BY BRIAN LIBBY
In Thursday's Daily Journal of Commerce, reporter Angela Webber talked with former London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron, who was in Portland to speak at the BEST Awards breakfast.
During Gavron's tenure, the city adopted its Climate Change Action Plan and introduced a congestion charge. She is now, as a member of the London Assembly, helping the city pursue a goal of 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2025.
The former deputy mayor also has an interesting biography. According to Wikipedia, Felicia Nicolette C. "Nicky" Gavron "...is the daughter of German Jews who had fled Nazi Germany in 1936 as pressure on the Jewish community was mounting. In March 2008 she claimed that her mother was chosen to dance before Hitler in the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics, until the authorities discovered that she was Jewish."
Gavron first became interested in politics in the 1970s when she campaigned against the widening of the Archway Road in London. In an interview with the Guardian, quoted in the Wikipedia entry, she said, "It was in the days when everyone thought road widening was the answer, but the penny dropped for me that it was part of the problem."
Webber asked Gavron to assess Portland's reputation internationally.
"Portland is known as being the archetypal compact city, a city that had the foresight to invest in very good public transport very early on, and for looking at public transport in terms of the metropolitan area, not just the city," Gavron said. "You’re also known for the quality of your urban design and the livability city and the huge emphasis that you’ve put on making the city a very healthy environment to live in."
"Now, coming here, what I’ve discovered is how deep you want your greenness to be," she added. "I’m very impressed by your emphasis on growing food locally and on people eating healthily, and the emphasis you’re putting on eco-districts, something interesting I want to do in London."
"Portland’s also got something which I hugely admire, which is your economic development
strategy," Gavron said. "And I think it’s a focused, very good strategy. And I particularly admire the cluster policy. You’ve got this tremendous cluster of information and communications technology, plus you’ve got the green tech cluster. And if you marry greening the economy and investing and innovating in almost every part of the economy, but particularly with your clean tech – if you marry that to the information communications tech, you’ve got a sort of revolution.
You really are the vanguard of the green revolution. I think you’re unique placed to be a
pathfinder city of the future."
Webber also asked, "What would you recommend that Portland look at, from your outside
perspective and with your expertise?"
"I have never been in a major city where I’ve seen more and better public transport," the Londoner said. "It’s quite exceptional, but what you haven’t got in Portland is really good bike lanes. I’m not saying London has them, but if I compare you with Copenhagen, well … that city has much narrower streets, and 37 percent of people bike to work. I think you’re at about 8 percent – well, that’s good too. I really do think that Portland has huge potential to become a cycling city. There is lots of potential for that."
"I also think," Gavron added, "it would be great if you could introduce a minimum standard of energy efficiency across all buildings. Then above that you could allow people to go in for a deeper model of energy efficiency by putting solar on their roofs or sharing in a community energy scheme. I think you can do it as a pay-as-you-save model so that people don’t have to bear the up-front costs. In the end you have lower energy bills, but meanwhile you pay off what you’ve done, and if you move house and move flat, the next occupier picks it up. In London, we are requiring standards way above what you’re requiring here.In the future you’re not going to get the same value if you haven’t invested in your building being green. And people are going to demand it too."
"In London, we’ve helped facilitate it this with a better buildings partnership, in which the big
property owners have got together and formed a company. They’re looking at the tenant-
landlord disconnect, and the difficultly of how you actually get a really good model green
lease. Their idea is collaboration between tenants and landlords, working out the financial
mechanisms so the investment pays off for both. I think that’s quite interesting."