Did Tom Potter Just Drive the Last Nail into the Coffin of Neighborhood Planning in Portland?

Chris Smith

As I watched the recording of Thursday afternoon’s City Council meeting, as five-plus years of effort by the Linnton community to reconnect itself to the river vanished as the gavel fell on a 3-2 vote, I had some serious flashbacks...

To the summer of 2003, when by the same 3-2 margin, City Council took the NW District Plan, the result of ten-plus years of effort in the neighborhood and turned it into what the Oregonian’s Randy Gragg called “developer-driven planning, not planning-driven development.”

Taking my community’s efforts to expand a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood into an obsolete in industrial area, Council:

As she gaveled down that vote, Mayor Vera Katz warned neighborhoods: “watch out St. Johns, watch out Linnton...”

Flash forward to Thursday when Mayor Potter stage-managed testimony by the Portland Office of Emergency Management and then handed the gavel to a fellow commissioner so he could personally make the motion killing the plan on the basis that the area would never be safe for human habitation. Joined by Commissioners Leonard and Saltzman (who also provided two of the three votes to pass the 2003 NW District Plan), the “VisionPDX” mayor then provided the third vote to erase the Linnton community’s vision.

So what happened? Is safety really the issue? If the key safety issues (which neighborhood leaders were more than conversant with) were really the reason, they would constitute a ‘fatal flaw’ problem. In any planning effort, you look for the fatal flaws first, before you invest your time and energy in more detailed planning.

How could such a fatal flaw persist through five years of planning?

Could such a fatal flaw have simply gotten by the entire planning commission (whose recommendation Council rejected)? I find that hard to believe.

So what really happened to the Linnton plan?

What is Tom Potter (whom I supported after Jim Francesconi helped derail my neighborhood’s plan) thinking?

Is neighborhood planning dead?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    The Fire Bureau is still paying to cleanup a Linnton site. There's a lot of nasty shit there. And I know Patty Reuter, Chris--what makes you say she was stage-managed?

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    I have no reason to doubt Patty's sincerity. The stage management comes in the form of having exactly one witness (with rebuttal allowed from the neighborhood), whose testimony aligns precisely with the basis of the Mayor's motion.

    I don't claim to be expert enough to evaluate the safety concerns myself. But I note that the neighborhood certainly seemed to understand them, and Commissioner Sten who manages the Fire Bureau did not see them as a reason to kill the plan.

    If they are really the deciding factor, how did these issues get past the Planning Commission?

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    Chris- Since arriving on the council I have come to greatly appreciate your point of view. However, this post is not up to the standard I have come to expect from you.

    You neglected to say in your post that the proposed change in zoning was to allow housing to be constructed between two mammoth gasoline tank farms on the Willamette and directly over the Olympic Pipeline that carries highly flammable materials. That combined with the site being bordered with a rail line that transports flammable, toxic and hazardous substances with only one way in and one way out (IF an overpass bridge is built over the railroad tracks...unless you count swimming into the Willamette as an exit) make this a site that is too hazardous to zone for housing of any type.

    For you to suggest that the Portland Office of Emergency Planning said what I just did, albeit better and in much more detail, because they were told to do so by Mayor Potter is, frankly, not only irresponsible but, even more disappointing, a serious disservice to people who have come to expect more from you.

  • (Show?)

    Mmmmm.... crow.

    Maybe it's the hat.

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    Randy, let me be clear, I don't know enough to evaluate the safety risks. I'm not trying to make an argument about the substance, but the process.

    The question I'm trying to raise here is whether the whole concept of neighborhood planning has stopped working.

    Neighborhood planning arose in the '70s as a method to revitalize central city neighborhoods at a time when they were failing in other cities. It has been tremdously successful in achieving that goal. But I am concerned that the core notion has stopped working. The central idea is that the people in the neighborhood can take responsibility for the place they live in and develop a vision, with the City's assistance and involvement, for that place.

    With the NW District Plan I had the experience of watching that vision get completely distorted by outside factors at the tail end of the process.

    My post is about watching the neighbors in Linnton go through a similar experience.

    I don't know whether the site in Linnton is safe for housing. And I don't claim that anyone who says it isn't is insincere.

    My question, Randy, is if it is not in fact safe, how did the neighborhood planning process, and a lot of smart people, including the Planning Commission, let the neighborhood think it was a possibility for five years?

    The conclusion that I draw after the NW District Plan, and now Linnton, is that trying to develop a vision for your neighborhood, and put it in a City plan, may no longer be a productive way to do planning hear in Portland.

  • (Show?)

    Tom McCall said "Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it's my responsibility to make it better."

