September 9, 2013

Another View: Don't sell Congress Square park without approval from voters

All Portland residents, not just developers, should have a say on the plaza's future.

By CHRIS SHORR

Re: "Maine Voices: Congress Square sale could inspire needed change in heart of the city," Sept. 7:

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the process that the Portland City Council has used in regard to the potential sale of Congress Square to Rockbridge Capital.

There have been many valid arguments for and against the sale, and I respect each side.

Stemming from the debate has been the discussion on how to improve the space as a public park. That has become one of the central talking points for opponents of the sale and has created a lot of excitement about the space's potential.

So the argument isn't simply black and white anymore, because if the sale is stopped the park isn't just going to be left as is -- it's going to be developed into an engaging, inclusive park that Portland can be proud of. It's roundly agreed that the space needs improving, but selling it to Rockbridge is only one way of many to go about reaching that end.

Why, then, is the city pushing through a closed-bid sale to a private, out-of-state developer in the face of such enormous public opposition? Is this something we want council members to have the final decision on?

The city councilors of Portland are trusted with making a lot of difficult decisions (Occupy, panhandling, TIFs, marijuana legalization and buffer zones, to name a handful), but the sale of public parks should be one that is left to the voters of Portland. This is, after all, our space that we're talking about.

For that reason, I believe that when the sale comes up for a vote Monday, council members should oppose it and put the issue to referendum so that we might all have a fair say in regard to the land that is supposed to belong to every Portlander equally.

Chris Shorr is an at-large candidate for Portland City Council.

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