THE "LETTERS TO THE EDITOR" ARE BELOW THE EDITORIAL

From The Editor

Is Portland about to end its only direct connection to its own residents?

In most large cities in this country, the city government includes council members who are elected from different districts in its constituency. The idea is that all residents will have at least one advocate on the City Council, and all districts will be represented.

Portland is the outlier – with a “commissioner” form of city government that is seldom associated with large cities. In the past, there have been ballot measures seeking to convert our city government to a more representative form – but, to date, they have all been defeated. We suspect that is partly because we all like our city’s quirkiness; and probably partly because we did not perceive that our current form of government wasn’t working.

And one of the major reasons it worked was that the city government actually wanted to represent all its districts, and thus established a “Neighborhood” system of representation. Portland has had, for decades, a system of volunteer-operated Neighborhood Associations – some 95 of them, representing all districts of the city – and ByLaws requirements for these associations which require open meetings, and equal representation of all those living in each of the districts served.

These Neighborhood Associations have a voice at the city, although they cannot bring about any action by themselves at the city level; and they have received official support through the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and a system of nonprofit “Coalition” organizations designed to assist in the interface between city and neighborhoods, and to support Neighborhood Associations. In Southeast Portland, the Coalition is called “Southeast Uplift”.

The Neighborhood Association system has had the pleasant side effect of helping the many sections of this major city to feel like villages, thus making Portland seem more like a small town with big city conveniences – pretty unique for a city our size, in our own experience. In fact, that is one of the big reasons your editor chose this city, even giving up his rather nomadic profession, in which to settle down and spend the rest of his life.

Now – apparently driven by one Portland City Commissioner in particular, Chloe Eudaly – it seems Portland is on the verge of suddenly having the least representative city government of any big city in the United States – retaining the “commissioner” form of city council, still with no district representation involved in electing Commissioners, while doing away with any official role for the Neighborhood Associations which have provided a system by which every resident has had a voice in city government.

The first hint of a worrisome change came a year ago when the name of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement was changed to the Office of Community & Civic Life in an “emergency ordinance” passed by the Portland City Council. This was followed by wholesale staff changes for what was the Office of Neighborhood Involvement – and a scrupulous scrubbing of the word “neighborhood” from any official description of what the new Office of Community and Civic Life is intended to do.

With the change comes no new conduit for every resident of the city to provide recognized district input to the city – other than just sitting in City Council meetings and hoping for a minute or two to express an idea that may not even be commented on by the Commissioners before they proceed with whatever they are doing (a rather unsatisfying option that has always been there).

Obviously, relatively few residents of the city are likely to take the time and make the effort to trek to Portland City Council chambers in the wan hope of perhaps receiving a minute or two to address the Commissioners.

Will the Neighborhood Associations go away? Many will not; hopefully most will not, since they continue to act as nonprofit advocates for bringing about good things in their own neighborhoods, whether the city chooses to notice or not.

And, of course, there is always the possibility that a later City Council may realize that this system which has worked so well in providing input to Commissioners from all corners of the city should be revived, in the absence of any other means of direct representation of all Portland residents.

In the meantime, though, the proposed new changes in the city code would strip the Neighborhood Associations of any formal relationship with the city, and any legal mandate for open meetings and other related requirements – and also remove any system of receiving city grants for beneficial local projects. Those associations continuing to serve their neighborhoods will have to develop their own resources for locally-needed projects, making them more like service clubs.

Will Portland see its unique character fade, and become just another monolithic big city? Would you want it to?

Do you remember why the American Colonies rebelled against the British Crown, and began the process of becoming the country we are today? It was all about a lack of representation! (“No taxation without representation” was a key rallying cry.) Indeed, the American Congress, and the State Legislatures, all follow a constitutionally-mandated system of geographical representation, intended to make sure all citizens in all states have a representative they have elected specifically to represent them.

If the Portland City Council does actually take the bizarre and draconian step of voting to end the only system they have of channeling district-oriented input from its residents to its leadership – a vote currently expected to take place in about a month – perhaps it is now time for us all to rise and mount a new and successful effort to establish a truly representative city government for the City of Portland.


Letters to the Editor
Eagle Scouts, Westmoreland, Southeast Portlandl, Oregon
The two new Eagle Scouts.

Two more local Eagle Scouts!

Editor,

Two Boy Scouts from Troop 113 have been honored for completing the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout. An individual “Eagle Court of Honor” was held for each of them on May 22 and on June 14 at the Sellwood meeting house of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Friends, family, and supporters from the community gathered to honor Hyrum Yeates, who just completed his sophomore year at Cleveland High School, and Hunter Key, a graduating senior from Cleveland High School.  Hunter Key was also nominated to the Air Force Academy in Colorado and has already begun his training there.

Yeates joined scouting in Seattle in 2011 while in third grade, and has continued in Scout Packs and Troops ever since.  He continued with Cub Scouts in Salt Lake City, and then joined Pack 113 in Portland.  He transitioned into Troop 113 in 2014.  In addition to earning 29 merit badges, Yeates completed his Eagle Scout project in March 2018 at Camp Kilowan outside of Dallas, Oregon [just west of Salem].  He organized an effort to rebuild dilapidated bleachers at the camp.

Key has been a member of Pack and Troop 113 since he joined scouting in 2009.  In addition to earning more than 30 merit badges, Key completed his Eagle Scout project in February 2019 at Winterhaven School in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  A graduate of Winterhaven School himself, Key recruited a crew to construct a large trellis for the school's learning garden.

Celeste Yeates
via e-mail

Maintaining Westmoreland Park

Editor,

Westmoreland Park is a jewel in our neighborhood. How many neighborhoods can claim a park with a stream in which you can see beavers, river otters, and salmon? Never mind the athletic fields, walking trails, play area and picnic facilities! Although the city has neither the money nor the personnel to keep up with all the maintenance demands of such a large heavily used park, there has been no organized neighborhood group to lend a hand ... until now.

Last August, with the help of SMILE and the Sellwood-Moreland Natural Amenities Committee [SNAC], Friends of Westmoreland Park was created. If you enjoy pulling invasive plants to help restore the Crystal Springs watershed, or raking the sand of the playground to keep it safe, or just picking up litter, please join us! We meet on the last Tuesday of every month, May through October, from 10 a.m. until noon.

Join us at the picnic table nearest to the playground. Bring sturdy shoes, work gloves, and your favorite gardening tool. (Actually tools are not really necessary, as we will provide several.)

The neighborhood is remarkably blessed with easy access to parks and natural beauty that would be the envy of any city. Help preserve that blessing while getting a little sun, a little exercise, and a lot of good company. Join us at the park!

Ruth Kaser
S.E. Marion Street

Eastmoreland events on YouTube

Editor:

Our Eastmoreland neighborhood has recently had a couple of fun events, and we’ve captured them on video on YouTube for everyone's enjoyment.

At the “Save the Giants” celebration [see article in this issue of THE BEE], organizer Arthur Bradford recited the story of how the of the mighty Sequoias were saved from destruction, and neighbors celebrated with food and music. Go online to – https://youtu.be/JXQyAt6Fyg8.

That same weekend, the annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale was taking place, with nearly 100 households participating.  We looked at dozens of sales, and maybe you’ll see yours in the video – https://youtu.be/sgLJRfUKxZM.

Presented and produced by your Eastmoreland neighbors, at http://www.eastmoreland.org.

Bert Sperling
via e-mail




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