All About Portland, Oregon

rose2Known as The City of Roses, Portland lies at the junction of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.  Above the city, you can wander through fragrant paths of rose bushes at the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden (over 10,000 rose plantings).  You can also visit Peninsula Park and Rose Garden in Northeast Portland (about 10,000 rose plantings) and Ladd’s Addition in Southeast Portland with 2,000 plus rose brushes.  For all of you trivia fans, the City of Portland took until 2003 to adopted the rose as the official city flower.  Portland was “christened the City of Roses by visitors to an Episcopal Church convention which was held in the city in 1888 when the Portland Rose Society was formed. Portland also has an official bird (Blue Heron), slogan (A City That Works), and a song.

Mt. Hood is visible from the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, and viewpoints throughout Forest Park, the 4,836-acre park running along the ridge of the west hills.  The ledges below these parks are crammed with interesting houses reachable via steep sidewalks, connecting bridges and hidden stairways.

Finding Portland

Finding Portland was produced, shot, and edited in 51 days during March and April of 2012 at the invitation of TEDx where the video was unveiled to a sell out crowd of 650 and met with a standing ovation. Filmed in Portland and the Columbia Gorge, this time-lapse piece offers a new perspective to the City of Roses. From a Portland Timbers season opening soccer game, to the top of the Fremont Bridge, to an aerial shot of Oneonta Gorge, Finding Portland tells the story of a city and its many faces.

Comprised of 308,829 photographs taken from over 50 unique locations, it took an average of 3.8 hours to make each second of this film. The intent of the project was to place our cameras in unique locations across the city, achieve significant ranges of dynamic camera motion, and pursue cutting edge time-lapse techniques. Original music by Peter Bosack.

How Portland Got Its Name

pennyflipBesides being called the Rose City, Puddletown, and Stumptown (from its lumbering past), Portland is nicknamed Bridgetown for the different bridges that unite east and west Portland. There are 11 bridges in a span of 11 miles. All are open to vehicles except the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge. A new bridge is being constructed as part of the area’s newest Tri-Met light rail route, a project connecting Portland and Milwaukie. It opened in 2015. In addition to MAX trains the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge will serve pedestrians, cyclists and, in the future, the Portland Streetcar.  The bridge will not serve private vehicles, but will be able to accommodate emergency vehicles. Occasionally the city closes the downtown bridges to motor traffic and gives a free run of them to bikers, hikers, and runners.

Portland got its name from a coin toss in 1845. In 1843, two men by the name of Asa Lovejoy and William Overton filed a land claim for an area known as The Clearing.  Overton soon sold his shares to Francis Pettygrove, and the two of them couldn’t agree on a name.  To resolve the deadlock, they flipped a coin − now known as the Portland Penny — to decide.  Lovejoy, who was from Massachusetts, picked Boston.  But Pettygrove won, and he chose Portland, the city in his native Maine.

Regarding Portland culture, “Mayberry on Mushrooms”, was offered by Environmentalist, Steve Gunther. Another absurdity is Des Moines Register journalist Donald Kaul, as quoted by Jonathan Nicholas in The Oregonian . Kaul said that “Portland is San Francisco run by Canadians.”

A Short History of Portland

At the time of its incorporation on February 8, 1851, Portland had over 800 inhabitants, a steam sawmill, a log cabin hotel, and a newspaper, the Weekly Oregonian. By 1879, the population had grown to 17,500. The city merged with Albina and East Portland in 1891, and annexed the cities of Linnton and St. Johns in 1915.

Portland’s location, with access both to the Pacific Ocean via the Willamette and the Columbia rivers and to the agricultural Tualatin Valley via the “Great Plank Road” through a canyon in the West Hills (the route of current-day U.S. Route 26), gave it an advantage over nearby ports, and it grew very quickly. It remained the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s, when Seattle’s deepwater harbor was connected to the rest of the mainland by rail, affording an inland route without the treacherous navigation of the Columbia River.

To catch some R-rated stories about Oregon’s visit Kick Ass Oregon History.  It offers podcasts, talks, and tours on history that reflect the quirky comers of Oregon’s past.

Parks and Green Spaces

forestparkIf you love the outdoors, Portland is your kind of place. There are parks (10,763 acres which represent 11% of the city’s area), trails and green spaces scattered throughout the city — it’s perfect for a pleasant hike, a picnic or a pickup football game.  Area waterways welcome those who enjoy rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, boating and fly fishing.  And if there’s not enough to keep you occupied in the city itself, you won’t have to travel far to find beautiful scenery and outdoor pursuits. One of the best ways to see Portland is joining up with Portland Walking Tours.

Portlanders have always felt blessed by the wealth of nature; they assume and expect unimpeded access to the outdoors for both resource production and recreation.  Evidence of our love for parks is that park bond issues usually pass with ease. The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade has become influential among park planners, with talks of floating walkways achieving buoyancy in planning sessions around the country.

In 2014 the Trust for the Public Land compared the 60 largest American cities based on the size and quality of park space. Different variables were inputted into a weighted equation and added together to generate an overall “score” for the city’s park system. “Analysis is based on the three most important characteristics of an effective park system,” according to the website, “acreage, services and investment.” Portland tied for third place with Boston for cities in the country with the best green space.

Portland receives high marks for the city’s use of volunteers in its parks according to Peter Harnik, the Director of the Center for City Park Excellence.  In an interview in the Portland Tribune in July 2006, Harnik said. “But so many people in Portland are environmentally oriented and want to help, and the parks departments gives them a way of doing that.”

Overall, the Portland park scene rates high according to the Center for City Park Excellence. Other information from the site:

  • Portland ranks second in its class for the number of park district soccer fields per capita, ninth for playgrounds per capita, and right in the middle of a large pack with its six golf courses.
  • Portland ranks second to last among the 17 cities in its population density class for baseball diamonds per capita.
  • Forest Park is the 14th largest city park, number ten if the list is restricted to municipally owned parks (as opposed to state, county and national parks within city boundaries).

In 2007, 6.2 million visits were logged at recreation sites.  Other facts from the Portland Parks & Recreation:

  • 66% of the acreage is dedicated to natural areas for the preservation and protection of streams, native plants, and wildlife.
  • 3,000 people grew their fresh food in 31 community gardens.
  • Portland’s tree canopy currently covers 26% of the city.
  • Trees in parks number roughly 1.2 million and public street trees are estimated at 236,000 with combined total of public trees accounting for 47% of Portland’s tree canopy.

Wildlife in Portland

At least 209 bird species have been sighted across the Metro region according to the Audubon Societyperegrine of Portland.  Residents of Portland do not have to go far to experience a whole array of birds of prey.  Visitors can watch Bald Eagles nesting on Ross Island, state-listed Peregrine Falcons nesting on Portland bridges, and Osprey nesting throughout the Portland Harbor.  Sharp-shinned and Coopers Hawks regularly hunt songbirds at backyard feeders.  The trilling of Screen Owls fills the night at parks throughout the city, and some of our more wooded parks also provide homes for Great Horned, Pygmy, and Barred owls.

For information and updates on Metro’s Regional Fish and Wildlife Plan, urban conservation issues in the Portland metro region, and much more visit the Metro’s Assessing Wildlife Issues website page.

Portland and Trees

whiteoakPortland is a tree hugging place, and they proved it on July 20, 2013, when more than 950 people hugged trees at Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum to make the Book of Guinness World Records for the greatest number of people hugging trees at the same time and place. The event was organized by Hoyt Arboretum and Treecology, with assistance from Friends of Trees neighborhood trees senior specialist Jesse Batty. Check out these fun photos and videos of the event.

Portland has thousands of trees in the city and organizations like the Friends of Trees continue planting more.  There is a city agency, Portland Parks Urban Forestry, and they are responsible for the protection of trees.

About 26 percent of Portland is covered by tree leaves, tree branches, and trunks when viewed from above. San Antonio boasts 38 percent coverage and Atlanta nearly 37 percent, according to separate analyses by conservation group American Forests and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a 2010 report. Portland hopes to finish a citywide tree proposal that will increase canopy coverage as well as streamline tree policies. The canopy goal for Portland is 33 percent citywide and higher for residential neighborhoods. Portland has plenty of ornamental trees, like the cherry and plum whose blossoms are wonderful in the spring. What we’re not planting, however, are evergreens, Oregon white oak, northern red oaks and nut trees that can be costly to maintain but provide multi-fold environmental benefits.

Portland has a Heritage Tree ordinance that became part of the Portland city code in 1993, and the first Heritage Trees were designated in 1994. This ordinance calls for the City Forester to annually prepare a list of trees that because of their age, size, type, historical association or horticultural value are of special importance to the City. Upon the recommendation of the Urban Forestry Commission, the City Council may designate a tree as a Heritage Tree provided the tree’s health, aerial space, and open ground area for the root system have been certified as sufficient. As of 2006, there were 283 Heritage Trees in Portland.

