Will Portland neighborhood associations be curtailed?

Civic Affairs

Final public meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The controversial rewrite of Portland’s public engagement policy is expected to move forward on Thursday, July 18.

That is when the citizen committee advising the rewrite is scheduled to hold its final meeting from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at a Portland Water Bureau building at 664 N. Tillamook St.

The committee is advising the city Office of Community and Civic Life, formerly known as the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. The City Council has directed it to rewrite Chapter 3.96 of the City Code, which recognizes and regulates Portland’s neighborhood associations as the official vehicle for public engagement. Among other things, they have an official role to play in land use matters within their boundaries.

The rewrite is intended to expand the avenues for public engagement to include a wider variety of community-based organizations. The current draft is controversial because it would eliminate all reference to neighborhood associations from the code, although it does not abolish them.

Some neighborhood activists argue there is no need to remove all references from the associations from the code to formally allow other organizations to play similar roles. But office director Suk Rhee defended the proposed rewrite Friday before the City Club of Portland. Speaking on a panel on civic engagement, she said the city has a moral and legal obligation to represent all Portlanders.

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“When communities have not been named in code, or policy or law, or only when some groups have been named, this has had devastating impacts for being represented, served, resourced and valued in this country,” said Rhee.

Rhee also promised neighborhood association would continue to be part of the “circle of engagement,” just not the center of it.

Also speaking to the longstanding civic organization was Carl Abbot, a Portland State University professor emeritus who is an expert on cities and who has written two books on Portland. He said neighborhood associations were the first influential grassroots organization beginning in the 1960s and suggested that some city officials might be annoyed with them now because they oppose current redevelopment policies, such as increasing residential densities.

Read: Code Change project updates from City of Portland

Committee 3.96, as it is called, was originally scheduled to complete its work on June 26, but not enough members showed up to constitute the forum necessary to conduct business. Some neighborhood activists claimed the meeting was poorly publicized and promised to attend the next one.

The council has scheduled a work session on the proposed write for Sept. 3rd of this year.

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