beaver boundary

place, politics and power in oregon

Emerald Empire: Eugene Reclaims Second-Largest City Status November 20, 2007

Filed under: Geography — taoiseach @ 2:33 pm

Kudos to the people of Eugene, who have once again saved the state of Oregon from relative embarrassment by reclaiming its status as the second-largest city from Salem. The populations of each city hover around 150,000, and the vibrantly crunchy Emerald City has just recently outpaced the drab and dull Cherry City in growth. This information is according to the Population Research Center at Portland State University (warning: Excel file) and comes courtesy of the Eugene-based Oregon Ecology blog.

Even if you prefer Salem for cultural or provincial reasons, you may root for a faster-growing Eugene if your politics are left-of-center. Of course, Eugene is a liberal haven that almost always supports Democrats (though its home county, Lane, is particularly against local taxes). All of the Eugene area‘s state representatives and senators (5 of the former, 3 of the latter), are Democrats, and future growth may mean more seats allocated to the Emerald City and its environs. By contrast, the Salem-Keizer area is served by 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats in the House, with 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat in the state House. Though the Salem area may be politically moderate, it consistently sends Republicans to the statehouse. Moreover, in contrast with the Eugene-Springfield area, Salem-Keizer seems to disproportionately claim a larger share of legislative district.

Should Eugene’s growth as the second-largest city continue apace until the 2010 census, the Democrats could hold out hope for a shift of one or two Salem-area districts further down I-5. Of course, this may make the Emerald districts more competitive for Republicans, but one would hope that the GOP would simultaneously lose their geographic advantage in Salem-Keizer.

But for now, the Boundary will take the consolation that Salem has been bumped down another notch among Oregon’s largest cities. Though, it should be said, even its status as third-largest city greatly overstates its prominence among Oregon’s cultural attractions.


OR GOP: Out of Touch with Time and Distance October 29, 2007

Filed under: 2008 General,Geography,Jeff Merkley,Oregon GOP,U.S. Senate — taoiseach @ 3:28 pm

Doomed missionary Marcus Whitman often has this quote attributed to him: “My plans require time and distance”.

It’s an expression that’s doubly lost on the Oregon Republican Party and its erstwhile digital mouthpieces, Oregon Catalyst and NW Republican, in a botched attack on a Democratic candidate.

First, the OR GOP fumbled a rudimentary understanding of geography and distance. In a press release issued earlier this month, Vance Day and his minority party wrongly criticize U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Merkley for failing to take his campaign ‘east of the Cascade Mountains’ during its inaugural phase. In fact, Merkley and his staff had visited Deschutes County before the break of the GOP’s press release. Twice.

But apparently we were all supposed to know what they meant–not ‘east of the Cascades’, as they originally stated, but ‘Eastern Oregon’. Talk about literally moving the goal posts a hundred miles or so just to make a stupid press release seem consistent. Maybe the OR GOP can’t afford a proofreader in these tough times for the ultra-right wing?

Not content to call ‘Mulligans’ on the first foul-up, the OR GOP had to come out all wrong on time, too. Today the Catalyst and NW Republican blogs chastise Merkley again for failing to come to Eastern Oregon, instead of just ‘east of the Cascades’. Problem is, both articles came the very day after Jeff Merkley announced his extensive tour of Eastern Oregon! Perhaps before issuing an attack article, the OR GOP and its blog spots would do well to make sure that there are in fact grounds, or at least facts, for such an attack.

It’s obvious that the OR GOP directed the Catalyst and NW Republican to post this–NW Republican even has a graphic that says “Authorized and Paid for by the Oregon Republican Party” on its post. It’s a coordinated effort, and since it’s so badly botched, it has the fingerprints of party leaders Shawn Cleave and Vance Day all over it. Such incompetence is standard from both blogs, but the synchronization of this attack’s execution clearly points to the blundering leadership of the Oregon Republican Party.

With the OR GOP seriously screwing up an early attack, as it has with both attempts of this geography gaffe, it suggests that there are some serious gaps in the Party’s research abilities. Is the OR GOP so worried about Gordon Smith’s weakness in Eastern Oregon that they need to stoke the base with such flimsy material? Smith’s re-elect numbers are surely swirling in the toilet, but that definitely isn’t helped by Cleave’s butchering of an attack that was lame to begin with.

