Toward One Oregon: Rural-Urban Interdependence and the Evolution of a State

By Mapes, Jeff | Oregon Historical Quarterly, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Toward One Oregon: Rural-Urban Interdependence and the Evolution of a State


Mapes, Jeff, Oregon Historical Quarterly


TOWARD ONE OREGON: RURAL-URBAN

INTERDEPENDENCE AND THE

EVOLUTION OF A STATE

Edited by Michael Hibbard, Ethan Seltzer, and Beth

Emshoff

Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, 2011. Maps,

tables, notes, bibliography, index. 183 pages. $22.95 paper.

In Toward One Oregon, the authors make a valiant effort to demonstrate that rural and urban Oregon remain highly interdependent, share many common values, and should be cheering on each other's economic successes.

As self-evident as much of their argument is, it is difficult to get Oregonians to feel this interdependence.

Having been a Portland-based political journalist for nearly three decades, I am struck by how much attitudes about the state have changed. Portlanders were once much more apt, it seems to me, to describe themselves as Oregonians first and foremost. They raved about the beauty of the state and described Portland in humbler tones, as that oh-socomfortable place that was too small to really be a big city like Seattle or San Francisco, but with more amenities than your typical small town.

Now, Portland is indisputably a true city, in fact one with a path-breaking urbanism that is as celebrated in the national media as any other West Coast city. Portlanders still rave about the beauty of the state, but if they are talking about a part of the state outside their usual playgrounds on Mount Hood or the northern Oregon coast (or the football stadiums in Eugene and Corvallis), they sound more like tourists in an exotic place.

Oregonians outside Portland's immediate orbit have certainly picked up on a sense of dismissal, just as a spouse can tell when his or her partner says all the right things but no longer shows much passion. Voters in the regions once most dependent on the timber industry in particular are likely to complain that Portlanders (and by that term, I mean those in the metropolitan area) do not seem to care that they have struggled economically for decades.

In fact, the Portland area's success is no longer as dependent on the surrounding region and its natural-resources sectors. As one chapter by David Holland, Paul Lewin, Bruce Sorte, and Bruce Weber points out, the Portland metropolitan area grew much faster than its surrounding rural trade area between 1982 and 2006, and it has become a net exporter to the rest of the world. In short, it is increasingly easy for the average Portlander to feel his or her livelihood is not affected by the economic health of, say, Roseburg.

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