My View: Don't confuse self-interest,civic concern
Regarding the op-ed My View "Process on West Quadrant plan worked" by downtown and Northwest Portland neighborhood activist Felicia Williams (Oct. 3):
I am puzzled by Ms. Williams's entire characterization of Wendy Rahm and Michael Mehaffy, but particularly as people "who refuse to participate productively within the system (and) are succeeding at undermining it." As a member of the West Quadrant Plan SAC, although I may not have always agreed with the positions they represented, I respected their views, dedication, consistency and, yes, their willingness to work within the system.
I also am unclear as to the source of Ms. Williams' opinion of the WQP process, as I do not recall her presence at the two-year's worth of meetings. I also disagree with her view that the process worked. I would characterize the process as typical, but not that it worked, unless that's measured by it being nothing new. The process, as seems to be the unfortunate custom, involved a "stakeholder" group composed of equal parts of vested interests, under informed special advocates, and the absent. This group was overwhelming overrepresented by the real estate, AEC development sector, and equally underrepresented by the neighborhoods that comprise the West Quadrant. Few of the members actually lived in the area the plan was addressing.
The process, as it was facilitated by BPS, involved little real deliberation, and was mostly shepherded on a kind of consent agenda basis inexorably toward a mostly forgone conclusion, in spite of Rahm, Mehaffy and numerous others' attempts to raise legitimate questions about policy alternatives. Most opinion-taking (ratification) in the SAC was done on a "does anybody have a (big) problem with this?" basis.
I offer a couple of corrections to Ms. Williams' comments:
1) there is very little increased density proposed in the WQP, but extensive increases in height, 2) I am unaware of a policy regarding "more trees around public housing being "incorporated into the final plan," and 3) the suggestion that "everyone on that committee and everyone who followed the process knew who owned which parcels of undeveloped land" is ludicrous.
The city ombudsman's findings regarding ethical issues on the SAC are correct. The issue was not simply SAC members voting in their own undisclosed interests, but actively advocating in their own interest for increases in height on properties that they controlled, without any disclosure, either before or after the fact. Nothing new I suppose, but the time for this sort of naked self-interest to masquerade as enlightened self-interest on the public's behalf in the city of Portland has long passed, and our city and its streets and public spaces will be worse off for the next generation or so for not having fully called these conflicts into account.