Today at the Convention Center, Svend Auken—the First Vice President of the Danish Parliament—kicked off the Portland Plan with an hour long keynote speech.
It was one of the best hour long speeches I've ever sat through. Detailing life in Copenhagen, Auken told great stories about biking, building walkable cities, universal health care ("when you get sick, you just have to worry about getting well, not about paying the bill"), quality and free public education, and paid family leave. His daughter and her husband just got a combined paid year off to care for their newborn twins. Then they'll go on a six week family vacation, then return to work. Hello!
It was an inspiration speech, and it certainly did the job—several people I spoke with afterwards (including city council candidate Charles Lewis) were clearly jazzed about moving Portland in the direction of Denmark and Copenhagen—or at least adapting their "quality of life" ideas for use here.
Auken got lots of laughs when he illustrated his city's great biking rates—40 percent of business movement, like deliveries, are done by bike, and 35 percent of people commute by bike, he said—with a personal anecdote. In Copenhagen, it's usually just women who use a bike basket. But as a member of Parliament, he has all sorts of files and paperwork to carry. So he has a bike basket. Which makes him, he said, a "metro." As in, metrosexual... too cute, coming from this man: