ALERT! An extraordinary assault under way on democracy in Portland

Democracy under assault — and defended — around the world.

Readers urged to attend Code Committee meeting Wednesday 6/26/19 at 5PM, White Stag building, and forward this post to other concerned residents

At a time when democracy is under assault and being defended in courageous struggles around the world, one place where it is in retreat seems to be… Portland, Oregon.

We received with alarm the following report from Allen Field, an attorney and member of the Richmond neighborhood association, who has been closely following developments of the OCCL-managed Code Committee, charged with re-writing the legal code that governs the City-recognized neighborhood association system.  According to Allen and numerous other informed observers, the new draft language virtually abolishes Portland’s vaunted neighborhood system – a pillar of the city’s grass-roots democracy, responsible for many of its celebrated urban achievements of the last half-century.

From Allen’s report:

This Wednesday, June 26, 2019 5:30-8:00 PM at University of Oregon (Wayne Morse) 70 NW Couch St., Portland, OR 97209, the 3.96 Code Comm mtg will likely have its last meeting. At stake is the existence of the Neighborhood Association program and whether Civic Life tosses the ONI Standards and the Open Meeting rules contained therein.

…Code 3.96 is the authorizing Code language for the NA system and for the ONI Standards and the all-important Open Meeting and Public Record rules under which NA’s have operated since 2005. …The new Code language eliminates all reference to NAs and ONI Standards. Further, the existing Code language that is the foundation of the City’s formal recognition of NAs will be entirely erased. NAs will be erased from the Code language governing Civic Life. (2 weeks ago, Mingus Mapps was fired. He was the only person at Civic Life handling NA issues. Now, no one is doing that.)

If the Open Meeting rules and ONI Standards are eliminated, then there’s nothing to prevent a group of people from taking over a NA and pushing their personal agenda under the guise and facade of representing the community. Without the Open Mtg rules and ONI Standards, there will no longer be any recourse to enforce transparency, providing notice to the community, and accountability.

At the last Code Comm meeting, the questions posed to the Committee were:

1. Should the benefits described in the ONI Standards be available to all community groups? [they voted Yes]

2. Should Civic Life dictate the governance & operations of volunteer community groups around civic engagement (aside from the contracts, grants, etc.)? [They put off this vote since several people didn’t like how it was worded. This is the round-about way how they will vote to ditch the ONI Standards– if they vote Yes, the ONI Standards and Open Meetings and Public Record rules are gone].

The work and direction of the 3.96 Code Committee has been totally ignored by all the media and no notice or invitation to participate has been given to neighborhood associations. Has your NA been invited to give comment or been made aware of what this Committee is doing?

If any of this concerns you, attend Wednesday’s meeting and give comment, and/or send an email with your concerns to the Mayor and Council. Public comment is at the beginning of the meeting. Many of the Committee members have never been to a NA meeting and have a very flawed view and understanding of what NAs are all about. Since the public and media have had zero to little information of the proposed changes to the Code, the Committee has heard very little from the public and NAs and very little comment has been given opposing the proposed changes.

Do you think people living or owning property or businesses in your NA boundaries want their NA to be bound by Open Meeting and Public Records rules, do you think they want rules to ensure transparency and accountability of their NA? The Code Comm has never asked itself or considered these questions.

Council will have the final say on all this, but they are also mostly in the dark about the push to eliminate the NA program and the Open Meeting and Public Records rules governing NAs….

Thanks for listening,
Allen Field

This blog referred to this ongoing subversion of Portland’s grassroots democracy before, including a revealing name change and other actions. We also wrote a piece in The Oregonian, and another in a national planners’ journal as well as on KBOO radio, alertingPortlanders to the issue. The Northwest Examiner has also covered the issue.

