In this week's paper, we honor the Best that Portland has to offer, and I'll do so here as well. Several bits of enviro-news have crossed our radar these last few weeks, and some of them deserve superlatives.
BEST LEGITIMIZING OF PORTLAND'S BIKE-FRIENDLY MINDSET In his budget proposal released in early April, city manager Mark Rees recognized that Portlanders increasingly demand options when it comes to getting around — we are no longer a city of solo car drivers. "In keeping with this goal and in recognition of the importance that all modes of transportation receive focus and attention, I am making the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator a permanent position," Rees wrote. The proposal jives with what local alt-transit activists have been saying for years: As gas gets more expensive and governments find it more difficult to fund infrastructure projects and maintenance, lower-impact alternatives (and someone to shepherd them through City Hall) are a must.
BEST ZOMBIE LEGISLATION We've got a Zombie Venue in our Editors' Picks; why not honor a living-dead law like the East-West Highway proposal that's been around in various incarnations since 1968? On April 5, Governor Paul LePage signed a bill instructing the state Department of Transportation to do a financial feasibility study of a 220-mile highway that would run east-to-west between Calais and the Canadian border in Franklin County. The study will cost $300,000; if the project comes to fruition, developers will be required to repay that money. Proponents claim the highway would be an economic boon in undertraveled areas; those who oppose it say the road will benefit private companies much more than it will Mainers.
BEST RE-ENVISIONING OF A LOCAL MONOLITH In a recent post on his "Rights of Way" blog, local sustainability activist and writer Christian MilNeil offered a hypothetical re-imagining of Franklin Towers, inspired by a public-housing renovation in Paris. (Read all about it at tinyurl.com/FranklinTowers.) With MilNeil serving as a Portland Housing Authority commissioner, these are the types of ideas that could actually happen as Franklin Street is reconsidered. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
BEST CANADIAN COURT DECISION Earlier this month, a Canadian court denied a request by Montreal Pipe Line Ltd. to construct a pumping station just over the US-Canadian border, in Quebec. That decision effectively puts on hold the controversial prospect of reversing the flow of oil between Portland's harbor and Montreal, which could result in tar-sands oil coming through Maine (see "Will the Next Keystone Fight Happen in New England?" by Deirdre Fulton, February 10). Local environmentalists remain worried that multinational oil companies are still plotting ways to pipe crude oil through Maine, but it looks like we're safe for now.
BEST EXAMPLE OF (SOME) LEGISLATORS NOT HAVING A CLUE Just days before that Canadian court decision (not to mention just three weeks before the end of a short legislative session in which much more pressing matters were being discussed), Maine lawmakers voted in favor of a non-binding resolution that encourages President Obama and Congress to support the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport crude tar-sands oil through the Midwestern part of the country. Democratic state senator Troy Jackson of Allagash called the measure (and its timing) "silly." We have another word for it.
BEST UPCOMING CELEBRATION Mark your calendars: On Sunday, April 22, MENSK (the local organization that supports creative and sustainable projects) and the city of Portland will host Urban Earth Day from 11 am to 3 pm in Monument Square. The free event will showcase alt-transit, recycling, urban farming, and green-tech endeavors. Looks like we're living up to recent accolades from Travel & Leisure magazine, which named Portland the seventh Greenest City in the US this month.
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at email@example.com.