Over the past 20 years, Cecil Yates has worked in both the public and private sectors of the real estate and economic development industries. His work with all

What is it like to live in Portland, Oregon?

Today is a beautiful, cold, crisp, sunny day, the kind of day I associate with the Christmas season from the first 41 years of my  life, lived on the East Coast.

Having said that, such days in Portland in December are quite rare, and so the general truth is more nuanced.

Summer usually begins on the 5th of July and for the next two to three months the weather is close to perfect. Very seldom oppressively hot, almost never muggy or humid, and generally cools down into the low 60s or even the 50s (Fahrenheit) during the evenings.

Beginning in late September / October, the skies cloud over and it begins to rain. This continues until late April or early May, when we start seeing some warm, sunny days, although from year to year it’s hard to know exactly when spring will begin. Typically we get very little snow, although every few years there’s a meaningful amount, usually in December or January, and it seldom freezes hard for more than a day or two (be careful when it does, though — I slipped on some ice and broke my ankle five or six years ago).

In terms of the culture, Portland is a mixed bag, or perhaps I should say that there are a number of cultures and subcultures in Portland to experience, most of which are not mutually exclusive (and in fact they interrelate in many ways).

  • the food and wine culture
  • the craft beer and distilled spirits culture
  • the bike culture
  • the sustainability culture (lots of subcultures)
  • the vegan and vegetarian culture
  • the performance apparel/footwear industry culture
  • the soccer culture
  • the running culture
  • the grassroots / civic engagement political culture (Oregon Bus Project)
  • the progressive / environmentalist political culture
  • the DIY / crafts culture
  • the indie music culture
  • the books culture (Portland being the home of Powell’s bookstore)
  • the churched culture (I’m always surprised by the number of people who go to church)
  • the unchurched culture (lots of Darwin-fish on cars)


I know there are tons of other cultures and subcultures I’m not thinking of, and they’re all interesting and contribute to the liveliness and vibrance of the city overall.

Portland is a young city, so as a person in my 50s I partake of many of these cultures and subcultures in a different way than many, because they are dominated by people whose sensibilities are a little different from my own. But I do enjoy them, and enjoy learning more about them.

Portland, like many other cities, has significant budget challenges and struggles to provide high quality public schools and policing. In recent years the Portland Police Bureau has been involved in a number of inappropriate and racially tinged shootings, and the African-American community has good reason to lack trust in the police. Having said that, I don’t really believe that the Portland Police Bureau itself is a racist organization, only that it needs to invest more in better training and community policing, in the hope that over time better relationships will lead to better outcomes, and vice versa. Portland has what is called a “weak mayor” system of governance, with the mayor serving as the preeminent member of the city council but not having strong executive powers. A proposed city charter amendment to create a “strong mayor” system failed a few years ago — Portlanders like things the way they are. So the mayor and city council members have to find ways to cooperate and collaborate. The current mayor, an immensely talented and committed public servant, has been hamstrung by a sex scandal that erupted immediately after he took office (January 2009) and will not stand for a second term. He will most likely be succeeded either by a woman from the business community or by the founder of the Oregon Bus Project.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ore…   (The latter is my candidate.) There’s a third candidate, a former city councilman, who is running farther behind in the polls.

Portland is the kind of place where you can see a hipster in skinny jeans riding a tall bike with a Weber barbecue kettle strapped to the back (I never understood this) or standing in a long line for a vegan doughnut at Voodoo Doughnuts. It’s also the kind of place where people sip coffee and read books all day at Powell’s or think nothing of spending $100 per person for an elegant dinner with local wines, wearing jeans and a polarfleece pullover in a restaurant with no dress code.

Before I moved here I had lived my entire life in the Amtrak Northeast Corridor region, between Washington, DC and New Haven, CT. Although my parents, my brother, and other family members still live on the East Coast, I love living in Portland and consider it my home. I love the relaxed attitude and the climate and, for want of a better word, the vibe. It’s a great place.