Take a look at Jeff Merkley’s Eastern Oregon kickoff agenda over at new blog Lefty Lane. It’s an extensive tour that undoubtedly went into planning well before the GOP’s first press release.

We’ll have to wait for Shawn Cleave’s next gaffe, but probably not for too long. Unlike Marcus Whitman, he’s too impatient for time and too ignorant to understand distance.


Interstate: Geography and Utility October 17, 2007

Filed under: City of Portland,Geography,Multnomah County — taoiseach @ 5:36 pm

With a stated commitment to ‘Place, Politics and Power in Oregon’, one would think that the Boundary would have alredy weighed in on the current debate over renaming Portland’ N Interstate Ave as César E. Chávez Boulevard. What strikes this blog in the back-and-forth is the lack of discussion about the geographical utility of the name Interstate.

If you’re not familiar with Portland, the first lesson in its geographical division would have to be the five quadrants of the city (yes, that’s right), which may contribute to the most basic sense of place felt by city dwellers. Burnside Street, five blocks north of the Willamette Baseline (also known as Stark Street), serves as the dividing line between the north and south halves of the city. And generally, the Willamette River divides the west and east halves of the city. The exception to this rule is North Portland, which sits as a wedge of sorts between Northwest Portland and Northeast Portland. Williams Avenue serves as the boundary between North and Northeast, and it runs along a north/south axis along an imaginary line that extends from the intersection of the Burnside Bridge with the east bank of the Willamette River.

InterstateNorth Portland has a number of north-south thoroughfares, though the length of each one shortens as one moves from east to west due to the narrowing gap between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Only one major thoroughfare spans the entire length of North Portland, from its origin in the Lloyd District next to the Steel Bridge on up to the Interstate Bridge (which actually contains Interstate 5). Much has already been said about the MAX Light Rail line that runs along the street; a little less has been mentioned about the eventual extension of the line to Vancouver, WA that will create an actual interstate connection.

The name Interstate reflects the simple connection that Interstate Avenue has with Interstate 5. It runs 2 blocks west of the freeway for almost its entire length. Conveniently, drivers attempting to find I-5 in North Portland need only find Interstate to be close to the real thing, and they can even merge on to I-5 North from Interstate at Delta Park. The name Interstate obviously refers to the connection between Washington and Oregon, which is entirely governed by a north-south axis. In terms of transportation for the Portland-Vancouver area, that axis consists of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Interstate 5, Interstate 205 and the ships that cross the membranous Columbia.

Geographically, Interstate has more utility than just about any other street in North Portland, and much of that would be lost if the name of the street changed to a name that did not refer to the north-south characteristic of the street and its proximity to I-5. This is especially important because of North Portland’s eastern boundary is not very well defined for most Portlanders, and I-5 serves as a stand-in of sorts for N Williams Ave. The Boundary would bargain that a poll of most Portlanders would show that most think I-5 is the eastern boundary of North Portland, not the lesser-known N Williams Ave, even though the streets are 13 blocks apart. Changing the name of N Interstate Ave. to a non-geographic term could have the unintended effect of blurring the already tenuous North Portland boundaries.

Of course, utility is but one element of a sense of place. But in a city where diversity and tolerance promote divergent and distinct senses of place, on what can process ride besides utility? The current situation, which may lead the City to a decision that makes no one happy, can only run on plurality.

UPDATE: Blogtown PDX’s Amy Ruiz breaks the news that Mayor Potter has called for a public vote on the proposal to change the name of Interstate Ave. to César E. Chávez Boulevard.


Lengthen Candidate Residency Eligibility October 2, 2007

Filed under: Geography,Multnomah County,Oregon House 2008,Primary 2008 — taoiseach @ 5:41 pm

With at least three Portland-area state representative candidates running in districts in which they have hardly lived for a small number of months, let alone years, it’s high time to consider measures that will curb elective border-crossing. Under current election law, a candidate wishing to represent a district must live in that district at least one year preceding the date of the general election. That means that a future 2008 candidate for the state legislature would need to move into the district they wish to represent by November 4 of this year–leaving fully one month for all sorts of geographical jockeying of our representative democracy. The one-year residency requirement under Oregon election law, especially combined with Oregon’s short legislative sessions, allows well-known insiders to make an end-run around the spirit of single-member districts, and for this reason it should be lengthened to at least two years.carpetbag

