At least week’s General Meeting, the neighbors in attendance, representing the General Membership of the KNA, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the POD Village Proposal 178 to 75.
The unprecedented night was certainly a victory for most in the room, who celebrated the neighborhood’s leap of faith to give this pilot project a chance and looked forward to seeing the village come to life, but for those on the other side, the night ended with a sour taste, wondering what just happened.
Let’s take a look.
Neighborhood Engagement: Why didn’t I hear about this sooner?
The KNA spent months discussing the POD Village Proposal with neighbors via social media, various meetings, website and e-news. Last month, we also published the latest edition of the Kenton Connect Newsletter, which we make thousands of copies of and attempt to drop them by every residence in the neighborhood, to give an overview of the project and announce the neighborhood vote.
Looking past the KNA’s efforts, various media outlets helped spread the word, be it KATU, Portland Mercury, KGW, Portland Tribune or KXL, throughout the process from breaking the story to promoting the neighborhood vote while the Village Coalition canvassed the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to the vote.
But was it enough?
That seems to be up for debate around the neighborhood. I’ve heard plenty of neighbors levy criticisms against the city for not funding mailed flyers, for example, and while that might have helped inform the neighborhood on some level, we ultimately need to work together as neighbors to figure out how to best communicate with each other. That’s an ongoing conversation.
The General Meeting: Why wasn’t this a debate?
The imbalance between neighbors that had known about the POD Village Proposal for months and those recently finding out about it was clearly on display during the meeting, and for the latter side, they wanted the meeting to be something it wasn’t: A public hearing.
We can debate how effective it actually is to have people sign up to ask questions and/or make comments for extended periods of time, but the KNA was very clear in our messaging as to what would take place: An open house from 6-7pm, voting and a presentation from 7-8pm.
There was no mention or indication the General Meeting would be a town hall, debate, public hearing, etc.
However, we did include time for a question and answer session, and more than half the meeting was allocated to just that.
The reality was that the General Meeting wasn’t a good platform for someone that had just learned about the project and had lots of unanswered questions. I hate to say that, but with the amount of people in attendance, logistics of the vote and limited time for the event, this meeting was designed for having any lingering questions possibly answered and facilitating the neighborhood vote.
In fact, many neighbors punched their votes early on even though voting was allowed until the end of the meeting, so as neighbors made comments and asked questions during the second half of the meeting, the vote was already largely in.
The proposal had passed.
Looking back, we did make a mistake in giving the project organizers of the POD Village Proposal ample opportunities to engage neighbors throughout the process while not offering enough of a platform for those in opposition. That didn’t, though, make the vote and/or process any less valid.
The Vote: Why wasn’t it closer?
Since the advent of the POD Village Proposal, the message sent from the neighborhood to the KNA was largely in support of the proposal. Every indication was that the POD Village Proposal had significant support among neighbors and would have a decent shot at passing a neighborhood vote.
Still, I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen last week. Our online survey that had roughly 600 participants showed slightly under a majority in support with sizable group unsure/undecided. Could those unsure/undecided swing toward being opposed? Maybe a significant portion of the neighborhood opposed would not make their voice known until the vote?
In the end, Kenton showed up in support of the proposal. That wasn’t a shocking revelation when you look at the rest of the data, but the margin of victory was impressive. Still, you could argue there was an enthusiasm gap that leaned in favor, but I would counter that for those opposed that wanted to take a stand against the city, this was their opportunity; they had all the reason to make it down to the meeting to vote.
Those votes weren’t there.
Moving Forward: What now?
The KNA is an organization for neighbors by neighbors. I welcome anyone that wants to be a part of the KNA to get involved. There is a call-to-action here; yes, we had a vote, but that’s not the end. If you don’t like how the KNA handled this process and/or just want to make a difference, you can do something about it. Heck, you can even vote me out in June.
Kenton is going through a transition where newer residents have started to drastically 0utnumber long-time residents. We need to realize that, and while having lived here this or that many years doesn’t grant one the ability to determine the direction of the neighborhood, it’s important to respect those that made Kenton what it is today and honor their knowledge and experience as we move forward.
As for the POD Village, we are still waiting for the Good Neighbor Agreement (Partnership Agreement) to pass legal review. [UPDATE: You can review the final draft here] Overall, I’d say the project is in a holding pattern for neighborhood involvement while some bureaucratic pieces fall into place, but neighbors are certainly anxious to help. Beyond that, the KNA’s committee on the POD Village will be tasked with handling most aspects of the POD Village for the KNA, and any neighbor that would like to join that committee should contact us.