A Line in the Sand


See a larger version of the chart that accompanies this story at www.wweek.com/photos/3118/ugb.gif.

Born of some deep thinkers' utopian musings in the 1960s, the Metropolitan Service District, popularly known as Metro, was conceived as a bold experiment in regional government-one that today remains, like a nervous high-school student, in search of an identity.

The agency as we know it began with voters' passage of Measure 6 in May 1978. The result was a strange beast: the only true regional government in the United States, with officials directly elected by voters and with real powers over planning and development.

At first the agency inherited jobs no one else wanted, like managing the zoo and waste disposal. Following some early stumbles-attempts at a trash-incinerator and a flood-control district were foiled by strident opposition-Metro's role has evolved to include planning, garbage dumps, recycling, regional parks, cemeteries, the Expo Center, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and the Oregon Convention Center. For the three counties and 24 cities in Metro's domain, the agency's control over federal highway dollars is a powerful hammer.

But of all its sundry pursuits, Metro is best known for drawing a line on a map.

In 1979, Metro drew the nation's first urban growth boundary, or UGB. It was intended to contain development, protect surrounding farmland from sprawl and encourage a vital urban core.

Nowhere is the UGB more evident than along Springville Road in the Bethany area of Washington County. On one side of the street, lies suburbia in all its glory, the long rows of tract houses massed like foot soldiers; on the other side, a rustic patchwork of hay and oat fields.

The line was supposed make for a compact city by forcing developers to build up, not out. So far, it hasn't completely worked-just look at 82nd Avenue.

One reason Portland isn't more compact is that, to overcome political opposition, Metro made the boundary way too big. Another reason is the city of Vancouver, Wash.-not subject to Metro control-which has acted like a safety valve to accommodate P-town's population overflow. A third reason is a state law passed after a push by developers in 1995 that forced Metro to expand the boundary. Since Metro's formation, the region's population has swelled by a third, to 1.3 million, while the UGB has expanded by 12 percent to 254,000 acres.

In 2000, voters revamped Metro's form of government to create a powerful president with a voice on the agency's council. Two years later, to fill the post, they elected David Bragdon, a Metro councilor and transit buff.

Once considered a left-leaning Metro true believer, Bragdon has morphed into a guy who espouses fiscal accountability over Metro's $26 million budget and who favors markets over regulations.

Last October, smarting from criticism by developers, he proposed scrapping the agency's eight-year push to protect streams by restricting nearby development, saying Metro should be a partner to local governments, not a top-down regulator. The proposal sparked yet another identity crisis for Metro. If the agency won't take any tough stands, asked Councilor Carl Hosticka, then "What's the point?"



The origins of baseball may be lost in the mists of time, but there's no doubt where the Hacky Sack made its debut: right here in the Willamette Valley. In 1973, John Stalberger, a 23-year-old millworker from Oregon City, was looking for a way to exercise an injured knee when his buddy, Mike Marshall, introduced him an old Native American pastime-kicking around a leather bag filled with beans. Various problems with the leather beanbags-they would get wet and sprout, for one thing-spurred the pioneers to try new designs, sizes and fillings. Unfortunately, Marshall died of a heart attack before they were awarded a patent for their creation in 1978.

Stalberger worked overtime to turn the world on to his new toy. Today, more than 100 million Hacky Sacks have been sold, and the sport has its own governing body, the International Footbag Advisory Board. The record for consecutive kicks is 63,326 over nine hours. Stalberger currently lives in Camas, Wash., and works in real estate.

* Clinton Street Theater first screens The Rocky Horror Picture Show, giving hope to a whole generation of maladjusted freaks. Defying all predictions and the laws of common sense, the Clinton Street will continue to show the cult film well into the next millennium.

* WW calls Saturday Night Fever "ravishing and infectious."

* It's hunting season on Portland jaywalkers when the Police Bureau offers a prize to the first person to nab its decoy jaybird. The hunt for the errant pedestrian is part of a monthlong crackdown on the dangerous practice of crossing against red lights.

* My-Te-Fine mogul Fred Meyer, who built his retail empire from a horse-drawn coffee wagon, dies at age 92 of a heart ailment. Stores remain open at the request of the pertinacious tycoon.

* For almost five decades, it was a stark monument to the Automobile Age: 10 lanes of asphalt strangling the west bank of the Willamette. But Harbor Drive is rubble now, its spell broken by the lush green grass of Waterfront Park, whose first sections open this year.

* Efforts by ranking officials at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to destroy incriminating documents lead to an awkward moment when OLCC assistant director Charles E. Miller's necktie gets stuck in a paper shredder. Gov. Bob Straub orders an investigation.

* Discrimination charges plague the Portland Public Schools. In July, the Portland district loses $450,000 in federal funding because of skimpy ESL efforts. In December, activist Herb Cawthorne charges that the district's desegregation plan is unfair and suggests busing white kids to black schools. Superintendent Robert Blanchard rejects two-way busing, however, and federal investigators find that Portland's policies, while biased, are technically legal.

* Bus riders breathe a sigh of relief as the Transit Mall formally opens. Long after the bagpipes and bugle players have gone home, Bud Clark will unveil his famous "Expose yourself to art" poster satirizing the mall monuments, which critics deride as "sculpturally ignorant" and "sophomoric."

* Hollywood promoter Tom Nash opens Key Largo, transporting Portland's beautiful people to sound-stage Caribbean nights.

* WW readers declare The BeeGees Artist of the Year and rate as Best New Artist a young singer-songwriter named Elvis Costello.

* In the May primary election, state Sen. Vic Atiyeh wins the Republican nomination for governor, ending a comeback bid by former Gov. Tom McCall, and goes on to upset incumbent Bob Straub in November. Atiyeh's philosophy: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

* The year ends in tragedy when United Flight 173, carrying 189 passengers, plunges into two vacant homes in east Multnomah County, killing 10 people on board but miraculously causing no casualties on the ground. The DC-8 plane, which originated in Denver, ran out of fuel circling PDX.


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FEATURES: Hell on Wheels: John Callahan | Neil Goldschmidt's Web of Power | Gus Van Zant: The Camera Man | Homer's Odyssey: Matt Groening | Quadruple Expresso: MAX Makes Tracks | Nike's Achilles' Heel | Biting Our Time: Restaurants Revisited | Highway to Hell