After audit, neighborhood office director resigns
Amalia Alarcon de Morris has stepped down as director of the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, five months after a scathing audit of the agency.
She served 11 years as director and 18 years total at the bureau. Alarcon de Morris sent an email last week to employees saying her goodbyes, while her last day at work was March 20. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Part of her email to staff reads, "Please keep reaching for equity. Always ask yourself, who is missing from our conversations? Who is benefited and burdened by what we do? What might the unintended consequences be of our program decisions."
In November, a city audit criticized the bureau for not holding grantees accountable, not completing major tasks assigned to the office, and generally poor oversight.
The Office of Neighborhood Involvement oversees the city's neighborhood system, which includes seven neighborhood coalitions and 95 neighborhood associations. Its other responsibilities include noise control, graffiti abatement, marijuana regulation and liquor licensing.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the bureau, has been tasked with addressing issues raised by the audit.
Serving as director in the interim will be David Austin, the commissioner's chief of staff, and Amy Archer, the bureau's current operations manager.
When asked what they'll be looking for in a new director, Austin wasn't sure.
"The commissioner wants to make sure she finds the right fit for this important office," he said. "This isn't an apples and oranges type of thing, so we're not going to make any fast decisions."
However, he said that because of the city's growing immigrant and refugee population, they're trying to find "someone who will move things to the next level."
They're also looking at internal reorganization.
Juliette Muracchioli, graffiti abatement director, was worried her office could come under the ax, just as graffiti hate crimes in the city have risen.
"In order to gain on the increases ... we'll need more resources and capacity than we have," Muracchioli said.
Earlier this month, Nazi swastikas were found painted on property throughout the Richmond neighborhood. ONI's graffiti abatement program provides professional removal services and supplies.
The city budget office has recommended against eliminating the graffiti abatement program and has recommended a new full-time employee and $465,000 in new money for a program called Portland United Against Hate, which will "enhance reporting of hate crimes, hate speech, and acts of intimidation."
Going forward, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods Executive Director Adam Lyons hopes to see more transparency within the neighborhood system and "good faith belief that we can all kind of work together."