By Midge Pierce
A riddle making the rounds goes, “What do you get when you co-opt worthy goals of inclusion and diversity behind closed doors? A bureaucratic power grab and the city’s war on neighborhoods.
Neighbors see the rewrite of a Civic Life code as part of a City “social justice” narrative intended to squelch pushback on issues from the Residential Infill Project (RIP) densification to Water Bureau treatment plants and even informational kiosks.
Activist John Laursen fears marginalized groups are being exploited in bureaucratic overreach in the rewrite of Code Change 3.96.
A SE Resident under the pseudonym J.Clay says,“The rewrite gives Eudaly and Rhee inordinate power tantamount to a coup. It is divisive and vitriolic.” A caller on an OPB radio show called it a power play cloaked in unfounded charges of racism.
Urban researcher Michael Mehaffy considers the Civic Life’s code rewrite proposal an egregious attack that betrays Portland values.
Others ask why an OCCL survey was discounted because respondents were 2/3 Caucasians, even though the city is roughly 3/4 white. They question whether Rhee is working for community well-being or simply buttressing Eudaly’s “fiefdom” that – because of Portland’s peculiar at-large form of government – is not geographically-based.
Staffers throughout City Bureaus wonder whether – and with whom – they will interface on issues of growth, transportation, safety.
Contract employees fear the rewrite may cost them their jobs. Place-based coalitions that support neighborhoods are uncertain they will get funded when their contracts are up for renewal next year. Coalitions like SE Uplift offer foundational NA elements like liability insurance, fund-raising umbrellas and fee waivers.
Insiders claim OCCL has reassigned or fired all positions that deal directly with NAs and posted openings for jobs to work with self-identified communities. Given that final Civic Code language has yet to be approved, sources say the postings are premature.
Laursen says expanding special interest group recognition is dicey. Despite laudable diversity goals, “poorly thought out” tactics could pit community-based organizations against each other and backfire.
“What if white supremacists want official recognition? Can you embrace multi-cultural groups while turning others away?”
By Midge Pierce