Tonight at Jimmy Mak's jazz club in the Pearl District (221 NW 10th), Portland Spaces editor Randy Gragg will be interviewing the two principal mayoral candidates, Sam Adams and Sho Dozono, about their takes on design, planning and development issues. Doors open at 5:30pm.
This is a great opportunity - perhaps even the only opportunity - to hear how the next mayor of Portland approaches the creation of the city itself.
I've often heard elected officials and politicians talk about development, planning and other issues surrounding design. But I've rarely heard an intelligent take on design itself, unless it's just a boilerplate quote about how design is important.
For example, where do Adams and Dozono stand on design competitions? The easy answer in Portland, after the tram and the aborted Fire Station 1 project, is to say we have to be careful about huge cost outlays. Unfortunately that's the only lesson about the tram that seems to have become common parlance. But we also got a great design for the tram, one that made all the other budget headaches worthwhile. Would either candidate stand up and admit that? What would they do with the Portland building? Who is their favorite architect? What might they have done differently with the Art Museum expansion? Can they tell us, without looking at their notes, who Pietro Belluschi was? Who Brad Cloepfil is? Do they think sustainability is the principal measure of great design and beautiful buildings?
Also, when Vera Katz was mayor, she instituted a Mayor's Design Initiative that included but was not limited to (unless you're Tom Potter) handing out a special AIA award each year. What about using that Initiative to make sure, for example, that PDC and other city-sponsored projects favor design excellence and not just an on-time/on-budget mentality? To do otherwise is short sighted. What about the way design is weighed in the RFP/RFQ process on city jobs? Are recent project competitions like Centennial Mills and Burnside Bridgehead, with developers handling architect selection and the city choosing developers, the right way to do this?
Portland also has a lot of new planning coming up, such as a re-done Central City Plan and decisions about the northern Pearl District. We also have taken steps to radically alter Burnside Street to make it a one-way couplet with Couch. How does that fit into city-wide planning efforts - or does it?
According to an email I received from Randy, one poll has Adams and Dozono in a dead heat. I recently saw another poll conducted by the Portland Mercury that gives Adams a sizable lead.
Personally, I have no doubt in my mind that I'm voting for Sam Adams. I'm not necessarily telling any of you to follow lock-step with my own decision, but for me this is a really, really easy choice. I say this knowing Sho Dozono is a really good man.
Three years ago I went on a trip to Japan with a group of local business leaders and government officials that Dozono's Azumano Travel put together, and found both Sho and his daughter and others from the agency to be really capable, nice, helpful, smart people. In watching Sho Dozono over the years as a local business leader, I consider him one of the most admirable and esteemed members of the local private sector. But he's not the man to lead Portland for the next four-plus years. He's not someone brimming with ideas about the inner workings of city government. He doesn't even know anything about city government because he's never held elective office.
Time and time again in this country, the electorate treats experience from a politician or elected official as a liability. But Sam Adams, in my mind, has been training for the mayor's job for over a decade, first as a member of Katz's staff and then as a go-getter of a city commissioner. If this were a kitchen, I'd say Adams is the sous chef ready to take over as chef. Dozono is a nice guy who eats at the restaurant a lot and has toyed with buying the place because people have encouraged him and he has a notebook full of recipes at home.
I never sat down today intending this post to be an endorsement of Sam Adams per se. In particular I hesitate because of Adams's commitment to the Burnside couplet plan, which as I've often said I think is a bad idea. But I think Adams is exponentially more qualified and ready to be mayor than Dozono.
Think of it this way: Our current mayor, Tom Potter, is like Dozono a good man, but has spent the last four years leaning the ropes of city hall. And he actually had prior governmental experience in the Police Department. Dozono doesn't even have that. Casting aside names for a moment, how many of you would go to the voting booth and say, "Knowing what I know now about Tom Potter, I want to choose someone with less experience."
Don't take my word for it, though. Go to Jimmy Mak's tonight and talk to the candidates. Listen to Randy question them and then decide for yourself. Heck, maybe I'm totally wrong about Adams and Dozono. After all, I still am holding out for a third term for Bill Clinton. But for one night at least, it's great to see the two mayoral candidates talking about and, even better, listening to others talk about design and its huge importance for the city.