2017 Lents Neighborhood Association election guide

Let’s begin with the basics:

The Lents Neighborhood Association (website) is electing five new members on Tuesday, September 26th. The election’s being held at Lents Activity Center (8815 SE Woodstock). Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the meeting begins at 7 pm.

You have to live within Lents (map with official boundaries) or represent a business or non-profit within the neighborhood.

Screenshot 2017-09-25 at 6.22.42 AM

A piece of identification will be required (photo IDs, drivers licenses, a utility bill with a Lents address) or you can sign a statement of affirmation that you reside in the neighborhood. If you are representing a business or non-profit organization, bring a copy of the letter from that business / non-profit designating you as their official representative.

There’s a pre-election meetup at The Eagle Eye Tavern (5836 SE 92nd Ave) from 5 pm – 6:45 pm. The bar’s owners graciously offered 50-cent discount on drinks for the event. I must credit the Facebook invitation for the excellent Game of Thrones meme.

Nominations for the board can be made from the floor at the beginning of the meeting, and after that each candidate will have two minutes to introduce themselves.

Listed in the order received by LNA nominations committee chair Jo Lynne Cooper-Nearing, the candidates are as follows:

Chair:
David Potts
Sabina Urdes
Transportation Chair:
Christo Brehm
Judy Low
Land Use Chair:
Char Pennie
Cora Potter
At-Large Chair (two members, each for a two-year term)
Barbara Bader
Erik Benson
Robert Schultz
Jason Umtuch
At-Large Chair (one member, for a one-year term that’s replacing a resigned member)
Amina Wilson
 
I reached out to all the candidates, and found or received information on all but one of the them. They were asked these questions:
What made you decide to run? What is your relevant experience? What are your priorities and what would you do differently?
Candidates for Chair:
I reached David Potts by email this weekend. He wrote that it was a contentious election and he didn’t want to be the only one providing information. When I told him I had reached most of the candidates, he wrote that he’d rather provide that information on the night of the election.
Potts is one of three candidates not happy with the current board. He tried to have most of the LNA board removed at the August LNA meeting (@ 34:00) based on a long list of concerns that I couldn’t find or verify / disprove. There is a set process to remove board members that wasn’t followed, according to board chair Michael Collins. I asked him if he’d filed a complaint with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the City department that oversees neighborhood associations, but didn’t hear back from him.

Potts is a moderator of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association.

***
Sabina Urdes was one of just a few candidates who attended the forum Sept. 12th. I missed her introduction at the meeting, but she was gracious enough to talk with me after the election. She also posted an introduction on I Love Lents this weekend.
A Lents resident and homeowner for about two and a half years, her background is journalism and communications. After eight years in the newsroom, she wrote that for the last four years she has been “developing and implementing digital communication activities designed to maximize awareness, drive website traffic and increase stakeholder engagement” for a non-profit corporation.
When we talked, she said she is new to working with the LNA but aware of its frequent conflicts and confident she can deal with them. In her biography she emphasized her desire to facilitate communication between the board and neighborhood.
Candidates for Transportation Chair:

I didn’t hear back from him, but Christo Brehm introduced himself in a post on the I Love Lents Facebook page. He told organizers that he was unable to make the candidate meet and greet on September 12th because he was out of town.

Brehm wrote that he earned an undergraduate and graduate degrees in Planning, Public Policy and Management and Landscape Architecture from the University of Oregon. He wrote that he started working in the transportation world in 2006, with advocacy role with Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets.

Brehm has also worked in non-profits, and city and state government and currently works for a local consulting firm “focused on making our communities safe and enjoyable for all modes of transportation”.

***

I didn’t hear back from Judy Low.

She is currently on the board, and served as the chair until she was recently stripped of her duties by a board vote, according to LNA board member Jennifer Young. The concerns, Young wrote, included: not maintaining order and safety or following the agenda at meetings; not communicating for months with the board; and not following LNA rules for social media or posting meeting agendas.

Candidates for Land Use Chair:

