Thursday 19 November 2015

Insights on governance

Prior to arriving in Portland it appeared from the information gathered before the tour that the City was an example to other cities as a fully functioning sustainable city with a harmonious social and physical environment. It appeared that it had been at the forefront of solving many problems that fast growth bring and that most of these may be in the final stages of completion and implementation. 

However, upon arriving and following exposure to what was currently taking place demonstrated that the city is still in the evolutionary stages of change from a formerly industrial or 'grey' city into a greener more liveable and sustainable city. For example, whilst the UGB has been in place for over 40 years, there have been changes and there are pros and cons to strict adherence to the boundary. One of the cons of the restriction of a UGB being lack of available free land for urban food production, in order to protect land outside the boundary from urban encroachment, hence increasing the reliance of the city on produce brought in from outside the UGB.

In regards to the functioning of the urban governance structure, the visit to Portland confirmed how their structure based on a 'weak' Mayor or commissioner and bureau, is different to other states and cities in Northern America. Whilst the metro works relatively harmoniously together, there are still conflicts with former governance administration such as the old county boundary system and the west coast 'ballot measures' or initiative process, where special interests supported by large financial backing can interfere with the voting system making it more complicated.

Finally, civic engagement was presented as a high priority in the decision making within Portland. To achieve this the City of Portland has established Neighbourhood Institutions for each neighbourhood. The are run by volunteers and are utilised to convene stakeholder change consultations in recognition that each neighbourhood has different problems and aspirations, but the shared goals for the City

Bianca Kucina

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