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Summit aims to build strong community

Neighborhood leaders, activists to discuss array of issues

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Signs protest home demolitions in Portland.Portlanders are invited to attend a free day-long community summit that will discuss such hot-button issues as racial profiling, residential demolitions, oil and coal trains, and the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage.

The summit, called “In It Together,” is being organized by the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement in partnership with numerous community-based groups, including the Center for Intercultural Organizing, Latino Network, Right 2 Dream 2, the Portland Youth and Elders Council, several neighborhood coalition offices, and other organizations.

The summit will take place during a time of growing unrest among Portland residents on a range of issues. Some activists are circumventing the traditional channels and presenting their concerns directly to the City Council. For example, the grassroots United Neighborhoods for Reform is lobbying the council to appoint a citywide task force on residential demolition and infill issues. The labor-backed 15NowPDX wants the council to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Portland protesters are pushing for police reforms behind those in last year’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Members of each group will be participating in the event.

The summit will begin with a reception at City Hall on Friday, Feb. 27, and continue all the next day.

Mayor Charlie Hales will open the summit and participate in a State of the City discussion with participants. Some community organizations will explain how they successfully influenced public policies. Most of the day is dedicated to a series of workshops led by city staff and partnering organizations. Topics include: strategies for managing neighborhood growth and change; anti-poverty strategies; helping neighbors with crime and livability issues; dealing with vacant and squatter properties; home and community gardening; community-led parks and public spaces; responding to emergency alerts; hazardous materials and other demolition-related issues; the transportation of volatile fuels through the city; and organizing to end profiling.

Portland used to hold an annual neighborhood summit that focused on issues raised by the official neighborhood associations and neighborhood coalition offices. Those ended in 2004 after then-Mayor Tom Potter began pushing to increase the city’s involvement process to include underrepresented communities, including minorities. Organizations that began receiving city funds to increase involvement included the Urban League of Portland, the Center for Intercultural Organizing, the Latino Network, the Immigration & Refugee Community Organization, and the Native American Youth and Family Center.

According to ONI community engagement coordinator Victor Salines, city officials feel the time is right to restart the annual summits with a broader focus that includes both neighborhood and communitywide issues. One goal is for the summit to identify specific problems to be addressed over the year, with progress reports made at the next summit.

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