Coming together in the contact sport of politics
Our political climate over the past few years has grown particularly intense.
Politics has always been a contact sport, yet many will agree that today feels different. Social media and cable news have intensified this sport, elevated the various player and characters and shaped the political discourse. In this new era of politics, clear battle lines are drawn. Our focus becomes "winning" at all cost. I used air quotes, not just the literal quotation marks in this text, because victories often feel as if they are Pyrrhic in nature.
What would happen if we did not have to "win"? What would happen if working with our opposition was not seen as a sign of weakness? Imagine what this would mean for our political discourse. Imagine what this would mean for our communities, for our business, for our residents, for our students? In the East Metro region, we do not have to wonder, speculate and pontificate. We can point to specific examples of collaboration that have benefited our communities, region and state.
The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park, known locally as TRIP, is a 700-acre brownfield redevelopment that features a mix of industrial and natural areas. TRIP had been a federal Superfund site that had been vacant since 2002. It was the largest remaining zoned industrial property within the metro area's urban growth boundary at one time, but it was not "shovel-ready". The property was not ready for an immediate industrial tenant and would have likely remained vacant. The cost of remediation and other infrastructure costs made the land prohibitive for acquisition and redevelopment.
Rather than separating into "us versus them", industry versus community, Westside versus Eastside, state versus county, conservative versus liberal or any of the battle lines that could have been drawn, entitles collaborated. Entitles shared a collected vision of doing something bigger than each could accomplish on their own. What we saw was a coming together of state, local, federal and regional agencies along with local and international businesses as well as nonprofit organization to make both an environmental and economic impact on our state. Port of Portland, Alcoa Corp., Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, City of Troutdale, City of Fairview, Multnomah County, FedEx Ground, Amazon and the Trammell Crow Company all played a huge role in the redevelopment of TRIP and countless others (whom I have had to redact for brevity) made TRIP possible and TRIP has become a model, nationally, for public-private partnerships.
In 2011, this site won the national Phoenix Award, as the top brownfield redevelopment project in the entire nation. It was recognized this early this year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the Howard Orlean Excellence in Site Re-Use Award. In a press release on Jan. 11 of this year from the EPA's Region 10 Office, EPA Administrator for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska Chris Hladick stated, "The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park demonstrates what can happen when partners work together to clean up the site, transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries and get the site ready for redevelopment. This project will pay both environmental and economic dividends for decades." In the same press release, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated, "It is with these partnerships that we can advance the Agency's core mission of protecting human health and the environment in the best possible way. I congratulate the award winners and hope their efforts to turn a formerly polluted site into a beneficial addition to the surrounding communities becomes the norm for redevelopment and cleanup at Superfund sites across the country."
I was able to attend the groundbreaking for Phase II of the TRIP redevelopment June 30 of 2015. I remember seeing the long line of cars parked next to the FedEX Ground building. What I remember most were the words on then Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt who stated, "Every one of our partners has had their shoulder to the wheel. We're moving in the same direction, and it's still harder than hell to do. It's incredibly difficult work." Katy Sword, who covered the event for The Outlook stated in her article that Wyatt had been waiting for this moment for 30 years. This showed me how long and hard collaboration can be. While it may be a long and arduous process, we must continue to strive for collaboration.
Politics will continue to be a contact sport and soon we will understand that we are all on the same team. We must continue to find ways to work together and create real victories rather than Pyrrhic ones.