Saturday, February 6, 2010

City of Portland Fix-It Fair, 30 January 2010 - A Summary

Here's a follow-up post regarding the Fix-It Fair I attended last weekend. The Fairs are a series of workshops hosted each year by the City of Portland staff, volunteers and nonprofit groups. The City flyer announcing the fairs describes them thus: “The Fix-It Fair is a FREE City of Portland event where you can learn simple ways to save money and connect with resources. Join your neighbors and talk to the experts about how to spend less and stay healthy.”

The Fair I attended consisted of a hall filled with exhibits and booths whose staffers gave presentations on weatherization, health and nutrition, water and energy savings, recycling and composting, environmentally friendly home maintenance and cleaning, gardening, affordable housing and resources for people on limited budgets. In addition, there were formal classes on the following topics:

  • household energy conservation (including weatherization, lighting, appliances and so forth)

  • creating a safe home environment ( including dealing with mold and lead contamination)

  • bicycle commuting

  • household budgeting for debt reduction (including one very interesting class titled, “Community Resources for Living On A Limited Budget.” I made an audio recording of that class, and I hope to post it to the Internet soon.)

  • composting and gardening (including gardening basics, raised-bed gardening and tree care)

  • stormwater management (including downspout disconnection, rain gardens and ecoroofs. I made some videos of the ecoroof class. Unfortunately, they are rather large, even though they are not that long, and uploading them to Youtube has been problematic.)

  • and disaster preparedness and crime prevention (including a class titled “Know Your Neighborhood” as well as another very interesting class titled, “Emergencies: Beyond 72 Hours.” The “Beyond 72 Hours” class covers many things that are of interest to people adapting to a low-energy future in a collapsing economy.)

And that brings me to an observation about resources like this – namely, that while the City probably had nothing more in mind than simply trying to be helpful when they created these Fairs and their classes, resources like these can yet have applications far beyond their original intent. The Fix-It Fairs and their associated classes function to foster a resilient city – a city that is more resistant to damage caused by economic downturns and resource scarcity.

That is the goal of post-Peak planners and “preppers” generally. Our trouble is that it is very “late in the day,” so to speak, and many opportunities and resources that could have been applied to adaptation to a post-Peak world have been squandered. Our remaining resources are limited, and are dwindling. What better way to use those remaining resources than by teaching people to take care of themselves and connect with each other? This is what the City of Portland is doing. (And I'll bet that many of them haven't even heard of the “Transition Towns” movement.)

But one note of caution. While it is true that Oregon in general and Portland in particular have some very bright, foresighted and altruistic people working hard to make our place more resilient, this by no means applies to everyone who lives here. There are still many voracious, compulsive, shopaholic consumatrons speeding around in their SUV's. And there are still people (including some very rich and well-connected individuals) who would like nothing better than to dismantle all community-based safety nets and alternative arrangements, so that they can more efficiently loot this state for their own profit. I think in particular of people like Kevin Mannix and Bill Sizemore, and their attempts to collect signatures to put anti-tax initiatives on the Oregon ballot. Ironically, they also are trying to pass extreme pro-punishment ballot measures in order to swell the Oregon prison population with people convicted of non-violent crimes. This is in order to grow the “prison industry” in Oregon. My question is, who is going to pay for this? Mannix and Sizemore are using a for-profit signature-gathering firm, “Vote Oregon,” to try to get their measures on the ballot (you can see some of these “Vote Oregon” people at work if you ride the MAX a lot).

Then there's the Oregonian newspaper, which recently voiced strong opposition to Measures 66 and 67, designed to raise the tax on the wealthy and corporations by a few percentage points in order to make up for budget shortfalls. The Oregonian later published articles attacking the City of Portland's plan to increase bicycle commuting to 25 percent of all commuting trips by 2030. Surprising for a paper that's supposed to be “progressive,” isn't it? I think I'll buy a Sunday edition of the Oregonian this weekend (I need more newspaper anyway, so I can sheet-mulch some more of my backyard), and I'll count the number of ads there are for auto dealers.

Anyway, on to more pleasant subjects. Below are links to videos I took while I was at the Fix-It Fair.


  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 1 – A video of Keith Berkery from the Portland Office Of Emergency Management, describing the class he teaches, titled, “Emergencies – Beyond the First 72 Hours.” He taught this class at the most recent Fix-It Fair, and is available to give special presentations to neighborhood groups.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 2 – Brett, a staffer with the City, explains a bit of the “Portland Plan,” the development of the City's strategic plan for the next 25 years. He also explains how City residents can provide input to the plan.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 3 – A staffer from the City explains how homeowners can reduce stormwater runoff by disconnecting their downspouts and redirecting roof runoff to rain gardens and rain barrels.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 4 – an explanation of consumer electronics recycling by a staffer from Free Geek, a local volunteer group that recycles consumer electronics, including computers, and donates them to poor and disadvantaged individuals.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 5 – A staffer from the Portland Housing Bureau describes the “211 Program,” an initiative to provide affordable housing to low-income residents.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 6 – Clay Veka from the Portland Bureau of Transportation describes the “Safe Routes to School” program, which focuses on providing schoolchildren with safe biking and walking routes from their homes to their schools. (She also talked about the bike tune-ups and repairs performed by volunteers at the Fix-It Fair.)

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 7 – Kate O'Donnell from the Josiah Hill III Clinic describes the free blood lead level tests offered by the Clinic. These tests are important for people living in older housing where walls may have been painted with lead-based paint.

  • Portland Fix-It Fair Interviews, Part 8 – Nicole McKinney from the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community explains the County's free financial planning resources for households. (After I recorded this video, we got to talking about neighborhood resilience and threats, such as predatory lending, that are faced by minority neighborhoods. I told her that I had covered these topics before on this blog (for those of you who are interested, see “Our Least Resilient Neighborhoods”, “Breaking Neighborhoods For Fun And Profit” and “Homeboy Culture And The Solari Index.”).)


Anonymous said...

Bill Sizemore has no contact or connection with V.O.T.E. Oregon.

TH in SoC said...


Bill Sizemore is connected to Kevin Mannix, who is connected to Vote Oregon. Just this evening, riding on the MAX, I saw a person gathering signatures for a Mannix initiative. Their clipboard had "VOTE Oregon" written on it in prominent letters. (For your edification, I suggest you check out the following links:;;; and lastly,

Although it doesn't happen very often, occasionally I will get patently false or nonsensical comments on this blog from "anonymous" posters. I'm seriously thinking of adopting Dmitri Orlov's policy of not allowing anyone to comment without OpenID.