Posted by Randy Leonard
Today I filed an ordinance that authorizes the City to utilize its eminent domain authority to condemn the "Made in Oregon" sign and bring it under City ownership. As I discussed in a previous post, I am taking this action because I believe the sign is a unique part of our skyline and is a visual ambassador that represents Portland when images of our city are shown all over the world. University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer's efforts to change the sign to “University of Oregon” would confiscate a Portland community asset and exchange it for the exclusive benefit of the Eugene-based University. I cannot in good conscience allow that to occur unchallenged.
The decision to pursue condemnation is not one I arrive at lightly. I have pursued every other avenue I know of to avoid it—I offered to have the City purchase the sign; I offered to help the University of Oregon receive City approval to construct a new prolific sign near their satellite campus; and I appealed to Dave Frohnmayer to apply a more neutral message on the sign. Further, many members of our community have reached out to Mr. Frohnmayer, including local business leaders, Portland State University Administration members and Alumni, Oregon University System representatives, and historic preservationists, to request that he choose another path. Those overtures have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. At every turn, Mr. Frohnmayer has made it clear that he believes he has the legal right to change the sign to “University of Oregon” and his behavior would suggest that he believes he is exempt from responsibility to be a considerate new member of the Portland community.
Mr. Frohnmayer may be right that the Oregon Constitution provides him the legal right to put whatever words he chooses on the iconic sign. To put his position in perspective, the Oregon Constitution would afford the sign’s owner the right to put “Porno Palace” on the sign if that suited them. Given the history, uniqueness, and prominence of the sign, I believe the sign’s message should serve a public purpose higher than the minimum standard allowable under the law.
Dave Frohnmayer is foregoing the opportunity to work with the Portland community on an outcome that could be beneficial to the interests of the broader public and the University, and instead is exercising his legal option to serve only the narrower interests of the University. Now that I have exhausted every other political option available to the City, the City is forced to play by Dave Frohnmayer's rules and use the legal options available to Portland to defend an important City icon.
This item will be discussed at the April 1, 2009 Council hearing (located at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Avenue) and public testimony will be taken. Council begins a 9:30 AM and the sign-up sheets for public testimony are located outside the Council Chambers.
Read the Oregonian's coverage of this story here.
See FOX 12's coverage here.
See NW Cable News' coverage here.
Read the Oregonian Editorial about the issue.