Greetings Portland Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It is my pleasure to write to you following my one-year anniversary as interim director at Civic Life.

I wanted to take the time to demonstrate how we listened to you, but more importantly, how we put your words into action.

Over the last year, Portland has been focused on reopening amid the uncertainty of different COVID-19 variants, racial justice movements, and other challenges. Now, during yet another wave of COVID-19 cases, many issues remain unresolved while new ones emerge. We are aware of the many challenges Portlanders face and we remain committed to ensuring your involvement in the decisions that affect your lives to create community-centered solutions.

Thank you to you, the Civic Life staff, our government partners, nonprofit partners, and grant recipients who regularly collaborate with us to resolve community issues and create solutions that serve all Portlanders.

Bureau-wide Highlights

Here are some bureau-wide highlights that I’m particularly proud of:

  • Civic Life filled 11 employee vacancies, which equates to approximately 20% of our workforce. These hires greatly increase the capacity of our programs to serve Portlanders.
  • We launched Civic Life’s intranet to improve internal communication and organization, and speed up new employee onboarding.
  • I implemented a leadership training program and recruited four new members to leadership positions in the bureau. Under their leadership, our programs have gained clearer direction and increased ability to advocate on behalf of Portlanders.
  • I launched the internal part of the City-wide strategic engagement planning process, creating opportunities for input on how we engage with and govern for our diverse communities.
While there is more work ahead, I look forward to inviting Portlanders to participate in Civic Life's multi-year strategic engagement planning work later this year. Stay tuned for that invitation.

As always, I remain hopelessly optimistic and ridiculously realistic. Thank you for your commitment to our great City. It matters because you matter.


An illustrated person holds up a clipboard and paper while another person holds an oversized purple gavel. An image of scales is in the background.

Getting Portlanders Involved in the Charter Review Process

Every decade, City Council convenes a Charter Commission to review and recommend amendments to the City of Portland Charter (City's Constitution). The Charter Commission is an independent body that sets its own scope of work. To help Portlanders understand this dense process, Civic Life worked closely with Charter Review staff to help educate and update Portlanders about the Charter Commission process, connecting them to the commission, and encouraging everyone to provide input to the Charter Commission’s ideas.

Thousands of Portlanders provided written and oral comment during Phase I. In June, the Portland Charter Commission voted to refer a measure to create a more efficient and responsive city government with a more representative democracy to the November 2022 ballot. The commission is now moving into Phase II and there will be more opportunities for public comment.
Two field workers tend to waist-high cannabis plants.

The Country’s First Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund

In December 2021, Civic Life’s Cannabis Program became the first government jurisdiction in the country to allocate cannabis tax revenue to help cannabis businesses and workers as they continue to endure the impacts of theft, COVID-19, and wildfires. City Council's vote was historic, as their approval allocated $1.33 million in Cannabis tax revenue toward recovering Portland's cannabis industry.

Two ballet papalotl dancers in multicolored dresses twirl around a younger dancer in a multicolored suit and sombrero.

Portland is a Sanctuary City

In response to the Haitian, Afghan, Central/South American, and Ukrainian humanitarian crises, Civic Life’s Immigrant & Refugee Program has been organizing, connecting, and sharing resources available for refugee families seeking asylum and looking for support in the region.

This summer we updated and expanded our Immigrant & Refugee (Welcome to Portland) resource brochure into five additional languages. The brochure is now available in Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Mandarin, Ukrainian, Somali, Pashto, Dari, and Arabic.

Furthermore, Civic Life is proud to announce that for the second year, Portland will host Welcoming Week 2022 in mid-September. Mark your calendars!

Multicolored text reads "Party On, Portland. 8/1-8/14."

Party On, Portland!

After more than two-years of social isolation, many Portlanders are struggling to feel connected to their communities and with each other. By standing up Party On, Portland (POP), Civic Life is helping Portlanders to get to know their neighbors, and encouraging them to build up our communities through positive activities that can help reduce our City’s vulnerability to unwanted activity.

