“Build more roads, watch out for liberal ideas.”
That’s the advice that Portlander John Jagosh gave to the city of Boise last month, in a letter published here in the Idaho Statesman.
John blamed progressive ideas like light rail and legal marijuana for “essentially [ruining] my town,” and he warned Boise residents to avoid the same pitfalls, lest “your beautiful parks and walkways [become] filled with tents, debris and human waste.”
John was expressing a view that’s shared by plenty of Portlanders — but it’s hardly a majority opinion here in Portland.
So we asked Bridgeliner readers to fill in the gaps that John missed. Here’s some of what they told us:
Listen John, I hear you. Portland isn’t perfect. We face many complex challenges and the process of solving problems can be messy and consistently disappointing – on that we agree. Your recent letter to Boise residents reeks of nativism and exclusion. Your attempts to evoke fear in hopes of encouraging them to be close-minded and to resist change is both an unsophisticated approach and honestly, insulting. My hope is that the people of Boise see through your short-sighted rhetoric and instead embrace the next chapter of their growth with courage and hope.
Portland’s not as full of “liberal ideas” as you might think. A dark history of racism in housing exists in all U.S. cities but presents itself differently. We see that legacy in the plight of houseless people across the city, who are more likely to be people of color. “Liberals” might react with a moral claim of the right to housing, and “conservatives” might resist spending government dollars serving the houseless. It turns out they could agree on the solution: the cheapest way to end homelessness is to provide housing. Portland isn’t there yet, but we’re tackling these issues from a number of angles — some are “liberal,” like requiring landlords to pay moving costs when their rent increases displace families, and some are “conservative,” like removing regulations that hamper housing supply.
Dear Boise, you’re a pretty city in a lovely setting, but you are about to become the next Portland. Here’s some advice: Don’t sneer at Californians. Everyone is from somewhere. Embrace progressivism. I know it’s Idaho but come on. Grapple with those big ideas: affordable housing, climate change, public school funding, infrastructure, the arts. Love your neighborhoods. Have a form of city government with council members representing districts. Ignore the advice of people like John Jagosh, who called Portland “my city” when he doesn’t even live in the city itself. Listen to all the diverse citizens within your own city limits.
Any progressive-thinking city will someday be where we are, if they want to attract the highly educated workforce that delivers the prosperity cities cherish. Surely there are problems here, but better to manage challenges in a prosperous city than one fighting continuous poverty.