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Editor’s note: We were informed by Liz Smith, president of the St. Johns Boosters said that it’s the St. Johns Center for Opportunity running the storefront improvement program, not the Boosters. The incorrect information is struck through in the story and what was added is italicized. We apologize for any confusion and greatly appreciate reader feedback.
A new board of directors introduced themselves to the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in this month’s General Meeting held November 9th online. Many echoed Chair Jose Alamilla’s goal: make SJNA more inclusive.
Secretary Jennifer Stein moved the meeting platform to Microsoft TEAMS because it can host more people and is cheaper than Zoom. It also offers closed captioning in English and Spanish— though many members appeared to have problems with this feature.
Bernadine Lee is Treasurer. Current SJNA funds are $3,324.
A separate arts fund raised $100 to repair a mural and fund a sculpture project.
Michelle Brinning is chair of land use.
Gloria Luzader, chair of safety and livability, introduced herself as “part of a group that was very much against the location of St. Johns village given its proximity to schools”.
The St. Johns Village Project will build 19 tiny homes, or “pods”, on an empty Richmond Street lot across from the St. Johns Church to transition people off the streets and into permanent housing. Luzader added that she is “not happy with the direction the website is going in.”
Rose Williams is in charge of outreach for the transitional housing village. She is the former St. Johns Farmer’s Market manager, a food equity advocate, and someone who wants to “help rebuild community trust in the organization, and develop a consistent strategy for communication to make sure that people can attend meetings, stay aware of agendas and keep the community updated about developments with newsletters”. She also wants to find translators for the materials.
Trina Noonan will focus on board organization and functionality. Joining her was Bryan Noonan, an “at large member” who wants to help with cleanups and neighborhood projects.
Other at-large members include Emerson Loustau, who has been involved in projects involving Portland’s homelessness crisis; Colette Peck, an active volunteer in organizations throughout the city; Jessica Ehnot, who is focused on assisting children and businesses through the pandemic; and Heather Campbell, who is updating the St. Johns logo and helps run St. Johns Clutter Busters, a group of volunteers that clean up trash in the neighborhood.
Stephanie Blair, introduced herself as the new director of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, an organization that focuses on workforce development, neighborhood placemaking and small business development.
It is funded by Prosper Portland. Blair also runs the Farmer’s Market which will pick back up in Spring.
Watch our visit to the market from earlier in its season:
The St. Johns Center for Opportunity has downsized in space and staffing. Blair is the only full time staff member and the new location at 8160 N. Jersey Street will no longer run a food pantry or offer free clothing. (The Clothes Closet has been moved to Grace Fellowship Church on N. Bank Street open Sundays after service).
Liz Smith, president of St. Johns Boosters, offers free social media consulting for business owners through the SJCO.
Smith said it is the SJCO that’s hosting the storefront improvement project. She kindly provided this link to the program.
Smith is running a fundraiser through December for a grant funding program for local businesses to upgrade their interior and exterior storefronts. She is working on launching that program earlier than January, as planned.
People who donate to the program may win prizes, she said. Contact Smith and get more information on the program at email@example.com. She’s been president of the group since January.
Smith has been helping businesses move to online ordering and curbside for pandemic precautions. She is working on a comprehensive list showing how people can buy what businesses offer, what their current situation is, and how you can get in touch.
Smith urged people to explore alternative ways to support St. Johns businesses. “Gift cards, for example, are a great way to support businesses quickly”, Smith said. She is also looking for ways to engage people running businesses from home.
Holiday lights strung around the district will be turned on November 10th, Smith said. While St. Johns Boosters typically raises funds for the lights, this year the festive lighting is a gift.
This year, there will be a holiday tree in the St. Johns Plaza, but no lighting ceremony. Smith is working with IQ Credit Union to hand out art supplies so people can make decorations for the tree at home.
The upcoming St. Johns Boosters meeting will feature two speakers. One will talk about the Lombard Street Project, which will tear up old railroad tracks next summer, and another will talk about business recycling.
Drafting the Neighborhood Agreement with Do Good Multnomah
Chris Aiosa, executive director of Do Good Multnomah and Andy Goebel, emergency management director of Do Good Multnomah and pastor of Portsmouth Church attended the meeting to summarize progress on the Neighborhood Agreement between Do Good Multnomah and the SJNA regarding the St. Johns Village for transitional housing.
