Multnomah County
Official seal of Multnomah County
Official logo of Multnomah County
Map of Oregon highlighting Multnomah County
Location within the U.S. state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 45°32′N 122°25′W / 45.54°N 122.41°W / 45.54; -122.41
Country United States
State Oregon
FoundedDecember 22, 1854
Named forMultnomah people
SeatPortland
Largest cityPortland
Area
 • Total466 sq mi (1,210 km2)
 • Land431 sq mi (1,120 km2)
 • Water34 sq mi (90 km2)  7.4%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total815,428
 • Estimate 
(2023)
789,698 Decrease
 • Density1,700/sq mi (680/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional districts1st, 3rd, 5th
Websitewww.multco.us

Multnomah County /mʌltˈnmə/ is one of the 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2020 census, the county's population was 815,428.[1] Multnomah County is part of the PortlandVancouverHillsboro, OR–WA metropolitan statistical area. The state's smallest and most populous county,[2] its county seat, Portland, is the state's largest city.[3]

Map of Multnomah County
Map of Multnomah County

History

The area of the lower Willamette River has been inhabited for thousands of years, including by the Multnomah band of Chinookan peoples long before European contact, as evidenced by the nearby Cathlapotle village, just downstream.[4]

Multnomah County (the 13th in Oregon Territory) was created on December 22, 1854, formed out of two other Oregon counties – the eastern part of Washington County and the northern part of Clackamas County. Its creation was a result of a petition earlier that year by businessmen in Portland complaining of the inconvenient location of the Washington County seat in Hillsboro and of the share of Portland tax revenues leaving the city to support Washington County farmers. County commissioners met for the first time on January 17, 1855.[5]

The county is named after the Chinookan word for the "lower river", multnomah, matlnomaq, or máɬnumax̣ being interpretive English spellings of the same word. In Chinook jargon, Ne-matlnomaq, means the "place of matlnomaq" or the (singular) Ne-matlnomag, "the lower river", from the Oregon City Falls toward the Columbia River. Alternatively, Chinookan máɬnumax̣ (also nímaɬnumax̣) "those toward water" (or "toward the Columbia River", known in Chinookan as ímaɬ or wímaɬ, "the great water"). Explorer William Clark wrote in his journal: "I entered this river...called Multnomah...from a nation who reside on Wappato Island, a little below the enterence" (quoted from Willamette Landings by H.M. Corning).(see:Portland Basin Chinookan Villages in the early 1800s, Boyd and Zenk,) Although Clark refers to the Willamette River as Multnomah, he may not have understood the meaning. Simply put, Multnomah ("down river" or "toward the great water") is the shortened form of nematlnomaq/nímaɬnumax̣.

In 1924, the county's three commissioners were indicted and recalled by voters "in response to 'gross irregularities' in the award of contracts for construction of the Burnside and Ross Island bridges"; since all three had been supported by the Ku Klux Klan, their recall also helped reduce that organization's influence in the city.[6]

Vanport, built north of Portland in 1943 to house workers for Kaiser Shipyards, was destroyed by a flood five years later.

In 1968, the Oregon Legislative Assembly referred a bill, Ballot Measure 5, to voters that would amend the state constitution to allow for consolidated city-county governments when their populations are over 300,000.[7] The 1968 voters' pamphlet noted that Multnomah County would be the only county in Oregon affected by the measure and voters approved the referendum in the 1968 general election.[7][8] Since the approval of Measure 5 in 1968, an initiative to merge the county with Portland has been considered and placed on the county ballot several times.[9][10][11]

Since 2000

In the 2000 presidential election, Multnomah county played a decisive role in determining the winner of the state's electoral votes. Al Gore carried the county by 104,764 votes, enough to offset the 97,999 vote advantage that George W. Bush had earned among Oregon's 35 other counties.[12] The Democratic tilt was repeated in 2004, when John Kerry won by 161,146 votes,[13] and in 2008, when Barack Obama won by 204,525 votes.[14]

