Portland Oregon Sucks
A Special Damp Level of Hell
When my employer at the time announced they were closing the Colorado office and relocating most employees to Portland, Oregon I actually looked forward to it. I'd long been thinking about moving to a new city just to try it out and several people told me I'd like Portland. I was optimistic all during the planning and the move, but not long after arriving in town I came to the harsh realization that Portland, Oregon sucks as a place to live.
I know that putting this out there will generate some harsh words for me, likely from Portland natives and I'm fine with that. If I can save just one person the grief and pain of living in Portland Oregon I will have done my job with this page.
Since just making a statement like "Portland Sucks" isn't going to mean much on its own, I will describe a few reasons I believe this to be true. I've thought hard about it, and came up with the following eight reasons that I believe Portland sucks.
- Portland Weather Sucks
Yes, this is an obvious one, everyone knows that it rains a lot in Portland, right? Not exactly. The average rainfall for Portland is only 35 inches per year. So in twelve months you actually get less precipitation than St. Louis County at 38.75 inches, but have you ever heard that "it rains a lot in St. Louis"? The problem is that it's not actually rain coming down, but a constant drizzle. Just enough to annoy, but not enough to really be called rain. And it comes down for basically 9 months straight. Where other cities will get their precipitaion in large bursts and have relatively nice weather the rest of the time, Portland is simply dreary the majority of the time. As a friend who moved there put it "I've never quite gotten used to the sound of my shoes squeaking on the floor every time I come inside." And while the summers can be dry and sunny, the sky lacks any real blue to it, instead being a constant shade of grey even on the nicest summer day. And it's not just me that noticed it, but a friend who moved from Montana said the exact same thing.
- Portland Drivers and Traffic Sucks
I've travelled to quite a few places and never have I seen worse drivers than they have in Portland. The fastest speed limit you will see anywhere in Oregon is 65 mph and even that seems too fast for their feeble brains to be able to grasp. It's not just the legendary rush-hours either, I have seen traffic be at stop and go at 2am on a Tuesday morning. Never a reason for it besides the two idiots playing a game of who can go the slowest and block the most amount of traffic, racing side-by-side. It had gotten bad enough my girlfriend and I began playing a game of "spot the asshole", which wasn't very hard to win, they were everywhere. And when the drizzle was coming down they were "extra careful", acting like they had never seen moisture come from the sky before. God forbid it snow (as it did once during my two years of living there.) A co-worker put it best when he said "it was like nuclear winter on the highway, people standing outside of their cars just staring into the sky without comprehension." In what any other city would have been a reason to come into work half an hour late or so actually resulted in the entire city shutting down for four straight days. On another occasion a friend spent a night at my house then headed up to Seattle for work. He called me from the road to report than in spite of leaving my house at 2pm as of 4pm (2 hours later!) he had not yet crossed the bridge into Washington. Keep in mind that the bridge was roughly 20 miles away. And this was absolutely normal, just another Weds afternoon on the roads of Portland.
- Portland Recreation Sucks
Keep in mind with this category I am only talking about why Portland sucks, not the whole state of Oregon. From what I understand Oregon itself actually does have decent recreation, but you would never know it living in Portland. Recreation is available, but it is far outside the city, I had to drive over 45 miles each way just to go mountain biking. The Columbia River Gorge is there for windsurfing (for the couple months out of the year it's not drizzling and miserable), but to drive to it from the west side of Portland could easily take up to an hour due to the traffic mentioned above. Mountain biking in the Portland area is scarce. Many people will point out Forest Park, which is "the largest natural forest reserve within a city in the U.S." according to Wikipedia. It sounds great until you realize Forest Park is for hikers and runners, they hate bicycles there. Bicycles are limited to the main road (not quite paved but certainly not single-track), and if you do ride it you will get a constant barrage of runners and walkers telling you to "SLOW THE HELL DOWN" (this happens even while pedaling a slow speed uphill.) There is climbing in the Portland area if you are willing to deal with the used condoms and broken bottles at Rocky Butte (aka "Trashy Butte"). Twice I went to Rocky Butte for Adopt-A-Crag Day, but we were fighting a losing battle, the place was getting junked faster than it could be cleaned. The next nearest climbing is Smith Rocks, which while great is still a 4 hour drive away from Portland.
- Portland Taxes Suck
Do you like having spending money when you get your paycheck? If so, stay away from Portland. While many studies make claims of how little tax burden Oregon has I found the exact opposite to be the case. Watching how my net income dropped after moving to Oregon was an eye-opener. My income was approximately $300/month lower after the move away from Colorado. Over the course of 12 months this adds up to a hefty $3600. Then add in the incredibly high property taxes when I purchased a home (my home purchase was a desperate attempt to get a tax break after seeing what had happened to my paycheck) and my tax burden was increased by more than $5,000 per year over what I had been paying prior. Note my income did not rise, so I wasn't in a higher tax bracket on the Federal scale, this discrepancy was entirely due to Oregon state taxes. Now many people who live in Oregon like to say "but you are saving money, there is no sales tax here!" and you might be inclined to agree with them until you do some basic math. For the sake of argument lets use 10% as the sales tax you might pay. In order to "save money" I would have had to have spent $50,000 a year on taxable goods to cover the additional $5k increase in taxes. Taking the fact that groceries (normally my biggest expense) are not taxed in Colorado anyway that means I would have had to have spent $50,000 a year on consumer junk just to break even, I would have had to have spent more than that to "save money by not having a sales tax." And yet both years I was in Portland there were rumblings about how the schools needed additional funding so the state should institute a sales tax, which really would have wrecked my discretionary funds. One caveat however is that Oregon uses a sliding income tax scale from 4%-9% so for the many low-paying jobs in Portland the tax burden would be less. It takes a mere income of $6500 a year to run into the 9% income tax bracket. And if you live in Multinomah County (basically all of the Portland city proper) you get to pay an additional 1% income tax as well.
