Strike out Portland

March 08, 2001 12:00 am

In Baker City, some boosters touted beer as a make or break issue.

In Portland, its a much taller, colder one: $150 million.

Portland-area legislators want the state to play ball on a $150 million enticement to bring a major league baseball team to the Rose City.

Thank goodness Gov. John Kitzhaber will ump this ill-conceived inning. The governors push for aid to distressed rural areas puts the baseball fans behind in the count from the get go.

But baseball cliches aside, something is clear in the bare fact that some state lawmakers can see baseball in Portland versus roads and sewers in rural Oregon as the states best bang for its economic development buck.

The Urban-Rural Divide.

Its another cliche, but the insistence of Kitzhaber and other state leaders to keep attention focused on prosperity for all of Oregon cant be allowed to be drowned out by Portlands dreams of living out a hey, beer man! fantasy at the ballpark.

Certainly, publically-funded stadiums are commonplace today.

The city of Portland is already underwriting part of the cost of renovating the old Civic Stadium, home in the past to a rotating cast of minor league baseball teams.

Seattle agreed to demolish the Kingdome to make way for a new football stadium. Microsoft billionaire and Blazer owner Paul Allen is footing the bill of running a seasons worth of Seahawk football at the University of Washingtons Husky Stadium.

Unfortunately, just as commonplace are rural communities that cant pay to maintain their roads or upgrade their sewer and water systems to meet modern water quality standards.

The city of Sumpter is a rare example of a community that voluntarily shouldered a massive tax burden to modernize its water system. That represents a willingness by this once-ghost town to embrace life and the potential for growth.

Other communities have not been so brave. Prairie City voted down a water system tax levy last year, leaving them no way to pay for improvements needed to bring the city into compliance with state and federal standards.

And the city of Huntington turned down a similar measure, leaving the city with no additional water system capacity with which to attract new business.

Naturally, we side with Gov. Kitzhaber on this debate.

We would hope the people of the Portland metropolitan area would, too.

Because saying a community enriched by thousands of jobs and several major, worldwide corporations needs the help of the state legislature to snag a baseball team necessitates saying it will be A-OK if some of this states smallest communities dry up and blow away.

And that is precisely the fate this major leauge misstep deserves.