Compared with cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or even Seattle, Portland is small. But we like it that way. Though Portland contributes its share to cyberspace, it is also concerned with human space. Portland is the home of groundbreaking biomedical research and world-class firms for animation, advertising, and athletic wear. Yet it is also renowned for its amiable, everyday civility, for its dedication to wise planning and public transportation, for its charming neighborhoods, for its bookstores, sidewalk cafes, and pubs. The parks contain more forest than any city in the nation. People ride their bikes or walk to work. The library serves coffee. Portland is a city where the fire department will still come to your block party.
Portland is an attractive city with a friendly skyline in a beautiful region of the country. Its setting, in a fertile valley ringed by mountains and bordered by the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, shapes the character of the city in ways that residents tend to take for granted. But the beautiful country surrounding us and within the city itself commands great loyalty—a loyalty that extends to the way we live and work. Many local businesses, for example, are consciously devoted to growing and creating products that draw from our regional abundance, and many others are devoted to using and promoting these products. We work hard to maintain our quality of life.
But we are also a playful city. Citizens prize their parks and libraries. Neighborhood coffee shops and brewpubs are busy long into the night. Workers may leave the downtown area at 5 p.m., but they are soon replaced by recreators attending the theater, the movies, the ballet, the symphony, or the opera, strolling the boulevards, stopping for dinner or a glass of wine. On the weekends, crowds gather at the Saturday Market, at the Farmers’ Market, at the river. Or people head up to the mountains or to the coast. We know how to have a good time.
Sometimes we lose our way. But when that happens, Portland rises to the challenge. When our downtown area was dying in the 1970s, the community—the residents, businesses, government—came up with a plan to save it. When sprawl began to threaten farms and forests, we created an innovative regional government to coordinate growth, create places where people want to live, preserve green spaces, and organize public transportation. This feature of Portland life extends to the entire state. When beaches were under siege by acquisitive developers, Republican governor Tom McCall insisted that we keep the entire coastline open to the public, up to the high tide line, resulting in higher property values for owners and sublime beaches for everyone. We have our share of problems, but we do not feel helpless before them, and our efforts to solve them represent an enormous amount of creativity and goodwill on the part of our citizens to try to work things out.
As a result, we have a clean, safe, interesting city. We have a city where you can still send your kids to public schools. We have a city where you can sit on a downtown park bench in peace. We have a city where you can talk to the farmer who grew your vegetables and the brewer who made your beer. We have the largest independent bookstore in the nation and one of the most well-read populations. We have a city where you can escape to the forest on your lunch break. We have space to dream and plan and hope and the resources to make those dreams, plans, and hopes come true.
These are the reasons we love our city, and we think you will love it too. This appealing mixture of nature and culture, of sophistication and friendliness, draws people from all over the world to visit, and sometimes when they have visited, they want to stay. Who can blame them? The population gets bigger, but we retain the small-city values that define us. There’s room for everyone.