Slow start at this morning's city council meeting. The first order of business was a florid proclamation by Amanda Fritz on behalf of the Willamette River. That was followed by another back-slapping proclamation, about the Portland Zine Symposium and how awesome Portland is.
"It sounds like a very Portland-like event," Mayor Sam Adams gushed.
Then came a gentleman invoking Roman ruins and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to defend Memorial Coliseum. Another speaker, Barry Joe Stull, complaining of judicial corruption, declared "I'm here to rehabilitate an abused city."
And that turned out to be the theme of the morning, with substantive discussion of a bid for up to $5 million in federal cash to plan more affordable housing—especially for Portland's long-neglected communities of color.
The council unanimously accepted a declaration of cooperation between the city, Metro, TriMet and the Urban League. Separately, the council approved grant applications seeking $25 million—only for Portland—to plan housing along train corridors and start up new transportation projects.
The key word was "equity," but also "action." The goal is to bring affordable homes, walkable streets and easy transit options, and good schools to parts of the city that haven't' always had them.
"All the things that make our community livable, and all the things that propel Portland to the top of everyone's livability list," said Marcus Mundy of the Urban League. "If done right, this petition will help Portland look different in 20 years."
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has about $100 million to spend on the grants nationwide, and Portland regional officials hope they can use whatever share they get to show the rest of the country how it's supposed to be done.
Nick Fish, who heads the housing bureau, wasn't as optimistic. He said that if the money comes and the city fails to live up to its plans, future federal transit dollars could be at stake. He also chided other communities in the region for failing to hold up their end of the bargain in providing affordable housing.
"That's where the rubber hits the road," Fish said. "We can no longer talk as one when its comes to aspirations for the region, but then rely on one jurisdiction"—Portland!—"to take the lead."
They're still going down here at City Hall, so stay tuned for further updates.