“The one thing I want to remind the people of St. Johns is that there is a housing crisis in every neighborhood in the city. There is no resource in St. Johns and we are bringing one to the neigjborhood that we are really excited about,” Aiosa said.
“Our hope is that we want to be good neighbors and we want to come together and support these new neighbors that will be moving into the neighborhood and work alongside all of you to make sure that it is successful,” Goebel said.
Construction to lay foundational work begins tomorrow morning. ModsPDX, a St. Johns business, is building the pods that will be moved to the location. They hope to move people in by 2021. Staff will provide pod and support services. “It’s not that someone moves into that space and that’s their new home. It’s a space where they will be supported in transition to their new home,” Aiosa said.
“We are committed to mitigate that in whatever way we can, but Do Good [Multnomah] will not be solely responsible for taking care and dealing with all the campers immediately around the village or in the neighborhood. Our programming has to do with the village itself.”
Aiosa described the village as an “alternative, cost effective and successful shelter model” that operates similarly to transitional models. “In our village manual, we state that we want to work with individuals to move them into permanent, affordable housing in 24 months or less”. The average stay in the Kenton’s Women’s Village run by Do Good Multnomah is 10 months.
Do Good Multnomah is currently working on obtaining referrals from local service providers and community members to ensure the pods are filled by current houseless neighbors in St. Johns.
One neighbor was concerned about the village attracting more street camping.
“The language around ‘camp’ is unfortunate. We are building a village,” Goebel said.
“Although the concern around camping around the village is a genuine concern. As an organization, we will be able to communicate with anyone trying to camp in the area.” He added that the City has told people camping by the lot to move for construction.
Another neighbor was concerned about language in the agreement around smoking, trespassing and littering. “None of these should be mentioned in these agreements because these aren’t reciprocal. Housed neighbors aren’t asked to do this.”
The directors reassured that these are general terms given in good faith to neighbors concerned about the village’s proximity to schools.
“More so than placing the burden on the residents, we place it on use to make sure that we are being a good partner, to make sure that this is going to be a successful program, that we are going to be a successful great neighbor that St. Johns can be proud of,” Aiosa said.
One neighbor questioned the purpose of the agreement if it is not “legally enforceable”:
“To the extent that this agreement is violated by one of the parties, what can anybody do about it. And if they can’t do anything about it, what’s the point?”
Goebel answered, “If the stakeholders aren’t interested in abiding by the agreement then they shouldn’t be part of the agreement. The participants have a separate service manual that the directors, i.e. us, would make sure that they are living up to… If we didn’t hold our end of the bargain, folks can go to the Joint Office of Homelessness [Services] to make sure we are holding up to our end of the bargain.”
Several community members pointed to similar agreements made between SJNA and businesses, like 7-11, Recology, Columbia Steel.
The St. Johns Neighborhood Association voted against retracting letters sent by the board of directors in October 2019 urging partners of the St. Johns Village Project to drop plans for new transitional housing on an empty church lot.
Construction on the tiny house village started this week.
A member had filed a grievance over the letters, claiming that the board did not properly consult or notify the association of the letters.
One neighbor took issue with what they called a “back room” procedure. “I feel that my opinion has been co-opted by people for their personal agenda”. Another noted the letters have valid concerns but also “problematic hyperbole”.
“The letters were from the board, not the neighborhood,” board director, Colette Peck, wrote in the meeting chat.
At the time, all fifteen of the SJNA board of directors had just been elected, and each one ran on a platform opposing the village project. Soon after the election, the board sent letters to the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Do Good Multnomah and the St. Johns Christian Church urging them to halt the Village Project or face legal action.
“We urge you to reconsider your involvement with this project and spare all of us the unpleasantness that will result if you decide to ignore the prevailing opinion of the neighborhood,” the board wrote to Do Good Multnomah, a homeless shelters and services nonprofit.
The board also sent a letter to the St. Johns Center for Opportunity lambasting its role in planning the Village Project and its support for the Portland People’s Outreach Project, PPOP, a group that distributes clean drug-use paraphernalia and overdose prevention supplies in the neighborhood. “Sadly, it appears that SJCO has decided to dedicate itself to actively harming our neighborhood,” the board wrote.
Representatives from PPOP filed a formal grievance with the City about concerns with process regarding those letters.
