Saturday, December 02, 2006

Portland's visions ecclectic, diverse and welcomed

I spent most of Saturday at the Portland Building plowing through hundreds of visionPDX questionnaire responses. Those who responded were predominantly white (62 percent) but no where near the percentage of caucasians in Portand (79.5 percent).

VisionPDX, an effort initiated by Mayor Tom Potter, largely succeeded in polling the views of the city's growing minority populations.

African-Americans, who make up 6.2 percent of Portland's population, comprised 10.4 percent of the respondents. Latinos were slightly under-represented: They make up 8.4 percent of the population but comprised 7.6 percent of the respondents.

Woman were more apt to respond than men, as were those with higher educations. Twenty-five percent of respondentes had B.A.s and 19.7 percent had graduate degrees.

I was asked to analyze responses in three areas: Higher education, educational opportunity and educational funding. After three hours, I had managed to get through the first of the three. Bottomline: respondents want Portland to have a "first-rate" university, like the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California in Berkeley. Many want OHSU and PSU to merge into a powerhouse research institution.

The approximately 25 of us who are reading the thousands of responses were told by Portland historian Chet Orloff that we should search for the the values that Portlanders hold dear. He recalled a 2004 visit by famed urbanist Jane Jacobs, who died in April, to Portland. At the time, she dismissed the need for Portland "to vision."

Orloff recounted, "She said that Portlanders need to know who we are and to build on that."

With that in mind, I'm dipping into my share of the 13,000 plus responses looking for evidence of who Portlanders think they are and what they think their city should be in 20 years.

While visionPDX's system is far from perfect (see my earlier post), Portlanders are fortunate we've been asked for our visions, and the city is fortunate that so many have shared theirs.


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