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Behind the scenes, neighborhood coalition isn't working for all Southwest Portlanders

Commissioner Hardesty joined the Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. board meeting recently and advised us of her decision not to fund SWNI. Two people will be hired at the Office of Civic Life to work with Southwest neighborhoods directly. All other details of this collaboration are yet to be defined, determined and worked out.

Regarding SWNI, my view is the organization stopped being helpful a long time ago to the neighborhoods. In fact, it's an impediment to neighbors being served by the city. It was very helpful when organized 40 years ago and up to about 15 years ago. Then, it gradually became an organization serving itself. Neighborhoods saw no money from an advertised grant program after the organizaton's receipt of a Payroll Protection Program loan. Instead, the money was spent entirely on administrative expenses.

Even the website and communications were impeded, often not working properly. Posts of meeting notices were late and caused neighborhood associations to be in violation of their own bylaws without knowing it because they did not know SWNI failed to post notices in a timely manner.

The executive committee and most of the chairs have become vindictive and made it difficult for those voicing differing opinions to function, mildly speaking.

In December, there was an attempt to dissolve the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association board by granting an improperly filed grievance regarding the size of our board. That decision would have invalidated many of our actions and officers' elections held back in July. However, this decision was appealed swiftly to the Office of Civic Life and we received a decision promptly affirming the Hillsdale decision and offering support for our actions and initiatives.

This is not an atmosphere neighborhoods want to work in.

LifshitzIt is time to move on. Every neighborhood has the road wide open in front of them. They can have their own budgets and help from Civic Life--a transparent relationship, a working democracy. Of course, it will take time to build trust and a working understanding, but I think it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps this sounds too good, but it is not a reason not to attempt it.

In its board meeting on Wednesday March 24, SWNI continued with formation of ad-hoc organizational, publicity and technology committees and talked about applying for yet another PPP loan in the approximate amount of $50,000.

In the prior weeks, SWNI board members held discussions in small, informal groups not subject to Oregon's public notice and reporting requirements to discuss the PPP application. Board action was withheld and the matter was tabled but SWNI now hopes that Congress will extend the deadline to apply for the second tier PPP loans and plans to apply if the deadline is extended.

Tatiana Lifshitz lives in Southwest Portland's Hillsdale neighborhood.


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