Tag Archives: portland

Rising rents are pushing out the artsy hipsters who made Portland cool

Portland has been a magnet for young, creative adults for over a decade, beckoning droves with its quirkiness, liberal appeal and quality of life. But the city’s popularity has had another effect: Those who helped make it cool can’t afford to live here anymore.

Evictions and skyrocketing rents are putting apartments out of reach for many, especially those working part-time, low-wage or artistic jobs. It’s even harder to afford a house.

Some Portlanders are now looking for better-paying work. Some are giving up and leaving.

“It used to be you could live in Portland on a part-time job, pay your rent, pay your bills and be pretty comfortable,” said Steven Olsen, 31, who moved to Portland from Missouri nearly a decade ago.

Olsen had hoped to raise his two children in Portland because of its progressive values. He now works full time doing medical billing and his wife works part time at Goodwill, but a recent $200 rent increase is forcing them to move back to Missouri.

“I don’t really want to live in Missouri, but I also want to be able to eat,” he said.

Experts say there’s a national “shortage of cities” as people seek out hip, urban lifestyles.

Unlike previous generations, today’s college graduates under 40 — the nation’s largest demographic — are moving in droves to neighborhoods in San Francisco, Seattle or New York, Portland economist Joe Cortright said.

Companies are also increasingly setting up in or near city centers, offering well-paid jobs to those graduates, Cortright said.

As more people move to urban cores, they’re competing for a limited number of rentals. Housing construction is still lagging behind pre-recession levels, data show.

Incomes also have remained flat, so people at the bottom income rungs — the working poor, the disabled and the underemployed, such as artists and freelancers _ are hit hardest.

In Brooklyn, New York, huge demand for housing and the arrival of wealthier residents have forced out young people, including the artists and hipsters who revitalized the neighborhood in recent decades.

Portland’s vacancy rate — about 3 percent — is one of the lowest in the country. The hot market has led some rents to double or triple, even in areas once considered less desirable, said Justin Buri of Portland-based Community Alliance of Tenants.

Entire apartment complexes are cleared out, the evictions followed by new owners renovating and increasing rents.

Some tenants, unable to find new rentals, have moved to hotels or doubled-up with family or friends, Buri said. Others face stress and depression as they’re forced to live far from their jobs and schools.

The growth also has priced out the city’s young creative types.

Susan Langenes and her husband, both professional musicians, lived for over a decade in an apartment complex with other artists. They created a community: cooking, gardening and playing music together.

But last year, when their building was sold, the tenants received no-cause evictions. After new owners renovated the complex, Langenes said, rents tripled. She and her husband ended up in Milwaukie, a small town 5 miles away.

To make ends meet, Langenes now works as a Web designer and plays gigs only occasionally. The city she’s lived in for years has lost some of its friendly, creative culture, she said, and forced her to change, too.

“That vision of Portland as a place where people can have the freedom to invent their own job and not have to fight the awful rat race to keep a roof over their head, it may be going away,” she said. “It makes me sad.”

Sondr Engvaldsen, who moved from Vermont to study graphic design, had to find a new apartment on the city’s outskirts and take on a roommate after his rent doubled.

Engvaldsen, who at 39 calls himself an “aging creative,” said he’s considering leaving Portland.    

“The do-it-yourself artist, I don’t think you have much of a chance of making a living here, unless it’s a side hobby,” he said. “It breaks my heart. I wasn’t planning to leave, but I’m scared I’ll be forced to.”

City officials say the construction of new multifamily housing will ease the crisis.

In the meantime, the Portland City Council approved rules that require landlords to give 90 days’ notice to tenants when evicting them without cause or raising rent by more than 5 percent. Previously, the requirement was 30 days’ notice in most cases.

Advocates are calling for a moratorium on no-cause evictions and for rent control, which is banned under state law. Cortright said rent control could make things worse for most people, except those who can score a rent-controlled home.

Raising wages — to $15 an hour or more — could help. But while higher incomes mean people have more money to bid on housing, it could push up rents even higher if supply is low.

