Welcome to Village Portland

Welcome to Village Portland, neighborhood news & actions in East Portland.

We’re here to bridge the gap between news & civic participation… and to encourage folks get involved with their community and support their neighbors. There are a million voices fighting for your attention, but we want to help you connect with your village, your neighborhood… where your power to connect and make change is the strongest.

Sign up at the bottom of this page to get email notifications from Village Portland. We publish a weekly news and events multi-media post to keep up up to date on what’s happening in the neighborhood. You can also follow us on Facebook / Twitter.

Support us and help promote your business or organization to your neighbors by having us tell your story. You can also get involved and tell stories from your community through our multi-media citizen journalist training program. 

There are Village Portland sites for Montavilla, Lents, and Brentwood-Darlington:

Village Portland @ Montavilla

Village Portland @ Lents

Village Portland @ Brentwood-Darlington

Village Portland @ Richmond

We’re most excited about the Village Portland @ Montavilla site. It has the space for more in-depth stories, as well as a neighborhood directory where neighbors can find and learn the story of local businesses and organizations.

Explore your Village with DuckDuckGo, the search company that respects your privacy.

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If you’re an organizer or writer interested in bringing a Village Portland to your neighborhood, contact Andrew Wilkins, Publisher / Editor:

andrewtaylorwilkins@gmail.com

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Montavilla School, Part I: The Not-So-Gay ‘90s

By PATRICIA SANDERS

Writers note: When I began researching Montavilla’s first public school, I was unprepared for the extent of press coverage for what was initially a small suburban school. I decided that to give this institution its due, more than one article would be required. Here is the first installment.

I don’t know why we talk about the “Gay ‘90s”. If I look at the then-new community of Mount Tabor Villa (soon renamed Montavilla), it seems to me these years were anything but gay. For more than half those years, the United States was experiencing its worst depression ever.

Beginning with the Panic of 1893, it became known as the Great Depression. Fortunately, the push for a Mount Tabor Villa School got going in 1891 and 1892, but the ensuing years were difficult ones financially and socially.

Let me begin with the good news: the battle to create a school in Mount Tabor Villa, then we can examine the ensuing years of civic contention. I promise to end with some good news that closed out the decade of the ‘90s.

Grade School Children Posed in Classroom, with teacher standing in the back of room, Washington, D. C.
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, LC-USZ62-90211 

I can only admire those early residents of the Villa, as it was popularly called, for the determination to create their own school. When the Villa tract was established in 1889, it was incorporated into Mt Tabor School District 5. The problem was that this elementary school was so far away, on the other side of Mt Tabor, at what is now the corner of SE 60th Avenue and SE Stark Street.

This meant Villa pupils had to slog over or around Mt Tabor to get there. Besides being a long walk for the mostly very young children, imagine them doing it without sidewalks and with unpaved streets that turned into a rutted morass during our long rainy season. It’s not surprising, then, that very few Villa children attended classes.

Read more…

Amid an effort to remove two board members, KBOO is having its general board election

By ANDREW WILKINS

Andrew Wilkins

Enough signatures have been gathered and validated to force a special meeting to oust KBOO board leadership, wrote organizers of the effort.

Also as part of what’s described by them as an effort to return the independent radio station to its original values, the FreeKBOO Organizing Committee is asking for a strong turnout at the annual election.

KBOO membership elects its board through a vote-by-mail system.

At KBOO’s general election for its 12-person board planned for Monday, August 26th, four members are being chosen. There are eight candidates running, and you can read their candidate statements here.

Along with the four seats up for election, three additional seats are vacant. At the annual election the FreeKBOO committee wants the board to appoint members to those seats so KBOO can have a full board.

KBOO general board election, 20 SE 8th Ave * Monday, August 26th * 6 pm

The election comes amid an effort to recall two board members, who critics say have unduly acted in secret, mismanaged funds, unfairly dismissed employees, and created a hostile work environment.

