I attended a scheduled happy hour last night at Dos Hombres in the River Market. It was arranged by the Downtown Neighborhood Association, with whom my friend Matt is patiently affiliated. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I saw. I got off work, came home, changed out of my work clothes into comfortable clothes, including shorts, and walked the half mile over to the River Market.
The first surprising thing I saw was a shocking abundance of parked cars, many of which were emptying out single passengers bound for Dos Hombres. I didn't even think about walking over. It's just what you do when you live downtown. I leave my car at home almost all the time. Apparently, I was relatively unique in thinking that a 70-degree day would be a popular day for downtown residents to walk over to the River Market. I was unpleasantly surprised when I heard people complaining about the parking.
My surprises didn't end there. I walked into the bar and was so stunned that I bumped into someone's chair. Everyone was not only well-dressed, but beautiful, and apparently successful. Almost everyone was white. I made my way to the back room, and came across two people I knew- Nick and Matt, and engaged in awkward conversation with some strangers.
I usually feel out of place when I go out. I actually like it. But even so, last night was singularly uncomfortable. A guy in a suit, clutching a margarita, stood on a chair to address the assembled crowd. I liked the irony of this very much. I stopped enjoying the situation though, when he started talking. He talked about the billions of dollars that are being invested in downtown, and how the new arena and entertainment district are currently being built in place of what was once an unfavorable area. I definitely agreed with this, but for different reasons than the elaboration he offered.
I always considered it a dead zone because it was filled with a bunch of vacant lots, surface parking lots, a smattering of derelict buildings, and a couple decent bars. The guy elaborated that what was there before the wrecking ball dropped was a couple of strip clubs and seedy bars. I didn't really consider that much of a reason to demolish the amount of space they did, but judging by the nods of assent, chuckles, and outright cheers around me, I was likely alone with this opinion. He went on to talk about how the Downtown Council was working to make downtown a safer place, increasing the police presence, passing useless laws to outlaw pandhandling(an inadvertently outlawing street performance of any kind), and employing more second-chance people in yellow jackets to pick up garbage.
He didn't seem very interested in making downtown a great place to live, work, and play. He seemed much more interested in catering to the folks that want to increase the value of their property. Such goals are dangerous, in my opinion. Working to make a neighborhood exciting(with bars, restaurants, shops, residences, and places of business) is a much better goal, in my opinion, and it'll serve to increase property values anyway. I think working with the singular goal of increasing property values lends itself to encouraging short-term real estate speculators, the bane of long-term neighborhood values, that don't care a whit about downtown. They just want to buy low, get a 5-year ARM, make their money, and increase the lending risk for suckers like me that actually care about downtown, and want to see it become and stay a great neighborhood.
Anyway, the public speaking segment of the event kind of disgusted me. I have recently bought and moved into a downtown condo, so I suppose I'm one of the property owners after whom these people seem to be toading up, but the whole thing made me think that renters probably wouldn't even be welcome, since they're not directly financially invested in downtown. Just before my big purchase, I rented a great place over in Quality Hill for over three years, so I guess the, "renters are people too," rhetoric is still fresh in my mind.
What I heard the speakers saying all seemed to smack of blatant commercial elitism. I'd had enough, and it was a little crowded for my taste too. Nick and I left, and spent the rest of the evening enjoying downtown the way we like: around a table at Grinders, drinking good beer and talking about whatever often banal, seldom intellectual topics might materialize. I didn't see anyone else from Dos Hombres there.
You should seriously consider running for city council. With your no nonsense approach towards development I think you have alot to offer. A serious downside is you may end up coming close to strangling your counterparts.
1:57 PM, Apr 19, 2007
We would defeat him! We have more money! Mu-ha!
2:48 PM, Apr 20, 2007
if whatsherface with the nailsalon can get a council seat, I'm sure you can too. Especially if you ply the people with beer.
5:28 PM, Apr 20, 2007
Thanks for the votes of confidence/hostility, but I don't have much interest in joining the low-paying, mind-crushing boredom that is public service. I prefer making unix machines dance.
6:00 PM, Apr 20, 2007