Responding to questions about the meeting, SJNA chair Mike Vial said an agreement was reached that led to the vote at the meeting:
SJNA voted not to retract the letters by one vote, with 20 members opposed and 19 in favor. To be eligible to vote, members needed to attend at least one of the two latest SJNA meetings, which disqualified several votes in favor. Neighbors complained they weren’t notified of the last SJNA meetings, which were held virtually.
In his response to questions about the meeting, Vial also said the board tried to change the rules regarding voting as part of a broad package of reforms, but it was rejected by the membership.
At the meeting, SJNA members voted in favor of joining the Neighborhood Association Joint Statement on Homelessness (21 in favor, 10 opposed) which asks the City to use some of the affordable housing funds to make designated, monitored camps in each neighborhood short-term solutions for homelessness.
New board directors will be nominated in the next SJNA meeting on October 12. Most of the current directors are not running for reelection, Vial said.
Candidates running in Multnomah County Elections this November introduced themselves and answered questions. SJNA heard from incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler and opponent Sarah Iannorone, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and opponent Mingus Mapps, and two candidates running for a rare vacancy on the Multnomah County Circuit Court, Rima Ghandour, a civil lawyer, and Assistant U.S. Attorney, Adrian Brown.
Candidates running for Mayor answered questions about police and community distrust, housing insecurity and business revival.
Mayor Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, said “many are wondering if Portland can be saved”. Wheeler acknowledged that the police need “fundamental reform”.
Wheeler pointed to actions he’s taken that he argued are rebuilding community trust, such as a 19-point plan, “11 of which are either completed or underway”, legislative changes made under his tenure and the Portland Street Response pilot program, a team of a first responder and a social worker sent to non-emergency calls rather than police officers.
Moving forward, Wheeler wants to focus on hiring, training, and getting the community “fundamentally involved”.
Iannarone jabbed back and asked voters to consider a different question: “Is Portland on the right track?” Iannarone continued, “Put the incumbent’s claims about building trust against what you see on the streets… “it’s clear he doesn’t have the police force under control. They have essentially gone rogue”.
Iannarone said she would make City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty the Police Commissioner, “come at this from a community-centered model”, and give Portlanders a clearer path to calling first responders that are not the police. “If the Mayor’s response were working then we wouldn’t see these nightly protests.”
The candidates detailed their plans for how to manage the current and impending housing crisis, how they will handle rent forgiveness, shore up displacement prevention and affordable housing, and balance short and long-term solutions to homelessness with public health and safety.
As for business recovery, Wheeler argued his swift action in response to the pandemic is protecting Portland’s businesses. He said he is working to counter Amazon‘s stronghold on internet purchases with a web platform that allows Portlanders to order local goods online.
Iannarone, who’s own SE restaurant closed because of the pandemic, said her experience as a small business owner would be valuable in the Mayor position to get “resources deployed equitably to capital and technical assistance.” She posited that the city could devise it’s own “pop-up delivery services” to compete with services like GrubHub and Postmates.
The City Commissioner candidates discussed similar topics. A neighbor complained to Incumbent Commissioner Eudaly that the Portland Bureau of Transportation in her portfolio had not adequately addressed dangerous traffic in North Portland.
Eudaly pointed to safety measures installed on certain high crash corridors in the area that had been successful. “I certainly thought that the community was happier than what you are expressing now so i invite you to contact my office,” she answered.
As for police misconduct, Eudaly said at times, it feels like the police have gone “rogue.” She said, “our entire council is very concerned about the treatment of protestors,” arguing that the city must “transform” PPB, but unfair union contract terms have prevented City Council from achieving meaningful reform.
“We can’t have a police bureau unleashing on a majority peaceful crowd because a few people are breaking the law. It is a tough challenge to address.”
Opponent Mingus Mapps said he would take “common practice” steps like banning rubber bullets, tear gas and chokeholds. “Is the police department out of control? Let me say, I am disappointed.”
Mapps, a Black man, said he would take advantage of the opportunity to renegotiate the police union’s contract. “We are about to redraw that contract and it’s important for Black men to be at the table.” The Portland Police Association, PPB’s union, endorses Mingus Mapps and donated $15,000 to his campaign.
The judge’s race
The candidates for the open judge’s seat were asked if the pandemic changes how they think justice can be administered. “Is court a building or a process?”
Brown made a detailed case for opening the clogged system up to virtual proceedings and extending courtroom hearings to virtual platforms. “Court is a place where people go to have grievances resolved and it is also a place of last resort.”
