N.E. group converts poetry to action


The political campaigns are officially over.

Now comes the real challenge for those who won: governance.

'We campaign in poetry,' wrote Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York. 'But you govern in prose.'

I wish Gov. Cuomo had been around here for the past few months. For the most part, the campaign slogans and messages offered up in Campaign 2002 were stuffed with spurious metaphors and hyperbole. And if by using the word 'poetry' Cuomo was alluding to the power to connect ideas and exalt the human spirit, he was dead wrong about Oregon's politicians. With Ted Kulongoski, Kevin Mannix, Randy Leonard, Serena Cruz, Bill Bradbury and Gordon Smith, poetry was scuttled by volleys of character defamation, innuendoes and half-baked truths, all covered in partisan mud.

Now it's time to see if the ends can justify the means É if the governance can rise above the rhetoric.

To Sheila Holden, chairwoman of the North-Northeast Economic Development Alliance, that means the priorities must shift from name-calling to the business of community development.

'Our purpose is to provide the structure for community oversight that can guide public planning and public-private investment for economic development and revitalization activities in the Albina District,' she says in a mission statement as ambitious as it is lengthy. 'And our strategy for accomplishing that is to bring all stakeholders to buy into our vision.'

So far the alliance has been very successful under the leadership of Holden.

The Northeast Alliance Ñ which has no connection to the downtown-oriented Portland Business Alliance Ñ was born in response to early city improvement projects that were poorly conceived and executed without community participation or support. Consequently, more than 1,300 homes and apartments in the heart of Portland's black community were bulldozed from the late 1950s to the early '70s to make way for Interstate 5, the Memorial Coliseum, Lloyd Center and the expansion of the Legacy Emanuel Hospital complex.

Growing out of a task force formed in the mid-'80s, the alliance has matured into a powerful force in the city's planning process. What now is touted nationwide as the bible for successful urban planning Ñ the Albina Community Plan Ñ came out of the economic development template of the Northeast group.

Since 1960, the Albina district has consistently met federal economic distress criteria, with its high concentration of unemployment and households with incomes below the poverty level.

Through the alliance's advocating for programs and projects, more than $80 million in new federal and private funding has furthered development and revitalization of this district.

Its partnership with the Portland Development Commission on the Interstate Corridor urban renewal district has been most successful in terms of generating community participation in public planning.

This alliance is a reminder of the importance and power of progressive partnerships that are genuinely dedicated to achieving a larger goal.

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