Convince me to move to Oregon
March 4, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Convince me to move to Oregon

My husband and I are considering moving our family to Oregon. We currently live in Omaha, NE. I've looked at city comparison web sites, and it appears the cost of living is a bit higher in Oregon, mainly due to housing costs. The Portland area appeals most to me, though I wouldn't necessarily want to live in the city proper. I haven't ever visited the state, but we don't want to live in a rural area, or with a population smaller than Omaha.

We have no ties in Oregon, so we'd be starting fresh and needing a job (software development/management). Our 3 kids are all preschool age, so switching schools is not an issue (though quality is still very important to us). Is there a public or low-cost Montessori option available? I have no family in Omaha. My husband's parents live here, but that's it on his side.

Since Portland is on the border with Washington, perhaps someone could touch on the pros and cons of living on the WA side vs. the OR side (leaving the PAC 10 out of it, please ;).

So tell me why Oregon kicks Omaha's ass.

Yes, I did just ask this question about San Antonio.
posted by wwartorff to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about Omaha, or really very much about Portland, other than my friend lives there and loves it so much he would marry it if he could. He maintains it has a great artsy scene, and is near some very beautiful geographical areas. His daughters go to public school (elementary age) and are doing quite well- whether that is a testament to the school system or their home environment, I couldn't say.

After seeing this I did want to move there myself, for what it's worth.
posted by Syllables at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Portland is fantastic! Maybe you could fly out for a week and check it out? I haven't lived there since I was but a wee boy, but I still fondly remember the free acting lessons I took at the free school just a few blocks away from the rose garden. I would imagine that there are many Montessori options available, but that's not something I can answer. The food is phenomenal, and there's a really cool urban culture. That being said, it's tough finding a job in Portland compared to Seattle.

Con is the weather, but duh.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:41 PM on March 4, 2012

People LOVE Portland.

But, unemployment is high. Finding work is challenging.

But as someone that frequently moves, I suggest that you guys take a vacation there (or anywhere you are considering) to get a sense of how it all works.

Also, and maybe it doesn't work this way where you live, schools are really neighborhood dependent. So when you ask about a good Montessori, I'd say -- there is probably at least 1 Montessori in each neighborhood. (We're moving to Seattle and there are 5 Montessoris in our new neighborhood and 3 Reggio-Emilias). (Although I'd recommend that you not assume that Montessori = quality... there can be great preschools that are not Montessori and Montessoris that aren't great.)
posted by k8t at 7:42 PM on March 4, 2012

So for the Washington v. Oregon thing, Washington has no income tax, and Oregon has no sales tax.

If you need a job in software, there area lot of tech jobs on the westside of Portland (suburbs, Beaverton and Hillsboro mainly). Not sure if there are tech jobs in Vancouver or not.

But if you don't want to live in the city proper, but don't want to live in a city with a smaller population than Omaha, then I'm not sure where you could live. Omaha has about 400k population, and Portland is the only city in the whole area which is that big (actually larger, but you know what I mean). Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham have around 90K each and Vancouver, WA has 160K, and those are the biggest cities that are not Portland in the Portland metro area. Everything else is smaller, or rural.

I don't know much about schools, but here are a lot of data about Oregon schools for you to study. I think I've heard that Beaverton schools are pretty good, but I also think there might be a few more interesting options in Portland.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:42 PM on March 4, 2012

There's no sales tax in Oregon.

There's a lot of world-class skiing, on Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor. The Palmer Glacier on Mount Hood has skiing year round, even in August.

The Columbia River Gorge is breath-takingly beautiful. It includes Multnomah Falls, the second tallest waterfall in North America.

By law, the entirety of the state's beaches belong to the state. There are no private beaches in Oregon. The coast is lined from one end to the other with state parks which support tent camping and/or trailer houses.

The Willamette valley is one of the few places on earth with no poisonous snakes. We also don't get cockroaches. And we don't get tornadoes. The last typhoon to hit this area was 1962.

