talked with Sten about the lagging business climate in Portland, homelessness, and what the future holds for the City of Roses.

S.R.: What do you say to those Portlanders who are whispering, "Where is Erik Sten?"

Sten: I didn't expect the amount of backlash I received with all the issues around PGE. I realized this had nothing to do with getting electric rates down, it was all about who is in control of things. PGE is owned by out-of-state interests. You can't even get to the people who own the utilities. Some of our leadership is hiding behind a structure that has been gone for 10 years. I think it's a generational piece, and I'm not sure if some of the longtime players in the community have their pulse on what's happening.

I've felt very good about the work that I do. If you keep doing the same things, you aren't going to get anything done, and we chose to push things. I have been surprised at times, and to be honest, a little hurt by how nasty the backlash has been. But it's so obviously orchestrated by moneyed interest that I'm fighting. What I find from Portlanders is that everyone is engaged and talking about the issues. There are two worlds out there - those who chose to put a spin on everything, and the rest of us, and I love working with the rest of us.

S.R.: What about the left asking, "Where is Erik Sten?"

Sten: Well, the problem with the left is why I left being on the left, and that is you always want more. I love that, and I have that myself. Everyone has his or her own opinion. When people in the progressive community are pushing and prodding I take it for what it is - a desire for a better world, and I share that desire.

It's also why we have horrible leadership in this country up and down the ladder. We don't tolerate failure, and you compare that to the business world where people fail all the time and it's just written off in business models. If you go to any successful business, they're going to tell you that you have to take risks, therefore you have to fail. You just have to succeed more than you fail. In politics, if you try something and it doesn't work, people come after you. The rational thing for politicians to do is to not try anything, so that has led us to where we are. I think we have a great team at City Hall willing to try new things, and that excites me.

S.R.: What are some the biggest challenges for city government in 2006?

Sten: On issues like transportation, parks, and affordable housing, we have a lot of momentum. I think we have some great strategies, it's finding a way to implement them.

I still think we're lacking a shared strategy between business and the community. I don't say city government and business because I think in a lot of ways city government represents the community. We need a shared thesis, and I'm willing to give a little bit, but we need to be on the same page and that continues to be a struggle.

In the next five years we have to have a source of funding for affordable housing. And it's not going to happen if we just show up to work each day, and punch the clock. It's going to take some real leadership, a lot of great organizing, and some luck. It's going to take efforts at all levels.

Housing problems are getting worse with prices going up. For example, with the real estate transfer fee - there's a relatively influential group of real estate agents that has formed a coalition to fight their industries on this issue. That's very hopeful. There's a lot of talk among progressive people that we should only support those real estate agents with our business. If people buy into that kind of thinking we will see some changes in the coming years.

S.R.: In a lot of ways, Portland has gotten off easy with the 10-year plan to end homelessness. Some cities are facing a fight with major providers refusing to take part in the Homeless Management Information System, and advocates crashing planning meetings. The administration and HUD seem to be lost at sea on the issue of homelessness and housing. Are you confident this plan will do what it says it's going to do - end homelessness in 10 years?

S.R.: I always flinch when we say we're going to end homelessness in 10 years, but I don't think we can aspire to anything less. We can't set a goal of anything less than ending homelessness, and we're not going to get to that goal without the greater community helping the homeless reintegrate themselves back into society.

HUD right now is extraordinarily hypocritical. They're requiring us to write 10-year plans at a time when they are cutting resources. A big part of the issue is human. It's being able to build support systems and relationships with people.

One of things I've felt with Portland's strategy is - let's show people better outcomes with existing resources, and build their trust to go for the bigger ideas, such as a (real estate) transfer tax. People's willingness to help on this issue is very high; their confidence that anything is going to change is really low. If we show some results, then more people will step up to the plate.

S.R.: In Seattle and San Francisco there are panhandlers on almost every corner, and those downtowns are swimming in commerce. Why are stakeholders in Portland hell-bent on blaming the city's business woes on panhandlers and homelessness? They're almost fixated on panhandlers and homelessness.

