August 21, 2012
I love Maine and hate elitist dinks from away who run crap magazines
Open letter in response to this, from my friend Rob Korobkin:
Dear Person Flipping Through Vex Magazine,
The conflict over the future of Congress Square is NOT - as the noxious know-it-all New York elitist fuck-head Mort Todd would have you believe - a battle between people living on the street and the "good" citizens of Portland. It's a battle between greedy investment bankers from Ohio who want to buy up the big open public space at the center of our fair city and sell it off to a multinational hotel conglomerate who would kick us ALL off of it and throw up an ass-ugly building so rich yuppies from away can drink $15 martinis, eat Sysco pigs-in-blankets and listen to shitty commercial pop music - and those of us who actually live here and would prefer not to lose our park.
Yeah, we know Congress Square is a concrete hole in the ground with few benches and even fewer trees - but, god damn it, it's OUR concrete hole in the ground! We're not saying we think it's perfect as it is - we're saying we'd rather keep it this way, for now, than lose it altogether. Even in its current form, it's still a wonderful place for outdoor punk shows, juggling, steel drummers, art sales and taking little kids to ride tricycles. We want to see it improve and become a fun place where everybody in Portland and beyond is welcome to hang out and enjoy being downtown. And, yeah, by everybody, we mean kids on skateboards, immigrants, families, travelers, seniors, people who don't always have a roof over their heads, you know, everybody! That's what it means to have a community.
This is Maine - we aren't pretentious twerps - our state was built by loggers and mill workers who didn't need sensitivity trainings in political correctness to know that communities like ours only get a say in the decisions that affect us when we stick together. As long as we're squabbling with our neighbors, saying nasty things about people down on their luck and staying buried in our own little rabbit holes - nobody in Power will give a shit about us.
If, on the other hand, we want to live in the kind of world that we can feel good about bringing children into, we need to start coming together and saying things like, hey, there's a fairly large, centrally located piece of land at the center of our city that has the potential to be a really nice public space. If we worked together and used some of those municipal dollars coming out of our rent checks, parking tickets and property tax payments, we could do something awesome! The city budget is about 160 MILLION dollars a year - that's our money, and we have every right to spend at least a little bit of it on making our city as pleasant as possible for us to live in. Whatever happens to the square, it should be a decision that we make together as Portlanders - not one that gets made for us by fat cat business interests looking to make money off the hospitality industrial complex. We have zero obligation to be "hospitable" to anybody who doesn't respect us and our city.
Or we could just be assholes. We could print condescending comics that depict how funny it would be if we all ganged up on Portland's street population - many of whom are veterans suffering with trauma and mental illness the likes of which most of us can't even imagine. We could turn our neighborhoods against each other, devolving our entire public discourse into a pathetic mishmash of chest-thumping and bleating, completely ignoring the very real threat that global institutions of private capital pose to our independence and basic liberties as a free city of hard-working, open-minded Mainers. The choice is yours.
Save Congress Square!