Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer's PR people must be working overtime because he was ALL OVER the news media this weekend. He's building quite the niche for himself as a leader of practical, green-minded progressive Democrats.

Saturday morning I was surprised to find Blumenauer's friendly face and ubiquitous bicycle pin staring out at me from the New York Times homepage beneath a headline reading, "Frustrated Liberal Lawmaker Balances Beliefs and Politics." The article winds up waffling instead of critical, as Blumenauer and others express frustration that important causes like health care reform and global warming initiatives are being hacked to death by compromises, but then acknowledge that real change takes time. From the piece:

Instead of forging ahead, Mr. Blumenauer, 61, finds himself fighting to retain one of the touchstones for liberals this year, a public insurance option in the health care overhaul, and is watching his hopes of curbing global warming grow cold in the Senate. Mr. Blumenauer, a seven-term congressman, is bracing for a tough vote on sending more troops to Afghanistan while he frets about the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay remaining open.

“It has been a hard landing for a lot of the people that I represent,” Mr. Blumenauer, referring to his largely liberal constituency, said as he assessed the first months of the Obama administration.

While the article doesn't really do much to put pressure on Obama or more conservative Democrats, it does lift up Blumenauer as an important voice on Capitol Hill. Then today comes the news via Streetsblog that E.B. is leading a new Livable Communities Task Force, organized by the Democratic Caucus. His post is far from frustrated, instead expressing that the creation of this task force feels like actual progress is being made. "After spending a lifetime in public service working to make our nation’s communities more livable, it feels like the pieces are coming together," writes Blumenauer.

The Livable Communities group is made of 20 Congressmen and women who are supposed to meet with members of the Obama administration over the next couple months to hold briefings and strategy sessions on key issues: "The nation’s dependence on oil, protecting the environment, improving public health and investing in housing and transportation projects that create jobs and give people more commuting choices."

So is this task force a step forward or will it just be an echo chamber for Blumenauer and his progressive companions to funnel their frustration? Let's hope the group crafts some good ideas and Obama and friends actually follow their advice.