Sellwood Moreland Improvement League

Why Get Involved With Your Neighborhood Assn.?

Nov 08, 2002

A version of this article, by then-SMILE President Kevin Downing, appeared earlier in the ?“Southeast Uplift Neighborhood News?” as a response to the question put to all neighborhood chairs. Kevin writes: Actually the better question is why get involved, because by virtue of residing, working or owning property within Sellwood-Moreland, you are already a member.

"There are a couple of reasons I can think of to be involved. The first is that we live in a large metropolitan area with lots of cultural amenities and employment possibilities. With all that, people still connect with each other best on a smaller geography. The Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) provides opportunities for people to identify and connect with where they live. For example, SMILE co-sponsors concerts in Sellwood Riverfront Park, where people enjoy the music and visit with neighbors in the early evening hours of Mondays in July. We also stage a popular Easter Egg Hunt in Westmoreland Park, a children's Hallowe?’en parade through the Westmoreland business district, and an annual free 'Holidays in Sellwood', with many local performers participating, in early December.

"SMILE supports neighborhood beautification efforts such as hanging flower baskets in the business district, and promoting an annual neighborhood cleanup that is so successful that it is used as a model for other neighborhoods. Events like these bring people out to enjoy themselves but also energizes folks to volunteer in support. People come out to help light the neighborhood Christmas tree, for example, and in the process get to meet more of their neighbors and put faces to names. All the while, our perspective is broadened a bit more, and we feel more at home. All of this effort also encourages people to come forward with their own good ideas, and the neighborhood association helps bring them to life--events like that children's Hallowe?’en parade and also the Holidays in Sellwood concerts.

"All of this culminates, in a way, with the annual Sundae in the Park celebration. In recent years, several thousand people turned out for a summer afternoon of music, magic, children's theater, and a variety of information booths with topics ranging from Oaks Bottom, neighborhood history to the activities of the local scout troop--all topped with an ice cream sundae and other tasty treats.

"In addition, a healthy neighborhood association also supports these opportunities where people have a chance to develop and exercise the skills needed to organize and stage these events. You can come to feel more powerful, effective and connected by being engaged.

"This leads to the second reason why involvement in a neighborhood association is important. It helps people to interact more effectively with city, county and regional governments and, I believe, helps train people in good citizenship skills. A neighborhood association provides the opportunity and framework to debate and discuss ideas, but also to organize ourselves to be effectively heard by our political leaders. For instance, Sellwood Moreland residents will shortly take a proposal before the Portland City Council to redesign Tacoma Street so that people on foot will become more on par with people in cars, in order that the street can function better to support businesses along it, and so that residents north and south of the street will experience Tacoma as part of the neighborhood rather than as a barrier. This groundbreaking change in policy will have been brought about by a number of residents. Working through SMILE, we have articulated a vision for the street and then organized and exercised our power to realize this dream. A good neighborhood association makes it possible for people to feel effective in the place where they live. Come and be involved."

The next SMILE General Public Meeting will be on the first Wednesday evening of the next month, at 7:30 pm, at SMILE Station, S.E. 13th at Tenino, one block south of Tacoma Street. You?’re also invited to attend the Board meetings on the third Wednesday evening each month, same time and place. Keep up with the neighborhood by regularly checking this SMILE website: !

Portland, Oregon 97202

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