Meet this month’s Seeds of SE Uplift Volunteer – Kerns Neighborhood Association’s Chair for over three years and champion of community celebrations – Angela Kirkman.
A 12-year resident of the Kerns neighborhood, Angela was originally attracted to the Kerns Neighborhood Association by the friendly board members and her land use interests. The first KNA meeting she ever attended happened to be the annual election and without hesitation she accepted the secretary position. When not involved with neighborhood projects, Angela can be found at her day job as a project coordinator for a healthcare company, spending time with her family, and exploring the outdoors. We sat down with Angela to talk about her experiences as the Kerns chair, her community, and some challenges she’s faced.
What Kerns project or achievement are you most proud of?
The Kerns neighborhood plans a couple of annual events including our amazing picnic and cleanup. We have been lucky to have dedicated board members to host these successful events year after year. Over the years, we’ve been able to add in an annual bike helmet sale with the help of Legacy Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program and a Movie at Oregon Park through Portland Parks and Recreation’s Movie in the Park program. Both have been perfect additions for our neighborhood, and I’m proud that we have had the capacity to grow our events.
What do you see is the role of a neighborhood association chair?
Ideally, the neighborhood chair helps serve as a link from the community to the board. A good chair should be able to provide information, resources, and a good forum for neighbors to address their issues. Some challenges that a chair faces include finding a balance between helping neighbors and knowing the limitations of enforcing certain laws. In addition, neighborhood associations have an uphill battle when livability issues and zoning laws collide. As we know, zoning laws are tough to change or negotiate. The other important role of the chair is to provide continuity and leadership at the monthly meetings.
Kerns always seems to have amazing community events like the National Night Out picnic and Movie in the Park. How does your board pull it off?
Amazing board members, of course! Seriously, we have been lucky to have dedicated volunteers to chair the National Night Out picnic year after year. Planning the picnic is no small task. Both past and present volunteers have helped make our National Night Out what it is today, and that includes our community partners. Kerns Neighborhood Association as a whole is very proud that we have one of the most well attended National Night Out events in the city, and I think that motivates everyone to keep the tradition going. I would especially like to thank Steve Russell for organizing the picnic for the past few years. I feel grateful that we have had a consistent group of people to put together these fun, community events. The Movie in (Oregon) Park is a more recent addition to our annual events. Luckily, it takes fewer resources to run since Portland Parks and Recreation staff handles most of the logistics. Kerns is happy to help sponsor the movie and host neighbors at the park during this lovely summer event.
What would you say are the greatest challenges facing the Kerns neighborhood? What are the greatest opportunities?
I think the greatest challenge that Kerns Neighborhood faces today is the rapid pace of development. Change can be challenging, especially when our neighborhood has been quiet and overlooked for so long. Making the neighborhood work in the future for business, families, renters, home owners, and all of the traffic flowing through it is a big challenge. Of course, the greatest opportunities come out of this challenge. New businesses, new transportation solutions and new development create opportunity, but keeping it livable is the challenge.
Conflict and challenges can also arise between neighbors and certain developers that are not providing adequate parking or listening to neighbors about fitting into the neighborhood. With the building at 30th and Burnside, some neighbors decided to move instead of dealing with the construction and impending parking issues. Neighbors who own their houses are generally not pleased when a four story building goes in behind them, blocking their light and views and creating more parking issues.
Another challenge facing our neighborhood is created by the nature of our land. Not many people realize that Kerns stretches from the river to 32nd which opens up the door for many different types of opportunities and challenges. Keeping on top of all of the latest issues as a board takes a good amount of volunteer resources.
You’ve mentioned that this might be your last year as neighborhood association chair. What would you like to accomplish before you transition out of the position?
Even if this is my last year as chair, I plan to stay involved with Kerns. But as I transition out of this position, I would like to keep improving communication with neighbors. Also, I want people to know and recognize Kerns neighborhood whether they live here or just come to visit our diverse neighborhood. I want people to know they live in Kerns and feel inspired to get involved.