Portland’s People-Powered Pothole-Filling Movement


Courtesy Coast Pavement Services Portland, Oregon is known for its community appeal and they’ve recently demonstrated another example that confirms that reputation.  Concerned with the City’s inability to fill potholes on local streets, Ken VanDomelen, co-owner of Coast Pavement Services, decided to take matters into his own hands.

For a donation to a local charity, VanDomelen and his crew will come fill the potholes on your street for free.  The City, however, has spoken out against his endeavors, reminding citizens that only City-approved contractors should be making improvements to public roads. The article called to mind a lecture I attended this week given by Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at MIT and colored author and activist.  Chomsky’s main theme in that talk was a call to action -- people must organize and band together in order to achieve the “collective good” goals that will never be achieved in our market economy.  We must agree to break our dependence on oil, to weatherize our homes, and to seek simple, low-tech solutions to environmental problems.

VanDomelen’s solution is a banding together.  It creates a community network of concerned citizens and engages them with the community at large through donations to local charities.  Unfortunately, this type of solution is often discouraged (often necessarily so) by the powers and structure of state.

Chomsky recognized this and notes that any such effort must be a revolution, a reclaiming of power by the citizens.  Ironically, the solution that evolved in Portland, the filling of potholes, encourages the exact opposite activity for which Chomsky advocates: driving.

-Terra Curtis

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