Ghandour, who works in the downtown courthouse often, described how she coordinated efforts to make the courthouse more physically accessible, but agreed that technology can improve efficiency and accessibility.
The candidates were asked to explain how their careers in different courts prepare them to serve on the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Ghandour runs a private firm in Portland, specializing in construction defect, personal injury, product liability and business litigation in Portland. She said she understands how the busy Multnomah County courthouse works, explaining that judges tend to get assigned to departments based on experience. “You don’t get to decide on cases you are familiar with over the years. It is busy and important to know how to work from day 1.”
Brown, who works for the assistant U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon, said she has worked with prosecution and defense on both civil and criminal cases. Experience with criminal cases, Brown said, separates her from Ghandour. “What’s important is understanding the humanity and complexity behind each case,” she said. “Do I need to learn some road signs and know how they work procedurally? Sure.”
Brown brought the federal justice use of force case against the Portland Police Bureau which led to a settlement to reform how police officers interact with people exhibiting symptoms of mental crisis. The settlement made changes in PPB policy, training, officer oversight and accountability, crisis intervention, mental health services, and employee information systems. It went into effect in 2014.
In February 2020, the federal government ruled PPB had reached “substantial compliance” with the settlement terms. Local advocacy groups disagreed.
A plan to have a transitional housing camp in every neighborhood, street racing, and a proposal to test drones in the neigborhood was discussed at theSt. Johns Neighborhood Association August meeting held online on Aug. 31st.
Verizon wants to use the Peninsula Iron Works building on N. Bradford St. and an empty riverside lot north of Cathedral Park, (betweenGreen Anchors and the Toyota lot), to test using cell phone towers to fly drones, said Matt Stein, who owns a business nearby.
The proposal is open for public comment on the city planners website (I couldn’t find it but I have an email out to the SJNA.)
One concern is the potential impact on the local raptors, including the peregrine falcons living under the bridge. The project would involve constructing a two-way street between the train tracks and the lot, Stein said.
The lot, which is owned by the Port Authority, has been vacant since 2007, said Stein, owner of Green Anchors, an eco-industrial park.
“[Verizon has] a lot of horsepower behind this. If the neighborhood is interested in having a say on this, it’s better to do it sooner,” Stein said.
Fatal street racing, little response
A double fatal motorcycle crash in St. Johns last Friday marked the 28th traffic fatality in Portland this year.
Responding officers said the motorcycle driver struck a pedestrian at very high speeds, and appeared to be part of an illegal speed racing event nearby.
Street racing has been an ongoing issue in North Portland. SJNA chair Mike Vial said he discussed the ongoing drag racing issue with the Commander of the Portland Police Bureau North Precinct. “The short answer is PPB is probably not going to do anything for us right now,” Vial said. “They seem to have bigger priorities.”
Several people proposed advocating for speed radar cameras on Columbia Blvd. One attendee wondered whether opening the Portland International Raceway could help divert street racing activities. Donna Cohen offered to form a group to look into the matter further.
Vial said he will write a statement for members of the community to send to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Mayor’s Office, and the Port Authority.
Neighborhood associations’ plan to propose sanctioned transitional housing camps
Portland’s neighborhood associations are planning to vote on whether to suggest that the City impose stricter regulations on camping and also establish sanctioned camps in each neighborhood, Vial said. The proposal would divert some money to short term solutions, and away from constructing affordable housing.
The proposed sanctioned camps would include some level of supervision, services, and volunteer support coordinated between the neighborhood associations and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Vial gave an update on the progress of the statement.
Several NA chairs had retracted their support in an earlier meeting between the neighborhood association chairs. Other than minor changes, the current draft will be voted on next month, Vial said.
The proposal says camps “where illegal activity is documented” would be cleared. One attendee asked if that meant “everyone at the camp would be cleared if one person breaks the law?”
Vial said he would ask the group for clarification.
The statement will be voted on in September’s neighborhood association meeting.
The $92 million bond to modernize Roosevelt High School did not provide as many STEM facilities as promised. Donna Cohen announced the School Board decided that the gap would not be addressed until 2024. “It’s unconscionable. It just flies in the face of everything they say about racial equality,” Cohen said.
In light of recent thefts and vandalism, Liz Smith, the president of St. Johns Boosters, the neighborhood’s business association, announced plans to survey the community about hiring private security. Smith said community patrols is also a possible solution. People interested in participating in the community patrols can email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The date and agenda for next month’s SJNA meeting have not been determined yet, but may feature Multnomah County elections candidates.
