Portland Community Equality Movement Chief Petitioners Heather Sirr, <a href=

Portland Community Equality Movement Chief Petitioners Heather Sirr, left, and Collene Swenson gather signatures to place the measure on the November 2016 ballot. To accomplish the goal of city council election by geographic representation, they need 31,345 valid signatures by July 8, 2016.

Portland Community Equality Movement (PCEM) members are seeing a seasonal slow-down as the winter holiday season, colder weather and family obligations cut into signature-gathering activities; however, they’re determined to prevent their efforts from grinding to a halt. After months of reworking their petition, withdrawing and resubmitting it and facing opposition from various city officials, PCEM members are not about to give up.

The group has held several gatherings in public locations, where signatures were acquired for the movement to restructure the Portland’s city council and to make the city more responsive to outlying, largely working-class neighborhoods in east Portland.

Moreover, they’re eager to speak to any organizations—agencies, churches, fraternal organizations and more—to explain and promote their petition and to explain how a change in Portland’s governing body will benefit not only the citizens of east Portland but also residents of neighborhoods citywide.

PCEM organizer Collene Swenson hopes for endorsements from larger organizations, such as the NAACP, which will probably be voting on the issue in December or January. In addition, she’s received inquiries from some Portland Democratic Party leaders.

Unlike corporate-sponsored signature-gathering groups, PCEM is not able to hire professional signature gatherers. Like most worthwhile grassroots efforts that benefit the underrepresented, it operates on an embarrassingly small budget. Swenson thinks it unlikely that corporations would be interested in a citizen-based action designed to empower the ordinary resident. She is willing to send group members to neighborhood association events and meetings, even though these city-sponsored groups are often unwilling to lend their support.

As Swenson points out, “Many community activists started out joining neighborhood associations, leaving them when they realized activism wasn’t their goal.”

Authentic community groups rising from real neighborhood needs not addressed by the city (or its self-regarding, sycophantic neighborhood associations) have provided local leadership that continues to influence these areas. Examples are Linnton’s efforts to de-annex from Portland and St. Johns’ “Stop the Lombard Plan” actions. Swenson hopes to connect with some of these experienced community activists. East Portland residents interested in having Swenson speak to your group or becoming involved in helping change the city’s governing structure, including signature gathering or other related volunteer efforts, call her at 503-284-4424.