What Are You, Deaf? 

Council Continues to Ignore Public Concerns

A few weeks before 600 residents joined hands and surrounded Mt. Tabor's water reservoir in protest, city council member Jim Francesconi sent a memo to his cohorts. The letter expressed deep-seeded concern that city council has left the public out of the loop when making major decisions. In question was a proposal to place covers over the city's water reservoirs. Everything from concerns about bird poop to terrorist attacks have been cited as the motivation for the covers.

But when making the decision and setting up a timeline for the project, city council failed to host meetings for the general public to voice their concerns and questions. That administrative mistake sent 600 protesters to Mt. Tabor park last week. Although some of the demonstrators encircling the reservoir clearly opposed covering the water, the majority were more disturbed that they were never consulted. After all, some pointed out, it is their backyard.

That sentiment--that the public is roundly ignored or disregarded by city council--has emerged as a disturbing and unshakable trend. In Francesconi's memo circulated to other council members, he stuck firmly to his decision, yet sounded sincere in his regret that the neighbors were left out of the decision-making process.

"At its core, the decision reflects how the city makes important choices about the infrastructure that affects all of our citizens," wrote Francesconi. "And up to this point, citizens have not had the opportunity to speak to the council directly. I believe that we must hear directly from those who have questions."

Last summer, without public hearings, the mayor implemented a new sit-lie ordinance allowing police to hustle along street sitters. And there is an ongoing uproar from residents who are opposed to a proposed tram to OHSU's campus. With few public meetings, Mayor Katz has pushed ahead plans, claiming the tram will be a Portland icon for the next century.

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