Associated Press Writer
PORTLAND, Ore.—Despite — or maybe even because of — the flagging economy, hundreds of representatives from cities across America are in town this week learning how to embrace sustainability.
The National League of Cities picked Portland as the site of it's first-ever Green Cities Conference and Expo, in part, said president Kathleen Novak, because it's a national leader in a field that's only going to grow.
"There are a lot of communities that are doing wonderful work, and we wanted to make sure that we were holding this conference in one of those cities," Novak said. "Portland is always near the top, if not at the top."
The topics of discussion were varied, workshops covered everything from storm-water management to land-use planning, and so were the cities represented — the group's membership includes New York (population 8,274,527) and Taos Ski Valley (population 56).
"Best practices are great. Let's learn from each other. Let's see what's working," Novak said in an interview. "But the key is find the principals behind it. It's about sharing those best practices but really understanding what's behind it and customizing it."
Gov. Ted Kulongoski welcomed the group early Monday, boasting about the steps Oregon has taken to embrace "green" technologies and ways of living. The state has championed such things since the late 1960s, when Oregon passed the beach bill protecting shores from private development. Now, Kulongoski said, Oregon is focused on wind farms, solar energy and electric vehicles.
When finished — he told the audience he could go on all day — the governor took a moment to address the national picture. "I believe America is in a transformation period," he said. "Our government 10 years from now will not be the government of our mothers and fathers."
Kulongoski said it would take a long-term, sustainable outlook to move forward, the very thing the representatives had come to Oregon to discuss.
Later, Novak echoed the governor's comments. She said this recession was no reason to stop investing in a sustainable future. "If we're smart, we're taking advantage of it."
After he delivered his welcome, Kulongoski said the fact that the League of Cities chose Portland as its host city was another sign that Oregon is a trendsetter. "I think it's a recognition that people around this country understand that Oregon is on the cusp of green technology."