Monday, March 06, 2006

Greenhorn, USA

The smallest, and highest altitude, incorporated city in Oregon is named Greenhorn, at 6270 feet above sea level, and a population that various measures give as anywhere from three down to zero. The last census recorded zero residents, although there are apparently three registered voters, a mayor, a city council, and a couple of city "employees". As far as I can figure, the state can't classify it as a ghost town and abolish it so long as someone's maintaining it as a going concern. Although several pages including this one report that the place operates under some sort of "Township Charter" granted directly by Uncle Sam. It'd be helpful if they explained what that meant, but they don't.

The town gets a blurb at the end of this article about "Oregon's Playgrounds", meaning areas where a significant percentage of the housing stock is owned by nonresidents and occupied seasonally. If any of the seven legal residences are vacation homes, I'm assuming they aren't pictured on this page.

I suppose it would be kind of fun to have an actual legal city to run as a hobby. It's a shame how ghost towns tend to be so inconveniently located, though. I do seem to recall an article in the Oregonian a few years ago where a sharp-eyed researcher had discovered that there were a significant number of "cities" on the books in this state that had been incorporated on paper long ago, and subsequently forgotten. Many of these were near, or now even within the limits of "real" cities, some of them in the Portland area. If I'm not mistaken, one phantom city was actually centered in the area of what's now the Cedar Hills Crossing mall in central Beaverton. Which is kind of a fascinating idea. The idea of things continuing to legally "exist" on paper long after they've ceased to exist (or never existed to begin with) in the real world is intriguing, and I expect there are all sorts of ways a sufficiently clever person could turn such a situation to his or her advantage.

I don't know if the state legislature ever acted on these legal "ghost towns"; surely they must've had higher priorities. Unless they've since been abolished, in theory I guess you could lay hands on one of these babies, finagle yourself into the mayor's office, and start handing out traffic tickets, putting relatives on the payroll, passing weird city ordinances, accepting lavish gifts from lobbyists, abusing your city credit card / mobile phone / Learjet for personal use, handing out huge public subsidies for local sports team owners, CEOs, and random other rich people, maybe build a stylish aerial tram across "town"... the possibilities are absolutely endless, and just begging to be exploited. (Mwhahahaha!!!!)

Which means our noble legislators probably did abolish these cities-on-paper. I don't think they could tolerate the added competition.

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