A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to bring to Council the third annual Report from participants in the East Portland Action Plan. Once again, everyone present was inspired by the presentation, and impressed with the results citizens in East Portland have achieved with modest City funding.
Adopting the East Portland Action Plan (EPAP) in February 2009 was one of the first major projects I voted to approve in my first year in office. Both the citizens nor the City resolved that after adoption of the Plan, we would not then let it gather dust on the shelf. Throughout the dark days of the recession, each year Council has allocated funding for a staff support specialist and small grants funding to assist the 63 volunteers and many varied committees of the EPAP ongoing working groups.
The results have been spectacular, with hundreds of thousands of additional dollars leveraged through the active participation of hundreds of community partners.
Pictured with me after the East Portland Action Plan meeting are Natalya Sobolevskaya, Melissa Payne, and Marie Manuel. Photo by Igor Sobolevskiy.
Lore Wintergreen, the EPAP's only staff person and possibly the only person who could have supported this work so care-fully, and Chris Scarzello of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability who has been working with the community on a pilot re-zoning project, testified at the hearing. They are clearly beloved and valued by the community.
I particularly appreciate the EPAP participants commitment to equity. We can all learn from their example and experiences. For instance, EPAP leaders decided that grant applications need not be submitted in English. This simple choice has resulted in much wider participation in grants funded through the program, increasing community involvement and empowerment of immigrants and refugees.
EPAP Co-chair Katie Larsell sent me her closing comments, copied below, expressing EPAP members' recognition that while much more is needed, Council has heard and responded to East Portland's concerns with significant investments and allocations of attention and funding. Thanks also to Co-chair Arlene Kimura, and all the 20+ people who participated in the presentation. Katie's summary:
"Thank you Mayor Adams and City Council for being strong supporters of the East Portland Action Plan. I hope you can see from our presentation, the variety and intensity of effort in East Portland. I hope you know that we cannot do it without you.
In my introduction I listed our other partners such as Metro and ODOT, Trimet and Multnomah County, and we are grateful for them, but right now I want to focus on the City of Portland and what you have done.
First, the Mayor and the Council have supported the EPAP this past year with $280,000 which we have used for our Advocate position, operating budget, two grant programs and the East Portland Economic Development Assessment. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has provided the EPAP program with ongoing support, while the Water Bureau has literally sheltered us in a centrally located and beautiful hydro-park facility.
In addition, the City has been investing in East Portland:
* The Bureau of Transportation produced the ‘East Portland In Motion’ strategy and are implementing $8M in pedestrian improvements – along with many other transportation improvements, including work on high crash corridors, LID outreach, and Safe Routes to School improvements.
* Under the guidance of Mayor Adams, Portland Development Commission worked with the community to build a Neighborhood Economic Strategy and brought the ‘Portland Prosperity Initiatives’ to four business districts in East Portland.
* Planning and Sustainability's 122nd Ave. work progressed from a first stage Pilot Project to a much needed Re-zoning pilot project.
* The Mayor partnered with Parkrose High School to develop a community/school soccer field. [Editor's note: Actually I organized the funding, and Commissioner Fish with Portland Parks worked on the field development details. Mayor Adams has been a strong supporter of the project, for sure.]
* The City established the City-wide Tree Project and the Bureau of Environmental Services also helped fund Friends of Trees plantings in East Portland, including along the I-205 Multi-Use Path.
* The City established geographic mapping of the City Budget.
* The Bureau of Development Services staffed the East Portland Enhanced Housing Inspector position to help maintain safe housing.
* The Powell Butte Reservoir project is for the whole city but Commissioner Leonard has ensured that the work is done respectfully and with an eye to enhancing this beautiful park.
* Parks acquired the Wilkes Headwaters and access properties to Raymond Park.
* Commissioner Fish launched the E-205 parks improvement effort to add much needed amenities to East Portland Parks.
* Commissioner Saltzman worked with the Bureau of Environmental Services to implement the Johnson Creek Floodplain Restoration Project and various Springwater Wetland's restorations in ways that address the serious need and enhance the area.
* Portland Police partnered with Gresham Police to provide better service on the Gresham-Portland border.
* Commissioner Fritz is leading the work to address Equity in Portland, which will serve the East Portland community well.
That is a lot and we thank you. We hope that we contributed to these projects as you have charged us, by providing “leadership and guidance” when needed. We strive always to be good partners.
Thank you, Katie and the whole East Portland Action Plan team, for demonstrating how citizens and government working together can make a lot of progress with relatively little funding in a very short time.