What happened: Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle took to The Oregonian's editorial page to issue a not-so-veiled threat: Either Portland City Hall puts more beat cops on downtown streets, or he's taking his employees elsewhere.

"Our employees have had so many car break-ins downtown that we have started referring to parking in Portland as our 'laptop donation program,'" Boyle wrote in his op-ed.

He added that he would spend the next 90 days considering whether he had erred earlier this year when he established a headquarters for Columbia's Sorel brand of shoes downtown.

Tim Boyle
Tim Boyle

Progressive critics had a field day with Boyle. But it's hard to fault his basic concern.

Columbia moved its corporate headquarters from Portland to unincorporated Washington County in 2001, a blow that successive mayors have sought to reverse. There's a tension for companies that employ young creatives: The real estate is cheaper and the taxes lower outside the city, but the restaurants, nightlife and other amenities are better downtown.

Why it mattered: At 68, Boyle, Oregon's second-wealthiest man, would appear to have nothing in common with the unnamed baby boy whose January death horrified the city.

Yet the baby and Boyle, in radically different ways, brought focus to Portland's failure to address the pervasive homelessness on city streets.

A homeless camp in Southeast Portland. (Daniel Stindt)
A homeless camp in Southeast Portland. (Daniel Stindt)

Robert Liberty, director of Portland State University's Urban Sustainability Accelerator, says Boyle's employees are experiencing the result of the city's failure to plan for growth.

"We're seeing the arrival of wealth in the form of higher paying jobs—lots of them," Liberty says. "How is this being expressed other than a Tesla dealership opening?"

As the city booms and property and business taxes flood in, Mayor Ted Wheeler has warned of budget cuts. Liberty says that while the city isn't equipped to address mental illness and addiction, there's no reason it cannot tackle the third driver of homelessness—the housing shortage.

"We have the tools and the capacity," he says. "We have to do better."