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Friday, March 9, 2007

Here's your vision: You're screwing up

Fascinating piece in the Trib about the Vision Quest surveys. A large majority of those who responded don't like the direction in which Portland is heading -- particularly the Pearl and SoWhat districts. And already the pooh-poohing has begun:

At the same time, Leonard said he does not know how seriously to take such comments because the surveys conducted to date have not been scientific.

“Are these comments really reflective of a large number of Portlanders, or is it just pockets of people in certain neighborhoods?” he said.

Right, we'll never know. On with the convention center hotel!

Comments (21)

Leonard said he does not know how seriously to take such comments because the surveys conducted to date have not been scientific.

Translation- "THEY'RE ON TO US! SPIN! SPIN!"

Fireman Randy's a very smart, very slippery politician. Bill-Clinton-esque. As with Bubba, when he's on the same side as you, that's a good thing.

It is funny how politicians (and others too) ignore the parts of a survey that may be contrary to their thinking. But when a survey fits their agenda, watch out!

How scientific are public hearings conducted by the city council? As to the comments of people who testify at those hearings -- are their comments really reflective of a large number of Portlanders, or do they merely reflect the opinions of pockets of people in certain neighborhoods? Does Fireman Randy hold city council meetings and hearings to the same standard he suggests should apply to analysis of the 13,000 questionnaires referred to in the Trib's article? Just wondering ...

Leonard said he does not know how seriously to take such comments because the surveys conducted to date have not been scientific.

Translation: "Leonard said he does not know how to align himself on this issue until the scientific reports are in from his index finger which (one earnestly hopes) is currently in the breeze gathering "data".

he's right--the surveys aren't scientific, or particularly well-constructed.

what they did, in a nutshell (i've talked to the people doing it and seen the surveys) is to send surveyors out to whatever public events they saw listed in local calendars--carnivals, fairs, concerts--and asked them some pretty open-ended questions, like "what is your vision for Portland in the next xxx years?"

the answers were predictable: less taxes. less traffic. less crime. more parks. more money for communities. more jobs. affordability.

in other words--what the Mayor and his team should've already known when taking office.

The next step will be a closed question survey in the agree disagree format in which the questions are structured as to result in the outcome intended by the questioners. Just like some of the budget and transportation forums we've seen in the past.


A few weeks ago Bojack posted a survey (not the VisionQuest) by the city of 800 respondents. What was interesting was the questions (formed as Dave Lister describes above)didn't necessarily have the typical "less traffic, less crime, more parks" answers since they were "leading questions". The most interesting part,if one read the whole 80 pages of the survey, were the "comments" allowed to be written by the sent out questionaires. The comments in large part didn't like the direction Portland is heading. Jack, you might want to attach that survey to this post. I don't think many bloggers read the whole survey, and it seems relevant to what the Trib article suggests. Maybe with two similar surveys the politicians and planners will start to understand the discontent.

Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of the police union's president Robert King's response to the racial-profiling study.

The powers-that-be here in Oregon sure waste a lot of time and money on do-nothing surveys, task forces, studies, and special commissions. While I'm all for doing the proper amount and kind of research before making policy decisions, etc., pols around here use 'em to avoid the subject - while trying to maintain the illusion that they're doing something useful.

Remember the foster care scandals at DHS when Ward Weaver killed Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis? Big task force, lots of recommendations, a whole lot of hand wringing.

Flash forward a couple of years, and we've got the foster care/DHS scandals involving Jordan Knapp and Ashton Parris. More task forces (now spiffed up with a new, 'super-serious' name: Critical Incident Response Team), SAME recommendations and hand-wringing, but no change.

Now just a few months ago, that little girl dies in Gresham in the care of her foster parents. And the latest evaluation of CPS, STILL shows the same problems - i.e., no one checks on these kids once they're placed, it seems.

Well, go figure. Who'd a thunk it?

Then there is the scientific surveys linked on

One rates traffic congestion higher than education.


My sense is that the comments are MOST reflective of a large cross section of Portland. I sometimes help with a cat adoption outreach held weekends at a Portland Petco store, where customers I encounter regularly express concerns about Portland's affordability and local government spending priorities-people who have never heard of Jackbog's blog raise these questions even when the only issue I focus on is cats.

Randy Leonard is probably my favorite local politician (Is this like having a favorite wart or hangnail?), but I wish he'd admit that that schmoozing, not science, has been the prevailing Portland planning standard. I believe the public is calling for more genuinely scientific methodology.

Randy Leonard is probably my favorite local politician (Is this like having a favorite wart or hangnail?)

That made me laugh, Cynthia. I guess I'm like you, in some ways. I like Randy (and Sam and, well, ALL of them) to one degree or another because I think they all bring something to the table. But they're all also, well, politicians...and while not a pejorative, being a politician is something very different from the rest of us.