If we as a city are going to destroy one of our core democratic assets, we ought to be  more aware of what we are doing (or others are doing in our name).  If we believe this is a horrible mistake — or worse — we ought to fight to make others aware of our concerns.  Like those in Hong Kong and elsewhere, we ought to have the mettle to defend (and improve) our own local governance. If not, we might well deserve what we get.

56th International IMCL conference in Portland: “A Healthy City for ALL”

IMCL webpage
IMCL webpage with conference announcement

From June 17 to 21, 2019, International Making Cities Livable (co-host of this blog) will host its 56th conference at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland, “A Healthy City for ALL.”  What does that mean in an age of gentrification, soaring costs, displacement, homelessness, and other surging challenges — for Portland and other cities?  What can we learn from other cities, and what lessons can we share, about what has worked and what has not worked?

The conference offers a great lineup of speakers, including George Ferguson, past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and past mayor of Bristol, UK;  Rui Moirera, current mayor of Porto, Portugal; Ted Wheeler, current mayor of Portland; Rukaiyah Adams of the Meyer Memorial Trust and Albina Vision; Sven von Ungern-Sternberg, former mayor of Freiburg, Germany; Jim Brainerd, mayor of Carmel, Indiana; Patrick Condon of the University of British Columbia; and many more from the US, the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland offered this welcome to the conference:

We are delighted to welcome delegates to the 56th International Making Cities Livable Conference to Portland, and thrilled by the conference theme, “A Healthy City for ALL.” This is an effort close to the heart of all Portlanders as we introduce strategies to make our neighborhoods healthier places to live, as we expand our programming to continue to produce housing units and to compassionately address homelessness.

These challenges must be resolved through bold measures if we are to slow ever- increasing health inequities that accompany growing economic inequities. We look forward to sharing our efforts to address these issues, and to learning from the outstanding achievements of other cities presenting at this conference.

Lynn Peterson, METRO President, said of the conference:

On behalf of my colleagues at Metro, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 56th International Making Cities Livable Conference, held here in the Rose City. This year’s theme of “Designing a Healthy City for All” is one that I hold especially dear.

Portland has consistently been noted as one of the most livable cities in our country with its walkable communities, efficient bus, streetcar, and light rail systems, as well as strategic integration of natural spaces in urbanized areas. However, as we experience continued growth, crafting a healthy community requires overcoming a variety of challenges.

Suzanne Crowhurst-Lennard, director of the IMCL, explained the theme of the conference as follows:

We rejoice that many cities now are becoming more healthy, by making great improvements in walkability, bikeability, public transit, and access to community, nature and healthy food. We will hear from some of the best models around the world.

Architecture, planning, urban design and landscape architecture firms are refining designs for achieving these goals in different geographic and cultural contexts. Public health and planning departments are collaborating to develop healthy planning guidelines, health impact assessments, and neighborhood health inventories. We will hear about outstanding models all cities can adopt.

Interdisciplinary researchers will tell us about expanding knowledge of the effects of the built environment on the health of humans and the earth. And scholars and academics will share new ways to teach these principles and practices for healthy cities to the next generation.

The BIG challenge that we all face is that these goals are not reaching the population groups most in need. The poorest neighborhoods suffer the greatest health problems. They are less walkable or bikeable, with insufficient public transit, fewer trees, green spaces, and community spaces, poor access to healthy food, and more exposure to pollutants. The resultant chronic illnesses compromise children’s learning ability, reduce adults’ work capacity, and shorten lives. We will hear from cities that are tackling these problems head on with outstanding programs for equitable, healthy neighborhoods.

Moreover, as real estate becomes increasingly commodified, with housing seen as an investment rather than a home, many cities are facing an unprecedented housing affordability crisis that affects all city residents, but especially people of color and low income groups. In the search for affordability, neighborhoods are being gentrified, forcing displacement, destroying community, and rapidly increasing homelessness. This cannot continue! We will hear from leading cities that are introducing innovative strategies to rein in housing commodification, and end homelessness!


If you want to learn more or register, click below for the conference link: