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Livability more than just numbers on paper

Readers' Letters
by: Tribune File Photo Mayor Sam Adams and former TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen inagurated the new bike lane through the Rose Quarter in 2008 — an example of the city’s commitment to livability.

Efforts made by other cities require more than just numbers on paper (Livability isn't enough to keep Portland ahead, Jan. 6). Portland has a very powerful culture oriented towards sustainability.

I grew up in NYC, and when I visited this past Christmas I took particular notice of the newly installed bike paths. While impressive on paper, no one uses them. Local shipping trucks, taxis and motorists drive all over the roads with little regard to their surroundings. It's an insanely dangerous place to ride a bike.

NYC has a very different culture than that of Portland. Theirs is of a chaotic order; cars, bicyclists and pedestrians all do as they please. The few bicyclists I saw were biking down the wrong way on the street, wearing dark clothing and cutting off cars in the mad-capped way that New Yorkers do.

City leaders around other cities may take initiatives and do some well-publicized grandstanding, but it takes a long time to change the culture of a place. Portland already has the culture of livability and sustainability - we just haven't used it to become rich. Other cities are wracked with concentrated, long-term, impoverished populations, gripped by powerful unions, and plagued by extensive physical decay. Portland suffers none of these ills to a serious extent.

If we keep planning ahead, we'll continue to have a beautiful, livable city that exists in reality, not just on paper.

Michael Caputo

Southwest Portland

Quality of life doesn't equal jobs

In many ways, Portland and the metro area have been correct in boasting about livability (Livability isn't enough to keep Portland ahead, Jan. 6). But previous reports have pointed out that this is not enough.

For example, see the Regional Business Plan and the Oregon Business Plan. And take a peek at Mayor Katz's State of the City Addresses, especially 1998 and 1999, which clearly gives the impression that she was quite aware that these quality-of-life investments would of themselves not generate jobs.

In the article 'A great place to live, not work' (Oct. 15, 2009), Jim Redden notes that the mayor admits that livability is not enough to promote business growth. The new report only restates what business leaders have known for some time.

Livability is not sufficient on its own to promote economic growth - it is only one of many factors.

Larry Norton

Northwest Portland

Report sugarcoats 'green' qualities

ECONorthwest is sugarcoating Portland's leadership and qualities (Livability isn't enough to keep Portland ahead, Jan. 6).

ECONorthwest makes a lot of its revenue from local and state government contracts, and this has got to bias its opinions in favor of the activist and expanding governments in Multnomah County and the state of Oregon.

Oregon, Multnomah County, the city of Portland and Metro need to ease off the central planning pedal and allow free markets and people more room to engender a reset in the balance between environment and economic prosperity.

There's too much of the former in current governance and not enough of the latter.

We've been going down this 'green' path for the better part of a decade now, and our economic performance is lagging behind the rest of the nation.

Bob Clark

Southeast Portland

Other cities have surpassed Portland

The problem with Portland is that Portland is neither innovative, nor thorough (Livability isn't enough to keep Portland ahead, Jan. 6).

Portland takes an idea that someone else starts (typically a European city), claims to be the first in the U.S. to do it and claims a leadership stake. Then, other cities simply take our idea about five steps further (without the pomp and celebration) and surpass us.

Light rail is a perfect example: In 1986 Portland was celebrated for being the smallest city in the U.S. to have a light-rail line, and to have canceled a freeway project (the Mount Hood Freeway) to build a light-rail line instead. But many, many other cities, including several smaller than Portland, have built light-rail lines.

Portland also touts its 'advantages' while ignoring other city concerns. We have a great light-rail system at the expense of regional bus service. We have streetcars at the expense of transit in other areas of Portland. We have bike paths downtown at the expense of sidewalks elsewhere.

The city seems to just ignore a good chunk of its population, and the out-of-towners actually buy our 'postcard' city without actually taking in the entire view. Other cities are sure learning from Portland, but not in the way that Portlanders believe they are. No other city has duplicated Metro. Very few cities have even started a streetcar line.

How many cities have a large number of unpaved streets within their city limits? Other cities are looking at Portland's (planning errors) to make their own city better, and to ensure that every citizen is represented - not just the ones that happen to be in that postcard image.

Erik Halstead

Tigard

Demographics keep Portland livable

If you take the low wages/high cost of living out of the equation, Portland is in fact quite livable, but that has little to do with the 'efforts' of its leadership (Livability isn't enough to keep Portland ahead, Jan. 6).

Compared to NYC, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and other major metropolitan areas, Portland is more livable for the following reasons:

• Mild climate. Life is easier with mostly cloudy 40 degrees in January vs. 10 degrees and two feet of snow.

• Beautiful surroundings. Snowcapped mountains on the horizon, lush forests and rolling vineyards just a few miles out are better than flat plains filled with rusting steel mills.

• No inner-city to speak of. Sure, there is North Portland, but it's nothing compared with ghettos of almost all other major U.S. cities. No inner-city means you can actually live almost anywhere in Portland without risking your life daily.

• Moderate size. The total metro area population of 1.5 million means everything and everywhere is more accessible, even thought the high density makes it harder and harder to travel even a short distance. But hey, at least it looks close on the map.

• The demographics. Much of the PDX population is the often derided 'creative class,' or at least young and energetic. Even if the effect of the creative class does not live up to the high expectations, they are just a nice bunch of folks to have around.

Tom Szymanski

Southwest Portland

Article lacked climate analysis

I saw this story on the front page and picked up the paper immediately, with interest (It just doesn't snow like it used to, Jan. 6).

What is missing: What is causing the lack of snowfall? Is it climate change, or is it just an increased local heat footprint? There is nothing suggesting either one, or even competing theories in the article.

I'd have liked a little analysis.

Jason F. Walker

Northeast Portland

More snow here than story claimed

Interesting story (It just doesn't snow like it used to, Jan. 6).

One small error: The story says that with the exception of 2008, it hasn't snowed more than an inch in November or December since 1998. This is incorrect. Late in the afternoon on Dec. 29, 2009, there was a surprise snowstorm. Completely fouled the evening commute.

National Weather Service info on that storm: www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/paststorms/20091229/decsnow.php

Pete Danko

Northeast Portland

Steep hills pose risks in snow

It's not just that people here don't get enough practice driving in snow, it's the terrain (It just doesn't snow like it used to, Jan. 6).

Look around: steep hills everywhere. Most places in the U.S. that get a ton of snow are totally flat.

Carrie Reimer

Vancouver, Wash.