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Councilor Carlotta Collette's 2009 inaugural remarks

About Metro    Metro Council    Councilor Collette    2009 inaugural remarks

At the Jan. 8, 2009 swearing-in ceremony, Councilor Carlotta Collette took the oath of office and was installed for her first term as a Metro Councilor representing District 2.

Inaugural speech:

This is a very important event for me. I have loved my first year at Metro and I'm so grateful to everyone who helped me get here.

That's a very long list, and it includes my dear friends and fellow elected officials in Clackamas County, the voters in my district, and especially those of you who helped with my campaign - thank you all.

I'm particularly grateful to my colleagues on the council who appointed me to fill this seat just over a year ago. You knew what I didn't, how important the chemistry of this council is. How each person plays a unique role. You took the chance that I would be able to contribute something unique as well. Thank you for that confidence and ongoing support.

So now that I'm here, and officially sworn in, what do I hope to accomplish?

Really just one thing, but it's a big one:

Not long after my appointment, I attended a meeting where President Bragdon was speaking to a group of people, and he quoted this line from Metro's charter. He said our job is -

"To preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations."

What a job description. It's a definition of sustainability.

Working with our partner cities and counties, we are building a way of life that lets us go about our daily business, our work and our play, in ways that preserve and enhance the legacy we leave to our children and their children.

I love doing this in part because of my childhood.

I grew up in a blue-color, multi-cultural, immigrant hillside community in Duluth, Minnesota. There were Italians, Native Americans, French Canadians, Poles, Germans, all speaking with their own particular accents, eating their own special foods, carrying on their own traditions.

Every morning, the neighborhood dads and a few moms would walk down the hill to work. We lived above an industrial harbor and most of them, my dad included, worked there. From my bedroom window, I could see the dredging scow he captained.

In the early evening, the parade of parents would come back up the hill, each going toward his or her own porch light. I knew every one of them, where they worked, and usually what they were having for dinner.

A few blocks away was our little West End downtown. We had a bank, the hardware store we entered through the back door, the butcher we knew by name, a dress shop. That's where we caught the electric buses that carried us downtown to the movie houses and big department stores. We walked to school and to church and my favorite, to the library.

This was a real 20-minute community. We could walk or bus to anything we needed.

We had a mix of single-family homes like ours, a bunch of duplexes and a few apartment buildings. I never ran the numbers but I'd guess we had between 20 and 30 dwelling units to the acre. We had a big park at the top of our hill, and we could follow the well-worn paths up and up to the very summit of the city and look out over the harbor and the great Lake Superior and be inspired by it.

When we aspire at Metro: "to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations," from my perspective, we're about building communities like my old neighborhood, where people know each other, where they engage with and take care of their neighbors. Where they can walk or bus to what they need. Where they don't need a car. And where they can climb a hill or follow a path and experience something truly inspiring.

We are pretty close to that in this region.

We're designing one of the most livable and sustainable approaches to life anywhere in the world. We're on the short list of great, sustainable places planet-wide. That's not bad.

Our region has experienced huge and rapid population and job growth, and yet we are still living successfully within a much smaller footprint than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago.

We have more people trying to get around in our region than ever before and yet our greenhouse gas emissions are about the same as they were in 1990. Few US cities can make that claim.

In this region, with voter approval, we set aside more than 12,000 acres of open space, and that's just the Metro land. The city of Portland and other communities compound that figure.

It's almost a cliché to say we have a transit system that's the envy of the rest of the nation.

We have walkable neighborhoods, and

  • a vibrant creative arts scene and
  • local food production and
  • small businesses that we rely on for so much of what we need -

and that's just what's inside our urban growth boundary. Beyond that edge we've preserved some of the most productive farms and gorgeous forests in the world.  

We are on the right track. We are doing some things so right that the rest of the world looks at us and marvels.

But we can't rest on any of that. What we've accomplished has benefitted some of us more than others. The dream-sharing isn't distributed equitably. And it's only going to get tougher as we grow.

For several years now, Metro has been putting the word out that another million people, about half of them our children and grandchildren, are coming our way. We need to figure out how to embrace them in ways that don't tarnish this place for all of us.

That's a huge challenge.

We need to find the means to create the future we want to live in. I've got some ideas about how to do that, and so probably do all of you. We need to share those ideas and then build this shared vision.

Because, and here's the bottom line: as much as I loved my childhood home, my sustainable little urban, walkable, 20-minute, working class community, I can't go back there. All I can do is try, endlessly, to create here the things that made that so good. That's my pledge to you, and to this region. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

Councilor Carlotta Collette, January 8th, 2009

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