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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.

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