Message from Interim Director Michael Montoya

Greetings Portland Friends, Colleagues & Neighbors,

When I took on the role of interim director of the Office of Community & Civic Life in May 2021, I knew that the bureau would need time to internally heal from the abrupt leadership change and collectively work toward transformation and innovation.

I am pleased to say that Civic Life rose to the challenge, and we are adapting our programs to be stronger, more resilient, and more responsive for all Portlanders, especially those who are most vulnerable. I’m equally proud of how our regulatory programs — Cannabis, Liquor Licensing, Noise, and Graffiti — have adjusted our processes through the height of COVID-19 and continue to play a significant role in our city’s recovery efforts. 

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that our city and our communities can overcome more than we ever thought possible. This update highlights some of the ways Civic Life’s programs invested in building strong civic engagement, community leadership, and support for businesses and their neighbors in 2021.

Finally, I am equally optimistic about the future of our bureau and our city. In countless conversations with neighborhood and organizational leaders, City employees, bureau partners, and Civic Life program staff, there is an overwhelming desire to renew and realign the ways all Portlanders can engage with their city and each other. In the coming months, we will invite you to participate in thoughtful discussions about the community engagement infrastructures that exist for Portland today, and what they might look like for the next generation. More details about this public engagement opportunity will be shared soon, and we look forward to having you in this conversation in the coming months.

We know that there is more work to be done, and I cannot wait to see how much we can accomplish together as we move forward.

Michael Montoya

Building A Safety Net for Undocumented Immigrants & Refugees
The pandemic has been difficult for all communities in Oregon, but Latinx communities have endured a third of the state’s COVID-19 cases despite representing about 13% of Oregon’s total population.

Although Latinx communities were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, many of these families were left out of traditional safety-net programs like unemployment insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status.

In response to this health crisis and resource gap, Civic Life joined more than 100 community-based organizations to provide a community-based financial support system called the Oregon Worker Relief Fund (OWRF).

Civic Life held an event on International Migrants Day to draw awareness to the cause and recognize the value of our immigrant and refugee workforce. Civic Life also helped direct $1.75 million to the OWRF. These funds helped tens-of-thousands of Oregon immigrant and refugee households during a vulnerable and trying year.

Learn more about
A video still from a series of stories produced for the City of Portland's Welcoming Week. The video interviews Kian Truong who immigrated with his family from Vietnam to Portland in 2014.
Portland’s Very First Welcoming Week
In September 2021, hundreds of people participated in Portland’s first Welcoming Week celebration. This year’s theme was “Belonging Begins with US” and promoted the importance of creating supportive and inclusive spaces for immigrants and refugees.

Civic Life’s Immigrant & Refugee Program organized a full week of celebrations, lectures, performances, and community conversations. The week kicked off with City Council signing a proclamation to show their unanimous support for building inclusive communities for all. We hosted a public outdoor Welcoming Week Opening Ceremony that attracted hundreds of people and included speeches from City and County officials, performances, and important resources. The event was widely covered across local news channels and social media platforms. It also included the premiere of
 12 powerful short stories of immigrant and refugee experiences and journeys.

Finally, the week launched the City’s first
 welcome brochure that is intended to serve as a roadmap to resources and much-needed information as immigrants and refugees build their home in Portland and is available in multiple languages.

Image of the International Rose Test Garden located in Southwest Portland. 

Laying the Framework for Southwest Community Support
This past year, Civic Life launched a program to support individuals, community groups, and neighborhood associations within the Southwest district of Portland with community building and civic engagement efforts.

This new program, aptly called the
Southwest Community Services, has two full-time City employees, and began work in November 2021. They coordinate general liability insurance for eligible organizations and volunteers that want to host community events, share funding opportunities, provide resources, trainings, and advise on best practices to build organizational capacity, make community connections, and more. We are excited to see how this new team will support the growth and sustainability of groups and activities in Southwest Portland.

Southwest Community Services also launched the 2021-22 Small Grants Reimbursement Program, which is designed to support community building activities in Southwest Portland. They will announce the grant recipients in March 2022.

Civic Life’s Disability Leadership Grant funds projects led by people with disabilities
The Disability Leadership Sponsorship and Grant supports opportunities for people with disabilities, especially disabled people who experience oppression related to intersecting identities, to engage with local government and their communities.

“I like to say that we are all just temporarily-abled, so I am thrilled to support these grants,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, endorsing the program.

The 2020 grant provided a total of $68,000 to
10 projects across the city. Learn more about the 10 organizations who participated, and about Civic Life’s Disability Program.
Front cover of the zine "A Dream Rezoned". The zine was a collaboration between community members, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and Civic Life.
A Zine for Anti-Racism & Accountability
In September 2019, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) released the report,
 Historical Context of Racist Planning, to acknowledge how discriminatory practices harmed communities of color by excluding them from homeownership and wealth-building opportunities.

