Photo Essay

RTH Does Northwest Part 2: Portland, Oregon

A successful urban environment like Portland offers lessons for Hamilton on how cities can grow, develop and thrive.

By Jason Leach
Published April 12, 2009

Portland's Saturday Market along the LRT line.
Portland's Saturday Market along the LRT line.

Oldest public market in America.
Oldest public market in America.

Portland's iconic 'Big Pink'
Portland's iconic 'Big Pink'

Stumptown from the Pittock Mansion.
Stumptown from the Pittock Mansion.

Ahhh - LRT, wide sidewalks and tree canopy heaven.
Ahhh - LRT, wide sidewalks and tree canopy heaven.

Across from Pioneer Square.
Across from Pioneer Square.

Pioneer Square, heart of the city. Each brick has a name stamped on in memory of their donation to construct the square.
Pioneer Square, heart of the city. Each brick has a name stamped on in memory of their donation to construct the square.

Track, cobblestone and canopy.
Track, cobblestone and canopy.

Portland's
Portland's "Bubbly Benson". Some cities value the little things. We gave up on our 'Shorty Greens' many years ago.

Streets make room for cyclists and pedestrians.
Streets make room for cyclists and pedestrians.

Portland rush hour. Over 200 cyclists in 25 minutes flew past me.
Portland rush hour. Over 200 cyclists in 25 minutes flew past me.

Downtown Skyline.
Downtown Skyline.

Portland's newest mode of transportation - aerial tram.
Portland's newest mode of transportation - aerial tram.

Even freeway underpasses are landscaped and litter free!
Even freeway underpasses are landscaped and litter free!

Best restaurant in town - also located underneath a freeway overpass.
Best restaurant in town - also located underneath a freeway overpass.

In a city full of great coffee, this is the best coffee on the planet.
In a city full of great coffee, this is the best coffee on the planet.

LRT - bike.
LRT - bike.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

19 Comments

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By Fun (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 10:34:55

Wow looks like fun, Jason! You sure got your fix of Urban Living... at least for a couple days.
A couple Hamilton City Councilors took a trip to Portland to experience their LRT System, so hopefully they got many more ideas on how to bring Urban Living BACK to Hamilton!
Thanks again!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2009 at 10:41:57

Nice - aerial tram

We need one from Hunter up to the top of the claremont access...

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By Jusme (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 14:20:04

So beautiful and clean!!!

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By Veronique Meunier (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 16:25:11

Hello Jason,

Nice pictures! Glad you enjoyed your time in Portland; you seem to have seen a lot of sustainable businesses.

Let me know if you have any questions about our lifestyle or would like to discuss what you've seen here.

Best,

Veronique Meunier
Travel Portland
P.R. Manager, Sustainability
vero@travelportland.com

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 19:48:48

Hi Veronique, thanks for taking the time to send along this message. Perhaps I'll send you an email with some questions, but the first one I have is, 'Can we trade city councils' for a couple of decades??'
Lol

I really enjoyed my time in Portland. I went to school there from 96-2000 and clearly things have only gotten better since then. I'm sure Portland has it's problems like any city, but to see such livable neighbourhoods in an American city is quite remarkable. I especially loved the downtown/Pearl district area, Hawthorne, Belmont and the business community along NE Fremont/50's area. I don't recall the name, nor do I recall that business district being so full and vibrant 10 years ago. A special shout out to Jim and Patty's Coffee on Fremont. Fabulous people and great coffee. Cheers, Jason

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By Train Lane (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2009 at 06:44:11

Inspiring shots! Even absent the LRT element, Portland's streetscaping is something to aspire to. The city really seems to have it all. A cause for some resentment, no doubt. It makes me wonder about the underlying dynamics that led to Business Week's Feb 2009 diagnosis of Portland as America's Unhappiest City.

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By Moseby (registered) | Posted April 14, 2009 at 21:39:44

aww, I miss the 'shorty greens'.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2009 at 22:01:40

Jason >> A successful urban environment like Portland offers lessons for Hamilton on how cities can grow, develop and thrive.

