Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vision THIS

From the "I still got no clue" category:

Tom Potter wants to spend almost a million dollars to conduct "visioning" sessions. Ok, let's get this straight.... Portland still is chasing business away, unemployment still way above the norm, traffic is worse than ever, the city budget is so bad that they want to tax cell phones, and what does Potter propose? The "Community Visioning Project!

So he's going to convene a series of public forums where he will "engage the community to create a shared vision for Portland's future, 30 years from now and beyond."

A shared vision? He knows there is no such thing. There is no consensus "vision" as to how Portland should grow. There are vigorously competing views, and political processes decide which view wins. For decades now, the central planners (the auto hating, choo-choo loving, congestion creating, density dealing, bike boogiers) have dominated the political process.

They've had their way. Their policies have been winning. That's why we have the N/S light rail even though voters said no. That's why Highway 26 is still two lanes each way, as it was 30 years ago when Washington County had about half as many people in it. That's why the economy is Portland is so bad, while the rest of the nation is on the upswing. That's why we have tax-abated $300 per sqauare foot condos. That's why we'er bleeding millions of dollars out of schools, fire departments and police to line the pockets of favored developers.

Folks like me who think Oregon's land use policies make us uncompetitive, and who think it is absurd to invest the lion's share of transportation dollars in a rail system only 3% will use, and who know that high taxes drive productive people out - we've been losing. We are not a majority in Portland or Multnomah County.

Our vision lost in the Portland political arena. OK, I get that, and although I am of the opinion that the victors are ruining the city I grew up in and love, I'm a big boy. They won.

So why the "visioning"? Why does Potter want to pretend that there is some consensus vision, and that by asking the "public" there will be revealed some true north that all people can rally around heading toward?

We've all seen how it works. They convene public outreach sessions, dominated by people of the prevailing vision (new urban, auto-hostile, light rail friendly). Anybody with an opposing viewpoint is barely tolerated, and their views certainly have no impact on the proceedings.

They gather in large rooms, yammer on and on, then separate into "breakout groups," to yammer some more, then report back to the full group to tell everyone what they yammered about, while a scribe furiously writes down the various "results" on butcher paper hanging on the walls.

And those "results" are then selectively complied into the "summary of proceedings" and we have our "Vision."

It's a farce. There is no such thing as a shared vision that reflects everybody's views. Anybody who pretends there is should not be taken seriously.

It is simply a way to claim some kind of legitimacy to the policies that they want to shove down our throats - "sustainability," "smart-growth," "new urbanism" or whatever name for their nonsense is currently in vogue.

Don't buy it.


gus miller said...

Brings to mind Barbara Roberts' "conversations" with oregonians during her term as governor. At every stop the agenda was controlled by Roberts and her staff. There can be no real conversation or consensus building when the agenda is controlled by one side.

Mr.Atos said...

You nailed it, Rob! The Vision has already be formulated and written. The "Visioning" session is to determine how it is to be packaged and sold to California investors as their Summer Country Club, and the Trade Journalists who will record the visionary success of 'Potemkin,' Oregon.

The One True b!X said...

Mr. Stos might want to actually read up on this process before opening his mouth. There is no visioning session. It will be an ongoing months long process involving a very large number of different approaches to registering community opinion. Not a single agenda'd event somewhere.

The One True b!X said...

And while Atos needs to learn to read, I need to learn to type. "Mr. Atos" not "Mr. Stos."

Rob Kremer said...

yeah, you're right there is not a single agenda'd visioning "event" - it will be a series of them.

All the worse! A lengthy process of multiple farces - all with a single agenda!

Let's say we got a majority of attendees at the visioning sessions to argue against the prevailing policies. Would they then change course and say "Hey! We were all wrong about what Portlanders want for the city! Let's pave over the light rail tracks!"

Yeah, that'll happen

The One True b!X said...

Actually, no, it's won't merely be a series of events. It's a much broader undertaking than that -- up to and including finding people inside the various components of Portland to be the ones to talk with their own communities, rather than sending in outsiders who would (1) perhaps bring their own agenda and (2) likely not understand the community they are talking to.

It's not just a series of townhall meetings with a panel sitting up front and a room full of people from which only some get to talk because the time runs out. There's a very broad range of options being discussed to make it an actual community discussion (or, parallel sets of discussions being held within individual communities).

But no one will understand that unless people bother to read up on what's being proposed and discussed, and then tell the truth about it after they do.

Rob Kremer said...

Whatever the format, my central point is that there is no such thing as a "shared vision" for Portland. That is the language of collectivism. They have all their beloved public outreach processes in order to pretend that the result is a consensus, and then move forward with it.

There IS no shared vision. There are competing visions, and the political arena determines which vision prevails.

My side of course is losing this political contest in Portland. That is fine.

But don't try to cram that vision down our throat by pretending it is "shared" just because the Mayor conducted a "visioning" program.

It is a farce.

The One True b!X said...

Ok, let's ditch the preamble to the US Constitution too, then, because it speaks of a shared vision, which obviously is an impossible creature.

allehseya said...

Care to wager on that, anyone? I double-dutch-dare you to prove your point by becoming a part of the committee and thereby provide evidence (you have to stick it out the whole process) of your statements made on this site. If no one takes me up on my offer then you naturally proves b!X' point which is that your stance, without involvement, merely perpetuates your lack of representation in these reforms.

Rob Kremer said...

Preamable to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

WHERE does that talk about a "shared vision"?

In point of fact, the US Constitution was hammered out by a political process, was HIGHLY controversial, and was only established by a majority vote in which one vision of what the role of the federal government should be won out over another vision.

B!x, I think your example is not a good one.

Rob Kremer said...

Ha! Nice try. Sorry, don't need to do what you suggest to know that the visioning process is bogus.

I've been through plenty of it in other contexts. Such as the Portland School District "Strategic Plan." I did just what you suggest in that ill-fated endeavor, and it had precisely the same underlying principle as the Mayor's "visioning" initiative.

Anonymous said...

"WHERE does that talk about a "shared vision"? "

I kinda think the "We the People" bit might indicate a little sharing.

(I mean, unless you'd like to argue that the authors were a bunch of elite white men who had the hubris, but not the authority, to draft a document which represented everyone. Somehow that doesn't seem like your style.)

Rob Kremer said...


"We the People" do many things by political processes that are hardly shared by all.

Ending slavery, for instance. I'm pretty sure I have my history straight that the civil war was somewhat controversial in the sense that everyone in the country didn't share the same view.

Just because "We the people" decide to enact some policy by virtue of political majority does not mean there is a shared vision. It means one vision won and one vision lost in the political battleground that decides which vision prevails.

This is OK. It is our system.

That is why I object when a collectivist like Tom Potter (a person I have interviewed personally for two hours, who I do not dislike, and who I have had the chance to take the measure of up close and personal) tries to pretend that it is possible to find a vision for the city that we all share - that's when I smell a con-job.

Rob Kremer said...

Oh, B!x, one other thing:

I really do appreciate you chiming in. I read your blog every day.

We have different views on almost everything. Ain't that fun?

Thanks for mixing it up on mine.