I'm someone with roots going back four generations in Albina. Having heard from my mother and aunt how my grandparents' neighbors — who worked with my grandfather on the Union Pacific Railroad — got screwed out of their property by the Portland Development Commission and Emanuel Hospital, I thought things were plenty cut and dried. I would vote for Measure 39, which deals with the public condemnation of private property.
However, after attending the Northwest Progressive Community's forum on ballot measures at St. Andrew Community Center recently, I've changed my mind. Portland's political climate has changed in the last 35 years. There does not seem to be the political will to condemn peoples' homes for private development anymore.
But more importantly, Bill Moshofsky from Oregonians in Action, speaking in favor of the ballot measure, told us that if a property was "dilapidated" or an area is "blighted," condemnation could still occur under Measure 39. Designating "dilapidated" homes or "blighted" areas is the mechanism that has been used to create urban renewal areas in Portland. Usually, they're areas inhabited by working families or minorities.
Other issues regarding the measure came up at the forum. Basically, this measure seems to be another simple solution to what can be a complex problem. I do believe that we need some clarification on when and how private property can be condemned through eminent domain. Measure 39 makes no distinction between condemnation for private development or for public services like roads or bridges. One good thing about the measure, for lawyers, is the awarding of attorney's fees is definitely covered.
There are complications to this issue that are best left to the legislative process — whereby there are a series of public hearings allowing citizen input and reasoned deliberation — so all the little details get worked out, and we do not end up with a constitutional amendment with unintended "Catch 22s."
I urge everyone to vote "No" on Measure 39.
Paul Maresh of North Portland