    My heroes are are Sandy Diedrich, who shepherded the NW District Plan through 10 years of neighborhood meetings and handed the City a coherent and well-thought-through vision, and Pat Wagner who led Linnton to develop their vision to reconnect to the waterfront.

    My point is that neighborhood planning in Portland is no longer celebrating these heroes, it's grinding them up.

    As for Jack Bog, I find it interesting that you celebrated when another of my heroes, Jerry Powell, had his neighborhood's vision upheld when Council (correctly in my view) tossed out a concept of air rights transfer that would have undermined any community's ability to do planning. But you're silent when Linnton's vision is discarded.

    Well, Jack, let me ask this question: if neighborhood planning is not the paradigm for shaping the future of Portland what is? Well, Jack, the answer is it's the kind of "developers with spreadsheets, aligned with investments in public infrastructure" planning that built the Pearl and is building South South waterfront. I don't think this is a bad thing, indeed I think if we want to retain the concept of an urban growth boundary, it's necessary.

    But if we do the kind of planning that stems from aligning financial interests with broad public policy goals, without the local heroes fighting for what makes Portland special, it's going to be pretty soul-less.

    So if neighborhood planning is no longer the venue for heroes to invest in their communities, can we find a way to tell them that besides 3-2 votes at Council after years of community investment in developing visions?

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Randy -

    I have yet to figure out why you post on Blue Oregon, if all the posts really are by you. On the one hand, you come here when you personally don't feel you've been treated fairly by the media, the constituency, whatever. Then you post what comes across to a reader who has no dog in the fight as a condescending comment like this insulting constituents. Taken as a whole, not exactly the picture of wisdom and talent.

    And just to be clear, I'm not a big fan of the neighborhood planning process. Having lived in both urban PDX and urban Seattle, I actually think these processes have made both fairly mean-spirited places to live, and are the symptom of the baby boom and subsequently generations being intellectually and socially incapable collectively of making representative government work properly. But that's another matter entirely.

  • (Show?)

    A "condescending" comment? You mean that pointing out that houses shouldn't be built in an area that could turn into an inferno? What exactly is condescending about that?

    Defending yourself against unwarranted accusations of corruption is not condescention, no matter what you may think.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    My point is that neighborhood planning in Portland is no longer celebrating these heroes, it's grinding them up.

    I think it is a mistaken to equate participation in a neighborhood planning process with an opportunity to become a "hero". In fact, I think that part of the problem is the to aggrandize the process, as Chris does here in many ways, instead of evaluating its real benefits. Neighborhood groups were once opportunities for community organize and create a vision of itself. Thay have largely become places for amateur planners and neighborhood bureaucrats as drowned in the arcane details of landuse planning as the real planners and bureaucrats. Except they have a personal stake in the outcome and no accountability for the results.

    Once neighborhood groups understood themselves as advocacy organizations, dependent on their community's support for their power. Now many neighborhood groups see themselves as official parts of the decision making process. They are not places that attract people with large visions, Chris's heroes, but people interested in arcane planning details and the feeling of power that comes from being part of an official city organization.

    One can ask how the Linton neighborhood plan got to the point of council approval without the problems related to safety being resolved? The obvious answer is that the neighborhood did not understand its role as an advisory group that needed to persuade decision makers to adopt its vision. The fact that the neighborhood leaders brought a plan to the council that lacked support is testimony to their failure, not a mark of heroism.

    At this point the official neighborhood system is broken. So long at the people who participate see their power as derived from their bureaucratic connections to the city it will remain broken. Because many, not all, neighborhood leaders intuitively understand that they are "leaders" because they control the neighborhood group. They don't control the neighborhood group because they are recognized by the neighborhood as it's leaders.

    The fact that Randy Leonard pissed all over everyone in the neighborhood groups and got reelected ought to tell you something.

  • John Capradoe (unverified)
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    I think that Chris is making a good point, and I also believe that the process is broken.

    I agree with the Linnton decision as I posted on one of the other blogs, as for folks that do understand that the main gas pipelines travel under that site.

    Also as I said in the alternate post, most of the neighborhoods like Linnton are being or have been abused by the planning process, and you don't see planning for the Pearl or SoWA to take their share of methodone clinics.

    If Linnton were an entity and reaped some benefits of having industrial land etc, for example given an allowance for school and community livablility improvements based on the non-desirable elements they absorbed, you would at least give these folks some choice.

    Also the planning process should lay out parameters up front if there are issues like the pipeline running under the property on what use can be achieved.

    The problem is planning is not an iterative process like it needs to be to be economicly sound, it has degenerated in this town to a politico getting a bug in thier ear, then going forth "damn the torpedos" The exculating costs of SoWa are a prime example.

