A consumer foundation gives the city good marks for limiting the intrusion of corporations in public life
A consumer foundation’s scorecard for six cities on the East and West coasts ranks Portland second in curbing corporate influence on public life.
Based on nine categories such as commercialization of schools, the influence of corporate money in the political process, media independence and protection for whistle-blowers, Portland does well at “controlling corporate power and unwarranted industry intrusion,” according to the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
The nonprofit foundation says that while many industry groups rate regions for their friendliness to business, consumers should have a different way to measure corporate power.
Foundation Executive Director Jamie Court said the report grew out of the foundation’s work, which has included lobbying for the regulation of insurance rates and health maintenance organizations and against electricity deregulation.
“No matter what industry we fight, we fight the same problems” of corporate intrusion into public spaces, privacy and legal rights, Court said.
The foundation’s ranking comes as many leaders are looking at ways to make the region more attractive to business. Oregon is fighting high unemployment, and area businesses have complained about high costs and burdensome regulations.
“We have all these issues that make it a more uncertain place to do business than elsewhere,” said Bill Furman, president and chief executive of The Greenbrier Cos. in Lake Oswego, which manufactures rail cars.
Furman had not read the study but thinks the area must resolve such issues, which include the availability of skilled workers and the cost of taxes, labor, power and dealing with the government.
“Without . . . a public agenda for cultivating a sensible environment, we will lose jobs, and without jobs, we will lose quality of life,” Furman said.
Court said the issues studied by the foundation should not affect legitimate opportunities for business. The foundation did not study corporate tax breaks or similar incentives, he said.
“Corporations have a legitimate role in providing commercial convenience and giving us jobs, but there’s a line they sometimes step over,” Court said.
In the study, cities received more points if the foundation found less corporate influence. For example, Portland received points because some schools resisted corporate advertising on campus, but it lost points for lack of limits on political spending, the foundation said.
The study ranked San Francisco highest for controlling corporate influence. Portland ranked next, ahead of Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia.
The group chose cities that were representative of both coasts and had a high proportion of readers who “are paying attention to these types of issues,” Court said.
The foundation’s complete report on the cities can be found at http://www.corporateering.org.