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urbanMamas talk Housing & Parks with Nick Fish

3605804627_ca3aef479a_m Way back in Spring 2008, we met with city council candidates to talk about the city's policies for families.  We even hosted a mayoral forum to raise consciousness about family issues and hear what candidates were planning to make Portland a family forward city. 

You helped us to create a casual list of priorities that we called "the mamagenda."  We have not forgotten!  Some of the items on that list remain important to us, like: smoke-free parks; affordable, near-work child care; quality after-school programs; support for walking & biking to schools; healthy school lunches at PPS; paid family leave for city employees, and the list (of course) goes on.  Some of these issues have seen progress, others not so much.  It's been a year since all that talk and action.  What's on your list now?  Has it changed?  Is it the same? 

A few urbanMamas have the opportunity to sit down with Commissioner Nick Fish later this week to discuss ways he may be able to help us further a mamagenda.  Commish FIsh (heh!  We just had to ...  it rhymes!) oversees the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation.  Are there issues within these two realms that are on the forefront for you and your families?

[Thx to Derek Coetzee & FLickr CC for the perfect city hall image]


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I'd like to hear Commissioner Fish's thoughts about Parks & Rec collaborating with PPS to make schools into community centers outside of school hours. This would allow P&R to stretch limited resources to meet the needs of more people, and allow PPS to keep school facilities in use every day, all year round. This fits in with Portland's "City of Neighborhoods" approach, uses resources wisely, and brings communities together around the schools... how about it?

I would like to see the City of Portland partner with Metro on linking parks with a trail system. Includling schools in the trail system would encourage active transportation for families and children.

Ask about replacing playground equipment. We use four parks in our general neighborhood on a regular basis. Some have downright dangerous equipment. Others have just played out equipment. The city needs to replace/upgrade its playgrounds.

The Multnomah County leash law needs to be enforced...on the sidewalks, at the playground/parks (unless it is truly a designated off-leash area), and on school property.

Ditto on the leash laws enforcement. Yes, I like dogs but don't like them running up to my toddler without warning and owners assuming that it's okay for their dogs to lick, sniff, or otherwise interact with my child. I have heard that the city has very few paid staff working in the leash law enforcement area, so it seems they need to review the budget allocations for the sake of all park users' safety.

For the sake of all park user's safety? Listen, I walk a leashed dog with my child and I pretty much hate it when other people's unleashed dogs rush us, just because my dog, while sweet to other people and children, is a big ugly bad ass when it comes to other dogs. But, as much of a problem as this is for me (I can't say it happens more than once a month), I'm not looking for the city to spend more money on this, or on getting people to pick up dog waste, etc. There are about eight zillion other things I want more, from longer swimming pool hours on weekends to more police to keep our cars and identities from getting stolen - and to patrol at night to keep idiots from smashing beer bottles on the sidewalk next to the playground. If you've got a problem with a dog owner/toddler conflict in an on-leash area, save some tax money and try public shaming.

Totally agree on the dog thing! I hate being rushed up to by other people's dogs. I'm not a dog person and my kids aren't either. Big dogs can be so spooky and they get right on you sometimes.

maybe leash enforcement would be cost prohibitive (as anon mentions), but an education campaign for both dog owners and others may be a beneficial option.

I've been on both sides of this issue: the parent whose child is approached by an unknown dog AND a dog owner whose exuberant golden retriever simply sees people as more hands to pet him...so he runs from the off-leash area to the "people" area before I can get to him.

I've taught my kids that if an unknown dog approaches, ignore it and continue walking away; most dogs will get the picture and realize their affection is unwanted. People can also put their knee into the dog's chest if it begins jumping up, or simply say "NO." Freezing in terror rarely deters a dog.

As a dog owner, I appreciate it if the parent will hold his collar for the few seconds it takes me to reach and leash him. Also, if I see this about to happen (and I KNOW and APPRECIATE that not everyone likes or is comfortable with dogs), I say loudly "He is friendly - I'm on my way," then apologize for the inconvenience.

In reference to the original post, perhaps a poster campaign or something of the sort would educate people so we can all get along- people and pets.

