Tag Archives: Portland

Portland, you have a problem

PORTLAND, Ore. — Allow me this paraphrasing of the comment astronaut Jim Lovell relayed to Earth when his moon ship was damaged in space: Portland, you appear to have a problem.

I say “appear” because appearances are all I have at this moment.

Driving through Portland this afternoon along Interstate 5, I noticed a number of tent clusters. I have heard, along with other Americans, about the homeless problem in my hometown. Today I saw evidence of what I have heard.

The clusters of tents also contain considerable amounts of litter, trash, debris. Quite unsightly? Yes! It assuredly is hard to look at.

Here’s my question: What is the city doing to alleviate this problem?

No community anywhere wants to be known as a haven of sorts for homeless citizens. Yet that is what I believe is occurring in this lovely city of about 650,000 residents living in a greater metropolitan area of 2.5 million folks. Portland has become a great city. It is attractive. It has a vibrant river running through it, which then empties into one of the world’s great rivers on the city’s northern boundary. It has a downtown district that has become — even with the spate of violence seen here in recent times — the envy of other cities.

But it does have this homeless population that requires safe housing in which to live.

Is the city up to the challenge it faces? Man, I hope so.


Hometown = municipal pariah

PORTLAND, Ore. — I have returned to the very city where I was born … and which has become a whipping boy for those on the right who believe it has become some sort of “woke” haven.

Whatever that means!

You’ll remember the “defund the police” movement that flared after several incidents involving Blacks who had died in altercations with law enforcement officers. Portland became a sort of ground zero of that movement.

Protests got out of hand in some neighborhoods here. There were reports of violence, of government office buildings burned, of arrests made by cops.

One could surmise that Portland had gone rogue, that it was a city in flames, that its streets are filled with homeless people sleeping in tent cities under bridges.

I’ll speak briefly to the last point, which is that I saw few tents under bridges as I made my way through Portland along Interstate 5.

I glanced out the truck windows as I whizzed along the interstate and noticed that the city is still mighty pretty, even with the low overcast sky and the drizzle that persists here.

I am looking forward to examining the city, to reconnecting with family and friends, to receiving hugs from those who want to comfort me in my time of grief.

Moreover, I intend to see for myself what the city looks like — up close and personal — as I visit neighborhoods throughout this lovely place.

I’ll get back to you on what I find.


All I could do to resist starting an in-flight incident

OK, where do I begin in telling you this brief tale of what happens when your jetliner seatmate makes what you believe is an unreasonable request?

I’ll start with this …

I boarded an Alaska Air jet this morning in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for a four-hour flight to Portland. I had booked the flight via an online agency, which means I didn’t get to select my seat; the airline did it for me.

It was a middle seat. A gentleman sat on the aisle; a lady sat at the window. They were husband and wife. The seat between ’em was vacant; it belonged to me. So, I sat down. The lady said she preferred the window, her husband liked the aisle “and no one likes the middle seat.” We both chuckled.

We took off. Then the husband and wife began passing food back and forth in front of me. Sandwiches and chips went from set of hands to the other.

Then the lady leaned over and told me that I should be sure to keep my arm off her side of the arm rest that separated her seat from mine. Sure thing, ma’am. Will do.

Then I guess I let my arm drift just a smidgen over onto her side of the arm rest. She pushed my arm back. I glared momentarily at her.

Then came the best part. The jacket I was wearing had flopped over onto her side of the arm rest. The pocket contained a couple of small items that I guess she found annoying. Then she lifted my jacket and stuffed it on my side of the arm rest.

Hmm. I glared again at her. That’s when I realized I had to sit with my arms folded across my chest. I dare not rest them at my side out of “concern” they would cross into her space.

I turned to hubby, asked him if I could get up to stretch my legs. I went to the back of the aircraft, chatted up the flight attendants who were sitting in the galley. I told one of them about my annoying seat mate; she responded with the usual “We get that on occasion” replies.

I took off my jacket, put it in the overhead bin, sat back down and then sat quietly — which is what I normally do on commercial airliners — for the duration of the flight.

Am I wrong to think the lady was being a bit too bossy?

My only regret now as I settle in for the night is that I didn’t look for a chance to tell her that “We’ll get off this plane soon and you and I will never see each other ever again.” 

Amarillo need not replicate other cities’ success


When I get a chance to travel to other cities that can boast of robust downtown districts, I often think of the community I’ve called home for more than 21 years.

Amarillo is in the midst of a serious downtown revival. They’ve broken up some pavement, leveled some land, poured some slabs and begun erecting structures downtown.

More of it is on the way.