    Where ideas like Linnton would have been screened out early on if the technical issues had been addressed initially by someone other than a planner, who knew the practical limitations.

  • (Show?)

    Randy - I have yet to figure out why you post on Blue Oregon, if all the posts really are by you

    I'm sure it's the real Randy, and I appreciate that he engages in public discussion here and on other blogs, even when we disagree.

    [Ross] At this point the official neighborhood system is broken.

    On that we can agree. So how do citizens engage City Government to make a positive difference?

    I would also note that Planning Commission found something to endorse in Linnton's vision, so it's not completely out of left field.

  • Scooby (unverified)
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    Uh, sounds like the "process" worked fine. Neighborhood had a vision, city council didn't like it, city council gets to overrule the neighborhood.

    Are you saying that neighborhoods should have the power to do whatever they like in their vision, City Council be damned?

    Why not elect someone on the Council who agrees with the two members that hold the position you like? Presumably, you'll have that opportunity in two years.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    So how do citizens engage City Government to make a positive difference?

    I think there are really two questions. How does city government engage citizens in helping to make decisions? The other is how do citizens engage city government with their vision and concerns? I think there is a tendency with the neighborhood associations to mix the two together in ways that do both an injustice.

    The first question addresses a need to get the best quality advice for whatever decisions the city is making. There is a load of expertise and knowledge among residents, both professional and life experience, that they are willing to share for free and the city ought to be trying to take advanrtage of that.

    One starting point for that function would be to have an advisory cabinet for every agency with five members, one appointed by each commissioner. The role of that advisory group would be to give advice to the agency and each member would also give advice to the council member who appointed them.

    They ought to turn the neighborhood planning process over to professional planning staff who are accountable for the outcome. The neighborhood participation ought to be people chosen to provide a variety of perspectives and represent the different interests in the neighborhood.

    In both cases, the purpose is to get good information and useful advice, not to provide an open process for participation. The danger of that, of course, is that some perspectives will be excluded because they create thorny problems.

    The third process needs to be an open one that brings groups of citizens together to discuss the issues and inform the process. Those need to include three elements: Information that forces people to engage the issue intellectually, not simply repeat the conclusions they had reached before walking into the room. An opportunity to discuss the issues with the other people in the room. And, a means for both the group to make collective recommendations and for each individual's own ideas to be captured.

    Again the purpose of this third process is to solicit quality advice, not provide a democratic forum. Its open nature is meant to ensure that perspectives aren't missed. None of the process should be managed or controlled by the agency responsible for implementing the project. But since they are the first level of decision makers, the process ought to serve them.

    The second question is how do citizens come up with their own visions and ideas that may not be on the city's agenda or might be contrary to its current direction. That is, how do citizens effectively exercise the right to petition their government. This is not a question of expertise or knowledge, but sharing opinions and values.

    Obviously one way to accomplish that is elections. But they are an awfully crude source of influence. Unless you have very narrow interests you want represented, you are not going to be able to choose a representative based on a single issue. Moreover, truly effective participation generally requires access to a lot of money.

    Beyond elections, the way people influence government is through non-governmental organizations. That is why the neighborhood groups were created in the first place. Unfortunately, they have become more and more a part of government and less and less non-governmental. Restoring them to independent organizations who depend on community support is a starting point.

    But given the complexity of a lot of decisions that effect neighborhoods, there is a need for providing professional support beyond what a neighborhood can afford or manage. The community coalitions have done that to some extent, but again have become captives of the city in many cases because that is their source of official power and their largest source of funding. Moreover, even the coalitions management at times has left a lot to be desired, reflecting neighborhood fissures and at worst becoming disfunctional. People fought over money and power, both derived from the city.

    I think there needs to be independent neighborhood groups and that means financing that is independent of city political control. It may be a community foundation specifically to fund neighborhood efforts, a dedicated source of tax dollars or some combination of the two. Financial support ought to depend on the willingness and ability of the groups to sustain the active involvement and/or support of neighborhood residents. If there is more than one organization able to do that in a neighborhood, so be it.

    I also think a lot of neighborhood issues are really citywide issues that are identified at the neighborhood level. The speed limit on local streets for instance is a problem in every neighborhood and is really a statewide issue. There needs to be the ability of groups to address issues to the appropriate level of government. The county decides where libraries are built. The state sets the speed limit on neighborhood streets. Trimet provides transit. etc. The idea that neighborhood issues are fundamentally city issues is not always the case. And the strategies the neighborhoods adopt for addressing their issues/problems shouldn't always be focused on city government either.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    "My question, Randy, is if it is not in fact safe, how did the neighborhood planning process, and a lot of smart people, including the Planning Commission, let the neighborhood think it was a possibility for five years?"

