It’s time. No, it’s past time to end the Pendleton Development Commission program. The emphasis to restore a brick-and-mortar retail environment to Main Street in a rapidly expanding era of internet sales is a lost cause. Silly consumer contests and the restoration of historic buildings was once thought to be the drawing card to the renaissance of the downtown area. Those efforts just haven’t panned out.
The PDC has done an about face and decided public projects, not the private ones that build the tax, will be the real saviors of the Urban Renewal District. Somebody at city hall, probably a transplant from a large urban area, has come to the conclusion that none of our city parks qualify as a suitable "gathering" area. They have decided that, despite having the Kiwanis, Til Taylor, Stillman, the Umatilla County Museum, Brownfield and the Riverfront parks, our city desperately needs something similar to Portland’s Pioneer Square, a central area for residents to hold demonstrations, panhandlers and drug dealers to conduct business, an area to just hang out or, as city officials refer to it, "gathering." Plans for such an area were commissioned over a decade ago, but wisely discarded.
A "study" to resurrect the project is being proposed at an estimated cost of $80,000. Have you looked at the riverbank since the flood? It’s a mess, dead and deadfall nonnative locust trees everywhere. Most residents, especially those that live along the river, would agree that the $80,000 would be better spent cleaning up the mess and perhaps even adding some new native pine and fir trees rather than creating another area that the city can’t adequately maintain.
It seems that the only thing the PDC has been really good at is piling up debt and shifting revenue away from the city budget that’s needed to maintain city infrastructure, creating a slush fund for special interest projects that really don’t benefit the average taxpayer. The wealthy just seem to get wealthier, the water bills go up, and the mayor wants higher taxes.
The one aspect that slips by with nary a mention is that every nickel the PDC spends must be borrowed from banks, and they must love it when the PDC comes knocking. Those loans mean profits that generally leave the community, much like those consultant fees city officials seem to hand out like candy.
It’ll probably take a good while to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. What city hall really could use instead is something that’s already available, a good dose of common sense.