If you want to incur the wrath of your neighbors, just cut down a tree in your yard.  But you may also make long-lasting friends if it opens up a view for your neighbors.  Permits are required to cut or remove all trees over 12 inches in diameter on all properties in the city of Portland before the issuance of a building permit. Exceptions include single-family residential properties that cannot be further developed and include an existing single-family home used exclusively as a single-family residence.  It is the responsibility of property owners under City Code to maintain street trees (the area between the sidewalk and street) adjacent to their property and keep limbs 7.5 feet above sidewalks and 11 feet above streets. Here is the link to the city’s Tree Cutting Ordinance.

The rules changed during the winter of 2015. The new rules are intended to preserve and promote trees on private property throughout the city. They cover such items as “minimum # of trees per site” and permit “limited reductions in parking, housing density, amenity bonus, etc. without a review process.”

Walking in Portland

Under Oregon law (ORS 801.220), a crosswalk exists at all public street intersections, whether marked with paint or unmarked. However, all crosswalks between intersections (mid-block) must be marked with white painted lines.  Here is a link to a complete definition. Under Oregon law (ORS 811.360), drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks until they have cleared the driver’s lane and the adjacent lane. When a vehicle is turning, drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians until they have cleared the lane into which the driver is turning, plus at least six feet of the adjacent lane if it is an intersection with a signal or the entire adjacent lane where there is no signal.

Oregon Walks is a non-profit community-based membership organization dedicated to promoting walking and making the conditions for walking safe, convenient and attractive throughout the Portland metropolitan region.

Downtown Portland

Lying on a gentle, mile-wide slope between a river and a range of hills, downtown Portland is alive and well.  Whereas most cities roll up the streets after the workforce completes their work day, Portland just keeps rolling. Restaurants thrive. Shopping goes on well into the evening. People are hurrying off to the concert hall, theaters, art galleries, and museums. Parking usually requires finding a garage instead of parking on the street. Of course, lots of folks arrive and depart on MAX, the light rail system.

Most downtown Portland blocks are 200-300 feet in length which is much shorter than most cities in the USA. The short blocks do two important things:  it allows more light to infiltrate, and it makes for a walker’s paradise.  The downtown traffic lights are set at a leisurely 12 miles per hour that mean bikers can navigate through the streets comfortably. The American Planning Association (APA) named Portland’s 5th and 6th Avenues as one of the ten greatest streets in the nation in 2014. The avenues make up the Portland Transit Mall and traverse through Old Town, Chinatown, and Portland State University.

One thing we notice immediately upon arriving in Portland is that people “get out and do things.”  You can always find bikers, runners, and walkers in most neighborhoods early in the morning till dark.  Whereas all we remember from living in eastern cities is listening to the hum of air conditioners during the summers while on walks, Portlanders are out and about all times of the year.  Yes, even in the rain.  Nike’s slogan Just Do It is applicable in the Rose City.

The City of Portland Department of Transportation has some walking and biking maps of downtown Portland that you can download. 

Benson Bubblers

bensonWalking in downtown Portland, one of the first items you’ll notice is the four-bowl fountains throughout the city.  Simon Benson, a Norwegian immigrant, a lumber baron and philanthropist is the person responsible for these drinking fountains.  The story goes that while walking through his mill one day, Benson noticed the smell of alcohol on his workers’ breath.  When Benson asked these men why they drank in the middle of the day, they replied there was no fresh drinking water to be found downtown.  Upon hearing this, Benson proceeded to commission 20 elegant freshwater drinking fountains, now known as the Benson Bubblers.  Beer consumption in the city reportedly decreased 25 percent after the fountains were installed.  Drinking fountains, including the Benson Bubblers, run up an annual tab of about $400,000 for maintenance and sewer fees.

Portland architect A. E. Doyle designed the Bubblers and gave $10,000 in 1912 to fabricate and install the Bubblers.  The first Benson Bubbler remains at SW Fifth Avenue and SW Washington Street.  The city now has some 60 Benson Bubblers on Portland’s downtown streets.  To determine if the Bubbler is an original one, look for the inscription: “Presented by S. Benson, 1912.”

Horse Rings

ponyIn late 2005, Portland artist Scott Wayne Indiana tied his first miniature plastic horse to an iron ring embedded in a sidewalk. He’s tethered perhaps 100 more since, and Portlanders Kim Upham and Laura Kemp have continued and amplified his efforts at horse project. Scott is an artist who builds community through experimental, collaborative play. Originally from Portland, Scott now lives and works in New York City.

The ponies are a nod to Portland history, and a way to get people to pay attention to their surroundings. The horse rings were put in years ago, and when you came downtown, you tied your horse up to the ring and it was your parking meter so to speak.

Dealing with Panhandlers

There are street people and panhandlers in Portland’s parks and squares, and occasionally they are threatening. Are these panhandlers lonely victims of an uncaring world or organized hucksters milking sympathy from gullible citizens? I don’t know but here’s a solution. Many Portlanders prefer not to give panhandlers money. Rather, they carry Sisters of the Road meal coupons with them and hand them out instead of money. Meals at Sisters of the Road offer a choice of at least two hot and nutritious entrees and always a vegetarian option.  Sisters of the Road is located in the Old Town neighborhood that is north of the downtown area, so it is very accessible to street people. Each meal coupon costs $2.00 and can be purchased either singly, or in unlimited numbers, and then given to hungry people for them to use to buy a meal and drink in Sisters.  You can purchase the coupons online or at different food co-ops, and churches.

You will notice individuals selling a newspaper called Street Roots at locations throughout Portland − usually at the entrance/exits of food stores where there is a considerable amount of foot traffic. Street Roots is a nonprofit, grassroots newspaper that assists people experiencing homelessness and poverty by creating flexible income opportunities. The tabloid is published every two weeks and costs $1.  The homeless person selling the paper keeps about 60 cents from the sale.

Two City Symbols:  Blue Heron and ‘Portlandia’ Statue

blueheronBoth officially and unofficially, the city uses two very different emblems to epitomize its character as a community.  One is the blue heron, adopted as an official city symbol in 1986. This graceful bird that thrives in the riverside marshes winding through the metropolis seemed a natural mascot to former Mayor Bud Clark, who enjoyed early morning canoe trips along the Willamette River. Herons nest in large colonies (known as rookeries) at places such as Ross Island, Vancouver Lake, Smith and Bybee Lakes, and Heron Lakes Golf Course. However, these rookeries are highly vulnerable to habitat alterations, human disturbance, and natural changes to the environment. The presence of herons on our urban landscape helps to indicate whether we are doing enough to protect local wildlife habitat.

portlandiaThe other is a huge hammered copper statue of “Portlandia” reaching down from the postmodern city office building called ‘The Portland’ at 1120 SW 5th Avenue.  The figure represents civic life and commerce. Portlandia is based on a figure in Portland’s city seal of a woman, dressed in classical clothes, who welcomes traders into the port of the city.  The sculpture is placed on a landing on the third floor of the Portland Building. The sculpture is 36 feet tall, but if Portlandia were able to stand up, she would be over 50 feet tall. Portlandia is the second largest hammered copper statue in America (the largest is the Statue of Liberty).  The Portland is a citywide and national icon and was designed by architect Michael Graves.  The design of the building has been criticized by many architects throughout Portland and the world.

How the City Delivers its Services to Residents

Crime and the fear of crime continue to drop in Portland. Residents give high ratings to the livability of their neighborhoods and the city. More businesses see the city as a good place to do business. Those are the good things in the city auditor’s report released in late 2008 on how the city delivers its services to residents.

But here are some of what the report calls “challenges”: Emergency response times for both police and fire calls continue to be slower than city goals. The share of homeowners who spend more than half of their income on housing reached a new high. Homelessness is on the rise. Sewer bills outpace comparable cities.

The report examines trends and the results of city surveys regarding 20 city bureaus and the Portland Development Commission for the fiscal year that ended in June 2008.  You can read the entire report at the City of Portland website by clicking here.

City and Metro Area Government

Portland is the biggest U.S. city without a top administrator, instead dividing oversight among the mayor and four commissioners. Of the city’s 23 bureau directors, 18 directors report to the elected mayor or four commissioners, four to the city’s chief administrative officer, and one to the Portland Development Commission’s appointed board.

It’s a goofy system but one that Portlanders seem to like. But things slip through the system and here is an example. More than two-thirds of Portland’s 23 bureau directors – all earning at least $130,000 a year – have not received annual written evaluations despite a city policy requiring them, according to a review of city documents by The Oregonian/OregonLive in June 2015. That means taxpayers can’t review the performance of public administrators who collectively earn about $3.8 million a year and oversee the equivalent of 5,600 full-time employees.