In February 2001, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Library Advisory Board and authorized the library to enter into a lawsuit to stop the Children's Internet Protection Act.[15] The US Supreme Court ultimately decided in 2003 that the law was constitutional in US v. ALA. However, the library chose to turn down $104,000 per year of federal funding under CIPA to be able to continue to offer unfiltered Internet access.[16][17]

Faced with decreasing government revenues due to a recession in the local economy, voters approved a three-year local income tax (Measure 26–48) [18] on May 20, 2003, to prevent further cuts in schools, police protection, and social services.[19] Multnomah County was one of the few local governments in Oregon to approve such a tax increase.[citation needed]

On March 2, 2004, Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn announced the county would begin granting licenses for same-sex marriages, pursuant to a legal opinion issued by its attorney deeming such marriages lawful under Oregon law. Her announcement was supported by three other commissioners (Serena Cruz, Lisa Naito, and Maria Rojo de Steffey), but criticized by Lonnie Roberts, who represents the eastern part of Multnomah County and was left out of the decision.[20][failed verification] Within a few days, several groups joined to file a lawsuit to halt the county's action.[citation needed]

After that, though, Linn and the three commissioners developed a public feud, with the latter becoming known as the "mean girls".[21] The county government has also faced significant budget issues, including not being able to open the Wapato Corrections Facility since it was built in 2003.

Geography

Portland

According to the United States Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 466 square miles (1,210 km2), of which 34 square miles (88 km2) (7.4%) are covered by water.[22] It is the smallest county in Oregon by area. It is located along the south side of the Columbia River.

The county includes a number of extinct volcanoes in the Boring Lava Field. The Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge forms the eastern portion of the county's northern border.

Major highways

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
18604,150
187011,510177.3%
188025,203119.0%
189074,884197.1%
1900103,16737.8%
1910226,261119.3%
1920275,89821.9%
1930338,24122.6%
1940355,0995.0%
1950471,53732.8%
1960522,81310.9%
1970556,6676.5%
1980562,6401.1%
1990583,8873.8%
2000660,48613.1%
2010735,33411.3%
2020815,42810.9%
2023 (est.)789,698[23]−3.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[24]
1790–1960[25] 1900–1990[26]
1990–2000[27] 2010–2020[1]

Racial and ethnic composition since 1960

Racial composition 2020[28] 2010[28][29] 2000[29] 1990[29] 1980[29] 1970[29] 1960[29]
White (non-Hispanic) 65.7% 72.1% 76.5% 85.3% 88.4%
Hispanic or Latino 12.7% 10.9% 7.5% 3.1% 2.0% 1.5%
Asian (non-Hispanic) 7.5% 6.5% 5.7% 4.6% 1.2%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 5.4% 5.4% 5.6% 6.0% 5.3% 3.9% 3.0%
Native American (non-Hispanic) 0.7% 0.8% 1.0% 1.1% 0.2%
Pacific Islander (non-Hispanic) 0.7% 0.5% 0.3%
Mixed race (non-Hispanic) 6.8% 3.6% 4.0%

2020 census

Multnomah County, Oregon – Racial and ethnic composition
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos may be of any race.
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2000[30] Pop 2010[31] Pop 2020[32] % 2000 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 505,492 530,303 535,623 76.5% 72.1% 65.7%
Black or African American alone (NH) 36,592 39,919 43,793 5.6% 5.4% 5.4%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 5,754 5,527 5,455 1.0% 0.8% 0.7%
Asian alone (NH) 37,344 47,508 61,280 5.7% 6.5% 7.5%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 2,206 3,870 5,251 0.3% 0.5% 0.7%
Other race alone (NH) 1,216 1,520 4,885 —% —% —%
Mixed race or Multiracial (NH) 22,275 26,549 55,388 4.0% 3.6% 6.8%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 49,607 80,138 103,753 7.5% 10.9% 12.7%
Total 660,486 735,334 815,428 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

As of the 2020 census, there were 815,428 people, 341,507 households, and 180,512 families residing in the county.[33] The population density was 1,891.2 people per square mile (730.2 people/km2). There were 363,996 housing units. The racial makeup of the county was 65.7% White, 5.4% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 7.5% Asian, 0.7% Pacific Islander, and 6.8% from two or more races. About 12.7% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The median income for a household in the county was $83,668 and the per-capita income was $49,713. 12.1% of the population lived below the poverty line.

