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Will future city leaders make Portland a truly family-friendly city?

Forum Thumbnail - 1Guest 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.

But… I’ve also known the feeling of handing over three-quarters of my paycheck to my daycare provider. I’ve taken vacation days so I could care for my sick infant. I’ve even been told to stop breastfeeding during a banquet at a downtown hotel.

And, as my kids have moved beyond daycare and breastfeeding, as baby toys and board books and onesies have been replaced by Lego bricks and Harry Potter and skinny jeans, my definition of family-friendly has continued to expand, as well.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…)?

Comments

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My vision of family friedly involves feeling my child is welcome around town, as well as employment/school/child care logistics. I know so many parents who have gaps in the school year because there are not always single-day care/camp programs to cover all the days off (I am lucky my husband takes vacation days for this as he has extra, but what if you only have 2 weeks and that gets used just for winter holiday break, what about the rest of the year). Summer is stressful with 12 weeks of camp after camp- who is able to just stay home? Flextime work would be Wonderful... how can we support families without an awareness of this?

I agree with all these issues. Unfortunately the things that come to my mind aren't exactly political in nature. For me, more family friendly would be to have sidewalks clear of dog poop, roads clear of road kill and used condoms, and less violence on public transportation. Makes me want to get in the car and drive everywhere, which stinks, because I do love the idea of walking.

For me, a family-friendly transportation system would be one that was safer and more convenient for everyone (not to mention cheaper to maintain and better for local business), which to me means slower vehicle speeds, more and better crossings for pedestrians, etc.
Otherwise, yes, a childcare/education system that actually worked logistically AND provided high-quality care and education without requiring families to spend many hours and/or dollars trying to patch it together. That would make things a lot more family-friendly.
And oh, yeah, parental leave. My list could get very, very long.

The top of my list? I'd like to be able to go to my neighborhood park and not worry about gang violence breaking out around me. I would like to be able to send my kids to my neighborhood school, with my neighbors, and have the quality of the education be the same as any other school in town. And here here to sidewalks without dog poo!

I often feel dogs and bikes are more respected/catered to then children in Portland. Not that my kids don't love dogs and bikes! Sometimes it seams like dog parks and bike lanes get more political attention then playgrounds and sidewalks. A lot of the things mentioned above are not in the direct control of the city. But the city should prioritize funding for our wonderful Parks and Rec department. Our family has greatly benefited from the low cost preschools, swimming lessons, and dance classes offered by the city. Not to mention indoor park, outdoor playgrounds and of course the much used pools. With summer on the horizon I would like to see funding for spray pads to replace the now closed wading pools in neighborhood parks, and more free (or discounted) family and open play swims.

Honestly, all these issues are pretty typical for ANY city in America. I'm quite sure you find these exact same complaints in any blog, in any state. I can't think of a single large sity that subsidizes childcare (or if it's cheaper, it's because everything else, including wages is cheaper) or that isn't experiencing budgeting crisises for education.

I also understand why service people don't fall all ove themselves for children (especially at upscale establishments) because I used to be a server. But we have many family friendly restaurants, which when my daughter was younger I was incredibly grateful for.

With schools, we have a lot of them and your neighborhood one is usually within easy walking distance. We have waaaay more parks than most cities do.

I think hipster/cyclists/dog owners might sometimes get a seemingly better shake, because, again, we're a city. By definition there tend to be a lot more child free, younger people in urban settings.

So what would make it more family friendly for me? A decent theme/water park. Currently the nearest one is almost Seattle---and it isn't even really anything to pee your pants about! And no, Oaks Park, The Enchanted Forest or even Wings and Waves do NOT meet what I;m looking for.

I agree with zumpie about the theme/water park.

Otherwise, I think consciousness about how we behave in public. Some grown adults are really mean to my teen. He's been out mailing my bills and pushing the baby in the stroller to give me a break and some jerk yelled insults at him from a car. He gets insulted on the streets a lot. Once he crossed a street to avoid someone's un-leashed dog and they started yelling at him. Pot smokers have told him and his friends to get out of the playground they were using for pot-smoking. I'm not asking for rose petals to be thrown at his feet when he's out, but is it possible to just not bully and belittle him please? This is free and as simple as closing your mouth and minding your business. I was raised in a city as well and never experienced this.

