Turning Toxic Around, One Neighborhood at a Time

By Midge Pierce

For several years, an undercurrent of tension has rippled through Richmond Neighborhood Association meetings as distrust, disrespect and charges of election shenanigans have surfaced.

RNA is not alone. Civility seems a casualty of Portland’s unique brand of increasingly intolerant progressivism.

Helping to turn the toxic culture around, longtime Richmond resident Deborah Hochhalter addressed her neighborhood’s new board with a list of recommendations that include posting community agreement rules throughout meetings; recognizing multiple perspectives (including views of those that differ from the board majority); allotting time for community member concerns to be voiced; requiring training and refresher courses for board members; bonding through social activities, and reflecting on ways to improve transparency, trust, and common goals.

She  said she was encouraged by the positive-sounding, community-oriented messages of newly-appointed board members, a majority of whom are now female. Hochhalter is optimistic that women and older residents who have felt marginalized in recent years will now be heard.

“The institutional memory of those who have lived here many years should be recognized without being cut-off,” she emphasized, even if current board members do not agree with dissenting positions.

Hochhalter’s experience could apply across SE and to some citywide agencies.

“Those who have a vested interest in Portland are being thrown under the bus,” said a seasoned Sunnyside resident on a post about whether Portland has become ungovernable.

He added that despite “levy after levy” on property owners, “the City looks at longer time residents and homeowners as problems.”

Observers claim that forged relationships are tumbling down as heads of agencies like the Office of Neighborhood Involvement seek to dilute neighborhood clout. Pro and anti growth proponents and other special interest groups frequently square off to influence City Hall.

Housing activists – some egged on by state and city officials  –  charge homeowners with greedy nimbyism while sexism, racism and increasingly, ageism fester.

It’s a trend that is worrisome to Hochhalter and others who seek camaraderie, not rancor.

Turning Toxic Around, One Neighborhood at a Time

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