Portland Winter Light Festival 2017

Wall of Us – This Week Better: Feb 5, 2017

City Issues & Ideas, Take Action

Another long week. The new administration seems intent on creating chaos. They’re checking things off their list that have to do with a fear agenda — unconstitutional Muslim ban, helping big business, rolling back protection for citizens, the environment etc. What has been done in the first two week that helps the average citizen? Nothing. Healthcare or education? Nope. Safety or economic relief/jobs related? Nope.

The good news is that the majority of people in the US (and World) don’t agree with what Trump is doing – just like the majority of American’s didn’t vote for him. The last couple weeks have also been a wakeup call for a lot of people and I think we’re getting more vocal and active then ever. I love what the site Wall of Us is doing, and they have a page to track the good things that have happened from collective citizens standing up for democracy.

What I’m reading and doing this week:

Portland landlords must pay relocation costs to evict tenants without cause – Portland City Council passed a new housing policy this week that requires landlords [with more than one rental] to pay the tenants it evicts without cause. The amount is $2,900 (studio) to $4,500 (3 bedroom) given to tenants who they evict without cause or who have to move as a result of a rent increase of 10 percent or more in one year. The full policy is here. I agree with the intent of the ordinance, but I have a lot of questions.

Some of the wording from the city and journalists around this policy is misleading or just confusing! The policy is for landlords with more than one property, and I’m still not sure who it impacts as the policy fact sheet says it doesn’t impact tenants whose lease started before the ordinance passed, but the OregonLive article says “it applies to all tenants, including those who have received a 90-day eviction notice within the last 89 days.”

Overall, as a previous renter, landlord, and home-owner this policy concerns me a bit. First, it paints landlords as the enemy of renters – that they’re rich, soul-less, and money-hungry. I’ve been a landlord to a spectrum of tenants and I’ve been a renter from a spectrum of landlords. Nuance. Try it! Second, I think that most landlords aren’t getting rich off anyone (thankfully this policy doesn’t impact single-tenant landlords). From my experience, there are a lot of people who are “accidental landlords” after moving or bad market timing, they’re just barely making their rental mortgage payments, so any extra profit is often going to increased property taxes (property taxes went up 4.5% on average in 2015), repairs etc. Third, there’s a lot of vague wiggle room in this policy. So it’s for only single-tenant landlords – how do you prove this? How is this enforced? Is it up to the renter to file a claim with the city? Does it go through the court system? What if the landlord doesn’t pay?

DO: Ask our Mayor Ted Wheeler and champion of the Relocation Assistance Ordinance Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to create an example sheet and FAQ of what this policy looks like in impacting real people. For example: have 10 different use cases from both the tenant and landlord perspective – how the policy works, what happens when and how etc.

Portland Winter Light Festival
– In the depths of winter we could all use a little light. 😉 Last year was the first I had heard of the Winter Light Festival, and it was such a fun event to meander through. It’s a really interesting combo of art and science into light (and often sound). They had another festival for 2017 and it seemed even bigger than last year.

DO: It’s over for this year, but check out PDXWLF

Wall of Us
– As mentioned above in the intro, I love what these ladies are doing. Each week they post a list of Weekly Acts of Resistance. “To make it simply irresistible for Americans to become active participants in rebuilding our democracy.”

DO: Check out this week’s items and do one! Specifically this week, I’m planning to continue this one.


John Stewart Reads Trump’s Next Batch of Executive Orders – It felt good to have a laugh with John Stewart again. “No one action will be adequate. All actions will be necessary. And if we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight, and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less and, constitutionally, partially intact, then I, Donald J. Trump, will have demonstrated the greatness of America — just not the way I thought I was gonna.” –John Stewart as Trump

This Week’s Actions: This week, I sent emails, called, Tweeted @, and signed petitions to my Senators and House rep, and a Senate committee about issues that were important this week; emailed and Tweeted @ a few companies that I use that haven’t taken a stand on the Muslim Ban. I tried and failed to stay off Facebook, but did post comments addressing lies and fake information as I felt comfortable with; and started reading Rest in Power – The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.


