Friday, September 4, 2015

Unsolicited Advice for Portland Mayoral Candidates

I took a poll the other day which asked a number of questions about Portland and the mayoral race.  My assumption is those questions are on behalf of a potential candidate, and they're testing the waters.

The poll focused on economic matters:  how is the economy doing, how important are jobs, should Portland try to entice businesses from out of state to move here or focus on growing our own, etc.  They're all good questions on their own, but if that's the focus of a mayoral candidate I think they're all wrong.  In my view Portland's economy is doing pretty well, and when the economy does well people take it for granted.  It won't get votes.

What will get votes is articulating a response to Portland's population growth and housing shortage.  Portland desperately needs not just a direction or a set of actions that will happen ("we'll build more housing, we'll stop demolitions") but a reconciliation with our commitment to sustainability and livable neighborhoods that have long defined the city.  To paraphrase a wise person who's name escapes me, out of
  • affordable housing, 
  • a tight UGB, and
  • our current neighborhood densities,
we can only have two out of three.  One way or another we have to compromise on one of those, and we ought to explicitly decide which.  If we don't, we'll lose affordable housing by default.  That's a shitty thing to do to people with lower income.  If we're pushing them out, the least we can do is tell them so and tell them why.  And if we're embarrassed to say such things out loud then maybe we should look at a different compromise.

I think (I hope) the next mayor will be someone who presents that call, who can answer it out loud, and convince us that they are right.

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