Say Nice Things About Portland: A Manifesto
You can be the ambassador our city needs right now.
Say Nice Things About… Portland Activism!
Here are a few local activist organizations fighting to make Portland better every single day.
Broken and Beloved
82nd Ave is full of flavor and contradictions. That’s what makes it Portland’s most iconic street.
Say Nice Things About… Portland’s SEXIEST Statues!
They’re historical, they’re artistic… and they’re HOT.
Say Nice Things About... the Portland Music Scene!
Behold! Here are five recurring music nights and events to fall in love with.
Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Kickass LGBTQ+ Community!
Trans strip nights! Drag king vampires! Star Trek tea houses! (And we’re just getting started!)
Say Nice Things About… Portland's Unstoppable Makers!
They'll make an abandoned building a museum. They'll make a scary movie gay. They'll make your favorite restaurant vegan. Get ready to be changed by these five Portland makers!
Say Nice Things About... the Portland Food Scene!
Food cart pods, old standbys, and eateries that support our city’s sex workers.
Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Pop Culture Culture!
The dream of the ‘90s (and ‘80s, and early aughts) is alive in Portland.
Say Nice Things About… Portland Comedy!
The laughs don’t stop in a city where the comedy scene punches far above its weight.
Come As You Are
A Transplant’s Unexpected First Year in Portland
Your Guide to the Biggest Summer 2023 Festivals Around Portland
Pickathon, Portland Pride, Burger Week, and More
Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Delightfully Wild Arts Scene!
Galleries and museums? Of course. But a local cemetery and a mall as well? You better believe it.
Say Nice Things About… Portland's Little Quirks
Dildos. Notes. Gratitude. Portland's eccentricities have made the news—but they're part of what makes this place so great.
Say Nice Things About... Portland's Comics Makers and Sellers!
Artist Ross Jackson describes his love affair with the Portland comics scene... via a comic!
Say Nice Things About… Portland Sports!
“Portland isn’t a good sports town”? We beg to differ.
[Welcome to our "Say Nice Things About Portland" guide to the city! Did you know that this feature package is also in PRINT?? That's right, this is our first print product since the start of the pandemic, and we're psyched to produce a lot more. Find the "Say Nice Things" guide in over 500 locations around the city, and if you'd like to see more guides you can hold, please consider making a small contribution to the Mercury, please and thank you!—eds]
It’s been 10 years since I moved to Portland, and it’s the best decision I ever made. We’re a city full of character, depth, creativity, and despite our flaws, we have an active community of advocates fighting for change. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing obituaries of Portland’s death from grandstanding grifters. There are too many good people out here doing too many good things to keep harping on our failures—so let’s talk about a few local people and organizations who are proving that our city is worth fighting for!
1. Business for a Better Portland (BBPDX)
Our city’s economic recovery has run into a political firestorm that’s spilled over into the civic commons. Legacy power brokers, nervous about what charter reform means for them, are doubling down on soundbites lifted from Nextdoor and the Atlantic to convince you that Portland’s best days are behind it. Many of them are hoping that the city’s damaged brand can be converted into political capital at City Hall, where special interest groups can curry favors and concessions in return for magic beans over the next 18 months before a newly elected council that more strongly represents Portlanders takes office in 2025. Thankfully, we have an organization like Business for a Better Portland which informs and activates business owners to engage in the public sector, such as advocating for city charter reform, participating in the city’s economic development strategy, and supporting community events. They understand that behind your favorite place to grab brunch and the startup working to make the world suck a little less, are people committed to seeing Portland achieve its massive potential. Small business owners are rolling up their sleeves, with vision, curiosity and grit to build a Portland that a lot of us are finding it hard to see right now. Don’t let the dark money-funded “People for Portland” convince you that our city’s demise is imminent, because BBPDX members are out here proving them wrong every day. The next time you feel like you want to trade Couch Street for a new couch in Austin, join them at one of their events or visit with one of their members, and I promise you’ll be inspired to become an active part of our city’s recovery.
