Portland: a city of excellence?

As far as uniting Portland State University and the city of Portland, mayoral candidate James Posey says, “The sky’s the limit.”

“Youth and education, as it relates to our campaign,” he said, “is not going to be just lip service. It’s going to be the real thing.”

Posey’s plans for Portland are rooted in the idea of creating “a city of excellence” and, according to him, “Excellence starts with education.”

He believes the success of education, from kindergarten through post-secondary, begins with a genuine investment. Additionally, Posey wants to give college students a sense of security while in school. He argues students don’t want to be worrying about things like health insurance while studying.

Posey says he and members of his campaign are “trying to figure out as many ways as we can to support students and young people.”

He commented that a lot of money is spent on the back end of people’s lives, namely retirement. “We have to spend some money on our future, too,” he said, “and I see no line item on the budget for our future as it relates to young people.”

Posey wants to address as many issues regarding higher education in Portland as he can, especially as it pertains to state institutions like PSU and Portland Community College. His concerns range from tuition, which he suggests easing through creative uses of private sector dollars, and utilizing credit ratings to drive down the cost of loans.

He also envisions a work system, similar to the Peace Corps, in which students could work to benefit the community while paying for school at the same time. Gov. Ted Kulongoski has suggested a similar plan for statewide public universities.

At the root of a city of excellence, Posey said, is “a well-educated workforce.”

He is upset, additionally, “that academia doesn’t get out into the streets.” He feels that the city “hasn’t come close to exploring the possibilities of expanding universities” and their relationship with the community. Posey calls the current relationship between the universities and the community “long distance.”

The values of education, he continued, are linked to access. Beyond paying for school, students have to get to school.

While Posey does not believe everything should be free, including bus passes, he does think it should be easier for students to get to school. He is open to the idea of creating a cheaper bus pass for students, such as the one offered to teachers.

After all, he pointed out, “The reason why our faculty have jobs is because of students.”

He has also suggested creating a system for rewarding people who carpool, such as additional carpool only parking spaces. The city already has some such spaces, but Posey argues, “We need to be more aggressive about that.”

Posey also wants to create a better link to the community colleges, as well as four year institutions such as PSU, which, he argues, a large portion of the minority community doesn’t have access to.

In addition to education and transportation, Posey also feels “the government has a responsibility to make sure everybody has access to the city,” including affordable and even low-income housing downtown. His idea, which he admits “is not novel,” involves maintaining a balance. For every upscale housing unit that goes in, an equally affordable unit must also go in. But he feels this has not been maintained very well and says that it musts “be forced to happen.”

Posey’s plans for a city of excellence also include working on resources like medicine. He envisions growing Portland into a major medical capital of the world, especially in areas such as HIV/AIDS and breast cancer research.

When it comes down to the basics of his campaign, Posey, a self-proclaimed “bottom-line person,” really thinks people have a definite choice in this election.

“They can have the status quo,” he said, “or they can imagine or envision a city of excellence.”