The St. Johns Food Share is having a fundraising sidewalk sale this weekend, Sept. 5th and 6th from 9 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Local and state officials are working to provide relief for Oregon’s business community— and as of Friday, March 20th the federal Small Business Administration has approved Oregon’s disaster declaration for COVID-19.
For more information, and how to apply go to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans page here. The Oregon Economic Development Association wrote that there was a two-to-three-week timeline and five days for disbursement on the loans.
According to its website, the SBA can provide up to $2 million to help “meet financial obligations and operating expenses” that could have been met if the disaster hadn’t occurred.
Efforts in Portland
Wheeler said that on Monday, March 16th, he authorized a task force led by his office and Prosper Portland, the City’s economic development agency, to assist small and large employers and their employees struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19.
In a press conference Tuesday, March 17th, Mayor Ted Wheeler discussed how the City was working to mitigate the downturn’s impact on small businesses in Portland.
“Every option will be on the table to support the resilience and the recovery of our local economy,” he said. Watch the business-focused part of the Tuesday, March 17th press conference, or read the highlights below.
Update: On Wednesday, March 25th, Portland announced $1 million for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, the Oregonianreported. The city will prioritize women- and people of color-owned businesses, with some conditions, according to the executive director of Prosper Portland.
The biggest news, however, that came out of that press conference is that the City barred evictions, and is allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency. He also announced that the City’s tenants and borrowers would have a three-month deferral on rent and loan repayments.
Wheeler said the task force is also partnering with major employers and small businesses, front line communities, labor partners, work force development partners, and foundations. Wheeler also acknowledged cooperation from key City and County partners and Business Oregon.
Wheeler said he met with downtown property owners on Tuesday as well.
To help vulnerable businesses, Wheeler said Prosper Portland was immediately making $150,000 in grants available in a partnership with the Jade District Neighborhood Prosperity Network.
As home to many Asian-owned business, Wheeler said the Jade District is “amongst the hardest impacted by the economic downturn related to COVID-19”.
Wheeler said with time, he expects resources will be expanded to other areas.
Grants are being awarded to businesses in the Jade District and Old Town, and immigrant owned businesses and / or API owned small businesses are prioritized.
The Jade District Steering Committee also added $50,000 to the program. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., March 23rd. Apply to the Jade District-Oldtown COVID-19 Small Business Response Fund here.
Wheeler said he is convening partners in the private sector to develop a commercial eviction strategy and other financial relief. He also thanked private landlords who allowed their tenants to defer or forgo payments.
For non-profit organizations impacted by the downturn, the Oregon Community Foundation has established the Oregon Community Recovery Grant program. Guidelines are still being formulated, but you can get more information and apply here.
Also on Tuesday, East Metro Economic Alliance called on small businesses across the state to share with the Governor’s Office how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Share a story with Leah Horner (email@example.com), Brown’s Jobs and Economy Policy Advisor.
Tina Granzo was helping spread the word about the EMEA campaign on social media. She served on the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association for four years, and knows that a lot of small businesses are suffering.
She wrote that the help will be good, but it needs to come quickly. “… with some businesses, the owners put everything they had (all equity) into their businesses and (as with Bipartisan [Cafe]) did things like pay employees a living wage, taking much less for themselves,” Granzo said. “So, not much of a back-up or safety net (even while waiting for help).”
Wheeler said he would be meeting with banks and credit unions on Thursday, March 19th, asking them to make sacrifices because he knows they are sitting on substantial reserves.
“As tenants are unable to pay rent, landlords and build owners would then not be able to pay the mortgage they are due,” Wheeler said at Tuesday’s press conference. He said he’ll ask the banks and credit unions to give them more coverage during this cash crunch.
Thursday, Wheeler said they would also be convening their two task forces and meeting with the business community on Thursday.
As of Monday morning, March 23rd, there’s been no update from the mayor or governor on these business-related initiatives.
A survey of more than 900 Oregon businesses by Built Oregon found that respondents are losing an estimated $4.8 million in sales. See some of the results of the survey below. The survey was first reported by Portland Business Journal; find more details here.
When asked for what kind of help they needed, many business owners responded: no-interest loans to cover rent and payroll; emergency working capital loans; and assistance for workers, according to the story.
