As state law requires it to do every five years, the City of Portland is updating its comprehensive plan, the document that sets out in broad terms what land uses the City will allow, and where, and on what conditions. (The zoning ordinance, which by law must be consistent with the comprehensive plan, provides more specific day-to-day rules.)
As part of this process, the Planning Bureau solicits public comment, both through traditional means such as open houses and mailed questionnaires and through modern methods, including e-newsletters, online surveys, and the Bureau's Facebook page. One of the Bureau's surveys ran through May 1, and the Bureau told the good citizens that their answers would "help refine and amend many of the goals and policies in the Working Draft Part 1 of the Comprehensive Plan" and "help staff answer some critical questions around infrastructure investments, watershed health, industrial land development and housing choices."
The survey was composed by people knowledgeable about planning, but not so much about surveys. One responder noted that almost all of the questions were compound questions that combined two questions into one, so that you could answer "yes" to both parts, or "no" to both parts, but not "yes" to one and "no" to the other. (An example of a compound question, not from the survey: "Do you support protecting social security for the elderly and instituting the death penalty for jaywalkers?" The title of this post is another example.) For example, one of the survey questions asked if you want to "promote 'ecologically friendly' industrial sites through monetary incentives and technical assistance." I couldn't answer that question; I favor promoting environmentally friendly industrial sites through technical assistance (providing knowledge) and not through monetary incentives (paying people not to mess up the City). Yet I would have to support both or neither.
Another question asked if the City should "subsidize the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields." These are two different things: the first part asks if the City should pay for part of the cost to clean up old industrial sites; the second part asks if the City should pay people to build new projects on the cleaned-up sites. I might support the City paying part of the cost to clean up someone's environmental mess, in collaboration with DEQ and EPA and then pursuing the responsible party to repay the cost, but be less excited about the City subsidizing a project on private land, whether clean or dirty, under the benign if mistaken belief that the City is a real estate developer.
The Bureau says that it will release the results this month. The results will be interesting, not so much for the answers as for the questions. Also interesting will be learning whether the Bureau hired an outside consultant to write the rather sloppy questions. For the record, I favor protecting Venerable Mom's social security and I oppose the death penalty for jaywalkers.