Our wish list for a (much better) 2021
Each December, as the new year approaches, we publish in this space a list of our hopes for the coming 12 months. Never in the 20-year-history of this publication have we been as eager as we are today for the calendar to flip to Jan. 1.
A new year will not bring an immediate end to the coronavirus, or magically result in a reopened economy. But this is a moment for looking forward — and for a bit of optimism — so here is our annual wish list:
• Rising to the very top is an urgent wish for this state to bring all of Oregon's K-12 students up to speed in their education. The COVID-related school closures and the difficulty of remote learning have put young people far behind. This is a generational tragedy in motion, unless state leaders, school administrators, teachers and parents come together around a plan to restore what students missed.
It is well known that students slide back each year just by taking off the traditional 10 to 12 weeks in the summer. Imagine how big the gaps will be after nearly a year of disruption. During the past few weeks, we've been looking at the little data available on Oregon's public schools, and it isn't good. Attendance is down, class failure rates are up. And, in an all-too-predictable pattern, students of color seem to be disproportionately impacted.
One way to make up ground is to schedule more weeks of school into the summer of 2021, or to provide funding for tutors and night classes. Whatever the solution might be, Oregon needs a comprehensive strategy, or thousands of children — especially those from less-affluent communities — will suffer irreparable harm.
• On a less demanding note, can we politely ask that every state adopt Oregon's exemplary system of voting by mail? We've been at it, in some form, for 40 years now (25 for statewide elections). Think of all the drama that could have been avoided if all 50 states had a similar system in 2020. Perhaps President-elect Joe Biden, when he takes office, could put together a panel to study how Oregon conducts elections, with the goal of advising how "The Oregon Plan" (and its close cousins in Washington, Colorado and Hawaii) could be replicated in the other 49 states. However, Oregon's system could use one small change: Any ballot that is postmarked by election day should be counted, just as our neighbors to the north of us in Washington state do.
Co-chairs of the committee ought to be two Republicans, such as former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith and outgoing Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno. They would add credibility for any of their skeptical colleagues.
• Back to a more immediate need: Let's make sure our beloved Stumptown doesn't get renamed Plywood Village. How about a "Take the Plywood Down Day" downtown on Jan. 2, or Jan. 21? Community volunteers can help shops and offices remove the boards all at once and advocates for social justice can plead for no more harm.
And, to help downtown return to its previous glory, how about free parking on weekends until May?
• Sticking with downtown for the moment, let's wish for an ambitious, landmark design for the new Burnside Bridge.
• How about a Portland City Council that works together to solve the city's biggest problems? We think that's what voters were aiming for when they elected more centrist candidates to the council in 2020.
• Another hope for 2021 is that the Portland Police Bureau's rank-and-file, and police leadership, embrace this historic opportunity for real police reform. Villainizing all police will not get us to true reform. Neither will recalcitrance by the police union. But if all sides — Black Lives Matter, City Hall and the police themselves — find a way to work on this together, we could see structural changes that will stand the test of time, and serve as a fitting tribute to the Rev. T. Allen Bethel.
• Let's end walkouts in the Oregon Legislature. Yes, Democrats should learn to listen with more empathy and understand that Republicans should work as hard as they can to alter, or kill, a bill they don't like. But lawmakers must show up and do their jobs.
• We're hoping for fine weather from April through October, and that outdoor concerts return for the huddled masses who have been sheltered in place for many months.
• If we can push for any big event to take place, can it be the Rose Festival? The festival, even if the date gets pushed back, could be an epic time for people resuming normal activities and for "healing" to take place.
• Like everyone, sports fans are rooting for the vaccines to work against the coronavirus so that in 2021 we can again gather at Providence Park, Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Ron Tonkin Field, Walker Stadium and our favorite college sports cathedrals. With all of our challenges, it's natural to think of sports as superfluous. But in an age when we are more fragmented by social media and by divisions real and imagined, the arena is one place we can replace our differences with a shared passion.
• Perhaps even more significant, our wish is that young athletes, musicians, debaters and thespians can return to competition soon and be supported by classmates in high school venues. The value lessons learned and connections built through participation in such activities cannot be overstated.
• Here's hoping for good health for the Trail Blazers, so that Damian Lillard has the supporting cast he needs for Portland to make a deep playoff run in the spring. It will be a challenging season, with games coming fast and furious. Depth will be critical. If healthy, the Blazers have that. If any player deserves to be rewarded for his loyalty, commitment and class, it's Lillard.
• Along similar lines, we wish that the Portland Winterhawks, who have new ownership, get to play some hockey. Portland had the best record in the Western Hockey League when it shut down last season, and expects to have one of the better teams in the league this season.
• For the culturally minded, we hope as many venues as possible in the Portland area benefit from federal money provided through the $15 billion Save Our Stages Act campaign.
• No uncontrolled wildfires need appear in 2021. We just couldn't take it again.
• After those devastating wildfires, months of legitimate protest marred by vandalism and violence, and a year of COVID and recession, we all can just hope for rebound and renewal. Perhaps Travel Portland, with in-kind support of a local ad agency, can undertake? an amusing rebranding of Portland based on all the stuff we have just been through in 2020. Something more enticing than Plywood Village.
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