Outside of its eccentricities and environmental consciousness, Portland survives and thrives because of various factors often seen in successful cities, says Chet Orloff, a prominent historian and founder of the virtual Museum of the City.

Here's his take on what makes Portland a vital and successful city:

  • "First would be the place, where it is."
  • "Second is its peculiar history of what we've had, where people have taken great pride in the place and not tried to make it the biggest and brightest and most successful in the world, but most decent and available."
  • "In the past 50 years, there's been an inculcated sense of citizenship, where you get thousands of people engaged in neighborhoods and city commissions and whatever else. There's a strong understanding of the tools and practices of citizenship. … We've had our share of people who probably shouldn't have got into public office, but we've overall had an honest run, and it's resulted in a higher sense of trust between citizens and governmental leaders."
  • "We have a really strong sector of citizens who are professionals — architects, urban designers — who take great personal pride in the city. A lot of people here go the extra mile."
  • "Portland has a pretty good public-private partnership that really is elemental in sustainable cities. It requires such ingenuity and creativity, and you find that when you have an environment where people trust each other."
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