THE "LETTERS TO THE EDITOR" ARE BELOW THE EDITORIAL

From The Editor

The source of our unique Portland quality of life
Inner Southeast Portland, neighborhoods, Southeast Uplift, neighborhood coalition, Oregon
This map shows all the neighborhoods of Inner Southeast Portland. You probably live in one of them! The map has one obvious error the north end of the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood stops at McLoughlin Boulevard, not Holgate Boulevard; everything north of McLoughlin is in Brooklyn. (Courtesy of Southeast Uplift)

Your editor is not a Portland native, but he has lived here since 1975 and has no plans ever to leave. One of the main reasons is the quality of life here – characterized by the odd fact that the 25th largest metropolitan area in the country has the feel of a small town.

We noticed it right away, and really liked it. Portland has all the advantages of a large metro, but with the atmosphere of a much smaller city. From the beginning we thought that had to do with the fact that each small section of the city had its own name and most had a business district walkable to the residents.

It took quite some time – in fact, not until we stopped being a renter and bought our first and “lifetime” house in Westmoreland – that we began to realize that those local names were the names of Portland neighborhoods, and that each Portland neighborhood (there are 95) had its own volunteer-run neighborhood association, which functioned a bit like a town council within a big city. If that is our secret, it has been copied in some other areas, but not really very many of them.

Inner Southeast Portland has a number of such neighborhoods, and associations, and THE BEE regularly reports on their activities.

Seattle, which has a neighborhood association system, seems intent on dismantling it and replacing it with what it considers a “more representative” arrangement – on which renters and minorities are fully represented, and property owners find their influence diminished. This does not seem to result in a more livable environment, because it pointedly downplays those who are most committed to these neighborhoods, and changes the focus from the neighborhoods back to the city as a whole.

Portland recently has had similar concerns, but so far has not moved towards so draconian a solution.

Are we opposed to improving representation by renters and minorities? Certainly not. They live here and should be represented as well. In fact, in some Inner Southeast neighborhoods, particularly including Sellwood and Westmoreland at the moment, rental quarters are under such explosive construction that the number of rental units will soon outnumber owned houses, if they have not done so already.

But there is a problem, and it has nothing to do with discrimination.

The oldest neighborhood association in the city (because it existed before the start of Portland’s neighborhood association system, and converted to being a neighborhood association at that time) is SMILE – the acronym for “Sellwood Moreland Improvement League” – which is the city-recognized neighborhood association for Sellwood and Westmoreland. And SMILE has been proactive in trying to draw in renters.

Apartment houses in particular have been targeted with posters and leaflets to acquaint the residents with their neighborhood association and what it does, and encouraging renters to get involved in their own community. So far, the results have been disappointing.

The reason, upon reflection, seems obvious to us.

When we left home for our career, we rented – in Sacramento, California, a city the size of Portland; in Los Angeles; and in Portland when we first got here, and lived on S.W. Broadway Drive for four years. In all that time we never once considered the neighborhood we lived in, or even knew if it had a name. We were renting to live in each city, and considered ourselves a resident of the entire city. We never once felt moved to get involved in the affairs of those who lived in our immediate vicinity. It never even occurred to us.

What finally got us interested and involved in the locality in which we lived was when your editor and spouse bought our house in Westmoreland. Our first consideration was where we might buy; we chanced across Sellwood-Westmoreland and investigated buying here.

At that time, the cost of buying a home by taking on a mortgage was barely within our means, and even so we bought a “Moreland Fixer Upper” that needed a lot of work. We fixed it up over the years, paid off the mortgage at the turn of the century, and plan to live where we are for the rest of our lives.

But the purchase followed a rather thorough consideration of the neighborhood, which we felt comfortable in, and when we bought the house we started subscribing to and reading THE BEE (at the time a paid circulation weekly), went into Westmoreland to celebrate Make It Moreland Days, and so forth. We began to get involved, and have only gotten more involved as time has gone by.

The lesson is that it is the semi-permanence of property ownership that tends to get people involved in the locality in which they reside. As a renter we were a resident of the city; as an owner we are the resident of a neighborhood. And it is the distinctiveness and quality of life in each neighborhood that benefits.

Have you ever walked across the city on a nice day? If you haven’t you should sometime. Our walks took us to and from our auto mechanic at N.E. 78th and Halsey, and the walk diagonally across Portland to and from our house and our mechanic takes us two hours and fourteen minutes. It’s good exercise, and it shows you a lot of distinctive neighborhoods along the way, which together comprise a very livable city! That particular walk is about six miles and many scenes along the way are delightful and memorable.

This leads us to think that Seattle, if it does fully dismantle the neighborhood association system, may lose its distinctive neighborhoods in favor of creating a general sense of, and interest in, the city as a whole. That will make Seattle more like Los Angeles and less like Portland. Some of us who have lived in both places would mourn the loss.

