Here’s to the Messy Parts of Portland

August 21, 2006


Wonderful piece in Sunday’s O from Portland State University Urban Planning Professor Carl Abbott. The following is an excerpt; the rest is here.

The Pearl District may be fashionable and North Mississippi Avenue extremely cool, but 82nd Avenue is necessary. This corridor of asphalt, car lots and old-world politics keeps Portland honest.
I’ll admit it’s not beautiful. It doesn’t have the hottest clubs or gallery-hopping First Thursday crowds. But 82nd Avenue from Sandy Boulevard south to the Clackamas County line does things no city can do without.
First, the street reminds us that our economy still requires things. Words and ideas may be the stock in trade of college professors and the creative class, but cities need places to find used travel trailers, scout out discount appliances and hunt down new sound systems installed in beat-up Toyotas.
A couple of years ago I bought a small pickup. I wanted to cover the cargo bed so my 12-year-old golden retriever could stay dry when we drove around on errands or headed up to Mount Hood. My Yellow Pages list four firms on 82nd Avenue that fabricate and install pickup canopies, including Canopy Corner and Canopies Unlimited, and two more within shouting distance.

…This brings up a third way that 82nd Avenue and its neighborhoods keep Portland honest. When these kids grow up, they’ll be a potent force in Portland and Multnomah County politics. Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, Portland annexed a large chunk of eastern Multnomah County (while Gresham took in much of the rest).
The result has been to dilute the political clout of the comfortable West Hills and the trendy inner east side. The precincts east of Mount Tabor consistently are more skeptical about government and more forthright about bread-and-butter issues.

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