    I agree that is the right question to ask, Chris...and I have.

    However -and unfortunately- that is not how you framed the issue in your post.

    You implied, just as was done in the NW District plan, dark motives to those of us that disagreed with the Linnton community leaders. The larger point on neighborhood activists influence on decision making at the council is this...those kinds of tactics don't work.

    Aggressive accusations of influence peddling, quid pro quo deal making for campaign contributions, "staging" testimony, etc. may play well to the larger audience but they diminish your standing with decision makers.

    If I am the first to tell you that directly, I am sorry. But it unfair to you not to hear that directly.

    However, if you want to look for a model of how to influence the council you need only look to the example you mentioned of your neighborhood to the south, led by Jerry Powell and the Goose Hollow neighbors.

    They made a rationale case based on reason and the facts -absent threats, hyperbole or suggestions of moneyed interests holding sway over our decision making- as to why the Allegro violated the integrity of their neighborhood plan. A unanimous city council agreed with them.

    I can, but won't, list here dozens of land use decisions where I voted for the neighborhood and against the developer. Nearly all of my votes on those issues have given the benefit of any doubt to the neighborhood voices that objected to the proposed development.

    I say these things not to so much to criticize as I do in an earnest attempt to help the NW neighborhood leaders adopt a more effective strategy to influence what happens at the council than what this post -and my experience- reveals.

    Oh...and yes...notwithstanding all of my blemishes...it is I.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    "Aggressive accusations of influence peddling, quid pro quo deal making for campaign contributions, "staging" testimony, etc. may play well to the larger audience but they diminish your standing with decision makers."

    Without commenting on Chris's standing with decision makers, I would point out that Randy's point applies whether the accusations are true or not. He doesn't deny they are true, just questions whether they are effective. And its true, public officials do not respond well to public criticism, perhaps especially when its true.

    That does not mean public criticism is not important. In the long run, it is part of holding elected officials accountable. In the short run however, it is almost always counterproductive.

  • (Show?)

    Randy, I do believe influence trumped good policy in the NW district plan, which is different than implying corruption, which I am certainly not in your case.

    I have not followed the Linnton Plan nearly as closely, but making the safety issue the front and center issue at the tail end of the plan (and again, I don't doubt that you, the Mayor and Dan are sincere in your safety concerns), is unfair to the neighborhood as it pushed away consideration of the many other issues that should have been balanced in the choice.

    My criticism of the Mayor in particular is not because he is not sincere (he may be the most sincere politicial I've ever met), but that as the Commissioner in charge of the Planning Bureau, he has particular oversight of the process, and the process was deeply disrespectful of the effort and energy of the neighbors.

    If you've asked the question about why safety came to the fore so late in the process, I'd love to hear the answer you got.

    And if I'm more less reasoned and more passionate than my usual, understand that it's because the Linnton decision really did cause me to flashback to my very painful experience in the NW District Plan.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    "...I would point out that Randy's point applies whether the accusations are true or not. He doesn't deny they are true..."

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    For the record...those accusations are not true.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    "Randy, I do believe influence trumped good policy in the NW district plan..."

    That may be. However, when "good policy" is proposed within a context of accusations (for the record...untrue), anger and hyperbole I hope you would agree it is easy for one (in this case, me) to lose the message.

    And I do appreciate your acknowledging that your post on Linnton may have been influenced by your perceptions of how the NW plan ended up.

    As far as the answer I got from the question you and I both asked, it wasn't inspiring.

    To try and be as polite as possible, some of the staff believed that the "intense" lobbying by some created an atmosphere that was filled more with dread than it was of doing the right thing.

    I do think some in the city knew the council was part of the process and that we would ultimately be guided more by good policy than by "intense" lobbying.

    Having said that, I would agree with you that this should have been resolved a long time ago and it is not the best example of how a public process should be managed.

  • (Show?)

    Having said that, I would agree with you that this should have been resolved a long time ago and it is not the best example of how a public process should be managed.

    So circling back to the point I was trying to make with my post, is it possible to have a neighborhood planning process in which those who want to take the time and energy to try to create a vision for their special part of Portland will feel respected, valued and effective?

    If not, let's move to a different planning framework so we can stop beating our heads against the wall.

  • (Show?)

    Chris,

    I appreciate your energy and dedication, but along with other readers, I have a hard time parsing out your PROCESS complaint from your OUTCOME complaint.

    It is very easy to read into your comments the implication that neighborhoods ought to be in control of planning in their area (e.g. The central idea is that the people in the neighborhood can take responsibility for the place they live in and develop a vision, with the City's assistance and involvement, for that place.).