You make a great point Jason. Since 1997, Portland has seen property taxes rise only 3% a year, whereas Hamilton has seen increases of 5% a year since 2003. Let's be more like Portland and cap tax increases at 3% a year.

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By did i just hear something (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 09:06:42

naw - just the wind...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:52:01

Jason >> A successful urban environment like Portland offers lessons for Hamilton on how cities can grow, develop and thrive.

Jason, I can't wait to here more about your idea to limit spending and taxation here in Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 16:57:12

my idea to limit spending and taxation is to invest in turning Hamilton into a desirable, livable city through a variety of initatives - LRT, green jobs, green streets, making it a pedestrian/cycling capital of Canada, banning all downtown transport trucks that are not making deliveries in the immediate downtown core, continued development of the waterfront, more EcDev spending once we get a few people in that department who understand something other than big boxes in the boonies etc.....

Turn this into a city that businesses and residents are clamouring to move to and you can lower taxes and spending until the cows come home.

Better yet, go back and read the past 5 years of articles on RTH. That's been our whole point from the beginning.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2009 at 22:55:01

Jason >> my idea to limit spending and taxation is to invest in turning Hamilton into a desirable, livable city through a variety of initatives

Why do you assume that government investments are more desirable then lots of private investments? Hamilton already spends more on government than either Oakville or Burlington and yet our property values are much lower. Hamilton's tax rates are much higher than our neighbours and yet you pretend as if that is a non factor for the majority of people who might want to invest here.

You understand the logic of taxing things like carbon, etc, so what do you think having high tax rates on property does? It reduces the demand for investing in the Hamilton property market. Bring tax rates down, watch assessments go up and the city will once again be prosperous and healthy.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 11:40:44

A Smith > Bring tax rates down, watch assessments go up and the city will once again be prosperous and healthy.

Lets say that one agrees with your statement that lower tax rates imply an increase in investment in the city. Fine. We lower tax rates. Then what?

It's easy to spout the mantra of lowering taxes. We all want lower taxes.

However what does the city do with the reduced revenue?

What services to residents does it cut back? Do we eliminate for example social services (which aren't a big issue in our neighbour cities) and let the most vulnerable among us suffer the consequences?

As Ryan pointed out, not everything governments do can be fully replicated by the private sector, nor is it even desirable to do so.

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By Wait a Minute (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 15:49:44

But where do the cars go? People must be too poor in Portland to afford them, or to buy bottled water. Nothing to do all day but sign bricks. How can people live like that?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 21:04:39

Arienc >> what does the city do with the reduced revenue?

Why do you think revenue would fall? By cutting tax rates on property investments, the result would more capital flowing into Hamilton homes. New driveways, new additions, new landscaping, new decks, new roofs, etc. All of these investments into the housing stock would make the average home in Hamilton much more valuable then it is currently and the result would be higher assessments.

The city says it wants more investment, but it doesn't give people a good reason to invest. Cut tax rates on property investments and the increase in investment dollars will more than offset the reduced tax rate. People respond to incentives, so by increasing the return on property investments, the city will get more of them.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 22:46:39

ASmith said - "All of these investments into the housing stock would make the average home in Hamilton much more valuable then it is currently and the result would be higher assessments."

And then you'd be on here crying about higher taxes again.

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By Train Lane (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 10:02:28

Found the BW link... there's definitely something fishy.
How does Portland (tinyurl.com/d54nba) out-miserable Detroit (tinyurl.com/d4y4ok)?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:12:56

Jason >> And then you'd be on here crying about higher taxes again.

If tax rates were lowered and property values in Hamilton went up, I would be more than happy to pay higher nominal taxes. When individuals are allowed to prosper, it makes the burden of paying taxes that much easier. That's why tax avoidance (and actions that limit tax liability) tend to go up when government lowers the tax rate.

Lower the tax rate on property investments and Hamilton will begin it's renewal.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 18:53:37

That's why tax avoidance (and actions that limit tax liability) tend to go DOWN when government lowers the tax rate.

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