Put on a happy face

You can't blame the local news people for downplaying Portland's many problems. Who wants to be a media outlet in a dying city? And so sometimes they can't help but cheerlead. A while back Willamette Week did a writeup on downtown that pretty much said, "It isn't that bad." This past weekend, the Oregonian informed the 47 people inside their paywall that the law firms and some other big businesses are "expressing their commitment to downtown" by reopening their offices and requiring their employees to come in.

Oh, they're committed, all right. They have signed big leases on huge amounts of office space. They're paying big bucks in rent. That's what's keeping a lot of them downtown, not any sense of confidence in the City Council, the county commission, or the police.

And of course, Covid has demonstrated to these companies that most of them can get along just fine with hardly any office space at all. Most partners and employees can work from home without too much difficulty. And they save a lot of time and money not having to commute. For this reason alone, downtown would be showing some signs of strain these days, even if it weren't plagued by homeless camps, open-air mental illness crises, crime, and recurring political rioting.

The law firms and utilities may twist their employees' arms to come back, but that isn't going to bring back the small businesses that have left, or take the plywood off the ones that are still around. And even big corporate retail has got to be wondering how long it will stick it out. Over the weekend one of the crazies who frequent downtown terrorized the shoppers in Nordstrom pretty badly. You read on the internet about roving gangs of young men storming into stores (and not just pot shops) and brazenly looting them in broad daylight, a practice known as "flash robbing." The folks at Apple, God bless them, have had to turn their store into a fortress.

Contrary to the rah-rah from the O, I'd guess that few business are genuinely committed to downtown Portland in the long term. Some are saying nice things, but everyone is waiting to see what happens next. With one eye on the door.

Meanwhile, if you want fantasy, just read the O. "Signs of renewal abounded this week... budding vibrancy..." They're embarrassing sometimes.


  1. And did you notice this in the article about the guy at Nordstrom's, "Lee was issued a criminal citation in lieu of custody". rinse and repeat. I'm sure we'll read about him again in the not to distant future as he seems t be a frequent acquaintence of law enforcement. From December 13, 2018; Officers took 21-year-old Tyler J. Williams and 34-year-old Tyrone Lee into custody. William was lodged in the Multnomah County Jail on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. Lee was booked on a parole violation warrant.


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