Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cortright & Company Editorial

I finally got around to reading the editorial from Joe Cortright & company in last week’s Oregonian.  I liked the substance and philosophy behind it.  Particularly the proscription to attend to details:

Statistics can too easily mask the story that we really need to understand: what makes each company and each worker in the Portland region successful -- or not. We need to ask why a company founder came to or stayed in Portland, what prompted her to start her company and what factors made her successful -- and what would make her leave or quit. We need to understand what makes a successful worker want to be here, what will make them stay and what will improve his value to the company and the broader society. Those stories -- which will have different nuances for each profession and industry -- can't be told by the statistics alone, regardless of how we slice and dice them.

I consider myself a successful worker, here are my answers to the questions posed.  What made my wife and I move here was the progressive social culture and political values, the relatively low cost of living, and the perception that Portland Public Schools offered acceptable educational opportunities for our kids.  What would make us leave is Portland’s peculiar relationship with the past.

While Portland’s nominal political values are unabashedly progressive, there is knee-jerk parochialism when it comes to growth and development.  From Memorial Coliseum to the proposed Wood Village Casino and many things in between, it seems that every proposal for economic development is met with fear and loathing.  Portland suffers from a form of collective hoarding syndrome.  It risks drowning under mounds of once useful but now purposeless buildings and structures, preferring mindless nostalgia to the uncertainties of change.  I don’t see how the city can thrive in the 21st century with that attitude, it affects everything from jobs to education.

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