Friday's Portland Tribune had an encouraging feature by Jennifer Anderson on former mayor Vera Katz. For three years since leaving office, she's kept a relatively low profile while battling cancer. But now, after finally receiving a clean bill of health, Katz is starting to become a little more active.
Currently Katz is chairing a committee of property owners to decide the placement of a new Willamette River bridge for bikes and pedestrians from the South Waterfront area to near OMSI. (Hopefully it will be as far north as possible to benefit downtowners and not just SoWa.) The ex-mayor is also a member of the "creative capacity" group that her former chief of staff, commissioner Sam Adams, has created to find permanent funding for the arts. (How about some of that money for design?)
Katz also said this: “I’m thinking of asking Sam, when he’s mayor, if I can serve on the planning or design commission. I’d love that.”
During her tenure as mayor, Vera Katz was more of a friend to the design community than her successor has been. She started the Mayor's Design Initiative and used her office to help shepherd through projects like the Brewery Blocks, the restored Meier & Frank building, the aerial tram, and the East Bank Esplanade that now is named for her.
The best thing about Katz's re-emergence is the fact that there is one -- that she's in good health. But as it happens, the architecture community could also benefit from a reinvigorated ex mayor. If Sam Adams does indeed become mayor, it's not difficult to imagine Katz in some kind of emeritus role like she suggested. What could she do as head of the design commission, or the historic landmarks commission? The latter group could certainly use some help. Maybe she could even talk Adams out of the ill-advised Burnside couplet. I'd like to see her head a new Mayor's Design Initiative under Adams that not only hands out awards, but seeks to reform various bureaus and commissions to make design excellence, and not just planning and development and sustainability, a top city priority.