~Symbolizing Core Values~

By Dan Vizzini, CPS Senior Fellow and Core Team Member

A few years ago, I retired from my position at the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.  For 26 years, I had the great pleasure of serving the city and its citizens as a financial analyst, program supervisor, policy development specialist, assistant to a City Council member, and legislative and regulatory specialist.  My experiences at the City had a profound impact on my views about citizenship, public service, and the relationship between public policy goals and the interests and goals of Portland’s businesses and neighborhoods.  Much of that learning formed the basis of the work I do now at the Center for Public Service and JaLoGoMa (a training program for municipal government officers from all over Japan), where I focus on building a bridge between the theory and practice of public service and citizen engagement.

Vizzini 1

The story of the journey of discovery.

Late in 2011, when it came time to replace my old business card from the City of Portland with a personal business card, I thought deeply about my former public life and the core values that I wanted to carry forward into my private life.  One image was particularly powerful. It’s a graphic I developed to depict the journey that one takes from the discovery of a new idea, to planning and acting on the idea, and finally to sharing the idea and personal experience with others.  This image and the story of the journey of discovery became a powerful metaphor for my work on sustainable
development and green infrastructure.

My original sketch was inspired by the graphic representation of the Fibonacci Sequence, a sequence of numbers that was originally developed around 200 BC to help interpret the meter of Sanskrit poetry.  The Indian number series was eventually discovered and introduced into Europe in 1202 by the Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa (popularly referred to as Fibonacci).

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The Fibonacci spiral.

At the heart of the Indian mathematics and Fibonacci’s Sequence is the notion of the Golden Ratio, or the proportions that repeatedly appear in the natural world: from the shape of the nautilus in sea life, to the spacing of adjacent leaves in plants, to the relationship between the length of the human forearm and the length of the human hand.    The Gold Ratio (1:1.618) represents the aesthetic balance in living things; a balance that has been emulated and reflected in the highest forms of human art and architecture.

So when I was searching for a symbol to add to my personal business card, I found myself returning, again and again to Fibonacci and the symbolism of the spiral.  The shape is meaningful on multiple levels.  It represents the human search for balance, order, and beauty, and a need to harmonize our lives with the natural world on which our lives depend.  It represents a journey of discovery that begins with “discovery,” leads to a process of inquiry and learning followed by planning and action, and concludes with sharing the experience with others in a way that drives new opportunities for discovery.  And finally, the expanding nature of the spiral from a single point represents an expansion of human knowledge, understanding, and experiences that result from a human journey of discovery.

Vizzini 3With all of these ideas in mind, I began a search for an image that I could use on my personal business card.  A number of attractive images were readily available on the Internet.  But in the end I settled on a photograph I took in a shop full of fossils and rocks in Seattle, Washington.  There, in the middle of the shop, was an Ammonite fossil, roughly 1.2 meters tall and .8 meters wide.  The fossil perfectly illustrated the Golden Ratio, and the nautilus shape reflected my spiral representation of the journey of discovery.

A few years after I incorporated the spiral image into my business card, I found myself returning to the image to use as a symbol or totem for JaLoGoMa.  It seemed only natural to do so since I had begun to use the image to illustrate many of JaLoGoMa’s foundational principles of civic engagement and the co-production of public goods.  Highly stylized, the image I chose presents a modern abstraction of the natural nautilus form.  The rounded shape and bold red color intentionally mimic the Japanese rising sun.  And to the form, I added a personal admonition for public servants and citizens to act with courage, perseverance and passion on behalf of humanity and the well being of all living things.

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JaLoGoMa Symbol

I have no doubt that what has evolved into a strong and meaningful symbol for public service work will continue to provide me and those I work with a reminder of our core values. Identifying and working with a symbol has only strengthened my understanding of the importance of the work we do in public service, as it serves as a constant reminder. If you haven’t taken the time to explore your own values in this way, consider doing so!

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~ Promoting Sustainability and Energy Conservation in Smaller Cities and Counties in Oregon~

By David Rouse & Ed Gallagher, Senior Fellows, Center for Public Service

CPS Senior Fellows, David Rouse and Ed Gallagher, along with two MPA students, led a project through PSU’s Center for Public Service to assist small cities and counties in lowering their carbon foot print and reducing their energy consumption through the use of sustainability practices.

energy2Funded by NW Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the project looked at best practices in sustainability nationwide and then narrowed the focus to smaller communities and jurisdictions that might otherwise not engage in developing a sustainability plan. Smaller cities and counties typically do not have the staff expertise or budget to undertake a comprehensive approach to energy conservation.

Through a selection process, two Oregon cities (Independence and Albany) and one county (Yamhill County) were chosen for the project. To facilitate the process, a CPS team traveled to each jurisdiction for the purpose of developing an internal staff team to work in conjunction with CPS.  Four key areas were identified to focus efforts: facilities, operations, purchasing, and fleet.

Lessons Learned

  1. Each jurisdiction is unique in how they consume energy therefore a one size fits all does not work.

While there are commonalities among public agencies, each jurisdiction provided unique services. For example, Albany had responsibilities for running a public swimming pool with an antiquated boiler system, increasing their energy use. Yamhill County was responsible for jail services and had high energy use (water/heat) related to inmate use. While high energy use is common in these two examples, the solutions to each of the problems are very different.

  1. If you can’t measure it, you can’t reduce it.

Step one: consolidate your energy bill. Surprisingly, when asked, most agencies cannot state what their total energy usage is. This is because monthly billings come to multiple departments within the jurisdiction; energy costs are not typically quantified in one bill. Energy1Each department is responsible for paying their own portion of the total bill, and when looked at in total, most agencies are shocked at how much they pay out in total. However, without awareness of the total usage, there is little an organization can do to reduce usage.

  1. Energy usage should be looked at as a manageable expense.

Most agencies assume their energy costs will go up each year and budget accordingly.  When looking at expense from a sustainability and conservation standpoint, it is important to identify where your agency consumes energy—from lowest to highest—and develop a plan to reduce use where it is most cost effective. In most cases, energy usage can be reduced, not increased; hence, saving precious budget resources.

Rouse, Gallagher, and the rest of the CPS team developed comprehensive sustainability and energy conservation plans for each jurisdiction. The plans identified short term and long term projects for each agency that had potential for reducing energy usage. Also included in the plans were financing alternatives that identified potential grant funding and/or low interest loans for projects that focused on energy conservation.

Final reports are available at https://www.pdx.edu/cps/profile/sustainable-municipal-operations-final-report-albany-independence-and-yamhill.

For more information contact David Rouse at, drouse@pdx.edu, or Ed Gallagher at mpgnorthwest@gmail.com.