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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.
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.
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” – SustainLane.com’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.
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).
Author’s note: When I wrote this chapter, the budget of $465,000 for the Mt. Tabor Master Plan Update was in jeopardy of being axed. Shortly after finishing my project, the full budget was approved (I will make note of this in my final chapter)
A key reason this process has a significant chance at succeeding within the limited timeframe is because of the substantial funding it received from City Council. When the resolution was presented to Council in September 2007, PPR requested a budget of $465,000 to complete the work. A third of the budget was pledged from the bureau itself, and with its unanimous approval, Council resolved to fund the rest.
The amount would cover every line item on the budget, from the salaries of the project managers and the contract with the facilitators, to the production of the architectural RFP and funding for the community events. With the immense amount of work to be done in a limited amount of time, the money would afford us the opportunity to meet unimaginable deadlines.