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from Char Pennie, and was unable to learn anything about her online.
***
From Cora Potter:
“I have been working on community development in Lents for over ten years now. I actually didn’t get involved with the Lents Neighborhood Association board until 2013 though. My introduction, and education about community led wants and needs for the area through my service on the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee for Lents. In addition, I’ve served on advisory committees for Metro, Oregon Department of Transportation, and the city of Portland for a broad range on transportation, land use, economic development, disability rights, aging/senior plans and parks development plans. I’ve also been part of a team that developed a $31 million mixed use development from start to finish. In my work life, I also collaborate and coordinate with over 80 community based organizations throughout the region.
I have a detailed understanding of the history of our neighborhood, and all the future projects coming our way. I also know how larger plans and development patterns are effecting our neighborhood now, and in the future.
Our neighborhood is going to change, and because we are part of a larger city—community, there isn’t anything we can do to stop our neighborhood from changing. What we can do is help shape the way our neighborhood changes. I see my role as Land Use Chair as one of leveraging the relationships I’ve developed over the years to get the best outcomes for everyone in the neighborhood.
In addition, I think it’s really important to continue to advocate for the implementation of the rest of the elements of the Lents Park Master Plan, and to move forward to make changes to our meeting format and other outreach efforts with Equity and Inclusion (for people of color, immigrants, elders and youth) in the center of our efforts.
As far as what I would do differently— I’m actually asking that the direction come from the marginalized folks in our community: people of color, immigrants, youth, elders and people with disabilities. That’s why I think it’s crucial to continue our Equity and Inclusion committee work.”
Candidates for At-Large Chair: (two seats, each for a two year term)
Barbara Bader‘s response:
“I’m passionate about improving Portland’s poor air quality. I decided to run for an At-Large LNA board position in order boost our awareness, focus, and to take action to rid ourselves of the dangerous chemicals we breathe 24/7. I look forward to continue my current work on the LNA’s Livability Committee, and to support fellow board members as a member of the team.
I’ve developed some connections with— and learned a lot from— activists in other neighborhoods’ environmental groups, as well as organizations such as Neighbors for Clean Air and Green Lents. Last year, I invited several members from two SE neighborhood air-quality groups to present a roundup at an LNA general meeting about how they organized, conducted research, and were taking action to improve air quality regulations for industrial polluters. I believe Lents must develop its own strong cadre of air quality activists.
I first got involved in Lents’ livability issues during the 2008 brouhaha about the pros & cons of bringing AAA baseball to Lents Park. Since then, I’ve contributed on & off in a number of Lents activities & committees. Several examples include working (via Friends of Lents Park) on the Lents Park Master Plan, especially outreach and gathering input from our diverse community; coordinating orders & maintaining a relationship over a number of years with a vendor for Lents Grocery, and this year as member of the LNA’s Livability Committee (which organized & produced the successful Lents Town Hall) and the Nominations Committee. I regularly attend both general membership meetings and board meetings.
During my years working in the publishing world, in roles ranging from reporter/editor to editor-in-chief, I learned to value support and teamwork. As a filmmaker, that teamwork was especially essential. All LNA Board members must also work as a real team in order to move forward together with other LNA members to keep on making Lents a better and better neighborhood for us all.”
***
I reached Erik Benson and submitted him the questions but he didn’t respond.
He is another candidate not happy with the current board. At the candidate’s forum, he talked about what he saw as a lack of confidence in the board at the August LNA board meeting (@ 31:50). At that meeting, he also wanted how the board would bring the community together.
***
Robert Schultz is also not happy with the current board. He wrote that he was concerned about the board’s transparency when it came to spending, noting that the concerns were more “moral than illegal”. He was also concerned that there weren’t contracts for LNA projects, but Potter said contracts weren’t required.
He also wants to build inclusion, including a more open process when it comes to the LNA-controlled social media sites.
“I am running as none on the board have taken a position I can reasonably endorse.
I have been on the board before and very active in the community as a volunteer and coordinator for the street fair which attracted 2500 people to Lents and had inclusion with some notable entertainers like The Slants. A feat not seen before at the local fair (that of inclusion through booking of diverse entertainers).
My first priority is to see the community engaged, to have a board that listens to the frustrations of the community and advocates that position for the community to the city without self promotion for self gain but rather for the gain of the community, a board that hears people and attempts to solve issues in a civil manner is what I would like to be a part of.
Referring to the August LNA board meeting (linked in Potts’ description above), he said rather than shut Potts down, he would have given him time to talk.
Schultz continued:
“The LNA has a distinct failing to actively engage the community on a ground level and I am happy to walk through the neighborhood advocating for people to get involved. I have not seen a receptive community as they often have had negative dealings with current board members or find the system archaic. I would like to be part of redrafting the organization to better serve the community.
We have some 20,000 people in Lents and some 100 to 200 that even bother with the LNA thats a shame. I would like to see more activities sponsored by the LNA and be a part of planning and implementing them.”
***
I reached Jason Umtuch, and we discussed his interest in serving on the LNA board:
Jason wrote that he has been living in Lents for six months at the Native American Youth and Family Center’s new Generations community center. Umtuch said that in his past, he has served time in prison and lived on the streets. He’ll bring that experience insight to help build community and reach out to those in need:
“I am of indigenous decent, I have great experience in organizing and creating space for healing and comfort for the people. Sometimes the people feel awkward and unsure when things are hard.
“I am involved in the recovery community as well, one of Lents problems is the crazy people walking and biking around high off drugs.”
When I asked him what he wants to have happen, he said he just wants to work within the current leadership’s vision, but said, “I also stand by the good in people. Regardless of where their people come from. I am willing, to give my insight on the things that come up.”
Anything else, I asked. He responded:
Screenshot 2017-09-25 at 7.04.54 PM
Candidates for At-Large Chair: (one seat, for a one-year term)
Amina Wilson‘s response:
What made me decide to run is that I have an interests in making Lents better. I think that there is a misconception about how much influence the LNA has on the city, county, and state. I think that there needs to be a focus on what we can do within our power to improve the day to day lives of the residents of Lents. I think that the board needs a voice that is not from the entrenched existing members and not from the fringe vocal minority, but one that wants to represent the people who voices are not represented presently.
My experience is that I have worked in non-profit shelters for the last 15 years and I have a unique perspective that is one that is supportive of people whether they are renters, owners, or houseless. I have worked with a diverse group of other non-profits in the Portland area, along with working with the county and city.
***
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