June 19th, 2009 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Round Two: Randy Leonard Vs. Lents Neighbors — Why Lents May Be Cheering Today


We'll have more on the stadium deal, as KGW is reporting that Beavers owner Merritt Paulson is pulling his Lents stadium proposal, in a bit.

Maybe Paulson's decision arose from last night's community meeting, which did not go well for Paulson or Commissioner Randy Leonard.

Leonard went before Lents residents again to make his pitch for putting minor-league baseball in Lents Park, but the neighborhood's hostility toward the proposal appeared to have grown since Leonard last visited Southeast Portland to discuss the stadium deal.

One reason for the anger at Mt. Scott Community Center Thursday night might have been the constantly changing landscape of the stadium deal. Originally, the Lents Urban Renewal Advisory Committee was to be voting Thursday night on whether to use $42.3 million in Lents urban renewal money for the baseball project. At the last minute, the vote was delayed until next week, June 25. At the same time, Mayor Sam Adams announced the baseball proposal was being divorced from the effort to bring Major League Soccer to Portland.

Anyway, Leonard was heckled pretty intensely. And at moments, audience members in the front of the room had to hold up little fluorescent-colored signs prodding people to "be nice" and reminding them that "civility rules."

That wasn't even the weirdest part of the evening. The thrust of Leonard's argument on behalf of the stadium was that folks downtown don't want minor-league baseball in Lents because they think Lents is crime-filled and unpleasant. Lents is, in fact, neither the poorest neighborhood in Portland nor the most dangerous. "There's been a whisper campaign downtown and in City Hall about the Lents community," Leonard said, that has perpetuated a myth about Lents "that is as untrue as it is unfair."

"That's not Lents! This is Lents," one man shouted at Leonard. "The City Council is out of its mind," another yelled.

Leonard, for his part, stayed at the meeting longer than Paulson, who was also greeted harshly by the crowd when he went before the urban renewal committee. He gave a very brief statement, then left the Mt. Scott Community Center.

That didn't stop many of the 40 people who testified against the project from taking shots at Leonard and Paulson throughout the night. (Only one person spoke in favor of the project; a poll of the audience revealed 70 percent of the several hundred people who had gathered saw absolutely no benefit to bringing the baseball stadium to Lents.)

"Randy Leonard seems to think if we were properly informed, we would be for the stadium," one man said. "I am properly informed, and I am very, very against the stadium."

Another woman, referring to Leonard's build-it-and-they-will-come sentiment, said someone should tell Leonard "The Field of Dreams was a Hollywood movie picture."

"They're working for Merritt Paulson," another audience member testified. "They're not working for Southeast Portland."

The weirdest part of the evening was the closing, when the facilitator for the three-and-a-half-hour meeting (after noting that seven clickers that audience members had used to take a poll on the project were missing) declared the event "Lents hospitality at its best."
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