The Weekly Standard on Portland

Yesterday, the notoriously conservative The Weekly Standard published a story about Portland online. It is a scathing attack on Portland.

I understand some of the attacks:

1. it really does rain 6 months of the year

2. the city’s slogan “The City That Works” is a bit preposterous. A number of people joked that it should more accurately be “The City That Works FOR LESS.”

3. home ownership is prohibitively expensive. I guess he has a point on high state income taxes, but he also fails to note that there is no sales tax. Let me repeat myself: there is NO sales tax in Oregon, which is pretty awesome. Also, the minimum wage is much higher than most states.

4. hipsters do turn the noses down on anyone who is different, but the Willamette Week is an extreme example. You won’t find that kind of an article in Pulitzer-Prize winning The Oregonian or The Portland Tribune. And probably not even in the other alt weekly The Portland Mercury (neither alt weeklies is very good, not very surprising since they are both offered up for free). But being someone concerned with the working class, I’m pleased he brought the issue up and it is a serious issue there. But it’s a serious issue everywhere.

5. You often hear about the vast number of strip clubs, but I have to admit when he pointed out that Portland has 56 compared to 30 in Vegas, I was a little startled.


Overall, it’s kind of nice to see a critique of Portland because, as the author points out, The Old Gray Lady has offered praise. And more praise. And more praise to the point it’s gotten kind of old. The author is harsh on the public transit. Light rail actually is used heavily by residents, despite his claims (And how would he know, anyway? He lived here briefly after college and hasn’t returned in years). The public transit for all its flaws is one of the best systems in the country. Also, public education is outstanding in Portland, something not often seen in metropolitan city. He doesn’t bother to explore the large immigrant community either. Having worked with tons of immigrants in Portland, I appreciated Portland’s diversity not seen to the out-of-state visitor (in this case, a reporter trying to make a sweeping judgment despite having NOT lived here for years). I think Portlandia captures Portland pretty well. It’s an awesome place to live, but it does have a fair share of major problems that can make for great comic fodder. I’m glad the author points out these problems, but I would have appreciated a more even-handed take. Maybe he felt he had no choice given the way The New York Times fawns and drools over Portland.


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