Snow in September?
I was more than willing to give Portland Mayor Tom Potter the benefit of the doubt on his whole "vision quest" project, in which he said he would find out what the city's residents really want, and lay out plans to make it happen. Lots of people had misgivings, especially about the cost, but I reasoned that this is what new CEOs do all the time -- commission a big-picture project to lay out a mission statement into which they can plug in their agendas. Usually the agendas are pre-formed, but there's a chance that a survey of the masses might pick up a useful idea or two.
Well, Potter's not "new" any more. Heck, we're all already speculating who the next mayor's going to be. And so it's past time for Grampy to get the vision in front of the people. And yet down at City Hall they're still talking about the "preliminary" results of the vision questionnaire, as if we're nowhere near knowing how we're going to bring about the direction they suggest.
Sadly, there are some alarming signs emerging that the whole exercise is going to turn out to be a snow job for more business as usual out of City Hall -- basically, more soulless condo bunkers eating into the fabric of the city's neighborhoods. The Trib had an interesting article last week about how the "vision quest" has been turned over to the city's bloated planning bureau to be turned into action.
Preliminary results are consistent with previous surveys that show many residents value the region’s environment and want good schools, safe streets and equal opportunities for all."A deep concern over the need to build five more SoWhat developments." What does that sound like to you? Do the people want that to happen -- or not want that to happen? Hmmmm, it doesn't say. Notice, though, the "need" is stated as a given. Oh, there's definitely a "need," but you wimps can't handle it.
But they also show deep concern over perceived threats to future livability, especially the need to build the equivalent of five new South Waterfront-size developments over the next 25 years to house all the additional people projected to move to Portland.
Although I'm as big a fan of comedy as anyone, I hope they aren't going to try to twist this into a finding of some supposed public desire for more particle-board-and-concrete condo jungles. If you ask the average guy or gal in Portland what the city really needs, is he or she going to say "I'm worried there aren't enough condo towers"? Come on, Mayor, you're not going to even try that one, are you?
Especially since the initial reports out of the city were that the questionnaires turned in included quite a few that hated the SoWhat district, and the nine figures in tax dollars that were handed to the developers to build it. But give it a year or so, keep spinning it, and lo and behold, the people say they want more condos? Lord, one hopes we're not about to see that level of arrogance.
You know the fibbin' is a-startin' in when the Portland State urban planning geniuses (Motto: "A 'mixed use village' out by the airport, under the flight path") start coming out front and center to "facilitate" our understanding:
“This is serious stuff, and people need to pay attention,” said Ethan Seltzer, director of Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning.When you don't tell the condo people what they want to hear, it must be because you aren't paying attention.
If all the "vision" huff and puff turns out to be a setup for a warmed-over version of the Vera Katz-Homer Williams love fest, with the time and energy of the people of Portland being used as a front, history will not be kind to Potter. He's supposed to say whether he's going to run for re-election about a week before the "vision" documents come out. Whatever his decision about the future, I hope the official results of his "vision quest" are at least truthful. It's coming from the planning bureau, though -- they're mostly planning the developers' cushy retirements these days -- and so don't bet on anything of the sort.