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Summit scheduled for Wednesday night at Multnomah Arts Center to answer questions about the process

If it's true that all politics is local, you might want to put off viewing night two of the second Democratic presidential debates to take in a "Neighborhood Summit" on one of the hottest local issues this summer: the future of Portland's network of neighborhood associations.

The civic code that acknowledges and governs the 95 such associations in Portland is being rewritten in a way that backers of the current system say will seriously downgrade its role as a voice for citizens.

So on Wednesday night, July 31, at 7 p.m. at the Multnomah Arts Center, Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. (SWNI) is staging a "Neighborhood Summit" on the proposed changes to Civic Code 3.96.

For those unfamiliar with the role and track record of neighborhood associations in Portland, the summit will include presentations on the history of Portland's neighborhood system, how neighborhood associations interact with city bureaus and the role of SWNI, the district coalition that's an umbrella organization for the 17 neighborhood associations in Southwest Portland.

Proposed code changes would also affect how district coalitions like SWNI and business district associations like the Multnomah Village Business Association and Hillsdlel Professional Asociation operate.

SWNI President Leslie Hammond tells the SW Connection the Neighborhood Summit ," Is largely about providing information to everyone who comes about how to let their voices be heard individually or by community-based groups at city council." The proposed changes were to have been acted on by the Council on Setember 3, but consideration has now been delayed until October 3.

After the introduction and update on the rewriting of Civic Code 3.96, there will be time for questions and answers, which will be followed by small group discussions and consideration of future actions.

"We will listen to suggestions from the group after our panel presents. And probably take that information to the SWNI coalition meeting in August," Hammond wrote in an e mail.

No one from the Office of Community and Civic Life, which used to be the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, is scheduled to speak or answer questions.

Supporters say the code changes are necessary because an increasing number of Portland residents belong to communities that are not geographically well-defined.

"We need all of us and not just some over others. That is not government's role, to pick winners and losers," Civic Life Office director Suk Rhee told the City Club of Portland on July 12. Rhee also said neighborhood associations would not be abolished even if they are removed from the code.

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