Because of Oregon’s biennial and short-running sessions, legislators, as incumbents, are more likely to announce re-election intentions (or the lack thereof) at the end of the session, usually three or four months before the one-year residency deadline takes effect. Just think of how many legislators have announced that they won’t be coming back next time: 8 Republicans, plus at least 4 Democrats seeking higher office, have done this in the state House alone. Insiders are preternaturally attuned to this sort of information and therefore have an advantage in that window between the incumbent’s announcement and the residency deadline.

When a well-known insider, or erstwhile lucky politico wannabe, gets the information that a seat is opening up, they’re not running to serve the best interests of that particular district; they’re running to serve themselves by traveling the path of least resistance. Sure, it’s hard to challenge an incumbent, and sure, some districts have higher ambition rates than others. But in Oregon, our single-member district system comes out of a deep-seated respect for and adherence to the democratic principle of ‘one person one vote’. That’s the reason we had to toss out multiple-member districts in the mid-20th century–because the many diverse parts and communities of interest within Portland were represented at large by a varying number of representatives.

By extending the residency requirement from one year to two, we will dramatically reduce the high level of musical chairs currently underway by a good number of Portland’s legislative candidates. The two year requirement will take district residency outside of the calendar imposed by Oregon’s election cycle and will generate candidates that better reflect the values and attitudes of the district in question. Yet, its relative brevity in terms of elective requirements reflects the dynamic nature of living in Oregon.

This change probably cannot be implemented until the 2012 election cycle, but perhaps its consideration will heighten the awareness of the territory-shifting insider candidate and provoke responses accordingly.


Kate Brown kicks off campaign, brings it home in southeast Portland September 30, 2007

Filed under: Executive 2008,Geography,Primary 2008 — taoiseach @ 5:12 pm

Sept. 26 – The Produce Row cafe, nestled in the industrial east bank of the Willamette River in Portland, was filled with lawyers and political types as state Senator Kate Brown finished up her one day campaign kickoff tour of the state. On a normal Thursday evening, the Produce Row spot might have 15 or 20 young patrons, but on this night close to 200 people packed the small bar’s two rooms and outside deck–most of them quite a bit older than the venue’s usual clientele.

The crowd at the kickoff that night, as well as Brown’s success in making four stops across Oregon in one day, reflects Brown’s status as the leading contender for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 Secretary of State race. Her campaign has raised at least $80,000 since the end of the legislative session (and probably much more after the kickoffs)–far more than her two competitors this far, state Senators Vicki Walker of Eugene and Brad Avakian of Beaverton. Each of Brown’s competitors has raised under $10,000, according to the campaign finance records online at the Secretary of State’s website.

While Brown is making clear gains with her campaign, it’s not final that the Democratic field has settled in the Secretary of State primary. State Senator Rick Metsger of Welches, a moderate member of the caucus who is allied with business interests, has indicated that he’ll likely enter the race. At that point four out of the eighteen Democrats of the Senate will be campaigning for the office, with at least one other member campaigning for a statewide executive office as Senator Ben Westlund of Tumalo runs for Treasurer.

But none of that Democratic competition is the most exciting part about the Secretary of State race. The best part about the statewide races of 2008, including Treasurer, Attorney General and Secretary of State, is that no Republican has stepped forward to even indicate a modicum of interest in running for any of these positions. And if that hesitation is based in anything, it’s the fear that they will lose badly to any of the Democrats that are currently running. Eleven of the last twelve statewide elections, including those for U.S. Senate and President (but excluding judicial races), have been won by Democrats, and the last Republican to win a statewide executive post was Jack Roberts in 2002. Roberts subsequently lost a statewide campaign for Supreme Court in 2006.

Democrats are excited about their prospects in 2008, and the result is a crowded house in the Attorney General and Secretary of State primaries. The enthusiasm of the Brown campaign in these early stages does not mean her nomination is inevitable; rather, it is indicative of the surging Democratic agenda here in Oregon after the removal in 2006 of its last remaining barrier, GOP control of the state House. Brown was first elected to the legislature in 1990, the year the House flipped from Democratic control to GOP hands, and while the Senate returned to full Democratic control in 2005 much of the party’s agenda was stalled by the Republican house until this last session.