    The problem with this, of course, is that it runs conpletely contrary to a city-wide planning process. There are alternatives to the extremes you describe (neighborhood centered planning vs. developer centered planning): it's called a city wide planning department with vigorous public involvement. Isn't that about what we have right now?

    Portland has faced, and will continue to face some tough that will impact the whole city. I'm sure these changes will be discomforting to many, and the immediate reaction will be to resist them.

  • (Show?)

    Paul, I understand the point that you're trying to make. But the City has at various times funded, de-funded, and funded again in specific instances, neighborhood planning processes that are intended to give neighborhoods voice in these decisions.

    Certainly I don't expect that neighborhoods should be in control of the outcomes these planning processes.

    But my experience is that those who step up to participate in these processes come out of them feeling abused and disrespected.

    It's one thing to lose on substantive questions. It's another to get ground up in the process.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    "...is it possible to have a neighborhood planning process in which those who want to take the time and energy to try to create a vision for their special part of Portland will feel respected, valued and effective?"

    Yes, Chris, it is absolutely possible. In my own unartful way, I was trying to point out that it happens all the time around you.

    However, to be effective it is very important to be willing to listen to other voices, concerns and suggestions when engaging in this process. I am suggesting to you that there was an absence of those considerations in the process of considering the NW District Plan.

    While we may both agree that the Linnton example should have been disposed of a long time ago, you should understand that it was only the lobbying efforts by some that kept it alive as long as it was.

    And I don't mean that as a complement.

    Those lobbying tactics including calling some "nazis', saying things such as "you owe me" (directed at me), and making repeated and unannounced visits to my and other council offices after numerous and repeated meetings where the same exact thing was said over and over and over.

    My receptionist was told "he has to go to the bathroom sometime" and "I know if I talk with him enough he will understand I am right". This was after more meetings with neighborhood leaders on this subject that I have had with any other person or entity since I have arrived on the city council.

    Believe it or not, I am restraining myself from disclosing even more examples that do not speak well of some that you admire.

    The bigger message is this. If you want to influence what any body does it is important to remember how you like getting information to help you make a decision.

    I think an honest assessment of the two examples you cite as the basis for the decline of neighborhood influence would lead you to a different conclusion than the conclusion you have reached.

  • forwhateveritsworth (unverified)
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    Chris –

    The Linnton Plan was not your typical neighborhood study. The typical study being where the city’s planning bureau undertakes a neighborhood plan in conjunction with the residents of the neighborhood. Instead the Linnton Plan came solely from the neighbors with no real participation by the city’s planners. The city did respond on reviewed the neighbors plan.

    The planning bureau stated after reviewing the plan … “Assuming safety measures are put in place … major residential development of the site would expose residents to significant, complex, and potentially unacceptable risk factors.” Linnton Village Study, City of Portland, August 30, 2005.

    The planning commission then commented when making its decision … “Many concerns were voiced about housing at this location: safety/evacuation issues, proximity to hazardous materials, isolated location … If it weren’t for the support of the Linnton neighborhood, it is unlikely that we would consider this a desirable area for housing.” Planning Commission, June 26, 2006.

    So, it was clearly on the table that the safety of the area for residential housing was seriously in question. I understand you feel cheated by what happened in NW, but I don’t think this situation is comparable.

    Also, it is not very often that the neighborhood residents would profit so heavily from a land use decision. As you might or might not be aware many of the neighbors actually own a piece of the former Linnton plywood site which they proposed for zoning changes. Thus, these same neighbors would likely double their investment by a change in zoning to allow for Pearl type condos.

    This is really a situation that should be researched before throwing out accusations.

  • (Show?)

    Randy, those are certainly not tactics I would recommend to any neighborhood.

    In the NW Parking debacle, I had the experience of moving my neighborhood from "no parking structures period" to "no parking structures in the historic district" to "we can live with 6 of these parking structure sites". That seems like a lot of "listening to other voices" to me. Nonetheless, we got saddled with the parking structure site we could not live with, and many of us were down at the Historic Landmarks Commission today where one Commissioner said (I'm paraphrasing, but this is the essence) - our task is to integrate this into the neighborhood, but it's never going to integrate.

    I appreciate your willingness to dialog on this topic, Randy, and realize that I have not seen as many plans come through as you have, but if a fellow activist asked me if their neighborhood should do a neighborhood plan right now, I'd quote Vera: "watch out."

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Certainly I don't expect that neighborhoods should be in control of the outcomes these planning processes.

    But my experience is that those who step up to participate in these processes come out of them feeling abused and disrespected.

