Thursday, December 14, 2006

How sex, water and baseball could fund Portland's schools

I have finally finished reading nearly 800 pages of visionPDX questionnaire responses on the topic of Portland's beleaguered schools and how they should be adequately and reliably funded.

You recall that last summer Mayor Tom Potter asked the citizenry to share its visions of Portland's future and to suggest ways to get realize them.

The invitation was noble, and the responses on the part of 13,000 Portlanders were commendable. Reading what folk wrote, I was frequently moved by their passion for this city.

Back to the comments about the schools. As it turns out, the schools are an area that city government has little influence over, but should. As noted in an earlier post, very view visionaries seemed aware of the disconnect between the school administration and city government. Potter got a lot of misdirected advice about how he should be running the schools.

It shouldn't be misdirected. The city and the schools are joined at the hip. The City of Portland should govern the schools. That would mean good-bye to the volunteer, elected school board.

A lot of visionPDX respondents were vague about how the schools should be funded, but confessed that they were weary of stop-gap measures and year-to-year uncertainty. That said, a surprising number seemed willing to impose a schools-dedicated sales tax on themselves...and on us.

Then there were the jaw-droppers. Try these on for size:

• Legalize and tax prostitution; use the resulting "sin tax" revenues for the schools.
• Sell Oregon's abundant water it to parched Nevada, Arizona and Southern California. Let's face it, said one writer, water is to Oregon what oil is to Alaska. Make the most of it.
• Bring big league baseball to Portland and tax the hell out of the players' stratospheric salaries—all to adequately fund the schools. Another curve to the baseball dream was to jack up the price of "vanity" tickets and corporate sky boxes, then use the money to help pay for Portland's schools.

Stay tuned for other nuggets from the visionPDX responses....

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