A comment came in to this blog late last night that deserves a post and discussion of its own. A reader writes:
My Portland story isn't all that different from those of many others who have left, but I feel it's worth telling. Over the years, my political and philosophical values have been re-shaped by living in this city. I'm thankful.
My spouse and I have lived in the Portland Metro Area for most of our lives, including the last couple of decades. We have owned a home in the City of Portland for nearly that long. Now we are selling and leaving for good.
We were happy to move back to this area twenty years ago when the economy was relatively better here. Back then, the cost of living in Oregon was markedly lower than it is now, and there was less government overhead.
At first we rented in the suburbs. When the time came, we wanted to own in the City of Portland. I didn't think much about the political or financial implications at that time. It just seemed like fun.
We bought our first home on the east side, just after the last drug house left an otherwise nice neighborhood. We soon learned that we had squirrelly neighbors. Although generally quiet, bullets occasionally whizzed by.
One round broke the window of my car while it was parked out front. People sped by at all hours. Hmm. Even locals didn't respect the neighborhood. Families dumped their picnic trash right in the park's grass.
My commute was by car at first, but then I started busing downtown. Long bus rides, but I was still willing. Bus problems slowly ramped up. One fight at Lloyd Center had me trapped in the back, with nowhere to go.
The Multnomah County income tax was a real thorn in my side, but still I did not leave the city or county. Even when we were ready to move away from the first house, I chose to stay in Portland proper. Why?
We moved to a closer-in (and arguably nicer) neighborhood. We hoped to improve our lot, and it was exciting. The new neighborhood was even more walkable, convenient to downtown, and otherwise full of activity.
I replaced 7-gallon toilets with low-flush. There was no rebate or incentive; I paid for it because I felt like saving water. I would have made more upgrades, but the cost of living soaked up money that I would have used for improvements.
We donated our second car, and I committed to the bus. Then Frequent Service became rather infrequent. Even at that, scheduled runs frequently went missing. This route is frequently at crush capacity at 9AM.
TriMet removed the trashcan at my stop, and now there's a drift of garbage around the shelter, which is vandalized frequently. Meanwhile, sketchy guys ride by slowly on stolen bikes, peering up my driveway. They don't seem worried about arrest.
We were never allowed to plant street trees (parking strip was too narrow), but we were aggressively billed for leaf pickup. CoP built lovely bioswales all over the neighborhood, reducing street parking. The road surfaces are always in need of repair.
There's still one of those WiFi cans hanging from a light post. I never was able to connect, although it's only 100 feet away. The main street into our neighborhood is closed for many months, and many narrow stretches are effectively one lane.
Remember, this is a "nicer" neighborhood. We are paying IMHO high property taxes (over $1/sqft) on a very modest lot. Taking out the trash has now become a trial. The slop bucket is terribly messy, and the price is far too high for half the service.
The neighbors have turned out to be mostly shrill, judgmental, and dismissive -- they are reflexively political on every issue. In Portland, taxpayers and homeowners are held in contempt -- even by taxpayers and homeowners. I never understood that.
Plastic bag bans. Mandatory ethanol in the gas (terrible for my mileage, causing me to burn more). Cigarette butts in my grass. Solicitors nagging me all the time (the sign is useless). Normal city life? Sure. The shiny happy Portland image? Heck no.
The Portland and Multnomah governments are an embarrassment. The thought of them representing me is a joke. I give up. We're buying in a smaller community, in another county. Feel free to conduct your social experiment without us.
For now I still work in the city, but my goal is to remedy that as well. I used to love just being downtown, but no longer. I enjoyed walking through downtown, PSU, Riverplace, and using MAX to visit the Zoo area. It just seemed safer.
Now I wouldn't ride MAX at all, and it's neither safe nor enjoyable to walk many places in downtown during the nice months. People have been assaulted in the secured office building where I worked. Folks will move in if you don't constantly patrol.
Lasting image: A smug junkie taking a big dump in the rose bushes in the Park Blocks, right in front of the Art Museum. This was mid-day in summer -- tourists, grandparents, children, &c. everywhere. The police can't do a thing about it.
Drifters also use the Eastside Esplanade as their bathroom. Another place I used to go frequently, but never go anymore. Occupiers can move in and crap wherever, but if I step off the curb a second early, it would be a big fine -- because I can pay.
I'm not moving into a new McMansion -- it's a remodeled older home, with many energy-efficient upgrades. The lot is several times the size, but the property taxes are much less than what I pay in Portland.
I quite like recycling, reducing, &c. -- I just don't like having the whole green lifestyle crammed down my throat by government. We're reaching the state where that which is not forbidden is mandatory. Has this ever worked anywhere? Of course not, but please don't point that out.
As you can see, I tried it their way -- over and over -- and they wore me down. I want to have choices, to be left alone. I wouldn't move back to either Portland or to California -- both are going to encounter disaster before they can recover.
Then there's the matter of billions in unfunded retirement funds, and all of those quietly-obtained bonds to pay off. My new municipality isn't perfect, but they learn from their mistakes. They are too small to waste on that scale.
Yes, there is still Metro, TriMet, etc. in my area. I still pay for precious toy trains through state and federal taxes. No, the little town isn't perfect, and I don't expect to have zero problems -- but at least I have a fighting chance.
Now I'll be happy to get a second car (used). I've got plenty of room to park it, and I'll enjoy much more freedom. I'll still ride TriMet, but not for every trip. Sure, my commute is longer -- but I'm willing to make that tradeoff.
If I could do that in Portland, I might -- but that's implausible... unless you're already wealthy, of course. For regular middle-class folks, it's "flight" (retreat) to the suburbs. Boring? Perhaps. Defeat? I don't feel that way.
I'm originally from a rougher city, and I harbor no illusions that Portland is tough turf -- now, or in the Eighties. It's the juxtaposition of the crunchy Portlandia image versus the sick reality that bothers me. It was never true.
The city's apologists are free to deride me. They'll scoff, they'll pigeon-hole... but they suffer, and don't seem to realize it. Their system practically demands that people fulfill all of the stereotypes they project. I'd rather not participate any longer.
You may see my tale as a litany of complaints, without a solution. I've offered solutions, but they aren't welcome here. Until the self-satisfied celebration of self-destruction finally consumes itself, we choose to step out of harm's way.
Goodbye Portland... I already missed you years ago.