Healthy food @ parks and rec events/locations, decent or no vending machines, no candy for sale at the pools, etc... - the "menu" at parks and rec needs a *serious* overhaul. Yes, people have different tastes, and yes anyone can buy twizzlers at 7-11. They need not buy them at the community pool where health is a priority. Period. It's actually the city's job here to promote public health, not make it worse.

many of our parks NEED updated play equipment desperately!
as the mother of a child with autism, i am constantly on the search for a park that is safe for my son to run around and play without me having an anxiety attack! so many of our parks have outdated play structures with high drop offs - our neighborhood Berkeley Park in particular!
we here in PDX are lucky to have so many parks to visit, but very few of them are inclusive for children (and parents) of ALL abilities. The only one i know of in town with an adapted swing is Washington Park (though more must exist). So many parks' playgrounds are also right on the street with no fenced in area for its smallest and special needs visitors.

thank you!

**Designate more green space within the city for individuals and families to garden, perhaps with a portion of the bounty going to Oregon Food Bank or one of missions or PPS.
**Work to enforce a equal wage for women in the workplace.
**Give families on assistance bus passes
**More affordable housing options close into downtown. Families are being pushed further and further out into east county where parks, shopping, and general services are more spread out.
**Create more supports for our students to go to community college.
**Create mentor programs for our high school students in the city

Jennt, Are you aware of the local mom-founded group 'Everybody Swings'? They are working on parks accessibility - very cool group: http://bit.ly/M5KfM - they're on Facebook.

Here's a 'parks and housing' list from the perspective of families that live, work, learn and play in central Portland.

**More affordable family housing close to downtown.
**More zoning like the North Pearl Plan, encouraging developers to build 2 - 3 bedroom units in small footprints. Great way to encourage market rate family housing in the high density neighborhoods.
**find creative ways to encourage / provide incentives for childcare in new condo and apartment buildings in central Portland
**bring back the MLC SUN School
**open the public process for The Fields park
**adaptive swings - everybody swings!
**there's no community garden suitable for vegetables in downtown. well there is, this year, because we started one. but the land will no longer be available next year. find space for a permanent, sunny garden.

thank you for carrying the message!

I know this topic isn't only about the dog issue, but I have to put my two cents in here. My child is VERY afraid of dogs. I tend to take him to parks that do not have an off-leash area because of that. I don't have a lot of patience for folks that have dogs off leash in parks that don't have off leash areas, particularly near the play area. If we're at a park with an off-leash area, then it's absolutely my responsibility to monitor the dogs and my child together, which I do. If your dog comes up to us as we are near the off-leash area, totally acceptable. We're coming into the dog space. But in the parks without it, it just doesn't help me deal with a screaming child for you to say "he's friendly" as the dog is licking my boy's face and he's freaking out.

Sarah has a great list. I'm not certain which issues are better addressed by Nick or the school board (my child is only 8 months, but school is on my radar!):

* More parks, using available space as green space. I live in the Pearl and there are a few, but the Fields hasn't been completed and a lot of money promised has yet to be used.
* Clean air. What's the report? How can it improve?
* Clean water. What's the report? How can it improve?(And possibly flouride treatment for low income families.)
* I heard recently there's been a change regarding which schools children can go. I live in areas with fantastic schools, but worry about people who don't. Will the county provide anything like vouchers? (Maybe this relates to the next question.)
* What's their plan on improving the school system? Oregon never does well, which is a shame. We have smart people (children, parents) who care.
* Is there any stimulus money (infrastructure money) being used to help families (like building new schools, etc.)? How much? Where?
* Affordable, quality day care. There really aren't enough. Are there incentives for businesses to start up for quality day care, especially in areas that don't have any?
* Are there incentives for businesses to offer Tri-met passes (at no cost or a reduced cost)?
* What's the situation on affordable housing, and how does that compare with other cities our size?
* What is Sam Adams doing to bring in new business (for jobs) to Portland?

Thanks for taking our list forward and let us know what we can do to help.

As they renovate parks, I wonder if they'd ever consider putting something other than those extra pokey bark chips under the playgrounds. It's not a big deal in the winter, but in the summer, when kids and adults are wearing sandals, it's a minor pain.

