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Congress: Passage of Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 is long overdue

Editor,
It's time for Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
It is a start toward a "living wage"...which is really the issue!
Sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. Douglas Nielsen
Saco

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 21:12

Hits: 24

Redesign of Congress Square Park could be Portland legacy

Editor,

(The following letter was address to the Portland City Council and Mayor Michael Brennan.)

Honorable Mayor and City Councilors,

The results of the June 10th election demonstrated Portlanders' desire to protect our cherished parks and open spaces. The vote was particularly decisive on the densely populated peninsula where open public space is at a premium. As one of the few open public spaces on the peninsula, Congress Square Park plays a central role in our park system.

Over the past month, Protect Portland Parks (PPP) has reached out to former opponents to build a coalition of members from PPP and Portland Forward to join in asking the Council to reconvene the Congress Square Redesign Study Group to allow for constructive public dialogue around the future of the park. We believe the Council should establish a strict timeline — four months for alternative concept designs that could be tested in a public forum before a final design is completed.

The data generated from the previous public visioning should be evaluated in earnest to inform the selected design team what the community wants for this valuable public space. The Council should also expand the CSRSG's charge to consider the intersection in addition to the entire public space.

We realize a redesigned park alone is not sufficient to ensure a thriving public space. Ongoing management of the park is vital. The Friends of Congress Square Park are committed to creating a lasting structure for park management. In part, this will be done by working with community stakeholders to create a membership organization that will provide an avenue for businesses and individuals to invest in the future of the park. In partnership with the Protect Portland Parks coalition, the group has already started conversations with prospects for leadership gifts for a capital campaign. With a few minimal improvements the Friends have demonstrated how the park can be vital again.

Now that the divisive referendum is behind us, we have an opportunity to draw on the community energy and interest in this once forgotten park to create a world-class urban open public space — an oasis in our dense urban center — that coalesces the diverse neighborhood surrounding Congress Square Park. The redesign of this important public space is a legacy project for our community. We must strive for excellence.

Respectively submitted,

Bree LaCasse, Alison Hildreth, Anne Pringle, Jed Rathband, Paul Stevens, Cyrus Hagge

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 20:43

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City council should reconvene Congress Square study group

Editor,

(The following letter was addressed to Mayor Michael Brennan and the Portland City Council, July 16.)

We are writing as members of the Congress Square Redesign Study Group (CSRSG), which the Portland City Council established in September 2008. The Council's Order directs the CSRSG to "...advise and guide the design and engineering process for the assessment of the best use and design of Congress Square Park;" and that "...the Study Group shall develop re-use and redesign principles for Congress Square Park and criteria to evaluate various alternatives and make a recommendation to the City Council for improvements, with associated cost estimates."

Given the results of the Citizens' Initiative vote on June 10, now is the time for the CSRSG to complete its task. We are calling for the Council to reconvene the group, and to take three other actions noted below.

The CSRSG represents a broad coalition of stakeholders that worked for several years and was ready to put out an RFP for redesigning the park. At that time, 2011, the Eastland was sold and the new owners, Rockbridge Capital, pitched their initial idea, which was to build upon the entire park. In the years that followed, the role of the CSRSG became to simply vote up or down on a succession of ideas brought forth by Rockbridge. The CSRSG's original intended purpose of evaluating several design ideas was diverted and the months of time and energy spent on studying the needs of the park were lost. Regrettably, the process was politicized into a vehicle to promote the sale of Congress Square Park.

The problem of Congress Square Park is not that it's too big, or too small, or not attractive enough, or that people who use it are frightening others away. The problems of Congress Square Park are a.) the ineffective design of the hardscape; b.) the surrounding blank walls, which lack active uses to bring people into the park; and c.) the abandonment of the park by the City of Portland and the Portland Downtown District, leaving it without adequate maintenance or programming. These are the problems that have led to the symptoms that no-one likes. Much of Congress Square beyond the park suffers from similar problems, although the blank walls with no active use are much more attractive, elsewhere in the Square.

Now is the time to put aside whatever differences we may have had over the referendum and move forward on what's in all our best interests — making Congress Square Park a vibrant and integral part of a re-visioned Congress Square. Recently, various visioning activities and a design presentation have been conducted that encompass the total redo of the complete Congress Square intersection. This broader project could easily be incorporated into the work of the CSRSG. As a city, we need to look at the two basic components in reviving a public park. These are programming and infrastructure.

Programming is already being brought in this summer through partnerships initiated by the Friends of Congress Square Park (FoCSP). FoCSP is now an established Friends group, ready and able to follow in the footsteps of Friends of Deering Oaks, Friends of Eastern Prom, etc.

