Commissioner Ryan meets with Wilkes neighbors to discuss priorities

Is there a new ‘Parks Tax’ on the horizon? Will neighborhood associations be better supported? Here’s what folks who attended the Wilkes Community Group meeting learned from an elected city official not long ago …

A sizeable audience gathers for a special meeting convened by the Wilkes Community Group neighborhood association at which Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan came to speak.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

At the monthly meeting of one of the 13 outer East Portland neighborhoods – that is, until the City of Portland is “redistricted” – the Wilkes Community Group hosted Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan for a conversation held on a special date – September 26 – at their usual meeting location, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church. Some 35 people were gathered in the spacious Community Room.

Before the meeting begins, Commissioner Ryan chatted neighbors.

Favors additional tax, to pay for Parks
Before the meeting, East Portland News asked Commissioner Ryan – who is currently the Commissioner in charge of Portland Parks & Recreation — if he’s looking forward to instituting a “Parks District”, as Multnomah County did when it offloaded the expense of running its libraries by instituting a new layer of property tax that now funds their “Library District”.

“Yes we are looking into that,” Ryan told us. “We need a better system for the Portland Parks revenue model going forward. Whether it’s bonds, or looking into a ‘Parks District’ – we are looking into all options.”

Working to shore up neighborhood associations
Also, since he’s currently overseeing the Portland Office of Community & Civic Life (Civic Life), the former Office of Neighborhood Involvement, we asked Ryan if he has an interest in rebuilding the city’s once-thriving system of neighborhood associations.

“Yes; we are doing it as we speak,” Ryan replied. “Civic Life has put out a [reorganizational] draft, and we’re making sure that it’s edited properly to put neighborhood associations in their proper place (emphasis added) in that Office.”

-3 Commissioner Ryan addresses the reorganization of Portland’s Civic Life office.

Elaborates on neighborhood association efforts
Perhaps keying off on our pre-meeting question, in his opening remarks, Commissioner Ryan told the group, “We’ve kind of ‘lost our way’ when it comes to our neighborhoods and our nonprofits.

“As you must know, I am absolutely clear that every strong city has strong neighborhoods and neighborhood associations,” Ryan continued. “After six years of much unrest [in City Life], we’re working with the Mayor’s [Ted Wheeler] office to produce an organizational chart that will come out in a draft soon.”

NOTE: We asked Commissioner Ryan’s office for a link to the Civic Life reorganizational plan or chart, that weeks ago, was said to be in its final draft form. So far, there has been no response to our request.

New Portland Office of Community & Civic Life Director Mourad Ratbi, tells of the work to reorganize their office.

With that, Ryan introduced the new Civic Life Director Mourad Ratbi, who, with staff, was in attendance. Also introduced was the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications Director Steve Mawdsley, and Bobby Yu from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office.

In notes he sent to us after the meeting, Wilkes Community Group Secretary Richard Mohle summarized Ryan’s additional comments very well:

Generally speaking, city problems are “complicated.” There are many factors that cause them and many interests to be reconciled. Let’s not let “perfect become the enemy of the good”. Just passing laws and policies is meaningless unless they can be implemented. The resources available to implement them are often lacking, so those must be prioritized.

Moderating the meeting, and asking Ryan questions submitted by neighbors, is Wilkes Community Group Board Chair Shana Koalska.

“In the spirit of optimism, we will take questions,” Ryan invited. Some neighbors asked, in great detail, about traffic safety concerns along NE 162nd Avenue through and near their neighborhood.

Ryan listened with apparent compassion, and then referred those neighbors to Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who currently oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Listening to neighbors’ complaints about encampments is Commissioner Ryan.

Other neighbors voiced concerns about the “massing” of encampments along NE 162nd Avenue. “All of the trailers, broken down RVs, and trash have been reported many times,” one irate resident charged. “We take it away; it keeps coming back. What can you do to change that?”

“It’s clear that neighbors want more accountability on these problems,” Ryan responded. “We need to know about this if we’re going to make any progress.”

Ryan did point out that there are now seven “Safe Rest Village” locations intended to give homeless persons stability and safety until they, with assistance, can move out and back into private housing.

Continuing the discussion, Commissioner Ryan takes additional questions.

After the meeting, Wilkes Community Group Board Chair Shana Koalska shared her thoughts on Commissioner Ryan’s visit. “I feel that there is a positive change happening within our city government, and it seems as though Commissioner Dan Ryan is doing his part to ensure the actual people of our city are at the forefront if his decisions.

“As cheesy as it might sound, people do make the difference,” Koalska continued. “I feel that the Commissioner, and the other city representatives at our meeting, are actively trying to make a difference – it’s the poor processes currently in place that are holding us back now.”

November 7: Wilkes Community Group Annual Meeting
From 6:30 until 7:30 p.m., this outer East Portland neighborhood association meets. Since this is their Annual Meeting, leaders are likely to be elected as well. They’re meeting in the Community Room in St George Antiochian Orthodox Church at 2101 NE 162nd Avenue.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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