More calls for action from the Portland business community:
At the federal level, the United States Chamber of Commercehas called for bridge loans for the 68 million American workers that are employed by enterprises with more than 500 employees.
Negotiations over relief measures are moving fast in Washington D.C., and as of Sunday afternoon the Tax Foundation reports:
The March general meeting of the St. Johns Neighborhood Association covered a lot of ground, including the information on the Willamette River industrial cleanup; a proposed housing development; a historical presentation, and other happenings in St. Johns.
The meeting was held on March 9th. On arrival, the March general meeting agenda, January and February meeting minutes, and budget handouts were all on table.
Rather than signing in, I was asked my name and was recorded by a person at this table.
Mike Vial, SJNA board member, announced that he was facilitating because Chair Marisa Peter could not be present. Vial began by going over ground rules.
Though most neighbors didn’t have a chance to review the six pages of minutes, Vial asked for a motion to approve the minutes. The motion was approved. Soon after, Josh Leslie and Shamus Lynsky noted an error on February minutes.
On the second page of the February minutes there is a note that the proposed bylaws passed. In fact, they did not have the required number of votes to pass the bylaw change in February. And although Vial requested a re-vote at that meeting, the second vote did not pass either.
The amended bylaws the board attempted to pass would have required all “active” members to provide physical addresses.
The minutes indicated the bylaws passed, which the board justified keeping in because they had initially thought it passed. Further down in the minutes it says that the next bylaws vote failed, so in the entire context of the minutes, it’s probably fine, albeit a little confusing.
Joseph Purkey was concerned that two consecutive votes are not allowed, so the second vote should be thrown out. In that case, the first vote is definitely important to have correctly recorded.
Lynsky pointed out that the whole point of minutes is to accurately record votes. In fact, that is the only function of minutes— the rest is just exposition. Several neighbors tried to convince them that it should be amended to correctly record that the first vote failed, but, again, the board said it was fine because it was explained later in the minutes.
Donna Cohen spoke about the new HAWK signal (red light signal activated by pedestrians only) coming to Fessenden Street. She thinks that instruction should specifically be given to children on how to use the new crossings safely.
Mary Margaret and Chris Stubblefield announced that Mayor Ted Wheelerhas given a one-year reprieve to closing of the Columbia Pool. This was met with some applause.
An event titled “Riots and Revolutionaries in St. Johns” was announced.
“On March 21, 1910, some 200 residents of St. Johns, Oregon, rioted against the so-called “Hindu” mill workers working and living in town. While this little-known riot lasted two hours, its aftershocks reverberated for years… following the trials, St. Johns became a center of East Indian anti-colonial organizing focused on the overthrow of British rule of India.”
Kennedy School Theater, NE 33rd Ave * Mon, March, 30th; 6 p.m. – doors, 7 p.m. – event * free
Willamette Cove Uplands
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public input on the proposed cleanup plan to address soil contamination on the Upland portion of the Willamette Cove.
“DEQ is working with the Port of Portland, Metro and others to clean up contamination at this property, a former industrial site in North Portland along the east bank of the Willamette River. The property comprises approximately 27 acres and approximately 3,000 feet of Willamette River shoreline. Located south of the St. Johns Bridge, adjoining or nearby neighborhoods include Cathedral Park, St. Johns, and University Park.”
Commenting is an important way to make your voice heard in decision-making. Please provide comments on the proposed cleanup plan during Monday, March 2, 2020 through Friday, May 1, 2020. by:
Email: WillCoveUpland@deq.state.or.us Mail: Erin McDonnell, 700 NE Multnomah St., Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232 At a public meeting, or Verbally, upon request
Sam Sarich did a 10 minute presentation with another person on his development of 18 units on North Oswego Avenue with no off-street parking and no affordable units. Mike Vial comments that this development is across from his house.
Sam had originally wanted to hold the presentation at the St. Johns Bachelors Club but was unable to do so because the building is not wheelchair accessible. SJNA members asked questions about drug house nearby, rent prices, and issues around parking. Sam says he is thinking of asking $1,600 for a unit.
Next up was Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association. Turner talked about the history of community policing and that there is not enough staffing at present for police to do an adequate job.
He talked about his son who is going into police work— but he advised him not to work in Portland because of the problem with under-staffing. He also talked about the importance of neighborhood associations communicating with the City and express the policing needs in the neighborhood.
On the topic of homelessness, Turners said the problem is that police have too many hats to wear and that they are not equipped to solve all these issues.
