Letters To The Editor
Resident protests city plan to disenfranchise neighbors
Director of Portland's Office of Community & Civic Life Suk Rhee's "In My Opinion" column published on Sunday, Sept. 1, is a facile defense by a taxpayer-funded bureaucrat of why Portland officials are seeking to disenfranchise the City's neighborhood associations and justify undemocratic processes in the name of "diversity" and "inclusion."
The City stands "united against hate and violence" and strives to tackle "big issues so that working families, communities of color and rent-burdened tenants can keep calling Portland home," says Rhee. But she explains in her piece that active members of neighborhood associations are older and more educated than the City as a whole. This is presumably because they seek to share their knowledge via civic involvement and because some are retired and more able to volunteer; it hardly makes them unrepresentative, though.
Rhee takes care not to address the back-channel City discussions that flagged neighborhood associations as "dominated by rich white people clueless about their sense of entitlement." In private texts publicized by The Oregonian, it's not just education, age or even wealth, but whiteness that Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Rhee find problematic. (Aug. 10, 2019).
Thus the revised code envisioned by Rhee and Eudaly writes the City's 95 neighborhood associations out, in favor of hand-picked groups representing unnamed minorities, religions, immigrants, and others.
Yet virtually all citizens are welcomed in the neighborhood associations that blanket Portland, and thus they already represent tenants and diverse communities. Additionally, through its Diversity and Public Leadership Program, OCCL funds Latino, Native American, African American, and refugee networks, ensuring broad representation.
It is likely true that neighborhood associations (and other grantees) are not all equally well-run or equally strong. Some could undoubtedly benefit from OCCL assistance, as previously suggested by the City Auditor. But the auditor's report of November 2016 never suggested their wholesale replacement. Instead, it asked the City to improve planning and accountability of grantees and communications among them, and to update City Code.
The current code requires neighborhood associations to seek input from the residents and businesses located within their boundaries, hold open meetings, elect officers and board members, discuss issues, vote transparently, and produce and file meeting minutes open to the public; other OCCL grantees are not held to these same standards.
Most importantly, the neighborhood associations represent almost the only way to achieve consistent grass roots inputs on City policies and urban services given that Portland has a Commission form of government in which all Commissioners are elected at large and none represent any geographic area.
Rhee says, "Passing the mic does not mute the voices of any." But doing away with longstanding democratic processes and replacing them with fuzzy aspirational language lacking requirements for actual democratic input puts Portland's citizens in danger.
In a democracy, citizens' votes should not be weighted to give some greater standing than others. The City should certainly seek out minority opinions and take them into consideration. But while it is true that some citizens – because of culture, lack of time, or interest – vote or volunteer less frequently, Portland shouldn't, thereby, negate the voices of those who do get involved. And it should require all groups to act democratically and transparently.
Wake up now, Portland. Democracy is threatened here. Without neighborhood input, the Office of Community & Civic Involvement, until recently the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, will choose which voices to hear and which to ignore – all in the name of diversity and inclusiveness.
Make way October 6 for the Portland Marathon!
The Portland Marathon invites all Inner Southeast residents to visit online – www.portlandmarathon.com/traffic – to learn about the traffic impacts of the upcoming event on Sunday, October 6, The race route has been entirely changed from past years, and for the first time runs through Sellwood. All are encouraged to cheer the runners on as they make their way through Sellwood, Westmoreland, Brooklyn, Eastmoreland, and Reed during the Marathon. To ensure that you are able to plan your travel into and out of the neighborhood during the race, please visit that website!
THE BEE, and the Cascade Policy Institute
I read with some amusement the interchange between the Cascade Institute and the THE BEE on the subject of the Sellwood Bridge. The former, a self-styled think tank, is – alas – typical of many such institutes, in that they adopt a way of thinking that might be summarized as, "The free market is the only solution. Now, what was the problem you were bringing to our attention?" (Disclosure: I worked for over a quarter of a century for a real think tank, where we internally systematically reviewed every publication before dissemination, to insure that each conclusion and recommendation was supported by logic and factual evidence. I even helped write one of our internal quality assurance documents.) THE BEE, way back when the new bridge was under construction, noted that Clackamas County, whose residents greatly benefited from the renovation, refused to contribute to its construction; Cascade, located in that county, and as a devout anti-tax institute, supported the Clackamas refusal to contribute – [and] has no basis to gripe about any decisions made by Multnomah County, or, for that matter, the City of Portland – about their road systems.
