Portland is the straight-A student of cities: well-prepared, does the right thing and wins lots of awards. It has great organic food in inviting cafes, wacky bohemians and loads of public art. If it weren't for the moist maritime climate everyone might live here.
The city is divided into quadrants, with the Willamette River separating the northeast and southeast sections from the northwest and southwest. The heart of downtown is on the west side, with fabulous, trendy restaurants, the famous Powell's City of Books, well-kept (and popular) urban parks and pedestrian- friendly shopping districts.
Actually, the entire city has similar attributes. The southeast, for example, has more of a middle-class/bohemian feel, with old, charming homes, packed coffee houses and offbeat clothing stores.
Portland wins regular honors for progressiveness. The League of American Bicyclists ranks Portland as the most bicycle friendly city in America. Downtown Portland has bicycle stoplights and bicycle traffic jams, even at night. The city has a high — and growing — ratio of parkland per resident, along with a robust public transit system.
One city policy permits residents, with neighborhood consent, to paint or re-construct intersections so they become public gathering spaces. In fact, the city is so progressive it inspired the self-parody television series Portlandia, offering residents the chance to squirm uncomfortably as they laugh, sort of, at their collective eccentricities.
For high culture, Portland fields two symphonies and many choral and chamber groups. There are large art and science museums, and a very active arts community. Portland often ranks in the top 10 most literate cities (in an annual study by Central Connecticut State University).
The recession hit Portland hard but the unemployment rate (8.6 percent in December 2011) is falling. Oregon offers residents age 62 or older a substantial tax credit on pension income: Many older residents pay no state income taxes.
The area has an unusually high number of public universities, including a large state university campus and community college in Portland, several private colleges (including Reed and Lewis & Clark), and lots of technical, religious and alternative medicine schools.
The concentration of physicians and specialists in Portland is above average, but the number of hospitals and beds per capita is low. Residents eat healthfully and exercise regularly and have low rates of obesity.
The teacher's pet does have some issues: This metro area has ballooned from 1.5 million people in 1990 to 2.2 million today, and more people seem to show up every time a recession hits California. But if this is stressing everyone out, you wouldn't know it by the hap-hap-happy vibe around town.
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