Yes, dear readers, there is an Easter Bunny.
We're exhausted from trying week after week to convince you climate change is real, city taxi regulations are written in blood and public docks on the city's river should belong to everyone.
As it turns out, you love stories about swimming holes and doomed food carts, icebound bike rallies and a whiny shoe company executive who thinks our city is—wait for it—boring.
Will we ever figure out what stories will make you happy?
Actually, we brought you all these stories. And (all kidding aside) we're thrilled you liked them.
What follows is our annual roundup of the most-read 2014 stories on wweek.com. As it does every year, our list includes weighty investigative reporting, outrageous cultural turns, and simple entertainment—stories as thoughtful, inventive and idiosyncratic as Portland itself.
You also clicked on stories about Oregon's controversial first lady, a troubled natural-bread kingpin, and the umbrage a U.S. Senate candidate took at being asked about his faith in mythical holiday creatures.
Our list excludes items from our regular features (such as Best of Portland) and guides (Restaurant Guide, Bar Guide, election endorsements) that draw huge numbers. You sent our Feb. 26 cover story, "26 Reasons to Love Portland Right Now," through the roof—and we're bringing it back as an annual feature.
Please enjoy this look back at what made you heat up the Web. Meanwhile, we're already searching for the stories you'll love in 2015.
1. âBest Swimming Holes Near Portland,â June 18.
Portland gets wet—at least based on our most-clicked story of the year, a guide to Oregon's best swimming holes, which started packing them in back in June and didn't empty out until the middle of September. Now, it's winter. Your options for hypothermia-free swimming are more limited. Here's our cold-weather guide.
320 SE 16th Ave., 823-3668, portlandoregon.gov.
Best for: Privileged inner-eastside Portlanders.
Save the Buckman Pool! Every year, the city tries to cut this expensive, chlorinated basement puddle from its budget. That's because only about 500 people use it each year, at a cost of about $300 each. But every year, denizens of the best-connected Democratic political neighborhoods in the city step up to declare the hardship of going to a pool 25 blocks away. Well, if you're a liberal but don't like to share, this pool's for you. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Mt. Scott Pool
5530 SE 72nd Ave., 823-3183, portlandoregon.gov.
Best for: Playdates.
There are larger, fancier indoor pools in the metro area—Vancouver's Firstenburg Community Center, and the wave pool at Big Surf! in the restive tribal region of North Clackistan—but unless you want to travel deep into the 'burbs, this aquatic center is your best bet. It has two pools—one for grown-ups doing laps, and the other a watery playground with a respectable 120-foot water slide. There's also a hot tub, but don't expect it be kiddo-free. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Tub & Tan
8028 SE Stark St., 257-8191, tubandtan.com.
Best for: Playdates.
The Montavilla neighborhood's top attraction, Tub & Tan is "the premier relaxation host of the Pacific Northwest" and offers tanning beds plus both indoor and outdoor tubs. With the indoor tubs, you get your own TV and restroom. The outdoor tub has a fireplace and a waterfall surrounded by landscaping with native plants. Both have free towels and mood lighting. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
4530 SE Hawthorne Blvd., floathq.com.
Best for: Seekers.
Time spent in a float tank is like being dissolved and poured into a human-shaped mold. Southeast Portland's floating nerve center, Float On offers both open-room and womblike tanks for $65 for 90 minutes. The water is about 40 percent epsom salt and clean of pathogens. We wouldn't suggest working on your backstroke during a session, but floating is as refreshing as most workouts—without the physical exertion. Just don't touch your eyes. TYLER HURST.
Bagby Hot Springs
Mount Hood National Forest, bagbyhotsprings.org.
Best for: Cold days, hippies.
In the summer, Bagby is great. But—provided you can travel the unmaintained roads leading there—cooler days are even better. In the dark and drippy forest surrounding these remote springs, water comes out of the ground boiling hot and is fed through a system of log "pipes" into private "tubs" inside shacks made from timber. Even the odd dogs owned by odd people who congregate here seem as if they just popped out of the Great Northwest Novel. MARTIN CIZMAR.
When we heard the news, our reaction seemed appropriate for the scale of the event.
We were talking about the imminent death of Cartopia, Portland's first great eastside food-cart pod, at Southeast 12th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard.
