Chapter 4.7

Paying for Growth - Part 3
(Oregon Planners' Journal, December 1998)

By Richard Carson

As I waited in my dentist's office, I noticed it. The U.S. News and World Report's cover screamed out "SMART CITIES" and promised to tell me "What your hometown can learn from six success stories." To make things worse, at the bottom of the page it said, "EXCLUSIVE REPORT."

I picked it up with nervous hands. I quickly leafed through the pages from the back to the front (does this mean I am dyslexic?) and read the list. Then I saw the cover page article's lead, my heart dropped, it said "CITIES THAT WORK." I lost all hope. It was going to he another article about Portland, the planning Mecca of the whole world. It would have Ethan Seltzer eating a croissant this time. Resigned to my fate, I read the list of the great places and made a game of it.

- Minneapolis, Minnesota.  A 100 percent easy guess. Portland's soul mate. Ten points and I move on to the next round.

- Vancouver, British Columbia. Of course. Canada. No foul here. Ten more points.

- Tilburg, The Netherlands. Ah, a socialist European city. I would not have guessed it, but no point loss.

- Chattanooga, Tennessee. The article starts with that "America's dirtiest city worked hard to get clean." Cool. But then it goes on to say that "Seven Vietnamese officials, urban planners from Ho Chi Minh City of Hanoi sit in the basement of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce" Wait. Where is Jane Fonda when you need her? 10 points lost.

- Melbourne, Australia. Excuse me? Crocodile Dundee is a planner? Now I was worried. I see words like "architectural legacy, the world's most livable city; and bars closed at 6 p.m." I admit I wouldn't have believed it. I lose 10 more points.

- Curitiba, Brazil. Good lord! Technical foul. The article says that Curitiba has a higher number of cars per capita, but that 75 percent use public transport. It goes on to say that since they are fearful that congestion would eventually strangle the place they began planning for mass transit. I was stunned. Sure, Mussolini made the trains run on time (Explanation for the historically challenged. Mussolini was the former dictator of Italy. He was hanged and dragged with his mistress through the streets of Italy at the end World War Two). Loss of 10 points.

I lost the SMART CITIES game big time. However, the good news is I don't have to see Portland once again being touted as the savior of western civilization. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Richard H. Carson is Director of Oregon City's Community Development Department.

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Common Sense
by Richard H. Carson