[Eds. Note: This week, Scott files his report from his craphole hometown of Fresno.]
By every conceivable measure, Fresno, CA is a royal craphole.
It's a sprawling mess of a place—for decades, urban planning has been not just ignored, but actively and viciously opposed. The results: Rows of identical tract homes stretch on for miles and miles, seemingly without end, and "open spaces" are considered eyesores that simply haven't yet been developed.
Creative young entrepreneurs occasionally decide they're going to revitalize downtown, but economic capital keeps leaving in droves, tracing the white flight path trod by Fresno's doughy, SUV-driving residents to the furthest reaches of suburbia.
And perhaps illustrative of the entire city's mediocrity, the mayor is a former c-list actor—that guy who played Bubba on In the Heat of the Night. But if you ask most people, the real mayors of the city are the handful of land developers who have transformed the city's landscape, and who've managed to convince the city government to keep zoning laws laughably lax.
In virtually no way would Portland voters or politicians choose to adopt policies or practices from Fresno—it represents, both figuratively and literally, the polar opposite of the values Portland holds dear. And yet, this May, Portlanders will have the chance to vote on changing the city's form of government to something that resembles Fresno pretty goddamn closely.
Since the mid-'90s, Fresno has had a "strong mayor" form of government not terribly dissimilar from the one Mayor Tom Potter and the Charter Review Commission are pushing. Henry T. Perea, the City of Fresno's Council President and one of the youngest, most progressive city councilors in Fresno's history, thinks it's a terrible idea.
"The strong mayor form can be very frustrating," he said at a café a few blocks from Fresno city hall. "Because we're elected by districts, we have constituents we have to respond to, but if we're not in the good graces of the mayor or the department heads, we're out of luck. If the mayor decides that a councilor's concern is not going to get filled, it's not going to get filled."
For Perea, the worst part of Portland's possible future government is that the mayor would still have a vote on city council.
"No way," he said. "I'd never support that here. The mayor would be in charge of all bureaus, and have a fifth of the vote in policies? That puts way too much power in one person."
When a Fresnan makes more sense than the Portland mayor, something has gone horribly awry.
And starring Carol Burnett as Charlotte Kensington: firstname.lastname@example.org