Community service is something I believe is taught. When I was a young grade school kid I remember my Mom was a regular room mother, then a Den Mother for Cub Scouts. Before that I can remember my Grandfather would volunteer to lead singing at the Portland Rescue Mission, I loved the evenings I got to sit on stage and watch him lead the men in song, most of the clients back in the early 70’s were men as I remember. When I got to grade school and the call went out for crossing guards, my hand shot up! When AV techs were called for to run the Movie Projectors, count me in. In Middle School and High School I ran for Student Council every year I attended, lost once I think…I took on a Hot Freshman Cheerleader as a 7th grader ….a mistake, a political lesson I wouldn’t repeat.
When Kelly and I got married, we lived in the Woodstock Neighborhood, I got involved with the neighborhood association, later becoming president of the association with 45,000 people in it. We planted the street trees you see along Woodstock now, changing the land use to store front commercial. Southeast Uplift provided training, and guidance. we met regularly with Portland Police to discuss neighborhood issues. Then in 1988 Mulugeta Seraw was murdered in Sellwood by White Power Skinheads affiliated with the White Aryan Resistance. Tom Metzger was quoted as saying these skinheads did a civic duty, Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit against Metzger. Other than this being a nasty bit of PDX history there’s not much more to tell other than my part in this story had some bearing on my future. On an evening when Morris Dees was in town and wanted to speak….the only public meeting in the city of Portland was our little Woodstock Neighborhood Assc. meeting, we were slated to talk about street trees. It was a circus, Everyone showed up Police, News, Skinheads, Anti Racist Skinheads (which btw were varied ethnically and use black shoelaces I was informed) plus my friends and neighbors who were planning work parties to remove graffiti with carburetor cleaner and rags and plant trees. I was overwhelmed, I was President of the Association at all of 24, I tried to keep to Roberts and conduct a civil meeting that was desperately trying to be coopted. After that Kelly and I began talking about moving out to the country. We decided sometimes it is better to flee than fight the changes we saw coming.
It took a little while, but we ended up in Columbia County, first order of business was to read the County Comprehensive Plan… I know what a dork. You all should know Everything in government starts with land use, it is the rule that guides how our communities are built. Being that I believe community service is an adult duty in any place you live, I got involved with the chamber, some city planning committees. Currently I’m on the Public Health Policy board.
I bring all this up not to try and impress anyone about my service, or how I was raised to see it as a civic duty, but rather to illustrate a problem I see… people aren’t serving their communities in the manor we used to. We have become issue driven instead of community driven. If we truly want diversity and harmony I believe we have to reach back to the past. We must serve each other, be diligent and interact with our public officials. We have to stop name calling and start discussing solutions. If we ever hope to return to a better discourse in our capitol, we have to set the bar on a local level. Things in DC won’t change until they realize we won’t tolerate the nonsense any longer. So my plea is to stop playing team politics whatever your issue is, and start serving your community, we will all be better for it.