KNA Response to Proposed Code for Civic Life

The KNA Board has issued a statement on the proposed city code for the Office of Community & Civic Life.

The Kenton Neighborhood Association wishes to voice its concern and disapproval of the recently proposed changes to the City Code Chapter 3.96. While we recognize the need for improvement to the code and welcome the intentions of the committee to increase diversity and inclusion in the City of Portland, the manner in which Civic Life set about the revisions as well as the changes themselves do not serve the goal of cultivating greater community and civic engagement. Therefore, we strongly urge City Council to reject the proposed code for Civil Life.

Our hope was to see the code change process lay the groundwork for increased participation, diversity, and inclusion not only within the neighborhood program but through new programs, partnerships, and strategies. We supported the stated goals of updating Chapter 3.96–as declared by resolution–to develop “a unified set of culturally-responsive practices for engaging a diverse range of community partners; an updated description of the Bureau’s responsibilities; and a set of voluntary guidelines that represent best practices for civic engagement.”

However, we were surprised and disappointed when, instead of seeing a strong partnership in a shared commitment to serving all Portlanders through the code change process, we found ourselves–along with other neighborhood associations, business associations and district coalitions–having almost no role or voice in the code change process.

When draft code language did emerge, we discovered that the neighborhood program, along with every other current program within Civic Life, was no longer included in the proposed code, leaving us with numerous questions about our future contributions in the city: Would any of the Standards for Neighborhood System still apply? How would other city agencies respond? What kind of support could be expected?

The neighborhood program, we believe, is one piece of a larger civic engagement strategy. Increased civic engagement should include a multitude of affinity-, business-, community-, identity-, issue- and neighborhood-based groups from across generations. We see civic engagement as a non-zero-sum game and absolutely believe our mission of advocating and promoting diversity, sustainability, and livability of all neighbors would be strengthened by new groups and organizations engaging with Civic Life. Still, the existing contributions and future potential of volunteer-run neighborhood organizations have a value to the broader project of a more inclusive Portland body politic and we feel that formal recognition in the code is necessary.

Exemplifying further concerns, section 96.060, which restored recognition for organizations as identified in other sections of city code, was hastily added to the proposed code at the final code change committee meeting without legal review or significant discussion. Such significant adoptions at the 11th hour raised concerns as to the potential ramifications of the code and why this was not considered earlier in the process.

While we understand the need for updating Civic Life’s code and find the proposed code to present a positive philosophy of what the bureau could be, we believe the code change committee was not provided enough time and resources to adequately engage the broader community–creating unnecessary confusion and confrontation. As a result, an incomplete document was hastily approved amidst public dissatisfaction. Therefore, we ask that Council reject the current proposed code for Chapter 3.96 and direct Civic Life to do a reset on the code change process to include affinity-, business-, community-, identity-, issue- and neighborhood-based groups from across generations.


Kenton Neighborhood Association Board of Directors

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