What is Portland’s most Awesome!-ist Web site?

by Steve, June 19th, 2012

Portland may have a shortage of affordable housing, family wage jobs, diversity, good public schools and trustworthy leadership, but there is one thing in ample supply: enthusiasm about how great Portland is. There are any number of white people with blogs who want to tell you all about it!

So, herewith is our list of Portland’s Top Ten Most Awesome!est Web Sites! (As measured by Google hits on the word “awesome.” See, Portland also seems to have a shortage of thesauri.)*

Number 10: Byron Beck is beyond Awesome! (and he probably owns a thesaurus); consequently he barely tips the meter with 203 Awesome!s.

Number 9: Food Carts Portland suffers an unexpected dearth of Awesome!ness with only 283 Awesome!s. (We think this might be a technical problem with Google.) This site is self-described as “an ode to Portland’s food carts,” with a focus on the “positive,” though “we will always be honest in my findings.” (We try to be honest with my findings, too, even when they don’t support our preconceived notions.)

Number 8: You wouldn’t expect grouchy megalomaniac blogger BoJack to score high on the Awesome! scale, but you might be surprised. Maybe it’s by sheer volume, but in his approximately 36 years of tossing out red meat for libertarian gubmint haters, he and his followers managed a respectable 526 Awesome!s. (There used to be a blog called “Portland’s Future Awesome!” that was a direct response to BoJack’s crankiness, but I think they ran out of exclamation points and had to shut down!)

Number 7: Willamette Week scores a middling 663 Awesome! points.

Number 6: The shameless political bottom feeders at Blue Oregon clock in with 807 on the Awesome! scale. You might think it would be higher, what with their shilling for paid clients and all. But then they try so hard to be taken seriously. (Erstwhile wannabe BO competitor Loaded Orygun shut down and nobody noticed, so we can’t even do a query there.)

Number 5: Silicon Florist is a continual gush about how cool the Web and mobile app startup scene is in Portland (never mind the thousands of engineers working at Intel and Tektronix and the like in the actual Silicon Forest), so you’d think they’d score higher than 853 Awesome!s.

Number 4: Urban Honking, the Portland blog nobody ever heard of that once hosted a lame sycophantic blog nobody read called Portland’s Future Awesome!, takes it to the next level with 2,500 Awesome! points.

Number 3: The party rockers at PDX Pipeline up the Awesome! with 5020.

Number 2: The alt weekly Portland Mercury serves the hipster demographic, so it’s hard to know what to expect. On the one hand, they try to come off as jaded. But they also like to appear ironic. Despite that, they’re some of the biggest suckers when it comes to gentrification polices shrouded in the Awesome!ness of sustainability, bikes, pop music, fashion, public nudity or gayness (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The results? A whole next next level with 27,000 on the Awesome! scale!

But what’s the singular, most incredibly Awesome!est Web site on the scene?

Portland, I give you the inspiration for this whole ridiculous Awesome! exercise…

Number 1: Bike Portland, with an Awesome! 52,500 Awesome! points. How can Bike Portland beat the closest contender by a nearly two-to-one margin of Awesome!? We don’t know… Maybe because everything is Awesome! when your majority white male demographic wields out-sized policy influence at City Hall. (Now listen, take it easy, I’ve been a white male Portland metro bike commuter since I moved here in 1989.)

Disclaimer: This study is non-scientific. Actual Awesome!ness may vary. Some Awesome! sites we’ve never heard of were probably omitted. Our own Portland blog, which nobody reads, was never even in the running, with a mere 52 on the Awesome! scale (not counting this post, which still wouldn’t put us in the running). The only people who will read this post are my wife and people with Google alerts set up for mentions of their Awesome! Web sites. Yeah, that’s right, I’m looking at you.

Portland’s urban renewal piggy bank gone bust?

by Steve, March 13th, 2009

This week’s celebrity slap-down between city commissioner Randy Leonard and county chair Ted Wheeler may signal the beginning of the end of an era in Portland development. (Warning: wonkishness ahead.)

First, let’s talk about how urban renewal, a.k.a. Tax Increment Financing (TIF), is supposed to work (and has, in fact, worked in some cases in Portland).