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 735,334 people, 304,540 households, and 163,539 families resided in the county.[34] The population density was 1,704.9 inhabitants per square mile (658.3/km2). There were 324,832 housing units at an average density of 753.2 units per square mile (290.8 units/km2).[35] The racial makeup of the county was 76.5% White, 6.5% Asian, 5.6% Black or African American, 1.1% American Indian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, 5.1% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 10.9% of the population.[34] In terms of ancestry, 19.4% were German, 12.2% were Irish, 11.4% were English, and 4.2% were American.[36]

Of the 304,540 households, 27.0% had children under 18 living with them, 38.6% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 46.3% were not families, and 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.03. The median age was 35.7 years.[34]

The median income for a household in the county was $49,618 and for a family was $62,956. Males had a median income of $45,152 versus $38,211 for females. The per capita income for the county was $28,883. About 11.3% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.1% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.[37]

2000 census

As of the 2000 census, there were 660,486 people, 272,098 households, and 152,102 families in the county. The population density was 1,518/sq mi (586/km2). There were 288,561 housing units had an average density of 663.sq mi (256/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 79.16% White, 5.70% Asian, 5.67% Black or African American, 1.03% Native American, 0.35% Pacific Islander, 4.03% from other races, and 4.07% from two or more races. About 7.51% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race; 16.0% were of German, 9.0% English, 8.8% Irish, and 5.1% American ancestry; 83.5% spoke English, 6.3% Spanish, 1.7% Vietnamese, and 1.3% Russian as their first language. Of the 272,098 households, 26.5% had children under 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.1% were not families. About 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.37, and the average family size was 3.03.

In the county, the age distribution was 22.3% under 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 33.8% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.00 males. For every 100 females 18 and over, there were 96.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $41,278, and for a family was $51,118. Males had a median income of $36,036 versus $29,337 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,606. 12.70% of the population and 8.20% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.40% of those under the age of 18 and 9.80% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Law and government

Lobby of the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse, which opened in 2020

Multnomah County was a strongly Republican county for much of the first half of the 20th century, but since 1964, it has been the strongest Democratic bastion in Oregon. The Democrats have failed to win a majority in the county only two times since then, in 1972 and 1980.

As Multnomah County is by far the most populous county in Oregon, Democratic majorities in the county are often enough to swing the results in statewide elections. In 2008, Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley unseated incumbent two-term Senator Gordon Smith, though Smith carried 28 of Oregon's 36 counties. Merkley carried Multnomah County by over 142,000 votes, however, enough to allow him to defeat Smith by 59,100 votes.

The county courthouse is located in downtown Portland. The Multnomah County Central Courthouse opened in 2020, replacing a century-old building nearby that was in need of seismic retrofitting.[38]

Elected officials

County Commission

District Name Notes
Chair Jessica Vega Pederson [39][40]
Commissioner, District 1 Sharon Meieran [41][42]
Commissioner, District 2 Jesse Beason [43][44]
Commissioner, District 3 Julia Brim-Edwards [45][46]
Commissioner, District 4 Lori Stegmann [41][47]

County officials

Office Name Notes
District Attorney Mike Schmidt [48]
Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell [49]
Auditor Jennifer McGuirk [50]

