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After a year of collaborative work, the Mt Tabor Central Yard & Nursery Planning Group had the opportunity yesterday (12/17/08) to present our proposal to Portland City Council cocerning our plan for updating the central maintenance facilities and nursery.  Much has been written about this process – a lot that is available on this blog (specifically in my Master’s thesis project for Portland State University), so I need not rehash many of those issues. But there are two things about yesterday that I feel that I need to point out.

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Members of the MTCY&NPG meet with Susan McKenney from the Bureau of Development Services.

Members of the MTCY&NPG meet with Susan McKinney, Supervising Planner for the Bureau of Development Services.

I was able to participate in the meeting with the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) yesterday, September 10, to discuss whether or not the construction of a new maintenance yard and nursery is “accessory” or “non-conforming” use.  There was much back on forth on what the different categorizations mean to this process, so my understanding is only one point of view.  This is what I got out of the conversation and the repercussions for MTCY&NPG:

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At our August 8th MTCY&NPG meeting, Greg D. from the Water Bureau was present (his first time at a meeting?… I believe he and Chad T. share a seat on the committee and Chad has often been present) to offer the Water Bureau’s perspective on land ownership of the site and how a re-design would affect them.

Land ownership of Mt. Tabor is complicated and not something I completely understand (does anybody?…) but, in a nut shell, the Water Bureau owns part of the land that the maintenance yard sits upon. If/when the re-design of the yard occurs, the Water Bureau is requesting that they “trade” the piece of land they own for an equivalent piece of land near Mt. Tabor to be used as a staging area for future construction projects on or near Mt. Tabor (e.g. work on the water reservoirs).

A couple of things bother me about their request.

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When I had the floor at last nights MTCY&NPG meeting, the only issue that came to mind to talk about was what I had written on my comment card, yet I couldn’t bring myself to say it aloud. I don’t really know why… Was it the ridiculousness of my comment? Or did it deserve  more than the 30 seconds I could give it at the end of the meeting? Hmmmm, things to learn about myself.

Regardless, I felt it was something I could share with you on my blog…

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If you’d like to read further…

Anderson, J. (2004, June 22). Activist’s secret? Words, words, words. The Portland Tribune. Retrieved April 26, 2008 from

Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.

City of Portland (1999, June). Maintenance facilities plan: Guidelines for improvement and development. Portland, OR: Portland Parks & Recreation
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Though I have often turned a critical eye on this process, pointing out that the limited amount of time and large number of meetings have strained the nature of collaboration, it is important to point out that the planning group is making successful progress.  The MTCY&NPG is accomplishing everything it has set out to do: committees have formed to delve into research on the various facets of the project, architects have signed contracts for the design process (though we are awaiting final budgets), PPR has opened up conversations with employees outside of the planning group, the greater Portland community has been kept apprised of the headway, and we are meeting our established deadlines.

For all intents and purposes, there is no reason to think that this partnership won’t continue along a successful path.  Read the rest of this entry »

The interactive Internet, coined “Web 2.0” largely as a marketing term by businesses and media pundits in the mid-2000s, takes the passive medium of the Internet (passive for the majority of users without IT departments, servers, graphic designers, etc.) and turns it on its head.  Wikis, blogs, instant messaging, and mail lists are just a few of the tools that are empowering users of all abilities to have two-way conversations with audiences across the globe. 

Tim O’Reilly, one of the first to evangelize the concept of Web 2.0, reflected at the start of the trend that the key lesson of the technology is that “users add value” (2005).  Ian Davis, in his Internet Alchemy blog, asserts, “Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology” that enables participation not only on open software, but also in an open society (Lin, 2007). 

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When the Internet expanded to the broad public in the mid-nineties, many predicted that it would give everyone the ability to express their opinion, knowledge and interest to the world.  While this was possible for some users, running a website and keeping it updated requires hard work and technological knowledge (Quiggin, 2006).

Organizations able to hire IT staff, marketing managers, and professional designers were able to capitalize on the Internet and help usher in the Information Age.  For the most part, though, the amateur user wanting to interact globally was pushed aside.

In the last couple of years, however, technology has advanced to the stage that websites can be made and updated instantly, with little technological know-how required. Easy interfaces and everywhere accessibility has given the power of the world-wide-web to the layman.  Any user with the basic knowledge of how to write an email has access to millions of potential readers and viewers. 

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Portland residents are highly informed on issues concerning the environment, and the issue of sustainability was top of mind when the planning group formed. Portland’s awards and accolades from the media exemplify this: “#1 Greenest City in America” – Popular Science (February 2008), “No. 1 Environmental Awareness” – CNN/Travel+Leisure (October 2007), “#1 Portland: A Role Model for the Nation” –’s 2006 list of America’s most sustainable big cities (Travel Portland, n.d.).

Although sustainability can, and has, been used simply as a buzzword to excite the public and ensure them that “all is well”, the circumstances surrounding the update of the Mt. Tabor Master Plan provided an excellent opportunity to weave important sustainability principles throughout the process and across the city.

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Places are laboratories of diversity and complexity, mixing social functions and natural processes.  A place has a human history and a geologic past: it is a part of an ecosystem with a variety of microsystems, it is a landscape with a particular flora and fauna.  Its inhabitants are part of a social, economic, and political order: they import or export energy materials, water, and wastes, they are linked by innumerable bonds to other places.  A place cannot be understood from the vantage point of a single discipline or specialization.  It can be understood only on its terms as a complex mosaic of phenomena and problems (Orr, 1992, p. 129).

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