The best solution? Experts say it’s shifting policies to make building new housing easier. And accepting change — including the city’s popularity and the fact that adding higher-density housing ultimately benefits everyone.

“People hate new development,” he said. “But it’s the price of success.”

Man urinates on other JetBlue passengers

An Oregon man faces charges after authorities say he urinated on passengers on a flight from Anchorage to Portland, Oregon.

Jeff Rubin, 27, was arrested early on Sept. 11 after JetBlue Flight 47 arrived at Portland International Airport, KOIN-TV reported.

A police report says passengers and airline employees told officers Rubin had been sleeping for most of the flight. About 30 minutes before landing, they said, he stood up and began urinating through the crack between the seats in front of him — and onto the passengers sitting there.

The report says he lost his balance and fell backward, splashing urine on passengers, seats and luggage.

The cabin remained pretty calm, said Suzanna Caldwell, an Alaska Dispatch News reporter who happened to be sitting two rows in front of Rubin.

It’s not like anyone was screaming. I didn’t even realize anything had happened until the flight attendants came up to me and told me police were going to come onboard,” she told the Anchorage newspaper for a story on its website.

Caldwell, who said she was not urinated on, said officers had to wake up Rubin when they got on board since he appeared to have fallen asleep again.

An officer then began interviewing passengers.

At one point, the officer was like, ‘Who got peed on?’ Caldwell said.

Rubin spent about five hours in jail and was released on his own recognizance. He faces charges of criminal mischief and offensive littering.

Rubin did not immediately respond to a message seeking comments.

Milwaukee, Portland artists unite at Inova

There’s a museum inside UW-Milwaukee’s Inova museum, temporarily. The “Milwaukee, Milwaukie Museum” celebrates both the largest city in Wisconsin and a suburb of Portland, Oregon, which share similar names. The space, organized by the photographic collective Milwaukee Comma, achieved mini-fame even before the main exhibition opened, with Mayor Tom Barrett issuing a proclamation marking June 26 as “Milwaukee, Milwaukie Museum Day.”

The exhibition it’s a part of should receive similar attention. Pacific Midwest 2.0 is a collaboration between photographers in Milwaukee and Portland who crossed paths out west at an earlier 2013 exhibition at Portland’s Newspace Center for Photography.

For this second iteration, the curating artists have scoured holdings from the Milwaukee County Historical Society and Portland’s Milwaukie Museum, threading them in with original works to make a space that exists between history, fiction and critique.

Milwaukee’s Kevin J. Miyazaki often operates in these areas in his photographs, frequently addressing his heritage as a Japanese-American. In “Three Important, Unknown Men,” two small portraits from the Milwaukee County Historical Society are placed alongside a portrait of his maternal grandfather, Albert K. Kimura. 

Miyazaki notes how Kimura finished a law degree from Northwestern University in the early 1900s, but when returning home to Hawaii, was unfairly prevented from passing the bar exam. These small portraits from the past show men of dignified appearance, formal and confident, whose near-anonymity shows how, with any life story, the fog of history grows thicker over time. 

Tender wrappings preserve personal history in Tara Bogart’s “1980’s Club Girl, MKE.” A table holds a variety of packages covered in slate gray paper. They are alluring, like presents to be unwrapped, but the real intention is protection. 

Familiar shapes and labels reveal what the wrappings hide: “Vogue Fashion Magazine, 1983”; “Clairol ‘Nice & Easy’ Hair Dye, Natural Mahogany Black, 1985”; “Depeche Mode-Black Celebration Album, 1986”; and “Ma Fisher’s Restaurant Menu, 1985.” Adding the artifacts together, it paints a vivid picture. Living memory still makes the touch of all of those things familiar even as they sink further away year by year. 

More to see

The museum portion of the exhibition is one enclosed area, but in the wider gallery space, these themes are further drawn out. 

Jon Horvath’s “Passages” is one of the largest and most elegant installations. It is composed of 26 photographs and Horvath’s corresponding documentation from a series of trips along rural Wisconsin highways — 2,786 miles over 71.5 hours. 

