One of the things I do with my free time is run the quarterly newsletter for the neighborhood association. For instance, tonight I spent an hour doling out assignments to writers, contacting local business owners to sell advertising to them, creating invoices, editing content, etc. I will likely need to spend at least an hour a night until it’s time to put this baby to bed on April 3 (cross your fingers we don’t blow that deadline!).
Ad sales represent only a portion of the budget for the paper, which we mail to 1,400 residences in the neighborhood. The bulk of our funding comes from a grant through the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement. ONI oversees 5 different neighborhood coalitions, which in turn provide support, funding and resources to the city’s 92 neighborhoods. This structure of community organizing WORKS. But if the Right Budget for ONI doesn’t pass, the neighborhood coalitions risk losing funding. It also appears that the grant that funds our newspaper (and several other community events and projects) is going to be eliminated altogether.
Below is my letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioners Leonard, Fritz, Fish and Saltzman. Remember how President Obama asked us all to serve our communities? News flash: we’re trying. But it’s hard to do without money.
Dear Mayor and Commissioners,
I am the communications chair for the Boise Neighborhood Association. For the past three years, we have relied on a small grant from ONI to support our volunteer-run community newspaper. The newspaper is the only method we have of reaching every neighbor—to communicate important events, meetings, votes and news in the area. Additionally, we use the paper to enrich the lives and history of our neighborhood, through oral history pieces, student and neighbor poetry, opinion pieces and letters from neighbors, a calendar of classes and announcements for community-building events such as National Night Out, Senior Soup Day, Spring Clean-Up, the Mississippi Street Fair, etc.
We have been able to keep this effort going with a dedicated throng of energetic volunteers in the neighborhood—writers, designers, editors, students, retirees, full-time working moms, etc.—without whom we would never have the resources to publish anything. We sell ad space to local small businesses to support the paper as well. But ultimately, the most important source of funding for this endeavor is the ONI Small Grants fund.
Many neighbors have expressed support for the paper and a desire to ensure the continuity of it. To lose funding for this important project would not only effectively cut off communication between the neighborhood association and those whose email addresses we do not have (or those who do not have regular access to email), but it would also eliminate a valued resource in the community.
I understand that times are difficult and that we face an unprecedented financial crisis. I appreciate the enormity of the budgetary task before you. But building, supporting and maintaining cultural resources and dialogue between neighbors in our city is critical at a time when communities need to weave tightly together instead of being divided. I support the Right Budget for ONI, but please don’t cut small neighborhood grants—they make so much possible.
Communications Chair, Boise Neighborhood Association