Our partner-in-Scattering Barry Johnson (who does not look like the portrait here of Tom Paine, rabble-rousing author of the political tract Common Sense) advocates a little citywide common sense in the continuing flap over Portland’s Rose Quarter and Mayor Sam Adams’ push to tear down Memorial Coliseum to make room for a minor-league baseball park and a suburban-style “entertainment district” of aggressively anonymous chain outfits on the order of a Hard Rock Cafe.
Barry writes in his alternate-universe column in this morning’s Oregonian that we all need to think more clearly about common sense the way the thinkers of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thought of it, as “an idea based on the best available evidence and therefore potentially persuasive to anyone.”
Barry’s pretty clear about the slapdash quality of the thinking on this rush-rush move. His summation of how we got into this municipal pickle has the blunt ring of truth:
The initial push to demolish Memorial Coliseum came from Mayor Sam Adams, who wanted 1) to make sure Portland got its Major League Soccer team, 2) which he could only do by building a new baseball stadium, 3) which would help him and the Blazers build their entertainment district if it landed in the Rose Quarter, 4) which, in turn, would serve his new convention hotel. Oh, and 5) he’d have to knock down Memorial Coliseum to do it.
Brian Libby, on his site Portland Architecture, also continues to hit hard and tellingly on why Adams’ plan is a bad idea (I’d argue that after Point 1 above none of it makes sense), and Libby’s helped rally the city’s architectural community to the cause. Keep checking him out, because he keeps adding new twists to the story.
I can only add, picking up on Barry’s theme of “common sense,” that we also think of the meaning of the commons — those areas that we hold in public trust, for the greater good of all of us. The division between what’s public and what’s private has long since been blurred: These days, bigÂ projects increasingly come in the form of what’s called “public/private partnerships.” That’s why city and state governments pay hundreds of millions of dollars for big-league baseball and football stadiums, and it’s why, in Portland, the rehab of the old armory building into a home for Portland Center Stage came from a complex quiltwork of various governmental dollars. It’s not a bad thing: It gets things done. But it does muddy the sense of what’s public and what’s private and who benefits most. And it makes it that much more crucial for our political leaders to remember which side of the fence they’re on.