Neighborhood Summit Brings City and Residents Together

By Daniel Perez-Crouse

Over 100 representatives from 60 neighborhood associations across Portland squeezed into the Laurelhurst Club March 9 for the 2023 Neighborhood Summit. As stated in its press release, the goal was “to find common ground, a united voice and a unified framework to address public needs.” 

The Summit came in advance of the upcoming change in Portland’s governance, a reset of City Hall’s relationship with neighborhood associations and more. The point is many things are happening with and around City Hall to address Portland’s issues. This gathering was an opportunity for locals and neighborhood association volunteers to brainstorm how they can help. 

Vadim Mozyrsky, president of The Neighbors West Northwest, welcomed everyone and said, “You’re the people that know your streets, you’re the people that know your parks, you’re the people who know what your neighborhoods need and you’re the people out there making sure that Portland is livable, that Portland is thriving, that Portland is a great place to live and will be a great place to live for generations to come.” 

The evening’s emcee, TJ Browning of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association, said, “When we asked what you wanted out of this process, so many of you just wanted to share.” She also mentioned that in a series of questions sent to representatives before attending related to City Hall’s communication with neighborhoods, most of the responses were extremely negative. She said that the issues in those questions were rated very high in importance. “That disconnect must be addressed.” 

Dan Ryan, who was named the Culture and Livability Commissioner back in January and received a host of new bureau assignments in the process, made an appearance and said his main objective was to be a “sponge” and learn from everyone that night. 

He also said that it’s very important that they look at the core mission of what the Office of Community & Civic Life (Civic Life) is about. “The mission is to be an on-ramp to people connecting with the city government.” He added that neighborhood associations are central to this and there are plans to remove regulatory processes within Civic Life to better steward people and neighborhood associations into what the city is doing and create a better flow of communication. Ryan stayed for a while listening and engaging with people. 

The bulk of the time that night was dedicated to discussions, brainstorming and prospective problem-solving. Four different topics were chosen for breakout groups: livability, safety, healthy neighborhoods and city relations. People gathered at different tables associated with those topics to discuss them with facilitators and note-takers supporting the process. After a period of time, they played “musical chairs,” switching to other tables and topics. 

Many enthused and overlapping conversations ensued. People shared concerns about their respective areas and brainstormed what could be done to address them. Comments like gunfire, needles, poor city organization, lack of insurance coverage and more were jotted down on various note pads. 

Near the end of the night, a spokesperson for each group presented the core issues and solutions identified by their group. After, signs representing their issues and solutions were displayed and attendees placed votes next to whatever they felt was most important or prescient. For example, the statement “Our government should prioritize funding for neighborhoods that invite high-density housing and affordable housing” received nine votes and “There is a need for an annual meeting of neighborhood associations” got 11 votes. 

In an email update later, Mozyrsky said, “The next crucial step will be to join four different committees (Improving Government-NA Partnership, Public Safety, Livability and Healthy Neighborhoods) to create an action plan to meet those needs and accomplish those goals. You will not be alone in this–subject matter experts have already stepped forward in the private sector and the government to help with the process and address questions that may come up.” 

Mozyrsky expects committees to be formed in the next few weeks, with deliverables in four to six months, depending on the committee. He encouraged those who participated to reach out and connect with others should any of the issues presented resonate with them.

Neighborhood Summit Brings City and Residents Together

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