You can’t discuss Portland without mentioning the Metro Council and one of its most important function, the Urban Growth Boundary.  Metro is the directly elected regional government that serves more than 1.3 million residents in ClackamasMultnomah and Washington counties, and the 24 cities in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area.  Metro provides transportation and land-use planning services and oversees regional garbage disposal and recycling waste reductions programs.  Metro manages regional parks and green spaces and the Oregon Zoo. It also oversees the operation of the Oregon Convention Center, Civic Stadium, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and the Expo Center, all managed by the Metropolitan Exposition-Recreation Commission.

The City of Portland and the State of Oregon are both recognized nationally for their land use planning policies and efforts to curb urban sprawl.  The state Land Use Planning Act of 1973 requires local governments to develop plans, make land use decisions consistent with the plans, and coordinate with other local governments and state agencies.  Metro, the only elected regional government in the United States, helps ensure compatible land use and transportation plans throughout the Greater Portland metropolitan area. Urban growth boundaries (UGB) were created as part of the statewide land-use planning program in Oregon in the early 1970s.  The boundaries mark the separation between rural and urban land.  They are intended to encompass an adequate supply of buildable land that can be efficiently provided with urban services (such as roads, sewers, water lines and street lights) to accommodate the expected growth during a 20-year period.  The idea is that by providing land for urban uses within the boundary, rural lands can be protected from urban sprawl.

Metro manages the regional urban growth boundary for the Portland metropolitan area.  Adopted in 1979, the Metro UGB is approximately 369 square miles (about 236,000 acres).  It includes 24 cities and the urban portions of Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties. As of February 2000, about 1.3 million people live within the UGB.  View the UGB map (PDF file).

Portland Public Transportation:  Light Rail and Streetcars

MAXtrainMAX (Metropolitan Area Express), the area 60-mile light rail system, is an advanced and modern system that carries an average weekday ridership between 115,000 and 130,000 since Fiscal Year 2010. The Blue Line runs east/west from the town of Gresham to the town of Hillsboro with numerous connections in the downtown area.  Airport MAX (opened September 2001) links the existing east/west line with the Portland International Airport.  Interstate MAX opened in September 2004, and the Yellow Line connects downtown with the Expo Center located in North Portland.  The Green Line opened in late 2009 and added 6.5 miles between Gateway Transit Center and Clackamas Town Center. In 2015 the Orange Line opened and connected Milwaukie with the other lines.

Portland Mall Revitalization Project  The project added light rail tracks to the Portland Transit Mall on both Fifth and Sixth Avenues between Portland State University and Union Station (Amtrak). The project was born of the need to relieve congestion on the existing downtown Portland MAX alignment on Yamhill and Morrison Streets. This project was originally conceived as part of a north-south light rail project between Vancouver, Washington, and Clackamas. Upon opening in 2009, both MAX Yellow Line and the Greenline run on these tracks.

streetcarPortland’s streetcar line is a “circulator” — a public transit system that carries people through downtown neighborhoods, quickly and reliably. The Portland Streetcar is designed to fit the scale and traffic patterns of the neighborhoods through which it travels. The first streetcar vehicles, manufactured by Skoda-Inekon in Plzen of the Czech Republic, are about 8 feet wide and approximately 66 feet long, about 10 inches narrower and 1/3 the length of a MAX (TriMet’s light rail system) double car train. Later cars were built in the Portland area by United Streetcar.

Portland Streetcar began operations July 20, 2001, as the first modern streetcar system in the country. In 2009 the city broke ground on the Loop alignment which connects downtown Portland to the Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, Convention Center, Central Eastside and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The cars on this new line are built in Oregon. 

TilicumCrossingA new bridge, officially called the Tilikum Crossing, carries MAX Light Rail, the Portland Streetcar, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles. The bridge’s 178 LED lights are programmed to change colors and patterns based on the river’s speed, height and water temperatures. The bridge carries the MAX Orange Line and other mass transit vehicles across the Willamette River south of the Marquam Bridge. It connects a MAX station at OMSI on the east side of the river with a new Oregon Health Sciences University Waterfront Campus MAX station on the west side. OHSU is the city’s largest employer, while OMSI is one of the city’s largest tourist and educational venues, and the new bridge facilitates the connection of both to the regional MAX light rail system. The Orange Line continues south from OMSI to Milwaukie and north from South Waterfront into downtown Portland. 

Although the MAX Orange Line was the impetus for the construction of the bridge, the structure also carries TriMet buses, the Portland Streetcar, and emergency vehicles, and is open for public use by bicyclists and pedestrians. Use by private motor vehicles (except emergency vehicles) is not permitted.  Rerouting of TriMet bus routes onto the new bridge from more congested crossings shortens the travel time for about 14,000 daily bus riders. Bike and pedestrian paths are placed on both sides of the bridge and are 14 feet wide. It is the only car-free transit/bike/pedestrian bridge in the U.S., and it opened on September 12, 2015.

The Portland Streetcar is owned and operated by the City of Portland in partnership with TriMet, which contributes a portion of operating funding. Portland Streetcar is managed by the Portland Office of Transportation. The City of Portland contracts with Portland Streetcar, Inc. to construct and operate the Streetcar system. Portland Streetcar, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation.

You can bring your bike with you on all buses, MAX trains, and the Portland streetcar line. For a detailed description of the Portland metro transportation system, visit public transportation system.

The Lion and Rose Bed and Breakfast Inn in the Northeast neighborhood of Irvington has an excellent video on “Getting Around in Central Portland.”  Click here to view it.

Parking SmartMeters

SmartMeterIn early 2002, the Portland City Council approved a contract to supply pay station technology for on-street parking in Portland. The City has now replaced the majority of its single-space meters in the downtown central business district with SmartMeters.  The city has 1,056 of these machines installed.

SmartMeters are solar-powered, multi-space parking meters with the ability to accept SmartMeter Parking cards, money, as well as credit or debit cards. After inserting your card or money into the machine, you determine how many minutes you desire to park (1-hour, 90-minute, and 3-hour meters in Downtown Portland are: $1.60 per hour. In the OHSU district, it’s $1.35 per hour).  You then receive a printed receipt which you stick on the curbside window of your vehicle.

Portlanders have a nickname for these tall machines:  Gumby.  They make the city a small fortune since any unused time cannot be used by others.  It also means lower meter maintenance since one machine can take care of 10-20 parking spaces. In February 2005, the city recorded 430,000 parking receipts and 215,675 credit card transactions in the downtown area.  At a mere 50 cents a transaction, that figures out to be about $215,000. It is most likely closer to $400,000 a month. A Gumby costs the city about $7,500 each, and they hold 1,500 receipts inside when fully loaded.

Portland Loos

portland_looPortland Loos are simple, sturdy, attractive flush toilet kiosks located on sidewalks in public areas. The loos are free to the public and accessible around the clock every day of the year. Portland Loos give the community clean, safe and environmentally-friendly restroom facilities. The loos are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with exterior hand washing stations. They are ADA-accessible, and a bicycle or stroller easily fits inside. Cleaned twice daily they are unusually well maintained. There are at least six in the downtown area, and more will be built when funds become available.

Standard features include commercial grade toilet and energy-efficient fixtures, skylight, solar power system, anti-graffiti finish, and options for placement of the door hinge and the outside hand wash station. An optional 110-AC power system and they have mounting brackets for outside art or advertising. The city of Portland is selling the loos to other cities for $90,000. The Portland loos have succeeded whereas many cities have tried to operate public restroom and failed.

The soulless receptacle for bodily waste has its Twitter account and Facebook page.

Pioneer Courthouse Square:  Portland’s Living Room

pioneer_squareOn April 6, 1984, the citizens of Portland inaugurated what has become one of the most successful public spaces in America.  Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square, a thriving urban park, is affectionately known as the City’s “living room.”  More than 21,000 people pass by the Square each day, while thousands more utilize its on-site resources.  Upwards of 300 events take place in the Square each year.

The Square’s features include the Waterfall Fountain, built of granite; sixteen columns with classical pillars topped with carved yellow roses on which crawl pink-and-green spotted bugs; and two brick amphitheaters which provide seats for events. Other pieces of artwork include Tom Hardy’s sculpture of three racing horses and J. Seward Johnson’s Allow Me, a bronze statue of a man with an umbrella and an upraised arm.

When the Square was born, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Inc., was created to manage this City Park and is governed by a Board of Trustees.

