Missed Opportunity

Like many people living in modern day cities in North America (U.S.), I live in a city that is struggling to find its groove again. 

In Portland, Oregon, there’s not a day or night that goes by without hearing about the houseless crisis, the weather, and the gun violence that seems to be everywhere in our Rose City. In fact, over the weekend, I swear Eric (the hubster) and I were awakened early Saturday morning by 5 rounds of gunfire that sounded close enough for us both to bolt out of bed. In a groggy state of mind, Eric suggested that maybe it was the new neighbors doing some early morning home improvements? Nah, I doubt it. Just one week prior, there was another shooting that killed three young men at a nearby North Portland neighborhood park.

As for the incident over the weekend, nothing has been officially reported, but a colleague of mine who lives in the area confirmed also hearing the gunshots around 5:20 AM. 

Enforcement and response for these types of disturbances have sadly been limited to the now fewer officers available for more severe crimes. The social unrest of 2020 prompted a “Blue” flight of police retiring or transferring out of Portland’s more liberal jurisdiction. I won’t say that all police are bad because it’s not true. What I will say is that policing is an institution that has historically promoted bad behaviors that have had adverse effects on BIPOC and Queer communities, even when the faces of the victims reflect those of enforcement. This is a time to enact changes and policies that are designed to protect and serve everyone. The flight has left the city vulnerable to a variety of nefarious activities and behavior further hampering recovery. 

Safety is the main concern I’ve heard from friends and even some colleagues, preventing them from wanting to come back to the downtown core of the city; an issue I have unfortunately personally experienced. With the abundance of trash, tent-covered sidewalks, and the perception of lawlessness, this makes revitalization a real challenge. There are larger companies and organizations mandating the return of employees back to the office as a way of providing an economic and physical deterrent against potential illegal activity to help nudge things in the right direction. I get it. Having employees be a physical presence of goodwill seems like a convenient and logical choice. If businesses bring people back to their respective workplaces, this will encourage other industries to do the same. 


Putting such a burden on employees to be the economic drivers of recovery doesn’t fix the problem, especially when the original issue(s) at hand, continue to be barriers in returning remain unresolved. The extrovert in me really wants to see more people back at the office and feel that hum of activity throughout the city. I enjoy seeing my colleagues in-person rather than speaking to their digital avatars and framed faces through my computer. Not to mention, igniting that synergistic spark of collaboration doesn’t happen as easily for me in a virtual setting. I’m fortunate that adapting back to a more traditional or even hybrid schedule doesn’t really impact my world much. I don’t have to coordinate childcare for children or navigate the various preteen commitments. Eric, and I do have a cat, Pato. Though he’s not as demanding as a child, he does assert his cuteness for attention on my remote workdays. When I’m not at home, he can snooze all day or hang outside with his stalker cat buddy Joey. 

My heart really goes out to businesses here that have had to not only endure a pandemic and social unrest (when it seemed like all of Portland was on fire – if you listen to certain media outlets), but now they have to battle vandalism and theft as they try and keep their doors open. Even after years of paying into insurance for damage protection, some insurance companies are no longer paying claims due the frequency of occurrence. The lack of protections is forcing businesses to either absorb the costs or move out of Portland all together. 

I feel like more could be and should be done to encourage businesses to stay, move back, and entice new businesses to fill the many empty storefronts that are prominently on display throughout the city. I do understand that all social and economic dynamics have changed in our post-pandemic world. Now more things are done in the virtual environment which has created opportunities for some, but for others like myself, I enjoy being out and about supporting local businesses. An initiative like this would require investments by the city and state to offer  partnerships, low cost loans, mentoring, and monitoring to increase success for a new venture. 

Lloyd Center: Could this place/space be reimagined with residential? Daycare? A fresh produce market? All of the above?

Shopping centers used to be the economic hubs for communities and places to gather for social activities for many mall rats in this country. Now with the popularity of online shopping and a recent global health crisis, hopefully behind us, these places of commerce have become empty reminders of a time gone by. In Portland, the Lloyd Center is the oldest shopping center in Oregon and is going through a bit of a renaissance with some smaller businesses tired of the unsafe conditions on the city streets, relocating indoors for more security and stability. This has created an opportunity not just for the businesses to continue to thrive, but also for the shopping center too. When the safety concerns are satisfied, more businesses and people will want to come back. 

Another gap on the rocky road of recovery is staffing. There are job postings everywhere. Despite how you may feel about immigration, there is a labor force waiting to work not too far away. Can’t we create a job placement agency that combines language proficiency services, job training, and most importantly security for background checks to fill the vacancies? I can hear the comments already in my mind. What about putting Americans in those jobs? Well, you can see how well this is working out for U.S. It’s an opportunity, and whether you want to admit it, this country has a history of using (and abusing) migrant labor. Although maybe this time, this new chapter can have a happier ending. 

The pandemic has left a blighted scar of broken dreams throughout Portland. It’s hard to see this once vibrant city now reduced to a fragile flower with only its jagged thorns exposed. 

As I wrote this piece, yet another anchor Portland business (REI, an outdoor recreation store) has given notice, citing vandalism, theft, and safety concerns of staff as contributors for leaving Portland. 

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