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The goal is to increase community engagement, but some neighborhood activists fear they are being cut out of the process

WHAT IS HAPPENING? The Office of Community & Civic Life, the Portland bureau formerly known as the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, is rewriting the section of the City Code that governs its operations for City Council approval. The final proposal will be released soon and the council is expected to hold at least one hearing and vote on it in July or August, but no date has yet been announced.

WHAT IS THE GOAL? The office operates under Chapter 3.96 of the code. The council passed a resolution last summer changing its name and requesting the rewrite to better reflect its responsibilities helping all communities engage with city government. A citizen advisory committee was appointed to work on the rewrite, which acknowledges that Portland is becoming a more diverse city, with different needs and challenges than in the past.

"This chapter creates the Office of Community & Civic Life and sets out its functions, duties, and responsibilities to serve, respond, and adapt to the needs, aspirations, and opportunities of its evolving communities. This chapter outlines the basis for the role of civic engagement in creating an inclusive city in which each of us can contribute and belong. The Office serves people who live, play, worship, and/or work in the City of Portland as individuals and through all forms of groups (including but not limited to affinity-, business-, community-, issue-, and neighborhood-based groups) and across generations," reads the "purpose" section of the proposed replacement chapter.

IS THERE ANY CONTROVERSY? Yes, the process has raised concerns among some neighborhood association and neighborhood coalition members that the rewrite will eliminate the traditional public involvement process that grew out of the grassroots fight to stop the proposed Mount Hood Freeway project in the 1960s. Portland has long been known for its neighborhood system, which has land use review and other responsibilities in the City Charter.

"The unusual thing about this process to date is that in writing the new code, CAC (citizen advisory committee) members were asked to consider eliminating the reference to neighborhood associations and neighbors," wrote Leslie Hammond, president of the board of Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., in the coalition's July newsletter. "The neighborhoods should be prepared to send letters and to testify on the new language at the hearing in late summer."

WHAT CAN I DO? You can learn more about the Chapter 3.96 rewrite at the office's website at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/civic. It will include the proposal to the council when it is finalized.

You also can express your opinions on the issue to the council members, and testify at the hearing when it is scheduled. Their contact information is on the city's website at http://www.portlandoregon.gov.


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