Editor’s Note

New Terrain

By Paige Williams May 19, 2009 Published in the April 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Koichi Fujii

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with angst during these tumultuous economic times. With the state’s unemployment rate pushing 10 percent, the bottom seems nowhere in sight.

You, our readers, need solid information right now: expert insight, hard numbers. We created this year’s Real Estate package with that urgency in mind, knowing that whether you’re trying to buy or sell a home, or simply figuring out whether to stay put, you might want to know which neighborhoods show promise, which ones are stagnant, and which ones are posting positive numbers. Associate editor Brian Barker, research editor Martha Calhoon, and their team of reporters spent months compiling and vetting the information, and talking to Portlanders about their experiences in the market. Although the nation’s overall economic news hasn’t been good for a while and may not improve for months to come, bright spots remain: interest rates at historic lows, a federal relief plan to help Americans keep their homes, and, in Portland, an abundance of interesting, beautifully livable neighborhoods.

Creative director Hector Sanchez and I considered a cover that played off the iconic World War II–era British propaganda poster “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Yet while it’s surely important to keep one’s head amid rapid changes and uncertainty, it’s just as critical to think quickly—to push through this mess with foresight and intelligence and use it as an opportunity to position ourselves for the future.

A few months ago, as the nation focused on President Obama’s federal stimulus package, a group of powerful, innovative Oregonians convened evenings and weekends here in Portland and crafted the Oregon Way, a strategy to compete for millions of those stimulus dollars.

As contributor Ted Katauskas tells us in Green Machine, the economic think tank, commissioned by Governor Ted Kulongoski, proposed a visionary plan that provides a framework for businesses and nonprofits, in partnership with state agencies, to submit proposals for public-works projects that would use locally sourced materials and save energy and/or water. In other words, they’re talking about generating thousands of local jobs while reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint. And because a governor-selected panel of public and private sector appointees (and not legislators) would help decide which applicants go before the federal government for approval, Oregon might avoid the bureaucratic infighting and unimaginative earmarks already afflicting other states.

If the Oregon Way works, other states might follow.

Portland already enjoys a reputation for putting innovative public-works ideas into action. It’s exciting to think Oregon now has the chance to use its brain trust to revive the local economy and maybe, someday, do the whole nation good.

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