From now through July 1, Civic Life is encouraging all Portlanders to register and participate in Party On, Portland (POP), a program to support community gatherings happening from August 1 to 14. POP parties promote positive activity in our communities, provide access to outdoor spaces to help people gather safely as the pandemic continues, and help build resources and personal relationships between community members and with governmental partners.

A bartender in a blue shirt pours brown liquid from a bottle into three short glasses.

Modernizing Liquor & Cannabis Licensing

Prior to COVID-19, our liquor and cannabis licensing processes were a laborious, in-person, snail mail and paper trail system. In February, we digitalized our liquor licensing and invoicing system, allowing for a faster and more secure way to apply for a license while streamlining the process for both applicants and regulatory agencies.

Similarly, the Cannabis Program introduced a new digital licensing system in April, allowing all licensees to manage existing license records, submit requests and changes, receive instant notifications, and manage online payments.

An adult wearing gardening gloves shows a three-pronged garden tiller tool to a group of children.

Small Grants Program Continue in FY2022-23

As interim director, one of my duties is to author the bureau’s annual budget report. One of my budget asks was to continue to have Civic Life administer the Small Grants Program. This $250,000 allocation for District Offices allows for community leaders to directly address issues ranging from houselessness and food insecurity, to emergency preparedness, to entrepreneurship training and multicultural community-building programs.

A few examples of the work emerging from our grant recipients include:

  • Responding to food insecurity and creating more accessible community food gardens;
  • providing youth and entrepreneurial leadership development programming;
  • increasing financial literacy by hosting a business bookkeeping workshop; and
  • providing foodservice training, workforce development, and hands-on culinary experience for the at-risk houseless community.

On June 8, 2022, Civic Life’s budget was adopted, and the Small Grants Program will continue for fiscal year 2022-23.  

A person on a building roof uses a long paint roller to paint over graffiti on a wall.

Civic Life’s Graffiti Response

In Spring 2021, graffiti complaints were up by 300% compared to previous years and our average response time was three weeks. As the COVID-19 vaccines became more widely available and more people were able to be out in public, these complaints decreased and stabilized. To address the increase in graffiti, Civic Life added capacity to the City’s clean-up efforts by onboarding and training multiple state-certified COBID businesses and entrepreneurs to help us remove graffiti. As of this year, our response and cleanup times are back to normal. The sheer volume of graffiti means our work is not done, and we appreciate the multi-bureau efforts to streamline removal efforts.

A two-column graph showing examples of noise covered in the City's Noise Code. Text reads, "Title 18: Noise Code. What is & is note covered in the Noise Code?" The logos of the Office of Community & Civic Life and the City of Portland. The column marked "Yes" shows a musician and a construction worker and text reads "Amplified sounds: music, events, speech projected via mic. Industrial operations: construction between 10 pm - 7 am, exceptions are made with noise variances." The "no" column shows a chicken and a barking dog and text reads "Urban wildlife: chickens, roosters, goats. Residential animal noise: barking dogs, squawking birds."

Lowering Portland’s Noise Levels in 2022

2021 was Portland’s noisiest year ever. With more people working, learning, and playing from home, the amount of noise they make and hear at home has gone up, and our Noise Program has been working hard to address these livability concerns.

Our team worked closely with other City bureaus like PDX 311, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Prosper Portland, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) and Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) who administer 911 dispatch services. Our conversations helped to internally align our responses to noise complaints and help businesses better understand and adhere to the City’s noise code. Civic Life also produced a helpful and easy-to-read graphic explaining which noise issues Civic Life can address while providing resources for the issues we aren’t able to resolve.

Data from the first five months of 2022 show that these efforts have made a difference and noise levels may be returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Civic Life’s Work as Part of the Mayor’s Emergency Declaration and Safety Re-Prioritization

Since the mayor’s emergency declaration announcement in May, our graffiti and noise teams have been working closely with the newly created Portland Emergency Management Office to proactively respond to livability concerns.

The declaration also transferred members of our Community Safety team to the larger Community Safety division to resolve gun violence and other safety priorities. We have enjoyed working with the dedicated members of the Community Safety team and wish them all the best as they transition into this new division in July.

Office of Community & Civic Life
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 110
Portland, Oregon 97204
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