After 18 years of living in Portland, I’m no longer a resident. It’s a damned shame what happened to the city, but I couldn’t justify living there anymore.
When I first moved out there, I was in my 20s and the entire city seemed like a dream come true. Beautiful trees and architecture, great bookstores, breweries and coffeehouses, reasonably priced rent. For a city where no one would call themselves a capitalist, everyone seemed to have a side hustle of some sort; everyone I met and knew was working on their own line of kombucha or had an art studio, scrappy businesses like Pok Pok and Ruby Jewel were just starting up, food carts were popping up with dreams of brick and mortar locations. The job market was crap, but the other benefits more than made up for it.
Right now, Portland is a complete and utter shitshow, putting it mildly. I’m paying the same amount in taxes (maybe a little less!) to live in Clackamas County, and school class sizes are smaller, there’s a functioning police force, and I haven’t had to step over a fentanyl addict or cross the street avoid tents or had to swerve out of the way of someone standing in the middle of the street and screaming at the sky. The difference is night and day.
The problems with Portland are largely self-inflicted. There isn’t a culture of competence at the city or county level. There’s a general sense amongst voters that every ballot measure is a magic wand that will automatically fix every problem without bothering to check the fine print as to how preschool for all might work, or how hundreds of millions of dollars would magically create an army of qualified drug counselors and facilities.
There’s a shitty and very loud minority that honestly believe that broken windows and porch theft are victimless crimes, that any business that expects to be able to operate without theft, assault and probably worse are secret fascists and that everyone who owns a home is a piggy bank for funneling money to “the unhoused.”
There’s a non-profit system that ironically seems to be profiting from large budgets, no audits, and no expectation of results.
And then there are the junkies. The enabling environment has meant that Portland has become a Mecca for criminals with zero intention of cleaning up or contributing anything. They victimize the homeless people who would actually benefit from services, the people who can’t afford to pack up and leave their neighborhoods (I realize I’m lucky to have been able to do so) and they make just about every provided service burn through their budgets just cleaning up after their messes. Firefighters should be spending their time fighting fires, not constantly resuscitating people for the tenth time that week.
I wish I saw some hope for Portland as a city, but I don’t feel like waiting around to see if common sense catches on.