The City's Last Visioning Project




In response to changing trends and the political and economic landscape in the late 1980s, the City Council and Mayor Bud Clark called for Portlandís first City-led and community-owned effort to plan for a greater future for the city. The two-year process was funded by the City, with an initial contribution from the Portland Business Association.

The goal of Portland Future Focus (PFF) was to engage citizens in creating a vision of Portland in the year 2000. This vision, born from the values and expressed needs of Portlanders, would shape a strategic plan outlining clear and definable goals and strategies to guide Portlandís growth and to ensure that the cityís future was a self-determined one, rather than a mere adaptation of its circumstance and surroundings.

In 1989, 55 leaders from a cross-section of community interests were chosen by the mayor and project staff to examine current trends and to create a preferred vision of the future.

Citizen Involvement

Portland Future Focus was an ambitious initiative, and boasted broad-scale involvement for a city of its size. Many public engagement methods were utilized throughout the process to gather the data needed to create Portlandís vision, including a survey of community values, a speakerís bureau, eight major policy meetings, open work group meetings and a newsletter.

The Vision

By the year 2000, Portland residents wished to see a culturally diverse urban center that had preserved both its history and environmental integrity, and that remained the core of the regionís economy. Children and families were recognized as the communityís top priority, as was promoting understanding of and appreciation for Portlandís increasingly diverse population. This vision, or preferred future, spoke to the cityís desire for a nationally-ranked education system, distinct neighborhoods and housing opportunities, a vibrant arts community and lower crime rates. A regional focus and strong cooperation between jurisdictions, as well as forging new, lasting partnerships between local agencies and organizations, were seen as critical to reaching all of these goals.

The Plan

As a result of the comprehensive nature of community needs and the resulting vision statement, Portlandís strategic plan addressed a broad number of issue areas. Designed by Future Focus working groups made up of community experts, stakeholders, policy committee members, and local consultants, its six action plans concentrated on the same focus areas as the vision statement:

  •  Crime
  •  Diversity
  •  Economy
  •  Education
  •  Growth management
  •  Leadership

Each work group was charged with the task of designing appropriate action plan items to reach the communityís six most critical goals. Draft action plans became refined and finalized through a series of public hearings hosted by the policy committee.

Implementation and Results
Various stakeholders throughout the city joined to work collaboratively towards the successful implementation of specific programs. The most lasting results, however, were the partnerships formed as a result of cooperative efforts throughout the process. According to Debbie McCabe, Project Manager for Future Focus, ďthe individuals involved were very invested in the process,Ē and their ability to lead and to influence others ďresulted in terrific recommendationsĒ and lasting collaboration. Associations like the Citizensí Crime Commission became much stronger in the community, as did dialogue among Portland business owners. The efforts of working groups contributed to the way we as a community address social issues. Among other lasting trends, there emerged a reprioritization in education towards early outreach and intervention.

Drawing from the innovative work of the Oregon Progress Board, the City of Portland and Multnomah County created the Portland Multnomah Progress board in 1994 to design and implement benchmarks (concrete, numerical indicators) used to monitor progress and measure success in achieving public goals. Many of todayís benchmarks grew from Portland Future Focusí action plans and are reflective of the projectís ambitions.

Building on Portland Future Focus
Portland Future Focus was successful in developing strong partnerships and a benchmark system to measure performance. After over 15 years, both the partnerships and the benchmarks need to be reinvigorated. visionPDX has laid a foundation for this work, as well as raising the bar for public engagement.

Furthermore, visionPDX has been strongly integrated into planning efforts, like the Portland Plan and the Vision into Action Coalition. These efforts will follow the adoption of visionPDX, ensuring that the priorities identified in the visioning process will be integrated into the City budget process as well as the day-today and year-to-year decisions about programs and priorities.


Vision into Action / 1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 / Portland, Oregon 97204 / Phone: (503) 823-9585