LETTER TO THE EDITOR
On November 6th, the Portland School Department and Harriman Associates held a Community Forum at Reiche School to gather input on the proposed renovation of the school. The problem: a single calendar listing in one publication was the only public announcement of the forum and postcard notices were not mailed to all residents of the Reiche community. The result: the “community input” gathered at the forum which Harriman will be using during the first round of design is not truly reflective of the community.
When asked at the District 2 meeting on November 13th why all residents of the district were not notified of the forum, Emily Figdor, District 2’s representative to the School Board, could only say she was sorry notices did not go out to all but that there would be opportunity in the future for anyone interested to be involved. However, any such opportunities will not come until after Harriman draws up and presents initial plans based on the “community input” of November 6th. Ms. Figdor stated that “staff” (city? school?) sent the postcards and she didn’t know what went wrong. When pressed after the meeting on the need for a re-do that would include all interested members of the community, Ms. Figdor said that wouldn’t be possible.
Since Ms. Figdor stated during the meeting that renovation plans for the community-center side of Reiche would be part of the school plans, I and many others who were not notified of the forum are quite upset. The greater Reiche neighborhood has a long history of involvement in the community center.
In 2007, the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) applied for and received grant money to hold a Community Design Workshop. CDW recommendations are well documented and have helped guide further development of community center activities. For example, the swimming pool—which for years was totally inaccessible to children—now has open swims for all ages throughout the year. Also, thanks to WENA fundraising, children swim free on weekdays during the summer.
Other activities held at the community center throughout the year for residents of all ages include baby-toddler-parent play groups sponsored by the Public Health Department; Portland Adult Education and other classes in writing, music, yoga and tai chi sponsored by the Recreation Department; almost-daily exercise cases, movie nights, book club, Laughter Yoga, occasional social dances; and other educational opportunities such as AARP and AAA senior driving classes sponsored by WENA and the West End Aging-In-Place project. The Book Nook is open every weekday morning.
All of these activities serve to build community and neighborhood resilience such as that experienced during the past couple of years when Reiche and Riverton Community Centers served as warming centers during power outages and cold snaps. Scores of residents have invested countless hours over the years at Reiche Community Center. Leaving them and involved agencies such as the Public Health and Recreation Departments out of the planning process for the very expensive and long-overdue renovation project is unacceptable.
While the findings are not yet available, it was quite clear during meetings associated with the Community Center Needs Assessment sponsored by the Recreation Department, starting in Spring 2019 and continuing through the Fall, that residents want to preserve the small, community spaces now available at Reiche, East End, and Riverton schools. The large, central recreation facility that some have mentioned might serve other needs of city residents, but it would do nothing to preserve neighborhood unity.
It’s plenty early to re-start the planning process for Reiche’s renovations. Let’s schedule a new Community Forum before Harriman wastes time and money using incomplete or erroneous “community input” and ask City Hall for help in notifying all residents of District 2 so that input truly will be reflective of the community. I’m sure the city would be more than happy to put their very efficient system for notifying residents of upcoming meetings to use. I’ll be watching for my postcard this time around!
– Jo Coyne, West End