We Love our Liquids

HorseBrassPubIt must be the rain that drives us to drink.  Portlanders have the highest per capita consumption of gourmet coffee bean in the U.S. according to the New York Times.  We also have the second largest number of vineyards in the nation and about 50 wineries within 100 miles of Portland.  Oregon is noted for two wines:  Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Here in the Northwest’s beer mecca, you’ll hardly find argument with that notion.  Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city.  With over 50 breweries operating within city limits, a good way to see them is to hop on the Brewvana bus. The all inclusive tour is your chance to visit multiple breweries, taste lots of fresh and unique beers, tour the brewing facilities, pair beer with food, meet the brewers and the visit the establishments that produce the liquid that we love.

Walk into a typical pub anywhere in the country and they brag about having a dozen or so brews on tap.  In Portland, that won’t cut it.  For example, Horse Brass Pub in Southeast Portland has over 50 micro-brews on tap.  Portland has a couple of nicknames, “Beervana” and “Brewtopia,” to mark its thriving microbrewery industry.

We do love our beer in Oregon, but we don’t hold a candle to the swillers in North Dakota. Data from the Beer Institute ranks Oregon No. 20 in per capita beer consumption, with 30.3 gallons a year per person. North Dakota topped the list at 45.8 gallons. Oregon ranked No. 26 for beer shipments, with 2.8 million barrels shipped in 2012.

Today, Oregonians are once again leading the newest trend in booze as products from 20 or so small-batch distillers to gain national attention and recognition. According to Bill Owens, founder, and president of the American Distilling Institute, about 100 micro-distillers are operating in the U.S. 20 of those are in Oregon. Oregon Distillers Guild − the first such in the country − is strong evidence that the state is becoming a leader in artisan spirits, too. The guild, comprising 16 Oregon craft distillers, operates as a nonprofit corporation to promote the common interests of the state’s licensed distilling businesses. While most of Oregon’s microdistilleries have only been in operation for a few years, Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery has been in the game for more than two decades.

The Arts

More Oregon adults attend opera, jazz, and classical music concerts, per capita than in any other state. A geographical analysis of a survey released in late 2009 by the National Endowment for the Arts also showed Oregon was second in overall per-capita attendance at performing arts events. The survey also revealed that Oregon ranked number one in the percentage of adults attending art museums and craft festivals. The survey took place in May 2008, before the economic squeeze, but, following decades of scraping the bottom of the national funding barrel, the news came as a pleasant surprise.

Whether it music, dance, stage, film, or art, you will find it in Portland.  Online event calendars are maintained by the Portland Visitors Association and the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

PCPAThe Portland‘5 Center for the Arts dominates the performing arts scene in Portland. The organization has been known for decades as Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) and re-branded itself in 2013. It manages five downtown performance spaces: the Schnitzer, Brunish, Keller, Newmark and Winningstad theaters. 

The center consists of five theaters in three separate buildings. The facility is the fifth largest venue in the nation and entertains over one million people each year at 1,000 plus events.

  • Keller Auditorium (formerly the Civic Auditorium) located at SW Third Avenue and Clay Street.
  • Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at SW Broadway at Main Street.
  • The Antoinette Hatfield Hall at 1111 SW Broadway contains the Brunish Theatre, Dolores Winningstad Theatr\ and the Newmark Theatre.

Visit our Film, Music and Stage page for details on the Portland arts scene.

In Portland, a Warm Embrace of Tango

Portland_TangoTango took off in Portland in the late 1990s. The city is now a renowned destination for Argentine tango in North America, attracting dancers from around the globe with two annual festivals (Portland Tango Festival in October and ValenTango in February) and a thriving social dance scene. The survival of ballrooms from their heyday in the 1920s has been central to the continued growth of Tango in Portland, providing affordable and central venues for weekly milongas (tango social dances). In recent years, tango has expanded beyond the ballroom to anywhere with a suitable dance surface, including a local bakery and parks.

Devotion to tango in Portland is fed by two prime factors: Dancing is affordable, and gatherings are easy to reach in this compact city. A milonga is held weekly on Thursdays at Norse Hall, a community center with a ballroom ($10), drawing up to 125 dancers a night. Wednesdays at Norse Hall attract a somewhat younger crowd for an alternative milonga ($8), a modern approach using nontraditional music. There are many other dance studios that cater to Portland Tango fans. On any weekend in Portland, you could fly in on a Thursday or Friday and dance the Argentine tango all weekend long.

Keep Portland Weird?

KeepPortlandWeirdDriving around Portland, you will notice bumper stickers that say, “Keep Portland Weird.”.  The bumper stickers that started to appear in 2004 seem to suggest that Portland is uniquely and unquestionably weird among American cities. That we became that way. That we always were that way. That we are weird.

Terry Currier, the owner of Music Millennium on East Burnside Street, says he got the idea for the Weird bumper stickers from a friend in Austin, Texas who said the bumper stickers were designed to get people to support local independent businesses, which Currier says leads to a more diverse and unique city landscape.

Still, when Currier brought the bumper stickers to Portland, his intent had more to do with commerce than quirky. In fact, Currier originally made 500 bumper stickers that read, “Keep Portland Weird, Support Local Business.” They didn’t sell. “The thing with ‘Keep Portland Weird’ is, it is open to interpretation,” Currier says. People have bought more than 18,000 of them from Music Millennium, at $2 a bumper sticker. In Austin, they gave them away.

The Church of Elvis personifies the local motto: Keep Portland Weird. Stephanie Pierce, self-proclaimed celebrity spokes model, and artist to the stars, has had four different Church of Elvis art galleries since the mid-1980s when she first put her idea into action. The current church is located in Chinatown at NW Couch Street near 4th Avenue. The Church of Elvis is in a window, about six feet long and seven feet high, in a building on Couch. Its main attraction, two computers from 1985, have been used since Pierce’s first gallery. The computers are at opposite ends of the window, and they are surrounded by hundreds of plastic beads, a few Barbie dolls, wedding cake decorative pieces, plastic heads and much more to entertain pedestrians on the sidewalk. For a mere quarter, a coin-operated machine performs the cheapest wedding ceremony Pierce offers, with the computer conducting the ceremony.

In a 2009 article in the Portland Tribune, Carl Abbott, the Portland State University urban historian says it takes more than a bumper sticker to bend reality. “Except for a handful of 24-year-olds who ride funny looking bicycles, I don’t think Portland is weird at all,” Abbott says. “I’d call it sincere, earnest, outdoorsy, old-fashioned, and pleasant. If Portland were a person, you’d be delighted if your daughter said she planned to marry it.”  Here are a couple of other quotes from the article:

  • “Portland is weird in a very sweet way,” says Becky Ohlsen, sometimes Portland resident who co-wrote Lonely Planet’s guide to the Pacific Northwest. Some of Ohlsen’s weird Portland favorites include the Sang-Froid Riding Club (the riding takes place on motorcycles), and the local adult soapbox derby.
  • If a city’s spirit is revealed by its architecture, Portland’s spirit is decidedly un-strange, according to Jonah Cohen, managing principal architect of the downtown firm THA Architecture. “It’s conservative, actually,” Cohen says. Cohen is hard-pressed to name one Portland building that might be considered avant-garde.

Oregonians and Religion Preferences

One of the first things you hear as a new citizen of Portland is that Oregonians don’t attend church like people in other parts of the U.S. A study by the American Religious Identification Survey released in March of 2008 updates a chapter in the Oregon biography that is as constant as rain: Oregon is one of the most ‘unchurched’ states in the nation.

Although Oregon has been the number one “unchurched” state in previous surveys, the 2008 results showed that some New England states had surged ahead of us.  Vermont leads the nation with 34 percent of its population reporting “none” when asked about their religious identification. New Hampshire comes in second with 29 percent. Oregon’s none’s account for 24 percent of the population in 2008 and Washington none’s was 25 percent. Idaho none’s came in at 23 percent. Nationally, none’s are 15 percent of the population.

Oregon has always ranked low in religious affiliation. In 1890, before the U.S. Census stopped asking such questions, just 22 percent of Oregonians told the government they attended church.

Through the years, scholars have offered several theories for the Northwest’s regional difference; a cultural emphasis on independence, less interest in connecting to religious institutions and the beauty of the landscape.  They also argued that being “unchurched” didn’t mean that none’s weren’t interested in spirituality. I’ve heard hikers comment that they attend church every Sunday in ‘God’s Outdoor Cathedral.’  No one describes nature’s religion better than Portlander Ella Higginson, in her turn-of-the-century poem “God’s Creed.” An excerpt:

Forgive me that I cannot kneel
And worship in this pew,
For I have knelt in western dawns,
When the stars were large and few,
And the only fonts God gave me were
The deep leaves filled with dew,
And so it is I worship best
With only the soft air
About me, and the sun’s warm gold
Upon my brow and hair;
For then my very heart and soul
Mount upward in swift prayer

Perhaps Oregonians are changing.  A study released in late 2009 ranks Oregon 40th among the states when it comes to the significance of religion in people’s lives. The state-by-state Religious Commitment Analysis from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 46 percent of Oregonians said religion was “very important in their lives,” while 63 percent believe in God “with absolute certainty.” According to the study, almost a third of Oregonians (32 percent) said they attend religious services at least once a week; 48 percent said they pray at least once a day.

