As a relative newcomer to Portland, I was dismayed by the narrow voters’ decision in the recent referendum that effectively preserves Congress Square Plaza as a concrete detraction in the middle of the city’s arts district.

The vote probably killed the adjacent Westin hotel’s plan to buy part of the park from the city, build a one-story event center on the land, and upgrade the rest of the park. Supporters of the ballot initiative apparently prefer the park as it is, which, despite some improvements, is still a desolate and dangerous no-man’s-land at night and a lounge area for vagrancy during the day.

Food trucks, flowers and music are not a permanent solution.

Even more disheartening than the effect of the parks referendum on Congress Square Plaza is the deep-seated distrust of government – an attitude not confined to the radical right – that its passage reflects. The adopted initiative makes it virtually impossible for the city council to make decisions on the sale of parkland without near unanimity among the councilors or without resorting to cumbersome, slow, expensive and often unrepresentative referendums.

If we don’t trust our councilors to act in the public’s interest, let’s throw the bums out in the next election.

In the meantime, how about convening a commission of city officials, representatives of the pro- and anti-referendum groups and affected neighbors, such as the Portland Museum of Art and the hotel owner, to come up with a feasible plan for improving Congress Square Plaza? Who knows? If we don’t insist on a supermajority opinion, something positive could yet ensue.

James J. Napoli