Mayor listens to Inner SE concerns in Sellwood sessions

Usually, Mayor Tom Potter is called upon to speak when he appears at events throughout the city. But find out what he learned from his “10 Minutes with Tom” session in inner SE Portland ‚Ķ

Neighbor Thomas Walsh gets his “10 Minutes with Tom” Potter at the SMILE Station on November 18. He brought up noise in city parks, and encouraged the city to use ecological friendly products in city projects.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Usually, when Mayor Tom Potter makes an appearance outside of City Hall, he makes a speech or proclamation. But, when he visited the SMILE Station on November 18, he was there to listen.

With a staff member at his side taking notes, Potter spent the morning in Sellwood giving area residents the chance to have “10 Minutes with Tom” to vent their concerns, make suggestions, or praise the city’s administration.

Mayor Potter, and his next citizen, Thomas Walsh, allowed us to check in and learn what he’d heard that he found interesting.

Community Center funding
“It is all interesting,” the Mayor began. “What I like about this is, I learn so much more about what is going on than I’d learn sitting behind my desk.

“One issue that has come up is about funding for the community center. A year or so ago, the City Council decided they’d like communities to provide more financial support for community centers.

“So, Sellwood has been struggling with that issue. They devised a couple of plans they wanted to talk about. One is to have the city provide an endowment for the center. It would draw the interest that could be used to offset the cost of the facility. Commissioner Saltzman and I will meet with some the representatives of the community to talk about it. I reminded them that if we do this for the SMILE Station, we’ll have to do it for all the community centers. That gets to be expensive.”

Focus on the Sellwood Bridge
“Another thing we’ve heard about is the Sellwood Bridge. As you know, the structure is slowly moving ‚Äì shifting ‚Äì and starting to have structural problems. It has to be replaced.

“With what it will be replaced is of great concern to this community. One of the things I’ve heard indicates much of the bridge’s traffic starts in Clackamas County, not Sellwood.

Neighbor fumes over odors
“There is an industrial site in Sellwood emitting some noxious fumes that a number of people in the neighborhood are concerned about. It’s making their eyes water.”

Their concern, he added, is there might be health hazards from the fumes. “We’ll be talking to the owners of the facility and see if there can be a cleaner on their exhaust system. If not we’ll try to work with DEQ to fix the problem.”

Neighbors tell Potter that out-of-town relatives said they couldn’t believe an ordinary citizen could talk with the mayor of a large city like they can here in Portland.

Says talk with mayor unique in big cities
Not all of what Mayor Potter said he heard was gripes or problems.

“A man came in with his son, this morning. They’d had a family council last night. They discussed what to talk with me about. A family member from Syracuse, NY was listening in, and commented that it was ‘interesting that out here on Portland, Oregon, that the mayor would meet with people’ to talk problems and issues they identified were important.”

As it turned out, the mayor related, this father and son were also worried about the future of the Sellwood Bridge. “They were also concerned about increasing traffic in their neighborhood. When the Springwater Corridor Trail was put in, it increased the bicycles in Sellwood. So, the conflict between bicycles and cars has increased. They’ve noticed near-accidents. Their request was to see if speed bumps or stop signs could help.”

With that, the mayor went “back to work”, listening to, and learning from, some of the people he governs.

© 2006-7 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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