Blogs: Government

What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which neighborhoods undergo a rapid increase in value as properties are purchased and improved upon by wealthier people than those currently living in the community. This most often occurs in poor and working-class urban neighborhoods resulting in the displacement of those residents. In recent years the signs of gentrification in Portland are easily identifiable and abundant. Properties are purchased and improved upon or torn down and rebuilt, rents go up dramatically, increased economic activity, more wealthy people move into the neighborhood, and less wealthy people cannot afford to stay.  In fact, a 2015 study by Governing Magazine found that Portland, Oregon has experienced this gentrification process more severely than any other U.S. city since 2000. This has had a profound impact on many Portland neighborhoods as housing costs continue to rise.  More and more people are unable remain in long lived in neighborhoods and some are unable to find affordable housing within the city limits at all.

What causes gentrification?

Gentrification can happen in any neighborhood where property values suddenly rise as newer, wealthier residents move in, invest in improvements and/or new construction then displace those who have previously lived there. Often, gentrification is a legacy of past policies that restricted people of color to certain neighborhoods and denied them access to financing. This process occurred through redlining. This excerpt from the documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion illustrates how redlining worked:

 

 

In Portland, African Americans were largely restricted to North and Northeast Portland, so it is no surprise that those are two parts of the city undergoing the most rapid gentrification. The Oregonian’s “Roots of Gentrification” series provides an excellent overview of the changes in the city that have greatly contributed to the gentrification of North and Northeast Portland.  Also, the city’s State of Housing in Portland report provides a good overview of the scope of the problem.

 

What has been the result?

While gentrification has affected areas across the city, among the most impacted has been north and northeast Portland, the long-time center of the city’s African American population. The impact on that community has been profound. Largely priced out of their homes, the city’s black residents are increasingly moving into east Multnomah County where housing is less expensive. This has meant there is far less diversity in traditionally black neighborhoods. Gentrification also contributes to the rapid increase in rent. A recent study showed Portland's rents rose at  the nation's sixth-fastest rate over the last five years.

 

What is the solution?

That all depends on who you ask, but because gentrification is not the result of a single, simple cause, there is likely no single, simple solution. It is an issue intimately tied to other challenging social problems surrounding race, class, and economic opportunity. The City of Portland has prepared a study of gentrification risk that identifies different strategies to address the issue. Recently, the Portland Housing Advisory Commission recommended a significant increase in the amount of public money spent on affordable housing. In August 2015, city leaders announced new projects in Northest Portland to provide jobs and subsidized housing. A coalition of community groups has recommended a comprehensive 11-point plan to combat gentrification but still recognize that there is “no silver bullet” that will solve the problem. To address the issue of high rent, the Portland Renters Assembly organizes meetings across the city and would like to take direct action against the rising cost of rent. Clearly, a variety of tactics are needed to ease the most damaging effects of gentrification. It is impossible to know now what will ultimately be the result.

19th century marriage certificate

Can’t remember when your divorce was final? Need a copy of your birth certificate? Trying to remember when your parents got married? Looking for your grandmother’s death certificate? These are all examples of vital records: documents related to a person’s birth, marriage, divorce and death.  If you’re looking for any of these, the library is here to help!

There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for vital records at Multnomah County Library:

Getting copies of vital records

Most vital records in Oregon are available through the Oregon Center for Health Statistics. Because there are restrictions on who has access to these records, you will need to provide a significant amount of information about yourself and/or the subject of the vital record. Also keep in mind that the Center for Health Statistics charges fees for vital records. The more research they have to do, the higher the fees.

In order to ensure you receive the correct record, expedite your order, and potentially save yourself some money, you can consult the Oregon Vital Records Indexes available at the library. These indexes provide the name(s) of the individual(s), the county in which the event occurred, the date, and the record number. You can use these indexes yourself at the Central Library or contact the library and have a staff person search for you. Should you need vital records for states other than Oregon, check the Centers for Disease Control's list Where to Write for Vital Records for every U.S. state and territory.

Birth records

The state of Oregon began recording births in 1903 but there is no statewide index to birth records. If you need your own or an immediate family member’s birth certificate contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, birth certificates more than 100 years old can be accessed by anyone.  If you need local birth records, you can use the Ledger Index to City of Portland Births which is focused on the years 1881-1917 within the city of Portland. Keep in mind, however, that the city was much smaller then than it is now.

Marriage records

If you need to verify marriage information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Marriage Index (1906-1924, 1946-2008). This index is organized by the name of either the groom or bride and is also available through Ancestry Library Edition (accessible only in the library).  To get a copy of your own or an immediate family member’s marriage certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, anyone can request a marriage certificate more than 50 years old. In Oregon, counties issue marriage licenses, so to find records that are not included in the Oregon Marriage Index you can check the Oregon Historical County Records Guide.

