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Here's where BEE readers have the opportunity to share their views -- as well as local items of special interest

Reader Koehler provided a photo of the poisonous, colorful, and very large mushroom shes warning about. Poisonous fungus in Southeast

Editor,

Just a heads-up to all of my neighbors: While walking recently on Reed College Place, I happened upon some big red mushrooms that looked like something out of a fairy tale.  At first, I didn't believe the 6-inch mushrooms were real. But further research has helped me identify them: Amanita Muscaria. POISONOUS.  An adult would know not to eat them or even touch them, but to a child, the speckled red mushrooms look like part of a fairy garden. And a dog might take a bite, out of curiosity, too. Recent rains have encouraged any manner of weird fungi to thrive, and the big red Amanita Muscaria gets my vote for Mushroom of the Month. But leave them alone!

Kimberly Koehler

Eastmoreland

Prefers current city form of government

Editor, I've lived in the SMILE neighborhood since 1975, and value the contributions of THE BEE, but I must express my disagreement with most of the editor's beliefs about changing the form of government in Portland. [From the Editor, November 2021.]

As the elected Portland auditor for ten years (and six years previously as a staff auditor), I got a close-up look at the Commission form of government. My office issued audits that improved services for Portland residents, and we had a better understanding than anyone about how all the Portland bureaus operated.

Here is my most important point: the public should be realistic about how green the grass is over there, in another form of government. In my thirty-year auditing career, I've spoken to many, many other local government auditors, and they all bemoaned the problems they found in their jurisdictions – which were either the strong mayor or City Manager form of government. They found the same problems I found in Portland and, in some cases, much worse.

I've also been around long enough to learn from previous failed efforts to change the form of government. During one of the more recent efforts, Portland was deemed one of the most livable cities and voters asked, "Why should we fix something that's not broken?" Now, Portland has some obvious, serious problems caused by a severe pandemic, economic shudders, and seepage from toxic national politics. Some people are betting a different form of government will solve them. Yet the Commission form of government delivered our light rail and streetcars, a lively downtown, vibrant neighborhoods, and a spirit that attracts young creatives.

Equity was another key argument in the City Club report, but there was no discussion of a presentation I saw at the City Club meeting when the report was discussed. My recollection was that a demographer reported that she tried to devise some council districts that would contain a majority of minority people, and could not create even one because of the size and distribution of minorities in the city. Equity is a problem but it appears that districts won't necessarily solve it.

The City Club reported that many of their witnesses supported the City Manager form of government. I think there are real benefits that can arise from a professional administrator, but that also weakens citizen accountability, because they would have to appeal to their district council member who must compete with the demands of the other council members for the attention of the City Manager. Now, citizens can directly call the Commissioner overseeing that Bureau.

I also have concerns about a larger council prone to fractious squabbling. Commissioners elected at large have a responsibility for the whole city and open to all the public's issues and concerns, rather than seeking advantage for a particular area of the city. We see enough of that at the state and federal levels.

As to the doubts of putting elected Commissioners in charge of Bureaus, I knew many of them and they should not be so easily discounted. They rely upon the expertise of Bureau directors who possess extensive managerial experience to deliver the city's services. Yet Commissioners also routinely break down the inertia within any bureaucracy to bring innovation and solutions to citizen concerns.

My last big concern is the transition to another form of government. Nothing stalls a government like this large a structural change. If voters approve a different form of government, city leadership will put the future on hold because they will be reduced to caretakers. Portland will be stalled for four or five years until districts are drawn up, elections and runoffs are held, new officials take office, a City Manager is hired, and a new direction is taken. Given Portland's urgent problems, this delayed response could worsen our situation.

It's unfortunate that some people now seem inspired to fix the roof in the middle of a hard rain. Unlike a roof, though, another form of government will not solve the problems that Portland, and other cities, are experiencing right now. Gary Blackmer Westmoreland

About "Moreland Woods"

Editor,

As an environmentalist and a humanist, I am dismayed to see so many "Save Moreland Woods" signs on my neighbors' lawns. And I'm no fan of parking lots! But, unfortunately the "Save Moreland Woods" campaign is inherently a conservative, reactionary backlash built on the assumption that all development is destructive. I'm grateful to Friends of Moreland Woods for convincing the landowner to alter their plans for a parking lot so that only one of the twenty large trees in the two-acre Moreland Woods lot must be removed, and I would have cheered if they'd blocked the parking lot altogether. However, the campaign is now promising to fight the development of the remainder of the lot, no matter what might be built. This amounts to nothing more than misguided NIMBYism. I urge my neighbors to reconsider their strategy: Do they not realize how many families just like theirs could be housed on the remaining land of Moreland Woods? Do they not see that their vision for tree canopy, wildlife habitat, and nature education is more than fulfilled by the immediately adjacent 163-acre Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge? (Seriously, it's right there). For comparison, the nearby Galaxie apartment complex contains 73 units and sits on a 0.44 acre footprint. If 1.33 acres remain at Moreland Woods for development, we can extrapolate that to 220 units that could easily fit on this lot, housing potentially around 700 people. Even a vastly smaller number would be worth the cost of twenty trees, and if it were community-owned, as FOMW is envisioning their parklet—even better! It's no secret that Portland is in the grips of a horrific housing crisis. I beg my neighbors in FOMW to redirect their collective energy and advocate for inviting hundreds of new neighbors to the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood. Our shared humanity demands it. Gabriel Mathews via e-mail

A wedding done well (that is, twice)

Editor,

I'm the showrunner of the docu-series "Explained" on Netflix, but before that, I was a print journalist. I mention that only because I have a submission I'd love to make to THE BEE that might be a little unconventional. 