Sten: I think we've wasted a lot of time on the homeless merry-go-round on discussions about downtown crackdowns. My feeling is that there are some bad actors on the streets, and we should be more careful in enforcing the laws. We're always looking for an easy out. There's an idea out there that if you outlaw something such as sitting you will solve the problem, and there's no evidence of this. I don't support some of these laws philosophically, and even if you did, it doesn't mean it's an effective approach. I think we're missing the point in these discussions.

S.R.: It's interesting to me to see business think tanks in other cities on the West Coast talking about how do we boost trade and build relationships with Hanoi and Hong Kong, but in Portland business lobbyists seem almost fixated with the idea that panhandlers are the problem.

Sten: It is an excuse to worry about the wrong things. I agree that there is some other conversation that's being avoided by continuing to talk about these issues, but I also think really aggressive people who cross the line do hurt the homeless plight and you have to go after the criminal element.

S.R.: Will six police officers chasing junkies around Portland, a half-million dollars, some jail beds, and a curfew on the south Park Blocks bring Portland's economy back to life?
Sten: I think there are two issues that are in play. One is economic, and the other is that there is a perception that things have gotten out of hand. I've heard this from progressive people who I don't consider reactionary - so I support the mayor on what he's doing, but I'm not all that optimistic that it's going to solve the issue. Again, we need to take care of the bad apples, but I'm not optimistic that busting panhandlers or someone selling marijuana in the Park Blocks is going to turn the business climate downtown around.

S.R.: Looking into the future, what do you think the city will become in the next 25 years?

Sten: I think we have the opportunity to be one of the more interesting cities in the world. Twenty years from now we are going to have to be much more diverse and international in our thinking, incorporating a much more local business climate. We have to be able to support our local agriculture. People are working now on bringing local agriculture into the schools.

In a way, that's symbolic of Portland, because it would help our economy, our health and the quality of life. We could really be a place that gives residents a place to be a part of a global atmosphere while working in a local economy with a sense of place and community. To me that's the goal. There's no doubt the world is getting smaller every day. Our business partners are going to be on an international stage. On the other hand, what's killing our community is the lack of production. We can't have an economy where we just have all these things imported without living-wage jobs. We have to find that balance.

This whole thing about buying PGE is a great example. There's this whole idea that it's the government versus the private sector, and that's completely wrong. The electric company is a citizen-granted monopoly, and some of the richest people in the world, such as Warren Buffet, are trying to buy PGE to pull Portlanders' money out of your pocketbook to send straight into his bank account.

The public ownership is a way to keep a couple hundred million dollars in the Oregon economy. We need to keep more money here because that leads to better wages for workers.

S.R.: The lack of diversity in Portland is alarming. Are there think tanks in Portland looking at the idea of how do we attract people of color from around the country and the world?

Sten: What you have to do is create a sense of tolerance in community. Once you do that, other things will happen. I'll be honest - it's troubling. The success of a city is a reflection of diversity, and that's something we have to strive toward. We have to create an economy that all kinds of people from all cultures want to be a part of.

S.R.: Are the traditional business communities and the young entrepreneurial business community, which almost seems like its own engine, working together?

Sten: More so than ever, there's not one business community in Portland, which is great in the sense that we have more creative voices. It's very different than 20 years ago, especially with some of the issues we've been talking about. The Portland Business Alliance tends to get caught in these more dogmatic positions.

One of the things that happens in bigger cities, like a Seattle with Starbucks and Microsoft, is they can make things happen quickly. Businesses can expand, hire, take political position and give a lot of money to the community.

We don't have a strong enough business community to move strongly when they need to. Most of the business leaders are baby boomers who are in the second half of their careers. Most of them came up in the '70s when things where booming, and think if we continue to do the same things it will work. That's just not the case.

S.R.: What your favorite way to relieve stress?
Sten: Right now I love hanging out with my toddler. He's 21 months, and he doesn't think about any of these things, so that's fun. I play a lot of basketball and I have a love for novels.

S.R.: Will the Trailblazers make the playoffs this year?
Sten: I'm going to say yes, but that feels like a false campaign promise. You have to keep in mind, I grew up in Portland - I've never stopped rooting for them. I'm a big Telfair fan. As a short guy, I really like the short guys (laughs).

S.R.: Mayoral ambitions?
Sten: Yes. You know, I'm really happy with Mayor Potter. Working the last few years in politics, it's a bit unpredictable, so yes, down the road, it's a possibility.