After that, was a presentation from Ethan Knight, a candidate for Multnomah County District Attorney. Ethan has many good endorsements and said he grew up on Sauvies Island.
Mike Schmidt was another candidate for Multnomah County DA. He said he was committed to community-based solutions and un-apologetically in favor of harm reduction.
A question and answer period followed. Although I had many questions for these candidates and raised my hand to ask them, I was not called upon by Vial, who was leading the discussion.
I would have asked why there was a disparity in criminal charges against houseless. I also would have asked why those committing crimes against houseless are rarely prosecuted, and if they are they are given very light sentences.
I am grateful to the SJNA board for hosting these candidates. I look forward to hearing from other Multnomah County candidates and hopefully ask questions of them.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Editor’s note: We’d like to thank Kelly for writing up her account of the meeting.
Oregon officials shut down schools to stop the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory virus commonly called coronovirus.
State health officials urge, “good hand hygiene, covering coughs and staying home if you are sick”. According to the CDC, symptoms can include fever, a cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms emerge two to 14 days after exposure.
There was a post a few weeks ago on a Facebook group page. Somebody asked a simple question similar to: “What’s going on this weekend, St. Johns?”
So many people piped up with events, fundraisers, and all sorts of gatherings in the neighborhood. And as you already know, and the Willamette Week just spotlighted, a lot of changes have been happening recently.
There’s no easy answer really, but in times of change it makes sense to value and support what you hold dear.
For a while now, we’ve been pulling together a list of neighborhood happenings in East Portland. Not just events, but opportunities to get involved, opportunities to support. We’re still seeking funding in the neighborhood, and are planning on starting that weekly neighborhood check-in for St. Johns too.
The citywide media does do some flyby reporting occasionally in the neighborhood. Some of it is helpful, but it often is framed to further split divides rather than solve problems. I think there’s a need for more small-scale consistent story telling and reporting, and having a publication and part-time reporter is our long-term goal.
And not every story has to be about a crisis. We covered a clean up on the – last weekend (see story below), and really prefer to focus on what we want to thrive, and encourage more people to get involved. The story reminded me of my time at smaller community newspapers, and that was awesome.
Art and music is crucial too— there’s no better way to bridge the divide and honor beauty and creativity.
In that effort of community building, we’d like to thank the wonderful folks at The Fixin’ To for hosting our benefit this week. We’d also like to thank Creature Party and everyone who showed up to hang out and dance with us. It was a really great time.
The future of media is uncertain, but we see that as an opportunity. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you continue to offer us feedback and story ideas as we grow. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we’ve learned the same goes for a publication.
We looked for goings on this weekend, and this was the best thing we found. But you tell us: what’s going on this weekend St. Johns?
On the sunny *Sunday* that was February 16th, about 40 folks attended a clean up along the PeninsulaCrossing Trail in St. Johns, the event’s organizer said.
*We originally said Saturday
“The motivation for the cleanup was to try to heal some of our divisive issues”, Kelly Tadlock said when asked why she planned the event.
“Though some will never heal some will. It was hopefully an offering to those neighbors who feel no one cares that they are living without basic sanitation, water, and heating amenities.”
“Mostly because we love our houseless community is why people showed up to support”, she said.
Supplies for the clean up were donated by individuals and local businesses. A nice spread of food kept the volunteers’ strength up, and gave an opportunity for the housed and unhoused to get to know each other.
Here are some more photographs from the event, including a few from the new home of the Belmont Goats located next to the trail.
Ever since the St. Johns Neighborhood Association board changed hands to several new members who express anti-houseless sentiments their meetings have been writhe with contention for their every decision or attempted change of the status quo.
February’s meeting was the more of the exact same situation. The meeting held at the St. Johns Community Center started promptly at 7 pm. A partial recording of the meeting is provided below.
Board member Mike Vial addressed the perception that the SJNA had an anti-homeless attitude. “We aren’t trying to be anti-homeless”, he said “we are just trying to address the concerns of neighbors”.
Safety concerns and public safety was one of the first topics of the evening, and several members voiced their concerns about how they feel uncomfortable with the houselessness situation in the area and further attributed most crime in the area to the houseless of St. Johns. Next, SJNA Board Chair Marisa Peters provided a public service announcement about the dangers of human and sex trafficking in the Portland area and suggested members educate themselves further.
