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Clubby City Hall troubles insiders, too

Here is an interesting quote from the story 'Insiders helped get reservoir reprieve' (Dec. 12): 'In City Hall, it matters who you are, not what you're saying.'

The quote is attributed to Kevin Kohnstamm, who organized a group of influential Portland citizens to speak to Commissioner Dan Saltzman about the proposed reservoir project on Mount Tabor. Kohnstamm was reflecting on what he had learned from the experience and was disturbed that City Hall would listen to this group but not the ordinary citizens who had questioned the project and process.

Truer words were never spoken in regard to the incumbents in City Hall. Just recently, four former leaders of a neighborhood association gathered for dinner and this was part of the conversation Ñ how inaccessible city officials are unless you have power or money.

The same issue contains an article about Bonny McKnight, a longtime neighborhood activist, who is so concerned about how the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is being restructured that she is considering running for Commissioner Randy Leonard's council position. There's also a front page story about Tom Potter running as a 'champion of the neighborhoods and a voice for the voiceless.' Based on that alone he would get my vote.

It seems that our elected officials are in deep denial about just how they are perceived in neighborhoods Ñ not by neighborhood associations but by citizens who vote, live in neighborhoods and feel that their voices are never heard.

The only power that citizens have is the power of our vote, and I hope every citizen will realize it and use that power.

Ruth Frank

North Portland

PGE had unfair chance to take potshot

In a Business Brief, Portland General Electric spokesman Scott Simms said of a proposed people's utility district, 'It's risky, it's costly, it's complicated and it's completely unnecessary' (Utility district qualifies for Clackamas ballot, Business, Dec. 12).

The problem with the statement (and with the Tribune including it without anything from PUD proponents to counter it) is that there is no evidence to support it. As was the case during the Multnomah PUD campaign, PGE has no facts to support its scare statements. Why are you including an uncorroborated statement about the merits of the PUD?

Unfortunately for Tribune readers, the paper once again seems unwilling or unable to give balanced coverage.

Bill Michtom

Oregon Public Power Coalition

Southwest Portland

'Bike guys' could

use an update

I have a bizarre idea: How about a 'bike guy' wearing a helmet (Crews exercise artistic license, Dec. 2)! Probably too radical an idea for Portland. Or better yet, depict the real Portland cyclist and show one 'flipping the bird.'

Ray TaylorÊ

Southeast Portland

Are Blazers being

singled out by police?

I don't understand why the Blazers smoking marijuana is such a big deal (Marijuana: The Blazers' toughest foe, Dec. 5).

Marijuana is very heavily used in this country. Many people in the public eye use it, whether it's athletes, actors or musicians. But I rarely hear anything about marijuana arrests unless it's relating to the Blazers. I'm sure other NBA teams are using it just as frequently, but either they are sneakier or the local law enforcement is better at looking the other way.

It almost seems like the Blazers are being specifically targeted.

Robbie Pankow

Southwest Portland

Office's integrity still comes under attack

City Commissioner Randy Leonard proposes changes for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, including militarizing neighborhood crime prevention and turning the independent, citizen-driven neighborhood coalition offices into mini-city halls.

The same recommendations were made about 20 years ago, and they keep resurfacing like a monster crawling out of a bog.

The Office of Neighborhood Involvement began life as the Office of Neighborhood Associations, or ONA, created by the neighborhoods because City Hall wasn't listening to them. The ONA was the independent voice of the neighborhood coalitions within City Hall.

Turning the neighborhood offices into mini-city halls takes direction away from the neighbors and asserts the city's priorities ÑÊa fine irony.

The neighbors, not the police, invented neighborhood crime prevention. The neighbors, not the police, blew the whistle on gangs and drugs. Militarizing crime prevention changes the program from neighbors helping neighbors to neighbors taking direction from the police. Another fine irony.

The city has eroded the office's intent since its inception. They've kept the office underfed and overworked; added city programs, such as weatherization and information and referral; and brought in other players such as business associations, nonprofits and who-knows-what, diluting the mission without the neighbors' advice, or consent.

The problem then as now is: The neighbors' voice is ignored, as city officials blithely speak of citizen involvement. Want to reform ONI, Commissioner Leonard? Give it back to the neighbors.

John Legry

Southeast Portland