So we're focusing on things the city can do? Hmmm.
The parks district is its own entity, isn't it? For a park to be truly child friendly, it has to have a clean, well maintained bathrooms that is actually open during the periods a child is awake.
Otherwise, you can walk to the park with your two year old and then turn right back around to go home. (also, bring back wading pools! but that is a state issue)
Tri-Met is its own entity. But the same issue plays into offering frequent service on public transit; if you have to wait forever for the bus, then you might have to head back home for a bathroom break before it arrives.
The school district is its own entity, but wouldn't it be great if there were a community garden at every school that the kids could actually spend meaningful time in?
I'm going to have to go back and thing about what the city can do.

anon, the parks in Portland are not run by a separate district, they're operated out of the Bureau of Portland Parks & Recreation: http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/, which is currently overseen by Commissioner Nick Fish.

And while I understand the comparison to other American cities, I'm not content to accept what we have only because it's better than what they have somewhere else - especially if what they have needs some serious improving!

For me, I'd like the city do think strategically about where child cares are located, partner with PPS to stop closing small schools which forces parents and kids to travel further to get to school. I'd love safer crosswalks for kids near schools. I'd love to breathe some clean air - and the city can work with the state DEQ to improve that situation. I think the city could set an employer example by offering their workers paid family leave and more than one child care location (in the Portland building). I love our parks, and am thrilled that the community centers have improved their snack offerings to be more healthy (thanks, Commissioner Fish)!

And I think something interesting here is that yes, TriMet and PPS are separate entities, but how can elected city officials effectively partner with them to make sure that they're serving families well? The city has lobbyists in Salem, so there's that role, too.

And re the water park, I love Jameson Square :-)

Great to see what people are thinking on this.

@Lisa Frack,

We're #2 in air quality for large (I still can never see us that way) cities nationwide. http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rankings/categories/air-quality If that's your issue, a rural location might suit you better.

And again, classic urban problem. Also, like many other urban problems, walking and taking public transportation can help with air quality.

As for the location of child care, what exactly do you mean by strategically? Most child care centers are private businesses, be they for or not for profit. The owners/managers choose their locations based on a myriad of reasons: availability, affordability, proximity to clients based on work or residence.

To be honest, Portland's pretty small---so unless we're discussing you live in Beaverton, work in Hillsboro but somehow your child's care (that you have no ability to change) is in Gresham, I'm not entirely sure just how inconvenient the locations are for you.

The reason the city doesn't currently offer such a generous benefit package is because they can't afford it. Yes, it would be great---but they're experiencing huge budget crunches. It's not exactly realistic or fair to expect an elaborate fringe benefit program when they're still cutting jobs, funding for housing, heat and food to indigent families and seniors, funding for the homeless, police departments, etc.

Small schools are again, completely non-cost effective. Since most PPS elementary schools are pretty close together---you're generally still within walking distance.

I will agree with you about crosswalks, though.

As for Jamison Square, maybe exciting for a toddler, but not much past that (and given that I already mentioned neither Oaks Park or The Enchanted Forest cutting it, how would some spurting fountains do it?). I would be referring to a REAL theme or water park, with real roller coasters and 6 story drop slides. For REAL fun!

If we've got funds to spare (which I highly doubt), I vote that it gets spent on feeding, clothing and housing our city's homeless children and employing their families. Help them. The rest of us are doing just fine, by comparison.

@ema. Could not possibly agree more. And is a much more succint way of putting what my super long winded post said. :-)

Not here to argue, folks, just to share where I'm coming from. Am interested in seeing where you're coming from, too. Please consider "talking" to me as if we were in person, where being polite is still valued.

Lisa, just because I disagreed with you (and supported my argument with facts), after I might point out, you disagreed with me--doesn't mean I was rude.

My position is that most of these "issues" are typical urban problems, typical of any place really other than a planned community. The other problems are issues that basically come with parenting and again, pretty much everyone (except the girls on Mtv's Teen Mom) is fully aware before they even plan on reproducing.

I'll agree it would be nice if the US were more like Europe with regards to these things, but with the economy only beginning to regain ground, it's unrealistic to expec the city to justify, let alone actually implement such cadillac expenditures.

