I am not a Portland resident and so I will not be weighing in on the future of Congress Square Park with my vote. The fight for the park resonates with me, though, as I live in a town that is known for making a series of hasty “pro-business” decisions for the supposed economic good that have ultimately resulted in the relenting of local charm and autonomy.
Much of what is laid out below speaks to me, not just with regard to what is going on in Portland, but with what is going on with public spaces throughout the world. The author is a Yes supporter, but asked to not be identified because of a potential conflict between her activism and employer.
The day of the Question One vote is upon us and I am feeling a little teary-eyed. It’s been just over two years since a handful of us gathered in the old Meg Perry Center space to talk about strategies for resisting Rockbridge Capital’s proposal to build an events space in Congress Square Park and after countless meetings, events, clean-ups, hours at City hall, tears, hugs, and legal wrangling, it has come down to today.
This thing has gone way further than I ever envisioned and I couldn’t be prouder of my friends. Please get out and Vote Yes on the citizens’ initiative to strengthen the protections on 60 public spaces in Portland’s park system.
For me this isn’t just a fight to save Congress Square. It’s a fight against the neoliberal juggernaut that has been eating the souls of cities worldwide for many years, including this little one I once fell in love with. It’s a fight against this new common sense vision that has been normalized that the only way for a city to “move forward” is to give it all up for private gain. We don’t have to accept this.
It’s not an inevitability, regardless of how hard the developers, planners, “progressive” Councilors, and mustachioed hip New Urbanists try to present it as one while skipping down the street, arm in powerful arm, making plans to put a hotel, a luxury condo, and an artisanal whatever shop on every square inch of Portland, dressing up their tired old urban renewal and gentrification with meaningless buzzwords like “revitalization,” “creativity,” “vibrancy” and “innovation.”
This initiative is a small but important step in gaining back a little control over how decisions are made about the future of Portland and who gets to make them.
Vote Yes on One.
Image Credit: Kathleen Pierce | BDN Staff