Small maps in white lines on stark black, recorded via GPS, show his routes. The maps have a quixotic charm, like old-fashioned Etch-A-Sketch drawings. Accompanying text notes things such as trip duration or average miles per hour, and are titled with a scrap of text from a passage in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. At the nucleus of each cluster are pairs of small photographs, placed flat on the table like documentary evidence. Their clarity speaks of Horvath’s strong technical and compositional acumen, as well as the gentle nuances of juxtaposition. 

The landscape gets stranger and far more disquieting in photographs by Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman. “Processed Views” takes its inspiration from Carleton Watkins’ (1829–1916) expansive western landscapes.

In Ciurej and Lochman’s contemporary interpretations, rugged terrain is recreated by artificial foodstuffs. Crumbled, colorful bits of cereal are formed into fanciful hills and rocks. The wholly unnatural blue of food dye is planted within a field of melting green Popsicles. Like a good sugar buzz, it is fun at first but the destructive truth of what passes for an edible landscape soon hurts the teeth and stings the brain.

Subjects take a darker turn in the side gallery. The straightforward narrative of Holly Andres’ “Summer of the Hornets” recounts the catastrophic discovery of a hornet’s nest by two young girls. Based on a true story from her childhood, Andres’ large-scale images feel like memories still fresh. 

Pacific Midwest 2.0 is undoubtedly a significant exhibition, not only for presenting work by some of Milwaukee’s most noted contemporary artists, but for the dialogue between our locale and the art community of Portland. While there is much happening in our own time and place, it is enhanced by the additional layers of artistic exchange with history and fellow contemporaries. 


Pacific Midwest 2.0 continues through Aug. 8 at Inova, 2155 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee. Admission is free. Visit uwm.edu/inova for more information.

Portland, Maine, imposing nickel fee on grocery bags

Consumers in Portland, Maine, this week will begin paying a nickel fee for the disposable shopping bag they carry from a store.

Portland is the first community in the New England state to both impose a fee for disposable shopping bags and also to ban polystyrene foam food and beverage containers. The intent is to reduce litter and help the environment.

To date, more than 130 municipalities have imposed fees for disposable bags, ranging from a nickel to a quarter per bag.

The polystyrene bans are not as common. Freeport, Maine, also bans the foam containers and the state prohibits food service vendors from using polystyrene at state-owned facilities.

Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic. A 1986 EPA report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste and 57 chemical byproducts are released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain — especially when heated in a microwave — that threaten human health.

Polystyrene foam dumped into the environment as litter can break up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems. Dumped into a landfill where trash is buried, polystyrene never degrades.

Arrested naked violinist sues, alleging excessive force

A Hillsboro, Oregon, man arrested after playing a violin while naked outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, last year is suing police.

The Oregonian reports that 25-year-old Matthew T. Mglej claims authorities used excessive force and violated his First Amendment rights. He named the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Portland Police Bureau as defendants in a lawsuit filed last week, and he’s seeking $1.1 million in damages.

Police showed up after receiving complaints about the demonstration, during which the man played violin, meditated and quoted former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They said they arrested him for indecent exposure and carried him to a patrol car when he refused to walk.

Mglej claims jail deputies cut his wrists by jerking on his handcuffs and called him names when he cried from the pain and for his service dog.

He has a hearing on the indecent exposure charge next month.

Oregon test: soy engineered for heavy pesticide exposure found in infant formula

The Center for Food Safety says genetic testing confirmed the presence of soy genetically engineered by Monsanto for heavy pesticide exposure in infant formula that is being sold in Portland, Oregon. The organization announced the test results on Food Day 2014 and in advance of a vote in Oregon on whether to label genetically engineered foods.

CFS and Dr. Ray Seidler, the first EPA scientist to study genetically engineered crops and former professor at Oregon State University, worked together on carrying out the testing. With recent published studies confirming that genetically engineered soy has significantly higher levels of chemical herbicides than conventionally grown soy, the test findings raise concerns about increasing infant exposure to chemical herbicides.

