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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.
About 100 people attended the St. Johns Neighborhood Association January general meeting. On the agenda was a presentation from a group that runs a syringe exchange as well as proposed changes to the organization’s bylaws.
@ 8:40 – Robert King, policy advisor to Mayor Ted Wheeler and former Portland Police Bureau North Precinct Commander, gives a presentation about public safety.
@ 27:20 – The Portland People’s Outreach Project gave a presentation about their work in the neighborhood. One of the neighbors who use their services spoke as well as neighbors who opposed the program.
Questions from neighbors interrupted their presentation, and you see them resume at the beginning of the video.
@ 1:04:30 – The board’s discussion of the bylaws begins. The board said they plan to vote on the bylaw revisions next meeting. We examined the issue closely, including some concerns neighbors have about the new SJNA’s stance on services here.
The next SJNA general meetings will be held on Monday, February 10 from 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the St. Johns Community Center, 8427 N. Central St.
General meetings take place on the 2nd Monday of each month, go here for specific dates.
We received a very detailed reply to our question about non-profits and the need for them to collect addresses from members. It sheds a lot of light on the conflict in St. Johns concerning the SJNA’s plan to seek a non-profit designation.
It’s unconventional, but because it’s so comprehensive and readable I’m going to include the entire message from Kristina Edmunson, communications director for Oregon’s attorney general:
“There appears to be some confusion about legal requirements so we will attempt to clarify:
Every Oregon public benefit corporation must have at least three directors that are responsible for overseeing the organization. Directors may also serve as officers. Some organizations also opt to have voting “members.” That is optional, although if that option is selected, then the “members” have certain rights under the Nonprofit Corporation Act, at ORS Chapter 65. The people who create the nonprofit are responsible for determining eligibility criteria for membership, which is generally include in corporate bylaws. Depending on the bylaws, members may have the right to elect directors, but they do not have the same decision making authority as the directors. The membership provisions in the nonprofit code are similar in concept to that state or local elections for a representative to a board or legislature.
Just like a registered voter must provide an address, a member is required to provide an address at which they agree to receive mailings related to the nonprofit and its elections. Up until this year, the address was required to be a mailing address, although it did not necessarily have to be a personal residence, just a place where the member would be able to receive mail. But the law was recently changed, and as of Jan. 1, 2020, a member must provide “contact information” at which they elect to receive election notices and other communications related to the nonprofit. ‘Contact information’ could be either a physical mailing address, a PO Box, or an email address.
There are some exceptions, but in general, the nonprofit corporation is required to maintain the membership list and provide a copy of the membership list that includes members’ chosen contact information to other members that request a copy of the list, which is not unlike obtaining a list of registered voters, although obviously on a smaller scale. In general, the membership list does not need to be provided to any governmental entity. The requirement that the organization maintain a membership list is a state law requirement, and not an IRS requirement.
Unlike the membership list, which is generally only made available to other members, both our office and the IRS require directors to provide a mailing address at which they can receive communications. That address may become a public record because the reports themselves are a public record, but it is not necessary to list a physical or residential address. A PO Box is acceptable and many directors list the address of the nonprofit.
Until the new legislation is integrated into the statute books later this year, the new statutes are a little difficult to read, but can be found at this link:
Although Portland is still grappling with rising rates of unhoused persons, some neighbors in the St. Johns are against any form of village project in their community.
Several transitional camps and village projects have been founded due to the housing state of emergency, such as the Kenton Women’s Village, Right 2 Dream Too, and the Hazelnut Grove Village. These village projects have offered stability and hope for residents, and access to services which would enable many of them to become permanently housed.
Hazelnut Grove Village is a well-known organized and City-sanctioned transitional village for those experiencing homelessness. For about a year, it has been seeking a new location within a reasonable distance from where it is currently situated in the Overlook neighborhood.
In 2018, organizers at Hazelnut connected with community and City leaders to re-establish the village at St. Johns Church, located at 8044 N Richmond Ave.
The lack of places for houseless persons to go in the area led some to establish a peer-led transitional houseless camp called Jason Barns Landing, that has since been disbanded due to frequent sweeps and pressure from authorities.
The plan for St Johns Village is slated to be similar in design to that of “a village in Clackamas County that is managed by Do Good Multnomah,” and the Kenton Women’s Village, with “bathrooms, kitchens and designed pods.”
The project is still in the late planning stages and isn’t expected to be built and ready for residents until late 2020, nearly a year from now.
Even though the St. Johns Village project has the support of a community organization called St. Johns Welcomes the Village coalition, St. Johns Church, and the Joint Office of Homeless Services— some neighbors are unhappy about it.
New NA board pushback
In October, the newly-elected St. Johns Neighborhood Association (SJNA) Board of Directors voted to oppose any “homeless camp, ‘tiny village’, or similar accommodation at this location regardless of whether the current Hazelnut Grove Village residents are relocated to this site.”
According to SJNA, “All fifteen of the new directors ran on a platform of opposition to the establishment of a homeless camp,” at the October board of directors election.
