Will future city leaders make Portland a truly family-friendly city?
Guest Post by Erin Barone: When you hear the words family-friendly, what comes to mind? Changing tables in bathrooms? Play areas in coffee shops? Tolerant wait staff?
I know that I, for one, am very thankful for the little things that make parents’ lives easier. I know the joys of a clean place to change a diaper. I’ve silently blessed the restaurant owner who brought my toddler pizza dough to play with so my husband and I could actually talk for three minutes straight. I’ve spent untold hours at OMSI feeling lucky that there’s a fun, educational, indoor place for my kids to run around in during Portland’s rainy winters. I rode my bike to work while pregnant and safely toted two kids around behind it thanks to the great network of bike routes and the (mostly) bike-savvy drivers we have in this city. And I’ve watched my kids learn about bugs and trees and birds in our amazing parks through the city’s summer education programs.
And, as my kids have moved beyond daycare and breastfeeding, as baby toys and board books and onesies have been replaced by Lego bricks and Harry Potter and skinny jeans, my definition of family-friendly has continued to expand, as well. And I’m left wondering what makes a city truly family-friendly, and assessing whether Portland is – or isn’t (or, as with most things, lies somewhere in between).
Here are a few areas where I think we could improve:
- 35 Portland area schools rank in the top 5% of all US schools with the most dangerous outdoor air quality (Neighbors for Clean Air).
- Well-known to just about every Portland parent, we don’t have adequate, stable funding for our K-12 public schools – far from it, in fact.
- Childcare is incredibly expensive (think: college tuition for infants!), not strategically located, and quality isn’t consistently good.
- Our workplaces and families alike would benefit from an earned sick leave policy like the one recently passed in Seattle.
If these are things we as families need and want (I know I do!), then we will have to be the ones to push for change. And we can start by asking our future city leaders how they plan on getting us there. Families will have an opportunity to do just that at a City Candidate Forum hosted by Family Forward Oregon and The Mother PAC from 3:00 – 5:30 pm at Harriet Tubman School in North Portland. City government candidates - for council and mayor - will be on hand to let you know how they plan to make Portland a great place to raise a family.
So what does family-friendly mean to you? Where does Portland deliver, and where does it fall behind? Do you have experiences from other family-friendly cities and towns you’ve lived – that you think could work here (and yes, international ideas are welcome…)?