    I think those two things are connected. After putting hours into a process that produces a result, the people involved expect that result to be accepted by the decision makers. They no longer see themselves as advisory groups but defacto decision makers. Your reaction to the reopening of the discussion of the Burnside couplet was not to welcome further public dialogue, but to defend the process and results of your previous work.

    There is a piece of this that really comes down to public officials who are afraid to say over and over again - you are advisers here. We still get to make the decisions. Who fail to engage the process while the advisory process is going on. And part of it is the fault of citizens who fail to engage the decision makers along the way to make sure that they have support for the solutions they are developing.

    The result is that it turns into a political process. Electeds don't want to spend political capitol they don't have to. City staff are intimidated and fail to express their reservations clearly to citizens they view as politically powerful. And citizens see themselves as in charge, failing to recognize that their only real power is the wisdom of their advice and the ability to persuade the decision makers.

    In the NW Parking debacle, I had the experience of moving my neighborhood from "no parking structures period" to "no parking structures in the historic district" to "we can live with 6 of these parking structure sites".

    Let me suggest that sounds like you were negotiating a solution for the city and neighborhood. That this is playing the role of the decision makers, not an advisory group. An advisory group can only negotiate its collective recommendations. Its compromises are binding can only bind the people in the room and then only nominally.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Ross WIlliams -

    The condescension is in the lead of the Leonard's comment:

    Chris- Since arriving on the council I have come to greatly appreciate your point of view. However, this post is not up to the standard I have come to expect from you.

    I don't think Leonard is Chris's teacher, parent, mentor, or in any other kind of role where he has the moral authority to speak in that paternalistic and judgmental way. And since he is not, his comment is just plain condescending towards Chris. Furthermore, taken as whole, his argument implicitly, if cleverly, commits with what in fact is an implicit ad hominem fallacy; albeit framed in that juvenile NW passive-agressive way.

    The ad hominem fallacy here is subtle: He starts his rebuttal by first demeaning the arguer, not the argument: "I have come to expect from you". That's different my statement here where I say "his comment is ... : That is, I am criticizing the comment itself, which starts with what is seen to be false praise "I have come to appreciate your point of view" when contextualized against the backhanded personal attack: is not up to the standard I have come to expect from you.

    You can criticize somebody forcefully and still respect them, and you can mealy-mouth around in a pseudo-polite way and actually disrepect them. Chris started out with forceful and adequately respectful comments addressing the on-the-record actions of government officials. He continued to argue his case in that way. Leonard started out with extremely disrepectful comment and tone as noted. And as I implied in my first comment, with a start like that there is nowhere to go but down if you are a leader (unless you are with the right-wing whackjobs bent on raw power who are destroying our society.) Some PDXer's seem to be rather clueless on that difference, if the comments here slamming Chris's rather well-developed factual presentation of his perception of, shall we say, the "arbitrariness" with which the PDX City Commission responds to neighborhood plans are taken at face value.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
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    Point well taken.

  • Ugh (unverified)
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    While I'm glad to hear everyone being so righteous and fair-minded to each other, is it so hard to believe that the Mayor and others could cave to developers? Dinners with Peter Kohler, lunches with Greg Goodman and long walks on the beach with Homer Williams have changed the Mayor's mind before. Why should Linnton be any different?

  • (Show?)

    Let me suggest that sounds like you were negotiating a solution for the city and neighborhood

    Well probably, since I was siting a room with two city staff faciliting a negotiation between the neighborhood association and the business association.

    Council very badly wanted the two associations to come to a consensus. How does that make the leaders of those associations anything other than negotiators. The City put us in that role.

    The whole history of parking in NW is the two associations vetoing the approaches of the other because Council was afraid to take sides. I made an effort to drag my association to the middle, and watched the other association hire lobbyists instead.

    Leadership from the Council would have been something that actually solved the problem for the neighborhood while making neither side completely happy. Instead we got the language written by one of the lobbyists, the language the Landmark's Commission threw their hands up at today and said "we're powerless over most of these issues."

    So we get one parking structure that makes a small cluster of retail businesses (whose landlord is the developer of the parking structure) happy, while the rest of the neighborhood is still stalemated over parking and downtown commuters continue to "park-and-hide" in the district.

    Excuse me for wearing my open wound on my sleave.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Chris: Is neighborhood planning dead? JK: Was it ever very alive beyond being a vehicle for the PDC and planning departments to shove smart growth/more density on an unwilling population? Does Portland ever consider the wishes of the whole neighborhood, instead of the wishes of the small cadre of zealots that come to meeting?