Portland Has it Own Brand of Christianity

In Portland and nationally, a new breed of churches often labeled “emergent” is carving out an alternative to the suburban megachurch.  For example, there’s Imago Dei, founded by an ex-college football player named Rick McKinley. His church, which has gone from meeting in his living room to holding multiple services at a school, emphasizes art, music and social activism. Like many emergent churches, it draws a young, hipster-flavored crowd.  Another popular emergent church is led by Bob Hyatt, the 35-year-old pastor of the Evergreen Community.  Read more about the Emergent Church.

One of the movement’s unofficial leaders is Portland author Donald Miller. Miller is an oddity among Christian authors. Most Evangelists Christians don’t care for him one bit.  His fans, however, love him.  Since 2003, Miller’s memoir Blue Like Jazz has sold over a million copies and has gained enormous influence in the evangelical church.   As reported in the Willamette Week, “Miller is a Portland writer to the core. His nonfiction, first-person stories take place in this city’s taverns, cafes, streets, parks, and colleges. His moody, meandering style is pitch-perfect young Rose City bohemian prose. His cast of characters draws heavily on Portland’s deep pool of oddballs.” Check out his Facebook page.

Donald Miller is part of a loose network of evangelical thinkers and writers who are trying, in fact, is to make the Rose City the hub of a national network of unconventional Christian writers, which he’s calling the Burnside Writers Collective. There’s Chris Seay, author of books called The Gospel According to Tony Soprano and The Tao of Enron; McKinley, the pastor of Miller’s congregation, Imago Dei, published Jesus in the Margins: Finding God in the Places We Ignore in early 2005. Christian publishing is, by some estimates, the fastest-growing segment of the book industry.

Oregon Constitution on Free Speech and Expression

freespeechOregon is where speech is freer than anywhere else in the nation − or for that matter, perhaps the world.  Written in 1857, Oregon’s free-speech guarantee in an article of the state constitution. It reads: “No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.”

This language is broader — “any subject whatever” — than the First Amendment. During the 1980s, the Oregon court concluded that Article 18 forbids the government from passing laws directed at the content of what residents express. This jurisprudence has made Oregon’s free-speech law the most protective in the nation.

The city is known as one of the nation’s most livable displays some of the most offensive materials and nude dancing advertisements in the country. We also have many open protests and the state has a high number of strip clubs (2.6 per 100,000 residents). So don’t be alarmed if you see offensive ads and displays as it’s all about the Oregon constitution and not lax enforcement.

Want a cup of coffee served by a barista in a bikini? The Portland area has a half dozen such establishments, and they are not breaking any laws. Not to be outdone by bikinied baristas, the Casa Diablo vegan strip club in the Northwest industrial area of Portland claims to be the first vegan restaurant in the world that provides strippers while eating your vegetarian dinner.

Oregon One of First States to Legalize Marijuana

potland-shirtOregon voters in November 2014 voted by a margin of 55.6%-44.4% to legalize recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older, allowing adults over this age to possess up to eight ounces of “dried” marijuana and up to four plants per household. Additionally, the measure made the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) the job of regulating sales of the drug.

Marijuana producer, processor, and wholesaler may deliver “marijuana items” only to/on licensed retail premises. The new law creates an excise tax on all marijuana sold by marijuana producers at wholesale. Marijuana flowers are taxed at $35 per ounce. Marijuana leaves are taxed at $10 per ounce. Immature marijuana plants are taxed at $5 per plant. The excise tax will be adjusted for inflation. Also, the commission can make recommendations for adjustments to the rates for maximizing revenues, minimizing the illegal marijuana industry, and discouraging underage marijuana use.

Here is how the Oregon Marijuana Account is distributed: 40% to Common School Fund, 20% for mental health/alcohol/drug services, 15% for the state police, 20% for local law enforcement, and 5% to Oregon Health Authority.

The full text of the measure can be read here.

Story of “Pornland” is a Myth

With its reputation for porn because of its constitution, Portland also has another black mark against it. In 2010 the city became a magnet for national media reporting on child sex trafficking. With cameras rolling on 82nd Avenue, Dan Rather dubbed the city “Pornland” in a documentary. “Nightline” declared Portland the “epicenter for child prostitution,” and “World News With Diane Sawyer” called the city a “hotbed of sex trafficking.”

It has been reported that Portland police see an average of two cases of child sex trafficking each week. The problem: It wasn’t true. Sgt. Mike Geiger, the supervisor of the Portland Police sex crimes unit, said police don’t track such statistics. So how did Portland get a reputation it doesn’t deserve?

It started when Portland joined 28 other cities in the FBI’s Innocence Lost stings against child sex trafficking in February 2009. Portland was participating for the first time, so when police found seven underage prostitutes, it caught the media’s attention. The story proved too good to pass up, and it goes something like this: This picturesque city’s rampant strip clubs and permissive attitude toward sex allow wide-eyed suburban girls to be swept into prostitution. Portland’s location on the Interstate 5 corridor makes it a prime location to move girls up and down the West Coast. Fuzzy data and definitions − lumping under the “trafficked” label not only girls forced into the trade and moved place to place, but runaways who sell sex − fueled the frenzy.

But neither the federal government nor the state of Oregon tracks child sex trafficking or prostitution. Multnomah County and Portland police don’t either. The only local data come from the state Department of Human Services, which tallies Multnomah County youths whom someone reported as being involved in sex for sale.

Another FBI sting in October 2009 produced four girls in Portland. But the storyline stuck, in part because advocates pushed it to draw money and support to their cause. National media arrived, and politicians clamored to do something. Local officials even used it to their advantage to secure some federal money. Multnomah County cited the first sting and the city’s sex industry to land one of three $500,000 federal grants to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, including setting up a system to track cases. In its application, the county said it’s “particularly attractive to traffickers,” leading to a “particularly high prevalence of sexual exploitation of children.”

In summary, it is a horrible problem that lots of cities share, and Portland is no worse or better than others.

Source:  “Analysis: Despite reputation, no proof Portland is a hub for child sex trafficking,” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Oregonian, January 14, 2011

Portland Metro Area and Oregon Politics

people_republicHow liberal is Portland?  Very if you consider presidential elections. The first President Bush called Portland “Little Beirut” for the hostile receptions he could rely on, and his son didn’t fare any better. In the presidential elections of 2004, Bush received just 27.28% of the votes in Multnomah County where Portland is located, and John Kerry received 71.92% of the votes. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama got 54% and McCain 44%. In 2012 Multnomah County voters gave Obama 75.32% of the 348,885 votes cast, and Romney received 20.74%. As you travel east in Multnomah County, Republicans do better and even win some precincts. You can see from these numbers that Portland has been called the “People’s Republic of Portland.”

Conservative columnist George Will, a writer for The Washington Post, in an April 2014 column, wrote that Portland was the hometown of Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden — he referred to Portland as the “Vatican of Progressivism.” Was Mr. Will paying a backhanded compliment to Portland? Nope! It dawned on us that the Vatican was in such a terrible mess that even the new Pope lived off campus and commuted to work. So we surmised that George Will believes that Portland and the Vatican are both in shambles.

On some issues, the Portland metro area votes more like a block.  When Oregon had its vote on anti-gay legislation, the Portland area rose in opposition against it and outweighed the predominantly conservative rural areas of Oregon that voted for it.  In 2000, Measure 9 (prohibited public school instruction encouraging, promoting, sanctioning homosexual, bisexual behaviors) was defeated 55%-45%, with much of the 55% from the Portland metro area.

Multnomah County 2016 Presidential Election Voting

  • Hillary Clinton (DEM):  73%
  • Milt Romney (REP):  17%
  • Jill Stein (Pacific Green):  3%
  • Gary Johnson (Libertarian):  3%
  • Write-ins:  3%

To view the Multnomah County 2016 election results for all offices click here .  To view the State of Oregon 2016 elections results for state offices and measures click here.

The Oregon Republican Party broke Democrats’ 14-year lock on statewide offices in November 2016 with Dennis Richardson winning election as Oregon’s secretary of state. Richardson, the Republican nominee for governor in 2014, narrowly defeated Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. A social conservative in a stridently liberal state, Richardson campaigned to be Oregon’s “chief auditor,” bringing checks and balances to the state.

