Say Nice Things 2024

Say Nice Things About Portland… Again!

It’s time to take Portland back from the buttholes. Here’s how.

Portland’s Cutest Creatures

Let’s say nice things about the city’s most adorable critters!

Why I (Still) Love Portland

A former Portlander returns to survey the city’s damage—and rebirth.

Say Nice Things FUN PAGE: Can You Find Time-othy the Chrono Goblin?

Time-othy the Chrono Goblin is causing trouble in Portland's past, present, and future... so find the little fucker, QUICK!!

Say Nice Things About… Biking in Portland

Things have changed since the early 2000s (not to mention 1896), but biking in Portland is still magical.

(Portland Chefs) Say Nice Things About… Portland Chefs

Portland’s premier restaurant and cart owners hype up the local food and chefs they love!

Say Nice Things About Local Drag Artists (Proudly Representing Portland All Year Long)

You might not know these performers (yet), but these drag artists consistently embody Portland’s strange and timeless beauty.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Themed Bookstores!

Whether you’re into sci-fi, romance, or weirdness, Portland has a bookstore for YOU!

The Evolution of Sleater-Kinney

Indie rockers reflect on 30 years as a band, and why they still call Portland home.

AfroVillage Does the Real Work on Portland’s Homeless Crisis

Founder LaQuida Landford shows up for Oregon’s most vulnerable ‘round the clock.

[Welcome to our second annual "SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT PORTLAND" issue! Read it online here, or if you like physical, paper-y things, you can find it in more than 50 locations all around the city!—eds]

First of all, thanks to everyone who’s been saying nice things about Portland! And to those who’ve been spreading all those bad vibes? Hello… YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

(Don’t worry, I’ll get to the identities of these “problem people” in just a minute. But first, let’s recap!)

Last year the Mercury introduced the “Say Nice Things About Portland” concept as a direct response to the wealthy, cynical conservatives who took advantage of the pandemic to gain political power and cram even more money into their bottomless pockets. And full disclosure, the “Say Nice Things” tagline was directly lifted from Emily Gail of Detroit, who in the 1970s was so sick of people crap-talking her hometown that she started a “Say Nice Things About Detroit” campaign which went a long way toward restoring that city’s damaged reputation. (You can read much more about this in my Say Nice Things About Portland manifesto from 2023, which I must humbly admit was a certified banger.)

But Portland isn’t Detroit, because we have our own host of challenges. Homelessness is real, drug addiction is real, and the devastating effects of the wealthy trying to desperately hang on to their money and privilege as capitalism slowly bleeds to death is OH. SO. REAL. For decades conservatives have been trying to squirm their way into Portland’s progressive politics with minimal success… that is, until the pandemic hit. That’s when they decided to go all in on pushing the narrative that the successful, and nationally adored Portland of 2015 had been brutally murdered by an explosion of homelessness, drug addiction, crime, and so-called rioters (in actuality mostly peaceful demonstrators asking for a bare minimum of racial justice). 

Facing what they laughably considered to be an existential crisis, a patchwork of downtown commercial real estate brokers, developers, and our local business association (formerly known as the Portland Business Alliance until they changed their name to Portland Metro Chamber to mask their terrible rep) formed a loose coalition of assholes who sprang into action. They wrote negative opinion pieces, commissioned slanted polls, erected laughably awful anti-Portland billboards, and issued warnings that if their business concerns weren’t immediately addressed, coddled, and enabled by the city, Portland would collapse in on itself like the haunted house at the end of Poltergeist. They used fear and intimidation (and MONEY, baby!) to convince Portlanders that only they could solve our problems—many of which were caused by their own greed and neglect. 

Many of their shameless attempts paid off: They financed campaigns which eventually resulted in the most conservative city council (and mayoral candidates) Portland’s had in decades. This is the same city council that repeatedly tried to scuttle voter-approved charter reform, as well as the innovative and popular Portland Street Response program, and gave the okay for Zenith to continue dangerously transporting millions of gallons of fuel through the city (despite our so-called climate goals). At the same time this coalition of wealthy nay-sayers stumbled upon a winning game plan: When a progressive law they hate passes, they wait three months, and if it isn’t an immediate success, they label it “an abject failure” that needs to be “fixed” or completely overturned. (Pour one out for Measure 110.)

So yeah… these buttholes are THE PROBLEM.

