The campaign season is underway, and I am at the kick-off of City Council Candidate Brad Meacham. He’s the only candidate running against sitting Councilmember Bruce Harrell. Meacham has impressed me by starting out his remarks here talking about land use.
Meacham talked (above the playful chatter of supporters’ children) model urban neighborhoods, consistent with the planning effort spawned by the Growth Management Act passed in the 1990s. That effort, Meacham said, “failed to incentivize growth to create a critical mass of residential density and street level retail.” He’s right. We did get a lot of growth, but as I’ve pointed out before we just haven’t gotten enough zoning to match, especially around transit stations. The setting, Geraldine’s Counter in Columbia City, was the perfect setting for his comments.
He also called it completely right on housing. More supply means more affordable housing. It can be that simple. More rules and more process and bad zoning mean fewer units which means higher price.
Meacham recites the Cascade Land Conservancy’s take on sprawl. Their take has to be our mantra: If we want to preserve farmland, open space, and habitat we need to grow in our cities. That means good zoning decisions that lead to good density.
I can’t remember the last City Council campaign that began with a smart statement about land use and affordable housing. It just doesn’t happen. Usually candidates recite a bunch of language about why they think they’re the perfect person for the job or how they’re going to “run the City like a business” or some similar empty catch phrase. I think Meacham just might be an ant in a campaign season full of grasshoppers. Keep your eyes on this race between Meacham and the incumbent.
I’ll write more later. But I’m on board.