Six Portland-area legislators and nine school board members signed a letter today backing City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's push for changes in the city code on the official recognition of neighborhood associations.
"Communities of color in Portland have been marginalized, excluded, red-taped, discriminated and displaced, it is critical to acknowledge the harms committed in the past for us to undo our complex history and disparities," the elected officials write in a Sept. 16 letter. "The code changes acknowledge this past and commit to right these wrongs."
That letter is the latest volley in a war of words over how the city handles civic engagement. Eudaly has argued that Portland's neighborhood associations too often consist of disproportionately white, older homeowners while critics have said she's trying to dismantle groups that have provided a means for engaging with city government.
The legislators backing of her proposal as more equitable comes at a critical time for the proposal: Eudaly is facing the most controversial policy fight over her two and half years in City Hall.
The list of signatories include six Democratic lawmakers whose district touch at least parts of Portland:Rep. Janelle Bynum, Rep. Diego Hernandez, Sen. Shemia Fagan, Rep. Andrea Salinas, Rep. Tawna Sanchez and Rep. Sheri Schouten.
The letter acknowledges what neighborhood associations have contributed to Portland. But it says that more groups should share access to the city's Office of Community and Civic Life.
"The change simply acknowledges that people organize themselves in many ways and the intent is not to elevate one specific type of group over another, but about bringing more people to a larger table," the signatories write.
Individual school board members, though not their boards as whole, also signed on. They include Andrea Valderrama, board chair of the David Douglass School Board; Yesenia Delgado, board chair of the Reynolds School Board; Jessica Arzate, board member of the Multnomah Education Service District; Sonja McKenzie, vice-chair of Parkrose School District; Sara Kirby, board chair of Parkrose School District; Sahar Muranovic, board member of David Douglass School District; Michelle DePass, board member of Portland Public School Board; Katrina Doughty, board member of Multnomah Education Service District; Erick Flores, board member of Parkrose School District.