  • City leaders identify a part of the city that is “blighted” and draw a line around it. This is an Urban Renewal District (URD). Ideally (though state law is vague on this), “blighted” would mean that the property values within this area are stagnant of falling.
  • The city identifies infrastructure projects that would spur private investment to improve the property values in the URD, and borrows money (through the issuance of municipal bonds) to pay for these projects. For the life of the URD, property tax on incremental increases in the value of properties is diverted from the usual recipients (city, county and school district general funds) to pay off the bonds. So, for example, if a property within the URD increases in value from $100,000 to $125,000 in the first year, all of the property tax on the additional $25K in value goes to pay off the bonds.
  • When the bonds are retired, the URD can also retired, and the city, county and school district all receive higher revenue because of the increased value of the properties.

Now, that’s how things are supposed to work, but even in this best case there are plenty of critics. Minority communities have frequently been displaced, so urban renewal is broadly viewed as a tool of gentrification by those being “renewed” further to the fringes of society. But it gets even worse when the process is inverted as it was with the Major League Soccer deal.

Instead of identifying a blighted area, then determining infrastructure needs, city leaders identified a suposed need (renovation of a municipal stadium — whose recent renovation is still being paid off — to accommodate a private sports team investor), and then tried to create an urban renewal area to help fund it. Among other problems, the area around the stadium is distinctly not in danger of stagnant or falling property values. It is prime urban real estate, with a great deal of recent high-end commercial development.

This new urban renewal district (taken out of the deal by amendment before the deal was approved) would have directly deprived struggling county, school district and city general funds of millions of dollars over its life time.

It’s entirely disingenuous to claim the properties around PGE Park will not increase in value without another renovation to the stadium, and that we thusly wouldn’t be taking money from the county or schools.

Even Randy Leondard, while protesting that the debate has been uninformed, ultimately seemed to concede the point. Yes, we take the money, he seemed to say, but we’ve always been there for the county in times of need (“Good as we’ve been to you!”). And look at all we’ve build with it! It’s a very paternalistic attitude, and that was not lost on Ted Wheeler.

The reality, beneath the veneer of a bunch of euro-trash wannabe soccer fans rallying for a “major” league team, and urban renewal boosters’ insistence that building new stadiums for millionaires is the best kind of economic stimulus we can do, is that Merritt Paulson is in over his head with his baseball lease at PGE Park. His triple A Portland Beavers draw just over 25% of capacity. Paulson is paying not just current rent, but also back rent for the previous millionaire failure of a minor league sports team owner. That’s a gift to Portland’s civic leaders, who have egg on their face for that previous failure (not to mention the bonds they have yet to retire from the previous renovation).

Paulson’s lease is up in 2010, and if he takes his team to Tuscon, we’re stuck holding the bag on PGE Park’s last renovation with no tenant to pay for it.

Most of Portland’s glitzy development, including its tightly stretched bubble of a condo market, has been subsidized with urban renewal dollars. City leaders have taken advantage of vagaries in state law to use urban renewal as a piggy bank to subsidize Portland’s wealthiest land owners and create “iconic” projects for their own portfolios.

In the end, it’s about civic priorities. If we draw URDs around areas where property values are not stagnant, we directly impact city, county and school district general funds that pay for basic social services, schools, and infrastructure for the rest of the city. Maybe that’s what we truly want as a city. But let’s be clear about it when we do so.

A lot of this TIF mania can be traced to members of the old Neil Goldschmidt gang and the local commercial real estate mafia that has been their patrons. With our first publicly financed city commissioner (Amanda Fritz) leading the loyal opposition to this latest boondoggle, and with emboldened county chair Wheeler and school board co-chair Trudy Sargent at her back, maybe we’re seeing the beginning of the end of this kind of irresponsible finance scheme.

Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Industrial Portland

by Steve, February 8th, 2009

M/V Campanula and M/V Pharos SW

In transition

New and old

Sustainable, of course

Sustainable Portland

Things I hate about Portland

by Steve, February 4th, 2009

First off, I friggin’ love Portland, so don’t give me that hater bullshit.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase: Portland is over-the-top passive aggressive.

