It had been a long flight. I dropped my bags on the floor, walked into the hotel bathroom, and snapped on the lights. There was a brief flicker, and then the room was illuminated. I looked at the lightbulbs. They were the curly-cue energy-saving kind. Hmmm, I thought, nice touch.
I relieved myself and flushed the potty. There was a small, quick gurgle that lasted about a second. Ah, I thought, water-saving loos. I sat on the bed and opened my laptop to check my e-mail. The little wireless icon popped and asked me if I wanted to connect to the Internet via the city's free wi-fi system. Yes, I did. How convenient and simple, I thought.
I spent four days in Portland, Oregon, at a newspaper conference last week, and each day I saw clear evidence of what a difference in a city's quality of life an enlightened and progressive government can make.
I took light-rail trains all over town. I rode in hybrid taxis. The streets were immaculate. Roses and other flowers bloomed on every corner. The downtown was booming. I saw no vacant buildings, no blighted blocks.
So how do they do it? For one thing, they started 30 years ago by forming Metro, a consolidated elected governing body that is responsible for all urban planning, county-wide. Portland has no sprawl, due to a strictly enforced "urban growth boundary" that separates urban from rural land. The idea is to encourage redevelopment of Portland's inner core and preserve its tree-lined city neighborhoods.
The Metro consists of seven elected commissioners who oversee transit, waste and recycling, parks, the zoo, the convention center, and fish and wildlife management. There is a mayor, but his role is strictly limited and mostly ceremonial. The current mayor, Tom Potter, lobbied for a reorganization to a "strong mayor" form of government, a measure that was on the city's May ballot. It was rejected by a three-to-one margin.
As far as I know, the mayor didn't blame unnamed "snakes" for the defeat. Maybe he just took it as a sign from God.
Oh would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us. — Robert Burns
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the line above in response to seeing a louse on a high-born lady's bonnet at church. The point being, of course, that while we might think we're looking pretty good, someone else might be noticing a flaw we've overlooked.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced last week that the I-55 "old bridge" across the Mississippi would be closed for nine months, beginning in 2017, so that the department could build new exit and entrance ramps. This is a really horrible idea, with potentially disastrous economic, public safety, and even national security ramifications ...
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...