“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” –Albert Einstein

Pods for the homeless in Portland

Immigration and 45 – This Week Better: Jan 29, 2017

City Issues & Ideas, Take Action

We’re one week into 45’s administration and a lot has happened. I will now be referring to Trump as 45. For all the people during the campaign who said they take him seriously, but not literally – I hope you’re awake now. Track Trump is a new site that tracks what 45’s promise was for his first 100 days against what’s really happening. This is a useful “at a glance” list. However, I would recommend two improvements. 1. The green, yellow, red method of done/not done, easily lends itself to a “green = good” or green = complete. I believe that most of the things on this list aren’t good for the American people, and a lot of the items can’t just be “done” by an executive order by the President. The list should also state the channel or department it has to be approved by or the legality and enforceability of any of these Executive Orders. It’s been a long week.

What I’m reading this week:

Anne Frank and her family were also denied entry as refugees to the US  – Anne Frank would have been 87 this year. Her father applied for visas to the US. Frank wrote on April 30, 1941, “Perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.” Anne, her sister Margot, and mother all died in concentration camps. Holocaust Remembrance Day was this week. I believe Anne Frank would have continued to write and advocate for more empathy and kindness in immigration policy. –via Washington Post

DO: The majority of American’s don’t agree with 45’s new Executive Order on Immigration that bans refugees and even green card and visa holders from seven Muslim countries from entering the US. Get vocal about this. Donate your time or money (ACLU and IRC are two organizations leading this fight.).

“Sanctuary city” means Portland will remain welcoming to all
– Our new mayor Ted Wheeler (along with many other cities and states around the nation) has taken a stand against 45’s EO about cutting funding to sanctuary cities if they don’t comply. Here are a few highlights if you’re unfamiliar with what this is all about:

  • much like it is the responsibility of the Internal Revenue Service to enforce federal tax policy. Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. (ie. your local police aren’t going to come after you because you owe back taxes)
  • “Oregon state law dating back to 1987 prohibits state and local police from enforcing federal immigration law if a person is not involved in criminal activity.”
  • Residents, regardless of immigration status, should not be afraid go to the police with information on crimes for fear that they might be deported. They should not be afraid to access critical services or seek refuge from domestic abuse and homeless services. They should not be afraid to bring their children to school. –via Oregon Live

DO: Oregon is fairly insulated already by our leaders taking a stand. It remains to be seen how this particular issue will impact us later. The easiest way to keep up on what’s happening on these issues is to follow your local leaders on social (Twitter or Facebook). Here’s my Twitter list of local leaders.

How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four “Easy” Steps – Quick read by a Venezuelan comparing 45 to Hugo Chavez and their mastery of Populism. The Advice:

  1. Don’t forget who the enemy is. You. “Populism can only survive amid polarization. It works through caricature, through the unending vilification of a cartoonish enemy. Pro tip: you’re the enemy.”
    2. Show no contempt. Don’t feed polarization, disarm it.
    3. Don’t try to force him out. “A hissy-fit is not a strategy. The people on the other side, and crucially Independents, will rebel against you if you look like you’re losing your mind. All non-democratic channels are counter-productive: you lower your message, and give the Populist rhetorical fuel.”
    4. Find a counter-argument. “the problem is not the message but the messenger. It’s not that Trump supporters are too stupid to see right from wrong, it’s that you’re much more valuable to them as an enemy than as a compatriot. The problem is tribal. Your challenge is to prove that you belong in the same tribe as them: that you are American in exactly the same way they are.” –via Caracas Chronicles

These ‘Sleeping Pods’ Provide Safety and Warmth for Portland’s Homeless – Jumping on the tiny home craze, architects in partnership with PSU students have designed a bunch of tiny home sleeping “pods” that will be used in a pod village in Kenton. The village will be for women. “An estimated 3,800 people in Multnomah County are houseless, according to a 2015 report by the city, and of that population, 49 percent sleep unsheltered every night.” –via Portland Monthly

