Hello: Why a Planning Commissioner Blog?

October 16, 2009

Because public policy can be complicated and three minutes at a hearing is a pretty limited opportunity to engage in a substantive conversation.

Just figuring out what the Planning Commission is doing can be a daunting challenge, even before you attempt to influence the decisions. It’s not uncommon to have a staff report of over a hundred pages on a topic. Not that staff reports aren’t useful (we have some of the most talented planning staff around). But finding the key issues in that 100 page report may not be easy.

My goal with this blog is to make the process more accessible to citizens. This will be a learning experience, but I think I’ll be able to do this in several ways:

  • Highlight upcoming topics
  • Give my view on what the key issues are on a given topic
  • Provide a forum for discussion on these topics, including asking provocative questions when helpful

If nothing else, at least there will be an RSS feed that will include upcoming agenda items and links to key documents.

My experience is that public policy is almost always a set of trade-offs. There are multiple “goods” to be weighed and balanced. If you come here looking for a preview of where I think the balance point is, or how I’m going to vote, you’re going to be disappointed. But I do hope to provide thoughts and questions about what factors are being weighed in the balance.

I want to be absolutely clear on one point: I don’t claim to be speaking for anyone other than myself. On this blog, I do not represent the Planning Commission, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability or the City of Portland. These will be the perspectives of one individual Planning Commissioner.

An overriding goal here will be to keep the conversation civil. I’ve had some experience doing this at Portland Transport, where with help I’ve been managing an online policy conversation for four years. I’ve adapted many of the same rules to use here. Your cooperation with these rules is appreciated.

So with a little trepidation, here we go…

Please feel free to comment on this post and tell me what would make this site useful for YOU!


Chris Smith



  1. Thanks for starting this Chris! Looking forward to reading!

  2. This is great to see, Chris. I look forward to keeping up to date with your efforts. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if/when We are ALL Traffic can provide support on any front.

    Erin Greeson

  3. Like the new digs!

  4. Way to go, Chris. You are uniquely suited to this task. Thanks for taking it on!

  5. Dear Chris,
    Not sure I’m liking this. My first thought on the November 15 PSC Hearing’s location is depressing! How many audience member seats will be available in Room C? How many in the auditorium? I do not like the fact that the “masses” or the community are being relegated to the auditorium for the meeting to listen to and watch on an overhead projection (big screen) etc. This seems disrespectful to those wanting to make an effort to attend the meeting, show support, and / or offer testimony.

    If BPS is anticipating a larger crowd, why not use the auditorium for the meeting and not just for overflow? I think it is important to have the PSC commissioners see the crowds and feel their energy. Not have the audience sequestered in another room. We were quiet and respectful at the last hearing. We held up our signs, but we respected the commissioners and were quiet.

    Is there any possibility of a revision here? Who should we talk to about this? Please get back to me on this.
    Donna Murphy

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