Message from Commissioner-in-Charge Jo Ann Hardesty

In May of 2021, I appointed Michael Montoya to be the interim director of the Office of Community and Civic Life, at a time that it was starting to go through incredible change. It has been nearly six months since that appointment and both he and I would like to share an update from the bureau on what has been accomplished so far.

But beyond these initial accomplishments, there is so much more to do. We have begun planning for our first work session in the coming months and will keep you apprised as we
continue our strengthening, healing, and re-alignments.

I am proud of the leadership Interim Director Montoya has shown in this short amount of time, and of the numerous accomplishments you will read about from him. He, and the incredible staff in Civic Life are devoted to our communities, and it shows.

You can view Commissioner Hardesty's letter here.

Greetings Portland Friends, Colleagues & Neighbors,

It is my pleasure to write to you and share a public update about our bureau’s work since Commissioner Hardesty appointed me to serve as interim director at Civic Life.

Over the last five months, I prioritized the healing of our employees by conducting one-on-one meetings, as well as project team and bureau-wide conversations. These discussions have been an opportunity for me to get to know the work of our programs, but also understand how I could better support employees during a difficult leadership transition. Our conversations addressed mental health, healing, and how we can continue to center the great work we do and the incredible Portland community we impact every day.

As a result of these important conversations, program teams have embarked upon an ambitious but much needed time for alignment, work planning, and role clarifications. You should continue to see indicators that show that our work is stronger, more focused, and remains committed to promoting the common good, together. Our work has just begun, however. In the coming months, we will announce a planning process to collectively assess our model for creating, sustaining and supporting all Portlanders’ access to and engagement with the City and their neighbors. Please accept our invitations to be a part of that process once it has launched.

While we collectively focused on preparing for a stronger, more equitable Civic Life, we also did some amazing work. I urge you to read up on our eight-ish program milestones that we achieved together with you, since I assumed the role of interim director.

Finally, to you, to the incredible Civic Life staff, and to Commissioner Hardesty and her remarkable team, I am forever humbled by your commitment and support. Let us continue to work toward the common good, together.

Michael Montoya
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 and Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives

In May, City Council unanimously approved $1.8M for the Cannabis Program’s SEED Initiatives. The funding was awarded to 17 local nonprofit organizations and businesses to focus on:
  • Economic opportunity and education to communities, neighborhoods, and small business disproportionally impacted by cannabis prohibition,
  • Public safety; and
  • Drug and alcohol treatment programs
Read more about this year’s SEED Initiatives.
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, hundreds 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 immigrant 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 the immigrant and refugee experiences and journeys.

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

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

Laying the Framework for the Southwest Neighborhood District

Last spring, City Council supported Commissioner Hardesty’s Ordinance No. 190321 directing Civic Life to provide Southwest Portland neighborhood services as it currently does for North and East Portland districts.  

To start, Civic Life managed a competitive request for proposals. This process led to East Portland Neighbors/North Portland Neighborhood Services (EPN/NPNS) assuming the responsibility to expand insurance coverage to accommodate Southwest neighborhoods. On July 1, 2021, EPN/NPNS was able to provide general liability protection to all Southwest neighborhoods, and thereafter, acquired Directors and Officers coverage.

This fall, the bureau anticipates onboarding two new coordinators who will be full-time City employees. These Southwest coordinators will serve directly under the newly hired District Coalition Office Supervisor Shuk Arifdjanov who started in August 2021.

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 our work order requests increased by 300% in comparison to a “normal” year. We also shared that we had a plan to bring on five new, emerging businesses to begin contractor graffiti removal services with the City of Portland. We are pleased to announce that not only have our work order requests stabilized, but this fall all five contractors will be working on citywide clean-up efforts.   

Additionally, we have drafted an ambitious but 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 Businesses Reemerged

As the City began to reopen from COVID 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.

We 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 be more aware of the noise code. Our partner 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 outlook.

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 our website.

Everyday Civic Life

I am very proud of the work Civic Life continues to do across the City. Our programs are committed to promoting a culture of inclusive, safe, and livable communities. Take a look at some of the metrics that showcase other parts of our work by the numbers.
Civic Life Employees

  • More than a dozen job recruitments will be completed by the middle of this fiscal year
  • 73% of our 40 current employees speak another language fluently
  • 11 languages (not including English) are represented in our bureau
  • 14 services and programs are housed at Civic Life 

Neighborhood Associations & District Coalition Offices (DCO)

  • $2,377,698 in grants for district coalition offices
  • $250,000 in small grants will be restored to the DCOs, and those RFPs are rolling out soon 

Trainings Administered

  • 139 trainings were offered by the Community Safety team
  • 430 City employees were trained on Centering Mental and Metal Health First Aid
Technology & Information System Upgrades
  • Several overdo technology upgrades were launched to provide a better user experience when managing liquor and cannabis licenses
  • Hundreds of webpages were migrated to the the City's new web platform, and a user-friendly neighborhood association directory tool is in design and will be launched soon. Check out our new website
Office of Community & Civic Life
1221 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 110
Portland, Oregon 97204
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