It manifests in traffic, politics and inter-personal relationships. At the grocery store. At work. In lines. At concerts, sporting events, and the library.

Passive-aggressiveness rules so much, there is a taboo on directness. One cannot say “It creeps me out that the mayor was sucking face with a 17-year-old in a City Hall men’s room” without being labeled a prude. (In the words of Bob Dylan, “They smile to your face, but behind your back they hiss….”)

The People’s Republic of Portland (that’s not a put-down; that part I like) is a one-party state, as Willamette Week‘s Nigel Jaquiss said in his close-up on Newsweek’s Web site this week. “[P]ortland is a … go-along, get-along town where people don’t question the orthodoxy. They’re very comfortable having a real absence of critical debate of most issues.”

Nigel was talking (politely) about the reporters and editors at The Oregonian, which has thrice been scooped (twice by the Willamette Week) on stories about Oregon politicians with (ahem) self-control issues surrounding where they put their penises. (Oh, I’m sorry honey, am I being a prude again?)

That lack of critical coverage of our politics and government means that those with land and money can pretty much do what they want with our city, as long as they call it green.

Commercial real estate developers, the power behind the throne in Portland, have successfully co-opted environmentally-minded liberals in Portland and operate with impunity under the cover of many layers of indignity generated by their unwitting minions.

Example: you cannot be opposed to a streetcar project without being a tool of big oil (yeah, that’s me!), even if a primary goal of said streetcar project is to move not people but real estate.

If somebody says it’s “sustainable,” you damn well better not speak out against it, even if that sustainable condo block is driving gentrification and pushing black and brown folks further to the margins of our city and society.

We’ve got a real race problem in Portland, but you better not talk about it. It makes white liberals very uncomfortable to be confronted with their racism. Our neighborhoods are pretty segregated, but our schools are worse, like the Jim Crow south: separate and way unequal.

Are you a white person with some kind of “bikability” issue? The city’s got you covered! You got a problem with finding a place you can afford to live off your service-sector wages? Sorry, pal, Portland can’t help you unless you work “sustainable” into your pitch. Mental health problems? Hit the road, Jack.

Perhaps my biggest gripe is the disconnect between Portland!! and Portland; that is, between the hip and trendy little Pacific Northwest city as seen in the New York Times (Powell’s! Foodies! Coffee! Sustainable! Green! Did I mention Sustainable?) and the sometimes rough-around-the edges part of Portland I live in.

Next installment: Portland’s extended adolescence.

Fritz v. Lewis: The City Club Debate

by Steve, September 20th, 2008

Amy Ruiz does a great job capturing the blow-by-blow on the Merc’s blog, so if you didn’t hear Friday’s city council debate, you might want to check that out before reading this.

I pointed out in a comment on Ruiz’s piece the one glaring factual error in the debate, Lewis’ claim that Jefferson High School is “1/4 full” and David Douglas is bursting at the seams because of the lack of affordable housing in inner Portland.

Gentrification and displacement of non-white communities is a serious problem in Portland, and I appreciate Lewis’ attention to this. But it has nothing to do with Jefferson’s (or Madison’s, Marshall’s or Roosevelt’s) under-enrollment.

These schools are under-enrolled because Portland Public Schools has allowed the majority of high school students in these clusters to transfer out while they have dramatically cut educational and extracurricular opportunities.

For example, out of 1,603 PPS high school students living in Jefferson’s attendance area last October, only 403 were enrolled there, along with an additional 142 from other neighborhoods. The balance of Jefferson’s student population attended other PPS neighborhood schools (437), Special Programs/Focus Options (423), with the rest in PPS Charter Schools, Special Services or Community Based Alternatives.

So Lewis is factually incorrect to blame Jefferson’s under-enrollment on the lack of affordable housing even though he is correct that affordable housing is a serious problem (something he and Fritz clearly agree on).

I can’t expect Lewis to be as well-versed in public schools policy and demographics as me, but he’s made this statement before, and it is just plain wrong.

