YEARS: 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99
FEATURES: Intro | the Mt. Hood freeway | city hall of fame | architexture | rhymin' rogues | some of our favorite Portlanders | 25 years of statistics | what ever happened to...| Nike's marketing muscle | The Oregonian's big oh's
Leveraged-buyout wizards Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. purchase Fred Meyer Inc. for $430 million, or $55 a share. The Oregon Investment Council kicks in nearly half the purchase price from the pension funds of state employees. OIC chairman Roger Meier later receives a sweetheart stock deal from KKR when he retires from the council.
Yamhill Marketplace opens on the spot where fruit sellers once hawked their wares from horse-drawn carriages. The 77,000-square-foot, $7 million extravaganza of pushcarts, ethnic cafes and craft-filled kiosks is described by City Commissioner Mike Lindberg as "the most exciting project that has come to downtown Portland in the last several years." Later it becomes a gym.
Bleak economic fortunes threaten to extinguish Artquake, but a gush of protests is explosive enough to salvage the festival. Consolidated from three days into two, and minus the craft booths, the revived event opens in the South Park Blocks to coincide with the debut of Yamhill Marketplace.
Described as "Oregon's most dangerous criminal," Steven Michael Kessler
escapes from Rocky Butte Jail with five other inmates, shooting and critically
wounding a 61-year-old guard along the way. Kessler later surrenders in
his underwear outside a Howard Johnson's hotel near Kansas City, Mo.
Citing shrinking enrollment, the Portland School Board decides to close Jackson High School at the end of the school year. The move outrages parents and residents, who threaten to secede from the district. Superintendent Matthew Prophet takes office just in time to grapple with the controversy.
The Portland Timbers disband after owner Louisiana-Pacific decides it can no longer afford to lose $2 million to $3 million a year on the North American Soccer League club. In their final season, the Timbers average 8,786 fans per game. The NASL itself dissolves after two more increasingly irrelevant seasons.
A Tri-Met crackdown on forged passes yields six arrests in one week. "And this is just the beginning," vows Tri-Met public-affairs director Dick Feeney. "We are going to continue to move swiftly against anyone found with these passes."
Armed with a five-point battle plan, Mayor Frank Ivancie declares war on crime and proposes to strengthen police powers--and make it illegal to give cops "the bird." Critics, including the city attorney, say the plan is unconstitutional, but Ivancie isn't fazed. "The Constitution is a kind of moving target," he shrugs. "Judges are reinterpreting it all the time."
Packy, the Western world's first pachyderm born in captivity, turns 20 at the Washington Park Zoo.
The rundown Heathman Hotel is sold for $2.5 million to the Stevenson family, who restore the landmark 1927 building to its former splendor, sparking a surge of similar hotel restorations.
The 623-foot ship Cornucopia leaks approximately two tons
of potentially lethal anhydrous ammonia into a Rivergate storage tank
nearby. Twenty-three residents end up in local emergency rooms, and the
Multnomah County sheriff's office seals off and evacuates
After cutting billions of dollars from welfare programs, the Reagan administration distributes 30 million pounds of surplus government cheese to food banks nationwide. Workers at Portland's Life Center hand out free crackers to particularly needy cases.
Chinese food goes gourmet: WW describes Chang's Yangtze as an "overnight success" and a worthy contender on the local cuisine scene.
Their first office: the downtown Red Lion Hotel, where they linger over coffee until the waitress kicks them out. Their second office: the GranTree Plaza, where they save quarters for the hallway pay phone. Thus art director David Kennedy and copy writer Dan Wieden start the city's biggest ad agency. Their first client: Nike.
Western (and African) roundup! Local music legend Obo Addy enlists bandmates, including three buddies from Ghana, to play on his record of Western and African traditional music. The man WW once heralded as Portland's most popular Ghanaian drummer when he was working it out with KuKrudu has been a club-circuit regular since before actors became presidents.
In June, in a medical feature on Kaposi's sarcoma, WW mentions an obscure affliction known as acquired immune-deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
Roll over, Beethoven. Commercial
Powered by Rindy Ross' battle-cry vocals and saxophone sizzle on the
BY NIGEL JAQUISS
In the worst joblessness since the Great Depression, former members of the middle class lined up for meals at Old Town's rescue missions and jostled for places in line outside the state unemployment office.
Unemployment in Oregon soared to 11.5 percent in 1982, the fifth-highest rate in the nation and more than twice today's rate. The busiest place in Portland was the downtown office of the state Employment Division. "A lot of these people are skilled workers out of a job for the first time in their lives and have no idea how to get another one," said the office's assistant manager, LaVon Caldwell.
Near the end of 1981, Gov. Vic Atiyeh declared that Oregon's timber industry was in a state of disaster--half the state's mills were either shut down or barely running. In timber-dependent Douglas County, joblessness reached 18 percent in 1982; in Curry County the number was 20.7 percent.
Three times during 1982, Atiyeh called the Legislature back for emergency sessions, forcing lawmakers to slash the spending levels they had authorized in 1981--even the badly needed Employment Division laid people off, cutting 10 percent of its staff. The problem was simple: Companies and individuals weren't making money, so the state couldn't collect taxes.
"People forget about how bad it was," says John Mitchell, chief economist at U.S. Bancorp. "The contrast between then and the '70s, when the place was just on a tear, was amazing."
Runaway inflation plunged the entire nation into recession in the late '70s, but the tight linkage between interest rates and the demand for wood products ensured the damage would be particularly severe in the Northwest. When interest rates soared--the prime rate reached 21.5 percent in 1981--residential and commercial construction nearly stopped dead. Nobody could afford to borrow and nobody needed to buy wood products.
Nationally, housing starts fell by more than half between 1978 and 1982. Locally, it was worse. The number of building permits issued in Oregon in 1982 was only one-seventh of those issued in 1978.
More than half the members of Oregon District Council of Carpenters had no work. Companies that managed to stay afloat demanded handouts. Hyster Manufacturing, a multinational manufacturer of forklifts headquartered in Portland for generations, threatened to shut down unless the city and state bailed it out with millions. (The proffered subsidies weren't enough, and Hyster hightailed it in 1983, eliminating 300 jobs at the site of what is now the Hollywood Fred Meyer.)
At the same time, the price of wheat, Oregon's chief export, plummeted along with the prices of nearly all other agricultural commodities.
But for all the gloom and doom, the end was in sight. The Federal Reserve's policy of choking off double-digit inflation with high interest rates was beginning to pay off. A prescient review of economic conditions issued by U.S. Bank in 1982 opined, "We may have bottomed or be very close to it."
Today, Mitchell says, it's easy to look back and see that the national recession reached its worst point in November and Oregon's flattened out slightly thereafter, but the pain was so great, it took years for people to realize the recession was over.