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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 11, 2010 8:42 AM. The previous post in this blog was Another world cup. The next post in this blog is Portland High School Closure Plan of the Day. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

This week's Portland bureaucracy psychobabble

Here's a classic missive from City Hall's hulking planning machinery. Some day in the future, there will be a graduate degree available for translating this stuff into English.

Comments (27)

Did the author get paid extra for putting all the meaningless catch phrases in there? That stuff is embarrassing.

Omitted words include (1) comprehensive (2) reform (3) justice.

Draft apparantly released before proofing.

“Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism”

This is like any kind of slang or jargon - The entire purpose of this stuff is to keep outsiders (i.e. non-city employees) OUT of the process.

"Today, Portland may lead the nation in creative planning and sustainability programs and projects"

If we keep saying it, then it must be true! I mean, if it weren't true, then why would we say it so much, right?

Sustainability means the following: more miserable driving conditions, very expensive vanity projects like new MAX lines and the WES and the "sustainability center" building, increasing "green" requirements on previously mundane home improvement projects, more expensive housing across the city.

This region really really needs to have a conversation about how our growth controls (which are admittedly popular) raise the cost of living here substantially, and cause a large mismatch between the means of the average household and the cost of average housing.

Top-down social/economic/living engineering... PlanSusCom... sound familiar?

I thought the 20th Century was largely a demonstration of how such thinking tends to end in disaster. I suppose history repeats itself because there's always going to be someone who thinks they can implement a bad idea better than their predecessors.

Some day there will be a graduate degree program on the rise and fall of Portland, Oregon.

So according to these stupid jack asses we can never have too much planning,

at any and all costs,

no matter how bad they are at it.

Ben, bad planning is admittedly an issue here. But you don't know what you're asking for when you advocate no planning.

I do take issue, like most others here, that history has shown that only "team" players need apply to such positions. That's the worst part of it; if someone 10 years ago had raised an issue over SoWa being non-sustainable because of its location, auto-dependence, high rise construction techniques, impact to surrounding neighborhoods, or whatever, that member would have been quickly shown the door. If someone tries to do the job they are tasked with and it doesn't fit their pre-set plans, they're out.

In the near-term, the Planning and Sustainability Commission will be tasked with guiding the development and future implementation of the Portland Plan, the City’s 25-year strategic plan, as well as monitoring the implementation of Portland’s Climate Action Plan that Council adopted in 2009.

In the near-term, why don't we just focus on getting through the next year or so.

What is needed is oversight on the lack of financial accountability by our council!

Why in these economic times was this ordinance on the council agenda last Wednesday June 9th?:
Office of Management and Finance – Internal Business Services
856 Authorize an exemption to the competitive bidding process to Procurement Services pursuant to ORS 279C and PCC 5.34 and provide payment for construction of the Kelly Butte Reservoir Project (Ordinance) 10 minutes requested
http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=303683

Note the process. Citizens can find out after 4:00pm Friday what will be on the following Wed. agenda. In this case, it was a first reading, then was sent forward to a second reading for the next Wed. The Council Clerk said testimony is allowed on first reading, but no testimony on second reading.

This process allows little time to plan for and attend a hearing for the first Wed. reading. Also, by the time some citizens find out about this, no testimony is allowed on the second reading the next Wed. and council votes.

I get nervous when I read that something governmental is a "means to ensure." It seems to always mean more rules and more government.

"bad planning is admittedly an issue here. But you don't know what you're asking for when you advocate no planning."

Can you re-define that. I mean we have had planners for 50+ years. However, when someone today wants to do something they just ignore the plan. Example, bldgs were supposed to stairstep up from the river (i.e. shorter bldgs closer to the river front and taller ones further away.)

Yet somehow we just went ahead and built a 200ft+ towers in SoWa and no one cares.

So why have plans if they are for convenience sake? They get ignored when a pol wants to help his friend and then we get hit over the head with them if a politician doesn't like something.

So you tell me the purpose of planning.

BTW - Houston is growing a lot faster with more high-paying jobs than Portland and they have no planning at all.

They plan and plan and the process makes it difficult for the citizens to have input. I agree with John Rettig's comment on only "team" players need apply.

John Rettig:I do take issue, like most others here, that history has shown that only "team" players need apply to such positions. That's the worst part of it; if someone 10 years ago had raised an issue over SoWa being non-sustainable because of its location, auto-dependence, high rise construction techniques, impact to surrounding neighborhoods, or whatever, that member would have been quickly shown the door. If someone tries to do the job they are tasked with and it doesn't fit their pre-set plans, they're out.

Other point I would add is that often when citizens are allowed on a committee, the plan is to make certain they are outnumbered by officials and "team" players. The issue/meeting is quite well framed as so many of us know. One can object and if one steps out too much there is generally disapproval most likely from the "team" players. Sometimes a question is avoided or they "don't know the answer and will get back to you" so they then can avoid having the community hear the answer.

