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Editor: It's been a tough couple of years for this city, but the first signs of a turnaround are beginning to appear.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The HMCS Brandon of the Royal Canadian Navy arrives in Portland for Fleet Week. Columnist: Portland's been beaten, battered and bruised, but it's coming back. My wife, Katy King, and I live downtown; about a block from City Hall.

At the height of the seemingly perpetual litany of crises — the pandemic, protests, riots, a growing homeless population, smoke from wildfires, broken windows and graffiti, the opioid epidemic — we never considered moving. We love it downtown.

Even when downtown is "down."HAYNES

But as summer approaches, the old Portland is beginning to bloom again.

Foot traffic is up.

Katy and I regularly hit the farmers markets on Saturday at PSU and on Wednesday at Shemanski Park; both are more crowded than they have been in a while.

Once again last week, I found myself frustrated at Powell's City of Books because the crowds were thick, the lines long, the empty chairs in the café non-existent. It was a lovely and long-sought frustration.

The Rose Festival seemed to be a hit this year. The Blues Festival is right around the corner.

An effort to find shelters for the homeless appears to be paying off, but the operative word there is "appears," because, as we've written before, no government agency can tell us how many people are homeless; who they are; where they are at any given time; or the root causes of their homelessness. Would a true census of our homeless residents be an expensive, time-consuming, labor-intensive process? It sure would. Has any other community managed it? Not a one. Does that mean we shouldn't try? Absolutely not. You can't fix what you can't measure, and until we have real data on our homelessness crisis, we have no metric to measure "success."

Fewer windows downtown are boarded up, and we can only hope that the graffiti vandals figure out how much they hurt the morale of small-business owners and workers, and go find something else to occupy their time.

The live theater venues are back open, and crowds are surging. We can't find parking anywhere near our place when performers are treading the boards at the Schnitz. And that's a good thing.

When I'm not editing newspapers, I'm a novelist. And in that capacity, a lot of the people in my circle of friends, fans, editors, publicists, agents and writers all tend to live outside of Oregon. One constant message I get from them: Wow, you're lucky to live in a cool city.

When I point out the cycle of trauma we all experienced over the last couple of years, my out-of-town friends say, "Yeah, well, that's true in our city, too. But at the end of the day, you're still in Portland, Oregon. Count your blessings."

Katy and I had something to celebrate last week. (We always look for something to celebrate; I have literally popped a Champagne cork in honor of getting the laundry done before the weekend.) We didn't have a plan, so we went wandering. Along the Park Blocks, under the looming cranes constructing the new Ritz Carlton Hotel, into Powell's — the greatest English-language bookstore on Earth. We've been to the "best" bookstores in New York, Rome, London and Paris; none hold a candle to Powell's. We wended our way into the Pearl District, ended up dining al fresco at Piazza Italia. Then strolled back home.

I'm always accused of being Pollyanna, and it's true. Things are not perfect in Portland, nor have they ever been. Inequities that existed before the pandemic grew worse. We have a very long way to go.

But for the first time in a long time, I have a sense that Portland is back.

Dana Haynes is editor in chief of the Portland Tribune and managing editor of the Pamplin Media Group.


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