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Longtime downtown leader fails to pass her own test

Neighborhood head ousted after doubting such groups' effectiveness

Renee Fellman, the outspoken president of Portland's Downtown Neighborhood Association, was ousted at Monday's annual board of directors meeting, in part because of what she said to the Portland Tribune about neighborhood involvement.

At the meeting, board candidate Rose Ann Clementi used her two-minute block of time to read portions of the June 2 Tribune article, in which Fellman recommended that the city withdraw funding from neighborhood associations.

In the article, Fellman pointed to low attendance at association meetings as a sign that most people wanted to leave most decisions to elected officials.

At the election, 12 people were running for 11 positions. When the votes were counted, Fellman received the lowest number and was not re-elected to the board.

Irwin Mandel, a longtime downtown activist, said the election was not just politics as usual. 'People had decided they wanted to get rid of her,' he said.

Fellman said she was surprised her Tribune comments upset so many people.

Board member Bud Kramer defended Fellman and resigned his position after the vote.

'The organization really was moving forward,' said Kramer, who preceded Fellman as DNA president. 'It was gaining recognition, it was starting to have a voice in the community. And that was due to a large degree to Renee.'

Clementi, who has twice previously served on the neighborhood association board and twice resigned, was elected again to the board and chosen president. She said she intends to focus on creating more affordable housing downtown.

'I would hope that people who work downtown could find apartments that they could afford to live in,' Clementi said.

'Our renters are being priced out of their apartments, and especially working people - they work downtown and they can't afford to live downtown.'

Clementi said the association will hold an outdoor ice cream social in September in the South Park Blocks in an attempt to get more downtown residents involved in its work.