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Audit: East Portland lags in sidewalks, parks

(Oregon Public Broadcasting) — The Portland City Auditor released a new report Wednesday on the history of services in East Portland, a collection of neighborhoods roughly bounded by the Columbia River, 82nd Avenue, and Johnson Creek.

The audit found that residents there are less satisfied with their streets, parks, and water services than people in other parts of Portland.

The audit also confirmed that infrastructure and services in East Portland lag behind other parts of the city. For example, more than 40 percent of the busy streets in the area have partial or no sidewalks, and more than 40 percent of the fatal traffic accidents in Portland happen in the neighborhoods east of 82nd Avenue. Residents are also less likely to live within walking distance of a park.

A recent OPB series and tumblr explored how these differences affect East Portland's youth.

Drummond Kahn, in the city auditor's office, says services tend to lag behind because the neighborhoods East of 82nd Avenue were only incorporated into the city in the 1980s and the 1990s.

Kahn says spending by city bureaus in East Portland is fair and generally proportional to the percent of the city's population that lives there. But he adds that funding often goes to a different set of priorities there than it does in more established parts of the city. "If we're talking about a newer area of the city like East Portland, you might see more money spent for land purchases than for putting the finishing touches on a park," he said.

Meg Merrick, a community geography researcher at Portland State University, says the city recognizes it has a lot of work to do in East Portland due to the relative lack of infrastructure in the area, the history of recent annexation, and the diversity of the population. She says the audit would have been more useful if it looked at how services like streets and parks vary across East Portland's many neighborhoods

"Since there's a lot of difference within those neighborhood districts, it doesn't reflect that, and it kind of smooths out the information, so you can't see the peaks and valleys," Merrick said.

Drummond Kahn, in the City Auditor's Office, said its difficult to get statistically significant survey data on satisfaction with services in each of Portland's 95 individual neighborhoods, so the auditor's office chooses to look at larger coalitions of neighborhoods like East Portland.
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