This Week’s Actions: This week, I sent a few emails to my Senators and House rep about issues that are important to me (Oregon reps are very vocal about where they stand and I don’t need to tie up their phones to tell them I agree), read and researched more about how executive orders impact us, donated to IRC to help their work with Syrian refugees, and started re-reading Don’t Think of an Elephant.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus

Women's March on Washington in Portland

Women’s March on Washington in Portland – This Week Better: Jan 22, 2017

City Issues & Ideas, Take Action

Yesterday was so inspiring. Millions(!) of women and men turned out around the world to stand up and say “hey, we’re still here!”, and that we’re united in the fight for equality and decency for all people. All people. 100,000 Portlanders came out! In the pouring rain, naturally.

This is just what I needed after Friday. Friday was a day of mourning for many reasons. I’ve had trouble putting my thoughts into words and sentences. This is my first blog post of 2017. I started this blog to talk about the positive and what I can do to make things better in my community and on a local level.

The last few weeks had felt disgusting and disheartening on the political front. From Cabinet picks, Affordable Care Act dismantling attempts, to the House setting the stage to mess with public lands, Trevor Noah said it best “almost every single person he’s picked for his cabinet wants to destroy the thing they’ve been put in charge of.

Yesterday was much needed inspiration. This is what democracy looks like. This is what can happen when millions of people make a statement. This is what the future looks like. Seeing my 3 year old niece with her sign “Make America Kind Again”, which she later decided said “Be Kind, Love a Balloon” instead, gives me hope for the future.

We Need Love poster

We need love, indeed.

Now What? We must continue taking action. Yes, it’s great and inspiring to see millions of people marching. 100,000 people in Portland. If we 100,000 continue to take action, think of what we can accomplish! There are more kind and forward-thinking people in the US than not. But we have to keep moving and taking action.

What I’m reading this week:
Voting Should Be Mandatory – “Trump triumphed in a low-turnout election.” “In a compulsory election, it does not pay to energize your base to the exclusion of all other voters. Since elections cannot be determined by turnout, they are decided by swing voters and won in the center. Australia has its share of xenophobic politicians, but they tend to dwell in minor parties that do not even pretend they can form a government.” “There is also evidence that compulsory voting lifts civic engagement over all.”

DO: Here’s where Oregon stands on the National Popular Vote bill. It has died in the Oregon senate previously. Contact your local rep. In North/North East Portland, that’s Lew Frederick and ask them to support it.

4 Big Themes for Cities in 2017 – I love City Observatory’s posts on urban living, planning, policy etc. They’ve outlined some things they’ve learned in the last few years. 1. The growing economic importance of city centers. 2. The shortage of cities. 3. The need to rethink transportation policy. 4. The challenge of segregation, integration, and neighborhood change.

DO: Read through at least one of the links they’ve included in this post. I’ve learned a lot by reading their research and writing, some of which challenges my assumptions. We all have a lot to learn and it’s fascinating.

If the Affordable Care Act Dies, Cities Will Feel It – “Every major city stands to see millions of dollars, and life-giving programs, go away. So do small towns and rural places.”

DO: Our Senators in Oregon already have our backs. Since nothing has actually been suggested by Republicans yet, I’m not sure what we can do, other than staying up-to-date on what’s happening and what smart and informed people like Bernie Sanders are recommending.

Portland Police Launch Tear Gas [Pepper Spray] at Anti-Trump Protesters in Pioneer Courthouse Square – Portland police seemed quite proud of themselves for their use of restraint at the Portland Women’s March. The night before they chose not to use as much restraint. I think we need to be really careful in our assumptions of “right” and “wrong” ways to protest and how different groups are treated by the police.

DO: Ask questions of our leaders. Read and watch video of what has happened. I don’t have the answers here, but I do know that this difference in treatment doesn’t feel right. How do we find the balance between right to assemble/expression and protection of public space from a few destructive people who hide in these assemblies (like what happened in downtown in November)?

