Mapps has ideas for reforming the bureau that fired him
There would be poetic justice in Mingus Mapps becoming the new city commissioner in charge of the Portland Office of Community & Civic Life.
In 2019, Mapps was fired from his program coordinator position with OCCL, a bureau overseen by Chloe Eudaly, whom he defeated in her bid for reelection in November. Mapps’ campaign highlighted the bureau’s mismanagement, resulting in an “unprecedented” number of employee grievances, according to the City Auditor’s office.
Mapps is eager to turn the bureau around if given the chance. Bureau assignments could be known by mid-month.
His starting point for reengaging neighborhoods would be a citywide neighborhood summit conference, a practice discontinued after the citizen-organized Neighborhood Congress of 1993.
“We should have been doing this all along, and I can’t wait to revive this classic Portland tradition,” Mapps told the NW Examiner. “Every neighborhood association is unique. Bringing them together to share best practices on many topics should be considered low-hanging fruit. I’m going to push for that even if I don’t get Civic Life.”
Mapps opposes defunding neighborhood coalition offices, the system established by the city in 1975 and one that has gained international distinction in several scholarly and historical studies, including ones from Tufts University, the Knight Foundation and the League of Women Voters.
“If we get rid of the coalitions, it will compound inequality in our community,” he said. “Wealthy neighborhoods will prosper, but those serving working-class communities, such as those east of 82nd Avenue, will not. The strong will do just fine. In fact, they’ll become more powerful. It’s the neediest communities that are going to starve and wither away.”
Crime prevention programs, Mapps’ specialty before and during this OCCL tenure, “are more important than ever” as police funding is being cut.
“The way to provide police reform is by being community-focused, building ties with neighborhoods,” he said. “We need crime prevention coordinators more than ever. We can use them to do outreach, to listen and help develop a neighborhood consensus on police reform.”
Crime prevention remains an OCCL function, though the focus is no longer on crime and neighborhood watches, which have exclusionary connotations among minority populations in the view of bureau management.
Mapps also promises to provide sunlight on the employee grievances filed against OCCL management.
“I’m deeply disturbed about the labor grievances and possible lawsuits” related to the “toxic workplace culture” he experienced at the bureau. “The leadership is trying to dismantle the organization you work in. Imagine what it’s like to work in that system. We can’t move forward as a city until we get those resolved.
“I hope that moment in Portland history is passed,” he said. “It’s time to be both inclusive and also to listen to the people, to listen to the neighborhoods.”
In retrospect, he is glad he did not win the council race in the May primary election.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was getting pushed into the general election,” he said.
It helped him to learn more about the city and prepare himself for the office while allowing more dialogue about what is wrong with the city.