On January 20 at downtown's Governor Hotel, Mayor Tom Potter gave his first State of the City speech, to a capacity luncheon crowd of community, business, and political leaders. Potter, better known for gathering input than for laying out a concrete agenda, lived up to his reputation during the Friday speech: "My real interest today is beginning a conversation about what kind of community I would like Portland to be in the future," Potter said at the City Club-sponsored event.
Though Potter did touch on a few specific things he'd like to see in Portland's future—most notably, an audit of the embattled Pill Hill tram, a temporary tax to "save our schools," and requiring cops to adhere to community policing practices—he mainly focused on his elusory Community Vision Project.
"I believe [it] will be the most important thing I do as mayor," Potter said. The project, Potter explained, will create a "community-owned roadmap" for the next 30 years, by soliciting input from 100,000 residents on everything from growth to diversity.
Furthermore, Potter hopes that the project—which he's been hyping for months—will bring residents together to tackle some of Portland's problems on their own, instead of relying on the government to fix things. "A community that dreams together will share not only an optimism about the future, but the determination and means to create it," he said.
Potter himself acknowledged that the project might sound Pollyanna-ish (though he insisted it isn't), and it's unclear how the ambitious project will take shape throughout 2006. (For example, how will Potter distill input from one-fifth of the city's residents—who certainly have disparate ideas—into a clear and unified agenda for Portland?) But if the Community Vision Project is a flop—or simply results in a convoluted mess of a "vision"—critics point out that Potter will have a convenient scapegoat: the community.