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Advisory committee votes to recommend changes at July 18 meeting, City Council to hold work session Sept. 3

KOIN 6 NEWS - The future of the neighborhood associaion system was debated at a July 18 meeting.A city advisory committee voted to recommend a changes to the city code that some worry will strip away Portland's neighborhood associations on Thursday, July 18.

There are 95 neighborhood associations in Portland and the City Council has said the code that governs them is outdated and does not fully respresent all residents.

The committee is advising city Office of Community and Civic Life, formerly known as the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. The council directed it to rewrite Chapter 3.96 of the 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 current draft is controversial because it eliminates all reference to neighborhood associations from the code, although it does not abolish them.

"The challenge with it is there is no accountability," said Leslie Hammond, presdient of Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc, who opposes the proposed changes. "There is no contract language that says a community group will do this and the city will do this. They want to eliminate the standards that we have operated by for 40 years."

Others support the proposed change.

Musse Olol, who has struggled to get resources as president of the Solmali-American Council of Oregon, believes the move will help organizations like his.

"It's more like a community, so I feel like I'm inclusive and I will be a part of opportunities this agency has to offer," he said.

Still others believe the changes will benefit all Portlanders.

"We need to open it up to everybody to be the involved in the official connection of city government," said Brighton West, who lives in the Hawthorne neighborhood

After public testimony Thursday evening, the committee extended its meeting and eventually recommended a revised reversion of its most recent proposal. The proposal could be revised more the council considers it at a work session scheduled for Sept. 3.

Some neighborhood associations and activists are already voicing their opposition to the changes to the council.

"We need Code 3.96 to continue a robust grievance process so that residents have a legal means to force bad actors to do their actions in the public realm," Goose Hollow Neighborhood Association board member Tracy Prince said in a recent personal letter to the council.

You can learn more about the proposed rewrite here.

KOIN 6 News is a new partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their story with video here.

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