The Oregonian’s web developer, Mark Friesen, took precinct data from the 2012 presidential race to offer one gauge. He shaded the Portland metro area, including parts of Southwest Washington, red and blue. Red shows areas where Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, won a majority of votes. Blue shows where the Democratic president, Barack Obama, did. Shades deepen for areas with an, especially lopsided vote. Zoom in or out, and click any precinct to see vote totals and percentages for the candidates. Note how central Portland has the bluest hue, and that rural areas are more likely to be red.

Portland Voters Never Met a Tax They Didn’t Like

In the 1960s, voters turned down two-thirds of the tax measures the city put on the ballot. Over time, the ratio has reversed. In the past years, voters said ‘yes’ to over half of the tax measures in Portland. Three of the nine measures that failed fell victim to voter turnouts of less than 50 percent (though all three subsequently passed in November elections when the turnout rule didn’t apply). And Portland voters said yes to light-rail bonds in 1998, but the measure failed when more voters in Washington and Clackamas Counties said no.

In 2008, Portland voters approved tax increases for the zoo, Portland Community College and city children’s programs despite a struggling economy. If you lived in the city of Portland in 2012, chances were good you had three tax measures on your ballot as supporters of county libraries, schools, and the arts were all asking voters for money. All three measures passed. Measure 26-144, the $482 million Portland Public Schools improvement bond, passed 66% to 34%. The money from the bond will be used to repair, upgrade and replace schools. Measure 26-146 will fund arts and music teachers in Portland schools through a $35 per year income tax and it passed 62% to 38%. Measure 26-143 will create a permanent Multnomah County Library District by assessing up to $1.24 per $1,000 on a property. It also easily passed by 63% to 37%.

In November 2016 Portland voters narrowly approved a temporary 10-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline within city limits, creating the highest local gas tax in the state. The measure, which sunsets after four years, passed 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent. The tax is expected to bring in $64 million before it expires in late 2020. Of that, the city has said it plans to use 56 percent for road repairs and 44 percent for pedestrians and bicyclist safety improvements, particularly near schools.

Pick a Portland Neighborhood Based on the Election Results

  • Go to the Multnomah County Elections page.
  • Next, go to the  Archived Results and History page and select an election.
  • Under the “Abstracts – Results by Precinct” banner click on the Abstracts (results by precinct). This file will display the voting numbers (by precinct) for the election.  You may want to print some pages on this file as you will have to match the voting by precincts with a map of the precincts.
  • Locate the precincts on the Portland Neighborhood Map.

Washington County and Clackamas County Voting

map_2008presidentelectionIn the 2004 presidential election in Washington County (e.g., Beaverton, Hillsboro, etc.), Kerry won by 52.48% − Bush received 46.66%.  In 2008, Barrack Obama won by over 20 percentage points in Washington County − he received 60% of the vote and McCain got 38%. Of the 219,111 votes in Washington County, Obama received 57.14% of the votes, and Romney’s numbers were 39.74% in 2012.

In Clackamas County, an area of suburban communities (e.g., Lake Oswego, West Linn, etc.) just south/southwest of Portland, Bush won with 50.46% of the votes in 2004. Clackamas County voters were more generous to Romney in 2012 than other metro counties as he received 47.2% of the votes and Obama got 50.7%. Local issues resulted in 82% of the Clackamas County voters turning out to vote in the November 2012 election.

The map shows the results of the 2008 presidential election. Lots of blue with a bit of red in eastern Multnomah County.

Oregon Demographic Differences in 2012

Exit polls from the 2012 presidential race show some interesting demographic differences − including race, gender, education, income, and age − between Oregon and the rest of the nation. Oregon was one of only seven states where President Barack Obama won a majority of votes from whites − and those states all have relatively low minority populations.  Obama won 52% of the white vote in Oregon (53% in Washington state), compared to 39% nationally. These seven states (with the exception of Iowa) are clustered on the West Coast and in the Northeast, which is the most culturally liberal regions of the country and the heart of the Democratic base vote.  Some other key demographics:

  • Voters around the country with a family income of at least $100,000 a year favored Mitt Romney, 54% to 44%.  But in Oregon, $100,000-plus voters favored Obama 62% to 35%.
  • Oregon voters who have a college education are also much more likely to favor Obama than voters nationally.  Oregonians with a post bachelor’s degree sided with Obama, 64% to 33%, while Obama won this demographic nationally by a smaller 55-42 majority.
  • There was also an age difference.  Nationally, voters who were 65 and older went for Romney by 56%. But in Oregon older voters supported Obama by 52%.
  • Oregon was not much different from the rest of the country in one respect, and that is that women powered Obama to victory.  Fifty-seven percent of women voters supported Obama in Oregon, compared to 55% nationally.
  • Men here were evenly divided between the two candidates while Romney won the male vote nationally, 52-45.

The State of Oregon

Statewide Oregon is more of a blue state than a red state, and it appears that it is getting bluer with each election. By a fraction of a percent in the presidential election in 2000 and 2004 by a 1.5 percent points (Kerry got 51.54% and Bush 47.49%).  In 2008, Obama got 57% of the vote while McCain got 41%.  The 2012 presidential election gave Obama with 54% of the votes and Romney with 42%.

Oregon’s U.S. Senators are both Democrats (Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley).  Merkley defeated Gordon Smith in the 2008 election − he received 49% of the vote and Smith received 46%. Of the five members in the US House of Representatives, four are Democrats.

Voter registration in Oregon in 2008:  936,735 Democrats to 697,309 Republicans along with 433,959 Independents. By election time in 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans statewide by nearly 240,000 voters. But since their high-water mark in the November 2008 elections,  the percentage of Democratic registrants in Oregon has dropped from 43.1 percent to just under 40.2 percent as of July 2012, a drop of about three points. After suffering big drops in registration in 2008, Republicans have kept a relatively steady share of the electorate since.  They have 31.9 percent of the electorate, down just four-tenths of a point from November of 2008. In 2012 the Democrats held all six of the six elected statewide offices.

The Oregon Elections Division has a comprehensive website about Oregon elections at http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections.

State Offices and State Legislature

Oregon House members must run for re-election every two years. Senators serve four-year terms, with half the Senate appearing on the ballot every two years. A party needs at least 31 seats in the House and 16 in the Senate to control both chambers. The state legislature has been controlled by Republicans in the 90s and early 2000s.  In 2004, the Democrats took over the Senate by a couple of votes and held control by two senators in the 2008 election.  House Democrats, who had a 31-29 edge over minority Republicans, picked up six more seats in the 2008 election. In 2008, all of the state office holders were Democrats. The November 2012 election gave the Democrats a 16–14 majority in the Senate, identical to their advantage in the previous legislative session. In the House, Democrats took a 34–26 majority, up from a 30–30 split in the previous session.

Oregon Vote by Mail and Automatic Registration via Driver’s License

dmv_orgThe Oregon Legislature approved mail voting as an option for local elections in 1981.  In November 1998, Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 60, making it the first and only state to go to a complete mail-voting system.  Like Oregon Death with Dignity Law, the Vote by Mail statue has been challenged and the law upheld. 

Oregon residents may also register to vote when they fill out their driver’s license application or vehicle registration at the Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV). Voter registration cards may also be obtained at the following places:

  • County elections offices.
  • The Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
  • Voter registration drives.

Read more about Oregon’s Vote by Mail Law on the Secretary of State’s website.

Other Information

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research released a study in the Summer of 2005 and ranked metro areas as liberal or conservative.  Portland “Liberal Rank” was 29 and its “Conservative Rank” 208.  The report said that Portland’s “Liberal % of Total Vote” was 76.04 percent (Conservative was 23.96%).

This liberal thinking goes beyond the Portland metro area. When it came to casting judgment in early January 2013 in the U.S. House of Representatives on the deal to avert the fiscal cliff, Oregon’s House delegation sure didn’t vote like the rest of the country. While the package to avert sweeping tax hikes and spending cuts were primarily passed with Democratic votes over the opposition of most Republicans, we saw exactly the opposite in Oregon’s delegation. Three of the state’s four Democratic representatives voted against the deal while the state’s sole Republican representative, Greg Walden (represents the sparsely populated Eastern Oregon), voted for it. No other state had as many Democratic representatives voting against it, which you can take as a sign of the independence of the state’s delegation.  The three Democratic representatives voting no fits into a long pattern politically for them while also matching the politics of their districts.

The metro area has its share of conservative talk show hosts, the most popular one is nationally syndicated, Lars Larson. The Lars Larson Show can be heard on KXL radio station – 750 on the AM dial.

