News Release from Portland Comm. Jo Ann Hardesty
May 13th, 2021
Director Suk Rhee joined the then-Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) in August 2017 and was asked to reform a troubled bureau suffering from limited accountability and outdated funding and program models. During this time, Director Rhee better aligned the bureau’s work with the City’s anti-racist and equity goals.
“I appreciate Director Rhee’s service to the City and the accomplishments that she has made over the past several years,” said Commissioner Hardesty. “As a result of her efforts, Civic Life is poised to lead collaboration directly with impacted communities and constituencies and with other City bureaus to develop more equitable processes and outcomes. The transformation from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement to the Office of Community & Civic Life (Civic Life) enables us to take on new efforts and partnerships for these challenging times.”
Over the last three years, Civic Life delivered meaningful outcomes for communities, with a focus on those least well served by government. In addition to the daily achievements of 16 bureau programs, collective accomplishments under Director Rhee and Civic Life’s leadership and programs teams include:
- Establishing the bureau’s mission of civic engagement as a means to achieve racial, disability and social justice.
- First-in-the-nation partnerships following the leadership of communities:
- 2020 Census “We Count Oregon” campaign: ensuring the City’s historic $600,000 commitment and contribution toward a public/private $10 million statewide campaign.
- Universal legal representation for deportation defense: following the work of the bureau’s “Welcoming, Inclusive and Sanctuary City Task Force,” ensuring the City’s $500,000 commitment and leveraging it toward a $2 million statewide investment.
- $2 million toward a $20 million Oregon Worker’s Relief Fund: for workers who do not have access to unemployment-type benefits as part of COVID-19 relief efforts.
- Launching new bureau programs designed with racial, economic, and social justice goals:
- Cannabis Social Equity & Educational Development initiative
- Portland United Against Hate (now a community-led effort)
- Advisory Boards and Commissions and Adapt to Impact programs
- Constructing Civic Dialogues
- Collaboration with the Office of Management and Finance to co-launch the City’ 311 program building upon the City/County Information and Referral program.
- Opening up previously closed funding opportunities to organizations led by communities of color and disability, and “minority-owned” and small businesses through Civic Life’s Constructing Civic Dialogues, Disability Justice Leadership, and graffiti removal programs.
- Building the bureau’s capacity to serve a rapidly diversifying and densifying Portland through professional communications (the first in its 47-year history) and 21st century technology.
- Securing a home for the bureau in the Portland Building, bringing together teams on both sides of the river for more collaborative and cohesive functioning.
“I thank our talented team and community partners who have always led the way,” said Director Rhee. “The pandemics of racism and COVID-19 have once again exposed how our society works and what transformation is necessary and possible through community leadership for justice. There is a time and season for everything; this part of the journey is over, the next begins. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. Please continue to support the great people at Civic Life who work every day with Portlanders to promote the common good.”
Because this is a personnel matter, Commissioner Hardesty will have no further comment. More information from Commissioner Hardesty regarding the future of Civic Life will be announced soon.