Pining for Glenn Jackson

Glenn Jackson was the closest Oregon ever had to a Robert Moses-type character in transportation development. He was also considerably more enlightened than Moses, supporting the original Banfield Light Rail after support for the Mt. Hood Freeway faltered.

Jackson was CEO of Pacific Power and Light, and for many years chair of the Oregon Highway Commission. Our I-205 bridge across the Columbia is named after him. He was the last great mover and shaker in transportation in the state.

At last week’s Oregon Business Plan conference, State Senate President Peter Courtney expressed nostalgia for the era when Jackson could get things done with his relationships and force of personality. Courtney’s comment “there is no visible force in transportation today.” The Oregonian echoed this sentiment in an editorial on Friday:

Those were the days, businesspeople say, when public investments occurred because a few well-placed people practiced the best principles of civics; when business and government ran on more-or-less parallel tracks, with a common sense of direction. While the process wasn’t particularly open, it was productive.

Both however noted that the era of Glenn Jackson will never return. Power and influence are much more distributed now.

So my question today is, how do we assemble collective leadership that can move us out of the era of disinvestment and relative stalemate that we find ourselves in today related to transportation?

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