So, Mr. Norberg and colleagues, please keep up the good work.
James Kahan, Ph.D.
Editor,I was just sitting and having a bite to eat at the Sellwood New Seasons. Anyhow, I looked at your paper and noticed the article about neighbors being concerned of a dispensary being placed near a preschool and right next to a toy shop. This got me to think if their concerns had a valid reasoning for this concern. I looked up to [see] if a preschool was considered a school. Through my research I have found out it doesn't meet the OLCC requirements that the state put in place.
I understand people's concerns yet [they] should do research and see if those can be expressed through a constructive protest. Thank you.
Editor,Burying legal reality in an article's final paragraphs, inside the fold, is a disservice to your readers. I speak of THE BEE's [September] article regarding the Electric Lettuce dispensary slated for S.E. 13th. Or really, the article's topic is better characterized as the opposition to same – which, to be fair, is what the headline proclaims. But I would have expected a more helpful report on the situation; news, as it were.
And, as the city attorney is belatedly quoted [in the article] as having advised, a commercial preschool does not trigger an exclusionary zone [in the city permitting process]. Misplaced concerns, such as the purported code violation and Joe Camel comparisons, are the sort of thing one expects from NextDoor, not THE BEE.
S.E. 17th Avenue
EDITOR'S NOTE: We quoted those who would be quoted, and were unable to quote those would not. The main issue involved, it seems to us – and this was, as we went to press, unresolved – is whether or not the state statute requiring 1,000 feet separation of a marijuana dispensary from a school would indeed apply to the private preschool at issue, as claimed by the lawyer quoted in the story, or not. If it does, then the city's permit process would seem be at odds with the state statute, as we pointed out in the article.
Deplores Portland's "Big City-fication"
Portland is no longer what it once was. It is losing itself to the expectations of a big city. If one has lived here for a time, longer than just a few years, [one] has seen these changes. Most agree that change is good; but not always. Climate change we agree is not a good change, there are other changes that are not acceptable as well. For instance:
Traffic: Is this Portland or Los Angeles? Speed bumps, as if everyone is four-wheeling the Rocky Mountains. Terrible road designs, forcing traffic into funnels of impediments. Traffic lights timed so terribly that one feels stuck in "Groundhog Day". Road designs and bridge designs like a bad game of mouse trap. We are speaking of newly built.
People walking out in the street or in front of TriMet without looking: Do you have a death wish? Some have fallen to this unfortunate destiny. The arguments between bicycles and cars and public transportation – can we not all get along?
Historic houses destroyed, giant monster houses replacing them: Neighborhoods are losing their identity; large apartment buildings with no [provided tenant] parking. [Is this] intelligent?
Overcrowded trails, more parking meters in ridiculous places. . . No parking spaces provided, winter parking permits, trailhead parking permits; one cannot even go to the mountains anymore without having to pay a fee. Some things in life should be available without a cost. Overcrowded campgrounds that used to be free – [but] now cost.
Homelessness abounds: This is a very sad situation of who we are as a society.
So, without continuing a rant of sorts, [I suggest that] the heart and soul is being ripped from this once-beautiful city! Portland has lost its soul. . . but we can stop and not continue this devastating loss of what we all have either moved here for, or have grown up and lived here for.Roark Roberts
S.E. Miller Street
Questions path upgrade on 72nd
For over 80 years I have enjoyed traveling along 72nd Street where it links Foster Road and Holgate Boulevard. [That part] is a divided street with grass and mature trees [in the middle]. Your reporter called it "unimproved' (THE BEE, September, 2019), although I have never thought of it that way.
Now two people . . . have given it a name, given themselves titles, and got a grant to "improve" it. But how? And why?
A.D. DrakePortland 97286
EDITOR'S NOTE: The two people in the article are volunteers in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood association is involved in this, having sought the small grant. The "improvement", if it does proceed, is mostly to provide a path by which people might more easily walk down the wide strip, between the northbound and southbound lanes of S.E. 72nd; a strip which at the moment gets quite muddy when it rains. No other improvement is planned from this grant.
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