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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

1221 SW 4th Ave, Suite 110, Portland, OR 97204

Frequently Asked Questions: Code Change

Frequently Asked Questions

City Code Chapter 3.96 Change



What is City Code?

City Codes are the governing laws written in the City Charter. City Code is changed by ordinance passed by the City Council. 

What is Chapter 3.96?

Every bureau has a chapter of city code, which defines that specific bureau's duties and functions. These can collectively be found here.

The current City Code Chapter 3.96 “creates a framework by which the people of the City of Portland may effectively participate in civic affairs and work to improve the livability and character of their Neighborhoods and the City.” According to Resolution #37373, "Chapter 3.96 no longer adequately represent the Bureau's current programs, responsibilities, or constituencies." This code reaffirms its commitment and responsibility to engage ALL Portlanders in efforts to foster and support civic engagement.

What is the Office of Community & Civic Life?

Civic Life connects the people of Portland with their City government to promote the common good. Its programs create a culture of collaboration, expanding possibilities for all Portlanders to contribute their knowledge, experience, and creativity to solve local problems and make life better in the city we all share. Its mission is to promote a culture of civic engagement by connecting and supporting all Portlanders working together and with government to build inclusive, safe, and livable neighborhoods and communities.

Why “Civic Life” and not “OCCL?”

To better serve multilingual populations, we refer to ourselves as Civic Life for short and do not use the “OCCL” acronym. When interpreted or translated into other languages, the term “Civic Life” can be meaningfully conveyed, while the acronym in English is meaningless. For example, in Spanish, the bureau’s name is Oficina de Vida Cívica y Comunitaria (OVCC); in Romanian, it might be Biroul comunității și vieții civice (BCVC), and so forth.

How does an updated Chapter 3.96 better serve Portland?

Portlanders have offered a vision for Portland that has equity, connection, and sustainability as core values. This vision is captured in The Portland Plan (adopted by City Council in 2012), visionPDX (2008) and Civic Life’s own Community Connect (2008) report.  Equity and effective, inclusive systems of community and civic involvement are at the heart of this vision for a growing, diversifying City. The 3.96 code change effort builds upon these City-adopted goals and resolutions as well as the accomplishments and lessons learned from the bureau’s first 45 years. 

How does this City Code Chapter 3.96 affect me as a community member?

Community members are currently served through a wide range of programs offered by the bureau, ranging from liquor and cannabis business licensing, to leadership development and engagement partnerships, to community safety programs. In order to serve more diverse communities and our growing City, we are reaching beyond our existing audiences and connecting with groups and communities whose lived experiences, values, and aspirations have not been reflected in Chapter 3.96. 

What does it mean for communities to not be named in code?

When communities have not been named in code, policy, or law—or when only some groups are named— this has had devastating impacts for being represented, served, resourced, and valued in this country. City leaders have acknowledged these historical injustices through City-adopted goals and commitments to serve all Portlanders, including all racial and ethnic groups; all community members regardless of age or documentation; recognizing the sovereignty of Native tribes; and condemning exclusionary practices.*    

We have a moral and legal obligation to remedy this in Chapter 3.96, which currently only names three types of groups for “recognition” and “acknowledgment.”  In 2019, government must recognize all groups and communities in the ways they identify themselves and ask to be acknowledged by their government.   

  1. Resolution Number 37277 (2017): Declare the City of Portland a Welcoming City, a Sanctuary City, and an Inclusive City for all
  2. Resolution Number 37144 (2015): Adopt the Citywide Racial Equity Goals and Strategies, as presented by The Office of Equity and Human Rights, to guide City policies, plans and procedures
  3. Resolution Number 181290 (2007): Authorize an Intergovernmental Agreement with Multnomah County to designate the Multnomah Youth Commission as an official youth advisory body to the City of Portland and Portland City Council
  4. Resolution Number 37039 (2013): Action plan for an age-friendly Portland
  5. Resolution Number 37414 (2019): The City of Portland condemns white supremacist and alt-right hate groups
  6. Resolution Number 36941 (2012): Formalize governmental relationships with Tribal Government Partners and establish government-to-government consultation agreements

Why have you chosen to name "all Portlanders" in the code?

In such a dynamic city and world, we cannot know how communities will organize and identify in the future. To solve the complex issues we face, we will need everyone’s voices engaged in decisions that impact us all. When we name one type of organization, it becomes incumbent upon us to name every conceivable type of community organization. Inevitably, a list will inadvertently leave communities out, perpetuating a system of exclusion.  

Instead, we propose to name all Portlanders as the group who is served by Chapter 3.96:  “The Office serves people who live, play, worship, and/or work in the City of Portland as individuals and through all forms of groups (including but not limited to affinity-, business-, community-, issue-, and neighborhood-based groups) and across generations.”

What are tools for accountability between Civic Life and community groups?

When there is an exchange of funds (e.g., a grant award or other awarded proposal), Civic Life and the recipient organization enter into a contract that includes but is not limited to guidelines, deliverables, intended outcomes, reporting requirements, and other metrics. This is already the case with our funded partners.

When the relationship is one of learning, sharing, and working together on shared goals, the accountability for building inclusive systems rests with government. Chapter 3.96 defines the functions of the bureau, not the functions of community groups.  The updated code will direct the Office of Community & Civic Life to support communities through policies and programs that build connections with all Portlanders.

How will the code change impact my neighborhood association's access to liability insurance?

Insurance coverage is important for groups to conduct work in their communities. The bureau supports and intends to continue supporting neighborhood coalition with grant funding, one of the purposes of which is to continue to offer insurance coverage for smaller volunteer groups (including but not limited to neighborhood associations). That function is defined in the grant agreement with the coalitions and does not need to be addressed (nor is it impacted) at the level of code.

The issue of insurance coverage is one shared by many types of small, volunteer groups. In fact, our Diversity and Civic Leadership partners also provide insurance coverage for culturally specific and other volunteer groups. The code change allows us to focus on the conditions needed for all groups to be successful - and allows us to work together across all types of groups to find better solutions for shared concerns/needs.