It rains a lot here, but that means it's green all year round. As a farming area, the Willamette valley is one of the most fertile areas on the planet. In season, we get lots of local fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Pendleton Roundup is one of the great rodeos. (The population of Pendleton approximately doubles during the Roundup.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:57 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ah, and one more thing: fresh-caught salmon.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:58 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

After seeing this I'm glad that I did move there myself.
posted by golden at 9:05 PM on March 4, 2012

There's no sales tax in Oregon

There's no income tax in Washington. Oregon's income tax appears to be pretty steep (from

For single taxpayers and married couples filing separate returns:
-- 5 percent on the first $3,100 of taxable income.
-- 7 percent on taxable income between $3,101 and $7,750.
-- 9 percent on taxable income of $7,751 and $125,000.
-- 10.8 percent on taxable income between $125,001 and $250,000.
-- 11 percent on taxable income of $250,001 and above.
posted by parrot_person at 9:53 PM on March 4, 2012

Regarding the city vs. rural thing, I meant I would rather live in a suburb than downtown Portland. If we're more than 15 minutes away from a hardware store, my husband starts to have twitches. We're not urban hipsters, we're 40 year old parents.*

*this fact, however, does not make us mindless, boring losers. Living in Omaha does that.
posted by wwartorff at 6:08 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

No family connections to the area, no job leads, never been to Oregon and seriously considering living in Vancouver to avoid income tax? If that describes you, you could live in any suburb in America and get the exact same experience. There's the old story about the Seattle cold shoulder (everyone's super nice but...) and it applies to Portland, too. Double that if you commute from the suburbs.

Cities have hardware stores! Hippo Hardware on Burnside is great. (Do you mean home depot behemoths?)

This may sound harsh, but Portlanders have been protecting the city's quality of living through decades of "Californication" attempts. Before it was the Mt. Hood Expressway. Today it's the gawdawful Columbia River Crossing for people just like I described above. Huge swaths of traditionally African American North Portland neighborhoods are at stake if I-5 continues to expand for Vancouver commuters. Please do not move there if you do not share this kind of sustainable vision. There are pleasant family friendly suburbs everywhere in America.
posted by Skwirl at 8:27 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I don't think anywhere in the Portland metro area is more than 15 minutes from a hardware store -- heck, I live way out in the boonies and there's a hardware store 5 minutes away. Rural people LOVE their hardware stores. And actually, if you think the cost of housing is high in the Portland area, you might consider looking up in Columbia County -- our house sits on six acres and we bought it last year for $75K. And it's about 45 minutes to downtown Portland. Or only 40 minutes to Beaverton/Hillsboro tech firms.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:32 AM on March 5, 2012

Portland proper is great, but the suburbs of Portland are slowly deteriorating. My parents live in a suburb of Portland and have seen their house lose quite a bit of value in the last 7-10 years because crime moving out of the city, and into the burbs.

My fam-a-lam and I just moved to the east coast to avoid the cost of living there; the city proper is becoming very expensive to live in and as mentioned, and reasonably priced suburbs are getting pretty sketchy.

The job situation like everywhere is pretty bad, but PDX is very, VERY insular and it takes people a very long time to network there, compared to other places. Every single job my wife and I ever had there have been from friends or acquaintances hooking us up.

That said, if we had the money and the jobs, we'd be back there in a heartbeat. It's an amazing city.

Oh yeah, beer is REALLY cheap there. I didn't know how well we had it. To poorly quote Lewis Black: "It's cheaper to buy a plane ticket out there for a weekend of drinking than it is here (referencing NYC)"
posted by furnace.heart at 8:50 AM on March 5, 2012

Or only 40 30 minutes to Beaverton/Hillsboro tech firms.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2012

Some things about Oregon in general-the state is blue, but gets more and more red the further away from the two biggest metro areas-Portland and Eugene/springfield. This means these two areas really dictate state politics but it seems to actually be pretty civil and a well run state (compared to AZ at least where I moved from). Something like 80% or more of the states population is within these two areas, and if you include Bend it has to be well over 90% in three metro areas. One of the effects is that within these two areas there is a pretty good (and getting better) functioning public transportation system. The metro areas have acquired density partly due to fairly strict urban growth boundaries. Which are supported by an overwhelming majority of residents. If you want the endless sprawling suburbs from the midwest where everyone has their own quarter acre this is probably not the best state for you. The combination of the no sales tax revenue and the urban growth boundaries mean their is less commercial/retail space than most of the western US where cheap, available land and government wanting the revenue has led to a LOT of strip malls and commercial areas. There is still plenty of retail available and lots of restaurant, just not the endless neon wilderness i have seen grow up in the rest of the western US over the last 30 years.

It rains, a lot. Not the thunderstorms and downpours of the midwest but an endless, grey, soaking, chill rain. In the winter you are always vaguely damp it seems. I like the rain and the clouds and the cool weather. Lots of people don't. The vegetation can get thick here. Walking in the woods is more...challenging than a lot of the western states. Something is always there to puch past or grab your clothes or whatever. It is a vast, swallowing sea of green. This also leads to some things that were really surprising to me-blackberries are a horrible pest here and in most areas you can graze on them for several months in the summer as they line a lot of public right of way and walking paths. A lot of fruit trees have been planted in the cities/suburbs and you can get quite the snack just walking around in the summer/fall of apples (gravensteins are the best and really only available for about 4 weeks as they do not keep), pears, plums, grapes, strawberries, and lots more. Produce at farmers markets are at least the same and sometimes cheaper than the grocery store. Moss should be the state tree of oregon-we have lots of unintentional green roofs here.

Unemployment in Portland is about at the national average right now. There seems to be jobs available if you have the right skills (no idea on your field in particular) but not a lot of jobs and the people hiring can be...picky. As you get away from the metro areas not a lot of jobs and a lot of poor unemployed/underemployed people.

No much violent crime, but a fair amount of petty and property crime. In a lot of cases senseless stuff like metal theft that requires way more hard physical labor and pays less than working in an Amazon fulfillment center. Criminals here seem to love breaking into cars and stealing gym bags and cds. No idea why. The reason crime is increasing in rural suburbs is due to the property tax base here. Due to enviromental concerns logging of public lands was pretty much stopped in the 80/90s. Most counties got a LOT of revenue from timber sales off public lands. Since no timber sales, no revenue to counties and a drastic cut in public services like police and jails. This was covered for several years by federal subsidies to make this up. The problem is made worse by measure 5 which limits how much and how fast property taxes can be assessed. And with the lack of sales tax a lot of county are in real financial straights (some southern Oregon counties may be the first in the nation to declare bankruptcy). Just a glimpse of local politics.
posted by bartonlong at 10:30 AM on March 5, 2012

I'm getting ready to move next week to Corvallis, OR from Manhattan, KS. So on Oregon itself, I can't offer you a long time resident's view. But as a longtime Midwesterner, I can perhaps offer some insight from somewhere closer to your perspective. Firstly, I wouldn't move out there without a job lined up as it's quite expensive to uproot oneself regardless of location. In addition to dollars spent and time wasted, you lose a lot of social network value and so on.

Weather-wise, the major areas you'd consider are close to the coast, which means there's a bit of a buffer. Weatherspark is really useful for comparing climates. It looks like the record lows in winter are all above 0, and the 90th percentile summer high is like 90F. It's cloudy and does rain a lot, and between the rain and snow melt there seems to have been some flooding in the region in January. The rain I drove through was intermittent and foggy.

The US population center is in Missouri, but really it's bimodal-- people live on the coasts! In software, conferences are a good place to network and learn, and nobody schedules those in Omaha or KC. Living in Omaha it's a miserable flight to any conference. Living in oregon, a large fraction are now a short drive / hop, and those are the ones you end up attending. Same logic goes for vacationing spots.

Also, bikes and bikelanes and bikepaths everywhere. It's not just a urban hipster thing, it's quite popular with the suburban set. Just don't run cyclists over when making a right turn with the minivan, they don't like that. Oregon is very wrapped up in sustainability and conservation and other conflated liberal causes. So there's lots of restrictions on big box stores which may drive your grocery bill up, and a lot of "greenwashing"; I saw multiple carwashes advertising how a wash will improve gas mileage! There's also anti-sprawl land use restrictions that drive up the cost of the kind of home you're probably looking at. No idea about public schools as I'm a single childless person. Though Oregon State University is obviously a great school now that they've hired me. I hear Oregon has a cross boarder agreement with Washington for instate tuition.

Given how close to the WA border Portland is, and the tax treatments, I wouldn't be surprised if there's lots of people living and working in Vancouver and shopping in Portland. A slight benefit to either side is that if you itemize federal income taxes, you can take either state sales or state income tax but not both. So trading less sales tax for higher income tax might save you a bit on federal tax. And of course, taxes are used to provide services so it's not all negative. Lots of public transportation in Portland, and Corvallis funds their free city bus system through property tax.

Finally, there's a lot more Mefites from OR than than there are in NE or KS. I moved my location over early and I keep getting Mefi mail about proposed meetups seemingly daily.
posted by pwnguin at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2012

Skwirl, I'm having trouble interpreting your comment. What I'm gathering is that you'd rather I stayed the fuck away if I don't agree with your vision of the future of the area. Please let me know if that is off base or right on target.

I appreciate the other feedback. The main reason I have targeted Oregon is because of the climate. I am extremely heat INtolerant, and the summers here, though short, are brutal. I'm also tired of dealing with snow, and would really like to live somewhere that is relatively stable throughout the year. Hawaii is WAY to expensive and windy.

Please chime in with more info!
posted by wwartorff at 7:27 PM on March 5, 2012

The pony that I have in this race is that I was born and raised in Portland and that is where most of my friends and family live. I could not start a career in Portland for the life of me, because the job market is depressed by people moving there for the quality of life without regards for having jobs lined up. Portland has had recession-level numbers of unemployment for at least a decade. The cost of living only looks great until you factor in the restrained salaries.

The Seattle Freeze:

Online discussion of the "Portland Freeze": A few relevant quotes:
  • "We've been invited into PNW homes a few times in 26 yrs, much different than a few times / week in other destinations."
  • Sorry to say but it's the same here. Your quality as a human being is measured againt [sic] a progressive politics yardstick. When you meet new people in Portland they will do a lot of passive and general questioning to try to determine your politics. If they deem you a middle-of-the-roader or God forbid a conservative you can forget it. Not only will they ignore you they will mock you behind your back. I live in Mt. Tabor, consider myself a centrist and have lots of neighbors who have never even spoken to me beyond 'hi' because they can't figure out if I'm a liberal or not and won't have anything to do with anyone who isn't.
  • I'm middle-of-the-road to conservative. I knew there were neighborhoods that made me gag - Hawthorne, for one. I felt reasonably comfortable in West Linn, Lake O., Cedar Hills and Wilsonville.
Of course those quotes are selected for emphasis and your experience will depend on what you put into it. Nevertheless, you're going to need at least a tolerance, and hopefully a celebration, for passionate people and ideas to get the most out of the Pacific NW and its culture.

I've spent plenty of time in West Linn, Lake Oswego, Cedar Hills, Wilsonville, Milwaukie, Clackamas, Vancouver, Hillsboro, Beaverton, etc, etc and each of those suburbs could be picked up and randomly dropped in any suburban or exurban part of the country and no one would flinch.

Conversely, every time I've taken out-of-towners to Hawthorne, their eyes have nearly dropped out of their heads in awesome, patchouli-scented disbelief.

A lot of people have been fooled by the idea of mild seasons because of either changing climate, el nino on/off years, or only visiting during the summer before moving. It doesn't take much snow to shut down the area. Humidity is a little less oppressive than some places, but Portland has its bad runs of heat and cold. The last several years have all been crap shoots.

The Vancouver to Portland commute will continue to be a pain the ass and a contentious issue for years to come. The Columbia River Crossing will become a boondoggle because it's adding a shit-ton of lanes on the bridge without addressing the bottlenecks in North and Northeast Portland on I-5. I-5 and surface street traffic downgrades the quality of life in these North Portland neighborhoods, but transplants probably wouldn't notice because it just brings Portland down to the level of the rest of poorly planned America. A lot of downtown Vancouver is a ghost town of pawn shops and bail bonds shops, but that could change (and is changing) if/when Vancouver builds itself up instead of leeching Portland's culture, tax structure and highway infrastructure. The rest of Vancouver is strip malls and poorly planned residential suburbs. (See:

North Portland's recent history is literally a case study in gentrification. (Yes, literally,

To answer your main question, yes, sustainable communities are a HUGE value in Oregon and if you don't share that value, and you plan to vote and act accordingly, a lot of Oregonians would say "kindly visit, but please don't stay." Former Republican Governor Tom Mccall climbed out of his deathbed (cancer) to preempt his successor's silly publicity stunt where they were going to blow up the "thanks for visiting" sign on the border and replace it with an "open for business" sign. Blowing up the "thanks for visiting" sign was really an attempt to usurp the conservationist legacy. Nevertheless, conservation has persevered in Oregon. I don't consider myself exclusionary nor self-righteous to advocate for the continuation of the legacy that has garrisoned Oregon as an amazing place against a nation of mediocrity.
posted by Skwirl at 12:39 AM on March 8, 2012

I love Portland. It's my favorite city. It's clean, the people are nice, there's stuff to do but it's not overwhelmingly big, people are progressive, the lifestyle is healthy (#1 bike commuting city in the US), and Subaru Outbacks seem to be the most popular car. Unfortunately I don't live there. :(
posted by Dansaman at 10:33 PM on August 24, 2012

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