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Metro Councilor Brian Newmanís speech at the June 23, 2006, Metro New Look Forum encourages residents to visualize how the region will look when a million more people live here. Presented here is an abridged version.

     

It is very difficult for most people to conceptualize what impact one million new residents will have on the region. I believe that the best way to conceptualize the magnitude of the challenge in front of us is to observe how this region changed as we absorbed the most recent million residents.

To do this we need to go back to 1968, because during the period between 1968 and 2006 we grew by one million residents. This journey of 38 years wonít necessarily give us any insights into how to prepare for the future, but it will give us a sense of scale for the changes and the challenges that we are going to face over the next 25 years.

In 1968, the median sale price of a single family home was $16,200. This was pretty affordable to someone with the median household income of $7,700. A loaf of bread at Freddies cost 25-cents and gasoline was just 34-cents per gallon. In fact, an entire barrel of gasoline in 1968 cost a little more than what two gallons cost today ($6.23).

Traffic congestion was not a problem in 1968. There was no rush hour traffic on the only two freeways in town: the Banfield Freeway and Interstate Five which opened two years prior with the completion of the Marquam Bridge. While the cheap gas and empty freeways represented a driversí paradise, there were few other options for residents to get around. TriMet didnít even exist in 1968 and a private bus company called Rose City Transit teetered on the edge of insolvency.

Back then, the local economy was dominated by forest products, transportation and public utilities. Not one of the top ten employers in 1968 is among the top 10 in 2006. Intel, our largest employer today, didnít operate in Oregon in 1968. They opened their first plant in Aloha in 1976. Nike didnít exist in 1968. Phil Knight was an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Portland State. He ran a small shoe company named Blue Ribbon Sports out of the trunk of his car. The company wouldnít be renamed Nike for another ten years.

When it came to the commercial life of the region, the world still revolved around central Portland. Lloyd Center Mall had just opened, but in the suburbs there was no Washington Square, Clackamas Town Center, or Mall 205. Kruse Way was still the Kruse family farm. The large employment areas of Washington County and Rivergate were still farms and marsh lands respectively.

In the area of higher education, Portland State University was then called Portland State College and annual tuition was just over $400. Community education was all the rage in 1968. Both Mt. Hood and Portland Community Colleges were established by public vote that year. Clackamas Community College was created just two years prior. It would be several years before any of these schools opened a campus.

OHSU was still the University of Oregon Medical School. The three schools of medicine, dentistry and nursing werenít merged to form OHSU until 1974.

As far as the built environment, the region has changed dramatically as we absorbed one million residents. In 1968, the tallest building in downtown Portland was the 25-story Harrison Condominium tower in the South Auditorium area near PSU. Today, it is the 20th tallest building in Portland.

The change in the suburban landscape has been no less dramatic. There were farms and open spaces between most communities 38 years ago and it was probably unthinkable to the residents of Hillsboro that one day there would be continuous urbanization between their city and Beaverton, just as that notion of continuous urbanization between Hillsboro and North Plains is unthinkable today.

Simply put, one million new residents will have a transformative impact on our region. Preparing for that future will take more than a few tweaks to height limits in our centers or designating a few thousand acres of urban reserves on the edge.

We canít predict the future, but we are not powerless. Confronted by rapid growth, our predecessors demonstrated uncommon leadership by creating statewide land use planning laws, the urban growth boundary, Metro and TriMet. They built new roads and light rail lines, community colleges and hospitals. They created entirely new neighborhoods and cities, and they protected historic neighborhoods from destruction. They revitalized downtown Portland and adopted the [Metro] 2040 Plan to curb suburban sprawl. They taxed themselves to purchase over 8,000 acres of natural areas.

In Portland and Oregon, we have inherited a legacy of innovation and progress in the face of rapid growth. Today is our turn to write the next chapter and I am confident that we can step up to the challenge.

Metro Councilor Brian Newman

 

Vision into Action / 1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 / Portland, Oregon 97204 / Phone: (503) 823-9585