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Notice of the planned sale of Mt. Tabor land came to me in several different ways. In August of 2006, when Warner Pacific announced in their newsletter that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the City to explore the purchase of the yard, I was President of the South Tabor Neighborhood Association (STNA). The college contacted me to request a meeting with neighbors to discuss their campus expansion. Unfortunately, that conversation wasn’t able to take place, for reasons I will explain below. Details of the purchase weren’t shared with me, and campus expansion plans were kept broad. Conversations were limited to a handful of phone calls and emails, but were always pleasant, and the college seemed genuinely interested in meeting with neighbors to win their approval and map out the future.
Shortly after the college contacted me, murmurs of discontent over its agreement with the City emanated from community members. Emails, phone calls and listserv postings questioning the integrity of the deal reached me, and neighbors seemed genuinely frantic that they were being purposely shut out of the process. For the most part, however, my South Tabor neighbors – those that live between southeast 82nd and 52nd to the east and west and S.E. Division and S.E. Powell to the north and south, were silent on the issue.
Throughout the United States, and in democratic governments around the world, an increasingly educated citizenry is demanding an equal role in the planning policy of local governments. Elected officials, recognizing the need to embolden its citizens, have looked for ways to reach out to the community. No where is this more apparent than in Portland, Oregon, where a number of endeavors seeking community input have been established by City leaders, such as Vision PDX, Community Connect, and voter-owned elections.
Progress needs to be made, however, and even the best examples of government and community collaboration can fall apart. In the summer of 2006, the City of Portland made an agreement with Warner Pacific, a private liberal arts college located in southeast Portland, to sell public land for campus expansion. The area in question was 10 to 20 acres of industrial use land located on the south side of Mt. Tabor, a unique geographical feature that sits in the center of southeast Portland. Mt. Tabor is host to a 200-acre public park, the City’s water reservoirs and an active and politically savvy neighborhood.
Since the fall of 2006, I have been working in partnership with the City of Portland and the community to update the Mt. Tabor Master Plan – a visioning document that establishes the long-term use of public land on Mt. Tabor. At the same time, I have been earning my Master of Science degree from Portland State University, where I have been enrolled in the Leadership for Ecology, Culture and Learning program.
Interested, and active, in equitable partnerships, I chose to focus on the Mt. Tabor Central Yard & Nursery Planning Group for my culminating project to analyze the relevance and effectiveness of community partnership. I even go so far as to make a recommendation or two ; )
In the coming weeks, I will be posting chapters from my research. Please check back for updates.