Child care locations... I live in NE bordering NoPo- speciffically Woodlawn. We now have a Growing Seeds on MLK. When kiddo was younger, we had nothing at all except maybe Head Start. We still have nothing but the Growing Seeds and maybe an in-home place or two. That means most of us get used to driving (or biking or bussing) a few miles...

spottie--again, unless the child care center is full, all the time, you're missing a key element: they're a business. Like any other business, if there isn't enough demand to sustain their business then it won't be there. If there was a clear demand, there would be another center.

Given that Woodlawn Elementary is 84% free/reduced lunch, most parents in the area qualify for Head Start and/or can't afford private child care tuition. Schools in surrounding neighborhoods have similar demographics.

Additionally, again, Portland's pretty compact. I also happen to know of a great center right next to the Rose Quarter. And in many other cities, the distance between child care and one's residence or workplace (which would be another child care option) isn't always as convenient as we'd like.

Zumpie, I agree with your basic supply/demand premise. However, using school statistics in this case doesn't give you a real representation of the neighborhood demographics. Only 44% of the children who are supposed to attend Woodlawn actually do. That skews the demographics pretty drastically. My guess is that child-care options in the area reflect what happens in the school, which is to say there is a lot of flight away from the neighborhood for those services. Which is a shame, because you walk around that area and it is filled with young children and families.

@Kim, I agree with you---but the skewing is done by the exact people who then turn around and demand more. That they then proceed to not use because they deem it unworthy.

Basically, there's a lot of wanting an urban location to offer every possible suburban amenity (and more rights and privileges in the workplace than childfree employees, which would be discrimination), all within easy walking distance and for free or super cheap.

Unfortunately, it's a real world and a real city---during a time when many families can't even afford to eat. It comes off as a bit entitled.

Schools. I love Portland, but I think the lack of support for a good education for all kids is dismal. Not to mention the sad state of the schools itself. Never say never, but I could see us moving somewhere else to give our kids a better education.

@Hau, I'd suggest you take a look at other large urban districts before you do that. If you're talking about suburban versus urban schools, that's a different story and not really comparable. But for a large, urban district---we actually have better than average stats!

I chose a daycare close to my work (downtown), not one in my neighborhood. It makes more sense to me to be close to the child during the day. Also, I can use the driving or bus time to catch up/talk to her.
I wish city provided more services for little children with working families schedule in mind. Almost everything is during the middle of the day, Monday -Friday (community center classes, swimming classes, ladybug walk, most library story times). After all my work help me pay taxes that support all those services.

Those are really good points, aj.

I don't know what Zumbie's circumstances are, but all the working parents I know are totally stressed out. It's because culturally Portland is family friendly, but not as far as infrastructure. In Portland the childcare is more expensive and less flexible than in other cities. Seattle, for example. My SIL had no problem finding a spot for her son, after he was born, not in a home daycare, part time, she can change the days if she needs, and it's less than what we pay here. There's all this great sounding stuff that was attractive to young childless folks, like removing traffic lanes for bike lanes, restrictions on zoning, great beer, MAX, etc. etc, but a lot of those things are not helpful for families.

I've been collecting data for a couple of years on this issue. I can't wait for the forum on Mar. 10th. Here's some things I would like:

Slower pace of life, affordability (so that there are more work around children's schedule options), emphasis on making things low stress for families, childcare options, programs for families and children that are not immediately maxed out, public schools offering summer programs for moderate fees. Affordable multi-bedroom apartments close-in. Safety from drugs and intimidating adolescents. Car-free zones. City art that is discoverable by children. Design to integrate generations. Guest speakers on child development. Strategically placed childcare centers (on transit lines), and onsite employer sponsored childcare centers for children 0-2 in most major office buildings and office parks. Flexibility in zoning to allow for employer sponsored childcare. Activity centers that are fun for kids but not necessarily expensive to run. OMSI and Children’s museum are great but always packed and they have expensive exhibitions. Permanent hands on play centers that have a variety of activities but are simple and easy to maintain.

There are many international standards:

http://www.childfriendlycities.org/

http://www.citiesforchildren.eu/

http://rightsofchildren.ca/resources

and some good ones here:

http://government.cce.cornell.edu/doc/reports/childcare/

http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/484_540.htm

http://www.planning.org/research/family/

Sorry, mis-spelled Zumpie.

