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Letter to Portland City Council on Demolishing the Grove Hotel

In countermeasures against the neoliberal rollback, the City Council could show itself as alive and not an errand boy of the developers. Bill Moyers described the state as "an errand boy for the banks." Elections are tests to whether truth or jive are to govern, private interests of Wall Street, Saudi Arabia or the public interests of the millennials.
April 15, 2016

Dear Mayor Hales and Portland Councilpersons,

On April 11 the demolition of the Grove Hotel (Burnside and 5th Ave) began. Why not make the new structure into a community center and an SRO hotel (single-room occupancy)? Since the neoliberal rollback began around 1980 (deregulation, privatization and liberalized markets), developers, financiers and speculators were courted and enriched while low-income workers and the public sector suffered.

A nine-story boutique hotel that could replace the Grove Hotel would be an out-of-scale monstrosity on Burnside. Does the City Council recognize poor and low-income folk as people, even the majority in the downtown sector? Low income people need the downtown core for its proximity to services and inexpensive meals.

Two months ago the Portland Mercury suggested the Portland City Council take over the Joyce Hotel on 11th and re-open the Fish Grotto for community meals. The Vancouver B.C. city council rehabilitates a certain number of dilapidated hotels in the Downtown East Side every year. As a counter-measure, this creates public spirit and positive support for city government. Vancouver has 26 community centers, some with swimming pools that take your breath away. The Carnegie Community Center is funded by the province and gives working and non-working a sense that they are included and welcome in the modern world. Casserole dinners only cost $3.50 and everyone can use the computers for 3 hours a day. The annual membership card costs $1. Portland could and should become more like Vancity!

The Washington school on Belmont and 12th has been vacant for more than a decade. Converting this into a community centers and low income housing (maybe operated by Central City Concern) would restore people's confidence in government.

Housing is a human right and cannot be left to the unregulated market. If you are unsure about this, perhaps you need to spend one or two decades in the Bay Area -- where three or four Latino families share a studio to survive.

On the positive side, a 15-story hotel was planned for 11th and Alder. I sent United Way an email and urged that "reuse" not become a nonsense word. They apparently reconsidered and took down the notices of a new hotel.

On macro-economics, there are several ideas that I would emphasize. (1) Closing the 50+
Tax havens, restoring corporate taxes and ending corporate tax welfare will bring billions of new revenue into city, state and national budgets. (2) Competition and cooperation strengthen each other. All personal and corporate achievement was based on public investments in roads, schools, hospitals, airwaves, food safety, water quality etc. (3) The market is not a self-healing or self-correcting panacea but an efficient instrument after we decide what kind of society we want. The SF-condo model exists alongside other models including the Vancouver B.C. model of community centers and rehabilitated hotels.

I am excited to have authored a 159-page e-book anthology "Alternative Economics: Reversing Stagnation" from Smashwords.com. Austrian, Swiss, Polish and German economists could show us the way to a future-friendly economy respectful of human nature and the rights of nature. Mainstream trickle-down economics has no answer to exploding inequality and destruction of the environment. This book includes an appendix "Myths of the Economy" which outlines 29 state myths, labor myths, business myths and social myths. The state is not a business or a household but can make investments to improve life for future generations. What is rational from a micro-economic perspective (e.g. competition) can be disastrous from a macro-economic perspective (e.g. mass unemployment).

Thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to your comments and to a future of generalized security, to a great surprise Bernie Sanders victory and to counter-measures to exploding inequality and jobless growth.

Marc Batko
Portland OR

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