An Open Letter to Portland City Council
On Nov. 9, the day after what for me was a cataclysmic election, I found a haven in Portland City Council meetings, not only offering testimony myself, but cheering on the testimony of citizens as young as grade-school age children.
Most of us — certainly the young — wanted Portland to continue and even increase its progressive agenda. The last Council accomplished much in the final two months of 2016, but there is still plenty left to do.
Inspired by Sarah Iannarone, I offer my own To-Do list for the new City Council.
In 2017, let's help the City of Portland continue its leadership on climate change by addressing fossil fuels: reducing demand for them and limiting their usage, transport and storage, as well as any City investment in them. (I hope that our efforts will inspire those in other cities — especially Millennials — to work locally to make their own cities more sustainable and resilient.)
• Make every neighborhood more walkable. This could be accomplished by adopting a strong Residential Infill/Missing Middle policy to create the population levels to support the services in each neighborhood that folks want to walk to. Also, adopting Parking Management Policy improvements — like those sought by Portlanders for Parking Reform and PBOT's own Citywide Parking Strategy and its proposed Residential Parking Permit Program — could help to manage demand.
• Strengthen the Central City 2035 Plan with regard to trees and streetscape by adding to the plan wider sidewalks and street trees to make downtown streets more than "car sewers" for commuters. (By the way, the West End of downtown still has a predominantly low-income population, many of whom are people of different ethnic origins and races and use walkers or wheelchairs.)
• Insist on a revision of the Portland Art Museum Rothko Pavillion plan, which seeks to close off the Madison Street plaza. Instead, focus on strengthening downtown walkability and resilience — i.e., negotiate a "Madison Walkway" between Southwest 11th and 12th to break up this superblock. And oppose any other property owner who proposes to make downtown less walkable rather than more walkable!
Since the greenest building is one that is already there, work with the owners of unreinforced masonry buildings in the West End — including the Art Museum — to do seismic upgrades so that fewer buildings need to be replaced after a seismic event. (PAM is not technically an unreinforced masonry building; rather, it features a brick veneer. But it was built in the 1930s and has not been seismically upgraded to today's standards.)
• Phase out the use of studded tires that cause road damage and hence require asphalt resurfacing, a very intensive use of fossil fuels. I know that this is a state issue, but Portland must add this to its legislative agenda.
See my Studded Tire testimony of 2013 on Facebook. I take my lead on ideas for limiting usage, transport and storage and investment from such groups as Sierra Club, 350 PDX and Center for a Sustainable Economy.
I testified at the last council's hearings on the No New Fossil Fuel Facilities policy and stand ready to help defend it — and to help Portland get enabling legislation to require seismic upgrades on existing fossil fuel storage facilities.
Mary Vogel is founder/principal of PlanGreen and a downtown neighborhood land use/transportation advocate.