By Midge Pierce

As SE residents process Metro’s options for rapid transit,  a wrinkle has emerged from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), charged with local street maintenance and traffic.

PBOT seeks to change the composition of its advisory committees. A westside coalition fears it may weaken traditional neighborhood representation.

The Bureau’s equity-focused policy is intended to add diversity by recruiting volunteers from under-represented communities. With 3 % of Portland’s streets unimproved (gravel and mud), the spending decisions advisory groups help make will be significant.

Community activist Linda Nettekoven, who believes experienced volunteers are needed in budgetary decision-making, advised the SE Uplift Land and Transportation Committee to review the issue to determine if it will impact Uplift efforts.

On its home page, SE Uplift indicates a major goal of its Land Use and Transportation Committee is to sit on the Bureau’s Advisory Committee (BAC) to ensure concerns of its 20 neighborhood associations are reflected in government decisions. Portland code requires neighborhood association involvement in decisions affecting livability.

Concerns arose over the PBOT BAC being reconstituted. Only members serving less than five years prior can reapply – a wrinkle that seemingly excludes experienced advisers like Nettekoven who have served more than five years.

She wonders whether new people will be plugged into established organizations like neighborhood coalitions. With no report back structure, they may have no ongoing way to share issues or get a read on the community pulse.

Westside watchdogs worry that this is a precedent-setting new trend that undermines geographic neighborhoods.

In its letter to PBOT Director Leah Treat, the West/Northwest Coalition expressed the need for qualified people with specialized knowledge to serve on advisory committees.

“We strongly believe that the PBOT BAC is not a place for casual community involvement. Furthermore, we feel that a balanced representation of Portland’s geographic areas will also optimize BAC’s diversity.”

PBOT’s focus surfaced with a call for volunteers for a Fixing our Streets Fund established to address paving, sidewalks, crossing improvements, neighborhood greenways, safe routes to school and protected bike lanes.

The committee will help ensure accountability over the four-year, 10% Portland gas tax voters passed in May and Heavy Vehicle Use Tax passed by City Council.

 

Applications are due July 19. For questions, contact Irene.Schwoeffermann@portlandoregon.gov.