See why Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says meeting with outer East Portland parks advocates is, for her, like ‘coming home’ …
East Portland Parks Coalition Chair Alesia Reese brings the first after-summer meeting to order.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After taking the summer off, volunteers with the East Portland Parks Coalition came together at the East Portland Neighborhood Office, kicking off their fall season with a visit by Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, on September 5.
“The East Portland Parks Coalition is an ad-hoc group of citizens, residents, and businesses, who support outer east Portland Parks,” Chair Alesia Reese explained.
“It has been our custom over the last ten years to invite the Parks Commissioner to come sit with us each year during this meeting,” Reese told East Portland News. “We started with Commissioner Dan Saltzman, then with Commissioner Nick Fish – and now it’s Commissioner Amanda Fritz.”
Parks Coalition Chair Alesia Reese gives high marks to the last Commissioner of Parks, Nick Fish.
Asked if she felt the City Commissioners had listened, and supported their position, Reese replied, “I feel that Commissioner Nick Fish, with his E-205 Initiative, spent the most time and resources on outer East Portland parks of any of the Commissioners of the Parks Bureau in the past. He made a difference.”
While a seasoned public official, now in her second term, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she was pleased to be the newly-minted Parks Commissioner, a post given her by Mayor Charlie Hales when he redistributed Bureau assignments in July.
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she looks forward to meeting with outer East Portland parks advocates.
Fritz: ‘It’s like coming home’
She has been working on parks-based issues since long before she was elected, Fritz acknowledged.
“I’m have, indeed, been a long-time parks advocate,” Fritz told East Portland News before the meeting began.
“In fact I got to know Alesia Reece and Bonny McKnight, and then Linda Robinson because they were active in a parks committee here; and I was involved with a similar group on Southwest Portland. Alesia and Bonny helped us get the Holly Farm Park in my neighborhood – which is the only low-income neighborhood on the west side of Portland. I’ve helped them with some of their projects. That was when we realized the Southwest and East Portland have many of the same challenges as far as infrastructure.”
In the mid 1990s Fritz reminisced, “We started work together. So it’s like coming home, coming to this East Portland Parks Committee meeting.
Unlike in the past, Commissioner Fritz says she came to this meeting bringing financial resources.
“And, it’s so much more fun to come this evening, because we have resources in hand,” Fritz smiled. “Part of what we’ll be doing is asking how they’d like to spend their portion of funding marked for parks.”
While she did come with good news of available funding, Fritz added, “There are lots of needs here as well. What I’m here for tonight is to discuss the needs of outer East Portland; and build on the great work that Commissioner Fish is done with the E-205 Initiative, and start the discussion about how the resources should be allocated.”
She wants the Parks Bureau to examine all funding available, says Commissioner Fritz.
Reluctant to push for Parks Bond
Asked if she’d champion a Parks Bond measure, Fritz said there were numerous questions she needed to have answered first.
“I’m looking at engaging the community in looking at our budget. Do we have resources? Do we not have resources? If we don’t have enough resources, what would we like to buy if we did have resources?
“When we have a list of how the money would be spent,” Fritz said, “Then, we can look to see how we can pay for it. The mayor is talking about an income tax. The Arts Tax is controversial, but it has raised $7.5 million, and that’s ongoing.
“I am a little reluctant to put more burden on property tax payers because it I think homeowners already are paying their ‘fair share’. The way it’s set up under Measure Five, it’s not equitable, the way property taxes are assessed. I’m not a big fan of bond measures for those types of things.
“But if we decide to set a tax, as a community, let’s start off by having a list of proposed projects.”
Outer East Portland parks advocates and Bureau staff crowd into the East Portland Neighborhood Office meeting room.
The meeting began with self-introductions; then Commissioner Fritz reminded the 23 people present about her long-time commitment to public parks.
She pointed out that staff from Portland Parks & Recreation and the Commissioner’s office were on hand to listen, and to ask questions. Specifically, they set up posters, giving the specifics on four major projects that have completed – or nearly-completed – Parks Master Plans.
Under discussion were, in alphabetical order:
- Beech Park
- Clatsop Butte Park
- Gateway Urban Plaza Property
- Parklane Park
“The reason for focusing on the parks with Park Master Plans, is that we can use Systems Development Charge fees, allotted to the Parks Department to build them – we can’t use it for doing Master Plans.”
Portland Parks & Recreation Planning, Development & Asset Manager Kia Selley highlights the four park areas, with Master Plans, ready for development.
Fritz said she was speaking with the City’s coalition parks committees, “letting them know that we have about $8 million in Systems Development Charges that has been allocated. I’m asking each group to identify priorities.”
Staff members presented pros and cons regarding the four parks. But, in the end, this group told them in no uncertain terms that developing the 25-acre Parklane Park was on the top of their list.
Interested in helping to improve outer East Portland Parks?
The East Portland Parks Coalition Meeting next meets on October 2, from 7:00 until 8:30 p.m. It’s held East Portland Neighborhood Office Meeting Room, 1017 NE 117th Avenue at NE Holladay Street, under the Hazelwood Water Tower. Contact Alesia Reese, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News