Although the childcares are businesses, they can also be operated as an employer provided benefit (which has tax benefits for the employer), there are several of those around, and sometimes they are affordable and sometimes not depending on the employer and their agreement with the provider. They do not have to be full all the time (they are not run like that outside of Portland), and there is a shortage of infant spots, documented by Multnomah County and State of Oregon. In fact, childcare is part of the Oregon Employment Departments responsibilities, because it is so critical to have affordable childcare to work. I make a good living. As a single mother of two, I make about 85% of the median family income. Yet, my childcare costs are nearly 50% of my take home pay. I don't qualify for any reduced childcare. I shouldn't have to. The City of Portland's own onsite childcare center is unaffordable for probably most of the City's employees (if on a single income), and there is over a 2 year wait for the 8 infant spots that usually become available around September. The City employs 8,000 or so people, if including contract and temporary. How is 8 spots a year meeting the needs of the employees? And the employees pay 100% of the cost of the care, there is no subsidy like there is for federal employees at Joyful Noise (I think their subsidy is about 50%).

People end up going to great lengths to get childcare, or sometimes end up in sub-standard care situations, or, like me, are slowly building up debt to pay for childcare until my kids are in the public schools. It is ridiculous.

What I try to do when I think of answers of what we can do with our taxes as a City to serve families better, I start out by thinking about what stresses me out. Getting kids to and from childcare by just going to my own job-site would be a huge relief. Or, being able to afford to work less so I could see my kids more than 1.5 hrs a day.

" Safety from drugs and intimidating adolescents."
Who are also kids and who are often part of families that have been margenilzed in this city due to institutional racism, planned exclusion and increased gentrification. So much of what white families want is gained on the backs of people of color in this city and there is little mention of the families who have had their communities and business pushed out by gentrifying interests, who are viewed as a 'problem'that needs to be fixed, and who have historically been left out of conversations about making this city liviable for ALL kinds of families. It is sad that too few people acknowledge that their quality of life has come at great expense to other families here and who seem blind to the poverty, violence and lack of opportunity that plagues many children in this community. Those adolescents are somebody's children as well and if we cannot find solutions that help them (other than locking them away to make you feel more comfortable) then this city will never be what it claims to want to be.

@Rosemary, I had gone through and tried to respond to everything, but realized I could go on forever. Suffice to say, one individual managing to find a good deal on childcare doesn't mean ALL Seattle childcare is cheaper than all Portland childcare. When you consider that Seattle is significantly more expensive than Portland, I'm pretty positive this isn't the case overall.

As for childcare on trimet---I'm entirely bus dependent---all three of Grandma's Place centers are on trimet. They used to have a fourth but closed it because the enrollment was so low. Belmont Academy is on trimet, as are many Y centers. They ALL have availability. And this is not downtown, but throughout SE, NE and N Portland. Honestly, how does this not meet your requirements?

As for the rest of your post, except for car-free zones (I like that), it reads yet again like someone who doesn't quite comprehend these are issues affecting any urban area. Not to mention all the requests for flexibility for parents only would discriminated again childfree people---and puts a heavy burden on employers.

As for employers providing all that onsite childcare, if it were cost effective, they'd do it. But it costs them a considerable amount of time and money. The tax credit doesn't even BEGIN to make up for anything.

And slower pace and affordability? I'm from NYC, everything seems glacial to me here, not to mention it's comparatively cheap.

You also want "affordable" (again subjective) large, close in apartments. Hey, I'd like to buy a 5,000 square foot house in Laurelhurst for the same as I pay for my 1600 square foot house in South Tabor...but it doesn't work that way.

As for the city subsidizing care and making it available---just because the city doesn't have it available, doesn't mean it isn't otherwise available. Those of us who work for private employers go and find care, I'm not sure why you feel as a city employee you shouldn't have to? Not to mention we all pay for 100% of care, too. Again, it's part of being a parent and the ninety billion responsiblities that come with it.

"In fact, childcare is part of the Oregon Employment Departments responsibilities, because it is so critical to have affordable childcare to work"

Hmmm, not quite. They can offer you referrals, but you still have to do the legwork in finding it and you still have to pay for it. They VERY clearly state it is YOUR responsibility to locate and arrange care for your child. And they have zero patience if you fail to appear at something because of it.

Gotta say, your post comes off really entitled. My first reaction was one of "yeah? And I want a pony!"

Oh, also---all the other, recreational things you talk about are great...but: both the city and the state are experiencing a budget crunch. Again, I'm much more interested in providing housing, food and jobs to the indigent than I am providing luxuries for people so their lives can be a bit more perfect.

