"Hi Deb, you said I should call you at home..."

T.A. Barnhart

You know that crosswalk that seems to get worse and worse? The paint is peeling, the warning sign is behind a tree that gets bigger? And on one is doing anything about it and you fear for your life everytime you try to get to the store? Deb Kafoury said to give her a call at home; she’ll get it fixed for you.

Ok, she did not say that exactly, but the Multnomah County Commissioner did point out one of the things that make Portland a special place to live: Most of our elected officials live in the neighborhood and are easy to find. Those who really care about the neighborhood will be aware, if not of the problem, at least of that intersection, or that building. They’ll understand the need almost as soon as it’s brought to their attention.

Gov Roberts, for example. She lives on SE 13th in Sellwood, and she was one of those attending a town hall meeting hosted by state Rep Carolyn Tomei and state Sen Diane Rosenbaum. Gov Roberts was there as a member of the community to talk about the Sellwood Bridge, and when one audience member spoke of the need for increased physical infrastructure to control how people passed through the area, she spoke up.

“I live on 13th, and I cross that street all the time,” she said, relating that because of how far apart crosswalks are on that and other main routes through Sellwood, simply trying to get across a street is a hazardous proposition. When your state’s former governor, who is still and a popular and influential person, shows up at a town hall meeting as a neighbor, an “ordinary” citizen, you know you are on to something good.

Colette, Tomei, Rosenbaum, Kafoury, Peterson at the Sellwood town hall, Sept 23 2009

All five of the elected officials at last night’s town hall — Tomei, Rosenbaum, Kafoury, Metro Councilor Carlotta Colette and Clackamas County Chair Lynn Peterson — have a background in neighborhood life and politics. Colette, for example, got involved in politics because of a passion for street cars and a desire to see their use expand. Peterson, a transportation policy wonk, not only worked for TriMet but sees bicycles as one of the most important means of dealing with transportation and livability issues. I don’t believe you become a bicycle advocate through academic study; it’s being on a bike and riding the streets and trails of your community extensively that creates that kind of passion.

The Portland area — the entire Metro region, in fact, from Gresham to Clackamas to Forest Grove and back to little old Sellwood — is a crazy quilt of neighborhoods and identifiable areas that keep us from becoming a blob of an urban area and allows us to feel a part of our community. I’m not involved in neighborhood politics or issues, but I do know I live in Woodstock: this is my neighborhood and it has a certain quality of life to it that differs markedly from when I lived by Irvington Park or on NW 19th. I’m not just living on a street in “this” part of town; I live in Woodstock. That means something in Portland.

As does being an elected official in this area. It means you are available. Almost every elected official in our area — and this tends to be true throughout our state, one of the blessings of having only 3 million people living here — is someone’s neighbor. In Oregon, if you run for office, you are telling people: I am your neighbor, and you can bring me your problems almost anytime anyplace. State Rep Judy Steigler told me earlier this year, with pride, how constituents could talk to her in the grocery store. The old saying, attributed to Tip O’Neill, that “all politics is local” is probably no more true than right here in our area.

So really, take her advice: The man said the crosswalk was in serious disrepair,and Commissioner Kafoury said her office will make a call this morning to get it fixed. Find out which city councilor, state representative or Metro councilor lives in your area. I wouldn’t hang out at the end of the driveway, but keep your eyes open and, when you have a chance, say hi. I have not met one yet who isn’t open or friendly, and they all want your vote. That’s a good combination of factors that can help you get a bit of friendly face-time.

And maybe get that crosswalk fixed. By your neighbor.

For the discussion on the town hall's main topic, the Sellwood Bridge, and other issues, please visit tabarnhart.net

  • just sayin (unverified)

    It's nice to see a photo and article about engaged elected officials all of whom happen to be women!

  • Jessica (unverified)

    Why should that matter?

  • Pedro (unverified)

    Gov Roberts is the best. If she decides to run again for any office I'll be voting for her. The other elected officials are ok but Babs is the best!

  • (Show?)

    However, these same public officials won't cooperate across jurisdictions to call for a people's bailout that would bring federal dollars for operating expenses for needed public services during a deep recession when the local entities are hamstrung by balanced budget requirements.

    <h2>Like Jason Barbour, the Transit Rider's Union advocate who spoke out about the draconian service cuts being implemented by TriMet (while they subsidize Fred Hansen's work in Australia) I need Deb Kafoury and the others to get out of their organizational silos to be working on preventing those cuts.</h2>

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