May 21st, 2009 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Sports, City Hall

Paulson on Lents Neighbors: "That Straw Poll Is Worth a Whole Lot of Nothing."


At the end of last night's meeting of the Lents neighborhood association, residents took a straw poll by quickly raising their hands to indicate whether they supported building a new public-private baseball stadium in Lents Park.

A neighborhood association rep also asked folks to indicate if they were undecided.

Merritt Paulson, the owner of the Portland Beavers baseball team that wants to move to Lents Park, called WW this morning to object to WW's reporting on the vote. Paulson did not attend the meeting. But his lobbyist, at least two representatives of the mayor's office and Commissioner Randy Leonard did.

"That straw poll is worth a whole lot of nothing to begin with," Paulson said. "The fact is irrefutable that anytime there's a squeaky wheel, somebody who's against something, they're predisposed to show up at a meeting. It's much harder to get a supporter to come to a meeting."

This winter, the Lents neighborhood association mailed 9,000 surveys to homes in the Lents area before there was a price tag of $42.3 million on the proposal. (According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are about 6,000 households in Lents.) About 900 people responded to the survey. Of those who answered the question, 37.3 percent said they "very much" supported the stadium. About 25 percent said they "somewhat" supported it. Almost 10 percent had no opinion. Six percent said they "somewhat" did not support it. And 23 percent said they did not support the stadium "at all."

Paulson had more to say about the meeting last night. "I know there were some raised voices and stuff but any one of these meetings is predisposed to have people who have any negative feelings come out disproportionately," Paulson said. "We were all surprised that the ratios were what they were, and they were different from what I saw in your piece."

Both WW and The Portland Mercury independently reported on the vote. The Merc wrote about half of those attending Wednesday night's meeting opposed the project. WW wrote the split was 2 to 1 against it. Paulson says he disagreed with our estimates. "It was something like 30 percent were for it," Paulson says. "Forty percent were against it, and 20 percent needed more information to make up their mind."

Photo by Jarod Opperman
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