On the front page of today's Oregonian came this hard-hitting news story: Mayor Tom Potter has grown a beard. And, as Andy Dworkin dutifully reported, "Asked whether he plans to keep the beard, Potter suggested a public referendum." (Somebody call the Pulitzer committee.)
One hopes this is a joke, a joke in which Potter pokes fun at himself. Can't the guy make a decision about anything without a public 'visioning' process? But even as a gag, it's telling. At certain times, Potter has shown strong leadership, such as when he ceased Portland's cooperation with the Joint Terrorism Task Force or, in a lesser but more absurd example, started enforcing anti-jaywalking laws. Tom Potter is a good man. But am I the only one who should be laughing at the beard-referendum suggestion but isn't? It's only funny when it isn't so true. Come on, Mr. Mayor, lead!
Another story from today's paper, by newly-minted city hall reporter James Mayer (as compared to their newly minted business, science, news, living, metro, drivetime, A&E, home & garden, and sports writers and editors - maybe newly shuffled janitors and receptionists too), reports on a nationwide effort to turn parking spots into greenspace - at least temporarily. Organized by the Trust for Public Land, Portland will be one of several cities participating in National Park(ing) Day on Friday, September 21.
The idea is to plug a downtown meter with a few hours' worth of quarters (assuming, like me, you can't ever make a credit card work), lay down some sod and maybe a bench, and presto! A few square feet of asphalt are transformed into park space the size of a car.
Portland's temporary park(ing) will be created by William Wilson Architects, MCM Architects and MacDonald Environmental Planning. Acccording to Mayer's report, the idea is to create an "outdoor break room". I absolutely love the spirit of this - a kind of political act based on the right to leisure and beauty. But does a park just a few feet wide and up for only a few hours really require two architecture firms and an environmental planner? I'm going to assume it's the enthusiasm of the effort that led to this trio, not the need for many cooks working on a simple broth.
Also, the park(ing) demonstration got me thinking: Instead of doing this with a couple parking spots, how about a bunch of us show up at one of the Goodman family's surface parking lots downtown and buy up all the spots in the lot for a day? We could put up some BOORA/TBA-style temporary architecture to demonstrate the absurdity of surface parking lots in such a high-density area. Actually, though, that's what many of Portland's cart-bound food purveyors have already done, not as a joke but as simple businesses making a living. In a way, the huge number of food carts parked in lots downtown are the same statement as that organized by the Trust For Public Land. And you'll get a great burrito (or curry, or sausage, or spring rolls) out of it too!