Fritz, by contrast, spoke to the City Council when they met at Jefferson last January. She told them about the injustice of the inequity in opportunity between schools like Jefferson and Wilson, her neighborhood high school, demonstrating a clear understanding of a critical problem facing PPS.

On other issues, Lewis showed himself to be reasonably well-informed, though it’s almost an embarrassment to try to compare his 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector (and a couple years as a small business owner) to Fritz’s 20-year history as a community organizer, public citizen and advocate for equitable, transparent governance.

Lewis is wise to dwell on his business experience, since his public policy experience ends at the intern level. But it all started sounding like “Ethos yada yada started from zero yada yada Ethos yada revolving credit for small businesses yada yada yada Ethos yada started on my credit card yada yada yada make payroll yada yada staff of 75 yada yada yada Ethos…”

People are quick to defend Ethos, and I don’t want to beat up all the low-wage teachers and volunteers there who have brought music to the lives of kids that otherwise wouldn’t have much.

But there’s a certain charity mentality to it. I wrote about it in a comment on PPS Equity last July:

My complaint is with the misconception that Ethos solves the problem of PPS not funding music education in poor schools.

…Lewis perpetuates this myth, as in this quote (since removed) from the Ethos Web site: “When budget cuts threatened to destroy music education programs in Portland Public Schools, Charles stepped in and found a solution.”

It’s not a solution; it’s not even a band aid.

These organizations foster a charity mentality toward the least well-off among us, and … give political cover to policy makers who maintain a system that takes pretty good care of students in wealthy neighborhoods but not in others.

I am a to-the-death supporter of arts education in our schools. Which is why I point out that Ethos reaching a couple thousand students with some small amount of music education is no substitute for an integrated K12 music curriculum, taught by certified, union-represented teachers, for all 47,000 PPS students.

I don’t see any way Ethos is helping us get to that realistic goal (they’re doing it in Beaverton with the same level of state funding and even less federal and local funding). To the contrary, I think Ethos may work against this vision.

In the end, I was pleased that Lewis stayed positive and did not reveal his bombastic side, which was on display in the Willamette Week endorsement interview for the primary (and in his supporters’ comments on this blog and others). In that, besides going after John Branam about his salary as a PPS employee, Lewis seemed to cite his beef with PDC snubbing Ethos as a major reason for wanting to be on the City Council.

He seems to be maturing as a candidate, and I agree with him (as does Fritz, I believe) on several critical issues. But there’s little doubt who’s really the best prepared to lead, and to lead in the direction Portland needs to go.

Amanda Fritz has been significantly involved with the official planning of Portland’s future, and is uniquely qualified to bring citizen’s voices into City Hall and implement the Portland Plan. I stand by my primary endorsement and say “Fritz for City Council!”

More on the inevitable growth crowd

by Steve, May 8th, 2008

I’ve written some recently about gentrification and certain candidates’ fixation on the idea that 300,000 new residents will be shortly arriving in Portland. Sam Adams, Chris Smith and Jim Middaugh have all thrown this number around as the gospel truth, to the delight of big real estate developers who are looking forward to Sam Adams as mayor.

These guys aren’t all that thrilled with the prospect of Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz on the council, both of whom have questioned the wisdom of continuing city subsidies to a high-end condo market that’s starting to slump so badly they’ve stopped work on some and converted others to rentals.

Despite the casual way some candidates are tossing around the 300,000 figure, which represents a doubling of our current growth rate, Metro has put the figure at less than half that: 148,000. (The Portland Mercury points this out in its analysis of Chris Smith’s campaign literature.

This puts the damper on the mad dash to gentrify all of our close-in neighborhoods, but the mythology still lingers. Yesterday a new blogger on Metblogs wrote a defensive post titled Growth is here to stay, get over it.

The post makes some good points about Oregonians’ provincialism, but misses the greater point about the city government’s role in managing growth. Yes, some growth is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we need to a) encourage it or b) bankrupt the city giving infrastructure subsidies to condo developers in the guise of preparing for it.

The fact is that we can accommodate the growth that is expected without building an east-side Pearl, and without building nine-story condo bunkers on Interstate Avenue. At some point the environmentalists who have been placated by real estate developers with buzzwords like “sustainable,” “green” and “smart growth” will realize that what we’ve done in the Pearl is none of the above.

