Day 2: Kathryn

Although I had a great time with everything we did today, my highlight was the role play that dealt with budgets and decisions in the public school system. When we returned from an imformative meeting with Martha Pelligrino, head Director of Government Relations for Portland, we broke into small groups and were thrown into a challenging simulation. We were told that a certain school district was $600,000 in debt, and we had to provide a way to come up with the money, and present out solution to the school board. We were given data about the number of schools in the district and their performance level, the salaries of certain teaching positions, and the number of employees per position within each school. My group brainstormed for a while, before realizing that there was no “right” answer. We knew that we didn’t want to close any of the schools, so we had to find alternate ways to get the district out of debt.We decided to start by letting go two out of four Vice Principles from each of the three high schools. We still did have the $600,000, so we had to also lay off two custodians from one of the other schools. There were many consequences of laying off the teachers to think about. We thought of ways to compensate for the Vice Principles, such as having class advisors for students. To replace the custodians, we came up with the idea of having the students work for a few minutes each day to clean up their school. Although these were sufficient plans, we felt very badly about laying off the teachers. We decided to let them know with enough warning so that they would have time to find a new job. After we had sorted out the details of our proposal, we presented to the school board.
This simulation taught me how difficult it is to be making these types of decisions, and how there is often not an answer that will satisfy everything and everyone. It was extremely hard to lay people off, even in role play, but there did not seem to be a better option. I also learned to work with my peers in a way that was quite new to me. Overall, this activity was an exciting and fun way to learn more about the school system and the tough decisions that must sometimes be made.

Day 1: Privilege by Tyler

Walked into a room, filled with experiences which failed to be as diverse as the city it was built on. The anxiety that filled a boy, 14-years of age, subsided and turned into excitement. Surprised to see that the struggles of children better off than himself, resembled the same if not worse than himself. One lessoned learned right there; your socio-economic situation does not describe your emotional state. They were all privileged, despite all of the struggles, strengths and weaknesses, told through the “icebreaker.” Privileged to be in each other’s company, in the company of a talented woman, fueled by racial adversity throughout her life as a colored speck in a sea of white and in the company of a man, crafted by morality from his mother’s success overcoming the  difficulty to maintain a stable home. Privileged to open up so early, to learn from one another’s from the time they stepped into the air conditioned room to the time the exited into the sun scorched city that was waiting patiently to foster these youth to serve it. Privileged to receive such an experienced to foster, healthy leaders, ready to lead in any and every field they entered. Privileged to breakdown stereotypes of what it means to be young or a girl or black or Jewish or rich or multiethnic. They were privileged to be there and it reflected in every plan that mapped from mapping parks to mapping who they were to mapping whom they wished to become. The excitement quickly became anxiety again, anxious to be a leader concerned with their Instagram likes and what Taylor Swift just said on Twitter.

Day 1: History of a Park by Jasper

After many in depth games aimed towards getting to know more about our group members, we split off into smaller groups for lunch, with an assignment to “map out” a specific public space. Our group was assigned Director Park, a public area on 9th and Yamhil which has a wide assortment of restaurants, shops, sitting areas, and anything else a space may need. This park seems to target a downtown worker, with a slightly above average salary, based on the steeper prices of food, with a need for a relaxing place to sit and meet with co-workers during their lunch break. Although the people watching here is pretty spectacular, three young boys running around pretending to be cats, I was more interested in how an appealing, comfortable, and open space could be slotted in between the towering sky scrapers, and still have all its needs met.
I’m not exactly sure if the urban planners had this in mind while designing, but the park is placed perfectly so that the sun has a clear slot to travel through, never getting obstructed by the many tall buildings. This allows for the space to be well lit, and to offer a happier, warmer place for the large crowds that swarm the park each day. Looking at the space, it got me very interested in how many of the businesses around the park are somehow attached to the space, or if it was merely a coincidence that so many shops and restaurants are placed there. Interested in all of these logistics, I quickly did some research on how this park came to be.
Placed under reserve in 1848 for public use, the land remained merely a parking lot for most of its life. In the late 80’s and 90’s there was a strong push to combine this land with what is now known as the North and South Park Blocks, but those plans were scrapped due to the lack of city council support. In 2006 plans were drawn up for the space, and with nearly  $9.5 million in funding, the park was completed in 2009. The park design was led by Laurie Olin who is also responsible for the redevelopment of Pershing Square in LA and Bryant Park in NYC. Comparing these other works to Director Park, it is clear that Olin has a focus on a making a space feel very open, as well as a strong harmonious balance between nature and structure. Although there are a few structural flaws currently with Director Park, it got me very interested in how a park comes to be a park, and also how a space in such a busy area can feel open and relaxed.

PLACE 2015: Shaping the City by Hannah C.

Today was the first day of PLACE! Wahoo! It was super fun getting to know everybody through the ice breakers in the morning. I felt I bonded most with my group during the lunch projects where we were sent to a public place in Portland and reported back to the larger group about whether the place was successful or not.

Tyler, Isaac, Emma H and Emma R and I were sent to the PSU urban space on 5th and mill. The place was set right in between a bookstore and gym. We sat on top of the building overlooking the courtyard. This public place seemed to be targeted to the older age group: college students and business people. A streetcar ran freely right through the middle of it, there were plenty of bike racks and even bikers on a deck of the gym overlooking the place. There was plenty of sun and shade provided by trees poking through the concrete and the tall buildings. People didn’t seem to be doing much activity. Many were were enjoying the space by reading, listening to their music or grabbing lunch. The setting was neither exclusive or inclusive. While in the middle of the square, buildings surrounded all sides, however there was plenty of sun and openings on each side to keep the open, flowing feel.
I’ve never analyzed a public place like I did today. It was interesting to think about what the place provided for people in Portland and why it was important and popular. After listening to other groups present on their space, it was clear that there aren’t really any public spaces specifically for teens, at least out of the ones we visited. There are plenty for kids to play and business people to eat lunch but very few dedicated for teens to hang out. After doing this mini project/presentation I’m really looking forward to learning more about how teens can get involved and be a part of shaping the city.

See you tomorrow!