Should renters and minorities be more engaged in the places in which they live? Certainly. But based upon our own experience it really is not clear how to do it.

We sincerely hope Portland does not damage or dismantle the neighborhood system. Any solution to increasing representation of those who are not fully represented in neighborhood associations must not damage the neighborhood association system that gave us the quality of life here that ALL of us enjoy.

And if some separate solution is found to engage those who currently have little interest in engagement – maybe a citywide council of specific groups not now getting involved in the community  perhaps participating in that process will result in those people eventually developing an interest in engaging in their own neighborhoods, which will benefit themselves and everyone.

In the meantime, whether you are a property owner or a renter, or one of many minorities calling Portland home, THE BEE suggests you investigate your own local neighborhood association – attend a few meetings – and see if you don’t find yourself interested in getting involved somehow. You are already a member!

If you are not sure what your own neighborhood association is, a good first step is to find out. In this part of town, the nonprofit support association for all our neighborhood associations is “Southeast Uplift”, and online there – http://www.seuplift.org/connect-with-your-neighborhood – you can look up the neighborhood associations in Southeast, click on yours, and learn when and where it regularly meets.

Maybe THE BEE will be seeing you there, as we continue to cover the concerns and events of Inner Southeast Portland!



Letters to the Editor

Plastic recycling options suddenly narrow

Editor,

I recently found out that New Seasons stores and Far West Recycling (on S.E. 26th) no longer recycle plastics OF ANY KIND. That means no plastic bags, no clamshell containers, no bubble wrap. Nada. I just had a long conversation with a spokesperson for New Seasons, and it turns out that China’s process of buying old plastic and making new plastic was creating a lot of pollution. Far West has been warehousing the plastic donated for quite some time, and New Seasons has been paying Far West to recycle plastics donated at their stores. The New Seasons spokesperson said the store was reaching out to vendors to get them to re-design their packaging, and encouraged customers to do the same. Meanwhile, the backlog of plastic containers would have to be used up.

So although this seems very sudden, it is a problem that’s been building for many months. If you think of how many grocery containers are plastic (blueberry boxes/homemade soup/deli items), the plastic mountain in our landfills will begin to grow exponentially – unless we change our buying habits, and unless retailers find new packaging options. Good luck to all of us in this endeavor!

I called Laurie at the “Curbside Hotline” (City of PDX/BPS) to see if China’s refusal to take any more of our plastic and mixed-paper recycling will affect our standard curb recycling, and she said “We haven’t heard anything,” and as far as they know now, the usual plastic at the curbside (milk bottles/yoghurt cups/bottles with necks) will continue. 

Kimberly Koehler
Eastmoreland

 

Wants more flexibility in residential areas of Portland

Editor,

In 2005, my wife and I bought an 850-square-foot house in the Woodstock neighborhood for a little over $180,000. Because we worked for nonprofit groups, it was a stretch for us, but we made it work. Today, we’re raising our two children in that home. We have great neighbors. We can walk, bike, or bus to school, the park, work, and the store in no time. Zillow says our home is now worth almost $400,000. I could not afford to buy my own house today. In fact, only a small and shrinking pool of affluent people could buy my home – or most of the homes in our neighborhood.

This worries me. Woodstock is a great neighborhood in large part because, in the past, people of modest means could comfortably rent or own a home, and have quick, low-cost access to shopping, work, education and play. Those features, I fear, are disappearing. The result is that renters and potential homeowners alike are getting priced out of the neighborhood, and often the entire city.

That includes people that everyone depends on to make Portland work – teachers, home care providers, electricians, small business owners, social workers, the list goes on. This includes people of color who have already endured decades of discriminatory housing policies. This potentially includes my own kids – and potentially yours. I don’t want Portland to become a playground for simply the wealthy. It is time for city leaders to allow a greater diversity of homes in Portland. More duplexes and triplexes. More flexibility to convert large homes into multiple units. More tiny houses and granny flats and clustered communities. More incentives to builders who permanently set aside some of their units for low-income families. And while we’re at it, let’s put limits on huge McMansions. Diverse housing types used to be the norm. Take a walk through Ladd’s Addition, Irvington, and Laurelhurst, and other neighborhoods that were built before 1960. This is important to me as a homeowner, because it shows we can have more abundant, affordable housing that is consistent with the existing neighborhood character.

David Rosenfeld
via e-mail

Reflecting on the power of words

Editor,

I just wanted to write the following in the hopes that we can all work on listening more, and arguing less especially about censuring others because we interpret words differently. Our perceptions and interpretations are what really make us all unique.

