Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Creative Capacity

No big surprise - Sam Adams is running for mayor, and barring some kind of political earthquake, the campaign will be more like a coronation.

You know what? In an odd sort of way, I actually look forward to a Sam Adams administration in Portland. I mean, sure, I am on the other side of virually every single issue that Sam believes in: global warming, peak oil, streetcars, urban renewal, density, you name it. But that fact doesn't distinguish Sam Adams from any other candidate who could possibly win the race.

I like Sam Adams. He's intelligent, not afraid to engage in debate, energetic, and he, unlike most Portland liberals, doesn't act as if it is a crime against humanity to be a conservative. He'll actually go on Lars' show and defend his views. He'll actually sub for Marc Abrams and banter with me for two hours on a Sunday morning.

Sam Adams promises to be an activist mayor - pushing all sorts of left/liberal causes and being effective in implementing his agenda. That kind of energy will be a refreshing change from the morose and moribund tone of the Potter administration.

So what if everything he'll push is wrongheaded? What do we think - that some social and economic conservative would win the race and turn Portland into Indianapolis?

Let's face it, fellow Portland-area conservatives. The lefties control this place. Might as well have a lefty leader who at least is a good guy, and makes it interesting!

So, the first "interesting" thing Sam has proposed is a major "infrastructure" investment in what he calls "Creative Capacity." He was all over the place today talking about the importance of the arts and how he will boost arts-related spending on every level.

The Creative Capacity Initiative. It's brilliant. What a great campaign theme! Who could be against that? He's gunna have a cakewalk, and he doesn't even have to talk about anything controversial!

Just what is the Creative Capacity Initiative? Here it is in Sam's words, from some Seattle on-line magazine called "Crosscut Seattle."

"Money. I want more money for science and creative efforts, organizations ... more arts and music education, especially in the elementary schools, more public support for nonprofit arts organizations, more business assistance for for-profit arts companies, and more services for artists, helping them market themselves, sell their wares, not just in Portland but outside of Portland, and assistance with affordable live/work space."

So here is my question, Mr. Mayor" You want to invest in your "creative capacity initiative." OK fine.

There is lots of government investment in infrastructure, and virtually all of it has an end product that can be measured. Road capacity. Water capacity. Sewage treatment capacity. Each and every government infrastructure investment can be measured in terms of what we spend on it and how much it yields in terms of some throughput metric.

But "creative capacity?" No way to measure it. How much money will be spent, and what increase in "creative units" will we get? How much creative throughput will there be, and what will it do for us?

Obviously, there are no answers to this question. So you, Mr. Future Mayor, are proposing, as your central campaign theme, a huge government infrastructure investment that you have no clue how or if it will yield anything whatsoever. There is no way to measure the effects or results of your proposed investment, nor is there any way to tie it back to any measurable benefit to the people of Portland.

Actually, for a liberal, it is the PERFECT issue!

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