A friend of mine emailed this article to me about so-called "progressive" cities. The ones labeled most progressive had one consistent feature: race. From New Geography:
Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places. But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.
Then, the article calls out Portland specifically:
The progressive paragon of Portland is the whitest on the list, with an African American population less than half the national average. It is America's ultimate White City. The contrast with other, supposedly less advanced cities is stark.
As the college educated flock to these progressive El Dorados, many factors are cited as reasons: transit systems, density, bike lanes, walkable communities, robust art and cultural scenes. But another way to look at it is simply as White Flight writ large. Why move to the suburbs of your stodgy Midwest city to escape African Americans and get criticized for it when you can move to Portland and actually be praised as progressive, urban and hip?
What drove me to post this is the line, " It's easy to have Scandinavian policies if you have Scandinavian demographics."
I love Portland, as does the friend who emailed this to me. What we want is to increase diversity in Portland, not continue to lose it. The only thing arguably missing here - besides more bike lanes - is more people of color. So how do we as a progressive people make it appealing for people of color to want to stay here? Discuss.