Hi neighbors! Before we get to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA) news, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself as SNA’s new president. My name is Chris Waldmann (he/him). I have lived in Sunnyside and Portland for the last 5 years after moving here from Washington D.C. This is my second year serving on the SNA Board. My wife Erika and I chose Sunnyside as our new home because we immediately fell in love with the neighborhood – its walkability, amenities, trees and friendly folk. We live on 31st Avenue right near the former International Hostel, soon to be home to lots of new neighbors in the 62 unit building that is under construction. You’ll often see me out walking our cream and tan, cow-marked lab-mix Mojie. Stop us and say hi!
On to the news…
On September 8th, we came together in-person and online for our first general meeting since June. This was the first time we had met at SE Uplift since the beginning of the pandemic and our first attempt to manage a hybrid meeting without the technical wizards at Sunnyside UMC. Despite some scheduling snafus and technical limitations, we were able to have a broad discussion about the charter reform proposal that will be on this year’s November ballot. Past issues of the SNA newsletter have information on the proposal. More details are also available at www.portland.gov/omf/charter-review-commission. At the meeting we had two former charter commission members present to us, representing both Yes and No votes.
From the Yes side, Melanie Billings-Yun took us through the proposal and argued that passing the package will:
• Steamline city governance by hiring a professional to be the overall manager of the city bureaus and focusing elected council members’ attention on setting policy and responding to constituent needs.
• Make the City Council more responsive by dividing the city into four districts in order to ensure councilors’ familiarity with neighborhood issues and increasing accountability.
• Improve representation on the council by having each district elect three
council members through a system of proportional ranked-choice-voting.
This could enable communities of common interest to come together
and make their voice heard more effectively as a bloc.
From the No side, Vadim Mozyrsky, while supporting the changes to take the City Council out of bureau management, argued that the other proposals would:
• Decrease voters’ opportunities to hold council members accountable because proportional ranked-choice-voting would mean that it could take as little as 25% of the vote for a candidate to ensure their election.
• Not do enough to improve local representation because only four
districts, in a city as large as Portland, would not ensure enough
neighborhood-focused knowledge and responsiveness.
• Confuse voters and present unforeseen consequences with a combination
of multi-member districts and ranked- choice-voting that has never been tried in the U.S.
It was a lively debate and attendees asked many good questions. In the end, the members in attendance decided that the SNA would not take an official position on the ballot measure, since no consensus could be found.
From the Board…
As Hannah mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the Board has decided to make some changes this year in how Board duties are split up and the schedule for our general meetings. General meetings will now occur every other month, with the next general meeting in November. We hope that this will ensure we always have packed, interesting agendas where the entire community can participate and learn something interesting. The Board will continue to have monthly meetings and everyone is always welcome to join! Seeking to deepen the knowledge and experience of all members of the Board, we are going to have a rotating slate of presiding officers over the course of the next year. While, in order to satisfy the legal niceties I am technically the president for the entire year, every three months we will give a new Board member the opportunity to run meetings, set agendas and be the leading face of the SNA. Our newest member, Cole White, will take over in December, followed by Emily McCadden and Hannah Wallace.
We will have more on what’s coming up for the November general meeting in next month’s newsletter. Until then, thanks for coming out and engaging to improve Sunnyside and Portland!