Friday, November 24, 2006

Commissioner Adams calls for pole moratorium

City Commissioner Sam Adams today called on the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would place a moratorium on new utility poles in Hillsdale. Adams has also informed neighborhood leaders that he will call for a stop to the installation of new poles in the sidewalk along Bertha Court.

Meanwhile, reporter Mike Donahue of KOIN-TV is doing a report on the Hillsdale pole/underground issue for the 5 p.m. news tonight. Mike, by the way, lives in Hillsdale.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bertha wall closure, and an opening on undergrounding

Bill Long, maintenance supervisor at the Portland Department of Transportation, says his crews fixed the Bertha Court retaining wall within two or three days after my notifying him of blocks' falling onto the sidewalk. My own monitoring doesn't suggest the response was that fast, but it was fast, and I thanked him yesterday for the quick work.

The retaining wall is held together not by mortar, but gravity. He invited us to call again if falling blocks become a problem.

Now it's on to getting the City to back off planting utility poles in the Bertha Court sidewalk and to start undergrounding utilities around the new Watershed housing project.

Yesterday within hours, City Commissioner Sam Adams responded to SWNI President Glenn Bridger's complaint about new poles planted in the pedestrian right-of-way. Adams wants to know more about efforts to underground utilities in Hillsdale.

For photographic evidence of the wire/pole blight in the Town Center, see page 11 of today's InPortland section of The Oregonian. Top photo.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Action sought to stop Bertha sidewalk holes

Glenn Bridger has written the City Council to demand that work be stopped on punching holes in the Bertha Court sidewalk. Here is his letter:

Dear Council,

Hillsdale has been very aggressive year in and year out on making its Town Center a place of pride for Portland. Citizen-initiated efforts crafted the Town Center Plan; focused attention on the library and street improvements; created a very successful Farmer’s Market; and help drive the community in its transition from a strip mall spot on the highway to become a Place. One of the steps that was fought hard, and even secured a majority vote in Hillsdale several years ago, was the push for the creation of an under grounding LID district for the utility services in the core area.

Last week, on the new sidewalk along Bertha that our community actively worked to secure funding for, new holes were punched without so much as community discussion and recognition of the community commitment to under grounding. Yes, the holes are for putting in utility poles, the likes of which would never be allowed in areas like the Pearl and South Waterfront. When several years ago City Council rejected the Hillsdale community-approved LID for under grounding, we were told “We won’t forget the issue and will help secure it in the future.”

What steps will Council take to get these holes filled in and control over the public rights of way exercised in a manner that will respect the public investment in the new roadways; the community commitment to under grounding; the public involvement process that should be a part of any intrusion into a town center; and Council’s past commitment to support us in our under grounding quest?

And here is my letter in support:

City Council members and other concerned parties:

I am adding my voice to Glenn Bridger's regarding the City's total disregard of our community's concern about the on-going and now expanded blight caused by utility poles, wires and transformers in the Hillsdale Town Center.

Why indeed doesn't the city council show the same commitment to streetscape aesthetics in Town Centers that it does in places like the Pearl and other parts of downtown?

At the very time we are asking the City to underground utilities around the new Watershed Senior Housing project (at an estimated cost of $60,000 on a $10 million project), the City has permitted MORE utility poles on our already blighted streetscape.

I urge the council to undo this travesty and to proceed with undergrounding around the new Watershed project.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Well-meaning, but flawed "Visioning"

Yesterday I attended an orientation meeting for 40 brave volunteers who will sort through 15,000 visions for the city’s future. I’ll be one of the readers. Talk about eye strain.

It’s all part of the mayor’s city-wide visioning effort, called visionPDX. The vision responses came from a canvassing effort over the summer. The whole process will culminate in a report and an implementation plan in April.

As the “visioning” has rolled out, I’ve expressed concerns about visionPDX despite its noble intent.

Yesterday’s session didn’t allay them.

The problem with visions is that they are creatures of the present but speculate on a future we can’t know. Imagine how New Yorkers might have changed "visionNYC" responses post 9/11. Or consider the radically altered "visionNew Orleans" post-Katrina.

Couldn’t happen here? Think earthquake, influenza epidemic or volcanic eruption. Or the mere fact that we may continue to grow in population much faster than anyone imagined a mere 10 years ago.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn't have visions, but we need to temper them with the knowledge that events may force us to radically change them.

Another concern is that visionPDX is exclusively associated with Portland city government. For better or worse, we are “governed” by at least four other local entities: the school district, Metro, the county and TriMet. Those governments will be asked to endorse the final visionPDX report. Expect a luke-warm response, at best. Relations between at least a couple of these governments are strained already.

To get buy-in, the other four should have been invited to share in the visioning from the outset. Of couse the real solution is consolidated governance…

That touches on my third and last concern, visionPDX’s relationship to charter revision.

The whole visioning effort needs to be coordinated with charter revision, another commendable Potter initiative. Simply put, “vision” preceeds “revision.”

The commission working on revising Portland’s system of government must create a structure capable of implementing the vision plan. For starters, how many should sit on a new City Council? The commission is already toying with low numbers, like seven versus the current five. I believe that to engage an invigorated citizenry, that number needs to be much larger. Fifteen anyone? 21?

But what do I know? Indeed, what can anyone know until we see what visionPDX produces?