By Rick Seifert of Portland, Oregon. Rick is a journalism teacher, a columnist (SW Community Connection), and neighborhood activist.
Mayor Potter has challenged us to envision the Portland of the future.
Why should we be confined to the concept of a city? What we need is a city-state.
Think Singapore or Monaco. And now Portlandia and forget the statue.
A benevolent city-state stands in contrast to the power-mad American nation-state. Suffice to say America is on the verge of becoming, if it isn't already, a theocratic plutocracy.
So what does Portlandia look like?
* More than a city, it's a community of interdependent urban, suburban and rural communities'an economically sustainable and organically whole region. Portlandia extends a half-hour's ride on a bullet train in four directions: to Longview/Kelso, Eugene, Hood River, and Astoria. The trains ride on railbeds once known as 'Interstates.'
* Portlandia consists of communities and neighborhoods so small that when 'strangers' meet, they know they have a friend or neighbor in common.
* Portlandia bears no burden of supporting a military because it is not longer part of America's world police force. Citing American founders' justifications, Portlandians have declared their independence.
* It is a place of joy that has eliminated the old culture of fear once exploited and disseminated by politicians and media. Its tax structure prohibits extreme, cynical wealth. Portlandia's citizens are the best educated and most creative in the world. Because of this and its thriving egalitarian economy, Portlandia has no poverty, hunger or homelessness. Portlandia ensures universal health care as a fundamental right of all citizens. The city-state has the world's lowest crime rate. Accordingly, it has the lowest per capita expenditure on criminal justice and law enforcement anywhere.
* Our city-state has an integrated and streamlined government. County, city and educational governance are one efficient, cohesive, interactive entity. It has zero redundancies. Portlandia's communities are represented through an elected city-state 'council of communities and neighborhoods.' Moreover, each community and neighborhood has its own elected council.
* The city-state is energy independent, relying exclusively on tidal, fish-friendly hyro, wind, human (pedal) and solar power. The citizens of Portlandia purchase no energy from corrupt, hate-mongering regimes or fiefdoms'whether in Texas or elsewhere.
* Pride in community is such that all participate as readily in maintaining 'The Commons' as they do in mowing their own lawns or trimming their hedges. Portlandia's constitution places strict limits on commercialism. (Good-bye Clear Channel!)
Our 'ownership society' teaches that citizenship, common stewardship, cooperation and public responsibility are as valued as individualism, fair competition, private ownership and private responsibility. The city-state's ethic is a vibrant, harmonious blend of individualism and community involvement.
Impossible, you say?
Consider prior visions that have become reality here. Some may be precursors to the above: Metro, our regional government; SOLV, which invites us to take responsibility for the Commons; our growing network of urban/rural trails; the thriving, unifying farmers market movement; wind farms; light rail, the trolley and the renaissance in bicycling.
Now add to these a mayor who urges us to create new visions.
We owe it to this place and posterity to respond.