Why an equitable city is good for everyone’s bottom line – and a city of exclusion and displacement is headed for disaster

All of the current representatives of the Portland City Council live within the red circle. None are from Portland’s ethnic communities, and only one is a woman.

Portland has a reputation for being progressive and socially just. But are we really so different from other cities that favor winners (mostly in the core) over losers (mostly away from the core)?  Is our current wave of runaway growth, displacement and homelessness showing up our deeper failures?

Other cities justify this kind of “trickle down” approach under the pervasive economic theory that it’s ultimately best for everyone’s bottom line to favor society’s winners.  Are we in Portland perhaps unconsciously accepting this theory too, and merely making tokenistic gestures towards greater equity — as if to say “it’s a nice ideal up to a point, but… business is business?”

But what if the theory is actually wrong?  The urban economist Jane Jacobs made a strong case that sustainable economic growth comes not by favoring winners, but by maintaining creative diversity and opportunity across the fabric of a well-connected city. Indeed, she warned in her last prophetic book that, if we don’t recognize the inevitable failures of our current approach, we may be hurtling into a “dark age ahead”…

From Public Square:


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