Still struggling: four Oregon areas still missing in action

The Great Recession is over. Right? Don’t tell that to the folks who live in four areas of Oregon designated among the most distressed communities in the state.

According to an exhaustive analysis just released by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a significant portion of Americans still feel like the recovery has left them behind. That translates into over 30 million Americans living in communities defined by slow job growth, vanishing businesses, and fewer opportunities to move up the economic ladder.

EIG used seven metrics to assess economic well-being:

  • Educational Attainment: Percent of population 25 years and over with a high school degree.
  • Housing Vacancy Rate: Percent of habitable housing that is unoccupied.
  • Unemployment Rate: Share of the labor force that is unemployed.
  • Poverty Level: Percent of population living under the poverty line.
  • Median Income Ratio: Ratio of the zip code’s median income to the state’s median income.
  • Change In Employment: Percent change in the number of individuals employed.
  • Change in Business Establishments: Percent change in the number of businesses.

Oregon compares relatively well overall to the rest of the country in terms of the economic health of its residents (EIG considers just 4% to be living in economic distress, http://bit.ly/1S2eoVR), but it’s not totally in the clear.

Based on the metrics above, the following Oregon zip codes earned the dubious distinction of being the state’s most economically distressed areas in four different population density categories:

Density Category Location Zip Code
Very High Portland 97209
High Portland 97204
Medium Medford 97501
Low Christmas Valley 97641

Zip code 97209 in Portland is the most distressed area in the Very High Density category in Oregon.

Zip Code 97209

Zip Code 97209

Approximately 35.1% of 97209’s population lives in a low-income household with an annual income of less than $25,000 and another 20.7 percent live in a household earning an annual income between $25,000 and $50,000.

Portland zip code 97204 is the most distressed area in the High Density category.

Zip Code 97204

Zip Code 97204

Estimated annual median household income is just $13,350, significantly below the state average, and 91 percent of the households have an annual income of less than $30,000. Residents with a high school degree or less comprise 78 percent of the population.

Zip code 97501 in Medford is the most distressed area in the Medium Density category in Oregon.

Zip Code 97501

Zip Code 97501

Approximately 34.6% of 97501’s population lives in a household with an annual income of less than $25,000. Another 29.1% live in a household earning an annual income between $25,000 and $50,000. Annual median household income is $36,157. That puts 97501 363rd among all of Oregon’s zip codes.

As a side note, maybe tied to the local economy, 97501 has almost 8 bars per 10,000 residents, 32% more bars than average for Oregon and  95% more than the United States as a whole.

Zip code 97641, a sparsely populated area in Christmas Valley is the most distressed area in the low density category in Oregon.

Zip Code 97641

Zip Code 97641

Only 12 percent of the population has education beyond high school, connected, perhaps, to the fact that the median annual household income is 20,795 and 66% of the households have an annual income below $30,000.

In the coming weeks, EIG will be developing tools to enable people to easily compare communities and dive deeper into what is driving economic distress or prosperity. You will be able to see how well your community is doing, and then compare it to others across the country

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Warning – miscreant ahead: the Bill Cosby imbroglio

In a variation of the au courant “trigger warnings” spreading on college campuses, the National Museum of African Art, is warning people about Bill Cosby. The Museum, which is displaying art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, said recently it would remove a sign crediting the Cosbys for the exhibit. Instead, the sign will be be replaced with one saying, “Warning- some of the art you are about to see was loaned by Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women.”

In this photo taken Nov. 6, 2014, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview about the upcoming exhibit, Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington. The Smithsonian Institution is mounting a major showcase of African-American art and African art together in a new exhibit featuring the extensive art collection of Bill and Camille Cosby. More than 60 rarely seen African-American artworks from the Cosby collection will join 100 pieces of African art at the National Museum of African Art. The exhibit “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” opens Sunday and will be on view through early 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Not really. The new sign will actually say the exhibition is “fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.” But the intent is the same.

Are we entering a period when it is obligatory to warn audiences about moral transgressions committed by famous people?

Should the display of Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum include a sign saying, “Mr. Lindbergh, while a great aviator, was a serial adulterer who had multiple wives and children”?

Should showings of Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist be preceded by a warning, “Roman Polanski, the director of this film, raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977 and is currently a fugitive from justice”?

Should any event or show involving Mike Tyson include a warning, “Mike Tyson was convicted in Indiana of raping an 18-year-old college student and beauty pageant contestant.”

How about Woody Allen?

woody-allen-Soon-yi

Should all his movies, including his newest, “Irrational Man”, begin with a bold statement, “In 1992, it was learned that Mr. Allen was in a relationship with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, his girlfriend of over 10 years. Ms. Farrow discovered the relationship when she found nude photos of Previn taken in Allen’s Manhattan duplex. Mr. Allen married Soon-yi in 1997 (ewww!)”

For that matter, should a sign go up everywhere former President Bill Clinton appears in public saying, “Mr. Clinton has been credibly accused of both rape and repeated sexual assaults, paid a former Arkansas state worker, Paula Jones, $850,000 in connection with an assault that occurred when he was governor of Arkansas, and had a sexual relationship with an intern while he was President?”

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Well, maybe the last one is worth considering.