Expressing its staunch opposition to the village project, the SJNA sent letters to the parties associated with the project: JOHS, the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, St. Johns Church, and Do Good Multnomah.
In the letter to JOHS, SJNA wrote that “St. Johns residents are tired of being treated like second class citizens,” and that “any assurances by your office, or the City, that you will address our safety and livability concerns will be met with a great deal of skepticism.”
PPOP is an all-volunteer project of the Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance headquartered in Seattle. It’s website informs that PHRA “runs a need-based needle distribution program serving the region of Cascadia since 2007.”
In 2018, the PHRA won an award from the Seattle Human Services Coalition for ‘the most innovative program due to taking “a fresh innovative approach to the needle exchange model and non-profits in general.”
The St. Johns Center for Opportunity and the St. Johns Christian Church also received strong words from the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in opposition to the village project.
In the letters, SJNA asserts “that SJCO has decided to actively dedicate itself to harming our neighborhood,” and to “please be advised that SJNA will avail itself of every available administrative and legal remedy to prevent [the church] from profiting off of the suffering that you wish to impose on our neighborhood.”
The SJNA board accused the SJCO executive director Lindsay Jensen of “actively working to promote PPOP’s needle distribution project,” and that she was “the driving force” behind the move of Hazelnut Grove to a transitional village in the St. Johns neighborhood.
On December 5th, I reached out to the SJCO for comment on the letter they received from the SJNA. Lena, the interim executive director of SJCO, who replaced Lindsay Jensen on December 2nd, says she had just become aware of the neighborhood association letter after accepting the temporary position and that a board member would reach out to me to answer my questions. No further communication was received from SJCO for this article.
Shelia Mason is the leader of the St. Johns Welcomes the Village Coalition which supports the JOHS transitional village project.
Mason says that during the October SJNA board elections, “a group of neighbors who are passionately opposed to the transitional tiny home project, through standard NA process, flooded an NA meeting where annual elections are held, stuffed the vote, and took over the NA.”
Proposed changes to bylaws
At the December 2019 SJNA meeting, board members brought forth a proposal to alter the SJNA bylaws to require an address in order to be considered “an active member of the NA”, which was reported on by Village Portland‘s Cory Elia.
Many homeless advocates believe the address requirement is an attempt to exclude unhoused neighbors, and that having an address isn’t required for membership in a non-profit or neighborhood association.
Marisa Peter, chair of the SJNA, wrote that NA leadership were finalizing revisions to the bylaws with an explanation for each ahead of the vote at the February meeting. SJNA leadership are seeking a federal non-profit status, she wrote, which has different standards for members, and “requires membership to be defined”.
She said that it’s unfortunate that advocates believe the SJNA are trying to exclude unhoused neighbors. St. Johns Center for Opportunity allow unhoused people to use their address for mailings, she wrote, which would allow them to participate under the new standards proposed.
Increasing membership was part of the platform Peter ran on, she wrote, and the federal non-profit status will help them raise funds so they can improve outreach, including adding language translation and publishing a print newsletter.
Peter didn’t respond to the follow-up question regarding who was advising them on the federal non-profit standards or what sources they’re referencing.
The officials weigh in
We didn’t find a consensus for non-profit standards regarding members addresses on the state level, and a federal designation seems to be an entirely different issue.
In Oregon, non-profit organizations are registered and be certified by the Secretary of State. Andrea Chiapella, legislative director with Oregon Secretary of State wrote:
“SOS cannot weigh in on what the IRS requires as that would be under the purview of the IRS, but I can tell you that for SOS filings we require the names and addresses of the officers only. That would include at least the President and Secretary. We would not want or need the addresses of each member for our filing purposes, but again, we cannot speak to what the IRS might need.”
Doretta R. Schrock, an associate program director North Portland Neighborhood Services, the neighborhood coalition that oversees St. Johns said she thinks the law governing non-profit law requires members give addresses.
“I’m not a lawyer nor an expert on Oregon nonprofit law, but from ORS 65.224, it appears that a membership corporation must list names and addresses of members.”
She encouraged us to reach out to the Secretary of State, Department of Justice, or an attorney specializing in non-profit law. We reached out to the DoJ, but didn’t hear back before publishing.
St. Johns Neighborhood Association January general meeting:
St. Johns Community Center, 8427 N Central St * Monday, January 13 * 7 pm – 8:30 pm
Voting for the SJNA is available to:
“All members who have attended at least one (1) of the last two (2) general or special meetings of the membership or at least one (1) of the last two (2) board meetings shall have one vote each to be cast during attendance at any general or special meeting.
Membership is open to: “all residents 18 years of age and older, property owners, governmental agencies, business licensees, and nonprofit organizations located (or performing a significant part of their services) within the boundaries of SJNA.”
You can find out what neighborhood you’re in by entering your address here.
Timeline / further info on St. Johns Village
Mason also reiterates how the current location for Hazelnut Grove Village was always intended to be temporary, and that “talks about this specific move into St. Johns has been in progress for more than a year, if not 18 months.”