In an email to supporters, the FreeKBOO Organizing Committee writes that they now have enough signatures to force a special meeting to remove Board President Ruban Lawrence and Board Vice President Danielle Parks.

According to the bylaws, FreeKBOO writes, the board must now set the day, time and place for the special meeting.

The petition titled “Keep KBOO True to Its Values” currently has 546 signatures. You can read more about the issue on the petition here.

Several associates of the FreeKBOO organizing effort did not respond to requests for comment, and the savekboo.org site, where updates used to be posted, is no longer online.

Willamette Week reports: “KBOO Staff Members Are Petitioning to Recall the Portland Radio Station’s President and Vice President”

No July board meeting was held. The reason given by the board was that a quorum couldn’t be reached because members were out of town, the Willamette Week reported.

Read more about KBOO’s core values, mission statement, and policies here.

All KBOO committee and board meetings are open to the public.

Full disclosure: Andrew Wilkins is a sometimes volunteer and former member.

The ins and outs of the Oregon mental health system

By DARREN MCCORMICK

Wikimedia Commons

Oregon’s treatment of the mentally ill has come under criticism both for placing people back into the public before they are mentally fit and for not placing people back into the public fast enough. For instance, see this article by Fedor Zarkhin of OregonLive.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless people in Portland has increased, and some of them are less than mentally stable. This is the first article in a series that will discuss the Oregon mental health system, how it is intended to function, and whether the laws for involuntary treatment are reasonable.

Specifically, there are two important questions that set the boundaries for the state’s actions: One, when is the state required to detain and treat a person for mental illness? Two, when is the state permitted to detain and treat a person for mental illness? The answers to these questions will tell us whether you can get another person committed for mental health treatment if you believe them to be dangerous. They will also tell us how easily someone who doesn’t like you could have you committed. 

Once you know what the rules are, you can decide for yourself if you think those rules are fair or whether they should be changed. What the rules should be is a difficult question to answer because it strikes at the balance between individual liberty and state authority. 

The first thing to understand about the Oregon mental health system is that it is entirely of Oregonian design. There are no federal laws relating specifically to the treatment of the mentally ill, though states must still obey procedure such as habeas corpus. This means that each state has its own mental health laws and policy. On the one hand, this is good news in that if we don’t like the mental health laws in our city, we only need to go to the state level to change them.

However, this is bad news if you think that the federal government could write laws that would raise the bar in states that are falling short of caring for the mentally ill. If you would like to read Oregon’s current laws, they can be found in ORS Chapter 426

To aid in understanding involuntary treatment in Oregon, I created a flowchart of the pathways into and out of the system. One crucial detail to note is that, in Oregon, two people is sufficient to submit a Notice of Mental Illness (NMI) and begin the process that can result in civil commitment. Civil commitment is the official term for when the state mandates mental health treatment for a person, though this does not necessarily mean that the person will be required to live in a locked facility.

In the next article, I will detail what criteria must be met for a person to qualify for involuntary treatment. Then both you and I will have a better idea of whether our NMI will have the desired result of getting a potentially dangerous person off the street and into a mental health treatment program.

We will also have a better idea of just how easy it might be for that neighbor who has it out for you to get you committed. 

***

Darren McCormick is an amateur philosopher applying to masters programs in political science. When not giving kids chess lessons, he examines local practices and governance through a lens of political theory.

Contact Darren:

darren.chessforlife@gmail.com

Berry-picking time

By PATRICIA SANDERS

If you talk to long-term Montavilla residents, sooner or later the subject of berries comes up. “Past 82nd Avenue,” you may be told, “there was nothing but berry farms.” An exaggeration— there were other crops like vegetables— but berry crops were a major enterprise in eastern Multnomah County and they stuck in people’s memory, perhaps because so many grew up with berry-picking summer jobs. 