I just returned from a few days visiting my hometown, Portland, Ore. It’s gone through a decades-long downtown revival that’s still on-going. Heck, it might never end.

That city turned a moribund downtown district into a rousing, sometimes raucous place where people enjoy a robust night life and spend a little time and money shopping in retail establishments.

I’ve written about what I saw on my latest visit to Portland. However, I do not want anyone to presume that I believe what the Rose City has done can be replicated here on the Texas Tundra.

Portland’s municipal population is approaching 625,000 residents, with about 2.2 million folks living in a sprawling metropolitan area that covers several counties — and even reaches across the Columbia River into Washington state.

Amarillo’s population is just a shade less than 200,000, with a metro population nearly double that amount.

Do we have the resources here to replicate what other larger cities have done? No.

My intent in calling attention to what Portland has done, or what Oklahoma City or Fort Worth have done with their downtown districts, is remind us here in little ol’ Amarillo that we must think creatively.

All three of the cities I’ve mentioned — Portland, Fort Worth and OKC — have done so. Oklahoma City used a public investment tax to rebuild warehouse district into Bricktown; Fort Worth used some public/private investment in creating Sundance Square; Portland scrapped a planned highway project and redirected money into creating a robust downtown district.

Amarillo has developed a Strategic Action Plan that took form after years of public hearings and discussion. It, too, involves public and private money. Indeed, the vast majority of downtown Amarillo’s progress has occurred with private money. The city created a downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that uses money derived from increases in property value within that zone to help finance needed projects.

We’re thinking creatively here. That, I submit, is the first step in a long march toward revival.

Do the city, civic and business brain trusts think we can emulate dollar for dollar what bigger cities have done? I hope not.

They shouldn’t shy away from doing what they can, however,  with what they have.

Rain offers new appreciation

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain beating on the front of my house.

It was music to my ears.

The sound used to be like fingernails on the chalkboard. It annoyed me. I was a lot younger then, growing up in a community known for its incessant rain.

Portland, Ore., is a lovely city. It’s full of tall timber and lots of flowers. It’s called the City of Roses and every June, it stages a festival honoring the roses that are in full bloom. The highlight of the festival, for me, was the Grand Floral Parade through downtown Portland. Mom and Dad would take us every year. We’d get there early, find a nice spot on the parade route and wait for the sounds of the drums.

It seemed to rain every year on our parade, though.

Which brings me to my point.

I hated the rain as a kid. I griped about it constantly. My parents tired of me always complaining.

Then I grew up, went away for a couple of years to serve in the Army, came home, got married and eventually my bride and I moved to Texas.

We gravitated to Amarillo more than 20 years ago.

It doesn’t rain nearly as much here as it does in Portland, or in Beaumont, where my family and I lived for the first 11 years of our Texas residency. It’s not that Portland gets a lot of rain each year, it’s that it seems to drizzle constantly. We could more rain in Beaumont in an hour than would fall in Portland in a month.

I’ve come to appreciate the rain much more now. The Panhandle drought has awakened me to the value that rainwater brings to everything. To the economy, to our ability to function as a society, to the fulfillment of our basic needs — such as quenching our thirst and, you know, bathing.

I won’t complain ever again about too much rain.

Growing up teaches us the value of things that used to annoy us.

Today, I intend to enjoy the sight and smell of the rain.

This 'forest' seems lacking of trees

TONTO NATIONAL FOREST, Ariz. — Can you call anything a forest, even when it lacks trees?

I think you can. My wife and I drove through a place today that is called “Tonto National Forest,” but to be candid, what we saw for much of our lengthy drive looked nothing like a forest as I understand the term.

The feds own a lot of land out West. Many states west of the Rockies comprise land that is owned by the federal government. So I guess the feds can call their land whatever they want.

National forest?

OK, not all of Tonto National Forest is as I’ve suggested. Much of it from the Phoenix-Mesa region is sprinkled with cactus plants. Yes, they are impressive specimens. They tower over the high desert landscape. And yes, there are many thousands of the cacti all across the hilly and even mountainous terrain.

As we traveled north, though, we did encounter trees that blanketed the mountainsides.

“There’s your forest,” I muttered to my wife. We chuckled.

I was a bit reminded of the time, in 1974, my wife and our very young sons and I drove south from our home in Portland, Ore., way south to visit my father-in-law just north of San Diego, Calif. As we came down out of the mountains north of Los Angeles, we noticed a sign: “Leaving Angeles National Forest.”

I asked my wife, “That was a national forest?” The land was even more barren than what we saw today.

I guess when you hail from the land of seriously tall timber, you expect to see “forests” that actually fit the description.