- Portland Government Sucks
The government in Portland hates two things, people and businesses. Right as I was moving to the city they put out a ballot measure (Measure 28 if I remember right) where the government basically told its citizens "pass this additional tax or we will be forced to let the violent prisoners out of jail first." Later they amended it with "oh, and schools need money, please think of the children". The best post I found about it was located at Jack Bog's Blog. If you really want to see how the government was spending the money you should check out most of the posts about the Portland Development Commission where they will give away any number of millions of dollars for no particular reason (except maybe graft) and yet every year the government screams about having no money and how you need to pay more taxes. For instance: Taking no prisoners, or shutting down the courts on Fridays. Or how about having the government go ahead and pass a new income tax after voters reject it, forcing them to reject it yet again?
As for being hostile to business you just have to look at the number of companies that have moved out of Portland, either across the river into Vancouver or out of state entirely. And with fees of $27,000 to move a pizza business across the steet it's a small wonder. The Portland government's attitude towards business can best be stated as: "They run you out." Most of the jobs in the Portland area are low-paying and the government sure doesn't seem to care about changing that. How would you explain the fact that Oregon usually has the highest unemployment rate in the country? Oregon's economic hangover has some nice details, like "The unemployment rate drops to 7.5 percent, the lowest level in six months. Even so, Oregon continues to post the highest unemployment rate in the country."
And let us not forget the "nanny state" treatment of its citizens. Oregon is only of only two states in the US where you are not allowed to pump your own gas (New Jersey is the other one.) Instead what you have to do is find a pump, drive up, sit, and wait while the person on duty finishes their cigarette and is done chit-chatting on their cell phone. When they finally can be bothered to come help you they will take your credit card, put the nozzle in the tank and then leave. And the first time it clicks off that's it, they hand you a receipt and you are expected to leave. But what happens if, as it will sometimes do, the pump decides your tank is full before it actually is? Well then get ready to wait some more and get your credit card back out, these mindless drones won't bother to try and top off your tank, they just take the first click to mean you are done. And that usually puts you into the back of the queue as well.
- Portland People Suck:
To be fair before I get too far into this I don't mean the entire population that lives in Portland, Oregon sucks. More specifically I've found the natives to the area are the ones that suck, there are quite a lot of nice people but most of them are not from the area at all.
The main problem I've seen is that Portland is full of hipsters. They believe they are oh-so-much more cool than you by virtue of the fact they work at a small coffee shop and have no money, yet can come up with the cash for $12 martinis. While you will run into this breed in other cities the city of Portland is small, thus giving a higher concentration of hipsters in one place (likely the result of the "Urban Growth Boundary" that Portlanders both love and hate.) Once you get away from them however you are left with the rest of the population that seem to want to believe cliches about their city that aren't actually true. My favorite conversation would go something like this: Me: "So, why do you like living in Portland?", Them: "Oh, there are so many things! I especially love how close I am to both the beach and the mountain!" (keep in mind, that is "mountain" in the singular, not plural.) Me: "Really? When was the last time you went to either?" Them: "Geez, I must have been a little kid, I really don't remember..." Another thing they love to do is tell you how much "outdoors there is here", but then rare is it that you meet someone who actually leaves their house for anything besides a night of drinking.
If you can get past all of that they are what I like to call "superficially nice". You can stop just about anyone and ask the time or for some directions, but don't try to actually be their friend. In general they are still hanging out with the same people they have known since elementary school and they are simply not interested in having any additional friends. During parties a familiar topic of discussion is usually "why is it so hard to meet people in Portland?" with the consensus being that while difficult in other cities as well it's not nearly as hard to make permanent friends elsewhere as it is in Portland. In the two years I lived there I made two good friends and it's notable that neither one of them is a native to the city.
If you plan to move there you should be very careful about any criticism of anything in the area as well. When I said "Wow the gas guys can move slow, I wish I could pump my own" I was admonished with "You are an idiot, at least this way you don't smell like gas when you get back in your car!" (I have no idea how that person pumped their gas that they would smell of it later.) Or say "Wow, income tax here is incredibly high!" and they will immediately defend with "But we have no sales tax so you save money" (I've covered this already, I wish some of that tax money would go to math classes because people in Portland are bad at math apparently.) Or when asked "So, if there are two lanes on this highway why do they need to be filled with people going 5 mph UNDER the speed limit? Why not move over and let someone go by?" the reply was typically "Well what is your hurry, you shouldn't drive so fast." Because driving the speed limit is "fast"! The list could go on, but I think you get the idea.
In a nutshell what do I think of Portland? Well, I think Portland Oregon sucks. It's a real chore when people ask me what I didn't like about it, it's much easier to say the few things I did actually like about it; things like seeing Stephanie Schneiderman sing, or going to a cheap movie at a McMenamin's movie theater. Or, uhh, actually I think that's it. So two positive things out of living there for two years. Thanks a lot Portland, I wish I could have my missing two years back.
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