Is There New Hope for Portland Black’s Economic Future Supported by PDC?

Is there new hope for Portland Black’s economic future supported by PDC?

The controversy about PDC’s decision to sell property on the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Alberta to an out of state developer opens up a ton of questions about the economic future of Portland’s black citizens. The developers intend to build a Trader Joe store on the location and the proposal has sparked consternation from some community leaders and approval from others.

Until recently there has been no group or public agency intentionally planning or focusing on the economic welfare of Portland’s black community. The city of Portland and PDC have failed to demonstrate sustainable efforts to improve the overall economic welfare of the black community in Portland.

To say there is pent up resentment and anger in the black community about the history of PDC’s treatment or mistreatment of investments in the Northeast Portland black community is an understatement. The black community has watched PDC coddle investments made in the Pearl, favoring already well-established developers and residents subsidized with federal dollars. PDC used the statically deplorable conditions of blacks in northeast Portland to acquire federal dollars and proceeded to transfer the benefits to areas like the Pearl and South Water front. In contrast to well-heeled areas, they invented a series of token programs in northeast Portland like the store front façade (store front improvement) program. It is difficult to tie any of these programs to job creation for the black community. The Oregonian’s January 15th editorial “PDC Should Keep Jobs Focus” is a tragic reminder that damaging policies that impact the white community are catastrophic for the black community.

Just as catastrophic is PDC’s and traditional city officials’ proliferation and support of token black leaders. Instead of rewarding black leaders based on the value proposition of improving conditions for a black constituency, they reward the most articulate, crafty con-artist types. This ferments confusion, mistrust, division and ultimately chaos, giving everybody reason to avoid any serious attempt to align black economic interest with the broader goals of PDC and the city.

For the black community it makes no difference whether it is pre or post recession. The economic numbers are at the bottom. And the black community is eternally chasing solutions to what are symptoms of economic neglect. The entire discussion about gentrification is a case in point.

There are signs that the Mayor and others at PDC are trying to get this right, but the jury is still out. Hopefully they will not contribute to a dysfunctional process and hold all parties accountable for results…community based black businesses that generate more community based black jobs.

James Posey

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