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As Portland Grows, Community Buy-In Matters

 

"Growth is both essential and turbulent to any ecosystem. Finding the 'sweet spot' between economic growth and quality of life is our opportunity." 

On Saturday, October 3, over 200 people gathered at the University of Southern Maine to share ideas and learn new perspectives at "The Challenge of Change: Are We Loving Portland to Death?" This free community forum was organized by Creative Portland, Portland Society for Architecture, and GrowSmart Maine to open a community conversation about the impacts of growth on Portland.
 
We are happy to report that our #1 goal was achieved! Most survey respondents said they learned something they would likely use in the future to help make better decisions regarding the city's growth, and most hoped that we would continue to present experienced professionals, like Mayor Esther Manheimer from the City of Asheville, NC, at future forums.
 
Esther Manheimer
If you were unable to attend, a video of Mayor Manheimer's presentation and the panel discussion, featuring Dr. Richard Barringer (USM Muskie School), Greg Kesich (Portland Press Herald), Jeff Levine (City of Portland) and Dr. Ryan Wallace (Maine Center for Business and Economic Research) is available on the CTN website. Notes are also available for the two afternoon break-out sessions and more photos are here.
 
My personal take-away came from a story that Mayor Manheimer told me when we were taking her back to her hotel: One day, at a large public event, the mayor was approached by a resident who started upbraiding her for a decision that Asheville City Hall had made.
 
As she started to explain, another community member stepped up and said: "Wait a minute! We all decided that. We wanted that to happen."
Her story made me realize that "listening" and "engaging the community" are certainly important. But, they are also just means to an end. The goal needs to be finding broad, informed buy-in from a diverse and sizable portion of the community, so that we understand and readily support decisions by city leaders. We hope that more conversations, like the one on October 3, will help. If you would like to find out about future events, please let us know at info@creativeportland.com.
 
THANKS to University of Southern Maine, CPB2, Portland Buy Local, Portland Downtown District, Portland Housing Development Corporation, Portland Regional Chamber, Random Orbit Inc, Peaks Island Council, USM Environmental Finance Center and Art At Work for helping us make this happen!
 

 

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