A startling change of name (and mission?) for the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement

It was not too many months ago we offered, in this space, our observation – discovered rather quickly when we arrived in this city for a new job, downtown, in 1975 – that Portland is pretty unique among big cities in thinking of itself as a smaller town than it actually is. It's a small town with the advantages of a big city, and – with our Urban Growth Boundary – its surroundings are rural.

Time has passed since then, but that quality of "small-town Portland" – which kept us here, forsaking an industry in which promotion means moving somewhere else, and thus ended our original career – still persists. We recognized that quality then, and valued it – but it was not until the two of us, as an engaged couple, began house-shopping and wound up buying our house in Westmoreland, that it began to become clear to us what causes it.

It is that Portland is a "city of 95 neighborhoods", the majority of them with a sense of being a small town within the confines of a big city. Most of them have their own business district, and a sense of their own history. Even today, City Hall has been supporting it with its goal of "walkability", by which residents can shop locally and find what they need within a twenty-minute stroll.

That is not to say that other big cities do not have something that sort of looks somewhat similar. We moved here from Los Angeles, where there are a lot of small towns embedded in the sprawl of the big city, but there – as in most big cities we've visited – these communities carry a name but now just have a sense of being a generic district of a big city.

No matter what the names may be – Downey, Burbank, Carson, Long Beach – it's all Los Angeles. And, in the case of our large neighbor to the north – which itself has had some pretty distinct neighborhoods in the past – the city is attempting to quash that, and make it all Seattle, as we mentioned ruefully in our previous observations on the subject.

What prompted those previous comments was the observation that there are now some forces in Portland City Hall, primarily associated with a new City Commissioner, which seem to be trying to move Portland in Seattle's direction here.

We offer the thought that we all have much to lose, of the highly desirable qualities of Portland that attracts the growth here that we are trying to manage, if we allow our strong sense of a city composed of neighborhoods of small towns to be overwhelmed by the sense that, more importantly, we live in a big city.

If we lose that, we certainly could see a decline in people moving here – and perhaps even may see some of our most devoted residents looking to move somewhere else. Some here will welcome that – until they discover that our city has lost much of its appeal to them, also.

Portland's neighborhood ambiance is fragile, but worth saving, in our opinion. Thus, we are quite disturbed that the Commissioner we were referring in our previous comments has managed to change the name of the city organization set up to support our neighborhood ambiance – the Office of Neighborhood Involvement – to a new name that no longer even mentions or suggests neighborhoods: It's now the "Office of Community & Civic Life". The abruptly renamed office has issued a brochure saying what a wonderful thing this new name is and how it changes nothing – but there have been staff changes in this office, and a new name really does mean something.

Slice the name any way you like, it clearly no longer refers to Portland's character as an amalgamation of all its neighborhoods, and is now just all about "life in the big city". Possibly that worries you a little, too, in its implications about how Portland City Hall now intends to interact with its residents and constituents in the future.


Did you rescan your TV?

In our June editorial, we explained the "musical chairs" the Federal Communications Commission is now demanding of some TV stations – to get off the channels they have been using to transmit perfect pictures to your TV antenna since the "digital TV conversion" a decade ago, and make them move to others. And we told you that starting June 1, KOIN-TV, while remaining "Channel 6" on your digital TV, would be changing the UHF channel on which it transmits, from Channel 40 to Channel 25.

If you did rescan, did you reacquire KOIN-TV?

It turns out the station was still some time away from getting their million-watt regular transmission system ready for this change they were required to make, so although they indeed have been on the air continuously since then, they have been using a low-powered backup transmitter, operating from the short backup tower next to their 1,000-foot broadcast tower at Sylvan. So its signal is quite a bit weaker right now.

If you can get the KOIN signal, low power makes no difference – a digital signal is either perfect or it is not there at all. No more "snowy" in-betweens. Many in Southeast Portland did and still do receive it.

But, if you are among those who could not receive KOIN-TV's new signal after a "rescan" of your digital TV set, the good news is that the station expects to complete getting their million-watt regular transmitter back on the air on the new frequency before too long – they are saying, most likely by late August or sometime in September.

If you are not seeing "Channel 6", we suggest rescanning often – and one of these days you will have the station back, if you were getting it before June 1.

In the meantime, a low-power local TV signal – KUNP, the Univision station on Channel 47 – has also made a similar transition, and is now transmitting Channel 34, although your TV will still place it on Channel 47. This station is co-owned with KATU, and serves an Hispanic audience.

As we mentioned in June, KATU itself will make a transition similar to KOIN's, as will KNMT-TV, sometime in the next few months – and a few other low-power signals will either do the same, or go off the air permanently. So, if a station you used to get disappears – just try another rescan, and you may well get it back.

You can now receive over 50 local digital TV stations here, over the air for free, so an occasional rescan is a small price to pay to keep getting them.

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