Homelessness is real, drug addiction is real, and the devastating effects of the wealthy trying to desperately hang on to their money and privilege as capitalism slowly bleeds to death is OH. SO. REAL.

And this is where “Say Nice Things About Portland” comes in! Don’t be fooled by the loud braying voices of these rich, narcissistic crybabies whose only concerns are their own financial success. THEY ARE THE MINORITY. Portlanders are finally waking up to their cynical schemes, and realizing that our city is far healthier than what some people would have us believe. Take a look at the diverse pack of city council candidates that you’ll be voting for in November—you’ll find a host of activists, progressives, and people who are interested in solving our issues instead of eternally kicking the can down the road and refusing to do the hard work necessary to tackle difficult problems. Of course you’ll see the occasional Business Alliance puppet in the mix, but overall this crop of candidates has the wealthy power brokers shaking in their Christian Louboutin boots.

These candidates, activists, and city cheerleaders represent the true majority of Portland—people who put the interests of the community before their own selfish desires. 

This begs the question: If nice people are the majority, then why do we seemingly only hear the loud whining of the butthole minority? Primarily because they’re organized and we aren’t. They’re also desperate, and willing to spend a disgusting amount of money to ensure their ideas become the dominant opinions. And if anyone disagrees with these opinions, an army of conservative internet bots are dispatched to issue threats, along with racist, misogynistic, and homophobic insults in an attempt to silence them. And just so we’re all clear, this conservative campaign is not limited to Portland—it’s a national trend that’s become particularly prevalent on the West Coast, as conservatives have infiltrated and are attempting to overthrow liberal strongholds in Seattle and San Francisco as well.

“Okay, yes, WE KNOW ALL THIS,” you might be sputtering loudly into my ear. “But what can we DO about it?” 

So glad you asked! I think you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to regain control of your city. First: Vote in all upcoming elections. If you see someone who’s endorsed by the local business alliance, police union, the Commercial Brokers Association, or failed gubernatorial candidates like Betsy Johnson, RUN THE OTHER WAY. (I would also advise you to beware of consistently sketchy endorsements from the Oregonian and Willamette Week, but that’s between you and your god.) 

Second: On a similar note, be wary of what local media is telling you. Don’t be fooled by unreliable polls commissioned by sketchy conservatives, and gleefully parroted by certain news organizations. Make no mistake, there are a lot of great reporters out there doing the real work of speaking truth to power, and at the same time there are a lot of editors whose main concern is accumulating as many fear-based clicks as possible. Treat all articles (including this one!) with the scrutiny they deserve, and write as many progressive op-eds as possible (trust me, the Oregonian will print practically anything). 

Third: ORGANIZE. There are some fantastic local organizations who are already countering the current onslaught of negative narratives, including Friends of Portland Street Response, Portland for All, League of Women Voters of Portland, Business for a Better Portland, Portland Metro People’s Coalition, and lots more. You can also organize your own group of friends and acquaintances to write emails, show up to city council meetings, or even make signs that reflect your positive attitude about Portland. (And if you can afford your own billboard, that certainly wouldn’t hurt!) This requires a certain amount of bravery—but it’s necessary. It’s not the job of the oppressed to constantly defend their existence and their right to live a happy life—but the rest of us CAN and SHOULD speak up. We’ve seen the positive outcomes that can happen when the community rises up to defend those whose voices aren’t being heard.

And fourth: SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT PORTLAND! Yes, you should absolutely defend our city against its many (including out-of-town) naysayers, but unfortunately you also have to defend it against seemingly liberal politicians who listen to the loudest, most obnoxious voices instead of actual experts. And while you’re at it, say nice things about PortlandERS—particularly the ones who have been doing the hard work of solving our problems without making the problems worse, while also championing the wild ‘n’ fun artistic shit that made our city so popular in the first place. 

Long story short, this is what we’re focusing on in our second annual “Say Nice Things About Portland” issue. We’re turning our gaze to the people, places, and even animals (!) that remind us of the positive things we should be proud of, and how good work based in kindness yields amazing results.

So let’s do this thing. Speak up for the thoughtful and progressive attitudes which will once again make Portland the envy of the entire nation. Say nice things about Portland, say nice things about PortlandERS, and say nice things about YOURSELF. You are smart, worthy of love, and your continued existence in this city and on this planet is important. We need you, and right now? Portland needs you.

Yer always pal,

Wm. Steve Humphrey


Portland Mercury