To find out more, go to bbpdx.org
2. Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP)
I know what you’re thinking: Police accountability in Portland is trash, so how could any police advisory board be doing any good? You may be right about the first part, but PCCEP is creating important community spaces for conversation that will build the foundation for how we fix the dysfunctional police accountability system. Building trust in the community and creating space for voices not often heard is an important part of the transition to the new police accountability system that voters approved by 82 percent in 2020. Alerting the community to what the city is up to—like trying to implement faulty surveillance technology that disproportionately harms communities of color—helps engage organizers and raise awareness that activates Portlanders to demand practices that will lead to actual community safety. Not all of the city’s police oversight boards are created equal (ahem, the Focused Intervention Team Oversight Group AKA FIT COG), but give credit where credit is due, because PCCEP is expertly navigating the muddy waters of police accountability, while shining a light on the ways we can all be involved in improving police oversight in the city.
To find out more, go to portland.gov/pccep.
3. League of Women Voters (LWV)
At a recent happy hour with some local change makers, someone mentioned that the League of Women Voters is like Portland’s mom: they’re kind, firm, vigilant, protective, and always coming up with new ways to innovate local politics. Whether it’s putting out comprehensive reports on government reform and police accountability, activating voters to engage with their city, or showing up to challenge our elected officials, they are fighting for Portland’s future. The League is also doing the heavy lifting of monitoring the ongoing implementation of the charter reform measure—and that is so critical at a time where the majority of the current city council is seemingly spending all their time explicitly or subtly trying to undermine the will of voters. The LWV continues to be a great example of how you use your societal and political privilege to amplify the issues important to underrepresented communities. Talk about allyship!
Find out more at lwv.org.
4. Blanchet House
If you ask any Portlander which political/social issue they care most about right now, a majority of them would say the homelessness crisis. And while everyone agrees we need solutions, we all definitely don’t agree on what is the best way to solve it. The list of amazing advocates and organizations fighting for humane, compassionate solutions is long, but Blanchet House stands out for how they put their theory of change into action. Since 1952, Blanchet House has been providing social services in Old Town through food, shelter, and aid. They provide free meals to houseless Portlanders along with other life-saving resources like Narcan and clothes, as well as operating multiple units of housing connected to services which can help get people back on their feet. But what sticks out most is the way Executive Director Scott Kerman uses Twitter to combat the current negative narrative and advocate for treating humans with dignity while providing solid solutions. It takes a huge toll to personally and professionally challenge the status quo’s narrative, so I have deep respect for leaders who aren’t afraid to speak truth to power. Keep it up, Blanchet House!
Find out more at blanchethouse.org.
5. Portland Street Response (PSR)
Two years ago Portland accomplished what, for many years, seemed like a pipe dream: We created a new first responder system. Under former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s leadership and with the guidance of fierce community advocates, a new way to interact with our community was brought to life in the Portland Street Response. The goals of this program are to assist people experiencing mental health and behavioral health crises without the intervention of an armed police officer. This nationally recognized first responder system is built for contemporary times, and it’s important we continue to scale up this program as the need on our streets becomes more evident every day. Despite city wide popularity and approval from a variety of different sectors, political forces and neglectful leaders are seeking to misdirect the program and diminish its impactful mission. The incredible public servants who have brought this program to life deserve so much better and we as Portlanders need to demand its long term, citywide implementation. We’ve got your back, PSR!
Find out more at portland.gov/streetresponse
In short, there is so much to celebrate in Portland! It’s hard sometimes, when doing change-making work, to keep a perspective of love and hope, but it’s truly the only thing that will grow our movement. Plus, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity coming up in 2024 to elect an entirely new city council that represents our progressive interests—so don’t sleep on it! Portland may have been wounded, but it’s not dying, and thanks to the above people and organizations (and so many more), there truly is hope for our city’s future.
Candace Avalos is the executive director of Verde, chair of Portland’s Citizen Review Committee, and a former Charter Review Commissioner. Her top three favorite things to do in Portland are eat tacos at Taqueria Los Puñales, play in her kickball league in the many parks across town, and dance at Holocene!