Divorce records

If you need to verify divorce information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Divorce Index (1946-2008). If you need a copy of your own or an immediate family member’s divorce certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics. If you need the full court record and divorce decree, you will need to contact the issuing court, usually the county circuit court. To help, Multnomah County Archives & Records Management has prepared a handy guide to obtaining divorce records and decrees.

For genealogists, anyone can request a divorce certificate more than 50 years old. If you’re looking for the court records, some counties have all of their circuit court records but others turned over their older documents to the Oregon State Archives.

Death recordsGraveyard in Gjemnes, Norway

If you need to verify death information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Death Index (1903-2008). This index is also available through Ancestry Library Edition (accessible only in the library). If you need a copy of an immediate family member’s death certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, anyone can request a death certificate more than 50 years old. You can also search for local deaths before 1903 using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths (1881-1917).

If you still have questions about vital records or other genealogical research questions call or email a librarian to get personalized help. If you’d rather have face-to-face assistance, ask the librarian on duty the next time you visit the library. We're always happy to help!

 

 

Link to whatslegaloregon.comIn November 2014 Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing the possession and sale of cannabis by adults 21 and older for recreational use. (Here is the full text of Measure 91.) Deciphering the details of the law can be tricky, especially if you are considering starting a marijuana-related business.

The most reliable source of information about the laws surrounding recreational marijuana is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Their What’s Legal? Educate Before You Recreate site lays out what you can and cannot do starting July 1, 2015.

The OLCC Rules Advisory Committee & Subcommittees on Recreational Marijuana are having a series of public meetings this summer in their main office at 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd. in Portland. For questions about accessibility or accommodations for persons with disabilities, please call 503-872-6366 or email marijuana@oregon.gov. You can look up agendas and listen to audio of past meetings online.

If you are considering starting a marijuana-related business, start with the OLCC’s frequently asked questions on marijuana licensing. The OLCC will not be accepting applications for recreational marijuana licenses until January 4, 2016, and the rules are still being written; to stay up-to-date, subscribe to receive email alerts from the OLCC.

Measure 91 has no impact on Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act. You can apply for a Medical Marijuana card through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), or apply to be a medical marijuana dispensary through the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program.

To stay informed, you can find the OLCC's updates on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to receive OLCC updates by email.

Link to Legalization of Marijuana booklistIf you’re curious about how Oregon’s recreational marijuana plan compares to those in Colorado and Washington, here’s a side-by-side comparison (pdf). If you’re interested in looking at the broader issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana, check out this blog post on legalizing marijuana that my colleague Cathy wrote before the election.  And here are some books that go more in depth into the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and medical use.

Always use caution when searching for information and make sure your sources of information are credible; the Southern Illinois University Law Library has a great guide to Evaluating Websites and Other Information Resources. And remember, you can always ask a librarian for help; we love questions!

Divorce, estate planning, landlord/tenant issues, immigration, arrests and citations... Life is full of legal questions. How do you search for answers without being taken for a ride? We can suggest some excellent resources that can help you out.
 
A good place to start is Oregon Legal Research, maintained by law librarians. Learn how to research the law and represent yourself in court; find the answers to frequently asked questions (When can I leave my kids home alone? Where can I get a free power of attorney form?); and more. They also maintain a comprehensive Oregon Legal Assistance Resources guide (pdf) that can help you find local organizations that specialize in legal areas including disability rights, bankruptcy, political activism, bicycle law and crime victims' rights.
 
Link to Legal Aid Services of OregonOregon Law Help provides free and verified legal information for Oregonians. There are articles in many languages to get you up-to-speed on your rights and resources when it comes to your home, your job, government benefits and more. The site also helps you find a Legal Aid office near you.
    
The Multnomah Law Library in downtown Portland provides legal reference assistance and more six days a week. You can access various legal forms and complete NOLO legal reference books on common legal topics online, 24/7, through their website.
 
The Oregon State Bar public information page has user-friendly legal information, assistance in finding and hiring a lawyer, links to low cost legal help and more.

The Oregon Judicial Department can help you file a case, find a legal form and represent yourself in court. Check out their page devoted to family law for assistance with child custody and support, divorce, domestic violence, and parenting plans. The Multnomah County Circuit Court website can help answer your questions about Family Court.

If you have questions about your rights as a renter, you might want to contact the Community Alliance of Tenants. This statewide, grassroots, tenants-rights organization provides renters' rights information online; if you can't find the information you need, call the Renters’ Rights Hotline at 503-288-0130.

Link to Oregon Council of County Law Libraries.You can always contact us at the library and we can help you locate resources that might be helpful, or visit your local county law library for a wider range of materials.
 
Though we are always happy to help you locate resources and give you search tips, it is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law; we may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights.

