What is wrong with Portland’s current leaders?
Yesterday someone at the City of Portland decided to erect a massive plywood wall around City Hall. According to KATU it was installed to prevent people from spray painting the cherished limestone walls and, “to help preserve city resources, as a team has had to clean the buildings each day.”
With our city in mass upheaval over the killing of George Floyd and many other Black people at the hands of a racist and rotten policing system, graffiti has become rampant all over downtown. It will come off someday, but only when people feel like their voices matter.
Walling off our City Hall like it’s some type of fortress or castle? That’s absurd, deeply troubling, and a great way to guarantee more graffiti.
Democracy requires that the power structure (literally and figuratively) is always open and accessible. When I came to Portland in 2004 and started to get involved with politics and activism, I vividly remember my first visits to City Hall. I recall being pleasantly surprised at how open the building was and how easily I could get into a meeting room or an office of my elected leaders. It was inspiring. I felt connected to the system. I felt like my voice mattered. I felt like I could effect real change.
Then came those annoying metal detectors. Then came the security guards who search our bags every visit. And now this damn wall.
And what was really shocking is that the wall completely blocks the sidewalk in front of the building. There’s a complete lack of accessibility and a blatant violation of ADA standards. If you want to walk into City Hall you have to climb over a large concrete barrier and/or walk in the street. That is inexcusable.
Fortunately the city seems to have come to their senses and the wall will be removed. According to KATU, “In a statement, the city said that while the wall was intended to protect the building and minimize expenses, the city needed to ‘hear our community’s demands for racial justice, even when those demands take the form of spray paint.'”
But the damage has been done. The symbolism of walling-off our City Hall is worse than the closure itself. Much of the anger in our streets today is because people feel like their voices don’t matter. Hiding from this dissent makes it stronger and makes our leaders look weak.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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