Cartopia was doomed to closure in October, we were told, and the site would become that great Portland cliché of the new millennium: a mixed-use apartment building.
But it never came to pass.
The real-estate deal to redevelop the site was never finalized. On Sept. 17, the cart owners signed a new two-year lease with their landlords, good till the end of 2016.
The main effect of the impending closure, says John Eads at Pyro Pizza, was brisk summer business.
"July, August, September," he says, "before the news it wasn't going to end, we saw people coming out, trying new things, getting the last-minute food in.â
In August, Eads also opened a second cart location at the Tidbit Food Farm and Garden pod on Southeast Division Street, anticipating that the Cartopia cart would close.
"It worked well with the annual [winter] downturn," he says. "I didn't have to lay people off. It worked out better for the staff."
Only one of the Cartopia carts left the pod before the noose was unstrung: Bubba Bernie's Cajun cart.
"Bubba Bernie's is gonna be pissed," Potato Champion owner Mike McKinnon said in September. "He'll be howling."
He was. We tracked down Stephen Bernard, co-owner of Bubba Bernie's, in Hillsboro, where he owns a drive-up cart called Hello Sailor Coffee Co. that offers, according to its Facebook page, "great espresso and other refreshments served by charming attractive baristas."
Bernard says he operated Bubba Bernie's in Cartopia for six years. When he thought he had to clear out, Bernard says he was faced with unloading the cart without being able to guarantee the buyer a viable location.
Bernard says he's recovered but counts himself as a victim of the Cartopia confusion for having to sell Bubba Bernie's under some duress.
"Initially I was upset," he says. "I just wish I got a better sale price." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Even Portland's worst weather usually isn't so bad.
Though long and dreary, winters on the Willamette River tend to mild. That's why, for its first 13 years, Portland's Worst Day of the Year bike ride was good for a smarmy chuckle.
The ride was named in honor of Feb. 8—the day, in 1996, torrential rains caused the Willamette to rise 11 feet. On Feb. 9, 1933, the temperature fell to the coldest ever recorded in the state: minus 54.
So on the weekend closest to Feb. 8, Portland cyclists gather for a weather-defying winter ride. About 3,500 slip on gloves, take a nice little ride around the city and drink hot cocoa. Sometimes it's so balmy they don't even need gloves.
Then came Snowpocalypse 2014.
"I think that Mother Nature finally got sick of us saying, 'Come out and laugh at the weather,'" says organizer Porter Childs, "and decided to teach us a lesson."
Childs and his team started hearing predictions of snow the weekend of the event. They knew Portland snowfall rarely was enough to disrupt much. "I don't think we really worried about it ever," he says.
Organizers first canceled a challenging part of the route along Northwest Germantown Road, which had been hit by freezing rain.
By Saturday, with snow blowing (7.3 inches in all, according to the National Weather Service), they called it all off.
"We decided that the conditions were unsafe for staff, volunteers and riders and that we would have to cancel," Childs says. "The truck loaded with event equipment was frozen in place for the next three days."
The irony was rich. The Internet took notice—our story went viral, drawing interest from national media.
"NPR picked up the story, and I heard from friends in Georgia and Massachusetts who listened to the report," Childs says.
Portlanders responded by holding a cross-country ski race down West Burnside Street. Childs, meanwhile, went for a "crazy, slippery trail run" in Forest Park.
Barring another blizzard, the Worst Day of the Year Ride will be back in 2015, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 8.
It starts and finishes at the Lucky Lab on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. And they're not dialing back the Portlandiness even one notch.
"When we get over 3,000 riders, we are going to buy everyone a beer," Childs says. "Laughing Planet is serving organic handmade soups, the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers pounds out the start, and the mayor and first lady are riding." MARTIN CIZMAR.
Anthony Watson, 38, instantly became one of the highest-profile newcomers in Portland when he arrived in April: wildly successful, dapper, British and one of the very few openly gay Fortune 500 chief executives.
His abrupt departure in December for "personal reasons" led to rampant speculation in the press, including a Fortune magazine article quoting an anonymous source who said Watson was underwhelmed by the Portland social scene.
"As a single gay guy from London," said the source, Watson "underestimated what it would be like. It was a culture shock." (Watson has since tweeted that he does not dislike Portland; he's declined, however, to respond to press inquiries.)
The Fortune piece and Watson's departure raise the question: Is Portland a tough place for a successful gay man to date successfully?
