Downtown Eugene

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fixing the private welfare system

Usually, big development projects shut out the general public -- when the general public does nothing. Politicians and their staff, lacking the constituency to do better, are completely at the mercy of 0.1% of the population: those with the most money & property. Whenever possible, the wealthy try to improve their position at the public expense.

This happens in neighborhoods across the world, back to the dawn of man. The transactions generally don't go too far beyond the level of abuse that is publically acceptable -- if the public actually sees what's going on.

Even a broadly published account of the abuse-to-come tends to go unread by the public, who, as good-natured people, often assume that things will get better, and that 'public leaders' and 'captains of industry' will act in their best interest. This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The current plan for downtown Eugene provides one private developer/landholder with a virtual monopoly of West downtown, accomplished through a gigantic public subsidy, and city-enforced seizure of land. How boldly the powerful announce their plans, and assume that 'lesser people' will just go along.

At this point, battered activists are tired of fighting this sort of thing. It is necessary to create a democratic mechanism which pushes against heavy-handed initiatives, to improve them, and to make them serve the public good.