Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where's the blight?

A story I had in today's paper. One thing I really want to do in journalism is find people who others might dismiss (the crazy lady who protests at every city council meeting, for instance) and humanize them, find out why they believe the way they do, how they come to be. This profile, I think, does that:

HILLSBORO -- Not too long ago, Sharon Cornish sat in the public testimony hot seat, telling the Hillsboro City Council, yet again, why she doesn't approve of its downtown urban renewal plan. As Cornish railed against the council, a group of boy scouts giggled in the back.

Cornish is Hillsboro's resident gadfly. She comes to every meeting, armed with maps and print-outs of relevant laws, to protest.

And why shouldn't people laugh? Cornish can seem a little odd. She speaks in arresting lilts and frequently accuses councilors of being socialists. She keeps her long blond hair pulled into a pony tail off the side of her head, and she punctuates her public testimonies with a creaky take-off on the old burger ads: "Where's the blight?"

But listen closely. Cornish is asking a serious question. Who decides when an area is so run-down, so in need of renewal that government has to step in and use public money to entice private development? Who decides blight?

Urban renewal districts are by nature controversial. Cities cap property taxes on an identified blighted area for, say, 20 years. Any new tax dollars above the cap during the two decades is reinvested into the district.

The result? The "blighted" areas become newer, shinier, more lucrative. But not everyone wants change.

Other people come to argue against urban renewal in Hillsboro, but they're quieter, given to softly beseeching on the rare occasions they even show up.

Then there's Cornish, always there, unapologetically angry and outspoken.

Let the boy scouts giggle. She hated urban renewal long before she knew what it was.

Read the rest on Oregonlive


Keith Porter said...

This is a very nice story. Well written and insightful. Your curiosity is a real gift. Keep up the good work!
Keith Porter

amanda allen said...

There was this amazing interesting and yes slightly cooky older black lady on my bus yesterday, who had on a clear and gold oversized party hat on that said HAPPY NEW YEAR and she was licking salad dressing out of the cap of the bottle. She was extremely friendly and positive I was really kicking myself for not having any sort of camera on me, I'm pretty sure she would've let me take a photo of her. When I got off the bus she raised her hand in the air and shouted "HAPPY NEW YEAR HONEY! BREAK A RECORD A THIS YEAR!" I thought it was a really nice sentiment