Do you know your neighborhood?
Association presidents are working to unify neighborhoods, city
Like most cities, West Linn is broken up into neighborhoods, each with its own history, character and feel. Each neighborhood also has its own representation through an association complete with a board and a president.
Over the course of the last year, the presidents representing neighborhood associations (NA) have been meeting to streamline their processes and improve communication.
There are 11 NAs in the city and they are organized under city municipal code. NAs are arms of the city and give input on land use issues. They are the go-betweens for residents and the city. NAs, however, are not homeowners associations. There are no dues and there are no covenants, codes and restrictions involved.
Its a resource for all of us, said Jef Treece, president of the Marylhurst NA.
Treece said he got involved in his NA years ago to meet his neighbors and understand what was happening in the city.
For Alex Katchisky, president of the Hidden Springs NA, the associations can be a buffer between residents and city hall.
If more people are aware of the benefits of NAs and utilize them it can go further in reducing the tensions that flare up occasionally when dealing with issues of land use, Katchisky said.
Just as each neighborhood is different, each NA varies. Some NAs have more participants than others and some meet more often and hold more events than others. Often impending projects and developments determine the activity in an NA.
Robinwood and Willamette are very active NAs, but Robinwood has been more so recently due to the LOTWP (Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership)issue, Katchisky said. Some NAs meet monthly, others less frequently, depending if anything is happening in their neighborhoods.
One neighborhood association, Rosemont Summit, is currently in an inactive status as it is lacking leadership and has not held the mandatory two meetings a year.
Treece measures the health of the Marylhurst neighborhood by how many people attend the NA meetings. He said the fewer the people, the better.
When its something contentious, then people show up, he said. Its a sign of health if people dont show up.
A year ago, the NA presidents all started meeting monthly to discuss their own processes, ways to communicate and activity. The goal is to streamline how they operate.
There are a few neighborhoods in West Linn at different levels of evolution some are older and built out with very little going on, some have commercial areas, etc. Coming together allows the neighborhood presidents who have been meeting to become familiar with everyones needs, Katchisky said.
One of the areas the presidents have been working on, according to Treece, is the meeting notification process. Currently, each NA does it differently, whether it is an email list, website, newspaper, mailings or signs. The presidents group would like the system to be uniform across the city.
Another topic of discussion is the email code of conduct and how email lists are pasted from outgoing to incoming boards. According to Katchisky, in the past, the only way to get updates from an NA was to first attend a meeting and then add your name to an email list.
The catch-22 again is most people do not know that NAs exist or when they meet. This has resulted in NA mailing lists with less than 50 emails where there are 100s of adult residents in the neighborhood, Katchisky said.
Now, thanks to the presidents group, the NAs all have standardized email addresses and soon the city website will have links to subscribe to email lists.
The NAs have also starting using the Web-based service MailChimp to send out agendas, minutes and updates.
This puts the power of the list in the users hands, not a president who after he or she leaves decides not to hand over the NA email list, Katchisky said.
Its a very simple process weve defined, Treece said of the new workflow.
Future items of exploration include addressing missing meeting minutes and agendas, bylaws and outreach.
We are constantly looking at what is the most important thing for us to work on, Treece said.
The NAs are also looking for ways to communicate with the city council and city staff about neighborhood needs, such as sidewalk improvements, trails and street repairs. They would also like the city to be more demanding of the NAs.
What would they like to see us do? We need them to tell us. We need them to be demanding of us, Treece said.
As a result of the NA presidents work changes may soon be made to city code to formalize how NAs operate, how an inactive NA is designated and how NAs should communicate.
The future of NAs may change as the city reaches build-out and land use issues are fewer and farther apart. As that happens, Katchisky sees the need for NAs to redefine themselves rather than dying out.
Im impressed how NAs like Robinwood, Sunset and Willamette have not only served their purpose in the advisory role but have become active stewards of their community. The community should take advantage of NAs and help in the redefining process, he said.
Both Treece and Katchisky encourage residents to find out what neighborhood they live in, when their NA meets and get involved.
Its important that people be aware of NAs. Being that they serve an advisory role to the city council, it is important that their opinion represent a much wider cross section of the residents of that neighborhood, not just a handful of regulars who believe they represent your opinion, Katchisky said.
To find our what neighborhood you live in, visit westlinnoregon.gov/maps/neighborhood-associations-map.
West Linns neighborhoods