Neighborhood-based geographic representation gets a further apparent major demotion
This just in from the former Office of Neighborhood Involvement: the direct, simple idea of neighborhood-based participation in city government has now been officially euthanized, replaced by a feel-good title, “Office of Community and Civic Life.” City activists who are already troubled by poor geographic representation under Portland’s at-large system have another major reason to be alarmed.
So do the many other groups that are currently under-represented in city affairs. While the new move represents an attempt to give them a bigger voice, there is no democratic means for doing so, and only those who are acknowledged by the City will be… acknowledged by the City.
We noted some months ago that such a move was afoot (see http://livableportland.org/2018/01/08/oni-is-changing-its-name-ono/). We warned that the current situation is an inversion of the fundamental democratic principle of geographic representation, and that the way to deal with an inadequate neighborhood involvement system is to make it more representative and more accountable, and not to marginalize it.
But this week’s news makes it clear that neighborhoods — along with the venerable neighborhood involvement system itself — are going under the bus.
The chart that came with the announcement has a dizzying number of elements, only one of which is “Neighborhood Program.” That element is a bit hard to spot, well below “Crime Prevention,” “Information and Referral,” and “Cannabis.” In total, “Neighborhood Program” is one of twenty elements in the chart.
This week’s email from Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Director Suk Rhee:
Dear friends and colleagues:
The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has been the gateway to civic engagement in Portland for 44 years. While the bureau was originally created in 1974 to connect Neighborhood Associations to the city, the bureau’s responsibilities have evolved over time. Just as the services that ONI provides have evolved, so must the way we represent our bureau to you: our constituents and partners.
Effective July 1, 2018, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is becoming the Office of Community and Civic Life. This change is the result of a recognition by many, through focus groups, research, and dialogue, that our name should better represent the wide range of ways our office supports and engages with all Portlanders.
While the public roll out is scheduled for July 1st, we are sharing the news with community partners and city colleagues this afternoon. We want you to be the first to know.
The Office of Community and Civic Life strives to connect the people of Portland with their city government to promote the common good. We chose the word Community to include all Portlanders, and the word Civic to highlight our role in engaging the public in local government.
Our mission remains the same: Promoting a culture of civic engagement by connecting and supporting all Portlanders working together and with government to build inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities. It will take all of us to realize our shared goals. As the Office of Community and Civic Life, we will maintain our strong, longstanding community partnerships and expand our efforts to bring new voices to the table.
The website, bureau, and program materials will be updated on July 1, 2018. We will be re-introducing ourselves to our city and community partners through longstanding events like National Night Out and Spirit of Portland Awards, a social media campaign, and printed materials.
For further information about our name change and the rebranding process, please visit our website. We welcome your ideas and invite you to collaborate with us as we begin our next chapter as the Office of Community and Civic Life.
Chloe Eudaly, Commissioner Suk Rhee, Director, Office of Community & Civic Life