Last Month’s News. This Month’s Plans.

As I write this at the end of August we just had our first Board Meeting with our newly formed board. We elected Chris Waldmann to be our President but we plan to rotate some of the duties traditionally performed by President between four board members over the coming year to give each of us a chance to be presiding officer. Each person will assume these duties for three months (Chris being the first) but Chris will remain the official elected President. Chris, who has lived in Sunnyside for six years, has been a board member for a year and was formerly the president of his neighborhood association in Washington, D.C. 

The SNACC committee has been busy organizing two volunteer orientations for later this week. We hope to gain a handful of new Shower Project volunteers as a result. 

We will hold the General Meetings on the 2nd Thursday of the month, as per usual, but the new board has decided to have a General Meeting only every other month. There will be a General Meeting in September, November, January, etc. (One way to remember it is that they happen on odd numbered months.)

Our Sept. 8th General Meeting will be held in person at Southeast Uplift (3534 SE Main St.) from 7-8:30 p.m. (We plan to have a Zoom link for those who don’t want to attend in person. Check the website for details a few days before.) Our guest speaker will be Melanie Billings-Yun from the City Charter Review Commission. She will speak about the upcoming Portland Charter Commission ballot initiative, so come prepared with questions. This will be an important meeting because at the end, we would like the SNA membership to vote on whether or not to endorse the initiative. We need at least 15 members present in person or on Zoom in order to hold a full vote. If we don’t have at least 15 members, the board will vote on the measure, but we really want to have a larger neighborhood voice on this issue. So, please join us and bring a Sunnyside friend!

We hope to see you in September!

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

When she became the principal of Sunnyside Environmental School (SES) last year, Dr. Eryn Berg says it felt like a homecoming. “I was born on Southeast 53rd St,” says Berg. “And my grandma used to have chickens. So last year when I moved my stuff over to the school and and heard the chickens, I was like, ‘I feel like I’m home.’” A former high school English teacher who also writes poetry, Berg is a huge fan of Sunnyside, the neighborhood, as well (though she currently lives in Roseway). With school starting on August 30th, she has her hands full with meetings and welcoming teachers back to SES but she took the time to speak to us in mid-August. 

What did you do before being principal at SES? 

I’ve been an administrator at PPS for 15 years. Before that I was a high school English teacher at the High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I used to live in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.  

Continue reading our full Q&A with Dr. Eryn Berg

Last Month’s News. This Month’s Plans.

Happy Summer! As I write this in mid-July, the weather is sunny and there’s not a cloud in the sky. These are the Oregon summers we look forward to all year long. Hopefully you’ve been getting outside, spending time getting your hands dirty in the garden, or spending time at the Coast or river(s) for some kayaking or swimming! 

At our board retreat in July we came up with a new schedule for the SNA General Meetings. We’re going to have them every other month, starting in September. Board meetings will continue to happen on a monthly basis. Our next General Meeting will be on September 8th at 7 p.m. We are hoping to transition to in-person meetings, but we know that the option to attend virtually may be better for many people so we plan to maintain that as well. Check the SNA website in early September for details. 

Continue reading Vice President Hannah Wallace’s update

Sunnyside Neighborhood: Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Cole White

Cole White has been a steady presence at the Sunnyside Shower Project for over a year—first as a guest and then as both a guest and a volunteer. Always ready with an open mind and some witty banter, he is fun to do a shift with because you can swap book recommendations (most recently he had Italo Calvino’s short stories in his back pocket) and discuss everything from punk rock to religion. In March, the SNACC committee applied for and won a grant to pay him a stipend, so now he’s the only paid member of our team, stocking toiletries and other supplies at the Sunnyside Methodist Church and generally ensuring that things run smoothly. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, where he studied math and literature, White writes creative nonfiction including a newspaper called The Portland Interrupter. He recently landed his own apartment and he’s also the most recently elected member of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. Please join us in welcoming him to this new role. 

Continue reading our full Q&A with Cole White

Sunnyside Neighborhood Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Casey Filice and Becky Straus

Casey Filice and Becky Straus moved to Sunnyside with their son, Forest, during the pandemic and they are so glad they did. Filice, who is a labor organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU, one of America’s biggest unions), has fond memories of living in Sunnyside in the ‘90s when she was in her early 20s. Straus, a legal aid lawyer at the Oregon Law Center, was living on Hawthorne and 44th when she met Filice in the early aughts. When I met them recently, their son, Forest, had just made his moms blueberry muffins for Mother’s Day—and I got to enjoy one with a cup of coffee on their front porch. 

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? 

Casey: We bought it in September, 2020. Before that, we’d been in Foster Powell. 

We both rented when we were younger. I’ve lived in 3 of the 4 quadrants, but mostly in Southeast. 

Does your son go to SES? 

Casey: He’s 4, so he’s in preschool. 

Casey, what do you do? 

Casey: I am a labor organizer in the property service division of SEIU Local 49. We mostly represent workers in janitorial, security and airport service industries.  

Becky, tell me a bit about your work. It has something to do with preventing evictions, if I’m not mistaken.  

Becky: I work for the Oregon Law Center, which is a nonprofit law firm. We provide free legal services to low-income people on a range of issues, not just eviction cases. Since the pandemic, I’ve focused exclusively on building out an Eviction Defense Project. Our offices have always done eviction defense cases—but the scale at which we are doing them now is pretty unprecedented. We’ve been able to get federal funds for new grants and money through the state, county and the city. We’ve hired a bunch of new lawyers and we’re trying to do a high volume eviction defense model. It’s a different model than what legal aid has done before. 

Are there other organizations doing this important work?  

Becky: From the standpoint of lawyers and eviction court, we are one of the primary ones. The Metropolitan Public Defender Community Law Program is doing some of that, too. They complement our work. And Portland Community College’s legal clinic just got in the game, too. Their work is a great model because they are utilizing law students to help support their case work, which is a really sustainable way to have these kinds of services. 

How big is your team now?

Becky: We have about 30 staff members on the eviction project alone, and that includes attorneys and paralegals. And, we’re still hiring.

What do you love about Sunnyside? 

Casey: I love the trees in this area. I really love that we can walk and bike to everything.  

Becky: I would add the community, as well. Once we moved here and we met people going to the playgrounds, we found meaningful connection with people really quickly.  

Casey: Houses I used to rent rooms in—the homeowners are still in the neighborhood. I have so many great memories of this area.  I am really happy to be able to raise my son here.

Becky: We really love Navarre (John Taboada’s Spanish restaurant) on 28th and Burnside. When we moved here and realized that we were within a short walking distance, it kind of shook our perspective a little bit. We had a moment of gratitude! There are so many reasons. The winter before last when it snowed and everyone was skiing down Salmon, I was like, ‘Oh yeah: we live on a bike avenue! Of course, this is gonna be the place where people ski…’

What is one thing you would change about Sunnyside, if you could?    

{Both are silent for a minute or so…seemingly, they can’t think of any critiques.}

Becky: I do feel that there’s a solutions-oriented mindset in Sunnyside. Of course there are the people who are not as engaged and don’t understand the complexity of the issues—they knee jerk to the easiest message. But most people are engaged. When we first moved here and we would go to Sunnyside playground—that was when we first learned of the work of Beacon. [Beacon now has a tiny house village at Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Montavilla.] 

There are people doing active, productive things.

Are you cat people or dog people? 

We have an eight year old dog, Gus. We have had him since he was a puppy and we think he is an Aussie-Shepherd mix, but we are not sure.