While house sitting in the Foster-Powell neighborhood this summer I became fascinated with what looks like a grass-roots campaign spearheaded by a local business taking on the mighty City of Portland. The store caught my interest when I was walking toward it on Foster Road. I was experiencing the neighborhood for the first time. As I walked, I soaked in the area’s atmosphere, looking over the businesses, the side-streets, walking past restaurants and then I saw a building with murals. These were sure to be scenes of old Portland, I thought. When I was close enough I saw that the murals were of a tower and castle which made sense given the business name EuroClassic Furniture. I presented information about my confusion for the Save Foster Road campaign a couple of posts ago. I was concerned about the area with some of the buildings appearing shabby even as I noticed new life in the places I’d passed. The subtitle of the banner declared the cause: SAVE FOSTER and Keep 4 Driving Lanes.
I have no say in this battle. I don’t know the area but I can sense how change feels threatening and the powerlessness people experience when city leaders make decisions. I understand the side of those responsible for the banner and the signs in the furniture store windows. This is a business that represents itself on-line as a proud family owned establishment that celebrating 80 years in Portland. The window signs reveals as much of the story as any homemade posters can. Their handwritten script with thick and thin lettering has a folk art feel. Capitalized words blare their rally cry. A message addressing councilman Dan Saltzman as “Uncle Dan” urges street plan opponents to call him and it includes a phone number. Another sign expresses the desires of a mysterious Mr. Magoo who “wants Foster to stay just the way it is.” The sign says “we all agree with him!”
Window posters explain that the project is a waste of gas tax money and will “mess up” Foster Road requiring more fuel for cars stuck in traffic back ups while increasing pollution in the area. Another poster warns how jammed traffic will get. Cars will be “backed up for many blocks,” it says. More signs beg for a compromise asking the city to make Foster Road safe without inconveniencing the people who drive on it.
To offer background information let me refer you to information gleaned from a news broadcast that aired May 3, 2016. The project involves reducing Foster Road from four lanes to two with a center turn lane and wide bike lanes. The reporter, speaking in front of EuroClassic Furniture for the late night broadcast, explained that people were, “speaking out and making signs” in protest. With emphasis he pointed to the EuroClassic Furniture window signs noting they were “Bright Neon Green Signs.” I was struck that these signs were written in a block letter style–different from the ones in the windows as of early September of this year. More facts included a mention of 1200 accidents resulting in 8 deaths in the past decade. The Portland Bureau of Transportation estimated that the lane reductions would only increase commute times by three minutes. As a sidenote, I’d be curious to know what physics equation allowed them to make that estimate. The report ended with a quote from then Commissioner Steve Novick who said, “The city is doing it because we want more parts of Portland to be places where it’s safe for kids to walk and bike to school.”
Construction was scheduled to happen way back in 2016 but hasn’t happened yet. It looks like it’s now scheduled for the spring of 2018. It’s not too late to call Uncle Dan.