The testing follows up on a recent nationwide study by Consumer Reports finding genetically engineered ingredients in more than 80 common food products.

“I think most moms purchasing infant formula have no idea they are feeding their baby a product that has been genetically engineered to survive exposure to high levels of chemical pesticides,” Aurora Paulsen with Center for Food Safety’s Portland office said in a statement. “It’s no surprise that Monsanto is the top donor opposing Measure 92 which would give Oregonians the ability to know what foods have been genetically engineered. The presence of these products in infant formula being sold in Oregon really highlights the need for basic labeling.”

Seidler said, “Everything we know from the recent medical literature suggests we should be doing everything possible to reduce infant exposure to chemicals.  Finding soy in infant formula that has been genetically engineered specifically to survive high levels of chemical pesticide spraying is a real concern and takes us in the wrong direction.”

Genetic tests were conducted on three brands of infant formula bought at the Fred Meyer in Portland. Two products that tested positive for genetically engineered soy included Similac Soy Isomil and Enfamil Prosobee Powder Soy Infant Formula. Both products tested positive for Monsanto’s genetically engineered soy that is engineered to tolerate spraying with the herbicide glyphosate, as well as, Liberty Link soy that has been genetically engineered by Bayer Crop Sciences to tolerate spraying with the herbicide glufosinate.

Bird advocates oppose Army Corps plan to kill 16,000 cormorants

An environmental group is raising multiple objections to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to kill 16,000 cormorant birds on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary.

The government agency’s plan is to reduce predation of juvenile salmonids including salmon smolt by the birds.
The Army Corps plan to kill the double-crested cormorants over four years was outlined in a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The conclusions reached in the impact statement prompted the American Bird Conservancy to object this month in a 23-page letter to Sondra Ruckwardt at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District Office.
According to ABC’s expert, Dr. George Wallace, who wrote the comments and who is also the organization’s vice president for oceans and islands, “We have deep concerns… .The determination that the breeding population on ESI must be reduced to approximately 5,600 breeding pairs is not based on any rigorous or peer-reviewed analysis.”

About 15,000 pairs of double-crested cormorants nest on ESI. Adult cormorants are large, brownish-black birds with a small pouch of yellow-orange skin on the throat. ABC says the island provides excellent breeding habitat for the birds and a base from which to depart in search of small fish, which they capture in hooked beaks while diving into water.

ABC asserts that the lethal approach recommended by the Corps is offered “…without adequate justification and explanation of why the same result cannot be achieved through non-lethal methods.”

ABC says that the expected benefits to salmon hinge not in how cormorant numbers are controlled (through harassment or lethal control), but in the habitat modification that must occur to maintain the breeding DCCO population at the Corps’ target of 5,600 breeding pairs.
Furthermore, ABC says the recommended alternative would reduce the entire western cormorant population by approximately 25 percent. It is not clear if permits issued under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for this type of action can be legally used to reduce an entire regional population of a protected species.

ABC says further that the MBTA requires that permits for lethal control not be issued until it has been demonstrated that non-lethal methods are ineffective.
“Even then, lethal control cannot be the sole method of control and must be used in concert with non-lethal methods. We question the legality of issuing a depredation permit that apparently violates basic operating tenants of the MBTA,” Wallace said.

ABC also charged the Corps with misinterpreting scientific data to make its case.

Catholic group cuts funding to Portland nonprofit that supports marriage equality

A Catholic organization has decided to cut off long-standing funding to a Portland, Oregon, immigrant rights group that works with day laborers over its affiliation with an organization that supports same-sex marriage.

Voz Workers’ Rights Education lost a $75,000 grant in June from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is the national anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Catholic Campaign director Ralph McCloud said the group asked Voz to cut ties with the National Council of La Raza, a large Latino civil rights organization that endorses marriage equality, to be considered for the grant. Voz has been an affiliate of NCLR since 2009, primarily as a grantee.