And beer would be the result of businesses providing something consumers wanted (certainly not the result of government planning--though it does help with tax and tourism revenue), MAX provides transportation for many, clean air (there's quality of life!) and was largely paid for by federal transportation dollars we wouldn't otherwise even receive. And creates jobs.

If your argument is that other countries do a better job for families, that's nothing new. But otherwise, these are typical urban, American probelms and your extreme laundry list is a family snagri-la we'd all like, but doesn't exist.

Oh lastly, less than 25% of Portland households have children under 18 living in them, compared to the overall US figure of 46%.

In other words, we're a minority. It's a bit unfiar to demand and expect all these services and benefits when frankly, they don't represent the needs of the overall population. Esepcially when the demands are a bit on the outrageous side.

Being a parent means your life truly changes forever. It's a huge financial, emotional and stressful drain, filled with unfathomable responsibilities. I though everyone knew that.

And for the record, I found it worth every minute!

Oregon day care costs are about $1000 cheaper per year on average than Washington. Admittedly, you'd pay half as much in Alabama,,but you'd also make less money and have to live in Alabama.

My concerns are overcrowding at schools and lack of zoning. I hate that strip clubs can be so close to schools.

Schools are overcrowded because of buedget cuts---the schools themselves (with a few exceptions) aren't necessarily overcrowded----individual classrooms are because teacher positions have been cut. Which is again why funds should be directed towards high need areas, not towards luxury "bucket lists".

The zoning part is A) again a typical urban problem (especially in such a compact city). B) the negative side of free speech (we interpret it very liberally). C) also the result of our urban growth planning (something I otherwise support). D) again illustrates how families are a minority here.

Rosemary -- You are well researched! And clearly passionate! If you're interested in volunteering at the forum on Saturday, we'd love the extra hands. Just email me at: lisa@familyforwardoregon.org. We'll be asking a childcare question for certain, among others.

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts - we'll be bringing them into the forum on Saturday to inform our candidate conversations, they're really helpful and raised a host of interesting issues and perspectives.

We'd love to see everyone of you - and your families (we have free, on-site childcare) - on Saturday. The more of us who appear, the clearer it is to candidates that families want leaders who support them - in tandem with all of the city's other residents and their unique, but different needs.

Wow, Zumpie has it all figured out, so never mind everyone - you're just whiners who expect to try to make Portland better than the average city of this size. Don't bother!
I think that it's great that people ask how we can make things better. There are, of course, a million things that need to be improved in any town in any country. This particular group is focused on families and what can we try to make better for families in Portland. Yes, homeless need help. Yes, minorities need help. Yes, those with mental illnesses need help. The beauty is that we don't have to pick just one thing to try to improve about this city! There are groups and organizations focused on all of these issues - go out and get involved! And there's a lot of cross-over. After all, homeless, minorities, people with mental health issues all have families, too.
If you would like to get involved with this group, Family Forward Oregon - do so! But belittling efforts to try to improve things is just cynical and Zumpie, while I appreciate your posts, the whole "aren't you all so provincial for thinking that things are different here or can be different here" is not very nice.
I agree that affordable early childhood child care is a huge issue. Yes, daycare centers are largely private companies, but many private companies benefit from tax breaks and other incentives to operate because the city and the state think that it improves the financial health of the city and state to have them here. Facebook gets a huge tax break because it's thought that the jobs that they are providing are worth giving that tax break. Why aren't day care centers offered more incentives and financial aid to operate? Daycare centers are very expensive to operate, even though day care workers are not generally paid very much. The overhead costs and insurance are huge costs - can the city do something to help with that? Can the city or state provide more help for parents to be able to afford daycare so that they can work and bring more tax revenue in? I know a lot of parents who weigh every year if it's worth it to work or if it makes more financial sense to stay home with the kids. There are some scholarships for low income parents but not as much as needed. The two day care centers I have used are not on bus lines and getting from my inner-SE Portland house to daycare and then to work at a reasonable time while taking 2 buses doesn't make sense. Could Portland subsidize Zipcar memberships for parents with babies so that they can get to a reputable day care? Could they help with a carpool situation? Could they offer tax rebates for buying family-bikes so that families don't have to drive? Those things are too expensive for me to buy, but I'd love to use one if I could afford it and it would result in less cars on the road and less repairs needed.
Portland Parks and Rec needs to slash their budget and they're looking at closing Buckman Pool, all splash pads and all bathrooms. That's a huge issue. If we could get more money for Parks & Rec we could have more after school and early evening activities at parks - keeping kids engaged and out of trouble - and providing needed enrichment for families.
Air quality in NW Portland around Chapman Elementary is not good - we need to put pressure on our government to crack down on the industries that are polluting. I don't care if it's about the same air quality as other cities of a similar size - who says that's good enough? Why shouldn't we try to make it better?
Many working parents do not have sick leave and risk being fired if they have to take time off work for a sick family member. How does that help society? We need to keep people working - providing sick leave for everyone would be a step in the right direction.
I get tired of hearing the old "you decided to have kids - why do I have to pay for it?" line. We live in a society. I would love for your kids to be my policemen/women and doctors and baristas and construction workers.... It benefits everyone to help kids and parents. No one wants to pay for schools or parks or daycare but everyone wants to pay for jails - it's just ass-backwards.

