First of all, we need to establish a club called “Pounding Pints of IPA to Prepare for Public Portland Plan Presentations.” We will drink. Then we will attend public meetings. We will find the city’s Powerpoint presentations not only tolerable but highly amusing.

It might have been the pint of something Belgian I had before the first official public input session on the Portland Plan last night at Beaumont Middle School, but the two and a half hour meeting felt, well, good. It mostly felt very, very, very Portland. Like this sugary-smug National Geographic article about how everything in Portland is friendly, sustainable and “fashionably eclectic”. It felt like that. Only in real life. It was a bizarrely polite and upbeat 2.5 hour discussion about the steep challenges our city will face over the next 25 years, hosted in a way that would have made National Geographic’s Intelligent Traveler blush with joy.

Exhibit A: The sign outside the door.

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Exhibit B:

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The free buttons. Portlanders love buttons. Especially graphically-simple ones that look like maybe they’re for bands or good causes. City planners have us pinned. Ha. I took three.


Exhibit C:
We love public process, especially if it can involve our iPhones.

“This is about ‘groundtruthing’ and ‘crowdsourcing’,” said Mayor Adams, listing the Twitter and Facebook pages where the public could get involved and then doing his trademark “Mayor Sam wades into the crowd and takes citizen comments” move.

Commissioner Fish was also on hand tell the standing-room only crowd "it's all about you." Fish framed the plan as a completely bottom-up vision for the city, as opposed to the current Portland Plan, which was written exclusively by city bureaus back in 1980. “The Portland Plan and the process we are launching tonight is not about Sam Adams’ vision, it is about your vision. This process has been structured to be about you,” said Fish.

Exhibit D: Overlooking the homeless. The comment of the night goes to the young guy who noted that the word “homelessness” is almost entirely absent from the Portland Plan. He’s right. Though the plan discusses things that contribute to homelessness, like lack of affordable housing and economic development, the word “homeless” appears exactly twice: the very bottom of page 16 calls out the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness under “Related Reports” and then on page 24, there’s a link to that plan.

But shouldn’t dealing with homelessness be an integral part of a comprehensive plan for city in the state that ranks #1 for homelessness per capita in the nation?

This woman, N. Scrantz Lersch, is not on the city payroll. Shes an illustrator who just turned up to draw the meeting.
  • This woman, N. Scrantz Lersch, is not on the city payroll. She's an illustrator who just turned up to draw the meeting.

Exhibits E through H below the cut.

Exhibit E: The crowd was mostly white, mostly older and mostly progressive. According to a highly technological computer-gizmo survey of the crowd (Exhibit E-1), 75 percent of the audience was white, 32 percent have a household income over $100,000 and only 33 percent were under 40.

Yeah, there were a couple comments along the lines of Jim Karlock’s old refrain (“Why are aren't we encouraging people to use small cars instead of public transit?!”) and a senior citizen who was a spitting image of Granny Franny who wants the city to be quieter (“Especially those boomboxes in cars”) but all in all, people brought up some sharp points about the need for more affordable housing, mass transit and how we’re going to pay for things like the bike master plan.

Exhibit F: They love bikes.

When asked to name what should be the top priority for city transportation funds over the coming decades, the most popular answer was bike facilities. Bam! When asked to name “one new thing you’re willing to do to reduce energy use to help combat climate change” the most popular answer was “walk, bike and use transit.” Bam again!

Exhibit G: An entire table-full of glossy paper explaining how we can become the nation's most sustainable city.

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Exhibit H: At the end of the night, Commissioner Fish urged the audience to “give yourselves a round of applause for your polite and civil discussion.” That's Portland in a nutshell!