PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is asking the City of Portland to hire two employees to help manage more than a dozen neighborhood associations in Southwest Portland — a job previously held by a coalition.
Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., also known as SWNI, oversees 17 neighborhood associations. The city cut funding to the group in February after an audit found taxpayer money had been mismanaged.
“There were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed in financial management and how people were treated and how people felt like they were treated within the board structure. We had lots of complaints about bullying behavior,” said Hardesty.
Members of SWNI dispute the audit’s findings, saying they were not given a chance to defend themselves before the funding was cut. Hardesty wants the Office of Community and Civic Life — which she oversees — to immediately take over supporting those 17 neighborhood associations.
“I immediately put in place procedures so we can hire two community members to work with the southwest neighbors so they can continue to have their needs addressed,” said Hardesty.
One of the neighborhood associations’ most pressing needs is insurance, which SWNI had previously provided.
“Will insurance remain for SWNI neighbors? Yes — they will work with Civic and Community Life to get the insurance to cover those neighborhood associations,” Hardesty said.
On Wednesday, Portland City Council will vote on a grant for the insurance and on whether the city will hire two new Community and Civic Life employees to work with the 17 neighborhood associations in Southwest Portland. Hardesty is encouraging residents to be involved in the selection process. “I will need your help to build the kind of inclusive neighborhood system that we can all be proud of,” she said.