Seeking Input on Its Future Strategies, City of Portland Hosts Community Fairs

Craig Beebe, 1000 Friends Communications Intern

The City of Portland held the first of four Portland Plan "fairs" Wednesday evening, March 2, giving the public an opportunity to read and respond to the city’s developing proposals for its future.

Amid a vibrant atmosphere at Southeast Portland’s Hosford Middle School, with local food vendors and musicians providing entertainment and many city departments and community groups hosting informational booths on a wide range of topics, representatives from city government organized several “breakout sessions” designed to introduce residents to the city’s draft proposals for strategies and actions that make up the core of the Portland Plan.

The three central strategies of the Plan are Economic Prosperity & Affordability, Education, and Healthy Connected Neighborhoods, all of which are encompassed by an overarching Equity Initiative. The strategies were developed in response to the previous two phases of public engagement, in which equity, environment, and jobs emerged as key concerns for the city's residents. Each strategy is linked to several policies and “quick start actions” the city will undertake with many partners at other government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses. For example, the first policy of Healthy Connected Neighborhoods is to create Vibrant Neighborhood Hubs, for which 23 actions are listed, ranging from developing better street designs to recruiting grocery stores and other businesses to underserved neighborhoods, to promoting quality affordable housing in walkable commercial districts and near transit. Most of the actions will require collaboration with many other players, and city staff were frank about how the city will need to choose priorities to make the best use of limited funds. The question of prioritization is one of the aspects of the plan that is still undecided.

Residents were invited to participate in several ways, from free-flowing discussions analyzing the city’s current proposals, to recording their experiences and suggestions on maps of the city’s neighborhoods. In each session, residents contributed ideas about how the city can meet its duty to provide all residents with a healthy, affordable, and prosperous city. Among the concerns raised in several sessions were: the challenge of fostering a locally vibrant economy that links into the global marketplace but remains resilient and environmentally responsible; building an education system that prepares students for careers in a rapidly changing world and more successfully connects schools with their neighborhoods; and improving the city’s government and services for all residents, regardless of race, age, income, or nationality. All of these are challenges that the Portland Plan aims to address with a  commitment to action and collaboration, though the plan is still very much in process. City staff listened closely to citizens’ ideas, and recorded the many suggestions and comments to assist them in preparing the Portland Plan's next draft.

The four draft sections and their proposed actions are available here, along with several surveys to offer feedback. But for a more interactive and exciting experience, the city is holding three additional fairs this month: at the Oregon Zoo on Sunday, March 6; at De La Salle North Catholic High School at 7528 N Fenwick Ave. on Thursday, March 10; and at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan Street, on Saturday, March 12. Each event promises to be a fun, informative way to engage with fellow citizens and the city’s leaders. For more information on these events, click here.