Saturday, May 24, 2008

The things we see without seeing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Obama rally last Sunday was exactly the spectacle I was looking for. After a morning coffee at the Ace, several of us rode our bikes towards the waterfront, stopping briefly to gawk at Bill and Chelsea Clinton eating at Mother's Bistro. An appropriately surreal beginning. I was not expecting to run into 75,000 people, though, all with the same idea of how best to spend a gorgeous Sunday.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of bikes locked up to anything and everything. Thousands upon thousands. What if every day was like this? It really did look like Amsterdam for a few hours. Definitely inspiring; a peek into a very desirable future.

Theoretically, I'd like to see the political entity known as the US of A, with its massive federal bureaucracy, bloody history, and vast geographical scale, transcended by a social order that takes the best ideas implanted in the genetic code of our society and brings them down to a Jeffersonian scale, then mixes them with our contemporary understanding of ecological diversity and bioregional localism and networking. Voila: an independent Cascadia, my dream.
The rest of you can do whatever the hell you want.

In the meantime, I'm prepared to grapple with the world as it is, which includes being happy that our politics is rapidly being injected with the kind of talk we could only dream about as recently as 10 years ago. Who thought we'd have a new mayor in 2008 who is talking about peak oil? About the need to keep bloodsucking corporations like Wal-mart out of Portland? Of rejecting the autocentric social engineering of the past 50 years in favor of, among other things, re-building a streetcar network and investing boldly in space for bicyclists and walkers? And on and on.

Obama offers the promise of some of this sort of thinking bubbling up into the highest levels of power. His speech wasn't amazing or anything, but he did drop plenty of lines about living wages, renewable energy, bike lanes, and mass transit. I pumped my arm in the air and screamed once -- when he was praising Portland's land use and transportation policies. Mostly, it just felt good to be in the midst of such a rush of "historic" and optimistic energy.

My favorite part of the day was standing at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge and watching the crowds of people streaming back across the river on foot and bike. Seriously, only in charming, tolerant, quirkily cosmopolitan Portland.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Since my last post, two things worth noting have happened. One, my hard drive bit the dust: 2500 un-backed-up photos, unretrievable. I'm debating whether it is worth the large sum of money it would take to send it off to the nearest clean room. Or whether I should just practice the art of non-attachment.

The other thing is that I'm feeling bored with the general format I've been using: photos with minimal text. I'm thinking of doing more straight-up architectural and urban design criticism, among other things.

In the meantime, for anyone who needs some pointers for who to vote for tomorrow, just look at my front yard. Or scroll below the photo.

**To begin with, Chris Smith and Jim Middaugh are no-brainer votes for the two competitive City Council races. In Smith's race, there are a number of strong candidates, several of whom would be fine on council. Unfortunately, Amanda Fritz looks to be the front runner -- she has not impressed me at all, with her outsourced anti-outsourcing brochure, her Republican Party endorsement, her lack of clarity on mass transit and bikes, and her vaguely "law and order" back-to-basics platform with literature featuring photos of police badges. A bit puritan 1950's NIMBY for my taste. Smith, on the other hand, is an accomplished civic activist who is extremely knowledgeable on transportation issues and led the fight against the strong mayor measure last year. Middaugh is up against labor lawyer Nick Fish. A tough choice, but I'm voting for Middaugh because he will most directly represent me as a bicyclist and he, like Adams, has a youthful energy that this city needs after 4 years with a lackluster mayor like Potter, who has let his own sore ego sabotage the city and has not displayed the sort of leadership and wisdom one would expect from someone of his age. And Randy Leonard, well, you gotta love that guy, even when he's threatening to personally drive a truck up to the tram tower and pull it out of the ground.

**In the current race for mayor, I simply hope that Sam Adams tops 50% of the vote, so that we can avoid a run-off and many more months of Sho Dozono's Potter-redux shenanigans: I won't even go into it, other than to say that anyone advised by a lobbyist like Len Bergstein will never get my vote, and I don't ever want to hear him say "pet project" again. Oh, and the suggestion that fighting Walmart sends the signal that Portland is "anti-business". Adams is a hard-working, visionary, well-spoken, balanced-transportation-system-loving, wonky guy who loves this city, knows his numbers, and deserves a shot at guiding us at an important moment in our history. We need someone with guts and verve in the mayor's office.

**Last but definitely not least, I strongly urge anyone who has yet to vote to write in Joe Cortright for Rex Burkholder's Metro Council position. Burkholder, much to my dismay, has been drinkng the Columbia River Crossing Kool-Aid: Joe Cortright is the local economist doing his best to expose the faulty reasoning and dodgy numbers being used by proponents of this mega-sized freeway project that deserves to go the way of the forever-unbuilt Mt Hood Freeway.

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