Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Debrief - May 6, public meeting

This is a summary of the Tuesday, May 6, public meeting about the Portland Water Bureau’s construction project to disconnect the Tabor reservoirs from the drinking water system.

This was a jointly hosted Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA) and Portland Water Bureau (PWB) meeting, that came about after Commissioner Amanda Fritz joined with MTNA to carve out some public meeting/feedback time during PWB’s project design phase.  

MTNA formally posed the request for a design-phase public process on April 4, 2014.  The week of April 12th, Commissioner Fritz informally charged MTNA with the task of recruiting a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), to work in an intense, compressed public process with the goal of influencing the project design with the community’s perspective regarding impacts and outcomes.  A core group of MTNA representatives (Stephanie Stewart, Dawn Smallman, John Laursen, Paul Leistner) had seven days to recruit CAC participants and to begin preparations for a first meeting with PWB staff.  The MTNA working group reached out to members from several stakeholder groups and neighborhoods.   A compressed timeline on a complex project makes for an almost untenable volunteer request, and the MTNA core group is grateful for the “yeses” we received to our calls.

I am glad that some public process is happening in the design-phase, where there was none.  However, I recognize this isn’t the most appropriate process for a project with such significant implications and community investment.  It is not a fair workload to expect of volunteers, nor is it the best process Portlander’s could do for this project.  But it is better than nothing, and we have seen some limited progress.

Water Bureau presentation May 6
The Portland Water Bureau staff (Teresa Elliott and Tom Carter) presented a slideshow, to orient attendees to the project.  This slideshow is available online here:

The CAC did not see the slideshow before the May 6, meeting, so we too learned things from it.  I am pleased to report that several improvements have been made to this project since PWB first filed (and then withdrew) the Disconnect application in January.   MTNA, and other stakeholders, were very disappointed in the January design.  Some notable improvements PWB has made since January include:
  1.  a design that leaves the water inlets functioning such that the reservoirs can possibly be filled again
  2. several of the many mature trees previously planned for cutting have been saved
  3.  the weirs will no longer be visibly covered over with concrete
The CAC continues to seek improvements in the PWB design, as well as Council commitments regarding future site stewardship.

Community presentation May 6
First, the CAC working group clarified that we are a community group that does not believe the Tabor reservoirs need to be removed from our drinking water system.  We echoed MTNA's long-standing position that this is a waste of ratepayer funds, and that we continue to seek leadership that will work on behalf of ratepayers to delay these projects.  However, we are also a community group committed to protecting the park and all of its historic resources, so we have involved ourselves in this process to try and make this lousy project as good as it can be.

The CAC working group produced and presented a list of seven broad requests, that attempt to capture the community’s values and goals for the outcome of this major change at Mt. Tabor.  We provided a bulleted list for attendees, and we verbally walked the crowd through the details behind each of those bullet points.  This list of requests is a living document, continually influenced by feedback from the community.  It has already changed, since the public meeting on May 6, and the latest copy is available by clicking here.

We will negotiate with PWB and Council for the items on this evolving list.  This is the CAC platform, and I hope you will vocalize your support for this platform to all of City Council (by email, phone, etc.).  Your calls can help this list become a priority with Council.

Community Feedback
This meeting offered the community a chance to pose questions and comments to the panel.  Reportedly, the community feedback will be summarized by the facilitators, and when it is available I will link it here.

Next steps
The CAC and PWB will meet for at least two facilitated meetings in May.  These meetings are open to the public to come and listen, but these are work sessions between the PWB and CAC, and as such we ask you to let us roll up our sleeves and work.  The CAC will spend these meetings trying to secure as many commitments to CAC requests as possible.

Mondays, May 12 and 19
6:30-9:00 pm
Warner Pacific College
Christenson Conference Room - “AF Gray” Administration Building

Public Meeting: June 11
Water Bureau will file their final design with BDS on June 4.  This marks “Day 1” in the Type III land use review process (official process outlined here: ). 

The public meeting on June 11, will give the CAC and the community a chance to see what made it into the final design.
June 11, 6:30-8:30 pm,
Warner Pacific College
McGuire Auditorium, 2219 SE 68th Ave

In July, you will have the opportunity to enter comments into the official record for the land use case regarding this construction project.  The public hearing on this land use case will likely be in the middle of August.  For a rough outline of projected dates, view my blog post:     

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