Thank you, Editor, for taking the time to write the “Editor’s Note” to those who were offended by your use of the word “thug(s)”. I enjoy reading the Letters section of THE BEE and seeing what’s going on in our neighborhood, as well as the thoughts that are circulating around my area of living. I want to thank THE BEE for using the word thug in its correct form, and for not giving in to the social pressures of censorship that’s engulfing our nation. As a teacher, I find this truly a very important issue. I appreciated THE BEE’s disclosure, after two writers were offended by the use of the word. You showed you used the word correctly, and that’s all a writer can do.

To the writers who have written in: You may choose to not use the word "thug" because you feel it’s racist, but all words can take on different meaning simply by how we interpret them. Such as with the writer who made a personal assumption that the thugs [referred to in the story] were black: Not all of us did. . . I honestly did not, for one minute, think the thugs were black when I read the article. If I am to be honest, I thought they were white. Perhaps this makes me a racist against white people, and that’s something I truly need to really think and reflect about. I hope we all can stop and really think about why we make the assumptions we do. . .

I’m very glad for everyone who has written in. I appreciate what everyone has had to say; it was very enlightening. In the end, I’m going to have to agree with Morgan Freeman when he was asked, “How do we stop racism?” [His answer was,] “Stop talking about it. I’m gonna stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

J. Stoneking
17+ year resident
Via e-mail

 

Thanks for food drive success

Editor,

Moreland Presbyterian Church would like to thank the neighborhood for their support of our September Food Drive. On September 17, families from the church canvassed our immediate neighbors while other neighbors dropped off food donations to the church during the week. We were able to donate 742 lbs. of food to Mainspring Portland, a community food, clothing, and resources pantry located in Southeast Portland. Thanks neighbors, for making the food drive a success!

Sarah Gibson
Via e-mail

More on “Moreland Woods”

Editor,

As reported in this newspaper last month, there is a two-acre lot next door to Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Funeral Home on S.E. 14th Avenue that is for sale and may be developed. It’s also next door to Llewellyn Elementary School, and borders the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge with 25+ large fir trees where Bald Eagles and other birds have been seen.

A Florida company, Foundation Partners, purchased Wilhelm’s last year and is considering selling this R5-zoned lot to a developer. It could become several new home sites, but some of us in the neighborhood are working with the owner to try to raise funds to preserve this bit of forest we call Moreland Woods. We hope to preserve this lot as valuable open space, wildlife habitat, and a learning opportunity for our children. With the projected growth of our neighborhood, this wooded parcel could be an important asset for the school.

If you’d like to learn more about this effort and how you may support it, please visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/friendsofmorelandwoods or on Instagram, http://www.instagram.com/morelandwoods. To sign a petition and be informed of future meetings, go to http://morelandwoods.nationbuilder.com.

Corinne Stefanick
Former SMILE President

 

Memories of the origin of Sckavone Field

Editor,

In reference to the article on the Portland Picnic in Westmoreland Park in your last issue, the words Sckavone Stadium jumped out at me. My Dad, Dick Sckavone, attended Richmond Grade School; my aunt often told of going from home, at 48th and Hawthorne, to the schoolgrounds to call Dad for dinner. He was playing baseball.

As the story goes, in bits and pieces, he later organized teams and leagues. To no one’s surprise, so many followed that he needed a field. He pestered the City Council for a baseball field at Westmoreland Park. By then it was an abandoned air strip and swamp. A newspaper article quoted him as saying “kids stealing base on a ball field is better than kids stealing diamonds in a jewelry store.” The City Council said they had no money for a ball field.

Dad organized a benefit Globetrotters basketball game, with proceeds to go to building a baseball field. The City Council matched the proceeds of the basketball game, and the baseball field was off and running. In the end, it was constructed and named after him.

Seeing the reference to the Sckavone Stadium in THE BEE would have made Dad grin his Happy Smile.

Shirley Finley
S.E. Knapp Street




Letters to the Editor may be submitted via e-mail by clicking HERE.

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.


Obituary
Debra Bertrand
Debra Bertrand

Debra Bertrand

February 8, 1957 – October 6, 2017

Debbie was born on February 8, 1957, as Debra Lynn Moser, and passed peacefully on October 6 with family in presence, due to complications of bladder cancer.

Debbie attended both Sellwood Middle School and Cleveland High School and went into a career of serving the public at various restaurants and taverns in Sellwood and Westmoreland. Debbie was extremely dedicated to her family, friends, work, and community throughout her life, according to those who knew her. Whether it was at Kay's, the Intermezzo, or the Sellwood Inn, Debbie had the ability to make just about anyone smile, they add, “when it felt like no one else could, and when they needed it the most. She made people laugh, and her heart and soul poured generosity and unconditional love to all. Debbie will be very much missed by the many, many lives she touched.”

She is survived by her mother, Marge Moser; her children, Christopher Veach and

Brittany Bertrand; her sisters, Kathleen Canizio and Evelyn (Lyn) Guerrero; and by her grandchildren, Alec, Hannah, and Ashley of Chris and Keri Veach.

Arrangements have not been announced.


 


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