The Letter That Didn’t Run

by Steve, January 25th, 2008

I was kind of surprised the Oregonian ran my letter the other day, because they declined to run one I had sent in a few days earlier pointing out a factual error in their coverage of the city council meeting at Jefferson last week.

In last Thursday’s paper (I’m not going to waste time trying to find it online), James Mayer’s coverage of students and parents speaking to the council ended with the sentence “Potter and the rest of the council listened politely, but with no actual role to play in running the school system, offered no solutions.”

This is untrue, of course, and I pointed it out in my letter to the editor:

The brief report on students and parents speaking to the City Council ended with a note that the council has “no actual role to play” with regard to the school district.

The City Council does have a role in Portland Public Schools policy. In her remarks to the council, Nancy Smith referred to the joint Multnomah County and City of Portland audit of the school district’s student transfer policy, which was a funded as part of the Multnomah County income tax passed in May of 2003. This audit requested that Portland Public Schools clarify the purpose of the open transfer system, given that it has contributed to racial and socio-economic segregation, and that it conflicts with other district goals, like strong neighborhood schools.

My remarks to the council on Wednesday also referred to this audit, and pointed out that distrcit policy conflicts with the work of Erik Sten and the Bureau of Housing and Community Development. The City Council has an obligation to hold the school district accountable, and also to lobby them to bring their policies in line with the neighborhood and housing policy goals of the city.

The Willamette Week’s blog coverage also made the same error, but when I pointed it out in a comment, it was acknowledged graciously by reporter Beth Slovic. I realize this is a nuanced point, but it’s too bad the Oregonian can’t be bothered to get the story straight, given what’s at stake.