Crime is down—most of it, anyway. Tax revenues are up. At last count, Portland had 32 cranes in the sky.
This would seem to be the best of times for our city and state.
So why does it feel that our political culture is morbidly complacent? And why does the election on May 15 feel like a chance to shake it by the shoulders?
It's because beneath the bustle of all that construction, an unemployment rate of less than 4 percent, a thriving tech industry and a reputation for open spaces, cuisine and cannabis that makes us a global destination, there is trouble in our river city.
And the election gives all of us who vote a chance to do something about it.
Simply put, the boom times aren't extending to all. In Portland, the shopping carts and makeshift tents dotting the streets remind us every day how this city is increasingly divided between winners and losers. And they're a reminder Mayor Ted Wheeler's first 16 months in office have been plagued by his struggles to tackle this problem.
Eighteen months after voters gave City Hall $258 million to address homelessness, for instance, nearly all that money is sitting idle.
In Salem, the ossified state Senate defers to the desires of Republicans and landlords rather than help victims of our housing crisis.
Incremental reform might have been fine 15 years ago, when housing was cheap and plentiful and nobody had collected the hard data to show how unequally black and poor Portlanders are treated. But the time for standing pat has passed.
There are two races in particular we'd like to highlight. Our choices for those races in City Hall and the state Capitol bring a sense of urgency and anger to their campaigns. One has spent decades demanding answers to racial inequality. The other grew up the daughter of a chronically homeless mother.
They are both mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
They are Jo Ann Hardesty, our pick for Portland City Council, and Shemia Fagan, whom we're endorsing for the Oregon Senate.
Two candidates won't turn this city and Salem's culture around by themselves. But Hardesty and Fagan possess the skills and energy to inspire—and maybe even embarrass—their colleagues and help end the complacency that threatens us all.
The ballot is also filled with other candidates who offer hope.
In the following pages, we've made our endorsements in nearly two dozen contests that will appear on local ballots. In every contested race, we invited all candidates to WW for interviews.
For our silly question—we prepare one each campaign cycle—we asked all the candidates to tell us the most embarrassing moment saved for posterity (and the Kremlin) on Facebook.
Every election is an opportunity to upend the status quo. Here's how you can seize the chance.