Gregory Gourdet, chef at Departure and one of the current stars on Top Chef, says yes. Gourdet—who says he's dated only two men in the six years he's been here—believes it's difficult to find people in Portland who are as career-oriented, driven and busy as he is. "My job is No. 1," he says. "People move here for lifestyle."
Daniel Borgen, a writer and editor at PQ Monthly, says Portland's gay nightlife is different from that of cities like London or Barcelona. "Our jam is basically sweaty, genderqueer dance nights at bodegas and edgy drag shows at Rotture," Borgen says, "not male-dominated circuit parties and bars."
"Portland is Portland," says Stephen Marc Beaudoin, executive director at arts organization PHAME. "It's not trying to be anything else than Portland. It's a great place to be an LGBT person, meet folks and date. I don't see any huge out-migration of LGBT people. Maybe I'm missing it."
Watson tweeted Dec. 17 what may be his final statement on our city: an image of a very bored-looking Santa in Pioneer Place. "I think," he wrote, "I've found the loneliest #SantaClaus in the world." MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
5. "Breaking Bread," Jan. 8.
On Nov. 14, 2013, a troubled ex-con had a mental breakdown at his workplace and then went out and slammed his car into two police vehicles.
It would have been an event that went largely unnoticed except the driver was Dave Dahl, whose cartoon face beams from the wrapper of each organic loaf of the popular Dave's Killer Bread.
Dahl's redemption story had become legend. He had gone to jail for dealing meth and overcame addiction and a violent rage (he had a history of assaulting police) to co-found the wildly successful bakery.
WW's reporting revealed the legend of Dahl's clean living was more myth. President of the company, Dahl had become increasingly dependant on alcohol, especially after a New York investment firm bought a 50 percent stake in the bakery.
In the spring of 2013, WW reported, Dahl went into rehab after an intervention from family and employees. He had been on leave from the bakery when he was arrested for ramming the Washington County sheriff's patrol cars.
Our story also asked: How would a company so reliant on a prominent symbol do after the icon falls?
As it turns out, very well.
At the time of Dahl's arrest, his bread was sold in 14 Western states (black states in map above). Now the market for Dave's Killer Bread has nearly doubled to 27 states—including Texas, Florida and Ohio (red states in map above). Company officials say their product will be sold nationwide by the end of 2015.
The bread's label once carried a first-person narrative from Dahl, but this year the company's marketing shifted away from Dahl's story to a focus on the bread's natural ingredients and the company policy of giving ex-convicts a second chance.
"What started as one man's journey has turned into so much more," the bread wrappers now read.
Dahl pleaded guilty except for insanity Oct. 31 and will avoid jail time while being treated for what his attorney describes as previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
Company officials say he remains an adviser to the bakery, and helped with the rebranding of the bread wrappers.
"It's an amazing time for the company," says CEO John V. Tucker. "We're all grateful to build on the legacy of the Dahl family." AARON MESH.
6. "Oregon Says Yes to Marijuana," Nov. 4.
The corner of Southeast 10th Avenue and Morrison Street smelled like victory.
Backers of Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon, celebrated a historic win Nov. 4 by passing around a 2-inch spliff outside Holocene. "I'm all about those bowls, 'bout those bowls," a woman sang.
Pot sales aren't legal until July 1, 2015, but the arrival of a new industry (worth $40 million a year in tax revenues for the state) has already brought changes to the state. Here are five:
1. You can pretty much light up now. The district attorneys in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have stopped prosecuting marijuana crimes. "They've decided it's July in November," says Leland Berger, a lawyer who founded Oregon CannaBusiness Compliance Counsel.
2. Your tax dollars are already being spent to regulate weed sales. The Legislature this month fronted the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (now also the weed board) $583,000 to prepare for regulating pot sales. The agency hired Tom Burns, the architect of Oregon's medical-marijuana program, to oversee the rule-making. The Portland City Council has allotted $65,800 for the annual salary of Portland's first legal-weed regulator, who will help decide where pot businesses can operate.
3. The federal government is wiping its hands of prohibition. The U.S. Department of Justice ruled this month that Native American tribes can now grow and sell marijuana on tribal land in any state that has legalized weed. And Congress passed its "cromnibus" spending bill to de-fund federal prosecutions of medical marijuana.