Randy's arguably the most populist of the group in some ways. But I'll also bet he rakes in the most and biggest bucks by the next election cycle from the development community many of us feel (or recognize) get "special" treatment...and that's simply a function of what bureaus he has, or key votes he offers. It's politics.

schmoozing, not science, has been the prevailing Portland planning standard.

That's not Portland, not METRO...that's the way the WORLD works. Rational decision making duking it out with "politics"...defined as the influence of money. Isn't it patently and painfully obvious that our upcoming BILLION dollar presidential election isn't about getting somebody a job --that would be a very poor return on investment-- but it's about different forces in society battling it out through surrogates?

As a long-time civil servant, besides simply working to feed the family and pay the mortgage, I've always tried to bring rationality --and, especially, fairness-- into our decision making, and how we interact with citizens. But it is a constant struggle, government being innately conservative and plodding...not just penny-wise and pound foolish, but the very nature of bureaucracy --especially in a politically charged environment-- being cumbersome, unfair, and irrational. We do have those rewarding --but too often fleeting-- moments where we feel we make a difference and have a sense of accomplishment...and those moments keep us going.

I played poker last night with, among others, a couple of city union folks and, boy, the stories we share as we shake our heads in puzzlement and amusement. But never despair.

On a different thread Jack suggested my neighborhood, in regards to the siege of development we're going through, would soon be "toast." If I believed that I wouldn't --couldn't-- be our neighborhood association's land use chair. Same as if I believed our local government was hopelessly corrupt, incompetent or worse I couldn't cash my paycheck, or walk in the door every day.

I guess I mean to say I believe in the fundamental goodness of people. It's systems --not people-- that screw us up, and how to fix them is something we've been working on --and fighting over-- as long as we've been walking upright.

Thanks, Frank. I agree with you on most all of that.

i guess what i'm looking for from these folks--Leonard, Potter, Adams, Sten, everyone--is this:

vision and leadership.

those two things are in fact rare, despite the fact that we toss both words around as if they permeate the atmosphere. they don't.

Portland and the rest of the Northwest depserately needs a real honest-to-god VISION. not for between now and 2040, but beyond. we've had tiny glimpses in fits and starts, but it doesn't exist yet. perhaps it never did.

vision is hard. leadership is hard. what i'd really like to see is my elected officials--the City Council, Mayor, Commissioners--working *together* on that vision, not lobbing semantic grenades at each other as they jockey for position and power.

"Portland and the rest of the Northwest depserately needs a real honest-to-god VISION."

We do have VISIONs:
Randy's is a union-run govt
Sam's is trollies everywhere downtown
Erik's is drawing as many homeless as he can pull and housing them.
Mr Dan's is a cush consulting job with some engineering firm after he throws them a contract
Potter's is to get out of office without his dirty laundry hitting the fan.

I understand a unified vision is nice, but getting this town to agree on anything will be impossible - Not enough condos, trams and taxes vs. too many condos, trams and taxes.

Faces it, Potter's whole "Visioning" process is a hoax. Since when does only .01 percent of the city's population represent a responsible sampling? What a waste of time and money; $1.2 million so far and $546,000 next fiscal year.

What would responsible city government do?

Randy, Erik, Sam, and Dan... PLEASE stop this charade, come to your senses and cut off budget funding. Let's use our money wisely.

"That's not Portland, not METRO...that's the way the WORLD works. "

Agreed. But here in P-town, we boast about being a national leader in land use planning(yadda, yadda), and that implies that we at least recognize the notion of a reality outside of political wheeling and dealing.

Something I have learned to do is be extremely skepical anytime I hear Portland being touted as a national model for anything.

I guess I mean to say I believe in the fundamental goodness of people. It's systems --not people-- that screw us up, and how to fix them is something we've been working on --and fighting over-- as long as we've been walking upright.

It's the 360 degree blind spot. If they're shut, you'll never see what's right before your very eyes.

As long as we've been walking upright there have been manipulative, persuasive, hypnotic, inspiring "leaders" who have corrupted blameless "systems". It's a nice thought that we're not to blame - but c'mon! Where, pray tell, did these systems, which you say "screw us up", come from - Bill McDonald???? Your perspective on the human experience seems to posit that we're victims of some evil force over which we have no control.

Sorry, friend, WE'RE the bad guys here, and that's the truth. However much "fundamental goodness" may exist in the collective psyche, the yang is still there.

Ignore it at your peril.

pray tell, did these systems, which you say "screw us up", come from - Bill McDonald????

Finally someone GETS it.'s all Bill McDonald's fault!'s all Bill McDonald's fault!
And his friend Bush

What I fear we are realizing is possibly a vision that Vera has had, and that would be to transform Portland into a mini New York City. New York has three separate subway lines - Portland has two so far, Max and the Streetcar. New York has the Roosevelt Island Tram - Portland now has the Pill Hill Tram. New York has high density vertical housing that has become high crime government subsidized housing. Portland is getting high density vetical housing that, when the condo market softens, will become government subsidized. For better or for worse, you have to ask yourself what good is it when you still can't get a decent knish?

It's sad. Vera really set the place back.


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