Regarding dogs, its interesting that nobody here has talked about being bitten. They are talking about being afraid of dogs that lick or sniff. And while I doubt that will change, it just doesn't seem that pressing

Can we put the dog issue towards the end and hit up some of these other wonderful ideas? Like parks,better housing for families downtown, better incentives for living downtown (for those who all ready do). I think Tami's list is GReat and she's got great ideas going. We've had plenty of run ins with dogs but can we take care of some of the larger issues first?

One issue that I haven't seen mentioned here (and that isn't necessarily a biggie) is in regards to the classes hosted by Parks & Recs. Perhaps I not looking in the right places, but I have only been able to find 1 prenatal class in all of Multnomah and Washington counties (which is far away from where I live). I find this a little lacking coming from Bend with only one rec center, but had dozens of prental water and yoga classes. Where do the pregnant ladies go?

Peninsula Park Community Center has prenatal yoga.
I'd bet that the indoor pools offer prenatal water - Dishman?
Good Luck, stop by any community center and they can help with your search too.

I'd like to see parks and rec offer more classes for kids that aren't geared towards stay-at-home parents. Mt. Scott for instance has swimming and ballet on the weekends, maybe basketball. Where are the rock-climbing and karate and music classes on the weekends? The toddler playtime at the East Portland Community Center has been a great addition, but I would love to see more variety in the classes available for the kids of working parents.

If we're talking about a true "wish" list, I would also personally love to see a park with a water feature somewhere in inner Southeast. Someone please let me know if I just don't know about one that already exists!

Laurelhurst Park has a wading pool.

Sorry, I should have been more specific about the water feature - I was thinking of one of those flat surfaces with water shooting out and the water cannons and that sort of thing - like the one at Columbia Park in N. Portland. I like recirculating water.

Oh my! SMOKE FREE PARKS IS #1 on my list.

AR, this may be a list Portland's "splash pads." But the list says there's one in Grant Park, and I don't think there is.

Which reminds me - there's another park thing that would be great - have enough staff or volunteers to fill all the wading pools in all the parks that have them, not just the biggest parks. If you don't fill the wading pools in the summer, then they're just annoying cement holes to trip over. But with water in them, they are toddler paradise.

I'd like to think about the city as an employer and see how it can be a leader in family-forward work-place policies (e.g., paid family leave, flex schedules, etc...). There's a new organization in Oregon called Family Forward Oregon that would be a great resource for the Commissioner: http://www.familyforwardoregon.org/site/.

I'm not sure which commissioner/bureau would be doing the childcare incentive stuff, but it is really a stressful and appalling issue downtown and in North Portland. Very costly, very few spaces, long waiting lists, and rare to have a space available when you need it. I'd like to see more employer sponsored daycare downtown, even if it's just for infants or 0-2 yrs. It would be a huge stress and hardship reliever for new moms who need to or want to return to work. I can see this being incorporated in housing development if nothing else.

As far as the off-leash stuff goes, although my child has not been bitten by a runaway dog, we do have to deal with dog poop in unexpected areas, and we avoid areas where people are illegally letting their dogs run in our park. We have an off leash area that most aren't aware of, because there is one tiny sign the size of a postcard announcing it at one end of the park that people usually don't walk by. Better signage would definitely improve our situation.

Hey catmom, thanks for the link to our splash pads entry! The list is from Portland Parks, but the kind of splash pad is going to differ significantly. Grant Park's splash pad (we just went on Sunday) is very small and best for infants and toddlers -- it doesn't have any of the Alice-in-Wonderland oversized flower kind of sprinklers that Peninsula Park and Columbia Park have.
I'll add some description on our site to the splash pads that I have personally visited. But feel free to add your own observations on our site. Thanks!
Helen Jung/Oregonian Omamas

Maybe I don't know what a splash pad is. Grant Park has a wading pool next to the 15-year-old Lee Hunt/Beverly Cleary fountain. It may be great for splashing in, but doesn't seem to fit parks' modern-day concept of the kid-operated water-saving splash pad. Am I missing something else in the park?

Irving Park has a great water feature, it's on NE 7th and Klikitat.

A full-service community center with a pool in NW Portland. We are the only quadrant of the city without a pool!

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