In response to the report, BPS and Civic Life enrolled Portland community members — Cleo Davis, Kayin Talton Davis, Carolyn Leonard, and Sharita Towne — to explain how one family was generationally impacted by the racist city planning practices and to design it in a format that was not formal, but more visual.

The resulting zine is a direct call to action and reflection of the City’s 
Core Values, and we hope to inspire multigenerational and multicultural engagement in the City’s public processes, from public involvement to civic leadership. Read A Dream Rezoned.
A Graffiti Program volunteer helps to remove unwanted tagging.
Graffiti Work Orders Stabilize as Contracted Clean-Up Expands
In spring 2021, the Graffiti Program reported that their work order requests increased by 300% in comparison to a “normal” year. This increase in work order requests lead to the program adding four new, emerging businesses to begin contract graffiti removal services with the City of Portland. We are pleased to announce that not only have our work order requests stabilized, but that five contractors will be working on citywide clean-up efforts in fall 2022. As a reminder, Civic Life’s Graffiti Program coordinates all of the graffiti complaints that come into the City. The program is responsible for removing graffiti from small businesses, nonprofit organizations, small private residences, hate speech, and gang graffiti. Anything that does not fall into these categories is referred to other bureaus and jurisdictions (see diagram below).
The Graffiti Program has drafted an ambitious and sustainable multi-bureau graffiti abatement plan that will scale up City capacity to remove graffiti through volunteerism and other means. Stay tuned as that plan gets finalized and approved.

In August, we announced our partnership with MetroPaint and our free graffiti removal kits for all Portlanders. Learn more about how to get your free “
Clean it Up & Paint it Up” kit.

Noise Complaints Spiked as More Business Reemerged
As the City began to reopen from COVID-19 restrictions, many restaurants and other entertainment businesses shifted their business operations to include more outdoor experiences. This change was one of the factors that led to the Noise Program receiving more than double the volume of noise complaints as they would in a “normal” year.

The program responded by working closely with Prosper Portland and PBOT to help prevent tensions in the community from escalating between businesses and neighborhoods and created a one-page fact sheet about the City’s noise code that was geared for businesses to increase awareness. Prosper Portland helped distribute this information to more than 17,000 businesses, resulting in an immediate decrease in noise complaints. The fact sheet also is included in PBOT’s sidewalk permit request kit. Way to go, Portland!

A photograph of the 2021-22 Multnomah Youth Commission members.
The Multnomah Youth Commission Celebrates 25 years
Since 1996, the Multnomah Youth Commission (MYC) has trained and activated 479 youth to grow leadership skills and build civic engagement power to take ownership of the region’s future.

PDX Parent Magazine’s September issue formally introduced the 25th class of the Multnomah Youth Commission (MYC). 
Find their article on page 7.

The MYC is the official youth-led advisory body for both Multnomah County and the City of Portland. Members are between the ages of 13 to 21 and work to influence policy and positive perceptions of youth. Civic Life and Multnomah County Chair’s Office of Diversity and Equity share support for the advisory body. Learn more about the MYC on
 their website.
Image shows an instructor and student in the POIC + RAHS Paid Construction Pre-Apprentice program. This program is a recipient of the Cannabis Program's SEED Grant.
Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives
In May, City Council unanimously approved $1.8 million for the Cannabis Program’s 
SEED Grant Fund. The grant is part of the SEED Initiatives and distributes funding across a range of projects, programs, and services prioritizing education, entrepreneurship and economic development, and expungement. The SEED Initiatives is the first program in the United States to integrate equity programming within a cannabis regulatory office.
Read more about this year’s
 SEED Initiatives.

Providing a Safety Net for Cannabis Business & Workers
Even though cannabis businesses generate billions of dollars in tax revenue nationally, federal prohibition means that cannabis businesses and employees are not eligible for the federal economic relief that many others have relied on to see them through these tough times. Since March 2020, a total of 200 cannabis retail establishments have been burglarized — an average of 10 burglaries a month — with many establishments being hit multiple times. Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Control (OLCC)’s data shows a 115% increase in Portland burglaries in 2020 compared to 2019. The cannabis industry has also endured negative impacts from COVID-19 and Oregon wildfires damaging crops.

In December 2021, the Cannabis Program presented its Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to City Council, asking for a one-time allocation of $1.33 million in Cannabis tax revenue toward recovery efforts for Portland's cannabis industry. Council's approval allows Civic Life to work through three community partners — NuProject, The Initiative, and the Oregon Cannabis Association — to provide emergency relief grants for cannabis business and individuals. The historic vote made Portland the first government jurisdiction in the country to distribute cannabis tax revenue to support economic recovery for cannabis businesses and employees.

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