What if the Portland Trailblazers proposed JumpTown development were to give 1 percent of its gross takings to support community nonprofits and small business organizations? In perpetuity.
The Skanner supports this idea – a fresh, unique vision for community empowerment that comes directly from Portland's Black community itself, spearheaded by local businessman Roy Jay.
Let's be clear. The city will be agreeing to contribute bonds worth millions of dollars to these projects. The Interstate Urban Renewal District already could raise $132 million in bonds. And that's before adding the JumpTown project or any others. This kind of investment should guarantee our community much more than some imaginary trickle down effect.
We've seen many urban renewal projects come into our neighborhoods with fancy presentations that promise to deliver all kinds of jobs and financial benefits. Most of them do make some people wealthy – those at the top of the food chain. But, those lower down on the food chain have been fobbed off with a few menial, dead-end jobs that do nothing to revitalize our community.
We like this new proposal because it spells out detailed commitments regarding money, jobs and partnerships. It would set aside 1 percent of all the takings from Rose Quarter venues and businesses and distribute it to targeted youth organizations, social service agencies, nonprofits and minority businesses. This could inject more than $20 million a year into our community.
The project would commit to hiring local jobseekers, particularly those groups most hurt by the recession including: seniors, veterans, Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans. The plan also calls for an African American museum to celebrate and remember the cultural history of this historically Black part of town.
Did you know, for example, that North Williams was the home of the Paul Marshall building, the first medical building where, during the 1940s, Black folks could get health care. We were banned from the hospitals until then. That same building later housed a free breakfast program, run by Portland's Black Panthers, which served children long before the schools realized the need. Houses used to stand on the site of Emmanuel Hospital's new parking garage. Jazz clubs, barber shops: Williams Avenue was at the center of Portland's Black community. The development of this valuable inner-city property has made plenty of people wealthy. The only problem is – none of them were the area's original residents.
The Skanner is ready to support the Trailblazer's JumpTown concept and the expansion of the Interstate Urban Renewal District, necessary to complete it. That's if the plan includes concrete proposals to empower and lift up our community.
When Marshall Glickman developed the Rose Quarter, the program which was supposed to help minorities fell far short, in our opinion, of what was needed. It's not a good model to follow. We can do far better.
Any development project must include people of color at all levels. We need a creative, innovative plan that gives our city's poorly served urban community --neglected for the last 30 plus years -- an opportunity to move up the Portland food chain. Could this be the one that works?
What Do You Think?