Next thing addressed was concerns that members had that only the SJNA board members and not the rest of the community were invited to a meeting with Robert King, senior policy advisor for Mayor Ted Wheeler, about the houseless situation in St. Johns and the board’s concerns about the outreach and harm reduction organization Portland People’s Outreach Project. When asked why community members were excluded Peter responded that the decision was that of King’s and not the SJNA’s. She explained that there will be a follow-up meeting in 30 days.
The next agenda item was a committee report given by member Liza deGlee. The main thing mentioned was that neighbors are still concerned about the area near where PPOP distributes their harm reduction supplies. The SJNA is working to address those issues, they said.
Gloria Luzader, the board’s Safety and Livability chair shared that the next month’s NA meeting would feature this election cycle’s District Attorney candidates, and would take questions from the members and provide answers for the group.
Land use updates were provided by board member Vial. He mentioned that the NA is currently looking for a Spanish translator and interpreter for future projects so they can be more inclusive to those St. Johns residents whose second language is English. He further mentioned there is a redevelopment of an 18-unit apartment and several projects like the Lombard Multimodal Safety Project and Oregon Department of Transportation‘s I-5 project in the works.
The unfinished business section of the agenda was the longest of the agenda points for the meeting. Vial led that part and the first thing mentioned was the attempted bylaw changes. Previously SJNA tried to change the membership requirement for individuals to provide a physical address. This change was completely dropped once Vial was shown by research from Village Portland that the laws had changed. The new wording for that was actually “contact information” which can simply include an email address. This was found acceptable by advocates who felt the group was trying to silence the houseless residents of St. Johns voices.
The other changes made to the bylaw redrafting we minor and mostly grammatical in nature, according to Vial. There were several other bylaw changes that were questioned by attendees like TJ Parker, a concerned resident who believes the SJNA is being overly aggressive and rushing the bylaw changes. One of the major issues voiced by Parker and other members was that there was no requirement for board members to attend all meetings including general assembly, monthly, and board meetings. The grievance process for board members and the way it was structured was also mentioned as being a concern for members.
The bylaw changes have been a major issue for the SJNA for several months and the revisions have been highly contended while the group has attempted to pass them. Due to several members feeling the bylaw changes were being rushed by the NA, it was rejected due to the inability to get at least two-thirds of the voting member’s approval.
There were several tense moments during this portion of the meeting including board member * Rachel Day getting frustrated with those opposing the changes and yelling “get a life” at one of them and Safety and Livability board member Luzader getting up from her seat and walking over to get into Parker’s face to yell at him. This incident was concluded after an attempt by Peter to get Luzader to sit back down. Afterward, Luzader walked by this journalist while asking Vial “can I just kill him?”
* Editor’s note: We regret that there was a mis-attribution in the original version.
“The groups attempts to pass little changes within their bylaws is highly troubling” stated Parker. Others in attendance further went on to express that Luzader behavior was not acceptable as a member of the NA and that she should be removed.
This part of the meeting was concluded after Vial called for a revote and it was rejected again for lacking to get a majority voting approval. Vial later stated on Facebook that any further attempts to change the bylaws will not go forward and the whole process will be dropped besides the changes to the ‘address’ requirement as to reflect the new law of only “contact information” being needed.
Editor’s note: Based on feedback from Donna Cohen, we retooled / struck through some editorializing language in the reporting and included a direct quote from Cohen. We also added how to learn more about the STEM advocacy work at Roosevelt High School.
The final agenda point for the evening was an update on the attempt to get proper facilities at Roosevelt High School for STEM programs made by Donna Cohen beginning @ about 57:15. She again overlooked the attemptsto have arts included alongsidescience, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When asked why her response was, “they have a strong enough arts program, they don’t need help”.
This reporter asked about a movement to include the arts with STEM.
The point behind attempting to include arts is to increase advocacy for these programs, advocates contend. Cohen seemed to be unable to grasp that concept.
Cohen responded: “The thing to know is that Roosevelt has a full arts program. They don’t have a full STEM program. That’s why we have to focus on that.”
She added that when the school’s remodel was done, they had arts advocates participating. But when they remodeled the STEM work space, she said it was neglected.
A bond is going to fund a new building at Roosevelt, and Cohen said they are looking for more advocates to make sure proper STEM work space is allocated in it. Find out more about the effort here, or reach Cohen here.
After running over their allotted time by several minutes the NA meeting was adjourned.
Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.