The Creative People of the Portland Metro Area

The Young and the Restless Scholars have increasingly highlighted the economic importance of talented workers, the people Richard Florida calls the “Creative Class.” These writers, designers, engineers, architects, researchers and others create the ideas that drive business success and regional progress. They’re the “Young and the Restless,” a powerhouse of creative and talented 25- to 34-year-olds settling in the Portland area at five times the national rate.  Metropolitan Portland ranked eighth among the top 50 U.S. metro areas in population growth in this age group; it was fourth in the growth of college-educated 25- to-34-year-olds, with a 50 percent gain. Portland gained young people from 43 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the nation.

Read the Young and the Restless: How Portland Competes for Talent report.  Research for the report was undertaken by Impresa, Inc. and Coletta & Company on behalf of Portland Development Commission, Westside Economic Alliance, City of Beaverton, City of Hillsboro, City of Tualatin, and Nike.

Greenlight Greater Portland, a privately funded economic development group, issued a “prosperity index” in early June 2008 that compared the metro area with nine other Western cities and touted its robust economic prospects over the next five years. Richard Florida was present at the release of the report.  Greenlight’s report follows in Florida’s footsteps, comparing business, demographic and quality-of-life in Portland to those of nine other hot metropolitan areas in the West, including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Austin, Texas. Greenlight predicts that Portland’s economy will expand 29 percent by 2013, outpacing all but Austin’s growth during the period.

Science Lectures Draw Inquiring and Thirsty Minds

Recent college grads, retirees, and working folks stream into the Mission Theater and fill their tables with pizza, burgers, and pitchers of beer. The topic of the night is engineering.  More than 200 people gather monthly at “science pubs” in Portland to talk about everything from the physics of fun to volcanology, from nanotechnology to engineering solutions for water shortages in developing countries.

When: Last Tuesday of the month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mission Theater at 1624 N.W. Glisan.  Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Suggested cover charge: $2. More information: OMSI Science.

Business and Economic Information

Oregon has two Fortune 500 companies: Nike and Lithia Motors. Nike is located in Beaverton, Oregon, a western suburb of Portland and Lithia Motors headquarters is in southern Oregon. Precision Castparts was a Fortune 500 company until Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett) purchased them in August 2015 and they became part of Berkshire Hathaway, a public company. Precision Castparts, founded in 1953, makes metal parts for airplanes, energy companies, and heavy industry. The company’s headquarters remains in Portland. 

The majority of Portland businesses are small to midsized, meaning they employ less than 500 people. Portland doesn’t have Seattle’s business mite − no Boeing and the high-tech wealth of Microsoft and other companies like Amazon, Avista, Costco Wholesale, Paccar, Safeco, and Starbucks.

Portland ranks number 21 in total manufacturing employment, though the number of manufacturing plants and industrial jobs statewide declined in 2010. According to data compiled by Manufacturers News Inc., which publishes industrial trade directories in every U.S. state, Portland had 46,787 industrial jobs as of December 2010. Houston topped the list with 228,226 jobs, followed by New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Overall, the nation’s top-10 industrial cities have lost 95,805 manufacturing jobs, or 8.4 percent, since the publisher’s last job tally in 2008.

Oregon manufacturers employed 176,000 in August of 2013, a number that’s climbed steadily since 2009. Portland, despite its fascination with the creative economy and green jobs, is still a city powered by rivet-welders and metal-benders. Roughly 32 percent of the Portland area’s gross domestic product comes from manufacturing, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s more than double the Motor City (Detroit, 15 percent) and more than triple the Steel City (Pittsburgh, 10 percent).

For many years, Oregon had a large wood products business, but that industry has diminished over the years.  Twenty years ago, only a handful of Oregon companies employed large numbers of manufacturing workers. Instead, Oregon became a destination for an earlier generation of manufacturers from California and Japan who were looking for cheap places to produce their wares. Drawn by Oregon’s proximity to the Silicon Valley and the Pacific Rim, and by a package of legislative incentives that exempted most of their equipment from property taxes, Intel, and other manufacturers launched a building boom in the 1990s, concentrated in Washington County.

Intel employs about 15,000 in the metro area, and there are numerous other semiconductor companies in the area.  No one has built a new semiconductor plant in Oregon since 2004, but Intel announced in 2010 that they plan to do so at their base in Hillsboro. The chip industry has largely shifted overseas, and Oregon had lost a third of all its high-tech manufacturing jobs since the industry’s peak early in 2001 − it lost 16,000 technology manufacturing jobs since 2001. As economic growth accelerated in Asia, though, developing countries lured manufacturers away from the U.S. with even better deals. New factories that might have added jobs in Oregon went overseas instead.

That’s not what state officials had hoped a decade ago when Oregon hoped jobs in a semiconductor plant would pave the path to the future. Big tax breaks opened the door to a spate of billion-dollar factories that added tens of thousands of jobs and began transforming the state’s image and economy.  Intel, Oregon’s largest technology manufacturer, spent billions in 2009 to upgrade one of its aging research factories in Hillsboro, giving the facility a central role in the company’s nascent push into mobile technology. The company is positioned to build another multibillion-dollar factory in Oregon sometime in the next decade, though it has made no commitments and is uncertain about the timing.

The new industry is solar.  Some solar companies have taken over the chip plants as this industry is growing and retrofitting a chip plant to the solar panel factory is relatively inexpensive. For example in 2007, SolarWorld AG, a German company took over a semiconductor plant in Hillsboro from the Japanese Komatsu Group for $40 million.  SolarWorld AG established an integrated solar silicon wafer and solar cell production facility in Hillsboro.  Solar companies are building new plants.  In early 2010, German manufacturer Centrosolar announced tentative plans to build a plant in Gresham. In October of 2009, a Chinese solar component manufacturer called Oregon Crystal Technologies also announced plans to find a new home there.  Ferrotec, a Japanese company with U.S. headquarters in New Hampshire, announced plans to built a plant in Fairview.  Ferrotec manufactures components typically used in the production of monocrystalline wafers, the type currently made by companies such as SolarWorld.

Many services-based ecosystems have bloomed in the last few years:  micro breweries, restaurants, bike shops, advertising agencies and apparel firms. It’s a business ecology that prizes progressive social values and livability, not raw wealth and power. Google and Yahoo. IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Dell. Xerox. Apple and Microsoft. Intel, of course. And in 2015 came Amazon. Nearly all the biggest names in technology have footholds in the Portland area. What Portland doesn’t have is a single big-name tech company of its own.

Due to the high cost of living in the Bay area and Seattle, Portland is attracting technology start-up companies as well as some of the established tech firms like those mentioned above. The commercial real estate firm CBRE added it up in early 2015 and found labor and real estate expenses in Portland run roughly one-third less than in the Silicon Valley. Similar economics fueled the influx of computer chip and printer manufacturers that created the Silicon Forest in the 1980s and ’90s.

A good example of taking this business ecology one step further into actual manufacturing is United Streetcar, LLC (a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, Inc.).  United Streetcar and SKODA have partnered to produce modern, efficient, American-manufactured streetcars and to be a pioneering force in increasing urban transit options throughout the United States.  In 2009, United Streetcar completed manufacturing the first Buy-America compliant modern streetcar for the City of Portland, Oregon. These cars will be on the streets of Portland in 2010. Other cities in the USA have expressed an interest in purchasing United streetcars.

So Much for Slacker Paradise: Portland the 12th-Richest City in America

In early November 2015, Bloomberg Business reported that the highest economic output per capita in the United States is in the tech-heavy heart of Silicon Valley. The 2014 output per resident in San Jose, California, was $105,482, more than double the national average. Contrary to the stereotype of Portland as a hipster-slacker paradise, Oregon’s biggest city came out smelling like roses in the Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers, too. Portland’s gross metropolitan product per capita in 2014 was $64,991. That’s 12th highest out of the top 100 metro areas. The top of the list is a who’s who of “emerging tech hubs” from Seattle to Durham, N.C., Bloomberg pointed out. “It’s no surprise that these high-output cities also have some of the densest concentrations of educated workers, reflecting the soaring returns to schooling in today’s job market.” The article says the diverging fates of high-skilled and low-skilled regions has been one of the most significant trends in the U.S. economy as well as other developed economies over the last three decades.

