Thursday, February 19, 2009

City Council To Outer East Portland: Oh, There You Are!

They noticed us!

After years of benign neglect by the Portland City Council and the Powers, I'm happy to say that someone finally noticed us. And, after the last missive, I wasn't sure i'd have anything nice to say about the city council today.

By "Us", I mean that area of east Portland that's only been in the city since 1990 (for those with only 10 fingers, that's 18 years). Outer East, as us armchair intellectuals like to call it, that area from I-205 to the eastern city limits (which are mostly at E 162nd Avenue) is really the only invisible part of the city that's left. People from west of I-205 look on us and think "Gresham". Last year, I read on another blog, the Willamette Week's "Best of Portland" issue didn't have the guts to go east of the Freeway.

Well, we would have eaten them anyway. But I digress.

Anyway, as The Oregonian's James Mayer describes,

Fast-growing East Portland is closer to feeling like it belongs.

The City Council just adopted an "action plan" for the area between Interstate 205 and the city limits -- and put $500,000 toward making it happen.

The plan will guide decisions dealing with development, parks, public safety and transportation in eastside neighborhoods. It calls for more sidewalks, street lighting and storefront improvements, for example.

Most of the area was annexed into the city in the 1980s and '90s,
and residents often have said they don't feel like part of Portland.

He has the right of it. We've long been a source of tax dollars rather than a destination. The result is poorer streets, poorer transit service (except for lines like the 20-Burnside and the 4-Division, neighborhood routes, such as the one I'd depend on if I could, the 27-Market/Mill bus, only run at times that are not merely incovenient).

There's a sense of benign neglect. Especially when you get to intersectons like 148th and Stark and 122nd and SE Market.

It helps to have a friend who speaks up for you. Jeff Merkley, our newest junior Senator, hails from this area ... he was State Representative, District 47, which is right in the heart of the Outer East:
"There was a sense that annexation was more about pulling additional
taxpayers into the city than really doing anything to benefit the
people," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who prompted then-Mayor Tom
Potter and Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler to launch the planning
effort last year.

Jeff puts his money where his mouth is, that's for sure.

All we want is our fair share, and for a very long time, we've not been getting it.

What sorts of things have they enumerated to start?

Expand storefront improvement grant program.
  • Create an advocate position to seek money for carrying out the plan.
  • Continue planning for a greenway between Interstate 84 and I-205 north of the Gateway Regional Center.
  • A pilot project to test new land-use concepts aimed at creating "20-minute neighborhoods."
  • Create a grant program to allow neighborhood associations,
    business associations and other groups to take on small or medium
    projects in the plan.
  • Initiate Powell Boulevard street improvements planning project.
  • Identify three pedestrian safety projects as part of safer routes to school program.
This is a good start. Especially the "20-minute neighborhoods" part, and I'll admit, I'm not sure what that is, but it's got to be better than what I got now.

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