By Midge Pierce

Code Change 3.96 would reform Portland’s public engagement system, and is intended to give marginalized communities more voice. 

After accusations that Office for Community and Civic Life (OCCL) failed to notify and involve Neighborhood Associations (NAs), the process stalled. 

To move forward, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly introduced a resolution to guarantee continued funding of Coalitions that support NAs for several years. 

It would convene a multi-agency task force to define city bureau responsibilities for involving Portlanders in land use, transportation, safety and livability issues. A vote on the resolution has been delayed. 

For the dozen residents who returned to testify in January after time ran out at last year’s hearing, transparency and public input were paramount. 

Pressing for the multi-agency process to follow open meeting obligations, SE resident John Laursen and others called for increases in “opportunities to strengthen both NAs and a broad range of community groups.”

Despite the strong show of unity for inclusivity, Eudaly denounced “falsehoods” that neighborhoods were on the chopping block, even though her bureau’s first draft of the code change failed to mention NAs or their umbrella coalitions. 

Her staff spent hundreds of hours trying to resolve NA conflicts, she said, indicating that if she wanted to de-recognize NAs she would have done so. 

“A cursory glance at NAs indicate it’s over 50 percent who are not in compliance,” she added without referencing specifics. Responding to a comment that the multi-bureau work would be “biased,” Eudaly said she had, “bent over backwards to accommodate both sides and all (city) offices.”

After thanking Eudaly for initiating meaningful discussion, Mayor Ted Wheeler pledged to work with NAs to make them more inclusive, not abolish them. 

Commissioner Amanda Fritz promised to deliver amendments to ensure community input. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty expressed objections to comments that vilified groups and called for clarity and tighter timelines. “I don’t like for a process so divisive to drag out,” she said. 

While fewer than one third of those originally signed up to testify returned to do so, their calls for broader participation and diversity ran counter to charges that neighborhoods are bastions of exclusivity and discrimination. 

Representatives from the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods called for additional funding support for underserved community-based agencies.

Diane Drum thanked the Irvington Neighborhood Association for intervention in a landlord dispute after the city ignored pleas from renters for help. 

Chelsea Powers of Brentwood/Darlington captured the sentiment of others’ desire for a common ground saying that NAs want to be part of a “process that makes Portland a city where everyone has a voice.” 

A definitive date for a vote on the resolution of code change 3.96 was not available at press time.