    I was somewhat close to the Lombard plan and I sensed that very few informed people were in favor of it, outside of a few activists who specialize in spreading the planner’s manta and the people slated to make a lot of money from their property holdings by selling out their neighbors.

    The fact that increased density was a given and NOT open to opposition proves that it was the city’s plan, not the neighborhood’s. (let me be clear the neighborhood got to help choose what parts of the area got stuck with the giant apartments, so long as they got plopped down somewhere in the area.)

    The other item that proves the neighborhood was taken for a ride, was that at least one planner lied to the public and another considered street trees a good trade for loss of local business viability.

    Does any rational person really want parts of a major, 35 MPH, arterial to get areas lined with apartments and coffee shops which will eventually force a twenty MPH speed zone and result in even more delay for commercial vehicles. Portland’s planners do. They simply don’t care about the locals if they interfere with the grand plan of forced density and more traffic congestion.

    Finally, Portland has been driving family wage industrial jobs out of town for years. Isn’t it about time to draw the line and say that no development will be permitted if it even has the mere potential to drive jobs out of town.

    Thanks JK

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Council very badly wanted the two associations to come to a consensus. How does that make the leaders of those associations anything other than negotiators. The City put us in that role.

    They apparently did not want that consenus all that badly.

    I am not criticizing you for being in that role. The city gave you responsibility with no authority. If you had come up with a compromise they supported, they would have used you to shield themselves from critics of the compromise and duck responsibility. I don't think that is unusual.

    I think that is the reason people end up feeling beat up. The city council pretends the neighborhoods are the decision makers when is suits them. People start to operate that way and then a decision comes along that the council isn't willing to let the neighborhood make. There is no real method for sorting that out until the council votes at the end of the process.

  • John Capradoe (unverified)
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    Ross-

    Your comments are right on target, there is no framework for decision making or guidlines that can be consistently applied and that are understandable to the general public.

    This would allow accountability and if the original vision of McCall and others and what Metro 2020 tried to achieve with town centers, there could be a clear and financially trackable planning process.

    Right now with the tax abatements, TIF, and amenities like the Convention Center, PGE Park, Streetcar, etc, etc, running at a negative cash flow, there are definately winners and losers in the neighborhoods, particularly with simple ammenities like potholes and parks.

    Yes I do appreciate that representative goverment is necessary to prevent the chaos, of Romanesque thumbs up or down in the public arena. But people should also be given a racing form, that accurately reflects the track record of the horses in the race so the next time they can vote on the best bet.

  • (Show?)

    askquestions: "Chris started out with forceful and adequately respectful comments addressing the on-the-record actions of government officials. He continued to argue his case in that way"

    I disagree. I really like Chris, and love what he does for the City, but to my ear he called the report of the Office of Emergency Management essentially rigged, and made out someone I respect in her job to be a hapless tool. That wasn't respectful--it carried a tone of "we wuz robbed" rather than "this was a bad decision."

    I think Chris has explained himself a little bit--and his point about process is probably well taken--but the piece came off sounding like a JackBog rant: "it's all a sham, a dirty trick from our socialist government!" (Sidebar--I notice at his place Jack is saying "the Stennies" are all up in arms about this. Considering LO was considered Stennie apologist #1 during election season, and I support Potter's decision here, I'm no longer sure whether I'm allowed to keep the title...)

  • (Show?)

    Uncle!

    I officially recant the use of the term 'stage managed'.

    I still think the neighborhood was poorly served by not resolving the safety issue MUCH earlier in the process.

  • Scooby (unverified)
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    when the council agrees with the neighborhood association, that's "leadership"

    when the council disagrees with the neighborhood association, that's "corruption"

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I still think the neighborhood was poorly served by not resolving the safety issue MUCH earlier in the process.

    It sounds like everyone agrees on that. The question is why that happened and how to prevent it in the future.

    But I think you are backing off your central point, which had as much to do with how the city handled the Northwest parking fiasco as it did Linton. I think that is a mistake because I think the two do have the same root cause. The declining effectiveness of citizen participation is reinforcing a decline in both the level and quality of participation. I think it will require a quite drastic overhaul to breath new life into it.

  • Pat Wagner (unverified)
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    We thought we were following the rules. We did the best we knew how. Please don't call us names.

    The mayor was unable to meet with Linnton. We met with a very sweet young woman instead ( Veronica).

    While campaigning we told Tom Potter of Linntons "dreams". The mayor responded that people should have a say in what happens to their communities. We believed him.

    The mayor was unable to meet with our state representative Mitch Greenlick (who works with the Governor on industrial lands policy) about Linnton because there just wasn't time in his schedule.