The MHLW 2008 Portland, Oregon Voters’ Guide

by Steve, May 6th, 2008


Flip a coin. The business candidate who can’t articulate a single policy proposal (or pay his rent and taxes on time) or the career insider in the hip pocket of the big condo developers who will bring nine-story “green” towers and rich white people on bikes* to a gentrifying neighborhood near you. Dozono may be the best hope for a break from big-time public subsidies to the Homer Williams set, but don’t expect him to utter the words “rent stabilization” or “gentrification.” If you’re a renter, working class, poor, black or brown, you don’t have a dog in this fight. You can write me in if you want.
*I support equal rights for bike riders on our roads. Don’t take this statement as a repudiation of the bike community.

City Commissioner seat #1

Amanda Fritz. Transit nerd Chris Smith would turn the city into one big Pearl district he could. Charles Lewis? Meh. Not impressed. He seems quite angry, and quite willing to use his non-profit as a platform to jump into a higher-paying job. (Of course it’s all for the good of the children!) Jeff Bissonnette? Nice guy. Doesn’t have a chance. Mike Fahey? Grumpy old man; not running a serious campaign. John Branam? His campaign seems to be a jobs program for unemployed alt-weekly editors.

City Commissioner seat #2

Ed Garren. Of all the candidates running for city government, Garren gets gentrification the best. I’ll give Nick Fish a green light, too. He understands neighborhood issues, and he’s the candidate with a real chance to beat Sten’s anointed successor Jim Middaugh.

State measures

These were off my radar until I got my ballot. There are no arguments in opposition for any of them, but the arguments in favor scare me. Kevin Mannix. Crime victims’ rights groups. District attorney’s groups. My knee-jerk reaction is to vote against them, based on who is in favor of them. Use your best judgment on these. I got nothin’.

Democratic primary

I’m not registered Democrat, so I don’t get a vote in these, but here’s my take on the races:


Flip a coin. I like Novick personally. But policy-wise, there’s not much space separating him from Merkley. Either one would be to the left of Wyden, not to mention Smith. There seems to be a battle going on for the heart and soul of the state party, and it’s a freakin’ ugly fight. The old circular firing squad, as third-party spoiler John Frohnmayer called it. Frohnmayer, a former Republican, is coming into this race as a populist progressive. He will likely hand the race to Smith, regardless of who wins the Democratic nod. Like the mayor’s race, it’s a sad state of affairs. (I’m just reporting what I see, folks.)


Obama, simply because I don’t think Hillary stands a chance against McCain. Both Clinton and Obama are closer policy-wise to Bush than they are to me, and they are both bought and paid for by Wall Street. I strongly suspect the Democratic party is going to figure out a way to fuck up yet another in a string of gimme elections, and we’re going to be stuck with a McCain/Lieberman White House in January. Obama has an insurmountable delegate lead, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the party bigwigs throw it to Hillary.

The Pearl

by Steve, April 27th, 2008




Gentrification is the issue

by Steve, April 22nd, 2008

So why aren’t the candidates for Portland mayor talking about it?

It is undeniable that housing prices in Portland have outrun the ability for the local job market to sustain them. Yet our city government continues to promote and subsidize the kind of high-density development that seeks to encourage (and cash in on) this trend.

As I wrote yesterday, Sam Adams and Sho Dozono represent real estate developers and the business community respectively, so they’ve got no real interest in tempering the trend of total gentrification in Portland’s residential core.

Adams went so far as to posit that there is “too much affordable housing in North Portland” at Sunday’s North Portland Candidates’ Forum, exposing himself as someone who 1) can easily be construed as a racist and 2) doesn’t have the faintest clue what gentrification means to the working and middle classes of Portland.

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to use Google to plumb the depths of this issue in the current races for city government. I searched for the term “gentrification OR gentrify” on the candidates’ campaign sites, and was not surprised to be greeted with the sound of crickets chirping on most of them, starting with Sam Adams and Sho Dozono.

