Opinion: Southwest Portland needs independent community voice
The residents of Southwest Portland need their own voice. An independent, coordinated voice for the many communities that comprise Southwest has been important in the past. It is essential for our future. Our SW communities strive to meet the future as informed individuals. How will we do this? We must form an even stronger community coordinating group to focus our mutual needs.
The following are elements that we feel should be considered and/or included in a future Southwest community organization to lead us in a unified manner for the next 50 years.
1. Name Change: The Southwest Neighborhoods Inc (SWNI) name has a lot of baggage. A new organization should have a more inclusive name, something like SW Community Service, SW Community Action. SW Advocates. Or?
2. Open the membership: This community organization should be open to other SW place-based organizations while they retain their independent status.
3. Governing group of manageable size: As the number of potential constituent organizations grows, the governance structure must be streamlined to be manageable. Who sits at the table? How are those at the table selected? What structure serves Southwest Portland the best?
4. Committee membership: Membership in the new organization will encompass a variety of interests, needs, and desires. Specialty/research committees provide a venue where local issues can be debated across organizational lines. Committees will be served by self-selection from the membership organizations and may include multiple persons from those organizations. Committees may be created to focus on key topics such as transportation, parks, land use, equity, etc.
5. Provide independent authority to specialty/research committees: These committees of assembled expertise in the respective areas are authorized to take independent action using their collective best judgement.
6. Non-profit status: The new organization is expected to be an advocate for Southwest Portland to the degree possible as a 501(c )(3.)
7. Publications and Web Presence: The organization must have an active well-managed web voice, provide a forum for discussion of issues, meeting notices for the member organizations, actions and service to Southwest PDX.
Conclusion: The current Southwest Neighborhoods Incorporated (SWNI) name has been damaged by actions taken by a number of people in the past several years. The city of Portland has defunded SWNI but not taken the steps to eliminate SWNI as a community organization. Perhaps some city and Civic Life leaders expected the organization to cease to exist once the funding plug was pulled! That has not happened. Volunteers and financial contributors have kept the organization working albeit at a much lower level of service.
Looking forward, we feel it is necessary to restructure our SW community organization to be more open, inclusive and effective. To make it once again a strong advocate for improving our SW community for all of our residents. Be a part of creating this new direction.
Glenn Bridger is currently vice president of the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association and is past president of SWNI.
Don Baack is currently on the board of directors for both the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association and SWNI and is the founder of SWTrails
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