4. Here come the lawyers—and the realtors, landlords and banks—all ready to take in marijuana money they once rejected. Portland credit union MBank is taking pot businesses as customers while real-estate agents help site prospective shops. The Oregon State Bar is changing its code of professional conduct so lawyers can advise their clients to follow state law, not just recite the federal ban.
5. Big-brand marijuana is on the way. Seattle equity firm Privateer Holdings in November announced a "first global cannabis brand" called Marley Natural. (Yes, named for the late reggae singer Bob Marley.) Oregon is the first state to allow out-of-state investment in its pot market, and tobacco companies are said to be eyeing the opportunity. Coming soon: the marketing of the "Two-Buck Chuck" of legal weed. AARON MESH.
7. "BlahBlahBlahGate," May 2.
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate was virtually unknown before WW showed him the door during our primary-election endorsement interview.
In April, Callahan joined four other candidates for the interview. He grew agitated when he thought we were focusing too much on the leading contenders, state Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend) and Portland neurosurgeon Monica Wehby. At one point, we had to warn Callahan to stop interrupting others.
The interview went sideways 66 minutes in. Callahan called out WW staff writer Nigel Jaquiss for writing "blah blah blah" in his notebook while another candidate spoke.
Callahan angrily accused us of showing disrespect. Editor Mark Zusman tried to rein it back in.
Zusman: Mark, here's my question—climate change, do you believe that it's a myth or reality?
Callahan: It's a myth.
Zusman: It is?
Jaquiss: [Clears throat] Where are you on the Easter Bunny?
It really didn't go well after that. An agitated Callahan wouldn't allow Zusman to ask another candidate a question. When Callahan wouldn't calm down—"Who do you think you are?" he asked the newspaper's editor—Zusman told him to leave.
For this year-end update, we offered Callahan—who finished a distant third, with 7 percent of the primary vote—a chance to turn the tables: He could interview Jaquiss on camera, ask whatever questions he wanted, and even throw Jaquiss out if it suited him. We'd put it all on the Web.
Callahan was in no mood to let bygones be bygones, insisting Jaquiss and WW still owed him an apology. We declined. He then spent several minutes berating us, as is his right. We withdrew our offer, as is ours.
We really did intend to give Callahan the final word. We still will:
"This is still an open wound," he says. "You owe me an apology, and I won't take part in anything involving your newspaper until you apologize. You guys really screwed up. You guys were trashed nationwide. You guys came across as being stupid and childish. There's no closure." BRENT WALTH.
When Illmaculate stormed out of his own show at the Blue Monk on March 1, he couldn't have imagined people would still be talking about it nine months later.
It was an impulsive act, born of frustrations both immediate and long-standing. Yeah, the 14 cops who descended on the small, now-defunct venue on Southeast Belmont Street, allegedly out of concern for the club's capacity, wouldn't allow members of his entourage back inside.
But as a veteran of Portland's rap scene, the MC born Gregory Poe had seen this kind of thing happen too often. Minutes after leaving the building, he went on Twitter and declared, "I will not perform in this city as long as the blatant targeting of black culture and minorities congregating is an acceptable common practice."
OK, chalk that up to the heat of the moment, too: Poe was back on a Portland stage the following month, performing at the release show for his Clay Pigeons mixtape.
But the incident caught the attention not just of local media but city officials, and forced Portland finally to confront its often-strained relationship with hip-hop culture.
The ripple effects were felt throughout 2014, from this summer's PDX Pop Now local music festival, which booked the most rap acts in its 11-year history, right up to last week, when the city's Independent Police Review published the results of its investigation into the Police Bureau's policies toward hip-hop-related events. The report called for increased transparency and continued dialogue—not exactly the scathing indictment some were hoping for, but it's a start. MATTHEW SINGER.
It started with a simple fact check.
WW staff writer Nigel Jaquiss had spent months investigating whether Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes had used her exclusive position as an adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber to leverage $85,000 worth of private consulting work for herself.
Jaquiss had thoroughly documented his story, yet one detail nagged at him. Hayes had told reporters she had been married twice before meeting Kitzhaber. Other media dutifully reported it as fact.
But Jaquiss' background research of Hayes turned up court records showing she had been divorced three times. Were the records somehow wrong, or had Hayes lied? And if she had, why? Hayes didn't respond to Jaquiss' question about the marriage, and the cover story went to press without making an issue of the discrepancy (âFirst Lady Inc.,â WW, Oct. 8, 2014).