President Obama and former President Clinton at the White House, September 2014In May 2015 the Obama Foundation announced that the Barack Obama Library and Museum will be located on the south side of Chicago with a winning bid from the University of Chicago.  Presidential libraries are generally established in a city that is significant in the life of the President and the Obama Presidential Library will be no exception.  The Obama Library is planned where First Lady Michelle Obama grew up and where the President began his political career as a community organizer. The Barack Obama Library and Museum will be the 14th Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). 

Presidential libraries do more than just house the papers of former Presidents, they also act as monuments to the men and seek to shape their legacies. The earliest Presidential Library administered by NARA is that of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States. The Hoover Presidential Library & Museum is all inclusive, from Hoover’s birthplace cottage to his and his wife’s final resting place. This isn’t unusual. In all, nine American presidents are, or will be buried on the grounds of their Presidential libraries.

Entrance to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumThe Presidential Library system itself began in 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his Presidential papers and other historical materials to the federal government.  Before that time all Presidential papers were considered the personal property of the President after they left office. As one would expect many materials have since been lost or were even intentionally destroyed such as the personal papers of Calvin Coolidge and the correspondence between Martha and George Washington.

Today in addition to the NARA administered Presidential libraries, older collections have sometimes been successfully brought back together digitally if not physically. The Theodore Roosevelt Center is one such example, whose mission it is to digitize copies of Roosevelt’s personal and Presidential papers wherever they may physically be. They are available online for all to access and include both film clips and audio recordings.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library Presidential SealPresidential libraries are spread across the country. If a grand road trip to each location isn’t an option, you can often access selected parts of their collections online. For example, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has an online collection of Historic Speeches that can be watched or listened to and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum has a 360 degree artifacts Presidential Gifts collection . You can access a full lineup of Presidential Libraries websites and print resources on the topic in the Multnomah County Library’s Presidential Libraries resource list.  Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like additional help.

 

Outline of the U.S. and image of a camera lens, with the words "CHOOSE PRIVACY" beneath them.What does privacy mean to you? Is it a place where no one is watching you or listening to what you say? Thanks to our ever-connected gadgets (our phones, computers, televisions, e-readers) such places are becoming more and more scarce. Every digital breath we take is noted, collected, and recorded for future marketing or security purposes.

Should we care? After all, we get many benefits by giving up our privacy: we receive recognition from others, we can easily share and communicate with groups of friends, we get free email. But a world without privacy is also a world where you are not free to ask questions or seek information without being monitored.

Libraries care about privacy, and the American Library Association has declared the first week of May to be Choose Privacy Week. Why? “Because the freedom to read and receive ideas anonymously is at the heart of individual liberty in a democracy” (from ALA's "Why libraries?" webpage). 

To learn more about online privacy, attend one of the library's upcoming Privacy and Safety Online classes. You can also take a look at Portland Community College’s Privacy Online guide: it includes videos and links about the ways that privacy is compromised online, and tips for how you can protect it.

Book cover for Intellectual Privacy by Neil RichardsIf, like me, you’re more of a book person, I’ve made a reading list called “Privacy? What’s privacy?” - it includes current books that will help you start to answer that question. If you’d rather get your dystopia in a make-believe format, another reading list, “Surveillance stories and privacy parables,” includes books and DVDs about the privacy-less society that we just might be headed toward.

Are you taking steps to protect your privacy? Or have you already given up on the notion of privacy? Leave your comments below (and please feel free to do so anonymously).

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the backgroundLocal Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

The League of Woman Voters of Portland provides a handy Directory of Elected Officials of local, state, and federal elected officials for the entire Multnomah County including local school districts.

 

State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   

 

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009Federal Government

USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

1040 tax formMultnomah County Library is here to help with tax season. All library locations can access state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. Library staff members are happy to help print what you need. Printing costs 10 cents per page; two-sided printing is available.

Thanks to the AARP, the library will offer filing assistance programs at the Midland, Gresham, Woodstock, and North Portland locations. We can also help refer you to tax professionals.

Federal Hard Copy Forms

Due to federal budget cuts this year, libraries will not be receiving any instruction booklets and only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms.  We can't promise when they will be available, or that we won’t run out, but we can always download and print out most federal tax forms and instruction booklets that are available on the IRS Forms & Publications page. There is also a contact page for the local IRS offices serving Portland and Gresham for further questions. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. Many office supply stores have the 1099 forms or you can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.

State Hard Copy Forms

Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can come into the library to print them or do it yourself from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. They have a separate page for personal income tax forms & instructions. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:

Other States

You can stop by the library for assistance printing out tax forms for other states, or you can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators Links to State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.

