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,
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.