Atticus Finch: still a decent and honorable man

Atticus Finch, a fictional lawyer in a fictional Maycomb County, Alabama , is a paragon of virtue in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Now, with the publication of ”Go Set a Watchman”, a recently discovered 1st draft of Mockingbird, critics are saying that Finch’s true character emerged when he became an odious racist.

That’s a lie.

Finch didn’t turn into a racist. If anything, he started as a fictional racist and turned into a decent and admirable man.

The key here is that his racist persona came first in the manuscript 31-year-old Harper Lee submitted to her agent in 1957. Her agent sent it on publishing houses, including J. B. Lippincott Company. There it landed on the desk of an editor, Therese von Hohoff Torrey, who went by the name Tay Hohoff professionally. Hohoff thought Lee’s novel needed major reworking, but she saw Lee’s potential talent as a writer and story-teller.

Harper Lee in her 30's

Harper Lee in her 30’s

It was only after the refinement of multiple drafts over the next several years, under Hohoff’s watchful and immensely talented guidance, that “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and the heroic character of Atticus Finch, emerged.

In other words, the Atticus Finch of ”Go set a watchman”, is not a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a graphic evolution of a man of integrity to a racist. Rather, it is a 1st draft of a fictional character who was redrawn to be an honorable man. Release of the 1st draft has no explanation other than greed.

So don’t let “Go Set a Watchman” define Atticus Finch. Teachers don’t need to now depict Finch as a man of integrity who became a bigot. Parents who have named a child Atticus don’t need to feel that they’ve been betrayed. Generations of devoted readers should not despair.

Atticus Finch was, and remains, a heroic figure deserving of our admiration and respect.

Killing us softly: technology and the obliviousness of our children

I recently observed four teens in a booth at a Portland restaurant, each completely absorbed in their smartphone. No conversation. No laughter. No connections. This poem in today’s NY Times reminded me so much of that:

teenswithSmartphones

They sit with their heads bowed to their screen,

A worship of glass, their faces erased.
A city flies by, no matter the scene,
Curiosity’s child now plastic-encased.
Bright minds that once soared, now tethered by wire
Peck at bright spots with fingers a-twitch
To save them from shifting demons from dire
Or run through the woods from Dorothy’s witch.
What sorcerous spell has seized these bright lights?
What cunning pied piper has snaffled our young?
Did we not perform the ritual rites?
Have we forgotten the songs that were sung?
The high sun at noon cost Icarus dear,
The Glass God we made eats children, I fear.

Jeffrey Pascal

The American dream – present and accounted for

With the 4th of July imminent, the crowd gathered in Brooklyn on June 30 to take the oath of United States citizenship was excited about their chance to live the American dream.

Reflecting the thoughts of the assembled group, Felix A. Okema, 38, formerly of the Ivory Coast, now a resident of Elm Park, Staten Island, spoke with pride and enthusiasm of the naturalization experience.

“You have a system that opens its doors to opportunity, to others,” Okema said. “You hear people talking about it. It’s real. The vibe, the intelligence, the special blast of the people here — it’s going to make the country better.”

4th-of-July-Children-at-a-Parade1

Okema and the rest of the new citizens obviously didn’t get the message from University of California President Janet Napolitano.

She thinks saying the United States is a land of opportunity is insulting, a microaggression.

Earlier this year Napolitano sent letters to UC deans and department chairs inviting them to seminars “to foster informed conversation about the best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate.”

A principal goal of the seminars was to help faculty “gain a better understanding of implicit bias and microaggressions” in their vocabularies and to urge the faculty to purge potentially offensive words and phrases from their speech.

Examples of such offensive speech included the following:

  1. Statements that indicate that a white person does not want to or need to acknowledge race, such as, “There is only one race, the human race.” “America is a melting pot.” Why is this a microaggression? It delivers the message that you must assimilate to the dominant culture.
  2. Statements denying bias, such as saying to a person of color, “Are you sure you were being followed in the store? I can’t believe it.” Why is this a microaggression? It denies the personal experience of individuals who experience bias.
  3. Statements that don’t recognize meritocracy is a myth, such as: “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” ;“America is the land of opportunity.”; “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.” Why are statements such as this a microaggression? They deliver the message that the playing field is even or that people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.
  4. Statements implying that the values and communication styles of the dominant/White culture are ideal/”normal”, such as saying to an Asian, Latino or Native American: “Why are you so quiet? We want to know what you think.” Why is this a microaggression?: It delivers the message that Asian, Latino and Native Americans must assimilate to the dominant culture, that there’s no room for differences in America.

Where does this stuff come from? Not from Americans.

A just-released Penn Schoen Berland poll of about 2,000 Americans from June 8 to 19, 2015, commissioned for The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, revealed that 72 percent of those polled said they are living the American Dream or expect to, 85 percent of are satisfied with their lives and 86 percent are optimistic about the future.

Young people are on board, too. According to the poll, 77 percent of Millennials say they’re living the dream or believe they can. Among African Americans and Asian Americans, that rises to 82 percent and among Latinos to 83 percent.

Napolitano and her ilk are clearly way off base. As the Atlantic concluded, the American Dream is alive and well. It’s the misguided people subscribing to Napolitano’s thinking who are undermining it.