By Steve Elder | CNA Media Team
The name change from Office of Neighborhood Involvement to Office of Community and Civic Life (OC&CL) reflects the Portland bureau’s mission. It’s to involve all Portlanders to shape their individual communities and affect the policies of the city to reflect their community and neighborhood needs and concerns.
That’s what OC&CL director Suk Rhee told Concordians at the neighborhood association’s quarterly general membership meeting last month.
OC&CL is involved in programs ranging from cannabis and crime prevention to noise and alternative shelter. The neighborhood association system, the director noted, was prompted partially with the defeat of the Mount Hood Freeway in 1974.
“The defeat of the Mount Hood Freeway was a high point,” she said. “A low point might have been the construction of the Interstate MAX line that bifurcated a neighborhood.”
The issue was raised whether neighborhood associations are actually homeowner associations and whether the interests of nonhomeowners are represented. “That’s not unique to Portland,” Suk pointed out. “‘Homeowner’ is not a dirty word but, when homeowner interests are all that’s represented, that’s a problem.”
Garlynn Woodsong, Concordia Neighborhood Association (CNA) board member, reported all the but one of the current board members are homeowners. Until recently CNews was delivered only to houses, not to multi-family dwellings. “We weren’t getting the word out.”
“‘Homeowner’ is not a dirty word but, when homeowner interests are all that’s represented, that’s a problem.”
– Suk Rhee
The need to engage in electronic communications – and the need to update city guidelines to allow them – was also discussed by meeting participants and the director.
For instance, when board member Truls Neal is out of town on business, he could attend board meetings if video conferencing wasn’t prohibited by city guidelines. The director agreed. “We need to change those rules.”
If someone developed the communications software and hardware for online participation in neighborhood association meetings, she suggested, OC&CL would be in the perfect position to share it among all the associations.
Another matter which requires updating to 21st century standards is cannabis. According to Suk, it’s not just an Oregon Liquor Control issue. Cannabis has become a social issue.
It took generations to decriminalize marijuana and set a new reality. “Now it is an industry where entrepreneurs can get a piece of the action,” she said.
Those are just some of the new issues that face a 44-year-old institution of neighborhoods.
And that, she said, is expressed in her bureau’s mission: “Promoting a culture of civic engagement by connecting and supporting all Portlanders working together and with government to build inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities.”
Steve Elder, East2@ConcordiaPDX.org, is an inactive lawyer, a developer, activist and old grouch.