Ummm, Andrea---you just proved my point and fully contradicted yourself.

You point out that day care centers are expensive to run, so the government should subisidize them, but meanwhile you admit we have revenue and shrinking budgets. So how is the government going to subsidize them? Not to mention, plenty of private centers aren't full or even at break even capacity---which would demonstrate a need for fewer, not more.

That said, government already DOES subsidize day care for low (under $12 per hour) workers. In fact that's the only way you can still receive DHS assistance for daycare (it used to be if you were low income and attended school, etc).

Since I mentioned a myriad of centers, all on trimet (BTW, I don't drive---and I managed to get my child to daycare when she was little and pay for it, while working a lot of very weird hours), why should the city subsidize zipcars? Not to mention, the moms involved would still have to GET to the zipcar location.

You also talk about Portland Parks having to slash their budget (so is PPS, BTW)--but we should give them more $$$. I don't necessarily disagree with this---but you do realize that will most likely translate to higher fees, right? Which you will probably then complain about having to pay. Do you see a pattern here?

That said, other than getting a mite snitty about the many, many points I made (with, um, facts to support them), you don't really address anything. Again, there's a lot of wish listing and entitlement. Did you notice that only 3-4% of the city's population needs daycare? That makes it a bit unreasonable to expect the city to increase funding in an area that benefits the few, not the many (who are also seeing services cut).

Your argument is a bit facile and not really well researched. I do agree with you about prisons---but again, having children is generally a choice. If you can't afford these things, you might need ot rethink it. I personally put off being a parent for quite some time because I did feel that I wanted to be able to provide a financially stable home.

As for FB---they created new jobs, which in turn will provide new tax revenue---THAT'S why they received public/private partnering. They also have more demand for their product than they can meet. All of this drives the economy.

As I noted with daycare centers, a lot of them aren't full. Other than providing a small minority with a benefit that frankly, they simply don't feel like paying for, how does this benefit the economy overall? The same argument could frnakly be made that all consumer items need to be subsidized, too.

That said, I completely agree about prisons---but even they've had their budgets cut and things are run very differently. Most prisons are run by private contractors who cut costs so tightly that many people on "the inside" don't even get to eat if they're 3 minutes late to "chow".

I have no problem paying my taxes, but when I see people homeless, starving, unable to afford heat, crimes committed because there aren't enough police officers, etc---subsidizing someone's daycare, because it means they'll have to cut back somewhere else in the budget takes a very, very low priority.

Oh---also, you state that we can do all of this. Except not. Everything's been cut to the bone and then some. I would seriously LOVE to watch a middle income person explain to an indigent person (who just got their food stamps cut or booted from their section 8 housing) why tax dollars should pay to make their life a bit easier, versus meeting the bare minimum, poverty level services.

Zumpie, you're correct. My comment on this parenting blog was not well researched. It was my opinion. I'm not running for congress, I'm stating my opinion, just like you. There are plenty of things that government spends money on - money that we don't have - running up a deficit. That's not automatically a bad thing - that's a whole other conversation - but why can't we run up a deficit on things that help people, like parks and affordable daycare, instead of on pet projects and the military? I know - ridiculous examples, but as long as i'm being facile, snitty and am not researching anyway - I may as well just go for it. Again - helping kids helps everyone. Helping parents in turn helps kids. Allowing parents to work - creating more tax revenue - by making it easier for them to have day care so that they can work - helps everyone in the long run.

