2015 has been a year of disgruntlement in Inner Southeast – unease about lot-splitting, home demolition and reconstruction, apartment houses appearing on residential properties, mixed-use development, and apartment house construction that does not take into account that at least some of its renters will need parking, which is not provided.

Some residents seem frustrated that these things go on, and react with lawn signs. Lawn signs are unlikely to bring about change.

Those concerned about land-use and transportation issues really need to look into their own neighborhood association, where there are, most likely, committees devoted to these issues – committees that have the right to comment to the city on some of these projects in advance of construction.

We find that many of Portland’s residents are unsure what neighborhood associations are, let alone which one might represent them. It’s worth finding out, if the future direction of the city is of interest or concern to you.

Portland is unique in many ways, and one of those ways is having a strong neighborhood association system, recognized and supported by the city. There are 95 recognized neighborhood associations in Portland, and you almost certainly live in one of them…and, perhaps, work in another one. Under the rules in Portland, you are a member of any of them in which you live, own property, and/or work.

In Inner Southeast, THE BEE distributes primarily in the Sellwood and Westmoreland, Brooklyn, Reed, Eastmoreland, and Woodstock neighborhoods – with secondary service to portions of Brentwood-Darlington, Mount Scott-Arleta, Creston-Kenilworth, Foster-Powell, Ardenwald, and Hosford-Abernethy.

Every one of these neighborhoods has its own neighborhood association, whose role in the city is to act as a voice for its residents and members before the City of Portland. Everyone who serves on a neighborhood association Board is a volunteer – as is anyone who serves on any if its committees. Nobody gets paid. It’s public service, and community involvement.

While knee-jerk opposition to things (particularly after they have already happened) tends to be unproductive, those who have concerns about the city policies and directions – if they are willing to learn what the rules and procedures are, and work within those restrictions to have a hand in directing these policies – can make a difference.

So, if being a participant rather than a spectator in these matters appeals to you, where do you start? Probably, by starting to attend meetings of your own neighborhood association, to see what goes on there, and how you might fit in.

And if you are not sure what your neighborhood association is, an even more basic start would be to find out what it is, where it meets, and when!

The City of Portland supports all its neighborhood associations with a city agency called the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, or ONI. Find out more about it online:

But there is another layer of support between ONI and the 95 neighborhood associations, and those are nonprofit organizations, which receive city support and act as a conduit between ONI and the associations, called “Neighborhood Coalitions”. In Inner Southeast Portland, all the neighborhoods we listed above are served by the same Coalition: “Southeast Uplift”. You may have heard of it; now you know what it is.

You are welcome to attend meetings of Southeast Uplift, which is located at 3534 S.E. Main Street – one block north of the Hawthorne Boulevard Fred Meyer store, and 3-1/2 blocks west of S.E. Chavez Blvd. (39th). But you don’t have to do that to find out from Uplift which neighborhood association serves you. Try calling them at 503/232-0010 and asking!

You can find Southeast Uplift online: If you do, and if you click on the tab called “Your Neighborhood”, you will find a generalized map showing all of the Inner Southeast neighborhoods served by this coalition, and they do invite your contact to learn what neighborhood you are a member of, if you are uncertain about it.

Most of these neighborhoods have a newsletter of some sort (for Sellwood-Westmoreland, the official newsletter has been a part of THE BEE for a quarter century – on the bottom of the editorial page). Most have one or more websites as resources for the residents they serve, as well – so once you know which neighborhood you are part of, Southeast Uplift can steer you towards a website for that neighborhood, so you can learn more about the citizen volunteers who are working on your behalf to help make this a better city.

Once you have attended a few meetings of your own neighborhood association, you may find yourself drawn to this “particularly Portland” kind of community service, and if so you are invited to run for a position on its Board. In May of each year, all 95 neighborhood associations hold Board elections. Consider serving.

If you are not drawn to a Board seat, your concern about particular issues may attract you to one of your neighborhood association’s committees. It’s particularly timely, because Portland is on the last lap of devising a “Comprehensive Plan” for the next couple of decades, which includes changes in the zoning that may affect where you live and work.

The city does not pay much attention to lawn signs, but it does pay attention to its neighborhood associations. On the Board or on a committee, YOU can make an actual difference.

So let us suggest you consider doing that, as your top New Year resolution for 2016!

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