Friday, November 10, 2006

Tell Portland City Club What to Study, Who to Present

As some readers know, I was abortively a participant in the Portland City Club's program of ballot initiative studies, part of a wide range of studies and forums Club volunteers chair and staff during the year. I wanted to be a part of that process, which I think is probably the most important function of City Club that I've seen since becoming a member. The initiative reports were thorough and featured witness testimony and a full presentation of the arguments made. I suppose I trust them because I agreed with their conclusions in almost every case, but the dilligence is self-evident from the presentation.

With the elections still fresh in our minds, the civic adrenaline may still be flowing for some of you, and you may have concerns left over that you aren't sure will be addressed. Did we talk about population growth much in the Oregon elections? Did we talk about gridlock? Land-use? Keeping us safe from public safety officers? Whatever it is, City Club wants to hear about it, in their annual Community Scan:
Concerns voiced by previous Community Scan respondents are reflected in City Club studies underway now. In 2007, the Club will release reports on K-12 finance, Oregon's initiative and referendum system, an analysis of partisanship in Oregon's political system, and a comprehensive study of Portland's business environment. Similarly City Club programs covered a broad range of issues, including programs featuring former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Governor Ted Kulongoski, Mayor Tom Potter and Portland Public Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips.

This year, we want to cast our net even wider, and we hope to gather an even greater number of suggestions. City Club will draw on this pool of topics to develop both citizen-based research studies as well as relevant and vibrant programming. We value your input, and we're asking you to help us identify the emerging public policy concerns that will affect our region over the next several years.

City Club members and the community at large are invited to submit suggestions of key issues the organization should address in future research and programming. Submissions are due November 13, 2006 and should briefly answer the following three questions.

1. What are the top two local or regional issues of public importance?
2. Why are these issues important?
3. Are these immediate concerns, or emerging, long-term issues?

Citizens may participate in City Club’s Community Scan online at Topic suggestions may also be submitted by e-mail to City Club’s policy director, Wade Fickler, at; faxed to (503) 228-8840; or mailed to: City Club of Portland, 901 SW Washington St., Portland, OR 97205. Submissions should include name and phone number or e-mail address. More than one topic may be submitted but all submissions are due no later than November 13, 2006.

I'll give it a shot:

The first issue is the sudden acceleration of population growth ahead of current planning documents (such as Metro's 2040 Plan). The scariest part about the increase is how it's projected to happen, with population surging in the SE areas of Clackamas and east Multnomah, and employment growth opportunities near Beaverton, Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove. The obvious importance to that phenomenon is that somehow people will need to get from one side to the other. Similar to the way that definitive decisions needed to be made about how to handle transportation growth in the late 60's and early 70s, it needs to happen again to accomodate what we know is inevitable--more people, faster. And it's only coincidence that I write this after perhaps the worst week of Portland traffic I've seen since I moved back to the state in 2002. This is the longest of long-term planning, but we need to adjust our projections NOW in order to be ready later.

The second issue would also be long-term, and sort of exists or doesn't on the results of the first issue, because there won't be anything to talk about without the transpo infrastructure...the greater Willamette Valley, particularly the Portland metro area, has the potential to secure its economic fortunes into the next century by creating a regional cooperative to attract and develop local green technology industry. That means supporting the economic development of companies large and small--especially small--by creating a hub for networking and a platform on which to try new ideas. That platform includes the acceptance by government institutions to implement green technology as part of their mission statement. Establish state university endowments for environmental engineering and ecological economics. Sponsor an annual conference of green tech industry. So City Club's charge in this question would be to examine the current state of green-tech in Oregon, and suggest a strategy for thinking big and making the Pacific Northwest the world leader in ecomanufacture and design.

That's just me. What are your ideas?