After Voz refused to cut its ties, the organization “self-disqualified” itself from the funding process, McCloud said.

In June, the bishops approved more than $14 million in grants to 205 organizations. The bishops had supported Voz since 1994, via 10 grants, McCloud said.

“It’s certainly difficult and painful, because Voz has done some tremendous work,” McCloud said. “But it became obvious that they were assisting in something that was contrary to the teachings of our traditions. And we have to honor our donors’ intent that this money be spent on issues that are not contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Voz is not the first nonprofit to lose church funding because of ties to organizations that endorse same-sex marriage.

A coalition of conservative Catholic groups led by the American Life League has criticized what it sees as lax administration by the Catholic Campaign and has been working since 2009 to call attention to CCHD grantees with activities, positions or affiliations with other nonprofits that contradict Church teachings on abortion, contraception and gay rights.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted a review of the grant program and adopted several changes in 2010 that were designed to clarify the eligibility rules and strengthen the application review process. As a result of the review, nine nonprofits that were part of coalitions led by groups that supported reproductive rights or same-sex marriage no longer qualified for the funds, McCloud said. Others chose not to apply, or re-apply.

Community organizations serving immigrants and the poor in Colorado, Illinois, California and several other states have either had to decide whether to forgo their grants or sever their relationships with larger groups whose views the church considers problematic.

The lost grant represents a large bulk of Voz’s annual budget of $310,000, said Voz director Romeo Sosa. But he said the decision to withdraw from the grant competition allowed Voz to maintain its values.

“Marriage equality is not the focus of our work; we focus on immigrant rights. But we work with everyone, we don’t discriminate,” Sosa said. “There may be gays and lesbians among our staff or workers, and we can’t turn our backs on them.”

Local labor, immigrant rights, and groups that support gay rights have vowed to fundraise for Voz to fill the financial hole left by the grant’s loss.

Out gubernatorial candidate leads Maine’s Pride parade

A Democratic candidate who reluctantly came out of the closet last year found himself serving as the grand marshal of Maine’s biggest gay Pride parade and festival Saturday and urged activists to continue fighting to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

Mike Michaud, who would become the nation’s first openly gay person to be elected governor if he unseats Republican Paul LePage in November, said it would be powerful for the gay community to have a seat at the table in discussions with governors across the country on equality issues.

“Maine has come a long ways and our nation has come a long ways, but there’s still a long way to go,” he said in an interview before he marched alongside a white convertible down the roughly mile-long route in downtown Portland.

Gay rights activists say the six-term congressman’s victory would be a key milestone in their movement toward equality, inspire other gay leaders to pursue public office and send a positive message to the community’s youth.

When Michaud came out publicly last year, he said he didn’t want to focus on his personal life in the three-person race with independent Eliot Cutler.

But his potentially historic candidacy has caught the eye of national groups like the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has bundled $30,000 to $50,000 for his campaign.

During the parade, which drew thousands, Michaud shook hands and took pictures with supporters who chanted “We like Mike” as he walked in front of the “Loud and Proud” marching band.

He followed motorcyclists wearing rainbow wigs and feather boas and the parade’s two other grand marshals — the coordinator at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity and a transgender student who won a discrimination lawsuit after her school refused to let her use the girls’ bathroom.

Aside from fundraising, observers say Michaud’s sexual orientation will likely have other political importance in one of the first states to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box in 2012.

It could turn away some deeply conservative and religious voters, but they likely wouldn’t have supported the Democrat anyway, said Michael Cuzzi, a former Democratic campaign strategist.

Michaud has come under fire from his political foes for voting against anti-discrimination laws for gays and other pro-equality measures while in the state Legislature. His campaign said his position on the issues has evolved over the years and he’s now strongly pro-equality.

That turnaround and his decision to come out could attract progressives who were not fans of his in earlier elections, said Sandy Maisel, political science professor at Colby College.