Question:
Is this like the Department of Redudancy
Department? I read the City proclamation twice, then one more time to try and fully understand it. I'm still not sure about it, but who cares anyway? The average citizen isn't part of any of this planning stuff. When they do try to participate, they're treated like children, patted on the head and told to leave the "important" decision making to the "pros", the bureaucrats who get paid to do this type of "important" work?

So I take it commenters here are not lining up to be on the Commission Commission Commission?

John Rettig,

Ben knows exactly what he's asking for and it isn't your words in his mouth.

There's a vast distance bewtween the excessive, costly and dysfunctional planning regime we have and no planning at all.

We could for instance adapt just about any ther metroplitian area apprachand be terr off. Or return to Pre-Metro
days and drop all of the tax funded speculation in pursuit of these concepts which never are realized.
Bad AND excessive planning is the issue.

People did raise issues over every SoWa angle. One in particular from the beginning and is now still on the URAC.

People who pay taxes and/or vote must stop something. Milwaukie Light Rail is the number one target right now. Nothng is more egregious or representative of the status quo planning dishonesty and dysfunction.

Voters certainly approve of a good majority Metro and Oregon's land-use planning policies. Measure 49 asserts that quite well.

I don't foresee Portland area going pre-1970s-Metro government anytime soon. There's reasons why Metro was created in the first place, because we saw what lax regulation created.

You do not want no-zoning Houston, and even so, their development is tied to a litany of codes and regulation that dictate a lot of their built form.

Developers want to build densely because it maximizes their dollar. This is good in some areas, and bad in others. Give them the option to divide a 5,000 sf lot into two parcels, and they will do so.

Ugly skinny homes that invade the block of traditional 5,000 sf lots are bad, but putting that same 2,500 sf lot amongst denser neighborhoods and they can be quite nice (in fact a lot of the nicest homes in Portland are on 2,500 sf lots).

I'm with John Rettig on this one.

I love the part about the need to "ensure equity awareness..." Is that like making sure citizens understand the risks of investing in City of Portland municipal bonds?

One of the more irritating things that these government planners ignore is that this costs a lot of money which is shifted out of state since most of us pay our mortgages to out of state mortgage banks and perhaps the money then goes overseas.

Then they go around and bitch because clothing comes in from overseas or they push buying locally and ignore their own policies that shift money out of state.

And having been part of a neighborhood asc that was asked for our opinions some years ago only to be told "we can't do it that way" I can only say the whole neighborhood involvement is a scam.

"Voters certainly approve of a good majority Metro and Oregon's land-use planning policies. Measure 49 asserts that quite well."

The M49 vote showed only that people are easily swayed when issues that are difficult to understand are being debated. M49 was so long and complex (I think it was somewhere around 40 pages long), and so many lies were told by its supporters in an attempt to con people into voting "yes" that to infer much of anything from its passage is senseless.


One problem with planning in Oregon is that it's more like a cult than a process. One can't "plan" unless one has a degree in "planning" and the right professional certifications from organizations that push certain points of view that urban planning "professionals" approve of.

In fact, anyone with a business degree, or has run a business (or other organization), or has implemented any project of any size has learned more than enough to be an effective planner. (After all, planning is one of the core business functions.) However, those without the proper credentials are looked down upon and are largely ignored by those who think they know everything.

Ben:There's a vast distance bewtween the excessive, costly and dysfunctional planning regime we have and no planning at all.

Agree with Ben.

ws:Voters certainly approve of a good majority Metro and Oregon's land-use planning policies. . .

Disagree with ws.

They may have agreed initially, partially due to the complexity of it. Now that the results are visible I also believe that many people are not approving anymore. It may have sounded good. Illustrations and words have not matched reality. The problems associated with it are detrimental in many ways. There are always devotees to a plan almost like a religion. Most likely they do not live in the worst of it. As long as other areas are trashed must be fine with them or they would question the plan.

People told me that what they were presented with and what actually happened didn’t match, such as the density would be on certain streets, and not affect the neighborhoods. I don't think people would have been willing to have their neighborhoods changed and some turned into sacrifice zones for the plan. The rhetoric was that we would save our farmland and forests.

I have written here before about the loss of farm land and growing food here.
In fact after all is said and done, I wonder what Governor McCall would have thought?

I can't believe that he would have been in be in favor of sacrificing our best fertile farmland in the valley for all the housing developments.

We were supposed to save forests, has anyone taken the Hwy 26 down to the coast?

I am not an advocate for sprawl. The UGB may have started with good intentions; it has turned into a money making deal for some and for others a loss of quality of life. What I perceive we have here is "incremental sprawl" anyway! There are other options. I believe we need to evaluate the result of the plan and open up conversations to where we go from here. Instead we are merely opening up the UGB from time to time and doing a step and repeat type of development, strip malls, etc.

I realize my comments are mostly about the negative aspects I have seen in the city. I would like to hear more from rural residents.


