Friday, December 14, 2012

A Smart City? Apparently Portland isn't

The top ten in North America - that is the US and Canada, not Mexico.  But see What's the difference between North, Latin, Central, Middle, South, Spanish and Anglo America?  On the West Coast it is San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles (yes - Los Angeles), and Vancouver. 3 of the 10 are in Canada. [1 | The Top 10 Smartest Cities In North America | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation].

It is another one of those polls, studies, reviews, etc. whose purpose is to make the world over in their image. They define a "smart city" and proceed very cleverly extol the virtues of being smart.   It is clever too how they present their position - a smart city is one that agrees with their values.

The article views "smart cities as a broad, integrated approach to improving the efficiency of city operations, the quality of life for its citizens, and growing the local economy." [What Exactly Is A Smart City? | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation].

But it is't about government efficacy, quality of life or economics  Not surprisingly - it is proselytized that you are only smart if you are green and bicycle. Thus, one wonders how Portland missed out. In the three steps to smartness, Portland would seem to be the superficial winner:

CREATE A VISION WITH CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT. Isn't that Portland? Although, it isn't clear why cities were left out, arguably the chosen cities gave import to the vision constructed with resident participation. If you have had any experience with participation facade in Portland - one recognizes that it is the framework to convince the participants, hardly, if ever, a composite representation of the city or neighborhood, to see it their way.

DEVELOP BASELINES, SET TARGETS, AND CHOOSE INDICATORS. Portland doesn't evaluate where they are, but only where they, city planners, want to be without regard to realistic goals and metrics. It is also a step that is a measurement of the idiocy of using European cities as models.

In particular we are told that "Copenhagen has been measuring cycling and mixed modal use for decades. Now the city has a target indicator: to achieve 50% of all trips to work or school by bike by 2015."  This is what makes a smart city? How can one reasonably compare Copenhagen to any city in North America, especially Portland?

GO LEAN. This is not an economic caution, but more of a 'think big, but start small' approach. It is merely more of the sop, the opiate of sustainability denizens, that it used to convince themselves as to their righteousness. Of course,  without so stating, they are talking about the elimination of the automobile.

Look it doesn't take much of a read to determine that the prerequisites for a smart city is so much greenwashing as the result of greening out. Utopia is just around the corner.