Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement is History

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KBOO's Joe Meyer speaks with Dr Micheal Mehaffy about the demise of Portland's ONI

Portland's neighborhood system and commitment to public participation has been nationally recognized for decades. 

Back in nineteen seventy four (1974) neighborhood-level participation was formalized with the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Associations.

In nineteen ninety nine (1999) the name was changed to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

Under Mayor Wheeler, this office quietly changed names again – this time with fundamental changes to its mission.

For more, KBOO’s Joe Meyer spoke with neighborhood activist and urban Philosopher Michael Mehaffy.



Portland has 95 officially recognized neighborhoods, each represented by a volunteer-based neighborhood association – mine (and KBOO’s) is called the Buckman Neighborhood Association.

These associations have served as a liaison between residents and Portland city government since 1974.

Earlier this year, under mayor Wheeler, the office of neighborhood involvement was changed to the Office of Community & Civic Life.

Is this a move towards greater inclusivity? or part of a larger mission to mow down Portland’s grass roots democracy?


Michael Mehaffy is a neighborhood activist and executive director of Portland’s Sustasis Foundation.


That was neighborhood activist and executive director of Portland’s Sustasis Foundation Dr Michael Mehaffy


Democracy in Portland has widely recognized structural problems including a Centralized commissioners-based government and at large elections.  Portland’s neighborhood associations had been a counter balancing and democratizing influence.  Now Mayor Wheeler’s city council is throwing neighborhoods under the bus: the neighborhood associations are being powered down and, through Wheelers Residential Infill Project, single family neighborhoods are set to be bulldozed by an unrestrained free market, all for the benefit or developer, realtors and other special interests.


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