October 29th, 2009 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Made in Oregon's "Public Option"

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Two weeks ago, WW first reported the "Made in Oregon" sign had been turned off owing to a dispute among city officials, the University of Oregon, the owner of the White Stag building and the owner of the sign.

Then The Oregonian reported an additional twist. Commissioner Randy Leonard, in a second attempt to bring the sign under the city's control, would support what the O called a "public option" in which the city would buy the sign to own it.

Clever! But now it seems that phrase was too clever, in that mention of a "public option" appears to have cursed the "Made in Oregon" debate with the same bad karma plaguing the federal health-care debate.

To update: Ramsay Signs president Darryl Paulsen was to have met with Leonard on Tuesday to discuss the sign's future. Because of a scheduling conflict, Paulsen had to cancel. Now the two aren't supposed to meet again until mid-November, Paulsen says. Meantime, the "Made in Oregon" sign remains darkened. And with only four weeks until Thanksgiving and the official start of the holiday season, Rudolph's little red nose remains threatened with extinction.

Leonard chief of staff Ty Kovatch says they don't intend to negotiate in the media and that his boss looks forward to meeting with Paulsen next month.

Paulsen says the sign is worth $1 million as an advertising tool. City officials and Art DeMuro, whose Venerable Properties owns the rooftop lease at the White Stag building, want Paulsen to donate the $1 million sign. But right now he says he's willing to donate only half of its value, meaning the city or a private donor would have to come up with $500,000 for the "public option" to become a reality.

Given how little support there was on City Council back in April to pay $500,000 for the sign, the "Made in Oregon" sign's public option seems about as likely as a "yes" vote on federal health-care legislation from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).
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