This Week’s Actions: This week, I attended the Women’s March on Washington in Portland, emailed my local Oregon Senator for North Portland about the National Popular Vote bill, and read and researched upcoming changes and current issues facing me as a Portland-citizen and on a national level.


What makes great places?

The ‘Perfect’ City: This Week Better – Dec 18, 2016

City Issues & Ideas, Land Use, Take Action

I’ve come across a few interesting articles lately talking about “how to build the perfect city” and “placemaking”, and the above graphic from Project for Public Spaces, detailing what makes a great place – broken out into:

  • key attributes (for example: sociability)
  • intangibles (for example: interactive)
  • measurements (for example: evening use)

Such an interesting way to see what’s in between “Place” and the step we usually jump to: measurement.

What I’m reading this week:

Portland’s cost-burdened renters pushed out of city center – I think we all knew this was happening, but there’s some interesting map overlay data in this article. –via OregonLive

DO: It sounds like the city had a rescheduled hearing on the inclusionary zoning mentioned in this article. There should be an update at some point here?

A “Weird Concept” for Portland
-“It’s a weird concept,” he said. “I’m asking (investors) to just not be greedy.” “The Atomic Orchard Experiment represents a radical approach to providing workforce housing in Portland. The planned 88-unit development is uniquely structured. Sixty percent of the units will be market rate, at around $1,650 per month. Twenty percent of the units will be affordable at 80 percent of median family income, a level set by housing regulators at $1,100 per month, earning a 10-year property tax abatement through Portland’s Multiple-Unit Limited Tax Exemption (MULTE) program. And in an unprecedented twist, approximately 16 units would be pushed far below market rate to less than $600 a month. Cavenaugh is targeting rents of $582 a month.” –via DJC Oregon

DO: Guerrilla Development has done some really interesting projects in Portland. Check out some of their work and their crowdfunding development project. Curious how these projects will look in a few years.


Women And Men Use Cities Very Differently – Ask women and men how they, say, use transportation and you’ll get very divergent answers. The women, unsurprisingly, have a much more complex relationship. “Women in general are more likely to combine work with family commitments, cities like Berlin are trying to break up the division between residential and commercial districts, between suburb and office. That means more mixed-use neighborhoods, with homes, shops, and workplaces all jumbled up—something with numerous other benefits as well, like neighborhood character or being able to walk rather than having to get in a car every time you leave the house.” “On the other hand, there is an argument that by doing so you entrench those norms. How could urban design nudge people toward a society in which women don’t do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare?” — via Co.Exist

DO: Check out the full 10-part series called “How to Build the Perfect City”.

100 in 1 Day
– I came across this project in Canada called 100 in 1 day – Your Ideas. Your City. Your Day. They have a nationwide popup ‘placemaking’ day in the summer to take over the streets. Cool idea to make things visible and coordinated. “100In1Day is your insider’s guide to the best of your city. On June 4, this community driven, city-wide placemaking festival activated 100+ fun, innovative pop-up ideas all over Canada.” –via 100in1Day

DO: Check out their Inspiration Toolkit for ideas of local things you could do.

“Privately owned public spaces” epitomize the dangers of privatizing collective goods
– This one is a long read, but an interesting look at some the history of privately owned “public spaces”. “Real estate becomes the effective law of the land, transforming residents into rentiers, public space into borrowed land, and the homeless into unproductive dead weight. Working-class people inevitably lose out.” “As for POPS, many provide enjoyable and useful space to the millions of people who live in the city. But from their inception until today, POPS have existed to help the wealthy consciously shape New York City and restrict the proliferation of democratic spaces.” –via Jacobin

DO: Do you know some of Portland’s privately owned public spaces?

This Week’s Actions: 
This week, I donated to a local nonprofit through GiveGuide and to IRC to support Syrian refugees, and stayed off Facebook (40 days now!).

“If there were one word that could act as a standard of conduct for one’s entire life, perhaps it would be thoughtfulness.”

This is the last post of 2016, since next Sunday is Christmas. See you in 2017!