Some of these berry farms were in Montavilla— for example, the 65-acre strawberry farm of German immigrant Nicholas Thomas located a quarter-mile east of 82nd Avenue on the south side of Stark. And Berrydale Park is a reminder of the importance of berry crops in eastern Montavilla.

But most Montavilla children picked berries at farms further east and many of these were owned by Japanese-American farmers, such as the Fujii family farm in Troutdale that has been in business since 1943. (Japanese-Americans, who came from rural areas in Japan with restricted farming resources, applied traditional intensive techniques that produced high yields.)

Strawberry Time in Oregon  Source: Oregon Blue Book, 1911

Summertime meant berry picking. Farmers needed workers to harvest their blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black caps, and blackberries. Children were out of school and ready to work to put a little money in their pockets.

Several Montavilla residents have told me about their experiences with berry picking and many, many Portlanders have shared their memories on Facebook. Their experiences date mostly from the 1950s through the 1980s. I like these stories because they seem so vivid and personal. Collectively they paint a picture of mid-20th Century Montavilla and East County as it was before the later urban sprawl. 

Most people mention getting up in the dark to catch one of the “berry buses” (old school buses) which fetched workers for a day’s work in the field. It was hot work and backbreaking, especially when stooping to pick strawberries. And with thorny berries, you’d probably end the day with pricked and stained hands. Still, there was fun, too: eating berries—maybe too many and cutting into your profits—, making new friends, having berry fights (which could get you fired).

Brothers Dave and Mike Kaplan, sons of Joseph Kaplan— who owned the old Hammond Portrait Studio on Stark across the street from the Academy Theater— have vivid memories of picking berries every summer from about age 11 until they got “regular jobs” at about age 15 or 16. Dave remembers getting the “berry bus” at SE 96th Avenue and Division Street. Mike took the bus that stopped at Vestal School. (Another stop in Montavilla was at the Ascension grade school. Possibly there were other pick-up points in Montavilla as well.) 

Both brothers remember picking raspberries at what is currently Advantist Health or Mall 205, just outside Montavilla’s east boundary. The strawberry fields they went to were further out, almost to Gresham and Boring. Strawberries earned them 50 cents a crate with a 10 cent bonus if they worked to the end of the picking. It was hard work and, in those days, pickers had no protection from either pesticides or the sun.

Some pickers, instead of catching the daily “berry bus”, camped out near the fields. EmmyLou Johnson remembers camping with her mother and three of her sisters during the week and going back to Montavilla on weekends. The berry farm where they camped was on 12 Mile Road, which seemed so far away when she started picking at age 11 or 12. The girls first picked strawberries, then later raspberries and finally beans, making enough money to buy their own school clothes. One year, EmmyLou missed a week of school because she wanted to finish picking the bean crop to get her bonus.

Such was many a child’s summer in the mid-20th Century. Now children, if they pick berries in quantity, are likely to do it at u-pick farms and earn not cash but toppings for shortcake or ice cream. As for me, I get my berries in my back yard or the Montavilla Farmers’ Market.

Times change. Memories linger.

Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here

Montavilla Gets a Playground

By PATRICIA SANDERS

Just the sight of a playground can send me back to the thrill of play. Leg hooked over a bar spinning around and around until the back of my knee was sore. Seeing how high I could go on a swing. Getting dizzy on the metal merry-go-round. Oh, the joy!

Ad for Everwear All-Steel Playground Apparatus.  Source: The American School Board Journal, vol. 65, 1922

Didn’t every child have this experience? Wasn’t it a child’s right? Well, no.

Playgrounds don’t actually go back that far and the first ones— dating from the 1880s in the US— were pretty modest, just sand in a big box, called sand gardens, set up in crowded eastern cities. 

Early Sand Garden in Boston.  Source: Clarence Elmer Rainwater, The Play Movement in the United States, 1922

Very soon, however, reformers and parents wanted more elaborate play areas for children of all ages. They advocated for safe, outdoor play areas with a variety of activities— games, sports, classes— which they believed would develop healthy bodies, sound minds, and good citizenship. So convinced was the American public, across the spectrum from progressives to conservatives, of the virtues of organized play that a playground movement gradually took shape in the early 20th Century. 

