The fight over the future of Portland's neighborhood associations isn't dividing just the city. It's also sparked strife between city commissioners.
In an incendiary email sent Sept. 10, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly threatened to damage the reputation of Commissioner Amanda Fritz for opposing her changes to the way the city works with neighborhood associations.
"I have tolerated her interference in my bureaus and mobilizing NA's against me for 2+ years," Eudaly writes. "I am done. If she persists, and especially if she gains any traction, this will get uglier, because it will become a referendum on her gross mismanagement of the bureau and the city's 45-year inequitable investments in civic engagement to the detriment of the very communities we now claim to want to serve and support."
In the email, which Eudaly sent separately to Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Nick Fish, Eudaly implied her colleagues could face similar consequences if they opposed her proposal.
"I have barely begun to rally support," Eudaly's email to her colleagues continues. "You may have noticed I'm really good at rallying support."
It's a remarkable email on several counts. It reveals the intensity of the disagreement between Eudaly and Fritz over the future of neighborhood associations.
Those volunteer groups provided the basis and purpose of Fritz's political career. Prior to Eudaly's election in 2016, Fritz directed the bureau, then called the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which Eudaly renamed the Office of Community and Civic Life. Now Eudaly wants to fundamentally reshape how that bureau directs neighborhood groups.
Her efforts have prompted vigorous opposition from neighborhood association members. And Eudaly's email suggests that in the face of grassroots and City Council opposition, she is lashing out.
Eudaly has until now largely worked collaboratively with her council colleagues and, while positioning herself as a progressive on tenant issues, has governed on other matters as a pragmatist.
But her attempt to overhaul the neighborhood associations has left her isolated. No one at City Hall has voiced support for Eudaly's proposal, which is set for a Nov. 14 hearing.
The mayor's office declined to comment. Hardesty's office declined to comment. Fish does not support the current proposal and questioned the wisdom of sending the email.
"The email is very unfortunate," he says. "While I welcome direct feedback from all my colleagues, some things are best said in person. That said, I have a good working relationship with Commissioner Eudaly, and nothing in the email changes that."
What occasioned Eudaly's diatribe? She apparently believes Fritz lobbied for her own changes to the code, which Eudaly called an "insult" to her and others working on her plan.
Eudaly and critics of neighborhood associations contend they are inequitable, disproportionately representing white, middle-class homeowners. The neighborhood associations say Eudaly is overlooking the groups' strengths and diversity.
Like her predecessor, Steve Novick, Eudaly has already drawn several challengers in her race for re-election in 2020, including Mingus Mapps, a former employee of the Office of Community and Civic Life, whose campaign may capitalize on the anger of the neighborhood associations in his own bid for City Hall.
Eudaly's proposal opens the door for other organizations to receive city funding and official recognition for consultation on budget, land use and development matters.
Fritz informed Eudaly of her own plan to reform the city's system of neighborhood participation, according to documents obtained through a public records request. A draft of Fritz's resolution, which she sent to Eudaly last month, calls for extending the city's contract with the five district coalition offices that support the neighborhood associations as well as the six identity-based groups that represent the city's current diversity effort.
The Fritz proposal would also increase the city's spending on neighborhood associations, equalizing disparities between different parts of the city and injecting more funding to address "support for underrepresented and disadvantaged residents."
Eudaly took umbrage.
"Taking away power from the director, investing more money in an inequitable system, and extending the no-bid contract to neighborhood coalitions for five years doesn't solve any of the issues raised in the audit, doesn't advance equity, and doesn't improve our system of civic engagement," Eudaly wrote in response.
Fritz says she offered the proposal to Eudaly as a "suggestion" and declined to hit back.
"We all share the value of increasing participation in the city's community-engagement structure, and every council member is committed to that goal," Fritz says. "We may have differences of opinion on how to achieve it, and that is healthy in a democracy."