Leadership Exchange 2010: the 20 minute way of life

Editor’s note: In mid-September, 160 community leaders from Denver traveled to Portland, Ore., for the 2010 Leadership Exchange trip, sponsored by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. Over a whirlind three days, executives from business, nonprofit groups and government toured the city and met with some of their counterparts to learn more about the Pacific Northwest city’s success stories and its toughest challenges. The goal was for Denver leaders to bring home new ideas and make connections that can improve the metro Denver region and the state of Colorado. We asked several of the 2010 delegates to share their perspectives on the trip with ColoradoBiz, one of the trip’s sponsors.

Portland has embraced a “20-Minute Living” philosophy and lifestyle that works to create an environment where you can find all of the things you need to live, work and play within 20 minutes of your home base — without using your car. Congressman Earl Blumenauer told us that in Oregon, they focus on building “livable communities; places where people are safe, healthy and economically secure.”

By using this goal as their driving focus, Portland has realized a host of benefits:

– Increased community involvement with an 80 percent turnout of registered voters at elections, using exclusively mail-in ballots. Community involvement is the number one goal of regional development, and government, business, nonprofit and residential constituents firmly believe that there is no substitute for informed citizens in making a change.

– Regional density and transit plans are publicly discussed in neighborhood community center as part of a large coordinated effort. Where land use, permitting and zoning changes are required, the regional 2040 Metro Comprehensive Plan has the authority to override local communities to maintain the goals of the larger metro vision.

– There is a great sense of individual responsibility for sustainability and environmental ethics, to both take it personally and to actively educate children to think differently.

– There is an initial and ongoing focus on land-use planning and zoning development requirements of the community, with a diversity of transportation needs built into the equation-including pedestrian, bike, streetcar, bus, light rail and cars-rather than starting with transportation and then building the new development around it.

– The light rail system, with stops approximately two miles apart, is supplemented by a streetcar loop that stops every two blocks. Citizens pick the mode of transportation best suited to their commute. There is a large, free travel zone downtown that encourages residents to use public transit.

– There is a strong, active and vocal bike culture. Safe bike routes to all of the schools are planned at the street level. Streets are designed, or redesigned, to move the car speed and car traffic to safe levels to encourage children to ride to school each day. The changed traffic patterns quickly affect neighborhoods and increase property values. Leaders find it easy to convince people to embrace change when sharing the numbers that make a difference.

– A 20 percent reduction in car usage compared to other American cities gives residents cleaner air, and the unspent money from those trips can be used for other things. The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax helps to fund infrastructure.

– Portland State offers Introduction to Transportation and Community Involvement classes to educate citizens to define, understand and participate in creating their environment and to appreciate the challenges and opportunities of civic involvement. It strives to educate the community by hands-on problem solving. The city has funded 12 of the project solutions, and the classes are always full.

Denver has imagined and built a great city and region. We have the bones we need — with DRCOG and FasTracks — to learn from Portland’s leadership and make additional sustainable steps to secure and enhance our future as a wonderful place to live, work and play.
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Categories: Management & Leadership