My sister and her husband live in Sellwood, and last Sunday (November 21) they got married in their living room. While I was there, the two of them talked about how much they loved THE BEE – and I thought it would be an amazing surprise if they discovered a Vows-style column about their wedding in the next edition. So I went ahead and wrote it up and here it is: On the cold, quiet Sunday before Thanksgiving, Sarah Gordon and Aaron Friedman exchanged vows in their Sellwood living room, and – in a circle of family, friends, three dogs, and one cat – they were pronounced husband and wife. 

Technically, the couple was already married. They'd legally tied the knot the previous weekend, at a little white chapel in Las Vegas.

The two ceremonies were pretty different. The Vegas wedding began with the bride, groom, and their families milling around outside the chapel as they waited for their 15-minute appointment, watching two other wedding parties enter giddily, and then exit even giddier, in glittery outfits and a shower of bubbles. In the words of Liz Gordon, the mother of the bride: it was "a scene." 

As the Nevada sunset painted the sky pink, and the strip club across the street flickered on its neon lights, the chapel finally ushered in the Gordons and the Friedmans. The father of the bride, Jeffrey Gordon, walked his daughter down the aisle, as an Elvis sang "Love Me Tender" into a mic – stretching a 10-foot walk into a 40-second serenade. 

"Then all of a sudden, it was emotional," said Mr. Gordon, as the couple exchanged their own vows. "I wasn't expecting that." Several guests wiped away tears as the newlyweds shared their first kiss, which quickly segued into their first dance – to another Elvis song, of course, "Can't Help Falling in Love".  "It was everything we'd hoped for," said Ms. Gordon. 

But still, a few pieces were missing. COVID-19 had prevented a few loved ones in Portland from making the trip. And Ms. Gordon and Mr. Friedman thought Vegas wasn't the right venue for some of the more sacred rites they'd wanted in their wedding. So the couple decided to have a second ceremony in their home the following week -- making a few key adjustments.

The role of officiant, first played by a surprisingly sincere stranger, was recast as a disarmingly funny rabbi. They swapped the singing Elvis for Hebrew blessings, and dinner at Spago at the Bellagio for trays of Middle Eastern takeout. And while the guests in Vegas enjoyed a funfetti wedding cake from MilkBar, the Portland party had to make do with the exact same wedding cake, homemade by the bride from the MilkBar cookbook.

But whether the warm-up was 1950s rock 'n' roll or a 4,000-year-old prayer, the star of both shows was the same: a couple head-over-heels in love. 

Ms. Gordon, 35, grew up in London, U.K., and Mr. Friedman, 34, in Eugene, Oregon. They met in San Francisco in 2019, and when the pandemic hit, the couple took a leap together -- buying their Sellwood house on Ms. Gordon's first-ever visit to Portland, and quickly adding a puppy and a kitten to their family. 

In some ways, the two were an unlikely match. One partner is a skilled baker, and the other is an accomplished weight-lifter. And while Ms. Gordon had wanted a classic Vegas wedding, it was important to Mr. Friedman that their ceremony include Jewish traditions.

If the secret to a good marriage is compromise, then the secret to a great one might be realizing when you don't have to compromise at all. In either case, the future for these newlyweds looks bright.

Claire Gordon via e-mail

Likes new local business

Editor,

I am a neighbor who would like to bring a new family business to your attention. We have been reading THE BEE for about 20 years. 

Sean Williams, the owner of United Athletic Club, is getting his new gym business going in Sellwood. I believe he is one of a few Black business owners in Sellwood-Westmoreland, and believe he needs the neighborhood support to get the word out for him. 

He is specifically interested in working with middle school students and getting them on a path to fitness. My 13 year old son Donovan has had a great experience working with Sean on a weekly basis, and he is supportive, kind, yet pushes kids to do better. He gives weekly workout plans that are easy for kids to follow. His business is a great addition to Sellwood, and he is opening up an area for kids to play while parents work out. I think the fact that he has a daughter at Sellwood Middle School helps him to understand the family dynamic, and how hard it is for parents to find time for exercise! His website is www.unitedathleticclub.com.

Anyway, it is an all-around good addition to the neighborhood, and it might benefit the neighbors to know about this new gym. Is it possible to add to my letter that Sean offers affordable personal training for $65 per session, and that the gym will match membership for a year?   

Brooke Fitzgerald Family Nurse Practitioner

Westmoreland

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.


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