Downtown Eugene

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Decommissioning the Gravy Train

The organized opposition to the City's urban renewal boondoggle, was certainly fighting Urban Renewal in general. UR is a corrupt mechanism, chock full of anti-democratic legal protections, awarding privileges to certain property owners, and awarding contracts to a City's elite. With it, a "Gravy Train" mentality develops, where the rich and powerful in a City expect the Government to fork over money, regularly, for private work, unrelated to community interests.

Urban Renewal isn't the only mechanism by which governments provide luxury to those who already have it, at the expense of those who can't afford it. But it's a codified corruption mechanism, legally cocooned, and hard to defeat once in place.

So, we must get rid of it. Even the local daily, The Eugene Register Guard, which was for expanding Urban Renewal, is rethinking the Gravy mentality:

Voters in all parts of the city found reasons to oppose Measure 20-134. Those reasons were probably as diverse as the politics of the voters who united to kill the proposal. But the strong and widespread resistance to the council’s redevelopment plans, which had already been approved by the council before rumblings of a referendum led to a referral, suggests that the city’s leaders need to take care as they consider what to do next downtown. Given the Nov. 6 vote, it seems likely that Eugene voters would support a measure to eliminate urban renewal districts altogether.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A healthy garden

An Urban planner, without Urban Renewal funds, might very well ask: "Ok, the citizens rejected large-scale new development and redevelopment. Basically, it's too expensive, and the social cost is too high. But if that isn't the model for revitalization, what is?"

Essentially, a downtown is a garden. But, it isn't a garden meant to impress the neighbors. It is a garden meant to nurture a complete ecology. It enables life. It's a healthy garden, a part of nature.

What Urban planners do today, is bulldoze ecologies to create flashy new sterile gardens, with big expensive plants and no other life, at the public's expense. They do this for very unnatural reasons -- to support upward distribution of wealth.

In creating a healthy ecology, you don't dig up the plants and try to relocate them all the time ... you try to help the plants you have, and you preserve the healthy clusters and matrices of life that are part of their existence. You find the patches that need help, and you nuture them back to life. It is efficient to work in this way, building upon what you already have. The more work like this you do, the more life it attracts.

This is exactly analogous to a downtown. If you want to help bring something back to life, you start with the people who come downtown, and you provide more for them. You provide more for those who do not come. You don't disrupt anything: harm no existing buisiness, building, organization, event or demographic. In fact, do what you can to help them: help them do more of what they already do. Then the ecology you already have, will thrive.

People win one

By about a 2-to-1 margin, the citizens of Eugene voted against funding the City of Eugene's Urban Renewal disaster. There is no faith in government spending, and there shouldn't be. This Urban Renewal project was a boondoggle, intended to make wealthy people wealthier, at the expense of taxpayers and the resident businesses and non-profits, in the affordable district on West Broadway.