Voices of the Community: CIC Member and Portland Physician Paula Amato talks about sustainable communities - August 5, 2010
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Voices of the Portland Plan
Paula Amato
Paula Amato

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was strongly influenced by the writings of the urban theorist Jane Jacobs. The principles of New Urbanism, the movement with which she is closely identified, include walkable neighborhoods, mixed-use and mixed-income development, and context-appropriate architecture. Modern urban planning and design transcends land use and transportation issues. Sustainable urban development is believed to contribute to the long-term social and ecological health of cities. According to David Wheeler, professor of business & sustainability, the features of a sustainable city include “compact, efficient land use, less automobile use, yet better access, efficient resource use, less pollution and waste, the restoration of natural systems, good housing and living environments, a healthy social ecology, a sustainable economy, community participation and involvement, and preservation of local culture and wisdom.”


As a relative newcomer to Portland and as a health care professional, I am interested in community-building, as well as the health of those communities. The political scientist Robert Putnam says that a community’s well-being is dependent on the quality of relationships among the citizens of that community. This so-called “social capital” creates a sense of belonging, thus enhancing the overall health of a community. And David Brain the sociologist says, “Community is something we do together. It’s not just a container. Infrastructure, roads, water, sewer, electricity, housing provide the shell within which people live. It is within this shell that people do things together that allow them to sustain livelihoods. People working together with a shared understanding and expectations is what provides a place of strong community.”


Portland’s population is projected to grow by several hundred thousand over the next few decades. I am interested in how Portland can attract and support a talented/educated/skilled population, a diverse community, and the infrastructure necessary to fuel an entrepreneurial culture and drive economic growth, while at the same time maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of all Portlanders across broad socioeconomic strata and addressing issues of inequality.


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Paula Amato, MD, is a physician/educator and associate professor of OB/GYN at OHSU. She has lived in Portland since 2007.  She serves on the board of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), is a member of the Portland Plan Community Involvement Committee and Portland City Club, and a volunteer at Outside In. In addition to health and human rights, she is a strong advocate for education and the arts.


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