You have read many sad stories on Yoursurvivalguy.com about the city of Portland, OR. If you’re a new reader, here’s a sample:
- Walmart Evacuates as Portland Spirals Out of Control
- “OUR CITY IS IN PERIL” Portland Business Owners Plead for Help
- WOKE WOES: Portland Sinks Under Crime Wave
- Murders SOAR in Portland Where Police Were Defunded
- PORTLAND DEFUNDED POLICE: Homicides Rose by 1175%
- Portland Police Take a Stand Against Politicized Prosecution
In a piece in City Journal, Michal J. Totten describes the city’s descent into chaos, including anarchy, drugs, homelessness, and crime, and then explains how Portland, once “blasé” about its collapse, has finally seemed to acknowledge the problems and begin to take steps to remedy them. He writes:
All along, the most frustrating part of Portland’s downward spiral was how blasé city officials were. Call the police, and they say they’re too busy. Report a homeless camp on an elementary school playground, and it’s still there, months later. Call in an open-air drug market, and nothing happens. Report your twelfth break-in this year, and the city sends thoughts and prayers. If the cops do manage to nab the culprits, the county often puts them right back out on the street.
But Portland is now scrambling to hire as many new police officers as it can, with as close to unanimous approval as one can reasonably expect, though training new hires and shepherding them through the academy will take time. The city is also rolling out new Portland Street Response teams to deal with nonemergency mental-health and behavioral-health calls, which became an increasingly heavy part of the police workload before the cops became too overwhelmed to handle it anymore.
In October 2022, just weeks before last year’s election, Mayor Wheeler (who was not up for election that year) announced a plan to ban unsanctioned camping in the city, phased in over 18 months—and, as a court-mandated alternative, to build six 250-person homeless “campuses,” each divided into two sections for 125 people, where camping is authorized and which include on-site sanitation, security, and addiction and mental-health services. Wheeler promises that these sites will be located as far from residential neighborhoods and business districts as possible.
The proposal infuriated progressive activists and self-described experts who think that it will be “harmful and counterproductive.” Yet the plan enjoys more than 80 percent support among Portland residents, and it won nearly unanimous backing on the city council, with only Hardesty voting against it before she left office. Leaving aside the devastating impact of more than 700 homeless encampments throughout the city, abandoning distressed human beings to live in filth and garbage with zero security and no structure or services is appallingly cruel. Not a single person aspires to live like this, and advocate protestations aside, nobody will miss these camps when they’re gone. “I have these so-called experts telling me I’m inhumane!” Wheeler said. “Because I’m asking people not to occupy our public spaces wall to wall. At some point for me I’ll take common sense over expertise.”
Some neighborhoods have already gotten relief. My wife and I moved to a historic suburb two years ago from Portland’s inner-southeast Sunnyside neighborhood, where our house was sandwiched between two chronic homeless camps, one at an elementary school playground and the other at Laurelhurst Park. I learned to avoid both areas on my daily walks but still had to endure garbage, untreated mentally ill folks screaming at invisible enemies, people picking through my trash can, drug-addled people passed out on sidewalks, and so on. But I visited the old neighborhood recently and found it restored to normal. Both camps were gone, with one permanently dismantled for a pickleball court and a skate ramp.
On November 2, 2022, the city council unanimously passed resolutions to create diversion programs and paid jobs for the homeless, affordable housing, and targeted mental-health and addiction services. Multnomah County is taking an even more radical step with a program to pay landlords a year’s rent to house homeless people, starting with those living in and around downtown Portland before housing people farther east. This isn’t a sustainable solution, since nothing is stopping the homeless population from replacing itself by drawing from elsewhere in the city, from neighboring counties, and even from neighboring states (the Oregon–Washington state line runs right through the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area). But governments scramble during emergencies, and voters won’t allow the city, county, and state to let this emergency fester any longer.
At the same time, Oregon has a new governor, Democrat Tina Kotek. She nearly lost to the moderate Republican Christine Drazan—partly because she competed in a three-way race but mostly because outgoing governor Kate Brown left office as the least popular governor in the United States. Brown had neglected, utterly, some of the state’s most urgent problems. Roughly half the state’s population lives in the Portland area, and Brown likely would have lost had she run for reelection herself. But Kotek proved different, perhaps because she herself is from Portland. She saw the same things everyone else saw. On her first day in office, Kotek issued three executive orders: one creating the Housing Production Advisory Council, with the goal to build 36,000 housing units per year, an 80 percent increase over current levels; another declaring a state of emergency regarding the homeless population in parts of the state where homelessness has risen by more than 50 percent since 2017; and a third to reduce the homeless population even in parts of the state that have not seen steep increases. These orders by themselves fix nothing, of course. The devil will be in the details: some efforts will work better than others, and some might not work at all. But Kotek nevertheless did more to address Portland’s crisis on her first day than Brown did in her entire time in office.
Is Portland changing its trajectory? Denial, buck-passing, and excuse-making seem to have yielded to urgency, honesty, and reality. The sour mood has softened, and expectations are rising. The mayor promised to reduce fatal shootings by at least 10 percent, but so far in 2023, they’re down by more than 50 percent. In a public opinion survey published in February, 78 percent of respondents said that quality of life in Portland was declining—still a terrible number, but 10 percentage points less than a year ago. At least rhetorically, elected officials are taking these problems seriously. “A significant number of people on our streets are very unwell,” the mayor said. “We did this to ourselves, and we did it intentionally with 30 to 40 years of neglect of our mental health infrastructure in our state. It took decades to get where we are, and it’s going to take a long time to dig ourselves out of the hole.”
Action Line: You can only hope that America’s big blue blob cities will have a change of heart and renew themselves with policies that actually make sense. Until that happens, your best bet is to find a better America in Your Survival Guy’s 2023 Super States. Click here to sign up for my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter and make yourself a Survivor.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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