Andrea, but if you do read what I posted I did research things. Speaking of which---the military (and BTW, I'm very anti-war, so I agree with you, but....) is funded with federal dollars---so it just isn't an accurate comparison.

If you're going to compare a "pet project", give me an example. To many, honestly, parks (and daycare) would be pet projects.

Rosemary cited the Max. Except even much of that was paid for with federal grant money. It also creates jobs, is a greener transportation option, benefits nearly everyone and is a "selling point" of our city to tourists, generating even more revenue.

Once again, if you want to argue that our country as a whole lags behind many other industrialized nations in family friendly policies, I'm right there with you. But, again, that's a federal thing.

Expecting a near bankrupt city (that has to close shelters and lay off police officers and teachers) to subsidize childcare because it makes things "easier" (because remember, low income people qualify for subisidized or free childcare through DHS and Headstart) for middle income people is a rather entitled position to take.

Presumably you're stating you can't afford to work unless you have daycare subsidized (and I do get that for many people, it would be the same as their entire paycheck)---but then the money to offset your childcare is equivalent to what you'd pay in taxes, so at it's very most optimistic, your argument creates a wash.

If you come out better for working, you'll still work AND pay for daycare (plenty of people do). Not to mention there is already (albeit a minor one) a subsidy, anyway---you can either pay with pretax dollars OR you can take the tax credit/deduction, which ever it is.

Again, I'd rather live in a huge house in Laurelhurst than a small one in South Tabor. I'd like to drive a Jaguar---the city doesn't subsidize these things, either. You absolutely have every right to your opinion, but shouldn't you also research the facts, first?

I really wish that I could make this. I loved Andreas talk at the BCO conference last Saturday. Alas, I will be hosting a baby shower at that exact same time...

Urbanmamas has thrived for the last eight years because it was founded by a group of (totally awesome)women, who wanted to build a support network for parents in Portland -- you know, mamaraderie!
It was my white cain as a new parent without any mama friends.
And now that I know everything there is to know about parenting :), I still pop in from time to time -- it's like my mamas kitchen.

The (totally awesome) foundresses have fostered a respectful dialogue here, which I credit with the longevity of this forum. It's a place where urban mamas of all ilks can have a platform - without attacking someone elses.

There are a million forums online where you can go and be a cyber warrior. I hate to see it here!

lea,

I totally agree. I remember, too, when you could come to this site and not have one commentator persistently arguing and denigrating. There were healthy disagreements, but not the constant pushing of one view. It would be nice to get back there...

And thank you, to Family Forward Oregon for sponsoring this event. It's a great opportunity to imagine and work toward a better future for ourselves and ultimately, our children.

Well said, Lea (and km)! Wish you could be there, too, but baby showers are important! We'll do some reporting out with what we hear and learn for those who can't make it. We know you'll be there in spirit! Lisa

I am an older (grandma) first-time poster and happened to stumble across this post and it drew me in as I have been thinking about these issues of late. I apologize for entering the discussion after it has ended, but I wanted to say I appreciate zumpie's comments. I find the sense of entitlement of many new parents I share public space with to be newly ugly. It was not that long ago that parents with youngsters were not inundating neighborhood businesses and demanding entry to (and destroying the peace of) every grownup establishment, even formerly quiet coffee houses, and nightclubs. I don't remember this kind of parent, even ten years ago. This is a new thing. Having children is a very personal decision, and one I would characterize as self-centered, though raising children is certainly other-centered. Not everyone cares about children, or the fact that you or I had some. I'm not personally offended by that--I even understand it. And at this point in our population growth, we should not be doing anything to encourage people having more children--rather, the opposite. I don't think zumpie was trying to be a thorn in your side; I think she was trying to provide some perspective to the discussion. I would call hers a voice of reason--not simply dissent. Thank you.

Why thnak you, Althea! I appreciate that.

I have been following this blog for more than 5 years and have seen the comments and nature of it change. Change, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing. I appreciate zumpie's willingness to challenge others' ideas and engage in a critically thoughtful discussions. Whether I agree with her or not (and I often do) is not relevant. Thank you, z and others, for putting your ideas out there.

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