And the residents react to their session with the Mayor
by: David F. Ashton, Among those talking with Mayor Tom Potter were Woodstock “observers” Ruthann Bedenkop of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association, and Jane Glanville, President of the Woodstock Community Business Association.

Once a month, you can find Mayor Tom Potter somewhere in Portland, listening to all who want to share their concerns with him.

Potter didn't have to travel far on February 24th - this 'Ten Minutes with Tom' session was just a few blocks from his home, at Pappaccino's Coffee Shop, at S.E. 44th and Woodstock Boulevard.

'This was pretty exciting,' said Ruthann Bedenkop, representing the Woodstock Neighborhood Association. 'The conversations seemed very open. It made me feel like our government was accessible.'

We caught up with Mayor Potter as he was concluding his session with citizens, and asked him what he learned.

'We talked about issues ranging from the war in Iraq to fluoridation, to urban growth boundaries, to public safety, mental health issues; and the federal homeland exercise 'TOP OFF' with the federal government--how we could respond to a major emergency,' Potter summarized.

'I just found out that one of the adult shops in the area is closed and they're putting in a bakery. That is a good thing.'

'A woman told me about her street - it really needs repair. In our discussion, I told her that Portland has 2,400 miles of paved streets; 600 miles of those need maintenance. Yet, our largest funding source for paving streets is the state gas tax. It hasn't been raised in years. Vehicles are more gas efficient, and fewer people are driving cars. While driving less is better for our air quality, it is harder on the City's pocket book.'

The Mayor added that nevertheless, he'll pass on the concern to Commissioner Sam Adams, who oversees PDOT.

Recalling the group of neighbors who recently were trying to get speed bumps placed on their - and the mayor's - street, we asked Potter what he thought of the idea.

'People do speed. I know some of the neighbors have talked to Transportation. But, the Commissioner of Transportation, Sam Adams, said they may not be able to put speed bumps on SE 41st Avenue, because it is an alternate route for emergency vehicles.'

Not all of the topics people bring up to him, he said, are local.

'Several people talked about the Iraq war. They say it detracts from things we should be doing here. For example HUD provides a lot of money to local communities for local housing. Their budget was cut over 1.5 billion. We took a hit of $6 Million into affordable housing. We had to make that up. If it hadn't gone for war, we could have used it for housing.'

Having interviewed the Mayor following several of his sessions east of the Willamette River, we asked how people act to him, when they can speak freely.

'Almost to a person, those who come talk with me are kind. They usually have issues on their minds they want to talk about. They understand that government can't do everything. We do as much as we can.

'People from other areas treat me as well as they do here. I love Woodstock. I love living here. It is great neighborhood with nice people. I'm 15 minutes from my office. From the comments I heard, people do like living in Inner Southeast Portland.'


Woodstock residents respond to meetings with Mayor


While some Woodstock residents described talking one-on-one with the Mayor as initially nerve-wracking, Mayor Tom Potter's unpretentious manner helped people relax and speak their minds during the recent 'Ten Minutes with Tom' event at Papaccino's Coffee Shop in Woodstock. 'I felt real comfortable,' observed Woodstock resident Jean Scott, at the conclusion of her session with Potter.

Allotted 10 minutes each, over a dozen Woodstock residents, one by one, had Potter's undivided attention at the coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon in late February. 'I hear lots of good things I wouldn't hear in my office,' explained Potter, sitting in a corner of Papaccino's at a round table next to his staff assistant, Jared Spencer.

Gene Dieringer, Co-Chair of the Woodstock Community Business Association, and Ruthann Bedenkokp, of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association, sat next to Potter, and listened to citizens sound off.

Explaining why neighborhood representatives were invited to sit beside Potter at the table, Amalia Alarcon of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement explained, 'If an issue comes up specific to the neighborhood, it allows neighborhood leaders to hear about it.'

However, except for one complaint about unimproved roads in the neighborhood, most of the Woodstock residents came to voice opinions on larger issues.

For example, while Jean Scott complained about the 'hog-wallow' ruts on S.E. 42nd and 43rd Avenues near Rural Street, she also requested that the mayor support training for police officers to improve their ability to deal with mentally ill people.

In response to the death of James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died last September after being restrained by Portland police, Don Wolf of Woodstock expressed alarm about police using excessive force. Wolf told the mayor, 'The police are killing too many people. There's no excuse for it, especially when mental illness is involved.'

As a remedy, Wolf suggested that part of police training should require prospective officers to visit mental institutions. 'Police should have to spend time with schizophrenics,' he said. Wolf also asserted that if a person feels threatened around people who behave abnormally, then that person is not a good candidate for the police force.

Also on Scott's discussion agenda with the Mayor that day was her worry about the overseas deployment of Oregon's soldiers: 'What happens if our area has a real crisis? Our soldiers have been taken away,' she said.

With young children in tow, Woodstock resident Ariana Head voiced her opposition to the fluoridation of Portland's water. 'I don't want our waters to be fluoridated. It's a poisonous toxin,' she said firmly.

As his wife Karyn chatted at another table, Potter patiently listened to citizens, occasionally interjecting a few of his own observations. Then, following more than two hours in the coffee shop, the mayor and his wife left to return to their own home in Woodstock.

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