The media likes to put down Neighborhood Associations and the people who volunteer in them. Many Portland politicians do, too. I'm not sure why that is. Power/control issues? Plus the fact that our society likes to dwell on anything negative - "Get the widow on the set, we love dirty laundry!" - so any small controversy or minor flaws in a group of people gets more press than the many things they do right. In Thursday's Oregonian, you had to look hard to find the story of how the Cully Association of Neighbors (CAN) has won another victory for working people. This past week, an Arizona-based property owner announced the sale of the Arbor Mobile Trailer Park in NE Portland has fallen though - partly because the city would have required full street improvements which would have lowered the desired density of 350 condominiums, perhaps even more because of the work CAN did in coordinating help for the current residents of 127 trailers. Many of these folks are retired, on fixed incomes and/or social security, owning homes that despite the label "mobile" cannot be moved. For these people, the news that the land will not be sold from under them, this time at least, makes for a very Happy New Year.
Update 1/4/07: The Oregonian covers residents' reactions.
This is my friend Kathy Fuerstenau, an optician who chairs the Cully Association of Neighbors, showing me one of the many unpaved streets in her NE neighborhood.
Cully won Neighborhood of the Year in the Spirit of Portland awards this year, along with nearby Rose City Park NA. More than 50 people attend every CAN meeting - I've dropped in on several, unannounced, and have been thrilled with the level of engagement and expertise on a wide range of issues - transportation, crime prevention, airport traffic, parks, and more. They've sewn and donated over 100 blankets to area families, collected over 108 tons of yard debris and refuse in their annual bulky waste cleanup, and produce newsletters available for pickup at six locations in the neighborhood - including bilingual information for the 20% Latino population within their area. They helped secure the donation of 3.38 acres for parkland while working with the City and the owner on rezoning a disused quarry.
In December about 100 people gathered at the CAN meeting with concerns about the sale of the trailer park. Newly-elected State Representative Tina Kotek deserves major kudos - she not only attended many CAN meetings before being elected, she went back in December and "jumped all over" the trailer park issue, according to Kathy. She met with the Arbor residents at the trailer park with a Spanish translator, and with staffers from the Mayor's, Erik Sten's, and
Earl Blumenauer'sState Senator Avel Gordly's offices. Representative-elect Kotek hopes to enact better protections for trailer park residents into state law this upcoming session. I hope she succeeds.