By Lee Perlman
For the Hollywood Star News, July, 2010
To speed along development of what was considered to be a necessary facility, the Portland Development Commission and the Portland City Council last month approved allocation of $2 million from the Central East Side urban renewal district for a new Mental Health Crisis Center within the old Hooper Detox Center on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Couch Street. The facility will be a place for the police to bring people undergoing a mental health “crisis.”
Members of the district’s advisory committee, who provide input to the expenditure of the district’s funds and learned of the action in the press, were saying, “What about us?” They said more.
“This has become sort of the norm, and I for one have had it,” Susan Pearce of Hosford-Abernethy said. “Why are we here?”
“It’s not the first time, and we should make it the last time,” Urban Renewal Advisory Committee member Rick Michaelson said. “It’s totally inappropriate, and it sets a precedent that three guys can do what they want with these funds.”
URAC chair Susan Lindsay of Buckman said, “This was a response to the latest (police) shooting and a history of mentally ill people being in danger of being killed by the police when they act up. I don’t disagree with that, but I would have appreciated at least getting a phone call. It’s a flat-out money grab.”
For some members it went beyond the matter of process. Michael Whitmore of Kerns said, “We’ve seen the bulk of the district’s funds go for things that benefit the city as a whole rather than the district, and few of them generate (tax increment funding.) The city is missing the mark by a mile.”
Indeed, an issue is that so little of the district’s funds have been spent on projects calculated to generate tax revenue that there is only debt, rather than cash, to pay for what has been appropriated.