Examples of Disempowerment: Portland’s Rose Quarter Redevelopment

[disclaimer – I speak only for myself.  I work for an organization that has written a letter of support for the Community Crossroads concept.  These are my observations in part fueled from 15 years of community organizing in N/NE Portland.]

This week, the Rose Quarter Advisory Committee, a 22 member group appointed by Mayor Sam Adams, vetted finalists for a major redevelopment of the inner Northeast Portland district.  Dozens of proposals were narrowed to 7, and on Tuesday Feb 23 the committee narrowed to 3, with 1 alternate.  Despite this being a public process, three things happened that really demonstrate how conservative and disempowering Portland is:

  1. Secret balloting of the committee in their selection voting.  These citizen representatives need to be held accountable like everyone else when our taxpayer funds are at stake.  There is no hiding and ducking accountability.  The committee itself voted only 17% on the question of whether the Community Crossroads proposal met all the criteria.  This is really the truest sign of how disconnected even our citizen leaders are from the community.
  2. PDC staff member(s) UPDATE: I have now watched the video and it turns out it was a Mayor’s aide(?) publicly criticizing, minimizing and manipulating the process in order to lobby the committee to advance the developer-backed proposals their pet projects.  This unethical behavior in my opinion specifically targeted Community Crossroads proposal, generated by a coalition of non-profits, multicultural organizations, and local architects
  3. In the best contradiction of the night, the non-profit Community Crossroads proposal was criticized for not having enough cash on hand to conduct more in-depth proposal work leading to their failure to advance to the final 3 proposals.  The final 3 proposals are all led by private developers/corporations, and were all given funding to conduct their final in-depth proposals.  Corporate welfare at its best/worst!

Learn more for yourself at http://www.rqdev.org/

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5 responses to “Examples of Disempowerment: Portland’s Rose Quarter Redevelopment

  1. Joseph: what I heard most from SAC members was that your propsal assumed changes to MC that were not supported by the SAC.

    The VMAC was started by just one guy who has hustled to bring development partners to his team after he 1st submitted. That opportunity was open to Crossroads too.

    It’s disappointing you lash out at the process that has been the most open and inclusive ever. Crossroads made it to the top 5 our of 97 proposals. Under the old system it would not have qualified to even submit.

    Crossroads can now try and partner with one of the remaining three. I encourage you to do so.

    Yours,

    Sam

  2. While I admit I do not know the details of this process, I want to respond to Mayor Adams comment that the process “has been the most open and inclusive ever.” First, I applaud that it has been the most inclusive ever; however, this does not mean that it was inclusive. There are steps you need to take to go from being exclusive and homogeneous to inclusive, equitable and diverse. (I know. I work with environmental organizations, helping them work on diversity and equity issues. They don’t become diverse overnight.) It looks like you are taking those steps Mayor Adams, which is great, and I encourage you to continue to improve. Improvement means commitment and especially listening to and advocating for the disempowered and disenfranchised in everything you do. I encourage you to read Joseph’s posting again. This team with an empathetic eye to feel and see where he is coming from. For many people of color in this city, Joseph is not alone in his frustration with structural and systemic race issues that play out over and over again. As with Joseph, many of us are looking to your leadership and commitment to actions that exemplify equity and diversity and for you to truly represent the whole community of Portland. You have supported some excellent activities, such as the Clean Energy Works Program, which I hope you will continue to do. But again I emphasize that this journey to being inclusive and equitable is something you need to continue to work at. It’s not as simple as checking a box and saying, “I am done. I am inclusive now.” We all need to do our work, but Sam, you are our leader. I have faith that you can become the leader we are looking for.

  3. Robert Hayden

    I am a member of the Rose Quarter Community Crossroads (RQCC) team and I am apalled by this blog posting. I do not know who this person is (Joseph?) but he/she does not represent the RQCC team. The blog is full of factual inaccuracies about RQCC, PDC and SAC. It should not, in any way, be construed as coming from RQCC or representing our position, values or beliefs. We have worked within this process for months, we have successfully been recognized as first alternate.
    Again I am apalled at this and hope that anyone reading this will understand that it did NOT come from RQCC.

  4. Gary Marschke

    Speaking as a supporter of the RQ Community Crossroads project, I would caution anyone from jumping to the conclusion that this piece represents the sentiments of the RQCC team. I don’t believe that the person referenced above speaks for or is even a member of the team.

    The team has willingly and eagerly participated in the process – and expects to continue to do so.

  5. Item #2 above, even though “updated” is wholly innaccurate. As a matter of fact, no Mayor’s aide spoke publicly at the meeting. Please refer to the project website: http://www.rqdev.org to watch the video and see for yourself.

    This type of blog is inflammatory, full of innacuracies and ignites exactlty the type of hostility that it is purported to be against. I hope that a more mature and inclusive conversation can be born from this unfortunate display.

    The RQCC team embodies many values that the City feels strongly about, and there is an opportunity for ALL Portlanders to plug into this process and advocate for elements that have strong support.

    A positive and inclusive community conversation is underway, and I hope many MORE people join in now while it is still in the early stages. If the Rose Quarter is to be developed, it must emody the things that make our City special.

    Diversity, the arts, athletics, entertainment, and more…… We have a unique opportunity and public funding to assist in making it a place that all Portlanders can enjoy. Let us leverage these resources to get the best possible outcome, and try to leave behind these hurtful commentaries that are intended to create segregation in our society and unnecessarily demonize those in positions of power.

    The dialogue is open…… will you join in and make it your own or will you continue to throw stones? A bit more research into the process will help anyone realize that the steps that are being taken are intended to increase the inclusiveness of this once in a generation development opportunity. The Rose Quarter represents an old scar in our urban fabric, one that cannot be fully healed.

    If we can all try to advocate for the best outcome, rather than spread hate, maybe we can bring back some of what was there when it was a hotbet of jazz, socializing, and multiculturalism at it’s best.

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