Michaud is headlining a group of several openly gay candidates around the country this year, including Heather Mizeur, who’s seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland. Meanwhile, three candidates are trying to become the first openly gay Republicans to be elected to Congress: Dan Innis in New Hampshire, Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio in California.

If elected, Michaud wouldn’t be the first gay governor. New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey had already been voted into office when he announced in 2004 that he was gay and admitted to an extramarital affair with a male staffer. He subsequently resigned.

Twenty-nine year-old Amber Hodgkins, who was watching the parade with her dog, said a victory for Michaud could improve Maine’s image nationally as an inclusive community and provide a powerful example to young gay people across the country.

“You don’t have to choose to be out or have a career,” she said. “You can have it all.”

Michaud currently leads by a slim margin in the polls.

Marriage equality a reality in Oregon

A federal judge on May 19 struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling was effective immediately.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled the ban is unconstitutional, clearing the way for gay couples to marry that afternoon.

McShane wrote, “At the core of the Equal Protection Clause … there exists a foundational belief that certain rights should be shielded from the barking crowds; that certain rights are subject to ownership by all and not the stake hold of popular trend or shifting majorities… I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows luring in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community… .Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other … and rise.”

A motion by the right-wing National Organization for Marriage to intervene in the lawsuit and wage an appeal was filed before McShane’s ruling with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And it was denied before McShane’s ruling.

The judge ruled in a case brought by four same-sex couples who argued the state ban discriminated against them and other gay couples and excluded them from a fundamental right.

The couples and their attorneys found support among their state officials, who did not defend the ban in court and vowed to immediately comply with a ruling against the ban.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, responding to the news, said, “Today’s ruling from Judge McShane affirms what a majority of Oregonians already knew: discrimination has no place in our society, much less the state constitution. The plaintiffs and their tremendous attorneys Lake James Perriguey, Lea Ann Easton, Perkins Coie LLP, the ACLU of Oregon and the ACLU, should be incredibly proud of their historic victory. Thanks to their willingness to fight and the decades of work done by groups like Basic Rights Oregon and countless others, America is now one giant step closer to full equality nationwide.”

More than 70 lawsuits, including one in Wisconsin, are in the courts challenging anti-gay marriage laws in 30 states. A challenge also is pending in Puerto Rico.

Oregon, unless there is a surprise and further court challenge, becomes the 18th marriage equality state. Same-sex couples can also marry in the District of Columbia.

“It’s an historic day for Oregon,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement.

He added, “In our personal lives, most of us share the aspiration to find someone we love and settle down to make a life together. To be able to share life’s joys and trials. To create a family together. To be able to celebrate that love and declare publicly in front of friends and families our lifelong commitment to that person we love. And now, in Oregon, this most basic freedom — to marry the one you love — is a reality for every Oregonian.”

Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at the national Freedom to Marry, helped organize for marriage equality in the state. Zepatos said, “Today Judge McShane did the right thing for families, affirming that the denial of marriage to committed same-sex couples in Oregon is unconstitutional. In recognition of the strong support for marriage among Oregonians, no one with legal standing, including our state attorney general, wanted to go down in history as defending discrimination.

“Across the country, the courts agree: same-sex couples and their families need the protections of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. With over 70 marriage cases now making their way through the courts, today’s decision in Oregon underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

More reaction: 

Justin Pabalate, an Oregon resident and longtime volunteer with Marriage Equality USA, worked as a field organizer for Basic Rights Oregon. He said, “After working long, hard, endless hours to bring the freedom to marry to Oregon, I am overwhelmed with joy to finally have the chance to say ‘I DO!’ in front of my friends and family.”

Tracy Hollister, MEUSA program manager and a former Oregonian, said, “I’m delighted to hear the news that my home state of Oregon has become our country’s 18th freedom to marry state! Marriage Equality USA and the National Equality Action Team have been standing by ready to provide national phone banking support for the ballot initiative to win marriage in Oregon in case it was needed. With today’s decision wedding bells will ring out across Oregon, and we will redirect our volunteer power to other states to build even greater support nationwide for marriage equality.”