Coalition is keeping Portlands vision alive

My View • Input from 17,000 people can't be ignored as city plans future
by: Tribune File Photo, Former Portland Mayor Tom Potter, shown here with a delegation from Sapporo, Japan, launched the VisionPDX Project while he was in office.

Visioning and planning are integral parts of the same ongoing process that on the best of days is a catalyst for preserving what's best and changing for the better in Portland.

Back in 2004, it had already been more that a decade since we had asked our community members what they wanted their city to be in the future. Our population and demographics changed dramatically in that time and, faced with a state-mandated update of the Portland Plan, clearly it was about time to ask again. Mayor Tom Potter seized the opportunity.

In it's entirety, the VisionPDX Input Report represents the voices of more 17,000 members of the Portland community - the largest single civic engagement survey in the United States. While the numbers fall short of any sort of majority and don't necessarily equate to infallibility (17,000 people could be wrong), they do make it awfully hard for any single voice or special interest to set or drive an agenda, no matter how long or loudly they talk.

Perhaps that's what really concerns the political 'power structure.' The next time someone complains about what was missing from VisionPDX or that Portlanders 'kill dreams,' perhaps you should consider that they may be referencing their influence rather than their input.

In spite of the $1.5 million spent and its unanimous endorsement and adoption by our City Council, VisionPDX has been largely disowned by City Hall, defiled by much of the media and discounted by many throughout the city. The most notable exception - those constituencies, new and old alike, who suddenly have found their voice and their place in a system that routinely marginalized them.

Through VisionPDX and the Vision Into Action (VIA) Coalition, they've been given a taste of what can be accomplished when you combine their community energy with a little vision and a little access.

The taste may have turned bitter and the city-supported program now gone, yet we still have the unique opportunity to update and customize our future growth and development to not just meet the needs, but to exceed the expectations, of our ever-changing and increasing population. The visions of those diverse communities and the values they represent must continue to have a profound influence on the shape and execution of the Portland Plan through the VIA Coalition.

Contrary to your Sources Say item, '$1.5 million gone, but still no vision' (Aug. 13), we are not just expected to meet - we have been meeting constantly and consistently before, during and after the budget cuts. In fact, the VIA Coalition successfully engineered the 'transition' from the city to Portland State University, which involves not just housing the data, an office, computer, and a phone but, as our fiscal agent, a little bit of leftover funding. We optimistically expect to sustain our efforts as a community nonprofit through grants and other non-tax supported means.

In the meantime, the VIA Coalition Steering Committee still meets regularly to continue to nurture our coalition members and grantees while taking steps to ensure that the voices of the 17,000 don't get lost in the planning shuffle.

Gary Marschke is an alumnus of the original VisionPDX project and the Vision Into Action Transition team, and now a proud member of the Vision Into Action Coalition and the VIA Steering Committee. He lives in Northeast Portland.