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The City of Portland, Oregon

Community & Civic Life

Promote the common good

Main: 503-823-4519

City/County Info: 503-823-4000

TDD: 503-823-6868

1120 SW 5th Ave, Suite 114, Portland, OR 97204

Public Involvement in Portland featured in the National Civic Review


The Office of Neighborhood Involvement's Director, Amalia Alarcon deMorris and staff person, Paul Leistner, authored an article for the National Civic Review.  The article is titled From Neighborhood Association System to Participatory Democracy: Broadening and Deepening Public Involvement in Portland, Oregon.  


Citywide neighborhood systems are powerful public involvement tools—but, even the most developed neighborhood systems struggle to involve the full diversity of people in a community. Portland, Oregon has earned a national reputation for its strong tradition of neighborhood involvement and culture of participatory democracy. However, in recent years, many Portlanders, have felt left out or disconnected from civic life and local decision making.

Read the full article here.   

Reframing Public Participation Strategies for the 21st Century


This article by Judith Innes and David Booher from Planning Theory & Practice opens with the statement:


"It is time to face facts we know, but prefer to ignore. Legally required methods of public participation in government decision making in the US—public hearings, review and comment procedures in particular—do not work. They do not achieve genuine participation in planning or other decisions; they do not satisfy members of the public that they are being heard; they seldom can be said to improve the decisions that agencies and public officials make; and they do not incorporate a broad spectrum of the public. Worse yet, these methods often antagonize the members of the public who do try to work with them. The methods often pit citizens against each other, as they feel compelled to speak of the issues in polarizing terms to get their points across. This pattern makes it even more difficult for decision makers to sort through what they hear, much less to make a choice using public input. Most often these methods discourage busy and thoughtful individuals from wasting their time going through what appear to be nothing more than rituals designed to satisfy legal requirements. They also increase the ambivalence of planners and other public officials about hearing from the public at all. Nonetheless, these methods have an almost sacred quality to them, and they stay in place despite all that everyone knows is wrong with them."


Continue reading the article here.

Soul of the Community study reaffirms connection between engagement and economy


The Soul of the Community study offers new insights by exploring what draws people to a community and what makes them want to put down roots and build a life. Conducted by Gallup in 26 communities and funded the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the study probes the emotional factors that bind people to place.

In this, the second year of the research, the results show an even stronger correlation between people's passion and loyalty for their community and local economic growth. Researchers will examine this connection further in 2010. More information can be found at:



Sustaining Public Engagement - new report on how to embed deliberation in local communities


A new research report is available providing insights into how public engagement initiatives can grow into a regular practice involving people from many different parts of a community and spanning multiple issues. This report argues that the most successful of civic engagement efforts are those that address not only particular public issues such as school redistricting, domestic violence, or racism, but also improve the quality of local democratic governance. The report features concrete examples of sustained community-led dialogue and problem solving efforts that draw upon different approaches to public deliberation.

Read Sustaining Public Engagement: Embedded Deliberation in Local Communities produced in collaboration by Everyday Democracy and the Kettering Foundation.