By 1900, 14 cities already had public play areas. The movement picked up speed and intensity in 1906 with the founding of the Playground Association of America. To promote playgrounds the PAA sent speakers around the country, published a magazine called The Playground and held annual conventions. When the PAA held its first convention in 1907, Portland’s Mayor Harry Lane appointed delegates from the People’s Institute Club and the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

By this time, Portland already had its first playground, located on the North Park Blocks between Davis and Flanders Streets, the result of the women of the People’s Institute, which lobbied the Park Commission for space and play equipment. Like other playgrounds of the day, girls and boys had separate areas and play was supervised.

North Park Blocks Playground.  Source: Portland Parks and Recreation, “Play Areas Technical Paper,” June 2008

Soon neighborhoods like Montavilla were clamoring for their own playgrounds. In 1909, the Montavilla Home Training Circle and the Montavilla Rose Association advocated for a Montavilla playground and put in a request to the Board of Education. However, it was not until 1921 that Montavilla finally got its wish but, at first, the play area was minimal at best.

Read more…

This weekend

The Beets building where Pegasus Project is located on Stark was sold in June. The owner took the opportunity to diss the City’s commitment to artist in this Willamette Week article.

Probably due to its owner, the art space gets a lot of grief from neighbors. But Pegasus Project hosted a clothing drive last weekend, as well as a Montavilla Street Fair afterparty with DJs, dancing, and swimming in their pool. Nearly every time I pop through something cool is going on.

I don’t think it’s surprising that a place like that could survive very long in a growing city, but it’s definitely been a hub for some beautiful moments.

***

Village Portland reporter Cory Elia wrote an interesting piece this week about his experience helping with the Point in Time homeless count that was released recently. Read it here

Lesley McLam, another Village Portland reporter took a closer look at what’s left after a homeless camp sweep. Read that on Village Portland @ St Johns here

The City claims there’s a process to make sure former camps are cleaned up after a sweep… have you found the site of former camps to been fully cleaned?

***

I’ts out of the neighborhood, but what’s been known the Foster shelter is having an event to celebrate its opening on Monday, August 12th (6 pm – 7:30 pm). 

The Laurelwood Center (6144 SE Foster Rd) will serve those who “identify as female and couples, with priority access for people 55 and over, those with disabilities, and veterans.”

For more info and who’ll be there, visit the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association site

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9TH

Whitenoise Project 21 (event):

“The Pilipinx Radical Imagination Reader is a collection of a multiplicity of beautiful voices from the Philippine diaspora exploring visions we carry for our dynamic, intersectional communities in this historical moment. “

Part of the APANO Arts & Media Project (AMP) Summer Series.

Milepost 5, 850 NE 81st Ave * 7 pm – 9 pm

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10TH

Community art:

“A mandala is a sacred spiritual symbol representing the universe. In this program, we’ll talk about mandalas as they appear in nature, and then create our own mandala projects using a variety of art supplies.”

Holgate Library, 7905 SE Holgate Blvd * 2 pm – 3:30 pm

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11TH

Farmers market:

For the full list of producers and some of the special fall produce available, go here.

Montavilla Farmers Market, 7700 block of SE Stark St * 10 am – 2 pm

Reflection: conducting the survey for the Portland Street Response

By CORY ELIA

My name is Cory Elia and I have been reporting on the houselessness crisis throughout the city of Portland for over two years now as a journalist and photographer. Seeing the Portland Street Response model program developing as I have is quite relieving to me.

Maybe because I see it as a step towards a more compassionate treatment of those experiencing crisis and traumas that have rendered them living on the streets or out of vehicles.

It’s also because there has been a well-documented history of interactions between first-responding officers and those experiencing mental crisis ending in a horrifying manner, sometimes even with the death of those having the mental episode. 

