Sunday, June 21, 2009

They're Not Laughing With Us, They're Laughing at Us

In The Eye's past trips to Hawaii, when other tourists asked us where we were from and we replied, "Bend, Oregon," the response would be

Posted By on Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 8:36 AM

In The Eye's past trips to Hawaii, when other tourists asked us where we were from and we replied, "Bend, Oregon," the response would be something along the lines of: "Oh, I hear that's a real nice place."


This year the responses were more along the lines of: "Oh." Although one woman did say, "Isn't that where they built that Hobbit development?" - referring to "The Shire," arguably our most egregious example of speculative madness.

From national envy to national joke in just a couple of years - that's quite an accomplishment.

Our status as national joke was reinforced earlier this week when the New York Times, as predicted a few weeks ago by The Eye, ran a story  - on the front page, no less - about Bend's collapse.

Reporter William Yardley takes a somewhat different angle than other publications have taken, focusing on how California émigrés have had their "Oregon dreams" broken by the bust.

He writes about Susan and Mike Telford, a young couple from Fresno who moved to Bend in 2006. The Telfords thought they'd be able to sell their Fresno home for $300,000 and use that cash to help pay down the mortgage on their $475,000 Bend home. But they haven't been able to unload the California house yet, Susan Telford is unemployed, and they're scraping by on her unemployment checks and Mike's salary as a school teacher.

"Now the Californians who contributed to Oregon's growth are in some cases adding to its economic struggle," Yardley writes. "While some other states with high unemployment, including Michigan, have seen their labor forces shrink, Oregon's labor force has grown. Economists say some of the growth appears to be driven by people who moved here with money they made in California, whether from real estate or stock market investments, and expected to get by but now must look for work."

Yardley quotes economist Phillip J. Romero as saying Californians who move to Oregon get the blame for both good times and bad: "California immigrants can never win in Oregon. In a boom, 'They are crowding the roads and bidding up house prices.' In a bust, it's: 'They alone caused the price of my house to drop by hundreds of thousands of dollars. They came up here without a job, and now we can't absorb them and they're competing for my job.'"

Bend blogger and businessman Duncan McGeary sees the Times story as evidence that our little boom-and-bust town will be a joke, and a cautionary tale, for many years:

"We'll be in the top ten lists for a long time. Over-priced, under-employed, and out of luck.

"The rest of the country needs someplace that was worse than themselves. They need someone to wag their fingers at. Wow, we have it bad, but at least we're not Detroit or Bend, Oregon!!

"Bend has beautiful surroundings, they'll say, but look what they did to themselves. It's a shame."

Indeed it is, Dunc.

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