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Posts published in “Day: June 12, 2006”

Building toward what?

The Center for the Rocky Mountain West has pulled together an analysis on construction growth around the country, with some figures and conclusions that ought to startle. (Thanks to the High Country News Goat Blog for the pointer.)

construction map

We notice first of all five northwest counties in the "very high" construction category - in Washington, Clark (no surprise) and Whatcom (yeah, a bit of a surprise), in Oregon, Deschutes (of course) and in Idaho - not Ada or Kootenai but Blaine and Teton (probably owing to the high price of housing there). A string of additional counties - in Idaho, Ada, Kootenai, Bonneville and Valley, and in Oregon, Jackson - are in the second tier.

About some of this, the Center says, "A heavy concentration of construction activity has emerged in the Rocky Mountain West, stretching from western Montana to southern Colorado and into New Mexico." This is usually taken as a strongly positive sign for economic growth, and in many ways it is.

But: "This growth has made all of these states much more construction dependent, as indicated in the lower chart by the amount of construction labor earnings for every $20 million in total personal income." (Emphasis added.)

The High Country News blog suggests on this, "Despite the obvious negatives of growth (more pollution, more habitat lost, more traffic jams, more crime, more total aggravation), all the hammering on new houses and Bigger-and-Bigger Box Stores means income for workers. It can shore up the whole local economy. Arguing against it amounts to arguing against workers. The politics must go uphill."

But turn the issue another way, and that almost suggests inevitable and never-ending growth, which most adults know won't happen. What happens once the build boom cools?

Westlund’s cruising speed

Ben Westlund's independent campaign for governor seems to have held from the beginning to its message, approach and focus - it knows what it is about - but it may begin to face the question: Is that enough?

Ben WestlundTurn back a few pages to an earlier stage in the campaign. Westlund, who had been a Republican state senator from the Bend area (he still is a state senator), switched his party identification to "independent" and announced his candidacy for governor on February 14. A significant surge of excitement ran around the state, and some objective measure of it showed up on a press release his campaign issued less than two weeks later: More than $100,000 in contributions had poured in, and more than 100 volunteers were hard at work gathering petition signatures.

That was a campaign on the move. You probably could not have got anyone to take a bet as to whether Westlund would got on the ballot. In the months since, a common assumption seems to have built in that he will be on the ballot. But the relevant numbers suggest that today, it's a debatable question. (more…)

Defining Vancouver

Over the last few weeks we've had to spend a good deal of time in Vancouver (Washington, not B.C.), affording time and inclination to consider that old question: Is it a true free-standing city on its own, or just another suburb of Portland?

The closeness of the call is what's mind-working. The ties to Portland are as substantial as those of Beaverton or Gresham, as anyone crossing the Columbia River bridges well knows. (A tip for travellers with adjustable schedules: The worst weekday transit times we have found are not rush hours but rather the noon hour and about 3 p.m.) Technically, according to the feds, Clark County is part of the Portland metro area. And yet there's a distinctiveness; land on a Vancouver street after a stay in Oregon and you can just tell, even if the signs hadn't told you, that you were in another state - another place.

With that in mind, the May 21 column on the subject by Columbian Editorial Page editor John Laird rewards reading. His landing point on the matter of definition, naturally, is in favor of a free-standing city. But he gives the suburban argument its due, and what intrigues is that side of the argument seems the stronger.