The Portland Street Response developed from the advocacy journalism of Street Roots and their journalist Emily Green. She saw an opportunity to use her writing to demonstrate that a better response system could be implemented in Portland.

Street Roots’s Emily Green reports: “Portland Street Response: A Street Roots special report”

My experiences in the field while conducting interviews with houseless individuals has taught me that the interactions between those on the streets, regardless of their mental state, and officers are rarely that of a positive nature. These interactions often seem to be the source of a fair amount of agitation amongst the houseless community.

As previously reported in Street Roots, Portland Street Response is being based on the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program in Eugene. However, the Portland Street Response is still in its preemptive modeling stage.      

Currently, volunteers are conducting surveys of the houseless community to figure out how to best implement the program throughout Portland. This inspired me to take part in the opportunity to help conduct this survey. It is unclear at the moment if there will be further surveying in the near future.

Photo credit: Cory Elia

I arrived at Street Roots on the morning of Thursday, July 18 around 9 am to take part in the surveying. The goal of the survey was to gather opinions from the unhoused on how they would like the interactions between themselves and first responders to go. 

When I arrived at their office I was one of the first people there, but quickly the main office was filled with around 30 people also there to take part. This was the second day of groups going out and conducting surveys, the Tuesday before being the first deployment of survey groups.  

After a quick run-through of the strategy for conducting surveys by Street Roots Executive Director, Kaia Sand, and a break down of the survey by Neal Sand of the Yellow Brick Road‘s youth program, the crowd separated into groups of two to three people. The main requirement for the groups was for each to have an individual who had lived experience of houselessness.

Having reported on the situation in the Lents neighborhood and having lived amongst that community myself, I volunteered to lead the group out there which consisted of: Greg Townley, who is co-director of Portland State University‘s Homelessness Research Action and Collaborative, a Street Roots vendor named Jeremy, and myself. We were also joined by KGW reporter Maggie Vespa.

KGW’s Maggie Vespa reports: “When should police be present? Street Roots, other groups survey homeless about the street response” 

Upon arriving at our first destination, SE 92nd Ave and Flavel St, around 10:30 am, it became apparent to me that the area had just been swept by City work crews due to the lack of tents I usually see there. Regardless of that, there was still a good amount of the houseless community in the area for us to survey.

I am well known amongst this crowd, not only for seeking out interviews with members of the community but also by some that are still living on the Springwater Trail. I was houseless myself and lived in a tent on the trail from 2010 through 2013.

This experience on the trail resulted in me being approached by several people before I was even prepared to conduct the survey and getting bombarded by questions like, “where have you been?” and “how are you doing?”

This is typically what happens to me when I show up in this area and it helped me getting several surveys completed in a matter of minutes.

The most disheartening part of this excursion was when my group ventured on to the part of the Springwater Corridor that runs parallel to the 97th Ave MAX stop and saw a Rapid Response work crew conducting a sweep of the camps.

Portland Mercury’s Thacher Schmid reports: “Oversight Questions Arise as Portland Pays to Clean Up Homeless Campsites”

The consensus amongst those living on the Springwater is all of a similar manner and that is that they have had both positive and negative interactions with the police, but that the negative interactions far outnumber the positive ones.    

They expressed that they would appreciate someone else like a crisis worker with a medical or social worker to be the ones to respond to mental health episodes— but they do see a legitimate need for police at certain times.

Between the three other members of the group and myself, we were able to conduct around a dozen interviews in about an hour at this location. Most of the people we talked to were willing to share their input.

The structuring for the Portland Street Response should be finalized for presentation to City Council around November. And if everything moves smoothly, should be up and running by January. 

Conducting the survey and leading the group as I did was an amazing experience that I was able to use my knowledge of where people are camped out to do some good.

***

Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.

Contact Cory:

Facebook: Cory Elia
Twitter: @therealcoryelia