Going down the ticket to city council seat #1, the seat Sam Adams is leaving to run for mayor, we’ve got more crickets from Chris Smith, John Branam, Charles Lewis and Jeff Bissonnette.

Amanda Fritz wins the prize for actually using the word “gentrification” on her campaign Web site, stating “The most pressing issue is the gap between people who are doing well, and those who are not.”

On to seat #2, being vacated by Erik Sten mid-term, things get a little more interesting. Nick Fish gets a hit on his response to a housing opportunity quiestionnaire, where he states (PDF) “Lower home ownership rates for people of color translates into lost opportunities to create wealth, less stable neighborhoods and leaves minorities more vulnerable to displacement because of gentrification.”

But Jim Middaugh also gets a hit for his “issues” page, where he notes “Portland’s African-American community, with its traditional base in North and Northeast Portland, is determined to thrive in the face of the powerful forces of gentrification and hold together a sense of community.” He also talks a good game about “Keeping Portland Affordable.”

Middaugh is Erik Sten’s chief of staff, and Sten is known for his work on housing. Specifically low-income housing and homelessness, i.e. the very low end of the spectrum. Middaugh, of course, wants to carry on this work, which is commendable. But we need to distinguish between issues of subsidized housing and gentrification. Yes, they’re both pieces of the same puzzle. But my reading of Sten’s policy is that while he’s done great work on the low end, he’s done little to nothing on the issue of preserving affordable housing for the working and middle classes. In fact, he’s been right on board with the development policies that feed gentrification.

Middaugh has shown himself to be in league with the “smart growth” crowd, citing the 300,000 coming residents and the need to continue subsidizing (and otherwise encouraging) high density condo development all over our city.

Maybe I’m being unfair to Middaugh, but I don’t think we should expect any great departure from Sten’s policies, and the proof is in the pudding. I know I couldn’t afford my North Portland house at today’s prices, and I just bought it eight years ago.

Unfortunately, the seat #2 race has been quickly reduced to a two-way between Middaugh and Sten. It’s unfortunate, because Ed Garren has been quite up front about how city policies encourage gentrification. “The current gentrification model encourages persons of lower and moderate means to move to the edges of, or out of the city. The issues involving traditional communities of color in the city relate directly to this issue, and it is a nationwide situation, not just in Portland. The city needs to decide if all neighborhoods in the city are going to offer economically diverse housing, or are we going to continue to ‘red line’ neighborhoods and create policies that favor some groups and discriminate others,” writes Garren in response to the Housing Opportunities questionnaire.

That’s the kind of plain talk I’d like to hear from the other candidates.

Actually, I’d settle for any kind of talk.

Charting Portland’s Political Landscape

by Steve, April 21st, 2008

Local politics, particularly in a liberal city like Portland, are not a localized version of the national scene. There is not a labor/business split in our governing bodies, for example, and nary a Republican in sight serving in any significant local public office.

The historic split in municipal politics has come between real estate developers, who want to maximize the value of their land by increasing density, and those who have stood in their way: neighborhood preservationists and environmentalists.

Siding with the developers, you often find labor, since commercial real estate development usually means union jobs.

But a funny thing happened on the way to global warming. The developers managed to co-opt environmentalists with the idea of “smart growth.” Without the environmental movement in their way, the developers now have virtual carte blanche to run things as they please.

One of the only constituencies left in opposition to this juggernaut are those who oppose gentrification and favor rent controls, that is, people who are virtually powerless by definition.

There’s also the business constituency, relatively weak in Portland compared to other big cities, which takes issue with using tax revenue to subsidize anything, except maybe parking. But they don’t object to gentrification, since it tends to grow markets for the goods and services they sell.

To be clear, I like the ideas of limiting sprawl, preserving green spaces, and developing housing near employment. But the “sustainable” label has been used and abused beyond recognition in Portland. We’ve significantly over-built condos in the central city, publicly subsidized to the tune of millions of dollars annually with a streetcar system that does not solve any identifiable transportation problem and an aerial tram to no place in particular.