The City-run Home for Everyonepage regarding the St Johns Village, contains data about the homelessness in the area, a FAQ, expectations of the village residents, details of the proposed project, how the organizers would address safety concerns, and document links dating back to October 13, 2018.
With additional reporting by Andrew Wilkins.
Lesley McLam is completing her second degree at Portland Community College, studying journalism and communications. She’s the proud mama of a beautiful 14-year-old black cat, and a volunteer anchor, copywriter, reporter, and occasional producer at KBOO community radio who is just beginning to learn about the world of podcasting.
Listen to audio from the meeting in the video above.
There were 27 members at the meeting, and from a rough count, there seemed to be just as many non-members present too.
One of the most contested topics of the evening was a changing of bylaws proposed by SJNA land use chair Mike Vial that would result in any individual that was unable to provide an address from being an “active member” of the NA. This was reacted to by several local houselessness advocates at the meeting. They demanded that the meeting be adjourned prematurely.
After that was voted down by the majority of members, the concerns by those advocates were voiced. Their statements were met with opposition and several attempts to quiet them by Vial and the board chair Marisa Peter.
Editor’s note: SJNA leadership wanted to point out that unhoused neighbors of St. Johns can use St. Johns Center for Opportunity as their mailing address— giving them the mailing address the SJNA wanted for the new membership rules.
Despite threats by the city of not being recognized as a legitimate NA Overlook made the changes to their bylaws anyway. However, Lents did not and still doesn’t require an address to be an “active member” in their bylaws.
“It’s a direct attempt to silence the houseless of this neighborhood” stated Benji Vuong who was one of the main advocates who spoke out against the proposed changes. “The SJNA thought they could sneak this by the people of this neighborhood without notice and if we didn’t speak up, they would have passed the changes tonight” Vuong volunteers with several local outreach groups in St. Johns and many others across Portland.
Representatives from the SJNA said that the proposed change has been posted on their website for almost a month.
The next SJNA meeting will be on January 13th from 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the St. Johns Community Center (8427 N. Central St.). For more information on the meeting, visit the SJNA website linked above. Also visit the website to learn more about the SJNA and get involved with the organization.
There is a special meeting planned for Thursday, December 19th from 7 pm – 8 pm at the St. Johns Community Center. “The brief meeting will discuss one topic: Nomination for Special Committee – Grievance. It is open to the public.”
In other happenings at the meeting, a representative from 2020 Census gave a presentation.
The 2020 census is a decennial census and will be conducted in March. The census bureau is also in the midst of a giant hiring wave for census takers. The recent growth of the state of Oregon could result in an extra congressional seat if properly captured. Federal funding for states is also determined from the results of the census. Furthermore, the 2020 census is one of the most underfunded censuses for over a decade.
The removal of the Trump administration’s citizenship question on the census was beneficial because it would have been majorly compromising for the census and could have resulted in a drastic undercount for states that have a large population of undocumented immigrants.
The next agenda topic for the meeting was a presentation by Portland Fire & Rescue Station 22 – St. Johns. The presentation focused on fire safety during the winter season and fire hazards could be seen during this time of year that might not be seen year-round. Making sure your personal fireplace has been properly cleaned and that Christmas lights are working properly were two of the main things they mentioned to check.
A group called Friends of Frog Ferry was next to present about their work in St. Johns. For three years, Friends of Frog Ferry has advocated for a ferry system to be established in St. Johns. The goal of the group is to “create a safe and sustainable river-friendly passenger ferry service”.
Citing research reports by PBOT and other transportation authorities from around the country, Friends of Frog Ferry believes that St. Johns both qualifies for a ferry system and is in need of one. The group was unable to obtain an cost estimate from the City and is working to figure that out. The group shared their objectives of creating the new transit system and building an emergency response service into it.
The group shared what they envision how the ferry would be able to provide transit up and down the rivers surrounding Portland. They estimate an average ticket to cost somewhere around $5.50 from Vancouver to Portland.
The group hopes the system will provide transportation on the rivers from Vancouver all the way to Oregon City if feasible. The group claims to have over 1,500 supporters for the project, the majority of those being individuals. Frog Ferry hopes to be established fully by the spring of 2023.
The SJNA took the time to share updates that have occurred since their last meeting. Land use and the restrictions on construction on building affordable housing was one of the main topics explored during this time. The residential infill project was mentioned and that a public hearing about the project will be presented at City Council in January. The SJNA hopes to also have representation from the City sent to speak about it at a future meeting of the neighborhood association.
The topic of properly funding and supporting STEM programs in schools and the fact that there are few girls being attracted to these programs was one of the next topics spoke on. This agenda topic seemed to skip over the progressive movement to get the arts represented in educational programs and not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and instead be known as STEAM programs.
Like the Frog Ferry project, other aspects of the waterways around St. Johns were explored. The work of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council was shared and information about what they do was passed out.
The next agenda item shared was that St. Johns like many neighborhoods of Portland has a cleanup program planned in the near future for 2020. How that might be funded and what the prospective dates will be can be obtained via SJNA’s website.
Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.