Uncertain Future of Portland’s Neighborhood Associations Causing Controversy
Gordon R. Friedman reports that a proposal to eliminate the almost 100 neighborhood associations in Portland, Oregon, from the city code has revealed divides in the city:
Neighborhood activists view themselves as representatives of grassroots Portlanders and the distinctive parts of town they inhabit. Detractors see the associations as entrenched, overly powerful voices for homeowners, who tend to be older, white and opposed to housing density, homeless shelters and other development helpful to a growing city’s health.
Friedman says how exactly the changes would take effect are not entirely clear. However, the associations would lose the special powers that give them a voice on city government actions, including zoning decisions. But activists say that the neighborhood associations focus largely on the everyday needs of residents and the transparency of civic government would be lost without them.
Critics contend that the neighborhood associations do not represent all residents, and too often they have blocked or delayed development. "Housing and renter advocates have an ally in [Chloe] Eudaly [of Office of Community & Civic Life], who said the city government needs a new paradigm for engaging residents," writes Friedman.