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April 26, 2006 Meeting Notes for BIP #9: Public Involvement

1.  Greetings/Review of the Agenda/Handouts
Members Present:
Art Alexander, Eileen Argentina, Kelly Ball (on behalf of Marsha Palmer), Laurel Butman, Christine Egan, Brian Hoop, Sandra LeFrancois, Karen Withrow.
Members Not Present:
Jo Ann Bowman, Lynne Coward, Sue Diciple, Gay Greger, Tim Hall, Barbara Hart, Beth Kaye, Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong, Mary Jo Markle, Anne O’Malley, Cameron Vaughan-Tyler, Rick Williams.
2.  Notes from March 29th:
Karen motioned & Laurel seconded the motion to approve the notes.   The notes were agreed to as written, with one minor edit (change from “4 tools” to “4 levels” at bottom of page 3).  (Note: Public comments came after approval of the notes, so there were edits made to the public comments section from the March 29th meeting notes, as suggested by John Ryan.  See March 29th notes on website for edits made).
3.  Public Comments:
John Ryan spoke with Eileen Argentina a couple of weeks ago.  His work is very high level and may not be appropriate to introduce at this time to the whole group.  His draft specification is done and is not very technical and is more based in psychology and community development.  He mentioned his document “The Innovation Culture: A Gateway.”  He will be reducing his involvement for now, and may check back later to see how this group is progressing.  He submitted a paper with several edits to be made to his comments in the Public Comments section of the March 29, 2006 meeting.
4.  Art’s Follow-up on Last Month’s Report:
The bureau advisory committees had a broader charge than the budget advisory committees and advised on issues such as policy, not just budget issues.  They also were less formal.  The budget advisory committees were more formal as they were appointed by Commissioners for their portfolios and were required at one point.  They usually were part of the budget process before the budget came to Council.
Budget advisory committees weren’t legally required.  Eventually, they just didn’t get put into the list of budget instructions/requirements.  There were often conflicts between the budget advisory committees and the Commissioners about the budget.
Q: Did some bureaus have both bureau & budget advisory committees? 
A: Yes, some bureaus may have used the same people, but others had 2 different and separate committees. 
5.  Brian & Laurel’s Report on Neighborhood Needs:
Last month, the group decided to have a report on neighborhood needs, as it could be an idea for a recommendation by this group to institutionalize earlier public involvement
Brian shared several reports from the City’s archive.  He had a report from 1977, the first year of the program, and from 1992-93, which was the last year of the program, which was addressing how to sunset the program or keep it alive.  Brian passed out a handout with notes from his research about the highlights and pros and cons of the neighborhood needs program (also posted online under “Background Information” on the BIP #9 webpage).
  • The needs assessment was a survey/prioritization process in which citizens worked with their neighborhood associations to identify projects from small, such as street signs to large, such as CIP’s, that they wanted to the City to tackle.  ONI’s staff compiled all these requests and sent them to the appropriate bureaus to respond. 
  • It was mentioned that in the era when Neil Goldschmidt was Mayor, there was a lot more federal money available.  As the federal government made cuts, the City had to use their money to make up the difference.  Less money made it hard to satisfy all of the public’s needs or wants.  In the Parks program, for example, they did matching funds for a while.  This helped some neighborhoods, but it didn’t work as well in others where it was harder to raise money. 
  • The whole neighborhood needs process was fairly time consuming – including activities such as surveys and report writing.  It didn’t seem worthwhile if there was likely to be little funding, if any, available.  This process did help teach citizens how the City worked.  It’s a lot to ask of both the public and City staff to do, but what is a good substitute? 
  • What if the needs inventory was done every year, and ONI was responsible for tracking projects?  The only problem is that this would add to staff workload.  Unless it’s funded and adequately staffed, any kind of neighborhood needs program would only frustrate the public more if they see nothing happening.
  • There is a limit to people’s endurance in waiting for projects.  The City needs to be willing to spent money every year on public involvement.  Just making info available will not motivate people to get involved or stay involved.
  • Neighborhood grants: There could be two tiers for grant programs – small and big, so people don’t have a lengthy process to get something simple like a stop sign or speed bump.  The City of Seattle’s has a neighborhood grant program of $4 million.  They give large grants ($10,000-100,000), small grants ($500-10,000), and organizational development ($250-1,000 for workshops, board retreats, etc).
  • We should come back to some sort of recommendation about how this relates to good public involvement, in regards to early identification or an intake process that is consistent.
6.  Discussion of Tools for the Toolkit:
It was commented that this team is working to eliminate barriers to public involvement.  The other thing we want to do is promote public involvement.  Do not assume that making something transparent, etc will make it happen.  It takes money and energy to sustain and make it actually happen.  People won’t just show up.
The team went through the list of tools (also posted online as a handout) and added several items. 
It was suggested that the team create a flowchart to put on the wall at future meetings to start showing our steps (such as the questions and the tools).  Metro has a list of tools they worked on at their last meeting that we should also look at. 
7.  Additional Public Comments:
Kate Warren from Metro’s Committee for Citizen Involvement (MCCI) has been looking at the tools BIP #9 is working on to see if there are any similarities to the work her committee is doing.  The evaluation process could be one area that could be jointly worked on between the 2 committees, as a combined smaller subcommittee.  MCCI is working on a minimum standards/best practices process, which may be something that all regional government entities sign onto.  MCCI has a lot of energy and ambition, but less direction, which BIP #9 does, so a combined effort between the two groups could be good. 
Metro has some good templates for public involvement, but they aren’t really used at Metro.  How do we implement something and make sure it gets used?  How do we make them meaningful?  Leadership can affect how much things get done.  A lot of the processes used at Metro are related to the federal transportation processes and NEPA processes which have very standardized processes and templates in existence.  Public involvement processes are still handled very differently across Metro’s bureaus and departments. 
It was suggested that maybe a subcommittee between BIP #9 and MCCI could come up with 3-4 ideas about how to link our questions with the IAP2 spectrum.  The pdxVision committee (BIP #1) can also be a review board for BIP #9’s work.
8.  Next Steps:
  • Revised list of questions and tools at next month’s meeting. 
  • Plan next month what to present at the BIP Implementation Team meeting in July.
  • Next agenda: put public comments before review of the notes.
  • Paul Leistner and Julie O’Dell are working on a short summary document of the previous Public Involvement Task Force’s work, and their goal is to ask the Mayor to ensure this is ongoing work.    They want to identify the 3-5 key recommendations that need the biggest focus.  Perhaps they should be a future agenda item for BIP #9.