Additionally, the “sustainable development” crew has pushed “skinny lots” in our core residential neighborhoods, and multi-story condo developments in our distributed town centers, like Belmont, Hawthorne, Alberta, and now Interstate and Mississippi. All of this is predicated on the notion that we’ve already maxed out our available housing stock, and must choose between building up or building out.

People who object to having a nine-story condo building towering over their back yards obviously don’t understand that we’re going to have 300,000 new residents in Portland, Real Soon Now.

That’s the canard that’s repeated ad nauseum and without qualification or any sense of irony by the candidates who represent big developers. Oh, they’re coming, whether we like it or not, they assure us, and we better make sure we build up rather than out to accommodate them.

So commercial real estate developers not only get to maximize their land values by increasing density under the cloak of “sustainability,” they’re given significant public subsidy to do so.

And what about the “G” word? Yes folks, “smart growth” is progressively gentrifying every neighborhood in Portland’s residential core. This isn’t very “smart” if you, like me, value the diversity of your neighborhood.

And that brings us to what’s wrong with the Mayor’s race in Portland. You’ve got Sam Adams, unabashedly pushing the big developer’s agenda, and Sho Dozono unabashedly pushing the big business agenda (criticizing Adams for opposing Wal-Mart).

But this is a false dichotomy, since they both essentially represent big money. Neither candidate says “boo” about rent stabilization, preserving affordable housing (as opposed to building it per the big developers’ “smart growth” vision) or preserving the historic quality of our neighborhoods.

Both, of course, are “green” candidates, as is virtually every candidate running for city office (Mike Fahey nothwithstanding). But neither of them seems to have much interest in affordable housing.

At yesterday’s North Portland Candidates’ Forum, Adams went so far as to say North Portland has too much affordable housing, a reference to all the public housing on the Peninsula. Which could be taken as thinly-veiled racism.

It could also be construed as missing the point, since it isn’t just the poor and working poor who struggle with housing prices in Portland, but increasingly two-income, middle class families.

At least in the council races, there are a couple candidates who will speak earnestly about issues of housing and gentrification.

For seat #2, being vacated mid-term by Erik Sten, Ed Garren has been the only candidate to actually talk about rent control. Nick Fish talked about “fixing the roof before putting in a jacuzzi” at yesterday’s forum, which is nice. But Jim Middaugh, Erik Sten’s chief of staff, mostly wanted to remind us of those 300,000 people moving here. (Sure, Middaugh talks a good game on his campaign Web site, but I can’t get over the feeling that it’s just boilerplate. He wanted to talk a lot more about those 300,000 new residents yesterday than the communities displaced by the City Hall business as usual his candidacy represents.)

Likewise John Brannam, running for seat #1, who was the first to intone the 300,000 figure at yesterday’s forum. We all know where Chris “streetcar” Smith stands, of course, so much so that he doesn’t even have to speak of the 300,000 promised ones.

In his Willamette Week endorsement interview, Smith talked of replicating the kind of development supported by the central city streetcar loop on the east side. Yes, folks, condos and streetcars for all your friends! To Gresham with the unwashed masses! Let them ride MAX! Somehow, Smith thinks we can cut our carbon footprint in half by pushing all the po’ folks to the margins of our metro area. Well, maybe he doesn’t really think it through that far. But that’s the upshot of gentrifying our close-in neighborhoods with the kind of development he champions.

Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis stand out as candidates for seat #1 who want to focus on neighborhoods. Lewis had the audacity yesterday to speak of affordable housing (gasp!), and Fritz has been steadfast in her advocacy for shifting the city’s budget priorities to basic services in the neighborhoods. (I’ve already endorsed Fritz for this seat.)

So our Portland body politic is divvied up into a handful of sometimes-overlapping camps, with an overarching “sustainable” umbrella big enough to offer refuge to all kinds of scoundrels. (“Sustainability” is to Portland politics what patriotism is to national politics.)

Dozono is alone in his big retail fealty, but Sam Adams has good company in the real estate developers’ court with Jim Middaugh and Chris Smith.

Those seeking to preserve the character and livability of neighborhoods, affordable family housing, and communities of color are harder to come by, and they aren’t going to have any mayoral coattails to ride this election season. Ain’t it a shame?