Online Filing

Once the tax season officially opens, both the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue will have listings for online filing services. Remember, state and federal taxes are due by April 15th.

hands filing out tax form

Tax Help/Filing Assistance

Volunteers with AARP will be offering preparation assistance through Tax Help at four different Multnomah County Library locations beginning in February. Keep your eye on the events listed to the right of the library's Taxes page or search the Events page for "taxes." Requirements to get tax help vary by location:

  • Midland: Fridays and Saturdays; No further appointments are available at this time. 
  • Gresham: Wednesdays; No further appointments are available at this time
  • Woodstock: Saturdays; same day registration
  • North Portland: Thursdays; first come, first served

If you can't make it to the library for tax help, see AARP's Tax-Aide Locator for more free tax preparer locations.

Finally, be sure to check out the post from guest blogger Janet Hawkins, of Multnomah County's Department of County Human Services, on ways to save big money with free tax filing services.

 

 

 

In Oregon as in other states, 2014 may well be remembered as the year same sex marriage became legal after a federal judge struck down the state ban. It is also notable as the year Oregonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana. While same sex marriages commenced immediately after the court ruling in May 2014; the possession and the use of marijuana in Oregon will not be legal until July 1, 2015. It won't be until 2016 before marijuana can be sold legally in the state.  In the meantime, Oregon looks to its neighbor to the north to see how this new law might affect the state. What other new laws await us in 2015?

In addition to the marijuana initiative taking effect in July 2015, the Oregon State Legislature passed two other drug related laws that will take effect January 1, 2015. One is HB 4094a law that gives immunity from being cited for alcohol possession to persons under 21 when they request assistance for an alcohol-related medical emergency either for themselves or another person. The other new law is HB 4065. This law applies in cases of foreclosed residential properties that are auctioned. The seller must include language warning prospective buyers that the property may have been used in manufacturing methamphetamines.

Tree trunk on a city street.If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, including the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are listed in the Bills and Laws tab under the 2014 Regular Session.  From the Oregon State Legislature website you can search for bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also review a flowchart illustration of how a bill becomes law.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's video, I’m Just a Bill.

At a city level, the Parks and Recreation department of the City of Portland has a new tree code beginning January 2, 2015.  You can read all of the details for Portland Trees from Parks and Recreation but one of the major changes is that removal of trees will require a permit on all private properties regardless of where they are located.

As is always the case,  librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we will happily suggest research tools to help you find the information you desire.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!

According to the Washington Post, every year the federal government classifies millions of megabytes of information as secret. Sometimes this is necessary but a recent report by the government’s own Public Interest Declassification Board makes it clear that classification is used far too often and declassification takes far too long. Why does this matter? Because this is a democracy where open government and public access are necessary if we, the people, are to be informed and responsible citizens. With that in mind, what are our options if we suspect the government is withholding information we need to know?

The Freedom of Information ActFOIA logo

The official avenue to classified information is through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  This act allows anyone to request materials generated by the executive branch of government with certain exceptions. The nature of those exceptions has varied over time—some administrations are more lenient others more guarded in how vigorously secrets should be kept—but it still provides us with a means of accessing classified federal records. The legislation had also changed over time. One of the most important amendments to the FOIA is the Privacy Act of 1974 which provides individual citizens the right to know what information the federal government has collected about them personally. If you are interested in taking advantage of the FOIA, there is A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records.

Who Uses the Freedom of Information Act?

While anyone can use the FOIA, requests from certain kinds of groups are more common than others.  Journalists, academics, and government watchdog groups are the most frequent users. Of all those who utilize the FOIA, however, the National Security Archive makes  more requests than any other entity. Based at George Washington University, it is a private, non-profit organization that specializes in requesting and publishing official secrets and is the largest holder of federal records outside of the government itself. If you have any interest in American military, foreign, or intelligence policy, this is a site you really need to explore. Because it is a strong advocate for open government, the National Security Archive also provides its own detailed instructions designed to help those filing FOIA requests.

Alternatives to the Freedom of Information Act

There are sources operating without sanction that seek to expose government secrets. Some people consider these sources as heroic whistleblowers exposing government misdeeds while others think of such sources as criminals who endanger American security. For example, revelations coming from documents leaked by Edward Snowden have created a maelstrom of controversy over privacy both in the U.S. and abroad. Much has been written about Snowden but good places to start are The Guardian (the news outlet with whom Snowden initially worked) and an extensive interview in Wired.   Also significant is Wikileaks, a self-described non-profit organization dedicated to providing a secure outlet where anonymous sources can leak information. Historically, some leaks have proven invaluable such as Daniel Ellsberg exposing the Pentagon Papers and Mark Felt (AKA Deep Throat) who assisted reporters investigating the Watergate scandal. The challenge is telling the difference. What, if any, is the difference between a “good” leak and a “bad” leak?  What are the ethical ramifications of leaks? These are questions we must attempt to answer as a society if we are to fulfill our obligations as citizens in a democracy.

If you want to know more about government secrecy or using the Freedom of Information Act, don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian. We would love to help!

 

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