Kyoto Delegation Both Impressed and Confused by Competing Government Entities

by Kyle Curtis
First Stop Portland

On Wednesday, September 2nd, First Stop Portland accompanied a delegation of municipal leaders visiting from Kyoto, Japan.

Metro attorney Dan Cooper

Currently, Kyoto prefecture and other prefectures in southwest Japan are developing a regional governance structure and were interested in learning about the jurisdictional and legal authority of Metro. The delegation attended a presentation from Metro attorney Dan Cooper which outlined the role Metro plays in regional governance. Dan explained the unique characteristics that helped shape the development of the Portland metropolitan region and continue to shape planning for the region's future.  In the Q & A session that followed, the delegation inquired about Metro's budget and how revenues were raised.  One delegate asked whether Metro ever combined small or local governments under its jurisdiction and Cooper replied that this was not a consideration for Metro. Although I am not aware of the details of the regional governance being developed by Kyoto and its neighboring prefectures, the fact that this question was asked leads me to assume that the idea of combining small governments is under consideration by Japanese municipal leaders.

The Kyoto delegation listens to Dan Cooper
After the presentation at Metro's offices, the delegation explored the new streetcar lines being laid down on Grand Avenue.  During his presentation, Cooper explained that Portland's light rail lines offer a transportation option connecting Portland with surrounding suburban areas, while the streetcar serves as a people circulator within the city.  This first-hand look at the tracks of the new East Side streetcar line helped clarify this difference for the delegation.  Curious how the Portland Streetcar is financed, our visitors seemed surprised to learn that the city's local businesses compete to provide sponsorships for the streetcar.  After checking out the construction currently underway, the delegation headed across the street for a tour of the Oregon Convention Center's rainwater garden.  The delegation was impressed that this feature is included by the Center to retain and cleanse stormwater before it is released into the Willamette.

Student Ambassador Kyle Curtis with Kyoto Delegation
The cameras of the Kyoto delegation clicked away while Kat provided background information regarding the ecoroof. The delegation continued to ask for clarification regarding the different responsibilities of the various local government agencies.  If Metro is responsible for planning, wouldn't their planning efforts also include the services provided by the City and County?  How does the City and County collaborate when the City oversees the roads while the County oversees the bridges?  At the conclusion of the ecoroof presentation, Kat said it sounded as if the delegates were confused about the competing jurisdictions of the various governments in the Portland metropolitan region.  "Its okay," said Kat.  "Such confusion is pretty typical for residents in the area as well!"

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