By Midge Pierce

The Kids Are Alright 

Grade school kids are leading the way toward racial understanding and sensitivity at Buckman Elementary.

This spring 19 Buckman students, under the guidance of counselor Jess Firestone and AmeriCorp’s Jasmine Spring, participated in Grant High’s Race Forward Project. The children returned to share what they learned about racial injustice with their 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classmates.

To dispel assumptions based on race and physical appearances, kids led conversation circles, developed a PowerPoint and appeared in a video about why talking about race is important. “The younger kids were more articulate than high school students,” smiled Firestone who facilitated the exchange after a family equity team expressed concerns about racist comments and incidents.

The goal, in keeping with the Be You At Buckman anti-discrimination campaign, is to give kids tools to discuss and stop hurtful remarks and actions. Spring was impressed that students were eager to take the lessons home to their families.

The program will involve even younger grades next year. Students bound for middle school plan to continue productive dialogues there.

It Takes A Village, Folks

Despite passage of the state’s Student Success Act, community fundraisers are needed to fill school budget gaps local that state funding won’t cover. Throughout Southeast, auctions, benefit screenings and performances are in high gear to supplement everything from staff positions to desperately needed supplies and materials. With the upcoming shuttering of some community centers (like Sellwood this fall), support for school facilities that serve entire communities is more important than ever.

Buckman Elementary, once the proud center of inner Southeast with its community pool, now shares an often-muddy field and barebones play equipment with neighbors after school hours. The PTA has raised 2/3rds of a goal needed to break ground on a hard-packed blacktop that is more parking lot than playground. The planned nature and sensory-based Equity Park fits the school’s welcoming mission. To begin constructing creative play areas with a stage, climbing rocks, and a willow hut it needs community help is needed to raise thousands more. To donate: tinyurl.com/buckmanplayground or contact the PTA of your choice to see how you might support their critical needs.

5G Comes Calling

Label it radio wave radiation, cranial interference, societal disruption or simply better connectivity, the next generation of wireless is headed our way. As concern mounts over long-term health effects of ubiquitous technology, someone posted signs in the Richmond area warning residents about a small 5G cell tower that may pop up in their neighborhood. The promise of 5G is service 20Xs faster than 4G; objectors say intensive radio frequency exposure is a cancer risk.

A city official told KOIN news that 5G’s arrival is an FCC decision that Portland cannot block. A city vote is pending, however, on whether to allow AT&T to install its technology on public rights of way for the next 10 years.

Calls for Design Oversight

PDX Main Street (formerly Division Design Initiative) submitted a community survey to the City that shows overwhelming preference for traditional architecture and design reviews for new builds of three-stories or more in Southeast’s streetcar-era commercial strips.

Survey takers from Hawthorne, Division and Sellwood areas deem proposed thresholds of four or more stories too high. Respondents also indicated strong support for an East Side specific Design Commission, support for a Conservation District for Hawthorne Blvd and adoption of the PCX Main Street guidelines by the City.

No Drama RNA

The Richmond Neighborhood Association annual election transpired smoothly as all nine candidates received the majority of votes required by the NAs bylaws. The top eight candidates were appointed with discussion that the new board could vote to add a ninth member at an upcoming meeting.

Current board members say they are eager to get back to the business of community building.  At this writing, the NA had learned that the former chair would release passwords to RNA’s official website and a gmail account. Some residents claim he held passwords “hostage” when he resigned in the wake of a vote calling for his ouster.