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The fact a new mayor and City Council are taking office in Portland may seem to be of only passing interest to Washington County residents — very few of whom reside within the Portland city limits.

For better or worse, however, leadership in the city of Portland has a direct effect on those who live outside its boundaries. That’s not only because the entire metro area’s image is shaped by Portland’s behavior, but also because Portland’s policies and attitudes have a great influence on what can or cannot occur within the rest of the region.

For these reasons, we are pleased to see newly sworn-in Portland Mayor Charlie Hales accept an invitation to speak to the Westside Economic Alliance at the Embassy Suites in Tigard on Thursday, Jan. 24. Hales’ appearance before this group of economic advocates for Washington and Clackamas counties demonstrates he is interested in partnering with suburban communities — not doing battle with them.

The city of Portland can exercise enormous clout when it comes to regional decisions about land use, transportation and economic development. On the issue of industrial lands to create new jobs, for example, Portland officials have at times insisted, unrealistically, that the region can meet most of its needs by redeveloping former industrial sites. In fact, the region needs a wide variety of properties — greenfields and brownfields — to attract new industries. Along the same lines, former Portland Mayor Sam Adams was an advocate for keeping housing densities high — too high, for many in the suburbs — to avoid expansion of the urban growth boundary.

Such tensions between Portland and the suburbs will no doubt continue, but Hales has said he intends to reach out to his counterparts in suburban cities and counties. His speech to the economic alliance will be an opportunity to listen and learn as well. So far, we are impressed with Hales’ understanding that the region must work cohesively if it is to find greater success in the areas of economic development, education and transportation.

Within a region that includes dozens of cities and other jurisdictions, it will not always be possible to reach consensus on contentious issues, as each community has its own values, aspirations and willingness to pay for public services. But the starting point for better cooperation is mutual understanding — and we believe Hales is taking positive steps in that direction.

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