Growth will increase political power to Ptld. suburbs

Growth will increase political power to Ptld. suburbs

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Population growth in the last decade will bring increased political power to Portland's suburbs, to northwest Oregon and to the areas of Bend in Central Oregon and Medford in Southern Oregon.

Figures from the 2010 Census released Wednesday show counties in those parts of Oregon with population growth above the state average for the first decade of the 21st century.

The information will be the basis for the Legislature to start dividing the state's 3.8 million people into five congressional districts, 60 state House districts and 30 state Senate districts.

Areas that grew faster generally gain political influence as the boundaries are redrawn.

The numbers show that the population of the Portland metropolitan area grew by percentages in the double digits, and there were some blistering growth rates east of the Cascade range and south of the Willamette Valley.

Oregon's population grew by 409,000 people over the decade, up 12 percent, according to Census figures released last year. Oregon is up one notch, to 27th in the nation.

Growth, however, slowed markedly in the second half of the decade with the Great Recession and its housing bust.

Even though Central Oregon suffered heavily in that, the boom that came before resulted in Bend gaining 47 percent in population over the decade, according to the figures released Wednesday.

Bend's smaller Deschutes County neighbor Redmond nearly doubled in size. The county itself grew by 37 percent, and neighboring Jefferson County grew 14 percent.

Among the largest cities, Grants Pass in Southern Oregon recorded a 50 percent growth rate, although one population expert noted that nearly half the new population was annexed into the city.

Jackson County grew 12 percent, and its seat, Medford, the seventh-largest city grew 19 percent.

Five counties in Northwest Oregon and the middle Willamette Valley were among the eight that had growth above the state average. Notable was the state's second-most populous county, Washington, at 19 percent. The others were Columbia and Linn at 13 percent, Polk at 21 percent and Yamhill at 17 percent.

Washington County along with Columbia and Yamhill make up a large share of the territory in Oregon's 1st Congressional District.

That could bring significant change and complicate the political outlook in what's now home to Democratic U.S. Rep. David Wu, whose behavior at the end of the last election campaign led his staff to urge him to seek professional help.

Portland remains the largest city in the state by far, and grew at a rate of 10 percent to 584,000 people.

Its suburbs grew faster, though: To the east, Gresham, the state's fourth-largest city, grew by 17 percent. To the west, Beaverton grew 18 percent, and Hillsboro, seat of Washington County, grew 31 percent, surpassing Beaverton as the fifth-largest city.

Other highlights from the 2010 numbers:

  • The numbers of people identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino rose by 63 percent, to 450,000, or 12 percent of the population.
  • About 84 percent of the state's residents said they were white, down 3 percentage points in the decade. There were slight increases in the percentages of Asians, multiracial people and those of races other than those the Census Bureau breaks out in tallies.
  • Eugene, at more than 156,000 people, padded its lead slightly over Salem in their competition stretching back decades to be the second-most populous city.
  • Eight counties in Eastern Oregon shrank in population during the last 10 years. Demographer Charles Rynerson of the Population Research Center at Portland State University said that was a contrast to the previous decade, when all Oregon counties gained population.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.