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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 27, 2007 9:24 AM. The previous post in this blog was Want impeachment? Tell Earl the Pearl yourself. The next post in this blog is Tipping point. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

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.

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.

"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.

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.

Comments (15)

Jack, I don't know why you suspended your crap detecter by giving this ridiculous exercise the benefit of the doubt in the first place.

There isn't any such thing as a "shared vision" for the city of Portland, so any process of asking people for their vision is going to reveal nothing more than a cacophany, which then the Ethan Seltzer types get to "synthesize" to reveal that we all want what they have been peddling all along.

Rob:

Ditto.

I've been to enough city forums (transportation, budget, etc.) to know that they are choreographed to produce the intended result. Public input? Transparency? Not in PDX.

They know better than we how we ought to live. Just ask 'em.

Been that way since Vera was a twinkle in Neil's eye.

First you write the puff piece, then you cite it as the basis of your obligation to give the people what "they" have told you they want. Just be sure the organization has a fine-sounding name and is later designated as the 'official' representatives of the neighborhood.
These days its ALL advocacy documents and its ALL from front organizations.

What will be deemed the official viewpoint? Well, who is likely to be the major contributors to the re-election campaign? Nationwide the American political process will see that the voice of the people is heard throughout the land.

here's the key piece of information in the Tribune article:

"the information will inform a state-mandated process to update the Comprehensive Plan that determines how the city is zoned, including where new development will be concentrated in coming years."

"He [Kelley] sees it [VisionPDX] as replacing the early rounds of outreach efforts that traditionally accompany such plans, although he believes that some hearings still will need to be held as the work progresses."

that's what it's really for and how it'll be used.

because VisionPDX is vague by it's very nature ("good schools, safe streets and equal opportunities") it can be used to validate most anything at all.

in other words, nothing at all will change, except for the most minor of tweaks as a nod to the effort.

and surely they knew that from the very start.

What drives these guys nuts from just letting society take its own path and develop naturally? Besides the fact we are all idiots who if left to our natural devices will self-destruct.

Their vision is usually stacking people on top of one another a la some of the slums on the edge of Paris or most of the old Communist capitols in Europe. Then the sheeple take their mass transit to the govt jobs in town.

I'd love to see their idea of an ideal town.

Oh come now people, you know you want a Convention Center Hotel and more PDC "investments".

This process of visioning is need to solidify the basis for seeking new funding for the games planners play.

The Urban Renewal credit card is drying up due to years of reckless and irresponsible spending.

And who among you will oppose the new funding (tax) schemes they come up with to perpetuate themselves and their games when it will mean "good schools, safe streets and equal opportunities" for all?

Their vision is usually stacking people on top of one another a la some of the slums on the edge of Paris...

Aren't you aware that there is a wealth of data indicating that, the higher the population density is in an urban area, the lower the crime rate ? Same goes for quality of life. Why, when you stack people on top of each other in flimsy rowhomes with nowhere for their kids to play but tiny concrete yards and broken-glass asphalt jungles, all urban strife seems to vanish.

Step on board the MAX, eastbound at about 10:30pm, get out in Rockwood, imagine if only the place could be stacked on top of itself three times over, and marvel at all of that planning.

Maybe you PDX'ers might try electing someone who believes what you earn is yours and stick to doing what your city charter says they're supposed to do.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Grandpa actually believed in this thing. It seems to fit his style. Unfortunately, these things always end up looking like marketing puff pieces and set off everyone’s b$%%^&*t detectors. I guess you could argue that the evil bureaucrats take over everything for their own nefarious ends, or just conclude that if politicians communicate with the electorate they’re cynical manipulators and if they don’t it’s because they’re all elitist MAC members.

Visioning and all of this is one thing and maybe it's a mental disorder public officials get but can someone please explain to me how it it that NOT A SINGLE elected official in sight finds anything to object to when it comes to things like the Convention Center hotel, new Port of Portland headquarters or any of the Urban Renewal Tram/SoWa-like schemes.

Not one. It's 100% on board.

I listened to Rob Kramer Sunday morning during his marathon on KXL, and in reality his tirade on the green movement was as about as useful to the discussion as Potter's Vision Quest.

We need to make some meaningful decisions on this stuff. The loss of the vast amonts of rental housing of the Harrison Towers conversion to Condos from PSU, has anyone done the math on that. What % of HUD money went into those towers, what kind of ROI did it have for the people who invested maybe 10-20% of the capital in this first PDC jewel. What was the revenue stream they pocketed over the many years that rents were collected, what kind of capital gains was there in the Condo conversion. Did the public ever get any return on thier investment in the Project. Why doesn't Kremer run those numbers for folks since he is an economist.

The cry for more rental "affordable housing" is this going to pave the way for more public "investment" and private reaping of the benefits, or will can we get some folks in there that are not on the future payroll of developers and negotiate fair agreements for the taxpayers who are providing the seed money.

Actually, we did a fair amount of visioning back in the early seventies.

"Why doesn't Kremer run those numbers for folks since he is an economist."

Why should Kremer and not any of the 100s of planners?

And besides Kremer has run many numbers on many issues like other critics of the status quo in this state and it doesn't matter how egregiosly bad the numbers look when no elected in charge gives a rap.


"Why Should Kremer and not any of the 100's of planners"

Planners are just that, they plan stuff, I once went to a training just to try and broaden my perspective, thier job description is vision. Never once in the two day training seminar did they mention cost. It is supposed to be the business community that then secrutinizes and assigns accountability. Most sane communities with responsible industries loan out thier executives to oversee an interactive and iterative process assigning reasonable costs and then do a lessons learned that figures out "who benefits" and assures community benefit for the tax dollars of the common Joe. Then they reallocate and reconfigure the expected outcomes and fine tune the agreements during planning/funding/building/operating cycle/salvage value/decommissioning costs to take into account amortization, cashflow, profit and ROI. Planners for the most part are clueless about these matters.

Portland and indeed our Metro region continually and insanely dismiss and distort any and all outside "interactive"
critiquing while deliberately avoiding the idea of any "lessons learned" as they charge forward with more of the same time tested failed theroies.
They themselves benefit at the expense of the community benefit and the tax dollars of the common Joe.


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