Meanwhile, Jaquiss kept digging. By noon the next day, WW had pieced together evidence that Hayes' third husband was a then-18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, and that Hayes, nearly 30 at the time, never lived with him before their divorce four years later.
The subsequent story on wweek.com documented a sham marriage that violated federal immigration laws. Hayes declined to comment, except to tell WW she had concealed the 1997 marriage from Kitzhaber until the newspaper had asked about it.
The next day, Hayes held a press conference in which she admitted she had been paid $5,000 to enter into the sham marriage to help the man gain legal immigration status in the U.S. The story went national. Kitzhaber's once-lofty lead in his race for re-election against his then-struggling opponent, state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point), narrowed.
The marriage furor threatened to overshadow a more serious question: Did Hayes violate state ethics laws that prohibit using a public position for private gain? Over time, however, Kitzhaber was besieged by questions about Hayes' consulting deals.
On Nov. 4, Kitzhaber won a fourth term by 6 percentage points over Richardson. But he and Hayes now face a possible investigation by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission into whether the first lady illegally used Kitzhaber's imprimatur for personal profit. BRENT WALTH.
The note about the wolf was buried on page 6 of a lengthy, otherwise unremarkable state report: "A single wolf was documented once in the White River Unit."
What seemed like an aside was huge news: The "White River Unit" is agencyspeak for the eastern side of Mount Hood National Forest. That meant a lone wolf had reached Mount Hood the previous December for the first time since 1947, when the species was driven to extirpation in the state.
"It used to be that the wolf issue was in Idaho and Yellowstone," says Rob Klavins, an environmentalist and wolf expert for Oregon Wild. "Then the discussion was all about wolves in Eastern Oregon. Now, wolves are here, and all of a sudden it's relevant to people in a different way."
Wolves made a lot of news in 2014. In June, researchers learned that OR-7, the collared wolf that famously crossed into California and back into Oregon, had found a mate and sired pups in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. In October, the state held tense hearings into whether wolves should be removed from the endangered-species list and open for hunting, as they now are in Idaho. Look for the debate to flare again in 2015, especially if OR-7 and his mate establish a full-fledged pack in Southern Oregon.
We're unlikely to learn more about the Mount Hood wolf, Klavins says, but more will follow.
"Given half a chance, wolves thrive, and there's a lot of really good habitat in the Cascades," he adds. "It would be impossible to prove what happened to that specific wolf—there's a mystery around it. The fleeting nature of those prints on Mount Hood and the fact that we don't know what happened really captured peopleâs imagination.â MARTIN CIZMAR.
Other Top Stories
11. "Olympia Man Dies After Injury That Left Him Naked Near Burnside Bridge," Oct. 16. After WW's story, Portland police stopped calling the death of Cougar Burleigh an accident and opened a homicide investigation.
12. "Portland Is America's Only Livable City, According to Notable British Magazine," July 29.
For the 378th time, Monocle blows Portland kisses.
13. "The Hole Story," Jan. 15. Secret freshness codes, intentionally surly service, and high-speed cash churn: What it's really like working at Voodoo Doughnut.
14. âHow to Dance Like Future Islands: An Animated Guide,â Aug. 13. All the moves from the lead singer of the synth-pop MusicfestNW band.
15. Hotseat: Robin Lopez, Jan. 8. The Trail Blazers center, comic-book nerd and Disneyophile riffs on Goonies, Teen Titans and Angela Lansbury.
16. "Stripper Responds to The Oregonian: 'I Am No Mary Magdalene,'" Aug. 8. In which a former dancer tells the Cupcake Girls where to get off.
17. "The Flaming Lips to Play Free Show in Waterfront Park," July 22. How Major League Soccer All-Star Week came to love a "merry band of psychedelic pranksters."
18. "Saki's Big Bet," Nov. 12. The owner of Lents nightclub, landmark and eyesore the New Copper Penny squares off with the city's urban-renewal advocates.
19. "Transgender at 10," Aug. 6. Why Oregon is becoming a destination for transgender children and their families.
20. "The Long Goodbye" Aug. 6. The threat of foreclosure could displace the last African-American family on one Northeast Portland block.