Days of normal, friendly families living next door are gone, according to Kuntzler’s “Better Places.” The days of love thy neighbor have gone as quickly as the days of locked and bolted doors and fear of who lives down the street have arrived. Camaraderie and good neighbors were the norm in past generations, just as the days of clean air and green grass have been overridden with industrial emissions and risk after risk to America’s health.
“Better Places” is Kuntzler’s critique of American culture, including suburban sprawl, a lack of a sense of community and place, an unsustainable (“exhaustive”) economy, oil dependency, urban decay, mass automobile use, industrial farming and environmental degradation.While there are many places that have not made a dedicated move toward betterment and sustainability, Portland, Oregon is not one. According to Blue Oregon, an Oregon-based online commentary magazine (Carlson, 2005), “a number of people are working to make Portland more sustainable.” Commissioner Dan Saltzman [has] turned the Portland Office of Sustainable Development (POSD) into “one of the most successful agencies of its kind.
” (Carlson). When those, such as Commission Saltzman, began to see the city’s unfettered sprawl development and the breakdown of social relationships, all of which worked to undermine the city’s sense of community, they knew something had to change. POSD’s mission is to work toward “practical resources for a healthy, prosperous, sustainable community.” (2006)Each level of Portland’s city has collectively pulled resources together to make Portland a more inviting and safe place to live, while remaining prosperous. The Portland Parks & Recreation department oversees community garden plot volunteers and works to preserve the city’s natural heritage.
The Energy Trust of Oregon (PETO) offers tax credits and cash incentives for resident’s home energy improvements and offers information and consults on home energy savings, solar power and hot water heating and more. (POSD, 2006) Through the Bureau of Development Services homeowners can receive assistance in getting their green remodel done making the process safer, more practical and better for the overall community.Portland’s Transportation Options department assists residents and visitors in getting around Portland, whether “by foot, bike or transit.” (POSD, 2006) In addition, the transportation offices educate interested person on “reducing fuel costs, get healthy and contribute to a cleaner, greener community.” (2006) Like other agencies in Portland, its Water Bureau works with customers to make Portland a better place to live.
The Bureau educates residents on how to reduce summertime watering, while also providing valuable information on how “following a few simple water-wise tips can help you save money on your water and sewer bill.” (2006)Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services helps residents learn about natural landscaping and proudly promotes its Naturescaping for Clean Rivers program. According to the agency, “Naturescaping is landscaping that allows people and nature to coexist…by incorporating native plants into your yard, you can attract insects, birds, and other creatures and help keep Portland’s rivers and streams healthy.” (POSD, 2006) “Sustainable energy for Oregon” is the Oregon Department of Energy’s motto as it works hard to make certain Oregon has an adequate supply of consistent and affordable energy and is safe from nuclear contamination. Efforts include helping Oregonians save energy, develop clean energy resources, promote renewable energy, and clean up nuclear waste.Positive reviews of Portland’s atmosphere (Sevick, 2005) dub the city as having a “reputation as a big city with a small-town quality of life.
” Sevcik (2005) describes Portland’s air as “fresh” while also raving, “…the food is organic, the streets are paved with good intentions.”“…cast-iron buildings in downtown’s Old Town still bear their old signs…Portland may have more vintage clothing stores per capita than any other American city…On the elm-shaded streets southwest of Pioneer Square, known as the South Park Blocks, young couples, high on the joys of nesting, drift through the organic blackberries and fresh-roasted hazelnuts at the Portland Farmers Market. Families buy wholesome picnic lunches, [and] then settle on the lawn, serenaded by a musician or four; and every week there’s a cooking demonstration by chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants.” (“Portland, Oregon: Can a Place Be Too Perfect?”)Changes made in Portland over the past few decades have given local residents and visitors a reason to believe in the city’s positive future. However, it is the preservation of as much of historic settings as the new improvements that makes Portland a prime example of one of America’s “better places”.