    The mayor came to Linnton & this same young woman said "the mayor was not in Linnton to discuss issues". The people of Linnton respected this & honored this request. (I hope & believe) The mayor "wanted to get to know the people". Darcelle XV took the mayor to see the house he grew up in Linntons donated limousine.

    Dan Saltzman told Linnton only a few months ago "I will vote however the Planning Commission recommends". We believed him." They do a lot of research & put a lot of thought into these things".

    We thought we had four votes. Homer Williams told me a day or so before the hearing, after he had just met with Saltzman, that he thought we had Saltzmans vote.

    We knew Adams & Sten would vote in Linntons favor. They listened & checked out the facts. They also had a confirmation from the fire marshalls (John Klum) that with good design safety issues could be addressed & the fire marshall would feel safe living next to the tanks.
    The City Council voted on the Linnton Hillside Plan only a couple months ago. They voted to build homes right next to the tanks-much closer to the tanks than the 400 foot buffer required in Linntons Plan. We are sick about this. Pat Wagner

    Please allow me to defend myself against Randy Leonards words: regarding the nazi thing: This is a rumor started by something I said to a woman from PDC. I said to PDC "why are you saying what you are saying when you know it isn't true?" PDC said "I am only doing my job". I said "Thats exactly what the Nazis said" " "that's the excuse they used". I was making an analogy regarding the excuse she was using. I was hoping she would see how pathetic her excuse sounded. This is very different from calling a person a name.

    Regarding the unannounced visits: I thought city hall was a public building. I usually go to the site when calls are unreturned. I had no idea this caused resentment or offended anyone.

    Regarding the bathroom comment: I have no memory of saying anything like that. Even if someone had said something like that it seems odd a small indiscretion of that sort would cause the amount of resentment it sounds like Randy Leonard is harboring about it. It seems odd he would have the time to give that kind of stuff any thought at all.

    In regard to the " he owes us an appointment" comment: I regretted saying that the minute I said it to the commissioners staff person. I apologized to the peson immediately. I was upset because of unreturned calls. Leonards staff told me I better not ever say anything like that to the commissioner himself. I assurred him I never would. I am sorry the staff person told the commissioner.

    In regards to the "if we could just talk to him he would see we are right comment": The commissioner had told us to not come to him unless we had facts about safety. After weeks of research we had facts about safety that prove you are safer living next to a tank farm (like the ones in Linnton) than living in the Rose Quarter. We were trying to talk his assistant into making an appointment for us so the commissioner could see our new information.

    I am broken hearted about this whole thing. I had no idea the commissioner felt this way. If he had said to go away we would have. If he had said he didn't like the way people in Linnton repeated themselves we would have tried harder not to do it. If he had said I had offended him I would have apologized. I didn't defend myself about the nazi rumor because I did't think people paid attention to that sort of gossip. Pat Wagner Linnton

    I hope he will let us know about the other mistakes we have made or any other rumors.

  • Scooby (unverified)
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    Let's hug it out, people!

  • timidstaffer (unverified)
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    As one with tangential involvement in some of these discussions I do know that staff were terrorized my Ms. Wagner.

    She did not use a Nazi analogy she used the term "you are a Nazi". It was not just towards us either.

    I have been told she called a reporter a Nazi along with one of the business representatives that wanted to keep the site industrial.

    There has also been precious little discussion here of the financial windfall that some of the Linntonites working on this rezoning would have realized if the rezoning were approved.

    They are shareholders in the current Linnton Plywood company that owns the site and would have realized huge financial gains if the rezoning were to occur.

  • Josh (unverified)
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    I'm not sure its fair to remark that they would have huge financial gain from the sale. From what I understand, and this is second hand, the workers of Linnton Plywood own the site, and their retirement is tied up in the sale of the property. I guess if you want to characterize employee loyalty and a coop based business as a 'huge financial gain,' go ahead.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Pat Wagner: We thought we were following the rules. We did the best we knew how. JK: I have never understood how a condo farm helps a neighborhood. Please explain how a condo farm will improve life for the average person in Linnton.

    Thanks JK

  • the_takeaway (unverified)
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    <h2>The part of this discussion that needs to be carried forward is the throw-away process problem. Too many good citizens (riches of a city, remember?) have spent too many good hours slogging their way through too much opaque and tedious process only to have their conclusions completely ignored by Council. Is it any wonder that hardly anybody shows up for COP citizen participation processes anymore but the venal and the fanatic? COP has spent years giving Jean or Joe Regular Citizen negative results for their investments of time and effort in these processes. Conversely, we have the MO of Council drafting a blue ribbon committee guaranteed to give them the answer they want, then being astonished (ASTONISHED!) when the rest of the tax paying and voting populace fails to fall in line.</h2>

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