Urban Conditional (21)

Hungry Hungry Housing (Yes, Portland Is Dying)

Though a clerical error almost made the rent stabilization conversation moot before the debate could even begin, housing activists should mark their calendars for September 6th. That’s when the Portland City Council is set to vote on amendments to the inclusive zoning provision of the city code.   The changes amount to some very modest density incentives aimed at developers of affordable housing to make their projects viable. The amendments were written to be sensitive…

The Semiotics of Spring

About the nicest thing one can say about winters in Maine is that you don’t need to travel too far south to find warmer weather. Spring, though, is somewhat more fickle. There can be glorious warm weather from late April to late June, or there could be cold black rain running just short of Independence Day. The fact is that we have five seasons in Maine: spring (such that it is), summer, fall, early winter,…

In looking for a site to honor MLK, what’s old is what’s renewal

In what was thought to be a fait accompli, the Portland City Council Transportation Committee backed off from a proposal to change the name of Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard.   The episode represents something of a political nosebleed for City Manager Jon Jennings who brought the proposal to the Council committee. The motives are not entirely clear, but some have speculated that it was done to boost Councilor Jill Duson’s (who sits…

Sidewalk Politics

  Among all the emotional political issues in our city, sidewalk-paving surfaces — brick, in particular — rank surprisingly high. Opinions are split. One West End resident has been begging the city to restore her sidewalk to brick for years. Others would love to be rid of theirs. As with curly hair or pretty much any subjective measure of beauty, people want what they don’t have and have what they don’t want. The city code…

May the New Year bring back basic needs for everyone

Housing was the issue in Portland for 2016. In fact, it was also the issue of 2015. 2015 Redux Late in the year, the Portland Press Herald ran a series of stories on the housing shortage declaring the situation a crisis. If you would like to review their "No Vacancy" series, pretty much any subsequent Press Herald article links to it. The series raised awareness.  The coverage coincided with a referendum on the development of 58…

Sick Building: The Maine Medical Center's $512,000,000 Expansion

Maine Medical Center dug through its couch cushions and came up with $512 million to spend on an expansion of its Portland campus. Although the plan doesn't add any new beds, it does call for 128 new rooms — which the hospital must have in order to meet new demands of patient care and stay competitive in a growing industry. In addition to being a renowned hospital, Maine Medical Center is one of the largest…

Sick building: Medical expansion comes at an aesthetic cost

Maine Medical Center dug through its couch cushions and came up with $512,000,000 to spend on an expansion of its Portland campus. Although the plan doesn’t add any new beds, it does call for 128 new rooms — which the hospital must have to meet new demands of patient care; or to stay competitive in a growing industry. In addition to being a renowned hospital, Maine Medical Center (MMC) is one of the largest employers…

Green creep: When wilderness overtakes city streets

The term “Green Streets” suggests a healthy Wonka-esque utopia of lush boulevards where children and cyclists may pluck ripe fruit from a carbon neutral and bee friendly landscape. The more common reality, however, evokes a dystopian cinematic terrain, perhaps Planet of the Apes. Sidewalks, whether constructed of brick, asphalt or cement, are subject to cracks and deferred maintenance, weeds that grow in fissures and abandoned tree wells. This time of year many sidewalks have reverted…

A cold, silent ‘scream

On Dec. 15, 1968, Philadelphia Eagles fans booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snow balls. This iconic moment of ill will has defined the coarse pride that Philadelphians take in their city; it also sums up my feelings about summer in Maine. It isn’t the crowds, or the tourists, or the traffic as these things are either over-stated or are integral to cultural and economic life of our industries  and institutions (if you don’t…

The Veterans Bridge was rebuilt Fore no good reason

There I was with my stupid bicycle, amid a cohort of cycling activists, as part of a larger audience listening to a prattling National Guard Colonel, when I realized that I was being played as a sucker. It was a warm summer day four years ago, a friend had asked if I wanted to go to the opening of the new Veterans Memorial Bridge. The new bridge was built to “last 100 years” and featured…
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