Infrastructure is where the CSRSG will be able to help. Redesigning and reconstructing Congress Square Park is a relatively affordable project, that will be a very effective investment of city resources such as Capital Improvement and Community Development Block Grant monies. Construction can be phased to ease the financial burden. A revitalized and successful park space will, in turn, invigorate the surrounding properties and has the potential of increasing the tax base, effectively enabling the improvements to pay for themselves. Monument Square and Tommy's/Post Office Park are two examples of this.

We therefore request the City Council not to rush to judgment on this issue, and further divide our city. Rather, we ask you to:

Reconvene the Congress Square Redesign Study Group, so it can fulfill its mission and follow a transparent, non-politicized process. The CSRSG's final deliverable, a recommendation of a master plan for Congress Square Park — and the entirety of Congress Square — must redesign the hardscape of the entirety of Congress Square Park. The plan must also help the owners of the Westin hotel and Vinland buildings to activate the blank walls of these buildings. This might include identifying sources of funding for design and construction.
Add lighting to the park — in the immediate term — to increase safety and reduce illicit activities.
Increase police presence at all hours, to levels sufficient to curb inappropriate behaviors in Congress Square Park.
Formalize the role of Friends of Congress Square Park (FoCSP), a non-profit organization, to facilitate their efforts to provide programming. FoCSP should also be tasked with finding long-term source(s) of funding for programming, including a just percentage of the Portland Downtown District's property assessment.

Please respond to this letter during your workshop on July 21, and afterward in writing, with your decisions.

It's time for all interested parties to roll up our sleeves and work — together.

Neighborhood Representives to CSRSG
Frank Turek, Parkside
Alex Landry, Bayside
Rosanne Graef, West End

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 21:33

Hits: 98

Bowdoin College has a problem, needs to read Constitution

Editor,

The New York Times mentioned the institutional arrogance and stupidity of Bowdoin College administration under the headline, "College administration and evangelicals collide on bias policy."

Most colleges and universities in the United States permit evangelicals to have prayer and Bible studies on their campuses. Why not? They paid for their presence on campus. In my opinion, they have that right.

The arrogance of Bowdoin administration should take a course on the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. It's apparent they know nothing about the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution and recent decisions by the Supreme Court.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, in November 1939, the court decided, "Freedom of speech and of the press by the First Amendment against abridgement by the U.S. is similarly secured to all persons by the Fourteenth against abridgement by a state or otherwise. The First Amendment of freedom of speech and press is an unalienable right that cannot be denied."

According to many Supreme Court decisions, too many to list, the majority decisions of the justices state "anyone has the right to free speech and in any public place." Bowdoin College is a private school but also a public place.

The highest authority, Jesus Christ, said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." This is not a suggestion but a command.

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake."

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."

"Let your light to shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Bowdoin College apparently loves darkness rather than light.

Marcel LeRoi

Belgrade

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 21:43

Hits: 70

Illegal immigration benefits politicians, and they refuse to stop it

Editor:
Our nation's illegal alien problem exemplifies Washington's war on the American people. Washington politicians, Republicans and Democrats, have lied repeatedly about immigration and pursued policies that benefits the politicians but hurts most Americans.
Senator Ted Kennedy, who changed our immigration philosophy, told us regarding his 1965 immigration law: "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." But it has.
Regarding the 1986 amnesty law he promised: "We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never bring forth another amnesty bill like this." The border wasn't secured. In 2007, Senator Kennedy worked to give amnesty to about 12 million more illegals.
Politicians told us the 2006 Secure Fence Act would stop illegal border crossings. On May 10, 2011 President Obama told us that the border fence is "now basically complete." During his 2012 campaign President Obama repeatedly led us to believe the border was secure. On February 4, 2013 Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano told us that the border is secure.
But the border isn't secure, illegal aliens flood into our country. According to the NY Times almost 300,000 illegal aliens have come here just since April! About 60,000 illegal alien children have come here over the last six months creating a humanitarian nightmare and threatening the health and safety of the American people.
President Obama wants $3.7 billion to deal with the problem (but not to close the border) created by his failure to enforce our laws and by his 2012 announcement of (essentially) amnesty for most illegal alien children. (Yes, he set conditions, but illegals believe he will let them all stay here, and they are probably right.)
Americans have repeatedly told politicians to close the border. But illegal immigration benefits the politicians, and they refuse to stop it. American citizens will increasingly suffer until the current politicians are replaced with people who care about American laws and American citizens.
Don Ewing
Meredith, N.H.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 21:04

Hits: 24

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