Civic Life's 2022 Year-In-Review

News Article
A musician on stage sings into a microphone and plays a güira, a metal tube with raised bumps that are scraped with a stiff brush.
Read a message from Interim Director Montoya and a summary of some of Civic Life's work in 2022!

Greetings Portland Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
The Charter Commission’s proposal passing in the recent election made it clear that Portlanders are looking for transformative governance. Our communities want a City government that is responsive, results-oriented, and accountable to all Portlanders and their unique concerns.
Today, I want to report to you how Civic Life has enhanced our services, highlight what we have accomplished, and showcase how we put your ideas and feedback into action. In the last year, we have:

  • Aligned the bureau’s programs to reflect Portland’s demographic changes over the last 10 years.
  • Provided professional development opportunities for staff and leadership in the areas of fiscal management, customer support, communications, collaborative public service, and equity.
  • Improved processes for our licensing and regulation teams, business operations team, grant programs, and communications team by using new technology to automate workflow, unify and improve communications to constituents, and increase employee training and resources.
  • Worked to ensure that like-programs were matched with like-bureaus. The Community Safety Program moved to the new Community Safety Division in summer 2022. In fall 2022, the Graffiti Program moved to the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability.
  • Launched our multiyear strategic planning process, the Portland Engagement Project (PEP).

I am immensely grateful to you, our Civic Life staff, and our government, nonprofit, and grant partners who regularly collaborate with us to resolve community issues and create solutions that serve all Portlanders. There is much more work to be done. Please read on to learn more about how we are working to provide you improved and much-needed services.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye to our Commissioner-in-Charge, Jo Ann Hardesty, and her team. With their steady support we were able to bring equitable work and policy advancements to City Council and build a path toward a City that serves all Portlanders.
Thank you and happy holidays,
Michael J. Montoya
Civic Life Interim Director

What is the Portland Engagement Project?

PEP is the opportunity for all Portlanders to design a more equitable community engagement model to solve issues today and into the future. You can learn more about PEP on our website.

Listening Sessions: The City will host listening sessions to gather input from Portlanders. Data: Civic Life is using 2020 Census data to understand who we serve and what they need. Mulit-day summit: The City will host a summit for experts to present engagement models and concepts to Portlanders. City Network: City staff will learn from what other cities are doing. Design + Enactment: Civic Life will make a public report, design the new model, get City Council approval, and implement it starting in 2024.

95 Data-rich Neighborhood Profiles
In partnership with PSU’s Population Research Center, we launched drafts of 95 data-rich neighborhood profiles in summer 2022. When completed, these neighborhood profiles will:

  • Help the City and our community partners improve outreach.
  • Set programmatic priorities unique to each neighborhood.
  • Help Portlanders in need.
  • Sharpen our understanding of the unique changes and issues occurring in each neighborhood. 

Portlanders submitted more than 100 comments about the profiles during a three-month feedback period. Our next step is to use your feedback to edit and finalize the neighborhood profile PDFs to present the data in a clearer, more user-friendly way.

We are also working with PSU to help build an interactive map that contains this demographic data by neighborhood, and your feedback will help us build search functions to filter data when using this interactive map tool. Both deliverables should be ready to share in mid-2023.

PEP Listening Sessions and Summit
From spring 2022 to late summer 2022, the consulting firm Pregame completed a series of internal listening sessions that challenged City employees to reimagine what more equitable community engagement would look like to solve issues today and into the future. More than 500 employees participated, and a summary report was issued in late 2022. You can find it on our website.
In early 2023, we will formally start the multi-month public listening session phase of PEP. These listening sessions, facilitated by Pregame, will seek to hear from all Portlanders about how they want to engage with the City and the barriers preventing them from doing so.
In spring 2023, we will host a multi-day summit to hear solution-oriented engagement concepts from local and national engagement experts. What we learn will help inform the improvements to the City's engagement systems. We will have more information about this event for you soon.

Trailblazers of Cannabis Regulation
Portland has one of the country’s most innovative, equity-centered, and resilient cannabis ecosystems thanks to the creative problem-solving and programming led by cannabis businesses, community members, and Civic Life’s Cannabis Program.
Portland became the first government jurisdiction in the country to allocate cannabis sales tax revenue to help cannabis businesses and workers endure the impacts of theft, COVID-19, and wildfires. City Council's vote for the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) was historic, as their approval allocated $1.33 million in cannabis tax revenue toward recovering Portland's cannabis industry.
Because the need for relief was so great, Council approved another $457,000 to safeguard Portland’s cannabis industry in July 2022.
This video showcases the work of the CERF and how it provided relief for cannabis employees and businesses in Portland.

This year, the Cannabis Program also hosted Cannabis Empowerment Day, Portland’s first government-led cannabis community event. The event brought together community members, industry professionals, and government regulators to celebrate the work being done to build an equity-centered cannabis industry and deliver reparative justice to those communities most impacted by past prohibition.  
In September 2022, SEED began its sixth grant cycle and is already showcasing tremendous innovation, wore than 80 businesses and organizations applying for a portion of the $1 million in grant funds. You can learn more about our grantees and their great work on our website.

Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees to Portland
In 2022, Portland welcomed thousands of immigrants and refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other areas facing difficult conflicts. Civic Life’s Immigrant & Refugee Program helps to connect people in these communities to the City of Portland.
The Immigrant & Refugee Program worked tirelessly to put on Portland’s second-ever Welcoming Week in September 2022. The program worked with dozens of community and government partners to:

  • Organize musical and dance performances, panels discussing immigrant identity and justice, art featuring immigrant and refugee artists, and more.
  • Connect new arrivals and long-term residents to culturally specific organizations and support networks.
  • Provide technical and language assistance to help navigate unfamiliar government processes, utility payments, school registration, and more.

Small Grants for Communities in East, North, and Southwest Portland

The Small Grants & Sponsorships Program funds activities and projects that strengthens community, builds inclusion, and supports engagement in the City-run District Coalition areas. These funds support work primarily led by and serving communities historically unrepresented and underserved by the City of Portland. These communities include elders, youth, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, immigrants and refugees, low-income individuals and families, and LGBTQIA2S+ people.

This was the first year that all three City-run district offices worked together to administer their grant application cycles. They received 50 grant proposals during the application window, which closed in November. We look forward to sharing more information about our grant recipients in 2023. You can learn more about our grants and past grantees on our website.

Automating Licensing for Businesses

The Liquor and Cannabis programs both migrated to our new automated licensing system, Civic Portal. Civic Portal is a more secure, streamlined way for licensees to submit applications, provide documentation, and communicate with regulatory agencies. This tool has also reduced reliance on paper applications and mailed communications for renewal notices by making all license-related communications digital.

Civic Portal is the result of multiple years of hard work from the Liquor and Cannabis programs to identify, research, and implement the best product to increase security, sustainability, and user experience. Learn more about Liquor Licensing and Cannabis Licensing.