When I follow the links down to the boards and commissions application form, there IS no Planning and Sustainability Commission listed. Looking at the info blurb Jack posted that links to Portlandonline.com shows it to be a PROPOSED commission. So apparently it doesn't exist yet, and if it does, there is no way to apply. Unless you are privvy to an application form the rest of us can't get.
Probably an oversight, but not necessarily so.

Rettig, you state " if someone 10 years ago had an issue over SoWa being unsustainable" is not an "if".

There were three neighborhood associations plus one neighborhood coalition that spoke about different aspects that were of "unsustainable" nature. These concerns began at the early committee meetings before adoption of Plan, following at Planning Commission, Design Commission and City Council. But in those days "sustainability" was not a catch word. And it is still questioned with the present SoWhat processes.

Sustainability can easily be ignored by present bureaus and City Council when it is expedient. And it definitely was and is for SoWhat.

Steve: ....when someone today wants to do something they just ignore the plan. [For] Example, bldgs were supposed to stairstep up from the river (i.e. shorter bldgs closer to the river front and taller ones further away.)

This isn't a fault of the plan, it's a fault of the bureaucrats.

Ben: Ben knows exactly what he's asking for and it isn't your words in his mouth.

There's a vast distance bewtween the excessive, costly and dysfunctional planning regime we have and no planning at all.

Fair enough, you didn't say no planning.

Bad AND excessive planning is the issue.

Bad planning, yes. But the heart of the problem isn't the excess, it's that if the previous plan doesn't accommodate the present council's agenda, they re-do the plan to fit the agenda. That's not a plan process, it's a write-it-as-you-go variance process.

Rural resident: The M49 vote showed only that people are easily swayed when issues that are difficult to understand are being debated.

I believe you have M49 confused with M37.

M49 was so long and complex (I think it was somewhere around 40 pages long), and so many lies were told by its supporters in an attempt to con people into voting "yes" that to infer much of anything from its passage is senseless.

The reason it passed is that M37 supporters had lied, and voters knew it had to be fixed once they found out what it really was doing. They were ready to pass just about anything in its place.

And the reason for its length was because it had to be done in a way that anyone who had earned vested developments rights between the passage of M37 and M49 by virtue of an approved application, would be accommodated.

I think that ws and Clinamen are both correct, to a degree: Voters do approve of a good majority of Metro policies, and statewide land-use planning policies have more of a mixed record at the polls. There are obvious reasons for this, certainly related to the voting segment that gets to vote on an issue, and the usual idealogical polarization that often brings out a voting segment in a given election. Most Metro measures would go down in flames if they were proposed statewide. In contrast, most statewide land-use planning policies do well in the Metro-area counties.

But the less-than-obvious part of this is how we went from where we were in the 1970's - a Republican governor and a farmer were the driving force behind SB 100 - to now. Most who voted for M37 didn't benefit from it, and would probably have been negatively impacted because of the sprawl that would have ensued had it remained in force. Yet, M49 is still cursed in many rural areas.

Clinamen is right: we need to start a dialog.

Lee:Sustainability can easily be ignored by present bureaus and City Council when it is expedient. And it definitely was and is for SoWhat.

The hypocrisy . . . . .

I can't believe that they can sit up there in their perches at council and keep a straight face.

The planners who have to present this to the community with "we can't do it that way" must well know how they have to frame matters to get the result they have to get.

The whole charade is disrespectful to the citizens and we pay their salaries.

It just seems to be getting worse.

Using the word sustainable is all it is, just words. Words to push their agenda. Sustainability when it suits them for whatever reason. The truth doesn't matter.

The most sustainable gift we have here from past generations and served us well for over a 100 years sustainable, a truly sustainable Bull Run Water System which includes the reservoirs has not only been ignored but council has refused to stand up for it.

They are more focused on messing up this sustainable Bull Run Water System which includes the reservoirs than on trying to save it.


Sometimes this focus on creating positions and bureau after bureau to celebrate sustainability, greenness, luxury condo construction, "affordable" infill development etc. reminds me of the parents who put plastic over all of the furniture in the living room to protect it and declare that it is off limits to the actual family. It's only to impress guests. The bureau of sustainability will succeed in one respect . . . it will sustain more government salaries, benefits and retirement packages.

In the meanwhile, rather than taking care of what we've already got, the city follows the philosophy of a cancer, mindlessly growing for the sake of growth. It is apparently unwilling or unable to exercise the sensitivity of a parasite which knows that it will die if it succeeds in killing its host.

Plastic over furniture? You never knew my mother! She would have really nice, fabric slip covers made, (but not as nice as the furniture itself) cover that with plastic and still off limits to family!

I once made the mistake of asking, somewhat acidly, who was she saving the couch for, the junkmman? That PO'd her mightily!

Yet I don't think my Mom would go along with these city policies, even in Cicero IL!


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