The current field of Democrats in the Secretary of State primary boasts geographic diversity within the state. Brown comes from southeast Portland, Avakian from urbanized Washington County, Walker from Eugene and Metsger from the Clackamas County/Mt. Hood area.

It remains to be revealed what–if anything–will separate the Democratic candidates on matters of policy. Each of them has asserted the importance of competent stewardship as the Secretary of State to ensure that every vote is counted, that government is running efficiently, and that the state adhere to its progressive land use policies through the Secretary’s role on the State Land Board. Avakian, Metsger and Walker have yet to introduce themselves to the entire state. They would do well to hurry that part along, as there are only 232 days before Oregon Democrats pick their nominee.


R1W, R1E: The Geographic Grid’s Center September 24, 2007

Filed under: Geography,Multnomah County,Washington County — taoiseach @ 6:12 pm

 The dividing lines of Oregon come in a few different forms:  county boundaries, city boundaries, longitude and latitude, or east or west of the river, and so on.  Baselines and meridians, which are the guiding lines for geographic division in geology, urban planning, and even political districts, are perhaps the most powerful of them all.  West of the Cascades, Oregon and Washington rely on the Willamette Meridian and its perpendicular baseline to help determine county boundaries, street trajectories and even land claims.  The intersection of the two occurs at the Willamette Stone in the West Hills of Portland, nearby the Mount Cavalry Catholic Cemetery.

Naturally, the Boundary had to check it out.  According to Wikipedia, the stone dates back to pioneer times: it was originally an obelisk that served as the central point for a grid system of townships and ranges under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850.  The replacement stone is quite small–about four or five inches in diameter–and marks the point’s original date:  June 4, 1851.  The first marker was not actually a stone, but a redcedar stake.

Meridian Stone

The Willamette Meridian overlays NW and SW 65th Avenue in Portland, and Stafford Road in Clackamas County.  It also serves as the easternmost boundary of Washington County, which itself is a political boundary for the First and Fifth Congressional Districts as well as the 27th, 34th, 35th and 36th districts in the State House.  The Meridian is 65 streets west of the Willamette River at Burnside because the original location was to be west of Vancouver Lake.  The Willamette baseline is perhaps better known at some points as Portland’s Stark Street, Hillsboro’s Baseline Road, and the Baseline Road of Hood River, Gilliam and Morrow counties.  Take that, 45th Parallel!

Willamette Meridian

You can find the Willamette Stone Heritage Area on W Skyline Blvd., just west of the intersection with W Burnside Road.   See it before all the state’s sesquicentennial fun starts.


Oregon-As-Logo Gets Visibly Political August 26, 2007

Filed under: 2007 Special Election,Geography,U.S. Senate — taoiseach @ 2:48 pm

The Boundary has long admired the geographical shape of his native Oregon. And so it is much to his pleasure that the 2007 and 2008 campaigns have started incorporating the shape as a logo for a campaign.

Take a look at the sidebar of this blog: ‘Yes on 49‘ and ‘Jeff Merkley: Democrat for U.S. Senate‘ both include an outline of the state, and, interestingly, they are both shaded green. Merkley’s Oregon is titled slightly leftward, perhaps in a nod to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that will turn out in the May 2008 primary. And the ‘Yes on 49’ Oregon is green, but not the deep forest green that moderates might associate with uncompromising environmentalists. It’s just greenstop 49 enough.

The ‘Stop 49’ campaign also has an Oregon; it’s colored red. The Stop 49 logo also looks crudely drawn and incorrect in the northwest corner. Perhaps the Stop 49 team has bought into the territorial logic that the Yes on 49 campaign has arranged and simply turned it on its head by coloring the state red. Or they could be appealing to the state’s Republican base, whose quadrennial goal is a red state on the electoral map. Either explanation would signal a mistake by the anti-49 team.

How much can one read into the makeup and use of these logos in statewide campaigns? And is the use of the geographic logo limited to statewide campaigns? What about city maps, legislative districts, or counties? It would certainly be interesting if competing candidates and single-issue campaigns begin fighting over the a claim to very territory that will choose one side or the other.