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Right-Wing Think Tank Releases Report on Portland

Jul 9


That well-known right-wing think tank, the Cato Institute, today released a report about Portland written by that not-so-well-known sprawl-loving, car-happy nut, Randal O’Toole. O’Toole spews out all kinds of so-called data that smart-growth planners probably refuted long ago, such as that transit has lost market share in Portland since they started building light rail and that Portlanders voted against building more light-rail lines.

O’Toole (did I mention that he is right wing?) even dredges up the story of Neil Goldschmidt, Portland’s former mayor who, after retiring from politics, formed a “light-rail mafia” that milked Portland’s planning process, directing hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and no-bid contracts to his clients and friends. So what if Goldschmidt turned out to be be a statutory rapist? That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with Portland’s planning.

Contrary to what O’Toole claims, Portlanders love light rail. After all, 75 percent of them voted for it in 1990, and 65 percent in 1994. In 1996, 55 percent voted for it — that’s practically a landslide, isn’t it? So what if only 47 percent voted for it in 1998? Portland is building it anyway. After all, we live in a democracy, and the way Portland figures, that’s three-to-one in favor. Anyone who disagrees with this logic must be a right-wing nut job.

O’Toole concludes that other cities should look at Portland as an example of how not to plan. Well, yeah — if you want to live in a city that actually tries to do something about congestion instead of lavishing most of its transportation money on the 2.2 percent of travelers who ride transit; or a city that thinks it is more important to keep housing affordable than to spend hundreds of millions of dollars saving open space from being developed in a state that is 98 percent open space; or a city that won’t make homeowners who are probably never going to ride a streetcar pay thousands of dollars each to build it — then don’t follow Portland’s example. But who is so right wing that they would want to live in a place like that?

If you want to live in a city that is really hip — I mean a city that gives ten-year property tax waivers to owners of multi-million dollar condos, a city that subsidizes aerial trams so that doctors who are some of the highest paid workers in the state can get from their hospital to their offices a few minutes faster, and a city where anyone with a mere $299,000 can buy a fabulous fifteen-foot-wide skinny house with its own one-car garage (who says Portland is anti-car?) and its own private yard (nearly five feet on either side of the house — that’s practically sprawl!) — then just ignore O’Toole’s right-wing diatribe and encourage your city to follow Portland’s planning example.


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Reprinted from The Antiplanner