Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Planning in everyday life


Having never visited the Pacific Northwest region of the US, I was struck by the incredible culture and values at play in Portland. Whilst I was intimately aware of the innovative planning practices and related governance that took place throughout the late twentieth century, I was surprised by just how important and relevant planning was to the lives of many Portlanders, and the esteem that  perceptions of ‘best practice’ planning was held in both municipal government and Portland residents alike. This was evident in several aspects of my experiences in Portland. Firstly, listening to the city mayor Charlie Hales discuss his own experiences with planning and his fervent belief that municipal government has a strong and distinct role to play in global affairs opened my mind to the true global impact planning can have. It is really about more than structure plans and subdivisions for just one city - it is about building a culture that can influence the world over. On top of this, listening to Mayor Hales, and indeed many other Portlanders speak so positively and passionately about their streetcar and light rail system confirmed my earlier belief that the approach taken to public transport in Portland is a progressive one. The ‘trickle down’ approach taken in Portland with regards to all infrastructure of ‘build it and they will come’ proves far more effective and liveable than the common Australian approach of waiting until services are needed if not demanded. It is Portland’s culture - of biking, of healthy and sustainable eating, of love for their city and unwillingness to compromise its progress and values - that has been the most pleasant surprise to me. Simply put, Portland matters to Portlanders, and they simply will not accept poor future progression for the city. I have been impressed by just how layered a city’s culture really can be.

Patrick Spinazzola