To the Editor:
The most recent issue of The Southeast Examiner carried a front-page story updating us on the continuing battle between Portland (City) and the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA).
We also now know that the City has voted to spend in the area of $4 – $5.5 million on the project. Money the city acknowledges it doesn’t yet have.
Who can blame the small cadre of Portlanders, residents of the toney Mt. Tabor neighborhood, that flexed their political connections, employed their education, and used their time and talent to doggedly pursue their self-interest?
Yet, I find three problems that have gone unaddressed. First, The [Southeast] Examiner’s readership would be better served if the paper had assigned a writer to the coverage who had no vested interest in the outcome. As it is, the author lives just a few blocks from the park’s west boundary.
Second, the City should never have agreed to such a deal. If the city is willing to spend that sum, there are more deserving expenditures in underserved areas east of I-205, people there are disfranchised. They are the ones needing assistance advocating for resources (e.g., more sidewalks and crosswalks with warning lights) from the City.
Third, Portlanders should not be faced with the bill for this agreement. Rather, project costs should be recovered via a surcharge on either water bills, or property values, or some other vehicle levied on the primary beneficiaries – those living within the boundary of the MTNA.
OP-ED By Allen Field
Since I was a main focus of the coup at the June 2015 Richmond Neighborhood Association election, I want to give my perspective on what occurred and fill in some blanks in last month’s SE Examiner article.
As the article describes, 20 year RNA Board Member Doug Klotz successfully got 3 incumbents (myself and 2 others) voted off the Board, and replaced with candidates, and through voters he solicited through social media.
He accomplished this, not by “inferring” that the Board and the incumbents are “less than bike-friendly”, but by expressly stating to the bike-activist BikeLoudPDX listserve, through posts titled “Votes Needed” and “Richmond Votes Needed,” that the Board and named incumbents are “less than bike-friendly”; and “supporting bike travel has not been one of their [the incumbents] priorities”. [Also] stating the slate of “progressive” candidates he was promoting were “more bike-friendly” than the current Board and “they will better serve bicyclists and those concerned about the neighborhood and the city” than the 4 incumbents.
To the BikeLoud listserve and another listserve, he instructed people to vote only for his candidates and not for the incumbents, as a way to “change who represents the neighborhood”.
It’s irrelevant if people came to the election that might not have ever been to any or some RNA meetings before or that Klotz encouraged people to vote.
The egregious part, and that which violates the RNA’s Code of Ethics requirement to treat fellow Board Members “with dignity and respect” and “fairly and equally” is calling the Board and incumbents less-than-friendly-to-bikes, especially to a bike activist listserve such as BikeLoud.
The RNA has never taken a less than bike-friendly stance or vote. RNA rarely ever dealt with bike-related issues, and it always voted pro-bike.
In an article on the BikePortland blog, Klotz states that the basis for his less-than-friendly-to-bikes description is based on two Board actions: a June 2011 vote on the 50’s Bikeway Plan and a November 2014 vote concerning SE Clinton.
However, both votes were overwhelmingly pro-bike and supported by Klotz. In June 2011, the RNA voted overwhelmingly to write a letter of support for the 50’s Bikeway Plan and in November 2014, voted unanimously to request the city to study bike and pedestrian safety on Clinton and recommend traffic calming treatments. Klotz supported and joined in the vote on both items. These Minutes are on the RNA’s website.
Contrary to The Southeast Examiner article, there has never been tension on bike issues and never has there been an anti-bike or “less than bike-friendly” vote by the Board.
Myself (a 20-year all-weather bike commuter) and other board members are scratching heads wondering where this description of the Board comes from.
Where it comes from is the fact that organizing and mobilizing the pro-high density/anti-parking crowd is very hard, while it’s very easy to organize and mobilize the biking community by calling the Board and incumbents “less than bike-friendly” to the BikeLoud listserve.
Because of this negative, polarizing, and untrue label being placed on the RNA, Board Members have stated they feel intimidated and vulnerable from sharing their opinions on issues, for fear of being labeled anti-bike or “less then bike-friendly” and of being voted out in next year’s election with a repeat of the tactics used this year.
It’s healthy to have difference of opinion and perspectives on a NA board.
It’s not healthy to play dirty politics to try to oust those who don’t share your opinions. That dirty politics and negative campaigning occurs on the national, state and city political stage is not reason to be ok with it happening on the neighborhood level.
There is no reason or justification for a board member, who is bound by a Code of Ethics requirement to treat other board members fairly and equally, to resort to making untrue and disparaging comments about their neighbors who sit on a NA board. (Klotz agrees that he is bound by the RNA’s Code of Ethics but he is the only Board Member who refuses to sign it.)
NA board members are all unpaid volunteers devoting a few hours a month to meetings. They do not steer pork barrel projects to their neighborhoods, oversee much money, or enact laws or city code. NAs, for the most part, have very little power, but they are very important in that for the city, they are the default representative for everyone who lives in the neighborhood on neighborhood and city-wide issues.
They can play an important role in shaping city policy and action. This is why people in the community need to be aware of what’s going on in their neighborhood association.