Appointed officials

State legislators

Map of Multnomah County Senate-Representative District Maps

United States presidential election results for Multnomah County, Oregon[51][52]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 82,995 17.90% 367,249 79.21% 13,415 2.89%
2016 67,954 17.03% 292,561 73.30% 38,588 9.67%
2012 75,302 20.65% 274,887 75.37% 14,533 3.98%
2008 75,171 20.61% 279,696 76.69% 9,843 2.70%
2004 98,439 27.14% 259,585 71.57% 4,670 1.29%
2000 83,677 28.20% 188,441 63.52% 24,567 8.28%
1996 71,094 26.33% 159,878 59.22% 38,989 14.44%
1992 72,326 24.25% 165,081 55.34% 60,884 20.41%
1988 95,561 36.50% 161,361 61.63% 4,921 1.88%
1984 119,932 45.17% 144,179 54.30% 1,428 0.54%
1980 101,606 39.23% 120,487 46.53% 36,875 14.24%
1976 112,400 44.40% 129,060 50.98% 11,699 4.62%
1972 118,219 46.73% 125,470 49.60% 9,269 3.66%
1968 106,831 43.87% 124,651 51.19% 12,036 4.94%
1964 81,683 33.51% 161,040 66.07% 1,016 0.42%
1960 127,271 50.53% 124,273 49.34% 338 0.13%
1956 129,658 52.80% 115,896 47.20% 0 0.00%
1952 132,602 55.01% 107,118 44.44% 1,339 0.56%
1948 86,519 45.77% 93,703 49.57% 8,806 4.66%
1944 78,279 42.04% 105,516 56.66% 2,423 1.30%
1940 73,612 42.72% 97,595 56.64% 1,106 0.64%
1936 41,405 27.18% 106,561 69.96% 4,353 2.86%
1932 47,201 35.56% 78,898 59.44% 6,644 5.01%
1928 75,731 61.64% 45,177 36.77% 1,951 1.59%
1924 48,866 49.98% 21,733 22.23% 27,165 27.79%
1920 44,806 58.06% 27,607 35.77% 4,761 6.17%
1916 41,458 51.67% 35,755 44.56% 3,022 3.77%
1912 9,212 23.05% 13,894 34.76% 16,862 42.19%
1908 17,819 59.82% 9,850 33.07% 2,118 7.11%
1904 13,692 73.88% 2,324 12.54% 2,518 13.59%
1900 9,948 65.46% 4,436 29.19% 814 5.36%
1896 11,824 63.53% 6,453 34.67% 334 1.79%
1892 8,041 48.29% 2,040 12.25% 6,572 39.46%
1888 6,250 59.83% 3,996 38.25% 201 1.92%
1884 5,058 55.99% 3,880 42.95% 95 1.05%
1880 3,211 54.14% 2,720 45.86% 0 0.00%

Economy

The principal industries of Multnomah County are manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail trade, and tourism. Since Oregon does not have a sales tax, it attracts shoppers from southwest Washington.

The Port of Portland, established in 1891 and combined with the City of Portland's Commission of Public Docks in 1971, ranks third in total waterborne commerce on the West Coast, and 31st in the nation for total tonnage according to the 2009 American Association of Port Authorities' Port Industries Statistics.[53] Portland is one of the five largest auto import ports in the nation and is the West Coast's leading exporter of grain and lumber.[citation needed] The Port of Portland is also responsible for Portland International Airport (PDX) in the northeast section of Portland, the Troutdale Airport a few miles east of PDX in Multnomah County, the Hillsboro Airport to the west in Washington County, and Mulino State Airport to the south in Clackamas County.

Out of the 199 cities and counties located in the five West Coast states, Multnomah County ranked 198th in private sector job creation from 1997 to 2009.[54]

Tourism

See also: National Register of Historic Places listings in Multnomah County, Oregon

The county is home to a number of Portland-area attractions and venues, including Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland Art Museum, Memorial Coliseum, Oregon Convention Center, Moda Center, Providence Park, Washington Park, Oregon Zoo, International Rose Test Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum and Pittock Mansion.

It is also home to the Historic Columbia River Highway, Multnomah Falls, and Oxbow Regional Park.

Communities

See also: Portland, Oregon neighborhoods

Cities

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Former communities

Education

School districts include:[56]

Portland Community College serves western portions of the county and Mt. Hood Community College serves eastern portions.[57]

See also

References

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45°32′N 122°25′W / 45.54°N 122.41°W / 45.54; -122.41