For the week of June 16, 1999  thru June 23, 1999  

Portland’s idea

Portland, Oregon has decided it knows where its congested streets, sprawl and burgeoning population is coming from. They are coming from jobs and the city doesn’t want them anymore,

The city has structured a deal with Intel, the international computer-chip maker. As part of a $200 million tax break package, Intel will be fined, in effect, for every job created over a cap of 5,000.

The deal smacks of desperation. However, it’s a kind of desperation shared by communities from coast to coast.

Oregon’s residents are famous for wanting to control the worst effects of growth. Portland has stopped its growth at the city limits, in an effort to protect agricultural lands on the perimeter. The city has strict zoning laws and an innovative light rail system it hopes will get cars off the streets.

Like communities in the Wood River Valley, Portland has been flailing away year after year trying to keep the best of the city while balancing the individual right to develop property.

It often looks like a losing battle. No city in the country has yet figured out how to limit growth. Little by little, piece by piece American communities are seeing spaces they love filled by the excesses of sprawl and rampant consumption.

However, Portland’s efforts demonstrate that the politics of place may be getting stronger.

Intel has agreed to the job-limitation deal because, say its managers, workers like to live in nice places, too.

We’re not convinced that limiting jobs is the answer to the ugly parts of growth, but cooperation between growing companies and the public could lead to better communities for everyone.


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