On September 26, SW Portland resident Amber Ontiveros sent a Title VI civil rights complaint to the City of Portland, alleging that members of the César E. Chávez Boulevard Committee were "allegedly met with jeering, mocking, booing, and suggestions by the audience that a more suitable location [for honoring Chávez] would be the street corner of a rundown plaza on Greeley and Killingsworth or a hiring center of day laborers," at the September 18 Overlook Neighborhood Association (ONA) meeting on the proposal to rename Interstate.
Ontiveros, who could not be reached by press time, cited Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which says that "no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
The "alleged racist remarks could constitute intentional discrimination," Ontiveros wrote in a letter to Amalia Alarcon, director of the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which "coordinates the City of Portland's public participation activities" with neighborhood groups like the Overlook Neighborhood Association. The Mercury obtained a copy of the complaint on October 16.
"Unless the City of Portland takes immediate corrective action with the Overlook Neighborhood Association the city could be found duplicitous in the aforementioned alleged intentional discriminatory practices," Ontiveros added.
ONA Chair Eric Gale—who was elected at the September 18 meeting—says he hadn't heard about the complaint, which also alleges that the ONA board "did not stop the racist remarks," and "it appears that they may have incited the audience to attend the meeting in opposition to the community's proposal." (The entire complaint can be found at blogtown.portlandmercury.com.)
Ontiveros requested remedial action, but did not outline specifics. Deputy City Attorney Ben Walters, who is handling the complaint for the city, and Office of Neighborhood Involvement Director Alarcon, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.