  • Portland is home to the largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books.
  • Largest employers in the metro area:  Intel (14,000-16,000), Fred Meyer, Providence Health System, Oregon Health Sciences University, Legacy Health System, Freightliner, and Nike.
  • Port of Portland  The Port is an 800-employee operation with more than $1.6 billion in marine and aviation transportation infrastructure and real estate assets that generates nearly $250 million in annual revenues. The Portland Harbor exports the largest volume of wheat in the United States, and the Columbia River is the third largest grain exporting center in the world.
  • Saturday Market is one of the largest open-air craft markets operating continuously in the country.
  • Oregon does not have a sales tax.
  • Oregon is one of two states that does not permit self-service stations so on rainy days you never have to leave your vehicle to ‘gas up.’  New Jersey is the other.
  • Portland Business Journal  An online source of business news for Portland.
  • Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability  Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) develops creative and practical solutions to enhance Portland’s livability, preserve distinctive places and plan for a resilient future.
  • Portland’s Consumer Price Index  All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was 244.190 (1982-84=100) in 2015. This means a market basket of goods and services that cost $100.00 in 1982-84 would have cost $244.19 in 2015. Local area CPI data are not seasonally adjusted.
  • Regional Business  The federal government ranks the Portland-Vancouver area as the nation’s 25th largest metropolitan area. It has a population of roughly 2 million people, of whom more than 1 million are employed. The gross metropolitan product — the total value of all goods and services produced in the region — is about $80 billion a year. Total output in the region expanded from $38.7 billion in 1992 to $76.9 billion in 2002, an annual increase of 7.1 percent per year over the decade, making it the 10th fastest growing of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Portland Metro Area Demographics

Portland, the whitest (76% white) major city in the country, has become whiter at its core even as surrounding areas have grown more diverse according to figures from the 2010 census.  The Oregonian did an analysis of the shifts in Portland’s population on May 1, 2011, in an article entitled, “In Portland’s heart, 2010 Census shows diversity dwindling.” Below are some of the findings.

Of 354 census tracts in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, 40 became whiter from 2000 to 2010, according to The Oregonian‘s analysis of the 2010 Census. Of those, two lie in rural Clackamas County. The 38 others are in Portland.

The city core didn’t become whiter just because white residents moved in, the data show. Nearly 10,000 people of color, mostly African Americans, also moved out. Pushed out by gentrification, most settled on the city’s eastern edges, according to the census data, where the sidewalks, grocery stores and parks grow sparse, and access to public transit is limited. As a result, the part of Portland famous for its livability − for charming shops and easy transit, walkable streets and abundant bike paths − increasingly belongs to affluent whites.

Overall, Oregon saw significant gains in communities of color, particularly with 64 percent growth for Latinos and 40 percent for Asians. Statewide, the nonwhite population climbed from 16 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2010. Portland as a whole grew more diverse, too, with its nonwhite population increasing from 25 percent to 28 percent. Still, the city showed small gains in diversity compared with most big U.S. cities and solidified its position as the nation’s whitest.

For the first time, Multnomah County, dominated by Portland, took a back seat to Washington County as the state’s most diverse. On the city’s inner east side, however, most census tracts became whiter, even those already overwhelmingly white.

Tracts along Southeast Stark Street, for example, climbed from 78 percent white to 82 percent, or 80 percent to 85 percent. Inner North and Northeast witnessed the most striking transformation. The area bounded by the Willamette River, North Greeley Avenue, Northeast Columbia Boulevard, Northeast 42nd Avenue and Interstate 84 lost about 8,400 people of color, including 7,700 African Americans, or a loss of one in four compared with the population in 2000. Today, about 29,900 people of color remain in a total population of 105,500.

Frustrated by the steady dirge, some of Portland’s black leaders have begun sharing another narrative. African-Americans aren’t disappearing, they say. Some are thriving. The number of black Portlanders increased 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. New Census data, released in 2016, shows the metro area had nearly 5,000 black-owned businesses in 2012, a 42 percent increase over five years. Jomo Greenidge, a black web developer who lives near North Portland’s Peninsula Park, worries it’s not just investors who don’t know black businesses exist. As the community disperses, Black residents don’t know where to find black-owned spots. So Jomo built BlackPDX.com, a website that morphed into something larger, a community hub aimed at telling black Portland’s stories.

To view data from the U.S. Census for the Portland metro area visit the Portland State University Population Research Center.  Below are the numbers from the 2010 census for Portland as well as the metro area:

  • Population  1,572,771 million people live in the Portland Metro area (Multnomah Country which includes most of the City of Portland), Clackamas County (southeast), Washington County (West), and Clark Country (Vancouver area of Washington state).
  • Portland Population  583,766 – a gain of 10.3% from 2000 numbers.
  • Same-Sex Couples Living in Portland  In Portland, same-sex couples makes up two percent of households according to the 2010 census. And about 60 percent of the state’s gay and lesbian couples reside in the metro area. The number of Oregonians who reported living in same-sex couple households increased nearly 68 percent from 2000 to 2010, from about 8,900 to 14,980.
  • Persons per Square Mile  4,375.3.
  • Age  19.1% under the age of 18 and 80.9% are 18 and older.
  • Race  72.2% white, 9.4% Hispanic, 6.1% black, 0.8% American Indian and Alaska Native, 7.1% Asian, 0.5% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 0.2% some other race, 3.7% are two or more races.
  • Housing  265,439 housing units in Portland. 93.6% are occupied, and 6.4% are vacant or seasonal.

Oregon

  • Oregon Population  3,844,195 live in Oregon as of July 1, 2010.  This represents a 12% gain from the 2000 census.
  • Households  614,568 total households.  63.7% of the households are family households, and 36.3% are nonfamily households.  49.8% are married couples with a family, and 9.8% are a female householder with no husband present.
  • Race/Ethnicity  80.5% are whites; 2.9% black; 0.9% are American Indian or Alaska Native; 4.9% are Asian, 0.3% are Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 4.1% are some other race, 3.3% are two or more races.  The Hispanic or Latino make up 8% of the total population.

For more details, download the document titled Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data for Oregon.

With a population of 2.26 million people as of June 2011, the Portland-Vancouver, Wash.-Hillsboro metro area is the 23rd largest metro area in the nation. According to a searchable On Numbers database compiled by the Portland Business Journal, Salem ranked No. 131 nationally with 396,145 people, Eugene-Springfield ranked No. 144 with a population of 354,969, Medford ranked No. 207 with a population of 205,460 and Bend rounded out Oregon’s top five population centers with a ranking of 255th and a population of 161,666.

Other Information About Portland

Portland Notablesrainman

Visit the page called Kudos to learn the “praises” as well as the “not so good” about Portland and Oregon.

Who Lives in Portland

Click here to view a partial list of Portlanders, people from or with connections to Portland, Oregon; a separate list of people from Oregon is available.

The TV series “Portlandia” wasn’t supposed to be making fun of the Rose City but I guess they changed their mind. Here is some dialogue:  “Remember when people were content to be unambitious, sleep to 11, just hang out with their friends; when you had no occupations whatsoever; maybe working a couple of hours a week at a coffee shop.” “Right, I thought that died out a long time ago.” “Not in Portland. Portland is a city where young people go to retire.”

Liquids

  • Portland has the highest per capita consumption of gourmet coffee bean in the US according to the New York Times.
  • Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city.  Portland has a couple of nicknames, “Beervana” and “Brewtopia,” to mark its thriving microbrewery industry.
  • 462 vineyards in the state – 47 wineries within 100 miles of Portland.

We Make Extensive use of the County Library System

  • In 2010, for the eighth year in a row, the Multnomah County Library system recorded the highest circulation in the nation for libraries serving fewer than one million residents. In 2009 and 2010, the Multnomah County Library had the second highest circulation rate in the country. Only New York City circulates more items.
  • The system circulated nearly 23 million items or 31 check-outs or renewals for every man, woman and child in the county in 2010.
  • Multnomah County has the highest collection turnover rate per capita − meaning its books, CDs, DVDs and other materials are checked out at twice the rate of the national average.
  • More than half of the county’s residents have a library card − about 431,000 cardholders for about 726,000 people.

Outdoors

  • Skiing at Mt. Hood Timberline is almost a year-around activity.  The high-speed Palmer lift begins operations each spring, and it whisks skiers close to the summit.
  • Oregon’s 363 miles of beaches and dunes are open to the public.  You can hike the entire coast except for 42 miles of headwalls (sheer cliffs).

Parks

  • Portland Parks and Recreation Department manages over 200 parks which amount to 10,763 acres.
  • Forest Park is the 14th largest city park in the USA.  Forest Park covers 5,000 plus acres, has 74 miles of trails, and 100 plus bird and animal species.
  • Mill Ends Park with a diameter of only 24 inches, is the world’s smallest park.
  • Mt. Tabor, in southeast Portland, is the only extinct volcano within a city in the USA.

Portland History

For decades, the basic guide to how Portland got where it is was E. Kimbark MacColl, author of three fundamental books on the creation of this city.  MacColl wrote three overlapping volumes tracing the growth of Portland from its origins to the mid-20th century: The Shaping of a CityThe Growth of a City and Merchants, Money and Power. The first book appeared in 1976.  The author died in 2011 at the age of 86.