C40 Summit Video Blog Series: Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland – “we’re around some really impressive cities”

*Editor’s note: In partnership with the City of Johannesburg we conducted a series of video interviews with mayors, leading sustainability officials and partner thought leaders during the C40 Mayors Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on February 4-6, 2014. Take a look at our growing catalogue of video blogs to date…and stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

For decades Portland has been ahead of the curve on a number of sustainability issues within the United States, from its successful streetcar project to its pioneering “ecodistrict” movement. The city takes this reputation as an innovator seriously, said Mayor of Portland Charlie Hales, during his interview at the C40 Mayors Summit in Johannesburg. “We work hard to keep pushing that edge.”

Despite it’s smaller size, Portland’s often cutting-edge ideas are reflected by its role as an Innovator City from which other C40 megacities can learn. The learning is not all one-sided, however. Portland sees many benefits of being a part of the C40 network. “We’re around some really impressive cities that have been innovating in ways that we haven’t tried yet, and that cross-pollination is good for us on the receiving end as well,” Hales said.

Hales added that the value of having candid discussions with other Mayors at an event like the Summit is invaluable:

“I think we all need encouragement, not just from our citizens but also from our peers, that “you can do this, you can build that bus rapid transit and people will ride it. Even though your critics are now saying no one will ride it, trust me, we built one and they will ride it.” “No, you really can capture your methane gas from your landfill and generate electricity to cut the cost for your citizens. We did it.” Those peer-to-peer encouragements for us as people, as mayors are very helpful because no good deed goes unpunished. When you make change there are always those who will argue and grumble until the change is obviously helpful, and then they go away. But in that difficult interim between the idea and the proof, it’s nice to have your peers saying “no, it’ll be OK, you’re gonna get there.”

Mayor Hales discusses Portland’s Tram project, the city’s commitment to an outdoor lifestyle, and much more, in his full interview below.