Murmurs: Roseland Under New Management

In other news: Low-key county race belies tensions.

ROSELAND UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: David Leiken, Portland’s most enduring concert promoter, has sold the company that manages the Roseland Theater to Mammoth Northwest for an undisclosed price. Leiken, 75, retains ownership of the Roseland and will take on a “coaching” role in the business through the end of the year. Mammoth, based in Lawrence, Kan., merged with Mike Thrasher Presents in 2021, following the death of Thrasher, who helped establish Portland as a touring destination for underground punk, metal and rap acts. Leiken, who ran his own concert-ticketing operation until 1999, when he sold it to TicketsWest, has been one of the industry’s most vocal critics of Ticketmaster, the ticketing giant now owned by Live Nation. While others folded in the face of Ticketmaster competition in the 1990s, Leiken’s FastTix fought on. Live Nation has come under scrutiny in the U.S. Senate, which has held hearings on whether the company holds monopoly power. Live Nation ate crow in November when its website crashed during sales for Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour.

LOW-KEY COUNTY RACE BELIES TENSIONS: The race to serve the remaining two years of Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson’s term as a county commissioner is so far a low-key affair featuring community activists Ana del Rocio and Albert Kaufman and Portland Public Schools board member Julia Brim-Edwards. Although Kaufman and Brim-Edwards have yet to disclose any campaign contributions, two of the names on del Rocio’s contributor list are noteworthy. One is PPS board chair Andrew Scott, in for $250, a snub to his colleague Brim-Edwards (two other current PPS board members have also endorsed del Rocio). Meanwhile, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, who works closely with the county board on transportation and homelessness, has also given $250 to del Rocio, perhaps a legacy of Brim-Edwards’ active role in helping her then-employer, Nike, submarine a multibillion-dollar transportation measure Peterson championed in 2020. “Everybody makes their own decision on who to support,” says Brim-Edwards, who notes she’s picked up endorsements from three former governors: Kate Brown, Ted Kulongoski and Barbara Roberts. Del Rocio says Scott’s and Peterson’s endorsements are signs of her broad appeal: “I’m the collaborative and forward-thinking candidate the county needs.”

GUN VIOLENCE DROPS AMID REVAMPING OF CITY PROGRAMS: In a bit of badly needed good news, the Portland Police Bureau reported last month that shootings and homicides were down year over year in January. There were 95 shootings that month, compared with 127 in January last year. Homicides declined from 9 to 6. “First time I’ve seen a negative number yet,” an ecstatic Mike Myers told county leaders in a meeting late last month. Myers, the city’s community safety director, credited hot-spot policing and new anti-violence programs, noting there hasn’t been a murder in the Old Town Entertainment District since the city began closing streets and increasing the police presence there in September. The drop is also welcome news for Mayor Ted Wheeler, who in the midst of record-breaking homicides announced a series of initiatives called Safer Summer PDX to address the violence. The timeline of the program was never clear. One of the initiative’s leaders, Shareef Khatib, completed his six-month, $105,000 contract in November. And many of the outreach contracts Khatib signed with local community leaders haven’t yet been renewed, sparking some grumbling. “The work is scaled down mightily,” one of the contractors, Lionel Irving, told KATU-TV on March 13. “We had 11 guys on the streets, you know. Right now, we got three.”

TRAFFIC DEATHS TIE RECORD: Sixty-three people died in car crashes last year, matching 2021 for the highest number of deaths ever on Portland’s streets. Nearly half of those people, 28, were on foot, according to an annual report compiled by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Four were cyclists and 11 were riding motorcycles. More than two-thirds of the deaths occurred in what the city calls its “high crash corridors,” a selection of the busiest streets that includes particularly deadly thoroughfares like Southeast Powell Boulevard, Southeast Division Street and Northeast Glisan Street. In recent years, the city has focused its transportation safety projects, including better signage, crosswalks and traffic barriers, on those streets. While walking deaths remain high, one prominent trend from 2021 has declined. That year, 70% of pedestrians who died were homeless. In 2022, 36% of pedestrians killed were homeless.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT SAVED: The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously March 14 for the county’s housing authority to negotiate the purchase of Woodspring Apartments, a 172-unit affordable housing development built in 1991 with tax credit financing. A San Francisco investment firm bought Woodspring in 2015, anticipating the expiration of rent limits when the project’s 20-year affordability period ended. Tenants, many of whom are elderly and living on fixed incomes, faced rent increases of $600 to $800 a month at the end of this year. Margot Black, a tenant advocate who organized and rallied residents to plead their case to county commissioners, notes that Woodspring is something of a canary in the coal mine because thousands of affordable units across the state will see their affordability periods end in coming years. “We are thrilled that our hard work and dedication have paid off,” said 80-year-old Lois Keck, a tenant for over 20 years and co-chair and spokeswoman of the Woodspring Tenants Association. “Our community means everything to us, and we are grateful that we can continue to age in place.”

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