Happy New Year to those of you who have kept faith with our city.
On New Year's Eve, I watched a star-spangled banner flutter defiantly under the pulsating sway of the winter ice and snowflakes. In the cold weather, I withdrew to a quiet corner of Pioneer Square to ponder the many political and cultural paradoxes that 2003 brought to Portland.
I ruminated about the many issues yet unresolved that may ultimately have an impact on our city, including: Who will be the next mayor? Will the city prevail in the civil lawsuit filed by Kendra James' family? And will we ever overcome the achievement gap in our schools?
I thought that last year brought us racial fury and exposed our human foibles. Our innocence about terrorism morphed into a conspicuous propensity to snitch on our neighbors after six of the 'Portland Seven' were arrested. And on the bright side, the year gave us a temporary respite from unstable funding for the city's public schools.
Just before the ball dropped for another year, I decided to reply to pertinent inquiries from readers, including:
Q: Why should you bring up race in our public discourse when racism ended a long time ago?
Where once racism was clearly anchored in state-sanctioned prejudice, now it has more to do with overcoming the legacy of such policies and the equally debilitating effects of our current failed education and economic initiatives that were designed to remedy prejudice.
Q: What's your political philosophy?
My political philosophy is based on common sense. For example, you don't raise taxes just for the sake of growing government. Nor do you cut taxes just to prove that you are fiscally conservative, without regard to human services, school funding and safety issues. Politics become heinous when politicians under the garb of extremism fail to realize that political realities are too varied to simply couch them in one context.
Q: What's your position on quotas?
I don't believe in quotas. But I'm not so naive as to think our system is molded entirely on merits. I know that preferential treatment is routinely given to brothers and sons of workers in certain lines of work. I am also opposed to selective use of affirmative action. For instance, I'm opposed to colleges going after geographic and ethnic diversity by awarding points to applicants on that basis. If we cannot do that without preferential treatment, then it must be given across the board.
And at least one reader was kind enough to ask if I enjoy my job.
Yes, I do. Considering the incessant sparring, arguing and cajoling that a columnist does with policy-makers, community leaders and, in a more limited manner, the reading public, it's sometimes easy to feel that you are making an impact. Also, a good portion of the pleasure and stimulation that comes with the job is derived from the tremendous amount of talent and experience that you can call upon.
Finally, as 2004 unfolds its many mysteries and ironies, my wish is that we exchange views, not blows. So let the year begin with cheers.