As many of you know, over the years I have been more and more involved in our regional politics and community through both the Best Practices trips and my involvement with the Government Relations Executive Committee with the Portland Business Alliance.
Best Practices trips are a group of politicians, city managers and public sector employees, business leaders, non-profit organizations, and academic leaders. We travel the world meeting with similar people and learn from other municipalities about their best practices, what has worked and what has not, their strategic focus, goals, and ambitions, and the struggles they face and how they work to overcome them. We then in turn bring those lessons back to our region to help inform our practices here.
With the Government Affairs Committee, we are in constant talks with our local leaders, city hall, county leadership and Metro, regarding policy focus and decisions impacting local business and our community in both positive and negative ways. We help focus efforts, as best we can, toward greater outcomes for everyone in our region.
My opinions are my own and I certainly do not speak for these organizations, but my involvement has broadened my view and in some ways, very much has broadened my mind. Things are not simple and the solutions likewise complex as the issues we face, as a community, as a state, and as a region. We all wish there was a magic pill that makes all things better, it simply does not exist.
On Best Practices we recently toured our very own region and met with the mayors, city managers, and public sector leaders of Wilsonville, Tualatin, Sherwood, Gresham, Troutdale, Vancouver, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Portland, and the Metro Council. I walked away with a deeper understanding of our metropolitan area and wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding our metro. These same reflections are applicable in all the metro regions our clients, families and friends live in across the country.
As a whole, I know two things. We are all facing very similar if not identical issues across our local Portland Metro region, State, and Country, and there are very smart and capable people working on solutions to those issues. In a time where we are hearing of and seeing so many negative things, there is great hope and inspiration to be found in the tireless work being done by our leaders. The outcomes don’t come as fast as we want them and truly, we don’t all agree on the right steps to take, but steps are being taken with a focus on positive outcomes while negatively impacting the least amount of people which move us forward to a shared vision reflective of the mental image of our cities we all share.
Politics and policy are very complex. I am often told, and have heard myself personally say, “if I was in charge”, then fill in the blank. But it is never that simple. A solution I might see as clearly obvious has unintended consequence. And the solution or intended outcome may not be agreed upon. Policy then needs to make moves which seek to minimize negative unintended consequences while honoring as many solutions as possible and the outcomes people seek.
In a meeting with Lynn Peterson, our Metro Council president, she asked us for one thing, grace. The ability to be patient and know they are doing their best. Save judgements and cast less condemnation.
I have seen it in our public sector leaders’ eyes, the tired feeling of always being blamed and in some cases verbally assaulted by the public they seek to serve. We do not envy them their job, yet we also do not make it easier on them. As a community we need more cooperation, tolerance, understanding, and focus on compromise. Maybe that is why I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you today.
Young adults in the Portland Metro region are especially optimistic and excited about our future. They love living here, the vibrant restaurant scene, music, arts, outdoor activities, and economic opportunities. Our older adults in the region are at the other end of the spectrum and feel decidedly pessimistic about the same community these younger adults feel so connected to. Why? I’m not sure I have the answer, maybe it is because us older metro residents yearn for an idyllic past or romantic vision of what our region used to be. Maybe the younger generation sees what it can become, and it excites them, where we only see uncomfortable change.
We have been through a lot these past three years and it has worn down even the strongest of us. Our metro area has emotionally been drained as life hit us with many curve balls, sharp turns, and wayward put downs. It has broken my heart to see our community struggle through so much and then fall prey to bickering and discontent instead of bravery, hope, and cooperation.
We used to be proud to be Oregonians and to live in the Portland Metro area, and we can be proud still, though it doesn’t feel like we are. But we are strong stewards of mother nature and our green spaces, we elevate and enable a thriving small business community, we love art, music, good food and good drinks – and we pump them out in huge quantities. In all our travels around the world, let me emphasize that, around the WORLD, people look to Portland as a model of metro coordination and leadership as an example to be followed and envied. Even when we visited faraway places like Columbia and England to local places like Nashville and Oakland, they comment how they learn from us and watch our region to learn and follow our example. It is very humbling.
All of us should be proud and rally around our community and everyone in our community. We don’t have easy challenges to overcome, but we will overcome them, or we will sink into morass. The choice is ours and I think it is time to put our fingers of blame down, to save our judgements and be curious instead, time to open our ears and take information in rather than our mouths and send it out.
It is also time to let our young adults take the mantel of control and set the vision for the future, then lead us to their vision. They will take over a strong legacy we can be proud of and the future of our communities is theirs’ to inherit. The voices of our Gen Y, Gen Z, and Millennials, is full of energy, determination, hope, and excitement. We should bring our positions, power, and influence to bear not to control the conversation, but to empower them to realize their vision.
Most the time we talk about your financial plan and you rely on our expertise to guide you, but my door is always open if you want to talk about these issues too. I know more about financial planning than politics and policy, but maybe knowing I know nothing is a step in the right direction. It allows for more to come in.
Whatever community you live in, whether in Florida, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington, California, we are in this together, let’s be together then and unite around the common cause of better more peaceful lives for everyone. If we must walk into the future, which inevitably we do, why not do it with positivity and strength over pessimism and discord.
My best to you as always. It is always a pleasure to be of service.
From the desk of
Erik Lawrence CFP®