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The top stories covered in Portland in 2022

Here are the 10 stories that captured headlines and readers' attention in Portland and beyond throughout 2022.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been a major news year for Portland, with multiple overlapping public safety crises forming a backdrop as voters headed to the polls in May and November.

Although 2022 still saw its fair share of winter storms and wildfires, there were fewer severe weather events than in past years. Instead, crime, homelessness, gun violence and Portland's own dysfunctional government all took center stage.

Here are the 10 stories that dominated the headlines and were top-of-mind for KGW viewers and readers this year:

Homeless crisis

Portland’s housing and homelessness crisis has been building for years, but the issue reached a tipping point this year, with homeless camps dominating news cycles, city council meetings and the 2022 election.

Much of the coverage focused on Commissioner Dan Ryan’s efforts to set up six "Safe Rest Villages" and his struggles to locate suitable sites. Mayor Ted Wheeler later doubled down on the strategy, announcing a plan for six large-scale sanctioned campsites and a phased-in citywide ban on camping.

Credit: KGW

KGW’s Uncommitted investigative series also put a spotlight on a tangential piece of the crisis: the difficulty that officials face in compelling people to get help when they need it.

Record homicides and gun violence

Last year was already a record-setting year for Portland homicides, but 2022 has managed to immediately surpass that terrible high mark. As of Dec. 12, Portland has seen 95 homicides this year.

The high rate of homicides tracks closely with an intertwined Portland problem: the city’s ongoing surge in gun violence, which continued unabated in 2022. As of Dec. 12, Portland has seen 1,277 shootings this year.

KGW maintained a running list of every documented homicide in Portland in 2021, and we did the same for 2022, keeping them updated with everything we know about each case.

Business closures due to crime

KGW’s fifth-most-read digital story for the entire year was about the closure of the Jantzen Beach Cracker Barrel restaurant, which shuts its doors in August amid concerns about rising crime in the area.

Many other restaurants and businesses across Portland have raised similar concerns this year, and multiple owners told KGW that chronic break-ins have led them to question whether it's worth staying in business.

Retailers also grappled with a severe shoplifting problem, as documented in a KGW investigative series, coupled with a strikingly low prosecution rate for shoplifting crimes in Multnomah County.


The race for governor

Oregon saw an unusually competitive race for governor this year, driven by voter frustration under Gov. Kate Brown and a three-way race that included unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson.

Credit: Mark Graves/The Oregonian
The three leading candidates for Oregon governor participated in a debate Wednesday night hosted by The Oregonian/OregonLive and KGW. It was the final televised debate between Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson before the Nov. 8 election -- and it is taking place as ballots are on their way to voters’ mailboxes.

Third-party candidates often lack the resources to match major party nominees, but Johnson's big-name political supperters and campaign war chest made her a serious threat to Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan.

A series of polls showed Kotek and Drazan neck and neck in the final weeks, while Johnson fell behind. Things remained close on election night, but Kotek eventually secured a win as more ballots were counted in subsequent days.

The pandemic continues to impact classrooms

Portland students spend most of 2022 back in classrooms after a year or more of remote learning, but it hasn't always been a smooth return, and it's become clear that the loss of in-person instruction has had lasting impacts.

Psychologists and educators have spoken out about students acting out in classrooms and getting into fights more frequently, continuing a trend that was first observed when in-person classes began to resume last year.

Schools also continued to grapple with staffing shortages amid recurring waves COVID and other illnesses this year, in some cases forcing schools to briefly cancel classes or return to remote instruction.

Charter reform passes

Portlanders have routinely rejected changes to the city’s commission form of government, but this year was different. Voter frustration was palpable, and city leaders including Mayor Ted Wheeler began openly blaming the commission system for the city's dysfunction.

Credit: yooranpark - stock.adobe.com
Portland City Hall, which is the headquarters of city government of Portland

All eyes were on the city’s charter commission as it unveiled a proposed package of reforms to send to voters in November, but the final product proved to be controversial. Some prominent charter reform proponents ended up actively campaigning against it, including Commissioner Mingus Mapps.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Charter reform passed by a comfortable margin, kicking off a multi-year transition process that will culminate in the next election when Portlanders choose their first mayor and city council under the new system.

Street racing takes over

Even if you haven’t directly encountered one, chances are you’ve seen the leftover evidence of one of Portland’s infamous street racing events – the rings of skid marks in the middle of intersections and bridges are hard to miss.

Portland saw an increasing number of high-profile street takeover incidents this year, blocking roads for hours, and police have at times struggled to break up the events due to the sheer number of people and vehicles involved.

The higher frequency led to more shootings and assaults, and a series of takeovers on one weekend in late August led to two fatalities; Cameron Tyler died after being shot at a takeover and Ashlee McGill was killed when a street racer lost control and smashed into the bench where she was waiting for the bus.

Biden visits Portland twice in one year

Presidential visits to Portland aren’t unheard of, but they’re something of a rarity and the last one was in 2015, so 2022 stands out because the Rose City got not just one but two visits from President Joe Biden.

Biden first landed in Oregon in April as part of a nationwide trip to tout the investments on the way from the federal infrastructure package. Speaking near Portland International Airport, he discusses seismic upgrades underway at PDX and the need to upgrade roads and bridges throughout Oregon.

Biden made a surprise return trip in October to campaign for Democrats ahead of the midterm election. He appeared at a campaign rally alongside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek.

Mask mandates lifted for the last time

Oregon crossed a notable pandemic milestone in March as omicron cases dwindled and the state ended its second – and so far, final – indoor mask mandate.

The rest of the year has been far from quiet in terms of COVID activity, but case rates and hospitalizations have generally stayed lower than in the past two years, particularly in the second half of 2022.

Things are ending on a rough note, however, with surges in flu and pediatric RSV cases combining with still-prevalent COVID cases to swamp Portland-area hospitals.

Buoy Beer building collapses in Astoria

It began as a typical Tuesday at for the Buoy Beer Company's brewery facility in Astoria, but things took an unfortunate turn in the evening when a large portion of the riverfront building's roof caved in, setting beer cans afloat in the Columbia River in miniature imitations of their namesake.

Fortunately, the restaurant had already closed for the day and no one was hurt in the collapse, but the incident left the company scrambling to figure out how to keep its staff working.

Credit: Buoy Beer

The setback proved to be short-lived. Just a couple weeks later, the company announced that it had partnered with Astoria Food Hub to open a "summer pop-up pub" to replace the restaurant and had managed to restart canning operations with help from some other local businesses.

Honorable mention: Portland’s professional cuddler calls it quits

The retirement of one professional cuddler might not seem like it should rank among the top Portland news stories of 2022, but it gets an honorable mention because the story became the single most-read article on KGW’s website for the entire year. So maybe we all need a hug right now.

Read some of our other top story round-ups of 202:

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