Incoming Portland mayor offers hope for rural Oregon
Portland’s mayor often has an effect well beyond the bounds of that city. Ted Wheeler, who is the mayor-elect, brings a much different perspective to the job than his recent predecessors. In a word, he is less myopic.
Wheeler could be one of agriculture’s best friends in a city that has oversized influence on Oregon’s vast rural expanses. The divide between Portland and rural Oregon is a chasm.
Farmers and ranchers may not fully appreciate Portland’s importance as a market and a hub of vital services. But there’s no mistaking Portland’s willingness to push its agenda on farming practices, labor, economic development and the environment on its rural neighbors.
“What can agriculture do,” the Oregon Farm Bureau’s Dave Dillon asks, “to better connect with city government and thought leaders who seem to have insularity and sometimes utopian vision of food production that does not match the marketplace and the demands of a growing world population?”
In Wheeler, rural Oregon may have a partner in Portland. His family made its money in the timber industry. He appreciates the urban-rural divide and urban-rural interdependence.
“You can’t talk about success in the agricultural industry without talking about the role urban areas play,” he said. “Urban communities in America are increasingly clueless about the challenges facing rural communities.”
From our distant vantage, Wheeler seems the best choice Portland has made in recent years. He’s a smart guy, a sensible choice for voters who often prefer the unconventional.
Though we won’t know for sure until he takes office in January, Wheeler seems like someone agriculture can work with to advance both rural and urban interests.